Chapter 40: Tea with the Ambassador
We left our heroes fussing around with a highly unapproachable city. That is, first we tried to get it, then the thing tried to suck Tom and Robbie in, and then one of the inhabitants tried to capture Robbie in a bottle.
All this raises the question: Do we still want to bother with these people? Tom and Robbie vote no and everyone else concurs. Markel recommends we pick up our toys and go home. This means putting the Pudgie Budgie back in the pantope, then looking around for Robbie's stray eyeballs and retrieving them. Soon, it's done and we're ready to be elsewhere.
Ooh! But then Robbie has a qualm. They tried to capture him, thinking he was a djinni. (And who knows? Maybe he is, by now.) Have they captured other djinn? Markel dowses around for general djinnishness and gets a feeling that, yes, there's lots of djinnishness in the city.
Hm. Tom reminds them that we are expecting a djinni for tea soon -- or a djinna, more precisely. The Djinnistani Ambassador to the Second Lanthil Council said she would drop by this week. Let's ask her about this place.
We open the pantope up in Tom's tower and disembark. It's only been a couple of days, Lanthil time, since we left in the Pudgie Budgie. We locate Suliamon and tell him of our adventures. He asks if, when they were trying to bottle Robbie, we saw any use of a six-pointed seal. (Since he often goes by the name "Solomon Elder" when in mortal realms, he's run across the Seal of Solomon.) We were really too busy to notice...
We don't know exactly when the Ambassador is showing up; it's very hard to be precise about dates and times across realms. We just know we haven't missed her. So we wait.
Two days later, we're accosted by elven pages, telling us the Ambassador has arrived and is being greeted by Suliamon and Moranna. We all scuttle away to dress up:
Thus attired, we go to the main hall and meet the Ambassador, allowing Suliamon and Moranna to scuttle off and get their own formal clothes on. We say our hellos and go to the music room, attended by two Silver Service elves of our acquaintance, Fallataal and Angarond. We then describe our adventures to the Amabssador.
"Bah't!" she exclaims. ("Bless you.") We're lucky to have got out alive, she tells us. Most don't. And she raises her eyebrows when we tell her about detecting djinn.
Bah't, she tells us, is also known as the City of Brass. (We did notice, in passing, brass domes on some of the towers.) Tom glamours its image for her, confirming this. It is, she says, a city that has been lost more than once. It is not where it was last known to be, and it appears the people there have gone back to old ways. (She says this last in very cold and disapproving tones.)
It is said that Solomon, son of David, traveled there and there imprisonned many djinn in brass bottles, which he had cast into a nearby sea. Then, many years later, an Arab king and his army came by, discovering it.
There was no way into the city. The king sent several men to scale the wall, but, when they reached the top, they laughed and threw themselves in. Finally, one man, of great strength of will, resisted and was able to open communication with the people -- or at least with one of their princes, who spoke his languages.
The people of that city had jet black skin. (When we were there, we noticed some like that, though others had normally dusky skin.)
When the djinn heard of this, they descended on the city and freed their people in the brass bottles. But it appears that the city has gone back to capturing djinn.
Robbie asks if the stuff of the walls is itself leathal. The Ambassador says it has many strange properties. It comes from a place somewhere between Chaos and the Celestial Courts. Though stone, it has something like mind or intent in it. It is not always benign.
The Ambassador notes that the city hides itself, and thus inhibits anything involving flight or ESP. She is very interested to hear that the pantope didn't seem to be affected. Perhaps the djinn could use similar techniques to get inside.
Perhaps, says Tom, they could use his pantope. It's not like Tom has any fondness for this city, and being friendly to the djinn has clear advantages at a time when we have very few friends.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.