As always, this is a work in progress. Let me know what you think!
Oh, and this is a long snippet today, almost 2000 words, but I think you will be familiar with what’s happening after this, if you have not already read Vulcan’s Kittens.
“Steve took me to the Grand Canyon, his idea of being funny. I hadn’t been there, one of the few places I haven’t visited…” she began.
Grandpa Heff interrupted her quietly, “get to it. No easier for delay.”
“Ran into Coyote.” Sekhmet cut right to the point.
“Ran into? More like he intercepted you.” Pele interrupted with a sniff. “He never does anything by accident. Sorry, we keep interrupting you. I’ll imitate Linn now.” She propped her elbows on her knees and put her chin on her hands, covering her mouth and smiling at her granddaughter.
Sekhmet chuckled, her tension broken. “Oh, I know. He was pretty transparent, just strolled out of the canyon we were hiking past. But what he wanted was to get a message to you.”
Linn blurted out, “why doesn’t he come himself?” She felt her cheeks burn as all three adults looked at her.
“Good question,” Heff grunted.
“He said he couldn’t leave the area, he’s keeping an eye on it, that he’d come too far already, just for a visit with Steve and I.”
“He’s using too much power to look through animal eyes, he can’t get too far from his network,” Pele interjected, looking at Linn, who nodded that she understood.
She had learned that technique, pinching off a little Power and letting it go into an animal and hitch a ride. It was tiring for her, but she was only a demi-god.
Sekhmet went on, “he said to tell you the game is afoot in the Great Caldera.”
“Oh. Pele, where is Theta right now?”
“Iceland. She went to the lamia’s grave.” Pele and Sekhmet both looked sad. Linn wondered what that was about.
“We have to go.” Pele’s voice was as firm as Linn had ever heard her.
“Steve went to Quetzalcoatl with the message, and I came to you.” Now, Sekhmet just sounded tired.
“Good,” Heff nodded, “that will speed things along. If Coyote is worried, something is in the wind.”
As he said wind, a little bird dropped out of the air into his lap. Heff jumped.
The tiny brown plover looked dead at first, and Linn stood up, wondering what had happened to it. Heff scooped it into his palms and lifted it to his face, blowing on it. Linn could see a little spark of Power go into it. Gradually, it righted itself, looking around with beady eyes, but it didn’t fly away.
“Speak.” Heff commanded it gruffly.
It opened its mouth… beak, bill? Linn wasn’t sure… and a man’s voice sounded loudly. “Haephestus, Smith, Artificer, I beseech thee for assistance. I, Manannan Mac’Lir, call upon the bonds of the sea, through which we are brothers, to draw thee to me. I await thee in my home, heart lain low until thy succor is at hand.”
Linn looked at the adults, confused. She had never seen this kind of thing, a sort of bird voice mail, she supposed, and not too hard with Power. But who was Manannan Mac’Lir?
“I need to find Bes. Is he still here?” Heff looked at Linn and Pele. Both nodded, and Heff headed for the tunnel entrance to Sanctuary, still holding the bird.
Pele looked at Linn and Sekhmet and sighed. “Shall we go pack for me to leave, since the men are off chasing wild birds?”
This made them all laugh, and Linn followed them into the rooms her grandparents shared, a rather book-cluttered suite in a quiet corner of the refuge Pele had carved, literally, out of the heart of a mountain. She helped pack a suitcase, wondering how on earth her grandmother planned to carry it, and then watched with wide eyes as the bag was made to vanish.
“Where..?” she asked in confusion, looking around the room.
“It’s sort of… inter-dimensional.” Sekhmet explained. “You know how the High Plane and the Low, or Earth, works, right?”
“Parallel universes, right?”
“Simply put, yes. The High Plane actually isn’t higher than Earth, it’s just what we named it when we learned how to access it, with a little jump upwards and a boost of Power.”
Linn nodded. She could do that herself, now, although for long trips she would need someone with more Power to help. “There are at least three, that you – we,” she corrected herself, “know of, and we can only access two.”
Pele nodded. “Most of us have lost all memory of the third plane, our homeworld, except as dreamy, magical memories. Anyway, my bag is right there…” She pushed a hand upward over her head, and it disappeared for a second, eerily, and then she pulled the case halfway into reality to show Linn before restoring it to the other, unseen dimension. “I can access it whenever and wherever I want it. Saves a lot of effort.”
“Now that’s done, I want to gather up Heff and get going. Don’t think I can’t see you itching to get out of here.” Pele addressed the other goddess, who was sitting but had she been in cat form, her tail would have been twitching violently.
Sekhmet sighed, “I wish I could say I didn’t have a very bad feeling.”
“What’s the Great Caldera?” Linn ventured, as they headed for the common area.
“Oh… I think your mother could answer that best.”
“Cell phones don’t exactly work in Sanctuary.” Linn replied dryly.
“Look up the Yellowstone Volcanic Caldera, dear.” Her grandmother told her as they reached the big room, not looking at Linn, but for Heff. “Consider it homework. There they are.”
