Chapter 5: Mangaboes by Any Other Name
Mangaboes by Any Other Name
Fallataal roughly scrapes down his kalidah hide, rolls it up, and stuffs it, more or less, into his backpack. We march on. As dawn creeps in, we can tell that the foliage in this region is red or pink. Gannar points out that this means we are now definitely in Quadling country.
We intersect a path in the ruddy clay of the area. Glinda says that this will become the Yellow Brick Road of the South. We turn left onto it, continuing toward the locale of the battle arcane. We arrive at the somewhat charred site, and examine it. Robbie is quick to spot a pathway of broken twigs leading off to our left, where something has been dragged away. Kate tries to dowse for the Wizard, but manages only to drive herself unconscious. Robbie tries to revive her with qui, but fails.
"Why does this," Glinda gestures at the almost-cloud of failed qui, "look like the flavor of chocolate?"
"I attempted to perform some qui to revive Kate," explains Robbie, picking up the diminutive elf. "I failed, and this sort of synesthesia is the signature of my failure."
"Qui? Is that a school of magic?" she asks.
"Yes. I learned it on a planet..." Is Oz near Earth? At least it must be far from the Terraform Reach. "...very far from here, er, now."
We don't really need magic to tell us which way the victor went with O. Z. Diggs. Dafnord leads off, widening the trail as needed with a swipe of two from Umbra. We follow, and soon Kate struggles back to her feet, cranky and headache-y.
Daphne contacts the local trees, and asks them where the Wizard was taken. She receives a distant image of a skinny figure bent over and dragging a second skinny figure. The color of the former is shown as blood-red, and those of the latter are dust over a black- green. Glinda does not recognize the description of the first person (The second is definitely our man.) but remarks that it "is trying to capitalize on the cardinal color."
Here and there on twigs, Dafnord spots colored threads, which have been torn from the clothing of the two. Salimar takes up some of the red threads and displays her successful retrocognition: A dark scene is intermittently lit by flashes of magic. In it is a grayish, nasty-looking figure. It looks mummified but slightly decayed, and is wrapped in bandages of blood red, with the sheen of silk. Glinda examines the figure closely, but shakes her head. "This is a time when many magicians were rising in power. I myself was --" She stops, disconcerted by her doubling back in time. "-- am gaining skill in magic to protect my village, far to the south. I don't recognize this one." She shakes her head again.
We continue on, noting in the growing sunlight that the leaves are definitely red around here. A path intersects the trail we've been following, and the drag marks turn left on it. Again we follow them.
Soon we detect that we are being followed -- again. This time there are six stalkers, three on each side of the path. Robbie lofts an eye to examine those on the left side of the path. Glinda draws her wand, while both Daphne and Kate lift into the tree branches. One of the figures to the right stumbles. Dafnord announces, "He's mine," over the net, as he bounds in the direction of the sound. There are startled rustling sounds from two other locales on the right, then a liquid, birdlike call.
Dafnord finds a human-like figure, clad all in leaves, and holding a spear. The Acro snatches the spear away, and points its tip at its erstwhile owner, now crumpled at his feet. "Who are you?"
"Second of Six." He gets no marks for originality.
"Tell me why I shouldn't kill you."
"It would give my companions more reason to kill you." He gets no marks for an effective threat, either.
Dafnord can hear four of the remaining five running off through the underbrush. "You're not as tough as kalidahs, and we've killed four of them."
"We know. That's why we're following you." This strikes Dafnord as a tangled line of thought. He snaps the spear in two, and carries the fellow out to the path. He notes that he is very light and that under his garment of leaves, he is 'wearing' pink petals on his head. He drops his prisoner at Glinda's feet.
Robbie spots the remaining stalker, and ectoplasts him to the bush he is hiding under. A tree grabs Robbie by the ankle and hauls him up into the air. "Stop that, Daphne!" Robbie protests.
Daphne knows she isn't doing it, but ascertains who is. "It's not me! It's that guy you glued." Robbie zaps the culprit into unconsciousness, and his rise into the air stops.
Dafnord strides past Robbie, heading for the hapless sleeper. "You've spoiled my fun," he growls. Robbie removes the ectoplasm, and Dafnord fetches him out to Glinda as well. Meanwhile, the pixie has coaxed the tree into returning Robbie to ground level and releasing him.
Glinda pronounces the two to be Mangaboes, and adds that she is surprised to find Mangaboes in Oz in this era. The pixie gazes at them with interest, and decides that the ones we nearly ran over on our way to Oz seem even less intelligent that these two. Glinda tepidly admits, "It's frequently hard to engage their attention." Privately, the pantope crew thinks that they are as thick as two planks, and that engaging them would require wood screws, glue, and several heavy clamps.
Fallataal is not physically present. He is tiptoeing over the treetops, following the Mangaboes who ran away. He watches one look behind him, then smack into a tree. He decides, even before the good witch identifies them, that these people are not much of a threat. He follows them to a clearing, where there are many others of their kind, and great, cultivated areas of roses with giant pods.
First of Six is still unconscious from Robbie's zapping, so Dafnord questions Second. "We are not 'Mangaboes'," he protests. "We are of the Rose People." Robbie ignores this silly remark, and demands to know about the creature that kidnapped our friend.
He looks blank. Salimar displays an image of the mummy dragging the Wizard. He says, "We don't know what it is. It came and then it went."
Dafnord reiterates that we are only looking for our friend and do not wish to bother the Rose People. Second picks up the still sleeping First, and heads off down the trail. We give them a minute, then head out the same way.
Fallataal watches the remainder of the six reach their garden/camp. Soon, many of the Rose People are headed back towards our group, carrying their spears. Fallataal puts on his kalidah cape, and jumps lightly down in front of them. "Stop! Your friends are returning here. Three or four of you could go help Second of Six. He is carrying First of Six, who is asleep."
They all stare straight at the elf. "We don't sleep," says one.
"We didn't know that. We'll wake him up." Fallataal reports this information back to the main group. We look at Robbie, who slept him, and Robbie looks at Daphne, who can deal with plants, and animated plants like the Mangaboes. The pixie twitches her nose, then walks back to the two, whom we easily passed on the trail, and wakes up First.
"He's awake now," reports Fallataal. He continues to face a spear shrubbery.
First has a few sharp words with Second, and elbows his way out of the latter's arms.
Daphne asks, "Are you all right now?"
"Yes," First stolidly replies. "You must leave here, or you will be attacked." We explain that we mean them no harm, and wish only to find our friend. This is ignored.
Fallataal faces the same situation with his group. Since both groups are walking towards each other, everyone soon meets, and we try to reason with the entire group. Reason does not seem to be their strong suit. Kate decides on an appeal straight to their territoriality. "We want to find our friend. We do not want to be in your forest. Will you just guard your forest against us, and let us walk the path away from here?"
Oddly enough, this works. The Rose People sort themselves out into two lines of guards, each protecting one side of the forest against us. While this is happening, Daphne comes to a decision, and concludes that the tree she has befriended should come with us. The Rose leader escorts us, tree included, down the trail, past their clearing, where there are people cultivating all colors and sizes of roses, and down the trail. He stops where the last pair of guards is standing. This must be the edge of their territory.
"When we have finished our quest, we'll have to come back this way, you know," warns Robbie.
"We will see you," says the leader.
We are resigned to the ambiguity. Kate walks quickly back and forth across the trail. She figures that this will be recorded by the Oakley compass she brought, and we'll know when we've reached their territory again. We continue down the trail.
"Aha!" says Dafnord. "It's shifted over to a travois." The traces gouged into the dirt of the trail are easier to follow, but it means our quarry is now moving faster.
The forest thins, and we come out into a vista of meadowlands. The track below us intersects a real road. To the left of it is a small village, with seven of the domed houses, with their double chimneys, and a smithy. Beyond that is cultivated land. Robbie pops out an eye, and turns it into a bird. The bird swoops down the trail. The scrapes turn right onto the real road. To the left, people dressed in reds, pinks, and browns, are moving around.
The trail leads right, but food is to be found on the left. Dafnord points out, "We could ask them what they know about the mummy creature, and we could eat."
"How will we be able to pay them?" wonders Robbie.
"You don't have to worry about that," says Glinda. "There is almost no money around at this time, but there is a tradition of hospitality."
It is settled. Glinda leads our circus act down into the village. Understandably, a crowd quickly gathers to see the people with a dragon and a tame tree. One small child spots part of the kalidah hide dangling out of Fallataal's backpack. In response, the elf asks her where we can wash up, and where we can get a lot of tea leaves. We are led to a pump at a red-wood trough, and the child scampers into a house.
We wash up. It's surprising how dirty you can get after spending a night walking through a forest. Preparations for tanning the kalidah hide are soon under weigh, while Glinda arranges brunch. The elf is distracted into entertaining the children. He amuses a baby batting at the kalidah paw by making it bat back. Then he pulls a candy out of a boy's ear, hands it to him, and surprises a "thank-you" out of him. We heat up a large rock, and put a tub of water over it, seasoned with tea and oak leaves provided by the children. The tanning is begun.
We settle in for an al fresco breakfast. As we eat, Glinda asks about the wrapped figure. The locals are quite forthcoming; no people who kill kalidahs can be all bad. "She is the Wicked Witch of the Scarlet Ribbons." She has a house or castle on a hill about a day's walk down the road. These people do not go there, so their descriptions are a bit vague. They explain that she primarily stays in her castle or house, and exercises her magical powers. She works with colors, ribbons, and control. This seems to make sense to Glinda.
"Has she ever been know to take a prisoner?" we ask.
"Oh, yes. She's done that several times. It could be worse. Her prisoners can be bargained for."
©2002,2005 Ann Broomhead and Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.