We left our heroes having just returned from another elven gateway, with:
The bogies speak Quenya, but in some very heavy dialect. Accordingly, Tom conjures a psionic translator and talks through that. He introduces himself as "Tom" and is a little suspicious when they introduce themselves as "Tum" and "Dum." Just so the family name isn't "Tweedle." Are they brothers, by the way? One says yes, the other says no. They say they have always lived in the woods, always had that dragon for a problem, and know nothing about that house where the cat and parrot came from.
Tom tells them they are now in a different world. It isn't clear this penetrates. They stare around and remark about "big trees, pretty trees." We'd be tempted to leave them here if it weren't for the radiation.
The parrot doesn't appear to be sapient. The gargoyles have seized up again, now flanking the trilithon as they previously did the garden path to that house. Tom tries calling to them, with no result, so Robbie and Markel lug them over the grav pallets. They are heavy suckers, just as bad as if they were real stone, which they may be.
Meanwhile, Brunalf is trying to round up the cat, which flitted off in panic and now lurks in the middle distance, watching warily. Being naturally conversant with cat-calls, Brunalf calls "come!" and "food!" in Feline, then tosses some more kitty treats out of his egg-ship. The cat comes over to gobble some. Markel tries to grab it then, with predictable results. Eventually, Tom grabs the thing by levitation and puts it in a hastily-conjured cage of ectoplasm.
The children are wary of the bogies. Timons says mother always said they shouldn't play with bogies. Apparently there are bogies and other lesser fays about on Destine. Or were.
One of the bogies is willing to come with us; the other not. While they argue about it, Kate solves the problem by stunning them both. We load them on the pallets and go back to the Munch.
On the ride, Tom answers Braeta's question from the end of the previous episode, "What's Chaos' Rim?" He describes how he read of it in dwarven lorebooks, then encountered it just beyond the Chaos Marches. He tells her that he and Dafnord created Dafnord's sword Umbra in Chaos' Rim. She's facinated; she'd never heard of it.
Once back at the ship, Markel runs ahead to hide his dragon. We put the gargoyles flanking the main airlock, rez up a room for the bogies, and toss the cat in the autodoc for a physical.
Almost immediately, the autodoc tells us that this is not a healthy cat. It isn't a cat at all, or even Terran. Then what is it? Very hard to say. Nothing much in the way of internal structure shows up yet, and it even defies chemical analysis, though there's some water in there. Hm.
Tom takes it out. It still looks like your basic Upset Cat. He feels for psychic signatures and finds some. It feels fay. It feels ... a bit like Kate. Hm again.
The bogies are still unconscious. We put one in the autodoc. It's much like the cat for baffling composition, though there's a trace of humanoid skeleton to it. Tom finds its psi signatures are also fay and ... What? After a while, he realizes it feels like him, Tom. And the parrot feels like Kate.
Robbie examines the Map of Here. There are now time indices on the gate showing our entry and exit, but no other dimensional acitivity. Salimar finds she can't do retrocognition on them, for no clear reason. Tom warily does a memory audit on the bogey and finds the memory of a very stupid mind, guttering out very quickly, minutes or moments before it encountered Tom.
All this is, of course, consonant with the idea that Kate and Tom created these critters when they went through the gate, or when they left the path, with the intention of seeking and rescuing refugees from dragons. They may be, in essence, fay glamours, perhaps shaped by a touch of Chaos' Rim. Damn. (Tom resolves to drop the bogies off in the woods, in Faerie somewhere, at the next opportunity.)
On to the next blue marker. It, too, is in deep forest. It is in a triangle formed by three huge trees, so close together that the gaps between the trunks are about as wide as the trunks. A little ring of mounds surrounds this triad, sort of marking it out.
Tom approaches the position and says "Sanctuary" in Quenya. Something seems to happen, so we break out the rope, hitch it to the cat's egg, and line up to follow it in. (Following cats in flying eggs across dimensional gulfs is getting to seem normal. Does this worry anyone?)
Brunalf sails in, but nothing appears to happen when he engages the witchdriver. He continues. Bonk. He hits the opposite tree. Ssssspptttzzzz. His ship squirts safety foam, filling the egg...
After that is cleaned up, we think again. He tries moving up and down. Nothing. He looks for a concave-looking tree trunk. Nada. He tries spinning the egg, three times, clockwise. Poof Neat! However, the rope got severed. We may have lost the cat.
On the Other Side, Brunalf finds himself in mist. He glimpses trees through it. He opens the egg and listens. (Some mist leaks in and settles on the floor.) There's no sound. Soon, the mist is all gone except the bit that leaked in. He finds he's in a clearing, bordered by three towering trees, like a magnification of where he just was.
He tries spinning the egg again, and reappears, to find his colleagues waiting a little nervously. He debriefs and spins back. Tom and Kate try to follow by spinning. No luck.
Tom asks Timmons to try, since he and the other children were able to get into and out of that rock. Timmons stands in among the trees, thinks a bit, says "Sanctuary," and vanishes. Oh. Soon, we've all followed suit and join Timmons and Brunalf in the big new clearing.
We poke around and find no tracks and no trails. Tom tests the resemblance to Chaos' Rim by trying to expect a sword into existence, stuck into the other side of this here tree. Nope. He then uses the half-elven children to try dowsing for other such kids. Nothing.
Leary of accidentally conjuring anyone else into existence, Tom urges the party to leave. This takes some experimentation, but it turns out you can do it just by saying the Quenya for "Home" while standing in the clearing.
Back at the ship, we find one of the two gargoyles has thawed a bit and now turns its head and walks in extreme slow motion. Tom encourages it, patting it on the head and speaking to it kindly whenever he happens to pass it.
On to the next marker on the map. This turns out to be in the rocky foothills near a forest. Timmons says that he expects it's the Great Cave, which he's heard of but never visited. In it, an old king is supposed to come back. (Old king? Well, Destine has been settled for about four hundred years, with a colorful mix of humans, nephilim, and half-elves. That's surely enough time for an Arthurian cycle or two.)
The Great Cave it is. The cave is great, all right, but the entrance is a rather narrow crack, and the larger party members have to squeeze their way. However, the crack is straighter at the top than at the bottom. In fact, it probably admits a single shaft of light in the morning. How classic.
Robbie notes a faint triangle on the wall, at a spot appropriate to such a morning beam. We can't be sure, though, since it's currently late afternoon.
Toward the back of this chamber stands a thick, conical rock. Beyond it is darkness, impenetrable even to Second Sight. We try calling "Sanctuary" and Brunalf tries spinning his egg, but nothing happens.
Second Sight can't penetrate the darkness, but a flashlight can. Tom's discloses a rectangular slab. Looks like it might have a lid. After a lot of straining, muscle, and levitation, which would have been futile but for Braeta's demi-goddess strength, we raise the lid and disclose a golden sarcophagus, ornately decorated with Celtic-style curves. Looks like dwarven work. And big -- at least seven feet long. Very nice, and suitable for a king destined to return, but not obviously connected to our present mission. We put the lid back and return to the ship, there to rest and wait for dawn, when we'll look for significant light beams in the cave.
By the way, Timmons tells us the ancient king's name is Aelvis. We don't question him further.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.