BY AL BRUNO III
Saturday November 16th 1996
Bodivar was prodding the fire again, sending little sparks up. The dining room had started to become stuffy so they had opened the main doors to let the cool air from the vestibule work its way in. Galen said, “I would like to have met your great grandmother Angie. It sounds like she was something.”
“It wasn't easy,” Angie said, “Abandoning her old life and moving to America. I don't know if I could have done it.”
Sig whispered something in Angie's ear and she smiled.
“Amazing isn't it when you think about it isn't it?” Magwier rested his chin in his hands, “So many lives, so many choices, all leading up to you.”
Angie looked uncomfortable, “If you say so.”
The dining rooms side door sung open, Hao and Warren bustled in with a wheeled cart there were enough dishes of ice cream for everyone and an extra one for Sig- to save a trip. “What did we miss?” Hao asked as Warren started serving.
“We were talking about family.” Isobel said.
“Families can be very trying.”
Warren moved quickly, setting plates down with a clatter. He kept looking from Hao to Galen and Sig and back again. Jack shifted in his seat and stretched, “Family's not so bad. It’s all about unconditional love.”
Hao said, ““There's no such thing. All love is conditional.”
“I don’t agree.” Jack replied.
Everyone was served, Warren started rolling the cart back to the kitchen, Hao caught his arm and sat him back down. “Oh come on now.” Hao shoved the cart into a corner and returned to her seat, “What if the person you love betrays you?”
Jack said, “If someone really loves you unconditionally they wouldn't do such a thing in the first place.”
“People are weak Jack. You know that.”
Bodivar grumbled, “Always this argument, it is older than I am.”
“I for one never get tired of it,” Magwier said, “That I think is why I have the soul of a poet.”
Zeth chuckled, “The soul of one yes, the talent on the other hand...”
“Glass houses old friend, glass houses,” Magwier fiddled with his silverware, “I’ve been in love a thousand times and only once.”
Warren took another sip of wine, “Because every time is different right?”
“Aren’t we talking about two different things here?” Angie had her head resting on Sig’s shoulder while he ate her desert, “Love of your family versus love of a lover.”
Roxanne flashed her grin, “That reminds me of a story.”
Jack cleared his throat noisily, “Hang on to your hats kids.”
“Oh you,” she said, “We’re all adults here. You see I’m part of the Lunt family, yes that Lunt family.”
“Who?” Isobel asked.
“Oracles.” Zeth said, “If you go for that kind of thing.”
Roxanne continued, “Actually the daughters of the Lunt family are Oracles. We see the future and the past. We can look through the realms dreams and the dead right through to the Maelstrom itself. A few of us can even see past the Maelstrom to the Ruins of Creation.
“Since it’s only the girls that have the gift. The boys of the family are our caretakers. The men write down every word we speak when we are in the heat of our revelations.”
She poured herself some wine before continuing, while some ate and others just listened. It was obvious she was enjoying having an audience, “The ability doesn’t come naturally- we need Gemætan to open our minds but only the Lunt women can survive continued exposure to it. Women who are not of the bloodline can have intense visions but it’s only a matter of time before their brains burst in their skulls from the strain. And as for the boys, any male that takes the Gemætan is unmade until all that’s left is mute, brutish and obedient. We call what’s left over a squonk.
I’ll admit that comes in handy once in a while. Someone bugging you? A few drops of the stuff in their drink and suddenly they’re drooling and playing with rocks in the front yard. Also it was a nice way to keep free manual labor on hand, we chose homeless people mostly, folks that wouldn’t be missed. I like to think we gave them a better life in some ways.”
Warren’s voice was a stage whisper, “I don’t know what she’s talking about.”
“Just roll with it,” Hao said.
“What am I talking about Warren?” Roxanne said, “What’s Gemætan? It’s something leftover from the age of gods, it is drawn from the glands of a creature called an ǽlfix. They sort of look like a lamprey but they have a voice that sounds like a baby crying. It has to be prepared in a special way and then left to rot in its own juices for a time.”
Isobel dropped her fork, “There goes my appetite.”
“May I?” Sig asked.
Roxanne continued, “So that’s the world I grew up in. Now as for my family… I had a fraternal twin, his name was Chadwick, he was handsome as Hell and too smart for his own good. All the boys followed him. All the girls were crazy to fuck him. Especially me-”
Wine shot out of Warren’s nose and almost spattered clear across the table.