Week 21, Caught in a Storm
We left our heroes in Massawa, following the trail described in Holly's journal, in the hopes of intercepting Musgrove and relieving him of the Eye of Dalgroom. We have just rented a small Arab-style sailboat with a crew of three and a guide. We are headed north up the coast of the Red Sea, looking for a fjord-like inlet. Cantrel, as he usually does on the water, gets sea- sick.
Our first day of sail is uneventful, but our second gets rough and Cantrel's mal-de-mer gets worse. The captain says there is worse ahead and we passengers had better go below. Cantrel seeks a secluded cabin and levitates himself, hoping to cushion the effects of the storm. The storm, however, gets bad enough to keep hitting Cantrel on the head with the walls of the cabin.
Alag stays above, keeping a look-out for the inlet. He spots something and sends out Second Sight to verify; yes, the inlet. Working his viewpoint in further, he finds the rock formation shaped like an Ethiopian's head. He puts a tracer on it.
We ask the captain to go out to sea and wait out the storm, which he is very willing to do. Up on the mast, Alag hears an odd buzzing sound. He shinnies down a few seconds ahead of the lightning bolt that strikes. We have now lost a good deal of steering-power needed to get out to sea.
The crew starts rigging a short emergency sail. With it, we manage to avoid being washed toward the shore, but cannot make headway out to sea. Alag starts shoving the ship with TK, binding more and more force into it, up to a grand total of about 1.75 tons (!).
We make progress for about half an hour, then SNAP, the rest of the mast shears off, taking the jury-sail with it. Alag cuts the mast free but not before it pulls some railing out of the ship. Alag uses his TK to turn the ship into the waves, since this is obviously what the captain is trying to do.
Half an hour more and Jonathan discovers that the ship is leaking. Tom joins the crewmen below, patching things. He augments their efforts with a little binding.
Next morning, the storm is over and we are least still afloat. The captain says he can put us ashore but he can't pick where. That's fine with us. But we've overshot our goal by some distance. Tom conjures an axe and Daewen, a saw, so the crew can set their spare mast and aim for shore a little better.
Around noon, the crew reports a lot of underwater rocks. We must either take the boat ashore or go out to sea and try again. We decide to land here. We disembark a mile north of the inlet. As the Ethiopians head back to Massawa, we settle down on the beach and clean our water-soaked equipment with diligence, care, Alchemy, Maxwelling, and elbow-grease.
We reach the inlet, then the rock formation. We camp for the night at the foot of a cliff. Next morning, our first job will be scaling it. During the night, the elves on watch think they hear someone creeping about up on top of the cliff. Alag sends his Second Sight, but finds nothing.
At dawn, we start climbing. Or at least ascending. Jonathan is embarrassed when Daewen has him grip her with unseemly tightness, but embarrassment is swallowed up in startlement when she then flits him up the cliff piggy-back, on her own strength (greater than his), aided by the flying belt.
At the top of the cliff is a cleft. It is overhung and sometimes is, in effect, a cave. We hike through it for half an hour when Cantrel's neck crawls and we find ourselves ambushed. Unfriendly natives are casting spears down at us from the top of the cleft. Only Cantrel was ready and parries the first spear with his nunchuks.
A heated battle ensues, spears versus guns. Guns win, though with some injury. Jonathan, blessed Sensitive that he is, happened to be lagging behind and missed most of it. Except for the native he "felt" sneak up on him. He can't shoot for sour apples, but the misplaced gunfire attracted the attention of Daewen and others. Jonathan's Sensitivity was still running as the native died -- a fascinating phenomenon for him to watch psychically. E-ech! opined several others, over the telepathy net (another fascinating novelty to Jonathan who had seen it only a few times before). Pfusand radiated a strange and aloof non-approval. There are a couple more dying over hear if you want to study it, the ex-Naza points out. Jonathan snaps out of his clinical mood.
We muffle up in invisibility and, with Cantrel on point, sneak on through the cleft. The gunfire has attracted a party of two dozen warriors, coming down the cleft to meet us. We hide in the crannies and Daewen sends a mirage party back the way we have come. The warriors follow it.
We flit on ahead and come out of the cleft, into an immense, steep-walled bowl of a valley. This, according to Holly's journal and the novel "She" (read back on the pantope), is the hidden home of a very unpleasant tribe. We have already met some representatives. Across the floor of the valley is a treacherous swamp (did you ever meet a trustworthy swamp?), and Holly and his godson crossed it only by being captured. We propose to fly over it.
Sophie (ironically): "I'm so glad we spent weeks on the ship and in port being subtle about psi."
Daewen: "Well, if the worldbenders are still after us, they don't need our psi to find us."
Sophie suggests we put some telepathy triggers on Cantrel and Jonathan, since they cannot initiate contact. We do so.
Sophie then suggests that Daewen create a Glamour pattern than will hide us all up and down the electromagnetic spectrum. She has a hard time suggesting this, having only a dim notion of "electromagnetic spectrum." But Daewen gets the idea, then spends an instructive half hour with Alag, teaching him the same.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.