Lords of Being
Chapter 7: Is that a Lord of Chaos in your Pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
I had a Chaos Lord, but I eated it
Neville’s talk starts at 9AM sharp, in a packed hotel ballroom. He starts by relating the events that occurred in Bugtussle, Iowa. He displays the few images he was able to retrieve, and discusses the fact that even after being reposted, the images disappear from the net – clearly signs of a continuing conspiracy to cover up the events in Iowa! He winds up the talk by taking out a Tupperware container with a fist-sized blob of iridescent goo, which he refers to as pudre sêr, or star jelly. The goo has had an interesting history. Some people can see it. Some people can’t. Ditto for touch. Sometimes the sample container has appeared to be empty, though the sample will be there a little later. He goes on to describe the tests he’s run on it; it appears to be completely chemically inert. He finishes by putting the sample on the overhead projector stage. A murmur runs through the audience, as some can see it, and some can’t.
The Courtiers and Knights are standing in the back of the ballroom. They can clearly see that the sample is a small Lord of Chaos, fading in and out of manifestation.
Rosamund pulls out her cell phone and calls Loois. Speaking in Hawaiian, she describes what she sees on stage, and repeats what Neville said about finding it and where it came from. Loois hacks her phone to activate the camera and has her show him the image.
Those who can see the image on the screen see the blob gently wobbling, though it should have settled by now. Some people in the audience start heading towards the stage to get a better look.
Glass pulls out his watch and stops time, or at least slows it way down. He looks hard at the projector, and the lens busts, though the pieces haven’t had a chance to move yet. Reaching to a nearby window, he scoops the glass as if it was ice cream, and forms the mass into a bowl. He then runs to the front through the field of frozen people, and tries to pick up the glob. He’s very surprised to find that it won’t move. This isn’t inertia. The glob is actively resisting him. Abandoning the attempt, he returns to the back of the room, still at a run, busting lamps as he goes. Then he touches his watch again.
Time resumes its usual progression. Lights explode. The projector goes out.
In the confusion, Rosamond heads towards the front of the room shouldering her way through the crowd. Hellgrammite slips out the back of the room and sets off the fire alarms.
After a stunned moment, Neville grabs his sample and runs to the door at the back of the stage. He heads towards the conference center lobby, hoping that it will be quieter so he can figure out what to do. Rosamund follows after him.
Still standing in the back of the room with Hookie, Mabel notes that while there’s an uproar, it’s not a panicked sound. There’s a general undercurrent of pleasure; there’s been a metaphysical event right here in York! Several people are scanning with their cellphones, others are scribbling frantically.
Hotel personnel arrive and begin waving at people to leave the ballroom. They would yell, except nobody can hear them over the fire alarm. Glass, Zabeth, Neon, Mabel and Hookie exit to find Hellgrammite outside the ballroom, waiting for them.
In the conference center lobby, Neville hears a voice call his name, and then a tap on his shoulder. He turns, and collapses into sleep. Rosamund catches the container, and then calls out, “Someone help that man!” And then fades into the throng of people who are all buzzing about the events in the ballroom.
Once a crowd has formed around Neville, she looks in the container. It’s empty. She softly calls “Asiras?” There’s no response. She’s says something nasty in Hawaiian - it’s got consonants.
Now what? Rosamund pulls a pair of dice out of her pocket to decide which way to go. They direct her to go east, which takes her out the hotel door and down the steps.
At the bottom of the steps, she finds Mona, one of the Ladies of Order. She manifests as a mildly athletic woman of medium build with vaguely Mediterranean features and long black hair. She likes to travel, and has a duffle bag slung over her shoulder. “Oh, Rosamund. Is Mabel around? I have a message for her.”
“She’s inside. Did you happen to see Anyone Else?”
“Beg your pardon?”
“We’re missing someone, and… I’ll catch up with you later.”
“Where inside? It’s a big hotel.”
“She’ll probably be out soon.”
Glass shows up. “You’re looking for Mable?”
“And you are, sir?” asks Mona.
“Ah. I’ve heard of you. Mona of Order.”
“Mable was not far behind me when all the chaos broke out.”
As Rosamund and Mona walk towards the hotel door, Mona asks, “Chaos?”
Pausing at the door, Rosamund replies, “We’re missing some.”
“I guess we shouldn’t discuss it here.”
Rosamund shakes her head as they pass into the conference center lobby, just as the hotel staff manages to shut off the fire alarm. Glass follows.
Sweeping the crowd in the lobby, Mona spots Mabel. Striding over, she announces, “I have a message for you,” and hands what appears to be a single, an intricately folded piece of paper to Mabel. As Mabel carefully unfolds the missive and reads the contents, Mona begins rummaging in her duffel, from which she extracts what looks like a lantern. A closer look shows it to be a candlestick with a glass chimney. She then pulls out a Zippo lighter. Looking up, she asks, “Good news or bad?”
“More things to do,” Mabel replies.
“Well, good luck.”
Coming up behind Mona, Glass entangles an atom in the lamp. Discretely tracking her travels will probably prove… interesting.
Mona continues, “I need to leave. Quickly. People are using me to send messages all over the place.”
Looking up from the letter, Mabel replies, “I’m glad to see they’re working together.”
“You mean unlike the separatists?”
Glass notes, “I believe at the very least Clisk and Hellgrammite are working at opposite purposes.”
“Mabel, you must understand that this concerns me," Mona says. "Is the message private?”
“No, you can read it.” She hands it to Mona, who reads looks very grim, and hands it to Rosamund.
The letter reads:
As a loyal noble of Order, you must turn the fragment of Asiras over to me or my agents. Order needs it for advantage in negotiation. I have contacts to pass it on.
After reading the letter, Rosamund frowns and says, “It seems to have gone missing.”
She passes the letter to Hellgrammite and continues, “All this about advantage and negotiation seems like one against the other. I don’t like that.”
Glass responds, “If I have to trust in one, I’ll trust in Hellgrammite. Clisk sounds kind of separatist to me.”
Mona sighs, “Well, I’m not a separatist, but I have to go.”
Glass motions to an empty loo.
Mona steps inside. Glass watches her though the bathroom’s mirror. Once she’s sure she’s alone, she lifts the chimney, lights the candle, looks around to take her bearing, and takes a step. And is gone.
Looking at the Courtiers and Knights, Rosamund says, “I don’t know where the fragment went. I saw him picked up but I didn’t see him vanish.”
Glass contributes, “Before the lights went out, I tried to pick it up. It wouldn’t move.”
Rosamund examines the bowl closely. It’s Tupperware. It’s empty. There’s no arcane residue.
Glass uses his glasses to look back in the conference room. There are hotel people trying to get the lights back on. There are people doing all sorts of psychic things – standing around with their hands to their foreheads, or dowsing with rods, or frantically trying to get a Ouija board reading, which just doesn’t work quickly. But there’s nobody who looks like they’ve found something really good.
Rosamund calls Loois and gives him a report in Hawaiian, concluding with “… the note came from Cadmus by way of Mona. It sounds rather Separatist to me. Mona wasn’t pleased.”
“She wouldn’t be. Oh dear, we're developing factions. If we’re going to have factions, I want you to know that I’m Collaberationst.”
“The only way it works is if everyone works together.”
“Exactly. I did invite everyone to that disastrous party. I guess I should get on the horn. Who should I tell?”
“Right. I can’t wait to hear Ragnison’s response.” Click.
While Rosamund is talking, Hellgrammite hacks into the CCTV system and photoshops the one frame just before chaos erupted in the ballroom. There was a blurred figure on it, which he removes.
Neville wakes to find himself on a cot in a room off the conference center lobby. He feels really good, but has no idea why he keeled over. There are people from the convention leaning over him. Some are asking if he’s OK, and others are asking if he saw anything. He’s very relaxed and peaceful… except... where’s the sample? Before he can get worked up about it, Rosamund comes in and hands him the Tupperware bowl. “You dropped this. I didn’t see anything else in or around it that you might have dropped.”
Neville looks in the bowl. It’s empty. He puts his hand in the container. It’s empty. That’s OK, the sample’s done that before. It will come back. And everyone got to see it. He grins. Or not. Both at the same time. His presentation will definitely be the talk of the convention.
While he’s staring at the empty container, Rosamund examines him closely. She can sense the fragment. It’s inside Neville. “Do you need anything from the lectern? Your notes? Your samples?”
“Oh yeah, the frog stones. Yes, I should retrieve them.”
Rosamund helps Neville to stand. This lets her administer another dose to keep him docile, but awake. They head over to the ballroom, to find hotel personnel cleaning up and a couple of folks from the convention doing odd things with various gear from the exhibit hall. When Neville enters, they all come over to chat. He admits that the sample is missing, but that’s OK, since it’s done that before. They start searching for it. Someone comments that the sample is, “Just like a cat.”
Rosamund remarks, “And sometimes all you’re left with is a smile.”
Hotel people bring over Neville’s laptop, container lid, and the stone frogs. He slips one of the frogs into each pocket, and carries the rest to the presenter’s green room. When they enter, one of the other presenter’s asks, “I heard you collapsed in the lobby. Did you get a shock off of the projector?”
Neville assures him that he’s fine, though tired. He settles into a chair in the corner of the room, and dozes off. When the next session starts, the room empties except for Rosamund and Neville. Once they're alone, Rosamund calls Loois. “Two to pick up. Or two and a half. Now.”
Bang. Rosamund, Neville and “snack” are in Bermuda. Neville looks around blearily, and then throws up. Gee, teleportation doesn't do that to Courtiers...
Loois’ phone rings. “Glass here. Was that you picking up Rosamund?”
“I need to be there.”
“sigh At least you’re light.”
Bang. Glass finds himself in a brightly lit room full of clutter, with Loois, Rosamund, and Neville.
And Mona. “Ah. You’re here.” She hands Rosamund a torn piece of cardboard. When asked what this is about, she seems distraught. “I’m trying to hold on to my sense of honor as a messenger.” Before anyone can respond, she’s gone.
Back in York, she appears next to Hellgrammite and hands him another piece of torn cardboard without a word. And disappears again.
Only to reappear next to Zabeth, silently hand her a 3rd piece of cardboard, and disappear again.
Rosamund gestures at the retching Neville indicating his little passenger. “That’s why I had to have him in Bermuda.”
Last Updated: Mar 13, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved