The Logs of the TDFS Tindome
Chapter 18: A Bust and a Chest
The student is awakened by his landlord early in the morning. He packs his
squirrel (and clothes), eats his breakfast of porridge and runny eggs, tips
generously, and walks down to the tubby little ship in the harbor. The
Windlass is waiting, and he boards. "Where are we going?"
"The Banks, past a few islands that might be… of interest."
"Then I'll stay out of the way, unless I can be of help in some way…" Not likely.
He is led to his closet/bunk. He lets the squirrel out, puts the bust in a cubbyhole above the bunk, and stows his backpack under the bed.
The Windlass putters away to port (north), looking out of place among the yachts, hovercraft, catamarans. They travel north, and he battles his seasickness. Eventually, they turn west, pass the Orkneys, and, after many days, leave sight of land. He is up near the prow, when he spots a waterspout. Yes, it is a great barrel of a whale, here in the twenty-sixth century.
"Ah," says Captain Jack. "You're lucky. There aren't many whales, and they are a sign of fortune. Maybe we'll spot one of those islands."
Before they do, there is a storm severe enough to trigger his seasickness again. Soon, he goes belowdecks, trying to find the center of the ship, where things will sway… less. Eventually, the captain calls him back on deck. He points out a pair of islands, the larger, closer one is to port, and the smaller, farther, more barren is to starboard. "There! I told you the whale was a good sign. It's not many people who get to see these."
"That one," he gestures to the grey dome of rock, "has no name. The other is Brysil."
"Not the country in South America, I take it."
"Will you be landing?"
"Oh, no. I had not thought to even see them."
"I had been hoping to get to Faerie. Actually, I am trying to get to Tymark, but I'm sure I can't get there directly."
"To Faerie, is it? I thought so. Well, if we get close enough to Brysil, I 'll let you know. It is a way in."
Eïr walks down to the dock, with a parrot on one shoulder and a mace and squirrel on the other, and a tube of maps under one arm. (The pocket with the bust in it is not obvious.) The squirrel grabs a lock of her hair, hauls on it, and looks across the pirate ship in the harbor. Perforce, she looks at the pirate ship she has been aimed at. "It's a pirate ship. What of it? There's lots of them." The squirrel becomes excited, shaking and bouncing. "Do you want… something from there?" The squirrel becomes more excited. "Is that the same ship as the one holding Sam's brother, and maybe sister?"
The squirrel vibrates. "We're going to that ship." Eïr points off at a ship at a significant angle from the first one. "It's ours. We're planning… well, we'll tell you later." Mandorak and Bavör are waiting at for her at their dinghy of water. (They had no difficulty in picking up the sword and dagger they'd ordered.) "That's a squirrel," Mannie observes "Where'd you get it?" (The parrot seems to fit in, and so is not worthy of comment.)
"It's been following us. It's interested in… that ship. The one Eric said…"
"Let's talk about this on board." They sail back to the Tindomë.
"About the squirrel?" prods Mannie, once they're on board, and down on the observation deck.
"It told me where to find the parrot. It's been staring at that ship over there." Yes, it probably is the one Eric has zeroed in on. Sam joins them. The squirrel ignores her; its attention remains riveted on that one ship.
"How'd it all go?" she asks.
"We got Cook and the ladies settled in, and picked up our swords."
"And a few mascots too, I see."
"And then we came back here." He looks over at that ship. "Our next job is to get over to that ship, and free your brother, and maybe your sister. How do we do that?" The dwarf expands the observation window to its maximum. The prow of the target ship is facing them. Its figurehead is some horrific variety of humanoid shape, but more insect-like. Mannie draws the squirrel' s attention to the magnified image of the ship. It becomes extremely agitated, but it doesn't hide. "Sam, what does your brother look like?"
"He's a good deal shorter than me, with the same color hair. I have a picture…" She goes off to find it. She brings it back. It had spent a lot of time in salt water, even in her wallet in the tight jeans. Eric takes the picture, works some papermancy on it, and returns it almost to its original state. It should be possible to recognize Micah and Sarah from this photo.
Mannie sends his second sight over to the ship, and starts looking through every room on the pirate ship. He finds a room with several disheveled, disheartened people attached to the wall by chains. Most are male; one is not. One male is wearing blue denim; another is wearing pants so fine that he cannot make out a weave.
"Sam, what were your brother and sister wearing when you last saw them?"
"Uh. She was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. He was wearing jeans and a polo shirt."
"What are jeans?"
"Oh. What's a T-shirt?"
"Like what Jacko is wearing, but without stripes."
The only female is wearing a skirt. "What are shorts?"
"Pants that only go down to here." She gestures to her mid-thigh area.
Eric takes the picture, and tries to dowse for Sarah. He does not get any feeling that she is anywhere around.
Mannie keeps second-searching the pirate ship, and finally discovers the brig. It has wooden bars across and an obvious lock on the door. "Well. I think we should wait until nightfall, sneak over there, and release Micah." We agree that this is the right thing to do, even if it is lacking in useful detail. The squirrel beats on the window as if trying to pummel that disturbing figurehead.
We pull away from the view, and go off to eat dinner. Eïr pulls out the bust, and invites everyone to examine it. Mannie finds his experience in psionic engineering useful; he can tell that it is a machine, and that it is very old and worn down. He tries to put a little psionic energy into it, but nothing happens. Bay pokes at it with dicing, and it groans. Bay puts in some more energy, and now Mannie tries a mix of dicing and engineering. He doesn't actually succeed, but the bust groans two syllables.
"Excuse me," says the Brisingalf, and disappears into the engine room. He returns with one of the big psi batteries for the engine. Bay pumps more psi energy into the figure. Teller promptly announces that the head said "Oooh" to him. The captain addresses the bust. "I am Captain Finwë Ciryandil of the Tindomë. Who are you?"
"I am the navigator, Chekoff," comes the answer in the elf's mind. The captain reports the response.
"What is the origin of the Tindomë?" asks the bust. The captain relays it. Teller becomes enormously excited.
"Why, from Lanthil, of course," says Mannie.
"Return to Lanthil; return to Lanthil," says the bust out loud. It stops. Bavör dumps the rest of the psi battery into the figure.
Teller demands that someone communicate with the bust. It then says, "You are not authorized."
"Is Daëwen authorized?" asks Finwë.
"Lanthil! Lanthil!" says the statue loudly. Then, "Power levels dropping below one per cent."
Mannie hands his power ring to Bay, and after fumbling a bit, the fair dwarf adds in the power. Teller is now constantly demanding "when, when?" of the bust.
It replies, "Five thousand years elapsed subjective time. Energy reserves now below three per cent." Bavör grabs his power broach and shoves that energy into the bust.
The figure revives. "I have a message for Lanthil. Return to Lanthil. Return to Lanthil."
Teller still is harping on the question of age. The next response is more precise. "Age is 5,203 years, subjective."
The captain decides that this bust is too dangerous to bring anywhere near Lanthil, until we know a great deal more about it. Mandorak examines it more carefully, now that it has power. The Hremish dwarf is able to determine that it is a highly complex, patterned psi machine with sufficient complex patterning to simulate (or approach) intelligence. This is not perfectly reassuring. Teller ascertains that the machine does not perceive itself as dangerous. It reiterates that it has a message for Lanthil. This is a puzzle, since Lanthil is nowhere near as old as this artifact. We firmly decide to ignore it, and turn our attention to other things.
Eïr lays out the maps she bought. She describes each of the islands as she unrolls its map. Finwë is thrilled, especially about the floating island. He determines that, after we have picked up Micah, we should leave at a casual speed, and perhaps hide at one of these islands.
We fret about engaging in piracy among pirates without joining the Pirates' Guild, and somehow the conversation turns to money and gold coins. Bavör suddenly asks Eric to dowse for gold on the floor of the bay. Teller joins in, and is able to ignore the pull of the gold in the town sufficiently to locate a spot over… there in the sand. From the observation deck, Mannie spots a tiny wooden pyramid out there. With his second sight, he is soon able to determine the boundaries of a brass-bound chest almost completely buried in the sand. He encircles it (and a great deal of sand) with an ectoplastic bubble, and dices air into it.
Bay hauls it up onto the sandy bottom by levitation. Mannie pops the bubble, and Bay dices the sand out from around it. He pulls the chest toward us, but there are still a lot of yards still to go. Mannie trots up to the open deck, grabs a rat line, encases himself in an ectoplastic suit, and jumps overboard. Bavör grabs the other end of the line, and secures it to a cleat. Mannie walks the long, slow way to the chest, dicing the oxygen out of his suit and into his lungs. He becomes light-headed partway through his trip. Realizing what has happened, he dices away the carbon dioxide, and keeps walking. He arrives at the chest, and secures it with the rope. He tugs twice on the rope, and Bay, Eric, and Teller start hauling the chest in. Mannie helps from his end, but his air is failing. He renews his oxygen, then clambers hand over hand up the rope to the ship. Once he is back above the water, he drops his ectoplastic covering and gasps for air. Then he joins the other in pulling the chest. Bavör telekinetically hauls it onto the deck, and they drag-carry it below decks.
We look at the chest, ensconced in the upper cargo deck.
©2002, 2006 Ann Broomhead. All Rights Reserved.