Chapter 54: Sage Advice
We left our heroes in Djinnistan, with Robbie confronting his old body, which appears to be confronting him back, inhabited by a new mind. Robbie asks the Ambassador what kind of body he now has. "You're in Djinnistan," she replies, as if this is an answer. "But so are they!" says Robbie, pointing to his companions. "That is peculiar," the Ambassador admits. On closer questioning, she can only characterize Robbie's new body as "Djinnistani, of here."
Well, since we mainly came here to get Robbie back, Salimar considers the next step is to call up Tom in the pantope.
Elsewhile, back in Vinyagarond, Nick [played by Jon Callas in a special guest appearance] is wondering about Tom, too. Tom's pantope is his ride home, after all, back to the 21st century. Failing to find Tom in Vinyagarond proper, he steps through the mirror into the ranch house on Hellene and soon finds the door to the pantope. He enters, hails Tom, and notes the addition of the green marbling effect in the floor. Tom tells him about it, and Nick suggests that maybe it will fade after a long enough time away from Djinnistan. Tom is in the act of hoping so when Salimar's telepathic call comes through.
Tom obediently follows the call and opens the omniport. He sees the two djinn guards at the bridge. Though he only has the omniport set to window mode, the guards are clearly looking back in, surprised. Tom turns on the door mode and asks if this place is Djinnistan. "Yes, we've always kept it here," one guard answers. Tom asks if they have seen a highly mixed party of his friends' description. "Oh, yes. Very odd people." "Yes, that's them." "They went on to the city." Tom thanks the guards, goes back to window mode, and starts to steer the window across the river. Noticing them scowl, he stops, backs up, re-opens, and asks if it's okay for him to proceed.
The guards grumble a little, consider sending him to check in with the flame, then recall that the flame is still rather weird from when Salimar checked in with it. Yes, he can proceed, but they'll send word ahead about him. This they do by summoning and dispatching a small firebird. And what's all that green marbling on his, um, floor? Tom explains that he picked it up by accident in the mountains. The guards tell him he shouldn't have it. Tom says he'll be happy to get rid of it.
Free to proceed, Tom continues steering the omniport toward Djinnibad. He leaves it open as a door, thinking this may seem less sneaky -- and anyway the window mode seems tangible enough to push aside tree branches -- but this results in a considerable wind. Also, the door frame winds up dripping with what appears to be fiery, opalescent sap from the damaged trees. Tom steers the door out into the clear. At one point, we accidentally acquire a small firebird, which flutters about in a panic. Tom stops, opens the door wide, and directs it out with a quick telepathic hint. From that brief touch on its mind, he thinks it is something elemental. (He ran into various elementals at the college in Dwarrowgard.)
As we approach the city, we're met by a pair of aerial gondolas, each bearing three genies. Two in each boat are oarsmen; the other is dressed in jeweled and enameled armor, red in one boat, green in the other. Tom obediently stops.
The fellow in red armor walks out over the air, up to Tom's door. He explains to Tom, fairly civilly, that the pantope's nature makes it dangerous to bring it into the city. Where did he get it? Tom explains that he made it, out of ... malleable energy. He picks his words carefully, feeling that "raw chaos" might upset the nice daemon-cop. As it is, he still gets raised eyebrows.
The genie guard summons a translator, the better to talk technical with Tom. The translator starts out as a firebird, but quickly assumes the form of a small, fire-winged woman who trails away into smoke in the classic genie fashion. She asks Tom if he understand metaphysics. "Some," he replies cautiously. Groping for words, she explains that Tom's pantope is very nearly pure substance or matter, with only the thinnest overlay of form. (That sounds plausible.) Djinnistan, on the other hand, is elaborate form with very little matter. Bringing two such near-opposites together is ... dangerous. In this case, the form-poor pantope is being swamped by Djinnistani form and bleeding substance into Djinnistan. And naming it the "Emerald Metaphor" probably didn't help anything.
While the various djinn discuss what to do with him, Tom telepaths ahead to his friends, explaining where he is. The djinn appear to overhear this quite readily. The translator and the green guard then escort Tom and his door as close to the aerial docks as they feel is safe, moving traffic out of the way.
Meanwhile, back at the bungalow in the park, three djinn port in -- two guards in gold and a vizier-type who appears to be made of moonstone. The vizier-type converses telepathically with the Ambassador, who tells the rest of us that we must go meet Tom and Nick at the docks. Soon, we're all together there, and the vizier-type is explained to be a sage, a technical expert in ... this sort of thing (whatever sort that is). While Tom and the Sage meet in mid-air, Nick runs back to his room in the ranch-house to fetch something...
The Sage and Tom discuss how to extract the djinnish essence from the pantope. Nick, on returning, suggests Tom could help by turning the decks into real emerald. The Sage agrees that this would help him. Tom would be pushing while the Sage pulled, so to speak.
Then Tom notices the two Robbies.
After all this is explained to everybody, the Sage tut-tuts and explains that Robbie is somewhat like a djinn, in being a kind of spirit, but he's a... "rider" is the word the Sage settles on, and a young one, too. He needs a vehicle, at this stage, in order to live in most realms. The gargoyle is another "rider." Gannar the android, on the other hand, is not; as far as the Sage is concerned, he's just an odd human.
Robbie, as the Sage said, needs a vehicle, and personal identity is very important in matters of such vehicles, which pretty much precludes buying Robbie an off-the-shelf new body. Robbie is, the Sage admits, in an unusual situation, one that only an ... unusual (foolhardy? ignorant?) person would get into. He should not now return to any mundane realm for a while, until this new vehicle is sufficiently solidified.
Okay, what about the cities of the nephilim? Robbie decides to Tell All to the Sage, and explains about trying to rescue a substantial part of the nephilite remnant. He suggests having Desmond talk to the Sage. Braeta goes to fetch him, vanishing out the pantope door into the ranch house.
But when the Sage learns that Desmond and Braeta are both remnant nephilim, and that the door over there leads out into the mundane realm, he gets very perturbed. So do the guards in gold. The Sage hustles all of us into the pantope, and has Tom shut both doors. He explains that the guards were very upset and had just summoned the griffins... He then gets all faint and queasy. The pantope, being a place poor in form, does not agree with him at all.
We open the pantope in Lanthil, at the top of the Thilorod -- the mountain with the lake on top, filled by the luminous waterfall out of the zenith. The Sage hops out and feels better immediately. Nick checks his watch and finds we're about 30 years in the "future," some time shortly after our latest visit. The Sage checks Robbie over and says he's doing fine. It was risky of Robbie to enter the pantope, in fact.
Tom looks over Robbie 1.1. He seems okay, too, if still bemused. Robbie 1.0 tries out all his various functions, like popping out flying eyeballs, and finds they still work. Attempts to make himself look more like his recent Sim body fail, though. And when he concentrates on tracing his circuitry, it comes out slow and stupid. On the other hand, at least there is now circuitry to trace.
Gannar tries opening a telemetry link with Robbie. This time, he succeeds. He looks over Robbie's peripheral systems and finds them ... odd. Artificial intelligence typically arises in a well-developed, highly textured software environment. Robbie's new "vehicle" has only the bare minimum software, as if he were a brand new system, far too young to be sentient yet. Robbie's own cyberclair of himself concurs. (A few hours ago, cyberclair revealed nothing.) We appear to now have an old AI on young hardware (Robbie 1.o) and vice versa (Robbie 1.1).
Just to make sure, Tom and Nick pop Robbie into the field autodoc and get an error message to the effect of "You're not supposed to put machines in here." Okay, just checking.
Meanwhile, we are straying out of our home time. Nick therefore reveals what it was he wen back to his room to get -- an omniport. He opens it on the same spot 30 years back -- Lanthil "now" -- and everybody steps through (expect Tom, who goes back to the pantope and brings it in separately).
The Sage is bemused. He looks about at the little-changed landscape and goes down to the water. Luminous. Remarkable stuff. He reaches in and forms a bottle of luminous ice out of it. Standing up, he notices something in the distance, over in the direction of the Dark Side of Lanthil. He then tells us that we should take our time and deliberate before we next invite anyone from another realm up here. We need the time to "deal with it" ourselves. He doesn't want to tell us anything more, and he promises he will do his best not to tell anyone else, either.
Well, that's ominous.
Now we turn to decontaminating Tom's pantope. The Sage sets up a tripod. Tom gets in the pantope and wills the djinnish essence out. The Sage leans into the door with the ice-bottle open, and it fills with luminous smoke. He then steps in and picks up the lump of emerald that formed under the omniport, Tom meanwhile re-decorating the decks as new, fresh emerald. The Sage then seals the emerald into the bottle, along with the shining smoke. He then puts the bottle on the tripod and stares at it.
After a bit, he asks if there's a neutral, wild, unclaimed place we know of. We suggest New Hierow, an out-of-the-way planet. Why? He's worried, because his bright idea of using a bottle of Lanthil ice has produced an object of "uncertain ownership." He should have thought of that. It isn't dangerous, but apparently embarrassing. He thinks hiding it on New Hierow would be a good idea. Probably for a long time. We can open our omniport there and he'll take the bottle and be out of our hair.
Yes, but what about the nephilim? They were the reason for all this popping about. He explains that the nephil remnant has to go through the Places of Penance, which he can't recall much about, but he's quite sure they aren't the same as Yazatlan or its pocket universe. Getting more data out of Djinnistan should wait on our opening diplomatic relations. He repeats that he's sorry for finding out about our Dark Side and promises to keep it quiet as long as he can. He exits.
Nick opines that we should explore the perimeter of Lanthil, including the Dark Side, very soon, so as to consolidate our claim. He also recommends we pursue diplomatic solutions to our nephil problem.
We climb back in the pantope and drop off Nick and Mirien in Vinyagarond. We then re-connect to the ranch on Hellene and re-call Braeta (for whom only seconds have elapsed). We explain the situation to her and say we're going to be trying diplomacy. In view of which, we should probably not have her (or Desmond or other nephilim) setting foot in Faerie if we don't have to.
Instead, we set up a telecommunications link. Robbie and Tom mess around with a mixture of videophones and magic mirrors, but the shifts in natural law from Hellene, through the pantope, to Faerie, make it difficult. Eventually, we just use a pair of magic mirrors. It turns out cheap plastic mirrors from Z-mart don't enchant nearly as well as the nice silver and wood pair given to Mirien and Mithriel last Yule. (Not by Tom; he never gives the twins double presents.)
This established, we re-enter Vinyagarond ourselves and seek out Daewen. We find her trying to clean up the dining room. Alvirin and his court have left. The Patalan Ambassador and his retinue (including their portable river) are leaving soon. Atlantis and Avallon are going to be at dinner tonight, despite the fact that the two groups have had some sort of a row recently.
We ask her about diplomatic aid for the nephil remnant. For that matter, there's some fay remnant mixed in with them. Wouldn't that concern Alvirin? She says we should be very careful about approaching Alvirin on such a subject. In fact, we should have the fay remnant do the approaching, and not suggest Alvirin do it. Such things have happened in the past. But even then, the supplicants have sometimes been rebuffed. The records of such dealings would be in Elvencrown; Nick might like to go research it.
Okay, how about these Places of Penance? Where are they? Daewen has no idea, so we call Braeta up on the magic hand-mirrors, seeking clues. She says the journey there is supposed to start at the top of the "Great Mountain," but she doesn't know if that's Everest, Ararat, or Olympus. (Or, for that matter, where those two legendary mountains are, for certain.) Katrina wonders if it's a prophetic reference to Lanthil's mountain. Braeta counters that it's a place the nephilim return to, and Lanthil is brand new.
Braeta calls Desmond to the mirror. He favors Olympus as the "Great Mountain," wherever it is. His second choice would be somewhere in the Hindu Kush, which is the mundane correspondence to the Kaf Mountains of Djinnistan. He dismisses with scholarly disdain the idea that the Great Mountain is in South America -- an idea based on the coincidence between the names "Aztlan" and "Atlantis." He's pretty sure the place has to be somewhere on Earth.
We doubt that Earth has the clues to tells us anything useful, though. Instead, we decide to go to Elvencrown with Nick. There, Nick can research the history and etiquette of repatriating remnants from Earth, while we can try approaching the embassies of the nephilite nations.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.