What's all this barmy stuff?
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the Barmy Shorts
There is a plane of existance that lies between the nine rings of the damned and a great tray of massive icecubes which are constantly at war with eachother. Where war is an alien concept, disorder forbidden. Where anarchy, when found, is added as a law. Where a cutter has to know that it's illegal to stand on one foot, when the shadows fall a particular way. A great machine. A great machine indeed, and noone has any sodding idea what it's function is. Perhaps it's infinite clanking keeps the multiverse running, speculate some. It's the source of all law, as Limbo is the source of all chaos, speculate others. While the speculation continues, mortals did to the great machine to what they've done to most other places they've encountered, throughout the great history of the multiverse. They scrounged around for anything valuable, killed some natives, and built a city.
In the case of the Great Machine, in the case of Mechanus, the natives did more killing than the mortals... but the idea stuck. There was another New World. Eventually, the mortals ended up with a foothold, so it goes. They learned to live with the law, to learn from it, and a caste of the multiverse's most elite numbercrunchers was born. The Mathematicians. The dropouts from magic schools, who couldn't get their cantrips down, but adored messing around trying to find the value of the perfect curve. The pimply faced boys who turned red and ran away when the female apprentices would walk past, the ones that never quite fit properly into their spikey bits, and whose skin just didn't react properly to spiral tatooing. They thought they couldn't get anything right, and what good was it to be able to know how to levitate based on mathematic principle instead of real magic?
So this motley little bunch slowly but surely migrated to what they heard was a nice little place governed by laws, where chaotic magic was looked at as another thing that unnecessarily boggled everything, and everything was already confusing enough. And in their new land of cogs, they were at home with the native modrons, who didn't terminate them for standing on one foot when the shadows fell the wrong way. The moignos didn't square them, because some of the barmier members of the group were looking for pi too... and there is another member of Mechanus's society, which is trouble for all but those who embrace and love the law so much that they would become it.
Perhaps in the center of Mechanus, if infinity can have a center, is the hub of all modron activity, and a place all of the plane's willing mortal inhabitants think is one fun place. Regulus, The Gear. The center of the ultimate machine, a living metallic infinity that serves no apparant purpose. Whirring on the subgears in the silicon skies of Regulus are mortal cities, overlooking the mechanic grandeur below... mortal cities inhabited in part by the Mathematicians, who enjoy the proximity to the apparant heart of all law. Of coarse, this doesn't mean the Mathies get out much. They're still a bit reclusive and introverted, regardless of what sort of view they have from their verandas. Any good Mathematician will tell you, anyway, that it's illegal to oogle at the beauties of Regulus from a veranda without a permit, so sod that. Bloody Guvnors, they'll say.
In one such city above Regulus lived a Mathematician named Leere K'tion, a young member of the human species. He wore thick glasses, like his father before him, and his father before him. He was no good with anything besides numbers, like his father before him, and his father before him. He was a wiry boy, who dressed mostly in gray, with no tatoos or any such nonsense, like his father before him, and all that. To make a longish story short, regarding his physical aspects, he was another in a long line of pale-faced Mathematicians who didn't get out much. Somehow, however, by some fluke law that noone has yet figured out, all of Leere's male ancestors managed to pass on their genes, in such a manner that he was born. Leere looked at his father daily, and at his mother, and just shrugged. He accounted his existance to a very high improbability curve, and left it at that.
Leere K'tion hated his last name, K'tion. Since he was a boy, once everyone started pronouncing it 'Kitchen', he ended up with nicknames like Bathroom, Livingroom, Basement, and soforth. Leere didn't like that at all. He hated it. One sod he recalled, thinking on it, was one Eine Derarge. Eine was the head of his class, at wizard school, before he dropped out to be a full time Mathie. Eine always referred to him as Supply Cabinet. It drove him up the bloody wall. That, and the pushing down stairs, getting all the females that he - Leere - ran away from, the cocky grin, and his being able to cast any spell that he was taught. Eine was such a teacher's familiar.
