A stand-alone story set in the world of the Sirkkusaga novels featuring a couple of characters from the novel, Sirki’s Children.
The shining giant insect that was the jump-ship bucked and twisted as the pilot attempted to prevent it falling to the rocky ground, something had gone wrong as it materialised and the AG drivers were acting erratically. Worse still, the jump-engine, having pulled them into the wrong dimension, failed dramatically, to flare on fire briefly and fill the cabin with acrid smoke.
Bella Fordyce looked out of the hatch in horror. “I can’t desert my fellows, it goes against everything we’re taught, everything we believe!” she protested, in truth the Psi was also appalled at the thought of throwing herself out of the falling airship.
“Magus Fordyce, it’s pointless all of us dying, you will do as you are fucking ordered!” snapped Undercempa Harding.
“Sir, we’re too hi…” began Fordyce, but the officer pushed her out in into the air before she had the chance to say more.
Using her telekinetic ability to force the air around her into a protective bubble, the Psi plummeted to the ground to bounce several times before her concentration finally broke to deposit her onto the hard earth and lay there winded; Bella had only done this once before, during training. She could not see the airship crash but knew from the distant thud that it had not been a good landing and once she had regained her breath, set off towards the cloud of dust and smoke rising in the arid rocky landscape.
The ship had not exploded on impact as such, but had been almost torn apart upon hitting the ground. Harding and the pilot, Thorssen were dead, of course but were in enough of one piece for her to be able to extract them from the ruin of the vessel. She placed their seaxes in their hands, as was required for them to enter Valhalla then buried them in shallow graves for recovery later.. The Psi then searched through the wreckage to find a saucer-shaped object slightly larger than a discus, it was known as a flivver and was basically a sort of messenger pigeon. Since any form of communication between dimensions was impossible, jump-ships carried at least one, their purpose being to travel back and forth carrying messages when required. Fordyce recorded her report then sent the flivver off to her home dimension in the hope that a rescue mission would be dispatched to her location.
After Fordyce had spent several miserable days at the crash site she decided it was high time to send her colleagues over the Rainbow Bridge and set about cremating their bodies, using incendiary grenades salvaged from the wreckage,. After her sad task had been completed she lay on her back in the hot sun staring at the cloudless blue sky while considering her wyrd, no-one had arrived from the Reignweald yet and, despite her careful rationing, food and water stocks were running low. There were some tough prickly plants growing around the site and she was wondering if they could be a good source of fluid when she heard what sounded like a horse’s hooves clipping towards her.
Fordyce observed a man sat astride a horned horse-like animal approaching the wrecked flyer so quickly hid from view behind a large rock, the stranger dismounted and peered into the twisted fuselage to see the makeshift bed set up inside then checked the ashes in the fire pit Fordyce used for warmth in the cold desert night.
“I don’t rightly now where you’re hiding but you’re here somewhere,” announced the man in a loud voice. “You can come on out, I don’t mean no-one no harm.” He was speaking in a language remarkably similar to that of Great Britain in Dimension 2, their original destination before the jump-engine had malfunctioned.
“Hyoo art thou?” asked Bella from her hiding place, her command of English was poor but nevertheless, he seemed to get the gist.
“Name’s Scott Delamore, lady, my pa’s got a farmstead a couple of ten miles hence. Didn’t know anyone was here until your fire. Grandma says. “That’s a funeral pyre, that is!” and I told her not to be such a dunderhead, as no-one lives out here in the scrubland! But it kind of got me curious though, so I thought I’d come and have a looksee.” Fordyce didn’t answer, so the man continued. “Looking at what’s left of your fancy ship I’d guess you’re one of them aeronauts from the east coast, you’re a bit far west aint’cha, didn’t you know the treaty’s supposed to prevent your people coming over this way?”
“Nye, herra, Ic hath not gethot.” Curse it Fordyce, English not Aenglish! “No, sirrah, I had not any idea.” Bella replied.
“You sure have a funny way of talking but I got the last bit. You sound like a Dane, you’re not from Illinoy are you?” his voice took a less friendly tone.
