The Chaos Marches
Chapter 22, Returning to Helene
We left our heroes in Lanthil, 27 years after its founding, with a lot of tangled time ahead of (or behind) them. But meanwhile it's a chance to rest train.
On our second day, Daewen joins us at breakfast. A little cautious questioning reveals that she has, by now, met Memory and knows a fair bit about the Battle of Lanthil, as she calls the time-folded, chaotic confrontation in the City of the Lilim. She tells us that that Battle has left us with some long-term enemies, which we suppose must be the Lamiae we've met on the ridge-roads in the Chaos Marches.
Tom gives her the ring Vinya, which he conjured in Chaos' Rim, as a memento. She says it makes a nice souvenir of a place she's never been...
Strolling about the castle after breakfast, Dafnord encounters Runyana, a daughter of Daewen we have not yet seen up close. It seems she hasn't met Dafnord yet, either, so there are no time-twists. Or maybe she's just discreet. In behavior. In apparel, she's wearing very odd garb, sort of like something from the set of "Wizard of Oz," the Emerald City scene, only in orange, not green. She remarks that she's back from a trip to a vast place where they have a whole system for crossing worlds, and mountains of ego lying about. [The players rather suspect she's been in the world of Amber, a la Zelazny.]
Dafnord asks after a good fencing master, and she directs him to Suliamon, husband of Vanessa.
Dafnord departs and Tom appears. Tom and Runyana do appear to be time-twisted, from a few hints Runyana drops. She asks anxiously after the date and is relieved that it's only the year 27. She's been gone for a long time on her trip. She asks how old she looks. Tom says about 20. Hm, she's matured a little. Better do something to hide that, which isn't easy in a household of glamour experts. You see, Mother (Daewen) doesn't like people developing big gaps in their chronology. Her motto is "Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life, or else."
Tom learns that there is now a style among the rising generation of the New Blood to go on "The Quest"(tm) -- that is taking a pass through the Battle of Lanthil as a sort of rite of passage ... without telling Daewen, of course (who seems to be developing suspicions nonetheless, from what she said to Tom). In fact, Runyana went on her trip to Amber or wherever as a kind of warm-up exercise to the Quest. Tom stammers that he's sure she'll get there and do quite well.
He can't even stammer when she tells him that the reason Daewen blamed him for Mithriel's loss of sequence is, since he's been scarce these last several years, Nick has taken to blaming Tom for all the temporal screw-ups around the Battle, as a convenient scapegoat. Tom is speechless and feels like going to clean and reload his gun.
Dafnord, meanwhile, has found Suliamon, who recognizes him, though Dafnord has never met the elf before. Uh-oh. However, they are able to set up a schedule for some sword lessons. You see, Dafnord wants to be able to use that sword that Tom conjured and he himself honed in Chaos' Rim. He also picks up a scabbard for it, which he must (and doubtless will) remember to leave off here earlier, preferably after someone actually manufactures it...
With all these twists, it's no wonder that, after a week, Daewen begins broadly suggesting that we ought to be going now. For one thing, Dafnord remarks, he suspects a later edition of Tom has shown up and is lying low until the current edition departs. For another, Markel's dragon can't always tell the difference between game and animal-shaped citizens, and there have been some close calls.
During the week, Katrina made inquiries about dragons and draconian ancestry, but no one here could help. At this point in history, relations between the New Blood and draconian people are decidedly cool... The best they can do is point her to Alvirin's court, where there must be somebody knowledgeable about these thing, the ambassador from Patala if no one else.
So we pack up. Runyana will escort us down the road to Vinyagarond, and there we will split up, taking different magic mirrors. As she leaves the castle, she dusts some coloring glamour out of her hair. That was camouflage, to distract the family from the other glamour she now dusts off her face, which was disguising her extra few years' maturity.
That settled, we follow her across the Rainbow Bridge, which leads over the Lanthil cataract, to a convenient point in the woods where we transition quickly to the ridge. She leads us down the ridge without incident until we come very close to final mists and Faerie proper. There, we are met by some wolves, who growl and bay at us. Runyana makes some amazing noises back, and they leave. They were, she explains, border guards posted by Alvirin.
Soon, we are at the empty house of Vinyagarond. And now we really must do something about Markel's dragon. Tom uses Second Order Glamour to shrink it down to the size of a large dog; that way, it can pass as a real dog, given some simple glamour, or at least as an alien pet. Then we part ways with Runyana and enter the hall of magic mirrors.
Dafnord goes through first, into the house on Co-Dominion Helene. The place is in psilence, because they're very fond of psilence on that timeline and the whole island is blanketed. Dafnord turns on the household psi-openers, so now the rest of us can come through, without having the dragon re-expand on us -- very awkward, especially in a tight place like the frame of a magic mirror.
There's no one else there, unless you count the domestic robots. "Any messages?" Kate asks a floating egg. "Sequence?" it asks back. "Uh, I don't know." "No messages."
Robbie jacks into a data feed and looks up the news files. The first thing the house system tells him is the date -- very insistently. It's exactly 30 years since we were last here (on our sequence). To time-travelers, the date is news. And little else is interesting. No planetary coups or anything.
Dafnord checks the security and general state of the homestead. Everything is shut down, but well stowed-away, not abandoned. The stables were used not long ago. (The place started out as a farm.) Out at the caretaker's house, we find no one, but the mailbox is for Mr. & Mrs. Tyrel Cantrelson. Dafnord leaves a message thanking Tyrel and his wife for taking such good care of the place.
The farm in the distance is new.
Good enough. We transit to the United Earth line, Dafnord and Tom's home timeline. The house is almost as deserted there. The robots still want to know about sequence. Tom decides to find out and calls up a help file. He is confronted with a hologram of himself. "Are you me?" the hologram asks. "I will be," Tom answers. The hologram nods, then instructs Tom in the protocols for declaring your sequence. It also warns Tom to forget this as soon as convenient, so as to be able to invent it anew later. Right.
There are still no messages waiting, even after we know how to declare sequence. No messages we're ready to read, anyway.
We get an air-van out of the garage and buzz over to Pericles, the island capital of Helene. There, we drop off Salimar, who heads for the KaiSenese Embassy, no doubt to debrief to a very interested and highly secured segment of the race-mind. The rest of us go to the security division of Crosstime, the family's corporate presence on these two timelines.
It's like this: we know we have some tangled time to work through, and we've decided our next logical step is to pay a call on Dinlai (at the right time, if we can). From our earlier encounter with her and the Black Mage, it looks like they are having military troubles with the Lamiae. So it's off to the family armory for some serious shopping.
We are met by a gracious and terribly discreet security guard, anxious to know no more than necessary, who issues us updated passes. The passes give us automated warnings, in Cantrel's voice, that we're out of sequence. Thanks.
Dafnord proceeds to order a new, 30-years-improved version of his goop-gun, this time with a supply of solvent for afterward. Also three new blaster rifles. Robbie gets a laser pistol. Both get one of the fancy new pulsed-plasma guns (PPGs). Tom gets a shock pistol.
Robbie also gets a set of "scopes" -- psi-tech binoculars with what amount to X-ray and night-vision settings.
The request for a grenade launcher startles the attendant, but we are going up against dragons. He's even more startled by the request for city-range psilencers. He says they're mostly on battleships, as part of the weapons systems. We are, however, able to requisition one from the Daedalus, one of the company ships that is in port at the moment (and must frequent some turbulent parts of space). It has a 1-kilometer range and is part of the "total assault package" we sell to governments and NEVER advertise.
The party decides that Cantrel has turned space-viking or gone out of his mind, if there's a difference.
Kate and Katrina pick up the latest in miniature, concealable PPGs, for firing little lady-like bolts of ravening plasma. Markel gets a .30-30 rifle. Dafnord yearns for the Daedalus itself, but how would we get it through the magic mirrors?
Speaking of which, how do we move back in time to meet our retroactive dates with destiny? Not to worry, Tom has his private scout ship parked here, the Nones (named after the canonical hour; it rhymes with "stones"). Any FTL craft can time-travel if you're fool enough to try.
As Tom leads the way into the hangers, our security passes turn on zones of psilence, then turn on zones of open psi inside them, all so a glamour of Cantrel can tells us, "You are out of sequence. you are either in trouble or out of your minds." Thanks, Cantrel.
Tom asks the attendant about the Nones and learns it's in the sub-basement of the hanger. We go take a look and see it tucked in a corner, with other small ships, and not-so-small ships, with names like "Alas Alack" and "Croeseus." Tom asks that the Nones be dusted off and readied in the next week.
We then knock off and wander Pericles as if we were any other tourists. At home the next day, the first load of armaments shows up under the guise of delivering a new "sofa." The next day, we get a new "TV" that is even deadlier.
We set off to learn to play with our new toys. In the firing range. Which is in the basement. It's the size of a football field and has several personal arms lockers. One looks Daewen's style, another Tom's, another Cantrel's, etc. All since we were last here 30 years ago. Cantrel is definitely out of his mind. And he's probably steering clear of us because, as ever appliance reminds us at every turn, we're out of sequence.
All right, all right. We'll go as soon as we can.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.