The Chaos Marches
Chapter 6, Finding Memory
We left our heroes in a clearing in Lanthil, following a leaf-clad leader of the Marginalia into the woods. The leader raises his staff and orders the trees back. The branches, which are very thick certainly, rustle and scrunch, and we are soon following the Marginalis through twisty, tunnel-like paths in the dark woods.
These transition to a cave or tunnel, which comes out into deciduous forest (the one behind being mostly evergreen). We are told to wait, and the leader is gone a long time, with only a couple of other Marginalia left behind to watch us. Eventually, he comes back and leads us on to a round clearing. Within it is a loose circle of nine trees, and in the center of the trees is a cottage, built low, on the Marginal scale, looking very old, thatched all anyhow with loose bracken. Something about it looks familiar to some of the party members, but it's hard to say what.
The leader knocks at the door. He is grey-templed, very old-looking for a fay, but he looks quite juvenile compared to the person who comes out. This is a Marginalis, but at the outer extremity of age, spindly, withered, with wispy white hair. He invites us in, though he's a little dubious about fitting Dafnord through the door.
Inside, it's a single bare cell of a room. "You have come," he remarks. "Yes," says Tom. "Do you know any of us?" No, but he was expecting us. He is Memory, he explains. He talks to himself a lot, he warns us apologetically, to help him remember. He's been Memory since he returned, shortly after the Beginning.
Tom asks for clarification, and Memory realizes that this is going to be harder than he thought. When you talk mostly to yourself, you audience usually knows what you're getting at. Tom offers telepathic contact, but Memory says he was specifically warned against that, though if Tom had come soon, he was to have allowed it. He's relatively sure that, after all this time, it can no longer be "soon."
Tom explains that we're here because (1) we have omens that this place concerns our Family, and (2) the Family is duty-bound to help the Marginalia. This delights Memory; he's quite sure now that everything is on track. All he has to do is tell us The Story. But he doesn't understand it. If he understood, he was told, he wouldn't be able to tell us. He gathers his wits (and apologizes for "wool-gathering," using that specific English idiom), and says that now he'll begin and continue until we are either very old or tell him to stop:
Sometimes, there would be a place. It would be filled with plants and animals, and continue for a while, but then it would stop, and there would be neither a place nor no place. They say this happened many times, though how they'd know Memory has often wondered....
Anyway, that's what the Storyteller said, but he died. All the Storytellers have died, and the last one trained no successor, but Memory tricked the Storytellers into telling him their stories, so now (though he'd never tell the young ones) he is Storyteller as well as memory. (Senile snicker.)
Where was he? (Beats us.) Oh, yes. Once, it happened that there was a place with a person in it, and so the place didn't stop. The place became defined by what the person expected it to be, and it stayed. It was this place.
Sometimes, the person thought he heard someone else. There wasn't. But eventually, he turned around and there was someone else. And after that, there were eventually a lot of someone else's. (This is much simpler than mucking about with ribs and gardens, or hominids and natural selection.)
Now for another story. Let's see, where to begin? Ah! "And so the Evil One fled into noplace, and she found Noplace, and it was like the place that is noplace and not noplace. Like the person in the forest, she defined it, but it stayed only so long as she watched it. She wanted her children, and so they found their way to her, but they couldn't keep things going as well as she could. She said this would not do, so she sent her children Between, exploring. And they found the person and the someone else's, and saw that they could speak and know, and know that they knew. So she took them back to her place, to make it stay. And they try to escape, and she makes it bad for them.
One day, the Great Lady comes. (Tom conjures an image of Daewen and confirms that she is the "Great Lady.") She sees the little someone else's and vows to save them, and she tries a long time, but she doesn't find a way and is sad.
Memory asks her if she cannot do something else. She says she will go and consult with the Others. He said, "How will you come back? How will you know the way?" She said she could. She decided to take Memory to meet the other Great People. They walked the road and saw the Great Man and other Great People. (More images eventually settle that the Great Man is Jonathan.) But there were some of the Family they could not tell (including Mirien, but not including Mithriel or any of the rest of the party; Memory has never seen them before). They consulted, but they came to no conclusion.
Then Memory said, "I have been here too long; I must go back." Then he had a thought, and related to the Great Lady how she had become what she was, and said, "It is in my nature to go back to my people and see them free." Daewen related this to Jonathan, who laughed at Memory. Memory became furious, jumped up on a table in the Orangery (thus coming almost to eye-level with Jonathan) and expressed his insistence with great heat and (for him) eloquence. The "Great Man" then apologized to Memory and said he was sorry he had had to do it that way. (Daewen, too, altered her nature in a moment of great anger as well as determination; maybe Jonathan felt that emotional heat was necessary to Memory's assumption of his new role/nature.)
Jonathan then told Memory that he was now Family, and to go back, and someday Family would come and help. "But I don't understand," said Memory. "If you did, you couldn't help," said Jonathan.
