Lords of Being
Chapter 43: More Refugees
When last we left our heroes, they were flying from the island of Hawaii to Los Angeles, when Captain Barron exclaimed, “Get these people out of the cockpit!”
Mabel is the closest to the front of the plane at the time and goes to the cockpit to see what the problem is. She finds six figures in there with Barron, which is rather crowded. A closer look reveals that there appear to be three woman and two men who are dressed in various shades of green and brown ragged clothing. The sixth figure is in a grey uniform. Mabel attempt to shoo the invaders out of the cockpit. “Come along. You want to be out here.”
They look at her in bewilderment. The man in grey motions forward and the rest follow him. As the figures emerge from the cockpit, Hellgrammite determines that they’re not ghosts, and that they are more magical than mundane humans. The figure in grey is an angel-level being, but not an angel of death.
Once they’re all out of the cockpit, the fellow in grey turns to Mabel and says, “This is the best place for these people at this time.” Before she can question him, he disappears.
The newcomers don’t seem surprised at this abrupt departure and are looking around curiously. Two are visibly disconcerted when they notice the children and Rene. One of them gasps when they realize that the three children playing video games and the figure behind them are ghosts.
Rosamund comes forward and asks, “What has happened?”
The woman in front of the group responds in a musical, lilting language. Rosamund doesn’t understand her but thinks the newcomers look like fays.
Neville tries. “Would you like something to eat?”
Catalyst takes in the looks of incomprehension on all sides and says something that sounds like it’s the same language the newcomers are using. Sylvia bustles forward and tries to shepherd the newcomers towards a set of six chairs towards the back of the plane. Catalyst keeps speaking in the lilting language; we assume he’s translating what Sylvia is saying. The newcomers dazedly walk towards the back of the plane, though the woman who gasped keeps a wary eye on the children and Rene.
After they’ve been seated, Rosamund asks Catalyst to explain that the children are also refugees. After a musical exchange, he explains, “Meeting human shades is always a bad omen where she comes from.”
Neville brings a plate of cookies out of the gallery. He sets it down, grins, and makes a show of eating one. The newcomers fall to.
Sylvia asks Catalyst to ask the newcomers where they’re from, and what the conditions were that ended up with them here as refugees.
Hellgrammite thinks that this is a great idea. Perhaps we can find some pattern in what’s happening. He turns to the ghost children. Of course, they are kids. They’re not going to know about local politics and geography. So he asks the kids what gods and deities they believe in or were taught about.
They blink a little. The largest relies, “It has been a long time since we heard those stories. Once when I was little, we had a pot that cracked and the crack got longer every day until the pot broke. My mother told us that cracks and holes and the insides of pots were all the children of the big hole that is the sky. That all empty spaces are the children of the sky. And the little cracks are like little brats, since they make trouble.”
One of the other kids says, “We were told to be nice to spiders because they were our bug because we were crafters. My father wove tents and baskets out of reeds. Not like the crickets, who belonged to the singers.”
Mabel remembers back a ways. It was back during the last glaciations. There was a tribe that had stories like this. Simon remembers them as the Urapta.
After another lilting conversation, Catalyst reports that the fay say that they were on a journey and were taking a shortcut through the Dreamlands, and while they were there, a storm of some sort began to brew in the distance. A dream ranger rescued them from the massive storm through some scenery that was difficult to describe. But no more strange than where they are now.
As he finishes relating this, there are another series of blockages. Especially on the Order side. There’s a pause, and the blockages begin to notch down.
Mabel gives a shaky laugh, and says, “I think we should stop talking about blockages. It just encourages them.”
Over the hours of the flight to LAX, Courtiers around the globe chip away at the accumulated blockages, which slowly reduces.
Half an hour out of LAX, Hellgrammite’s phone rings. It’s Ragnison. “Hello there. Lady Diamond says that Catalyst is a very good cook. Makes mana cookies. She does something similar, but wants help. You may have noticed that people are working hard on blockages. People are running out of juice. Can I have Mona come by and pick up some mana cookies?”
“Sure. Please tell her to come into the middle of the plane. It’s getting crowded.”
“We had angels of death deliver ghosts and fay.”
As Hellgrammite chats with Ragnison, Rosamund checks that Catalyst can produce mana cookies without running himself down and asks what ingredients he needs. She relays that to Hellgrammite, who tells Ragnison, who will pass it on the Mona, who’ll bring them when she comes to pick up the cookies. We’ll see what she arrives with.
