Chapter 95: Waging Peace
We left our heroes planning how to end a war between nephil tribes, to
expedite the exodus of both sides (along with everyone else but the
dragons) from Yazatlan.
Our rough plan 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.
Before that, since we're going into a war zone, how about some more autodocs? We have three -- one on each ship and a portable one in the pantope -- but that's hardly enough for a million nephilim and nephilites. Morniesul's ship just has facilities for his various species of crew, all of them aliens.
So Dafnord gates into the ranch and calls up Jumping Jacks for three military-style mobile surgical hospitals -- one of each side and one for miscellaneous civilians. This is rather a large order, even for Jumping Jacks from us; it'll take about ten days to get all three units. Not to worry; we just fast-forward as necessary, pick up the units as they arrive, and gate them up to the Tellemataru, thirty years in the future.
But this does get Dafnord a personal video call from Cantrel. Dafnord salutes. (After all, his real military position is in CORC -- Cantrel's Own Ranger Corps.) Cantrel wants to know what's up. Dafnord explains that we're rescuing another race and agrees to return the hospitals soon (like, instantly, if you want). He doesn't think Cantrel wants to know more just now. That's fine with Cantrel, as long as we're not, for instance, time-traveling within Hellene history. (No, sir.) Because the uniform that Dafnord's wearing just now looks rather like something from Albion about 150 years ago. (A coincidence. It's really from almost-contemporary Destine.)
Once we have the hospitals on board, it's up to the bipedal-warthog-like stevedores to place them. This occasions much grunting, even with heavy machinery. After a fair bit of mis-communication, we get the three hospitals suitably unfolded, in the corners of three widely-separated cargo-holds, each of which will be made over into multiple wards to contain the beds.
Now... How about using them? Each hospital has on-board autodocs, but you still want an overseeing sapient. Can Pemnals do triage? (These are the hot-pink dragon-salamanders.) No, nor the warthogs. The teddy-bear gardeners can, though, in a general way. Furthermore, both N'Tabo Bey and a fellow called Firebird are shamanic healers and once lived on Destine, and so are familiar with hi-tech. We persuade them to oversee two of the hospitals, and Daphne asks Firebird to let an autodoc look him over, so the machinery knows what a healthy nephil looks like. (It thinks he's a strain of neo-human it has never encountered before. This is what the science-fiction types usually think of the humanoid fantasy types.)
N'Tabo Bey tells us (and the autodocs) that we can expect a lot of sword and spear wounds, a few musket wounds, but probably no machine gun fire. On the other hand, there'll be magical damage, like the ever-popular fireball, and some poisoning.
Okay, that part's set. Now, how to actually abduct the military leaders? We decide to open gates under them while they sleep, then stun them. Blackthorn and Rose agree to stand by to sling sleep spells, as backup. (We thus let them in on the existence of the pantope.)
But where are they? Not, alas, in closely-grouped tents on a battlefield. This war is being fought in a rainforest, between scattered villages. We'll have to pick off three or four guys in each village. N'Tabo Bey helps us locate these villages.
Daphne, looking at all that forest, suggests enlisting the aid of the trees. Which would entail locating any fays or elfblood on Yazatlan, something we need to do anyway. We gather the elfblood crew of the Lachesis, and our own Three Sisters, and ask them about it. Mirien's game; Mithriel's good at the mundane side of woodlore; all of them can help pool magical energies; Runyanna and Mithriel would both be good at locating hidden fays, as would Leander of the elfblood And, from among the nephilim, we can get help from ... "He Who Must Not Be Named." (Whee.)
"He" turns out to be a tall, grey-clad fellow we never noticed before, probably because he didn't want to be noticed. "He" recommends we seek out the "tree people of the north." Sounds right up Daphne's alley.
We drop "Him" and Daphne off in someplace like the Black Forest, three weeks before the date set for the evacuation. The Three Sisters come, too, and "He" insists on Leander coming, to stay with the main team while "He" goes to find someone on the other side of the island where this Black Forest grows.
"He" duly shows up two days later with someone named "Loren," who looks remarkably like one of the thinner types of high elf, and who bows deeply to the elfblood children from the Lachesis, who are puzzled.
"He" then asks that he, Daphne, and the Three Sisters be dropped at the east end of the island, while Loren and the elfblood children take the west end. Tom complies, wondering what the heck is going on. He fast-forwards, checking in with each team daily, until we get to a point a week before the evacuation date.
Loren and the elfblood children show up with three obvious elves, six sylvan rustics of uncertain species, and an impressive fellow with silvery hair and beard, armored, bearing a sword. They're all grinning broadly. The armored fellow is "King Aelvis" -- whose crypt we found back on Destine; it was empty. He used to head the fay community on Destine. And in his entourage are the mother of Leander and the parents of the other elfblood children.
Egad! A plot resolution!
We welcome them aboard. Immediately, more fay types appear out of the Black Forest woodwork and hustle in after them. The ones with wings look a lot like Daphne. The self-mobile trees require stretching the portals, and Tom gates them all into the ship's gargantuan arboretum.
At the other end, Daphne and the Three Sisters have accumulated their own fays -- a Robin-Hoody human(?), some Ent-like tree giants, greenish pixies, brownies, some regular elves, and sundry interested vegetation. Tom gates them into the arboretum, too, along with more critters that flood in behind them. Daphne thinks that this lot will make it far easier to get the rainforest itself on our side...
Accordingly, we drop the lot of them into the rainforest a week before The Day, just after we picked up N'Tabo Bey. Immediately, the antagonistic sides are treated to a whispering campaign from the trees, against the war. We also flush out a lot more local fays, who help us pinpoint the local leaders.
Now for the actual abduction. Do we have the embarrassing medical equipment ready? We have about a dozen abduction sites for each side. Here's the drill:
Tom opens a gate under a sleeping officer. Kate jerks him through with TK, adding to gravity, and Tom slams the gate shut. The now-waking nephil lands on a comfy cushion provided by the management. He doesn't get to wake much further, though, because Robbie and Markel blast him with stunners. Then Markel lugs him out to the waiting go-cart and whisks him away to recover in his new quarters, while Dafnord takes his place for the next victim.
We nab our first chieftain without hitch, and leave a glowing scroll in his place. The second guy is, inconveniently, not asleep but sitting on a log by a camp fire. We drop him in, log and all, but cause a loud BANG by accidentally severing a rock under the log. By the time anyone turns around, though, all they see is another glowing piece of stationery. ("He went bang and turned into a scroll!")
With the third guy from this camp, Robbie tries shooting him from above, first. But he's already waking and has great reflexes, and so lobs a knife at Robbie. But he misses, gets stunned, and falls over. Good. But let's stick to the drill from now on.
We then back off and watch the commotion in the camp. People run around. One reads the scroll by the campfire. Someone else discovers the chief has been replaced with a scroll. Pandemonium. Very satisfactory.
We continue down our list. Around the 15th abduction, when we're starting to get bored (do the guys in the flying saucers ever have this problem?), we're interrupted by a disc of greyness suddenly appearing in the pantope. The three witchwalking Sisters and Tom all leap to the defense, and it goes away. The witchwalkers describe it as a "softness," and the cat concurs. Should to try to find where it came from? We think that might get us in more trouble.
Keeping our eyes open, we conclude our abductions.
A tusky stevedore then comes by to report a fight in the "brig." Brig? Turns out the stevedores have been dumping all the abductees -- from both sides -- in the same single cabin. Oops! Robbie, Dafnord, and Markel dash off, stunners waving. They wade in and fire until everyone is unconscious again, then sort everyone out by ethnic group, in "N'Butu" and "Kitsu."
Dafnord stands around in the (now segregated) N'Butu brig and waits for some consciousness to appear. After it does, he greets them, explains that their war is over, and they can get out when they--
At this point, one of the supposedly "unconscious" N'Butu makes a good try at biting Dafnord's ankle through his boot. Robbie, who was waiting for something like this, zaps him one. "Food and water," Dafnord concludes, stamping briefly, "will be served in a few hours." He delivers a stern warning that how long they stay in the "brig" depends on their cooperation and exits. He delivers the same message in th Kitsu brig, though uninterrupted by ankle-biters.
Daphne now spends the next few days appearing, along with other fays, to the succeeding battle leaders, telling them to stop and get ready to leave. The reactions are generally reserved and unenthusiastic. Three days before The Day, she gets word of another actual battle. She and the tree folk rally the trees and head in. Soon, they have the action quelled, and Daphne delivers her lecture one more time. "Do you want to be left with the dragons? Do you think the forest folk would have come out for anything less important?" She gets grudging acceptance.
We've waged about as much peace as we can. Now to find the missing couriers.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.