“Nye, I mean no!”
“You’re not a Luther then?”
“No, sirrah, I am from Aengland!” replied Fordyce.
“Heck, you are lost! I mean I’m no aeronaut but what sort of ship you got, I don’t know of any such thing that can fly thousands of miles?”
Fuck, where the hell did we crash? “Mister Delamore, I don’t wish to appear dwaeslic, er, stupid, but where is this place?”
“You’re in Amerigo, lady, the Western Territories to be precise, the Land of the Turtle, or the free lands if you like. We revere the old gods here and live alongside the tribes in peace.”
Shit, this is their version of West Hispania, thought Bella.
“You got a name, lady?”
“It’s Bella,” she replied.
“Bella, I don’t much like talking to someone I can’t see, how about showing yourself?”
Fordyce stood and walked towards the man, who was dressed in leather and wore a wide-brimmed hat and had a sandy moustache upon an honest face, a revolver hung at his belt.
He started at her appearance, she was wearing a dishevelled leaf-pattern uniform with the black meditation cowl of a Psi, her yellow blonde hair was loose over her shoulders and a short seax hung at her side but it was the cornflower blue eyes that drew his attention most.
“Thor’s Hammer!” he exclaimed. “Ain’t ever seen eyes like that before!”
Fordyce climbed into the man’s mind, he was as honest as he seemed and lived with his family on quite a large farm where they raised cattle and grew wheat, there was a small town called Creekwood a distance away where carriages, some steam-powered, travelled on well-maintained roads all over the Western Territories. “Sorry, some folks do find them a bit of a startlement, come from my mama’s side, she was a Cossack.” Russia was far enough away it would do.
“Your voice has changed, ain’t it?” Bella had absorbed the local language while she was in his head.
“No, sir, I do believe you may just have misheard me behind the rocks and all.”
“Yeah, that’d be it, I’d guess. Do you want to come back to the farm and stay with my folks a while, grandma will most joyed to know you?”
She shook her head. “I got to stay and wait for my friends to come get me.”
“You know if they’re a coming for sure?” asked Scott.
Her shoulders fell. “Well, no, I don’t.”
He smiled genially. “Well, Bella, the offer’s still good. Can always use a helping hand on the farm, and if your friends do turn up, they’ll surely search around for you. Heck, I’ll make us a big arrow to point the way.
It seemed the best option, so she helped him build a large arrow-shaped construction out of sizeable rocks then checking over the wreckage once more, she gathered as many useful items as could be carried including a Sterlinger assault rifle, Psi rarely carried firearms, they didn’t need them. Switching on a locator beacon and secreting it in a pocket, Bella climbed on the strider behind Scott and they rode into the distance.
Looking for Bella
Bob Scratch was the landlord of the Crazy Buffalo saloon in Creekwood, his main competition came in the form of the Amerigo Star, which was a good place for a fight, and the Buckthorn Hotel, which catered for the more pretentious customer. Those who wanted high stakes card games or the company of a woman knew both were available here, well within the pocket of the average cowpoke. His rivals provided the same, of course, but the Buckthorn ladies affected air and graces while pretending their cavorting on the stage made them actresses, and in the case of the Star, you got what you expected and your wallet stolen into the bargain.
Bob was happy in his establishment and liked his clientele, what he didn’t like were Luthers, with their severe ways and their disdain for alcohol and frivolity in general, and these two folk stood at the bar looked like them. The woman was pale slender and could be called pretty, the man was tall, heavily built and had a lantern jaw. Both were dressed in severe black with white collars and cuffs, both had yellow blonde hair covered, in the man’s case by a wide-brimmed black hat, in the woman’s case a white bonnet covered most of her locks.
“What can I do for you folks?” he asked pleasantly, Bob told himself he shouldn’t take people at face value.
“We are looking for a woman called Bella,” replied the man in a strange accent. “The Buckthorn Hotel had a board outside advertising a, Beauteous Bella the singing Belgian, but it was not her and the manager, a Mr Genge, suggested we try here.”
