While his wife was over at the school getting oriented through a long series of lectures and workshops, Desmond sat at home.
For once he once he wasn’t just sitting in his room mostly because Jack was busy cleaning it. Thus he sat in the living room. Watching the morning news on the big screen.
According to the blond woman on screen there was some kind of giant monster attack in one Cadeyrn’s factory district. Though the mundane world and the magical wastes were split, the dividing line created by divine law and the monolithic towers that marked the landscape, spillovers did still happen. Especially in places like Cadeyrn where the land just a little more rural and less managed.
The video footage of the metal fleshed beast that rampaged through the town on screen looked like something out of a b-movie, but screaming sounded just a tad too real. Frowning Desmond changed the channel. Switching over to the cooking channel. He didn’t cook much these days since Jack was around to handle most of the house’s domestic issues. But that didn’t mean he was against picking up the occasional new recipe.
Jack walked in though this version of her looked to be entering its teens. Slightly taller, the frame gangly and slightly out of proportion as her body tried to make sense of what the hell “budding womanhood” was supposed to mean.
Since he could still hear the drone of the vacuum going on upstairs, Desmond assumed that one of the maid’s other bodies was still cleaning.
Very few people had ever caught on to it, but maid had multiple bodies that she could operate simultaneously, and was good enough at her job that the young couple, kept neglecting to hire more staff. Which might well have been the girl’s own intention.
Even when Desmond was still playing lame with the Caldwells, she’d somehow managed to take over the entire task of being his caretaker. Quietly ousting the two other nursemaids that the family had had assigned to the task.
Desmond frowned at the tv not liking the host of the cooking show on screen or the look of the food that they were cooking. People had a right to live as they pleased but in his opinion, vegan Buttercream frosting was simply not Buttercream frosting.
He switched the channel over to another news network. This one focusing on financial news. The hyped up, balding host spat out numbers and company names, as he made a litany of semi-exaggerated statements which the archive would either agree with or harshly deny as false.
Desmond a mental note to maybe see about making some investments as he immediately realized that he could probably make a fair bit of money with all the knowledge that free flowed into his head.
A few minutes more went by, wherein he took a few more mental notes. Then when he looked to his right, he realized that the girl was still standing there. Currently utilizing one of her older bodies. Looking to be between late adolescence and early adulthood.
She stood eerily still and unblinking. Standing in the corner of the room. Her eyes fixed on where Desmond sat.
“Yes? Did you need anything?”
She shook her head.
“No, Master Desmond. Are ‘you’ in need of anything, sir?” said Jack.
“Er…No. I’m fine thanks.” said Desmond.
He resumed watching television, changing the channel to one where an action packed cartoon was playing. He settled in to watch scantily clad princesses fight giant robots, pretending that there wasn’t anything the least bit unsettling about having someone standing in a corner of a room just staring at him.
He was just about to change his mind and have Jack go fetch him some tea, despite the cool, half drunk coffee that sat in front of him, when the girl seemed to startle.
“Mhn…?” said Desmond. Not quite asking what the issue was.
“It seems your orders have arrived, Master.”
Desmond’s face brightened as he clapped his hands together.
“Oh, is that so…Jolly good then…”
“Would you like to begin setup of the study now, sir?” said Jack.
Desmond hesitated, looked at the tv and the coffee in front of him and then just shrugged. Stretching as he rose to the seven-plus feet of his height.
“…Well, I don’t see why not.”
He was a house husband after all and with neither work nor children nor errands to look after, his time was more or less his own.
The Maid took the lead and Desmond trailed her, his hands in his pockets, a jaunty tune whistling out from betwixt his lips.
The house that the Andrases had arranged for the newlyweds was an old place, badly needing some repair, or even a full renovation, it was also fairly large. Having plenty of guest rooms.
Over the four week period when the two were settling in, Desmond had handled most of the repairs. Alchemy could be used to make old things new again. And spatial magic could be used to change the proportions and layout of a place, especially when one had a sufficient amount of legal and symbolic ownership.
While Desmond had left many of the guest rooms and dens as guest rooms and dens, besides his bedroom he’d taken one other room as his own. He’d added wards and glamours to make it invisible to all but Jack and himself and then altered the space within to make the room dramatically larger than it had originally been.
