Week 5 Prospecting for Iron
We left our heroes prospecting for iron in a mountain valley inhabited by prehistoric Celts. Sophie, Chris, and Tom had just evaded two particularly sharp-eyed fellows who had become aware of them despite stealth and invisibility.
Daewen and Alag then came up, also invisibly, bringing the skycycle and grav sled with them. We climb aboard and flit off toward the end of the valley cleft, where Tom sensed iron the most. On our way, we pass a dozen or so men in small groups, headed into the valley, probably in response to citing the zeppelin.
We land amid some rocks and look for ore. Despite what we've told Captain Evans and the other New Detroiters, we really know very little geology, and so aren't certain what to look for. Chris knows that magnetite is black and hematite is red, and that's it. We poke around with our extra-senses but even these aren't much use in the face of massive ignorance. Finally, Chris succeeds in using his Alchemy talent to magnetize a black rock, which we conclude must be magnetite. We gather some of that and the putative hematite. Daewen materializes an unmarked flag and leaves it there as a claim stake, then we head back for the zeppelin. While the elves amuse themselves with Glamour enough to start several major myths among any Celts who happen to be watching, Tom calls up Evans on the psionic communicator and arranges the pick-up.
Evans is very pleased with the magnetized ore (though we don't tell him HOW it got magnetized) and asks us to do a map of the area. We spend the next week returning to New Detroit, without incident.
On our return, Sophie announces that she and Chris are getting married and starts her wedding preparations. Evans is invited and is sentimentally touched. The other members of the pantope crew react variously:
Lorelei laughs uproariously, goes out, and spends the next evening or so with a large fraction of the male population.
Pfusand purchases some rice from some traders of the Eastern Empire, which Alag then multiplies using Glamour.
Tom takes a brass ring and, by combining Binding, Telepathy, and Total Recall, makes it into a mental scrapbook of Chris and Sophie's courtship starting with the dramatic moment when Chris plucked her from the grasp of pirates and the German navy on the South Seas. (Nate is tactfully omitted from these memoirs.)
A couple of days before the wedding, Sophie finds an unmarked bundle in her room. It contains a slightly iridescent white silk wedding dress of pretty good fit. When she puts it on, it LOOKS like it fits even better. Sophie correctly infers that this is a gift from Daewen. She gladly accepts it even though, to a sufficiently literal mind, the dress is not there and she will be getting married in her underwear. In the case of this gift more than most, it's the thought that counts -- it's the principle active ingredient.
Lorelei, back from her bender, gives them her diamond ring that she used as a focus for various Deryni magics.
Pfusand gets Chris a guitar.
Chris gives Sophie a topaz ring, its value enhanced with Binding, Glamour, and, of course, the sentiment. Sophie gives Chris a cloak and shift which are not only pleasing to his fashion-conscious eye, but psi-proof.
Captain Evans, however, stuns us all by giving the couple his spare zeppelin.
We give the newlyweds a week's honeymoon, preparing for our trip out to the Sultanate, where we believe the diadem segment to be. Alag, who still doesn't exist as far as the New Detroiters know, sneaks aboard the zeppelin and puts in massive amounts of Bound Levitation to save on hydrogen requirements and cushion any falls.
We launch in due time and spend the next ten days floating over rolling forest land, heading for a pass through the mountains and the Lidi Plains beyond.
Meanwhile, back in Africa, in a mountain cave, in the 16th century, Cantrel is getting bored watching a patch of mist. Weeks pass. One day, without warning, the patch of mist disappears. A day or so later, just as Cantrel is almost ready to start hunting for us and wondering where to begin, the patch of mist returns. By now, ten weeks have elapsed for Cantrel. Between boredom and curiosity, he has no patience left. He grabs his equipment, bids Victoria a hasty farewell, and dives through the misty anomaly.
He comes out a mile up, above the Valley, just as we did. The pass leading to the waterfall and New Detroit is shrouded in mist. He spots herds of beasts, the city of Soa, and scattered villages. He tries to raise the rest of the party on his old hand-comm from the Jack. This works by radio and is thus jammed. Oddly enough, so is the psionic communicator, only not as badly. It's full of static but he thinks he can heard faint voices in response to his call.
He devotes a couple of days staying airborne and looking around. He discovers:
As he nears the pass, and its mist, he spots some creatures flying above him. They are in fact Mahars, the intelligent pterosaurs, but Cantrel has never seen or heard of pterosaurs; dragons, on the other hand...
He says, "tweet," thus turning on the eagle glamour laid on him long ago on Middle Earth. This just seems to attract the interest of the "dragons." Cantrel notes that they do not follow so closely when he approaches the zeppelin. He hovers around the thing as it plunges deeper into the mist, but occasional giant wingbeats tell him that the "dragons" are following. He then hears the roar of the waterfall and, still hovering over the zeppelin, comes out of the mist over New Detroit.
The Mahars move off. Seeing the still-higher-tech city, he tries calling us again, and succeeds. We explain we are in a zep of our own, far to the west, pursuing the next segment. Alag sets off a red flare of Glamour, to give Cantrel a bearing. He sets off through the air, planning to meet us tomorrow.
He lands at sundown and sleeps in a tree. He wakes around 2 AM and feels eyes on him. "I'll give you indigestion," he tells the eyes. "Go away." He is wearing a psionic translator, so the owners of the eyes understand him, presuming they have language at all.
Sure enough, they answer, "We don't eat talkers." The voice is VERY odd. "What are you?" it asks.
"A Cantrel. Pleased to meet you."
"Greetings, A. Cantrel."
Cantrel then calls us up. After a little cross-talk, we determine that these are Mahars, intrigued by a flying human who turns into a bird. They don't like the Sultanate, who hunts them and kills them. They don't care to join our expedition, and so depart peaceably. Cantrel says he'll meet with us next evening.
The next afternoon, our zeppelin comes through the great pass. It will be much to conspicuous to be of further use as we approach the flying city, so we park it in a box canyon and proceed to hide it. We deflate it, making it MUCH smaller, pack bracken around it, then cast Glamour on the bracken, then cast Cloak and Shield over the Glamour. Daewen sets some triggered glamour of ferocious beasts should anyone blunder into the area. After all the cloaking, the zeppelin is invisible to the material eye, and the glamour is invisible to Deryni probes, Tom's psychic senses, and Chris's Chyoxan Detect Magic spell. The zep is THOROUGHLY hidden.
As we march off across the plain, we are accosted by three hairy, gnarly individuals -- australopithecines or homo habili or something of the sort. They try to ambush us, but Lorelei spots them. Daewen draws her word and makes it burst into flames. Chris shoos them off verbally, with psychic translator. One runs away at the sight of the sword. The others turn tail after one burst of weaponry from us. We stalk off, leaving the englamoured image of Daewen, baring the way with a flaming sword.
That evening, Cantrel joins us. Daewen spots the first sign of the city on the horizon. Next morning, we see dust kicked up by horsemen, riding athwart our course. We lay low. Around noon, we reach clear sight of the city. Much to our relief, it does NOT look like the floating castle in Chyoxus. That looked like a stone iceberg with a few turrets on top. THIS looks like Lewis Carrol's "tea tray in the sky," a flat layer of stone with the city built on top of it.
We wrap ourselves in invisibility and cloaking spells, then proceed with our spying, by land and air. We pass another band of horsemen, patrols it seems. We can see these more clearly; they wear light armor and pointed helmets and look very Arabian. They use lances, spears, and swords. They are darker in color than the Chyoxans.
When we get closer to the city, we find another city underneath it, off to one side. It has a wall, plus a lot of tents around the outside. Large platforms, air-barges of some type, move back and forth between the ground city and the one in the air. Another patrol rides by.
We hide in a nearby patch of woods, set up a small, discreet camp, and then sneak off to look over this Upstairs / Downstairs city. We discover that the flying city itself is a very classy place, full of walled courtyards, towers, and bridges. They style is lush Arabic. The populous all seems to be of the same race -- Semitic mixed with African. The women go veiled; armed and unarmed people mix freely; some of the arms include rifles; there is no obvious slave class; they all pray publicly and in unison, Moslem style.
Down below, the population is mixed. The East African Moslems are the largest group, but there are many others; there are obvious slaves; the women are either veiled, foreigners, or low-class. People do not have to present papers, but they can get challenged for being in the wrong place and get herded out. The place looks like a trade city; the upper city looks more like Beverly Hills or a vacation resort. Talk about class structure.
The air-barges are about 30 feet on a side and have no obvious means of propulsion. At one point during the day's investigations, Sophie, who presently has the detector, sees it point straight toward the floating city, somewhere near its center. No one is surprised.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.