Into Moose Valley

A First Glimpse

On a world as far away as the edge of a dream and as close as the end of a slide there is a broad, fertile valley snuggled down between two high mountain ranges, running down into a wide natural harbor. In the valley at the salt water’s edge, on either side (though more to the south than to the north if you want to be exact) of the river (which runs, jumps, plays and falls from the high mountain lake where the two ranges meet in the west all across the valley) lives one of the two strangest and most wonderful towns ever found anywhere.

If you are ever so lucky as to sail there, the first you see of Moose Harbor is the tall, graceful lighthouse. Its lamp never lets sailors go astray in those waters. The light pierces any obstacle, never hurts the eyes and always shines the color to sooth one best in any storm.

Once in the harbor itself, on a calm day, you can look down through the deep water at the stone ruins and all the fish and the young alligator who live there. Of the town, you would see to the north of the river the Port where boats and planes and hot air balloons and zeppelins and bicycles and land ships and space planes and all sorts of other modes of transportation may easily come to discharge their passengers or cargo, take on new passengers or cargo, refuel, recharge, re-provision or just relax without causing anyone any bother. Near to the Port floats the Inn. The broad, multi-story, comfortable, wooden building with the bluish slate roof drifts about over the water with a nice bit of lawn and a broad patio out back where one may sit and enjoy the sea air. If you do not happen to fly for yourself, just give a tug to one of the ropes which tether it in place and it will float down to the ground for you in short order.

Many of the other buildings have similar qualities, though most are content to stay on the ground if not always in the same place. There is the Moosiversity which makes up most of the town to the south of the river. It has classrooms in other lands and times that you reach just by going through the correct door at the correct time just like you would to reach your math lecture in a more ordinary school. Read more

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A Valley Holiday (Part 8)

Then only Rachel and Misha remained standing on the grey concrete looking at the magnificent glittering ball. “Are you ready to go?” Misha asked softly. He stood on all four blue and white pooves so that his head hung much on a level with hers.

When Rachel did not answer right away, Misha read her trepidation in her face and so he went on with, “We can go through together if you like. Either I could go in back and carry you or I can shrink down and go in front so you can carry me. I always like extra hugs.” Misha stood up on his hind limbs and hugged himself with a great smile to demonstrate. He probably intended to stand up and hug Rachel instead, but Rachel started back a little when he loomed up over her that way and he wanted her to feel better not worse.

Rachel looked up at the pale blue moose, so warm, cheerful, and out of place in that grey landscape, like the ball she should walk into, or even herself in the snow geared Christmas finery. Suddenly, Rachel remembered the way Daddy looked when he went of to be a hero where people would want to hurt him as and contrasted it to what lay before her. Rachel summoned up her Very Brave Girl smile and tried to step into the swirl, but still she hesitated. There had been too much of new people, new places, and changes not for the better that year and it was all happening so fast.

Misha’s voice piped up from down by her ankle, “Even the Heroes like your Daddy did not have to go alone.” Rachel looked down to find Misha Bear-sized again, sitting on the concrete. He raised both fore-pooves in the classic request to be picked up gesture.

Almost as a reflex, Rachel scooped him up and hugged him tightly with her arms wrapped around his tummy in a position babies, kitties, and puppies find uncomfortable but to which Mooses, like Bears and other stuffed animals, adapted long ago. Misha rubbed the back of his head against Rachel’s shoulder and tickled her chin with his antler. “Take as long as you like. Time is somewhat flexible in the Valley. No one will even notice,” he said. Somehow, just by listening, Rachel could tell he smiled.

Another thought struck Rachel as she looked into the exposed snow globe in the middle of the yard. “What about your slide? People will notice it while we are away. What happens if someone else tries to use it?” Rachel asked in her worried Mommy voice, though Rachel did not realize.

“I will put the slide away in my treasure chest when we are done using it. The slide is like hearing me talk or seeing me move. You have to possess a certain level of moosiness to notice it in the first place, and anyone with that is not likely to make trouble with what they see. If they made it through the slide, everyone is welcome to the Chrismoose Feast if they want to eat and laugh and make merry. We always have enough food. If they come to make mischief or ruin things for others, well, we have ways of dealing with that, too,.” Misha paused and for a moment the quiet seemed ominous until Misha went on, “Mostly it means keeping a close eye on them, but sometimes we have to send them home before supper.”

“That does not sound to bad,” Rachel said, finally stepping forward.

“You can only say that because you have never had any of Moosette’s pies,” Misha said seriously. “Being sent away before dessert is horrible,” he said with emphasis and Rachel took her last step into the snow and lights laughing.

A Valley Holiday (Part 7)

Rachel did not like the direction the conversation was going even if she did not fully understand about Misha’s size changing so she asked, “What are they doing? Is there a treasure in the chest?”

Nan laughed, but she waited to get Susan to explain. “You could call it a treasure, but you can’t spend it and if sold it probably wouldn’t work anymore. Misha keeps his slide in there,” Susan said with a grin.

Rachel tried not to frown, but she was very confused. She repeated Susan’s words, “His slide?” in dubious tones, in case she misheard.

“Yes, well, he only carries one end of the portable slide in the box. For Chrismoose he has to make some special adjustments to make sure we have no trouble using it,” Susan explained, watching Misha excitedly while Rachel still stood confused.

“Susan, you are leaving rather a lot out. Rachel has never read any of the Moose stories like we have,” Nan chided gently. Then she explained, “Have you ever been down a water slide, one of those big tubes or partial tubes with water running down the bottom at an amusement park?”

Rachel nodded if slowly, so Nan went on, “The Mooses have built a network of slides much like that. They use them to travel between place and place or even world and world; getting from here to the Valley for example. For this occasion he’s making it into a snow instead of warm water slide. Their world does not have the same rules as ours, so he has to put extra protections in when he wants to take one of us by slide.

“Do not worry about mussing the dress or your hair or even getting snow up your skirts. Something in the way the slides function always deposits one clean, dry, and unmussed at the other end.”

At that point, Misha joined their group, leaving Raymond almost dancing from foot to foot in his excitement and readiness to go. “They are great things for dirty laundry or dishes if you loop it back so what you want washed comes out where it went in; unless, of course, you had a reason to send all your newly cleaned laundry somewhere else. It is not as useful when cleaning rooms however, unless you could somehow turn the end of the slide inside out, but I do not know what that might do to the rest of the network and how could one loop an inside out slide?” Misha rubbed his chin then shook his head, looking down at Rachel. At some point between turning away from the chest and stopping to think, Mikhail grew almost to the Raymond’s height, and much stockier.

“Anyway, that is an idea to be explored another time. I will have to refer it to Miltin. He is one of our best engineers. He designed and built most of the slide network. For right now, the slide is ready to carry us to the slide station in the Port of Moose Valley. Is everyone ready to go?”

Susan, Raymond, and even Nan to some degree all said yes with such eagerness that Rachel nodded automatically. What Misha pulled out of his pirate chest looked nothing like the mouth of a water slide. Once out of the box, it expanded until it stood taller than Raymond; a great, glittering, swirling ball like a shaken snow globe with no glass and real snow dotted with shining points of stars and multicolored lights. On Misha’s signal, the three experienced slide travellers stepped into the swirl one at a time with no hesitation, except for a polite pause to keep the new arrivals from treading the heels of the one before.

A Valley Holiday (Part 6)

Minion reminds me that it is still Tuesday where we are for another four hours.

Rachel could hear Susan’s smile in her voice when the older girl admitted they had not and Rachel smiled, too. Nan, Susan, and Rachel met Raymond and Misha on the concrete back patio in long skirts with coats to match in a surprisingly short span of time.

Nan’s gown and coat were pale grey with a hint of silver when she moved with large, round buttons down the front, each painted with the face or figure of a Moose. Nan wore a long soft cap in the same color with a white, furry edge, rather like an elongated American Santa’s cap done in grayscale with matching gloves.

Susan’s coat hung almost as long as her skirts in an opalescent white material, lined and accented with the dark blue of her gown. A double row of square buttons held the coat closed to her knees and long slits at the sides and back showed glimpses of the dark fabric beneath with three, evenly spaced bands bridging the slits and keeping the tails of her coat from flying in the wind, moving together while giving her the freedom to stride along as boldly as she liked. Susan wore a silver bonnet straight out of A Christmas Carol, trimmed with blue and a small, bright red poinsettia on the side. She tucked thin blue gloves into a fuzzy white muff.

The coat Susan and Nan produced for Rachel extended only half way down her thigh, cut of dark green cloth with a jagged edge like ice sickles each with a round, flat, gold or silver medallion pendant. In spite of the coat’s length, between the long layers of her skirt, thick, soft stockings, and calf-high boots that were produced somehow fitting perfectly, Rachel felt quite warm. She wore furry red ear muffs on a wide, soft headband instead of a hat and her warmly lined, red gloves had Christmas Trees on the backs that never seemed to be quite the same as the last time she looked at them.

Rachel stopped trying to catch the Christmas Trees changing and noticed Misha and Raymond fiddling with something in a small, carved, wooden chest bound with dark metal bands which would seem more appropriate on the set for a pirate film than the dingy back porch under a dirty grey sky. Before she could grow too curious about the chest, Rachel noticed Raymond. He wore earmuffs very like hers, even to color, but his were worn if very comfortable looking. His green work coat was faded in spots and frayed at the edge of sleeve where thick, black, knit gloves disappeared and hem. His dark blue jeans looked relatively new but the old fashioned riding boots which laced most of the way up his shin over his jeans only to have the laces disappear under a wide flap that buckled on the outer side of his calf.

Rachel leaned over and asked Susan in a low voice, “Are we a little over dressed?” After all, Misha was going naked so he could not be used as much of a guide.

Susan looked over at her brother as if she had not really noticed what he was wearing and then laughed. “We do make something of a contrast, don’t we? Nan and I dress up because we enjoy dressing up. Raymond does not notice what he has on half the time so he goes for warm, comfortable, and practical. Song, the master of festivities for most celebrations in the Valley always has dress clothes for the great feast for those who did not come with them, and when it is time to play in the snow, you will find they can either provide you with a change or they will adapt what you wear to the situation,” Susan told Rachel.

“You can often find costumes much odder than ours in the Valley and no one minds,” Nan added in a reminiscent tone with her eyes focused on nothing they could see.

Rachel nodded, stroking her sleeve with one gloved hand, feeling the little light buttons through her coat and smiled with pleasure before she turned her gaze back to where Raymond and Misha worked.

“Misha, have you grown since breakfast?” Rachel asked in surprise.

Misha looked back at her over one shoulder, a little surprise on his furry face. “Well yes, I did. It was hard to see over the edge of the chest without the extra inches, you see.”

Rachel nodded though she did not really understand and the Moose went back to what he was doing. Nan smiled at Rachel, drawing her into a little, female triad. “For mooses, growing up or down or longer or shorter is all a simple matter of will. It is so easy for them that it can be easy to forget that not everyone can manage down as well as up, to whatever extent they like, and whenever they choose. They see how we are all changing all the time without putting any thought or effort into it after all, even if we do it very slowly in comparison.”

“Some of us more slowly than others,” Susan added with a wry laugh holding one hand over her head as if measuring herself.

“Every size has its strengths and weaknesses,” Nan answered, patting Susan’s shoulder.

A Valley Holiday (Part 5)

Hey look, here is Minion posting two weeks in a row. Maybe she can keep it up. What do you think? Another thing I have been wondering about, Minion has been told that even her (for her) short posts might be too long. Do people REALLY want only 500-1000 words to a post instead of her more usual 2,500-4,000? She is the sort who wants the whole story all at once, so she really does not know, and I find you humans confusing at times, myself. Let me know what you think in the comments, or email, or tweet, or what have you. (It is much harder to find a good place to stop that short, but we gave it a go.)

“In this house, we have a standing policy that Christmas does not come until after Dad comes home, no matter what the calendar or the rest of the world says,” Susan explained. “We leave the decorations up and the presents wrapped until we can all be together, so this year is nothing,” a momentary sadness brushed Susan’s face as she went on, “But a few years ago, right after the accident, it was pretty bad. Dad was home that year but, Nan had not moved in yet, I was stuck in the hospital, and our Christmas spirit was dying.

“Nan had read all of the Moose stories ever published and somehow she caught their attention enough to direct them our way. That year they did for Raymond and I what they are going to do this year for you.”

Misha reached up to pat Rachel’s cheek with a warm, furry poof. “How would you like to spend Chrismoose with us? I promise there will be snow, lots of good things to eat, decorations, and an extra special surprise at dinner that we know you will like.”

Rachel looked down into the pale blue, hopeful face and bit her lip, “I will be home when Mommy comes for me? I don’t want her to worry.” Rachel was also thinking about Daddy’s phone call if he could manage to time it right.  Misha’s nod was so reassuring and knowing, it comforted Rachel on both subjects, even the one she did not say.

“Do I have to go in my pajamas?” Rachel asked at last.

Susan laughed, joined quickly by the others as the tension broke. Rachel would go. “Of course not,” Susan said, still laughing. “You will wear the red dress, just like I said. Just wait until you see how much better it gets in the Valley.”

“Will you be coming with me?” Rachel asked Susan, a little nervous about the proposed adventure.

“We will travel to the Valley with you,” Nan said, patting Rachel’s shoulder, “but we have friends to visit and appointments to keep once we get there. You will be going on the Grand Tour and far to busy to miss us.”

“You will probably see us around throughout the day and the whole Valley and all their guests get together for Chrismoose Dinner,” Susan reassured Rachel.

“Do not worry. There will always be at least one Moose with you and all of them pay extra special attention to make sure nothing messes up  their Chrismoose for anyone if they can help it. Mooses can help an awful lot, especially on their home ground,” Raymond added.

Breakfast ended soon after that, though whether through repletion or excitement is uncertain. Raymond stayed to help Nan clear the table and put up the leftovers(some by concealing them most cleverly within his stomach) while the two girls went to get dressed, having so much more to do in that line.

Rachel got out of her pajamas and into a heavy yet silky white slip and the dress easy enough but she was still struggling with the buttons on the first sleeve when she heard a knock at the door.

“Would you like some help?” Susan called through the door. Rachel opened it thankfully to reveal Susan also in gown open down the back and from wrist to elbow.

Susan’s new dress was made of night-sky blue velvet over a pale blue chemise, constructed along the same general lines as the red one with long, full skirts, high collar, and tight sleeves except for the long lines of silvery ribbon criss-crossing diagonally around the bodice and continuing around onto the skirts and sleeves in varying lengths like meteors with a small, shining, crystal star at the end of each one.

