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I hopped down from my barstool and took a few steps towards them, evaluating the situation. It looked like the five of them were ready to start throwing spells, which could be detrimental to Larry’s business, other clientele, and furnishings.
“Hey,” I yelled to get their attention as I navigated through the tables to get to them. That redirected their attention. All five started throwing curses and jinxes my way. I merely put out my hand to “catch” them and kept walking towards them.
I have previously alluded to some things about me. I have three forms of magiclessness. I can’t perform any magic. Magic has no effect on me. And magic does not sustain me. This last form has caused me all sorts of problems throughout life. Every other person that I know of has been magically sustained since the Great Curse five hundred years ago. In the article I wrote called “A Day in the Life of Jack the Magicless,” I shared that there was something that sunshine did for people before the Great Curse, some chemical conversion in the skin, that the magic took over doing for everyone but me. That’s why I had to have my special sunshine lights that I sit under every day for half-an-hour, to make that chemical conversion happen. That chemical makes the bones strong, and since nobody knew about this until I came along, I didn’t have strong bones until I was older. My bones warped and broke easily. Instead of winding up the typical six-footer that the Gordon family produces, I am considerably shorter with bent bones and a hunchback. Furthermore, I had not bothered to take off my hat or coat, and being a dive bar, it was a little on the dark side.
Now, imagine you’re the typical person, which you probably are. You’re out in a dive bar with some friends, get a bit inebriated with powerful potions, and get into a fighting mood. You’re suddenly confronted by a short, twisted being. It’s dark, and he’s wearing a hat. You can’t really see his face or ears, but he absorbs your best curses as if they were nothing. What are you going to think you’re facing?
“Oh @#$%! A gnome!” the apparently brightest of the bunch said.
I pointed a crooked finger at them and growled in a much deeper than usual voice, “That’s right. Now, you have three options. You can sit back down and enjoy your drinks and each other’s company. You can take your argument outside. Or you can face me.”
Three of them immediately sat down, looking innocent, and raised their glasses to me as if in a toast. One looked as if he was about to try something, but the fifth put his hand on the miscreant’s shoulder, and when the troublemaker looked over at him, shook his head and said, “I don’t plan to die tonight.”
That sobered Troublemaker up enough that he also sat down, followed by his friend, and they also raised their glasses to me.
I did an about-face and walked back to my place at the bar.
“Nice job, Jack. Thanks,” Larry forced out through gritted teeth. I looked up at him and realized he was trying not to bust a gut laughing.
“Any time, Larry.” I knocked back the rest of my drink. “If I’m meeting Bryce early tomorrow morning, I should probably be on my way.”
I gave the table in the back one last glare as I left. As I walked out the door, I also gave Mike the bouncer a heads up about them.
I woke up early and went down to the carriage house to start a fire in my steam carriage’s firebox and check the boiler for leaks. I then went back upstairs to shower, eat breakfast, and dress before going back down to the carriage house, lighting my side lanterns, and then getting into my steam carriage. Around the city, I usually just walk, but High Gordon was quite a bit further. For expeditions like that, I had my steamer. It was not as efficient as teleporting, but without magic I could not teleport. I could not even use a teleporting service, because their magic would not work on me, either. Thus, I had to have a way to get around when distance was involved. It took about an hour to guide my steamer out to High Gordon.
When the Great Duel happened and the Great Curse was unleashed, the Gordons were at their high-point of influence on Scotland’s kings from any time before then, and with assisting the king through the coming days and years, the Gordons had continued to prosper in wealth and influence. Pretty much everyone knows that the High Chief of Clan Gordon runs the Scottish Empire in the name of the king/emperor. Thus, High Gordon is a considerable estate. When the Great Curse let the magic in five hundred years ago, the Scots had an advantage. It was a Scottish makar who cast the Great Curse, after all. It quickly led to the consolidation of the British Isles under the Scottish crown, and then led to the conquest of the new continents in the west by the Scottish crown. Northern New Caledonia being far richer than either the British Isles or Southern New Caledonia, many of the Clan Chiefs had migrated to the new continent, creating new power bases and using the resources of the new lands. Clan Gordon of Europe is now led by a sub-chief. Clan Gordon of Southern New Caledonia is led by a sub-chief. While the High Chief of Clan Gordon lives at High Gordon here in Northern New Caledonia outside the city of New Huntly.
I pulled up to the gates and noted several changes had taken place since my last visit a few months ago. The biggest change was that instead of just a liegeman at the gatehouse, there were several guards at the gates and along the walls. All of the guards were short and seemed to be twisted. Before I had even stopped and rolled down the window, I knew what they were: gnomes. Real gnomes, not like the pretender I had been the night before.
“State your name and business,” said the gnome that came up to my window.
“Jack Gordon. I’m supposed to meet Bryce McKenȝie here for some business he has with Uncle Tom.”
He looked at me suspiciously, “Full name?”
I sighed and took a deep breath, “Alexander Dunbar Douglas Henryson Jardine Keith Kerr Stewart Gordon.”
He nodded and stepped into the gatehouse.
At the same time, a much taller person detached himself to run out from the gatehouse and knock on the far door of my steamer. I reached over and unlocked the door. A very wet Bryce McKenȝie opened the door and let himself in, then waving his hand to get the water out of his robes and out of the vehicle.
The gnome came back out and waved us through as the gates opened, “Go directly to the carriage house.”
“I couldn’t teleport in. The closest I could come is outside the gatehouse, and I got soaked,” Bryce whined.
As soon as we entered the grounds, the weather changed. The clouds were perhaps at a thousand feet instead of a hundred. The pouring rain became a drizzle. One could actually detect some light coming through the clouds rather than their being black as a gnome’s heart. It always pleased me to visit the family seat. Not even the king/emperor could afford this sort of magic.
I guided my steamer through the grounds and into the carriage house. There was another gnome there who directed me where to park. Bryce and I got out to be met by four more gnomes who “guided” us into the house and into Uncle Tom’s office and presence.
“How are you keeping yourself, Alexander?” Uncle Tom asked.
“Well enough, sir, well enough. And you?”
Tom shrugged and turned to Bryce, “Any progress?”
“Uh, well, sort of, Your Grace. I’ve brought, uh,” he looked at me, “Alexander in on the case. He uses very different techniques and may be able to get us past our current blocks.”
“This is the sort of work you do?” Uncle Tom asked.
“Not the magical detective work, no, but I have other skills and ways of working.”
“Still, Alexander, you’re a Gordon.”
I laughed, “And a younger son of a younger son of a younger son, sir. And it’s not like I can work in either my father’s or my mother’s business, so I started my own in an area I had some skills.”
Uncle Tom shook his head. I should point out here that Uncle Tom is my great-granduncle. My great-grandfather is one of his younger brothers. Uncle Tom is close to a hundred years old. Magic has been helping to extend how long people live ever since the Great Curse. More powerful magic users tend to live longer than average, and the chiefly line of the Gordons are certainly powerful. Of course, there are also mages like my friend Nikky, who is over three hundred, but he has never been terribly interested in using his powers for personal gain, simply for increased knowledge. Uncle Tom has sons and grandsons and great-grandsons and even great-great-grandsons, so I am nowhere close to being in line to inherit the chiefship.
He looked back at Bryce, “Have you told him what this is about?”
“No, sir. I gathered that you wanted things fairly hush-hush.”
He nodded and gestured for his gnome guards to leave.
“Please sit down, gentlemen.” He went about gesturing and muttering for a few minutes until the entire room had what seemed to be an envelope of light around the edges. Then he joined us in sitting down.
He looked over at me, “Melusine is gone.”
“And you could not detect how it was done with any magic?” I asked.
“Nothing. Not a clue. It just disappeared. It seems to have been a transport job,” Bryce said.
I stood up to look out the window. The plinth for Melusine was out in the garden. From where we were, I could see no footprints or tracks that would have resulted from carrying the heavy statue away.
“Are there any suspects?” I asked.
“The German Romantic Nationalists have been agitating again,” Uncle Tom said, “but not so much that they have made any headway.”
I merely nodded as I reviewed the facts in my head.
I sighed and asked the obvious question, “Had you ever determined what its powers are?”
Uncle Tom shook his head.
I sighed and nodded again, sitting back down.
“Alright, go over the history for me again,” I sat back down.
It was Uncle Tom’s turn to rise as he started pacing in front of us.
“In the 1860s and ’70s,” he started, “the German Romantic Nationalists had their second popularity. The first had been in the 1810s. The Germans had fallen to the Second Frankish Empire in the 1750s, and every once in a while, the Germans or Italians or others would come up with these nationalist movements. Of course, Scotland was always there to support France in the Auld Alliance. It was shortly after my great-grandfather had ascended to the high chiefship in 1872 that there were rumors of a plot among the German Romantic Nationalists. Scotland once more aided France in ferreting out the plot.
“The GRN had enlisted the aide of some dwarven craftsmen to create a magical weapon like no other. The combined French and Scottish intelligencers were able to determine that much. The intelligencers managed to determine the date and time of delivery, and disrupt the delivery. The only person caught was a GRN makar named Richard Wagner. The dwarves who had crafted the weapon all got away. Wagner refused to talk, even under the most rigorous questioning. He claimed he had received a note to meet a young lady at that address and time. He was a puissant enough makar that the authorities of the day couldn’t be sure whether they had the truth out of him. He was watched closely for the rest of his life by the Frankish Imperial Security Forces.
“The weapon, when unboxed, appeared to be a huge, solid gold statue of the mythical figure, Melusine, a mermaid with two tails. None of the makars or other mages who have analyzed it could ever find what powers it had. Even the King under the Mountain sent his best to analyze it and found it to be an apparently solid gold statue with no special properties or abilities. The Frankish Emperor of the time, Charlemagne III, was worried about its powers, so made a gift of the statue to my great-grandfather.
“Since then, the generations have continued to analyze Melusine, but found nothing. Perhaps there was another piece to it that the GRN has possession of, that when combined with Melusine will create the weapon. We just don’t know. But with her disappearance, anything could be afoot.”
I turned to Bryce, “Show me the disappearance.”
Bryce pulled out a wand, began waving it around and muttering under his breath. A smaller version of the garden appeared on Uncle Tom’s desk that included Melusine on her plinth.
“And, now…” Bryce said as Melusine disappeared from the plinth.
“Again,” I said as I went behind the desk to see the disappearance from another angle.
“And again,” as I moved to see it from the side.
“How was Melusine brought here?” I asked Uncle Tom.
He looked pensive, “The Frankish and Scottish kingdoms set up a joint teleportation service just for the event. Melusine is a huge statue, and solid gold, which is very dense. Nothing that large had ever been moved before, and it took all of the two empires’ teleporters working together to do it.”
I frowned, “Of course, in 1872, the world population was much lower. But still, putting together something that large would have, or should have, triggered an investigation by either Frankish or Scottish security. Even were such a feat organized in one of the unaligned countries, surely security services would note the movement of so many teleporters, wouldn’t they?”
“I would think so,” Uncle Tom agreed. “Would it help to see the recordings of the seizure, questioning of Wagner, and the teleportation? They have all of that in the Frankish archives.”
“Given my resistance to all magic, that’s a very long way to go for me and will take a lot of time. Could we get copies here?”
Uncle Tom shook his head, “No, that is still considered very sensitive material. But, I might have a way. Just be ready in two days at 8:00 AM sharp. I’ll have someone pick you up then.”
“What about me?” Bryce asked.
Uncle Tom stared at him for a moment, “Alexander may need someone with him who can do magic. You be at his place at 8 AM in two days, too. I shall send both of you.”
I looked over at Bryce, who shrugged.
“Alright. We’ll see if this gives us any clues,” I agreed.
Uncle Tom nodded and then mumbled a few words and made a few gestures and the light envelope that had been around the room faded. We made our goodbyes and went out the door, again picking up our Gnome escort back to my steamer.
As we drove out of High Gordon, we saw again the Gnome security forces on the outer perimeter, and of course, the rain picked back up, the clouds lowered, and it became very, very dark.
Bryce stayed in my steamer on the way back to New Huntly rather than teleporting himself out.
“There is something we are missing,” he said.
“Obviously,” I agreed.
“Do you think it really is a superweapon that might be able to break up the Frankish Empire?” there was a definite note of fear in his voice.
I shook my head, “It can’t be a weapon itself. It has been analyzed too thoroughly. All that it is is several tons of gold. The High Chief of the time would have been better off melting it down. He probably would have, too, if not for its having been a present from the Frankish Emperor.”
“Could it be a power source or magical capacitor or something?” Bryce asked.
“That is a good question. Theoretically, it could store a lot of power. It could also be an amplifier, but it’s not the right shape.”
He nodded, “Well, whatever is going on with it, let’s hope we don’t find out what it is or does the hard way, after it has been used.”
I nodded in agreement. I didn’t mention that in a few days we would be in the middle of the city that it was most likely to be used on if it really were a weapon.Published in