Journey to New Europa
Chapter 17, Second Attack
We left our heroes heading home after tea at the Bavarian Embassy and a conference with Holmes. Our immediate business is copying up and distributing The Report that we have been working on for the last week, about our discoveries. So far, we have delivered copies to Auberon, Morrolan, Hall, and Holmes. We plan to deliver copies to the Druids, the Golden Dawn, the Temple of Ra, the Theosophists, Katrina Konstantine, and Mycroft Holmes, all of whom are involved in one degree or another, even though some (e.g. the Golden Dawn) appear to be basically nasty.
We consider adding the Assassination Bureau and the World Crime League to our distribution, but decide against it.
We also decide to deliver one to the Masons, mostly because all the other wizardly orders have a copy, so why leave them out? If we hear of any more, we'll probably add them.
We do NOT tell any of our subscribers about any others.
So we spend the early evening doing magical xerography. Dinner hour approaches, and Hall and Morrolan show up, as invited. Then, in the biggest and most impressive carriage of the evening, come four Bavarian guardsmen, armed but in dress uniform, escorting a "civilian" who dusts some glamour onto or off of his clothes and now appears as a captain. He announces that the document is coming. (This is the treaty of mutual defense between the New Blood (us) and the Seelie Court (Auberon).)
A cab arrives, well-shuttered. A young man of dark beauty emerges, in excellent clothes of continental cut. After due verifications all around, he presents a large envelope, TO one Senor Sebastian Carlos de Alqua FROM us. (They have kindly provided a written copy of our invitation, since we neglected to do so ourselves. He then delivers the treaty to Nick. He reads it, then passes it on to the rest of us. It goes on at greater length, but says essentially what we agreed to at tea this afternoon. De Alqua says we can have the official signing tomorrow. The document itself is magical and, de Alqua notes, "quite binding."
Since the topic has turned to magic, we note that de Alqua himself is fay and there is still a touch of magic about the captain. Checking out the other guards (now in the kitchen, being served), we find one of them has a similar touch of magic. We say nothing.
Nick probes the treaty and is not surprised to find its enchantments include something of a telepathic nature, powerful, subtle, and coercive. A geas, in fact, or so we suppose.
Dinner is served. It is substantial and satisfying, if not refined. Hall is quiet, de Alqua talkative, Morrolan genial, and the captain self-effacing. One does not talk business over dinner.
Afterward, over liqueurs, the captain says he must be going. The guard with a touch of magic enters, without visible summoning, and the captain re-glamours himself into civilian garb. The guard triggers a glamour he clearly did not weave himself, and turns into an image of de Alqua, with a phantom image of de Alqua's servant. They leave. De Alqua will be staying the night, to guard the treaty and, incidentally, perhaps us.
Lorelei sets up her Wards Major, ready to trigger. Morrolan watches in fascination. She mentions that she invented them herself, having seen other examples and so knowing they were possible. Morrolan is VERY impressed and tells us that new magics are very rarely invented in this world. The latest have come out of a newly re-discovered book by Leonardo da Vinci, his legendary Sixth Treatise.
Since it looks like the occasion has become one of our friendly little information exchanges, we give him a demo of the Map of Here. He notes a stack of dark red pins south of the house, showing the interdimensional activity by the Wild Hunt last night, plus other, older Unseelie markers further off.
When Morrolan watches us do magic, he selects a colored monocle from a case and views through it. Nick asks him about his analytical techniques. He tells us that to be a wizard you must have the Sight -- the ability to perceive the threads and knots of magical energy that pervade the world here. This is not a physical sight, but is in some way related to physical vision. No one knows just how.
He remarks that the Sight runs (if unreliably) in families, more or less in parallel with artistic talent, though few individuals have the time and energy to develop both. He cites the instance of Lord Byron, who was a great poet and Sighted, and reputed to be able to fill in for any member of a magical ceremony. However, his daughter, Lady Ada Lovelace, has no trace of Sight. She is interesting, though, because she has developed a new skill, used on the analytical engines of Charles Babbage-- And here Morrolan laboriously starts to describe programming. We cut him short.
He goes on to say that, just as the Lovelace programs are reminiscent of the actions of a Jacquard loom, so Lorelei's Wards appear to be a sort of automated loom, weaving the threads of magic rather than silk. She manages to produce a chain reaction in the knots, one pull causing another knot to tangle or unravel.
Lorelei, listening intently, tries to do some of this jazz by TK. She manages to make some sort of tangle in the nearby threads, resulting in a letter opener falling off a table.
Nick shows Morrolan his book of stuff -- a picture book where you can pull the pictures off the page. Morrolan notes that these magical objects are very fine-grained, like fay work. Fays, it appear, do magic much more as a natural process than as the laborious machinations of mortal wizards -- their work is quick, fine-grained, delicate, and specialized. Fairies are to wizards as spiders are to weavers. (There are very few fay wizards.) Morrolan says that if he could replicate Nick's work, he could probably solve "the Fairy Problem," which is the thaumaturgical puzzle of just how fays do what they do. The Wards are a simpler instance of the same stuff.
