Journey to New Europa
Chapter 7, Making Connections
Our heroes go back to the hotel after their latest round of investigations. We decide to visit the Bavarian Embassy tomorrow, to discover more about the abduction of Tom Olam. Meanwhile, what to do? How about gathering background data?
Cailin goes down to the front desk and asks where one would go to hang out with fays. The clerk is taken aback by the question, but after spluttering a bit, says that fays are best sought around extravagant entertainments, since they generally come to this world for the entertainment value.
How about fays in the theater? Very rare; they lack the consistency to work through rehearsals and work in chorus lines and things. But we do hear of some fays in the theater district, especially one famous actor.
We also learn of a nearby art gallery where fay-made art is sometimes exhibited. In fact, some is on exhibit now. We elect to go to this gallery, and then to the theater district, where one of the suspicious deaths noted by Katrina took place -- a politician was killed by a falling vase.
At the gallery, we find banners outside, proudly advertising the presence of a fay artist. Inside, it's mostly humans, of course, but there is a sprinkling of fays. Our own entrance causes a mild stir -- a mixed party of fays and mortals, unknown to the local set.
The fay-made art is landscapes and street scenes of England, especially London -- all done in a highly realistic style with nothing arcane in the appearance or, so far as we can feel, in the execution.
Tom scans the place for evidences of magical artwork and feels some vibes from the back of the gallery. There, he finds some rather fluorescent-looking art, done partly with glamour by the feel of it, highly non-representational: jagged splotches and lightning bolts, rather like the sound effects in a comic book with the lettering reading "boom" and "zap" left out. A quick tally of the telepathy net reveals that it looks slightly different to each of us.
Most of the fays here are Daione Sidhe -- the beautiful humanoids we think of as elves. But there is one fellow who looks more like an animated tree stump, with barky skin and long, long fingers. He's wearing evening dress, however, and has a cluster of admirers. He turns out to be the maker of the realistic street scenes.
Z tries to approach him, but she gets buttonholed by a human who wants her fay opinion of the art. She burbles about the underlying tension of the metaphor dynamically expressing the metaphor of the tension sort of thing, until they glaze over and leave.
Meanwhile, Tom hears a deep voice in a cultivated elvish accent declaiming, "This is really too much. Cheap trickery. It has no business in a serious gallery," and similar complaints. It's our old friend the hussar elf, whom we first met at the train station. He's wearing even more braid and medals and other goop, and holding forth in front of the bit of abstract art. Soon, he'll probably say his baby nephew could do as well.
Tom and Dafnord wander over and join him in conversation. After the usual "fancy meeting you here" openers, Dafnord learns from the elf that he regards the use of glamour in art as cheating and betraying a lack of imagination. He also complains that the fellow didn't even get the colors right, from which we infer that this is not abstract, after all, but representational of something ... presumably something very strange on the other side of the Faerie Veil.
Meanwhile, Z manages to sidle up to the arboreal artist and gushes at him nicely. He smiles back politely. A little questioning reveals that he is not the maker of the surreal piece, and in fact the fay surrealist is a vain and unpopular artist who refuses to be seen with the tree-stumpy landscape painter. Cailin learns we can meet this fellow tomorrow, if we care to.
Back at the other conversation, Tom learns that one can find fays hanging out at a pub called the Scarlet Crow, and that the hussar elf has digs near Holland Park. Tom turns back to the day-glo astral-scape and gives it a once-over with his psychic sense, meanwhile watching the elf out of the corner of his mundane eye. The elf may have noticed Tom's psi and been a tad surprised by it.
After having enough of the gallery, we head off to the theater district to take in a musical comedy with an elven leading man, then investigate this death by falling vase. The play is very nice, and the leading man uses glamour effectively to anticipate Dolby sound. There are very few fays in the audience, but they include our elven hussar and a small party of other elves.
After the play, we make our way to the death site. The victim, according to Katrina's notes, was a high-ranking politician named Jordan. Lorelei, Nick, and Z probe around in their various ways. There isn't a lot of data about the death itself -- a short, sharp shock, as the lyric goes, and waves of dismay from the bystanders.
Tom suggests that someone fay try levitating up to the balcony whence the vase fell. (His own levitation doesn't work well here.) Nick flies up, albeit with a little turbulence, and gives the place a retrocognition. A man of the Nigel-Bruce type carefully aims the vase at the victim, then leaves at leisure and mingles with the crowds below in the street. Once again, a very cool, studied approach to murder.
We accidentally-on-purpose follow the hussar and his three friends into a nice Russian restaurant as part of the after-theater crowd. As we enter, the maitre d' is apologizing for the delay to one of the fay party -- an elf who actually looks middle-aged. Very distinguished, and very handsome, but still showing some signs of age. Maybe he just likes to look distinguished...
Our appearance gives the maitre d' pause. Are we part of the same party? The two groups give each other a look over and decide, after introductions, that we are. We retire to the lounge while they get an extra dining room ready.
In the introductions, we learn that the hussar elf is Iarien and the senior elf is Lord Feanir. The other two members of their party are a human woman named lady Alice and an elf woman named Lady Gwiniel.
We describe to them our conjuration into this world and our assignment by the druids to do something about the current unspecified troubles, which we suppose to involve this other outworlder, Tom Olam.
Lord Feanir, who seems a good deal more intelligent than Iarien, tells us that King Auberon is presently at the Bavarian Embassy, and would undoubtedly give us an audience if we could supply any new information about Olam's abduction. Feanir himself could give us an introduction.
Further conversation, comparing notes about where we're from and where we are, we discover that most fays here can't do magic. Among the very few exceptions is King Auberon himself, rumored to be the last of the Tuatha De. Feanir says that the original magic of this world got used up. It was then replenished when the fays opened their gateways into it, though the energy is now of a different quality. Perhaps it is this that limits fays to a few inherent powers -- glamour, flight, shapeshift, and passing through solids. The talent at these powers varies from one fay breed to another, and each breed has a few additional powers, too, peculiar to itself. But they cannot generally branch out into other forms of magic.
Nick is fascinated by this and remarks that he has found doing glamour in this world pretty easy and has considered making a machine with it. Feanir looks very grave at this remark and has Iarien gently shoo the barkeeper out of the lounge and lock the door.
He inquires of Nick and learns of the family art of making machines out of glamour -- sort of hardware-free software. He tells us to keep mum about connecting glamour and machines. Have we heard of Rhyme Enginemaster? No. Wait, yes. A Bavarian dwarf that recently earned his second name (whatever that means, exactly).
Feanir tells us that Olam brought with him to this world an Italian book on spell-tying machines. The Bavarians hold this skill as a state secret. The whole idea is perilously close to our own craft, even if it is sort of the converse. (One uses machines to make spells, the other uses spells to make machines.) He advises us very seriously to keep quiet about this. It could upset the humans badly. Or anyone else, for that matter.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.