So Memory has come back and outlived many generations of his kin, waiting and remembering. The Evil One does not know of him, and must never know of him. Meantime, she and hers come hunting the little folk and take them away to their place. When the little folk diminish, so does Lanthil, and now there is very little light left -- only the Special Place (the two-tiered mountain) and this, the Last Valley.
Tom's exegesis on Memory's Tale:
We've all seen plenty of the Chaos Marches lately; there is another flavor of chaos, which Tom has read of in the archives of Dwarrowgard, called Chaos' Rim. It is a grade of chaos so hungry for form, it becomes whatever the observer wants it to be -- so long as they concentrate. (Fr. Paddy compares it to the Prime Matter of Scholastic thought.)
It appears that Lilith was driven into chaos and found the Rim, eventually getting her children there, too. She wanted to found a domain there, but the inconstancy of the stuff/place frustrated her efforts and those of her children.
The Lilithites, however, discovered Lanthil and the Marginalia. The Marginalia appear to have some power to stabilize Chaos' Rim, or perhaps Lanthil arose from some chaos that was a shade steadier. (If, as Memory tells, Lanthil and the Marginalia arose spontaneously from some flavor of Chaos, they evidently are something of an echo of Faerie, since the Marginalia are at least strongly fay-like.) Anyway, the Lilithites are bolstering their realm at the expense of the Marginalia and of the land of Lanthil itself.
At some point in Memory's past, Daewen came here and tried to help. Unable to do so on her own, she took Memory back to Vinyagarond in Faerie, there to consult with the Family -- or a subset of it, some members being excluded for what are probably temporal reasons. Nothing came of this, except that Memory became Memory and thereby a member of the Family.
Explanation: The defining characteristic of the New Blood, or at least of the founders, and at least in Jonathan's opinion, is that they have freely chosen their own natures. Daewen turned into a high elf by sheer force of will, while adventuring in Hreme. Jonathan likewise started human, but turned himself into an elf using worldbender ultra-tech. Lorelei used similar technology on the pantope to turn herself into a Deryni. Tom is reckoned a member of the family in part because he staunchly insists on being an ordinary human despite the option of turning fay. And so on.
Likewise, Memory defined himself as He Who Waits Until His People Are Set Free, perhaps being able to do so because he comes of a race of fays(?) who have, to some unspecified extent, defined themselves and their land into existence.
The upshot is that Daewen and Jonathan, at least, and perhaps the whole Silver Council, "now" consider Memory a member of the New Blood. All the Marginalia must be, at the least, reckoned close allies.
When "now" is, though, is an interesting question. Is it in our past, say while we were in the First Compact world? Or future? Or are these events happening in our current absence?
We question Memory; he is eager to answer, though he's gotten rusty on conversational give-and-take:
Why does he talk so much better than the other Marginalia? He picked it up in Vinyagarond (though they're getting better -- and larger -- as generations pass). Why don't they have names? Just never invented them. They refer to one another by job-titles or descriptive nicknames.
Has anyone ever come back from the Lilithites' realm? Once, Lilith took two to show them what would happen to the uncooperative, then returned them to tell the others. It was just horrid. By the way, the Marginalia's name for the one we've been called "Lilith" is "Lil-lil," and may really be the name for the race; they picked it up (and perhaps mangled it) from the overheard conversations of the Lilithite hunters.
Memory then shoos away the Leader and other Marginalia and tells us, in great secrecy, that he is dying, so the liberation must be soon.
What's all this about the "special place"? It's for Daewen, a present and payment to her for what she's doing for them. It is the only special thing they have, the only part that stays by itself, the only thing they've really made. They find and watch and are, but don't usually make.
Tom asks if we could go there. Memory is confused. The Marginalia certainly don't go there, and they've managed to keep the Lilithites away, but we are in quite a different category. But he's quite certain there's no castle on it. He supposes it's all right for us to go. Then he falls asleep.
Salimar tries to premote whether an expedition to the mountain is a good idea or note, but she gets nothing. Very nothing. Concerted nothing. She and Tom try feeling around for psi signatures and get more nothing. Not even the telepathy net, which they are using right that moment. Odd. Maybe part of their great efforts at hiding.
Leaving Memory's house, we ask the Leader to take us to the "special place." He won't take us all the way there, but he'll have someone show us the way. Fine.
An aghast underling leads us through woods to a point where the cliffs of the mountain are visible. Then he stops. Robbie and Katrina stay with him. The rest of us press on, finding the air oddly thick, even viscous, and the gravity changing angle against us. Eventually, we push through to normal conditions and find ourselves at the foot of an enormous cliff.
We pull out the Map of Here. It shows the mountain as a round area surrounded by forests and with a lake on the far side. It shows no castle on the mountain, no paths, no pins, in fact no legend at all. Most unusual. (Did we, perhaps, slide back in time when we slid down the hill into Lanthil? Back to before the castle is built?)