Dawn is breaking as we begin our approach to LA. Suddenly there’s panicked babbling from the fay who have just realized that they’re in mid-air. Either they couldn’t see anything outside in the dark beyond the plane’s wingtips, or there’s now something to see other than endless miles of ocean. Catalyst interrupts his cooking to calm them.
Shortly after the fays are calmed, Mona arrives. This causes the fays to murmur and point. They didn’t arrive with bags of groceries. Mona did.
Hellgrammite leads Mona to galley. She asks if there are any cookies available and munches a couple. She was looking pretty haggard when she arrived, but the cookies perked her right up. “How’s it going?”
Sylvia replies, “Angels have been dropping off refugees because this is the safest place for them.”
Rosamund adds, “It’s been interesting. We’ll catch up later.”
Mona dumps out the groceries she brought, fills her bags with cookies that are still warm from the oven, lights her candle and disappears.
Rosamund goes to the cabin that Jennifer has been in and knocks.
“It’s Rosamund. May I come in?”
Rosamund opens the door and slips into the cabin. She tells Jennifer that that we’ll be landing shortly in LAX. She then hands Jennifer her purse and explains that we’ve gotten a ticket for her and have deposited money in her account to give her a good start on her new life.
“I kept hearing strange voices…”
“We had some fay join us.”
“Someone with a French accent, and some children?”
“We’ve had a number of people drop in.” Rosamund shrugs. “Anyway, we figured that you’d be more comfortable making your own way to Seattle. I’ve left a number in your phone for a curator in a museum. He knows how to reach me if you need me.”
“Thank you. You’ve been very kind.”
“You’ve done the world a great service. We’ll be at the terminal soon.”
We land. The elves exhibit enthusiasm. We don’t know whether it’s for the skill of Captain Barron’s landing or for having survived their first flight.
Once we’ve parked by the terminal, Rosamund lets down the rear stairway and escorts Jennifer to the terminal. Jennifer enters the terminal and murmurs “Excuse me” automatically to the six people coming out. Then she realizes that the sixth figure isn’t human. She yips and scuttles away.
Rosamund’s first impression is that the sixth figure is some sort of ape, which causes her to tense. It’s got thick black hair all over, and looks sort of like a chimpanzee. But it has a dog’s head. And it’s accompanied by a fellow in a blue uniform with gold piping.
Rosamund relaxes and asks, “Are these more refugees?” She takes in the other four figures who are dressed in heavy woolen coats, which seems a bit much for LA. Even in the early morning.
The angel responds, “Yes.”
“We have a small airplane. We’ve already got three ghosts and five elves, and it’s starting to get a bit crowded. We have an airport. Would that be a better place for them?”
The angel considers. “Perhaps. I’ll take that into consideration.” He vanishes.
Our new passengers troop onto the airplane. They don’t look bewildered as much as worried. Roper and Hookie are not happy about these new folks, but they’re well trained and Mabel keeps them under control. She’s probably the only person who’s aware of Roper’s sub-audible growling. Or perhaps not. The dog-headed creature makes a rude gesture at the canines and edges away from them.
Since we’re going to be in LAX for a few hours to refuel, Glass orders a cargo-container of food and foam pallets in case we get more passengers, along with a drum of cookie dough to help Catalyst in his cookie production. He also orders a partition for the cargo hold so we can keep our weaponry away from the passengers.
Once the latest additions have settled into seats, Neville greets them. “Hello. Where are you from?”
The foremost person answers, in a thick eastern European accent. “Hello. We are from Greater Armenia.”
“Welcome to… We’re in LA at the moment.”
“Thank you. I am Levon. This is my wife Anoush and our friends Margarid and Diran.”
“I’m Neville. And who is your… companion?”
“This is our plappergeist.”
Surprisingly, Neville has heard of plappergeists. They are guardian creatures from central and eastern Europe. He’d thought them myths. But he’s seen some pretty strange things since the frogfall.
“Oh. I’ve never met one. Has he been with you long?”
“Yes, almost a part of the family, you might say.”
“Does he always travel with you?”
“On journeys such as the one we were on. We were making a transition into… the common world. Ordinary world. Mundane world.”
“So you’re not from the mundane world.”
“Nearby. One of the Cryptic Nations.”
Hellgrammite asks, “Do you know how close that is to the mundane realms? Or the edge?”
“There are lots of edges. The Cryptic Nations are adjacent to the mundane realm. There’s even overlap. We were coming in for trade. There was a... it was more like a nightmare than anything physical. The pathways seemed haunted. And the plappergeist vanished and came back with the fellow in blue, and he took us to the airport. He told us to stay with him until your plane came in. He said that this was the best place for us to be at the moment.”
Neville asks, “Would you like something to eat?”
“Thank you. It has been a while.”
Rosamund appears with tea and cookies.
As our latest guests break their fast, Hellgrammite excuses himself and makes his way to the cockpit to tell Captain Barron that we should get to our airport as soon as possible without attracting attention. The Captain takes the news that Guardian Angels have been dropping off people with us amazingly well. Though he does seem a bit agitated at the idea of trying to “outfly angels,” as he puts it. He’s been munching Catalyst cookies. Hellgrammite suggests that he take a nap. On his way through the cabin he shakes hands with the children as he passes, nods at Rene and the nice people who don’t speak English, and shakes hands with the Armenians and their plappergeist. He asks after Jennifer and we tell him that she flew commercial up to Seattle. He goes into his compartment and shuts the door. Firmly.
Once the Captain has been settled, Simon calls Peri. “We seem to have been picking up passengers along the way.”
“Where are you?”
“That’s really interesting.”
“Yes. We’re bringing them up to our airbase.”
“Oh. We never told you about that. Yes, we have an airbase in Michigan. Anyway, they’re immigrants and will need a chaperone.”
“Immigrants? You want me to come to your airbase and show these people around? “
“We may need to leave on short notice. Three of them are…” Simon realizes that he’s talking on an unsecured phone line. “…from the same neighborhood as Charlie. And the others are from further away. We thought that someone who wouldn’t be too surprised would be good.”
Peri pauses before she responds, “OK. Sure.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if your father would like to meet some of these folks.”
“If you wouldn’t mind. How safe is this? If my father and I go, my mother will want to come. She’s clued in but doesn’t have any skills.”
“These people were brought to us because they’d be safer than elsewhere.”
“Brought to you?” For some reason Peri doesn’t associate us with safety.
“By… higher ups.”
“Oh. So it might be safer to be with these people than home at Chicago.”
“I’ll handle it. Anything else?”
“Not now. But we keep being surprised.”
“You too? Well, I’ll see you in Michigan.”
After the plane is refueled, the Captain is awaken from his nap and eats a real meal. Without any of Catalyst’s cookies.
We take off for Michigan. We’re barely in the air when there’s another barrage of blockages. Other than the frequency, they’re not anomalous. Every few minutes there’s another blockage on the paths.
Catalyst excuses himself from the cockpit and goes back to the galley to start cooking. The first batch is just out of the oven when Mona arrives. “Hello. We’re running low on ammo…” She stops as she realizes that there are guests on board, then finishes, “… cookies.” All of the new passengers are looking at her.
Hellgrammite calmly escorts her to the galley. “Catalyst has been cooking since you were here last.”
“Thanks” She fills her bags again and leaves.
Once Mona is gone, Hellgrammite pulls out his phone and arranges for furnishings to be delivered to our airbase to house our guests.
Sylvia goes to visit Dr. Fu. She’s arrived at Nuumealani to find herself standing in a coffee table in Dr. Fu’s study. It’s night here. She steps out of the table and calls out “Hello?”
A husky young Polynesian fay appears.
“Hello. I’m looking for Dr. Fu.”
“You’re the lady who dove into the sand.”
“Please, come with me.”
Sylvia follows him through the building and says, “I’m sorry if I startled you.”
Her guide shrugs. “Not at all, ma’am, We owe you a great deal.” He knocks at a door.
After a moment, Dr. Fu appears, clad in striped pajamas. Sylvia bows. “Dr Fu. I’m terribly sorry to wake you. We managed to acquire a certain amount of intelligence since we were last here.”
“Indeed? One moment please.” Dr. Fu ducks back into the room, and the returns, pulling on a bathrobe. “Please come with me.” He leads her back to his office. “Have a seat.”
