Chapter 25: Heaven-Sent Opportunity
We followed our dowsing clue toward the apparent moon, upward. The sea below was soon lost in mist. The moon enlarged in strangely rapid perspective and, with a sort of seamless ripple, was soon under us, presenting one of its luminous seas to land on. We did, making the Pudgie Budgie skim along the water like a sea-going vessel. Behind and above us, in the sky, there is no Earth or other globe, just a misty patch.
Markel dowsed on the goods of the slain trader, which we are using to find his native land. Well, he certainly didn't come from here. What little clue Markel gets seemed to lead off-plane entirely.
People on the docks were intrigued but not panicked by our appearance. The general decor was Arabian Nights fantasy in cool pastels. As we approached, a fellow in splendid white robes rode up on a white horse, threw the reins to a nearby lad, and dismounted, obviously waiting for us.
Picking up the cues, Dafnord assumed the role of captain and had Gannar come into a slip and then threw a couple of ropes to dock workers, who caught them. Daphne improvised a gang plank and perched on Dafnord's shoulder like an anthropomorphic parrot (with her animated bonsai, Russell, on her shoulder). Dafnord strode off to meet the Offical in White.
Tom, meanwhile, pulled himself together, made himself more presentable with a bit of glamouring, and followed.
Dafnord made introductions and discovered, like Robbie, that this was the City of the Seventeen Spires in the Eleventh Paradise -- news that disquieted Tom, at least, a great deal. The official was Ibrahim Adan Madid Harrif, the Prefect of the First Spire and seemed gracious, agreeable, but a little puzzled.
Tom reached out telepathically for Robbie and immediately found him. The information got fed into our telepathy net, so Dafnord told the Prefect about the companion we were looking for, who "drifts." Meanwhile, Robbie told the Sage Hassan, up in the Library of the Pearl, that his friends had come, and started down to meet us, with Hasan.
From the Prefect, through several rather delicate exchanges, we learn that this place is exactly what it sounds like -- an afterlife (one of at least eleven pleasant ones) that mortal people (human? they look it) go to after they die. We've docked in Heaven.
The Prefect is not at all sure that the trader whose goods we're tracing came from here, though it's possible. (The theology of it sounds messy, since the fellow died -- again? -- in Lanthil's waters.) Fay and other folk do sometimes come here, but not much, not usually on purpose, and not to stay. The city trades mostly with other cities of the Eleventh Paradise and other paradises. (Well, after all, we didn't really trace the goods here; Robbie just wondered about the moon, and poof!)
So our own trading opportunities here are limited, but we'll give it the old Lanthil try.
Meanwhile, Robbie and Hasan have arrived. Hasan greets Tom with "May this third step bring you the completeness you require." He, like the Prefect, can tell just by looking that Tom has "made this trip" twice before. (Tom was once clinically dead and had a classic Near Death Experience. And once he and all his companions were totally blown up and resurrected by Special Plot Device.) Tom takes a cautious step backward, onto the gangplank, not wanting to "complete his journey" so as to be stuck here. But Hasan didn't mean that. Also, the learned Hasan seems to ... recognize Tom, as if the two were in some kind of time-twist.
Led by Daphne, we explain to Hasan about Robbie's little problem if no body to anchor him whenever his ... attention wanders. Can they, perhaps, help? Hasan listens, then suggests that he and "the sage" (gesturing to Tom) sort things out while the rest of us shop. This group seldom needs much urging to go shopping, and -- shopping in Heaven? -- they're off. (As they depart, Tom sends a warning not to eat anything here. Look what happened to Persephone...)
Daphne asks the Prefect about trade possibilities again. Very limited. The Avalonians sometimes come here, having a special arrangement of some sort with the afterlife. A few gifts are okay, but large-scale trade is not encouraged. (You can't take it with you, after all. And apparently you can't take it back, either.)
We confer among ourselves -- what to offer these folk? We have some stones and such suffused with light from the Lightfall. They might like that. And the emerald shrapnel from Tom's pantope deck might have curious provenance value.
Meanwhile, Tom and the sainted sage stroll off to confer, and Tom gives an abbreviated version of Robbie's story and our own. (He offers telepathic rapport to speed things up and give more data, but Hasan thinks it unwise, which again suggests time-twist. In fact, Hasan asks Tom to cut telepathic contact with the rest of the group.)
Hasan is really worried about Robbie. Robbie just isn't physical anymore, and the more he realizes this, the harder it will be to fix things. He is relieved that Tom can control his memory and forget this little item, in case of later telepathy with Robbie. Hasan advises that we get Robbie back to Djinnistan as quickly as possible, where he will spontaneously re-embody, if his attitude isn't too damaged. This is probably what happened to him the first time, and he probably got separated from his original body, not by any act of the djinnish ambassador, but because he was a robot and simply not related to his body as intimately as organic folk.
Tom is very grateful for the advice, and offers Hasan information in exchange. Hasan seems not much interested and instead offers general aid to Tom, so Tom asks him two more questions:
First, for his country: We are beset by agents of the Lilim. Where should we find help? Oh, my. Hasan suggests they adjourn to the Library of the Pearl.
Meanwhile the others are cruising the bazaars of Paradise. Silks! Flowers! Spices! Jewelry! Daphne picks up several scarves, including one woven with phoenix feather, and a silver-shot grey one for Daewen. She pays for these with a small carving made from wood of the Tree of Faerie (given by the tree when Daphne asked nicely).
Dafnord gets a silk scarf for Finriel and a light silver coif to go over it. He pays with small gems from the Lightfall, which cause quite a stir, and gets him a whole bolt of green silk in change.
Back at the Library, Tom and Hasan confer. Tom gives rapid verbal reports about the origins of Lanthil, which Hasan seems to use to confirm reports -- or prophecies -- in his library. He asks if Daewen has been "credited" with the founding of three realms yet? Well, there's Lanthil, and before that there was the Dreamtime. And there's the refuge we're going to be setting up for the nephilim. Hasan seems interested and satisfied.
As to Tom's first question, he says only that Daewen should look first to her defense, and that he mayhave a gift for Tom, but for right now he'll send Tom back to the Prefect.
Tom's second question was for himself: He sometimes worries that, soaked in fayness as he often is, he's losing his humanity. Is this something that might happen? If so, should he worry about it? The answer is no, it isn't likely to happen, and once more Tom gets a feeling that this knowledge comes from the other end of a time-twist.
Back at the bazaars, we've been referred to a late armorer, now turned jeweler and silversmith, for really good coifs. We've decided to get one for Daewen, and this fellow is delighted to see us, because he has been working on a coif that looks like a slight but elegant hair-net of silver chain (made of native, i.e. celestial, silver), but can actually act as major defensive head armor. There's also a crown-like thing that goes with it, a silver battle tiara. All in all, it looks a great deal like something we saw Daewen wearing in the time-curdling Battle of Chaos, some years back.
The armorer/jeweler goes one about how silly it was of him, making armor here in Paradise, but he liked doing it. How ... providential that it should now turn out to be of use. (And it probably isn't even enchanted, but rather Blessed.)
We offer to pay in the gemstones imbued with light from the Lightfall. The Prefect makes a remark that it is fitting that the light come back here.
And so we are told that a certain amount of commerce between the Eleventh Paradise and Lanthil was only natural, since, after all, their seas are the source of the Lightfall.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.