MISC: The Girl Who Saved the World Part A

George Phillies phillies at 4liberty.net
Mon Jan 2 22:20:18 PST 2017

You asked for a large segment in one piece. Time does not flow equably 
in all continua.

The Girl Who Saved the World.

Text copyright © 2016 George Phillies

Meet Eclipse.

She's hardworking, bright, self-reliant, good with tools, vigorously 
physically fit.  She’s also a persona: She flies, reads minds, and is 
not afraid of necessary violence.

Now she’s procured the Key to Paradise. And everyone in the world will 
be happy to kill her to get their hands on it.

/The Girl Who Saved the World/is Volume 1 of this series. Volume 2, 
/Airy Castles All Ablaze/, is a major rewrite of my much older novel 
/This Shining Sea/. There will be a Volume 3, /Of Breaking Waves/, 
because Eclipse needs to save Spindrift from having died.


The Invisible Fortress


January 11, 2018

I awoke at half past dark.To put it mildly, I hurt. Some places hurt 
even more than others. If there were any places where I didn’t hurt, I 
couldn’t find them. Yes, I was doing mind control on myself. The pain 
nerves screamed their agony, but thanks to mind control I heard them as 
distant murmurs. That meant I could sleep. I still knew I hurt.A lot. 
‘Hurt a lot’ was still infinitely better than the alternative, which 
involved being dead.

What was going on? I confusedly wondered.I was lying in a bed, not in my 
normal sleeping position. The room was dark. For moments I was too dazed 
to think clearly. I peered over my bedsheet and quilt …I was in my own 
bedroom. Beyond the glass wall separating me from my balcony, the silent 
stars glittered in a cloudless night sky.If I waited long enough, I’d 
see them sink into the pitch-black hills of the coastal range. The 
shadows above my bed were my collection of Captain Infinity Atomic 
Soaker pistols, soakers, except one that very definitely did not project 

Suddenly I remembered. Atlanticea. It was the most wonderful memory in 
the world…or would have been if I didn’t hurt so much. Not to mention I 
was totally exhausted. I’d threaded the Maze, the Maze that defeated 
Julius Caesar and Jackie Fisher and Spearthrower Owl and the French 
Imperial Guard. I’d reached the Tomb and matched wits with the Martyr 
himself. He’d gifted me that palm-size sphere of crystalline sky, the 
Namestone, the Key to the Earthly Paradise. No one else in history had 
ever come close, and now I’d done it. The Namestone was the wonderful 
birthday present I’d given myself, a couple months late for my twelfth 
birthday. It was almost as wonderful a birthday present as my ponies. 
Snapdragon and Daffodil are better.I gave them to me, too.

On the bright side, when I grabbed the Namestone my chances of living 
another six months moved up from zero. On the less bright side, now that 
I’ve I grabbed the Namestone my chances of living six months are 
fifty-fifty.On the interesting side, the list of reasons I am likely 
going to die soon changed completely when I grabbed the Namestone.

Now, thanks to the Maze, I was seriously wrecked up.Credit for some 
wrecking up goes to the League of Nations and to a Lord of 
Eternity.They’d both made a maximum effort to kill me, just to get their 
hands on the Namestone.They almost succeeded.Almost, not quite. And, you 
know, ‘almost’ only counts in horseshoes, and with hand grenades.

No matter how tired I felt, I called very slightly on my gifts. The null 
links to my pets were quiet. Two ponies slumbered in their barn, and two 
barn cats cuddled dreamily in the loft above. Anything else was very 
small, or very far away. Perception? The only thing I worried about was 
the Namestone.There it was in my den, hiding behind a quarter inch of 
impervium, almost impossible for me to find despite knowing exactly 
where to look. No one else would ever find it. The Namestone. I had it. 
Not the League of Nations.Not the Lords of Eternity.Me.I had it. In my 
home! It was mine!

The healing matrix was fixing me, but…oh right, healing matrix. I should 
have remembered that immediately.I said I was a bit dazed, didn’t I? I 
summoned the glyph for Medico, its associated rules engine.Nothing in 
violet, nothing that was killing me despite the matrix.Of course, the 
matrix should have dragged me conscious if I were dying, and it 
hadn’t.Nothing blue, long-term near-death threat.Red warnings? Let’s 
see.Three broken ribs, stitched by telekinesis. That’s why I was on my 
back, a lousy sleeping position Medico told me to live with. My right 
shoulder? Nothing had broken, but bits of force field were pushing 
things where they belonged while the matrix forced repairs. Internal 
bleeding from high-impact collisions?That had been fixed. Gold - a black 
eye, a few bone bruises, but I’ve been here before, just not so many 
ways at the same time.Green – slices, scrapes, abrasions … my skin is 
being returned to perfection as I lie in bed. My face was cleaned up by 
the Namestone before I faced the Martyr, but the rest of me was my 
problem. The matrix was healing everything, way faster than I’d heal 
naturally. I’d still need a couple weeks to recover.

Home! That was the keyword.I was home and safe. I dropped my mind 
out-of-body. Astral projection is decidedly not my strongest gift, but I 
can pull it off.If I am very careful. Actually, the preset did not give 
me much choice.Sometime back I had done mind control on myself, to 
ensure that whenever I was in a really serious fight, escaped, and got 
back here safe, I would go out-of-body, whether I wanted to or not. If 
someone had planted mind controls on me, I probably broke them when I 
left my body behind.The preset grabbed my gifts and ran a scan, fast as 
thought, to see what trojans might have been inserted into my 
mind-space. Yes, the scan runs at the speed of thought, but it has a lot 
of mind to scan.Meanwhile, I hovered above my body, looking into my 
momentarily sightless silver-gray eyes and platinum-white eyelashes, 
listening to me breathe, ever so slowly.

Done. Control of my mind returned to me.There was a way to break the 
mind control, if things went wrong, but everything went the way it was 
supposed to.Mum had been very careful about showing me exactly how to 
arrange that preset, because seven ways from Sunday doing mind control 
on yourself was very dangerous.I dropped my mind back into my body, 
wiggled fingers and toes, and blinked twice.Everything worked.

Gifts?Just before I left Atlanticea I’d pushed my gifts way deep, much 
deeper than I’d expected to need them, driving my shields toward their 
ultimate limits. Now I shouldn’t even consider calling any of them.Not 
flight.Not teleportation.Not any of the neat ways I can seriously wreck 
things.Not force field – well, there’s a low-level screen tacking my 
ribs together.There was a warning flag -- my second-level shields had 
engaged. I could go way deep right now if I absolutely had to, but if I 
do I’m going to hurt myself.

My memories took me back to Atlanticea. The Martyr gave me the 
Namestone. I climbed the Outer Stairs, out of the Maze into the waking 
world.Ahead of me, wisps of cloud were an incandescent white against a 
cerulean sky. I was sufficiently wrecked up that climbing those stairs 
was incredibly demanding. After each step, I half-felt ready to quit. 
Before I did the Maze, I had zerolined all of my gifts, flat as 
possible.Any gift I called, the Maze could call back at threefold the 
power. That was its rule.Curiously, three times zero is still zero. I 
did not give the Maze any advantages.

While I climbed the stairs, I was desperately trying to recover my power 
levels.I could barely crack open The Sky.Then with an effort that left 
me dizzy and gasping for breath I managed to reach down to The Breaking 
Wave. I am not embarrassed to say that mind control to suppress pain was 
the first gift that I called. Just before I sliced the last fellow open 
from guggle to zatch, he had gut-punched me.Hard.After my next step I 
managed to find life support. With the broken ribs, it hurt too much to 
breathe.Once I didn’t need to breathe, I could focus.I remembered to 
summon the Medico rules engine.It would have been truly stupid to bleed 
to death after I got my hands on the Namestone. Medico reported that I 
was not dying, not even close.Perhaps the Namestone would have protected 
me until I finished climbing the Outer Stairs. I wasn’t counting on it.

I kept reaching for power levels, further and further down. They came 
more and more easily. The Sea of Grass, The Temple, The Sun, and The 
Matrix opened up.GR, I did not forget to call my shields.I might have a 
reception committee, someone who thought it was easier to steal the 
Namestone from me than from the Maze.Before I reached the top of the 
stairs, I was sort of back to normal.I could touch all the power levels 
I can normally reach. I just couldn’t tap them for very much.Not yet.Not 
without taking even more damage. I could go way deep into my gifts if I 
had to.I hoped I didn’t.

At the top of the Outer Stairs I had company.Waiting for me were 
Valkyria, the super-heavy combatant of the League of Nations Elite 
Strike Team, and the Screaming Skull, himself. Alas, they weren’t 
fighting each other, so I couldn’t smile once, duck twice, and flee 
their island paradise. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. For 
thousands of years the Namestone has been known to be the Key to Heaven, 
the artifact that will transform the World into the Earthly paradise.The 
League of Nations had passed any number of decrees claiming it for 
themselves, just so soon as someone else did their work for them and 
removed it from the Maze.Now I had the Namestone, so they wanted it.

I did a crash drop, calling all the power I could find. I shoved it all 
into my shields. I really wanted to teleport away.Teleport is a 
wonderful gift, as good a gift as flight, but teleporting far enough to 
avoid a chase needed a lot of power, more than I could call just yet. 
Yes, I could have switched power from shields to teleport, and jumped 
out.The moment I shifted power out of my shields, they would have faded, 
enough that I’d have been toast before I could disappear.

“Where is she, little girl?Where is the bearer of the Holy 
Namestone?”That was Valkyria, shouting at me.Valkyria? Six feet tall, 
impervium-plated battle armor, heavy duty body field, not to mention a 
flaming sword that was mostly a special effect shrouding a pointblank 
range plasma attack. Yes, there is also an endarium blade inside the 
flames. There is a long tradition of people in plate mail being idiots. 
At the moment Valkyria was living up to the tradition.Her long blonde 
hair fluttered in the sea breeze. Bad form. Mum always said Valkyria 
should wear her hair short or mound it under her helmet, failing which 
someone would grab it.

I was a bit miffed.GR, she does have three-quarters of a foot on me, but 
‘little girl’ is not the nicest imaginable greeting.True or not, ‘Little 
girl’ is impolite. Valkyria should have been less threatening.After all, 
I was carrying the most powerful artifact in the world. I still needed 
more time before I tried teleporting out.

“I’m twenty feet in front of you,” I answered. After it was too late it 
had occurred to me to answer ‘she’s twenty feet behind me, but I have to 
get out of the way before she can come up here’. Oh, well.

“Aren’t you … isn’t the real Bearer taller?” Valkyria asked.She sounded 

I glowered.GR, I’m not into my teen growth spurt yet, but it’s not I 
didn’t pass five feet last year.“I am tall.” That’s when I ran out of 
patience.Valkyria hadn’t even been civil.Why hadn’t she at least 
congratulated me on walking the Maze. If she wanted to insult me, 
there’s no reason I couldn’t return the favor. “Wait!” I continued, 
“Isn’t the real Valkyria a bit less pudgy? I mean, how do they manage to 
squeeze you into that armor?”Her nostrils flared. I guess she’s 
sensitive about that line.

“You!”Valkyria shouted. “Inform the Bearer.She must turn the Holy 
Namestone over to League of Nations.At once!As fast as possible! 
Immediately! That is a direct order! From The League of Nations!” Yes, I 
could hear her Prussian mindset without reading her mind.Unless 
something had gone very wrong, the whole world had watched me do the 
Maze.She should have known who I am.

“I am the Bearer.If you wanted the Namestone, you should have walked the 
Maze first and taken it,” I answered. I called my gifts, as fast as 
possible, reinforcing my shields, but when you start at absolute zero 
this takes a while. I confess I was getting a bit nervous that the 
Screaming Skull was standing there, politely not saying anything. No, we 
haven’t met, but when your mother is a persona, you tend to inherit bits 
of her gift fine structure, enough that he’d eventually figure out whose 
daughter I am. That would for sure not be good.

“Give it to me! Now! The League has decreed: The Namestone is the 
property of the world.” Valkyria was used to having her orders obeyed.

“Give it to you? You and which army?” I asked.I yawned.That was an act. 
I should have been more polite. In my own defense, I was thoroughly 
exhausted, not to mention I’d taken all the body damage during the 
hand-to-hand combat segments.I expected congratulations, not 
threats.After all, people have been trying to thread the Lesser Maze for 
three thousand years, with no success. I’d done it. Old English proverb: 
Battles are events between inadequate opportunities to rest. I wasn’t 
resting.I was powering up my gifts as fast as possible

“This one?” She waved her fingers.What had to be the whole League of 
Nations Elite Strike Force teleported in at her back. Mind you, I don’t 
know who most of them are, other than really tackily dressed, not at all 
like my highly stylish and tasteful garb, but the Strike Force is 
respectably powerful.

The Force began to spread, left and right.“That’s far enough,” I 
announced.They kept spreading.

It’s a very special gesture with hand and wrist. My palm ends up facing 
skyward, the Namestone burning cerulean a few inches above it, its 
tuneless tune distantly heard in every ear.Yes, I did remember to cue my 
body aura, not to mention my personal theme music, a bold brass opening 
folding into darker tones of the flugelhorn.No, I can still call on 
Namestone’s power even if I can’t move.Nor do I need the music or aura 
to call on all my gifts. Yes, my aura actually is the same blue as the 
Namestone’s glow.My platinum blonde hair and pale gray garb go really 
well with it.

“Behold the Holy Namestone. Come no farther or face my wrath.”Mum taught 
me how to sound truly pompous.To my surprise, it worked.Europalord did 
not quite fall on his fat face when he tripped over his own feet.Of 
course, he is a drain, so personal combat training is not quite the 
issue it is with his team-mates. His task is to sit there and suck power 
out of his opponents, incidentally shoving it all into his personal 
force field.“The Namestone is mine,” I announced.

“You’re defying the League!” Valkyria shouted.“International law 
specifies: The League of Nations owns the Namestone. Hand it over!” In 
retrospect, she might have done better if she’d been a bit more 
tactful.She could hardly have done worse.

“You know the Maze Rule: Namestone belongs to he who takes it. I took 
it,” I said.

“No, it belongs to the League!” she screamed.

“You keep repeating that same wrong statement.I just told you: I took 
it. It’s mine! Are you deaf, or just stupid? Or maybe both; you’re for 
sure stupid.” I answered. By now I was in a really sour mood. I really 
wanted to go home and go to bed. And, very soon, I would have broadened 
my call on enough levels of power to do just that.I could feel the 
teleport blocks being put into place around me, meaning I was going to 
need a lot of power to smash them into little pieces.No, I do not feel 
guilty about what was likely to happen to the people and machines 
casting those blocks when I did the smashing. Meanwhile, Valkyria is 
said to be short-tempered.People who are busy losing their tempers for 
sure aren’t thinking clearly, a positive outcome for me. Well, a 
positive outcome, except I was in the process of losing my own temper.

“The Namestone is too dangerous for mortals,” the Screaming Skull 
announced. “Give it to me, or it is you who will face my wrath.”

“You’re supposed to be an improvement, fatso?” I snapped. I really 
should have been more polite, but exhaustion breeds impatience. The 
Skull was a whole bunch of words Mum would not like to hear me use 
egomaniac with delusions of adequacy. I did not quite use any of those 
words Mum did not approve, though I was tempted. Unfortunately he was 
also really good at telling people to drop dead, and having it happen.

“Team! The Namestone is indestructible! Kill her!” Valkyria shouted. Oh, 
dear, I thought, not to mention several other words Mum did not approve 
of my using, she’s even more short-tempered than rumored. She could 
readily have drawn out this conversation for some time yet, say until I 
felt comfortable about teleporting away. No such luck. Valkyria tossed 
her explosive throwing katana. The katana explosion packs the power 
density of a starcore weapon. Her team launched a totally bizarre 
mixture of high power attacks.Not one of them seemed to have noticed 
that if I died I would drop the Namestone, which would roll back down 
the Stairs into the Lesser Maze, there to be returned to the Martyr. 
Perhaps Valkyria counted on the explosion from her throwing sword to 
blast the Namestone free.

I’d forgotten the Screaming Skull, even though I had just told him off. 
Over-focus is very dangerous in combat, but at this point I was 
outnumbered close to twenty to one. I’d paid too much attention to 
Valkyria, and ignored the Skull.He used the same moment to launch his 
most deadly attack, the Shower of Total Death.Being attacked by the 
League of Nations Elite Team was bad news, but the Skull is a Lord of 
Eternity.His attack? It works on people, it works on a tree, and now 
I’ll see if it works on me.I’ve actually never been positive my second 
level shields do anything.It’s not there are a lot of second level 
attacks wandering around to test them against.

My scramble for calling more and more levels worked.Barely. My shields 
did everything needed.Then Valkyria’s katana hit me. Of course, I’ve 
seen starcore energy densities before, real ones, and my shields worked 
just fine that time, too. It’s just I was very tired, the gifts being 
used against me were incredibly powerful, and I had to go truly deep to 
hold my defenses against all of them at the same time.I didn’t quite 
fall over, but the world was getting a bit gray. For half an instant, 
the Skull looked surprised.He could tell: I was not drawing on the 
Namestone.He’d tried to kill me, and my personal defenses were good 
enough to stop his several other words that would not meet with Mum’s 
approval attack in its tracks.

I did not give them a second chance. I’d gotten down through enough 
levels to hold all my shields, keep slack, smash the teleport blocks, 
and teleport. I flicked my wrist back. Namestone vanished.I smashed the 
teleport blocks and teleported out, far far away, all the way to the 
Dark Side of the Moon, then a half dozen fast jumps, one triple cycle 
loop, and finally a pause in case someone was following me.I'd ended 
someplace that looks like it could be my base.It isn’t, but it looks 
really basey.Base-like? Basious?GR, it looks like a high-power persona 
base. Pursuers who could track me, a truly rare gift, would see I had 
stopped moving and charge after me.I hadn't hurt any of them yet, but if 
someone followed my jumps they'd learn how good I am at wrecking 
things.That’s very good at wrecking things.Wrecking pursuers, in 
particular.I waited until the teleport traces vanished. There were no 
pursuers.Fortunately, traces do not fade by becoming ever fainter, so 
you have to wonder if someone with really, really good tracking gifts 
can still follow you. Teleport traces chug along and then stop dead, 
gone forever.A few more jumps brought me here, the second-floor study in 
my very own house.I couldn’t remember what I did next. I must have 
dropped the Namestone into its hiding place, stripped off my garb, and 
fallen into bed.

One of the times when I woke up, the healing matrix prompted me to ramp 
down my mind control down, so the matrix could tell exactly where I had 
been injured.I overdid it. I cut the mind control off.Incredible pain 
swallowed me. I burst into sobs and uncontrollable tears.Fortunately the 
healing matrix kept me from going into shock. After a few minutes I 
remembered I could ramp control back up.By then I was soaked in sweat.

That brought me to the here and now.I was incredibly thirsty.Stomach 
said a solid meal was in order.I rolled out of bed, every muscle 
complaining. The floor was beautifully finished silken-smooth hardwood, 
chill beneath my bare feet. I padded to my bathroom for a glass of 
water.I was more than a bit cold, but water was definitely the first 
priority.Then I dropped into my down bathrobe, shoulder and ribs 
protesting at the motion, and headed to the kitchen.The night light 
threw a feeble shadow along the stairs in front of me.Down bathrobe?I’d 
left the heat pump at low, keeping the house temperature in the mid-50s, 
enough to keep pipes from freezing.Yes, I have some neat photographs of 
the Pluto ruins, taken with me and camera inside my body field, but 
right now my gifts were very definitely turned off. The robe kept me 
warm, or I’d be very cold indeed. Doing the stairs was painful. I held 
firmly to the railing, taking some of the weight off my knees. Besides 
the hand-to-hand combat, the Maze set other physical and mental 
challenges, enough to push me to all my limits.Mum had taught me to be 
thoughtful and physically vigorous, but endurance and weight training 
only take you so far.

The oven clock said my half past dark was in fact only an hour past 
sunset.The oven light was more than enough, especially when I knew 
exactly where everything was stashed.Sunset? I must have slept the day 
around.No, I had woken up once and again for a glass of water. I’d had 
the foresight to cook in advance.Cold chicken fresh off the bone, soda 
biscuits with unsalted butter, stir-fry curried vegetables warmed in the 
microwave,more chicken and soda biscuits, milk, sliced plum tomatoes, 
and finally rum raisin ice cream with chocolate fudge crumbles did just 
fine.I remembered to check the bathroom scale.I’d lost weight.A fair 
piece of weight, even allowing I’m five-foot three in bare feet.

Very soon I was going to go back to sleep…the healing matrix said 
not-quite-dawn as my drift from slumber moment.Was there anything I 
really had to do first? The very slightest bit of telepathy, no matter 
how dizzy it left me, confirmed ponies and barn-cats were fine.The 
ponies would want currycombing tomorrow.Dishes were rinsed and in the 
dishwasher.Counters were bare.I dragged myself up the stairs. My garb? 
It was in the closet, absolutely clean, not a stitch out of 
place.Clean?After what had happened to it? That must have been the 
Namestone, insisting that the Bearer always looks perfect.In fact, when 
I met Valkyria, my garb had been immaculate, down to the flawless drape 
of my cape.I’d remembered to flare the cape so the video audience could 
see my sigil.

Namestone?Safe in its hidey-hole. Anything else? Rules engines, your 
opinions? The usual warning is that you can carry one rules engine 
‘Marksman on how to shoot’, or if you’re really good a second ‘Medico on 
how to use your healing matrix’, but if you try four rules engines you 
go bats.Mum knew how to break that limit.I’m a working demonstration.I 
have like fifty of them floating around, actually not inside my head 
where they’d cause problems, all being called at once.

My rules engines all had something they wanted to tell me, but mostly 
they cancelled. The ones on buying and running a house were pretty calm. 
The /emergency priority/ flag rose above ‘Psychist – going bats for fun 
and profit’.The Lesser Maze was too much for almost anyone. I was 
building up pressure again about Mum.Everything I now had, I’d earned 
for myself. For a moment bitter tears overwhelmed me.I washed my face, 
noticed I was getting cold from standing in bare feet, and went to 
bed.Curled up under my quilt, I drifted off, to sleep, perchance to dream.



