Chapter 46: Hide and Seek
We had just encountered Dinlai, she in her air-boat, we in the Pudgie
Budgie, floating in a twilit canyon very much Somewhere Else. And Dinlai
had just asked if we had weapons ready. "Er, why?"
Because she'd noticed a "soft spot" developing in the space near the canyon wall over there.
Gannar starts steering the Pudgie Budgie away down the canyon as fast as it'll go. Dinlai follows. Robbie asks Leila if she can close the soft spot, since she did something simlar aboard the pantope a short while ago.
"I can push it aside," Leila offers. "Could you push it into the rock wall?" Robbie asks. She'll try. She turns into a black, starry tornado, flies over, and re-forms on a little ledge on the cliffside. She then does a certain amount of gesturing, then smiles.
All well and good, but Tom and Dafnord then notice something odd about the twilit mists above the canyon. They're stirring. Leila follows their gaze, registers dismay, and just sort of disperses in a dark, starry puff. Tom and Dinlai cast invisibilities over the two air-ships, and Tom goes on to cloak against clairvoyance.
(An unfortunate side-effect of this is that no one can see anything of the ship except themselves—and their own feet look pretty foggy—and a bit of the deck they're standing on. People standing very close are transparent outlines. Otherwise, it's empty air. However, we can feel each other on the telepathy net, so it isn't too unworkable. Gannar wishes he could seethe front of the boat, though, for steering. Robbie obligingly finds the prow and stands at it, marking it telepathically.)
After a tense couple of minutes, things get even tenser when the vortex in the cloud shimmers and a dozen dragon-riders explode out of it. They don't look at all like Markel, being decidedly reptilian, and their dragons look different from his, too.
They surround the area where Leila played with the soft spot, apparently looking it over. Then a thirteenth figure emerges from the big overhead soft spot—a figure with wings and a tail. The mounted riders appear to defer to him. He flies over and makes mystic gestures, looks frustrated, and causes some sort of explosion in the rock face. All through this, however, no one looks at us…
After the who's-been-messing-with-my-gate? investigation, though, the group fans out and starts scouting up and down the canyon. The winged leader hovers in the middle, and for a nervous moment stares our way. ("We're not here, we're harmless, we're not dangerous, we're not interesting at all…" Dafnord broadcasts on our net, firmly believing attitude helps in these situations.)
Eventually, they re-group in mid air and fly off down the canyon, away from us, toward Dinlai's beseiged Eyrie. The gate in the clouds is gone now.
Gingerly, Tom and Dinlai begin talking again, as we put still more distance between us and them. Tom asks what kind of place this canyon is. It's an in-between place, she tells him, a scrap, not a world. But it connects to two World Trees, one physical and one nine-leveled and metaphysical. This made it desirable real estate to both Dinlai and the Black Mage, who both have residences in it.
Leila condenses out of the atmosphere. She wasn't able to observe much in her dispersed state. Tom offers to put her on the telepathy net, but she declines, saying it would probably be painful for him. Considering how hard it was with nephilim, she's probably right.
We find a side-canyon and sail down it. Careful poking around reveals only one goblin-like fellow, who seems to be utterly terrified of our passing air-ships and, possibly, Robbie's flying eye (if he noticed it). We leave him be.
Given some breathing space, Dinlai offers us tea. In the tiny tent she erects on her ship's deck. (Dinlai is from the same world where we got that handy, ever-provisioned tent we used to keep in the pantope.) We happily accept, find the tent a lot bigger inside than out, and resume planning.
Pantope invasion? Dwarven sappers? Witchwalkers? Leila's teleportation? Starship's? …
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.