Monday, March 2, 2015
The Gael Gates by Scott Michael Decker
Release date: January 31, 2015
Subgenre: Contemporary fantasy, science fiction
Portals between worlds, built by ancient Gaels, invoked by magic, now gone berserk! Three people disappear into the Gael Gates, and a forensic physicist and apostate Druid is called in to investigate. He discovers that the portal system is coming apart. Can his Science save Magic, or will his Magic save Science?
Professor Ríoghan Tanguy frowned at the stand of obeliscos dominating the skyline at Las Cogotas, on Galicia in the Southern Triangle. Under a cloudy sky, smoke billowed from between the obeliscos, the natives preparing for another transit. Or another travesty, she thought.
Although Celtiberian in extraction, she scorned the beliefs of these superstitious provincials. Give me an angstroscope and microcalipers any day! she thought. She and the local Druid, Arturo Lubri, had clashed publicly over their differences, Professor Tanguy excavating an ancient tor over the ridge, the local Druid claiming it was a sacred site abandoned by the proto-Celtiberians and therefore inviolate. Sylphs of the patron Elemental Air made their home at these sites, according to the Druid. Professor Tanguy had never seen one and scoffed at the Druid's assertions.
Clad in her digs, dun-gray and drab, garb meant for the dirty work of excavation, Ríoghan grimaced and made her way uphill toward the obeliscos. A straggler or two also made their way toward the hilltop, the plumes of smoke like a beacon, most the villagers having already assembled.
Druid Lubri is probably exhorting them all to dance and writhe! Ríoghan thought, greeting those who strode uphill beside her. Their lively dress, frilled cotton cloth embroidered with multicolor thread, made her look positively dumpy. She'd get no work today from the local laborers she'd hired, all of them attending the ceremony, Lubri herding his flock like an assiduous sheep dog.
The straight streets on Galicia were somewhat at odds to the winding, narrow labyrinths common to other planets in the Southern Triangle, the constellation occupied mostly by settlers of Celtiberian extraction.
The mechanism of transport through the Gael Gates was thought to derive from the principles of Alcubierre warp drive, and yet the Druids continued to mythologize their gate use with elaborate ritual and prestidigitation. Such sordid sortilege did little to advance a scientific understanding of the Gael Gates, hypotheses which still eluded astral and particle physicists, who posited that they operated on A-warp, in which time and distance were fundamentally the same properties, differing only in their articulation.
An archeologist, Ríoghan cared less about the theory and more about the ignorance being perpetuated by the Druids. She'd arrived at Las Cogotas through the gates two years ago to study the ancient sites on the planet. Gamma Doradus, the double-star system of her home planet, Nemetobriga, contained very minor proto-Celtiberian sites, all of them catalogued and excavated long before.
Each obelisco in the Henge on Galicia was etched in Celtiberian runes all the way to the top, the script still indecipherable to modern linguists, their study forbidden by both local superstition and the imperious Druid, Arturo Lubri.
Ríoghan reached the edge of the obeliscos, an area bordered by a low rock wall, the rocks fitted by hand without mortar, encircling the hilltop and the obeliscos within, nine pillars of stone poking into the sky, two smaller sets of three pillars standing twenty-seven feet on either side of a third, larger set soaring eighty-one feet. Each set known individually as a tribelisco represented one of the three Gates sacred to Neo-Pagan Druidry—the Well, the Fire, and the Tree.
Balderdash! Ríoghan thought.
Druid Lubri stood in a wide stance before the largest tribelisco, waving his heavily-embroidered and -sequined cape with an elaborate flourish as he intoned in ancient Galician the incantation needed to open the gate. Villagers encircled the tribelisco, hands held as though in vigil, repeating the Druid's utterances. New arrivals were incorporated into the ring, the archeologist along with them.
Arturo spun, flaunting his cape as though taunting a bull, his eyes glazed in ecstasy, a fine froth of spittle collecting at the corners of his mouth.
He looks possessed! she thought, as if he had rabies. Hydrophobia occasionally cropping up in isolated places such as this, she wondered what he'd do if she threatened to throw a pail of water on him. A giggle escaped her, and the woman beside her, Doña Noba Pacem, shrank in disgust.
Druid Arturo Lubri froze, his gaze fixed to Ríoghan. "We have an infidel in our midst! She who mocks the sylphs and desecrates our sacred sites!" His arm leapt at her, finger stabbing toward her. "Seize her!"
Multiple villagers converged on her before she could react.
"Bring her here," the Druid commanded. "A rope!"
They easily overcame her struggles and dragged her into place between two of the eighty-one foot obeliscos. They tied each limb with rope, her legs three feet apart, her arms suspended at forty-five degrees overhead.
Lubri stuck his face into hers. His breath stank of queimada. "You'll desecrate no more, Infidel! You'll meet the sylphs face to face and then you'll believe!"
"What are you doing, Cabrón?!" she spat, seeing he was drunk.
He backhanded her, and her head flew to the side. "Perra pequeña! Cona! Back in position, everyone! Let's send this succubus to moura encantada!" As he backed away and resumed his chants and gyrations, the villagers joined hands again.
Her lip and cheek stung, and she tasted blood. She strained against the ropes, but none of them gave, her stretched-out arms giving her no leverage. "Dom Ontonio, help me!" she called to her lead laborer, who'd helped her recruit her dig crew.
Belenos Ontonio kept his place in the circle, sweat on his brow and fear in his eyes.
Lubri whipped his cape back and forth, grasped it with both hands and thrust it to the ground, kneeling at Ríoghan's feet and ululating stridently. Then he abruptly straightened and flung the cape back over his head.
Professor Ríoghan Tanguy heard a thunderclap, and she was sucked into the gate, rope and all.
Scott Michael Decker, MSW, is an author by avocation and a social worker by trade. He is the author of twenty-plus novels in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, dabbling among the sub-genres of space opera, biopunk, spy-fi, and sword and sorcery. His biggest fantasy is wishing he were published. Asked about the MSW after his name, the author is adamant it stands for Masters in Social Work, and not "Municipal Solid Waste," which he spreads pretty thick as well. His favorite quote goes, "Scott is a social work novelist, who never had time for a life" (apologies to Billy Joel). He lives and dreams happily with his wife near Sacramento, California.