Leere's house was built on the flat point at the top of a giant spring, which constantly coiled and recoiled itself... thus, it almost always had a different view, depending on what window a cutter was looking out. And there was a door, of coarse, incase anyone ever wanted to go outside into the world. Some people liked doing that, apparantly, thought Leere's parents, so they kept the door for ornament's sake. It came as an obvious surprise to Leere when a knock came at it, one day. The rest of his family - which at the time consisted of a moigno, a modron conscripted to keeping the place tidy, and a modron to oversee the other modron - ignored it, but he felt compelled to see what the world wanted.
"Hey, Broom Closet!" Leere slammed the door, but the knocking picked back up. Go figure, there were still people out there in the world. The sods. Leere reopened the door with a resigned sigh. He didn't say anything, he just glared. Mathematicians are good at glaring.
"Um, er," said the figure. "You remember me, eh Bro... K'tion?"
Leere nodded. It was Fler Daux, a wizard who sat behind him in school. He used to conjure up spitwads, and use a bit of levitation to pelt Leere with them.
"Well, that's good! Alot of the old boys are in town - a big convention on the nature of spacetime and whatnot - and since you're here, perhaps you'll attend?" Fler grinned like a cat about to pounce on a mouse.
"Okay, I guess," said Leere, before he knew what he was saying. He'd been to parties in Mechanus before, but they all involved other Mathematicians. They also generally involved everyone hiding from eachother, and making up excuses to go home early. Everyone was on the same sine curve, at Mathie parties. These were Wizards. A bunch of young, cocky Wizards. The sods. There's going to be nonsensical spellcasting, bubbers slopping up the floor with spilled drinks, and females.
"Oh dear," said Leere, his gaze turning inward. He lowered his head a bit, and a look of deep thought crossed his face.
"Right! Good to see you again, Cafeteri..er, K'tion!" With that same damned grin, away walked Fler Daux, back to wherever it was he came from. Leere absentmindedly closed the door behind him, because he thought that that was the right thing to do.
"I could always not go," he mused. His face shriveled up. "No... what would the moignos think, if I didn't show up to defend my territory? And, they'd probably come up here all in a stupor, looking for me. Bah."
Leere worked out a few quick dimensional theories about how he might escape. All of which crumbled under the idea of magical scrying, teleportation, multiversal collapse, and sometimes, the number 19. He couldn't figure that out, but wrote it down as interesting. Bloody Wizards.
Leere went into his room, and looked in the mirror. He wasn't an exceptional human, but he wasn't exactly the sort of tentacled beast that crawls forth from the center of pentagrams when the stars are right, either. He wore mostly gray and brown. He sighed, and moved a mountain of paper away from where his closet should be. With a dusty creak it opened, and there, wrinkled and stiff from disuse, were his old clothes. He hadn't grown much, since his days in the Wizard school, so the old things should fit. They did. Leere looked at himself in the mirror again, and grinned wanly. He blushed, and tried not to make eye contact with himself. The old brown robe still fit nicely, and he had some temporary paint to make a nice spiral tatoo on his eye. He did, and his face puffed up a bit in an allergic reaction, but he felt more confidant for it. Finally, he strapped his single spikey bit - a goblin head kneecap - to his left knee, which was showing. His robe had a largish hole on that side. He kicked the spurs on his boots. They clicked in rusty unison with eachother. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad afterall.
Wizards, it is said, don't know much about partying. Those who say so are very wrong. Since Wizards, the sort of which were congregating in Regulus that evening, are so very eager to get drunk and dance idiotically about and tell silly stories about trying to summon beautiful extradimensional spirits and instead getting cosmic horrors and whatnot that the magic part of their occupation takes the back seat to the social part. Which isn't to say that Wizards are social. They run away from company as soon as any Mathie would... though, unlike Mathies, Wizards do quite enjoy causing a scene... and the Carceran Bloodwine, with a bit of engine oil to make it go down easier, makes for some rather entertaining magic.