Kniaz Kang's Shanghai Marco Polo

North Cosmopolis, Washington

7:30 AM

January 10, 2018

The sign in the parking lot announced:

Kniaz Kang's Shanghai Marco Polo.

Featuring the finest in Chinese, Italian, and Russian Cuisine.

Invented Here -- General Tso's Pizza!

Invented Here -- Il Professore's Dessert Pizza!

It was 7:30 in the morning. The sun barely glowed over the North 
Cosmopolis horizon, even at a restaurant atop a hill. Inside, Kniaz Kang 
himself -- a man who was not a prince and whose name was not actually 
Kang -- supervised the morning help in readying his restaurant for 
another day.The front rooms were filled with his regulars, early risers, 
and high school students from Atomic Tech across the street, all 
enjoying his superb breakfasts.After all, hash, egg rolls, borscht, and 
pizza were in large part based on chopping many things very finely, a 
skill that his employees denied was a gift. Kang turned to considering 
his customers and their wants.

In the morning he served high school students, and some of their 
teachers, though not in the same room. The isolated corner window was 
always reserved for the Gang of Three or So.Teranike did not discuss 
being what Kang knew she was, namely a Polarian from Otherearth stranded 
when her Empress closed the WorldGate.Teranike had taken a room 
upstairs, did heavy physical work for the restaurant with no complaint 
or sign of fatigue, and did not emphasize what she had in her 
suitcase.She happily ate whatever was set in front of her, but who could 
fault her love of General Tso’s pizza, not to mention Il Professore’s 
dessert pizza--double fudge, the house specialties.

Dorothy Elizabeth Schumacher was North Cosmopolis's best-known public 
persona.She had not planned to be public.However, when the assassin from 
the League of Terran Justice walked up to the front entrance of her high 
school, screamed "Down with Private Education", and started shooting up 
student automobiles, Dorothy had done what any persona should.She put up 
her force field, ran directly in front of the agent thus taking some 
dozens of rounds square in the chest, and flying -- literally -- tackled 
the loon into a wall. She was unhurt. The loon ended in the prison 
hospital.Dorothy confessed to being the known persona Silk, until then 
most noted for having rescued dogs, small children, and a moose from 
various not-quite-frozen ponds.

It was not until late the next fall that the Greater Cosmopolis Séance 
and Channeling Society put Dorothy on the national news.The Society had 
decided to channel the greatest motion picture actor in the history of 
Oregon.They expected to speak to Stanford Smith, who twenty centuries 
ago had made more than two hundred westerns and gone on to be Grand 
Trademaster of All Leviorkianu.The Society's survivors were not quite 
clear on what went wrong.They obtained a physical materialization, not 
the expected disembodied voice.The materialization was a two hundred 
yard tall reptile with radioactive flame breath. It waddled majestically 
toward the outskirts of North Cosmopolis, incinerating everything in its 
path. The first three persona teams that tried to stop it were flattened.

Silk appeared on the scene.Only if you looked very carefully, Kang 
recalled, would you observe that she was now wearing a force field 
bracer.Any number of people noticed that she was armed not with her 
usual Ruggels 0.60 pistol but with a Krell disruptor.The flame breath 
had no effect on her.Her first shot took down the creature, who reverted 
into the Society's Occult Master.Asked why she hadn't mentioned having 
the extremely rare and powerful Krell weapon, she said that she hadn't 
had it.The now very ex-boyfriend had lent it to her.He had it 
back.They’d agreed, when they broke up, that they would forget each 
other.A mentalist had ensured that she had no remaining memories of him. 
No one else had known that she had had a boyfriend, not even her 
parents, so questions about him remained unanswered.

The usual third at her table was the seventh-grade boy who, if pressed, 
announced he was Silk's heroic side-kick Joe, he who protected her from 
truly dangerous villains.Joe had his trusty slingshot for that.He 
confessed that he never carried his slingshot. Someone could get hurt. 
Today Joe was missing in action.

Kang had gone no further in reviewing his customers and what new dishes 
he could inveigle them into trying when the doors slammed in.Running 
through them at top speed was Kang's number-two man, Wang the Imperturbable.

"Lord Kang!Lord Kang!" Wang shouted in Mandarin."The Sun!The Sun!There 
is a central eclipse!"

Kang tapped the computer screen above his chopping block. “Central 
Eclipse’ had an unfortunate implication, at least if you wished that 
people did not try insanely dangerous stunts that killed them. Headlines 
scrolled across the screen.There was much news, but the astral omen was 
not yet reported.He tapped the screen again. The All-Continent News 
Network was usually fast off the start. There was the "Special News 
Bulletin" warning.The text alternated every few seconds between orange 
lettering on a blue field and violet lettering on a yellow field, colors 
reserved for the most serious emergencies. A half dozen split-screens 
came up.There was the sun, blinding white, a black disc covering its 
middle. As Kang watched the disc grew wider and wider. The central 
eclipse promised, in a few minutes, to block all sight of the sun from 
anywhere on earth. Voices from different video bands spoke. "First seen 
ten minutes ago in London...Observers in Athens heard celestial 
trumpets...Moscow reports the sky has turned imperial purple...We now 
join reporter Vera Durand.Where are you, Vera?"

"This is Vera Durand." The reporter's voice was sharp and clear.Behind 
her were jagged rocks and a smooth marble terrace.At the center of the 
terrace was a staircase, leading down."I am now broadcasting from 
Atlanticea.The sounds you hear behind me are the waves of the 
Atlantic.Atlanticea has just been raised from the ocean by the power of 
the Holy Namestone. Not one hour ago, a figure appeared above the 
entrance to the Great Maze and announced she would be contesting 
possession of the Namestone.The island promptly rose to greet her -- yes 
The Martyr has indicated that the challenger is a ‘person of the female 
persuasion’.She has already entered the Maze.All-Band video broadcasting 
of the contest by the Namestone itself will begin momentarily."

"Vera, who is the challenger?" network lead announcer Richard Markovian 

"We don't know, Richard," Durand answered calmly. “The Martyr only 
revealed her gender. I just caught a glimpse of her. We have this very 
short take.” Across the video screen flashed a figure. Form behind, the 
figure was pale-haired and pale-skinned, seemingly short, and boyish in 
her build. “There were rumors that the League of Nations Elite Strike 
Team was going to try, very soon, to recover the Namestone, but the 
solitary figure who entered the Maze is not a League Operative.The 
Namestone translocated us here just before she entered.I had no 
interview with her.I don't know why the Maze deemed her -- assuming 
'her' is correct -- qualified to challenge."

Kang returned to his chopping, the thump of his cleaver pausing only 
when he gave instructions to his assistants."Benito, just keep making 
pizza shells.We're going to have a huge business today.Nikolai, that 
cabbage was a bit mature; steam it an extra ten minutes. Wang, lower the 
sports video screens.Almost everyone will want to watch.Oh, there's the 
announcement, Governor Molnar is cancelling public school sessions; 
'After all, the kids will be paying absolutely no attention'. Schools 
stay open so children have a place to be if parents are working.Charles, 
put that announcement up on the Big Sign." Kang looked over his cash 
register. Dorother Schumacher smiled back at him.

"Ah, Miss Schumacher.The usual breakfast, the usual tab.You didn't know 
about this in advance?" Kang asked.

"Or will you be the next challenger?" She was a fine young woman, he 
thought, one who uses her gifts well and precisely.

"Me?" Dorothy answered good-naturedly."Challenge the Maze for the 
Namestone? I just have a few gifts. If I flew to Atlantis, the Martyr 
wouldn't give me the time of day.You want to gossip about this, ask the 
people who take your private classes."Kang lectured several evenings a 
week, she knew, on the hidden energies that underlay all gifts.His large 
classes appeared on video screens across America.He also gave entirely 
private classes to select students, many of whom were on their national 
persona teams, and some of whom were said to be wanted by members of 
those persona teams.Registration lists for private classes were 
well-kept secrets."I'm going to Tech's library to study.Thank you again 
for breakfast."

"You are always welcome here," Kang smiled as he answered.

The sports screens now showed the Namestone's video broadcast of the 
challenger, someplace in the Maze.The view was always from behind. The 
challenger’s hair hid under a stocking cap, with strands of yellow gold 
peaking from underneath. She wore a long-sleeved blouse and long 
trousers tucked into her boots. Her garb was an off-white, tight enough 
to show solid shoulders, a tight waist and wider hips. Her face was 
never seen.Very briefly, she had passed by a wall whose stone blocks had 
a historically-known size. The challenger had to be close to six feet 
tall.Kang was puzzled.This woman did not look entirely like the 
challenger Durand’s cameraman had filmed.Were there two challengers? Or 
had the maze somehow tricked the cameraman? The Maze as notorious for 
doing such things.

"Miss Schumacher, you are a woman of iron will,” Kang continued. “There 
hasn't been a real challenge since that chess player, 40 years ago.You 
aren't going to watch?"

"Kniaz Kang, whoever it is, she is going to be shredded, degraded, 
hideously wounded, and in the end beaten to death and blown to 
pieces.Unless the solid shadows eat her. I couldn't stand to watch," 
Dorothy said. “I’m not afraid of doing something dangerous, if it’s 
gift-true, but watching someone die—I can’t face that.”

"I can't, either," Kang answered."Which is why I am not facing a video 
screen, and why there is no sound behind the counter.The contest will be 
over this afternoon, if not sooner.At three o'clock that will be bright 
sunlight everywhere in the world when the Maze marks its newest 
prey.Then I can watch the news again."

* * * * *

Early afternoon. Kang stood in his restaurant, intervening as need be to 
maintain the flow of food and drink to his customers.He’d opened both 
kitchens, called in all the cooks and part-timers, but keeping ahead of 
the take-out and delivery crowd had been a struggle.All that time, he 
never looked at a video screen.Someplace out in the Atlantic, someone 
was about to die, horribly, pursuing a hopeless quest older than 
history.He couldn’t hide from the windows, though, windows that were 
brighter when the defenders of the Maze did well, dimmer when the 
challenger advanced.The same was true all around the world.

Suddenly all went black outside.He couldn’t resist glancing at the news 
feed. “Bangkok - sky is pitch black. Rio de Janiero - the sun just went 
out.Vienna - only street lights illuminate the Ringstrasse.”

“This is Vera Durand on Atlantis.It’s a planetary total eclipse.Not 
three minutes ago, the challenger was losing in hand-to-hand combat.She 
was grappled and unable to break free.Suddenly everything went dark.”

“Vera,” Richard Markovian said, “The Maze must have won.Where is the Sun?”

“Here on Atlantis, even the stars have gone dark.You only see me because 
my trusty cameraman has his own lamps.Wait, I’m getting video from the 
Maze again.”

Kang stared at the screen, unable to help himself.All activity in the 
kitchen ground to a stop.The screens showed a long, white marble 
corridor, illumined by two rows of unblinking cressets, flames that 
burned without pause or flicker.A figure could be seen limping away from 
the camera, whatever the Maze used for cameras, toward an open door.Who 
was it?What was going on? By now the guardian must have killed the 
challenger, but that was surely the challenger, still barely on her 
feet.Kang held his breath.

The figure crossed the threshold. Instantly, the room beyond was flooded 
with sunlight, sunlight visible nowhere else in the world.The point of 
view shifted.

The challenger stood in the Tomb of the Martyr, the final resting place 
of the man who had brought the Namestone to Earth.There was the Martyr 
himself, lying in state atop his sarcophagus, his corpse unchanged over 
the thousands of years he had waited.Above his hands floated a glowing 
sphere of crystalline sky, the brightest of royal blues.He held the 
Namestone, The Artifact That Grants Every Wish, The Key to Paradise.

The figure walked slowly across the polished stone floor. A woman, Kang 
decided, and very slim. Her garb was torn and stained with blood. She’d 
lost the stocking cap in a fight. Sweat plastered her hair to her scalp. 
When she approached the Martyr, stains and rends in the fabric 
vanished.Her hair fluffed out, revealing short, perfectly cut curls. 
Down from the ceiling floated a pale grey cape. It folded over her 
shoulders, draping perfectly, its fall extending almost to her 
ankles.She reached down and tugged at the fabric. The cape flared, 
revealing a sigil, a solid circle overlapping a sun in glory. Kang had a 
near-perfect photographic memory. That sigil, indeed any sigil including 
a copy of part of Lord of Eternity Solara’s sun-in-glory sigil, he had 
never seen.

She reached the Martyr.“I am here,” she announced. Her voice, thought 
Kang, was an upper soprano, its tones brilliantly clear.“I have read 
/The Copper Book of Harvest Stars/ and obeyed its mandates. I’m here for 
the Namestone.”

“Are you here to take the Holy Namestone, the Key to Paradise?”The voice 
came from everywhere and nowhere.

“I am here to ask you for the Namestone, if I’m worthy.So speaks the 
/Copper Book/,” she answered.Kang listened carefully to the voice.

“Speak your name,” the voice commanded.

“Eclipse is my persona.I am glory herself.”

“Then reach out, Eclipse, and take the Namestone.”Eclipse cleared her 
throat.Someday, Kang thought, her children will cower in terror at that 
harmless sound. The restaurant was dead silent. Every conversation had 
paused. Diners sat, forks paused in mid-air, staring at the video screens.

“Then reach out, Eclipse, and I will give you the Namestone,” the Martyr 

Eclipse leaned forward.The Namestone rolled from the space above the 
Martyr’s hands into Eclipse’s The martyr lay back, his hands now clasped 

The cheers from the restaurant audience were deafening.Even the oldest 
patrons would not have watched Jackie Fisher and the combined Grand 
Fleets being sunk, the last time a serious effort had been made to 
recover the stone, but most had seen that defeat from period motion 
pictures. The chess player who forty years ago had won three games, then 
quit while ahead three to zero, was viewed as exhibiting another of his 
fabled eccentricities. For this day, mankind had waited thousands of years.

Beyond the Sarcophagus were stairs leading up.Eclipse began a slow climb 
out of the Maze.

The sky outside the restaurant flared to bright daylight.Video split 
screens showed the same all around the world. From a total planetary 
eclipse, now there was total planetary daylight.

“This is Vera Durand on Atlantis.It’s suddenly full daylight again. It’s 
bright, the sky is blue from horizon to horizon, but there is no sun in 
the sky. I’m standing on a ledge close to the Grand Exit, waiting for 
Eclipse to appear.I’ll do my best to get an interview,” she said.

A slight popping noise came in the distance.Twenty feet to the side of 
the stairs, a tall, blonde woman wearing plate mail and holding a 
flaming sword appeared.“Richard,” Durand said, “that’s unmistakably 
Valkyria, lead persona of the League of Nations Peace Enforcers.I must 
be surrounded by her invisible teammates.Valkyria? Would you care to 
tell the audience how you feel at this historic moment?”

Valkyria ignored Durand. Her eyes remained fixed on the stairs, where 
Eclipse was about to appear..Kang wondered Valkyria she was thinking, 
but her helmet hid her face. There came the faintest sound of tearing 
cloth.Standing twenty feet on the other side of the stairs was a short, 
solidly-built man dressed entirely in black: Black boots, black trousers 
and belt, black shirt and vest, and wide-brimmed, floppy, solid-black 
straw hat. His face was locked in a deep frown.

“That’s the Screaming Skull himself,” Vera said, not that any of her 
viewers did not already know.“Now a Lord of Eternity is here.”

A figure came up the stairs from the Tomb.The Namestone was not to be 
seen. Her hair was as golden as Valkyria’s. From the new camera angle, 
there could be absolutely no doubt that the figure was a tall young 
woman. Kang felt momentarily puzzled.Was this the person he had watched 
enter the Maze? The body builds were discordant. Momentary surprise 
crossed Valkyria’s face.

“Miss Eclipse,” Durand started, “what are your plans for…”

“Be still, Durand. There is important business.”The Screaming Skull’s 
voice was as chill as a tomb. His face was as impassive as the stone 
wall behind him. Durand found herself frozen in place, unable to move or 

“Where is she, little girl?” Valkyria snapped.“Where is the bearer of 
the Holy Namestone?”Kang stared sharply at the video.How was it that the 
Peace Enforcers did not know Eclipse’s name?For that matter, how was it 
that Valkyria could not recognize the bearer? And why was Valkyria 
saying ‘little girl’?

“I’m about twenty feet in front of you,” Eclipse answered calmly.

“Aren’t you … isn’t the real Bearer a bit taller?” Valkyria asked.Kang 
felt increasing confusion. The bearer appeared to be Valkyria’s height, 
that being close to six feet.

“I am tall.Wait! Isn’t the real Valkyria a bit less … pudgy?”Eclipse 
responded. Valkyria’s nostrils flared. There was nothing, Kang thought, 
like a friendly, considerate opening to potentially delicate 
negotiations. “I mean, how do you keep fitting into that armor?”

“You!”Valkyria shouted. “Inform the Bearer.She is to turn the Holy 
Namestone over to League of Nations Supreme Chancellor Lars 
Holmgren.Immediately! That is a direct order!”

“I am the Bearer.If you wanted the Namestone, you should have walked the 
Maze first and taken it,” Eclipse answered

“Give it to me! Now! The League has decreed: The Namestone is the 
property of the world.” Valkyria screamed.

“Give it to you? You and which army?” Eclipse said indifferently.

“This one.” Valkyria waved her fingers.Most of the League of Nations 
Elite Strike Force appeared at her back. Kang recognized a fair number 
of them as former special-class students. Disruptra and Madmind wore the 
same orange and violet garb, colors reversed, the first shredding 
mentalic screens and the second attacking with insane 
nightmares.Plasmona, Electra, Lord Roentgen, Eks, and Enn had, 
respectively, a plasma beam, lightning bolts, coherent X-ray blasts, 
quark beams, and high-energy neutrons as attacks, all in power ranges 
that would swiftly turn a city to a pillar of fire. The folks in League 
paisley with copper-green trim were mentalists; he didn’t know any of 
them well. Europalord and his team wore identical green uniforms with 
sigil and trim of 12-armed sun crosses; they were all drains.It was a 
safe bet that the League teleport block team was parked someplace safe 
in Europe. They would be targeting Eclipse through Valkyria’s eyes. The 
area they could cover was small, but that was perfectly adequate for 
this situation.They had the limit, Kang considered, that the strength of 
a teleport block team was the strength of its strongest member. If the 
strongest member failed, the next strongest member would still be 
blocking. A team of weak blockers could still wear out a strong 
teleporter by a process of exhaustion.That was one of Kang’s standard 
classroom demonstrations. The Strike Force began to fan out, left and 
right, moving toward Eclipse.

“That’s far enough,” Eclipse announced.The Strike Force kept advancing.

Eclipse gestured, ending with hand facing skyward.The Namestone 
appeared, its cerulean fire burning a few inches above her palm.The 
Namestone’s tuneless tune was faintly audible.Eclipse, Kang saw, had 
brought up her own body aura, a color not different from the 
Namestone’s, and what sounded to be her own theme music, a mixture of 
brass and sweet woodwinds clearly audible in Durand’s microphone.

“Behold the Holy Namestone. Come no closer, or face my gifts.” Someone, 
Kang thought, had given her superb training in rhetoric.“The Namestone 
is mine. I took it.I keep it,” Eclipse said.

“You defy the League!International law specifies: The League of Nations 
owns the Namestone. Hand it over!” Valkyria shouted.

“You know the Maze Rule: Namestone belongs to he who takes it. I took 
it,” Eclipse answered calmly.

“No, it belongs to the League!” Valkyria shouted.

“You keep repeating that same wrong statement.I just told you: I took 
it. It’s mine! Are you deaf, or just stupid? Or maybe both; you’re for 
sure stupid.” Eclipse answered.

“The Namestone is too dangerous for mortals,” the Screaming Skull 
announced. “Give it to me, or face my wrath.”

“And you’re supposed to be an improvement, fathead?” Eclipse asked. 
Kang’s eyebrows rose.Few indeed were the number of people who would 
gratuitously insult a Lord of Eternity.

“Team! The Namestone is indestructible! Kill her!” Valkyria drew her 
explosive throwing katana.That weapon, Kang thought, packs the energy 
density of a star-core bomb, liquid-density plasma at 20 million 
degrees, albeit plasma that disappears after spreading a few 
yards.Valkyria threw the katana at Eclipse. The Screaming Skull 
gestured. Black hail fell around the Namestone-Bearer.Flashes of 
unbearably bright light marked the rest of the League EliteTeam 
launching their attacks.Something, Kang decided, was protecting Durand 
and the island, both of which would otherwise have been obliterated by 
the energies being unleashed. The camera’s electronic filters were 
shielding it from burnout, but made it impossible for Kang to identify 
the attacks being used.

Eclipse simple stood there, her shields unwavering as attack after 
attack struck her. Finally the throwing katana struck. She was swallowed 
in an impossible bright sphere of incandescent plasma.

The sphere vanished. Eclipse was still there. She flicked her wrist.The 
Namestone vanished. She stepped into a royal blue waterfall, unseen 
bells tolling, leaving behind a vacant flight of marble stairs.Teleport, 
Kang thought, the waterfall and bells are the material traces of her 
teleport.And someplace in Europe, a team of teleport blockers are 
somewhere between having splitting headaches and becoming little clouds 
of incandescent plasma.

Kang pondered what he had just seen. The League of Nations Strike Team 
was among the most powerful groups of personas in the world. Valkyria’s 
throwing sword created at least evanescently the temperature found at 
the core of the sun. The Screaming Skull was a Lord of Eternity, a group 
whose powers almost defied human comprehension. All that, and this 
Eclipse person’s shields had not collapsed. Then she teleported away 
from the battlefield. Efficient shields demanded much less power than 
most personas would believe possible, but the defenses Eclipse had 
deployed against the Europeans and the Screaming Skull were still 
extremely impressive.

  Chapter Three

The Hidden Fortress


January 12, 2018

The Healing Matrix had promised: I would wake before sunrise.Indeed, 
here it was, not yet seven in the morning, the sky still dark, and I was 
awake. I still hurt a lot.I was also ravenously hungry.The Healing 
Matrix had done more in two days than normal healing would do in two 
weeks, but it demanded calories. You can call on gifts instead of 
eating, if you have the right gifts, but that’s not a good idea at my 
age.Mum was emphatic about that, not that I wouldn’t want her cooking. 
Now I have to put up with mine. Not eating is an especially bad idea if 
you are doing high-intensity healing, which I am.You really want solid 
food to replace all the chemical bits and pieces you are consuming.

My bedroom’s full-length mirrors confirmed that my cuts and abrasions 
were gone, as though they had never been. The Namestone had cleared up 
my face for the video, but the rest of me was healing more naturally.The 
mirrors also showed I was looking a bit thinner than I usually do. I am 
girlishly slim.I weigh more than people think…muscle does that…but I 
don’t have that many pounds that I can afford to lose. Getting rid of 
possible scars thanks to high-grade healing is also good. Yes, there are 
guys who think a few strategically placed scars make them attractive to 
women.I am not a guy, thank you. And I am very much not convinced that 
scars, not to mention irregular shaving and under-bathing, make guys 

I dutifully spent fifteen minutes doing appropriate stretches and bends 
under the healing matrix’s guidance. The deep bruises would take a while 
to heal. Exercise, however painful, speeds the process. I had my mind 
control ramped well up so I did not exactly feel the pain, but there was 
surely a lot of it. At the end, I very much enjoyed a long, hot shower.

The time to start wearing my boy clothing had arrived.Most people see 
what they expect to see.I dressed as a boy, in boys’ cotton corduroys, 
properly lined and not at all tight, not girls’ somewhat to much tighter 
blue jeans. Actually, I like the long-sleeve loose hunting shirts. They 
are heavy cotton jaquard weaves, warm, all with pretty polychrome 
patterns. They have nice big pockets, not to mention elbow patches. The 
trousers are more comfortable, too. Moose-skin slippers.Hair combed with 
a part. Cue the slight crackle in my voice.Anyone who met me would see 
and hear a boy.I might not be able to do that in a few years, but I can 
do it now.

Today I was going to start dyeing my hair again.By now there were 
probably ten million personas, not to mention most of the world’s 
billion people, all looking for me. Almost none of them qualified as 
threats, but I want peace and quiet, not a shootout every time I stop at 
a grocery store. Disguise is how I make that happen.Notwithstanding 
Twain’s famous story, almost no one will look at a girl and think ‘this 
could be a boy in disguise’, let alone the other way around. And no one 
would look at the dowdy old woman in heavy coat, three pounds of pearl 
necklaces, blue hair, and a heavy veil from her 
fifty-years-since-stylish hat, and think they were looking at me. This 
morning I could go outside wearing a woven cap and no one would be 
around to notice the difference.

Meanwhile, my kitchen waited. Water started heating for tea. Pear and 
raisin compote went into the microwave.Milk and orange juice went to the 
table. A steak went onto the electric grill, followed in due time by two 
slices of soda bread.The slow part of this was the steak -- I like mine 
close to well-done. That’s why it’s called well-done, after all, because 
it has been done well rather than so poorly it is still bleeding.The 
breakfast room has a small video; I cued up Eagle News-News for 
Adults.They are sometimes a bit heavy on financial coverage, but focus 
on real news, not celebrity scandals.I was shocked, truly shocked to 
find they were talking about the Namestone and the mystery persona who 
walked off with it.There was a brief excursion into other news 
notes.Alliances between the 12 Great Powers drift slowly in time.After 
the 1908 Summer War, no one wants another World War. National persona 
teams are rough on small, breakable objects, like forests and cities. 
International news was still uncomfortable.

Then there was something on the South American strangeness.“Invisible 
sky octopus” made no sense, but -- and my attention was drawn sharply 
toward the video.Supposedly an Argentine village of 500 people had been 
destroyed overnight.There were almost no survivors. Kudos, however, to 
the little boy who had grabbed his family’s camera, pointed it up as he 
ran, and snapped image after image.Most of his family was safe, and he 
had really strange pictures.Tentacles.Claws. Teeth.But they weren’t 
attached to each other, and moved in wrong ways. A pair of images 
clicked in my memories.Those weren’t pictures of a standard 
quadridimensional object, but it was something like that.Someone might 
be able to decode the shape.I leave that to folks who have copies of all 
the picture files, lots of computer support, and some smart math 
people.I like math, but unscrambling those pictures is way above what I 
know how to do.

Mentioning know how, the smell from the electric grill reminded me that 
I know how to cook, and my steak was approaching ready.Setting the table 
left-handed was inconvenient, but my right arm was staying below 
shoulder-level for the next few days.Hot water went into the tea 
pot.This was surely an Earl Gray morning.One thing I did not feel was 
sleepy. After all, I’d been asleep almost continuously for a couple of days.

The orange juice was wonderful.Butter and currant jam did fine on the 
soda bread toast.I remembered to pace myself on eating.As the pangs of 
hunger faded, I started considering my to-do list for the next 
week.“Heal” was at the top of the list. “Dye hair” was this 
afternoon.Eyelashes are a nuisance.The Namestone was safe in its jar.I 
wasn’t going near it until I was completely recovered.It lurked behind a 
quarter-inch of impervium.People looking for signs of my using it would 
be sorely disappointed.My new bookcases were ready for mounting.I’d 
finished painting them before I left. Eventually I would have to do barn 
work, a real nuisance while one-armed. Not today. The Healing matrix was 
emphatic on that. The ponies would have to wait on being ridden.Tomorrow 
I would curry-comb them and check their hooves. We have soft soil, and I 
do not ride on roads.Not having to worry about horseshoes greatly 
simplifies my life.The ponies still want to feel appreciated.A few 
apples and some maple sugar would help.I’d like to ride, but my ribs 
needed to recover first.The barn cats had their automatic feeder, and 
good shelter for their nest.I should pop the cat door behind the kitchen 
open.Occasionally the cats do like to visit. They do not get to walk on 
my back while I’m sleeping, not until I am way better.There was still 
reading, and lessons.I can’t say I am behind, relative to my grade 
level, not hardly, and I am tougher on myself than Mum was.I still have 
lots of reading I could do.

Now the League of Nations Secretary-General was on the video.He was 
throwing three kinds of fit.He was outraged.I didn’t do what he said I 
should.There was a price on my head.Two hundred tons of gold.Life loan 
of the Mona Lisa. A bunch of noble titles. I listened carefully to that 
one.The Celestial Empire only gives titles to its own 
citizens.Austria-Hungary was prominent for its complete absence. So was 

League artists had generated drawings and paintings of me.The video 
signals from Atlantis actually showed me as a blur.People saw sharp 
pictures of me, it seemed, because the Namestone had created illusions 
of what I look like, in front of every video screen in the world.The 
news showed the drawings.They made my hair gold-blonde.I’m square-jawed, 
not pointy-tulip jawed. The garb looked impractical.It was way too tight 
to move easily. Lots of girls, ten years older than I am, would happily 
kill to have the figure in the drawings. I’m much happier to be me.How 
did the artists go that far wrong? Possibly Namestone showed them 
someone who was not me. That would explain why Valkyria was so 
confused.She was looking for a hot babe, minimally dressed, in her 
mid-20s. She found me instead.Not hot.Not babe. Not vaguely mid-20s. 
Perfectly decently dressed.

Holmgren introduced his number-two man, the head of the League Peace 
Police. Mum had said this Dreikirch fellow was a Nationalist-Capitalist, 
someone barely fit to live.His rant was even worse than Holmgren’s.Today 
the League had an emergency meeting to talk about me.I could tell.I 
wasn’t going to get their cheers and congratulations for solving the Maze.

I cleaned up after breakfast, and decided that it was time for another 
nap. I was alert, but physically exhausted. When I woke the sun was 
beyond the zenith, I felt much better, and I really wanted something to 
eat again.

Two roast chicken sandwiches, all grain bread, plenty of lettuce, just a 
bit of butter, and more of the curried vegetables did quite nicely.I 
postponed the ice cream and fudge crumbles until later. Water came to a 
boil while I was cleaning up.Some parents would have been scandalized 
that I was brewing coffee, worse, cocoa-tinged coffee.I really am a 
persona, not easily poisoned.Coffee makes me a bit sharper while I am 
reading, but all the alkaloids will burn off soon after I finished 
reading, leaving me ready to drop into sound sleep.Besides, I really am 
too young for chocolate to have its alleged effect.I suppose if I always 
ate like this I would worry a bit about my figure, but that is one of my 
gifts. I may eat, but I remain leanly athletic.

After lunch it was clearly time for my next book.I suppose I could start 
studying instead.I could also have read a history. For some reason, Mum 
did not entirely approve my reading historicals. I agree that most books 
on history are pretty pointless. Here are these great men and women and 
their heroic deeds that you can copy. Here is a record of past ages and 
their mistakes, leading upward to the present when we do everything 
right. If you don’t like moral histories, there are historical 
mysteries. Historical mystery books tend to be completely crazy.Yes, it 
is hard to understand how the eight different civilizations of ancient 
Washington, 2000 years ago, could clearly have coexisted along the 
Columbia River, had advanced science, technology, mathematics, and art, 
yet failed to notice each other.Even if they weren’t all there at 
exactly the same time, whichever actually came later might in their 
historic records occasionally have noted ruins of the past. No such 
luck.Massachusetts is even more confusing. There are 12 or 15, I tend to 
forget, different ancient advanced civilizations whose traces may be 
found near Massachusetts Bay. Most of them left at least some reasonably 
detailed historical records. Seven left observations on the moons of 
Jupiter and Saturn and Uranus, observations that make no sense.They had 
the moons in the wrong places. You’d think they couldn’t see the sky. 
There was a mystery here, one in which most people seem to be remarkably 
uninterested. The people who are interested in ancient civilizations 
write totally crazy things.They talk about world civilizations of 50,000 
years ago, before Homo sapiens evolved, with a remarkable collection of 
nonsense as allegedly serious evidence.

My target today was one of Mum’s forbidden books. Yes, I was feeling 
really out of it.I’d put off reading any of those books while I prepared 
for the Maze. I might not get much out of them, but I was not going to 
wait any longer. /Liouville’s Butterflies/ makes remarkable claims about 
historic time. I’m not sure why Mum didn’t want me to read it. I curled 
up in my comfortable chair, my feet on the large hassock, with a pot of 
mocha, pitcher of milk and vacuum mug at my side, pulled up a quilt, and 
began reading. The front part of the book was fairly simple. I could 
even understand it. There are computer pictures of how atoms move in 
air. They show -- I noticed that the book skipped the proof -- if you 
make tiny changes now, in not very long what happens is hugely 
different.If you do time travel – I did not just tell you whether I can 
travel in time or not – go back not very far at all, and make very small 
changes, when you come back the world can be totally different.The 
famous story is the fellow who traveled in time to just before the 
maiasaurs started their march to intelligence, smelled a flower by 
shooing away a butterfly, and when he returned to the present there had 
never been a dinosauric civilization.Most small changes have tiny 
effects, but some are different.

Liouville was a French mathematician. The fellow after him was an 
American, Gibbs. What they showed, the part I had to struggle to 
understand even slightly, is that the past is as big as the future. No, 
let’s be honest.I really did not understand almost any of the math 
parts.For what they needed to prove, they used calculus.I’m not 
terrified of a single derivative, at least if someone else is taking 
it.I even know sort of what they are. Kind of. I think. Maybe. Well, I 
asked Mum what they are, and she told me.

No, I’m not one of these people who have infinite math genius, but Mum 
always said I was way ahead in math. That’s way ahead, even though I 
actually have to learn the stuff, not have Mum pass it to me 
mind-to-mind.Things you learn mind-to-mind you aren’t creative with, not 
easily, so I’ll have to work really hard to write great love poems in 
Atlanticean.I’m heartbroken, truly heartbroken. Mum did pass me lots of 
things not quite mind-to-mind, but she was mostly interested in helping 
me learn how to use my gifts effectively.She thought using gifts was way 
more important than math, or science, or money technology. I could learn 
those the usual way at my usual speed.GR, my usual speed is not slow.

In any event, Gibbs wrote down a whole forest of derivatives in a big 
square block.Down on my study pad went ‘Hamiltonian’, ‘Jacobian’, 
‘determinant, ‘permutation’, and a bunch of other words I don’t know.I 
suspected there were a lot of parts I did not know yet, even before I 
got to the forest of derivatives.When I reached the derivative forest I 
took a break for the caramel ice cream and fudge crumbles…a lot of fudge 
crumbles. Still, it was a forbidden book, and I have all the time in the 
world, if I’m real careful, to learn it. All the time in the world? 
While I’m doing heavy-duty healing, I’m aging backwards. Balancing that 
so I never get older…that’s really hard. The original Gibbs proof about 
the past and the future was two short paragraphs of which I could make 
neither head nor tail. The book spent 30 pages breaking the Gibbs proof 
up into small parts. Each part was supposed to be easy to follow. The 
fellow who wrote the small parts is said to be the greatest science 
writer since Amizov, Amizov being the muse of clear science writing. 
Except when I talked about muses with Mum, for Terpsichore she had an 
image of this statue, but for Amizov she remembered fondly this old guy 
with funny whiskers. I even understood two of the parts that he wrote. 
It’s just that after you had followed all the small parts you had come a 
very long way, and you wondered if you had really come all that way or 
if the wool had been pulled over your eyes.

I skipped to the end.The Forward said it was GR to skip like that. There 
was the image, translating the forest of derivatives to a simple 
picture.The picture I understood. I think. The picture is pawns on a 
huge chessboard. The pawns represent whole worlds where history started 
out slightly differently. They start out next to each other, farther 
away sideways being stranger.By the time you get well sideways across 
the chessboard, history is completely different. The start points are 
ancient time. The simple view of history is that the pawns all move 
forward one space at the time, always staying in their own file. Worlds 
that start very similar to ours end up very similar to ours. Worlds that 
start out very different end up being very different. The butterflies 
show that every so often a pawn takes off sideways, so two pawns that 
start next to each other do not end up that way. The pawn next to ours 
marches off sideways and ends up halfway sideways across the board. 
That’s maiasaurs not becoming intelligent. You might think that would 
simply leave a gap in the file next to ours. No, there are as many files 
at the start of history as there are at the end. What Liouville and 
Gibbs showed, and someday I will understand that part of the book, is 
that every file was full at the start of time, so when we reach the 
present every file must still be full, one pawn per file. If the pawn 
next to us took off and ended up way across the board, there must be 
another pawn that started off someplace way across the board and ended 
up at our shoulders. I thought the mirror imaging looked pretty obvious. 
We’re not someplace special.If some of our nearby-at-start pawns end up 
someplace else, pawns from someplace else must end up nearby, because if 
they didn’t we would be at someplace unusual, somoepalce pawns from far 
away could not reach. Lots of people get extremely upset with the idea 
that world history could’ve started off completely different than ours, 
but when we get to the present our two worlds are almost the same/. 
Liouville’s Butterflies/, the forbidden book, is the famous proof that 
some worlds converge. The rest of the book is the arguments about what 
Liouville’s result means.

All good things come to an end/. Liouville’s Butterflies/ was no 
exception. I looked up and realized it was well after dark outside. GR, 
it’s January.Dark happens early. My mocha pot was empty. For all I 
hadn’t understood most of it, I’d really been concentrating on the book, 
concentrating hard enough that I didn’t think about my pain. I still 
hurt, a lot. I’d dodged the sword. At the end, just as I slit the fellow 
from end to end, I’d had to take getting gut-punched. Hard.Things were 
still uncomfortable down there. Before I started reading I’d remembered 
to pull up a quilt, so I hadn’t gotten cold. My gifts will protect me 
from cold, but only when I’m calling them. I left the rest of the book 
for tomorrow.

Meanwhile I needed more food, but the healing matrix said first I needed 
some rigorous stretch and bend exercises, my partly-healed ribs 
protesting where force fields kept them clamped absolutely rigidly 
together. Then I got to eat. Cooking is a big time sink, there being 
only one of me, but I actually can cook, so some of my lentil, spinach, 
and kielbasa stew moved from freezer to microwave, followed by shredded 
lettuce, slivered carrots, and a few artichokes onto a big salad plate. 
Lemon juice, a scoop of chickpeas and chopped onions marinated in Roman 
salad dressing, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese followed. After dinner 
would be a short nap, and then chemistry and astronomy.I had cleaned the 
house thoroughly before I left. It could wait a few more days.

GR, be honest with myself.The short nap was another nine hours. I lay 
down on my bed, pulled the quilt up to my shoulders, and when I awoke it 
was well closer to dawn than dusk. Yes, when I need to I can really draw 
deeply on my gifts.Afterward I pay a price, and not a small one, 
either.Perhaps someday, when I grow up, that won’t be as much of an 
issue.But right now I’m only me, and I only have the gifts that I 
have.On the positive side, I always liked getting up early enough to 
watch the sun rise. After nine hours of deep sleep, I really was awake 
again. I’d be happy to say the stretches and bends weren’t as 
uncomfortable as yesterday, except they were worse.

  Chapter Four

The Wells Residence

Arbalest Street

Medford, Massachusetts


January 12, 2018

For the Wells family, dinner approached completion.Wind from the 
blizzard rattled tree branches and whistled through the house’s ornate 
eves.All the blinds in the breakfast room were pulled, covering three 
walls of glass with honeycomb fabric.

“That was really good Indian pudding, mom,” Janie Wells said, pushing 
pitch-black falls of hair back from her ears. Thanking Mom was always 
good, she thought, so long as you gave brother Brian credit for whatever 
he cooked. His cooking was wonderful, as good as Mom’s. Janie’s 
much-taller year-older sister Jessamine Trishaset nodded enthusiastic 

“Thank you,” Abigail Wells said. “My recipe, but Brian did all the work. 
And grades? It being that day for you seventh and eighth-graders?”

“Mostly A’s,” Trisha said. “Except Gym. C-. GR, I have to be really 
careful not to give away I’m a bit faster than some other kids.”

“I suppose faster than sound qualifies as a bit faster,” Patrick Wells 
remarked.“And it’s good of Sunssword to go flying with you.”Trisha’s 
father took off his glasses, and waved them in one hand. “Your mystery 
patron supplied you, all three of you, with garb that does hide who you 
are. Or would have, if you two hadn’t given things away.” Janie wondered 
if Dad was playing dumb, or if he was teasing.He could hardly not know 
that Trisha did all the sewing, though it was her games winnings that 
paid for the fabric, and…Janie allowed that Trisha’s top flight speed 
was indeed faster than…sound.

“Da-aad,” Brian complained, not quite seriously.“The other choice was 
getting stomped flat by a giant robot.It could have appeared anywhere in 
Massachusetts, and it just had to appear right in front of my school. 
Besides, I got A+s on everything. GR, they won’t let me get way above 
grade level yet, not like you, Trisha, so you have a disadvantage.”

“That was algebra we were both studying, wasn’t it, Brian?” Trisha 
said.“And next year they get out of your way.”

“To answer your question,” Janie added, “I got straight As on my exams, 
well, mayhaps not A+s in all of them.” She tried to hide her annoyance 
that Brian had better grades. Again. That was so annoying. It wasn’t 
unreasonable, she allowed; he put more time into studying school books, 
but she studied something far more important.Games!“Except Romeo and 
Juliet makes absolutely no sense at all.I just wrote down what I 
memorized from those other books. You were right, Dad.Finding those 
other books helped a lot, no matter how stupid they were, when I needed 
to write crazy stuff on my exams. But if I had crossed out half the 
‘not’s in my sentences, what I wrote would have made exactly as much 
sense. The teacher said it was lots of extra books, not just one, and I 
could name them, so I got my A. How did you do it, Brian? How did you 
pull an A+? We read the same extra books.”

“Oh,” Brian said, “I added stuff about ‘the unbearable agony of 
separation’. Whatever nonsense that is. I lifted it from one of Trisha’s 
romance novels.” Janie rolled her eyes.Brian was reading /romance/ 
novels? Yuck! But it had been a pirate novel, and his last model had 
been a pirate /ship/, so it wasn’t totally stupid.

“I only have one romance novel!” Trisha interrupted.“It’s a reading 
assignment.For my genre fiction requirement! It’s unbearably awful.It’s 
even worse than that Russian thing.”

“Sorry,” said a chastened Brian.“But you see, that novel was good for 
something.You made the sacrifice, you readit, and it got me an A+.”

“You talked about, yuck, romance novels?” Janie asked. “That’s gross!And 
what do they have to do with that silly play? You think I can get an A+ 
if I insert something intelligent instead? I could talk about Chess or 
City of Steel or outward influence on my next English exam.Yes, outward 
influence. Those crazy dueling families in Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet 
do things to get spread-out advantage far away. That’s outward 
influence.And at the end everyone is in zugzwang, and they all move 
anyhow, littering the stage with bodies. That’s what I should have said, 
and for sure I would have had my A+.” Janie decided not to notice her 
parents shaking their heads.

“I lucked out,” Brian said.“I guessed Romeo and Juliet had something to 
do with romance novels.I can’t tell what. I wasn’t really sure.”

“What if I try inserting some of the instructions from one of your model 
ships…”Janie’s voice trailed off.

<Miss Wells?> The interruption was mentalic. The telepathic voice came 
with the image of a short woman wearing the pale cream with copper-green 
trim uniform of a FedCorps mentalist. Her black hair had a widow’s peak 
matching Janie’s.

<? I’m having dinner,> Janie answered. <Can’t interrupt.Dad would kill 
me. You have to wait an hour!> This was weird, she thought.She never had 
strangers call her mentalically, but this woman was the fourth today. 
The other three got her BellRadio number and called by voice. She 
checked her mental shields again, carefully, just like Sunssword had 
taught her.You had to be really careless to take damage through a 
telepathic link, but it could be done.It would not be done to her, she 
told herself. Who was the woman?Not a senior gamesman she knew 
personally. Then she realized: The woman was Krystal North, Commander of 
the FedCorps personas, and she had other people with her.

<This is the Washington, Federal District, and it’s important!>Krystal 
North said.

<And this is Massachusetts, where America was founded,> Janie 
answered.<We’ve been here two thousandyears. The world waits for 
us.>Janie heard the echoes of another mind, someone older than Grandpa, 
being amused by the exchange.

<Speaker of the House Ming wants to speak to your dad,> North said.That 
remark came with another image, the Speaker in his robes. <You’re in 
danger of being kidnapped. Again.>

<My apologies for interrupting,> Speaker Ming’s voice came though the 
link. <There’s a major national issue here. I need to ask you about City 
of Steel, and your move against Kurchatov.>

“Jane Caroline,” her father announced, “We know you are a telepath, and 
so are some of your friends, but having them interrupt dinner is as rude 
as answering the Bell phone while we are eating.” Patrick Augustus Wells 
never raised his voice, but his tone was completely clear to all three 
of his children.

<I’ll ask,> Janie said.<But Dad is going to kill me.>

“Daddy, that isn’t a friend,” Janie answered. Her father raised his 
eyebrows.“Well, she’s friendly. You met her. That’s Krystal North, 
herself. You know, Krystal North, lead of the American Persona League. 
She was here two years ago. When Trisha and I got kidnapped.She wants me 
to forward a mentalic call to you, Daddy. The Speaker wants to 
talk.Privately. I had to get across: We’re having dinner.He has to 
wait.She said they are in the Federal District. I said back we are in 
Massachusetts, and that’s better. Two thousand years ago, Massachusetts 
created America. She was a bit stubborn. But I was more stubborn.”

“Speaker?” Patrick asked.

“Speaker of the House,” Janie said. “Speaker Ming.The top guy in 
Washington. He was very polite about asking if he could interrupt 
dinner.He said it was very important.I said I’d have to ask,” Janie 
answered. She decided not to mention that through her Krystal North, 
Speaker Ming, and whoever else was at the other end were still hearing 
the conversation. Her parents already had those looks on their faces.

“What is going on?”Janie’s mother asked fearfully.Abigail Wells wished 
her children had been less involved in persona events, even if none of 
them had been their fault. “Have you been doing the persona thing again? 
Blowing up more robots? And not telling us?”

“No!” Janie realized that she was at the edge of getting into really 
deep trouble, for something that was not her fault. “No, Mommy. And the 
robots last December were trying to kill Brian and me and our whole 
class.I didn’t do anything. Speaker Ming wants to ask me about City of 
Steel, and needs your and Daddy’s permission to talk to me.”

“I suppose you should be honored,” Patrick Wells said.“I didn’t even 
know the Speaker plays City.”

“I think he doesn’t,” Janie answered.“He didn’t sound like he did. 
That’s his private business. I shouldn’t’ve told you that.It’s one 
particular move.The one Eclipse used to beat the Maze. It’s the move I 
pulled on Kurchatov, only better.I was saving that variant for the 
National, and… Now Eclipse used it first!” Janie pounded a delicate fist 
on the kitchen table. It was unbelievably terrible. Her move had been 
used, and not by her. Now it would be Eclipse’s Gambit, not Jane’s First 
Gambit! “No one knew about that move. No one.”She pounded her fist 
again, then looked momentarily thoughtful.

“Dear, dinner or not, the Speaker is a very busy man,” Patrick said. 
Hopefully, he thought, my daughter did not insult him too much. “Perhaps 
you should forward what he has to say, to all five of us.And you two 
bite your tongues.” Patrick looked meaningfully at his other two children.

“GR,” Janie said. Suddenly the other four members of the Wells family 
saw, standing directly in front of each of them, a short woman wearing a 
cream tunic and trousers. Standing to her right was an elderly 
gentleman, balding, silver-haired, smiling, eyes sparkling, dressed in 
the scarlet robes, high-collared cape, and beret assigned by law to the 
Speaker of the House.

“My apologies,” Speaker Ming said, “for having intruded, and I hope that 
young Janie here is not in any trouble as a result of my intrusion, but 
the hour seemed late enough to be after dinner, though I see I was 
mistaken, and the urgency of my interruption is indeed great. In any 
event, the issue is that the Bearer of the Namestone played City of 
Steel against the Lesser Maze and used a novel move, rather a move that 
was novel until it was traced back to Miss Wells here. I gather that the 
Bearer actually played a variation on Miss Wells’ original move. There 
is great interest in what light Miss Wells can shed on the move. My own 
position, which I have been heard to say repeatedly by the press, is 
that the Bearer–this Eclipse person--took the Namestone fair and square, 
so she now owns it.”

“Janie knows how to reach me once you decide on an answer,” Krystal 
North added, “but time is of the essence. From the number of hits on the 
web pages of City of Steel Review, in particular the pages corresponding 
to Janie’s games, a large number of other people would seem to have 
figured out the same thing we did.”

“I get a champion, don’t I?” Janie asked. Sunssword had explained all 
about champions, something ‘you need to know’. “Someone who makes sure 
no one takes advantage of me?” Krystal North nodded in agreement. “GR, I 
know exactly who to ask. Who’s questioning me?If Dad and Mom agree?”

“The North American champion,” Krystal North said. “The Visitor. That’s 
Kurchatov and Hornpiper.Speaker Ming. Mayhaps the Supreme Gamesman. I’ll 
provide mentalic support, to keep people honest. We’re ready in an hour. 
However, it’s up to you to agree or not.”

Janie caught Krystal North’s nod and broke the link. “Daddy, mommy,” 
Janie said, “I could hear what was behind her thoughts. She thinks 
something bad probably happens to me very soon now. Tonight, even. 
Unless I agree. I get to ask a friend to our house. Someone to protect 
me. If they question me. Daddy knows Professor Lafayette. That’s a good 
choice of champion.”

“Not your coach?” Abigail Wells asked.“Lafayette?Who is he?”

“Champion?” Brian asked. Janie reminded herself that Brian was a boy, so 
he wasn’t supposed to pay attention to things that he didn’t care about, 
even when they were important. And he hadn’t carried about champions. 
Boys! She thought.

“She,” Patrick corrected. “Morgana Lafayette. Works at Rogers Tech.In 
biochemistry.She showed up at the back door, right after Janie and 
Trisha were almost kidnapped.”Abigail looked perplexed.“Human female, 
tall, gold-blonde, blue eyes, not nearly as pretty as you are, dear.” 
Abigail broke into giggles,then nodded. Patrick was describing the 
persona Sunssword, but using her private persona name, the name Abigail 
had never heard.

“But why, Janie, didn’t you just say Sunssword?” Abigail asked.

“Sunssword doesn’t want her public persona to be tied to me,” Janie 
said, “She’s real careful where she coaches us. We never name her 
private persona. I thought you knew who she was, Mom.But Daddy knows 
Professor Lafayette. They both work at Rogers, so no one is surprised to 
see Professor Lafayette being my champion.”

“In particular,” Abigail said, “Sunssword never told me who else she 
was, and has that garb that doesn’t let you most of her face.And you 
were polite to Sunssword, not telling me who her private persona 
was.”Sunssword, Abigail considered, had done mentalic checks that Janie 
and Trisha had not been hurt when they were kidnapped. Now Sunssword was 
coaching the three Wells children on using their gifts.

“Besides being a persona,” Patrick said, “Morgana Lafayette is also one 
of the country’s leading biochemists. She mostly gave up trying to keep 
her public persona a secret. She’s a member of the Stars Over Boston. Or 
was, anyhow. They had another stupid argument about theology. GR, 
opinions on the Speaker’s request?”

“I think we’d better,” Abigail said. “If it makes Janie safer.”

Trisha shrugged. “Sunssword is a nice person. We go flying sometimes. 
But I’ve only met her public persona. To me she’s Sunssword. She taught 
me cloud-diving. In fact, Janie, you knew she was Lafayette, but you 
never told me.That’s you really being gifttrue.”

“Incredible bragging rights,” Brian announced. “Grandmasters come here 
to learn City of Steel from Janie.” The guys will never top this. Not 
even if they get home runs off the Boston Doves’ lead pitcher.”

“I think we agree,” Patrick said, “unless Janie has really strong 

“Just so they don’t ask me about my other variants on that move. “ She 
paused, thinking. “No, I can tell them about some variants. And 
champion,” Janie explained, “Means a government persona shows up to 
talk. You get a persona to watch your back.”

“Yes, they would be asking Janie about City of Steel, wouldn’t they,” 
Patrick said.“Having said that, these people are my guests in this 
house, and you will treat them politely.” He stared at his son. Brian 
nodded vigorously. “Janie, I’ll phone Morgana. It’s simpler.”

A few minutes later, there came a knock at the back door.“Lafayette is 
here!” The speaker’s voice was a rich soprano. “You called, Professor 

Patrick stepped through the vestibule and opened the door. “I did 
indeed, Morgana.” Patrick stood aside to admit the tall young woman.She 
wore a baggy royal-blue sweater and loose blue jeans, but seemed 
unbothered by the blinding snow, gale-force winds, and below-zero 
weather.Nor had snow lodged in her hair or clothing. Patrick turned to 
his family. “I believe you all know Professor Morgana Lafayette, under 
one name or another.”

Morgana took Patrick’s hand, just for a moment. “I’m not in garb, so 
Morgana is good.”She glanced at Patrick’s children as she swept around 
the table. “Have you three been staying out of trouble?” Patrick decided 
not to notice his twin children looking furtively at each other. For 
Abigail Wells she had a firm hug. “It’s been way too long. We should 
really get together to talk. Soon. I can always be free at lunch.”

“There’s more Indian pudding if you’d like some,” Trisha announced.

“You have to ask?Please?I know your mom’s cooking. Or is it 
yours?However, we have almost no time,” Morgana said. “I know it’s not 
polite, but, Janie, please give me a fast update mind-to-mind of what 
they all know.” The two women stared at each other.

“That was just what you’ve all heard,” Morgana said.“GR, have you folks 
ever had a champion before? It’s like having an attorney. What mostly 
matters is that at the end Krystal North wants mentalic contact with 
Janie, to confirm that what Janie said was true.That’s, well, it’s not 
dangerous, but while that was going on Janie would be relatively open to 
someone trying to tamper with her mind. I’m here to stop that. Also, 
Krystal is well behaved, but sometimes you find persona who try to shout 
or bludgeon people into submission.Worse, our friends across the waters 
have some very different opinions about good manners. Some idiot from 
over there might try to kidnap Janie and interrogate her about her 
hypothetical contacts with the Bearer. That’s /forcibly/ interrogate.I’m 
very definitely here to stop that. ”

“What’s the issue?” Patrick asked. “Janie, you didn’t have time to tell 
us everything.”

“They think I know who has the Namestone,” Janie answered. “Or I have 
the clue! The clue tells them who has the Namestone.It’s all in that 
City of Steel move.The one I was going to spring at the Nationals. But 
Eclipse used it first! I hate her!” Once again a delicate fist pounded 
on the breakfast room table. “Speaker Ming, when I was speaking to him 
before before you heard him, said ‘If your parents will consent to 
having you questioned by the American Persona League, we can say that 
you have been questioned, everything that could be learned from you has 
been learned, and therefore you should be left alone.’” Janie decided 
that photographic memory actually did have other uses, like remembering 
exactly what other people said, even if they were way less important 
than game-related uses.

“Did you ever tell anyone about the move?” Morgana asked. “That’s what 
they want to know.”

“I never used it in a match,” Janie said.“I was saving it for National. 
Now Eclipse used it! Well, I have friends my age who come over to play 
Steel.We try all sorts of moves, but we don’t record.”

“Actually, these days it’s mostly one friend,” Abigail said. “Joe 
Cartwright is a very polite young man, well, boy, he being about your 
age, Janie. You said he was a good player.”

“He got a lot better,” Janie said. “And he’s barely one year older than 
me.” She turned at her brother. “Don’t say it, Brian.” Her tone of voice 
held a touch of steel.

“I wasn’t going to say he’s your boyfriend,” Brian rushed out. Janie 
briefly considered, enthusiastically, unpleasant things that could 
happen to her twin brother.“Honest! You think I want you and Trisha to 
kill me, just because I deserve it? Besides, he’s not. Your boyfriend, I 
mean. And I wasn’t going to say the other thing you told me, either.”

“Brian!” Janie and Trisha did not quite shout at their brother.

“Oops!” Brian managed.

“And this would be, Brian Arthur?” Patrick asked.

“Joe asked me not to bring it up, Dad,” Janie said. “Because it didn’t 
matter, and I knew that you knew it already. He’s the guy who saved 
Trisha and me.Except I thought you and mom both knew.Or did you only 
meet Joe’s mom?”

“He’s the young man who saved you? He is an extremely polite, 
well-brought-up boy. It’s very nice of you, Janie, to reward him by 
playing City of Steel,” Abigail said. Especially, she thought, very nice 
by comparison with some of the other ways young girls sometimes thank 
young men who risk their lives to save a young lady.

“And you, Trisha?” Abigail asked.

Trisha blushed deeply. “Umm, Joe and I, we went cloud-diving a couple of 
times. Cloud-diving! Nothing else!”

“Complication planet!” Morgana said. “And we’re way short of time.”

“What’s wrong?”Janie asked.“Joe can’t have the Namestone.He’s a boy!The 
Bearer is a girl. The Bearer looks like you, Professor Lafayette, not 
him.Well, sort of like you, if you wore slightly tighter clothing. Then 
you’ld look like her.Joe’s mom is too tall to be the bearer. Joe doesn’t 
have any brothers or sisters.He told me. Besides, I’m not even sure I 
played that move against him.” Janie was baffled.Joe couldn’t possibly 
have anything to do with the Namestone.

“Slightly tighter?” Morgana rolled her eyes.“As in ‘spray-painted on’? 
Except I’m quite sure the real Eclipse doesn’t look like the paintings. 
Valkyria didn’t recognize her. The wanted posters give the bearer my 
height or Valkyria’s -- five-ten or so -- but the real Eclipse is I’d 
guess five and a couple-four inches. No matter. The complication…let’s 
save that for later. Where does this Joe live? How do you phone him?Who 
are his parents? If Janie might have played this move against him, 
they’re going to want to question him next.”

“I’ve only met him twice,” Patrick said. “Dear, it must be in your Rolodex.”

“I thought you knew, Patrick,” Abigail answered. “Janie, you must have 
visited his house.”

“Ummh, er, no. I have the good City playing set. He teleports, 
remember?He could live anywhere,” Janie answered.“But, that’s odd.I 
never thought to ask. I always get Bell numbers and interlink IDs from 
new friends, first thing. I just never thought of it.” How did I forget? 
Janie asked herself.It was really annoying, especially if Dad and Mom 
decided to blame her for forgetting.

“We talked a few times,” Trisha said. “He was very nice and polite.I 
figured you had his address and everything, Janie.”

“Let’s save this for a bit,” Morgana said. “But there’s something a bit 
odd…later!GR, tonight they’ll teleport in.Your driveway would be good, 
except there’s two feet of snow on it.”

“I’ll take care of that,” Trisha said.She faded into a blur of motion 
headed for the basement stairs.

“Just a moment,” Janie said.“I have to find Krystal again, tell her 
we’re good for 8 P.M.”

“And there’s a blizzard so they need their winter clothing,” Abigail added.

“They do want to bring the Supreme Gamesman,” Janie finally said.“He’s 
visiting from Russia. I agreed. I’ve never met him! It’s wonderful! Dad, 
you need to get some photos of the four of us standing over my game table!”

Trisha reappeared from nowhere, leaning against a kitchen cabinet. “I 
shoveled the driveway, Dad,” she announced.

“In two minutes?” Patrick said. “What if the neighbors saw you?”

“You can hardly see the house next door, and the Goosedotrs are in 
Florida. You can’t see the street lights.Besides,” Trisha added, “I was 
invisible the whole time, and behind the snow cloud I raised.”

“Invisible?” Patrick asked.

“Like this,” Trisha said.She vanished from sight.“I’m right here but you 
can’t see me.Well, maybe you, Professor. I was going to tell you all 
what I just found as a gift, but these other things came up.” Her voice 
came from the same part of the room as before, but nothing was to be 
seen. Trisha reappeared.

“Shoveled?” Abigail asked. “The entire driveway?Not ‘flew the snow onto 
the lawn’?”

“Shoveled.As in ‘I’d like to take a shower and change my clothes’, that 
being really a lot of shoveling I just did. And not ‘flown’.I’d for sure 
accidentally pick up the concrete. ”

“Trisha,” Brian asked, “That was the last of the Indian pudding, but 
shall I heat some of my apple pie up for you? And warm milk? For when 
you come down here again.”

“Please?” Trisha answered.“That was really a lot of snow.”

“You could have asked for help,” Patrick reminded.

“Don’t work too hard,” Abigail added.“You could hurt yourself.” Janie 
realized that no one else caught Trisha tensing when Trisha heard what 
Mom had said.Mom kept saying things like that, and Trisha kept being 
more and more hurt and retreating into herself. Trisha’s feelings really 
hurt when her parents put her down like that, but there was no way, 
Janie realized, for her younger sister to help. Once or twice, Mom had 
reduced Trisha to tears saying things like that, tears that Trisha’s 
superspeed let her hide.

“Mo-om! You guys were all busy,” Trisha answered, diffusing the line. 
“And it’s really fluffy snow. I’ll be back down in a bit.” She vanished 
in a blur.

“Folks,” Morgana said, “The clock is ticking, and I can readily tell 
Jessamine Trishaset is just fine. Your Indian pudding was wonderful, 
Brian, especially since I skipped dinner.And lunch. There was a major 
NIH grant due, but it is done.”

“I think there’s another slice of my pie left,” Brian said, “and the 
vanilla ice cream I made yesterday.Trisha will want some, too.”

“I can’t just…” Morgana began to protest.

“You will have a real dinner, Morgana,” Abigail interrupted, “and we 
should have you over more often, now that I know who you are. My family 
has been scrupulous about respecting your privacy. Though looking at the 
clock, dinner is perhaps after this meeting.While you three are doing 
your homework.” The last sentence was directed at her children.

“Already done,” Brian said. “I was going to work on my new model.I’m 
making real progress.” His current project, the ship-of-the-line /George 
Washington/, had 1200 pieces, most requiring modest woodworking prior to 

“Me, too,” Janie added. “Grades night.Not much homework. But my new 
stones book is on thickness.” I’m not making enough progress in playing 
stones, she thought.I have to work harder.

“Thank you,” Morgana answered. “No, really. Dinner would be great. But 
we’re running short on time.Let’s see where I am.Janie, you played the 
move against Kurchatov.You have not, if I heard right, ever used the 
Eclipse move in match play. You were saving it for the Nationals. Right? 
You have friends your own age over for play. Are any of them any good?”

Janie shook her head. “Not really. But we play, and they get better. Joe 
improved the most.Sometimes I play Territories on-line.Anonymously. 
Worlds of Warfare site doesn’t allow personal information. They don’t 
know who I am.” They just know, she thought, that I thoroughly thrashed 

“And there was this communications gap on who Joe is. Except he 
teleports. And has some combat skills. He was a friend your age. Am I 
right so far?” Morgana asked.

“Completely,” Janie answered.

“Did you ever talk about him rescuing you?” Morgana asked. /<You two 
weren’t carrying on, Janie, were you? I know you’re way young for that, 
but it matters legally, so I have to ask.>/ The telepathic question went 
unheard by the rest of the Wells family.

/<No! Absolutely not!>/Janie tried unsuccessfully not to sound offended. 
What did people think she was! “We kept in touch, after he rescued us. 
Well, he and I could reach each other mentalically. I never needed to 
phone. We’d agree on good times for him to show up.Mom and Dad said it 
was all right.Didn’t you, Dad?” Janie asked. She had asked, she told 
herself, and he a seemed to understand her question. “And sometimes we 
all played base ball nines together. A few times, Brian needed a couple 
extra players for his team. Trisha was always catcher. She insisted. And 
never managed to hit the ball.”

Trisha, now dressed in a scarlet red pantsuit, cuffs and collar ornately 
stitched in orange flames, reappeared and sagged bonelessly into her 
chair. “I might have hit the ball out of the park by accident,” she said.

“Absolutely,” Patrick answered.“Joe was a good person.I’d have liked to 
have met him. Actually, I have met him, but you somehow forgot to 
mention who he was, Janie. He did save you two, and I gather he took a 
pistol or knife or something away from one of those scoundrels, the 
people the Stars Over Boston flattened. Fortunately you shouted for 
help, and he managed to avoid getting hurt.”

“He’s a good guy. He even helped us move the firewood into the garage,” 
Brian said. “And once he made this incredible catch and throw to win a 
nines game for us. He threw like a girl, a girl who played hardball all 
the time.”

“Last November,” Trisha added. “The delivery guy just dumped the wood in 
the driveway.”

“Last time we hire him,” Abigail said.

“So we three got to carry it into the garage.No gifts allowed.The 
neighbors would have seen them,” Janie said.

“But Joe showed up and helped. He said he owed Janie for playing City of 
Steel with him,” Trisha explained. “He helped a lot.Of course, he’s sort 
of my height, but really strong.Not gift-strong--you can tell--but 
strong. Strong as I am.”

“Afterward on that?” Morgana said. “GR, there is a rule here, which is 
why you need a champion, Janie. Joe is clearly not Eclipse.Wrong height. 
Wrong hair color.And he’s a boy. And you’re not sure you ever played the 
new move against him.”

