Chapter 79: Through Barrow Hill
We left our heroes resting and sleeping in the pantope after the
convulsions attendant on finally (we hope) sealing the crack in this
world caused by the minions of Dalgroom. Unfortunately, those
convulsions also lost us Desmond.
After we are rested, we resolve to do our best to get him back. We accordingly steer the pantope window through the night and back a half hour or so, to a point in time shortly before Desmond vanished. As soon as he has vanished and our earlier selves are heading back through Regent's Park to the house, Tom opens the window to door mode, steps out, and tries to contact Desmond telepathically.
After a bit, the others begin to wonder why Tom is just standing there. "Tom?" asks Robbie. "Hm?" "You okay?" "Yes..." "What about Desmond?" "Who?" "Desmond." "What about him?" Tom, it turns out, has forgotten what he was doing there at all. We've all had this experience, only usually early in the morning before the first coffee, not in the middle of an adventure. After puzzling over it for a time, Tom realizes he's the victim of his own voluntary amnesia skills. Now why--? Oh, yes! Tom's subconscious is primed to strictly observe a rule not to try telepathic contact when his own earlier self is around. Like now.
Hmph. We wait until the earlier Tom is safely back in the pantope and out of the timestream. Tom then tries to reach Desmond mentally. He does get a faint feeling of presence. Now, what to do about it? The only party member who can follow this kind of trail is Brunalf the cat, in his interdimensional egg. But Greywolf is also a supernaturally good tracker and admits to having once, accidentally, walked off plane while tracking. So we tie a rope to the cat's egg and have Greywolf hang onto it while trying to assist the cat.
We also want to be able to find Greywolf and Brunalf, if we need to. So Tom asks for a sample telepathic contact with Greywolf. Greywolf consents. Tom remembers how wracking contact with Braeta is and so tries to brace himself. This is wracking, too, but different. Contacting Braeta was like putting your finger in a wall socket. Contacting Greywolf is like finding yourself center stage in an amphitheater, with thousands staring at you, intently. Or like standing in the wolf's mouth. Tom feels like his has rarely been in such deep contact with himself, never mind someone else. He drops it, breathing hard.
As a final effort to keep contact, Tom shrinks a pantope door to knot-hole size and puts it in the egg with the cat. Markel and the Gargoyle then hang on to one end of the rope while the cat and Greywolf proceed at the other. The cat follows signs of "soft spots" and they soon start to vanish into the dark misty nothing between planes.
Soon, however, they begin to encounter resistance. Telepathy with the cat starts to fade. The cat revs his engines and a red light comes up on his board. Unfortunately, he doesn't remember what it means. Tom enlarges the tiny door so the cat can stick his head through and Tom and help him remember with a memory audit. We get:
"Now this is important. This one means blah blah blah blah blah blah. Are you listening, cat?" "Yeah, sure."
Which is all even total recall can do for you if you weren't paying attention at the time.
We conduct a number of experiments to find out where this resistance comes from. Is it, in particular, caused by the presence of the pantope door? We make it smaller and change it to a window. Nope. Is it caused by natures of any of the people holding the rope (who are a very mixed lot). It seems to be the Gargoyle. Greywolf, on the other hand, can move along the rope easiest of all.
Finding that the pantope door is not a problem, Tom moves it out of the egg, enlarges it, and steps out of it onto the witchpath by the rope. Which he has never tried before. Cool.
Eventually, the egg comes out in a place, far better than being no place. It is followed immediately by Greywolf, then by Tom and the door. Soon, the rest of the party comes out, either through the door or along the witchpath. It's sort of like traveling by prestidigitation.
Daphne immediately feels that this place is very fay. It appears to be a springtime countryside under a full moon. But the moon is distinctly larger than the mundane moon, and Daphne quickly spots some fay species of trees. She flits off to investigate.
Tom feels around for Desmond. He gets a general feeling of presence, but no direction or range. Greywolf dusts England off himself, and his clothes and hair quickly shapeshift into something much more shaman-like, and much more at home hereabouts, wherever that is. He and Markel poke around and soon encounter a set of tracks. Something large. A "fell beast," Greywolf declares, not only because of the tracks but because the local "nature spirits" are disturbed by it. Possibly something draconian.
Markel lofts on his own dragon to look around. Soon he and the other fliers in the group are getting an idea of the local geography. Lots of forest on rolling hills. Higher hills in the distance. An island-dotted sea off in one direction. No signs of habitation. Nothing obvious, anyway.
Daphne, flitting about admiring the forestry, finds herself being tracked by a large raptorial bird. No problem for a pixie; she flits into some heavy foliage and sits down to wait it out. Robbie and Gannar nonetheless fly over to shoo it away.
Markel has spotted a stony outcrop. As they approach it, his dragon informs him of a bad smell coming from it. Markel spots some more of the "fell beast" footprints near it.
Robbie, after looking around with telescopic vision, tries his infrared. Nothing. Hm. Is it one more mechanical thing that's stopped working for him? Not even his organic friends look warm. He flies back to the pantope door, then looks through the other door into Regent's Park. The gas lights look normally warm.
So it's this new place. Living things aren't warm there. Come to think of it, that big moon should provide enough light to see colors, too, but everything looks muted and monochrome. The dragon flames experimentally. It comes out pale blue, like a bunsen burner's methane flame. A very quite, very minor-key place. Tom recalls the Celtic otherworlds, such as Annwn, lovely but a land of the dead.
Tom checks his watch. "11th month, 17th day, 8 - 1/4. Year = error." Another place where the years don't count. Maybe the eight-and-a-quarter is hours.
Trying to find Desmond again, Tom feels around telepathically for presences. Oh, yes. Several. Over there by that stone outcrop where Markel and the dragon found the "fell beast" prints and the nasty smell. And something feels Tom's feeling around. In the distance, something bellows. Oops.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.