Lords of Being
Chapter 4: The Horror of the Nut-Walters
After returning from the adventure in Bugtussle, Iowa, Mabel sends an email message to the other Lords and Ladies of Chaos and Order, "Has this occurred on other worlds?" Nobody has moved here from other worlds lately, or knows anybody who has, so nobody has any data.
Glass has intercepted the message and considers it using his resources. Now that he thinks of it and pays attention to instances of himself "abroad," localized anomalies are happening all over the place. He sends an inquiry to Loois, asking if he has any contact with other Courtiers on other worlds, to have them check with their local Elemental Knights about the localized anomalies that they are experiencing.
Loois responds that he does in fact have a few off world contacts and that they'll be grateful for the information. Glass is gratified to note that Loois also forwards his message to the other 26 Lords and Ladies on Earth.
Neville finally gets a reply from
Mr. Neon has no information on the subject of your inquiry. If you wish to make business inquires, here is a link to Mr. Neon's brochure.
Not exactly what he was looking for.
Two days later, Mabel feels an odd sort of something on the metaphysical level. After considering it for a bit, she decides that it's a blockage, only very, very faint. She's never felt one like this before -- they've either been there or not, never "just a little there." She sends out a group IM:
"Is it so far away that it's not in our purview, or closer and small?"
Cadmus Clisk replies from London:
"Now that you mention it, I can feel something like a very faint blockage. I wasn't sure what it was."
After totting up the reports from the other Courtiers who respond, only she and Cadmus can feel it.
Rosamund is also in London, in Kensington Gardens. A day later, she feels the... whatever it is. She tries to clear it. Like last time, it doesn't clear. She hadn't seen Mabel's IM, not having a phone, much less a computer, with her. While she can use human technology when she chooses to, she finds it annoying to be interrupted at someone else's whim. After considering the phenomenon, she pulls out that pesky phone that Loois left her. It's got his number programmed into it, so she calls it. Loois relays the query from Mabel and the responses. Which don't tell her any more than they told Mabel. While she's got him on the line, Rosamund has Loois program her phone with the numbers for all the Lords and Ladies who have phones. And Glass and Neon.
Next, Rosamund calls Mabel to discuss the oddity, "Are we doing anything yet?"
"I can't grasp it. I can't tell if it's a blockage or not."
"If we can feel it, I'm guessing that it's something that we should care about. You know, not everything is the same all the time," (says the Lady of Chaos). "Any word from higher up?"
"No. They never tell us anything."
Rosamund then calls Neon, who's sitting in his light booth -- the one with the special red lighting tubes that he finds so refreshing.
"There's something weird going on."
"Yes," Claude replies, "this earpiece. Hold on… That's better."
"There's something weird going on. There's another of these anomalies, but it's faint."
"I don't feel anything."
"Perhaps this is another thing where location is important. How soon can you get here?"
"Depends upon commercial flights, perhaps 12 hours..."
"Can Loois get you here sooner?"
"Perhaps. Hold a moment…"
Claude dials Loois, "Loois, Claude, can you get me to Kensington Gardens in London? I need to get to Rosamund."
"I was shuttling people all over North America two days ago. I don't think I have it in me." The tapping of a computer keyboard can be heard over the phone, "There's a commercial flight from Las Vegas to London leaving in an hour."
Disconnecting from Loois, Claude has Elaine, his secretary, book him a flight. It will get him to Heathrow in eight hours. Claude passes that information on to Rosamund, and departs for McCarran airport.
The next morning, Professor Ragnison reports that he can now feel the "thing" from Copenhagen.
Cadmus reports that it seems to be growing faintly stronger.
Mabel pulls out a map and plots the location of the four Lords and Ladies who can feel this thing. Hmm. Zabeth should have felt this in Paris… Maybe she's just hung over. Mabel asks Loois to ping Zabeth for her. A few moments later, an email comes from Zabeth that she can feel it too, and has no more idea what it might be than anyone else.
