Week 6, Search for Tambala
We left our heroes scouting out the flying city and its earthbound suburb. Continuing in this vein, Tom clothes himself in a flying belt and several alternating layers of invisibility and disguising glamour, then flits out over the market places and thoroughfares of Downtown (as we have dubbed the lower suburb).
He listens to the questions the guards ask at the gate -- very like questions asked at similar gates in many another world. He then examines the levitating air-barges that convey goods to and from Uptown. The docking and loading procedures are dull, but the barges register on Tom's extra-senses as clearly enchanted rather than, say, some form of high-tech. He follows one up, to examine the method of launch and steering. It's subtle -- perhaps a gesture, perhaps something to do with the touch the bargeman keeps on a polished post at one corner.
The barge is met by a merchant and his retinue, no servants. Unloading is uninteresting, but as Tom turns to go, he just catches sight of a man slipping out from among the bales. He then walks off inconspicuously. Tom notes that he leaves a darkish stain behind on the deck of the barge. Intrigued, Tom slips after him. This man is met by another. Both are in local dress. They get out of eyeshot, then find a quiet back street, where the first man sags against his friend and begins limping. His head is down and his breathing is heavy. The second man looks vaguely familiar.
They pause at a doorway and the second man murmurs something to his friend like, "You all right?" A nod. Tom doesn't believe this any more than the friend, so he turns on the Second Sight using the X-ray option. The man has blood-stained bandages wrapped around his leg. A glance through the good and shadow shows that HIS face is familiar, too, though more Caucasian than his friend's. Tom sends these images to the rest of the group telepathically; Lorelei opines that these are a pair of spies from New Detroit, and Sophie recognizes a similarity to Captain Evans in the face of the injured man.
The darker, uninjured man opens the door, revealing a warehouse, untidily crammed with a wide variety of junk. The two enter, followed invisibly by Tom. As the one starts doing first aid on the other, Tom notices that "Evans" has his face stained with walnut juice or some such dye. Under the local robes are scarlet jackets such as are worn by New Detroit zeppelin crews. This seems a bit conspicuous for a spy, but even more clearly labels these men as New Detroiters. Evans also turns out to be bandaged about the chest. A close look at his buddy shows that this is Tumbati, bearded and turbaned, and so hard to recognize.
Tom retires behind a stack of bric-a-brac, removes the first layer of invisibility, leaving him glamoured as a local, then steps out of hiding. He is instantly covered by Tumbati's pistol. "I'm from New Detroit and I'm here to help you," Tom says in English, with his hands in the air. He then identifies himself as Tom Noon and proves it by "wiping off" the "disguise" while quietly canceling the glamour.
Tumbati relaxes, though he is VERY puzzled at how Tom got in here. Tom is evasive, claiming generally good sneakiness. Tumbati expands further and tells Tom that he and Carson Evans are here to rescue Tambala, Tumbati's sister and Carson's fiancee, who has lately been captured by slavers of the Sultanate.
Tom looks over Carson, who is in rocky shape; he will probably survive IF he gets medical attention. Otherwise, not. He then offers help, which Tumbati accepts, then fakes calling in the others on pocket communicator. (Of course, they have all been listening in telepathically from the start.)
Cantrel and Alag show up. Cantrel removes the injured Carson to our camp outside the city, where Lorelei patches him up admirably. She then makes her way up to Uptown, disguised as a boy.
Once we are all gathered, we make our way out onto the streets, in a direction selected by Tom on the basis of a quiet bit of Finding. We come to a three- story building with barred windows. Lorelei asks another store-keeper if that's the slave market. Yes, but it's closed right now.
We retire to another back street, where Alag, using stealth and patharchic Distraction and everything short of actual magic, climbs up to the roof. He finds the building is built around a square courtyard. In the courtyard are a number of depressed, scantily clad women, guarded by eunuchs. He then nearly blows his cover by knocking a tile off the roof, but he catches and re-attaches it by TK.
Chris, by the way, has been trailing along invisibly and on flying belt, and follows Alag up to the roof. Together, they look over the women in the courtyard. They have a mental description of Tambala, quietly copied from Tumbati's mind as he gave us a verbal description. She isn't there. They begin scanning the building systematically, with Second Sight, guided by another Finding from Tom. They find her in a cell in the basement, with 18 other women. She looks unhappy but unhurt. Alag and Chris put tracers on her, then trace a route from her cell to the street.
Meanwhile, Lorelei sneaks a check on the diadem detector. She gets a clear reading toward the center of the city.
We plan to spring the girl late tonight. Lorelei, Alag, and Tumbati will go up to the roof, Tumbati to haul on the rope to bring Tambala up from the courtyard. Alag and Lorelei will go after the girl, with invisible reinforcements.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.