Chapter 48: The Second Council
left our heroes in the pantope Emerald Metaphor, in the tent, having
just left Daewen to catch up on her sleep after trading news with her
about recent events. Little happens for the next few hours; Dafnord
wonders if he's done enough apologizing for the Second Battle of the
Basement. Presently, Daewen wakes up and decides to go back to her
rooms in Vinyagaerond. We take Faerie off freeze-frame and drop her off
in the hallway. We then return to the ranch and eat lunch (or some such
meal), reassure our nephilite houseguests, and update Mirien. She
decides, cautiously, to go back and help. She steals out of the door,
which is still parked in the hallway near Daewen's room, and beats feet
to her own rooms -- presumably to avoid meeting her mother while the
latter has time to ask awkward questions about her recent activities.
After we get ourselves dressed up, we go back ourselves, enjoying the novel sensation of not being time-twisted for the first time in quite a while. On our way through the pantope, Dafnord notices the flap of the tent fluttering. Bursting in, blaster at the ready, he surprises Runyana, her hands carefully raised, dressed all in white. After everyone calms down, Tom asks her if she's attending. (This would be a bit of gatecrashing, since she won't be born for a few years...) Oh, no, she's just, ah, dressing up. Well, she admits she thought she might sneak in and mingle with the crowds later. This must be worth a lot of points in whatever time-traveling scavenger hunt she's on. She asks how it's going. We tell her the audience with Alvirin is due to start in about two hours. She nods and vanishes back into the tent.
We knock on Daewen's door and get invited in. Daewen and Aelvenstar are finishing breakfast and getting dressed. They invite us to eat; we nibble, having just eaten. Daewen explains that her plans have gotten skewed by the sudden arrival of Alvirin and his court. Hot on his heels, she's just learned, are Didana (Alvirin's wife, the Faerie Queen), with her entourage, including the Queen's Own Goblins, to add to the King's Own Goblins. We mention that Mirien has shown up to help, while Mithriel is holding the fort in Lanthil, at the construction site. Daewen is pleased, in a mildly surprised way, at this show of responsibility by her daughters.
We aren't sure how pleased she is when we all move out into the hallway and see Mirien. Mirien of the Five Bloods has got herself up in a gown she must have commissioned from a very pliable couturier, since it features seven colors -- blue and silver for the Silver Council, and grey, gold, green, red, and purple for her five parents, each color being more or less emblematic of one particular parent. But, hey, she's a High Elf, she can carry it off. Or that must have been what she told the couturier.
It's two flights of stairs down to the ballroom, where the audience is set up. On the way, our numbers more than double, as we pick up other members of the household, including six young-looking elves in what look like plain uniforms of Council Blue, with silver trim, and swords. They flank the rest of us and look a lot like an honor guard. We feel we are witnessing the birth of something. Over the telepathy net, the phrase "Silver Service" circulates, and though we have no real foreknowledge of it, we feel the label slotting into place.
The Silver Service fans out at the bottom of the stairs and immediately faces off with the collected security forces of Old Faerie -- a couple of tall characters of a ruggedly-handsome sort, with five and six short horns each (these are high-ranking members of the Queen's Own Goblins), plus three greenish-white folk looking like alien Greys with compound eyes (the King's Own Goblins) and the collected captains of the gnomish, pixie, and dwarvish guards.
The Old Faerie assortment are clearly formed up to meet us and escort us (and keep an eye on us). The Silver Service are just as clearly not having any of it; this is their turf and we are their charges, and they plow on, ignoring the various royal goblins. At the very last millisecond, one each of King's and Queen's Goblins move aside, and the Silver Service marches through. We think we catch a twinkle in the eye of the dwarf captain (who rather likes us, we think, and must be feeling fed up with the royal goblins). Daewen, who hesitated quite visibly at the silent faceoff, is breathing a deep sigh. Just off stage, as it were, in the door of a drawing room, stands Nick, looking pleased. He smiles and nods at us. We suppose him to be our choreographer.