Arriving at Heathrow, Neon takes a limo to Kensington Garden. He wanders around looking for Rosamund. Either he'll find her, or she'll recognize him. Eventually they find each other. Rosamund thinks the anomaly is getting slightly stronger. Neon can now sense the "thing". It's north.
"Excellent. When should w go?"
"I have nothing planned right now. Shall we take a taxi?"
They flag a taxi and give the confused driver directions to go "that way." He balks as they leave central London, but is persuaded by promises of a generous tip when they reach their destination.
Glass finally notes the email traffic and gives his computer a stern talking to for not informing him of this earlier. He can't feel anything from Silicon Valley. Blink. Now he's at the Lloyd's building, in The City, at the heart of London. There's definitely a feeling a blockage… that way.
Glass calls Mabel, since he knows that she's Britain-based. "You seem to have another one of those clogs going."
"I think I'm one of the closest to it."
"It appears to be somewhere in Britain, north of London."
"I was wondering if I should take a trip to try to locate it."
"I'd be happy to catch a train and scout it, if you'd like."
"How about if I meet you at Barchester?"
"Fine. I have some business to complete at Lloyd's, and then I'll head out. I should be able to catch the train that will arrive in Barchester station at 3:12 PM."
Leaving the building a few minutes later, Glass heads to a locker in the King's Cross rail station and picks up his carpet bag. It's always a good idea to have luggage, a passport, local clothing, etc.
That afternoon, the train pulls into Barchester Station. Mabel is there, with Hookie, one of the dogs she's bred. It looks like a Jack Russell Terrier, but has an even more intelligent look in its eye. The two board the train and join him, and continue north. While Glass can tell the direction the anomaly is in, he's unable to tell distance. Mabel, on the other hand, believes that she's getting closer with every passing mile.
As the train approaches York, the bearings begin to swerve a bit. Then splay in multiple directions. As the three alight from the train, Glass observes, "We seem to have been clogged by a shotgun. There are a lot of little ones. Nine in fact. I would say this was very unusual, if I had experienced more than one instance. York is known for its frog ponds, is it?"
Mabel is a Lady of Order. She and Glass agree to investigate the anomalies methodically, starting with the one at 3 o'clock. They head towards the Minster. After a while Glass feels the bearing shift. Mabel feels it getting stronger. They must be closer. She walks more briskly. Hookie is definitely enjoying this outing more than the train ride. Her phone rings. It's Hellgrammite. He's in Heathrow, and here to help.
"Can you get a flight to York?" she asks.
"Let us know when you arrive."
Now that she's near it, Mabel can now tell that this is a blockage on the Right-hand path. The path from Chaos. She may not be able to clear this by herself.
As they pass a block of stores, Glass notices that the bearing suddenly swings. The sign on the store they're in front of is "Esme's Gifts." They stop and enter the shop, to the accompaniment of a small bell attached to the door. They pause to peer about in the dimness. Now that they've stopped, he can tell that the anomaly is shifting positions. A woman comes out from behind a beaded curtain and moves to a cash register. The anomaly moves with her.
Mabel looks at Hookie and asks him if there's anything odd about her. He looks at her as if she's daft and goes back to sniffing something among the knickknacks. He's very keen on these chachkees. Mabel bends over to examine the things that have her dog's attention. They're little figures with walnut heads and pipe cleaner limbs and a twig for a body with bits of fabric for clothing. There are Vikings and firemen and bishops and knights. All different kinds.
The person by the register asks, "Oh, he doesn't eat nuts, does he?"
"Oh no," Mabel replies, "Hookie doesn't eat nuts." Hookie looks over his shoulder reproachfully at Mabel, and then resumes his investigation.
The shopkeeper continues, "Do you like them? I came up with them a few days ago. This is a sort of an artists' guild. Guild members made most of the stuff in the shop. I call those figures Nut-Walters. They're half a pound."
Mabel assumes that this must be Esme, "I don't see any that catch my fancy."