“Do the stars light up, like the buttons on this one?” Rachel asked with wide eyes as Susan turned slowly before her.

“Yes and there are some smaller lights under a layer of lighter fabric in the skirt for the dimmer stars. I figured we could exchange button help while we wait for Nan. She always helps me with my hair. Then I will show you the outer things you will want for the trip through the Valley,” Susan answered holding out her hands so Rachel could do up enough buttons to keep the older girl’s hands exposed to start with.

As Rachel stood with as little fidgeting as she could manage, she asked, “Why did you put tight sleeves on both of these? The princesses seem to mostly have bare arms or puffy sleeves in the movies.”

“Have you ever imagined what would happen if you tried to put a coat on over sleeves like that? Either the puffs have layers of something inside to keep the shape. In that case, if you are not careful, it can get very itchy and uncomfortable. If the puffs are empty, just stiff fabric or starch, the coat will flatten or wrinkle your sleeves. These you just have to worry about catching the buttons inside the sleeves.

“You could wear a cloak instead of a coat if you really wanted puffed sleeves. Cloaks are very dramatic but they take practice to get used to if you want to do much more than walk around. They can, also, get really, really drafty in a high wind or if you want to use your arms for much. There are some combinations between coat and cloak that minimize both problems, but I must admit, I like the buttons even if they are a pain to get in and out of.” Susan finished Rachel’s sleeves and then held out one of her own. Susan’s buttons alternated two hard, hemispheres covered with a satiny fabric the same dark color as the dress with one crystal in the same shape meant to be tucked through a small loop of smooth, thin, round, dark blue cord. Rachel had little trouble with them, especially with the free use of both hands.

Another polite knock penetrated the door and Susan called Nan in before that worthy could identify herself, whispering in an aside to Rachel, “We are in her room after all.”

“Are we in your way, Nan?” Susan asked, moving around to start up Rachel’s back.

“I am certain we will manage. It looks like that fits very well, all considering,” Nan said, studying Rachel as Susan’s quick fingers pulled the dress into its proper place with each button fashioned. “Have you given any thought to how you want your hair and the question of hat or earmuffs for the outdoors?”

A Valley Holiday (Part 4)

Slowly as Rachel watched her hosts she started to notice something a little more immediate. At first, she thought Nan gave her way to much food but more vanished from Rachel’s plate then she remembered putting into her mouth. Someone neatly cut up the second sticky bun and two thirds were gone before Rachel made her way through half of the one she tore up. Her eggs had been divided neatly in half. One mound stood pristine since she was busy with walnuts, raisins, and cranberries, but the other half had eroded almost to nothing. Rachel did not know how much bacon she started with, but she knew it was more than remained.

Rachel frowned at her plate, wondering. It did not seem like Nan or Susan would be sneaking food from someone else’s plate and Rachel was sure she would have noticed Raymond trying to cut things up almost under her nose from across the table. Slowly, a blue patterned white poof extended a fork down to capture another bite of sticky bun. The fork was not just held out from his body. The fork actually grew longer as Rachel watched it, until it firmly speared the morsel and then retracted in length again until it could easily be turned to deposit morsel in mouth.

Rachel just stared as the Moose in her arm chewed. Then he smiled at her and waved. “You do not mind sharing, do you? There is lots more if you are still hungry after this is gone,” the Moose asked her, lowering his fork almost to the table top. Rachel recognized the mystery voice from earlier.

Talk around the table stopped as everyone waited for Rachel’s response. Modern convention wanted Rachel to say, “You can talk?!” or segue into some sort of denial of the obvious, but Rachel resisted. “I do not mind at all. Nan gave us plenty.” Then Rachel channeled her inner Mommy for a moment and added, “Though it might be more polite for you to wait until you have permission before beginning such a thing rather than waiting until after you finish nearly half the plate.”

“The problem with that is not everyone can hear the Mooses when they speak or will admit even to themselves that they are seen to move, except under very special circumstances. Though the Mooses can create those circumstances with some extra effort in times of emergency. Consequently, the Mooses have a policy of circumspect behavior until acknowledged,” Raymond explained around sips of his second cup of hot chocolate and bites of his third sticky bun.

Susan poked her brother. “Don’t talk with your mouth full,” she scolded then turned to Rachel. “Raymond is right though, about the dilemma. You see, he could not ask first if you did not notice him and if he was not sharing your plate you might not have noticed. You would not have poor Misha go hungry while we sit here stuffing our faces, would you?”

“No, of course not,” Rachel said reflexively and put the blue Moose down on the table where he could more easily reach their shared plate. She watched him neatly manage another bit of sticky bun and then he pulled a long, curly straw with clear candy cane stripes out of a glowy bit of nowhere. He used the straw to sample some of their hot chocolate.

Rachel said as he sipped, “I thought you said the Mooses were out of books.” Rachel glanced at Nan out of the corner of her eye.

“There are many books published about our Moose friends. Some of the people they visit and talk to took to writing down their adventures together and the stories the Mooses told them,” Nan told Rachel, offering the Moose another piece of crispy bacon. The extending fork he used stretched out to Nan’s hand and the tines bent to hold the offering like dainty metal fingers.

The Moose saw Rachel watching and explained, “Stabbing the crispy stuff with a fork just breaks it but bacon fat is harder to clean out of the fur on my pooves than off your fingers.” He crunched the bacon happily once it drew within range.

“What are pooves?” Rachel asked after a bite of her own, heavy with walnut filled sticky bun goo. She sucked sugary, buttery goo off her fingers and thought she saw his point.

He rocked back and waved all four limbs briefly in the air. “These are pooves. We do not have hooves like the more standard moose native to this place. Neither do we have paws or even hands, though we can form them if we wish.” He raised his unforked poof and Rachel watched as it molded into jelly bean toes and claws like a cat, a split toed hoof like a deer, and then four fingers and a thumb while always staying the same dark blue patterned white soft texture. “They can be very useful, like your opposable thumb dialed up to eleven or even twelve.”

“Oh,” Rachel said and poked at the food on her plate not sure what else to say.

“I am Mikhail, by the way, but you must call me Misha. Everyone I like calls me Misha. We were pretty certain that you would be able to hear me, even before you got here this morning. I, and some of my friends, have been checking you out for awhile and we are rather good at this sort of thing. I even got your favorite Christmas breakfast from your Grammy, though she does not remember the conversation. I am so glad you finally HAVE noticed, though. Things would have been so much more difficult if you kept hearing but not taking notice, like Ebenezer Scrooge does to Marley’s ghost but less grumpy.”

“What things?” Rachel asked, holding her mug with both hands, missing having someone to hug in the face of all the strangeness, even someone who did not talk or eat from her plate like her missing bear.

As if reading her mind or at least her body language, Misha got up and walked over to her across the table on his back pooves, vanishing his fork back to where from it came. He held up his forelimbs in a clear request to be picked up, making Rachel smile.

“We are all going to Moose Valley to share the Mooses’ Chrismoose for the day,” Raymond said his eyes alight with anticipation.

No, the Minion has not died.

I know it may seem that way, considering her lack of activity lately, but she has been stuck working on other things, and is a numpty who forgot to set things up to post themselves while she was busy. In case you have any interest in seeing what she has been working on, the new webpage has just gone active. 

InDarknessBorn

She still has serious doubts about her skills as a comic script writer, but the short stories she has done for it should seem somewhat familiar. We should start regular postings again soon, even if a lot of it ends up as more of things she’d already written instead of new content. She is also trying to get a couple of her longer short stories/novellas ready to publish, while I jump on her to make her stop freaking out.

A Valley Holiday (Part 3)

After a few more minutes, Nan raised her voice and asked, “Susan, could you use some help?”

Even from across the house, Rachel heard Susan sigh. “Yes please, I am not dressed yet and I could not carry the dress without my hands free.”

Raymond bounced up with a cheerful, “Little Brother to the rescue!”

Nan rolled her eyes and smiled saying, “You are awful.”

He reappeared almost immediately carrying Susan in his arms. She looked awfully tiny in comparison. She had her arms around his neck and laid her head against his shoulder. She opened her eyes very wide and batted her lashes up at her brother declaiming, “My Hero!” Then she sat up and said in a more normal tone of voice while Nan pulled out the fourth chair for Raymond to deposit Susan into, “At least there is some good come from your getting so tall. I still have someone to rescue me when my legs quit without Nan having to do it while Dad is away.”

Raymond flipped Susan’s braid over her shoulder and then pushed her chair in before both he and Nan retook their seats. Rachel stared at her plate and pretended not to notice, swallowing her questions but Susan must have seen them anyway.

“Mom and I were in a car accident a few years ago. A big truck lost control in a snowstorm and hit us. It spun our car around, and smashed us off the road into the ditch at the side. Momma did not last long, though she made it long enough to see Dad and Ray again. My legs do not work over well and do not grow right anymore. Consequently, sometimes when I am not wearing my braces, I get to play damsel in distress for the aspiring young hero,” she rolled her eyes and jerked her thumb towards her brother where he sat next to her. He, in turn, bowed where he sat. Susan snatched a rasher from his plate and bit into it while he was down.

“Hey!” he yelled indignantly and Rachel giggled, watching them squabble good naturedly.

Then Rachel felt a soft touch on the back of her hand and the voice from earlier pointed out, “Your breakfast is getting cold.”

Rachel murmured, “Thank you,” and started pulling her first sticky bun apart, down to something she could fit in her mouth, all the while watching and listening as Susan, Raymond, and their Nan talked and laughed, teased and joked. Rachel enjoyed the meal more than she thought possible the evening before, sitting at her window.

Slowly she realized at least two reasons why. So far, no one had said anything about Christmas. A big tree, so lovingly decorated it was hard to tell it was not real, dominated one side of the living room area but no one seemed interested in the gaily decorated packages spilling out from beneath it. Also, all their jokes and chatter wrapped around to include their guest without requiring anything from her.

Then there was another thing. Raymond and Susan may have each other, their Nan, and their decorations but their Daddy was just as gone, Susan did not seem to expect to get better, and their Mommy was not just tired, sad, and at work. Yet they still laughed. Their Poppop seemed long gone and Nan still played. Rachel could try to be like that, too. She had hope for next year, at least.

Moosympus Invaded

Well, Minion DID manage to find another excuse. She got sick. Then Husband Minion got sick and she had to take care of him. They are mostly better now, but I will refrain from making promises she may scuttle, again.

Moose Valley Tales

Moosympus was once an ancient, thriving, Moose city built upon a mountain top. It covered the whole surface and some of the interior of the mountain with beautifully landscaped gardens, large marble halls, busy open plazas, and busy work shops. These days the mountain top is far more idyllic and quiet. At one time, Moosympus was a bustling place, at the very center of moosey activity across the multiverse. Now it stood untouched by the ravages of time and empty of life except for the scant  handful who stayed behind to care for the place and help the humans who actually needed it. Occasionally, some of the older Mooses came back to vacation in the old days.

On that day, only Malos, the giant golden man walked the wide stone streets. He made his rounds regularly, serving as a caretaker and defender of the city. The water levels in the…

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Sacrifice at Rainbow’s End (Part 3)

The steward rapped his staff sharply against the stone floor, causing a hush to flow outward over the crowd of guests gathered within the carefully crafted antique atmosphere in the ballroom. Even the musicians muted their efforts, so that the frail, imported old-world servant might more easily make himself heard throughout the great room.

The smooth tenor voice, though somewhat reduced in volume, was marred only by the slightest hint of old-age tremors. It caressed the pricked ears as the steward announced the latecomer. Oddly, for the first time that evening he gave no title, not even Mr. Miss, Ms., or Mrs. When he called out, “Julian Ialliam Grey.”

An excited murmur of sound welled up within the room. Julian Grey had become something of a legend within the exclusively selected community represented so picturesquely at that gathering. Though, of course, the public at large must be kept shielded from the truth about such things as Sidhe, Vampires, Oni, Wyrms, the Creatures of the Outer Dark, and other such supernatural creatures lest the masses succumb to panic and start burning their neighbors at the stake. These things could not possibly be allowed to maraud about unchecked by any caring government, not one that intended to last long, anyway.

The throng gathered in that place drew its ranks almost entirely from the American ranks of those so engaged, with a few of the more important international authorities in attendance as well. That is not to say that the private sector had no fingers in that particular pie. Just as there are private detectives to a police force; a good many orders, foundations, sects, agencies, and some even stranger conglomerations devoted themselves to the study, chronicling, hunting, and even in some cases worshipping the vast array of strange and other beings the poor panicky public could not be allowed to learn about. Look how the more ordinary humans squabble over, fight about, and over dramatize things like global warming, health insurance, and gender. How would they deal with vampires shopping for groceries down at the local blood bank, or having a ancient god doing actuary calculations for their health insurance company?

Everyone in the room had heard of the Honorable Mr. Julian Grey. They did not even hold it against him (much) that he insisted upon being one of the independents. After all, he was foreign and had a title, so he could not be lumped in with those thorns in the side of the bureaucracy that they had to deal with, besides he was famous, at least in those circles.Julian Grey was a hunter, a trouble shooter, someone called in when the local boogeyman of choice needed spanking, or staking, or beheading, as the case may be.

Even though Grey hailed from that famed hot bed of the otherworldly, the British Isles, the waters surrounding his home had not kept in either Grey’s reputation, or Grey himself. The rumors varied wildly, depending upon the audience’s preferences, but all of them insisted that the hero had a good bit more than the ordinary bits of magic, psychic, or spiritualistic oomph someone needed to survive long in that line of work.

The rumors of Grey’s exploits most commonly bandied about that particular crowd involved the rescue of a young English Lord of the Realm from the mound of a rogue band of Sidhe, and the somewhat melodramatic episode of a dragon slaying in a German park. The dragon may only have been eight feet in length, but the photographs of Grey dispatching the creature with nothing but a dagger while clinging to the beast’s belly wearing only a pair of running shorts, a t-shirt, and a great deal of dragon blood went viral in the right circles, even though the lack of detail masked some …important details.

The dragon stories were, of course, the more enthralling, since they came with pictures. If the crowd only knew the real story of the rescue of the lordling, just where he came from and where, from whom, and  for what reason Grey sallied forth on his behalf, most of them would not believe the tale, even with pictures. One of the troubles with being ‘in the know’, one of the select few privy to the hidden truths, comes from thinking that the secrets you know encompass the  whole truth. The truth, as they say, may be out there, but what is to say that you would recognise it if you saw it?

The swell of murmuring voices grew sharp, gaining an agitated edge as the newcomer stepped through the wide double doors and into view. Surely the Honorable Mister Julian Grey should be taller than the not quite six foot figure pausing there. The figure out of recent legend should be older, broader through the shoulders, and narrower through the hips. This most anticipated of the guests of honor at this exclusive fête, most definitely, should NOT be wearing a dress, masquerade ball or not, political correctness and transgender acceptance aside..

The edge took on an angry buzz as the creature calling itself Julian Grey stopped posing and descended the short flight of stairs into the ballroom proper. Even the most epicine of males with all the help make up and modern technology could provide would be hard put to wear the long midnight rose and ivy gown that well. The breasts framed by the gown’s neckline, the hips, the elbows, the ankles that flashed in and out of view as she lifted her skirts to manage the stairs, and the way it all worked together as she walked across the floor to tell the same tale. As if the words were shouted aloud, the buzz of conversation railed, “How dare she claim to be our Julian Grey?”

The music rose to its former volume and blunted the conversation’s edge, and the dancing resumed, if reluctantly in spots. A troupe of professional dancers formed a solid base for the pattern of movement on the floor as they led the guests through the archaic dance steps that matched the music, costumes, hall, food, and carefully crafted flavor of the event. Grey wondered if the theme for the evening was chosen in attempt to mimic the nostalgia sometimes found in gatherings of longer lived non-humans in an attempt to make some of their guests more comfortable, someone on the planning committee had a fondness for Cinderella, or if someone just really liked their women in corsets with little discernable shape below the waist and their men in short pants and high heels. What clothes and accessories are considered cross dressing all depend upon the culture and period, after all.

The interrupted conversations around the edge of the room blossomed and flourished once again, though the thorns of outrage and disbelief lingered. The dark red and deep green of Grey’s gown were hard to ignore as she moved around the dance floor to the receiving line opposite the entrance.

Grey felt like a spider picking her way across the pale spring bouquet of costumes and decorations so carefully coordinated for the event; a very venomous spider. In fact, once the imagery occurred to her, Grey had to fight to maintain her aloof, polite mein and bow with infuriatingly impervious calm to all the hostile, malicious, or cuttingly dismissive faces who insisted upon catching her eye as she passed.

Grey wanted (so very badly) to laugh in their faces and tell the poor humans that they could not hope to get the reaction they wanted. When it came to all those non verbal tools of social warfare, most of that crowd just did not know where to begin, not compared to Grey’s family …either side of it.

Sacrifice at Rainbow’s End (Part 2)

“Just a moment,” Grey said with a trifle more emphasis than really necessary, putting her hand up to draw attention to the bright, almost sticky pink Blue Tooth device hanging from her left ear, giving any observers time to draw the wrong conclusions.

Grey thanked the uniformed driver with the generous, elegant style an American might expect from a titled scion of one of Britain’s older families, at least if they read and watched enough of the right fiction, and if any one recognised the manner as something of a caricature, so much the better. A sense of humor can be a valuable asset in most lines of work.

“I have arrived,” Grey said sweeping grandly into the front hall in the manner of one who just knew the doors would get out of her way rather than someone with good timing and the ability to hear footsteps through the heavy wooden panels. “I will call you back when I have things settled.”

With that, Grey removed the splash of pink and dropped it into one of the deep pockets of the light jacket she wore over her dark blue blouse ignoring Iohar’s squawk of protest pink did not go out all well with her current color scheme. Grey wore her short, dramatically styled hair in a shade near black for the occasion, eyes a deep, hypnotic blue, and ice white skin, to add just a touch of the outre to the business casual outfit.

Iohar insisted, and after one too many fight to convince a prospective client of Grey’s competence in the face of a too ordinary exterior, she finally let him take charge of her image, within reason.

The head set, however, was completely for show and nu’s direction. It did not connect to any device, transmit or receive on any frequency that could be detected, trapped, or blocked. Grey wore it when she wanted to talk to her overprotective half-brother, on the inhuman side dead bodyguard, and otherwise incorporeal, wonderful pain in the ass, Iohar Riordan (it is a long story). It gave people the wrong idea so they did not over react when she went around talking to thin air. Cellphones have made it much easier to get away with than it used to be.

Grey’s faux aristocratic manner, (stolen whole cloth from a great aunt who had some modest success as a stage actress under another name) carried her all the way into a modestly sized but luxuriously decorated suite on the first floor above the ground with a pocket handkerchief balcony on the back of the building just the perfect size for a small wrought iron table and chair that just begged one to lounge around with a cup of tea watching the sun set over the fair sized lake beyond the formal garden and hedge maze.

On second glance, Grey dismissed the idea. The unruly sun hung in the wrong  corner of the sky to set on the other side of the lake. Grey had nothing against the down, and her peculiar background let her get by on shorter sleep than most, but Grey objected on principle to getting up early unless she got paid for it. She would rather lounge in bed with a book, especially a big, soft, four poster bed like the one that dominated the bedroom of her little suite.

Grey was just beginning to think that the weekend might not be too bad when a polite knock summoned her back to the sitting room door.

“Yes?” Grey asked, opening her door without looking through this peep hole.

Three young men in the Antebellum costumes of the hotel staff stood in the hall wearing various degrees of professionally blank and embarrassed expressions with their arms full of well-polished, blonde wood garment boxes. “Please excuse us for bothering you Miss Grey, but we have brought a selection of costumes provided for you by your hosts for the ball this evening, the leader of the three said in a commendably even tone.

Grey glanced again at the boxes and noticed the ornately hand lettered card on each box. She felt her gracious smile freeze on her face and start to crumble around the edges.

“If you have any trouble with or questions about the selection provided, please do not hesitate to call the desk. We have a seamstress and tailor on staff to deal with any unfortunate wardrobe mishaps that might arise,” the speaker went on, obviously sticking to a given script, no matter the circumstances while one of his companions rolled his eyes and the other blushed and turned away to stare down the hall.

Grey stepped back and waved the bearers into the room. “Just put the boxes anywhere,” Grey said after an uncomfortable pause while she forced herself not to talk through gritted teeth.

Grey tipped the three men as generously as she had the one who brought her bags up earlier. All three hesitated, looking at their largesse and each other almost in guilt or even shame.

“They are nice boys, aren’t they?” Iohar whispered in Grey’s ear. “Don’t worry about ti. I know it is not your fault,” Grey said more naturally. “I will take care of my own costume for tonight.”

They all knew that all attendees were supposed to wear one of the costumes provided, but under the circumstances, no one decided to mention it. Grey eased her visitors out of the room and locked it behind them.

Without even opening any of the boxes that now sat arrayed on the settee, chair, and coffee table, Grey knew as well as the deliverers that none of the contents would suit her figure. She stood with her fists on her hips glaring down at the cards smirking innocently up at her. Each one elegantly proclaimed that the contents were meant for “The Honorable Mr.Julian Grey.” said in a thoughtful, almost hopeful tone.

“You said rude, obnoxious, or ill advised, didn’t you?,” Grey said in a thoughtful, almost hopeful tone.

“I said especially rude, obnoxious, or ill advised,” Iohar responded with emphasis. “This particular gaff is practically standard these days.”

“Damn that blogger and his camera,” Grey said, disemboweling the boxes and spreading their contents across every available surface. As expected, she found an array of period men’s garments in a variety of pastel colors and sizes.

“To be fair, he managed to get your name and most of the details right about that overgrown lizard marauding in the park in spite of the language barrier and the officials actively trying to keep anyone from knowing anything about the entire incident,” Iohar pointed out, not for the first time.

“When did I ever claim to be fair?” Grey demanded sourly.

“And people have been getting your gender wrong since you were born, so it hardly seems fair to heap all the blame on one poor fan boy’s head,” Iohar continued reasonably.

Grey’s growled response was unintelligible and probably extensively profane and at the very least disrespectful of her ancestors, so it was probably just as well no one could make it out.

“It seems my ability to get under your  skin is a bit better developed than you thought,” Iohar said with the smirk plainly heard in his voice.

Grey growled and raised both hands, clutching at the air like she would throttle him, if only she could get her hands on him. Then she relaxed, letting go of the histrionics and laughing. “Touche, oh brother mine.”

She looked over the display of costumes, biting her lower lip. “Granting that our hosts have not yet proved excessively rude, obnoxious, or ill advised, would you, at least, grant they have earned a little obnoxious in return for this,” she paused to lift a pair of peach knee-breeches by one lace-trimmed cuff then let it drop as if it soiled her fingers and finished the question. “Gaff?”

“Just how obnoxious are we talking?” Iohar asked warily. He had known Grey for most of her life, after all, and knew just how obnoxious she could be.

“Oh, hardly at all,” Grey said with an innocent smile that only a fool would trust.

“Grey…” Iohar started, but she cut him off with an airy wave.

“Oh, don’t get your vibrations in a knot,” Grey said heading for the bedroom. “I will wear period appropriate garb. I just do not feel like cross- dressing tonight, or transforming myself or their offerings into something more appropriate to their expectations.

“I saw the costume ball on the schedule of events, so I brought my own gown,” Grey said, heading for the long garment bag laying over the foot of her bed with her modest suitcase.

“Oh dear,” Iohar said resigned to the inevitable.

“Pastels don’t really suit me, anyway, and you said I should stand out.”

“At least this sets one of your worries to bed,” Grey said, still smiling her happy little smile.

“Which one was that?” Iohar asked tiredly.

“If this had anything to do with our little Pennsylvania visit, they would have gotten my gender right,” Grey said with a grin. “Moreland might have covered for us after we dropped him in it, but there were other witnesses, and the Major mover would.”

Iohar did not speak, just let out a slightly pained little noise that proved Grey had some skill at getting under his ‘skin’ as well. That took some doing, since he had no skin to speak of, but what else are siblings for?