Sunday, February 19, 2012

World Gathering, Episode 1: An UnCONventional Calling

Most people expect blessings when a Bishop walks into their homes, but after eight centuries of working for the Faerie Catholic Church, I was a little more suspicious.  
“Tell me you’re here on a social visit, Your Grace,” I pleaded as I bent over his ring.  I didn’t kiss it, of course.  Dragons don’t pucker.  My partner, Sister Grace, a High Mage of the Faerie Catholic Church and a human, did those honors and gave him a hug as well while I pulled up an office chair for him with my tail.
 “Business, I’m afraid,” he said.  His eyes strayed over to the television, which was playing the opening scenes of Galaxy Quest.  Fr. Rich, our priest and a good friend here on the Mundane side of the Gap, assured us that after five years of watching Star Trek DVDs, we were ready to appreciate it. 
I switched off the television with my tail.  Guess we’d have to wait a little longer.
Bishop Aiden smiled his thanks.  “You do not have any cases currently, I hope?” As he asked, his hand slid into his pocket.  At first I thought he was fingering his rosary, a habit of his, but I heard his thumb brush against paper.  Slick paper.  Mundane paper.  Curious.
Grace and I shared a glance that answered his question.  Even after seven years of successful work, even after saving the world--both of them--on an all-too regular basis, we still had long periods when we’d welcome a missing animal case.  When it comes to the private detective business, a dragon and a mage from the Faerie world are the first ones you think of when magic is involved, but most Mundanes would rather have one of their own otherwise.  Guess I can’t blame them.  Imagine hiring a twelve-foot, quarter-ton dragon for a discrete investigation.  
Plus, of course, we’re limited to morally upright cases.  Try doing that as a PI.  All in all, it can be hard paying the rent, and if it weren’t for free meals at Natura’s restaurant and my herd of Faerie cattle (a payment from Princess Galinda for a simple case that turned into one of those save-the-universes things), we’d be dining out in the local trash bins--not that our neighborhood has much to offer.
How could a dragon, one of God’s greatest creations, get himself into such a state?  Two words:  Saint George.  The Faerie one, not yours.  See, Faerie dragons are immortal.  Yeah, I’m serious.  Well, George--God bless him, the magically overpowered pain in the tail--got the brilliant idea to trap me in a holy spell and recruit me for his cause instead.  If you can't beat them, make them join you, was his attitude.   He worked magic on me until I was not much more than a good-looking Gila Monster and then laid a geis on me, a real doozy:  If I ever wanted to regain my former glory, I had to earn it back through service to God and His creatures through the Holy Catholic Church.  I’ve been a faithful employee ever since.
I’ve done it all, from Pope’s pet to agent of the Faerie Inquisition (yes, actually, I did expect that) to scribe to plow horse for the monks, which was what I was doing when the Gap between our worlds opened.  Don’t ask how--the short version sounds like a comic book plot, the long version would require doctorates in sub-quantum physics and High Magic to understand.  The point is, for the first time, I felt a Calling, and it led me here. 
Where I was totally unappreciated by your government, thank you, and ended up having to eke out a living as a private detective for the particularly desperate.
Of course, I was still an agent of the Church, and Bishop Aiden was my superior.  Not that I minded much; he respected my independence more than many of my former bosses.  He’d only called upon our services a handful of times, and usually the need was dire. 
He pulled out a brochure and handed it to Grace.  I peered over her shoulder. 
“Mensa World Gathering,” she read.  “What’s Mensa?”
“It’s a club for persons of high intelligence.”
“You should fit right in,” she told me. 
“I’m not a ‘person,’ remember?  Ask the US Department of Immigration,” I growled.  It was still a sore point with me.  Both Grace and the Bishop ignored it.  She just flipped through the brochure while he smiled.
“Nonetheless, you are going.  Both of you.  Their international organization has invited a number of Faerie citizens--humans and Magicals--and we feel someone should be there to make sure nothing gets out of hand, supernaturally speaking.”
Grace beamed, but I saw where this was headed.  “Hold on. You want us to be chaperones?!”
“Nonsense.  You are welcome to enjoy the conference.  Simply, be available in case things get out of hand.”
“Oh, right,” I said sarcastically. “Supernatural Hazmat.  So much better.  We’re not getting paid for this, are we?”
“The Church will cover your travel expenses, convention fees and accommodations.  All Faerie citizens will be staying at the same hotel as the convention.  It’s in someplace called Billy Beaver's Fantasyland; I’m told you should fit right in.  Grace, we’ve arranged for you to speak on the theological and stylistic differences between Faerie and Mundane religious music.”
Some days I hated Aiden’s insight. Grace had come to the Mundane world on sabbatical to study your music and circumstances had kept her here with me.  He knew she’d love the chance to share her research, and that I would support anything that made her happy.  
“What about me?” I asked grudgingly.
“You’ll accompany Sister Grace.”
“I’m a sidekick?”
“We thought it best that you be free to move about the convention as needed,” he said blandly, then rose.  “I must be off.  I promised Fr. Rich I’d join him for lunch before Adoration.  Someone will get you the details within the week.”  He made the sign of the cross over us and strode briskly down the long open stretch of the warehouse that was our office and home.
I resisted the temptation to blow a stream of fire at him.  I definitely had to go to Confession now.
Knowledge of Eternity, Wisdom of the Ages, and I get to be the sidekick and a babysitter at a Smart Humans’ Convention.

If you like the story, the book is even better!
More antics, more mystery, new ending. Order from Amazon

(c) Karina Fabian.  World Gathering first appeared in serial in The Prairie Dawg

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