Return to Falkenstein
We left our heroes and some nephilim aboard the Tellemataru, scheming
about the evacuation of the captive nephilim from Yazatlan. After
dining with Morniesul, we return to the conference room, where the
leading nephilim are still conferring.
Robbie asks the cat to examine the Key of Atlas with his witch-sight. Hey, wow! It's so... solid. Intrigued, Tom scans it. It certainly bears nephil-flavored psychic signatures. It also feels ... different. Salimar checks the Map of Here, but the key doesn't show up on it. Tom tries feeling out the Key with his Knack of Tools, but gets nothing. It's surprisingly un-tool-like. "Maybe it hasn't been used much," he hazards, for his knack actually works on psychic traces of a tool's past usage.
The assembled nephilim look it over, and Blackthorn remarks that the key seems "too heavy," and thinks it would be extra hard to change or transform. His lady, Rose, raises her eyebrows at this.
We turn to the issue of the Forty-Nine Cities of the Nephilim, in the Mountains of Kaf. This is where crossing the Plains of Penance gets you, and Tom tries to make the place sound more inviting. He asks Braeta to tell the others about the electrifying vigor she felt when she visited the Kaf. But they already knew about that, and it didn't sell them. Also, Tom had supposed that the cities were sitting there empty and waiting. They think the reverse. In short, leaving the mundane planes is no more appealing to them than it ever was, minus the incentive of avoiding dragons. And nephilim are more the sort to fight than run.
Suddenly, Robbie has a brilliant idea. How about the Falkenstein line as a new home for the nephilim? It's a whole world where fays and dragons walk openly among humans, and have done so for millennia without any Powers objecting, so far as we know.
Blackthorn says it sounds very interesting, and should be investigated -- after they get themselves organized.
Going back to the Plains of Penance, Robbie asks Desmond how close he thought he was to the Mountain. (Pretty close.) Would he like the Map of Here or the services of the cat to pinpoint it? (No, finding it won't be a problem. The bandits in the area are a problem.)
After a little longer, the nephilim finish up their logistical planning and have Tom drop them back off in Yazatlan, at the times and places we got them. As they are leaving, Kranov and Chebastian pause, take Tom aside, and ask him just how close he is to the folks in the Falkenstein line. (On friendly terms, but not close.) Um, well, good, because some nephilim may not be very subtle about how they barge into the Falkenstein line, and it's rather late to try to keep the idea secret. (Oh...)
Blackthorn says much the same thing, before he steps out, and thanks Tom for taking so many risks on behalf of the nephilim, even if he may not have realized it. (Tom answers that he stopped reckoning risk after he realized he was probably listed by name in Lilith's bad books.)
Morniesul wants to go machinate about getting supplies for the fugitive nephilim. We arrange to rendezvous with him a week from here-and-now.
Once we are all back in the pantope, we decide to look in on the Falkenstein line, to see just how well it would suit our purposes. We open a door into our house, Oak Manor. We're in a dining room. We wonder if high tech will work here properly. Robbie's various bodies did, but they were part of a living thing, broadly speaking. We open the other pantope portal onto the ranch on Hellene and fetch in one of our levitating tea trays, then take it into Oak Manor on the Falkenstein line.
Robbie can distinctly feel walking through the portal, now, but the tray hovers successfully. Gannar tries out his lift motor. Thump. He hits the ceiling. The lift motor runs with exaggerated power, and a little rough, just like it did in the Kaf Mountains. Cautiously, Gannar backs down.
The thumping and cries of dismay bring the attention of the caretaker. He knocks on the dining room door. Tom opens and copes. The fellow is a native of an magical world, and knows his employers to be wizards or something. Maybe this is why he pays no attention to the gaping green abyss of the pantope, visible through the portal in the dining room. He does notice the floating tea tray, but only admonishes us that the help can do that kind of thing better than any gimcrack enchantment from some city sorceror. We say we agree and have decided to return the thing to the shop. He rustles up some real tea for us, on a proper tea tray, and asks if we want the staff to come back. He's a little disappointed that we don't.
Leaving the caretaker to engage a plasterer for the ceiling, we get back in the pantope and steer the window to a barren speck of an island in the Irish Sea. We want to see if our spaceships will work on this line.
You see, a million or so nephilim will be hard to sneak onto Falkenstein Earth, but what about other planets? But such migrations would mean spaceships.
We gate into the Nones's hangar at Jumping Jack -- thus setting off security alarms and startling some guy who was there doing routine maintenance. After all that is over, we open the portals very wide, and have the Nones taxi into the pantope, the out onto the little island.
The computer immediately begins reporting electron failures aboard the ship, in the bits sticking out into the Falkenstein line. And there's something wrong about the timing of the circuits. It opines that, with a lot of recalibration, things could be made to work, but we decide not to try it right now.
Instead, let's see if we can just fly the portals themselves.
Tom is pleasantly surprised to find that, with just a few hints from the computer for direction, he can fly the portal to Alpha Centauri in just a few minutes. There we find Centauri itself and bring the portal in for a landing at a spot that, on our timeline, is occupied by the capital city Chiron. Here, it's a weedy area with a few bald sheep.
We put the portal in the airlock before switching it from window to door mode. Then Tom, Robbie, the cat, and the gargoyle cycle through. Tom looks around, takes a deep breath--
And falls over.
Robbie hauls him back into the pantope and quickly pops him into the Nones autodoc. It tells Tom, who's awake again, that he needs more oxygen in his diet.
Robbie pops back to Jumping Jacks -- startling the technician again, who was already wondering where the spaceship had got to -- and asks for one each of every air-analysis kit they have. Okay...
A minute later, Robbie gets a phone call from Cantrel, asking why we wanted the terraformers' model of portable air analysis lab. What is Tom up to now? Nothing really terraforming; don't worry. (Okay, so one of each was overkill.)
The terraformers' air lab arrives on a gravity pallet. The rest of the kits come in a couple of sacks. They soon tell us that the air of Falkenstein Centauri is a little low in oxygen, a little high in carbon dioxide and noble gases, and endowed with some smelly organic -- probably the odor of bald sheep. In short, it is not a perfect match for homeline Centauri, and definitely not a good place to send the nephilim.
Okay, well, how about Falkenstein Hellene? We're able to zip over there even faster. We bring the window in at the equivalent location of our own ranch.
But as we come in, the Gargoyle gets an uneasy feeling, and nudges Tom. We all look around. The place looks just like our own ranch, minus the buildings. Just. Like. Which is rather odd, really. After all, the planet has been heavily colonized for several centuries, on our line, which has made a difference to the distribution and density of things like forests. But this forest looks just like ours. Even more like than its equivalent on the Co-Dominion line.
Looking through the portal with his cat-sight, Brunalf notes that the distant mountains look "soft" somehow, as if they'd be easy places to witchwalk. Hm.
We land the portal, put it in the airlock, switch to door, and emerge. Or Robbie does, taking an air sample. Seems breathable. Then the cat, the Gargoyle, and Markel join him. The cat is in his egg-ship. He lofts for a good look around.
Robbie, the Gargoyle, and Markel all fall down.
We quickly pull them back into the pantope with TK, except for the Gargoyle, who is too heavy. The cat spots an air car in the distance, zooming in. Very fast.
The cat retreats into the pantope and we set the portal on freeze-frame. Braeta stuffs Markel into an autodoc, which revives him, reporting he was heavily stunned. Maybe the stun was delivered through the ground, and that's why the cat was spared.
Robbie is still in a highly humanoid form he shape-shifted into recently. We try putting him in another autodoc, in case he's humanoid inside as well as out, but the autodoc only remarks that he shows no signs of life, or even of death, and asks what, exactly, we've loaded into it. (We were hoping it could tell us.)
Well, then, how to revive Robbie? Since he body seems to be so much solid magic now, Tom tries casting some high-order Glamour on it. This works. (In fact, Tom rolled a perfect hit, a true shapeshift; the humanoid form is now Robbie's true form. It's not clear either of them knows that yet.)
When Markel wakes up, the first think he wants to do is fire up the force-field generator, but we persuade him we should drag the Gargoyle inside first. Several telekinetics, plus several strong people with ropes, manage to do this. We take only a few seconds of outside time, so as not to let the air car get much closer.
Then we go back to freeze-frame and steer the window over to the air car. It's full of draconians -- two dragontroopers and two dragon officers, just like the types we saw in the raid on Destine. How interesting.
Braeta opines that they had someone watching the location of our ranch on every timeline. But since that's rather a lot, the watcher probably isn't anyone important. And these creatures seem to work strictly by chain of command. That may buy us a little time. The pantope buys us some more, of course, but these folk use dimensional portals, too...
Nevertheless, we think it would be worth while to explore the mountains in the north, in freeze-frame.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.