Leere hopped out of his house and onto it's gear just as the gigantic spring it rested upon began to uncoil. He landed with a bit of a falter to his step... as the ground he intended to land on when jumping had rotated a few degrees clockwise. Leere stood, dusted himself, and wandered through the silicon twilight toward a larger gear...
"Bloody hell, look at them all," gasped Leere, blushing self-consciously as he looked over the crowd. Gathered in a special little gravitational paradox chamber, where two Wizards were racing around a moebius hung in midair, were some of the most powerful mortal spellcasters in Mechanus. Granted, there aren't very many mortal spellcasters in Mechanus, so this makes the competition a bit easier to beat, but the fact is, they had quite a weight in magic. Leere kept blushing, and restrained the urge to sprint away as some of his old female classmates walked by.
"Evening, Kitchen," cooed one, blowing him a kiss. She turned to her Wizard friends and giggled.
The room was grand. Built around the inside of a vertically rotating gear, the room was rather like a little version of Sigil turned on it's side. There were all manner of gravitational toys, and it seemed like noone wanted to agree on a standard for Up and Down. The openings on each side of the gear, covered wholely by some sort of glass, had a message painted in huge red letters that stated simply, "Welcome Wizards."
"Obviously, the gear's proprietors don't want the Wizards mucking about with the letters; there doesn't appear to be any obscene anagrams for 'Welcome Wizards,'" thought Leere. "That's fine." Leere made his way over to a sandwitch table. Moignos blipped in the air over his head, while a beautiful woman in black sidled in from the entrance. She didn't look like a Wizard, but this didn't concern Leere. Like his father, he thought, he'd end up married one day with no idea or memory of how it all happened. There's no sense in bothering with courtship. There is sense, however, in running away. Leere took his sandwitch and went to a corner, followed by his humming moignos.
"What (r) these things." Blipped a moigno, more to itself than to Leere.
"Scruphlgagphlg," said Leere with bits of sandwitch flopping out of his mouth. He watched the woman in black walk lithely across the room... beautiful. Her bald head bore a face, serene and expressionless, white as porceline; eyes an inky black, lips a lovely red. Her long leather dress conformed to every perfect curve of her body.
"Mmm," said Leere. He was about to think "I hope I wake up tomorrow to find that I've accidently married her," but was quickly distracted.
"Well! If it isn't Supply Cabinet!" The words echoed in Leere's ear. He gritted his teeth, and turned - his reverie broken - to stare up into the contemptuous, sneering face that was Eine Derarge.
"Yellow eyes and yellow hair and yellow teeth and a yellow belly," thought Leere.
"I heard that," said Eine, his lips curling into an even meaner sneer. "Couldn't take it, could you, Supply? Dropout, eh? Well, I graduated valedictorian, and am now in charge of law magic studies. Right here, in Regulus. Isn't that nice? We'll be seeing so much more of eachother." His lackies giggled. Leere slumped in his chair, trying to hide in his old robe. Eine had nice new clothes on... all leather and silver and spikes and goblin heads.
"Yes, how nice," mumbled Leere. "If you wouldn't mind, my name is Leere K'tion, too. Like it always has been."
"Righto, Cabinet," giggled Eine. He waved his hand, and a breeze blew in an embarrassing manner under Leere's robe. "I see you've got the old uniform on, no money for new things? That's a sodding bugger, too bad. I promise to pay you more, when you work under me."
Leere got up and walked away, his eyes red. Everyone was laughing at him, again. He went and sat on the edge of the moebius which dominated the room, his chin in one hand, and his sandwitch in the other. He was contemplating the sandwitch rather hard. Mathematicians are great at blocking out what happens to be going on around them. The whole conclave of Wizards laughed, and the females walked past. He ignored them.
The night went on in such a manner. Leere ended up hiding, which was fine. He was good at that. He pondered his sandwitch until it ceased to exist... a phenomenon that he found quite fascinating. This presented a new problem, however... get up to find a new sandwitch, or hide?
"Sod it, you didn't come here to hide," he said to himself. Dodging through shadows and such, he found himself a new sandwitch. And the crowd found him.
