Chapter 49: This Might Hurt a Bit…
After Runyanna has taken the odd shield off of Daewen, we bundle her through the Emerald Metaphor and in the Grand Aesclepius autodoc, two weeks before we just dropped off Dinlai and Markel.
Now that we have a chance to catch our breath, Tom offers to try to "doctor" Robbie. Leila extracted the knife that was in his chest, and managed to stop the leaking fire, but it's not completely healed. Tom's healed Robbie before with a combination of 2nd Order Glamour and Patterning. For some reason, this time the treatment doesn't work as well as it usually does. Odd.
After two weeks in the autodoc, Daewen is better, but still mortally wounded. The autodoc is complaining about a poison that it is unfamiliar with. We return to the drawing room in the cottage just after the closet door closes behind Runyanna. Dafnord is just lowering Daewen to the drawing room couch when Moranna and Suliamon stride right through the wards on the door (they are family, after all). Suliamon immediately starts to examine Daewen and asks what happened. We relate our attempt to break into Dinlai's Eyrie, carefully omitting any mention of the green shield. Suliamon completes his examination as we finish the recitation. He looks up from his examination and says, "Poison," with a grimace. "We may need a real healer or doctor. My field medicine isn't going to be sufficient. Most of our Enorathic doctors are not going to be very good at this. For all that we are fay, we are not a terribly magical people. And this is not a simple poison."
Suliamon exchanges a set of "significant glances" with Moranna, who then goes to Daewen's desk in the corner. Opening the middle drawer, she pulls out a set of carved wooden objects, selects one, and returns the remainder to the drawer. When she holds up the object, we can see that it's a miniature portrait. Moranna calls out "Melusine," pauses a few moments, and the calls out "Melusine" again. This time there's an answer from the frame, which we can't make out. Moranna replies, "I'm afraid that Mother has herself in a bit of a bind."
Melusine then steps into the room, from the middle of the room. Far away from any of the normal doors. She walks over to the couch and starts to examine Daewen. "Dear, dear my dear, what have you done now?" After a quick exam, she announces, "I'll have to keep her here for a few days," and asks Moranna and Suliamon to take Daewen to her bedroom and make her comfortable.
Once Moranna and Suliamon are gone, she asks us, "What kind of poison was that? And are you likely to run into any more of it?" Well, yes, we are. We repeat the edited version of recent events again, and ask if she'd like to examine Markel and Dinlai, who are on the Munch in the autodocs. After examining the two of them, she tells us that Dinlai will probably need a magical healer, and Markel will definitely need magical assistance. We should come to her when the autodocs have done as much as they can for them. She then takes a sample from Markel and tells us to get the sample to Loreli when we can, since she has a much better scientific education than Melusine. And Markel and Dinlai should see Loreli as well, while they're still suffering from the poison.
And where is Loreli? "She may be at Allied Epochs with Chris. If she's not there, I don't know where she'd be." Of course, Allied Epochs has us under interdiction. So opening a pantope door there would be impolitic, at best. How about using those nifty miniature portraits? Surely there's one of Loreli. "We prefer not to use them unless it's an emergency." We put the sample into a stasis chamber in The Munch's sickbay until we get a chance to find Loreli.
There's nothing more to be done here for now. Markel and Dinlai are being cared for by the autodocs, which can function quite well without us. And probably better. We return through the pantope to the cottage.
Once back in the drawing room, Melusine makes a gesture and tells us that she's raised the level of the wards. Moranna and Suliamon join us in the drawing room and suggest that we should return to the castle. Before we do so, Robbie asks Melusine if the poison that Daewen, Markel and Dinlai are struggling against is also effecting him. She replies that she's never examined Robbie before, so she has no baseline of comparison, but she believes that he is being affected also.
On that note we leave Melusine to tend to Daewen, and return with Moranna and Suliamon to the castle.
Once we arrive, Robbie asks Leila whom she would recommend seeing for doctoring. Most Djinnish doctors would be in Djinnistan, of course, but that's probably not a good choice:
However, Leila has a friend, Na'imah who she's gone to for doctoring in the past. She's a bit of a renegade, but likely to be helpful. Robbie asks, "Should we all go, or just the two of us?"
"That depends on when we went to see her."
"When? As in day, week, month, year, … millennia?"
Leila nods. "More like that, yes."
Tom and Leila discuss where and when. Tom's a little hazy on contemporary Terrestrial politics. Of course, we're proscribed on Earth, too. Leila settles on Baghdad of couple of thousand years ago during the "Time of Chaos" before magic had to go underground.
But before we go, we'll need to change our appearance. Leila shimmers and then she's in her most human aspect. Robbie shapeshifts. He's quite pleased with the result, but Leila is not and "adjusts" him. Gannar puts on a burnoose. He's fine except for the eyes. Leila adjusts those too. Tom and Kate are OK with suitable clothes. Leila considers Dafnord, and gestures. He's now wearing sandals, harem pants, a turban and not much else. Umbra's sheath is modified to look like it holds a scimitar.
And then there's Daphne. She makes it quite clear that she's fed up with being disguised as a child. Leila gestures and she's dressed like a miniature Barbara Eden from I Dream of Jeannie. Another gesture and there are jewels spangled across the silks, in her hair, and… other places. She certainly won't be mistaken for a child in this outfit. Fortunately we have Dafnord to be her guard. Otherwise there would probably be trouble.
We park the door from the Emerald Metaphor in Tom's lab. Unfortunately, Leila hasn't been able to describe to Tom how/when we're going, so she draws a rectangle in the air. After a couple of tries, suddenly there are a several layers of gauzy curtain hanging in mid-air. Warning us that she's not sure who might be in her rooms, she cautiously steps through. Moments later the curtains sweep aside to reveal a room with adobe walls covered with hanging cloth and layers of carpets on the floor. There are objects of Middle Eastern art, large pillows thrown around the floor and a low table fashioned out of a large brass tray.
Leila beckons, "Welcome, welcome. Come in." Once we've all passed through, she pulls the curtains back and smoothes them down. "That should discourage entry if anybody comes in."
We're still taking in our surrounds when we hear the sound of sandaled feet coming down the hallway towards us. A young, feminine head pokes in and grins broadly. There's a quick exchange in Arabic, and the servant departs as quickly as she appeared. For those of us who didn't understand the words as the servant expressed her "surprise at finding Leila in residence, and with guests! She'll be back immediately with tea…" Leila gestures and they are now fluent in Arabic.
The servant returns shortly with a tray loaded with tea and cakes and cookies and other delicacies. It would be bad manners to refuse. We eat.
Once we've finished our repast, Leila leads us out onto the streets of Baghdad. A Baghdad straight out of Scheherazade's tales of 1001 Arabian Nights, complete with soaring onion domed towers in fantastic colors and the occasional flying carpet. Leila leads us on a winding course through the city, twisting through alleys and narrow streets. Eventually we get to the doorway that is our destination. Leila knocks, is recognized by the servant who opens the door, and leads us into a garden in the center of the building.
Waiting for us in the garden is a woman who's scandalously clad, even compared to Daphne. This must be Na'imah. Leila make introductions. When we describe why we've come, she smiles, showing noticeably pointier teeth than the average human. "You've been poisoned?" She looks disturbingly pleased.
Gesturing to her left, Na'imah says, "Come into my workshop." Once we're all in, she asks Robbie where the wound is. He removes his shirt and points out the site in his chest. Na'imah tells him to lie down on the bench, then pulls down a crystal vial from one of the shelves and pours some of the oil on the wound. She peers through the crystal vial as if it was a lens, and then makes a gesture. The oil flares into blue flames and is gone.
"Whatever caused this?" Leila produces one of the daggers. Na'imah points at a square of silk on a workbench. When Leila puts it down, she peers at it through the crystal vial of oil, and mutters, "What are you doing with such as these?" When she's completed her examination, she turns to Leila and asks, "And you brought him here to me?" Leila shrugs.
"I'll have to examine you more closely." Once more she dabs Robbie with oil, and then gestures mystically. Na'imah considers whatever that told her. "Well, your body is a manifestation of your soul using Djinnish agencies. And it's not your original body, so it is not mortal."
Robbie relates his history. He has a difficult time getting across the idea of a robot, for which there's no word in the Arabic of this time and place. Finally he settles on "golem" as the closest equivalent. Unfortunately that raises confusing expectations of it's own. Once the tale is complete, including our visit to the Doctor of Form that resulted in this, his current body, Na'imah says, "I think you can be remedied of these influences." After a pause she adds, "It's liable to hurt."
"Is there an alternative?"
"Well, you could let this continue to eat at you until you go mad."
"That's not an alternative."
"I didn't think so. Divest yourself of all of your weapons and go into that room." Robbie complies, and Na'imah watches closely as he steps over the threshold. Then she joins him and pulls closed the curtain.
Stepping in front of him, Na'imah says, "You left all your weapons behind?" She's rolling what looks like a glass marble in her fingers.
Robbie drawls out, "Yes…"
Before Robbie can complete the word, Na'imah whips the marble-like thing at him. He deliberately makes no attempt to dodge. The marble hits him squarely in the forehead. A blue fireball quickly follows the marble. This time Robbie does try to dodge, but whatever that marble was must have slowed him down some, because he doesn't succeed. A burning sensation starts on Robbie's skin (or whatever his outer membrane is) and starts working its way inward. Robbie opens his mouth to scream as Na'imah turns into a whirlwind and then vanishes.
