Chapter 75: Hell in the Pantry, Concluded
We left our heroes in the pantry of Southwick House, a genteel Victorian
London town house, having temporarily beaten back a demonic horde that
were oozing through a crack in the wall. Salimar sealed the crack, but
accidentally got Dafnord's sword, Umbra, stuck in it. He pulled it out
and the crack opened again, wider than ever, sundering the whole house.
And the Gargoyle and Markel fell into the crack.
The Gargoyle sensible spreads its wings and starts flying. Markel doesn't have that option, but Salimar immediately grabs for him telekinetically. Meanwhile, everyone who can moves into the pantry to help, and we see more Things stirring in the depths.
Tom is back at our own house, but he has been keeping tabs via telepathy net. He decides its time to bring in some more aid, so he opens a pantope door. When he did that in Southwick House, he appeared to precipitate the demonic eruption, so he opens it well outside, next to Mr. Chassan -- who as good as teleports across the street when a circular gate of glittering green, opening on luminous green depths, suddenly gapes at his elbow. Inside the pantope, Gannar hastily gathers up some stun grenades.
In the pantry, Kate tosses the chrism to Daphne, wherewith to tip her arrows. Robbie tries to help Salimar with Markel, using some qui levitation. He muffs it, unfortunately, and, amid a smell of brown and a haze of chocolate flavor, pulls something scaly out of the crack, which starts clawing at him.
Salimar feels the ground tremble beneath her. Nothing to do about that, right now, so she projects a glamoured rope down to Markel, who manages to grab it despite one broken hand and a second hand busy with a quarterstaff.
A sort of scaly genie comes out of the crack. Dafnord pulls a blaster on it, but the thing grins, gestures, and throws a fireball down the blaster barrel. It explodes in Dafnord's hand. Fortunately, he still wears the barkskin charm Daphne put on him. Even more fortunately, Daphne shoots the genie with a chrismed arrow and it explodes -- poof -- gone. She then turns her attention to shooting the draconian that's chewing on Robbie.
Back in the pantope, Gannar finishes grabbing supplies and flies out the door on his own power, intending to hit the door of Southwick House boots first, and come piling into the fray. (Dafnord, tracking by telepathy, thinks this sounds fine.) "Watch the door," he snaps to poor Mr. Chassan as he zooms by.
Unfortunately, that "crack through the house" is through more than just the house. It appears to be in the world. Something like a ragged gray aurora is bisecting the house and vicinity, and Gannar's flight takes him into the edge of it. Gannar finds himself in frigid darkness, the London neighborhood only faintly visible as an overlay. And Things are closing in...
Tom notices the pantope darkening. Only moments ago, the demons were trying to invade it, so he slams the door shut.
Back in the pantry, Salimar feels more tremors through the floor. Below, in the crack, she sees something draconian circling Markel. Oh, wait, it's the gargoyle. While it tries to figure out how to help Markel, it gets attacked by something that looks rather like it, only blacker, with spines.
Our view is then obstructed by tendrils of black mist rising into the pantry. They make a grab for Dafnord, who whacks at them with Umbra. Bits of tendril fall off, which is unusual for mist... The floor shakes again and Salimar hears distant screaming.
Meanwhile, the Gargoyle has dispatched its evil twin and flies up, out of the crack. Salimar hauls up on Markel, and Robbie manages to shoot his own attacker with a gun platform, then throw it into the crack. He helps haul Markel out. A lot of that mist comes with him. Salimar scans the stuff psychically. Is it alive? That's not clear, but it's clearly of malign intent. She favors it with a telepathic blast, even though it tingles her own toes.
Markel staggers to his feet and calls for his dragon -- which call sounds rather like a deep groan of pain... The dragon, currently hovering near the back door in the shredded glamour of a mastiff, comes crashing in through the house.
Dafnord looks into the crack and helps haul out the gargoyle -- which attacks him! We note it displays more fangs (in an unpleasant grin) than our own gargoyle does. And the genuine gargoyle now flaps out of the crack and helps Dafnord gang up on his counterfeit.
Meanwhile, a giant black hand reaches out and grabs Robbie. He tries shooting it with a gun platform, but the bolt just goes through it and scorches the wall. Salimar tries one of her brain cocktails. This makes it spasm ... and squeeze Robbie. It then tries beating Robbie against the wall. This doesn't do Robbie any immediate good, but his led ends up sticking out through the back of the giant hand, which is obviously not consistently solid.
Salimar tries caulking the crack again, glamouring up lots of octarine putty and partially immobilizing the hand. It pulls down, slamming Robbie on the floor. Markel grabs the robot's leg and pulls. The hand sort of shreds and retreats down into the crack. Robbie crawls away.
Back in the pantope, Braeta staggers out of the tent. "Tom! What's happening?!" "We're fighting demons," he answers. Braeta doesn't seem to pay much attention, but staggers out the door into the house. Tom pokes his head into the tent. It looks like an explosion happened here, and the other three nephilim are all knocked out, or at least over.
Back in the Southwick pantry, a sketchy sort of bird has attacked Daphne. As soon as she dispatches it, a draconian head pokes out. She and Dafnord attack with arrows and sword. One of her chrismed arrows explodes on impact, and soon there is no more head. Salimar continues caulking. Just as she finishes, she notices four human-looking fingers poking out of the caulk. She also notices that Gannar hasn't been on the telepathy net for a while...