Linn pulled out her phone and made a note of it. She didn’t have cell service, but it made a decent personal organizer anyway. She was looking down and following Pele and Sekhmet with her peripheral vision, weaving through chairs and couches.
“Ah, there you are.” Her grandfather got out of the chair he’d been sitting in, leaning forward to talk intently to Bes. “Linn, find out what Manannan needs. I’m sending you, Blackie, and Spot along with Bes. Think of it as a training mission.”
Bes, slouched comfortably on a couch, smirked, “that means there will be rain. It’s not good training unless there is rain.”
Heff shot him a look. “Yes, there will likely be rain. He’s probably on the Isle of Man.”
Linn, standing in front of her grandfather now, shifted her stance to relax a little, she could feel the adrenaline crackling like lightning in her veins. She was going to get out and do something. Even if it was training, that was a good start.
The little bespelled bird hopped off her grandfather’s finger and chirruped, cocking his head slightly and fixing a beady eye on Linn. She smiled. He was a cute little puffball of feathers, and the contrast of his softness next to her grandfather’s callused, scarred palm struck her as ironic. He fluttered into the air suddenly, startling her.
Bes laughed and the little bird came and perched on his bushy hair. He held up a hand and coaxed it down. “We will take you home, little one.” He promised it gravely.
“How did something so tiny make such a long flight?” Linn wondered aloud.
“Use your sight,” Heff suggested.
“Ok…” she squinted carefully at the bird. “Oh, it’s a bit of Power…” the shifting aura was a gray-green, the color of a stormy sea. She had realized that Power signatures were somehow related to the affinity of the god that generated them. Heff’s was red as fire, for instance. Her own attenuated power signature was pink.
Heff nodded. “Another reason to return him, so Manannan can resorb that. He was never the strongest of us, but cunning.”
Lin was reminded of a fragment of power she had in keeping for him and asked, “Should I take Lambent?”
Bes nodded. “Always armed.”
“Pack light, though, you ought to be back within a week.” Her grandfather instructed.
“Why are we going, again?” she asked.
He raised an eyebrow, “I have to go to Yellowstone.”
Linn could feel herself blush, “No, I meant why not just send messages.”
“Ah. Bes, you get to explain Manannan to her,” Heff held out his arms for a hug. “I have to run.”
Linn leaned into his barrel chest, soaking up his warmth and inhaling his faintly smoky smell. He always smelled like that, even when he hadn’t been near his forge, that she knew of, in weeks. Her grandmother always smelled of frangipani. Linn let go, and he was out the door, leaving her looking at Bes. Sekhmet and her grandmother had gone already.
He wiggled his eyebrows at her and made a ridiculous face. “Ready for an adventure?”
“I’m not sure I want adventure. I just wanted to be helpful.”
He stood up, and the little bird went back to his hair. “Everything is an adventure. Now, go pack. And seriously, bring rain gear.”
She went. She was excited, and this really was going to be an adventure, even if all they did was play courier. Blackie and Spot were waiting in the common area when she came back in with her backpack, and she joined them, looking around for Bes. Deirdre made a beeline for her.
“Hey, guess what?”
Linn smiled down at her friend. “What?”
“I get to come along!” The tiny greenish teenager bounced in her excitement.
“It’s Bes’ traveling school and circus,” that god broke in with an amused chuckle. He addressed Linn’s best friend, “Deirdre, do you have your gear?”
She nodded, her long pointy ears flopping a little with the force of her enthusiasm. Her fine brown hair, cut short, made her look like a pixie rather than the proto-goblin that she was.
The coblyns that inhabited the Sanctuary as the main colony and administrators (not to mention builders), were not surly tricksters. Linn had learned that Deirdre’s grandfather was their king, a rather laissez-affaire ruler who left the actual work to his management team. When they had left Britain centuries before, the clans who chose to remain had become the goblins of legend and lore. Linn realized that she didn’t know much about their history, really, and maybe this trip would be a good time to ask Dierdre about it.
Linn slung her backpack on her shoulders, thinking that she really needed to learn Pele’s trick, which would be less work. She held out her hands, one for Bes, and the other for Dierdre. It was much easier to get on the High Path, and stay together, if they were in contact. The big cats disdained this, leaping with them as they set off, and becoming ghostly shadow cats once they were in the tunneling space of the inter-dimensional highway. The human forms ran lightly, paced by the cats on each flank of their group.
Linn realized she hadn’t even had time to properly research the Isle of Man, let alone ask Bes about Manannan Mac’Lir. She did so now, and he responded without breaking stride. He was being slow for them, she knew.
“He’s a sea god, and a trickster, like Coyote, or me. He’s been… asleep for a long time. Which is why the archaic message and speech when he summoned your grampa.”
“And why we need to go to him in person?”
“Yes, it’s a gesture of respect and also lets us check him out.”
“Well, some of the Elder gods are not quite right, anymore.”
Linn snorted, “so we’re walking into the house of a crazy guy?”
“Castle,” he corrected, “and yes, but Manannan has always been crazy. Heff just needs to know how crazy. You guys are safe, though,” he assured her, looking at her face and seeing the worry Linn knew she was showing. “Kids are sacred to Manannan. You’ll see.”