10: The Lone Trader
Later in the morning, Daphne and Daewen have returned to working on the magic holds of the airship. Robbie and Gannar head down to the dock to find out whether or not they can be of use to Tethycles. Others go off on their own research or shopping expeditions. Dafnord, however, wonders more about the attackers across the water and seeks Sulieman to ask him who else here might have seen the invaders attacking Lanthil from across the water. Sulieman directs him to First Scout, one of the Marginalia that had been evacuated after the initial encounter.
First Scout is very happy to provide information to Dafnord. The Marginalis describes one of the invaders carefully and he matches it with his own memories of the several dragon races and allies. As he listens, Dafnord recalls the "gray-clad ninjas" that were attacking the Black Mage's castle that we found while exploring the Chaos Marches. (See "Dinlai and the Black Mage", The Chaos Marches, Chapter 2) Dafnord ponders how or whether he can help, since Jonathan is leading the Service in repelling the invaders. However, since the last report was nearly a day old and he seems more convinced of the nature of the invaders, Dafnord starts to seek out any of the Silver Service who may be in or around the castle.
Dafnord easily finds the Silver Service medic, who tells him that the invaders have actually retreated and that the Silver Service are hunting them in the Marches. He suggests speaking to Capt. Angarond, who is in regular contact with the hunter group. Angarond is currently patrolling the road somewhere between Castleton and the Rainbow Bridge, so Dafnord jogs out looking for him. He gets to the bridge without having caught up to him, and stops to consider the Rainbow Bridge. Dafnord has been underneath the bridge several times but has never walked over it. At first glance, it doesn't seem to be much more than a brightly colored force field. After stepping on it, however, Dafnord realizes that there is an awful lot of play, which is a little disconcerting. He starts climbing, and it's a lot like trying to climb up a long, plush mattress -- one that is multicolored and translucent. At the peak of the bridge, Dafnord peers through the glowing mist and sees someone along the road. He climbs down the bridge and jogs ahead a few minutes, the catches up with Angarond.
Dafnord and Angarond exchange introductions and the elf is willing to brief Dafnord while he continues his patrol. (Angarond points out that the wilder fays are mostly on this side of the cataract and that they don't much like the "city folk," so he should be discreet.) As they walk along, Dafnord occasionally hears noises in the woods but he makes a point of not looking too closely at who might be making them. Instead, Dafnord asks Angarond about the invaders. Angarond says that he communicated with the hunting group this morning; apparently there are more invaders than initially thought, and they have been out in the Marches for some time, based on footprints and the like. Angarond believes that we are going to have to patrol the Marches for some time and will have to build up the Silver Service. Dafnord nods quietly since he knows that in the future, Lanthil will have at least three different groups, all helping to protect it.
Dafnord wonders why he or more of his companions weren't called to help and Angarond explains that he did ask but Jonathan didn't want to distract us from our mission. (Our mission? Oh, yes. Rescuing Tom. Remember Tom?) Angarond points out that Melusine did have a strange look when Jonathan said that, however. Dafnord files that away as a possible time twist problem to be resolved later. Dafnord does ask Angarond to convey his concern and offer help. Angarond assures him that he will -- this apparent invasion seems to be becoming more more serious.
Dafnord continues following Angarond, having no other pressing matters and not having seen this part of Lanthil in some time (objectively or subjectively). As they get further along the road, Dafnord spots an elf dressed in green and gray, casually sitting in a tree, blending in rather well and apparently looking around. After they pass, Dafnord asks whether or not he is a friend. Angarond replies that he is not a foe and that "At least, to Tovaro, these are Tovaro's woods." Ah -- another reason to be polite on this side of the cataract.
They come upon the cliffs overlooking the narrows of the Endless Sea. Looking down, they can see the road continuing and ending in a narrow point that matches a point from the ridge across the water. That ridge is the very edge of Lanthil, or, looked at the other way, of the Chaos Marches. On that ridge is the path leading in to the Marches and on to Faerie and other lands. Angarond points out that he was among the first group that came to Lanthil on foot through the Marches as Vinyagarond was being moved here. He's familiar with that ridge and, he quietly points out, it's rather odd that there should be anybody at the far end of the ridge.
Dafnord turns his eyes to the ridge and spots someone standing very still at the far end. They agree there wouldn't be particular reason for anyone to be there, since the path comes out on the near side. Angarond points out that not many folks have been reported on this end of the Endless Sea, but it is possible he could be a trader who ended up on the far shore. The heavy surf and the haze of the Lightfall make it impossible to make out details but Dafnord thinks he also sees something that might be a boat. The two of the decide to move a bit, trying to give the impression that they did not see the mysterious person. Meanwhile, Dafnord contacts Robbie telepathically, thinking that they could use one of his eyes.
At the docks, Tethycles has been politely telling Robbie and Gannar that he really has no useful work for the two of them when Dafnord contacts Robbie. He asks the two of them to fly quickly but stay hidden. Unfortunately, by the time they arrive, the person on the far ridge has disappeared, clearly having bolted as Angarond and Dafnord turned, attempting to be subtle. Through the eye, Robbie confirms that there is a boat beached there. It looks rather elegant and is not elven. He spots bundles inside the boat and what appears to be a downed mast. And on the far side ... a half-submerged body. No, given the stains, it's a half-submerged corpse.
Robbie and Gannar fly over the narrows. We try raising Kate or Salimar but are unable to. Gannar confirms that the sailor is dead and Robbie follows some strange wet footprints--not human-sized--leading roughly to where Dafnord says they saw the stranger standing. Robbie says that tracks go into the marches but we agree that following them isn't the best idea right now. Robbie finally raises Salimar and asks her to fly out so they can perform a retrocog.
Robbie examines the goods in the boat and notes that there are both personal belongings and trade goods. Salimar arrives, looks out to the ridge, and barely sees Robbie waving. Salimar is a little unhappy with the strange physics this close to the Marches but manages to hold her flying form and get to the other side. (We suddenly check with Gannar as to how he is feeling--he reports that his systems, currently, are OK.)
Salimar attempts a retrocog. Poof! Octarine confetti. Salimar said she needs to get away from the chaos. Robbie and Gannar put the body in the boat with Salimar and then push it across the sea to the base of the cliffs. Angarond and Dafnord follow the path to the base of the cliff where they meet another Silver Service member; two tree fay apparently have also been watching the ridge. Robbie and Gannar have a difficult time pushing the boat across the water, mainly due to their inexperience with watercraft. However, they reach shore without incident.
They take a closer look at the body: human, dark-skinned, turbaned with an aquiline nose. He or his race are not familiar to anyone, and neither is the style of the boat. The mast is in the boat but has clearly broken which may be why it was beached. Angarond suggests that the trader and his boat are somewhat like -- but not the same as -- another boat currenlty in harbor. Certainly the men on that boat are dark-skinned and wear turbans. Beyond that, he can't tell. (We all look alike, you see.)
Salimar tries to of retrocog again and gets octarine confetti again. She takes a deep breath and finally succeeds with a short vision. It isn't pretty: he was attacked by one of the "gray-clad ninjas" who left him for dead. Salimar offers to continue examining the boat for more information. In the meantime, Dafnord suggests going to the harbor and speaking with the captain of the similar boat. Robbie and Gannar fly ahead to find the boat and contact its captain. Dafnord wraps the body and carries it back along the road. Angarond stays behind keep an eye on the ridge.
Harborside, Daphne is taking a break from her work on the ship, eating baklava and drinking sweet tea. She looks up and realizes that Gannar and Robbie are flying back. She contact them and finds out who they are looking for.
It doesn't take long for the three of them to find the boat that Angarond described. A turbaned crew member is standing watch on the deck. Robbie steps forward and calls out to him. The sailor's expression darkens as he looks down at Robbie. Robbie asks if he may speak with the captain. The crew member glowers and asks whether or not he is expected. Robbie admits that he is not. Glower turns to another crew member and tells him to tell the captain that "an infidel dog" is here to see him. (Daphne is amused the description but none of them have any particular reaction to the implied insult.) The second crew member returns with the news that the captain has no interest in seeing Robbie. A staring contest begins which has little result other than to confirm that these men have some resemblance to the dead trader. Daphne and Robbie compare the styles of boats -- out loud, hoping to catch the interest of Glower. It doesn't seem to, so the three of them wait for Dafnord to arrive with the body.