Shortly after Robbie and Na'imah enter the other room, a whirlwind appears and coalesces into Na'imah. She gestures to Dafnord and Daphne, and tells them, "I'm going to need your assistance. Please go into the other room with your colleague." Interestingly, Na'imah is on the other side of the room from the curtain separating the workroom from the room where she treated Robbie. And won't be visible from that room when the curtain is drawn, either.
Daphne flits over to the curtain and opens it. There's a figure standing motionless with it's back to the curtain. "Robbie?"
Na'imah's voice comes from across the room, "He may be a little groggy."
Daphne looks back into the workroom. "Is he OK?"
"He should be."
"Is he himself?"
"He should be."
Turning back to the treatment room, Daphne tries again, "Robbie, we're behind you."
Still no response. Dafnord steps into the treatment room and asks, "Are you alright?" As he finishes the question, he puts his hand on Robbie's shoulder.
Suddenly Robbie takes a convulsive breath and screams, "Yow! Great Maker that hurt!"
Dafnord snatches his hand back. "Sorry."
Robbie turns around. "If she says it's going to hurt, believe her!"
Now assured that there aren't likely to be any pyrotechnics, Na'imah appears in the doorway. "Sorry. That kind of had to hurt. I can relieve it a little." She advances into the room with a little bowl and a cloth that she dips into the bowl and starts dabbing at Robbie. Whatever it is that's on the cloth feels quite cold. But the burning sensation fades wherever she's dabbed. "One's reaction to pain such as that can never be predicted. The only way to expunge the poison from you was to burn it out. And if you had waited much longer there would have been no possible cure. The poison was much like a drop of black ink in a vial of clear water. After a while the entire volume is a diffuse gray. You were particularly vulnerable because you're body is a manifestation of your spirit."
Which reminds Robbie… "Is there anybody who can teach me to control my manifestation? I tried to demanifest once…"
Na'imah interrupts, "Whatever for?" Which leads to the tale of our discovery of the City of Brass and the wizard who tried to bottle Robbie. "You could go to the Djinn, they did say that they were indebted to you."
"Our impression was that they didn't want to much to do with us. In fact when the Doctor of Form helped me manifest, we got the distinct impression that we were overstaying our welcome."
Na'imah gestures at Robbie, "You would be welcome, at least for a while. You're essence is both Djinnish and unusual. Though they would tire of you quickly."
"Who else could help?"
"Possible the wild ones. Though they'd probably rip you to pieces before you had a chance to ask them your question. I'm afraid that I can't help you. I'm an efrit, and body is where we end up. Unlike that blade, which is more manifestation. As opposed to most enchanted blades, which start as matter and have magic overlaid on them. That blade starts as magic. It's existence manifests from its magical nature. It starts as night, darkness, chaos and ill will. It is all in all an unhealthy thing which as a manifest being does more fundamental damage than to mortals or fay."
"What can be done to defend against such a blade?"
"You have fairly powerful fay friends?" We answer affirmatively. "Get the best possible fay made armor you can, both magical and physical in nature. It should block both influences. You especially should not wear just physical armor, even if truly fay in origin. You need manifest fay armor, equally strong in both the manifest and magical aspects, as much as you can wear."
Daphne asks, "You mean like this?" and casts her Barkskin spell on Dafnord. "That would explain why Dafnord was able to shrug off a hit from the sword."
Na'imah examines Dafnord through her crystal bottle. "That and physical armor." Then she examines Dafnord more closely. "Oh dear, and he's entirely mortal." She rummages on one of her shelves. Handing a vial to Dafnord, she commands, "Drink this." After he's drained the vial, she says, "Can you come back in three days time?" We nod affirmatively. "You sir will need a second potion. Your armor was very sound, but did not block all of the baleful influences."
Robbie thanks her for her help, and then asks, "What can we do for you in payment for all that you've done for us?"
"What do you have to offer?"
"What would you like?"
Na'imah grins a wide, shark-like smile full of sharp pointy teeth. "I'm an efrit. I have appetites that you wouldn't believe." This hangs in the air, as she stares at Robbie, who's beginning to feel like a small, tasty morsel.
Daphne offers, "Would you like seeds from the City of the Seventeen Spires in the Eleventh Paradise?"
This distracts Na'imah from Robbie, "If I could start one of those in a little pot, I would consider it a fine payment."
"Phoenix Breath or Golden Apple?"
"What a terrible choice…"
"Sold!" Na'imah grins again, but this time it's a pleasant smile. "Remember that you all should come back in three days time. And as long as you're being so generous, I believe that I can provide you with one or two remedies for yourself. I'm afraid that I can't do anything for the fay."
We leave our heroes as Daphne and Na'imah are going to talk to the gardener about potting soils, watering requirements and other earthy issues.
Last Updated: 7-Oct-06
©2004 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved