Chapter 27: Celestial Spheres
We left our heroes in Heaven -- the Eleventh Paradise, to be precise,
which looks a lot like the Moon, when viewed from a distance -- and so
naturally they are doing one of their favorite things: shopping.
(Strategic discussion before the game session:
Salimar decides to look for a bookseller, hoping for some sort of cultural overview of Paradise. She finds a book stall, but all the travelogues and such are about mortal lands. No maps, either. (She has carefully refrained from consulting the Map of Here. It has had, in its time, to do very strange things, but this might mutate its legend right through myth out into revelation...) She selects a couple of the mortal travelogues and goes shopping for silk. Something she can strain herself through.
Robbie, drifting about after the others, notices there's no sign of a mosque in this Moslem-themed paradise. But then, there's no temple in the New Jerusalem, either. (Revelation 21:22)
Daphne, who was shopping at a florist's, decides to look for a spyglass. It could be very useful on our ocean voyage. She's directed to a seller of curiosities. Gannar and Salimar join her there. The storekeeper is full of the same polite curiosity all these souls are, but doesn't clearly understand Daphne's description. He offers her a large crystal ball. She gives it a try. It will show her home, he tells her.
Soon, she finds herself looking at woods that could very well be in her homeland of Rusalka. The viewpoint wobbles in response to her eye motion; after a while, she learns to steer it and locates a familiar-looking village. Then the ducal castle where she worked as a nanny. So it is Rusalka.
Looking over her shoulder, Gannar can see bits of the same visions. Salimar asks the storekeeper if, once we bought this ball and took it away, we could look back to here, to the Eleventh Paradise. No, it only looks toward mortal lands. What, then, would be a good souvenir for her to get? The storekeeper says that is a question for the sages and declines to answer.
Daphne, meanwhile, has located the kitchen in the castle. There's a new cook working there. Steering her way up to the corridors, she finds new portraits in the galleries, including a couple of young women she knew as small children. Time has passed in Rusalka! But this does not bother Daphne.
Gannar gives a more exact description of a spyglass and is shown one. He tries it out on a distant spire, then on the daylight stars of this world's sky. He spies a "comet" -- a little smear of brightness. But it has no head, like a real comet; instead, it trails off at both ends. Gannar asks the shopkeeper about it, but he's mystified. Gannar shows Salimar, who tries launching her Third Sight through the telescope. This gets a nearer image but no great revelations, except that the streak of light is bluer on one side. But it does look like something familiar.
A ... highlight? A reflection on a curved surface? Salimar turns her Third Sight viewpoint around 180 degrees and finds herself looking down at the moon-like sphere of the Eleventh Paradise. (Perhaps other paradises share this moon; we aren't sure.)
Gannar asks to borrow the crystal ball. If it shows "home," he wonders what it will show him. He comes from far away in both space and time -- a completely different continuum of space and time from the one they're now in. He gets an image of alien forest, such as one might see on Aondoar, his last planet of residence, "now," in 2517.
Daphne asks the shopkeeper if the crystal ball shows places as they are now. He says it's not an easy question. Like fay lands, the paradises are only loosely tied to mortal time.
Tom and hasan show up about now. Daphne re-asks her questions of Hasan. He confirms the loose temporal connection and, yes, that is a highlight we see through the spyglass, on the crystal sphere around the "moon." We are closer to the celestial courts here.
Salimar asks for a description of the celestial courts. He says that needs the skills of a poet rather than a scholar.
Still puzzling out the geography of this situation, Tom asks Hasan where he himself is from. It was not a mundane realm, though his ancestors came from one. But long ago, the Caliph of Caliphs sent some of his people against the wild things in the northern mountains. The people got lost and wandered into a new realm, no more hostile than the one they had come from, on the edge of the Whistling Desert. They founded a town governed by a sharif. Hasan, in his youth, went traveling from that town across the sea, and found a people "who had not heard the truth." He returned to his town and reported, then went back with a group of missionaries. But the sea was too broad and he never returned. He had long and curious adventures, and when his journey was over ... he came here.
Meanwhile, Daphne has been poking about in the curiosity shop and found something shiny and odd -- an armillary sphere. Tom recognizes it and explains its functions. The glitter attracts Robbie as well as Daphne, and Tom decides we'd better buy it. It's at least as good a souvenir as any. We pay in Metaphor emerald.
It's time to start back to our ship, the Pudgie Budgie. Robbie stops at the jeweler's booth and collects an emerald ring for Tom, the stone from the deck of the pantope.
At the wharf, we are met by the Prefect. He has something to assist Tom in finding Djinnistan. It is a large ring of many-colored striped stone. The stone came from the Kaf Mountains in Djinnistan and will make a good dawsing token. We thank him sincerely and board the ship.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.