Desmond similar to how he had no clue as to what the next steps for his own life were and what he eventually intended to do, he wasn’t entirely clear what this room was for, or what he was going to do with it.
He simply called the room his study because he thought it sounded nicer. Calling it a den sounded too stuffy, and he’d always felt that after all the hardwork mankind had done to get out of living in “caves” making a new one that was apparently just for men seemed counterintuitive.
Desmond walked into the room and saw several Jacks working in tandem carrying crates that looked far heavier than the doll-like little girls should have been to deal with. They opened the crates unpacked the contents and began assembling the room.
Desmond would occasionally give instruction, telling the girls what he’d kind of had in mind, but it was Jack who gave the orders. Managing her subordinate selves like a general at war.
The package heap was made up of a mixture of industrial equipment and entertainment devices. Chemistry stations sat next to ice-cream machines. Computer terminals stood next to arcade games. Ingredients for cooking were placed in the deep freezer that the ingredient for making potions and serums were placed.
The end result was a confused room. One, that could easily have been a kitchen, or living room, library or lab, or all of the above. There were even a few beds, both medical and ordinary, placed at the back, for naps and the occasional operation.
The room was simply just filled with things that Desmond had bought figuring that they’d just eventually come in handy.
A fair amount of the things he’d bought were just parts of things. Computer motherboards, car parts, pieces of military equipment and martial weaponry. All of it coming in bits and pieces because he figured he could eventually use them to build something, or mod something, or fix something that broke.
It was chaos, but the stony faced maid brought it all into order. Doing her utmost to fulfill her master’s intent.
Once it was all done and in place Desmond took at look at his purpose, spending a few minutes playing with this and that.
Satisfied that he’d more or less purchased what he’d intended to, he left the maids to finish the rest of the work. Heading to his room to take a short nap. Feeling slightly exhausted despite the fact he hadn’t really done much of anything at all.
He woke up a few short hours later. The first thing he saw was the girl. Standing in the corner of his room. Just staring.
As this was fairly common occurrence that he’d accustomed to during the three year span of their acquaintanceship he only had a “minor” heart-attack. Recovering a few second after with just a bit of labored breathing.
“……Did-, did you need something?” said Desmond.
“No, sir.” said Jack.
“Don’t…don’t you have anything else to be doing right now?” said Desmond.
“No, sir. In truth all of my alternate-selves are currently on standby, sir.”
“Ah….Okay then.” said Desmond. Taking another deep breath to steady himself.
He got up and headed for the bathroom. The maid asked if he’d be needing any assistance in the shower. He gave her a very firm No.
He got out of the shower and hurriedly dressed. Throwing on whatever the maid had prepared for him before his exit from the shower. Today it seemed she’d thought he’d possibly catch cold because she’d prepared a long sleeve tunic, a turtleneck, some thick canvas trousers, and a pair of even thicker wool socks.
His estimation of the temperature both within the room and in the world outside said she was probably worrying a bit too much. However he still wore the clothes anyway because his physiology made him more or less apathetic to even the most extreme heat and cold.
He left his room, his gloomy, aproned little shadow trailing after him. This time bearing a body of between fourteen and fifteen years of age.
He headed down the stairs and saw his wife standing in the living room, looking a little aghast. It seemed while he’d slept there’d been more packages delivered. And the fact that the maids had left a few of them in the plain view suggested that the Desmond might well have underestimated how big he’d be needing to make his study.
“Uh…hi…” said Desmond.
“Hi…” said Henri. Goggling at him a bit, wearing the same slightly shocked, slightly bemused look she’d worn when he’d first revealed that he was brighter than he’d let on.
“How was work?” said Desmond.
She frowned at him as if not catching his meaning. Then she blinked as it struck her.
“Oh, …er right. Work was fine…Um, what are all these boxes?” asked Henri. Her gaze drifting over the small cardboard city that had been built up in her living room.
“….Mhm…Just a few purchases I’d made.”
She didn’t say anything for a little while, just gave him that look again.
“You know, just a bit of this and that, that I’d thought I’d need.”