Sylvia seats herself. “It would appear that either some of the things that are going awry are intentional or someone is taking advantage of the chaos. There seem to be attacks happening. As far as we can tell, they’re places near the mundane world. The net result is that the Powers That Be have been dropping refugees on us. For some reason being with us is safer than other places. It would appear that there are powers that are inimical to the fay realms, I’m sorry to wake you, but I wanted to make sure that you were informed.”
“I can inform her divinity.”
“Has that all worked out well?”
“She finds herself indebted to her sister.”
“That can be annoying. You remember the Tyndale hounds?”
Dr. Fu’s eyes widen. “Are we likely to have an attack of Tyndale Hounds?”
“We doubt it, but things seem to be escalating.”
“Worse than you land sliding into the wrong dimension?”
“I would hope not. But those of us of good will might need to band together.”
“Do you want the word spread beyond our island?”
“I may be overacting but any series of events that starts with the end of the world and seems to get worse from there doesn’t seem good to me.”
“Point taken. I will go inform her divinity at once. Do you need to be shown out?”
“No, I can find my own way. I may need to come back. I’m still connected to your bottle.”
“Very well. Thank you.”
They rise. Sylvia bows, and disappears.
Hellgrammite pulls out his Deck, and thumbs through it until he finds the card for Dealer and Decker. He uses it to call them. They, or their ka’s, appear. “Yes?” says one of them. Hellgrammite never learned to tell them apart.
“We have two problems. One of them is refugees. The other is the cause of the refugees. Apparently something is attacking the edges and paths. I want the information out.”
“Ah. You wish for the attack to be known?”
“Should it be kept secret from anyone?”
“There are a few Courtiers that I don’t want involved. Definitely those who want the world to end shouldn’t know about this.”
This gets a reaction. “No cosmocidal maniacs? Not a problem. We don’t do a lot of business with that crowd.”
Simon asks, “This is going to sound like an odd question, but did you notice the end of the world?”
Dealer (or is it Decker?) responds, “Of course.”
Hellgrammite continues, “And those who didn’t notice shouldn’t be told either.”
“We don’t do those who aren’t clued in. Something is attacking the edges and the ways? In a large way?”
Hellgrammite gestures at the clots of people on the plane. “The children are from afterlife, the elves are from the Dreamlands, and the Armenians are from the Cryptic Nations. The angels have been bringing them to us.”
“The angels?” They turn pale.
“We’ll want a ward to cover our airfield.”
“Yes sir.” They pull out their own Decks, which are significantly larger than the one they gave Hellgrammite, and shuffle frantically through them. “May we go now?”
Pop. They’re gone.
After the entrepreneurial Pages are gone, Hellgrammite pulls out his phone and calls Ragnison. “You know about Dealer and Decker? I’m having them put the word out that we are under attack.”
“Excellent idea! I’ll have our contacts pass the word to the fay. Diamond doesn’t have many contacts on this planet.”
“She can spread the word among the Knights.”
“Yes. Anything else? I really have to help chip away on the blockages.”
Hellgrammite thanks him for his help and hangs up.
Sylvester calls Seretse Potoqwani.
“This is Sylvester DeVerre. Do you happen to be busy?”
“Not unusually so. Why?”
“Higher ups, as it were, have been delivering us refuges. There appear to be bad things in nearby realms. The first ones that were delivered to us were refugee ghosts. We were thinking that a larger attack is on the way and we’re not well prepared to protect ghosts.”
“If I understand you, you should know that I only hunt ghost traffickers.”
“You are a wizard?”
“Yes, but I don’t know much about the afterworld.”
“You wouldn’t know anyone in the Michigan area who is in your business?”
“I know nobody in North America.”
“Those who care for ghosts should be told that ones in need of help may be appearing.”
“Very well, I will tell the people I can tell.”
“I was really hoping that the World Wide Ghost Defense League…”
“Oh well. Should you find anyone who you could recommend, please let me know.”
Sylvester reports to Simon on the conversation.
Hellgrammite calls Muhammed Said, the Courtier in Jordan who has contacts with the fay, and tells him. When he explains that the angels are bringing us refugees, he gets a gasp.
It is late afternoon as we’re coming in for a landing in Smithson airbase. Suddenly we hear Captain Barron swearing. Hellgrammite rushes into the cockpit and the Captain asks, “Can you do anything to get these mammoths off the runway?”
Last Updated: Feb 28, 2010
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved