Journey to New Europa
Chapter 45, Preparing to go through
We left our heroes at home, late at night, surveying the corpses of two would-be assassins who were sneaking up on our place to kill Katrina. They were apprehended by de Alqua, who killed one and was unable to prevent the other from committing suicide. What to do with the bodies?
Robbie suggests throwing them through the soft spot in Kate's bedroom, into the unknown dimensions on the other side. Dafnord suggests feeding them to the autodoc and burying the leftovers in the basement. But the autodoc is full up on its biochemicals, and burial in the basement is not nearly as permanent as it sounds. Mithriel worries that traffic through the soft spot will make it softer, but we decide to risk it. She has to lead the way, but Tom insists on coming to help and guard.
Each takes a body, and they pass through. The scenery on the other side is surprisingly normal. There's ground, for instance -- rock, covered with dark fog, or maybe dark and untransparent air. Tom looks around with sight assisted by clairvoyance and sees that the rocky ground rises to their left, then drops off in a little ridge. We turn the other way, trudge down hill with our macabre loads, and then toss them. The way back seems longer than the way down. That might be gravity, but then it might be something odder. Mithriel finds the soft spot and starts to lead the way back.
As we are making our exit, Tom feels a presence. Reaching out telepathically, he feels that it may be no more than a clairvoyant viewpoint, rather than an immediate presence. It's looking for something. Us? As he takes the last step back into the Falkenstein continuum, he probes a bit to--
Snap! Tom closes his telepathy and nips out of the soft spot.
Thanks to telepathy, everyone in the party can admire the way Tom does not really quite scream. Later on, he admires the nail marks he dug in his own palms. The vague presence suddenly blossomed into The Monster, the highly aggressive, powerful, and unpleasant thing that looks like a shadowy dragon, feels like a mahatma, and has been appearing far too often on that side, in dreams and clairvoyant visions, pursuing little fays and, occasionally, us. Like just now. Whew.
Robbie checks our dimensional survey equipment and notes that the curvatures have increased again. Damn. Since we can't calibrate the equipment, we don't know how much softer the spot has got, or how far it is to ripping, but it got softer.
We feel that the soft spot needs guarding.
Considering this and our recent encounter, Salimar sets up a triggered psi jolt, such as she readied for Tom when he first went exploring in Kate's dreams. Only this one is keyed to the mahatma-presence and is MUCH rougher than the mere distraction she set for Tom. On the physical side, this entails leaving a glass tumbler in the room, containing a few drops of what look like mercury but are, in fact, bits of Salimar.
The blue tarsier trots in, carrying Mithriel's quiver on its back, followed by Mithriel with the silverwood bow that goes with it. The tarsier's appearance reminds Tom about the question of whether or not to feed it up to full materiality. If it's to come with use soon into unknown dimensions (which looks likelier ever minute), it needs all the reinforcement it can get. Tom advises Mithriel of this and goes to scrounge up some meat and milk for it.
Mithriel fiddles with the dimensional survey equipment and then begins building some more with the family glamour-tech. She winds up with a candle flame (sans candle) on suspended one side of the soft spot, a crystal ball on the other, and, further on, at the "focus," a bell jar with a bell in it. If the curvature changes any more, the candlelight will be deflected, the result will be caught by the levitating lens, and the bell will ring in warning.
Tom goes about putting telepathic shields on everyone, with triggers set to go off when they yell the word "Shields!" It might help against The Monster.
We now go to sleep, leaving Robbie and Salimar on watch, and Kate on the dream monitor. Around 2 AM, the dream monitor pings. Salimar wakes Tom, who finds nothing recorded. Feeling around the edges of Kate's mind, she does not seem to be in any dream state at all.
Then Mithriel's soft-spot monitor goes ping, too. Robbie goes to wake Mithriel, but meets her in the hall, already emerging with bow at the ready and quiver slung over the gauzy nightgown. She looks over the soft spot and says it's definitely softened again. Belatedly, the dimensional survey equipment registers the same thing.
Auberon has told us that, if this really rips, it could make life unpleasant to impossible all over this world. And Mithriel thinks she can fix it. From the other side.
So Tom sends Dafnord off to gather up the luggage we came in with, and Robbie goes to wake everyone else. Father Padraic however, is already awake. Seems he had a nightmare. (And the monitor set on Kate picked it up??) Robbie directs Fr. Paddy to Tom, who is curious about the dream. Fr. Paddy describes a classic Kate-dream: a childlike fay, probably a Seelie of some kind new to him, was calling to him for help. Fr. Paddy found the lad, but he was afraid of him. There was a great feeling of urgency, and of being lost on a cosmic scale.
Soon, everyone is packed into Kate's bedroom. Kate gets to wake up with a worried-looking priest bending over her... To probe this latest news from Beyond with a minimum of further disruption, Mithriel creates an ectoplasmic/glamoured firefly and Tom sets a clairvoyant viewpoint on it.
The bug flies through the soft spot and Tom (and, by telepathy, the others) sees an even more mundane landscape. The land is still rocky, but the darkness is more clearly fog, and there's vegetation -- silvery grass and a grey tree with silver leaves. There's something rectangular leaning on the tree.
We steer the firefly over and see it is a folded piece of paper. Littering in the Twilight Zone? We send the firefly crawling in. By its light, we see that there is writing in here. Tom and Robbie combine clairvoyance and image processing to get a clear look at it. To his considerable surprise, Tom is able to read it. It is in Hremish, a language from quite another world. It reads:
If you see this, see me at your earliest convenience.
Dinlai Finlei Alatar
Dinlai (often misspelled "Dimlai") is an enchantress we know, from the world of Hreme, a family connection to the Black Mage who helped the pantope crew (of which Tom is a veteran) escape from that world and back to the pantope "Dance of Hours." In return, we helped the Black Mage build a magic-based pantope of his own. It appears Dinlai has also been experimenting with world-crossing. But what a place to receive mail! Salimar suggests that this latest softening is from Dinali's messenger trying to peek through.
Tom feels about but detects no presences. At his request, Mithriel starts work on a more robust insect to bring the letter back for possible retrocognition.
About now, Tom notices that Fr. Paddy, like the rest of us, is packed and ready to go. Tom asks him if he knows where we're getting ready to go. He does, as much as any of us. He is anxious to go rescue that fay, who was, after all, calling to him for help. (This is a telling blow to any objection from Tom, since that's what Tom would certainly do himself.) Also, he wants to continue his discussions with us on the theology of fays. Ooooookay. Tom gives Fr. Paddy a triggered Shield, too.
Tom points out to Katrina that, although we have been entrusted (if that's the word) with her safety, her options are now 1) to go with us into another dimension with at least one very nasty customer in it, or 2) stay here without us, with the World Crime League gunning for her and no home or family left. That's assuming we're going, which looks likely. She is understandably flummoxed and says she needs time to think.
Mithriel fails to conjure a suitable insect and volunteers to go in herself, to fetch the letter. If she goes alone, she thinks she can cause very little additional damage to the soft spot. Reluctantly, Tom agrees, but sends a clairvoyant viewpoint through with her.
On the other side, she hears a faint call for help. While she returns to the soft spot, to reappear looking over her shoulder, Tom sends the viewpoint after the sound. Clairaudience and dowsing quickly lead him to a cliff. A small figure lies crumpled at the bottom, apparently fallen. A shadow falls over the figure. Tom looks up. The Monster is stooping on him like a giant falcon. Not on the figure, on Tom's viewpoint.
Tom has enough time and presence of mind to drop his telepathic feed to the others. The viewpoint goes wild, tumbling out of control, relaying psychic impressions of enormous and imminent malevolence. Tom blanches and Mithriel leads him to a chair. The viewpoint snaps.
But what's happening to the unfortunate figure yelling for help? Is it the fay from the dreams? With the world of Hreme fresh on his mind, Tom wonders if these childlike fays are the same as the Faar tribe we met there. No, but he now realizes they are the same as the halfling fays we met early on our expedition into the Chaos Marches. There were only two of them, lurking in the woods near the ruins of a village full of violent and tragic traces, psychic and material.
Tom, telepathy down, reflects on this out loud, to the confusion of de Alqua, Katrina, and Fr. Paddy.
What to do next? Salimar questions if we want to leave this world if we can't get back. Robbie suggests we could use Katrina as a token pointing back here. And what about the magic mirror? In mid-deliberation, we leave them.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.