Week 10, By Death do us Part
We left our heroes retreating from an ambush in the bad part of Hong Kong. They returned to their junk without further mishap and put out to sea, to heal up and consider their next move.
They decided to case Tenth Dragon Island from afar. This requires a telescope. They don't have one and don't feel like venturing back into Hong Kong to buy one. So they sail to Macau, a few miles further along the coast, and there get a telescope, a small spy-glass for Cantrel, and sundries, such as some stuff for the electric generator Tom is building.
By the time they get back to Hong Kong, everyone is recovered from the ambush. Tom dons the invisibility ring and a flying belt, takes the telescope, and flits off for a long-range aerial view.
Daewen, meanwhile, takes another flying belt and flits off after Tom, relying on her elven glamour instead of invisibility.
Cantrel, meanwhile, takes the last flying belt and flits off for a second-story reconnaissance, relying on his masterly stealth instead of invisibility.
The place is a fortress, Chinese style, with pagoda-style towers. In a window of one such tower, Cantrel spots a man who appears to have spotted him. He looks faintly like Nguyen Cat. He points an ultra-modern-looking gun at Cantrel and fires. Cantrel feels very unwell. He tries to hide but collects more stun-fire. Hoping desperately that this is a relative and not Nguyen Cat himself (scheduled to die in 1936 and not a moment sooner), Cantrel fires his disflorger. A sphere of fire blossoms around Mr. Cat (pere ou fils). A returning line of fire licks out at Cantrel. Cantrel vanishes off the telepathy net.
Tom, observing all this from high in the air, loses sight of Cantrel. Fearing the worst, he starts flitting back to the junk. He tries using his knack of finding on Cantrel. Instead, Something comes raging up at his mind. Tom vanishes from the net. He starts an uncontrolled descent, but Daewen intercepts and brings him to the junk.
Dr. Wu can find nothing wrong with Tom, but he stays unconscious. Warily, Wu tries to contact him telepathically. There is a vast void. Then the Something leaps out of it at Dr. Wu, who raises his shields, then throws Deryni wards on top of those. These still feel like they're wearing down.
The Mr. Cat (Jr?) appears on the junk, together with the man with the monkey and an enormous swordsman. Everyone starts fighting, the only exceptions being Cantrel (absent), Tom (unconscious), and Wu (under arcane siege).
Inside his wards, Wu holds up his hands. "Can we talk?" he asks. Mr. Cat draws a disflorger and fires. Flames erupt around Wu. Do Deryni wards keep out disflorger fire?
Nate fires with a shotgun, Pfusand wades in with her fists, and Lorelei cuts loose with karate. The man with the monkey also uses karate and of course the swordsman uses his swords. The monkey is a precognitive; it ducks bullets and arrows too well to be anything else. It also deliberately intercepts a bullet aimed at Mr. Cat, dying in the act. Chris, also hoping desperately that this is not THE Nguyen Cat, draws his own disflorger and fires. Another sphere of flame surrounds Cat, but the gun explodes in Chris's hand.
By now, Cat's sidekicks are dead. Cat vanishes. There is no sign of Wu or Chris. Lorelei is dead, crushed beneath the body of the fallen swordsman. As Pfusand lifts the swordsman to discover this fact, a small round object falls out of his armor. A bomb.
As we gradually sort things out, we find we are standing around a well in a forest. We are all naked. Eventually, we recall who we are and what we were doing. We are all here, Cantrel, Wu, Chris, and all. "Are we still on the mission?" Nate asks Tom. Tom doesn't know what to reply.
About then, a man in a robe comes up and offers each of us a similar robe and a silver coin. (Lot of good the robe does the Naza. Oh well.) He explains that we have just arrived at the Well of Souls and that it is natural we are confused. People always are. His temple regards the people who arrive at the Well as in some way blessed of the gods and so give them these gifts.
Tom thanks him for the nicest reception they have ever got in any world. "Oh, then you have climbed the tree of worlds?" the man asks.
"YES, THE MISSION IS STILL ON!!" Tom shouts to Nate, completely flummoxing the man in the robe. Tom recalls that the Black Mage spoke of a tree of worlds. We are back in his universe, or one very like it.
Our benefactor then tells us of three different inns in town who give a free first night to people from the well. We choose the "Great Troll Tavern," run by a troll, great we presume. The city is Eastmarch, capital of the province of Eastmarch, and lies on a river. The benefactor tells us that there is said to be a door between worlds in the catacombs under the city, but that no one going to look for it has come back. This could be good or bad, depending...
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.