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Lords of Being

Chapter 33: Getting into the Loop

by Barry Tannenbaum

New Blood Logs:

Tom Noon's Tale


In Chaos

Voyages of the Nones



Mother Goose Chase

Ancient Oz


Adventures of the Munch

Lanthil & Beyond

Charlie, the ghost that travels with Perry Hengist rustles. Rosamund scans him. There’s straw in his clothes. She tries questioning him gently, “Charlie, where are you from?”


“What did you do there?”

“I… I think I was a farm hand.”

“What kind of animals?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Do you remember any horses?”

I’ve seen horses... but I don’t remember if I worked with them or not.”

Mabel suggests, “Or maybe it was a grain farm or something.”

Perry is looking at Rosamund curiously. “Charlie’s memory is a little shaky. He’s doing nicely now. You’ve got him all charged up.”

Rosamund comments, “I can sense the straw about him.”

“That’s what his cloths are stuffed with. It’s sort of an anchor. You have some work cloths stuffed with straw and he haunts it. He’s pretty sure he was a farmhand.”

“How did your father encounter him?”

“He found him rustling in a roadside ditch. At that point his was sort of a sad mood on a breeze. My father noticed him and realized he was a ghost and pumped some chi into him. I was living at home and doing my journey piece on the gangster ghosts and he brought Charlie home for us to study. Since he knew I’d be working with ghosts, he thought Charlie could guard me. The cloths help him anchor. Sometimes he’s lost them. This isn’t the first set he’s had.”

“You said he was not here unwillingly?”

“The deal was that he doesn’t have to pass on as long as he guards me.”

“And he doesn’t want to pass on.”

Charlie shakes his head and looks scared.

Neville asks, “Have you asked another ghost to help you with this problem?”

Perry looks thoughtful. “I hadn’t thought of that. Most of the ghosts I’ve dealt with haven’t been very helpful.”

Neville asks Hellgrammite, if he’d be willing to ask Rene if he’d help with Charlie. Hellgrammite leaves a message for Rene on the net. There’s not an immediate response.

Rosamund explains, “We have had occasions when there were ghosts working on the other side.”

“Are you afraid that Charlie would be attacked or suborned by them?”

“There are two ways information can go out. You’re one, Charlie is the other. I’m not as worried about your dragonfly.

“I guess it depends on what people can read. I’ve never heard of anyone trying to interrogate a black helicopter. I’m not sure that Chopper would be any more informative than Charlie.”

“Then perhaps we should worry about Chopper too.”

Perry shrugs, “It could happen, I guess.”

“What do you think about this, Mabel?”

Mabel muses, “We could try interrogating Chopper and Charlie and see what we can get out of them.”

Neville asks, “There are limits on what we’re willing to do, aren’t there?” After all, we’re the good guys, right?

Ragnison comments, “If we’re talking about interrogating the black helicopter, I don’t think it’s a linguistic mind. I could try auditing its memory…”

Rosamund nods, “That’s what I’m talking about. Sometimes if there’s less to work with it’s easier.”

Ragnison replies, “Well, now that I’ve seen Charlie and know what he is, I can keep and eye on him and evaluate his reliability.”

Perry comments, “Ghosts are very centered on memories and their past and Charlie’s poor memory is part and parcel of why he’s still here and not very strong. If he ever got better, I think the first sign you’d see is his memory improving.”

Mabel inquires, “And the second sign would be him leaving for the Elysian Fields?”


Rosamund continues, “So maybe we need a geas for Charlie instead of you.”

“Perhaps because he’d be easier to fool.”

“Do you have any experience on casting a geas?”

“I can’t. I know where to find someone who can.”

Rosamund looks at the Danish Courtier, “Ragnison?”

“No, not me, but I know where to go also.” Ragnison turns to Perry, “Do you think your friend would be bothered if I looked into his mind?”

“I’m sure he won’t notice.”

Ragnison scan’s Charlie. Charlie begins to look confused and depressed. Ragnison looks faintly worried. “I think anyone trying to get info out of Charlie will have to do it by retrocognition. He has no idea what Perry is doing. He just knows that if anyone threatens Perry, he’s to wade in and … do something.”