Lousy good for nothing bastard! Thought Bob, Lou Genge had dumped them on him. ”That Bella is no more Belgian than me! I do have a Belle working for me but she’s a little busy at the moment.”
“Couldn’t she drop what she is doing, it’s rather important?” piped up the woman, she had the same strange accent.
“Not really, her customer would not be happy,” replied the barkeep with a grimace.
The woman appeared puzzled but the man, clearly understanding the situation, bent to her ear to whisper something and her piercing blue eyes widened in shock. “It can’t be her, we never do such things.”
“Definitely Luthers!” muttered Jed Hopkin, who was one of the Buffalo’s regular topers.
The stranger casually let his dark coat fall open to display the small cannon holstered at his right hip. “My companion is perhaps a little unworldly, sir. We shall, of course, wait until this lady has finished her business.”
“Fair enough but if you’re to stay you got to buy a drink,” insisted Bob, the woman unsurprisingly had a soda but the man took a beer. Perhaps appearance can be deceptive, unless Luthers are secret drinkers?
Amid a sea of stares, both curious and hostile, the odd couple took a table to wait in silence, or so it seemed.
“Bella could not become a hore, she’s a Psi!” pathed the woman indignantly.
“Madel, she’s been stranded in this backwater for three years judging by our time, probably even longer considering how far we are from our dimension. Woden only knows what’s she’s had to do to survive.”
“I cannot contemplate of such a thing!”
“Is this the Madel Tog-Barr who was once captured and tortured by the enemy, you did as you were told then, didn’t you?” asked the man, telepathically.
“I did not do that!” she replied snippily.
“You would if you’d had to.” He returned some of the stares and all averted their eyes from his fierce blue gaze. “And who picked these supposedly typical clothes because we’ve garnered nothing but hostility from them?” The Psi shrugged and sipped her drink.
Bob nodded towards a barely-dressed dark haired woman who had come down the stairs. “Told you!” Madel path’d triumphantly.
Undercempa Da N’soth shook his head. “No, it’s not her but thank you for your time.”
“Hey, Luther!” piped up Jed. “I reckon the Amerigo Star’s got a Belle works behind the bar there.”
“And under it too if she’s paid enough!” laughed another customer.
“The Amerigo Star, you say?” asked the man.
“It’s on the edge of town, just go down Main Street and you can’t miss it.
“Say, fella, don’t you listen to Jed, he’s too skinned to know what he’s saying most of the time,” chipped in Bob urgently. “The Star’s not the place for a Luther to go, especially not with a lady.”
The man smiled humourlessly. “I understand your concern, sir, and I thank you but we will be fine.” With that the pair left.
“Jed, you numbskull, what’d you go tell them that for?”
“Luthers deserve all the trouble they get,” he grumbled in reply.
“Oh, heck!” exclaimed Bob. “Bella, get your fanny behind the bar and serve. I’ve gotta find Reeve Cooper or there’s gonna be murder!”
The Reeve turned up, with two deputies, outside the Amerigo Star just in time to see somebody tumble out of the swing doors while two others flew simultaneously through the glass of each front window. Drawing their pistols, the lawmen rushed into the saloon to see the two strangers standing calmly at the bar with a nervous Cal Hampton, the owner, pouring them both drinks. Tables were overturned, chairs and broken glass were scattered about the saloon, as were most of the dazed customers.
“What in all the fires of Niflheim’s been going on?” demanded the Reeve.
“I have no idea, sir,” replied the man in black. “We were enquiring after a friend of ours when some of these people became very insulting, particularly towards Miss Tog-Barr.” Madel inclined her head gracefully and he continued. “Some other customers obviously thought it very inhospitable to treat strangers this way and argued our case rather forcefully.” What had happened was partially what Da N’soth had told the Reeve, he didn’t mention that the Psi simply suggested that they should all fight each other instead and the belligerent customers had no choice but to obey. The officer had resisted joining the fray but Madel couldn’t help herself, and three unfortunates had left by window and door because of her telekinetic power.
“That sounds like a crock of bullshit to me, Luther!” retorted the Reeve, he looked to Cal Hampton. “Is that what really happened?”
