WarSpell: The Merge – Snippet 19
2:30 PM MST, Jan 1
Navajo Reservation, Arizona
Carla wasn’t sure why she wanted to turn north off of I-40 at just that point. The van’s GPS had them going straight for the next four miles before turning off. “I don’t know, Roy,” she said to her cameraman. “I just feel like there’s something there. It was just a brief flash of something.”
“We have that interview with the gaming group,” Roy said. “This is going to make us late.”
Carla was suddenly furious. Who did Roy Corbin think he was to question her? And just as suddenly the flash of anger wasn’t so much removed as redirected. Because Carla knew perfectly well who Roy thought he was, an investigative journalist in his own right, as well as her cameraman and producer. Not to mention her boyfriend. Not that there had been much in the boyfriend department since the Merge.
Also, she knew why she was angry. It was Eowina’s attitude. The Bowna believed that even other elves were lesser beings, and humans were animals that walked upright. Eowina made an exception in that belief for her human lover and the rest of her party. But Roy wasn’t Eowina’s lover. He was Carla’s. He wasn’t a Champion of Noron with the god of contests backing him. He was just a guy. Eowina respected strength. Decency, intelligence, and kindness, not so much.
Carla felt guilty at her rage. Almost she gave up on the detour, but there was something over there that was real.
“There’s something out there, Roy. I’m sure of it.”
Roy kept driving, but he gave her a look that made Carla nervous. It wasn’t that Roy doubted her hunch, but that Roy was starting to doubt her.
The road was dirt and very rough. The grip, Norma Rosenblum complained about possible damage to the equipment. Carla stared out the window as they continued up the road. The sky was grey, overcast. There weren’t any people in sight, just a few sheep. Norma muttered again about possible damage. “Just hush, please,” Carla said. “Give me a little quiet. Roy, stop the van, let me get out.”
Roy doubtfully complied and Carla stood on the dirt road and cast See Magic. She climbed back in the van and said, “That way, Roy. There’s another track just a little way further. Turn right there. I thought I caught a flicker of magic, back when I told you to turn off the highway. It seems like I was right.”
The white van was rust colored from the dust already. In the distance Carla could see a thin thread of smoke in the sky and hoped they didn’t have to travel that far. After the turn, it took only a few seconds before they saw the house trailer. “Here. This is it,” Carla said. “Let me go knock and see if someone is home. And bring the camera, will you?”
“Teach your grandmother to suck eggs, why don’t you?” Roy muttered.
Roy hushed when he saw the young man who came to the door of the trailer. The man looked to be in his early twenties, and he wore his hair in a single braid. At the moment he was wearing a heavy jacket, jeans and boots. A red plaid shirt showed at the throat of the jacket.
“What can we do for you?” he asked when Carla and Roy approached. “We don’t get very many visitors out here. Are you lost?”
“Not exactly.” Carla smiled. “I’m a reporter. We’ve been doing stories on the Merges that have happened. If you watch TV at all, you might have seen some of them.”
“I’ve heard about it on the radio,” the young man said. “I’m Henry Stigers. We don’t get good TV reception out here, so I’ve mostly been listening to the radio. But there’s no story here, Miss. Grandma and I just live here, real quiet.”
“Henry, I’m afraid that isn’t quite the truth,” Carla said. “What you don’t know about me is that I’m a Merge, too. An elven Merge. So I can sense some magic. And this place feels . . . I don’t know . . . holy, I guess is the word. Someone here is Merged, I think.”
Henry looked uncomfortable for a moment. “But we don’t want to be on television. It’s just not something Grandma would be comfortable with.”
“Henry,” a voice said from inside the trailer, “have them come in. Guests are not to be left standing in the yard. I taught you better than that.”
Henry’s shoulders fell a bit. “Grandma says it’s all right, so I guess it’s all right. Just keep our names out of this, will you? Otherwise, we’re not going to say anything.”
“I don’t have a problem with that,” Carla answered. “But why are you so worried about publicity? Most people can’t wait to get on television.”
“We haven’t noticed that a bunch of publicity ever did anybody much good,” Henry said. “And Grandma and I like the quiet life. I came back here just this last fall, after I graduated from MIT. I wanted a break from the rat race, before I go look for work. Grandma wasn’t doing all that well, so I’m still here.”
“Henry,” the voice said again, “are you coming in?”
“Yes, Grandma,” Henry answered. “What’s your name, anyway? Grandma expects introductions.”
“I’m Carla Jackson, from Fresno. This is Roy Corbin, my cameraman, and this is Norma Rosenblum, who handles the rest of the equipment.”
“You might as well come in, then,” Henry said. “Grandma wants to meet you.”
They entered the trailer and saw an elderly woman sitting in a rocker in the living room. Most of the room was taken up by a rather primitive looking rug loom that leaned against the wall. The loom glowed with magic. It was, to Carla’s magical sight, subtle and almost elven. This woman was an intercessor, and not a minor one.
“Grandma,” Henry said, “These are Carla, Roy, and Norma. They’re a TV crew from Fresno. Folks, this is my grandmother, Ada Stigers.”
“Welcome, all of you,” Ada said. “I told Henry that we wouldn’t go undiscovered for long. She told me so.”
“She?” Carla asked.
“Spiderwoman, of course,” Ada grinned. “It’s strange. All my life I heard of Spiderwoman, but never really believed. I was baptized into the Church of God, after all. But Henry and I started playing that game of his, and I . . . what did you call it, Henry? I can’t remember.”
“Rolled up, Grandma,” Henry said. “You rolled up an intercessor and you got to pick the god, so you picked Spiderwoman, from the old legends.”
“Legend no longer,” Ada said. “And I’m not ashamed of it, either. I heard you, Carla. You said you’re a reporter. I’ll do an interview. The world might as well know the truth.”
“Grandma,” Henry said in a warning tone, “Are you really sure about this? What if someone takes against you?”
“Spiderwoman will protect us,” Ada said. “You’re just nervous.”
“Why would Henry be nervous?” Carla asked. “There are thousands of Merges, all across the country. It’s not unusual, not now.”
“Ah,” Ada said, “but how many of them are coyotes?”
Henry shifted uncomfortably again. “That’s me. See, I was trying to honor my ancestors. So when I rolled up a were, well, I picked coyote as my animal. So now, whenever the moon is full, you’ll find me outside, singing to the moon.”
“What sort of coyote are you?” Carla asked. “I mean, what sort of were did you roll up? The infecting sort or the family curse sort.”
“Family, but we didn’t consider it a curse. Coyote is my spirit animal.”
Roy coughed and pointed to his watch.
Carla glanced at Roy. “Yes, I know, Roy. This isn’t the interview we were sent after. Henry, I don’t think you and your grandmother are the only Merged on the reservation.
“Perhaps you and your grandmother would like to come with us, while we go interview the gaming group that called our station.”
The gamers were a set of high schoolers playing a standard game, a fighter, a champion, a criminal, and an amulet wizard. The game was run by a fifth teenaged boy, who merged with another amulet wizard. They were hoping that Carla could get them amulets through her connections. The amulet wizards could load amulets if they had them. None of the group were very high level. The fighter was fifth level, the champion fourth, and the two amulet wizards fourth. The criminal was the highest ranked character at sixth level.