Journey to New Europa
Chapter 22, The Temple Raid
We left our heroes poised to raid the Temple of Ra, to rescue Tom Olam. As backup, we have Katrina, Cailin, Morrolan, and de Alqua, waiting in a nearby carriage, with six Bavarian guardsmen a little further in the background. Our first wave is to be Lorelei, Nick, Dafnord, and Tom. Our second wave is to be Z, Ashleigh, Kate, and Mithriel. (Got all that?)
Invisible and defended against clairvoyance, we now hang about the street, waiting for someone to enter the Temple of Ra, so we can sneak in after them.
Eventually, a cab draws up and a skinny little fellow in well-to-do clothes steps out and raps on the door with an ornamental walking-stick. A large doorman opens the door and Lorelei nips in behind him. Tom and Nick follow. It's good that all three of these folk are reasonably small, because they find themselves in a very small entryway, trying to avoid contact with the large doorman and the Ra Templar, who is greeted as "Mr. Farnsworth."
Farnsworth stands in the inner doorway, removing his gloves and gesturing inconveniently with the stick, while we dodge past. Inside, we find a receptionist behind a desk and a guard or servant, just sitting there. And there's another guard at the end of the hall. And there are no open doorways in sight; they all have doors and all the doors are shut. Well, we were told the place was well-guarded.
A butler or some other species of flunky emerges from one door and attends to Farnsworth's coat etc. Farnsworth, in the midst of exchanging condescending pleasantries with the servants, shoots the receptionist a Look. The receptionist hastily taps on a small Anubis-like statue on his desk, and we find our telepathy net has split. The folk inside with Farnsworth are still in contact with each other, and the folk outside with each other, but the two groups cannot contact. Humph. Well, we more than half expected something like that, too.
Farnsworth asks if "Jennings" is here yet. He isn't. Farnsworth then heads up the stairs. Lorelei and Nick follow him, and Tom follows the butler when the latter nips out, accompanied by the doorman. Tom trails them invisibly though a dining room and a pantry, into a large, bustling kitchen, full of doors and eyes -- an inconvenient combination to an invisible prowler. Peering through the doors with Second Sight, Tom locates several dull rooms and a promising-looking corridor. He settles down to wait for an opportunity.
Meanwhile, Farnsworth, trailed by Lorelei and Nick, has entered a study on the second floor. On the way, he passed a guard seated on the landing of the stairs. This fellow showed a definite flicker of puzzlement when Nick almost stepped on a creaking board and saved himself with a dash of glamoured silence. So the guard may be psychically sensitive -- maybe even an apprentice Ra Templar. Nick and Lorelei decide not to follow Farnsworth into his study, since there are lots of other promising doors up here ... along with yet another guard.
Meanwhile, down in the kitchen, Tom has decided that no one is watching this door and so no one will care if it mysteriously swings open while he leaves through it. He successfully sneaks into a back corridor. There, he begins peeking through doors again with Second Sight. He finds a linen closet, a stair well, a four-bed dormer for maids, a laundry containing a maid and an admirer with a mustache and a French accent...
Telepathing from upstairs, Nick suggests Tom try dowsing for Tom Olam again. Tom obeys and gets general feeling of "down." Let's hope the generality is due to more magical distortion and not because Olam is ... distributed.
The next door is impenetrable to Second Sight, which is interesting. The final door is very thick. Past it is a dark room full of cabinets, wardrobes, statues-- No, not statues, but what appear to be steam-powered automata, robots. Tom the engineer is intrigued and peers into one with Second Sight. Inside are pipes, gear trains, and--
Anything that will dazzle Second Sight is definitely unusual. Seems to make the ears ring, too. No, that's a real noise, as Tom determines when he realizes he can hear it through the ears of Nick and Lorelei. An alarm bell. Damn. Tom moves hastily away from the door.
Upstairs, Farnsworth sticks his head out of his study and yells to the guard down the hall, "Jeffers! Have the mechanical men checked!" Tom goes to the door with the stairwell and heads downstairs.
Meanwhile, outside, Dafnord and Kate are contemplating ways of getting in, especially since that entry way will be very cramped for Dafnord plus doorman plus random Temple member. (Dafnord is over seven feet tall and heavily built.) Maybe the second floor windows...
Inside, Tom is headed down the stairs when something strikes him as odd. He realizes that Lorelei and Nick can't feel his feet. Tom can feel his feet fine, being hardwired to them, but not his partners on the telepathy net. (This is the sort of detail you get to notice after fifty years of telepathy.) So, if he goes down any further, he'll probably enter a shielded zone and lose contact with them. Hm. He waits.
