Desmond in the Mountains
We left our heroes returning to Vinyagarond with a sealed letter from
Attalais and a "map" to the Great Mountain of the Nephilim. They find
Vinyagarond nearly empty and starting to be sealed up. Most of the folk
are already in Lanthil. The last party is preparing to leave by
overland route. That way, they'll arrive a year earlier than the
others, so as to oversee the construction of the castle, etc.
Kate darts into the house and comes back out with her bedroom curtains, which no one had thought to pack. But these are special curtains: they're haunted. Or at least, they occasionally produce glamoured spectres. Kate is Elizabethan in origin, and didn't feel comfortable with all the privacy that moderns and elves prefer...
A few of the rest of us double-check that their favorite things got packed, then we re-board the pantope and gat back to the Tellemataru where, of course, only minutes have passed. The ship's conference center is still buzzing with scheming demigods, and we find Desmond hovering near the door of a meeting room, eavesdropping. We collar him and rescue Braeta, who is looking somewhat (someone had to be disarmed a few minutes ago), and show them the map.
Their faces fall. Can't they read it? Oh, probably, but... We retreat to a conference room to let them puzzle over it. Desmond sets his brain on a lengthy rewind and finally remembers the script and language being used. He remarks that all these up-to-date nephilim around us are not going to want to join the people who wrote this map -- people who haven't changed much at all, it would appear, since the Nephil Remnant parted company with the rest of their kind umpty-thousand years ago. Not only do the old differences still stand, one reason many nephilim stayed on Earth was because they liked change, whereas the arcane folks are people like the Dragons, who are basically magical dinosaurs, and the Fays, who have had the same ruler for 24 million years, and the other Nephilim, who are still making maps the way they did last glaciation.
Of course, the guy who had this map made is one of the conservatives among the nephilim -- Attalais, alias "Atlas" to us newcomers, who helped "flatten the world."
We ask Desmond to explain that. As we were told earlier, it means that it became harder to move from Earth to other planes. It's "flat" in that it became harder to change directions, turn a corner, off into other dimensions. It really happened in stages. The first was after most of the fays departed for Faerie. The second was shortly after the advent of the nephilim, to prevent celestials from having easy access to Earth, thus breeding more nephilim. The third was precipitated by the War in Heaven, and started about 4500 years ago (c.2000 BC), ending about 4000 years ago, and was to prevent arcane folk from returning.
Now, about this map: Desmond reckons that the Mountain lies somewhere in the Hindu Kush, but that the best way to use the map is to follow the trail it lays out, starting from a point in what is now Turkey.
Accordingly, and after some discussion, we drop Desmond off in Istanbul, last year (which is 2515, and was a peaceful year on Earth). We make sure he has a calling card, a global locator, and a tracking beacon. After some more heavy remembering, Desmond calls up a Swiss bank account he left behind a few centuries ago, when he went to Destine; he finds that, by putting away a little for a very long time, plus compound interest, he has about a thousand "mega-marks," though he has to ask us what that means. It means that withdrawing all of it at once would dislocate the economy of a small nation. That's all right, he just wants to buy a horse, a pack mule, and some camping supplies. (We suggest an air-car rental, but the map was really written for people on foot.)
We leave him, fast-forward three months, and call him on his calling card. "Shhh!" is the answer. He's on the side of a mountain, somewhere like Pakistan, and this area of the world isn't much more civilized than it ever was. He thinks he's getting closer to his goal, but he seems to have violated some local religious taboos... He really needs to be silent.
We ring off, then fast-forward a week. He's just riding, with not much news. Skip ahead a month. "No wars on Earth in 2515? Ha!" Maybe not technically, but the local level of ... community involvement sure looks like war to Desmond. The only difference is that now they flit around in air-cars and use shock rifles. We ask if he would like us to intervene. Well, yeah. A bath would be nice, and he thinks he needs to look at the letter that came with the map.
We open the door onto a rocky landscape. Desmond comes in, leading his horse and mule. We next open on the Munch, peacefully parked somewhere in the Jumping Jack yards, on Hellene, in 2516. We then leave Desmond with the bathing facilities and a bottomless bowl of fruit from the magic tent.
After he's refreshed himself, we open a door back on the Tellemataru. Desmond pages for our quasi-Russian acquaintance, Kranov, who shows up with his buddy Chebastian and someone named Higgenfield. The four of them then decide they need Hamlish and Obedan. Rose and Blackthorn show up too. Finally, Braeta shows up with Greywolf, and they all go into a huddle in a meeting room.
Greywolf comes out after a bit and asks for a meal, paper, and pens. Rose pops out a bit later to report good progress. Apparently, they're negotiating a treaty on how to open the letter... Robbie decides that, as the appointed intermediary, he'd better be in on this, and Kate and Tom sneak in after him.
Braeta then unseals the thing and gives it to yet another nephil, one Ker Tow. A key falls out of it. We all stare at the key, but eventually Ker Tow reads through the thing, muttering about how all the Ss look like Fs. Meanwhile, we pick up the key. When tapped, it rings like a tuning fork. The Key of Attalais. A key to open the way between worlds, perhaps?
The letter, it turns out, is on how to open the gate to the Plains of Penance. It seems the basic situation concerning the Plains hasn't changed at all, and so is still very unappealing. (Tom reminds them that this looks like the only alternative to perpetual conflict with the Dragons, but gets ignored.) Opening the gate may attract unwanted attention, so all who mean to pass through should all be gathered there already.
The conversation becomes a bit more general at this point. They reckon they need a couple of more days of planning before they begin the general evacuation of Yazatlan.
We leave them to it. Morniesul takes us off to his quarters and gives us dinner. He says that he's willing to do what he can to supply the nephilim once they get to New Hierow, not just transport them there. Seems he has a Cunning Plan (tm) involving running the Tellemataru back to the Reach (in the distant future). We think of all those demigods, scheming in the conference center, and suspect his is not the only Cunning Plan being put in motion.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.