The artist quickly offers, "I could make you one."
"What else have you done recently?"
"I've been turning out a lot of the Nut-Walters. They seem to be selling very well. These ceramic pieces here are also mine..." They look much more refined.
Glass interjects, "Small guild? Nine or ten of you?"
"There're at least 15"
While Mabel continues to question the shopkeeper/artist, Glass pulls out his phone and starts playing with it. When he notices Esme watching him, he goes outside and starts pacing up and down the sidewalk. Actually, he's using his phone to triangulate on the other eight anomalies.
Meanwhile in a taxi entering York, Neon is saying, "I'm sure I can get your daughter a Hannah Montana autograph… Here! Stop here."
The driver pulls over to the curb, and the passengers get out. This has been one of the weirdest fares ever. He's been driving all day, but the two passengers are fresh as a daisy, bright as a button. He wonders what they're on. But the trip paid very well. And they tipped well, too.
As the taxi pulls out into away, Neon notes, "There are multiple anomalies here. Nine."
Rosamund asks, "Which is the closest one?"
"I don't know."
In response, Rosamund closes her eyes and spins 3 times around and stops with her arm pointing. "Is there one over there?"
"Yes. A little to the left."
They head in that direction through back alleys and side streets and find themselves approaching a gift shop. There's a figure walking towards them, with his head down concentrating on a tablet in his hands. Neon greets him, "Oh Si, I figured you'd be here." Glass doesn't acknowledge the greeting. Neon has seen this before. He pulls out his phone and dials Glass. When he answers, Neon grins and says, "Look up."
Glass does so. He's five feet from Rosamund and Neon. He hangs up and strides over to them, saying, "Eureka!" He points at a crosshair on the display. "They're here. The red dots are the nine anomalies." They're all overlaid on the map of York on his phone. One is right next to where they are now.
Rosamund considers the map, and then asks, "So which one were you heading to?"
Glass points at Esme's Gifts. "Mabel's in there now."
Rosamund grins. "Has she been buying dog statues?"
Glass shakes his head. "The anomaly seems to be a person."
"Is there something wrong with the person?"
"No, but she's started making Nut-Walters."
By way of explanation, they enter the store. Mabel is still there, with Hookie, examining the Nut-Walters. As they enter, Rosamund calls out, "Hi Mabel!"
Mabel looks up from the Nut-Walters in her hands. "What a surprise to see you here."
"So what are the interesting things that I've been hearing about?"
"These are Nut-Walters."
Neon repeats, "Nut-Walters?"
Mabel holds up her left hand, "This is a Viking Nut-Walter." And the right, "And this is a bishop Nut-Walter."
Rosamund picks up one of the figures. Apparently it's supposed to be a fireman. "What are these for?"
Esme answers, "Just amusing. They've been selling very nicely."
"We had all been doing painting, and it took a lot of concentration. So we took a break for a night and were all just fooling around with crafts, and I came up with the Nut-Walters."
"All? All who?"
"The members of my artists' guild. We were at our weekly meeting."
"Are they all making them now?"
"Perhaps seven or eight of the others…"
Glass shows Esme the map on his phone. "Would these be where they're selling them?"
Esme considers the map. "That's certainly the museum gift shop… it could be."
Rosamund asks "You said that this was an old craft?"
"No, I came up with it just two guild meetings ago."
"You said this one was a Viking Nut-Walter?"
"Oh yes, you can see the horns there on the helmet."
Rosamund takes the figure over to Neon and asks if he can sense anything anomalous about the Nut-Walter. Neon takes it, and there's the faintest suggestion of an anomaly about it.
Looking up from the figure, Neon asks, "What kind of nuts are these?"
"They grow on trees?"
"Yes," she says, mildly surprised. Wait until Neon finds where eggs come from. "They're available in bags at the store."