Outside, Mithriel suggests that she climb Dafnord to get into a handy balcony. Ashleigh tells her to just peek inside before entering.
Inside, halfway down the cellar stairs, Tom hears the door below him open. Meanwhile, the guard Jeffers is on his way to check the robots. Lorelei and Nick follow Jeffers, who is very fast, though not, it seems, magically accelerated. Jeffers pulls out a gold card as he runs. Soon, he reaches the room full of robots, though from a different door.
Tom hears a whistle of wind come up the stairs. At the barrier Tom felt by his feet, there is suddenly a man in dark knit body-suit, looking discomfited. This must be one of the magically accelerated guys, stumbling over the magical barrier. As soon as he is through the barrier, he flicks away and is instantly in the robots' room. He checks over the robots while Jeffers watches.
Tom takes this opportunity to head down the stairs, falling off the telepathy net as expected. Below, he finds a door in the act of closing. He slips in.
Outside, Mithriel has climbed Dafnord and found French doors on the balcony. Abruptly, a guard opens the doors and peers about suspiciously. As he retreats and starts to pull the door shut, Dafnord launches Mithriel. She dives for the door and gets her fingers pinched as it closes. BUT she does manage to slip a knife blade in and wedge it open. Inside, the room is now empty.
Dafnord sets to chucking all the other women onto the balcony -- Ashleigh, Kate, Z -- and then Mithriel's rope hits him in the face. (He hadn't known she had that. She couldn't tell where his face was, since he's invisible.)
Downstairs, Tom has arrested a door in the act of swinging shut. He opens it again in a manner that he hopes simulates a natural rebound, and peeks in. He's eye to eye with another steam-age robot. Fortunately, his eye is invisible. The robot, clicking and puffing, shuts the door and walks off down the corridor Tom is now in, apparently to blow off steam...
This corridor has more bloody doors, and is very long, clearly running the whole length of the block. One way are two guards with rifles standing in front of the door at the end of the corridor. The other way are two more guards, seated and playing with dice, with pistols holstered on their hips. And another robot. Tom sneaks up to the guarded door and feels for psi.
Meanwhile, the second wave has entered via the balcony and automatically popped onto the net with Lorelei and Nick. The door to the hallway opens, and they close the balcony door behind them in synchrony, so it looks like air suction. The guard glares about suspiciously, double-checks the balcony door, and leaves.
Meanwhile, Lorelei and Nick are hanging around behind Jeffers while he and Mr. Quick talk about how everything seems fine. Dissatisfied, Jeffers sighs and turns back. Nick and Lorelei dodge out of his line of sight and into the store room. Mr. Quick, meanwhile, seems to be running slower than normal, to make up for lost time, so to speak, perhaps. Upstairs, the second wave see Jeffers return to report to Farnsworth.
In the basement, Tom feels nothing but deadness behind the guarded door. More magic barriers, obviously. The robot comes steaming back up the corridor, puzzling the guards. Apparently, it was put off by Tom's sneaking at the door. Just then Mr. Quick re-enters at high-speed and then slows down. As he does so, his footsteps become audible. The guards gesture to one of the doors and suggest that Mr. Quick check it. Mr. Quick pulls out a gold cards like Jeffers', rattles the handle, and goes to sit down. A man in a white robe emerges from a room full of mechanical noises, briefly, to find out what's up. Tom waits.
Upstairs, Nick and Lorelei move through the robot store room toward the door to the corridor. As they go, they notice a faint clicking noise. The robots are not off; they're idling.
On the second floor, the second wave party is looking for leads and/or a way to join forces with Nick and Lorelei. They find a library and Mithriel deduces from its dimensions that it connects to a secret corridor. They try to break into an adjoining room by picking the lock, but only set off another alarm. They hastily open the secret passage and pile in. It leads to steps. They descend, passing doors, and, near the bottom, resume contact with Tom. They appear to be on the far side of the guarded room.
Back in the robot store room with Nick and Lorelei, a blue lamp has started blinking. The robots start to rev up. Lorelei and Nick slip out the door and head for the stairs. The robots notice, as the motion of their heads shows. Nick glamours an image of Mr. Quick peering in, to allay any mechanical curiosity. He and Lorelei then rush down the hall, colliding with the maid's French suitor. "Sacre bleu!"
Down the stairs, and finally we are all in the same area code for telepathy. The blue lights have also started blinking down here. The two robots in the cellar rev up. Mr. Quick pulls down a face mask (against wind-burn?) and draws his gold card and a gun, then accelerates. Whoosh, up the stairs. Thump. "Merde!" This is not the Frenchman's day.