Daewen, also taking a break, happens to walk by and asks what's going on. Robbie explains the situation and Daewen asks several questions: Did you ask rudely? Did you introduce yourself? Did you offer compliments? Have you brought a gift? After hearing the answers, Daewen agrees: Robbie is an infidel dog. Daphne says that they are bringing a gift -- well, a body anyway. Daewen leads them away from the boat, trying to explain that it would be even worse to insult them just prior to bringing them a dead body. Daewen asks for more information and, linking in Dafnord, she learns about the murder at the chaos ridge. Daewen suggests they meet elsewhere in town, away from the boat. As they head to the rendezvous, Daewen lectures Robbie about manners.
Dafnord arrives and Daewen examines the body. Daewen nods, saying that she suspected that they would not be of the same race, given where they found the trader's small boat. The Golden Eagle -- the name of the large ship docked in the harbor -- came across the Open Sea, not the Endless Sea. She knows that the captain of Golden Eagle has been trying to keep his route to Lanthil a secret. The victim may be a competitor from another land. Fallataal and Tethycles have been trying to open more trade routes, she explains. Dafnord asks whether or not Tethycles would recognize this trader. Daewen suggests that he might but then says that she would like to see the boat. Robbie flies off to ask Tethycles to join them. Daewen teleports to the end of the road to look at the boat. Daphne flies off to get more lunch.
Everyone returns at about the same time and Dafnord again explains what happened at the chaos ridge. Tethycles agrees with Daewen that this trader quite likely came to Lanthil across the Endless Sea. They would not be of the same race -- although they may be distant cousins, as they share some Arabic and Berber characteristics. This particular trader is a stranger to him, however. Daewen decides that the captain of the Golden Eagle needn't be bothered at this point and that we should all turn back to the castle. Daewen opens a shortcut while Robbie wraps up the body in ectoplasm.
Once at the castle, Daewen asks Robbie how much he knows about "his adopted people." Everyone seems confused at the apparent non sequitur but Robbie figures out she means the Djinn and says that one thing he's learned is that one shouldn't annoy Lords of Chaos. Daewen nods and says that one of the ways they like to punish is to get people very lost.
In the Middle East of Earth, she continues, civilizations have always been built around the mazzakim but attempts to travel to find them or Djinnistan typically end in frustration. However, there are those who are favored or simply lucky and thrive on the borders of Djinnistan and have access to the Endless Sea. And that, Daewen says, makes it likely that the route to from Lanthil to Djinnistan is over the Endless Sea. She says that her examiniation of the trade goods found that there is Djinnish magic on them. Coming back to the matter at hand, she says that Achmed, the captain of the Golden Eagle, would no doubt very much like to meet someone coming from the Endless Sea in the hopes of being lucky enough to establish a trade route to Djinnistan. However, this information would be very valuable if it were imparted at the right time. She leaves unspoken the implication that doing so now, with the presentation of a dead body as proof, is neither the right time nor the right way.
Dafnord brings up the matter of the invaders and speculates about their motives for coming to Lanthil. While doing so, he mentions the battle at the Black Mage's castle, which Daewen doesn't know about yet. (Daewen politely covers the faux pas by reassuring herself out loud that she is pleased that Tom's rescue must be eventually successful because her memories will no doubt have been properly sorted out by him before the Last Battle with the Lilim. Which they were. Will be. Whatever.) However, the point is not lost that, at some point, the invaders will be attacking allies of Lanthil. The possibility that the "ninjas" could attack Lanthil in force leads her to share a concern that she has had since coming to Lanthil. Because there are still some fringe elements of conquered foes who still occasionally pop up, believing that the battle is still on -- Worldbenders, for example -- she feels that a separate base, well stocked and separate from Lanthil should be built.
Daewen asks Dafnord, as one of the more militant of the New Blood, to meet with Cantrel at his next opportunity to help plan the base. There is some discussion over how secluded the base should be -- Daewen believes that only pantopes and witchwalkers should be able to find it. However, there is something to be said for merely isolated and not disconnected location. Everyone will have to think more on the subject.
In the meantime, we have this dead body ...
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.