The Logs of the TDFS Tindome
Chapter 70: The Lady's Welcome
Our ship is made fast by the urchin-like boys who had been lounging on the dock. Ambassador Rhanna Phila Tahn’aya and the scholar Toma join Captain Finwë Nuüru ho Fanyarë Ciryandil.
“Ambassador Tahn’aya, Scholar Toma, welcome to Lanthil,” says the captain, gesturing grandly.
We are greeted by someone in the uniform of the Silver Service. He introduces himself as Captain Fallataal. Our captain greets him, and introduces our most illustrious guests to him. We learn that we have been gone for the better part of a year, not the few weeks it had seemed to us. “I see that our two projects have come to fruition,” remarks Fallataal. He gestures to his ship, the Duskwind. “I have been forming the Coast Guard.”
“How many hands?” asks Finwë.
“Four hands of hands,” replies Fallataal, meaning twenty men.
“Our mission has been successful. We visited several lands. In addition to the Islands of the Sky, we found our way to Darkholme, and to a pirate island… although we did not interact with those rough characters on a formal basis.” He turns around as he hears footsteps on the gangplank.
It is Eric Wright, with his maps and logs under his arms, and holding the bust of Chekhov upright between his two hands. The bust speaks commandingly. “Is putting foot on stone wharf.” Eric obliges.
Chekhov now announces at the top of his considerable volume, “I am on mission from Alag. Take me to Daëwen.”
Everyone listens to this with great respect. Fallataal recovers first, and prods Finwë about the other people coming down the gangway. Our captain obliges.
Fallataal looks at the young elf with a squirrel on his shoulder. “Not the Aldamir Oakley? I think you’re early.”
Finwë protests, “Surely that’s not the tragedy you make it sound. Well, we should just consult the Lady.”
“Well, actually,” Fallataal admits, “we haven’t been able to find Daëwen for a while.”
“What nonsense, Fallataal. I’m always quite easy to find when you know where to look.” There is the Lady Daëwen, walking down the quay behind us.
Finwë smiles and sweeps a bow. “Greetings, Lady. It is good to return to Lanthil. These are…” Finwë introduces all the passengers who have joined us on our voyage, as they come down the gangplank. She turns to the bust, which is continuing to yell, and places her hand on its forehead. “This is the navigation system of the pantope that was captained by my grandson Alag. Who is now taking The Long Walk.” In the pause that follows, we all realize what The Long Walk means for a time traveler. “He is in considerable trouble. Well, it’s been a couple of millennia, so a few more minutes will not matter.” The carriages from the castle clatter onto the quay.
“Mister Wright. You should know that you have been carrying the navigation system of the first pantope made entirely by elven hands, the Fast Times. It was captained by my grandson, whom I have not seen for some years, although from his point of view it has been many times longer than that.”
Daëwen remarks that our return is unexpected, as is her own, and that our welcome at the castle will be extreme. She, the guests from the Sky Islands and Darkholme, Eric, and the elven captains take the first carriage up. As they leave, Finwë breezily suggests that Mr. Craggenhilt and Mr. Forothon take the Ciryandil children up to the castle by riding a boat up the rapids. The dwarves unhappily agree, and lead them and an intrigued Aldamir towards the cataract boats.
The other people step into one or another of the waiting carriages, and head out. In the lead carriage, Finwë explains the problem of the Islands of the Sky. Daëwen is sympathetic; having just acquired our land, she can imagine the devastation of losing one. Eric explains about that, and our trip through the “interface” to the Sea of Stars, and the invertible spired island. Daëwen is thoughtful and distressed. Finwë explains Eïr’s theory of a dragon. Daëwen then asks for the Ambassador’s opinions on the interface. Tahn’aya defers to Toma, who gives his Aristotelian explanation, involving materials seeking their own level.
Daëwen remarks that she wishes we had come into the New Dawn Shipyards instead of here. Somewhat stiffly, Finwë explains that he thought we should present our official guests, our other passengers, and our documents as quickly as possible.
At her urging, Finwë describes the place beyond the interface. “It was a black sky, with stars all around, above and below us. It was like the middle of the night. On the island itself, there was this spire of rock. When we dug down into the soil, we found a tracery of metal-like roots.” He pauses. “Is this something familiar to you?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so,” she says.
Eric assures her that he has collected tokens from both sides of the spire island, and has a bound dowse for it as well. He shows her the item.
Daëwen mutters, “And Aldamir is early. Oh, Jonathan is not going to like this.”
Finwë thinks, “Jonathan rarely likes anything.”
“I’m afraid…” says Daëwen, “I’m dreadfully sorry, Ambassador.” Suddenly there is a great clatter, and the motion of the carriage changes. “I’m sorry for being so abrupt.” She leads everyone out of the carriage. There are no horses anymore, but there is a nice cottage in a meadow near a pond. The Ambassador, Toma, Fallataal, Finwë, and Eric look around at the landscape, and at the empty carriage. There is no Daëwen. Eric is holding Chekhov.
On the cataract boat, the dwarves clench their teeth and clutch the gunwales as they ride up the rapids. The humans are delighted. Then a soft voice behind them says, “Don’t worry. It’s all right.” Daëwen places her hand on each dwarf’s shoulder. The boat lifts to a steeper angle and leaves the water entirely. “I’m just bringing Finwë’s children to him.” Mandorak screams until the cataract boat lands in the pond near Daëwen’s cottage. Bavör is surprised to find that he takes it calmly.
Finwë hears a faint scream that grows louder and louder, and cuts off abruptly. He excuses himself from the others, and trots over to the pond. He helps Mandorak out of the boat, while the others clamber out by themselves. Daëwen isn’t here either.
They all approach the door of the cottage. It opens, and two young ladies, one who looks like Daëwen, and one with masses of golden hair, step out of the cottage and greet them. Daëwen is suddenly there. She introduces the silvery one as Mithriel and the golden one as Mirien. She then steps inside, returns with a handful of silver coins, which shrink as the last carriage is brought into the clearing. She greets the rest of the crew of the Tindomë, and leads everyone into the conservatory. She is especially considerate of Mannie, and keeps her hand on the shoulder of the dwarf as she leads him inside.
She addresses the Ambassador. “You seem to have caught us in the middle of a state secret. One only brings allies in on such thing, so we are, perforce, allies. Captain, you are to be congratulated.” She directs Mannie to the enjoyment of the geodesic dome of the conservatory, or that of her root cellar. He opts for the latter, which she assures him also has a cask of ale, tankards, ice, and picks and axes for chopping the ice.
“Captain, you may remember that I also sent you to look for… yes, well. Since then, some people have arrived early. I have been looking for a safe place. A name has come to me. A night place. It may be that your island is my place of refuge. I will want to examine it, perhaps today. Oh, some people may need some time to relax.”
Eric remarks, “We’ll need some time to prepare as well. Also, there doesn’t seem to be air very far from the island.”
We look around. None of the passengers are with us, only the crew, Aldamir, Sam, Sarah, and Micah. This could be a manageable group.
We describe the interface, and that we had to make repairs after each passage through it. She decides that this means the interface is unstable. Eric shows her a sketch of the ‘dragon’ and she murmurs, “Oh, dear, yes.”
We also describe, as neutrally as possible, our contact with the Serpent Prince of Darkholme. Daëwen then asks the ambassador about the Darkholme people as well. She is as diplomatic as one would expect, but she nevertheless conveys her basic mistrust of them. Daëwen nods.
Daëwen chatters on. “So this is a state secret and a conspiracy. It is not a coincidence that the first captain of the Coast Guard and the first captain of the exploratory vessel have a great personal loyalty to me. As you know, I do not much care for the great regard that many in Lanthil hold for me – which I blame on my daughters – but the time has come to trade on it. I hate this. That you, on behalf of yourselves and your crews, have no reservations in pledging your fealty to me personally is another factor.” She pauses, and looks inquiringly at Finwë and Fallataal.
“I don’t see any reason why you would think otherwise,” says Finwë somewhat stiffly.
“Of course, my lady,” bows Fallataal.
“Any number of times, people have wanted me to be Queen or Lady, but I shan’t do it. But this time, I need a loyal team to help me build a place of retreat and strength. From the rumors I have heard, and not wanted to, Night Haven is its name. Your dark realm –”
Finwë protests, “It’s not mine.”
“I hope to make it mine. First. It must be explored. Second. These islands, for three reasons, must be protected. The first reason – and I apologize to you and yours – is that Lord Alverin has destabilized it and we owe it to you to correct that. Second, because it is at the gate to the realm of night, it must be protected. Third, I need to do some planning for the future and I will need you for that. The third mission –”
She turns to her daughters. “Mirien, see to Chekhov. He will need to be at least recharged. I have found that Alag is on the Long Walk, whom we lost at the same time as Tom. We have recovered Tom, but we will need to go after Alag. He is one of our best scientists, and we will need his help with your Sky Islands. And, from the point of view of the castle folk, we need to have this done by tonight.
“So, as I set this out so sparsely, is there anyone who has any misgivings about this?” We hear singing from the root cellar in the lull. “We shall leave through the door in the root cellar. Ambassador, I am sorry to put you in this position.”
The ambassador responds warmly. “You’ve said a great deal, and your people have spoken highly of you over the last few days, and we are in great need. You are looking for some degree of secrecy. I see no reason why I shouldn’t accept this alliance when my land is in such trouble.”
Daëwen bows. “Captain, you had other passengers?”
Finwë nods. “For some, I admit, bringing them here was only the first step. Some, I think, will want to go elsewhere. None, I think, would want to return to the pirates.”
“Pirates?” This is the first Daëwen has heard about Port Rouge.
“Where there are seas, there are pirates.”
She agrees. “Are there any among your other passengers whom you would need?”
Finwë cannot think of any, but Eïr can. “Well, there is my pirate. With a parrot.”
“We’ll get him,” the Lady assures her. “Aldamir. Oh, you still have your squirrel. How lovely.”
Jocko is instantly fetched. He apologizes to Eïr, “Sorry for fallin’ asleep on duty. It won’t happen again.” He spots Daëwen. “Well, that’s a big ‘un, she is. Beggin’ your pardon, ma’am.” He tugs his nonexistent forelock. Eïr and he walk down to rouse Mannie. The dwarf is in a drunken stupor. Eïr wakes him up. She decides to stall him a bit until Daëwen arrives. She has him refill his flagon. He has to shove past the parrot to do this, which he does without hesitation.
Upstairs, Daëwen remarks to Toma, “They say you are a scholar. What are your specialities?” She stands up. “Is there anything any of you need that is still on your ship?”
Bay exclaims, “My hammer!” “My writing supplies,” says Eric. “I’ve never found anyone who could make us proper uniforms,” says Finwë.
“There will be a day for that.” Finwë is delighted at this, which he takes to be somewhere between a promise and a prophecy.
“Mister Toma, you must tell me, what are your studies?” He hesitantly begins to discuss physics. She leads them down to the root cellar.
“Marvelous ale, your ladyship,” murmurs Mannie, as he leans against one wall. She gently moves him away, then opens the hidden door behind him, and waves people into the tunnel behind it. “Now, my dears, you may feel a little funny as you walk down this. It goes a very long way.” There is even a bit of mist at knee height. We come out in a crystal cave, filled with quartz and amethyst. The two daughters close the door, and we cannot even see where the door should be.
She directs us to a series of rooms on the right. “There are enough rooms for everyone to freshen up. … And there is no longer any need to rush. We have all the time in the world. Mirien and Mithriel can show you to the kitchen, the food stores, the healer’s supplies, and the weapon cabinets.” There are dozens of rooms. “I have been supplying my hidey hole for many years now.”
“May I take a token?” asks Eric.
“Ah, yes, the dowser,” says Daëwen. “Of course.”
Eric quickly picks up a slender crystal, and soon binds a dowse onto it.
“We need to learn everything we possibly can about the Islands of the Sky, we need to study our possible Night Haven, and we need to find Alag. This may require making a pantope, which will be hard to do without Alag, or Jonathan or Christopher…”
“Has anyone told you about our difficulties in reaching that pocket?” asks Mandorak, recovering from his overindulgence.
“No. I’ll need to know all about it.” And so we begin.
Updated: Aug 25, 2007
©2002, 2006 Ann Broomhead. All Rights Reserved.