Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...
Part 8, [The current "move"]
After a few moments she continues, "Perhaps it would be best if you stayed here, so that we don't risk your missing the council."
Daewen turns to Braeta and Tom. "Is there anything more that you need -- either in terms of information or equipment -- in order to investigate? Alag has the fast Times and I've no idea just now how to contact him. I expect he will be here for the council, but it would be best not to wait.
"You have one of the three Maps of Here, right -- the one that Alag and I made together.
"I'm afraid I've no notion of what you may need for such a trip. I might suggest March Ponies, but Lord Alvirin is so concerned about the border's security that he has nearly every available one under a March Warden's seat."
She pauses in though and for the other's to consider their needs.
"Hm," says Tom. "I was thinking only in terms of exploring the planet Destine. But you bring up a good point when you mention March Ponies. We might well want to dodge back and forth between the Seen and Unseen, and for that, far better than a March Pony, would be one of the family witchwalkers. Are any available to ask? Mithriel, perhaps? Or Mirien or Nick? It might be a good idea to take Blue, at least -- Mithriel's little lemur-messenger."
Daewen laughs softly. "You know, there was a time when 'transportation' meant fliers and lighters, air cars and spaceships to me, and a time when it meant horses, wagons, walking sticks and boats, but now if you talk about going somewhere my first thought is mirrors and pantopes, March Ponies and Witch Paths. You're right. The first order of business is having a good spaceship. I trust you two have one, or you can get on from Cantrel?"
"Yes, I've chartered one. It's waiting on Helene." replies Braeta.
"Good. Still, my instinct is that with dragons appearing mysteriously and a whole colony disappearing, you want some of our special stuff, the Map of Here and the like, and a Walker."
"Lady! Lady!" Angel comes running in. "Another comes. One that walks. He comes!"
Daewen stops and turns towards the passageway from the kitchen. A tall fellow, slender for a human, husky for an elf appears in the door, large slouch hat in hand. She takes a look at him and laughs.
"Tethykles! If it isn't Mr. Walker himself." Her voice sparkles with laughter, and for a moment there's no sound of tiredness in it. "Speak of the Devil, and here he's likely to appear instantly. Come in. Come in. You know Chris, I'm sure, but I don't think you have met Tom."
Tethykles shakes his head.
"Tom, this Tethykles of Atalantika. Tethykles, this is Tom Noon, and his companion Braeta."
Tethykles ambles over with such a long stride that even though he moves rather slowly, he covers ground quickly.
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Noon, Miss Braeta. Hello, Chris." He stretches out his hand to shake hands or clasp arms with them.
Tom smiles politely and shakes his hand. "Tethycles," eh? He turns the name over in his mind. "Sea glory." And from "Atalantika." Tom has heard that "Atlantis" is closely linked to High Faerie, populated by a mixed population of elves, half-elves, and mortals, and ruled over by petty dragon-kings. He looks Tethycles over, trying to guess his racial makeup. "Tethycles" is a plausible name for an Atlantean. But "Walker"?
"Is Walker a professional name?" Tom asks, experimentally.
Tethykles smiles quietly. "Professional? No. It reflects a curse I was under for..." He pauses and shrugs, "quite a few years. Professionally I am a shipwright and mariner, but it has been a long time since I could take any pleasure in that."
"And this is Jeffé, and I think you've met Angel." She introduces the two Marginalia. Tethykles shakes their small hands as well.
After a moment Braeta speaks, sounding rather as if it took her that long to find her voice.
"Excuse me. you're Tethykles of Atalantika? The Walker?"
"The very one, ma'am."
"I've heard about you much of my life, but I was never sure that you were real."
Tethykles studies Braeta for a few moments, then smiles a little gnawing at the inside of his cheek. "And that would have been quite a long time, now would it, Ma'am?"
"Yes. It would. My father was Taeouaeoes." This time as she says the name the vowels are different, longer and rounder than when she had first spoken the name to Tom.
Tethykles looks a bit grim, then smiles. "A long time since I heard that name in full." he says. "And even longer since I've met an offspring of his."
A long silence comes over the group.
Tom clears his throat and asks, "Are you, ah, familiar with Lady Braeta's people, then? It's all very new to me. New just today, as a matter of fact." He looks Tethycles over again, for signs of kinship to Braeta.
"Familiar? Oh, yes, I am quite familiar with such folk." There is a tense edge to his voice, "Though it is perhaps not fair to call them a people, as if they were all of a cloth. So few, and so dispersed, they are more a number of individual folk with a bit of common ancestry."
"Please, have a seat. Join us for a drink or some fruit. What brings you to my home, Tethykles?"
"Silverhand and Nightingale asked me to come make arrangements for their visit, to see if there was any special preparations they should make, or folk or things that they should bring."
Daewen sighs as the business of the day once more intrudes.
"I see. I was expecting somebody. Perhaps we can discuss it this evening, after dinner? Please stay. There aren't nearly as many here as there will be for the Council, but enough that we'll be having a big dinner."
"Please, just 'Daewen'. There will be enough formality soon enough with kings and viceroys lords and ladies."