“Yeah, tho’ I can’t quite believe it meself, the lads were having a friendly jibe at these Luthers then she said that it was no way to talk to a lady and damn if everybody didn’t start fighting at once,” replied the barkeep, clearly shaken.
Cooper furrowed his brow. “Well, then I guess it’s so. Would you folks mind telling me your names, and what it is with your eyes?”
“We’re from Sweden,” Da N’soth span the usual lie they told to other dimension dwellers. “I’m Sigurd Da N’soth and this is Madel Tog-Barr, and we’re not bloody Luthers!”
“You’re damn well dressed like it!” exclaimed one of the deputies.
“Guess that might explain it,” said Cooper without much conviction. “Look, sir, when you’re new in town and you’re a searching for somebody, it might pay to ask at the Reeve’s office first.”
“I see, well, we’re looking for a young woman called Bella Fordyce, she would resemble my colleague but be slightly older and she has the same colour eyes.”
“Hmm, Bella’s a common enough name round these parts, there is an Arabella Delamore, lives with her husband at a farm a few miles south of here. She’s blonde as I recall but with pale blue eyes. I would certainly remember if she had peepers your colour!”
“Then we will call on this Arabella to see if is our friend,” asserted Da N’soth.
They left the Amerigo Star with the Reeve close behind them. “Do want me to call you a steam buggy to get you there, or you can hire striders from the livery stables if you’d prefer?”
Da N’soth regarded one of the aforementioned vehicles chuffing along the road. “No, we’ll get picked up outside of town, thank you for the offer, Reeve Cooper.”
“Mr Dansoth, we’re a close knit folk here in Creekwood, shucks, half of us are related to each other somewhere down the line, so don’t go causing trouble for the Delamores or it won’t go too well with you.”
“Your point is taken, sir, thank you once again.” And with that the strange couple made their way out of town.
The Reeve watched as they disappeared into the heat haze, he had been considering throwing the strangers in gaol for causing a public disturbance but then came the feeling that someone was walking on his grave and he decided to let them go on their way.
“If it is Bella, she must wear lenses when in town?” suggested Da N’soth, he stopped to see how far away they were away from Creekwood. “I think we’re out of their sight now.”
“Shall I contact the landing team?” asked Madel.
“Yes, tell them to pick us up further along this road then we’ll find this farm.” He looked at the wires stretched on poles along the road. “That hotel had a primitive communicator and I’d guess the Reeve’s office has one, I wonder if this Delamore farm does too?” He was considering cutting the wires.
“No matter, I suggested to the Reeve that he was not to warn them we were coming, just in case.” Madel smiled. “Oh, and the landing team are on their way.”
Arabella Delamore was teaching her youngest the alphabet when she straightened up in shock. A sudden change in the psionic resonation in her abdomen told her that a powerful Psi was seeking for her so she path’d urgently to her daughter. “Lily, child, come here and take Scotty Junior to your room, mama has to go outside for a moment.”
After telling Scott’s mother and Grandma to stay inside, no matter what, Arabella rushed out into the yard to see her husband standing with old man Delamore and Sam Twospear, the native foreman, and they appeared be in deep discussion. She called him over to relate. “It’s happened, they’ve come for me!”
“Well, I kinda guessed something was going on, Sam says there’s strangers on the mesa and hidden out in the scrub. My family and the farmhands will protect you if you don’t want to go, and we got fifteen guns in all.”
Some years ago they had both ridden out to bury the ashes of her companions then dismantled the arrow marker. The power cell in the beacon was long discharged.
“Scott, my sweet, you couldn’t stop these here people if you had three times that. They will have journeyed in a much larger vessel than me and will have brought Huscarl soldiers, who are faster and stronger than anyone you ever met. The ones on the high ground will be snipers, and there is at least one like me with them. Oh well, don’t suppose I can put it off any longer?”
Bella dropped her psionic guard and almost immediately an unbidden thought came into her mind. “Bella Fordyce, I am Madel Tog-Barr, here with Undercempa Da N’soth and a tithe of Huscarls. We have come to bring you back, if these men we see are holding you prisoner, we shall deal with them.”
