Week 20, On to Rome
Erratum: The map created in the last episode is not a map of Bath in particular but rather provides a continuously updated map of the current locale, with special reference to nearby dimensional activity. It is done with a piece of paper, Daewen's home-made dimensional sensors, bound clairvoyance, and a heck of a lot of glamour. Or something like that.
We find our heroes in two groups, one traveling by train from Bath to Rome, the other already in Rome. The Rome party consists of Lorelei, Pfusand, Jonathan, and Tom. On our first night in Rome, Lorelei decides to fill Jonathan in on some of the "mental techniques" alluded to by Tom as we were fleeing London. She fires up her Deryni nimbus, levitates a chair and then Jonathan himself, and tells him about healing. Tom demonstrates a bit of Glamour. Lorelei then discusses less peculiar techniques, such as karate, sharpshooting, swordsmanship, and the like.
Back on the train from Bath, Alag whiles away the time profitably by practicing his pick-pocket skills. However, he doesn't profit monetarily; he commits various samples of passport and visa to photographic memory, for a quick telepathic dump to Sophie, so she can forge papers for everyone.
We reach London and change trains at Paddington. The map/detector system is still pinging away. We change trains very discreetly and reach Dover without incident. We then take the ferry to Calais and catch the train to Paris, arriving there a little more than two days behind the Rome party.
Somewhere in southern France, Daewen drops in from a stroll up and down the train to ask if she can borrow someone's stunner to keep someone asleep. She has a man in a closet and what should she do about him? He seemed to be sneaking around, investigating us.
Sophie suggests searching him for ID. This reveals nothing like a passport or visa; the fellow is a Frenchman or posing as one. On Daewen's recommendation, Alag looks at his teeth before stowing him in the WC. Suspiciously good, though there are a few fillings. Looking carefully at the fellow's pocket- contents, Alag finds a silver cigarette case with thick walls, suspiciously light. Using a bit of clairvoyance, he X-rays it and finds a mass of printed circuits. So the fellow is a time-traveler without question, or at least the agent of one.
Now, is he a good guy or a bad guy? We strip him of all valuables/equipment and toss him out the window ... gently, using TK to cushion the landing. A few miles down the track, we scatter the equipment too.
Rather than going straight to Rome, we get off in Milan for a day. Sophie disguises everyone (mundanely) except Daewen. Daewen goes off by herself, psychically muffled up in a Cloaked cloak and a Lorien cloak. She comes back considerably shorter and blond, less svelte and more zaftig, though still an absolute knockout.
In Rome, we nervously await the other party, who is a day late. We put an add in the paper, in Hremish, giving them our address. (We've been moving hotels frequently.) Only a day behind schedule, there's a knock at the door. Tom opens it and sees several strangers. He shuts it hastily, does a double-take, and opens it again, belatedly recognizing the group by the assortment of body-builds (excepting Daewen).
Now it's a race to the docks because we are barely in time to catch the ship Lorelei has booked to "Italian Somaliland," as the nearest chunk of Ethiopia is currently called. En route, Daewen provides herself with a nun's habit as further disguise. (Sister Mary Aphrodite. Some disguise.) Once on board, the cruise is frustratingly leisurely, with stops on the north coast of Africa and in Greece. By the time we reach Greece, Sophie has explained to Daewen that nuns are not the sort of people likely to go on expeditions, so she changes costume to general-purpose adventuress. In Cypress, we stock up on guns are arrows.
Then its down the Suez Canal, into the Red Sea. After a net week of travel, we arrive in Massawa. (Are we ahead of Musgrove or behind him?) Massawa is a seaport on a narrow beach at the foot of some cliffs -- outrageously high and steep cliffs that form much of Ethiopia's coast. And the weather has become very hot. And we aren't even in the hot season yet.
Holly's journal isn't much use for making contacts. All the people he mentions are dead, except for Yussif, who is back in London. We find some English-speaking street urchins and use them to ask around after Musgrove, but no one answering his description is in town, so far as we can tell. (There are a disheartening number of Englishmen in Massawa, though.)
Lorelei and Alag raid the customs office one dark night, to check the entry lists. These have brief descriptions in them that might prove useful. Certainly no one entered using the name "Musgrove" or "Masters." Lorelei memorizes the list and leaves.
Holly's journal directs us north, up the coast to some cliffs still more sheer, where there is a hidden cut like a fjord, marked by a rock like the "head of an Ethiopian." A valley empties into this cut, filled by a rapid river. We should make our way up this river to the interior.
We set about organizing this expedition, meanwhile looking about for Musgrove at hotels, along the docks, and among the caravans. The diadem detector, by the way, still flickers dimly, though perhaps a bit brighter than before.
Daewen and Alag take one day out to climb the zig-zagging mountain road up to the town at the top of the cliffs. Almost anyone bound for the interior would pass that way, unless they were following Holly's journal. But they hear no word of Musgrove. We conclude that Musgrove is either WAY ahead of us, or behind us, or very VERY subtle. Behind us seems likeliest. We acquire a ship and prepare to sail up the coast.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.