Chapter 4: Tygers in the Night
Lions and Tigers and Bears! Take That!
Are we quite ready for a trip back 1,700 years in the Land of Oz? No.
Robbie provides ectoplastic baggies for Daphne's food and clothing, so
she can half fill her acorn with dirt, and thereby bring Rustle, her
ambulatory plant. He steps in and is rooted. Now we're ready.
Angel shares one corner grip with Robbie, Dafnord and Daphne share another, Salimar wraps herself around some of the dragon, between Robbie and Markel. We say good-bye, Kate presses the button on the face of the timeclock, and we're enveloped in a golden glow with a thrilling hum filling our ears. The sun reverses direction, and moves faster and faster. The dragon twitches; grass is growing through his intangible feet. Finally the flickering of sun (and foliage) stops, and it's night. We have arrived. Kate carefully disengages the auto-return mechanism.
Glinda steps back from the clock, and tries breathing. Gannar announces that the Watch says it's Oztober 3rd, in the 35th year of the reign of the 7th Oz. We have indeed traveled about 1,700 years. Glinda explains that this is early in his reign, and early in the rise of Oz itself. The Oz controls only the Viridian Fields; beyond them are many lawless areas. The cardinal witches are now starting their rise to power.
We very carefully move the clock into a crowd of trees, where nothing large is likely to encounter it by accident. Glinda disguises it as a thorn bush. Kate uses the clock as a token to dowse for the Wizard. Tink. He's still shielded.
We decide to head to the clearing where we detected the last signs of the Wizard, and the first signs of a duel. Glinda directs us towards where the Quadling branch of the yellow brick road will be, and we head off through the dangerous woods. Glinda places herself between the dragon and Dafnord as we move out in single file.
In addition to Glinda's knowledge of the area, we have Salimar's tracer on the Wizard. We can follow it from the Emerald Citadel to... there. Robbie puts out an IR eye to lead the way. There is a great deal of underbrush, regrettably useful as cover and as snares for Glinda's robe. She takes it off. Robbie delicately explains that the rest of the group is traveling in telepathic contact, and suggests that she might want to join us, at least at the unobtrusive "presence" level. She hesitantly accepts.
After a while we realize that, among all the rustling, squeaking, and chirping in the forest, there has been a steady rustling. Something is following us. Dafnord discerns four somethings. Robbie launches another eye to scan behind us. Yes, there are four saber-toothed tigers stalking us. Salimar transmits the visual to Glinda, who declares them to be "kalidahs." Gannar gives us some more information: They are a recurring monster in the Oz stories, and are described as half bear and half tiger. Something will have to be done.
We variously lift into the air or climb trees. Glinda takes off her dainty high heels, and shows a real aptitude for climbing, especially with a small telekinetic boost from Kate. Only Salimar remains on the ground. She has declared herself to be the bait, and continues to stroll through the forest, armed only with her arcane powers, and an ability to anticipate events. Daphne starts whispering in a chummy fashion to a burly oak tree.
Robbie shoots the nearest two, producing a surprising stream of vulgarisms from his victims. Kate silences one of them, while Markel shoots the third. "Argh!" and the volume of cursing goes back up. The kalidahs confer. A furry arm goes up, with an angry shout of "Dragon!"
While they're still looking up, Fallataal noisily runs across several treetops. Robbie shoots one of his first targets again, then turns to Glinda and asks, "Do kalidahs talk?" He must not have heard them clearly.
"Oh, yes. They are People. They're the only People who eat other People." Fallataal is satisfied. It may not be proper to slaughter them like savage beasts, but it's proper to slaughter them like savage villains. His mind's at ease now...
"I'd turn back if I were you," observes Robbie in the kalidahs' direction, quoting from The Script, but they don't. We see no reason to leave any of them alive.
Now the fighting gets fiercer. Robbie and Gannar are firing blasters, while Kate has only a stunner. Markel rains down arrows, and Fallataal targets noses with rocks. The creatures are tough, one after another recovers consciousness and vows "vengeance" before being downed again. In the end, Daphne's oak uproots itself, and steps on two of the kalidahs. The two who flee from that experience are dropped by Robbie and Markel. Fallataal and Kate deliver the coups de grace, slitting the throats of the unconscious survivors.
Salimar stays where she is, but shoots back a pseudopod, and asks for the fangs. Fallataal cuts six of them out of their skulls, then settles in to skin the least damaged of the beasts and clean it's intact skull. If we're going to spend any time here, it would be good if people understood that we are really dangerous, and a kalidah cloak and trophy skull would help signal that. Angel and Glinda return to ground level. Dafnord hands the good witch her shoes.
The oak took a certain amount of damage in its move, and starts the repair process by consuming "its" kalidahs with nauseating rapidity. We turn away from it, while our pixie de-animates the tree. It's been an annoying interlude, but not without its uses.
©2002,2005 Ann Broomhead and Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.