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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 67: Kondor 64
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As Kondor held his pistol ready, aimed at the abruptly upright bodies on the slabs, Krannitz spoke. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said, in a most calm performer way, "now we have some notion of how Jo-suede Candor felt at this moment! Thanks to my lovely assistants, Mary and Marta, for helping us experience this."
Kondor blinked twice, thrice. The bodies pulled off head coverings and revealed a pair of pretty young women, and with a flourish dropped the rest of the costumes and stood by Krannitz on the stage in sequined swimsuits. It was a trick, just like his appearance on the table, and he had fallen for it.
He holstered his pistol, and settled back against the wall to watch the show.
The story was told, full of other mistakes. According to Krannitz' version, Candor and company had rushed back to the castle with the enemy close on their heels; and the armies of neighboring rulers were already present and ready to fight. The battle raged for days, while the mystics tinkered with their toy. And then Merrick took over.
"But we must take the story back a chapter, to understand the mysteries here. Why did they wish to capture the Vorgo? It goes back to Baron Richert VII of Kelsing, last of the Kelsing family. He believed that he could preserve his household by extending his own life perpetually. With great effort he was able to locate and acquire the Vorgo. He performed a mystic ritual which he believed would activate its hidden powers, and ordered that it be placed in his family crypt, the very place where as we have just heard it was found. He expected that upon his death he would be brought here and placed in the open bier upon which was inscribed his name; the Vorgo, activated by his death, would restore him to life. But he could not be certain how long it would be before his body was laid to rest, or whether his would be the closest to the object at that moment. Therefore he enspelled it to restore one life per day, believing that he could stop it when he was restored, and use it to unmake the few undead who were restored before him."
Professor Merrick took the Vorgo from Krannitz, and placed it on the pedestal. He looked at it for a moment, as one admires a beautiful sculpture, or an expensive new car.
He continued. "But Richert VII was lost at sea; some suggest that he might have lived, perhaps lost on an island far from civilization, while others insist that the ship and its entire crew was drowned. These early speculations were based on the somewhat foolish assumption that the time of death could be estimated by the number of enemies attacking the castle. Of course, that number is much in doubt itself. But today we know that the powers attributed to the Vorgo in the legend are the superstitions of the age, believed and promoted by men like Sowan, Dimtri, Talwin, and Jo-suede Candor himself."
That stung. However, Kondor held his tongue, listening to this part of the story and trying to fathom what of it was true, or at least fit with his knowledge of the time.
"After much research, we are going to perform the activation ritual–a shortened version, to be sure, but one containing all the critical elements of the original."
With that, Merrick and his companions began to act the parts of believers in a display that might have happened centuries before. Kondor wondered how much of it could be accurate after so long and in view of the misinformation provided on other parts of the story, and he was only half interested. Yet he was not entirely disinterested. He knew that centuries before the Vorgo had been used to disrupt the power fields which gave life to the creatures they called spectres; he could not say with certainty that whatever technological or psychic power the sphere controlled could not work in reverse. He waited patiently to assure himself that Professor Merrick wasn't going to accidentally unleash something upon them which was beyond what they could handle. When the ritual was done, none of the display bodies in the room moved, so he was fairly certain nothing had happened.
A dark-haired bearded man in a gray suit rose from a seat in the last row and slipped out the back door; Kondor watched him leave merely because he was in the back and the man caught his eye. Then he turned his attention back to the stage.
He thought perhaps he should have brought his medical kit; they were shifting to the unmaking ceremony which Dimtri had used to destroy the spectres, and he wasn't at all certain whether that power drain might affect people if not directed at something specific. But the ceremony went smoothly, and there was no light, no power, nothing that would suggest the Vorgo to be more than a round hunk of pretty rock.
After the show, Kondor did not leave immediately; he thought it would be rude to vanish before at least saying goodbye to his host. He felt a bit awkward, but covered it by offering to help move things back to the exhibit. Professor Merrick indicated that the museum staff had people ready to do that, and thanked him for all his help. It was nothing, Kondor said; he was glad to have done it. Then Krannitz approached him, extending a business card.
"You're good," he said. "Quick study, stealthy, and fast hands–I saw you draw that gun when you were startled. Ever think about doing magic for a living?"
Kondor was taken aback, as he took the card without thinking. Magic was something he had played with as a kid, but once he understood that there was no real magic, he had lost interest. Prestidigitation and scientific illusion would be very interesting studies. "Oh, I haven't thought about that for years."
"Well, if you'd like to think about it again, I can always use a talented apprentice. Give me a call."
"I will certainly think about it."
He returned to the hotel, and checked in at the desk. Of course there were no messages; everyone in the entire world who knew him was at the show, unless you counted the clerks who waited on him in various places and the concierge at the hotel. It seemed the correct thing to do; after all, if they knew he checked in, they would know to forward his calls to his room if the professor or somebody wanted him.
Back in his room, he unburdened himself of the few things he had taken with him. He settled into the comfortable chair in the sitting room, and pondered Krannitz' offer. To be a stage magician had been one of his childhood fantasies, and although he doubted it was all he had dreamed, it still might be fun. There was time to decide that later; he would sleep on it.
He wasn't yet tired. He decided it would be good to relax, and that two long, hot baths in twenty years was arguably not excessive, even if they were on consecutive nights. Besides, it would be a shame to waste the Jacuzzi. So he called room service for extra towels and a clean robe, and changed into the slightly used one he had while waiting. They were prompt, and he tipped the maid and headed for the bathroom.
He soaked in the tub for nearly an hour, at his best guess. Anyway, his fingers were pruney, and his body quite relaxed. He rinsed off quickly in the shower to remove any residual chlorine, and put on the clean robe after drying himself.
Then he decided he was a bit peckish; dinner had been early, and a supper snack would be good. Again he called room service, and had a small cold cuts tray sent up. With the rolls provided, he made himself several sandwiches, eating all the roast beef and Swiss cheese, most of the ham, the sliced cheddar, and quite a bit of the other meats and cheeses, along with sizeable samples of several salads. He ate slowly, flipping through the channels on the television (although about half way through he realized that it was probably impossible for him to actually recognize anything or anyone), and thinking about what to do next in this world. He came back to the tray several times over the course of the hour, and then realized he was quite full and really shouldn't eat any more regardless of how good it was, so he called room service again to have the tray removed. He thought of having a cup of coffee, but since he was trying to wind down and sleep it would be better not to risk it. Again tipping the bellboy, he changed into his boxer shorts and went to bed.
He was aroused from a sound sleep by a solid knock on the outer door. Finding the lights in the darkness, he stumbled through the sitting room and without much thought opened the door to the hall.
"Mr. Kondor?" asked a man in a dark blue suit holding a wallet with a metal badge inside. "We're with the police. May we come in?"
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: