Chapter 55: Coach Class
We left our heroes in Vinyagarond, trying to work out a diplomatic solution
to the plight of the nephilim. We'd got as far as deciding to go to
Elvencrown, the capital of Faerie, to burrow through the archives and make
discreet inquiries in the diplomatic community there. But isn't it
ticklish, going to Elvencrown without an invitiation, and even more so on an
errand on behalf of some semi-renegade remnant folk? We need an excuse.
Tom suggests we go there with the public aim of establishing the Lanthil embassy. Nick points out that fay embassies are very thematic -- you don't just buy a local townhouse or mansion; you more or less set up a highly invidiualized theme park, which is not necessarily even a building...
Tom suggests that maybe just waltzing in a buying a building would be our distinctive approach. Nick is taken aback by this, but says it's a possibility. Anyway, we could scout out a site, at least. Nick unenthusiastically agrees to help with the negotiations for this, which, he points out, can be very protracted.
Dafnord and Daewen suggest we could visit the nephilite embassies -- along with others -- on the excuse that we didn't meet them at the Second Council and want to pay our respects now, on entering the diplomatic community. Anyway, this is all stuff we really do need to do soon.
We all go to bed, except Robbie, who spends several hours in the library, in a series of fruitless searches. There is nothing, for instance, on the "Places of Penance" or on the "Great Mountain" of the nephilim. Remnant folk are mentioned only in "scandalous" novels about naughty fays. There is nothing new on the Eretsarin and their policies regarding remnants. Searching travelogues on Djinnistan only establishes that it is very rare for outsiders to go there.
The next day, we load ourselves and some luggage into a couple of coaches and a baggage wagon, and head north. Some of us, like Markel on his dragon, and the gargoyle and the cat in its egg-ship, do a lot of flying.
Robbie whiles away the miles experimenting with his new body, mostly on the feature that enables him to pop out an arbitrary number of flying eyeballs. He finds he can use pairs to establish an extra field of stereoscopic vision, but anything fancier causes vertigo. On the other hand, if he keeps them closed, he can pop out large numbers of them. At one point, Tom suggests he encircle a handy object with several eyes, all trained on it, and try to look at the object with circular perspective. He tries this and hangs.
We camp in the magic tent. We play word games. Tom whiles away time making ectoplastic insects. Robbie picks up the idea and creates toys. He declines to let us use eyeballs for games of marbles or skeet-shooting. We're BORED.
After a few days, the trees get quite grandiose in scale. The road stops being dirt and becomes moss or something like it. There are more flowers. Occasionally, we pass "cottages" in the distance -- only these are more like thatched mansions.
We pass a party of mounted dwarves in armor, then four more, then a troop of more than a hundred, all of whom watch us closely. We rather think they were royal dwarven guards from the Council. The big troop blocks the road, so we slow, exchange stiff but civil greetings, explain our errand, and are allowed to pass them.
Later, we see some riders headed toward us -- elves in armor. They intercept us and quiz us too. Up close, we see they have compound eyes -- the mark of the King's Own Goblins, but in a variation we hadn't seen before. When we admit that we are not expected in Elvencrown, we're told, "Ah. You will be." Then they ride on.
The woods give way to rolling green hills, mounting into the distance into the Crownpoint Mountains. And, when we get clear of the forest, we finally see the Tree. It looks like a very large sequoia, but is blue with distance, and the mountains at its feet give a hint as to its scale.
The valleys around here are thickly settled with farms and villages, all looking effortlessly prosperous and quaint. We are met on the road by another company of the insect-eyed elf/goblins, this time escorting a "normal" looking High Elf, very elegant in a black costume twinkling with pearls. This fellow introduces himself as The Herald, and has indeed heard of us, as the last lot of goblins promised. Tom delivers our true-but-not-the-whole-truth cover story to him. He promises to spread the word about us and recommends that we spend the night at the Dancing Bear, up ahead -- and not at the Golden Stag, its competition across the way. Okay.
We obediently pull in at the Dancing Bear, which is not phazed by our numbers or exotic composition. They probably serve weirder stuff than us in the breakfast trays. They provide the gargoyle (conveniently shrunk by Tom to cat size) with a sort of stone dog house, and the cat is borne in on a gingham cushion, by a dwarf, who shows him around the lounge where the Dancing Bear dances of an evening. We are soon settled into the Green Suite, with a nice view of the Tree in the distance, and a silent resolution to see what's up at the Golden Stag, after the floor show here.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.