The Logs of the TDFS Tindome
Chapter 59: Shiny
"It will probably be a while before my sister returns from Council," says
Nestoris. "Is there anything in particular you'd like to do?"
"Would sightseeing be possible? I wouldn't bring Mr. Wright," suggests Finwë.
Eïr points out (telepathically) that bringing Eric, so that he could be watched, would be a good idea. That's why the captain brings her along, after all. It would be a better idea if it worked.
"Port Carillon itself is a rather small island." Nestoris is apologetic.
"But we've been told to be here."
"I'd be happy to show you around the island. Hmmm. Your ship is entirely sealed in."
"Not really. We can leave at any time."
"Ah, no, I meant, since it is sealed in, you don't have to worry about getting too close to the railing in bad weather. We, on the other hand, are very aware of that danger, and the related danger of walking around on the hillsides, and by the shore. We could practice that awareness."
"Oh, yes. Although, you really only have to be careful when gravity changes direction."
Nestoris mentally shudders. A group of us straggle out of the ship after our elvish captain. Mandorak casts Vibes, and finds this Enormous Phenomenon very near by. He analyzes it in engineering terms. He finds it to be large, but very simple. He tells Bavör, who tests it also, and determines that it is too simple to be a machine. They are agree that they would love to delve into the rock under this hillside.
We climb the hillside. "What's the gravity like under the islands?" asks Mannie.
"You, uh, your captain spoke of this 'gravity' too. What is it?" Mannie stammers his way through a layman's understanding of gravity. The Islander responds with a classic, pre-Newtonian description of the affinities for earth, water, air, and fire. Bay assures him that until "recently" our people thought as he did, but that we now have the view that all material objects exert a pull on all other objects. Nestoris is happy to drop the subject; it was not something he was especially good at in school.
Mannie asks what the gravity under the islands is like, whether it is constant, or fluctuating.
"Well," hems Nestoris. "The flow of the air that travels under the islands moves differently than the air at the top."
"Turbulence?" asks Finwë brightly.
"...a chaos in the air," decides Nestoris.
He leads us to the port town. It seems rather like a nineteenth century New England seaport. Mannie shows Nestoris a handful of gold coins, and asks him if they will work as money here. Nestoris assures us that he has tables of exchange for just about any coin we could possibly have. We enter the tavern, and try their beer (not as thin as some), nut ale (strange, and bitter), and cider (an odd taste). Mannie and Nestoris go through the process of changing his money into local coinage. (Bills appear during the exchange process, but none of them enter our possession.)
Nethora returns, in the company of her captain and two other people. A white-haired, bearded gentleman and a young man with brown hair. They are dressed in trousers, buttoned-up shirts, and the older man wears a sweater and the younger one a vest. They are Professor Praeta and Tam'eh.
"I think that things will go well between our two lands. The Council will deal with your land, and perhaps you can help us with our Troubles." She says.
"Yes, we could even begin now," offers Finwë."
"Perhaps we should start at the tower and equip ourselves."
The Professor looks at us. "Dwarf?"
"Yes," says Mannie. He identifies each of the rest of us by race.
"Our origins here are steeped in mythology. We claim to be descended from a group of elf-friends. Our language at least derives in part from Elvish. It has been much time since we've had much commerce with the Fay Folk." He leads us to the tower. "We will be going underground, so you should get any gear you need, and lamps."
"So, you are descended from 'elf-friends'?"
"There are legends of men of many races being cast out. Some men chose to cast their lot with the fay rather than with other men. They went with the elves, but later there came a time - when the world was flattened - when they no longer felt comfortable with the fays. This may have been the time when men and fay split into separate lands. Perhaps the lands are now tangent and... something special happened."
We arrive at the tower, select our helmets (with lights), and hand-lanterns. He continues, "Our understanding is that when this tearing, this disconnect happened, this flattening, resulted in the formation of this plane that was... special. That plane is where the center of the islands is to be found. As you can see, each island has its middle at the same level."
"Yes, we felt it as we came up to the level of your islands. We thought you were shooting at us."
"Ah. Some humans can feel that plane." He leads us to a spiral staircase that leads down into the hill. All of us turn on our lights. "At the heart of every island are deposits of metals. There are three metals that you find running in veins through every island. One metal appears much like silver, and one like gold, and there is only a little of each. Mostly there is a metal that is a combination of the two. We call they sky-silver, sky-gold, and electrum. Ah, here is one of the grottoes."
Here, the tunnel opens out into a natural cave, with jet-black pools of water, and the reflection of the veins of metal. Teller looks around, and breathes "Oooh, shiny."
Vibes tell us that that 'planar' feeling is stronger. At least it doesn't feel chaotic. "They are also called star-silver and star-gold, because of the way the metal reflects in these pools." Indeed, the reflections in the pools look just like stars. They look more like that than like the actual overhead scene. He warns us that the pools are held in deep reverence, and are never entered. Teller stares down into a black pool with sparkles, "Shiny." Mannie determines that there are two vibey things here: the pools, and the veins of metals.
"Now, we know that our understanding of... things that have body...?" "Matter? Do you means Physics?" "Ah. We know that our understanding of physics is incomplete, but we understand that each element has its own nature, and its own affinity. Earth sinks to the bottom, and air bubbles up if it finds itself below its level, and fire seeks the highest level." (This is just what Nestoris told us.)
"We think there is a fifth element or nature. The electrum seeks its level, its realm of affinity, which is exactly at the middle of the level of our islands. Our ships are made with this electrum. The wood, and other things we make our ships of, change their level of affinity. But the water of the star-pools, and the sky-metals were probably formed when the world was flattened."
"The islands that fell, had they been extensively mined?"
"The first one that fell had been, so we though that might be the cause. But the next one had few grottoes, and was used primarily for pasturage. It was at the very edge of our islands, so we thought it might be a matter of reduced affinity."
"Some people can feel the ripples. We have sent some out as scholar-spies to learn what they could find in other lands about strange events of that time. We have learned that some great thing troubled the marches, and Faery, some ten or twelve years ago. Since then, our ships can only travel a limited distance before they must descend to the water."
"Have your people been able to map out this area?"
"Yes. It has been difficult without fixed points, but we have acquired several interesting compasses, which point to fixed locations. My nephew here is one of the young scholar-spies, and has been responsible for some of the mapping. There are some directions in which there are no inhabited lands. If you had continued on your heading, you would have been on one of those lines."
"I wondered if your maps show a contraction of your space."
"We did not begin this mapping project until the Troubles started, but there are old captains' maps which suggest that you are right. But there is no certainty."
"I would be fascinated to see your maps," offers Mandorak. "I would also like modest samples of your sky-metals, and the water."
Praeta agrees to this, and hurries off to perform the appropriate rituals for removing a sample of the star-water. Mannie and Bay step up to a wall and examine the veins of metal closely. Eric looks for stalagmites and stalactites, as a source of water. He finds them, a dark stone with a bit of sparkle in it. Praeta offers Finwë a little brandy from his flask. The elf accepts, and finds it an acceptable human brandy.
Meanwhile, Mannie attempts to Dice samples out of the rock, and fails. Seeing him there, with his fingertips melded into the rock, Bavör quickly stands behind him, covers Mannie's stuck hand with his own, and Dices him free. After making sure that Mannie is essentially uninjured, Bay Dices out a sample from a nearby area. Eric asks for a small sample of the electrum, and Bay gives him his tiny bit.
Eric rolls the metal into one of his paper darts, and dowses for it to point in the direction of the metal's origin. On the second try, the dart points... deeper into the cavern, or at least in that general direction. It also seems to have that bit of upward twist for pointing Elsewhere. He dowses again, this time looking for the direction of Lanthil. This dart points some five degrees to the right of the earlier dart, and higher in that 'funny' direction.
Now the Professor comes up with a vial of water. He re-iterates the sacredness and importance of the grotto water, and hands the vial to Mannie, who in turn hands it to Bavör for safekeeping.
Eric continues his work, and Binds the direction to the electrum into his dart. On a hunch, he also dowses for Faery and for Earth. Earth is a dud, but Faery seems to be over there, about as much to the left of the electrum pointer as Lanthil is to the right, and its 'height' is between that of the electrum and Lanthil.
Praeta turns to Finwë. "Do you understand the nature of our Troubles better now?"
"Yes. Your story of your Troubles, and of the change in the marches, and so forth, convinces me that your land lies closer to Faery than you think. We will bring your problem to Lanthil."
"You have experts there?"
Finwë checks to make sure that Teller is out of earshot. "Well, not experts on matter like this, per se, but people who understand the nature of physics, rather like you might understand sleeping." He changes subject. "Do you have loose rocks that float near your islands?"
"There used to be such rocks. We cleared them away, as dangers to navigation. There are other rocks, resting on the undersides of our islands, that, if loosened, would roll up the underside of their island."
"Well, we ourselves are not expert in this sort of thing, but I can think of one person who would be deeply fascinated by this problem." The captain looks uneasily at Eïr. "That would be Tom Noon."
Eïr perks up instantly. "Thomas? Himself? Do you think He would... Return?"
©2002, 2006 Ann Broomhead. All Rights Reserved.