Any more exploring will have to be done vertically, and it's too far even to levitate. Accordingly, Tom uses one of his three shapeshift amulets and turns into an eagle. There's a bit of an updraft along the cliff wall, but it still takes an indecent time to get to the top. And once he's at the top, that's just the top of the lower mesa. He skims about over the forests there, verifies that there's no castle now, and flies over the big lake, fed by the waterfall down the upper mountain. There are no birds or animals, no paths, just lots of healthy vegetation.
He catches a thermal up the mountain. The long waterfall down the side is clearly luminous, as is the lake at the very top (after another achingly long climb), all fed by a nonstop cataract of shining water falling straight out of a bright but cloudy sky. There's no problem detecting psi signatures anywhere around here. The whole place is ringing with magic.
At the top, Tom decides against actually setting foot here. The Marginalia might think it rude, and the place is stiff with magic, after all. But he conjures a little ectoplastic jar in one talon and scoops up a sample of the shining water, for use as a witchwalking token to get back here, and he puts a clairvoyance tracer on a rock on the shore.
Now down. Down is easier than up, of course, but it's a LONG way down. Tom spends a good part of it in a sort of terminal-velocity version of highway hypnosis. He wakes up and starts braking a little late, but lands without calamity, puts down the sample jar, shrugs off the amulet, puts his clothes back on, and spends a few minutes rubbing the cramps out of the foot that was the talon that held the jar all that way. (Shoulda conjured a thong or harness...)
Taking tally, we notice that Robbie has dropped off the telepathy net. He comes back on when we return through the funny air, though. We return to Memory's house. Approaching with his story in mind, we see that it is a rough-made miniature of the main hall of Vinyagarond, the one next to the geodesic arboretum.
Memory is awake again. Tom makes him a present of a conjured jigger-glass with which to drink half the sample of shining water. Memory does so, and then we tell him what it is. He agrees that was the right order to do it in. We hope it'll do him good.
For that matter, it might do him good to have a session in the autodoc. We try it, unrolling the sleeping-bag attachment and cajoling Memory to get in. Tom then sits down at the control panel and asks it to do something to help Memory's memory and lucidity. A touch of rejuvenation would be good, too, if it can manage that.
The autodoc looks Memory over and throws an electronic fit. It spews vast screens of error messages that reduce to something like: "My ROM-loader warned me there'd be users like you! I don't know how anything humanoid got to be that old, but there is NO WAY that I'm touching its memory. There isn't a neurotransmitter in it that isn't standing on the shoulders of two other molecules, holding an impulse pathway together. This thing overflowed its memory ages ago! It's storing stuff in its cuticles! NO endorphins, NO neurotransmitters, NO psychoactives of any kind, or the whole house of cards could come down! No!"
Eventually, Tom talks it into at least reconditioning some connective tissue and changing the sinovial fluid in the joints. Memory comes out feeling less stiff and more comfortable, at least.
We ask him more questions. What does the dim twilight mean? Means an area is about to be engulfed by the Lilithite realm.
What else can Memory tell us about the Lilithites? He declines to say more until after we've slept, for fear of inducing nightmares. Tom acquiesces, but points out that, in general, we need as much data as possible on the Lilithites if we are to conquer them. "Conquer"? asks Fr. Paddy. Why, yes, otherwise how else do we get rid of them permanently? Fr. Paddy should be a big help, since the Church is promised that the gates of Hell cannot stand against it, and this can't be more than an outlying suburb of Hell. Fr. Paddy is rather aghast.
Tom shows Memory the Map of Here. He doesn't really know how to read maps, though. However, we now find a new and unlabeled pin, dark in color, in the tunnel leading to the Last Valley. Hmm.
Tom tries to determine more about when Memory was at Vinyagarond, by showing him images of various people there. He recognizes Mirien, Dinlai, and Z (all seen from a distance, though), but not the elf on the aircycle. He recognizes the Noldorin refugees, so he can't have been there very far in the past, on our own chronology.
Salimar asks him if Daewen had a name for him or his land. No, she thought that would be rude, the unfortunate kind of thing humans are given to. (Hey, the first task God set us was naming things.)
Tom tells Memory that we need to go out and explore what's beyond this Last Valley. Memory says there's nothing but nothing, or the Evil One's place. A scout went out there once, to the edges of the Evil Realm, but he came back as mad as Memory. Her place melts other places.
Well, we had better look at the twilit parts before they dissolve, then, for clues. And we need to investigate that blip the Map showed in the tunnel. We bid Memory farewell for the moment.
Points to investigate:
What's this that's shown up in the tunnel?
What's going on in the twilight? Is the twilight itself still there (given recent time-slips)? How imminent is the engulfment by Lilithistan (or whatever we're to call it)?
We were told that the Bad Lady said that the Marginalia were not real people, and so were not entitled to names. How do the Marginalia come to know her views? From those two cautionary witnesses or the mad scout?
Please, Memory, tell us another story! Preferably one with some good strategic information in it.
And, if we can slip away AND back, it might be wise to buttonhole Daewen or Jonathan and get their version of this.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.