Paradigms Lost — Chapter 46

Since the electronic ARC of this book is available from Baen, Ryk wants to stop the snippets here.

Here’s the link to the eARC: http://www.baenebooks.com/p-2544-paradigms-lost-earc.aspx

Paradigms Lost — Chapter 46

Chapter 46: Explanations

“I must confess, Jason, that there are a few things which remain unclear to me.”

Rebuilding Verne’s mansion was taking some time. It had also taken a lot of fast talking to keep Jeri from poking her nose too far in; even though the mansion was relatively isolated, the battle between the half-demonic things which the Colonel had employed and Verne’s household had been more than loud enough to draw a lot of attention. Now, a week later, we were meeting in the repaired living room.

Verne was back to his old, debonair self, black hair glistening sleekly in the lamplight, dark eyes as intense and deep as they ever were. “Firstly, Jason, how did all the people gain entrance without us knowing of them?”

“Since the house was bugged,” I answered, reaching out for an hors d’oeuvre and wincing slightly from the pain in my arms, “Ed and the others heard me come in. Then, when I said to shut down all the electrical power in the house, that took out the alarm systems. Your own personal alarms — mystical ones — weakened along with you, of course. I’d presume that they had some ability to subvert magical wards as well. And of course once the shooting started, none of us would’ve noticed an alarm much anyways.”

Verne nodded. “True enough. In my condition, I wouldn’t have noticed much, nor cared, I admit. Now, second… Lady Sylvia.”

Syl grinned from ear to ear. “It was almost worth being kidnapped by those things to see the expressions on your faces. Jason, dear, you try to take me seriously, but like so many people — men and women — you look at my gypsy facade and my crystal earrings and pendants and forget what I really am.” She paused. “So did they. They really didn’t search me at all; I didn’t resist much except to scream and struggle a bit. Then when they had me locked away …” for a moment her face had a grim expression on it, one I’d never seen before; I wasn’t sure I liked it. “… I prepared myself, and then I… left.”

“Indeed, milady. But how?”

“You trust my visions. So do I. That’s because I’m not a fake.”

I remembered Elias Klein dropping me in agony because the touch of a rock-crystal amulet burned him. I thought about what that meant.

So did Verne. “My apologies, milady.”

“No apologies needed, Verne. You saw me as I prefer to be seen; a somewhat airheaded, gentle mystic with no taste for war and a hint of the Talent. But when my friends are in danger, I’m not as gentle as I look. The truth is that they weren’t ready for a real magician, even a very minor one. And that was fatal.” She looked ill for a moment.

“It’s okay, Syl,” I said.

She looked up at me. “You’re not too shocked?”

“It’ll take a little readjustment, I guess. But not that much. You carry a gun. I’ve known that you’re smart enough not to carry something unless you were sure you could use it if you had to. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that you’d be able to fight in other ways, too. I’m glad it still bothers you, though. As long as we’re both bothered by it, we’re still human.”

Verne nodded solemnly. “Killing is a part of life at times. But it is when we come to accept it as a matter of course that we give up a part of our souls.”

“I have a few questions of my own,” I said. “Kafan, what were those words you said that made the Colonel back up?”

Kafan glanced at Verne, who inclined his head slightly. “Well, ‘Shevazherana’ is the name of that sword my Master gave me, the one Verne kept after I disappeared. It means… Dragontooth, Dragon Fang, something like that. The other word, ‘Tor’… it is the name for the method of combat that I was taught. Why, exactly, it scares demons, I don’t know, but it does.”

Verne shrugged. “It was the technique of combat used by the Royal Family of Atlantaea and their guardians. And demons had good reason to fear that family’s vengeance after the fall of Atlantaea. And the one who taught you… oh, there’s good reason for them to fear anyone who knows that word.”

All of us could see that Verne might know more, but wasn’t going to speak. I decided I’d delved into more than enough unspeakable mysteries in the past few weeks. This one I’d leave alone. “When you were fighting the Colonel, you…” I paused, “you seemed to not move, but move, if you know what I mean.”

Kafan smiled. “You mean, teleported. Yes, I can do that. In combat I can do it very quickly, to anywhere I can see or directly sense. Out of combat I can go much farther, to anywhere I have been often enough to have… well, call it a sense of what the place is really like.”

“So my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. Still, that’s a hell of a power to have.”

“And not one I recall you having to such an extent in the old days, Kafan.”

For an instant there was a flicker of that dead black look, but it disappeared, leaving Kafan simply looking cautious. “No, I didn’t, Father. But I can’t talk about why, not now anyway.”

“No problem. I do have one other general question,” I said.

“Only one? Dear me, Jason, then I must have already said far too much!” Verne said, relaxing.

I laughed. “No, seriously. You’ve often mentioned, offhandedly, things about ‘other worlds’ and how somehow magic was removed or sealed away. I guess my question is… where is the magic? And will it come back?”

He looked thoughtful. “This is not the first time I have considered that question, Jason. To put it simply, magic exists everywhere to at least some very small extent, but its focal point, if you will, is a single world. Why such a truly cosmic force should be so focused I do not know — I never studied magical theory, and the reasons behind such a phenomenon were probably only really understood by a handful of the wizards of Atlantaea.

“However, there was a link — a conduit, one might say — between that world and Earth. Kerlamion and his forces either severed or blocked the conduit. If severed, it might well act as would a similar item in the real world, spraying its cargo of power out into the ‘area,’ if one could use such a term, of the break. Where that would be, of course, is a question far beyond my ability to answer. If it was sealed, on the other hand, the power has been building up behind the blockage. Perhaps there is some maximum which is already reached, and thus the barrier will remain unless something breaches it; or, perhaps, eventually enough pressure, so to speak, will build up and shatter even the Seal placed by the Lord of Demons.”

I thought for a moment. “So, to summarize, ‘I haven’t a clue’ is your answer.”

Syl gave an unladylike snort that turned into a fit of coughing; she’d been just taking a sip of tea when I skewered Verne. As I apologized, the others finished laughing. I sat back in my chair, feeling a crinkle of paper that reminded me of something.

“Oh, Verne, I’ve got something for you.” I handed him the check.

He stared at it. “Jason, I appreciate that you wish to repay me, but we’re hardly done yet. Besides, after what I know you’ve spent, I know you cannot possibly afford this.”

I grinned. “It sure shows that you’ve been too busy to keep up with events lately, or you’d have seen the news articles on it. Verne, I’m rich now.”

“What?”

I opened up the paper. “Take a look. After the Morgantown Incident, werewolf paranoia showed up everywhere. And since there’s only one known way to detect the things, lots of people started making Wood’s Werewolf Sensors or whatever they wanted to call them, including the Feds. Well, a little pushing from the right lawyers — and the President — and the Patent Office recognized that I’d done the design work and owned the rights to every version of the thing being produced. In exchange for a real generous licensing deal to allow them any number of the sensors for government use, the Fed made sure that the private sector manufacturers coughed up the bucks real fast and either got out of the business… or started licensing from me. I’m probably going to have quite a substantial income for a long time to come.”

“Truly it’s an ill wind that blows no good, Jason. Even Virigar has brought something good out of his visit. My congratulations.”

“Speaking of those things, have they actually proven to be of any use?”

“According to government sources — who naturally don’t want to be talked about — a number of, um, ‘paranatural security breaches’ were detected through its use and related approaches. That’s one reason they’re very happy to work with me.”

“So all’s well, then.” Verne said. “It is well done with.”

“We’re not done yet,” I said. “There’s still the question of Senator MacLain. And of Kay and your daughter.”

Kafan nodded, lips tight.

Verne smiled. “True, Jason. Yet I have confidence that we will find a way to deal with these things. The Lady is with me again. I have friends. I have my son.

“Faith, friends, and family, Jason. What more do any of us need?”

 

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