“We talked about my move,” Janie said.“I was really proud of it. We 
talked about some other variations. And why they were not as good.Well, 
that’s what I thought then. We might have talked about the special move. 
But it was a bunch of friends doing things.Or him and me playing City of 

“May I confirm, mind-to-mind, that each of you does not know where Joe 
lives or any of his contact addresses?” Heads nodded. “Just focus on 
that statement.Good.He has protected the line between his public and 
private personae. That’s an absolute legal wall, like someone asking me, 
Professor Lafayette, who my public persona is, not that it’s much of a 
secret at this point.”

“Everything is good?” Abigail asked.

“We can talk afterward,” Morgana said. “However, the clock is 
approaching eight. The simplest approach is that you open the garage 
door, I’ll be framed in the light, and Janie will be right next to me. 
And you two also, Abigail and Patrick, will be a few feet behind us. 
Then we come upstairs.Are people good with that, it being your house?”

“Unless we want to use the front door?” Patrick asked.

“Big snowdrift, dad,” Trisha said. “I think I can get it in time, but 
it’s more snow than the whole driveway.”

“Skip the front door,” Patrick answered.

“We’d better get our coats on,” Abigail said. “That includes you, 
Patrick.Do you want to borrow a coat, Morgana? We may be standing there 
for a while.”

“That’s very kind of you.I’m quite weatherproof, thanks. Actually, I’m 
going to leave my sweater here. I may need to move quickly,” she 
answered.Her sweater went across the back of a chair.She wore underneath 
a white cotton blouse.An intricately-worked gold necklace centered a 
single large blood-red stone on her chest.

Coats were donned. The Wells family stood in the family garage. “Three 
of eight,” Abigail said, “Time to open the door.” Panels creaked and 
groaned as the door rotated up and in. Snow and bitterly freezing air 
rushed in from the street.

Precisely at eight in the evening, Krystal North and her four companions 
appeared in the driveway. Janie waved to Grandmaster Kurchatov, who 
waved back. Morgana Lafayette pressed her hands together and bowed 
slightly to Krystal North. North looked in and recoiled a half-step.

“For the purpose of this conversation,” Morgana announced coldly, “I am 
Professor Morgana Cysgodol Lafayette, Rogers’ Technological 
Institution.I am the Wells family’s persona champion. I am here to 
ensure that Miss Wells, confronted with a persona, is not placed at a 
disadvantage during a valid lawful process, and that there is adherence 
to the privacy codes. That goes for your remote watchers, too, Gamesman 

“I am Krystal North, Commandant of the American Persona League,” a 
shaken North said to Lafayette. “My companions are here to ask Miss 
Wells a few questions about her new City of Steel move, hopefully to 
prevent possible unfortunate outcomes.I am here as the American persona 
champion, to validate the conversation, subject to the privacy codes. 
You will recognize Speaker Ming.I believe Janie knows Grand Masters 
Kurchatov and Hornpiper, and may recognize Supreme Gamesman Kamensky. 
Given our balmy New England weather, perhaps we might move inside?”

  Chapter Five

The Wells Residence

Arbalest Street

Medford, Massachusetts

Late Evening

January 12 , 2018

The Wells family sat around their dinner table, Morgana between Janie 
and her mother.

“You were really great, Janie,” Brian said. “You went through all the 
bad variations, and sort of skipped the good ones, except Eclipse’s. And 
the three Grandmasters just stood there nodding.”

“And Speaker Ming stayed awake,” Patrick said, “An art in itself.”

“He plays,” Janie said. “Whenever he asked about the board, he asked the 
right things.” Janie decided that the Speaker was really a nice person. 
After all, he said nice things about her command of the game. She was 
just a bit tired at the moment.She’d had three grandmasters grilling her 
about her move, for two hours, sometimes interrupting each other, 
sometimes interrupting her before she could get an answer out. It has 
been exhausting, but she’d learned so much from their questions, so much 
about how to think about game positions. And with real luck, she’d fed 
them the subtly bad variations on her move.

“He is a gentleman,” Patrick said, “so of course he plays the Five Games.”

“You two were very thoughtful,” Morgana said to Brian and Trisha, “to 
prepare tea for everyone.In nothing flat. I assume the caramel-frosted 
hazelnut cookies were Brian’s again?”

Brian nodded. “I made them last Sunday and was saving them,” he 
answered. “Well, I was saving the ones Janie and I hadn’t eaten yet. 
Trisha, I told you that you were perfectly welcome to have more of them. 
Especially after you did all that shoveling. That’s why I made so many 
of them.”

“Professor Lafayette,” Janie said, “You were hiding it really well, but 
you looked nervous.”

“Just a bit,” Morgana answered. “The Americans were fine, but Kamensky 
had the Russian Imperial Elite Strike Team at the far end of his leash. 
If he’d decided that Joe is Eclipse, which to me sounds massively 
idiotic, he might have had his Team try to kidnap Janie to extract 
details from her.”

“No!” Abigail said. “My little girl?” I’m not little any more, Janie 
thought.I’m twelve. Well, almost twelve, but twelve. And the Russian who 
puts a hand on me is dead, very quickly.

“I said /try/,” Morgana answered.“Janie was safe.You were all safe. The 
Tsarists?Unless things went massively bad, they were toast. Burnt toast. 
Two out of three safe isn’t bad, is it? GR, I was more worried about the 
neighborhood. But there are two things I need to do here, and then I 
really need to go home and make dinner.”

“You are having dinner here,” Abigail ordered.“We owe you much more than 
that. What do you need to do?”

“For the first I need your agreement,” Morgana said. “The first is 
called a null link. It’s not mentalic, exactly. But if anything happens 
to any of you, I know something is wrong and exactly where to find you. 
It’s very slightly editing your subconscious, like crossloading an app 
onto a radioBell. Oh, when I’m done, you won’t remember that I did it. 
Except you, Janie, you know your own mind too clearly.You will remember. 
You will also not remind anyone. It’s a safety precaution. Agree?” 
Patrick, Abigail, Trisha, and Janie nodded. Brian grimaced but finally 
mouthed agreement. “This just takes a moment.”

“Now,” Morgana continued, “the two things I need to do,” she winked at 
Janie, who smiled back, “are to find out if there’s a reason none of you 
know where Joe lives, and if so, what the reason is. Each of you, try to 
remember asking Joe for his phone number the next time you see him.”Her 
eyebrows wrinkled. “That was very interesting, but not the way I 
expected. I can go to the next step, unless you want to drop it.” Janie 
needed a few moments to realize what had just happened.Morgana had 
planted null links in her parents and her siblings, and her. None of 
them remembered it.She hadn’t felt a thing. That was very good, that 
Morgana was so good, and very bad, that her own mindscreens were 
completely useless.

“What was interesting?” Patrick asked.

“I just asked you a certain question.You don’t remember.You can’t think 
about the topic.Even you, Janie, and you have solid mentalic 
defenses.You each had your minds changed, so soon as I asked the 
question, but the mind changing was not done with mentalics,” Morgana 
said.“That’s why your mentalic screens didn’t trigger, Janie, what was 
done was not mentalic. And some of my wards, ones that normally never do 
anything, were poked, not gently.”

“Is it dangerous?” Abigail asked.

“In this world, nothing is safe,” Morgana answered. “Someone has placed 
a geas, a construct, on your house and its residents. That’s everyone in 
the house. Having a geas like that in your house is almost certainly 
dangerous to you. Yes, geas, a stable third-order construct.It controls 
what you think, about a narrow range of topics, inobtrusively. Leaving 
it there, now that you know it exists, even though you can’t remember 
what the topics are, is probably even more dangerous. To remove it, I 
need a blank sheet of paper and a clean table.”

“Got it,” Trisha announced. The suddenly clean table had a large sheet 
of blank paper on it.

“Three of you will see nothing. Abigail, Patrick mentioned that your 
grandmother on the O’Rigamy side had the second sight, so you may see a 
blue haze.Janie, you will see clearly what I am doing, but you should 
absolutely not, not even if it’s life and death, try anything like this, 
not until you know exactly what you are doing.Clear? And the rest of 
you, don’t interrupt.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Janie managed. She was not a boy, she told herself.If she 
was warned not to do something, because it was way too dangerous, she 
wouldn’t give in to temptation the way a boy would.Well, not Brian.He 
was almost sensible enough to be a girl. </Can you teach me how to 
do…whatever it is? Or at least protect myself?/> Only Morgana heard her 

</Yes. But not soon.Sorry. Unless you want to give up games. Talk 
later/.>, Morgana answered.

</Ulp? Later./> Janie answered. Give up games?That was /undenkbar/…and 
she realized that studying German and Russian so she could read their 
games literature.had suddenly started to work.

“Good.” Morgana touched the paper. “Nin amner morgoth.” To Janie’s eyes, 
a point of blue light appeared on the page. Morgana tapped the paper 
again. “Nin amner calirath.” Another point of light appeared. Morgana 
continued her chant. When she touched the fifth point, the light from 
the points flowed out, forming a star etched into the paper, surrounded 
by circles within which burned words in a script Janie did not 
recognize.To Janie’s eyes, the words seemed to move, curling into and 
out of the page. “Now, all of you, try to remember Joe’s home address. 
Good. Wait.” Morgana gestured above the circle, her fingers making an 
intricate cat’s cradle that wove in and out.Janie saw what her siblings 
did not, bands of light and lines of text connecting Morgana’s fingers. 
The lights vanished. The circle faded away, to Janie’s ears like the 
tuning fork that once struck faded and faded but never quite stopped. 
“All done,” Morgana announced, slumping back in her chair.

“What were you doing?” Brian asked. “Are you all right?”

“That,” Morgana announced, “was a third order attack in use. Until I 
erased it. It made sure that anyone in this house would not think that 
Joe could have a home address or interlink ID, let alone wonder what 
they were. It also made sure that no one would think it was interesting 
that Joe here was the same as Joe who rescued Janie and Trisha.The 
attack followed him around, within a mile or two, so no one else would 
wonder.” She leaned back farther in her chair. “I’m all right, but it 
was very solidly embedded.”

“Who could do that?” Brian said, not quite making it sound like a 
question. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

Morgana threw up her hands. “At a guess, Joe’s mom.But I don’t know who 
she is.‘Cartwright’ is not a persona I can name. Almost nopersonas can 
do things like this.I don’t remember that any of them have children. And 
thank you for asking, Brian.Perhaps another cookie, please? That was 
more than a bit tiring.” Brian handed her three cookies, the first of 
which rapidly disappeared.

“You much look as though you need dinner,” Patrick announced, “and you 
three young ones need to give us a private conversation. Your grades 
from Morgana, remember?”

“Yes, sir,” Brian answered. “Forward to modeling.” The three children 
headed upstairs.

“And now, Morgana,” Abigail said, “we are going to hear our children’s 
grades, on your coaching them with their gifts, and you are going to get 
a reasonably solid dinner. And the specialist support you arranged for 
Trisha. Dinner was not meant as a suggestion. Young people like you are 
too careless with eating properly at the right hours.” Abigail turned to 
the sideboard and began bringing dishes back to the table.

Morgana looked at the ceiling. “Patrick, you really didn’t tell your 
dear wife what you know about me through the tenure committee, did you? 
I know you promised, and I understand that you Americans are very strict 
in respecting the privacy of private personas, but under the 
circumstance…” He really had not told his wife, she thought, and that 
bit of New England propriety was about to create an interesting 

“Young lady, that is /we/ Americans,” Abigail said, “since Patrick did 
mention that you were an Englishwoman but had taken American 
citizenship, just like several of my ancestors did, five and seven 
centuries ago.Yes, Patrick has completely respected the privacy of your 
private persona, enough so that I knew there was a Professor Morgana 
Lafayette, and I knew there was a public persona Sunssword, but I had 
never met you, the Professor, to know that you were Sunssword. And now 
you have half of a roast chicken, shoe peg corn, sliced potatoes with 
sautéed onions and sour cream, and what is left of the tossed salad with 
Roquefort dressing. Oh, yes, several croissants with butter. Brian was 
too busy with his cooking to snatch any of my chocolate fudge, which is 
just as well as it would have gotten him into all sorts of difficulty. 
Now I can sit down and hear what is going on.”

“I hope you don’t mind I eat while we’re talking,” Morgana said. “There 
are ways to cheat on eating, in an emergency. Your cooking, from the 
smell, is absolutely wonderful, far better than the alternative. My 
cooking has never poisoned anyone.Well, recently. At least, not 
accidentally.In any event, to use a line almost as old as I am, the kids 
are just fine. The worst problem was that Janie has an extremely rigid 
and accurate sense of gifttruth, at the level that leaves people 
paralyzed with fear that they have done something wrong. She got over 
the fear. Fortunately, she got over that before The Emperor Roxbury’s 
robots showed up at her school, because she had to do something violent 
to deal with them. She did. She’s absolutely fine.” And in a few moments 
I get to explain just how she overcame her fear.

“I was more worried about Trisha. Flying faster than sound could be 
dangerous.What if you accidentally left the Earth’s atmosphere? I told 
Patrick that she needed specialist coaching, but he assured me that 
everything was in good hands,” Abigail said.

“Ummh, I think we all agreed that so long as she was not doing anything 
dangerous, I would be trusted with my professional judgement on coaching 
her,” Morgana said. And I talked it over with Patrick; I;m sure he 
understood what that statement meant. And Trisha, she thought, actually 
is too cowed by her parents to talk to them about how wonderfully good 
she actually is. I should have leaned harder on her, so I could find out 
what she’d told her mom and dad. “So I am the specialist.” Morgana 
paused.Abigail stared at her. Trisha hadn’t even told them that.

“You’re the specialist?” Abigail asked. “But,then, I inherited 
grandmother O’Rigamy’s second sight. I saw what you had on the table, 
Morgana.You are no mere hedge witch, are you? That was a full ritual 

“I think I’d better go back a step, Abigail, since you have absolutely 
no idea about my other public personas,” Morgana said. Abigail nodded. 
And I dodged the question, Morgana thought.

“I try not to tell people this,” Morgana said. “The tenure committee 
agreed to a memory shield block, meaning that if anyone tried to read 
their minds about this, the block would use up the memory before the 
shield was worn through.They could remember what I told them, but no one 
else could extract the information from them. I’d rather you agreed to 
the same, it being much for your own safety.” Abigail nodded. There were 
a few moments of silence.

“First, notwithstanding that half of the grad students in my and several 
other departments have what is supposed to be a secret betting pool on 
which of them will be the first to seduce me, the woman who is obviously 
the youngest Professor at RTI,I am not a young woman. My persona name is 
not Sunsword, the Boston Post notwithstanding.It is Sun’s Sword, because 
I was, once upon a time, the Golden Warrior, the Living Sword of the Sun 
Goddess Amaterasu . That was in the court of the Japanese Emperor, when 
the Japanese capital was still Heian-Kyo.That was a while ago. I’m not 
at all offended that you thought I might not be up to coaching your 
children, since you had no idea who I am.

Second, we really need to talk more about what it means that Trisha and 
Brian and Janie are all really first line personas.It’s not just they 
have a few gifts.Yes, Brian can ignore machine gun fire. Janie can read 
minds. Trisha can fly really, really fast. We’ll get back to that in a 
bit,” Morgana said.She paused to finish part of another croissant. This 
was going to be more difficult that she thought.She hadn’t realized 
quite how carefully Patrick and Abigail supervised their children, or 
how little they respected their own children’s judgement, poor Trisha’s 
in particular. No wonder Trisha was short on self-confidence.

“They’re all in good health. They may catch the flu, but they recover in 
a hurry. Janie and Brian, in very different ways, can focus very deeply 
on what they’re doing.That’s why Janie has her Highly Respected by the 
Lords of the Hexagon, and Brian’s models sell for enough to pay for his 
hobby, the extra books he buys Janie, and Trisha’s sewing supplies and 
books and extra athletic equipment. Trisha is a physical fitness 
fanatic, except…really, please stop telling her she’ll hurt herself if 
she works too hard. Please? She can’t, not easily, not to mention she’ll 
recover in a bit if she overdoes things. Your feedback is confusing 
her.” Actually, Morgana thought, it’s hurting her very deeply, but 
she’ll never say a word about it.

“That’s just what mothers say,” Abigail countered. This was going to be 
a mess, Morgana thought.Her daughter is taking her literally, and I am 
not going to be able to explain to Abigail what that means.

“Absolutely,” Morgana said. “The two feet of snow and plow curl she 
removed from your drive…she wasn’t vaguely close to her muscle and bone 
limits. For her, that was just a healthy bit of exercise. She knows it. 
Please keep in mind that superspeed passes normally for her.She actually 
had to shovel your driveway of two feet of heavy snow, one scoop at a 
time. And catch her breath when she needed to.” Hopefully, Morgana 
thought, I have made a dent in the problem. I can’t very well tell 
Abigail that she is absurdly overprotective in ways that are hurting 
Trisha. “However, there is also the third thing.”

“Third?” Patrick asked. To Morgana’s eyes, Patrick looked deeply 
thoughtful. She had no idea what influence he had on his wife, who 
seemed to be the source of the issues Trisha was facing.

“Trisha does fly faster than sound,” Morgana said. “Faster than light 
indeed being faster than sound. And all three kids have full deep space 
gifts, so flying to the moon or wherever was not an issue.”

“Faster than light?” Abigail asked.“That means that in a few minutes 
Trisha could be millions of miles from Earth, and get lost.”

“Has Trisha actually flown a very far at high-speed?” Patrick asked. 
“I’d hate to think she tried flying to the Moon and ran out of steam 
part way there.”

“We were going to discuss this,” Morgana said, “because she had this 
really neat photograph she wanted to show you, admittedly taken with one 
of my cameras, of the Milky Way galaxy.The picture is from well to the 
Galactic South, so you can see all the spiral arms. That’s about 300,000 
light years out from the Galactic center, which she covered in under 
half an hour, notwithstanding the need for acceleration and deceleration 
and being careful not to fly through anything large and solid along the 
way. Oh yes, she has the safe form of superspeed, so she isn’t getting 
any older if she spends a couple of subjective hours shoveling the 
driveway, the way she just did.” Morgana pulled a bitstick from her 
blouse pocket.

“Socket under the table,” Patrick said.“The screen comes down from the 
ceiling when in use.”The three waited a few moments.Up on the screen 
came an image, a huge photograph of a galaxy, multiple spiral arms all 
clearly visible.

“Furthermore,” Morgana continued, “Jessamine Trishaset has true deep 
space navigation. She cannot get lost, up to local hazards that she can 
fly away from, anywhere in our universe. She knows exactly where home 
is. And her other gifts would let her make that flight, all the way 
across the universe, though she might want a nap at the end.” Abigail 
swallowed deeply.

“That’s our galaxy?” Abigail asked. “My specialty is computational 
astrophysics, not observational astronomy.”

“That’s ours,” Morgana answered.“Trisha took it. She did want me along, 
half to kibitz on camera setup, half because…she could do it by herself, 
it’s perfectly safe, but she doesn’t trust herself.” Mostly because 
people don’t trust her, Morgana thought, and keep telling her that she 
has bad judgement and will hurt herself if she tries anything 
challenging. “We did a timed flying run. Trisha is undoubtedly the 
fastest persona in the world, including any of the Lords of Eternity.”

“To finish the grades,” Morgana continued, “Brian has a first rate set 
of screens, not to mention several plasma attacks that did a fine job on 
Lord Roxbury’s robots. If he were a grownup, he’d be welcome in Stars 
Over Boston, though it would be a waste of his time. His model building 
is a gift, but a very rare one. He’ll probably develop other gifts as he 
goes on, but he’s the type that develops a few things deeply rather than 
many things broadly. Janie is an absolutely first-rate mentalist. 
Besides telepathy and screening, she is one of the few personas I know 
who can read machine minds. Very recently, she developed a mentalic 
attack, something that will kill things. I emphasize that she has a very 
well developed sense of gifttruth, so she is safe with the gift in 
question, but if she is driven to the point that she decides that she 
has to kill someone, they will be very dead very quickly.

“Brian and Janie between them have an additional gift, perhaps because 
they’re almost identical twins,because the random sort of chromosomes 
for fraternal twins managed to give them almost the same set of 
chromosomes, though obviously not quite the same, namely they can trade 
their gifts. They did. It was Janie using shields and plasma torch who 
took down the last of Lord Roxbury’s robots. As we’ve said, Trisha has 
ultrafast flight, deep space navigation, life support, meaning she can 
breathe for the people she’s carrying through space, this invisibility 
which she just mentioned, and telescopic vision. On a clear night, 
especially if she goes above the atmosphere, she views a fair number of 
stars as having obvious discs. And planets. Questions?”

“I did say,” Abigail said, “that we should respect my children’s privacy 
so long as they were not going to get into any trouble or do anything 
dangerous. From what you’re saying, Trisha is perfectly safe flying 
places, and my twins are safer with their gifts than they would’ve been 
without. What am I missing?”

“There was the issue I learned about yesterday, which is alarming but 
not dangerous,” Morgana answered, “and there is the issue I learned 
about tonight, which may be dangerous. The alarming but not dangerous 
issue is that on rare occasion the Wizard of Mars invites people for 
tea. The people are very well advised to go. That’s totally safe for the 
people involved, as opposed to visiting the Wizard of Mars and playing 
trade questions. Trading questions with the Wizard of Mars rates up 
there with flying to the center of the sun… as a suicidal act. For 
reasons I do not know and am not about to fly to Mars to ask, the Wizard 
of Mars has been inviting Trisha and Janie and sometimes Brian for tea. 
He asked that they not tell everyone, because it would be dangerous to 
the whole world but not them, and they fortunately had the wisdom to 
honor his wishes. He indicated that they could tell their sensei, and I 
could tell you. So far as I can tell, he has been asking them completely 
innocent questions, and telling them educational stories. I think he’s 
why Janie got over her issue with gifttruth. I would strongly urge you 
to rely on the Wizard of Mars having good intentions. He always has in 
the past. Also, the warning ‘dangerous to the world’ should be taken 
extremely seriously. If someone had given the Lords of Eternity that 
warning, they would’ve had conniptions.”

“Brian is selling his models?” Patrick said. “He never mentioned. 
Wait!My taxes!”

“I checked,” Morgana said. “Harry Truman’s LemonadeStand exemption. It’s 
strictly Brian’s work…he might get audited…but there’s no tax,”

“Before we go farther,” Abigail asked, “how is it that I’ve ended up 
with you sitting in my kitchen?It would be like discovering that you are 
Solara in disguise. I’m not complaining. I’m truly grateful for what you 
do for my children, but the coincidences seem strained.”

“Why am I here?Far before you reach my actual age, you realize that you 
want to live in Athens.The most civilized, cultured, sensible place 
there is. In the tenth Century, that was Heian-kyo. At another time, 
Byzantium, Baghdad, and Cordoba were perhaps more civilized, but less 
welcoming to women. Once upon a time, it was the Leviorkianu Domain, and 
others it was Marik-on-the-Sea or Gaia Atlanticea. And now it is 
Cambridge, the American Athens. Why am I having dinner here? That 
returns us to the issue I learned about tonight.

“Joe. Janie mentioned she had a regular playing partner of that name, 
which is perfectly reasonable at her age. It’s a very common name. I 
didn’t connect with the persona who saved her a few years ago. I don’t 
think the geas -- the one I just removed -- would have misled me. I’m 
very good at spotting geases that try to bother me.However, the Joe who 
plays Janie seems to have been very careful to make sure that I never 
met him. After all, I’m the only person other than your daughters who 
knows what Joe-the-Public-Persona looks like.And I’m significantly 
impressed if this Joe, whoever he is, is actually as strong as Trisha 
is, given that neither of them have strength as a gift…and Trisha would 
know if Joe had that gift. Two years ago, no one else got a good look at 
him.However, I would’ve innocently assumed that if Janie had run into 
the fellow who saved her, she would’ve talked about it. She did, except 
for not saying that they were the same person. Do Janie or Trisha ever 
talk about what happened to them, two years ago?”Morana kept trying to 
fit the puzzle pieces together in her mind.They refused to 
cooperate.Janie had this remarkable City of Steel innovation. She had 
this boy who had saved her, a boy with remarkably potent gifts.Someone 
was casting geases.Hopefully not Joe; the thought of a child who 
understood third level work was seriously alarming.

Patrick and Abigail looked at each other. “We’ve told both of them,” 
Patrick said, “that if they ever want to talk to us they can. If they 
want someone else to talk to, we can arrange that. They both said they 
were entirely comfortable talking with you. What I didn’t expect, though 
maybe I should’ve, is that Janie shared mind to mind with Brian what she 
remembered. Brian wanted to be sure he understood what his sisters went 
through. And they all said that Joe’s mom did something so they remember 
what happened, but they don’t remember being frightened, and they are 
not frightened when they think about it. Or did you help with that?”

“I would’ve done that for them,” Morgana said, “but Joe’s mom did it 
first. She did a very good job of it.” Morgana looked down at the table. 
“Actually, she did a truly fine job of it, and I can’t imagine who she 
is, either.I could’ve taken care of their minds if they needed it. 
Goddess only knows I’ve had enough practice healing people with 
after-combat mental distress. What I meant to ask about was not what 
must to you have been a horrifying few hours, but the physical details 
of the persona combat.”

Abigail shook her head. “Trisha was out cold almost the whole time, and 
Janie said she didn’t see very much except occasionally things got 
bright. She was very busy shouting for help. She did pull Trisha over 
the edge of a sand dune.”

“Janie shouting for help is how I got involved,” Morgana answered. “If 
the two of them hadn’t been persona, the kidnappers would have ignored 
them. If Janie hadn’t been so good at mentalics back then, the 
kidnappers might have gotten away with it. Unless Joe stopped them. One 
of the kidnappers had a very strong mind screen, strong enough that 
Janie had to be really loud to be heard outside. Fortunately, we heard 
her. But when I met Janie and Trisha I could tell they were very deeply 
gifted, and would be better off with a practiced hand guiding them. That 
was me. I just had to arrange things.”

“In any event,” Morgana continued, pausing once and again for more 
chicken, “the press coverage of Joe saving Trisha and Janie made it 
sound like the villains teleported out to Sand Crab Island, and in the 
middle Joe somehow separated them from their pistol, following which 
Stars Over Boston came to the rescue. Then Joe got your daughters back 
to you. The miscreants must’ve been seriously injured while resisting 
arrest, because they all died that evening. None of that is false, but 
there are some minor details left out.” Morgana paused to finish off 
another croissant.

“Janie described Joe teleporting them to someplace in northern Canada 
and then to Frog Pond Park,” Abigail said. “They were both worried about 
Joe, because when they left him he was shivering.”

“Chills are common if you go way too deep into your gifts,” Morgana 
explained. “And I really mean way too deep, not just a bit too deep. 
That’s not surprising, given what he did. Fortunately, he or they moved 
the whole thing to Sand Crab Island. That combat was not a couple of 
guys wrestling over possession of a knife. Joe was the good-guy side of 
the deepest level persona combat in New England since Crittenden’s 
War.Joe is in the power range where he could easily level a city block 
of brownstones with one blast, which is truly unusual for a boy his age. 
The people on the other side were probably about as good. The pistol 
that did not quite take down Joe’s shields was indubitably a Krell 
disruptor pistol.It’s a starcore weapon. If the villains had fired it at 
Boston, they would have torched everything on the ocean side of Beacon 
Hill with one shot. Assuredly it hit Joe’s shields, and his shields did 
not collapse. Joe won by himself, and on the way out grabbed the pistol 
and a Krell shield bracer that had been protecting one of the 
miscreants. Until Joe killed the fellow. Joe seems to have no 
compunctions about killing people.Stars Over Boston got there after 
almost everything was over. I am morally certain. Joe teleported out 
with your daughters because he saw me appear, not because he thought he 
was escaping the villains.

“Then, afterward, something broke into Castle Island Prison, put the 
guards to sleep without their noticing anything, hid its presence from 
the three members of the Stars Over Boston who were also guarding the 
place, and exfoliated the memories of the surviving villains, 
incidentally killing them. The villains were very deeply tranquilized 
and being given medical care. Mighty Mind was going to search their 
memories carefully, but was waiting for the needed court order. 
Something else did not wait.You may have heard about the ring of 
perverts in our country’s southern neighbors, the ones who were 
kidnapping persona children and torturing them to death? The people 
captured in Boston were their strike team. The same night that the 
prisoners died, something appeared above their main base, smashed down a 
very high power set of force fields, killed the personas defending the 
place, and rescued a bunch of children.The political aftermath, when the 
detailed records were made public, is still reverberating. People have 
heard the parts, but not connected the dots.”

“Are Trish and Janie safe near Joe?” Abigail asked. “Isn’t it dangerous 
to have personas that powerful wandering around in their vicinity? I’m 
not counting you, of course.”

“The only time I’ve seen Joe use his powers, that from a distance, he 
was protecting Trisha and Janie at what I hope he realized was a 
considerable risk to his own life. Trisha and Janie have nothing to 
worry about, so far as I can tell. Joe took a big chance to fight that 
crew. I’m not sure whether or not he knew he was taking a chance. He may 
have thought he would just stomp the people attacking Trisha and Janie 
into the ground. I would’ve liked to speak to him. Many people owe him 
favors, but he made no effort to collect. With that sort of power, 
unless you have good training, your slight errors can get large numbers 
of people killed.Including you, if you make a mistake. Also, someone put 
a geas on your house. I find that bothersome. There aren’t a lot of 
people who can do that, and none that I can name appear to have a motive.”

The wind gusted, hard enough that the shutters rattled. “However, I am 
keeping you up late,” Morgana continued, “I still have a paper to write, 
and I’ve given your children their grades.They are all Excellent. Your 
meal was wonderful, and most appreciated. So far as I can tell, you five 
are not in any particular danger. I should be on my way.” Morgana stood, 
hugged Abigail, and took Patrick’s hand. “Next time, I should bring some 
of my cooking.I have, after all, had some thousands of years to figure 
out how to recognize boiling water.”

“Thank you for everything, Morgana” Abigail said. “You’re sure you don’t 
want to borrow a coat for the flight back? And you do get a box of my 
cookies. And some of the fudge, for all that the silly betting pool that 
Patrick told me about is foredoomed to failure.”

“I’m not planning on flying,” Morgana said, “but I would love some of 
the cookies, and some of the fudge.” Abigail, she thought, really 
doesn’t recognize that I’m quite entirely weatherproof.

“Thank you for backing up Janie, Morgana” Patrick said.“Matters could 
have been much worse.However, the Tenure Committee really does look at 

“Yes, Professor Wells. Publish or join the glorious dead. Patrick, call 
at once if Janie disappears. She won’t.Krystal North had the fear of the 
Goddess put into her. So did the Tsarists. It was a delight to have 
dinner with you, and your children are wonderful as students.With that I 
must bid adieu.” Her figure became transparent and vanished from sight.

* * * * *

Great Dome of the Capital

Washington, Federal District

January 12, 2018

The atmosphere under the Capital Dome was even frostier than the 
Cambridge blizzard.Speaker Ming, three Gamesmasters, and Krystal North 
stood in a circle.

“The notion that this slip of a girl can come up with such a move is 
absurd,” Supreme Gamesman Kamensky announced. “She must have backers, 
backers she failed to divulge.That’s lying to this inquiry, and grounds 
for more rigorous interrogation. Under the Tsar, she would be removed to 
the tender graces of the Okhrana until she revealed who her backers are. 
This could still be arranged.”

Grandmaster Kurchatov’s face stiffened. “Fortunately, Kamensky, this is 
a civilized country, so such things do not happen here.”

“Alexander Vladimirovich,” Krystal repeated, “Cambridge is in the 
American Republic, so such an outcome does not arise.” Kamensky and his 
crew appeared to think that they were the lords of the Earth, entitled 
to do whatever thye wanted.

“Miss North. Really. I would not dream of violating your quaint local 
customs,” Kamensky answered vociferously. “Though Miss Wells’ second, a 
charming college professor a third my age, would hardly have been a 
serious threat to my escorts.”

“Alexander Vladimirovich,” Krystal said, “That young lady, as you put 
it, is a first-line persona. I can name three times she had a serious 
brawl with a Lord of Eternity.She came out on top all three times. In 
case you haven’t noticed, the Tsar’s Persona Corps has no one who can 
stand up against an Eternal, one on one, for more than a few seconds. If 
your unseen Russian Elite Persona Team had tried what you suggested, 
Count Supreme Gamesman Kamensky, they would now be toast.Charred toast. 
It was painfully obvious Professor Lafayette could tell where your team 
would be appearing, to the inch, and was ready to eliminate your 
precious national team as they arrived. That’s before my League rode to 
the rescue.That’s Janie’s rescue.Also Professor Lafayette’s rescue, not 
that she would have needed it. Indeed, my League’s major task on arrival 
would have been to sweep up the ashes. If you’d been a co-conspirator, 
we would be sweeping up your ashes, too. With modest luck, the Federal 
Senate would later have agreed that you had acted on your own, not on 
behalf of your government, in which case America would not be ending 
January by going to war with the Tsar. I hope I have made this point 
adequately clear?”

Kamensky turned on Speaker Ming. “I must protest these idle American 

“Supreme Gamesman Kamensky,” Ming answered.“Miss North was simply 
clarifying the political situation for you.I believe she is in error on 
only one point. In my opinion, it would have been impossible to convince 
the People and Senate of the American Republic that you had been acting 
on your own.”

“In that case,” Kamensky announced, “I prefer to return home.” Kamensky 
vanished. Krystal felt a flood of relief. If Kamensky had tied 
kidnapping Jane Caroline, matters would have been extremely unfortunate 
extremely quickly.

“Interesting company the little girl keeps,” Kurchatov said. “I do not 
recall an Eternal or the like who Plays, so I suppose Miss Wells must 
have come up with her new move for herself. Those variations she 
proposed all looked...flawed.”

“Victor,” Grandmaster Hornpiper asked, “I had had the same thought, but 
then decided that if I were in her predicament I would have been 
delighted to tell you about many variations on my move…the bad 
variations.In her position, if I’d been asked about chess openings, I 
would have talked at length about the Horns of Hattin opening, or 
perhaps the Glorious Shield of Sarnath.”

“You’re mean, Honarius,” Ming said, not at all seriously.“Surely this 
sweet little girl would not pull such an underhanded trick?”

“This sweet little girl,” Kurchatov said, “forced me to offer a tie when 
we played, a tie she gleefully accepted. She had good chances of 
winning, too, but preferred the certainty of a draw. That put her 
ranking up considerably. She is /highly/ underhanded.”

“Good for her,” Ming said. “She embodies the highest aspects of the 
American gaming spirit.” The two Grandmasters nodded affirmatively.

“Gentlemen,” Krystal said, “I am happy to have the three of you 
teleported home, it being late indeed, but I need to have a watch put on 
the Wells residence and on all three children.Baron Kamensky might be 
smart enough to back off, but some of his backers are decidedly less 
cautious.” All we need, she thought, is a possible war with Russia, on 
top of whatever outcome the Namestone and its bearer create.

  Chapter Six

Secure Chamber Alpha

The Palace of Peace

Geneva, Switzerland


January 13, 2018

League Chancellor Lars Holmgren tapped his walnut gavel twice on its 
bloodwood sounding block. “Good morning! Gentlemen?Ladies?I know it has 
been a very long few days.May we have order, please? This meeting of the 
League of Nations Special Peace Executive is now in session, Prince Wang 
taking any needed notes. Thank you, Prince Wang. I believe we have all 
reviewed the recordings of Wednesday’s events. I have circulated an 
agenda. Under the non-emergency rules, we begin by naming ourselves.”

“For the American Republic, Ambassador Thaddeus Buncombe.” Buncombe, 
wearing a classic pinstripe three-piece suit with broad red, white, and 
blue vertical-striped tie, leaned back in his chair.Now, he thought, 
there would be the foreign kings and princes, their representatives, and 
their pompously useless titles. He looked around the room. The Peace 
Executive sat at a horseshoe-shaped white marble table, with Holmgren in 
the middle and Buncombe at the heel of the horseshoe’s right branch.The 
walls and floor were the same brilliant white marble, carved and inlaid 
with what the European founders of the League viewed as scenes showing 
the triumph of civilization.To Buncombe’s eyes those scenes mostly 
represented Europeans trampling other parts of the world under foot. 
Curiously, images of King George the Mad attempting to trample America 
were conspicuous for their absence.

“For Austria-Hungary, Count Karl-Michael Ferencz .” Buncombe nodded 
respectfully at Ferencz.King-Emperor Joseph III had spent forty years 
requiring that his representatives be highly competent. The Count might 
have a title, but he had surely earned his post.

“The Brazilian Empire, Ambassadrix Amanda Rafaela Mascarenhas da Silva.” 
The speaker was a woman in her early sixties, hair a deep black, her 
blouse, vest, and long dress a brilliant royal blue fringed in gold. 
Buncombe smiled politely. Amanda was one of the few truly thoughtful 
people on the Peace Executive.

“For the Queen-Empress Victoria, the Third of her Name, Lord Reginald 
Featherstonehaugh.” The current Featherstonehaugh, Buncombe considered, 
was considerably less arrogant than his father, who Americans could 
readily imagine as one of the crown officials who cheered on King George 
III, George the Mad, as he launched the 1774 British invasion of the 
American Republic.

“For the Celestial Republic of the Han, Prince Wang Dongfeng.” Dongfeng 
looked politely around the room, the blank look on his face masking his 
inner thoughts.

“Speaking for the Emperor of All France, Napoleon the Sixth,I am 
Imperial Grand Marshall Bernard-Christian Davout.” Davout wore the 
polychrome uniform of a modern French Field Marshal. It was possible, 
Buncombe thought, that some color had been omitted from his ensemble, 
but if so it was by oversight. For all his military decorations, 
Davout’s military experience was quite limited. Davout’s own conquests 
were more focused on the boudoir, and over the years had included 
several of his fellow Ambassadors, though despite his best efforts not 
Amanda Rafaela. Davout’s country, including its not-protectorates from 
the Caribbean to the Eastern Mediterranean was nonetheless an eminently 
civilized place, in which an American could consider living.Napoleon 
might style himself /Emperor/, but its local governments including the 
Greek and Spanish Kingdoms and Venetian Republic had an independence 
that only Frenchmen and Americans found entirely reasonable.

“For His Great and Terrible Majesty, the Supreme Warlord of All the 
Germans, Kaiser Friedrich the Fourth and Greatest, I am Markgraf 
Heinrich Moeller.” All the Germans, Buncombe noted to himself, if you 
ignored the Austro-Hungarians, the Swiss, the Bavarians, and the 
residents of the French Rhineland.The Germans were forever scheming to 
recover the mythical past glories to which they thought they were 
entitled, their schemes having as their primary effect solidifying the 
anti-German alliance that included all of their neighbors.

“The Speaker for the First Speaker of the Mexica and the Inca.” Lord 
Smoking Frog, Buncombe considered, never actually spoke his own name. In 
his home country, for him to speak his own name might have been an 
impolite way of reminding people that the Empire of the Mexica and the 
Inca was in fair part run by the Maya.

“For the /Osmanli padisahlari/, the Emperor, may his wisdom increase 
forever, has sent me, his Grand Vizier, Suleiman Pasha.”So that’s who he 
is, a fellow I have never met, Buncombe thought. And Suleiman Pasha 
normally stays out of sight, so the Emperor gets all the credit for 
Suleiman’s good ideas, and Suleiman avoids all blame for his own bad 
ideas. If the Ottomans sent their Prime Minister, they are taking 
matters much more seriously than I might have expected. For better or 
worse, that replacement can’t happen to me, it being illegal for 
Cognressmen to travel outside the American Republic.

“Ambassador Fateh Singh of the Sikh Empire, Speaker for all South Asian 
states.” Singh’s cloth-of-gold coat appeared to Buncombe to be wasteful, 
not to mention cold. Similar criticisms might be made of most of the 
other foreigners, none of whom had adopted the simple, frugal, not to 
mention comfortable style affected by American diplomats. Singh, 
however, was someone you could speak with privately, and have some 
confidence that he was not saying whatever he thought that you wanted to 

“I am Saigo Shigetoshi, Legate of the Satsuma Daimyo.” Buncombe nodded 
politely at Shigetoshi. Relations between America and their Pacific 
neighbor had always been friendly, each side recognizing that any other 
attitude was pointless. The legal fiction that Shigetoshi only 
represented the Satsuma Daimyo rather than speaking for the Emperor and 
the Shogun was one of the quaint aspects of doing business with the 
Japanese. It was almost as quaint as the fiction that Shigetoshi ‘s wife 
merely liked a bit of gossip, rather than being the Imperial spymaster 
for Europe. Shigetoshi’s seven layers of polychrome kimono, besides 
being gorgeously colorful, managed to be both warm and comfortable.

“Legate Hong Sangui of Manjukuo.”Hong carefully look away from Buncombe. 
Relations across the Bering Straits had been frigid since the 
Manjukuoans discovered that their failure to contest the ownership of 
Alaska had given away huge gold and mineral deposits. Of course, 
Buncombe considered, the Empire had been so little interested in Alaska 
and places beyond that they had retained a Russian to explore them. Hong 
wore pale yellow court robes, embroidered left and right with a pair of 
five toed dragons, showing a close tie to the Imperial family.A large 
scarlet fire sigil sewn on each forearm of the robes indicated his 
performance on the Imperial Examinations, showing that he had finished 
in the highest rank.The lower ranks test memorization, Buncombe reminded 
himself, but the highest ranks were based on puzzle solving. Hong hid a 
top-notch mind behind his refused shoulder.

“For Peter, Emperor of all the Russias, Princess Elizaveta Romanoff.” 
The oldest daughter of Tsar Peter VI wore classical Russian court dress, 
complete with a tiara. Romanoff ‘s coat and blouse and trousers were 
brilliant scarlet spackled with silvery lace and trim. The platinum 
alloy highlighted her long hair, faded by the decades from raven-black 
to pure white.At 60, she preserved the figure she had had at 20, a 
figure that hid her sharp wit and sharper memory.The figure, Buncombe 
thought, was undoubtedly in fair part a consequence of her wearing at 
all times a substantial tonnage of silk and precious metals. All times, 
of course, except for those in which they were being removed by any of 
several of her other Ambassadors or good friends, since she clearly 
adhered to the traditional European standard ‘who cares who has a slice 
of the cake, once the cake has been cut.’ Of course, when you got down 
to it, there was very little else for European ambassadors to the League 
of Nations to do, since their countries exchanged ambassadors directly. 
He and Ambassador Shigetoshi were, uniquely, kept busy doing actual 
ambassadorial type work.

“Colonel-General Wilhelm Christian aus und zu Dreikirch, League Secret 
Political Police.” Dreikirch snapped to attention and clicked his heels. 
Buncombe recognized his dress uniform. The New Hampshire State Guard 
used the same color scheme, minus the pounds of gold braid and jingling 
medals, for its winter camouflage uniforms. Dreikirch affected the 
mannerisms of the Prussians, but was certainly not partial to the 
desired of Kaiser Friedrich.After all, there was a regulation against that.

“League Elite Persona Brigade, Brigade Leader Valkyria.” The tall, 
blue-eyed woman now wore an ankle-length flame-orange dress rather than 
her more familiar battle armor.The loose sleeves of the blouse failed to 
hide her substantial muscles. Unlike many folks in plate mail, Buncombe 
reminded himself, Valkyria was not stupid, just vigorously 
rules-oriented. In some ways, rules-oriented could be worse.

“League Chancellor Lars Holmgren.”

