The Chaos Marches
Chapter 21, To the Castle
We left our heroes-- Well, you know how people come back from Faerie with no clear idea of how long they've been gone? We've just come back to Faerie, Vinyagarond to be precise, and have no clear idea how long we've been gone. The place is empty, but not derelict, and Daewen's left a message for us to come join everyone else at Nighthaven, wherever that might me.
The message was delivered by glamour. Poking at the household magic, Tom and Mithriel guess that it was addressed to any members of the household, not us in particular, but the household magic is an untidy heap of charms, so it's hard to be sure.
Salimar tries some retrocognition in the front hall. It lights up with her octarine aura, and we see three elves -- Daewen, Aelvynstar, and the kid who rides the aircycle, looking rather formally dressed and glancing impatiently up the stairs. Then Mithriel and Mirien appear at the top of the stairs, likewise dressed up, all of a fluttering hurry. They leave...
Then the boy dashes back in, bounds up the stairs after something, then down and out again. ... Then Aelvynstar does the same. You know how it is. Finally, Daewen comes in, shoos everyone out, and exits, slamming the door. ...
Then Daewen returns, or at least thrusts her hand back in, and snaps her fingers, setting the house magic to its present holding pattern.
And that's that. As decorous and orderly a withdrawal as this family is likely to muster, so at least it doesn't look like an emergency. We did notices that, for all the girlish fluttering, Mithriel looked more mature.
Kate suggests we try time-traveling back a ways by witchwalk. The party concurs, but before we leave, Tom pauses to bind a telepathic note to a large tree, so we can tell next time if we've been here yet. It reads just "I was here. #1"
Tom is about to walk off but a psychic glance back shows the tree is already bearing several other such notes -- numbered up from -5, and all from Tom except for -3, which is from Mithriel. Sigh.
Back in the woods, we pick up Markel's dragon, and the cat jumps back in its egg-timer. Then Mithriel leads us on a very short witchwalk. Whack, and we're back at the shores of the silvery lake, on that ridge out in the Chaos Marches. Only the lake looks less like quicksilver now, and more like water. There are even trees growing down at the shore.
We scramble down and look the place over. To the right is some mist with light behind it, but we can see the double-layered plateau of Lanthil rising there. To the left is dark mist. Tom pokes at the water, which responds like water, unlike the last time. He looks at his watch. The date flickers, but with hints of coherence. We look up in the trees. Birds. Budgies, in fact. Some blue, some glassy.
We decide it would be a nice idea to explore this water, which seems to be a sort of bay, but we'll need a boat. Various party members try conjuring one:
Mithriel glamours a leaf into a boat, and it looks fine, but the glamour is only first-order, meaning it's no better than a hologram tacked to the leaf.
Tom tries and gets a solid boat -- four inches long, the same size as the original leaf.
Salimar tries with a twig and at least gets a raft, though rather small. But it is self-propelling.
Then Robbie surprises everyone by rezzing up a motorboat. Seems all the bobbing around in Chaos had loosened up some software he hadn't been able to access since before our paths joined. We climb in Robbie's holo-boat and buzz off, the dragon and the raft trailing.
First, we head toward Lanthil, peering ahead with binoculars and a crystal ball. We can see the fall of light raining down from on high, and a harbor where the falls ultimately wind their way to see, with a town built up around it. There's a big stone wharf there, and several little ones. And people.
Allowing for the different perspective, it could well be one of the two harbor scenes that Kate saw in a dream, back in parallel London.
We will definitely go there, but first a little reconnaissance. Kate borrows Tom's eagle amulet and takes eagle-shape. Then she flies off toward the dark mist. She flies and flies until she gets tired and bored (not to mention how she'll feel after the flight back) but there are no features.
Once she returns, Tom uses his merman amulet and dives down. The trip down is almost as long and dull as the trip out. But first it gets darker, then it gets lighter again. And, deep, deep down, he sees some merfolk. Either they're very tiny -- mer-minnows -- or the water is very clear and they're distant. A bit later, he sees a silvery thing like a manta-ray, huge and probably quite distant. Its movements and proportions suggest a titanic size, thereby implying the merfolk were normal.
Tom returns, too, and we putter off toward the Lanthil harbor. As we approach, we see more and more elves, and more and more elves see us. We see disgusted expressions and shakings of heads. Then we hear a droning noise that Robbie identifies as an engine. By now, we are at the wharf, coping with ropes thrown to us by longshore-elves. As we prepare to climb a ladder up to the deck, a familiar blond head peers over. It's Aelvynstar, and the noise is thus explained as the engine of his Harley. (No wonder the local elves grimmace when they see a motorboat.) "You made it!" he calls. Soon, we are gathered around him, exchanging greetings. He knows Robbie, even though Robbie has not yet met him. More time-twists ahead.
Soon, a carriage shows up, sans driver but the horses seem to know what they're doing. We climb in and they set off for the castle; Aelvynstar vrooms on ahead. (Tom has offered him silent electric and gravitic cycles. He didn't like them...) The dragon lofts and tracks us from above.
In the castle courtyard, we meet Aelvynstar and Daewen. "Got your message," Tom says to her experimentally. She smiles weakly. Looks like she hasn't sent it yet. We follow her in and are soon at a sumptuous meal -- though we'd be hard pressed to say which meal we're eating. It's been hard to keep track of daily time.
Speaking of time, Tom sneaks a glance at his watch. The date has stabilized and now reads Year 27.
A little conversation verifies that Daewen & Co. have been expecting us; we're here at the "right time." It is, in fact, the "first time it's all untangled," Daewen tells us, though subsequent conversation shows that it's only untangled from her perspective. We will be going back, she's sure, to work out our maze-like karma. Or most of us will. Mithriel falls asleep over the meal, and Daewen says that's all to the good. She should stay here and start working out her own tangles.
"I spent about five years feeling very disheartened over how little control my family seems to have over their sequences," she remarks. Then, somewhat severely to Tom, "And if you ever again take one of my daughters away and tangle her for twenty-seven years... Well, just don't!"
Tom, who has felt just as frustrated by the scrambled sequences as Daewen, opens his mouth to defend himself, rapidly calculates how futile that will be, and simply says, "Yes, ma'am."
"You may not know that I have another now," Daewen goes on.
Since the topic was children, Tom starts to say, "You mean the kid--" and chokes on his last mouthful before he can say "--on the aircycle." So that lad must not be born yet. Confirming this, Daewen makes the very unusual move, for her, of making telepathic contact with Tom and warning, "He doesn't know yet," with a glance at Aelvynstar, who is placidly eating away, looking blond. So it would appear that Daewen has what is clinically known as a bun in the oven.
"I mean Runyana," she says aloud. "She's mine and Melusine's." Tom drops his fork. A girl with two fay women for mothers and no father. Presumably an autodoc figures in there somewhere. "Ah, well, plenty of good genes there," he remarks as he retrieves it. "Chestnut hair? In long waves?" Daewen nods. "I've seen her--" His throat gives a warning tickle. "--recently. From a distance."
A few later remarks make it clear that Daewen does not yet know about the gathering of the clan at the Battle in Chaos. And Tom chokes on a cracker when he tries to ask her about Nighthaven. So she may be untangled, but the rest of us are still well-scrambled.
Robbie asks after Fr. Paddy. He's still there and still doing well. The Marginalia are thriving. So are the budgies. "You'd think someone had told them to be fruitful and multiply," Daewen remarks a tad sourly.
We learn that the body of water we explored is called the Open Sea and is a thorn in the side of Lord Alvirin, who wanted the New Blood accessibly only through Faerie. But very few people come across it to call -- just some merchants -- and people who embark on it haven't yet come back. So it's not a very inviting frontier.
Vinyagarond, we learn, is largely empty now, though various family members may come and go there, or use the magic mirrors and portals to Helene, etc. Daewen doesn't keep track.
We are shown to "our suites" in a tower, which is markedly non-Euclidean on the inside: there are well over 360 degrees around, with personalized rooms for each of us. There's even a nest of bracken on the roof for the dragon; he's directed to a stretch of forest for his hunting.
So we settle down to some rest, and contemplate what we'll do to move ourselves around in time if Mithriel is going to stay behind. We rather think we'll try walking the ridge back to Faerie and Vinyagarond, then transit to Helene for fresh equipment. One thing is clear -- we will be moving through time some more.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.