In the pantope, Tom has been waking up the other three nephilim. He asks them what happened. Obedan says, tersely, "There was a problem on the higher planes." Desmond says the "Veil between worlds" was being torn. All that goes with what we've been seeing.
Tom then hears a thunder crack from the house. Dashing out there, he finds the front door open and Braeta sitting on the steps. Actually, the door is more than open; it's been blown off. Tom approaches cautiously, on the lookout for static tingles, and asks if she's upset.
No, she says, just muddled. What's happening? Tom tells her about the tearing Veil. She feels she might be able to help. That's good, because caulking and vermin control are the best we can do by ourselves.
Back at the pantry, Salimar and the other are examining the fingers cautiously, remembering the fake gargoyle. They feel pretty human, psychically. No telepathic contact possible. She opens a hole in her caulk. The hand slides limply away, but Dafnord grabs it. He pulls out a very beat-up Gannar; from the raggedness of his clothes and the several days' growth of beard on him, the android appears to have spent a very bad fortnight or so in the abyss, over the last few seconds. He's quite unconscious, but alive. After some first aid, he wakes, smiles, groans, then faints again. Salimar quickly re-seals the caulk.
About then, Braeta shows up at Southwick House, having run, very fast, from ours. She comes in, looks the situation over, and orders the house evacuated. The residents don't know what to make of a giant gypsy woman, panting and glassy-eyed, but we do -- we obey her.
The cook needs a bit of direct ordering from Braeta, but then scoots. The upstairs maids made tracks when the cat wearing a helmet (with a gun on it) came up and told them to leave. Dafnord and Lady Southwick are able to herd the rest out. Lady Southwick is eyeing the flying "mastiff," the gargoyle, the lady made of gelatin, the tin man, and the "little girl" with four insectile wings. These are the good guys, right? Chassan is at the edge of the crowd, telling his prayer beads at about 48 rpm.
Soon, we are all gathered in front of the house, across the street from it, nervously watching that gray aurora. Braeta wanders back and forth, muttering about "finding her footing." Then she stamps a couple of convenient holes in the cobblestones, looks at Lady Southwick, and says, "I'm sorry, but it's the only way to solve the problem." Then, once all the horses are well away, she asks, "You're sure you're done here?" Salimar and Dafnord assure her we are. (Robbie thoughtfully picks up Gannar and starts trotting home with him. Electrical people don't want to be too close to a lightning goddess at work.)
Suddenly, everyone is looking at Braeta. Even Robbie finds he has to pop out a flying eye to watch. The sky clears. There is a deep rumble in the ground, and the roadway moves. A physical crack appears in Southwick House, but the metaphysical crack disappears. Braeta drops to one knee.
Salimar looks about with her extradimensional clairvoyance and sees hyperspace is returning to normal. She checks the Map of Here, and it's doing the same. (It also registers two little blots where Tom opened the pantope nearby.) Good. She coagulates herself a bit and straightens her clothes out.
Back at the house, Tom has turned back to tending his various guests. He knocks on the basement door and asks the resulting attendant if Ms. Yanova is all right. Yes, though she had a brief relapse, nasty for a bit. The attendant reckons she's sensitive to earth tremors. We seem to have just had one...
Robbie arrives with Gannar over one shoulder. Tom digs the field autodoc out of the tent in the pantope. It declares itself 92% reliable, so we put Gannar in it for diagnosis. Lots of beating up and exposure, just as it looks. Nothing we can't handle.
He checks on Obedan, who declares himself hungry. Tom introduces the huge black nephil to our cook, Mrs. Pemmican, who is surprised, but certainly knows what to do with a large appetite. She leads him away to the second dining room and starts shoveling.
Desmond tells Tom there was a sort of explosion in the tent, around Braeta mostly. He un-dislocates a rib, a forearm, and a shoulder. Katrina draws a warm bath, Tom supplies him with some whisky, and he settles down to recover.
We take Gannar out of the field autodoc and put him in the one on the Munch, via a pantope door. We put Markel in the Nones autodoc. Then we put Greywolf in the field autodoc.
Back at Southwick House , Braeta announces "Things are much better now," then faints. Dafnord hoists her onto his shoulders and heads back. On the way, he pauses before Lady Southwick, who pronounces herself ... satisfied. (She's probably remembering the state we left Carlfax Abbey in, when we were cleaning the vampire out of it. It involved hand grenades.) Dafnord gives his card to her butler, whose training holds good; he just bows and takes it.
Daphne catches Lady Southwick staring at her, grins, says, "Yes, I am a fairy," and gives her a kiss on the fingertips. Then she flits away the moment Lady Southwick takes her eyes off her, in the approved pixie tradition. Lady Southwick takes a deep breath, and decides it's time to move the household to the country place until repairs can be made on her London residence.
Greywolf is out of the autodoc now. Tom asks him what happened. Suddenly, he explains, the nephilim felt "ungrounded," out of touch with Earth or the earthly planes, and there was nothing to contain their energy. Especially Braeta's. He asks for some quiet place to meditate. Tom leads him into the house and suggests Regent's Park. Greywolf remembers the place from a long time back. He startles Tom by then shapeshifting into something more suitable to Victorian England -- shrinking and making subtle changes to his features and hair, until he looks a lot more like Tom, really. Tom gives him a suit of clothes for the period. (He sizes himself to them.) He then departs toward Regent's Park.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.