Journey to New Europa
Chapter 39, Into the Soft Spot
We left our heroes at their house in East Acton, having left a new-made soft spot in the world under the guard of Robbie and Mithriel's even newer spectral tarsier (doubly spectral, being made of blue ectoplasm).
In the night, Robbie runs across a ROM in his new body that he hadn't noticed before. It's the owner's manual. He thereby discovers that he can change his skin color and tune his visual spectrum into the infrared or ultraviolet.
Come morning, Mithriel drops by and examines the soft spot. It's unchanged. She then asks Tom what to do about the tarsier. Should it be fed up to full materiality, or allowed to evaporate, or what? Tom gives it a telepathic once-over and determines that its degree of sentience is somewhere between that of rat and dog -- say goose or rabbit. Also, it's rather monomaniacal, being interested in nothing but watching. Tom tells Mithriel to not let it just evaporate through neglect, but feed it up only if she wants to make sure it can't be destroyed by psilence or disenchantment.
At breakfast, Tom warns the help not to be surprised by the blue monkey upstairs (which goes over about as well as you'd expect), and asks de Alqua if we should show an image of the dream fay to Auberon or Morrolan. It's an idea.
The fay looked familiar to us. Salimar wonders if the familiarity was physical or psychic. It was a dream, where the distinction is fuzzy, but Tom had thought it was physical, at least until the question was raised.
We go to visit Holmes, so Robbie can give him the magic decoding slate -- our newest glamour machine. Your write a coded message in Col. Moran's (formerly) secret code on the slate, turn it over and shake it, and, voila, it now reads in plain text. Holmes is pleased with the gift and asks if it ENcodes as well as DEcodes. A quick experiment shows that it does.
We show him a bust of the dream fay, glamoured up by Mithriel. He doesn't recognize it, but then he has little to do with the fays. He does know of a chap who specializes in sprites of this general type -- a Dr. Arthur Doyle. Tom flinches all over and says, in a somewhat choked voice, that we'll look him up.
Just to keep Holmes up to date, Salimar explains the background of the bust, including our trip up to Edinburgh to consult with Archdruid MacLeish and Fr. Thomas of the Order of St. Boniface, and leading through the story of our attack on the train.
In return, Holmes tells us that he has started his work on scotching the Assassination Bureau and the World Crime League. The first indirect repercussions should become evident in a few days.
We move on to the Bavarian embassy, find Morrolan has been called away, leave a note for him, and depart.
Back home again, we use the magic mirror to contact Auberon. (It takes us a few tries to figure out the proper method, which is to stand before the mirror and call out the name of the contactee in an imperative tone. "I'd like to speak to Auberon," "Mirror, please show us the Summer House," and "Mirror, mirror, on the wall..." don't work.) We get audio contact, and we can see Auberon; he sees us as soon as he finds a reflective surface. We tell him briefly about the dreams and show him the bust of the fay. He says he does not recognize it as one of his subjects. Interesting. An outworlder, like ourselves? (Or, conceivably, one of the Unseelie?)
We decide to consult Dr. Doyle. We look him up in the London directory and exchange a few letters over the afternoon. (Victorian mail is great.) He invites us over for tomorrow morning. We then send off a report in full to Auberon.
Over dinner, the tarsier shows up, dancing on Tom's salt cellar. At first, Tom thinks maybe it's hungry for real food (living ectoplasts often are, and thereby begin to solidify). He tries talking to it and telepathing at it, neither of which works well.
Meanwhile, people are wondering what's wrong with Tom. They sort this out and it seems that only Tom can see the blue tarsier. Mithriel is ticked; it was supposed to appear to her, as well. The reason it appeared is that there's activity at the soft spot. We adjourn to Kate's erstwhile bedroom and investigate.
While others probe fruitlessly with assorted extra-senses, Mithriel studies it with her witch walker expertise and announces that the spot is softening still more. Tom pokes at it clairvoyantly and feels something. He tries to contact the tracer he tried to put on that fay. Nothing.
Meanwhile, Robbie goes to the magic mirror and tries to contact Auberon. Nothing. He explains the procedure to de Alqua and asks him to try. This works, but Auberon's only suggestion is to make use of de Alqua's services. de Alqua is underwhelmed.
Robbie asks Mithriel if she can manipulate the soft spot. Not really. Tom tries tossing a pillow into it; it just passes over the chair normally. Mithriel leans forward, peering, her nose becoming slightly translucent, and announces there's something there. Tom probes telepathically and gets the same idea. Robbie tries reaching in, but nothing happens.
Mithriel then decides to step through, and Tom decides he'd rather come with her than explain to Daewen that he lost her daughter in the Twilight Zone. Mithriel produces several yards of glamoured rope from her pocket, they tie themselves together mountaineer fashion, and leave the other end of the rope with Robbie and Dafnord.
Mithriel then witchwalks, fading, toward the chair, wobbles away in 4-D perspective, and seems to get jerked forward. Tom follows. They fall off the telepathy net, though their contact with each other remains.
They find themselves in a place like a surrealistic mangrove swamp. Black, tubey trees branch and branch again and again, until their branches thicken and weave into what we'll call the ground. It looks like a 3-D fractal. The sky is red. Mithriel is tumbling away from Tom, at a distance he cannot clearly estimate; perspective here is trashed. He grabs for her with TK and connects. She's grappling with a bat-like thing of cartoony, rubbery consistency.
(Meanwhile, back in the relatively normal world, the others see the rope fade away into infinity, which somehow manages to happen between Dafnord's fist and the back of the chair. Robbie's pattern recognition routines deliver themselves of several interrupts and everyone else's eyes water.)
Tom pulls Mithriel within arm's reach and grabs her belt. The bat-thing gets more frantic. Tom gives a couple of signaling tugs on the rope just as Mithriel screams; the bat-thing has stuck her in the side with her own dagger. They get pulled back to Earth. Dafnord warms up the autodoc and Robbie picks up Mithriel and pops her in.
Mithriel, it turns out, did manage to damage her attacker: she has a scrap of rubbery wing-membrane in her hand. Robbie examines it and notes that it is leathery yet putty-like, and shrinking. Salimar probes at it with her shaping skills and tries to use them to stop it shrinking. It continues to evaporate or return or whatever, but she determines that it is alive and something she might be able to manipulate. It somewhat resembles her own protoplasm, and may also resemble the tarsier's ectoplasm. After she gets out of the autodoc, Mithriel hands Salimar a sloppily conjured wad of blue goo as another ectoplasm sample; there are definite similarities. (It appears Mithriel's ectoplasm is habitually blue just as Tom's is habitually green.)
Robbie speculates that this bat-like thing was, like the tarsier, a watcher at the soft spot. Mithriel doesn't think so. She thinks it was more of a person, and was trying to get in. Comfortable thought.
Mithriel glamours up a ball to which Tom attaches a clairvoyance tracer. She then throws it down the witchpath that constitutes the soft spot and Tom is able to keep the clairvoyant contact. He sees the fractal mangrove forest, but no denizens in sight. Wait: there are a pair of flying things in the distant (?) red sky.
While we hang our cliff here, we might review our current set of puzzles:
We have the dream-fay and the dragon. Poking at them has yielded a small monster and a breech between dimensions. Whee.
There is clearly a three-way collision shaping up between Holmes, Dragomilov, and Moriarty, for which any one of them could plausibly blame us.
We still don't know how the Assassination Bureau pulls off its near-miraculous murders. (This may not be important, but then again it may.) In particular, we haven't made any progress on the Blackthorne murder, like who commissioned it?
Our friend Katrina Constantine is clearly related by blood to Dragomilov, but we don't know what that signifies. (She may not either.)
We still don't know what caused mahatmas to burst out of and wreck the Theosophists' clubhouse. (We do know that the icky thing chasing the dream-fay felt like a mahatma to Fr. Thomas, but not identical. Was this icky the same as the draconian thing Tom saw?)
Let's not lose track of Mr. Somerset Hall.
And what's all this about Moriarty running around the sewers of Paris?
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.