The various guards all fall in behind and around us. We proceed. Someone hums "Pomp and Circumstance" over the telepathy net. We are met at the ballroom door by the Captain of the King's Own Goblins. He opens it and we see a herald and the Grand Vizier of Faerie, looking grim. The herald announces "The Lord and Lady of Vinyagarond, Daewen and Aelvenstar." (Yes, he reverses the order in mid-announcement. There must be some interesting protocol reason for that.) In we march, Daewen and Aelvenstar first. Beyond is a large, round table and Lord Alvirin, King of Faerie.
He is sitting on the table. Being Alvirin, he can look like anything he wants, and, at the moment, looks rather like a typical Ennorathi elf, tall, slender, dark-haired, and fair-skinned. And, although he wears a perfectly respectable tunic and hose, and a light circlet on his head, he is by far the most casually dressed person here. Perhaps this explains the Vizier's grim looks. But this is Alvirin, and he can look however he wants. He created this whole place an estimated 24 million years ago, and in that amount of time you can get fed up with things on a geological scale. Right now, he appears to be fed up with pomp.
Seeing our entourage, however, and with an eye resting on the shiny new Silver Service, he hops off the table and makes an elaborate bow. If there's sarcasm in it, it's best we ignore it. He spots Mirien -- his goddaughter or something like it -- and hails her with "Mirien! How you've grown!" -- which must have been a fairly worn observation on children even 24 million years ago. But Mirien swallows all the acerbic retorts minted since then and replies, "Thank you, milord!" Cheerfully, even.
"Much too early to stand on ceremony," he observes, waving away the guards and other trimmings. Perforce, they withdraw, leaving us with a few specially high-ranking and/or stubborn goblins, the Vizier, and Himself. Daewen introduces us all, ending with Brunalf.
Our neo-cat decides to rub against the Vizier's ankles by way of saying hello, but, when he makes the move, comes down with static electricity all over and a bad case of telekinetically-glued-in-place. He looks around and sees one of the goblins glaring at him. And Tom informs him telepathically that he will be psionically seized by the scruff of his brain stem if he tries to get out of line. He subsides.
Alvirin is sitting on this round table. There are chairs and little name cards all around it. Daewen quietly glamours images of the tags to herself and determines who is to sit where. We all go to our places ... and hover. Alvirin is still sitting on the table, making small-talk. Sitting, but not in his chair. So we don't sit in our chairs either. We hover. Also, several of us don't have places at the table. Daewen invents the idea of leaning on her chair. Alvirin grins to himself. The Vizier could probably produce steam out of his ears if he wanted to.
At this point, the door swings open again and the herald announces Queen Didana, who enters with a half-dozen of her goblins. She is dressed to the nines, leaving Alvirin still the dot of yin within the yang. Soon, she is followed by Lillian and Loren, the ambassadors from Avalon, with an escort of six ladies in waiting. By now it's getting crowded, and some of the goblin guards are forced out. A sort of receiving line forms and more dignitaries begin piling in. These include:
Glorian and Daewen of Ennorath (our Daewen's clone), the Ennorathi representatives
Two ambassadors from Atlantis.
Gortle and Hertzog of the Chaos Marches (two walking piles of clothing presumed to contain vaguely dwarvish fays)
"Jonathan and Melusine of VInyagarond," two more of our own
Nightingale and Silverhand of the Dreamtime (at which the Ennorathi out in the hallway are a-gog. The real Luthien and Beren!)
The Patalan Ambassador, with his entourage, notably lacking a Lady of the Chalice
A glittery lady who is the Djinnistani Ambassador and therefore a mazzika
Alvirin is now off the table (scattering name tags) and leaning on his chair. He grins at the assembly, none of whom know what to do with themselves. He goes on grinning for half a minutes. Eventually, he says, "I'm really terribly sorry about this. I'd really hoped for an informal gathering before the tedious business this afternoon." More silence. "But protocol always gets in the way. So, do we stand here or try something less formal?" Daewen and Jonathan trade glances. Daewen says, "Certainly," and sits. "How've you been?" she asks Alvirin. "Quite well..." Large, solid flakes of silence begin to precipitate off the other guests.