The Fairy Problem is a standing puzzle of wizardry. One fellow is rumored to have solved it, but he vanished. Perhaps, Nick suggests, solving the Fairy Problem turns one into a fay.
Nick asks if there is any magical equivalent to the Jacquard looms. Yes, there are the Rhyme engines. These are machines that cast spells -- a specific spell for each machine. They were invented by Rhyme Enginemaster, a dwarf in the service of King Ludwig of Bavaria. He built the first magical engines, following the diagrams in a copy of the Sixth Treatise brought to this world by Tom Olam, the gent from another timeline recently kidnapped by the Temple of Ra or someone. So Rhyme Engines are a state secret of Bavaria and used only by members of the Second Compact.
(We learn, incidentally, that dwarves in this world are mortal though long-lived, and completely lacking in magical talent. Very different from home.)
Nick asks if we could meet Rhyme. Well, no. Security. And while we're on the subject, our own security would be (further) jeopardized by letting it be known that we have skills that could relate to engine magic or the Fairy Problem. Morrolan trades Significant Looks with de Alqua while making these remarks.
We are interrupted by a crash of glass. Poor Mr. Hall, whose nerves have been much tried these last couple of days, has dozed off over brandy in the corner. We have him removed to his room and decide to retire ourselves. Morrolan will stay the night. So will de Alqua, though he won't be sleeping. We provide him with a full tea urn and a room with a thick carpet, where he can practice fencing.
Around 3:30 AM, all the fays in the party suddenly awake with a feeling that Something Wicked This Way Comes. They rouse the humans telepathically, just as there is a loud CRACK outside, followed by a solid thump. We follow the noises, by second sight and in person.
The crack was the noise of a fireball being thrown by a demonic-looking bogey. The thump was de Alqua landing from a leap out of a second-floor window. From the care he takes with his epee and the elaborate guard on it, we guess that it is made of Cold Iron, the only metal that can slay fays.
The bogey and de Alqua settle down to a duel, fireballs against Cold Steel epee. However, they are not left to it, because the rest of us have come running, with weapons.
Nick spots two ravens, one giant, one normal, hovering above the house in the night. (Second sight is handy for that sort of thing.) Dafnord, sighting through Nick's clairvoyance, shoots the big one with his blaster-rifle.
Lorelei cries "Stop!" in a commanding voice, causing a pause in the duel. Mithriel takes the opportunity to fire an arrow into the bogey's gut. At the same time, Tom shoots its fireball hand, causing the fireball forming in it to detonate prematurely.
The giant raven, meanwhile, has gathered a dark cloud around itself and stooped on de Alqua. Dafnord fires and misses, but Lorelei takes it out with a disflorger. (Remember disflorgers?) Just to make doubly sure, de Alqua skewers it on the way down. The result is lots of feathers and Spanish curses; it was big, and dropping fast when it hit the elf.
With a swish of TK, Lorelei returns de Alqua's sword to him. Meanwhile, Mithriel shoots another arrow into the bogey -- his eye, this time. Tom sends a silver bullet into his heart, and Dafnord sends in a blaster bolt.
The creature is still not quite dead. It launches one more fireball, which misses de Alqua but splatters fire over Nick and Tom, at Nick's bedroom window. Z, only now beginning to wake up, angrily tells the fire to get out. The fire recognizes Z as the sort of person who regards a volcano as a jacuzzi, and bales out.
Dafnord fires again at the bogey, igniting the hedge behind it. Tom feels around in the dark sky with his mind, finds the second crow, and slams in a telepathic contact with it. This gives him some aim, and startles the crow into forgetting about leaving. This gives Tom time to shoot it. Of course, he has to hold the telepathy while he shoots. He knows this will probably hurt.
It hurts. A lot. Tom hasn't done this sort of thing in decades, and probably won't again for decades more. He screams as the crow dies.
De Alqua charges into the hedge, narrowly missed by friendly fire from Mithriel's arrows, in pursuit of the bogey, who, though multiply wounded and burning, is trying to run away. Lorelei hauls it back with TK.
Mithriel shoots it twice more and it lies still. At Lorelei's request, de Alqua leaves it alive. Or, at least, no deader. Lorelei checks for a pulse. "Do they have pulses?" she asks de Alqua. A very Spanish shrug, and "It depends what he uses for blood." He stabs it just a little, and pulsing blood (rather black) oozes out. So it's alive. Lorelei does enough healing to keep it that way.
Now is the time to notice that some of us, Lorelei and Dafnord, for instance, don't wear jammies to bed, and others of us, Mithriel for instance, wear small quantities of gauze. The housemaid, Katie, roused by the brief battle, had no chance to be shocked at the carnage, so she spends it being shocked at the nudity and bustles about getting everyone clothed.
Old Tom Langhorn comes stumping over, surveys the battlefield (with special attention to the burnt hedge) and hurrumphs off in disgust. Hall shows up and asks if anything has happened. Jenny plays through with herbal teas and cakes.
Soon, the Unseelie will have noticed that no one has come back from Old Oak Manor, and meanwhile, we have a prisoner to interrogate.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.