Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...
Part 5, In the Conservatory
"Ah, here we are." She smiles as they enter the conservatory, the great dome of Vinyagarond.
"Lady!" a small voice calls out.
Tom turns to see one of the Marginalia running eagerly their way. It's Leader. He's carrying an elegantly carved elven staff and wearing far less ragged clothes than when Tom saw him last. It would seem that he has suddenly remembered the dignity of his new accouterments, as he comes to a skidding stop and strides towards them.
"Tom. I think you know..."
"Jeffy!" he interrupts. "Name now Jeffy. New stick!" He holds the staff up proudly.
Tom laughs. "El Jefe, eh?"
Daewen smiles and shrugs. "It's not my fault. Though I do plead guilty on 'Angel'."
She turns to Jeffy. "This is Tom's friend, the lady Braeta, Jeffé. Braeta, my I introduce Jeffé, the Leader among his people, who are good friends of ours?"
Braeta smiles and curtsies. Jeffy bows solemnly in return.
"I am so glad you came, Jeffé. I hope you'll be at the Council meeting."
"Oh, yes. Great Lady. Angel says many leaders be there. Great lord Alvirin. Great Lady and many. Many manies!"
"Good. I'm counting on you. You'll help us keep everything in perspective."
"I will, Lady?"
"You will. Come on. Let's all go sit under the trees."
Everyone agrees and they make their way over to the large wicker couches by the orange grove. Daewen picks and passes around oranges, and once everyone is comfortable, she continues.
"So. that takes care of the Council and Alvirin's visitation. What else? Ah, Jonathan, bless his heart, agreed to go to Lanthil and see that everything's in hand there. The first groups you left there are building settlements under his supervision. Dwarrowgard agreed to send him a number of dwarves to help build us a town or a keep. Lanthil will be much bigger than Vinyagarond, and we'll need markets, gathering places and so on.
"It only figures that they'd send those lot. After all, it was Aelvynstar who taught them to make those things. It's only fair to send them to us."
She makes a sour face and then bites into her orange, perhaps to cover it.
"I never realized it was going to take so much. But, enough of my problems. How have you been? Metaphor holding up? Where's everyone else? And you said that Braeta needs our help? Perhaps you should fill me in."
She pulls her shoes off and settles back into the soft cushions in one corner of the great wicker couch, pulling her feet up under her.
Tom itches to ask what the hell the "metaphor" is, but his caution wins. He already gathers he is going to go to the first Council later (sigh), and maybe he will know about the Metaphor by then.
Never mind. It is more important to update Daewen. He described her to Braeta as the heart of the New Blood. He meant that socially, but it is also true, to a degree, etiologically. Partly because of her central social position, she is the baseline, the chronometer of Lanthil. This makes it important to update her carefully.
"The others are off on an errand," Tom tells her. "It's for something out of sequence that cropped up out of the woodwork, so I won't go into details unless you really insist. But it ought not to be too tricky." (After all, they just go there and buy out Aelwe's owner, right? How complicated can that be?) "I was expecting them back any day, on Helene.
"Braeta now... Braeta, I am going to condense what you told me for Daewen's benefit. Please correct me if I've misunderstood.
"Braeta is a nephila. She is a veteran of the Flood, the Titanomachy, and Ragnarok. It appears that some nephilim -- those with enough spiritual heritage, at least -- can be initiated to a higher level of magical power and so stop aging, among other powers. Those disasters represent efforts by the Powers -- or some Powers -- to purge the Earth of nephilim. Perhaps only those nephilim who were in the god business, perhaps all of them. The actual battling was done by agents, notably Dragons.
"Braeta and a few others managed to avoid notice and lay low. After interstellar travel began, a small group of them snuck off to found their own private colony, a world beyond the Veil Nebula that they named "Destine." Recently, Braeta went out to Destine herself, only to find the colony deserted and devastated. She found bits of weaponry and armor bearing a "Seal of the Great Dragons."
"She came to me because she'd noticed us long ago, in Hong Kong. Both times. She thought we were nephilim ourselves. I've cleared that up, but I thought we might be able to help anyway.
"First, I see no reason why dragons should go about persecuting nephilim who weren't even on Earth any more, much less playing god games.
"Second, it occurs to me that these may be related to the Lilim and Lamiae we have been in conflict with ourselves. Do we want them to acquire a colony world by stealing it from nephilim?
"Third, some nephilim -- which is to say demigods -- could be useful allies to Lanthil.
On the other hand, there are obvious issues of celestial and draconian politics to consider. So Braeta and I have come here to consider them with you. However--" Cough. "--I didn't know about the Visitation and the Council. This could either be a very good or a very bad time to bring up these subjects."
Daewen chews a section of orange slowly, collecting her thoughts.
"Well! That may not be the last thing I expected to hear, but you're getting close." She smiles a bit laughingly, "As to the motives of the Dragons and Great Powers I really can't say. I... I cannot say why, but I have never wanted to know any more about, or to have any more contact with the Powers than necessary. I suppose all that time with them being just an idea, just mythic figures, well, I got used to it. To think that I could talk to someone like Lord Alvirin who met, talked with, even argued with them, well... It just didn't seem quite fitting."
She pauses a moment in thought, "Actually, at least from this perspective, I guess I'm glad you've come just now. As I'm speaking, I'm realizing that this is one of the reasons I've always been hesitant to interact with Alvirin directly. I've left that mostly to others, and I think it's because of how close his ties have been to the Celestial Courts. Knowing that may help when he visits."
She nibbles a bit of orange thoughtfully, and then continues. "But as to your other two points, about the relation of the Dragons to the Lilim and the advantages of having allies among the Nephilim.... I cannot say that the timing pleases me at all."
She turns to Braeta, "I'm sorry, m'dear, I don't mean this to sound inhospitable at all, and if you truly need the aid, we will not turn you away. After all, I learned a lot of my manners from Celts as well as elves, and you are a guest in Vinyagarond, my home.
"None the less, now is really not a time when I would, if I could, choose to complicate matters by involving the Family, the New Blood or Faerie in any more relationships, for good or ill, with Powers, Dragons, Nephilim ... or anybody.
"We're still guests on Alvirin's Land. What we do affects him and his, and the whole process of disentangling ourselves seems to be getting more complex by the moment. And when we are on our own we will need a while to figure how we will govern ourselves. Will the Silver Council stand? Will we adopt an All Thing? Will Lanthil fragment into small bands and villages? For myself I'd sooner we answered those questions directly before we, some small group of us, act for all of us."
She smiles and shrugs.
"I take it that neither of you knows any more about the relationship between whatever Dragons were involved on that planet, on Destine, and the Lilim with whom we're so... entangled?"
Braeta faces Daewen and says, "If by the Lilim you mean the children and followers of She who Was Once a Dragon, then no, I do not. It was said that when the Powers and their agents and allies moved to force the Great Houses off Earth that she aided them, hoping to regain some favor, and that by their conduct they did her cause no service. I don't know how you are entangled with her folk, but I would advise you to have as little to do with them as possible."
Daewen sighs, "It's rather too late for that, but your advice is well founded and I appreciate it." She turns to Tom, "So, Tom, what more do you know? What do you propose to do? What do you need?"
Tom ponders a while before answering. "I know very little more than I have related. As you remarked, I'm Early, but I don't even have much information on this from out of sequence." (There's the nephil woman with the Family features, but she could come about in many ways; there's no need to bring her up now.)
"What to do? Well... I'm not sure. I understand your reasons for saying this is a bad time. But Time is something we have some desecration over. We could wait until all these issues about Lanthil and Alvirin are settled, then address ourselves to the question of Destine, and still send a scouting party to Destine, to arrive the day after Braeta left." Tom watches Braeta and Daewen both -- Braeta to see how confused she may be by this, Daewen to see if she finds the idea palatable.
Braeta looks a bit puzzled and Daewen a little troubled for a moment. A thoughtful look settles on her face while Tom continues talking.
"That leaves a wide window for more complications to arise, but we could reduce that problem by having the scouts skip ahead before getting equipped and briefed and leaving for Destine. In fact, the group I was with could just skip back and go to Destine, if I could get word to them..." He trails off, thinking of ways to contact Aelwe's rescue party. It ought not to be hard to send a note to the Authority Zone...
"On a different tack... Braeta, you now know that our group -- the New Blood -- aren't nephilim." (Yet.) "But here you are in Faerie, only hours or days away from the chance of meeting Lord Alvirin himself. How would it be if you took the opportunity of his Visitation to make an appointment to see him yourself after he had finished his business with us? Maybe Daewen could present you after the Council is over. That way, the New Blood need not become entangled." [Fat chance, says the player.] "Of course, that depends on how you think Alvirin will receive you. Am I using familiar names, by the way? Do you know who Alvirin is?"
"Lord Alvirin? Do you mean the First of the Faerie High Born, builder of the Fair Realm?"
Tom and Daewen nod in assent.
Braeta breathes in deeply and thinks for a moment. "I, I don't know. I ..." She pauses and looks a bit shaky at Daewen, an expression not suited to her nephil features. "If you, Lady, can admit to trepidation at meeting with Alvirin or the First Ones, the great Powers because you are used to them being myth or just ideals, then you may understand how I may feel, since they have been the authors of my greatest misfortunes, and the death or at best exile of my people."
She shifts a bit in her seat, "Lord Alvirin, they say, turned his back upon the remnant of his people left on Earth after the Great Exile and the War of the Gods. Others say that he used them, used them as spies so that without directly flouting the Word and the Plan. Either way it was a cold thing. to meet such cold and powerful being. One who might have chosen to help us. I... I don't know."
She quiets suddenly, then resumes. "I mean him no disrespect, especially in his own land, only that it is a thing not easily contemplated.
"If you think that he might help me, I would be foolish to let such misgivings hold me back. I would be very honored by any help that you," she nods to Tom and to Daewen, "or he might be able to offer."
"I think he might be willing to help, and I'm sure that the Silver Council, who speak for our new Faerie realm, would seriously consider your request for help."
She pauses a moment and then continues, "But this brings me back to the same thought that has been troubling me throughout all of this. We don't know enough. I said earlier that now is not a time when I would have chosen to have our affairs further complicated, but they are complicated, and I cannot avoid that. Faced with the complication, it seems to me that we must understand it before we negotiate with Lord Alvirin."
She shifts in her seat, leaning forward intently, her arms resting on her legs. "The Dragon Kings moving against the remnant of the Nephilim? What of the remnant of Faerie? And what of the New Blood? Unlike the First Blood we do not stay home here in Vinyagarond, and now that there are many of us and we are a people, or peoples, I do not think we will stay home at Lanthil. Do you, Tom?"
Tom agrees quietly.
"And then there are the conflicts with the Lilim. How does that relate?"
She sighs, but with a determined look upon her face. "Both as a time traveler and as an elf, I've come over the last century or two to respect superstition, fate, and coincidence. So far, treating coincidence as omen has never given me cause for regret.
"That you come with this story, just now between the first and second gatherings of the Silver Council, the visitation of Alvirin and the founding of Lanthil, well it must mean something, I think.
"No, Tom, I don't think I like the thought of you waiting until after the council meeting. I'd far sooner have you bring us word before the council."
Tom brightens up considerably. "Ah! Of course! Yes, we leave on the scouting expedition to Destine now and come back before the Second Council." His face falls. "Which would be tricky temporal aiming, unless we come back well before the Second Council, which is probably why I was there at the First Council." He throws a glare at the sky that might say I bet You think this is funny, then sighs. "Oh, well."
Daewen suppresses a smile.
He stares pensively at the ground for a while, then says, "Before Braeta and I go haring off to Helene again, I think we need a little council of our own. A First Council of Destine, so to speak. To pool everything we know about all this -- about Destine, the nephilim, the Draconian role in all this (including the Lilim and Lamiae), and the fay role in all this. Maybe even about the Powers, if there's anything useful say."
He looks up. "Braeta, you, of course, are our expert on Destine and the nephilim. Daewen, who among those here should we ask about the fay side of things? -- about Alvirin's involvement in this Exile of the Nephilim? Is Nick here? Or... or Chris?" Tom hesitates about Chris because, last he heard, Chris was being held prisoner far futureward on the Classical Line. But that was Then and this is, if he is lucky, Now.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.