At this point, Nick bursts in, blathering, "Sorry I'm late. Hope I didn't hold up anything," and plops down at the table, leaving half a dozen each of goblin guards and Silver Servitors bobbing in his wake. At this point, Lillian of Avalon starts giggling. The Vizier looks like an aneurism is nigh. The lame conversation continues and Lauren, the other Avalonian, starts to giggle. But the ice isn't really broken until the King of Jotunheim enters and asks if he's just missed a joke.
As things relax, Tom telepaths Nick, who confirms that all the pomp and protocol were at the insistence of the court, which appears to be one of the things Alvirin is geologically fed up with. Nick also takes the opportunity to congratulate himself on inventing the Silver Service. Robbie tries to chat up the Vizier, who answers in frosty monosyllables, then switches to the Jotun king, whose name is Logi. He's a lot more personable than the elvish Vizier.
Tom finds he's sitting between the Avalonians and the Atlanteans. He chats with the latter and learns that both ambassadors each represent all the petty kingdoms of Atlantis. The main island, he learns, is Atalantica. And he confirms what he had once heard -- that there are many bloods mingled in Atlantis, including some royal families of draconian descent, pure or mixed. He learns that it is diplomatically feasible for him to visit there and, say, read up on their histories.
We now adjourn for the breakfast buffet. This would make the third breakfast in a row for our heroes, so they concentrate on continuing the chat. Tom offers to run interference for King Logi, who is at a disadvantage moving through a crowd (unless he shrinks himself, which isn't dignified). Robbie hunts down the Djinnistani Ambassador -- who is at an advantage in a crowd, having simply teleported over to the buffet -- and asks her about the Kaf Mountains, where both Djinnistan and our mysterious 49 cities are. Their conversation is labored, though; she's puzzled to be talking to an artifact, and her sense of geography is very different from Robbie's, as you might expect in a natural teleporter. He does gather that it is physically possible for a djinn to take us to Kaf.
Eventually, we do get down to actual ceremonies and councils. Daewen welcomes everyone and does introductions for her household. Tom notes that the membership of the Silver Council seems to have been expended, for the moment, to include all the senior and influential members of Vinyagarond, not just the seven who traditionally constitute it.
Alvirin replies with a pretty speech marking the historic nature of the occasion and the chance to settle a lot of old issues. And the actual haggling begins.
The Marcher lords (represented by Gortle and Hertzog) are worried about disruptions in their unstable realm, caused by the new domain of Lanthil.
Alvirin implies a desire to get rid of the Dreamtime given him by the Silver Council; he wants it to be independent, and recommends Silverhand and Nightingale be given it to rule. (The Ennorathi in the background beam in satisfaction.)
Alvirin also wants a clear definition of the role of the Marginalia in Lanthil. The Marchers and Patala (with Atlantis chiming in) certainly don't want the Marginalia treated as a sovereign power, so the Silver Council announces that it takes all Marginalia, in or out of Lanthil, under its protection, and gives them the right to live in Lanthil. Only Avalon really likes this solution, but it is accepted.
And of course, no one wants the new realm to be exposed to contact with mundane realms. Alvirin makes pointed, if obscure, reference to "ancient obligations" all the arcane realms share.
Patala expresses dissatisfaction with the way Faerie "buds off" offspring realms in this untidy way. They don't want it to become a habit. (They cast cold glances at Atlantis while they say this, implying that mass of petty kingdoms better not start multiplying by fracture.)
...and on and on...
Tom notes that Logi of Jotunheim is not as dumb as giants are usually thought to be. We all notice that Daewen, Jonathan, Melusine, and Aelvenstar do most of the talking for the Lanthil parties, which is fine. Nick is surprisingly quiet, and Mirien is surprisingly active and adroit.
But the really important thing is, they all agree to recognize Lanthil.
There. The deed is done.
Not that the politicking is over. Not hardly.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.