Perry nodes, “I think that’s what it would amount to. I have been able to get him to stand watch for me. If ‘something’ happens, he knows to come wake me.”

“Do you want me to read Chopper now? I’m not sure how it will take it. If it became irritated, it might not fly away.”

Rosamund suggests, “Perhaps Perry should be there.”

Ragnison continues, “I’ve never really coped with a creature like this. At least on this planet. But I’m willing to give it a whirl, if you’re willing to face the consequences.” Rosamund nods, so he directs his thoughts to the Black Helicopter waiting about a mile away. After a few moments, he looks at Mabel. “Though I don’t think it could get a directional feeling from me. It keeps changing back and forth between its two shapes and looking around the clearing. I think it ranks with one of your dogs, Mabel.”

Rosamund shrugs, “I think we’re ok with that.”

Perry closes her notebook. “Alright then. You want me to look for anomalous monkeys and people who are looking for ghosts, right?”

Rosamund asks the room, “What’s the going rate for researchers these days?”

Lady Diamond suggests, “I would recommend $2000 for a week of work, if supplying quality results.”

This was clearly more than Perry was expecting, but if we’re willing to pay it, she’s willing to take it. “Suits me. And all the information I can pick up that I can publish?”

Rosamund cautions, “After we review it.”

Mabel asks, “And you can get us those back issues?”

Perry looks uncomfortable. “That’s… that’s restricted…”

Rosamund muses, “Maybe I should become a member.” She looks at Perry, “Who should I apply to?”

Perry shrugs, “I guess my dad…”

“And I can make sure that he knows that we’re reputable.”

Perry allows, “I guess that makes me feel better.”

Rosamund grins, “That works out well. I can introduce myself as your employer. And he won’t have to question where you’re at.”

“Alright.” Perry opens her notebook to a blank page, prints an email address on it, and out the page and gives it to Rosamund.

Rosamund looks at the page and the back at Perry. “Since Mona’s here, I was thinking I could go there.”

Perry’s not sure why Mona’s being present changes things, but replies, “It’s the Field Natural History Museum she’d be taking you to.”

Mona cautions, “You want to go there right now? It is a little late…”

Perry snorts, “He’ll still be at the museum.”

Rosamund grins, “OK.” She jumps up. “Let’s go.”

Mona shrugs, pulls out her candle and lights it. “Take my hand.” They walk towards the back of the plane chanting “How many miles to Babylon” and fade out as they go.

Perry is agog. “Is… Is that the candle you were talking about that you bought through the deck?”

Neville’s gotten used to this sort of thing. “Yes.”

“Neeeat. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Neville probes, “What do you know about The Deck?”

Perry recites, “It’s this service trading group set up by these two called Dealer and Decker. They seem to be honest brokers. The people on The Deck seem to be various species. Some claim to be human. Some claim they used to be human. I’d call most of them Fay with a large minority of humans. That’s what I know about it. So I gather you guys made some kind of trade with Dealer and Decker?”

Mabel relies, “Yes. To replace Mona’s old candle which we used up.”

“Oh, yes, I suppose it would be polite.”

Rosamund and Mona arrive in a Chicago alley which opens onto the Loop. It’s about 8PM, local time. “This is where I usually arrive in Chicago. They’ve built it up some more.” She consults a map. “Ah. The Field Museum is just a short hop. She backs them back into the alley, and jaunts to the museum without going through the candle ritual. It’s as if they traversed Chicago at very high speed. Things return to normal speed at the entrance of the museum, which looks very closed. The sign by the doors announces that the closed at 5PM. Mona mutters, “I can get us in…” They jaunt forward, through the crack between the doors, into the vestibule. The museum lobby is half lit with a pair of dinosaur skeletons looming over them. There are no guards visible, but Mona moves over to one of the cases in the shadow.

Rosamund pulls out her phone and types, “Perry sent us. We’re waiting in the Lobby.” Then clicks the ‘Send’ button, and waits expectantly.

