The Chaos Marches
Chapter 20, Moving the Refugees
We left our heroes out in the Chaos Marches, near a silver lake that has suddenly sprung up where we were accustomed to finding Last Valley. Fr. Paddy doesn't want to leave the area without having a funeral for the Marginalia who have died in their exodus. This place is near, in some fashion, their home, and we were told that the chaos was where they arose and where they originally buried their dead, so here and now looks like a good place.
Accordingly, Tom casts shrouds on the bodies, the elves form a chain for carrying them out of the "Zephyr" and down to the lake, Scout Three and some maker Marginalia stand by as witnesses, and Fr. Paddy pronounces the following benediction:
"From the chaos they came and to it they return, as we consign these bodies to the Deep, and to the care of the Creator from whom they came." Then, for each body, as it slides through the silver surface in the chaos below, "The blessing of the Lord be upon you."
This duty discharged, we head off down the rill, looking for Glorian's Vale, where she left all those elves and Marginalia. We come to it in very short order, for some reason. While Krory, Salimar, and Dafnord stay with Prof. Cadwallader, Robbie, Tom, Kate, Brunalf (still in his egg), Markel, Fr. Paddy, Katrina, and Glorian all head down into the mists where they last left Glorian's Vale.
It takes a long time to find it. Disturbingly long, and when some definite geography shows up, it doesn't look all that familiar, but some elves appear out of the brush and they look familiar. Also glad to see us after what was, for them, another very long time. Hard to say how long, though, since there's no day-night cycle and people's subjective clocks are clearly not in synch. Scores of days, at least, while we've been gone a few hours.
We meet with Galenriel, now ensconced in a nice, Lothlorien-style tree house, and compare notes. Glorian's Vale has been joined by at least two other valleys, one of which is clearly Last Valley. Also, Glorian's Vale appears to have gotten bigger. It has been very hard to keep track of people of either species, as a result. In particular, the Marginalia all look rather alike anyway, and have dispersed a lot under the direction of multiple Leaders, who wanted to get away from each other's claims of priority.
We interview an elf we last saw in Last Valley, a few hours ago for us. It's been weeks for him. After we left, he and the other elves organized into patrols and scouted the edges. Off near the low side, his group appeared to get lost in the mists and swamps. They figured they had wandered into the Chaos Marches, but eventually found a small glen and stayed there for ... a while. From there, hunger drove them forth to explore and they found themselves back here in Glorian's Vale.
So what we have now is a handful of valleys, all probably increasing in size, with unreliable connections between them. And elves and Marginalia wandering hither and thither messily.
We discuss future plans. Tom remarks that he rather thought everybody could stay here in these valleys, if the geography straightens out some. Mithriel remarks that the Special Place would be more suitable for elves. Kate suggests that this system of valleys might become the Special Place if Daewen came here. Memory said they made the Special Place for her, after all (though the chronology may be a little tangled here).
Now that we've brought up Daewen, the assorted Daughters of Daeanna ("Daeanna" being another of Daewen's names) would very much like us to go see her rather than confront her themselves with this budding nation of refugees for her to cope with. Since The Daughters are almost all the witchwalkers we know, we ought to be able to find our way home and back again staying more or less synchronous.
Brunalf asks what this "witchwalking" is. Tom explains briefly and the cat remarks that that's what his little egg-ship does. Tom is intensely interested. He learns the ship was given to Brunalf on the Jack by someone named "Karmass."
"Does he make these?" Tom asks.
We also reflect that it's about time we let poor Professor Cadwallader have some dry-dock time for the "Zephyr" somewhere with actual geometry. Mirien offers to guide him to Old Faerie, where he can park out at Vinyagarond or Dwarrowgard or several other places. Accordingly, after we climb back out of the valley, Mirien ties a string to the nose of the "Zephyr" and walks off down the ridge, leading it. ("It followed me home, mom. Can I--" "No.")
We also part company with Krory.
The rest of our party lines up behind Mithriel, who steps off into the witchpaths and finds herself (and the rest of us) home in the woods near Vinyagarond in a very few paces. It's dark, near midnight from the moon (which always rises at sundown here, whatever phase it's in). There are very few lights on below.
As we walk down into the valley, we see a tall, slender figure walking out from the houses to meet us. It's Daewen. We learn that it's so dark in the house because Aelvynstar threw one of his parties a few days ago and people are still recovering. Best not to go in just now. Or tread lightly.
Tom cheerfully starts to ask Daewen when she started dealings with the Marginalia and the Lilim, but she hasn't heard of either. Suddenly qualmed, Tom conjures twenty coins and tosses them for a timelock detector. 17 come up heads. Same as last time. Hmph. Tom rummages in his pack and finds a cracker amid the rations. He eats it without water, then tries to debrief to the bemused Daewen, who now realizes we have a sequencing problem.
Tom is able to describe the Lilim as the demon-dragon children of Lilith, who persecuted and enslaved the Marginalia. When Daewen asks what Marginalia are like, Scout Three pipes up "Like me!" This surprises all of us, but he was apparently able to tag along behind Mithriel stealthily.
Tom mentions Chaos' Rim. But when he tries to go into details about our adventures in Last Valley and Chaos' Rim, he immediately chokes on the cracker. He stops trying to debrief on his own adventures and tells Daewen (who registers rising horror) about the huddled masses liberated from Worldbender Middle-Earth by The Daughters. Daewen remarks she feels the hangover coming on now.
But she'd better go see this new home we say we've found. She re-enters the house and returns momentarily with a small ditty-bag. She then invites Mithriel to lead the way back.
We re-enter the fairy ring in the woods and find the witchpath a little longer this time, and curved. It comes out in some woods. No mist. Salimar looks at the Map of Here and finds a plateau bearing a butte and a waterfall. We've short-circuited to the Special Place.
Tom freezes in place, not knowing when they are. Daewen saunters on, toward the sound of the waterfall, followed by Scout Three. "Oh my!" we hear her exclaim a minute later.
Following cautiously, Tom clairvoyance-first, Robbie eye-first, we find we are on a bluff overlooking the falls, opposite where the castle is going to be. It's a glorious sight. Tom joins Daewen at the brink and listens to her exclaim. She remarks that that ridge across the way almost looks like a castle, and he cringes a bit. She asks where the little folk figure in. Tom explains that their valleys can join onto this place.
Daewen thoroughly approves the place as a home. In fact, she feels at home already. She asks Tom if he'd like to go for a swim with her in that luminous lake, then immediately dives off the bluff and (with a touch of elven glamour to assist the trajectory) into the lake. Tom shrugs, strips, takes out two of his transforming medallions, and becomes an eagle, flying down after her. At the lake, he becomes a merman and swims awhile. Mithriel decides she might as well follow her mom's example.
Eventually, the three return. Daewen says she wants to go back to Vinyagarond (she almost said "back home" but already it didn't feel right) to fetch a party of builders to start a village for all these elves. Tom suggests we could go back to Glorian's Vale (if we can find it) and bring some of the refugee elves to help.
Kate asks Three if he'd like to go with Daewen (of whom he is totally in awe), just in case Three turns out to be Memory via a bit of time- travel. But Three declines.
Daewen vanishes onto her own witchpaths, and Mithriel leads us to Glorian's Vale after another very short transit. She's found a great transition point.
We report in to Galenriel and learn that, once again, a lot of time has passed. The valleys have stretched out and the connections between them have stabilized. A lot of funny birds have shown up. Tom sighs and asks to be shown some of the stranger specimens.
We decide it must surely have been a day or so since we last slept, so we knock off for a rest. On rising, while we eat breakfast, Galenriel brings Tom an eagle-size transparent budgie. Tom finds he is able to squeeze it down in size and render it almost opaque, and asks that any more non-standard budgies be sent to him for repairs.
We return to the transition point. Mithriel opens the path, followed by Vanessa, then Glorian with the first group of elves. The path has grown a little longer -- about a hundred meters -- but is still nice and short. Soon, we have a steady flow of emigrees, along a rope strung along the witchpaths, with Vanessa at one end and Glorian at the other.
The party spends some time (hard to say how much) acting as ushers for parties of elves. Due to the fluid timeflow, we see an elven village springing up in Lanthil at high speed. Presumably some of it is the work of builders fetched by Daewen, though we don't really hear. Soon, they have a bridge over the river.
We ask Scout Three if the Marginalia would like to go live with the elves in Lanthil. Well, no. They like these misty valleys; these are their proper places. They've begun to locate one another, and they're very helpful and finding and directing elves.
Variable amounts of time pass. Tom fixes budgies. Eventually, we run out of elves; they're all in Lanthil. We decide to go home, which for us still means Vinyagarond. Fr. Paddy, however, wants to stay behind with the Marginalia. He wants to study them and to try to decide how much it is safe to teach them without running the danger of corrupting them. We leave word with The Daughters to have the elves look in on him. (He also mentions to Tom that the Marginalia are catching and eating budgies. Tom assures him that's all right.) Then we bid him adieu.
Taking the cat and the dragon on the witchpaths is a bit of a nuisance, so we walk back through the Chaos Marches. The trip through them, and from the edge of Faerie to Vinyagarond takes about half a day.
There's no one in sight when we arrive. Also no refugee shacks. Aw, hell, when have we got to this time? We approach cautiously, leaving the dragon behind in the woods to guard the cat's egg-ship, wrapping folk up in glamour disguises in case we're deep in the past and they haven't been here yet. Only Kate and Tom go in un-glamoured.
Robbie sends his eyeball on to the Orangery, so we can get a look at the growth of the trees in there. But before he can get close enough, the dome defensively turns opaque. Tom sends in his clairvoyance. The Orangery looks normal, though deserted, but before he can contemplate the relative size of the trees, he hears Daewen's glamour-recorded voice say, "Hello, m'dear. We're all at the gathering at Nighthaven. Please join us there."
Nighthaven is a place we heard mentioned some time back by Dinlai, who tried to place us chronologically by asking if we'd been there yet.
Tom finds he is still wearing the multidimensional watch he picked up in Chaos' Rim. He checks the local date but only gets "five weeks before harvest festival, ten minutes of dusk." They don't like keeping track of time in Old Faerie, which can be a nuisance to a time traveler.
We dust off our glamours and poke about more openly. No one is here at all. But the front door swings open when Tom knocks on it. We enter to look for clues and hear Daewen's recorded invitation again. The carved owl over the door sometimes has messages for people, but not this time.
Tom asks Kate to go look in his room. He'd go himself, but he does NOT want to find, say, a brass plaque outside reading something like:
We Never Did Find All the Bits
Flights of Budgies Sing Thee to Thy Rest
so if Kate finds it, he really doesn't want to hear about it.
Kate doesn't. The room looks neat the way uninhabited rooms do. There are a selection of Tom-like clothes in the drawers and closet, a mess of technical widgets from God-knows-where, and some old back-issues of Popular Thaumaturgy. No notes. None of the notebooks he keeps.
Tom, meanwhile, goes to Kate's room and finds even less -- one set of gender-neutral clothes and two pair of shoes. They rejoin the others who have fruitlessly been looking around Daewen's study.
Where the heck is Nighthaven?
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.