“Psi Tog-Barr, this is not what I desire. I must speak with the Undercempa face-to-face.”
Da N’soth and Tog-Barr approached the farm house and switching to infra-red vision the Huscarl took careful note of the defenders’ positions, there were a few of the simple country folk they’d encountered in Creekwood but over half were indigenous people, former warriors, and all looked tough and capable. These were the ones that would give the most resistance if it came to a fight.
They stopped before Bella, standing defiantly before the door with a man stood by her; he was clutching a Sterlinger assault rifle uncertainly. For some reason she was wearing pale blue lenses.
“Psi Fordyce, we have come all this way for you, why are you being so reticent?” asked the Undercempa.
“What took you so long?” she retorted.
“The flivver you sent arrived in Dimension 2 and remained undiscovered for over two years, eventually one of our agents there retrieved it but it had sustained damage in the initial crash and its memory was faulty. We were able to recover most of the information except your exact location, we eventually found the crash site then spent a considerable time trying to locate you, and caused quite a stir in doing so.”
“But I have been here for nine years!” screamed Bella. Scott could not understand what was being said but started forward at his wife’s obvious distress. She put up her hand to reassure him and said in Amerigon. “Stay back, my sweet, it ain’t nothing to be fussed over.”
“I can only apologise, Bella, time must run nearly three times slower here compared to our Dimension,” asserted Da N’soth.
“You have wasted your time in coming here, I’m not coming back!”
“How can you be so ungrateful? You are one of us. You belong back in our dimension!” insisted Madel telepathically.
“Is this the truth, Magus Fordyce, you are not being coerced in any way?” asked the officer.
“But why, we have made great effort to find you, to rescue you from this backwater?” started Madel out loud.
“Nine years ago I would not have hesitated but I have since found love, this man standing by me is my husband. He found me four days after the crash, when no-one else had come, and invited me to live with his family. I found myself developing feelings for him that as a Psi I should not have entertained, and after a year of waiting I let my feelings get the better of me.” While celibacy was not actually forced upon the Psi, attachments both emotional and physical were discouraged. “I have two children by him and am expecting a third.”
“This is unforgivable!” snapped Madel.
Bella shrugged. “I don’t actually give a fuck, I’m happy here and if you are under the impression you can force me to return, think on this, you won’t be fighting my husband and his family, you’ll be fighting me!” with that her blonde hair stuck out straight as if full of static as she levitated several feet from the ground…
The jump-ship took off from the mesa, while on the ground, Bella watched as a brief flicker of blue light told her it had returned from whence it came.
“Will them folks come back?” asked Scott.
“Who knows? I’ll be ready for them should they try,” responded Bella, but will I be ready when I will be needed most? She took the pale blue lenses from her eyes to reveal pale lilac irises then blinked several times, while carrying her first-born a change had begun in her and she became an Omega, the most powerful of Psi. There were only five others that she knew of, six if she included Lily, who had been born with lilac eyes, and with every child I get stronger.
Scott grinned. “I remember how discombobulated we were when those peepers changed colour.”
Arabella Fordyce smiled and took her husband’s hand in hers and they walked into the farmhouse.
Madel Tog-Barr was sat aboard the jump-ship in an obvious state of pique as it travelled between dimensions and spotted Da N’soth grinning at her. “Don’t you dare say it!” she snapped.
“What, that Bella did what she had to do to survive?”
“Yes but what did she do, that show of psionic power was something else?” she flicked an alarmed glance at Da N’soth and opened a telepathic link so no-one else could hear. “She’s become an Omega!”
He nodded. “Already got that one worked out.”
“What are we going to do?”
“Nothing, Fordyce made it quite clear she didn’t want to return and that’s what’s going in the report I’m filing, and that’s all. Let’s just leave her where she’s happy, check?”
Madel considered his reply, Fordyce had mysteriously given her an oath that she would return when she was most needed, and understanding why, path’d. “I suppose you’re right.”
After all, Ragnarok was at least a thousand years away.