Chapter 45: Dinlai Returns
A week has passed since Leila the Efrit came. We've got the pantope as
repaired as we can and are ready to try circumnavigating Lanthil once
more. Leila is happy to come with us, and we are happy to have her.
Will the proximity of Chaos bother her? Well, she reflects, djinn are really very much aligned with order, but then this is strictly Chaos' Rim we're going near, and it hungers for order and form, so she suspects djinn would be both empowered and more vulnerable there. Fays would be the same. As a, heh, confusion of the two, though, she expects to be at an advantage, plain and simple.
Dafnord suggests taking a Marginalis with us, since they "cope" with Chaos well, but Tom is reluctant to take an effective minor into a possible battle zone.
We will go armed and armored, and Tom will bring some survey equipment. We'll also take the Pudgie Budgie, for sleeping quarters and as a shuttle. Can we get food supplies from our magic tent with the ever-full fruit bowls and wine pitchers?
Well, the tent itself is still being repaired by elven seamstresses. As to the ever-full food containers, they only appear to work in the tent. (Daphne tries taking some fruit out of the fruit bowl and waiting expectantly for it to refill. Leila is puzzled, seeing a pixie just watching food. Is she making sure it doesn't get away? We explain, and she is not surprised to hear we got them in a country with its own population of djinn. She rather thinks she could make one herself, if we liked. We're very interested. She could tune it to work in the Pudgie Budgie, rather as the others are tuned to work in the tent.
For this trick, she'd like a pitcher of electrum (being personally fond of this alloy of silver and gold). We gate over to the dwarven quarter and look up Namberang, the dwarf who did a clock for Gannar. Tom and Leila explain their desires to him, which he'll happily supply in return for some of the credit Tom has with the dwarves for all the refined metals they salvaged out of the pantope. In fact, he'll deliver a pair of pitchers in two days.
Tom is also interested to hear of minerals imbued with the light from the Lightfall, including "lightsilver," "starlight sapphires," and "firelight opals." But that's all for later. We thank Namburang and leave, after Tom quietly warns him not to use the word "wish" around Leila. "It would be 'culturally insensitive,'" Tom warns him.
"Oh, ah, I see," replies the dwarf. "Yes, we're good at that," he replies ambiguously, and, deep in the caves, Tom hears someone rev one of the motorcycles that are so popular with Lanthil dwarves and are probably part of the reason we were asked to leave Faerie so abruptly... He sighs and goes.
So it's into the pantope and away we go. We re-trace Tom's earlier route, past the First Homely House, past the Siren Beach, past the rocky points where the others met the Purifier. We avoid meeting him again.
We slow down and start searching in earnest for anything that could relate to the attack Tom sustained in this area. Dafnord spies a flicker of something -- some other scene superposed over this one, perhaps.
Alerted, Leila feels around and says the place feels "ambiguous." "I think you have a small leak," she tells Tom. She, Markel, and Robbie perceive something funny in the space near the pantope window.
Suddenly, Leia dives across the room and catches something in one hand. Tom forcibly plugs the hole in his pantope. Leila reinforces this, then turns into a starry silhouette for a bit and thinks.
She announces that there is an abiguity about the area, and gating into it has "softened" the pantope. Someone is now trying to attack through this softness. "You've annoyed someone we know quite a lot," she says, obliquely. We take this to mean Lilith and are not surprised, though hardly happy.
Markel notes a patch of "invisible blackness" which Leila quickly disposes off. More leakage. Bail, bail, bail...
We decide to proceed without the pantope. We send the Pudgie Budgie out, Tom opens the other pantope door back at the castle, then quickly shuts the first one from the outside. The pantope is now gone, effectively back home at the castle. Maybe Tom can summon it at need. Let's try not to need.
We sail on, over the shore. Leila disguises herself as an elf. The land gets misty. The water looks funny, like the gravity or the viscosity was wrong. The sky, untypically for Lanthil, gets dark and starry.
Markel notes something like an island mirage up ahead, but it's only visible to his Second Sight. As we approach this, Leila announces "we are entering it, whatever 'it' is. It's a little as if we were in two places at once." The second place is a deep canyon, she divines, which is what Tom say just before he got clobbered.
Markel can sort of glimpse it, too. Gannar steers blindly according to their directions. Robbie tries sending a flying eye into it. It vanishes, painfully. "I think there are other people here," Leila opines.
Our various clairvoyants then begin to pick up other details about this other place. Glimpses of a sailing ship in the air. Someone aboard it, who is afraid. Female, dressed in black. Something familiar... We reach out telepathically along the clairvoyance.
It's Dinlai. (Who? See:
for more information.)
Leila gives the Pudgie Budgie a nudge, and suddenly we are in the canyon, flying near Dinlai's flying boat. In fact, we barely miss each other. "Tom!" she calls. "You got my message?" "No, we--" Then Tom's memory mugs him, and recalls that encounter, years ago, for him, finding the letter from her in a limbo behind a soft spot in a far-away timeline... "--were investigating disturbances we ... found ... near ... here. But we did get the note. What's going on?"
"Are you the original Tom?"
"The one and only," Dafnord answers for him, after stunned silence on Tom's part.
"Then we're all united now." She goes on to explain that her "Eyrie" and the Black Mage's fortress are both under siege. "Do you know anyone else who's besieged by dragonfolk?" Well, there's us. She hears a bit about our situation and is delighted to find the sequences are lined up right. We discover a new way of dating sequences -- listing who we've annoyed so far.
Dinlai explains that she can't get into her eyrie with her pantope and that "she" has some really nasty tricks to enforce this, often involving the "Blades of Night," which we think we've seen. She's afraid she may not even have any pantopes left. ("Any"?)
If she could get into her Eyrie, she could get some good weapons and stuff, and maybe start to turn these seiges.
We have some good weapons and stuff ourselves. Dafnord considers getting his spaceship, the Munch. Daphne mentions Markel's dragon as a possible diversion. Dinlai approves of this multi-prong idea.
But would the Munch work here? Well, Gannar does, and Robbie did, when he was a machine, and lots (but not all) of Tom's equipment does. But, Gannar reminds, them, Kollan didn't. Leila asks, "Was this Kollan an elf-friend?"
Turns out that Leila sees elf-friend "marks" on all of us, including Gannar and Robbie. Tom, in particular, is wearing "insignia" of three different organizations, and Dafnord has insignia she takes to be one notch down from those.
Fascinating. We can only guess who did this and when, and from what organizations. The Silver Council? The Twilight Defense Force? KaiSen? America-OnLine?
Meanwhile, we go on brainstorming, there in mid-air, in the mysterious canyon, and add witchwalking to the list of possible attack modes. And dwarven miners coming up from beneath. And jaunt cannon? No, but the projectile teleport might work. (The purely magic types start to glaze over.)
But how to get back? Leila can't simply reverse the nudge, but Kate has her trace-back compass given her by the Oakleys. "How refreshing!" is Leila's remark on its magic.
Meanwhile, Dinlai urges Gannar to sail down the canyon as quietly as possible and asks, "How many of you can fly? Everyone got their weapons out?"
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.