After a few minutes, Mona comments, “Then there’s the question of how often he checks his email.”

Just then Rosamund’s phone twiddles. Rosamund grins triumphantly and reads the response, “I will be there shortly.”

They wait in the gloom, until a quiet voice behind them voice says, “If you’ll come this way.” They turn to see a middle aged man who looks like he’s likely to be Perry’s father.

Rosamund nods, “Mr. Hengist.”

“You’re friends of Perry’s”

“I just employed her.”

“And she sent you to me?”

Rosamund suggests, “We should talk someplace more private.”

“If we might shake hands, first?”

Rosamund grins and hand out her hand. As usual, it’s room temperature, and leathery. Hengist then shakes Mona’s hand. His interest is piqued. There’s a physic twitch. “There. That should ensure that none of encounter any guards. Follow me please.” He leads them through dimly lit corridors. They end up at a very small office that might have been a broom closet in a prior life. It’s got one chair with a built-in desk which seems to have come from a lecture hall, and an overstuffed bookcase. He drags over some chairs which have to remain in the hallway, and seats himself in the room’s chair. “So, you’ve employed my daughter?”

Rosamund nods, “Yes. It seemed better to have her doing research for us instead of following us. She’s a very curious young lady.”

“Yes, she is.”

“So since I’ve employed a member of your organization, I thought I should become a member.”

“She mentioned the organization did she? Did you catch her at something?”

“Watching us.”

Hengist sighs. “She was spying on you.”

Rosamund grins, “Yes. And not doing a good enough job of it. After talking with her, I decided it would be best to join your organization so you’ll have my phone number so you’ll be able to reach her.”

“She’ll be travelling with you?”


“You’ve met Chopper?”

“And Charlie.”

“I suspect him to date to the 19th century.”

“He said he was from Illinois.”

“You got that much out of him? I suspect that his actual point of death is now inside the greater Chicago area.”

“Anyhow, she directed me to you to make an application.”

“That was… judicious of her. Well. What do you know about the Kerdeans?”

“We know that you like investigating interesting things. And your members are mostly humans. I’m not an expert on your organization. One of our other members is. But it sounded like and interesting group.”

“I’m flattered. As a Kerdean, you’d be given access to Kerdean safe houses in return for a geas not to attack Kerdeans or Kerdean property while in Kerdean safe houses.”

“I don’t think I need a safe house.”

“You might not, but the Kerdeans need safe houses for our records and specifically and as places to hide from the prosaic world, as well as places to meet safely with each other.”

“That’s what we might need. Places to meet and exchange information.”

Hengist shrugs, “It certainly would not be the first time a safe house had been used for such a purpose.”

Rosamund asks, “So what would be required?”

“The geas would have to be administered. That’s really the only requirement. You may find that things go slowly with just the bare geas. Kerdeans are not generally generous with information with one another.”

“The reasons I’d be joining is to give you some comfort about the group your daughter is doing business with.”


“Practical. That way you won’t come hunting us. Second for places to meet. And lastly for access to back issues of your journal.”

“The Acta Kerdeana. You know about that. Either Perry was indiscrete, or you nailed her good and proper. I’d guess the later.”

Rosamund agrees, “We nailed her good and proper.”

“All that makes good sense. And you’d have access the Acta Kerdeana. The newsletter perhaps understates it a little.”

“Then I’d be delighted to see them.”

Hengist rummages in the bookshelves. Eventually he manages comes up with a 100 page pamphlet without causing an avalanche of paper and hands it to her.

Rosamund speeds through the pamphlet as fast as she can turn the pages. She’s disappointed to discover that there are no attention-grabbing botany articles, though perhaps other issues will be more interesting to her. It’s almost entirely devoted to crypto-zoology. Lots of reports of Fay encounters. Interviews, actually, about ‘The Event.’ Which the beings interviewed don’t seem to know much about, but they’re trying to cover up that fact. She hands it back. “Rather the blind leading the blind in here.”

“About ‘The Event’.”


Hengist eyes light up. Clearly the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. “Do you have any information about ‘The Event’ that you wish to impart?”

“No, I don’t.”

Hengist is clearly disappointed, but continues, “Are both of you going to become Kerdeans?” Mona shakes her head. “In that case, nothing remains except to administer the geas. I can do that.”

“What if there’s something else I bear which takes precedence from an earlier employer? Or if I find a Kerdean who’s trying to destroy the world?”

Hengist frowns, “You’re not talking about Perry are you?”

Rosamund looks affronted, “No!”

Hengist settles back into his chair, “Every geas has a penalty. There’s nothing to prevent Kerdeans from dueling to the death as long as it’s outside a safe house. The penalty for the geas is loss of membership in the Kerdeans and loss of all chi for a year.”

Rosamund seeks details, “Loss of the entire chi one would have for a year?” Courtiers generate chi at a much slower rate than humans.

“You’ll be without chi for a year. It’s a heavy penalty. And since you’d probably invoked the penalty by annoying other Kerdeans, you’d be at a serious disadvantage when the other Kerdeans come after you. He goes on to describe the psychosomatic illnesses having no chi will induce. It amounts to headache, nausea and shock for a day.

“And can one resign without invoking the penalty?”

“Yes. Do you mind telling me your true name?”

That’s an interesting question. “As far as I know I don’t have one.”

“Really? What did your parents name you?”

That’s another interesting question. The Courtiers have been around since the beginning of the Universe. “I would say that did not happen.”

Hengist raises an eyebrow questioningly. “Alright. Well, I don’t need that. For the sake of form, I’ll refer to you as Lady Rosamund.”

Rosamund smiles, “That works for this form.”

Hengist looks at her again, and then administers an oath: “Do you, Lady Rosamund, solemnly swear,” etc, etc, etc. Rosamund says yes in all the appropriate places. There’s a definite physic twinkle. For a second she feels like she’s been wrapped in saran wrap. Then it goes away. “There you are. It is here and now traditional for me to give you … I don’t have it right here. If you give me contact info, I’ll send you the address and passwords for the Kerdean safe houses.”

“You’ve got my email address.”

“Oh yes. I’m used to old media. I will be sending you the list of safe houses and make sure that you’re in the distribution list for the Acta Kerdiana. You’ll need to set up encryption keys.”

Rosamund protests, “I’d much prefer a hard copy.” There are some other members who still prefer the old ways, so this isn’t a problem. She gives him an address in Kew Gardens.

Will all the formalities out of the way, Hengist rises and says, “It’s also traditional to go out for a drink now.” He conducts the two Ladies out a side door to the streets of Chicago. They go to his car and go to a nearby bar, where Hengist offers to buy them each a drink. Mona orders white wine, Rosamund a Mimosa, and Hengist a beer. When the drinks are served, he raises his glass and says, “Welcome aboard. This is an interesting development. Can I drop you anywhere?”

Rosamund shakes her head, “We’ll find our way from here. Is there any other business to conduct?”


“Any other question?”

“Well, if you don’t mind,” Hengist hesitates, “what is your species?”

Mona asks, “Like, race?”

Rosamund clarifies, “No, species is more like human, dog, cat.”

Hengist continues, “I’ve met several varieties of Fay. I have the impression that at least one of you isn’t human, and if you’d be willing to clear that up, I’d appreciate that.”

Rosamund and Mona exchange looks, and then Rosamund says, “Distinctly not human. I think I should leave it at that. But I’m not one of the Fay folk.”

Hengist looks disappointed, but takes it well. “Well, that is interesting. Thank you. And I’ll beseech you as a father to keep my daughter safe.”

“That’s why I suggested she be employed. It’s safer for her.”

“I appreciate that.” The moment of camaraderie is clearly over. Hengist bids them a good night and leaves the bar.

Mona turns to Rosamund, “Would you like to come with me to the Lady’s room?”

Rosamund grins, “Human women do travel in packs don’t they?”

They transition back to the plane without incident. As they arrive, Rosamund complains, “And I didn’t even learn the secret handshake.”

Mona sooths, “Maybe it’s in the handbook.”

“One can always hope!”

Last Updated: Dec 11, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved

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