Where was this meeting going, Buncombe wondered? The Ambassadors had met 
often enough that most of them, most of the time, did not feel obliged 
to insult each other. Positions of the Great Powers on ownership of the 
Namestone were hardly state secrets, at least among the powers that 
believed that the Namestone existed.The Celestial Republic of Prince 
Wang was by no means convinced that there actually was a Namestone.After 
all, if it existed, the Martyr would undoubtedly have given it to the 
Perfect Man, the Emperor of the Middle Kingdom, Lord of All the Earth, 
when the Martyr first arrived on Earth three millennia ago, and he had 
not done so. The IncoAztecan Speaker for the First Speaker doubtless 
agreed with the Celestial Republic’s Ambassador, except of course that 
the Martyr would undoubtedly have given the Namestone to the First 
Speaker, the Living Sun.

“General aus und zu Dreikirch, is there any progress to report? I know 
there is also an agenda, but first things first.” Holmgren directed his 
attention to the chief of the League Secret Political Police, who looked 
even more bedraggled than his audience. He had been awake for almost two 
days, ever since the universal solar eclipse began.

“We are pursuing every lead,” Dreikirch answered, his bushy grey 
mustache all aquiver. “There has been an extremely thorough search for 
persona fitting Eclipse’s description.The garb we saw on video is 
registered with Niederhof’s on the Vienna Ringstrasse, but as you know 
absolutely no one has ever penetrated Niederhof’s security arrangements 
to see the persona behind the garb.Tomorrow their lead window display 
will be replicas of Eclipse’s three garbs -- yes, she has three of them 
-- and ‘Niederhof, supplier of fine garb to the Glorious Bearer of the 
Holy Namestone’ will be their selling point.I infer that the customer 
paid in gold thalers that were promptly melted down and reminted, so 
there is no DNA trace.

“Other than that, there is no record whatsoever.My staff agrees that 
Eclipse is a woman, not too advanced in years, likely late 20s, and 
rigorously trained.Who is behind her?There must have been a huge support 
team, but they remain in the shadows.

“There was a fuss because the Bearer used a move first revealed by that 
American girl, Wells. Wells was interrogated at length by two 
grandmasters and the Supreme Gamesman himself.They found no indication 
that she was the source of this Eclipse’s move.I have no more to 
report.” Dreikirch, Buncombe noted, carefully skipped over the issue 
that the Russians had been prepared to kidnap Wells, the Americans were 
protecting her, but there was something very strange about Wells’ 
persona champion, something not in the coded reports he had been sent.

“Ah, yes,” Holmgren said, “the Agenda.As we are now in Regular Order, 
there is a Speaking Stone, and an order of speaking. The first issue is 
the complaint, actually, complaints, about the League Strike Force and 
its actions on Atlanticea. The speaking order is the order in which I 
received complaints, followed by standard rules. Several of you have 
made emphatically clear that you object to treating these issues in 
closed session, so we are not closed. We begin with traditional short 
opening remarks and then turn to substantive issues. Ambassador Moeller, 
I believe you speak first.”

Moeller straightened his tie. “The Supreme Warlord of All the Germans is 
most concerned with the lack of properly aggressive action by the League 
Elite Persona Brigade.The moment that the Bearer refused to hand over 
the Namestone, the Bearer should have been summarily executed, without 
giving her any warning or further argument. League resolutions, binding 
on every person in the world, make clear that it is entirely and most 
strictly forbidden for any private person to retain custody of the 
Namestone. Equally, League Resolutions, binding on every person in the 
world, make clear that it is entirely and most strictly forbidden for 
any private person to dispute the right of the League to take possession 
of the Holy Namestone for the benefit of all humanity.” Buncombe pulled 
from one of the desk drawers at his side a small glass pyramid and set 
it on the table in front of him.You won’t, he thought, make those claims 
without a vigorous objection. On the other hand, those claims were even 
more impressive in the original German, which you do nnot know that I 
have read. Buncombe was slightly surprised when Featherstonehaugh put a 
similar pyramid on his section of the desk. “However, the Bearer was not 
summarily executed. It is therefore the irrefutable opinion of the 
Supreme Warlord that the leadership of the Elite Brigade should be 
replaced, the Brigade being given new, competent, and therefore of 
course necessarily Prussian leadership.” Valkyria’s face stiffened. 
Several more pyramids appeared on desks.

“We are further particularly concerned that large numbers of persons 
around the world watched this Eclipse persona while she defied the 
entire League and thus the collective wisdom of all mankind. The notion 
that single individuals are entitled to disobey, no, even to question 
the directives of their superiors is entirely and most rigorously 
unacceptable.That position must be categorically rejected by this 
Executive and by extension by all civilized people. Failure to reject 
this notion will leads to riots, disorders, strikes, anarchism, and 
independent thinking, an intolerable state of affairs that must be put 
down like the mad dog that it is.

“Finally,” Moeller said, “the Supreme Warlord of all the Germans notes 
that League Resolutions make it explicitly clear that it is the separate 
and overriding duty of every Great Power to make every effort to arrest 
and capture the Bearer and obtain for the benefit of the League of 
Nations the Key to Paradise, the Holy Namestone. Accordingly, the 
Supreme Warlord has ordered and directed that the German Elite Persona 
Team is to move immediately to wherever in the world the Bearer is 
found, there to incapacitate her and take control of the Namestone. 
There is of course always a hazard in operations of this type that other 
parties will be slightly injured or that there will be some minor 
incidental damage to property. Such costs are appropriately born by the 
country in which the damage takes place, because if that country had 
acted in an appropriate and rapid manner, the Bearer would have been 
captured before the German Elite Persona Team could have deployed to the 
scene to take command of the Namestone for the benefit of all humanity.” 
Additional pyramids appeared on various desks. Moeller handed the 
Speaking Stone to Lord Smoking Frog.

“I bring you Greetings from the One World, the Six Regions, and the Land 
of the Obsidian Hummingbird. The First Speaker, the Living Sun, notes 
that the Bearer did not immediately comply with the direct and explicit 
orders of Brigade Leader Valkyria. The First Speaker, the Living Sun, is 
most concerned that Miss Eclipse’s depraved behavior will serve as an 
ill example for the piously faithful and diligently industrious workers 
and peasants of the One World,” Lord Smoking Frog said. “Those people 
are all wonderful citizens of our Empire, but like all people other than 
the Living Sun they are at risk of being led astray by malevolent 
foreign interests. This risk must be eliminated as rapidly and 
diligently as possible.

“Furthermore, the Assembly of the Tlatoani and the Council of the Realm 
are united in insisting that in the face of a League Resolution this 
Eclipse person owed instant obedience to Commandant Valkyria. That is 
the way it is in all well-ruled countries.Those who lead direct.Those 
who follow obey without question, hesitation, or thought. When Eclipse 
was seen not to obey, she set the example that disobedience can ever be 
a valid option, which of course it is not. At the first moment that she 
refused to obey, she should have been struck dead.Better, of course, she 
should have been rendered unconscious, separated from the Namestone, and 
then she should have been tortured to death.Slowly. Her agony and death 
would then have sent a clear message on the virtue and correctness of 
that unthinking obedience that is the true strength of all civilized 
lands. Therefore, we believe a Special Commission should immediately be 
appointed to deal with the most important of all questions, namely 
choosing for Miss Eclipse the most painful and terrifying possible form 
of execution, following which her still-beating heart should be offered 
up to Witchywolves.Also, to avert a repetition of her escape, command of 
the League Elite Persona Brigade should immediately be transferred to 
the Perfect Warrior, The First Speaker, the Living Su, of the Inca and 
the Azteca.

“Finally, the First Speaker, the Living Sun, is most emphatic that the 
Namestone must be recovered as soon as possible and used to bring Heaven 
to Earth. Accordingly, the First Speaker has ordered that the Jaguar 
Knights be immediately ready to attack the Bearer, no matter where on 
earth she is found. The Jaguar Knights are well-equipped with 
teleporters and high power combatants, so there can be no doubt that the 
Bearer will be overwhelmed by their attack. We are in complete agreement 
with Supreme German Warlord that while there is a possibility of 
incidental or collateral damage, that such damage must be recognized as 
a heroic sacrifice on the part of those suffering the damage, for which 
of course they do not need to be compensated. In saying this, we do not 
deny the privilege of the ruler of any of the Great Powers and the other 
powers to reward his citizens for any damage they may have suffered 
while being associated with the heroic act of capturing the Namestone.” 
Buncombe noted that several of his fellow ambassadors were looking 
significantly askance at the remarks of the Speaker for the First 
Speaker. The Speaking Stone was passed to the next ambassador.

Grand Vizier Sulieman Pasha looked around the room. “The Emperor of the 
Ottomans, Defender of the Faithful, Protector of the Three Holy Places, 
may his piety and virtue redound to the heavens, has taken note of the 
failure of the League Strike Team to procure the Namestone. On one hand, 
it is entirely sad that there was no capture. On the other hand, the 
Emperor, may his wisdom increase forever, recalls that this body 
discussed at great length on a regular basis the protocols to be used if 
someone other than us managed to thread the Maze and recover the 
Namestone. His Imperial Wisdom believes that the League Strike Team did 
in fact execute the plan that was applicable. The Leaders of the Corps 
of Janissaries have advised the Emperor: It is unfortunate that the 
agreed-upon plan was not successful, but that is the nature of 
plans.They do not always work. The Emperor therefore does not believe 
that it would be particularly appropriate at this time to transfer 
command of the League Strike Team from its current command staff to the 
Commandery of the Worshipful Hosts of the Pious and Faithful, as the 
Ambassador of the German Warlord has so wisely suggested. In particular, 
there might be some confusion arising from the issue that the League 
Team includes both men and women, the women not serving as camp 
followers, contrary to any reasonable arrangement within a military 
force.” Buncombe noted that the women in the room were all striving not 
to break out into laughter.Fortunately, he considered, they had heard 
this line before from the usual Ottoman Ambassador. “Also, in all our 
planning we made no plan that allowed for the possibility that a Lord of 
Eternity would be present or would seek to intervene in the recovery of 
the Holy Namestone, so the plans were less than complete.

“Having said that, the Protector of the Three Holy Places has at his 
beck and call what is undoubtedly the most powerful group of personas in 
the entire world. There is therefore no need for foreign groups to enter 
the Lands of Peace in pursuit of the Namestone. Such an entry would 
provoke unfortunate consequences for the intruders, for which the 
Defender of the Faithful could not possibly take responsibility.” 
Buncombe brought to mind several ancient American adages involving the 
concept of the slow train wreck. It seemed more than a bit likely that 
several foreign powers would be perfectly happy to have their persona 
teams invade the territory of other foreign powers with what would be 
claimed to be the best of intentions, do astonishing amounts of 
collateral damage to key industrial facilities, and then leave. The net 
result, he suspected, would not be entirely favorable for world peace or 
local property values, even before the Bearer started resisting the 
persona teams trying to capture her.

“Finally, his Wisdom the Emperor notes the great likelihood that this 
Eclipse person is to be numbered among the ranks of the Faithful, given 
that the Bearer identified her as having the highest possible state of 
moral purity, in which case it will always be appropriate for Hosts of 
the Faihful to come to her aid if she is attacked.”The Grand Vizier 
passed the Speaking Stone to Legate Hong.

“Already the Great Khan, the Emperor of Manjukuo and All Mongolia, from 
the center of the world to the Polar Sea, has issued the most 
fundamental of all orders: ‘Men and women of the Horde! To your horses!’ 
All the personas and all the soldiers of all Manjukuo are immediately 
ready to advance against the Bearer, no matter where she is found, so 
soon as she can be located. There is no doubt but that she will be 
overwhelmed and her stolen artifact recovered for all the people of the 
world.” Buncombe steeled himself for the bloviations of the remaining 
ambassadors. The Russians would undoubtedly interpret the German remarks 
as a threat of war. The French and the Austro-Hungarians would speak of 
welcoming the Bearer into their midst, and using tactful means to 
persuade the bearer to use the Namestone as the League requested. It 
seemed unlikely that either Ferencz or Davout would be able to explain 
the concept ‘tact’ to many of their fellow ambassadors. Buncombe 
realized that while he was collecting his thoughts the Speaking Stone 
had moved several more times, so the Sikh Ambassador was speaking.

“Finally,” Ambassador Singh said, “I have been asked to bring word from 
the Tibetan Lamanate.While the Dalai Lama is temporarily absent awaiting 
reincarnation, the Sera Lama has extended an open invitation to this 
Miss Eclipse to visit Tibet to meditate with him on the hazard that the 
Holy Namestone creates for her soul, for surely a device that grants all 
worldly desires will distract us all from tranquil meditation. Indeed, 
the Sera Lama counsels us all that we should abandon our interest in the 
purely worldly temptations offered by the Namestone, in favor of the 
celestial awards resulting from renouncing all worldly goods.”

The Speaking Stone eventually reached the American Ambassador. “Mind 
you,” Buncombe said, “I would be remiss in my duties as Ambassador of 
the American Republic if I did not note that most of our citizens have a 
complete lack of sympathy with the League’s assertion that it has a 
claim on the Namestone. The American position for centuries has been 
that the Namestone would belong to he who took it. I agree that most 
Americans would also have preferred that Miss Eclipse simply joined the 
extremely long list of people who bet their lives against the Namestone 
and lost. We do not wish Miss Eclipse ill for performing her heroic 
deed, but the Namestone was better left in the Tomb in the hands of the 
Martyr.” Several of Buncombe’s colleagues glared in his direction. “Of 
course, it was two Americans who separately entered the Maze and were 
the only challengers ever to survive, quitting while they were ahead.” 
Some of Buncombe’s colleagues turned beet red.Four appeared to be 
struggling to avoid breaking into laughter at his tweaking of the lion’s 
tail. The English and Germans had lost the core of their navies in a 
prior attempt. The English “world chess champion” had declined to 
emulate the American challenger he had dodged, when the challenger had 
visited England to play for the world title, by following the American 
challenger the Maze.“In any event, my Republic’s frugal Congress may 
well take its own good time about authorizing any part of our very 
limited incomes to be spent in Eclipse’s pursuit, assuming that our 
Congress in its wisdom does not decide that she is the proper owner. We 
are a poor and thrifty nation and have better uses for our meager 
resources.”Buncombe silently congratulated himself on saying his final 
few sentences with a straight face. It was hardly a secret that the 
American Republic was by a very considerable margin the wealthiest 
country in the world.

“Finally, America is a sovereign nation. Foreign attacks on our citizens 
and residents, including in particular attacks on the hypothetical Miss 
Eclipse if she is an American, would plausibly be acts of war and will 
be treated as such. We have no intent of sending our armed forces abroad 
in pursuits of willow-the-wisps. We will, however, consider favorably 
requests for mutual assistance from countries in the Americas that 
request our assistance. Furthermore, President Daniel Oliver Webster has 
indicated that if the Governors-General of any of the Canadian Dominions 
request emergency aid, then, so long as the Queen-Empress and her 
Ministers do not object, arrangements might perhaps be made.After all, 
if your neighbor’s house is on fire, you break out the hoses first, and 
consider your minor historical disagreements with your neighbor after 
the fire is extinguished.” From the looks on various faces, Buncombe had 
indeed set several foxes loose in neighboring chicken coops. American 
foreign policy had for centuries been based on total noninvolvement in 
foreign affairs. Protecting southern neighbors from the IncoAztecan 
Empire was viewed as a domestic matter, given the series of wars that 
had been fought between America and the Aztecans. And now, Buncombe 
thought, he had announced a minor change in American foreign policy. 
Buncombe handed the Speaking Stone to Ambassador Featherstonehaugh.

“Curiously,’ Featherstonehaugh said, “the position of Queen Victoria, 
the Third of her Name, and her Ministers is in many respects similar to 
that of the American Republic. I realize this circumstance may sound 
surprising to some. In particular, Her Majesty’s government is 
disenthused with the notion that foreigners are entitled to appear in 
our country unannounced with the intent of using our lochs and rills to 
fight a war. Her Majesty and Her Government must categorically and 
absolutely refuse to be responsible for the consequences if such an 
event were to occur. While I could go on at greater length, I am in the 
common position of Final Opening Speaker, namely I believe that we might 
all find it useful to consult with our governments about your 
preliminary remarks, some of which were not what official positions 
would have led us to expect.Naturally, we are all gentlemen and ladies, 
and do not employ spies,” the room burst into giggles, “so none of us 
have any non-official knowledge before the meeting of what was about to 
be said.If any of you are curious, my actual prepared introductory 
remarks are in the meeting packet. I will be happy to meet privately 
with any of you who have questions on it. I therefore propose a pleasant 

“Does anyone else want to be heard on this matter?” Holmgren asked.

“Manjukuo pledges one hundred tons of gold to the persons who locate and 
catch Eclipse, and gain for us the Namestone,” Manjukuoan Legate Hong 
Sangui interrupted.Holmgren smiled and applauded.His audience might need 
a little while to realize that this interruption was pre-rehearsed.

“In that case,” Holmgren continued, “I propose that we recess until 
after dinner, so that we may receive instructions. I see several 
objection pyramids on the table. Those might perhaps be the first order 
of business this evening. Is there objection to a recess? Hearing none, 
we are recessed.” Holmgren wished he had not seen Buncombe and 
Featherstonehaugh exchange knowing glances.What might that unlikely duo 
be planning? A lack of world peace would be an incredible disaster, and 
that lack might appear rather quickly. He took another deep sip from one 
of his vest flasks. This meeting had gone no farther than preliminary 
remarks, and already the latent hostilities between the Great Powers 
were coming to the surface.

  Chapter Seven

The House That Is Forever


January 13, 2018

Around a gold-inlaid teak table waited the dozen Lords of Eternity. An 
empty chair marked Solara’s daughter Corinne, she who lies sleeping 
until her death may die. Prince Mong-ku sat at the table’s head. It was 
one of those centuries, he thought. As had been true for far longer than 
normal mortals suspected, it was again his turn to maintain civility.Of 
the twelve, only the Screaming Skull wore formal garb.Solara had donned 
a white silk tabard.Starsmasher was in another of his seemingly infinite 
supply of vest-and-cardigan sweater combinations.Plasmatrix, she who was 
indeed Plasmatrix-The-Desolation-Of-The-Goddess, was for a change 
wearing real clothing, not her usual strategically-placed bits of 
incandescent plasma, plasma carefully locked behind force screens so it 
would not burn down whichever building she approached. If the Prince’s 
ruby and bronze silk robe and layered garments underneath somewhat 
resembled garb, it was that his breakfast hour was yet approaching, and 
a housecoat seemed highly appropriate, given the hour in his normal time 

“Having managed to sleep through the whole thing,” Prince Mong-ku 
observed querulously, “it is nonetheless my duty to describe the 
situation that required summoning this meeting.Why shouldn’t I have 
slept through it?After all, surely no one in their right mind expected 
this unknown nonentity to solve the Maze.It’s absurd. Nonetheless, this 
Eclipse person managed to walk the paths of the Maze, beat down every 
obstacle, and remembered that she wanted the Martyr to /give/ her the 
expletive-deleted Namestone.Then she just stood there while the Europa 
Elite Team hit her with dear me, a truly great deal, not to mention that 
one of us expressed his disapproval of her continued life.”

“Worse,” the Screaming Skull said, “after I expressed my extreme 
disapproval of her basal metabolism, she was still standing, seemingly 
unharmed.And now she has disappeared without a trace.”

“Berndt,” Prince Mong-ku addressed Starsmasher, “don’t our files show 
anything? After all, the whole world only has a billion people, not to 
mention perhaps ten million or so personas of any significance. Surely a 
list of the personas with her gifts -- starting with starcore class 
force fields and second order shields -- ought to be limited.”

“The new Bearer is clearly none of the Eclipses whose persona names are 
widely known,” Starsmasher answered calmly. “Actually, there are a good 
twenty of them, of whom ten are astronomers, space travellers and 
teleporters who can move satellite telescopes to useful locations. Not 
one is a young woman.Nor is any a shapeshifter who could disguise 
themselves as a young woman.Having said that, you are the persona you 
choose to be.Someone could have assumed this Eclipse persona, garb and 
all, just for a day.”

“We can rule that one out,” Solara announced. “Niederhof’s has announced 
that Eclipse is a regular customer.She’s one of the ‘reduced rate if you 
let us display replicas of your garb when you become famous’ people. In 
a few days, replicas of all of her garbs will be on display.”

“That is actually significant,” Prince Mong-ku said.

“How?” Starsmasher asked.“For reasons we all know, absolutely no one can 
penetrate Nieferhof’s security.Niederhof might know who she is, but he 
will not talk. And boasting that they made her garb is good for their 

“She paid cash,” Solara answered. “Gold coins, melted down at once. That 
I got from one of my European friends.”Featherstonehaugh, she 
considered, was in his tastes remarkably like his great-grandfather, if 
slightly taller and stronger.

“Ah,” Prince Mong-ku answered,his face wrinkled with smiles. 
“Niederhof’s does not make that offer to the hoi polloi. It would reduce 
their profits. And, obviously, they did not make that deal after she did 
the Maze: she already had the garb. No, whoever she is, they figured out 
in advance that she might be a person of adequate importance, even 
though she was completely unknown at the time.”

“Niederhof is a clever fellow, not a clairvoyant,” the Screaming Skull 
answered. “He would have had to have had evidence of her possible 
importance. What could that have been?”

“Eclipse.Not well known.” Plasmatrix ticked choices off on her fingers, 
hoping as she did that her fellows would see her point. “Not a known 
protégé. Actually, except screens and teleportation, not a lot of power 
that we have seen.Teleporters aren’t quite a dime a dozen, especially 
ones who risk the Dark Side of the Moon in one jump.”

“That, by the way, is where she lost me,” Dark Shadow said. “What’s left?”

“Rare and subtle gifts,” Prince Mong-ku said. “She did have second-order 
screens, good ones; few indeed are the people outside the room with 
those. Her rhetoric was training, not something engifted.” He 
paused.“Oh, of course.If one of us showed up at Niederhof’s and 
announced ‘This is my daughter Eclipse, would you please put together 
quality garb for her’, the daughter would get the special rate.There was 
promise of greatness, not because Niederhof is impressed by a mere Lord 
of Eternity, but because we can engift our progeny with all our powers. 
Did one of us do that?”

“I think I would remember having had a child recently,” Plasmatrix said. 
She sent a smile toward Mong-Ku. “There’s something about it you don’t 
forget. I think I’d know if anyone else here had. How many persona are 
so good that their kids will get the Niederhof special treatment?”

“I’ll do a search on that,” Starsmasher said.“Gifts mostly are not 
inherited. Go down the list of current elite-class persona.You’ve never 
heard of their parents, let alone their children. Promise only works 
with those of us who can engift our descendants.”

“Perhaps she’s a construct,” the Screaming Skull said.“They’re hard to 
kill.Could the League of Terran Justice have done this?”

“This was a persona,” Plasmatrix said, “Someone with at least a few 
first-rate gifts. The League builds combat androids. Perhaps even smart 
androids.Controlled engifting is our monopoly.”

“Not quite,” Starsmasher reminded.“For starters, our dear friend the 
Silver General engifts people.” Solara grated her teeth. She had never 
forgiven the Silver General for seducing Featherstonehaugh’s 
great-grandfather away from her .

“Returning to topic,” Prince Mong-ku said, “Whoever has her hands on the 
Namestone may be able to use it to engift people.What if the Terran 
Justice people start cranking out agents who are high-level personas?”

“The /Copper Book/ speaks to that,” Starsmasher answered.“The Namestone 
lends gifts, but does not give them away.We could face one persona as 
powerful as the Namestone itself, but that’s it.”

“The Namestone is a foamspace tap,” Solara said. “But it has an 
aperture, one whose size we know.Even without the Ambihelicon, most of 
us in a pinch could match it. Therefore, it is an annoyance, not 
something that can prevent the Great Plan from completing.”

“Solara, Starsmasher,” Plasmatrix said, “I know you are very fond of 
your Namestone Standard Model. But there are still these little gaps in 
your reasoning.” Solara did not quite roll her eyes. “First, the /Copper 
Book/ may be fibbing about Namestone’s powers. Second, this Eclipse 
person may be able to use her own gifts to drive the Namestone.She’s 
obviously not a complete weakling. Third, and I only finished the 
translation last century, the /Goetica Arcana Stella Magnus/ clearly 
claims that the Knights found occult ties between the Namestone and the 
Solar Deep Structures, ties implying the Namestone’s powers are vastly 
greater than you propose.”

“I read your translations ,” Solara said dismissively.“At those power 
levels, the bearer will fry herself toot sweet.”

“The Namestone, yes,” the Screaming Skull said.“It would be a useful 
tool for us.But Eclipse?When she escaped Atlantis, it was too soon for 
her to have the Namestone’s power. She used her own gifts to survive and 
escape. She is no weakling.Perhaps she can’t use Namestone’s full power 
yet, but she may still wreak havoc. On the great chess board, it seems 
there is a new formidable piece. It must be found and taken.”

“We should,” Starsmasher agreed, “except for the minor detail of finding 
her.Assuming it is actually a /her/ and not a cleverly disguised /him/. 
The resources of most of the League, though less than that guiding 
genius Dreikirch thinks, are behind this search.Surely it will bye and 
bye succeed? My resources are devoted to this issue, though I have 
another so-to-speak problem.Have any of you been following the screaming 
and raving between Argentina and Brazil over the giant sky octopi?”

“Giant sky octopi?” Prince Mong-ku asked. He perched his chin on his 
long fingers.“Did I sleep through those, too?I have been elsewise 
occupied, casting the runes for the return of the three whose names are 
not to be spoken. There seems to be no change over the past century, or 
even the past millennium.”

“Do tell,” Plasmatrix said.“I’ve been busy with other matters, too.”

Starsmasher forced a smile.The Lords of Eternity were undoubtedly the 
most powerful personae in the world, not to mention having access to 
technologies and libraries undrempt of by normal men, but sometimes they 
seemed a bit distracted from reality.

“I’ve seen press reports,” Colonel Pi said. Starsmasher bit his 
tongue.Pi resented meetings as events that took him away from his 
important tasks, notably advancing the security of the House That Is 
Forever. If he was also perpetually trying to gain a deeper 
understanding of gifts and their mechanisms,one could either say that he 
knew more than anyone else, or that he had made almost no progress. “The 
photographs are very strange indeed. Shall I try reassembling them?”

“Reassemble?” Plasmatrix asked.“Aren’t honest photographs good enough, 
well, up to image enhancement?”

“The images don’t make sense,” Starsmasher said.“Solid bodies can’t do 
those things, and holograms can’t bite holes in buildings. The concern 
is that the Argentines claim the octopi are some Brazilian construct, 
and are lapsing toward war.”

“We are too close to a polar conjunction,” Prince Mong-Ku responded.“The 
runes are very clear. We cannot afford to have a major commotion when 
one of those who are not to be named returns. Perhaps a war between 
Argentina and Brazil is not so bad?”

“The Argentines are not alone,” Starsmasher said.“They have solid 
American backing.After centuries of isolationism, the American Republic 
is emerging from its tortise shell, not at the most helpful possible 
moment. The Brazilians have Portuguese and hence English backing, and 
the IncoAztecan Empire may well see an opportunity to improve its 
northern border, so soon as the Americans appear to have entangled 
themselves in a foreign altercation.”

“How convenient,” Plasmatrix said. She sounded unconvinced.

“I glanced at the photos,” Colonel Pi said. His beard ruffled the 
uppermost corners of his laboratory coat.The garment was royal blue, 
with rows of arcane symbols stitched into every seam.His seal, the 
variant pi character in dark blue on a light bluecircle, was emblazoned 
on hislapels. “If they are real, the object -- sky octopus or whatever 
-- is clearly at least quadridimensional.That’s assuming that the images 
are not a clever fake.”

“If you want fake evidence to start a war, “ Solara said, “why fake 
evidence of something completely crazy? Why not fake evidence of the 
other side’s Persona Corps conducting atrocities?”

“See,” Plasmatrix said, “the evidence has been planned to be so crazy 
that people can only think that the photographs must be real.”

Prince Mong-Ku buried his face in his hands. “Plasmatrix? You have 
another one of those espionage schemes, one in which absolutely anything 
might be true and facts lose all meaning? Yes, I know you solve these 
puzzles.Still! “

“There are also the combat troops that appear with the sky octopi,” 
Starsmasher said.“They appear to have very strange gifts, ones that do 
not match anything we routinely distribute to the hoi polloi.Indeed, 
some of the apparent gifts don’t resemble anything that I can identify.”

Prince Mong-Ku tried to sound patient. “In any event, Colonel Pi might 
usefully try to reassemble the images of the sky octopi, and someone 
might stand ready to be teleported to the scene of the next event, to 
capture a few of the perpetrators. Are we good with this?” Heads nodded. 
“Is there anything else on our plate? Anything that can’t wait until the 
next meeting?” Heads shook.In that case, I believe that we have reached 
my breakfast time, so we must be adjourned.”

  Chapter Eight

Secure Chamber Alpha

The Palace of Peace

Geneva, Switzerland


January 13, 2018

Holmgren stood at the head of the table, waiting for the ambassadors of 
the Great Powers to be seated. Finally all of them had arrived and were 
in place. He leaned into his chair and tapped his gavel once. “Our 
recess is over. We are again in session. The ambassadors who had placed 
objection markers at the last meeting have all indicated to me that they 
insist on raising their objections before we advance to Brigade Leader 
Valkyria and her report on the events at the Maze. I therefore recognize 
Ambassador Buncombe.”

“Mr. Chancellor,” Buncombe said, “during the earlier part of the meeting 
this morning several ambassadors indicated that it was the intent or 
position of their government that in the hypothetical case that the 
Bearer was found, within a country other than their own, that their 
governments would be entitled to send persona teams or even military 
units to the location of the Bearer to seize the Namestone. For example, 
if the bearer were to be found in scenic Buffalo, North New York, 
Buffalonians might find themselves visited by the persona teams and 
armed hosts of a series of countries I will not embarrass by naming.” 
Buncombe had not incidentally named one of America’s wealthiest and most 
significant industrial cities.

“The President and Speaker of the American Republic are in complete 
agreement that such a visitation, made without the invitation of the 
American Republic, which assuredly will not be forthcoming, would be 
viewed as an act of war. The American Elite Persona Team would be 
ordered to the scene to dispose of the invaders. Furthermore, Speaker 
Ming has called upon the Governors of all states to place in readiness 
their Persona State Guards to advance to the assistance of the American 
Elite Persona Team. The American team is under direct and explicit 
orders from the President that such an invasion is to be put down 
without quarter being offered, unless the invaders immediately and 
without offering resistance surrender themselves.

“In addition, the American Republic would view it to be an act of war 
for any foreign power to insert their persona teams into the territory 
of any of the Canadian Dominions, unless Her Majesty’s government had 
invited them, in which case the situation would be taken under 
advisement. As an exception, any effort of the IncoAztecan government to 
insert its persona teams or armed hordes into the territory of any other 
country in the Americas will be taken to be a declaration of war on the 
American Republic, a declaration against which the American Republic 
will respond in full. I believe that Ambassador Featherstonehaugh is the 
next to speak, and I yield to him.”

“On behalf of Her Majesty’s government,” Featherstonehaugh responded, “I 
will say that we are grateful for the offer of the American government 
to support the independence and liberty of each of Her Majesty’s 
Canadian Dominions against foreign invasion, with the clear 
understanding that has already been negotiated between our Minister of 
State and Speaker Ming that at such time as we request our American 
friends to depart that they will do so as expeditiously as possible 
given the potential need to assist the sick and injured, extinguish 
fires, and support the detention of foreign prisoners of war pending 
their fair trials and prompt executions. Potential needs were in fact 
discussed at some length; we are quite sure that the British Empire and 
the American Republic are in complete agreement on the notion of 
potential needs and expeditious withdrawal. Also, Her Majesty’s 
government views the independence and security of other nations in the 
Americas to be a critical matter for the security of the British Empire. 
There is no possibility that Her Majesty’s government would consider 
being responsible for the consequences if the independence and security 
of any of these nations were to be infringed upon. The longstanding 
alliance between her Majesty’s Realm and the Empire of the Brazilians is 
viewed as particularly sacrosanct. Having said that, I believe that 
Ambassador Davout had signaled a desire to speak, perhaps even before I 
did, but he graciously offered to allow me to speak first.” 
Featherstonehaugh passed the Speaking Stone to Davout.

“On behalf of his Most Placid and Serene Majesty, the Sixth Napoleon, 
may His House endure forever, I must most emphatically indicate that the 
French Empire categorically and completely rejects the suggestion that 
foreign powers are entitled to besmirch the name of the Empire and the 
honor of the Legion of Glory by claiming a right to enter our territory 
and attack our citizens, as though we were unable to protect 
ourselves.”Davout closed the case from which he had been reading his 
remarks. The Legion of Glory, Buncombe, thought, was the French Military 
Persona Host.

Holmgren, fearing what was about to happen, nonetheless was obliged to 
recognize Ambassador Smoking Frog.“The Living Sun, The First Speaker,” 
Smoking Frog said, “has anticipated the outrageous statements of the 
American Ambassador and his foreign toadies. The right of the League of 
Nations to take possession of the Namestone is beyond question or 
doubt.It is totally forbidden and contrary to the League Charter, the 
votes of this body, and the votes of the World Council for any nation to 
take any other stand.Furthermore, it is the privilege and duty of the 
persona leagues and military forces of every nation of the world to 
enforce these votes anywhere on the planet without begging leave of the 
local governments, all of which are entirely subordinate to the League 
of Nations and therefore must be brought to heel if they fail to obey 
the League’s righteous edicts. The people of the world may be assured 
that so soon as the Bearer is located, the Jaguar Knights and the Eagle 
Legion will descend upon her, strip her of the Namestone, and prepare 
her to be food for the Gods, or such other form of extended dying as 
this body may choose to specify.”

Holmgren steeled himself for what would undoubtedly be the extended 
remarks of most of the remaining ambassadors, some saying that their 
countries were entitled to pursue the Namestone wherever it was found, 
and others saying that there was no such entitlement. On one hand, he 
considered, only a minority of Great Powers would claim their right of 
intervention.On the other hand, China and the IncoAztecan Empire would 
both claim the right of intervention.Alas, they were probably the two 
most populous nations in the world, and both of them were vigorous about 
seeking out and training persona talents wherever found. Holmgren told 
himself that he had wisely packed several large flasks in his vest and 
suitcoat pockets, and suspected that very soon he would be managing to 
drain them of their fine beverages, all of which had begun their lives 
as grain, variously American, Scots, and Russian in extraction.

At long last, the argument over foreign intervention ran out of steam. 
“What do we tell our citizens?” Lars Holmgren finally responded prayerfully.

“Perhaps,” Buncombe said, “you could tell the people of the world that 
you eventually reached this meeting’s agenda.”

“Ah, yes, the original agenda. Eclipse and how she escaped. Is there an 
issue here?” The Ambassadors glowered.“Valkyria,” Holmgren said, “Can 
you add anything to what happened afterward?”

“Rolf,” she answered, her use of the first name reminding her audience 
of the ill-kept secret that she was also Lindgren’s mistress, or perhaps 
the other way around, “there is a written report with video support, 
which hopefully all of you have had time to study.Let me, however, note 
that the broadcast video of my conversation with the Bearer does not 
completely agree with what I remember her saying. The actual events 
appeared to be a scenario that we’d examined very thoroughly, namely the 
‘polite declines to cooperate’ option.The plan was not perfect. I 
believe one of Markgraf Moeller’s excellent volumes on tactics treats 
plan failure.The first failure was that the Bearer does not look like 
all the drawings we are distributing.She’s considerably shorter than I 
am, enough that at first I thought she was not the Bearer, and could not 
imagine who she was. It did not help that the Maze was doing time 
distortion, so that my teleport to St. Brendan’s Isle took some hours to 
complete.Based on Eclipse’s actions in the Maze, we thought we had a 
good estimate of her gifts, namely close to none.We appeared on 
Atlanticea with what should have been overwhelming strength. The ancient 
American aphorism is ‘If a company seems enough, send in a division.That 
way no one gets hurt.’ We’ve had time to do a complete 
reconstruction.Eclipse was a solid target, not an illusion.Most attacks 
on Eclipse found their target. All six of my team drains were drawing at 
full capacity.Lady Sylph is emphatically certain: The Screaming Skull 
hit Eclipse with his death command.I hit her with the Katana of Justice. 
All that, and Eclipse’s defenses did not go down.”

“She used the Namestone?” Elizaveta Romanoff asked. The Russian 
Ambassador’s interruption was only almost a question.

“The /Copper Book of Harvest Stars/ is completely clear,” Valkyria 
answered calmly.“The Wizard of Mars agreed, a very expensive question to 
have had answered.The Bearer needs several days to mesh with Namestone’s 
powers. Until then, Namestone supplies a few cosmetic tricks, no more. 
Observe that Eclipse’s garb was immaculate, and her face was unmarred. 
That was all the Namestone did for her.No, Eclipse stood up to us using 
her own shields. If she had a team backing her, they did a darn fine job 
of remaining invisible the whole time, not to mention fooling six Drains 
and a Seer. I am less bothered that we didn’t take her down, and more 
bothered that the Screaming Skull didn’t appear to have discomfitted 
her. Perhaps I should also be bothered that she did not give the Martyr 
her private persona name. The /Copper Book/ says that that is a 
requirement for being given the Namestone. Somehow she managed to dodge 
answering his question.”

“Someone who stands up to the Skull? Is there such a person?” Legate 
Hong asked.

Valkyria rested her chin on her fingertips. “Other Lords of Eternity. A 
few persona from ancient history.Ambassador Featherstonehaugh’s 
illustrious ancestor, Morgan La Fey. The Goetic Knights wore enchanted 
armor, armor superior to mine.The Marik Master of Parades supposedly 
wore the Invincible Sigil of the Eternal Procession. This Eclipse person 
is none of the above. However, manifestly, there is such a person, 
because I hit her square on with the Katana of Justice, and during the 
explosion her force field did not waver.”

“If I may?”Prince Wang, ambassador of the Celestial Republic of the Han, 
rarely spoke. “We are not, Valkyria excepted, masters of the art of 
battle strategy. We should give those who are masters of battle our 
thoughts, not spend time chatting about tactics as the amateurs we 
are.However, I believe I see why we missed the range of her gifts.She 
neglected to use them.She did not quite attain the ultimate feat of 
brilliancy ‘defeat your enemy without doing anything’, but she was 
parsimonious in her choice of methods.While in the Maze, she never 
teleported, mostly showed human resistance to heat and cold, played City 
of Steel well but not brilliantly.Until we attempted to kill her, she 
could have been a very well trained ungifted woman.Twenties perhaps 
sounds young. She might have a touch of the gift of agelessness.Perhaps 
Valkyria can explain what I am missing.”

“The /Copper Book/ explains this,” Valkyria answered.“The Lesser Maze 
tests determination, purity of thought, cleverness, strength of mind, 
andphysical and mental training, not enormity of power.” Unless, 
Valkyria thought, you cheat by presenting the Maze with an artificial 
construct that has no mental weaknesses. Alas, the construct was not 
quite ready to enter the Maze before his Eclipse showed up. “Thus Cortez 
and Fisher, the latter’s fleet being infinitely more powerful than the 
former’s, could come equally close to victory.Your description may 
explain how Eclipse escaped.The capture strategy, in the few hours 
tactical support teams in Europe had to insert fine detail, inferred her 
gifts from her acts in the Maze. We hit her vastly harder than should 
have been needed, given the gifts she had shown.After all, everyone who 
has ever tried to walk the Maze, whether the two chess grandmasters or 
any of the World-Class personas, has while in the Maze used all of their 
talents to their uttermost limits.She didn’t.”

“She cheated!” Lord Featherstonehaugh interjected.

“A different answer.” Saigo Shigetoshi, Legate of the Satsuma Daimyo, 
did not officially represent his country.The Shogun’s Court could deny 
responsibility for what he said.“Do not fear.At the end, as foretold by 
the /Harvest Stars/, Eclipse had a choice.She could reach out and take 
the Namestone. Or she could ask, and be given it if she was worthy.I am 
totally confident.She asked.She received the Namestone freely.”

“Asked? When she could have taken it? She shows she is weak!” Markgraf 
Moeller grumbled.

“Then I must humbly pray that we never have to contend with a strong 
persona bearing the Namestone,” Legate Hong whispered.

“Thus,” Saigo continued, “as she is as worthy as the Martyr, who read 
her soul before granting her the stone, she is no danger to 
anyone.However, she may defend herself. Such acts might have less than 
ideal consequences to nearby places, for example the neighboring 
continent.Accordingly, the Satsuma Domain will not find it entirely 
convenient at this time to participate in attempting her capture.”

“We must mobilize the people of the world,” Holmgren said, “to turn 
their united talents to capturing this person.Wherever she is – yes, I 
agree the very limited evidence suggests somewhere in Europe – we must 
find her.In particular, we must capture this Eclipse person and free the 
Namestone before it falls into truly wrong hands.Can you imagine what 
the League of Terran Justice would do with it?”The League of Terror and 
Injustice was a permanent thorn in Holmgren’s side.

“All the power of all the world’s investigatory agencies, from the 
Okhrana to the fabled Pinkertons, are hot in her pursuit,” said 
Elizaveta Romanoff. “There can be no doubt.We shall find her. Of course, 
what we do when we find her is another question.”

“Should you not have some plan for dealing with her before you find 
her?”American Ambassador Thaddeus Buncombe showed his usual practical 
nature. “Lest you find yourself like the miniature poodle that treed the 
pride of lions? How do you plan to match the Namestone’s power?Not to 
mention, of course, that a person who can stand up to that range of 
attacks without flinching is no mere milquetoast, no little girl 
pretending to be her older brother.Eclipse is a persona of no slight 
power.The most obvious demonstration of this is the dog that did not bark.”

“Ahh, the Great English Detective Helmesham,” Legate Saigo said.

“Precisely.This person is being attacked by our League’s most powerful 
Strike Team, not to mention a Lord of Eternity.What does she 
do?Nothing.Not a thing.Most people, seeing what was about to happen to 
them, would at least try shooting back, piously hoping that they might 
possibly fire a silver arrow.Eclipse just stood there. Of course, you 
could claim that she has no combat gifts, just a sharp knife, but no 
combat gift is an exceedingly odd match to at least twelfth-level 
screens, not to mention effective second-order defenses. You could also 
propose she was so slow-witted that she did not recognize what was about 
to happen to her, but someone so dull could never have solved the Maze. 
No, this Eclipse person was confident that her gifts would shield her.A 
list of known personae who are that confident in their gifts is very short.”

“Indeed,” Singh said, “As she is clearly not a Lord of Eternity, there 
is one obvious possibility.While she is shorter than history books 
report, it is possible that the Namestone is now in the hands of the 
Silver General.”Looks of horror criss-crossed the room.“Some would feel 
surprise that the Supreme Mistress of Terror and Treachery was found 

“Mercifully,” Featherstonehaugh responded, “I can rule out that inspired 
and sensible inference.The Silver General appeared regularly in London 
in Queen Victoria’s declining years. My great-grandfather, who was 
something of a lady’s man, became, how shall I put it, her very close 
friend, and noted in his diary that they were of a height, that height 
being five feet, ten inches, much taller than the Bearer who Valkyria 

“Perhaps we should ask those who have so-far remained silent if they had 
anything useful to add?” Elizaveta Romanoff made her grandmotherly 
smile, knowing the Special Peace Executive would hear effusive promises 
of support, promises that she knew to be of dubious reliability.It was 
possible, she thought, that some of the Great Powers did not plan to 
keep secret their capture of the Namestone, at least until they had used 
the Namestone to conquer the world. She hoped that no one would press 
her to name a Great Power that was so strangely run. It seemed far less 
possible that any Power would voluntarily hand the Namestone over to 
dear Lars. Nonetheless, the promises would be extensive, time-consuming, 
pointless, and last until an appropriate hour for recess had been reached.

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