Week 61: The Tellemataru
We left our heroes headed to their pantope, the Emerald Metaphor,
preparing to fast-forward thirty years, to rendezvous with Morniesul,
who has sent a message back through time, asking to meet with them.
Before they actually go, they adjourn to the library, to talk with Braeta about recent developments. We recount our visit with the Elyssian Ambassador, Attalais. Braeta recognizes the name. He was a king among the nephilite remnant, though he later gave up and left the remnant. His kingdom was in northern Africa. We'd know him by the modern, shortened form of his name -- "Atlas." "He's sort of family, you know," points out Braeta, daughter of Zeus.
No wonder he laughed when Robbie asked him if he knew about planets. Consider how Atlas is usually depicted.
She approves the idea of Robbie acting as go-between for the remnant and the Elyssians, "because of his ambiguous nature." Robbie asks if the pantope would be a good place for the meeting to take place, being specifically designed to be neither here nor there. Or maybe in Lanthil, which may likewise fall in the metaphysical cracks.
Braeta then needs to have the origin and nature of Lanthil, so far as we understand it, explained to her -- including the origin-tale of the Marginalia, their nature, their captivity under the Lilim, our rescue of them from same, the addition of a large population of refugee elves from the far future, and so on. She recognizes the Marginalia as an "unplanned race" that effervesced out of Chaos; she'd heard rumors of such, and it would make Lanthil suitably ambiguous, along with all its other complicating factors. She seems surer that the pantope would be safe and suitable.
Starting by clearly stating he has no authority to implement this idea, Tom suggests Lanthil itself as a new homeland for the nephilite remnant. Or having these displaced demigods go do Chaos' Rim and make their own.
Braeta points out that the members of the remnant had many different motives for staying, and some stayed to be kings, so one should be cautious of inviting them into one's home, or places of power, or we could wind up with the problem of the Lilim all over again. And we should be cautious about mentioning such things to Obedan, too.
In any case, there appears to be a destined homeland reserved for them in the Kaf mountains, though they have to get there via these "Plains of Penance" we keep hearing about. Braeta isn't sure that a lot of the remnant will want to go that route, even though the current alternative is oppression under the draconians in Yazatlan. But she agrees when Tom says they should at least be given the option.
Robbie asks Braeta where she would like to see the remnant settled. She has no good answer. He asks her why Greywolf serves Obedan. She thinks it's just the role he's chosen -- chief scout for some powerful leader.
Well, time to fast-forward. We pile into the pantope, take the window up a few thousand feet, and start moving forward and counting sunrises. We touch down a day after we were here last time, parking the window at the usual place in the living room, then turning it into a door. We find some future decorator has supplied that part of the wall with a set of draw curtains...
Poking about on the house computers, we find a message from Morniesul to Tom: "Good day, Uncle. I assume, because you're getting this message, you've come in response to my earlier call. My ship is in orbit."
However, when we ask the computer about contacting his ship, the Obscura, it knows nothing about it. Neither does the Nones, when we call it up in dock over in Pericles, though it does have a second copy of the message. Hmph.
We note the time-stamp on the message -- 22 hours ago -- and rewind to that point. Tom is pretty sure he's somewhere in the house already, at this point, so Robbie leaves the pantope and intercepts Morniesul just as he finished sending the message. "That was quick!" says Morniesul. Robbie offers to take him to Tom. "We shouldn't wake him," Morniesul replies. No, not that Tom, the one in the pantope. The flusters Morniesul a bit. He was just planning on going up to his ship and waiting. His ship, we learn, is the "Tellemataru," not the Obscura, which explains the earlier confusion about it.
Okay, so we'll part company and meet in a few hours on his ship. Robbie gets back on the pantope, we disconnect, and Tom homes in on Morniesul psychically. The window opens on a view of him walking down a corridor. We steer the window after him, through a set of rather fancy wooden doors, into a nicely appointed lounge-like room, with here and there some very odd furniture suggesting that some of the people who frequent it aren't humanoid. As soon as Morniesul sits down, we place the window opposite him and open it into a door.
After greetings are exchanged, we ask what we can do for him. "Actually, it's what I can do for you," he says brightly. We ask what he's offering. "Among other things, the Tellemataru."
The Obscura, it seems, is long gone. Morniesul has been playing the merchant prince, trading up to bigger and bigger ships, as he slides back and forth across spacetime, working two different sets of markets in the third-millennium Ecumene and the sixth-millennium Terraform Reach. He has brought not only the Tellemataru but an escort of three corvettes, piloted by-- "You'll like this, Robbie. Three Pemnal pilots."
"What's a Pemnal?" Robbie asks, rather spoiling the effect Morniesul was apparently aiming for.
Morniesul explains that Pemnals are a race of "semi-folk," creatures that are bright enough to be considered people but not usually bright enough to be considered legal adults. Several alien races fall into that class, as do critters like Brunalf the neo-cat (though he happens to have earned adult citizenship), and lots of AIs. It's the AI connection that Morniesul thinks will interest Robbie.
Pemnals are like big lizards or small dragons, about two meters long, with six limbs, all of them prehensile and usable as hands or feet. They are hot pink, with feathery manes in colors like lemon yellow or electric blue. The Jack, where Tom grew up, had a population of them, where Tom mostly remembers them raiding hen houses.
Morniesul is, in fact, the only full citizen aboard. Besides the Pemnal pilots, there are Pemnal gardeners, the cooks are Krilnyaps, and the head steward and the quartermaster are a pair of "juvenile" Sims who have not yet reached full sapiency. Morniesul's practice is to cultivate his semi-folk charges until they can "graduate" to full legal adulthood and citizenship, whereon he sends them off with a handsome endowment. A nice individual variation on the family tradition of liberating people.
Having explained his crewing arrangements, Morniesul is itching to give us a tour of the Tellemataru.
We need moving walkways and small cars to get around. It seems vague spherical. The holds are vast caverns suitable for shipping pre-assembled stadiums. (Morniesul chats about the economic advantages of being able to buy up and ship a planet's entire yearly output of whatever.) The stevedores are creatures called Crasslk. We meet two of them, Hroth and Vorglt, about human-high, but three feet wide, trollishly thick, with great muzzles and tusks. They salute Morniesul smartly, which is reassuring.
The cooks are a pair of hyperactive teddy bears, the Krilnyaps. The nearby dining room is richly appointed, as is the whole ship. Merchant princes have to keep up appearances.
To show us the "conservatory," Morniesul takes us outside the ship, in one of the ship's boats. We see that it is a great tear-drop shape, though slightly pointed even at the thick end, and "only" two kilometers long, relieving Tom's rising worry that it was raising tides down on Hellene. When Morniesul throws a switch, a wide belt around the ship suddenly turns green -- he's just opened the shutters in the conservatory roof. We're looking down on a forest. And, in fact, "tellemataru" is Quenya for "sky-forest."
A little later, we are in the conservatory/forest, which supplies the ship with oxygen and a fair bit of its food. There's a village of Pemnal gardeners in here, 49 of them; the whole crew numbers 75.
This brings the conversation back to the semi-folk. Morniesul explains how he uses the adventures in the life of an independent trader to induce "sapiency crises" in his crew; by rising to the challenges, they develop into fully adult-level beings.
Tom asks if Morniesul has consulted with the OAI (Order of Artificial Intelligence) about this, since they're interested in such things. He says he has some "interesting" negotiations going on with them.
Robbie asks about KaiSen. KaiSen, Morniesul says, is cooler on this project, being concerned with non-interference. Salimar pipes up with the information that KaiSen's allies include the Klilen, the Aowlq'im, and the Ordic Empire, all having strong views on not interfering with primitives; so, whatever KaiSen's private views on the matter, the race-mind has to go along with these folk to some degree to keep their alliance. Morniesul admits that things are likely to get sticky with those folk soon. He tries to play it safe by concentrating more on the semi-folk indigenous to human-settled colonies. There, though the humans don't much like Morniesul's interference, KaiSen does like folk who stick up for the despised aboriginal semi-folk.
We end up back in the lounge, with Morniesul pattering on about the corvettes with their Pemnal pilots, who can take 75% more acceleration, after inertial compensation, than humans, etc. Robbie wants to show Morniesul the dragontrooper ships, so he asks to plug into the automation. Morniesul indicates a socket on the coffee table. Robbie plugs in and...
Finds himself communing with a very advanced and enhanced Intellect Major, one that a mega-corporation would be proud to call one of their mainframes. It has no trouble at all putting Robbie's video files on a nearby screen.
Morniesul studies the actions of the dragontroopers' manta-fighters and opines that his corvettes would do just fine against them, one-on-one. We point out that there were hundreds, though, plus big mother-ships, plus vast dimensional gateways the ships were dropping through. He can't help us there, but at he does vouch for his little pink dragons against our enemy dragons, draco a draco.
And all of this is why, when he parted company with us, he asked to be given the Obscura and a million in seed money. He wants it back when we're done, but he also wants to lend the Tellemataru to us, for use on our project. (Along with the 3 corvettes, 2 boat, 2 ferries, and the yacht.) After all, he knows we've been working on it so long. (We carefully say nothing. Morniesul is from our future. He may be referring to what we've already done, or he may be including what we have yet to do. We'd rather not know which, in case it's the latter.) (Or maybe, because we've dealt with Morniesul twice, across thirty years of time travel, it just looks very long to him.)
We aren't quite sure how we can use a giant ship, plus support fleet and crew, but maybe Morniesul knows, being from the future and all. It could certainly accommodate a lot of nephilim. We express our gratitude and our overwhelming impression of the scale of it all. "Oh, well, it's nothing compared to creating a universe just to throw something away in," he replies, looking at Tom. Tom splutters that he was only able to do that because he had the Diadem at the time. He insists he's just an electrician, really, who's had extraordinary opportunities. "Well, being an electrician isn't so different from being a Carpenter," Morniesul says. Tom answers that he hardly has the same Family connections.
We thank Morniesul again and promise to be back shortly with the next set of developments. We then get back aboard the Metaphor, note the coordinates, and disconnect.
Now. Where were we? Oh, yes, back at the Elyssian Embassy. In fact, as we were leaving the Embassy, Markel caught a glimpse of what looked like Tom and someone else arriving there, so it looks like we may have a bit of a date with destiny. We reckon we should go back to Faerie and pick up our tangled thread. Watch carefully:
We reconnect to the Grey Room, in Vinyagarond, the moment after we disconnected last.
We go outside to find Morniesul (a 30-years-younger edition) still in the act of putting the Marcher ponies in the stable. We tell him what we're going to do. He's confused, but he'll cooperate and come with us.
We fast-forward a day. The ponies are now rested. Morniesul fetches them and manages to persuade them to come into the pantope, which we've opened out in the courtyard.
We get back in the pantope and back up a day and a half. It is now 12 hours before our entry point.
We open the pantope out, lead out the ponies and carriages, and get ready to head back to the embassy in Elvencrown -- where we currently already are. It's dead of night, by the way.
Before we go, Tom moves the pantope door back to the Grey Room. Since an earlier version of the door is already hanging there, he puts this one in the closet. Tom exits the closet and finds someone in the bed. It's Runyana. Of course. She rouses sleepily. "Just playing through," Tom assures her. She nods. "Watch out. Tom'll see you," she replies. Tom exits the house very quickly.
We climb in the carriages, the baffled help shake their heads, and we set off. Morniesul persuades the Marcher ponies to put on some supernatural speed, and, by the dawn's early light, we're nearing the Embassy.
...Only to see two figures, cloaked and hooded, standing by a roadside tree. Robbie sends out an eye. The taller is deeply hooded, but the shorter one is pacing back and forth impatiently, and Robbie can see that his face ... looks a lot like Tom's. Only clean-shaven and dark-haired. We stop the coach.
Robbie gets out and approaches. He's met by the bigger fellow. He looks a lot like Tom, too. Um.
Robbie: "Out of sequence, are we?"
Stranger: "Yes, you are."
Robbie: "You know who I am?"
Stranger: "Of course."
Robbie: "You're from my future?"
Stranger: "No, you're twisted around from your past! The current you's in there." He points up the road to the Embassy. "Get back in that carriage!"
Robbie suggests that we just "circle the block" until our earlier selves have gone, but the stranger shakes his head and just says, "Scoot! Shoo!" The two of them hide, and we loiter. Eventually, we hear ourselves getting read to depart, up ahead.
We approach the Embassy and see the tall stranger waiting at the entrance. "Hello. Shoo! We have everything under control," he tells us. This time, Tom gets a look at him. "Puck?" he says. "Yes," says Puck. "What are you doing here?" "I thought I was fated to come back here." And Tom explains what we saw on departing.
"But you saw yourself -- or what you thought was yourself -- returning on foot with one companion. Not in a carriage with lots," observes Puck. "I figured I would attend to that later," says Tom. "You used to be a lot more careful about such things," Puck observes. "You used to be a monkey," Tom retorts with perfect truth, somewhat stung. "Who is that in there?" "Oh... someone. We've got it all under control."
Puck ultimately persuades us that he and his friend fully intend to take over our diplomatic missioning for us, so we return to the Dancing Bear, back down the road. From there, Morniesul can return to whatever he was doing here, and we can make a leisurely return to Vinyagarond, making sure to take enough time for our tangled worldlines to unravel.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.