Chapter 4: Pixilated
We left Robbie flying back to the Lanthil castle, pursued by a swarm of
pixies. He has sent ahead an urgent request for several chocolate cakes
(the payment the pixies are expecting) and he is not disappointed. He
spots the cakes in a courtyard, lands near them, and walks away, leaving
the cakes vanishing rapidly.
But he is still not alone. The telepathy net is still up and ringing with advice. Salimar advises him that, next time, he should simply advertize for the best weaver in Lanthil, pixie or not. Kate advises him that, next time, he should try explaining things to pixies as if they were rather dim computers. Gannar advises him to go look for the best pixie-wrangler in the castle and ask for their help.
Robbie acts on this last piece of advice and collars a servant, who leads him to a Silver Service officer, who locates a maid and asks her if "Mother is busy." The maid then leads them up a floor to a kitchen -- nay, THE kitchen of the castle. It's cavernously huge, and only partly in use at this time. The maid then leads them to an unusual person -- a fat, grandmotherly elven woman. (Almost all elves are thin.) She hears Robbie's tale, figuring out who he is as she does so, and says she'll arrange things with the pixies. She'll also run off some more chocolate cakes. Helpfully, Robbie describes the pancreas-rattling chocolate-honey cake we encountered in Tighmark. The cook's eyes widen, but her training holds good. Robbie then goes off to find Kate.
Salimar and Gannar are still down at the docks, at the chandler's. Gannar asks the elven chandler about the widdershins shore, where Tom was last seen. We learn that Lanthil has lost some ships that headed out that way, though probably not to the giant, who doesn't appear to be that hostile, just reclusive. And, once in a while, Things come in from that way...
Salimar asks what sort of Things? The chandler says the best person to ask about that would be a fisher-maid who lives in a little hut near a tide-marsh, the dwelling furthest widdershins. Her name is Piuka (or Pyoka or something like that). Salimar asks what kind of gift might she bring, in exchange for the information she hopes to get. Good mead, answers the chandler, or especially a berry tart; she's fond of berries, and they're still rare in Lanthil. Salimar and Gannar thank him and start back to the castle.
Dafnord-- Remember Dafnord, last seen with a newly-acquired elven lady-friend? Know how hard it is to keep track of time around elves? -- Dafnord finally begins to realize how hungry he is. Looking out the window, he sees it is "still" dusk. He pokes his head out into the hall and asks a passing maid for breakfast. She's confused and tells him dinner is up next. After a bit of temporal disorientation, he figures out he's lost a day and orders a room-service dinner for two.
The rest of us meet with the rest of the resident family for dinner, except for Daphne, who's up at Daewen's cottage, doing woodwork with her. Salimar asks if Cook could do up a nice berry tart for her to take to someone. Sure! And the servant zips off. Later, the serving boy shows up at Salimar's room, delivering the tart. Salimar tips him with an octarine sequin. She then gets ready to, ah, Change for her trip.
Robbie, meanwhile, has gone to the library, as is his wont, to look up information on pixies. There's loads of it, much of it contradictory. Pixies, it seems, are highly various. There's a disturbing volume entitled "The Battle in the Basement and Other Disasters," detailing the political and economic fallout of that event. As he skims it, he realizes there's some extra light falling on the page. Turning, he sees a glowing golden pixie hovering before him. Apparently, she was reading over his shoulder. Was she looking for him? "Yes." Why? "CHOCOLATE!" "Sorry, I don't have any now." "Now?" she says in an all-too-hopeful tone, and zips off.
Thoughtfully, Robbie returns to the kitchen and tells Cook about his encounter. Cook says it sounds like the pixie thinks Robbie will have chocolate in the near future. It's a pity chocolate is still rather scarce in Lanthil. She recommends he be as aloof as possible toward pixies in the future. As for his immediate problem, giving her chocolate may only encourage her, and not giving her chocolate will probably annoy her. Tough choice. She refers him to The Family. ("Go not to the elves for council.")
Robbie heads out to look up some member of the Family. Only he's lost. Soon, he's in a maze of twisty passages, all alike, and strongly suspects he's been pixie-led. He telepaths for Kate. She fetches her magical compass and starts orienteering through the palace, triangulating on her telepathic connection to Robbie.
On the way, she encounters a servant, who knows this area quite well. It appears they are in the Minoan part of the castle -- the bit with the sliding walls and such, emulating the original Labyrinth of Knossos. Even so, finding Robbie is particularly tricky, and several of the walls and doors seem to have been left in a very odd state by someone. ("Cretan!" Kate curses.) She sticks firmly to the servant's side, though, until both have managed to rendezvous with Robbie and return to her own quarters, among the Family Apartments.
Robbie asks who of the Family is in, and learns that only Moranna and her husband, Suliamon are about just now. Robbie confers briefly with Suliamon and decides to go visit Daewen (and Moranna and Daphne), up at the former's cottage. He flies out a window.
By the time he reaches the cottage, he has a small flock of pixies trailing him, and more in the offing. Daewen and the others are on the porch, peacefully carving. Their welcome for him is not as warm as it might be, after they spot the pixies. "And thick and fast they came at last, And more and more and more."
Daewen pulls him in and shuts the door. He relates his tale. She thinks, shrinking down to pixie form to get into the right frame of mind. "Ah-ha!" She returns to the porch and addresses the throng: "I have a bit of a favor to ask you all. As you know, Tom's lost. Mr. Robbie and Daphne are going to look for him. When they bring him back, we'll have a feast. You shoudl make sure that not too many of you get in the way (and delay the feast), and make sure everyone knows there'll be a grand feast when Mr. Tom gets home."
They buzz, chirp, and squeal with delight, and fly off. All except a glowing, golden one. Daphne offers her a mug of hot chocolate, though, and she goes away satisfied. Daewen notes that we've bought peace at the price of promising them a feast. Oh, well. Daphne notes that she should start cultivating those chocolate-fruit trees soon.
Cook, Daewen remarks, will be thrilled about the chocolate trees. There's a story about Cook. She's a refugee of some sort, showing up at Vinyagarond the day before we moved out. When we moved into Lanthil and found food short, she volunteered to manage things and stretched the food supply incredibly -- the culinary equivalent of those famous elven cloaks and swords.
Robbie asks Daphne for the Tighmark chocolate-honey cake recipe, so he can give it to Cook, to sate pixies with. This leads to a general description to Daewen of our adventures in Tighmark and Oz, and there we leave them.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.