"Kitchen, here!" called someone. He wandered over. There was no way around it, he'd be teleported wherever anyone wanted him anyway... and walking didn't cause nausea.
He made it to the edge of a large crowd, where dancing was occuring - an aerial waltz that was mind boggling to watch. Leere could nearly mimic most of their flight magic through mathematic manipulation, but it wasn't worth the effort. "What?" he mumbled meekly, waiting for an acidic comment to burn through what remained of his dignity.
"Eine is looking for you," said the voice, which Leere realized was coming from his original sandwitch, which was dancing before him. It had somehow grown a mouth, and ability enough to fly with some grace. Leere noted these things as fascinating, and wandered away. Eine would find him. He did.
Leere stood spinning dizzily, nauseous. Bloody teleportation. "What?" he asked, coughing.
Eine was spinning about slightly drunken, himself - though it was the woman in black standing behind him that Leere more readily noticed. She opened her mouth to whisper something, and a dull light poured out of it...
"This..." Leere's head was spinning. Bloody sodding Wizards. "is..." Always mucking things up. Why did I come here, anyway? "my..." I knew it'd just be a bit of embarrassment, and my head sodding hurts. "date..." Bah. And there's all sorts of perils to run from. "She..." Females, magic, bloody teleportation. Buggrit. "wants..." I wish I was home on the spring, having a good conversation with my sandwitch. "to..." I could mass produce them, I bet Psylofir would by interested. "dance..."
Leere stood up, looking foggy. He glared at Eine. "What are you bloody talking about? Can't you shut your sodding mouth for just a moment? I'm having good, lawful, rational thoughts here, man, and you keep ranting about Primus knows what! You sodding Wizards!" Leere threw his arms in the air, and stormed away, regaining his vision.
He stormed back rather quickly. "What were you saying, anyway?"
The porceline mask grinned, steel hairs wavering slightly. The eyes, black from a distance, blinked... cutting off their stream of dim light. She offered a hand to Leere.
"Er. I'm not a very good dancer, you know."
"I know," came her silky, Ethereal voice.
Leere took the woman in black by her hand, which was smooth and cool. They rose slowly into the air, as Leere tried frantically to call the proper mathematical functions to mind that would allow for flight in such an atmosphere. He began to sweat a little, as they spun... dancing in midair.
Eine was sober again, and a lackey wandered up to him. "Eine. Is that Broom Closet with your new girl?"
"Aye! It is!" Eine was taken aback. "What's he think he's doing?"
"From here, it looks like he's dancing with her. Rather well."
"I'll show him when he gets down here! Noone steals my women!" Eine fumed. He couldn't kill Leere right there, lest he accidently singe the woman in black.
And then everyone stopped dancing, and went to the ground below, except for Leere and Eine's woman in black, with light in her eyes and in her mouth. They slowed down, but continued to whir beautifully to the music a few of the lesser Wizards had conjured up.
"You're a very good dancer," came the heavenly voice. A metallic symphony, the likes of which a goddess of beauty would make while opperating heavy machinery.
"Er, thanks," he said, quaking with nervous laughter.
"I've been looking for you," I'd wake up hearing this voice forever, in an ideal world, thought Leere. "You will join me - join us - for the rest of eternity."
Leere broke into laughter, tears streaming from his eyes, as the woman in black embraced him and reached across the airy void to kiss his lips... ever so slightly. The light from her eyes and mouth was blinding. It flooded over him, through his body, through his mortal soul. The light was behind his eyes now, in his mouth, and he savored it. His sandwitch blinked, far below.
Eine screamed and cursed, but there wasn't all that much that he could do. His lackeys backed away, for fear of Eine exploding. He didn't, which was lucky for him.
Leere came down slowly from his dance, and pointed a porceline hand at Eine. "You aren't so perfect afterall," he said, his voice the echoed beauty of the woman in black who stood behind him. The two strode out, back to the house atop the spring, where Leere was one with the Law. Perfection, in the eyes of the parai who made him.
All content copyright 1999 Jeremiah Golden or credited authors.