Lorelei and Nick enter the corridor that contains Tom (plus four guards and two robots). One of the robots, suspicious of the door's behavior, grabs it and slams it shut, nicking Nick. Lorelei casts a sleep on the standing guards and, a moment later, on the seated ones, too.
The second wave, meanwhile, finds itself in a bare cellar room with a couple of doors, one leading to Tom, Lorelei, and Nick via the mysterious cloaked room. Dafnord tries kicking the door down. He is big and strong enough that this usually works, but not this time. A fair bit of cursing and limping later, he tries his blaster on the lock. When that fails, he invites Z, who is, after all, half fire elemental, to have a try. She starts heating up.
Lorelei, Nick, and Tom, meanwhile hear a metallic slam. Did Mr. Quick collide with the robots? No, it's the long-suffering Frenchman again. Nick wedges the door with a chair. One of the robots observing the chair butting the doorknob, raises a hand and cries "Halt!" in stentorian, gramaphonic tones. The chair complies.
Tom dowses for Olam again. He only feels that he is near. The obvious thing to try is the mysteriously cloaked room. Lorelei notes that its lock is adorned with a symbol like an ankh. She probes and feels magic. Time for that Knock spell she learned way back in Hreme.
The wizard in white sticks his head out of his lab to grouse, "Can't you be more--" then stops in shock when he sees the unconscious guards. Tom shoots him with a stunner.
Nick looks over the unconscious wizard into his lab. There is another wizard at a table, tending a blue glow. The local threads of magic are all twisting into it. Nick stuns him. The blue glow brightens and Nick hauls on the magic threads, trying to straighten them out and stop whatever is going on in there.
He now sees that the blue glow comes from a tetrahedron with an eye at the apex. The eye flares, temporarily blinding Nick.
Lorelei casts her Knock spell, thus opening the door. More alarm bells go off. She and Tom shove the door open. Unfortunately, the Knock spell also seems to have opened the door Nick wedged shut. Mr. Quick bursts in. Tom stuns him. The lab is still flaring blue.
Lorelei ignores all this, draws her blaster, and enters. She finds a sarcophagus, connected to pipes or cables, in a chamber decorated with steam-age hieroglyphs. Now we have red lights flaring along the corridor. And, oh yes, she's fallen off the telepathy net again. This is the fourth magical barrier she's encountered on her way to this place.
A robot steams over to the fallen Mr. Quick and leans over to inspect. Tom, invisible, dodges aside and tries to find an off switch on the robot. He fails. He goes back to frisking Mr. Quick for that gold card, which seemed important. Nick, meanwhile, is trying to work up some visual purple for himself.
The blue light goes away. So does all magic and psi. We're in psilence, in fact. (Nick is left with visual chartreuse.) Z, in the psilence, begins heating up faster and proceeds to melt down the door.
Nick is now blind and visible. He hears a robot whir "Halt!" at him. He and Lorelei both hit their psi openers and re-vanish. Tom joins Lorelei in the sarcophagus room, to help her open the thing. Nick, meanwhile, finishes repairing his vision.
The first thing he sees is the two robots in the corridor steaming toward Tom and Lorelei (or Tom; Lorelei's invisible). More robots enter from the door to the stairs. The lead robot moves much more humanly.
Dafnord carefully pushes open the half-melted door and sees what looks like Tom holding up the lid of a sarcophagus at one end (Lorelei being invisible at the other end). Inside is a glassy casing, containing a young man we presume to be Tom Olam.
The lead robot rushes in. Dafnord blasts it, and it rushes out again, in pieces. Its boiler blows, but the head and shoulders move feebly. Its chest falls open, revealing a blue glow. (Nick closes his eyes, just in case.)
Z conjures some lava and throws it past Dafnord's ear and across the sarcophagus at the robot. Meanwhile more robots are chugging in.
We have time to note that the glassy cylinder is glowing, and is connected to cables, then--
--the stricken robot's chest explodes. A fragment of blue crystal strikes Tom in the forehead and falls into the sarcophagus. Nick and Lorelei probe at the crystal and Lorelei cries out in astonishment.
It's a silmaril. She should know; she has one on her person. These, for the record, are enormously potent magical jewels invented by Feanor of the High Elves, in the First Age of Middle Earth, as recounted in "The Silmarillion" by J. R. R. Tolkien. Lorelei has one because Chris, Nick's father, time-traveled back to Feanor and became his lab assistant and, on the sly, made his own silmaril for Lorelei.
Nick pulls it out of the sarcophagus with TK.
Tom, meanwhile, meets the eye of the fallen robot. It's lying in pieces, but the head is still working. "Help me," it begs.
And Lorelei is wondering how in hell this silmaril got here. Not only is it like the one Chris gave her, it is quite obviously also made by Chris.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.