Rosamund moves over to Esme, "Isn't it nice when you can make art from common household objects?" touching her arm as if for emphasis. As Esme chatters on about Nut-Walters, Rosamund scopes her out. The "scent" of the anomaly is now coming from her breath. Concentrating, Rosamund senses the woman's lifeforce. She's in later middle age, in reasonably good health. A mother, twice. She's feeling pretty good right now. She'll be hungry soon. She doesn't feel diseased or insane.
Glass picks up another Nut-Walter in the form of a policeman. "Bobbies, they call them here." Nothing unusual about it, except it feels faintly anomalous. Glass extends his senses to the display of Nut-Walters before him. They all do.
Mabel's phone rings. "Hellgrammite! You're in York? You'll never guess who I ran into here outside Esme's Gifts near Yorkminster. You must come and join us," she adds meaningfully. She looks over to Glass, who sends a copy of his map with the nine anomalies to Hellgrammite's phone. The closest anomaly to the helipad he's landed at is at the Viking Museum. He tells Mabel that he'll head there, and rings off.
Before he can put it away, Glass's phone beeps with a message from his computer. Apparently it took to heart that stern talking-to that Glass gave it. There is a convention of the British Psychical Research Society in York. It's at a hotel nearby. Attached to the message is another map. Laying the two maps on top of each other shows that the hotel is the location of one of the anomalies.
Glass shows the new information to Rosamund, who asks, "Is there any commonality between the memberships of the guild and the society?"
Glass plays with his phone for a bit. "No. There's no overlap."
Mabel asks Esme, "How often does your guild meet?"
"What was the name of your guild?" When Esme hesitates, Mabel continues, "I belong to the Barchester Puppy Angels."
"The Minster Art Guild."
Rosamund buys the Viking Nut-Walter. Glass purchases the Bishop with the tallest miter.
Once they're outside, Rosamund says to Mabel, "I'm not so sure about pushing this anomaly. Whether it would cause any harm. We've never had one in anyone before."
"I wasn't planning to do anything until we get all the Guild members together."
Glass looks puzzled. "I'd have thought just push the one – reduce the number of casualties if it works out badly."
Mabel looks tired. "I don't have any choice. I can't do any pushing. I haven't recovered from the last one, yet."
Meanwhile, Hellgrammite has arrived at the Viking Museum. There's lots of Viking stuff. More archeology than anything else. Off the lobby, there's a gift shop with kitschy stuff, including what must be the Nut-Walters that Mabel described. He enters the shop.
A clerk looks up from the book he's reading. "Can I help you, sir?"
Hellgrammite walks over to the clerk, "There's a good chance you can. I'm new to the area and I heard that there may be art group around here."
"Why yes. I belong to the Minster Arts Guild. Are you a dealer then?"
Hellgrammite hands him a card, which gets him close enough to sense the strange "scent" that Rosamund described on the clerk's breath. "Yes. I sell many things."
He's definitely got the clerk's interest now. "Oh, I have some things here that are really easy to ship. You're American?"
"Yes." He picks up a Nut-Walter. "These are quite interesting."
"They're selling very well. I came up with them. We were at a guild meeting and the idea came to me." As the clerk babbles on about Nut-Walters, Hellgrammite examines the figure in his hands. It's definitely "scented" with the anomaly that the clerk "smells" of.
"Do you have a guild meeting coming up soon?"
"Yes, we meet weekly. The next one is in four days. We meet in the basement of the Minster. I'm sure you'd be welcome."
"I'd like to buy a few and start mocking up a selling pitch."
A grin breaks through the clerk's proper British demeanor, "Certainly sir."
Hellgrammite leaves the shop with an assortment of Nut-Walters. He pushes on one. Nothing happens. It's not the anomaly, it's just anomaly flavored. After stowing the figures in his car, he sends an SMS to the rest of the group summarizing his results.
Back in Ames, Iowa, Neville is packing his bags to attend the meeting of the British Psychical Research Society in York. He has some interesting things to discuss.
Last Updated: Jan 29, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved