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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 64: Kondor 63
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The next morning and part of the afternoon was spent hunting luggage. At first, Kondor wasn't sure what he wanted; then, as he saw what was available and determined what was wrong with it, he began to form an image of exactly what would fit his needs. By two o'clock he had not found it, but he needed to stop by the museum and find Professor Merrick.
The magician who would be helping with the performance was a talkative fellow who used the stage name Krannitz the Stupefying. It didn't seem the best descriptor to Kondor, but apparently he was fairly well known, successful as magicians go. He chattered in a rather vacuous way about how his ancient predecessors used tricks to fool people into giving them power. He was quite certain that Sowan and Dimtri and the others had used a trick much like the one they would be performing in order to impress the peasants and give credibility to the notion that Jo-suede Candor was some kind of supernaturally sent savior. Candor was obviously some mercenary they had hired to help the fight, and the magic act would give the uneducated confidence that God was on their side. Kondor found this particularly annoying, not because he thought there had been any real magic involved, but because Krannitz' explanation didn't fit the facts. As far as he was concerned, it was a huge coincidence that he happened to arrive in the midst of their ritual. Sowan and Dimtri hadn't fooled anyone but themselves. There were no peasants present, nor any royals either. The wizard, sage, priest and two apprentices were alone in the chapel practicing their superstitions when he'd stumbled into it, and they were convinced that he was the sent one. Obviously Krannitz had no more belief in a supernatural explanation than Kondor did, and the explanation of the trick as a tool to deceive the masses was exactly the sort of explanation he himself would have used–only he had been there, and knew the facts of the case first hand. The simple explanation was in this case very mistaken. Kondor had appeared from nowhere at the appointed time, and was not part of some show. It bothered him that so obvious an answer could be so wrong. But he couldn't very well explain to the trickster that he knew Candor had suddenly appeared in a very natural scientifically explainable way from another universe, because it was hardly credible to suggest that he had seen it happen, whatever his resemblance to the statue.
He learned the trick, and they practiced it a couple times, but it was straightforward enough once you knew how. It only required that you be able to move quickly and quietly at the same time, skills Kondor had cultivated first as a kid and later as a soldier. Krannitz seemed satisfied.
As planned, he had dinner in the hotel restaurant. The prime rib was excellent, and the appetizers and side dishes on the buffet included some for which he had no names, others of which he had heard but had never seen. Once again he ate a bit more than he should have done, although this time it was because he managed to save room to sample the superb pastry deserts. He did not have time to relax and digest tonight; there was a show at seven at the museum, and he was part of it.
Krannitz and Professor Merrick played the parts of Dimtri and Talwin, the sage and the priest, with a couple of others filling in for Sowan and the apprentices. Of course, Kondor had never heard the part of the ritual which preceded his appearance, and even now he didn't get to see it from his hiding place; he wasn't certain they had it entirely right anyway. His appearance on the table produced the desired reaction, as the audience thought they saw the statue appear alive before them; yet they were not so gullible as to think it was anything other than a trick, and applauded a moment later.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Krannitz said, "Mr. Joseph Wade Kondor, descendant of the mythic Jo-suede Candor who is said to have appeared in answer to this call eight hundred years ago." The audience applauded again. Kondor waved to them, very like a politician greeting crowds at an airport he thought, and passed into the darkness of the auditorium to watch the show from the rear.
Several of the exhibits had been moved from the display to the museum stage; the front of the mausoleum from which he had taken the vorgo was standing at a slight angle so that the audience could see behind it. There they had placed a couple of wrapped bodies on tables between which was a pedestal similar to the one he remembered. The vorgo rested on this. The other end of the stage had the chapel set; it had been used for Kondor's appearance, but apparently was to be used for some of the other rituals as well. Professor Merrick lectured briefly on the history of those events, and now Krannitz again had the floor.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he continued, "we are told that Jo-suede Candor traveled ten miles to the cemetery in which the sphere was hidden." His voice began to lower, becoming secretive, mysterious. "He traveled all that distance knowing that evil creatures from the netherworld awaited him, ready to steal his life and possibly his soul; yet he did not flinch from his mission. As he reached the fence, he slowed, surveying the graves, counting the dead within who might oppose his mission. His companions dared not go further into this heart of darkness, but waited on the path beyond the gates. Candor alone entered the accursed land, pressing by the force of his will into the very home of the undead, and coming to the door of the crypt in which the object of his quest was entombed."
Krannitz while speaking had walked over to the front of the mausoleum. "The door was held against him, as by some unseen will opposing his own. But his will proved the greater, and he pressed on, stepping through into the darkness beyond." He crossed the threshold of the now empty doorframe; beyond it the Vorgo sat on the pedestal, wrapped bodies on slabs around it.
"Surrounded by death, he did not shrink from his mission, but strode forward bravely, yet not without caution, to the magical sphere, the Vorgo, which was the prize he sought. He must have stood here marveling at this thing, to us seemingly just a rock sphere, but to him an object of great awe and magical powers. I see him standing, corpses lying about him, saying a prayer of thanks to his gods, amidst the gloom and decay."
Balderdash, thought Kondor; but it made a good story. Maybe that's how these legends start: someone has a way to improve the story. But Krannitz was continuing.
"Then, humbled by the great object before him and frightened of the spirits around him, he reached out and grasped the sphere, lifting it from its stand." As Krannitz said this, he did it. The bodies on either side abruptly sat upright; several people in the audience screamed, and Kondor drew his pistol.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #100: Novel Settling. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: