The Chaos Marches
Chapter 1, Counsel with Daewen
We left our heroes on the outskirts of Vinyagarond, being welcomed home by Daewen. As we stroll back toward the main house, she tells us that she's more than usually glad to see us back because most of the rest of the family is away: Lorelei, Nick, and Ashleigh are off rescuing Chris, Aelvynstar is off traveling with Trisarin, and then there's her immediate problem.
It seems that her daughters, Mirien and Moranna, her niece Glorian, and her doppleganger Daewen of Ennorath have all gone back to Ennorath (which is the elven name for Tolkien's Middle Earth, or a Worldbender mockup of same). Several recent additions to the family were rescued from the Worldbender Ennorath by Daewen herself and sundry other family members. But of course those people have friends and family left behind that they want rescued. So that's what the four ladies are off doing -- a new raid on Worldbender Middle-Earth.
The result is that our population has been growing. The foursome have (wisely) not shown their own faces back here recently, but they've been sending Ennorathi elves back through the Chaos Marches in ones and twos and small family groups. These metaphysical refugees have begun calling themselves after Daewen, who lately has been using the name "Daeanna" -- thus "the People of Daeanna," which, in Gaelic, would be perilously near to "the Tuatha de Dana," an ancient name for elves. So we may be watching a loop close.
Thanks a lot, girls. You know how much Daewen (who's thinking of changing her name again) just loves that kind of time-travel twist. She remarks to Tom that he may have had the right idea in manufacturing his children; sounds more predictable. (Fr. Paddy casts Tom a very puzzled look.)
By the time Daewen has explained all this, we are in the geodesic dome that houses Vinyagarond's arboretum, seated on parlor furniture amid the orange trees, being waited on by Ennorathi elves -- tall, slender, handsome folk with fair skins, grey eyes, and dark hair -- Tolkien's Noldor and Teleri, in fact -- all uncomfortably anxious to serve their Lady, who is looking rather fed up about it by this time.
Time. There's been a slight slide. Our second stay in the First Compact world lasted a couple of weeks, for us, but we've been gone from Faerie for a few months. C'est la vie des fees.
We debrief to Daewen. She takes special note of the little fays we met in the Marches, being persecuted by someone. She must take official cognizance of this, because she is a Marcher Lady, in charge of activities along the Chaos Marches hereabouts. This makes the halfling fays her responsibility.
She doesn't exactly need more responsibilities just now, but on the other hand, this problem is a break from the refugee problem, and the question of where to house them. We make sundry sensible suggestions, like glamouring up temporary housing, putting them in tents, hiring dwarves and halflings to excavate underground houses, etc. All these are being pursued. About the only one that isn't being tried is shrinking them to pixie size and housing them in bee hives. But it's still hard to keep up.
She is interested, as we thought she would be, in Dinlai's letter to us. Last we knew, Dinlai could not use her extra-dimensional magics to visit any place she had not already been by some other means. She seems to have learned some new tricks. Unfortunately, our own pantope, the "Fast Times," is not in port just now. So if we want to go off to visit Dinlai, we'll have to do it ourselves, with Mithriel's witchwalking.
Our turn: Daewen asks us what we would like. Katrina needs temporary refuge. Immediately, we all need a bit of rest. Even Robbie says he would like to shut down for a bit, which gets him a curious look from Fr. Paddy. Fr. Paddy is here to look into the theological status of fays. Daewen smiles and says one of her co-parents is a priestess, so she should be able to give Fr. Paddy some interesting data. (Fr. Paddy does not look disposed to argue the point.)
Tom says he'd like a little time to practice the Second Order Glamour Mithriel has been teaching him and asks Daewen if it could be developed into the witchwalking skill. Daewen smiles and says it would be interesting to try, though that skill seems to be linked to her own family. (Tom keeps a blank face but shifts uncomfortably in his chair. Daewen is pointing out that these skills may be fay-specific and by learning them Tom could be edging from human to elf.)
We decide that, after we've rested and trained here for a week or so, we'll head back into the southern Chaos Marches, aiming for Dinlai in Hreme, keeping an eye out for new living space (which we need more than ever), and referring any beleaguered halflings to Daewen.
Once breakfast is done, we all go off to rest, except Tom, who gets buttonholed by Fr. Paddy, who has lots of questions about:
Later that day, we give Daewen the magic mirror. She hangs it in the Hall of Mirrors, all of which are magical in one way or another, usually as doors to other worlds. This mirror is only for communication, and only works within a given world, but Daewen can still use it to call on an elven scout of her acquaintance (who is mildly boggled to get a call on her belt-buckle, the nearest reflective surface), asking her to come and teach stealth to some of us.
We spend the next week training. Daewen makes time to create some weaponry for our next journey -- two boxes of matched pistols, one each for Mithriel and Tom, nine-shooters that do far more damage than their weight and kickback would suggest.
Tom practices his Second Order Glamour by making copies of a psionic translator of Nick's, for the use of those party members who don't speak Hremish (i.e. everybody but him).
Robbie approaches Daewen about learning glamour from her. She hesitates and explains that she can only teach fay-style glamour, and that, to learn that, Robbie might have to become fay himself. Now, as a machine with a software mind, he may already be pretty arcane, but then again he may not be, and if he isn't, becoming fay could mean a definite change of nature. He should talk to Tom and Fr. Paddy about this.
Puzzled, Robbie does so. Fr. Paddy thinks long and hard, but ultimately comes to nothing more definite than that he is sure it is a serious step, cannot say it is a good idea, but wouldn't tell Robbie no. Tom's conversation with Robbie will be posted separately, but the upshot is that Robbie realizes that learning this skill could re-write his personality to an unpredictable degree as a side-effect. He decides not to risk it.
During the week, Daewen approaches Katrina, who is still trying to sort herself out after the discovery that Dragomilov is her father, and not her uncle as she had always thought. Also, she might be part dragon.
Daewen offers Katrina various aids to meditation and inner peace -- a quiet grotto, a nice grove, a gym, a listening ear (Daewen's). Also, if she wants to find out more about her species, she could try going to the stables and seeing how the horses (some of them fay breeds) react to her. Daewen offers the datum that Katrina clearly is NOT fay, whatever else she may be.
Katrina, accompanied by Tom and Dafnord, takes herself to the stables. Dafnord goes first and elicits no odd reactions from the horses. Katrina gets almost the same treatment, but a few horses do shy from her. The stablehand says they are all of a breed, from somewhere neither Faerie nor Ennorath. Daewen later tells us those horses were brought back from somewhere (she doesn't know where) by Aelvynstar. At they're nervy. So it might mean nothing.
After two weeks, we gather our equipment and ride off to the nearby Marches, accompanied by Daewen. As we near the wall of mist that is the Chaos Marches, we see a figure staggering toward us through the confusion. Tom sends his clairvoyance into the chaos for a better look. It's an adult male, man or elf, looking translucent, distraught, then very, VERY scared. He seems to see Tom's viewpoint, raises his arms defensively, backs up, and is gone.
Daewen wonders if it was some elf coming back from the dead (and gets yet another startled look from Fr. Paddy). They're often rather unbalanced at first, when that happens. Such folk should also be sent on to her; they, too, are her responsibility as Marcher Lady.
She gives Mithriel some small physical token of Hreme, to guide her way, and we say good-bye.
Soon, we are marching along another stony ridge through the mists -- probably not the same ridge we set out on first time. Eventually, it goes down and dead-ends in chaos. We turn back and come to a fork that certainly wasn't there last time, but that's chaos for you.
We try the new fork, and Mithriel tries her token, but gets no guidance. At her suggestion, we step off from chaos onto a witchpath, which is only a small difference.
We are startled to encounter a figure speeding toward us through the air -- colorless, translucent, in ragged clothes, ghostly or banshee-like. Mithriel retreats before it, Salimar casts an ectoplasmic barrier, and Tom and Robbie draw their guns.
The ghost splats, bug-like, on Salimar's impromptu windshield. We get a momentary better look; it could be our returnee. It pulls back. We try to talk to it. It mouths silently. Tom tries telepathy. The sheer fright in the creature freaks Tom and the telepathy freaks it. It fades away, but an unlocalized voice cries, "They're coming!" "Who?" Salimar asks. "Bad. Many. They're on the move!" "From where?" she asks. A skeletal hand, translucent, appears, pointing back the way the ghost came. And we're alone in the mist. For now.
Tom tries calling Daewen, but we are too deep in nowhere. Mithriel guides us to the nearest place -- a bit of woodland heavy with fog that's probably part chaos. We talk things over. Salimar suggests Mithriel send something back home to warn Daewen. Mithriel sits down to start creating a small messenger, but is startled and annoyed when the blue tarsier pops out of her back pack. Does Mithriel want an errand run? 'Cause that's what he's for.
Mithriel conjures up a message instead of a messenger. Salimar looks at the Map of Here, which, as is usual in chaos, is basically on strike. Then we step back onto the witchpaths, to send the blue tarsier home to warn Daewen of some invader that even the dead, apparently, are afraid of.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.