Journey to New Europa
Chapter 46, Through Chaos to Vinyagarond
We left our heroes once again in Kate's bedroom. They contemplate whether or not to stay in this world or leave now and try to patch the interdimensional soft spot from the other side. Well, what have we got to stay here for? Only King Auberon's visit tomorrow morning. And the spot has been getting softer and softer through the night. We decide to leave.
But it's only polite to tell Auberon we won't be here tomorrow. Accordingly, Robbie takes the magic mirror (which we have removed from the wall, preparatory to packing it up) and calls for Robin Goodfellow, Auberon's personal secretary.
The mirror goes dark, but, after some delay, Goodfellow shows up in a nightshirt, candle in hand. And here we thought elves were the nocturnal sort.
Robbie explains that we have to leave now, but Auberon is welcome to drop by the house tomorrow and inspect our patch job. Salimar notes that we might never come back. Goodfellow's diplomacy wins over his natural glee and he remarks, "How sad," though with no great sincerity. Salimar adds that we're taking this mirror with us. Maybe we'll be able to communicate from the other dimensions. Goodfellow doubts it. Robbie says that maybe we can use the mirror to help steer us back here some day. Goodfellow thinks that is likelier. We make polite good-byes.
Tom then turns to Father Padraic and Katrina and asks them, bluntly, if they are who they claim to be, if they have hidden motives, if they are our enemies. (He also quietly turns on his telepathy, though he goes no deeper than empathy. That way, he can at least tell if they are lying. They can read his emotions, too, though they may not realize that's what their doing, since the reading will only reveal caution and anxiety, which they can see on his face anyway.) They check out.
More good-byes: We ask de Alqua to tell Auberon that we leave the house to the use of the Seelie Court until we return. We also ask him to call up Old Tom Langhorn, the woods bogey (or whatever he is) who lives on the grounds. We meet him at the kitchen door, thank him warmly for his help against the Unseelie, and recommend him as groundskeeper for when we turn the house over to the Seelie Court. He's gratified. But he hides it well.
We then write good-bye notes to the servants, to Sherlock Holmes, to the wizard Morrolan, and to Katrina's favorite editor. Robbie writes a fan letter to Lady Ada Lovelace, inventor of software, just for kicks. On a similar motivation, though with a touch of disinformation strategy, Salimar sends a message to the World Crime League, in their own code, reading, "All is known. Fly at once."
We ask de Alqua if he wants to come. No, thank you, but he gives us a signet/cygnet ring, a pinkie-ring miniature of his own such ring. We can use it, he tells us, to send him messages or to contact him.
All good-byes said, we line up and pick up our luggage. Mithriel pulls an implausible length of glamour-rope out of her blouse pocket, we tie ourselves together like mountaineers, and she leads us through the soft spot.
The scene on the other side has been different each time, and so it is this time. We're on a stony landscape like large-scale brain coral, radically convoluted. Robbie staggers and has difficulty with his coordination; things no longer compute.
Mithriel sets out to patch the soft spot. She unties from the rest of us and asks us to back away some. We comply, but Salimar advises Mithriel to tie herself to a piton for safety; she complies.
While Mithriel examines the soft spot once more, Tom examines Robbie, to figure out what his problem is. This locale, Tom suspects, is rather vague on its laws of physics, depending more on the wills and expectations of passers-by to give it definition. Robbie, on the other hand, depends on precise physical law to run his electronics.
He explains this to Robbie and advises him to try to think of himself as a unit, not a program running in a computer mounted in a body. If he identities his self-image with his body-image, he'll probably get on better here. Robbie gives it a try.
Mithriel, after mysterious proddings best known to witchwalkers, shoves and pushes at nothing visible for a while, fading out herself from time to time. From time to time, she examines the area through a crystal ball. Eventually, she quits and says she thinks the soft spot is a lot better now.
Now to get home. But first, Mithriel asks to talk to Tom privately. He unhitches from the group and confers. She asks Tom if we should tell the group to not think of any of the nasty things we want to avoid here. This place, being so psi-active, will probably steer you toward stuff you think about.
Tom doesn't think it's wise to tell most people "Don't think of your worst fears." Instead, he advises urging them to concentrate on what we want to have happen and where we want to go. That's fine with Mithriel. They re-join the rest of the party, Tom quietly editing his own memory so as not to dwell on The Monster or similar unpleasantries. (He does this so well, he even forgets he used his amnesia skill. This skill was the reason Mithriel chose him to confer with.)
Tom delivers a little pep talk on positive thinking to the others, then we set out once more, Mithriel in the lead. Soon, we are on a witchpath. Which is to say, we are treading a narrow trail of nondescript Surface, surrounded by dim blur/shadow/mist/confusion. We are, in fact, no where very particular, as Mithriel tries to tune in on a useful destination.
Time passes. Or maybe it pulls over and parallel parks. Eventually, the path broadens, looks more dirt-like, and develops silvery grass on each side. This looks a bit more like somewhere.
Tom and Mithriel notice equine hoofprints in the dirt, which could mean horses -- or mules, or unicorns, or centaurs, or pegasi, etc. As we move on, the grass looks less silvery and more green-but-dewy. The blur is more definitely mist, and there is a light shining through it off to one side. The path is now a small road.
We pause. Mithriel gets her psychic bearings. Tom, carefully hitched to rope, goes to investigate the light. It's a lamp post. I know what you're thinking, but there is no sign of fur coats or pine woods or fauns, or any indication we're near someone's wardrobe. But there are footprints, humanoid, wearing various kinds of footwear -- two sizes of riding boots, sandals, and elven-style moccasins. The lamp itself just contains a candle -- or at least, a little white stump that a flame dances on; wax and a wick, etc. are not in evidence.
Back on the path, Salimar takes out and inspects the Map of Here. It shows the trail, wider here, fading off before and behind, and the bulge off to one side containing the lamp post. There is also another colored area, a patch the legend calls "unknown."
Kate finds more hoofprints on this road. Some are shod, some not. Robbie, who has been having some luck with Tom's advise about mental imagery, finds he can make a successful contact with his roving eye (which Mithriel presently has as an impromptu amulet around her neck).
Tom returns from the lamp post and Mithriel remarks that the path feels stronger ahead. All this is very heartening, but what about the "unknown" separate patch on the other side? Shall we explore it?
Mithriel doesn't think Tom or anyone else should leave the path to do so, so we all go with her. As she approaches the patch, the vagueness of witchwalking fades out and we find ourselves atop a stony ridge.
This looks, in fact, very like the kind of terrain we traveled along at the beginning of the current cycle of adventures. Only that earlier ridge ran through the Chaos Marches (which look a lot like the scenery on a witchpath). This has actual countryside around it.
The horizon looks rather close. The sky is either dawn or dusk; we'll have to wait to see which. To the west (unless it's east), the ridge continues for a few hundred yards, then drops off. To the east (unless it's west) are mountains -- old, rounded mountains, but still very tall. To the north is a steep descent and darkling hills beyond. To the south is evergreen forest.
Robbie finds that his electronics works just like old times here. Salimar and Katrina find a round depression in the ground, like the site of an old bonfire, complete with bits of charcoal. Mithriel remarks that, in terms of witchwalking, they are standing at the start of the most obvious way out of this world. All in all, it looks as if this place has seen inter-world traffic in the past.
But not all that traffic was good. At least, Fr. Paddy doesn't think so. It's just a feeling he has, of a sort he's had in the past. A scent of actual, unrighteous wickedness, distinct from the sort of thing you get from even the Unseelie, who are monstrous and horrifying but then so are tapeworms.
Tom thinks he knows what Fr. Paddy means, though he doesn't feel it here. But we might as well move someplace where Fr. Paddy feels more comfortable. We head down the ridge to investigate the apparent drop-off to the west. (By now, we're sure it's dusk here and that we're headed west.)
Salimar looks at the Map of Here again. The spot where we entered has lots and lots of pins in it. Yes indeed, the obvious way in and out of here. There are many kinds, including "pantope gate," "New Blood," and "Worldbender." (!)
The Map also shows a large east-west road, off in the pine forests.
We find that the ridge leads down to a seacoast, of the rockbound sort featured in Maine. It extends out to sea a little way, in a natural jetty. The Map shows more pins along this coast, all labeled "New Blood."
Mithriel finds a path down, off the ridge, to the coast -- the inobvious, game-trail-like paths that elves make. We follow her down until she stops and sniffs. We smell pine and ocean, of course, but also flowers. The specific floral scent is familiar to Mithriel. It reminds her of her mother, Daewen.
We look around for more clues. Mithriel casts a glamour of moonlit darkness. This decreases the light level but shows up our next clue, because Dafnord spots a continuation of the elven path, into the rocks and scrub pine.
Following it, we come to a little clearing in the seacoast pines, containing a big rock with several small rocks around it, arranged in that careful nonchalance that spells "elf" to those familiar with the folk. And all around the clearing, in all the little nooks, are wildflowers, mostly bluish, all ordinary Terrestrial breeds.
Tom feels around psychically and reads Daewen's signature here, loud and clear. Mithriel remarks that she could "step out" here easily, but she'd rather leave back where we entered; this place is private.
Tom nods and rises into the air. It's been weeks since he was able to levitate, and this homelike place has inspired him to try again. Mithriel bursts into laughter and races him up the cliff with plain old (well, elven-agile) leg-power. "I beat!" she announces at the top.
The rest of the party are left on the sea cliffs and it is a little surprising that it is Robbie who finds the elf path and leads them back.
Once we are back at our entry point, Mithriel starts to lead us in, then pauses, cocks her head, and registers curiosity. Then she throws her arms into the air in an invoking gesture. It works. Very well.
Clouds roll in obediently, and the wind whips up. Fr. Paddy decides it might be a good time to say evening prayers...
Mithriel then steps onto the witchpath, but also into the eye of the storm. We follow her.
Once things settle down to standard witchpath hazy, we ask her why she did that. She isn't sure; it just felt right. The haze gets darker, then turns to fog, then lightens. We come out in pine forest, at the lip of a dell. The fog lightens and we're in the morning in a pine forest -- an old one with lots of big, mossy trees.
The dell is a big one. There's a large cluster of cottages in it. And a geodesic dome. It's Vinyagarond. We're back.
A figure is racing up the slopes toward us, showing the same elven skill that Mithriel just did. And no wonder. It's Daewen. She smiles when she sees us, and asks if it was us who raised the storm. Mithriel says it was, and now realizes why she felt it was the right thing to do. Apparently that's Daewen's own storm, a feature of the Dreamtime, a chaotic little realm that Daewen helped found and recently gave to Alvirin.
Oh, so that place was the Dreamtime. Only Tom and Mithriel had ever been there before, and not to that part of it.
We introduce Fr. Paddy to Daewen and head down to the village, for breakfast.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.