"We were just discussing a journey that Tom and Braeta will be making. He'd asked for a Walker when you arrived."
Tethykles smiles. "My pleasure to oblige, though I have my own name back."
Daewen turns to Tom. "I'm afraid that all the witch walkers that are around at the moment are running in and out carrying messages as we ready for the Council, Tom. but you mentioned Blue. Hmmm... Mithriel's a little tied up just now, but I bet she would loan out Blue to her favorite uncle."
Tom recalls that, for him, Mithriel was last seen dozing at table while Daewen said she needed to start working out her time-tangles. But that was in what Tom supposes is Daewen's future. He wonders if Mithriel is "a little tied up just now" in a time-tangle. He's probably lucky that Daewen didn't say blankly, "Why, isn't Mithriel with you?"
"Angel!" Daewen calls out only slightly louder than her conversational tone.
"Yes, lady?" He calls out on the run as he enters the area a few moments later.
Daewen smiles maternally, "M'dear, could you see if you could find Blue? I think that Mithriel left him here."
"Oh, yes, Lady. Blue here. See Blue near stables." He frowns, "Not like loud noises. Noisy men may scare. Angel will find."
He races off at top speed, swerving among the fruit trees.
"Will there be anything more, Tom?"
Tom shakes his head. "I can't think of anything more. Unless you think we should talk to Master Tethycles?" he suggests, nodding toward the new arrival. "You spoke as if his arrival was another coincidence we should heed."
Well, I believe in coincidence less each day but this was amore of one than an omen I think. When I said you might want a walker, I meant a Witch Walker. Tethykles, though, was called Walker or Mr. Walker for ... a very great number of years because he was condemned to walking for transportation."
Tethykles nods, "Yes. any boat I set my feet upon soon sank. Not a pleasant fate for a shipwright, but then curses aren't usually intended to be pleasant. Although I suppose many might see the other half of my doom -- to walk the earth until Atalantika rose again -- as a more pleasant fate." He sighs deeply. "I did not always."
"Lady! Lady! Have Blue! Have Blue!"
Angel comes rushing in clasping and clasped by a blue lemur.
He tries to hold it out to Daewen, but he is short and the lemur has several appendages wrapped tight around him. Daewen is obviously struggling not to break into laughter.
Tom grins and says, "Here, Angel, I'll take him. If he'll have me." There ensues some negotiations with the lemur.
That accomplished, Tom turns back to Tethycles. "I did not mean to bring up unpleasant subjects, sir. Please excuse me." Tom is still trying to size up Tethycles' species. Human? Elf? Nephil? Half-elf? The ever-popular None Of The Above?
"Think nothing of it. It is a doom that I had to live with for quite some time. Your question was nowhere near as unpleasant as the daily enduring of it, and here I am reminded of the events that once more allowed me to feel a deck beneath my feet. That, I assure you is far more real and important to me."
And that name. Heracles, "Hera's glory," was principally dumped on by Hera. Is or was Tethycles in the bad books of Tethys, whoever and whatever Tethys might turn out to be?
"Daewen, do you think Master Tethycles would be interested in hearing our story?" To Tethycles: "Sir, we were just now discussing what to do about the tale and the problem Mistress Braeta has laid before us. We had thought to go make more investigations, and then, perhaps, approach the High Elven courts about it if that seemed needful. But here you are, an emissary of those courts, by a chance that Daewen points out seems too neat and handy to be truly mere chance. Shall I go on?"
Tethykles nods looks a question to Daewen who nods. In turn, he smiles at Tom and nods, "Please Mr. Noon. If you would care to recount it, I would be happy to listen."
Tom summons up his mnemonic skills and gives as complete a recitation of the situation as it appears Tethycles' patience will tolerate.
Tethykles listens attentively. When Tom has finished this third recounting of the tale he smiles and nods.
"I'm not sure I can be of much help. I have been... away for some time. The last I knew we were in the nineteenth century. A small number of authors had written about the notion of traveling to or from other planets, but it wasn't a thing that was likely to happen soon. In the Dreamtime I met others who were from eras before or after mine, and even one or two... I suppose 'people' is the best word, who were from other planets quite unlike our own.
"I can tell you that the vanishing of Atalantika was related to the Exile of the Great Houses from the Earth, though it happened sometime before the War of the Gods that you spoke of. Atalantika was not, I feel quite sure, a part of The Plan. had it not met its own fate, I am sure that when the world was flattened it would have been cast out.
"A few of the Outer Islands, in fact, remained until the Great Exile and the War. One or two may even have remained at least partially accessible for long after. Unfortunately, without access to ships I could not go to them, so I can only repeat what I heard.
"Finally, if you are dealing with the Great Dragons or with the False Rahab's folk, I recommend extreme caution. Both can be quite powerful and dangerous." He stops in thought a moment, "Though you did hint in your telling that you have had substantial contact with She Who Was Once a Dragon, so you must know this already."
Tom is about to answer when his gaze slips off into the distance, as if he was attending to some unseen distant sounds.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.