Chapter 94: Clerical Error
We left our heroes ready to begin the evacuation of the nephilim remnant
from Yazatlan. After a taking a good sleep, we all don armor and
weapons, and take up our stations.
There are three places we need to be:
On the pantope: Here are Markel, Salimar, Dafnord, Kate, Tom, and Runyana.
On the Tellemataru, where the telemporter's entry tube delivers arrivals to the ship: Here are Robbie, Katrina, the Gargoyle, Brunalf, Gannar, and Mirien.
On the "Away Team" that goes to the various points on Yazatlan, at the far end of the telemporter tube (really the pantope portal), and invites people in: Here are Daphne, Desmond, Braeta, Greywolf, and Mithriel.
We set up the telepathy net. Morniesul has his three corvettes deployed outside the ship. The crew of the Lachesis get back on board their craft.
Now, we begin. Our first move is to pick up the envoys we sent out earlier, who were to get the population ready to move without letting the dragons know. No mass migration yet. That's the next move.
We pick up Blackthorn and Rose, then Kranov and Chebastian, and so on. People turn in lists of pickup points to Robbie.
We pick up an Afro-Arabic-looking fellow called N'Tabo Bey. He reports a problem. There's a war going on in his region, and so he couldn't get the word out or do any organizing in that area. It was a war between two nephil leaders. When we do get any of these folk aboard, it'll be important to keep the two sides separate.
A few more pickups later, we get another trouble report from Gon Tum Sum, an oriental nephil, who is afraid the dragons have caught wind of our plans. He had to send out messengers, but lost four, then lost three more when he sent them out to look for the first four. Robbie duly collects data on the places and times these folk were last seen -- roughly, in the Archipelago of the Sun, over the past three-month period.
We make all the other pickups without getting any more trouble reports, but one of our envoys fails to make his connection, which is trouble in itself. One Forrester fails to show, though Desmond says he's usually very reliable.
Looking over these three hitches, we decide to track down Forrester first.
We detach the pantope portals from the end of the telemporter and look up the moment when we left Forrester off. We then follow him, on fast-forward and in window mode. He starts in an isolated spot in the woods. He then hikes a considerable way to a village, then on to a town with an inn, then to a larger town with a wall.
At the walled town, he is met at the gates by guards, who aren't paying attention to any of the other folk entering and leaving. He is escorted in, to a big, stately building. A figure in a robe, on seeing him, hurries in.
We freeze-frame and consult among the nephilim about all this. Robbie goes to Blackthorn, waiting in the receiving area, and shows him images from our portals. Blackthorn identifies the robed figure as a priest of the local religion, which is some form of monotheism. The town is called Delling Thorpton, and the big building is a church. Hm.
We go back to watching Forrester, now with a small door opened so we can get sound. He's met by four robed folk with quarterstaves, who take over from the secular guard and escort him in. He's then taken to a place that looks very like a church's nave, though we don't spot any familiar sacred symbols. Up behind the altar are five throne-like seats, occupied by guys in very much nicer robes than the ones we've seen so far.
The fellow to the right of center proceeds to castigate Forrester, saying he's charged with heresy (which Forrester seems surprised by), spreading false rumors, and "building false myths." (True myths would have been okay, we suppose.)
We go into a huddle. Desmond is very discouraged, because this church is very prominent in that part of Yazatlan, and if they get in the way, it'll be a big problem. What about providing Forrester with some miraculous intervention, featuring Daphne? No, the local church regards fays as agents of the dragons and/or the illusions of hedge-wizardry. The dragons, in turn, are agents of Hell, while nephil blood is regarded as a Good Thing, being diluted angelic blood and thus closer to the divine. The big fellow in the center, for instance, is Archbishop Paetorius, and is a nephil.
Dafnord asks, if fays wouldn't be convincing, how about recruiting a cleric?
This gives Desmond a great idea. We should get Metalais! Why didn't he think of Metalais before?
Sure, we'll get Metalais. Just point us to him. Desmond has us sail our window up over Yazatlan's Middle Sea, then down to a small crescent-shaped island, then back five months and two weeks. We then descend into the basement of a large, handsome, classical-looking building in a city.
Desmond, Daphne, and Dafnord go out. At Desmond's recommendation, Dafnord is wearing a uniform patterned after the ones worn back on Destine by their military. We saw a few like it during the raid.
They soon encounter some monkish types, who are understandably startled to meet them in their basement. The loud "Hail!" and take-charge attitude of our gang don't hurt either. They are shown, with polite bewilderment, to Metalais, who is in his library. Metalais is a very old man, with a long white beard and bad eyesight. He is pleasantly fascinated to (dimly) see Daphne and Dafnord, and recognizes the uniform, too. When Desmond says he's here on a matter of "some import," Metalais snaps that the only such matter would be their escape from captivity.
So Metalaisās eyes may be dim, but not his wits. He is, in fact, a very, very old nephil, pre-dating Yazatlan and Destine. His name has the same ring as that of Attalais, the original "Atlas," so he might even be Braeta's senior. He is, we gather, very well-regarded by lots and lots of nephilim, and now runs a school or college, into which we have dropped.
Tom has been following all this from the pantope and, when the hint is given, opens a portal straight from the library into the Emerald Metaphor. He then presents Metalais with a chair and some hastily-conjured spectacles, both gratefully received.
After we explain the situation to Metalais, he advises us to depose Paetorius -- by character assassination, not martyrdom, and only then vanish him away in front of his subordinates. He has us stage the following:
We go back to Forrester's heresy trial in the church. We open the telemporter tube straight into the church -- thus a dimly lit bronze tunnel mouth suddenly opens in the air. Out of it marches:
- Dafnord, in the uniform of a captain of the long-lost Destine military, looking rather nephilite himself, thanks to his large Acro build.