“No worries, I bought with them with my account and I’ll have Jack take them into the study in a bit…”
“The Study?….Um…er…I mean, no, honestly it’s fine I was just kind of curious. Take your time, I guess. I’m not sure where you’re going to fit this all but I’m sure you know what you’re doing…” said Henri. Alternating between looking at the boxes and the man.
Trying not to nag, trying not to pry. Even though there was a part of her that kind of wanted to. If only to get a better read of the man. A better feel for the way he thought.
Once again she was left unsure of the man, she’d been unceremoniously tied to. At first she couldn’t help wondering what funds a man who’d been near brain dead could have accrued, after all as far as she could guess his family definitely didn’t know that he was as self-aware and uncanny as he was.
But then she remembered that she didn’t really know much of anything about the man, which meant that all bets were off. For all she knew he could well have built himself a small fortune, or at least embezzled one from somewhere.
Which left only the question of how exactly he was going to store all those boxes in the little rooms of their house. While the house had many rooms, it wasn’t all that big. It was just very honeycombed, with the moderate spaces being divided and subdivided.
“Er…right. Thanks.” said Desmond. Smoothing back his pink hair because he didn’t really know to do with his hand.
The husband and wife pair just sort of stood there not knowing what to say. Besides the wedding day and the few times they’d happened to run into each whilst meandering through the manse, they’d spent almost no time together. Thus to each, the other person was a mystery.
“…Um…Anyway, I’ve got to…” said Desmond. Waffling, pointing towards the front door.
Henri looked at the men and then she looked at the door and then she looked at the man again realizing that he was dressed to go out.
“Huh?…Oh-… oh! Uh, of course, let me just get out your way.” she said. Stepping around the man and a stack of boxes that were directly next to the man.
Desmond mentally quadrupled the spaces of his study, swaying slightly from the heavy mana drain. His stomach roiling, his blood seeming to go flat. He turned towards the maid who was still following him all this while.
“Hey, Jackie, be a pip and see to this please?”
The girl bowed elegantly her hand to her chest, like she was a knight given her marching orders by her king.
“Of course, sir. The rooms shall be clear by the time you’ve returned.”
“Room? Er…whatever great. Thanks.” said Desmond. Slightly startled at the girl’s words and his archives quick assessment of the spaces of the house made him realize that he might have over-ordered.
His fading sense of the importance of money, making him not to dwell on the issue all that much.
Desmond headed out the front door. He considered the possibility of setting up an inventory space for the study. He reckoned that it’d be some relatively heavy magic, but it’d probably pay off in the long run. The only thing that stopped him from setting one up before, was his uncertainty over how long he’d actually be living in that house..
Desmond was somewhere between eighteen years and eighteen infinities in age. As to how long an “infinity” was, he had no clue, it was just his guess from a human standpoint. He’d long stopped paying attention to his actual age, and the hundreds and trillions of lives that he’d absorbed tended to span for eons. Blurring with his own life in the same way one might blend multiple decades’ long film anthologies with a single, thirty-minute, Saturday morning cartoon.
At the same time that he was truthfully still very much a young man, he also knew what it was to look up at the stars and see them slowly fade from view like candles dying at the end of a long evening.
At the same time that he was somewhat ecstatic to be in a society that was fairly reminiscent of the one he’d been born in, he knew what it was like to watch multiple civilizations collapse and knew that it was only a matter of time till this one did as well.
With the exception being those that he’d seen ascend, to a type of societal divinity. With all their members becoming as gods.
In short Desmond was a man who “knew” a lot things, and couldn’t entirely be sure how much of what he knew was true. He didn’t know how much was just conjecture and how much was just his odd convoluted mixture of optimism and pessimism when it came to the world around him.
To deal with the various dissonances that came with being the kind of man he was, he’d long ago decided that the best way to deal with living a never ending existence, was to live it one day at a time. Taking only the minimum necessary amount of time to look forwards or backwards lest the unfathomable future and the endless past drive him to madness.
At the moment Desmond stood at a crossroads, a literal crossroad, not the metaphorical sort. He’d passed his metaphorical crossroads some time ago.
On the right path there was a small shop that sold brass furnishings. On the left path there was a bus station. He headed down the left path and then waited for the bus.
It occurred to him that he could have probably, possibly, asked his “wife” for a ride, or for the car and she’d likely have probably, possibly, acquiesced. He’d chosen not to because he hated to impose and because for whatever reason talking to mousey green-haired young woman made him uncomfortable.
He decided that he should probably buy a car next if he had any money left from setting up his study. After giving it a little more thought he figured that he probably did have money left. In fact he was fairly sure of it, so when he was done he’d look into it and between his archive and little Jackie’s research he’d probably have a decent vehicle by the end of the week.
It occurred to Desmond that he was taking the question of his personal wealth lightly, but at some point when he was fifteen and still pretending to be “broken”, it had occurred to him that he might well be beyond such concerns.
All the things that men valued, counting their worth in coins and jewels, he knew how to make. He could even make the coins and jewels themselves if he so chose.
Inside Desmond’s head lay the knowledge of how to make entire worlds. On top of all the knowledge that his now defunct future-self had beaten into him, he had the knowledge and memories of countless celestial beings, devils and divinities.
Meaning try as he might, and despite how it went against his aesthetic of pursuing normalcy, he couldn’t quite make himself get all hot and bothered over wealth. He couldn’t feel any enthusiasm at the prospect of working a normal nine-to-five. It no longer made any sense for him to go down that route.
Work was something normal people either did because they enjoyed it and found value in the work itself, or because they had no choice, using it as a means to an end.
Desmond could very well had used his advanced computational abilities to get some kind of degree and crunch numbers for a living but he didn’t. He didn’t because neither needed the money, nor would he have enjoyed doing so.
Put simply, as ostentatious and arrogant as it sounded he was “beyond” such things. Too big and too empty. There was nothing he loved so much that he wanted to dedicate his life, his very endless life, to doing it… And working just for working’s sake seemed pointless.
And yet, here he was, riding a bus to Cadeyrn’s downtown area.
He walked down main street. The heat rising in his cheeks as he felt people glancing at him. No matter how many times he tried to tell himself that other people had more important things on their plates than to be taking the time to stare at “his” funny face, he still felt that they were staring.
It was ridiculous that a man who’d once been kings, queens, legendary generals, immortal pop idols and gods could be so self-conscious but he was. Frightfully so…
The awkwardness made him grimace, his grimace all but indistinguishable from a smile. A few people nodded in his direction, perhaps charmed by his jaunty carefree seeming expression. Which only served to make him more self-conscious.
Eventually Desmond reached his destination.
A tall tower of gleaming glass and steel stood before him. Nondescript looking like every other office building and luxury apartment complex in the area. Shiny but drab.
He entered the building and was immediately greeted by the sight of uniformed guards and a severe looking elfin receptionist.
The bored guards stayed at their position, their training making them tense ever so slightly at the sight of a newcomer. Ready to react in case anything untoward took place.
The receptionist rose from her desk. Her tone even. Her manner curt but not insulting.
“Excuse me, sir. This is a private establishment. If you’re looking to use bathroom, we have one down the hall that you just passed, but besides that, I’m afraid you going to have to…”
Desmond cut her off by showing her the sigil that all his employees were trained to recognize and then showing her his I.D.
Desmond’s second I.D. The one that bore the name he’d used during those times when he’d have Jack lie in bed using a male body that was built to look like him.
Going out to see his brave new world and alleviate the dreadful boredom that always overtook him when he could no longer just drown the hours in deep black unconsciousness.
The Receptionist gasped as she saw the two markers of Desmond’s true identity. The guardsmen saluted.
“My lord….” said the guards.
“My Lord.” said the receptionist.
“My Lord.” said Jack, who’d come downstairs to receive him. Speaking out of one of her adult bodies. The body that always stayed in the tower. Overseeing all the tower’s proceedings. Looking after all of Desmond ventures while he’d continued playing the part of a waste.
She bent at the waist after stepping out of the elevator.
Desmond scratched the side of his head, frowning.
“You know I hate that shit, Jack. ‘You’ at least should just call me Samhain, or you know…one of my real names, Desmond, or Sam”
She bowed again, her cold expression warming slightly, showing the barest hints of a smile.
Desmond sighed, shaking his head. He looked back at the rest of the group that stood in the entryway of his tower.
“You guys take it easy too…We might not have really met in person before but that’s no reason to make this weird.”