Chapter 85: Groves of Academe
We left our heroes in the pantope, helping the nephilim spin up their mythic
cycle, preparing for the mass exodus of their people from Yazatlan. Desmond
asks to be dropped off a few days later, to wander the taverns and markets and
get the feel of the city. (By the way, the city and the surrounding city-state
are called "Denbara.") We oblige, picking him up two days later. He's
satisfied that Daphne's appearances and oracles are having the desired effect.
We go back to dropping Daphne off. We fast-forward a fortnight, then drop her off near the palace, for a visit to Taloc himself. Despite the creditable security given by his guards, Daphne manages to surprise him by blending in with the wooden carvings on top of his dresser, then hailing him when he's alone in the room.
He recovers quickly and seems more glad to see her than not. She speaks in vague generalities about how he was well-trained and well-chosen for his position, but what does he think of his mentor (Obedan) now? "That book is not yet written," Taloc answers. "And how do you think you will go down in Oberon's books?" she replies.
Taloc's ears perk up at the fay name, and remarks that Daphne must be very old ("Age means nothing," the fay remarks.) or something has changed. Daphne goes back to the books and asks how Obedan would be written up. "If it's written late enough, very well. Just recently, though... You mentioned leadership is like water; it shouldn't be grasped too tightly. He had a tight grasp, at the end."
"And your own grasp?" Daphne asks. Taloc smiles sourly and says that, for him, holding leadership, just now, is not like grasping water, but like holding a snake and not being sure how to safely loosen the grip. Daphne makes understanding noises, warns him of some plotted counter-coups (without naming names), and repeats her urgings of moderation and justice. She agrees to return if he leave her a sign on the balcony. Then there's a courteous parting.
When Daphne reports back in the pantope, Greywolf is very interested in Taloc's remarks and wants to go spend time in the city himself, under cover. First, though, he'd like to change shape, and the pantope isn't the right place to do it. Somewhere wild, quiet, and with "power" would be best.
After a little dithering, Tom decides to drop him off in Lanthil. Or near it. He tries for a "contemporary" Lanthil, but gets one with the castle, town, and docks already in place. So he backs off a little. The chaos-road to Lanthil ends at a strait. Beyond lies Lanthil, the town and docks clearly visible. On one hand is the Endless Ocean, on the other, the Open Sea. Tom opens the pantope on the shore across the straits, offering a good view of the town and, of course, the Lightfall. Cliffs rise up behind, and a convenient copse of trees stands nearby. Greywolf looks around with interest, then retreats to the copse to change into something more comfortable.
While we stand watch, a rider comes down the road, stops, and peers down at us from the cliffs, clearly interested. Robbie sends a remote eye up, and sees One-Eyed Jack, also known as Krory the Slayer or Jakma or Mad Jakma. We last met him while rescuing the Marginalia. He looks frightful -- a hideously scarred cowboy in black, on a pale horse suitable for an apocalypse, but all those unpleasant monikers refer to his habit of hunting down lamiae, vampires, and other draconian allies. So he's a friend. Anyway, Tom owes him, because he saved Tom from a couple of lamiae on their first meeting. Robbie floats up to say hi.
Jack does not immediately recognize Robbie, at takes him for a djinn. Robbie explains how he lost his original body, which Jack finds amusing. Jack is also able to feel the powerful presence of Greywolf working down in the copse, and even identifies him not only as a nephil, but as Old Man Coyote, which is tolerably accurate. We invite him down to meet the celebrity.
Jack agrees and scuffles down the cliffs in a sort of controlled skid. He and Tom exchange greetings, then Greywolf walks out of the copse. At least, we assume it's Greywolf, and Tom verifies it with a timid touch of telepathy. (Ouch.) But he now looks completely different, smaller, thinner, more Arabic. Tom makes introductions with Jack and the two greet each other politely, Jack very deferential.
We now spot some activity over on the docks -- possibly someone coming over to pick up Jack. He will doubtless have an interesting tale to tell them, but we don't want to invite time-twists, so we pile back in the pantope and disconnect.
Inside, we find that Daphne has been pouring her magical energies into one of the chocolate tree seeds she acquired on the Tellemataru. It's now sprouted into a thriving sapling -- with a pixie wrapped ecstatically around it. We leave her to it, and drop Greywolf off in Denbara.
We then fast-forward sixteen days, during which time we also check on the castle, but Taloc doesn't ask for any pixie visits. When we pick up Greywolf, he announces that Taloc is now looking for an entrance to Faerie. Remember the fay minority back on Destine? Well, none of them showed up here in Yazatlan, so Daphne was the first fay to be seen in literal ages. And clearly Taloc and many others would love to vanish into Faerie, escaping Yazatlan. This could be useful to our own exodus efforts.
Tom muses about unintended consequences, though, and someone ribs him about the budgies he conjured during the exodus of the Marginalia. Greywolf is understandably puzzled, so Tom gives him an abbreviated account of the Marginalia adventure, and how the Marginalia were being used by the Lilim to sustain their city in Chaos. Greywolf now suspects, as Tom has for some time, that the Lilim have gone and snatched the nephilim -- with their godlike hooks into creative energy -- as substitutes for the Marginalia, with their more tranquil stabilizing effect on Chaos.
Greywolf says that Desmond should be told, but not Obedan. Daphne is pried off her tree and sent to fetch Desmond out of the tent. We then take a walk around the pantope (and around and around), and tell Desmond, who is interested, and agrees about our suspicions. Some nephilim, the dragons have hinted, are being held hostage, and maybe it's more than hostages, given the natures of the ones who haven't shown up, and of others who vanished for "certain offenses." Obedan shouldn't know because he'd want to charge in and rescue them right now, and while we must certainly do that someday, we should make the general evacuation first.
We then go back to spinning up our mythic cycle, dropping Braeta, Desmond, Greywolf, and Daphne off for various missions as we fast-forward through Yazatlan history. Years go by in a busy afternoon.
The young sage Kallin, whom Daphne met in the last episode, turns out to have a touch of nephil blood. He ages but slowly, founds an academy off in the countryside near the city, and is still going, though not going strong, at age 600.
We are now closing in on the time period in which we first picked up Greywolf and Obedan. Indeed, Greywolf gets alarmingly close to meeting his earlier self a few times, but never actually lays eyes on him, and anyway he is now shapeshifted.
Kallin is about to shuffle off the mortal coil, and has two disciples to hand the academy over to -- Tallis and Wat. Daphne appears to them from time to time. We drop her off for an appearance -- the first in some decades -- but she's late for her rendezvous with the pantope door. Hm. We wait about fifteen minutes. You see, if we rewind and go rescue her, it may turn out that the only reason she didn't show up is that we prevented her making the rendezvous by rewinding and "rescuing" her...
On the other hand, it could be real trouble. So we do rewind, and follow her in window down a forest path toward the academy. She passes through a grove, and walls of transparent shimmer spring up around her. When she tries to get out, she smacks into them like a fly in a bottle. We quickly open a pantope door and extract her, but then leave a window and watch.
Shortly thereafter, three men come charging through the woods, down the path from the academy. They are Wat and two underlings. He's grinning, until he sees the ward is empty. Then he looks cross and baffled and starts nosing around.
(We now take time out to let Desmond compose an insulting poem to be left for Wat to find.)
Tuning back in, we see the following: Wat gives up looking about and leads his two friends back to the school. There, he runs into Tallis and they converse briefly. (We can't hear through the window.) After they part, Tallis buttonholes someone else and sends him off to spy on Wat. We see Wat and his friends return to the grove, Wat carrying a wooden case. Tallis, with his own reinforcements, follows them.
Tallis comes on Wat in the act of removing something in a silk wrapper from the case, and we switch from window to invisible door in time to hear:
Tallis: What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Wat: "That's none of your business."
Tallis: "Everything at the school is my business."
Wat: "Not yet."
Tallis: "Very well, it will concern Master Kallin. What were you doing?"
Daphne now pops out of the door and pipes, "He was trying to catch me."
Tallis apologizes on behalf of the school, and Daphne asks Wat what he wanted to catch her for. He wanted to make her "tell us where it is," presumably referring to the gate into Faerie that Taloc (and now others) have inferred. (It does exist -- in the form of the pantope.)
"But it isn't time!" Daphne protests. Tallis smiles and Wat glowers. Wat also starts to pick up his silken object again. "I think not," says Tallis, and gestures. Wat counter-gestures. There are red and blue shimmers in the air, and Daphne gets the impression we are watching a TK contest between two TK amateurs. The largest of Tallis's retinue then just grabs the thing. He pops it from hand to hand like a hot potato while the two faction-leaders make arcane gestures at each other and occasionally stagger. Then the fight gets more physical and spreads to the two retinues, but Tallis brought more and bigger guys.
Once the dust settles and Wat is unconscious, Daphne asks, "How did Wat know I was coming?" Tallis replies, "This was your path for so long, and he knew you'd be coming someday." So it's a trap that has lain there for a long time.
The big servitor, meanwhile, has been allowed to put down the hot silken object, while Tallis bandages his hands, with some healing magic thrown in. "What is that thing?" Daphne inquires.
It turns out to be a Seal of Solomon. Tom recognizes it as looking very like the ones he ran across back on the Classical Line, when the Diadem Quest first took us to Abyssinia and King Solomon's Mines, where we recovered the Eye of Dalgroom. (Remember Dalgroom? Ickies in Victorian pantries? Wandering Abyssinian priests?)
Apparently, these Seals work on fays, djinn, ... and people with traces of nephil blood.
Tallis and company extract Wat and company, in various states of disrepair, and retire to the groves of academe. Daphne gives Tallis a chocolate fruit and vanishes back to the pantope. We take her off to see Kallin -- one last time; he's very old and frail.
This incident cements Tallis's succession to the headmastery of the academy, as we discover over the next several fast-forward years. And the fairy touch means that the exodus mythos is now thriving.
Next step, make our celebrity scoop for their briefing on the Tellemataru.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.