- Salimar, in her full uniform of a KaiSenese Liaison Officer, which includes a long black cloak blazoned with the KaiSenese lyre-curve-and-stars sigil. The nephilim who left Earth for Destine will remember KaiSen, and they may have passed some knowledge down. If they sense she's not human, so much the better.
- Daphne, hovering and bearing a green tree-branch, representing the fays that have been long-remembered and so little in evidence on Yazatlan. (Yes, we know the church disapproves. Wait.)
Behind this trio come Desmond, Greywolf, Braeta, and Metalais, variously famous, impressive, and well-respected, and all of them elder nephilim.
Dafnord thunders, "Paetorius, you are under arrest for interfering with the Plan for the Exodus of the Sons and Daughters of Destine!" Braeta, meanwhile, stares down the ecclesiastical guards, who were only barely starting to recover from this entrance.
"You have no authority here!" Paetorius exclaims. Greywolf snickers audibly.
Dafnord marches up to the archbishop's throne and hustles him off toward the tunnel mouth. The guards make another effort to rally, but Daphne waves her tree-branch warningly, and asks, in hurt puzzlement, "Will you stop us from freeing your people?" And just then, Desmond opens the telescoping quarterstaff he borrowed from Markel, with a loud snap. The guards desist.
Now the cleric who was sitting on Paetorius's left rises, expostulations at the ready. "Excuse me," says Salimar, cutting in and calmly seating herself next to him in Paetorius's vacated throne. "What are you?" demands the bishop, who has evidently spotted her inhumanity. "Are you sure you want to find out?" Salimar asks. "Sit down." He does.
The cleric who was on Paetorius's right makes a lunge after his vanishing superior. Daphne throws her tree branch at his shins, where it featly tangles itself, immobilizing him. He sits back down.
The guards make one more effort, just as Dafnord and Paetorius reach the tunnel mouth, but Braeta glares, gestures, and endows there staves with a healthy electrical charge. They drop them and retreat.
By now, Dafnord has frog-marched the archbishop into the tunnel. Exit Paetorius.
Salimar now introduces the four famous nephilim and Daphne. Daphne instructs the four remaining bishops, "Forrester is telling the truth about the rescue. Forrester will tell you the Plan. And if any fays show up, let them come with you." Metalais chimes in to call the lot of them ingrates.
One of the bishops -- one from one of the end chairs, not Paetorius's right-hand or left-hand man -- asks if the church will be allowed to go on doing its normal work. Sure, says Daphne, as long as it cooperates with Forrester. "How wide-spread is support for this Plan?" asks the apparent New Number Two.
"Universal," says Salimar, on behalf of KaiSen, who hasn't heard about it but Salimar is sure it would approve...
The New Number Two mulls this over, looks at the miracle hanging in the air, which swallowed the archbishop, and asks if he and his colleagues could confer. Sure.
The New Number Two looks at the right-hand man, who is still trying to disentangle his feet from Daphne's branch. "Brother Damius, I share your concern for our Father Archbishop, so I suggest you accompany him to make sure he is treated properly." Daphne has her pet branch release his legs, and Salimar smiles and hustles Bishop Damius off down the tube. Can you say "coup"?
The three remaining bishops then withdraw, the two younger ones physically restraining the elder left-hand man. We exit and close our doors.
Of course, we then open a window and spy on them. What do you take us for?
How dare you--?!" starts the left-hand man. "Shut up," says the New Number Two. He points out the realities of the situation -- their Archbishop and his Right Hand have both been removed. A constellation of surprising, important, and reputable people vouch for Forrester ... with considerable power behind them. We're backing Forrester. Want to put it to a vote? The Left Hand subsides into grumbling.
They come back to the nave, where Forrester and the guards have been waiting patiently, watching the last sparks sizzle off the guards' staves. The New Number Two questions Forrester, who admits that some of these new myths that have been going about lately are mor figurative than literal, but all in a good cause, eh what? Number Two basically acquiesces in the situation, but announces that everyone is going to stay here in the church complex and think for a couple of days, and no one is to go about blabbing about recent events. (Though it's probably too late to stop tales from spreading.)
Back on the Tellemataru, Dafnord unhands the archbishop and says, "Welcome aboard the Tellemataru. I will show you to your stateroom now." But the archbishop is busy noticing Blackthorn in the receiving area. They are not pleased to see each other. Paetorius starts getting red-faced and sputters about devil-dealing wizards. (Apparently these two know each other.) Blackthorn sighs and casts a sleep spell on the archbishop. About then, Salimar arrives with Bishop Damius. Our two new passengers are variously lugged and escorted to their stateroom.
Once Forrester is alone, we quietly drop in on him and ask how things are going. He says it'll probably go even better than expected, if the church will actively assist.
On that basis, we go back to the pick-up date that Forrester missed, back up to the preceding day, and finally, successfully pick up Forrester and Number Two, who turns out to be named Bishop Rufus.
That's one hitch down. We still have the war and the missing messengers to cope with.
We decide to tackle the war next. Conferring once more with Metalais (who is feeling much refreshed by a run through one of our autodocs), we ask what caused this war. Too long a peace, Metalais thinks. These chaps have been at each other for ages.
Our rough plan, then, is to abduct the top command echelons of both sides, by dead of night, and leave behind luminous documents relating the new exodus myths that Greywolf & Co. have been spread, said documents set to evaporate in a few days so as not to leave clues for the dragons. We'll hope that stops the war and will promote N'Tabo Bey's efforts at mobilizing the populace.
After that, we still have to look into the missing messengers.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.