Chapter 9: The Boggart's Reward
We left Markel still in the field autodoc, though it and he are now in his room in the castle, with his dragon (shrunk to mastif size for convenience) in anxious attendance. Robbie drops by to ask after him and takes the opportunity to inform the autodoc that Gannar is not expendable just because he's an android, but should be treated like a human. "Yes, sir." Robbie then goes to fetch some comfort food for the dragon.
All the running around of the previous two episodes has got us to evening. We sit down to dinner, though there is little of the family about, except Moranna and Suliamon. Robbie asks them if there are sapient deer in the woods nearby, since the dragon thought there were.
Oh, yes, there are Wer-deer living in the woods. Hunting one down for dragon chow would have been Bad, and they are happy to hear Dafnord spoke an apology to anyone still listening; fays appreciate that sort of thing a lot.
Gannar asks about the fighting across the water, since that is where most of the rest of the family is (when they aren't in self-imposed exile or off on various diplomatic/espionage missions). Suliamon says they seem to have things in hand. There are reports that the foe are grey-clad humnanoid, and a Marginal witness said they were swarthy, had slicked-back hair and large teeth, and looked Wrong. They could be members of one or two dragon breeds from Yazatlan, but we have no basis for comparison. For that matter, they faintly resemble the Patalan Ambassador, when he was too angry to remember to look completely human.
Speaking of teeth, Gannar asks if there is any connection between dragons and vampires. Moranna says that some vampire legends derive from the Lilim, who have some characteristics in common with vampires, at least on some timelines. On the Classical line, though, vampires appear to be a real and distinct breed of monster. (Everyone looks expectantly at Kate and Robbie, the two natives of the Classical line, but they have no light to shed. Robbie's certainly heard of the Carfax Vampires of Victorian London, but vampires appear to have been laying low on his line, in recent centuries.)
Daphne suggests that the foe are chaos-apparitions, there because we expected them into existence, as we apparently did with the Gargoyle. Gannar asks if we are, in fact, near to that grade of chaos that realizes expectations? Not very, Moranna answers; only the most skilled Marginalia can exploit it here.
Daphne then reminds folk of the gate into chaos back in Tighmark, at the Oakleys' mansion. Just a few steps took one from a very solid English-style garden into misty chaos-marches. Moranna concedes that there could be anything at all in the Back of Beyond, whither Tom vanished (and whence, a couple of years ago, he emerged from grade-A Chaos' Rim with his new pantope).
"So," Daphne observes brightly, "when we go there, we should avoid expecting monsters." Right.
Gannar asks who and what was the fellow who got hurt trying to help Markel. Moranna tells us he was a boggart. These creatures love craftsmanship and resemble dwarves, but are not as powerful or creative. They are to dwarves as technicians are to engineers, roughly. They tend to hang about dwarvish communities in helpful, if subordinate, roles. (We realize that "the Lads" that we saw scuttling in the shadows around Drumthortle, back on the ranch on Hellene, where probably his team of boggarts.)
The creation myth popular in these parts has it that, just as the dwarves sprang up where the blood of Time fell on stone, the boggarts arose from soil and pebbles. Daphne is familiar with boggarts from her home realm, and regards them as a small, foresty variation on dwarves, as much concerned with woods as with mountains.
Boggarts come in a large number of clans. These vary greatly in appearance from clan to clan, but within a clan, they are so similar that only dwarves and other boggarts can tell individuals apart. So anyone familiar with the Castleton neighborhood can tell which clan our boggart came from, but only his clanmates can tell which one he is.
After dinner, Robbie goes down to the shipyards, to see how our own ship is coming. He finds Tethycles having his own dinner on the deck of his own houseboat. Robbie fills him in on recent events and says Markel will be well enough to travel in five days. Tethycles finds it remarkable that a boggart would come to help so human a person as Markel; boggarts are usually clannish with themselves and dwarves.
Robbie asks Tethycles what gift we could give to the boggart, to show our gratitude. Tethycles replies that boggarts seem to be less individual than humans and elves, rather like, ahem, robots and androids -- at least in the popular stories about them, he hastens to add. (Many boggarts don't even have individual names.) As a result, it would be appropriate to pick a gift for the whole clan. They really like things connected to crafts. In fact, a good gift would be to ask them to do some work for you. Perhaps, then, we could ask them to help on the boat.
Since Robbie still looks somewhat robotic, he explains his own past history to Tethycles. He is interested and is able to shed some light on events: Djinnistan and its natural laws are very much the result of the concensus of the population, so the natural laws aren't the same. It's very likely that hi-tech electronics simply wouldn't work there. So bringing Robbie's mind without the body was probably the only way the Djinnish Ambassador could grant his wish to see Djinnistan.
Tethycles is mildly aghast to hear about the pantope going to search for Robbie in Djinnistan, and he has some light to shed on that, too: He mentions, in general terms, some highly ethereal, celestial beings who had no real business in the physical realm, but were nonetheless intrigued by it and came, in time, to revel in it. These creatures produced halfbreeds, and those of two types -- the primarily physical with a transcendent touch (nephilim such as Tethycles himself, also known as heroes and demigods), and the primarily transcendent with only a touch of the physical (mazzikim, djinn, peries, etc.)
(See A Dialogue on the Demi-Spirits for a rendition of this that Tethycles seems to regard as heavily mythologized. The demigod thinks it's mythologized...)
These more spiritual creatures came in two parties, the wild and the controlled. You (especially you, Robbie) don't want to meet the wild ones, because madness can be contagious. They are the things that get labeled efrits, daemons, elementals.
The other lot are the ones who founded Djinnistan, where they could do things like obsessively build towers of golden filigree and cities of emerald.
They are, roughly, the Lords of Chaos and the Lords of Order, respectively.
And we brought a pantope forged from Chaos into the realm of Order. No wonder they weren't all that happy to see us. Much is explained.
Daphne, meanwhile, goes to visit "our" boggart. She offers to the medic to tell the boggart tales while he sleeps; the medic approves. He tells Daphne that the boggart was probably gathering materials in the woods, since that location is where the rainbow bridge used to come down, and the trees there are thought to have particular potencies and virtues. He recommends she tell him of the renovations she's done to the clearing, to tidy up after the fight. She does. She also cleans out the medic's snack drawer, but she leaves a pitted chocolate fruit behind and figures it's a fair trade.
It's evening. The mists and rainbows dim as much as they ever do. Those who indulge in sleep take the opportunity.
The next morning, after breakfast, Robbie and Gananr go into Castleton, to seek out the boggart's clan and offer them our job. Moranna comes along to guide them (and to see what a pair of cybernetics make of a boggart clan, and vice versa).
The clan lives in a little, little house (about half-scale) on one of the twisty streets of Castleton. (Show me a fay town with a grid and I'll show you dwarves, and only dwarves.) It looks like a thatched collection of crates, suitable for Snow White and the Seventeen Dwarves. Robbie's knock is answered by a leathery little old (?) lady-- um, individual, who is very impressed by us. She (?) is impressed by the facts that --
It takes some time to convey this, and Gannar takes over in the middle, using many of the skills he uses to interface with lower-order automation. He has to consciously refrain from sending "end-of-packet" signals. But eventually we think we've gotten through. The boggart lady sends a "boy" (looks like a high-velocity muskrat to us) off to consult with Master Tethycles. And now she really has to get back to her stove.
We turn away. It went a little better than with the pixies, we profoundly hope. It amused Moranna, anyway, as she kept out of sight, trying not to snicker. We decide we had better go see Tethycles, too.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.