Journey to New Europa
Chapter 8, Mesopotamia
We left our heroes having dinner at a Russian restaurant in the London theater district, with three elves and a friend of theirs. We struggle with the funny French names on the menu, since French is not one of the several languages we know.
Z just asks the waiters what's good and what they have to drink that's fay. The waiters proudly point out their "steppe cuisine," some of it cooked "very rare." (We're being introduced to steak tartare, a favorite of Russian vampires, probably.)
Tom copies whatever Lord Feanir does. Dafnord doesn't care what he gets, and lets the waiters sort it out for him. Nick knows French and prospers. Cailin telepathically summons her hawk, Kea, from the hotel, and the waiters unflappably produce a piece of Victorian furniture -- a sort of chair combined with coat rack -- for Kea to perch on.
We ask these elves about their homes and get descriptions of their residences in London. We meant a lot further back than that, but fear it might be gauche to say so bluntly. Z asks how long they've been on this side of the Veil. Feanir says he's lived in Yorkshire a great many years, having moved here fro the continent; the old house in Normandy was getting very drafty, due to the primitive architecture, and it has since changed hands during the English invasion. (So he's been over here since before Henry V or thereabouts.) He admits to having had some trouble with the Unseelie up in Yorkshire.
Tom gives up on the indirect approach and asks what it's like on the other side of the Veil where they come from. Feanir says that English doesn't have the words. Tom says, in Quenya, that maybe Feanir could try Quenya. He does, but he uses words that Tom just doesn't know. It appears that the fay realms they come from are VERY alien.
Nick asks if there are fay neighborhoods in London. Yes, but how dull to stay among one's own kind when there are humans about. We say we may have to set up our own household for a while, and Feanir offers to give us the name of his real estate agent.
A formal dinner a la Russe lasts for fourteen courses...
Next morning, most of us wake up and a number wish they hadn't. We were roused by Kea squawking as an envelope is slid under the door. The hawk picks it up and drops it, slightly shredded, on Cailin. It's actually for Nick and Mithriel, being a notice of a package waiting downstairs. It's Son of Clothes, the second massive shipment of tailoring we ordered.
Last night, Nick retrocogged the image of a man who looked like Nigel Bruce, dropping a vase on a government official with great deliberation. He now renders a sketch of this murderer and sends it off to Holmes.
About the time the picture leaves, an envelope arrives from Lord Feanir. It contains his card and three unsealed envelopes, and a note saying it's what he promised us. The envelopes are addressed to Auberon, a real estate agent, and some functionary at the Bavarian Embassy. We send back warm thanks.
Holmes sends back, asking if this is an artist's conception or was it done by an artist present at the murder. Nick answers that the second is closer to the case. Holmes then asks, by return mail, if the details are to be trusted. Yes. Then thanks; he's off to Oxbridge and will see us tomorrow or late tonight. (So we've piqued his interest.)
Meanwhile, Katrina gets a note from Holmes asking for specific pages from the Times.
We try taking the Map of Here to one of the murder sites, to look for extra-dimensional goings on. We pick the place near St. Paul's where the judge keeled over. Nothing, but the map shows some funny business to the east. Various repeated efforts at magical detection give nothing useful, certainly no clear image of the "man in blue."
We head east, tracking the anomalies. They come from a tiny park. In one corner is a stone wall with a gate. Either the gate or the copse within it is ... funny. It's been active on and off for years, most recently just two months ago. We decide that it's probably a portal to the fay realms. Tom probes it with his Knack of Tools and gets a tantalizing feeling he could almost make it work.
Leaving the park, we head to the Smith-Johnston place, where Tom Olam was abducted. A butler answers the door and Tom (Noon) explains our mission. Mr. Wilfred Smith-Johnston appears and is a little puzzled that we don't know that the abduction did not occur in the house or on its grounds, but rather 20 yards down the street. He supplies us with a page boy, Geoffrey, who actually saw the abduction. Geoffrey tells us:
As Olam and a friend were turning the corner, a Bavarian carriage was coming one way and a black, boxy vehicle, like a Black Mariah, was coming the other. Men wrapped in black leaped out of the Mariah and seized Olam and his friend. The Bavarian carriage came thundering to the rescue, but someone in the Mariah threw fireworks into the street and spooked the Bavarians' horses -- Geoffrey points out the scorch marks on the cobbles. The abductors then threw Olam's companion out of the Mariah and thundered off. The horses of the Mariah were heavy draft horses, but very fast, like ale-wagon horses.
Nick retrocogs but doesn't improve on the page's account. The Map of Here shows a faint indication of interdimensional activity nearby -- in a niche in a neighboring garden wall. This activity took place two days after the abduction. Retrocog on this shows a dark-haired elf standing in the niche, blocked from full view by a red-blond man with a mustache, in a greatcoat. The elf produces a gleam in his hand, then steps out of the niche. The human nods and they walk off together. End retrocog.
Back in what passes here for the present, Geoffrey remarks that we ask better questions than the cops did, or even than the fairy lord and his companion. (We decide these were the two we just retrocogged.) The companion, he tells us, was high-bred English. They only asked about the fireworks and the location of the Mariah.
Given this hint, we decide to retrocog on the Mariah again. No new details. But Z does get a feeling of calm, almost deadness, that is not, however, particularly creepy. And a funny kind of psi trace. We try again with our telepathy net at broad bandwidth and, this time, see Olam and friend come out of a door and turn the corner. Then the Mariah doors slam open. The abductors come out very fast and everyone else seems to move very slow. It appears there is some kind of time distortion being done. End retrocog.
We are a little surprised to find it is getting on for evening. (We rose late and haven't felt like eating...) After thanking Geoffrey and tipping him, we split up. Nick goes to the real estate agent and Tom goes to the British Museum for some more research. The museum has a book shop. Tom samples the section on fays and magic.
Back at the hotel, we send out for a modest dinner. Pouring through the museum books, Kate finds a picture of the fellow we saw in the niche. The picture is from a fay history, and the fellow is King Auberon, depicted in the act of signing the First Compact.
Just then, Holmes arrives, full of news. The Nigel-Bruce look alike is an Oxbridge academic, a Prof. Thurston Stoutworthy, student of medieval theology, philosophy, and history. Holmes is surprised to learn that it was he who pushed the vase. We explain retrocog to Holmes and speculate that Prof. Stoutworthy is a member of a secret society, or was magically coerced.
Holmes goes on to draw deductions from a similar picture of the mustachioed man who killed Mr. Brown, the merchant. He is dressed like a low-class thug, but his mustache is trimmed as a member of the upper middle class, ditto his neck cloth.
Holmes also identifies Auberon's human companion as Morrolan, a wizard of the Bavarian court.
Holmes presents us with a guess about the murders -- some of them appear to be carefully timed. And they happen a little over one month (1 month 5 days, or 1 month 8 days, for instance) after the word "Mesopotamia" appears in the Times agony columns.
We search through last week's papers but find no reference to Mesopotamia.
We ask Holmes about the gateway in the park, but he knows nothing of it.
We send for Katrina, who shows up with her notebooks and newspapers. We find several more instances of "Mesopotamia" in the agonies.
Between this stuff and the time-distortion stuff, we feel we have enough new data to interest the Bavarians.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.