Chapter 44: Finding Lost Boys
We left our heroes still confronting the servant problem: their android
gardener, Kollan, has gone on the fritz, not being able to cope with the
proximity of Chaos. While he's in the autodoc on the Munch, Tom orders
the autodoc to make him sleep, then slips into his mind telepathically,
to block off any detailed memories of Lanthil or the pantope. It's not
that hard; most of the things he paid attention to in Lanthil were the
plants, and the pantope interested him mainly because it was green.
Tom will then escort him back to Impri in the Terraform Reach, explain vaguely that it didn't work out for medical reasons, and give him a nice severance package. Tom will then skip ahead a couple of times, a month at a skip, and check to see that he's doing okay.
Meantime, Gannar suggests we replace Kollan with local help. Robbie suggests one of the Lost Boys, encountered down at the docks. Both AIs consider it a good idea to have Dafnord , a human, come along; Gannar didn't do too well with Kollan, nor did Robbie with the pixies.
A robot, and android, and a mutant walk down to the docks together. Stop me if you've heard this one...
We find a couple of Lost Boys on a dock, chucking pebbles into the water. Dafnord's hearty greeting doesn't quite startle them into falling in. Robbie and Gannar take up flanking positions, to make sure the audience stays to listen. When Dafnord mentions Cook, it gets their attention, and Gannar adds backup remarks including the word "food" as often as possible. This is necessary, since gardening is not something that sounds appealing to them.
In the end, they agree to come up to the castle with us. We present them to Cook, who is rather neutral about the whole thing, then lead them to the kitchen garden. We get a little work out of them, motivating by bread and cheese. Next, we take them to a courtyard full of trees, a sort of arboretum or sylvan orchard, where we want them to plant the young maples.
However, they spot something in one corner of the garden and promptly run away. The courtyard is open on one side, and they dive out that way, into the woods, and we lose them entirely, even though Robbie and Gannar take off, flying after them.
Dafnord and Cook are left behind, bemused. What could have spooked them? Dafnord contacts Daphne, our tree expert, and asks her to come look this place over. She arrives and inspects. The whole place looks normal. To her. For an arboretum in a fairy courtyard. The corner that spooked the Lost Boys contains a nice, big, old hollow tree, and a young rowan, which seems very alive and ... personal. "Hello?" Daphne ventures.
A delicate grey face appears in the side of the tree and says hello back. The face slides up the tree as it and Daphne chat, eventually emerging at a fork in the branches and showing itself to be a complete nymph. She saw the boys run away but doesn't know why. Daphne admires her tree and the two fairy ladies get along famously.
In reply to Dafnord's questions, Cook identifies the nymph's tree as "quickbane" (another name for rowan) and recognizes the nymph as its habitual tenant. But she can shed no light on the boys' behavior.
Back down dockside, Gannar and Robbie give up on their first set and look for some more Lost Boys. They find a couple in the boggart quarter. A little chasing get a couple cornered in a lean-to in the alley between two boggart houses -- or, since these are very rustic fays, in a pile of sticks in the valley between two haystacks or thatched mounds.
We try the sales pitch of food for work again. Gardening sounds like "sissy" work to them, but food's a definite enticement. They want to be very sure they'd be working for "Cook" and not anyone with a slightly different name, such as, say, "Hook." We enunciate very carefully. Also, we mention digging, which is not sissy, being dirty.
So, in a while, we're back in the courtyard, with shovels and urchins. They eye the corner with the rowan and the hollow tree apprehensively. "What's the problem?"
"Who lives in that big tree?" they want to know. Ah-ha! No one, we assure them. Would they like it? No, it's too big. A proper hollow tree, it seems, is about the same inner circumference as the occupant's outer circumference, which is why one this big makes them nervous.
Daphne offers to make them a customized hollow tree, which intrigues them. Daphne also introduces the rowan nymph, assuring them (and, for that matter, warning them) that she'll keep an eye on everything that goes on in this courtyard.
All this is amenable to the boys, who consider it quite a step up to be living at the castle, even if in the shrubbery. The nymph opines that Daphne is nearly ready to make the advanced tree-houses that are bigger on the inside than on the outside. Daphne is flattered, and goes off to coach the maple saplings on seasons, which they'll have to do without outside cues here, there being no changes of temperature or day length.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.