Mother Goose Chase
Chapter 14: What Child Is This?
Fallataal looks up. Another grain falls. Determinedly scanning, he
still cannot spot anything, whether obvious or anomalous. Robbie now
tries, moving his eye up along the line directly above Fallataal, but he
sees nothing in the spectrum from infrared through ultraviolet. He does
spot the next grain of rye appearing from somewhere up there, though.
Now Salimar, still up in the tower with Robbie, examines the area with
her third sight. She is able to spot the fourth grain appearing from a
location about a meter below the thatch of the roof.
She leaves its collection to Fallataal and examines the space. It feels soft, like a good place to witchwalk to or from. Then she returns to first sight and examines the Map of Here. Yes, there is a tiny pin in the right spot. There are also a surprising number of markers on the tor itself.
Fallataal has plucked the four grains out of the air, noting that they seem to be coming faster, and finds seven more on the ground, which he also collects. Meanwhile, Robbie has decided to deploy a tiny ectoplastic net under the emergence locus.
Before he can do that, however, a coin falls out of the air. A fellow dressed in green, whom Fallataal had not noticed before, snatches it up. Silently, he shows it to Fallataal, nods at Fallataal's recognition of the coin, and dashes through the kitchen. The three party members hear a snatch of the Tighmark Choir singing, as Fallataal spins on his heel and takes off after him:
"Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
Back in third sight, Salimar tries to put a tracer on our intruder, but fails. She and Robbie watch remotely as Fallataal slips rapidly through the cooks, potboys, and hangers-on in the kitchen, following the green-clad shoulders well ahead of him. At least he manages not to bother anyone with his passage.
The fellow in green dashes down the hall to the chapter house, around the podium, and up the main aisle to the door. He pauses at the door until Fallataal comes into the chapter house and spots him. Then he holds up the coin for Fallataal to see. Then he shifts it so that Robbie can see it clearly with his third eye, and again so that Salimar can see it with her third sight.
Salimar puts a locator tag on the coin, or at least thinks she does. Meanwhile, the elf has dodged sideways in the chapter house, and gone down the side of the building. Still no one has noticed him, or the green-clad figure. When Fallataal reaches the door, he spots his quarry down at the gate that leads out of the abbey grounds. Robbie decides to physically join the pursuit, and lifts into the air from the tower.
Salimar can see the figure headed for the town gate, so she telepaths the group sleeping at the inn. Kate awakens instantly and relays the situation to the others, including the locations of the elf, the robot, and the really strange alien. We are quickly up, down from our loft, and into the street.
Fallataal continues the chase on fleet foot, while Robbie takes to the air to head for the action. He reports to us when our target reaches the city gate. We make it outside the tavern in time to see him climb over the gate. He is running down the street in our direction as Fallataal deftly tumbles over the gate. He stops, and waits for our elf to spot him and head after him again. Then he turns and trots farther down the street towards us. Salimar tries to tap him, and hits a really slick shield.
Dafnord, holding Umbra, races towards the figure in green, intending to charge directly into him, and so is thoroughly surprised when the fellow vaults over him instead.
By now, we are starting to get very odd ideas about this person. Kate slips to the front of the group from the tavern, and in a clear voice asks, "Pray, sir, are you looking for me?" He gives her a smile of great poignancy, shows her the coin, and races on. Kate broadcasts her intention to follow him, as he so clearly desires. She and Markel take off at a speed that only hysteria can provide. Dafnord recovers from his surprise and is soon close on their heels. Others follow at their best rate. Salimar, frustrated by her distance and her inability to fly, can only observe the chase from her distant tower.
We pound down the main street, around a corner, and zigzag through a series of alleys. Salimar anticipates that we will encounter a difficulty and warns us, although she cannot tell its nature. Robbie flies higher to get a broader view of the area, in case we lose the quarry. Fallataal finally spots the opportunity to cast his three stones under his quarry's feet as he approaches a three-story tenement. His timing is peccable; his stones clatter against a door as the figure in green passes through the door as if it were merest air.
Markel does not even slow down. He slams through the door loudly but effectively, quickly followed by Dafnord and Kate. Fallataal does the elvish thing, and runs up the wall of the building to its ridgepole. "Hi," says Robbie, who settles down next to him. Salimar's vision, relayed by Kate, permits the three inside the building to follow the mysterious being in green along corridors, up steps, and finally into a rush-lit room with a pallet on the floor. In it is a frail child singing a croaky little song: "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John..."
The fellow in green takes his place at the head of the bad, joining a figure in red. At the foot of the bed stand two fellows in purple, equipped with swords. As the song ends, we physically arrive. Markel makes short work of this door too.
The four figures around the bed look at the one, two, then three of us in the doorway. A woman holding a cup comes in from the other room, and, ignoring all seven of us, props up the child so that he can drink. She leaves again. Kate steps forward, and silently casts an inquiring gaze upon our erstwhile quarry.
He declares, "I believe you can help," and holds up the coin again. "Did you bring your luggage?"
At a dead run, on no notice, through midnight streets? Now Kate knows she's not dealing with mortals. "The autodoc?" she asks softly, uncertain of how much of her presence is here.
They all nod.
Kate sends Robbie flying back to the hill. Salimar, pleased to be able to help, digs up the autodoc, and has it ready for Robbie to grab up and bring back. We quickly stuff the kid in the over-evolved sleeping bag, and watch it light up in an appropriately seasonal imitation of a Christmas tree.
The number one signal is for antibiotics, and we relax. It is very unlikely that this era has any microbe that the autodoc can't easily handle. To pass the time, Markel and Dafnord repair the door to the apartment.
Salimar asks why they did not ask us for help, and gets the response, "I just did."
Kate feels very uncomfortable about berating these... beings, and offers only a gentle reproach. "I fear me, sir, that had you but come and wakened me, you would have got as you wished. But we would still like the coin." She gets a nod.
Salimar asks the four ... people round the bed who they are. The one in green admits to being "a guardian." "The boy is yours?" Salimar asks. "He is not mine, but he is my charge." Kate and Faalatal then give mental nudges in the ribs to Salimar, who desists from further questioning, though she doesn't really understand what their problem is.
Soon the readouts show that the boy is better, and on the road to recovery. First the two fellows dressed in purple salute with their swords and leave, then the one in red goes. Finally the fellow in green turns to us and tosses the coin to Kate, who catches it neatly.
Instantly the fog billows up around us and we hear the choir singing about sixpence. Before we can panic in the belief that our group has been fragmented, we hear the whinnies of the Marcher ponies. Salimar pulls herself together first (She's had the most practice.) and locates all the members of our little band. We stumble together, and discover that our luggage is neatly packed just where it should be.
Markel dowses a definite direction. We take up our usual positions behind him and Angel, and set off through the mist. It gets darker, which is discouraging, but warmer, which is a pleasant relief. Our mist gets wetter. It starts to dissipate, revealing that we are (again) on a hill at night. This time, it's raining a light mist. The inevitable chorus sings, "Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?..."
Gannar announces that it is 1568, September 22 at 10:12 p.m., to be precise, and we are near Edinburgh in Scotland. This does not thrill Kate, who thinks of the Scots of this era as murderous savages. (It is, in fact, her own era, and if we insisted on making a trip to London just now, she might have an awkward self-encounter, or at the least we might verify which timeline we're on.)
Salimar locates a target just down the road. Oh, we're on a road, and it leads down from Arthur's Seat. (Gannar informs us that it is a volcanic outcropping.) We trot along, and locate one measly grain of rye. Again. Well, it should be leading us in the right direction. Markel dowses his way ahead, and reports that there are several dots of relevance leading towards the city. Neither he nor Kate nor Salimar can detect the coin, although Kate develops a ripping headache trying. Since we are nevertheless sure that the penny is in Edinburgh, we slowly head for the walls of the city, picking up the rye as we come upon it. Every little bit helps.
Robbie pops out an eye, and scouts the path to town. Everything looks normal. There is a pair of men guarding the city gate, which is nothing special. It does remind us that we should have a backstory. We shed a layer or two of clothing, and tweak what's left. We should have enough money for lodgings and breakfast, and Markel does have some gold and silver, but we must think about money soon. After floundering around a bit, Kate decides on a story. Fallataal and Salimar are siblings (Could Salimar please adjust her face to be a bit more like his?), and we are looking for their uncle, who might be in Edinburgh. His apprentice is Kate's brother and ... we've come up from the South by boat, being put ashore at Berwick, and we're unfamiliar with the area. The rest of us are companions. We decide on names.
We arrive at the gate, state our business, give our names to be written down, and show that we have money. We ask them to recommend a tavern, tip them, and find ourselves inside the great city on the Firth of Forth. Dowsing is still not helpful, so we pick the cleanest looking tavern, and bestow our custom upon them. They are, in fact, happy to see us. We have a hearty supper of bread, cheese, and ale, and are led to our rooms on the top floor. Once we are alone, we do our best to destroy the vermin, and Robbie seals the thatch against return visits.
We get a good night's sleep, uninterrupted by alarums or bites, and troubled only by the snores of the dragon. Mastiff form does not really agree with him. We eat a hearty breakfast of bread, eggs, porridge, and ale before trying another dowse. This is still not working.
Salimar suggests that a retrocognition could work. Markel adds a warning that his dragon is getting restless. We therefore troop back out to Arthur's Seat. Markel pops the mastiff back into a dragon for some low valley flying, while Salimar finds out what's been happening here. She soon has something, and shares her vision with us. A fellow is casually strolling down the path we just came up when he spots "our" coin, and picks it up. He examines it and seems puzzled, but he still pockets it. We get a good look at him; he is a medium tall man, with dark hair and fair skin. His general appearance puts him in the middle class. Salimar puts this event at less than a week earlier.
How wonderful. Who knows what wishes he could have made in a week? And just how are we going to pry a coin away from a Scot anyhow?
©2002,2005 Ann Broomhead and Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.