Journey to New Europa
Chapter 3, Landing in England
We find our heroes in Somerset, England, in the year 1870, in some parallel history or other, having been unceremoniously (if ceremonially) conjured into a store circle on top of a hill by a bunch of Victorian occultists who have told us only that they've brought us here to save their world and that we should go up to London.
Steaming a bit from this interference, Tom leads the way down the hill into the nearby village of Somerton. The season is early summer. The time is midday. The village is charmingly quaint. We spot a pub that is quaintly charming and decide to stop in, collect ourselves, and ask directions to London.
As we enter, a hush falls. Expected. We are a large group, several of us look decidedly exotic (being elves or, in one case, a seven-foot neo-human), one of us has a hawk on her shoulder, and none of us are dressed for the era. The publican keeps his eye fixedly on Mithriel (the most spectacular member of our group) while serving ales to Tom and Dafnord. Tom asks for and receives directions to the nearest train station, a "couple" of miles away.
Then the door slams open and the hush falls even harder. The ... fellow who enters is about seven feet tall and very husky. You hardly notice this, though, because of the ram's horns, fangs, and talons. He looks at Mithriel, orders a flagon, chugs half of it, demands a refill, then retreats to a corner. Conversation gingerly resumes. But it is interesting that his appearance does not generate, say, screams of horror.
The publican and his wife serve us lunch (a slightly venerable lamb stew, and raw mutton for the hawk (the hawk served, for some reason, on fine china)) and we quietly case the joint with clairvoyance. (ESP seems to work fine here, though TK seems to screw up.) We hear mutters about "their type" covered up by loud conversations on darts.
Old Hornie makes a loud, rude exit, followed by a screech. Ashleigh sends out some clairvoyance and sees Hornie riding away on a big, scaly, fanged mount we suppose to be a nightmare. "Regular customer?" Tom asks the publican. "Wouldn't say customer, sir. Customers usually pay. " Tom tips lavishly with the money given him by the occultists who conjured us, and we set out for the train station.
On the walk, Tom tries some TK experiments. He tries to conjure a simple ball of light and gets a Disney-dust explosion. He tries to levitate a pebble, and it jigs through the air with astral St. Vitus dance. He scopes out the background psi as well as he can and notes a certain feeling of texture to it.
At the train station, we find one other passenger waiting for the train. He's in a gaudy 19th-century military uniform and has flowing blond hair, Vulcan-style pointed ears, and an elvish look to him. (The elves where we come from don't generally have pointed ears, though the other fay folk have a wide anatomical variety.) Ashleigh greets him in Quenya and gets a polite reply in the same language, though with an unfamiliar accent. Ashleigh pretends not to know English and the rest of us play along. She tells about arriving just recently from Very Far Away and asks questions about our new locale.
We learn, for instance, that Old Hornie is clearly a member of the Unseelie Host. Cailin shudders; she met the Unseelie before; they are a ferocious and downright evil band of fay marauders.
We also learn about the First and Second Compacts. The First Compact is a peace treaty between the Unseelie and the human race. The Adversary, Lord of the Unseelie Host, was tricked into signing it by Auberon, Lord of the Seelie Host (the good guy fays -- relatively speaking, anyway). The Unseelie are magically bound by the treaty. This happened ages ago.
The Second Compact is a thing of just a few years ago. It is an alliance to work against militarism and robber-baron industrialism, signed by Auberon, King Ludwig of Bavaria, and sundry other important folk of the area. (We consider that perhaps we, the New Blood, should sign it too, if given the chance.)
We also learn that there are dragons abroad in this Victorian world, along with fays, and that our new friend is not looking forward to his train ride because of all the iron he must be around. Some of the lesser fays back home don't like iron, but even that is mostly superstition on their part.
The train arrives and our hussar elf minces aboard, staying as far from the metal bits as possible. We touch the metal experimentally. Tom and Dafnord, fully human, feel nothing out of the way. Lorelei, a Deryni, feels it only a bit extra-warm to the touch. The others, all elves or otherwise fay, feel it decidedly hot to the touch; to Z, it feels unpleasantly dead.
While we ride, Tom does physics and metaphysics calculations and some extremely circumspect levitation experiments. This confirms the feeling of background psi-texture, manifested as turbulence in the levitation. He gets a headache. In fact, we all get headaches, and the humans realize they've caught them telepathically from the elves, who are presumably reacting to the iron around them. Tom passes out analgesics for the greater good, including one to our friend the hussar elf, when he comes mincing in from the dining car dabbing his forehead with a lace hanky.
We make our way slowly down the line, through Sucking on Spiders, Dunnamany Wenches, and Idiots Utterly (or something -- the conductor's announcements are marvelously inarticulate) and passengers come and go. One passenger is an elegantly dressed old man with luxuriant white beard and gargoyle-tipped walking stick. He wears something around his neck, hid by his waistcoat, and is attended by a man of military bearing and semi-military dress, carrying a sword. Something about the sword, even sheathed, makes the elves shudder and, from our chats with the hussar elf, we suspect it is made of Cold Iron, whatever that is, exactly. Nick examines the hidden medallion by Second Sight and sees that it bears the Masonic emblem. It is when this pair enter the dining car that the hussar elf retreats to our car and is treated to aspirin by Tom, telling us in turn about Cold Iron.
We arrive at St. Pancras Station and note other fays in the crowd, none of them too happy about all the nearby iron, but apparently willing to ride trains nonetheless. We buy a bunch of newspapers and take cabs to a good hotel near the British Museum and Baker Street. Our arrival disconcerts the staff, but they are equal to the occasion and give us a penthouse suite, which we reach by a nonferrous elevator. We order tea, more papers, and an atlas.
The papers tell us that there is lots of political intrigue going. Apparently, there was an abduction at a consular function and the Bavarians are all upset with the British about it. The abductee was Tom Olam, an American advisor to King Ludwig of Bavaria. (He is also one of the people named on the list in the pocket of Alexander MacLeish, leader of the occultists who conjured us here. Nick clairviewed it while he spoke to us.) This abduction appears to be known as the Smith-Johnson Incident.
There was also a murder of one Martin Blackthorn, rumored to be a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn. This happened three days before the Smith-Johnson Incident. This has stirred up the occultist community and people are worrying about duels arcane in the streets.
There was also the death of a Mr. Vaughn, which is officially described as accidental, but his widow claims it was murder.
We also read articles about how the "Steam Lords" don't like the Second Compact and this relates to the tension between Bavaria and England.
Significant journalists in all these repeated stories are:
K. Winters, J. J. Jensen, A. Cartwright, and L. Hossifer.
The names on MacLeish's list were:
Tom Olam, Sherlock Holmes, Sommerset Hall, and Katrina Konstantine.
A look at Bavaria in the atlas shows the interesting fact that this version of Europe has a new sea coming down from the north, so Bavaria has a coast.
We go to bed. Tomorrow's plans include cashing in some of our travelers' treasure for local money, buying clothes, and seeing people, starting with Sherlock Holmes.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.