A note from Bright Crow: This continues the revision of a serialized adventure Walhydra first published on The Crone Thread in 1996.Part 5: Introductions
Dr. Bob's New Year's Eve Eve Party had a number of purposes.
It was first of all an opportunity for Dr. Bob to get his family together. It allowed him to give his ailing wife a visit with their younger son S. and S.'s wife and seven-year-old boy.
This year in particular, the party was also a chance to gather the members of the now defunct Rational Thinking Society of Columbia (RaTS) for a reunion. The RaTS were a sort of unofficial Mensa for genius IQ folks who were too anarchistic or libertarian to be bothered with the official organization.
They met for years, usually under Dr. Bob's leadership, but eventually decided to disband due to dwindling activity. Their obstacle was that—contrary to their own anti-establishment predilections—RaTS was an incorporated body in the State of South Carolina. They still had a few hundred dollars left in the treasury, and they weren't sure what they could legally do with it.
Following much debate, it was decided to get a gift with the money for Dr. Bob, their first and last president. What they chose was a CD collection of the entire Wagnerian Ring Cycle.
This conveniently also gave Dr. Bob—who actually likes Wagner—a chance to enjoy repeating Mark Twain's two famous observations about the composer:
- Wagner's operas are mainly contests to see who can hold a note the longest.
- Wagner's music isn't really as bad as it sounds.
Finally, Dr. Bob enjoyed any occasion to introduce his favorite orcs to "polite society."
Contrary to Walhydra's earlier impression, it turns out that R. was actually an orc-in-recovery, whom Dr. Bob had first met when R. was about 15.
R. had been one of those rude kids of great potential who was failing all of his classes—until he and Dr. Bob were nearly capsized at sea while sailing in a hurricane strength storm.
"That," said Dr. Bob, "was when R. must have made some strong promises to the God he doesn't believe in. Ever since then he's been making a remarkable success of himself."
Oh, yes—and of course the party was also so Dr. Bob could play matchmaker for R. and D.
"I'm going to help these two curious young men do a little R & D of their own," he said innocently.
Walhydra glanced heavenward, checking cautiously for thunderbolts.
Dr. Bob's house sat in a huge bedroom community on the edge of Ft. Jackson, Columbia's biggest "industry" and the largest Army training base in the so called free world.
BTW, Walhydra secretly marvels at how many witches and craftspeople she has found hidden in the midst of the accidentally international enclaves around military bases.
Quaker though she is, she understands that some Army people are actually discreetly schooling themselves in the sacred path of the warrior, in the best sense of the warrior vocation—even if they do have to pretend in public that it's just Kung Fu.
When Walhydra and Jim got to Dr. Bob's house, they found a cozy place which looked as if it had been lifted 200 miles inland from the outer sand dunes of Folly Beach.
Dr. Bob drew them right into the living room and began introducing other guests, most of whom were apparently RaTS. They heard more voices from the den and the kitchen and knew the crowd was growing.
(They also heard an indistinct scuffling behind them which they could not identify.)
The first guest they met was T. T. was a somewhat portly, deferential man in his late 60's. He had a neatly trimmed snow white beard and tonsure, and he wore a brownish cardigan sweater.
Walhydra's GAYDAR was beeping ever so slightly, but she reminded herself that not every mild mannered, elderly gentleman was necessarily gay. Even if he was a friend of Dr. Bob.
They shook hands.
(Walhydra felt something poke her lightly in the back. When she turned she spied a giggling head of brown hair disappearing around a corner.)
The next guest was M. He was an upright though slightly grizzled and shrunken man of 80 or so.
Because Walhydra was a bit distracted by her Virgoan eagerness to show off in company, she didn't immediately recognize that she was being presented to an elder of the Wise Ones. That awareness would come later.
For now, she merely shook hands with M., who nodded silently and stepped aside.
(Something poked her again. This time she spun quickly to flash a grin at the giggling seven-year-old imp behind her. The imp brandished one of those rubber dart-shooting, personality disordered toys, the sort which can't decide if it's a prehistoric animal or a robot warplane. Then the imp vanished.)
Dr. Bob was gesturing toward the sofa. There in a cone of lamplight sat D., who nodded politely.
Because she had filled in Dr. Bob's stories of this paragon with her own fantasies, Walhydra was a bit disappointed at first. D. had a pleasant though not handsome face, dark hair, dark eyes. Too much baby fat yet for Walhydra's tastes.
However, there was a somnolent sparkle behind D.'s gaze, something that was cool and cautious yet boundlessly inquisitive. They exchanged carefully nondescript greetings and smiles, and Walhydra turned to the other figure on the sofa.
Here is where the real trouble started.
The stories Dr. Bob had told of R. conjured him as someone for Walhydra to desire and fear. Fear because of her desire.
"I don't want to make my old mistakes again," she always tells herself.
After all these years, desire still wants to possess.
"It's easy enough to brush it off as 'intellectual hornies' when I'm just admiring a beautiful boy on the street. But when there he is, face to face with me, exchanging names and hands...."
R. was extending his hand.
Walhydra recognized a bittersweet, startlingly discerning gaze, which declared with immediate though gentle certainty: "I'm sorry that you desire me so much...."
She took the slender fingered hand. "Yes. I'm Michael."
That was all.
(Except that the imp fired two more rubber dart rounds.)
[To be continued]