Week 8, Back in Hong Kong
We left our heroes on board their new junk, in Hong Kong harbor, amid a thickening plot. We decide to case the island monastery that will be Nguyen Cat's headquarters in 63 years (barring parallel time tracks). Lorelei recommends that, before rushing in, we spy out the monks' nightly routine. We do this, but there isn't much beyond a sunset procession and the faint chanting of a few late prayers. The prayers get repeated five times in the course of the night, and the monks get up just before dawn. How ... monastic.
The next morning, we decide to go shopping some more, for basic ship's provisions. While out with Nate, Tom picks up a newspaper and reads a report of the strangled body of a middle-ages sailor, found down near the docks. Hm, that's where our friend the reporter was found strangled. Tom knows one middle-aged sailor in town, Preacher; vaguely worried, he goes down to the morgue with Nate for a look at the body. It IS Preacher.
Tom sends out a telepathic distress call to Wu, who comes down to the morgue under a light shapeshift (so he doesn't looks like the same person who came down to look at the reporter). Wu once again goes through the distasteful process of scrying a dead body:
Preacher and Mubato were returning to their lodgings from an eatery. Preacher caught a glimpse of movement -- a man in black sneaking from an alleyway. [This one wears a black hat as well as a ghi. No skin shows.] He heard Mubato yell a warning just as a foot catches him on the chin. Then he was down on the ground, struggling to avoid being strangled by a black scarf. Maybe he heard Mubato fighting or running off. He heard no voices, saw no faces. End of file.
Wu, Nate, and Tom go out and hire a rickshaw to potter around the dockside, looking for the scene of the crime, which is, by the way, not the same place the body way found. They of course update the rest of the party by telepathy.
Chris and Alag decide to see what's become of the "Rona," recently sold to a local. Daewen warns them that they may be going up against VERY good fighters, possibly worldbenders. Chris sees her point and recommends we send one of our most capable fighters -- herself.
Feeling she maybe doesn't know as much about judo as she thought she did, Daewen goes off in a flying belt and her gray silks. Between them, superb stealth, and a touch of elvish glamour for seasoning, she might as well be invisible. Therefore Mr. Houston of the Hong Kong police does not notice her departure. (He's been watching us from the docks.)
Via telepathy, she points out to Chris that telepathy is a very futuristic thing, and if we are really afraid of attracting the notice of worldbenders, maybe we shouldn't use it. On the other hand, we don't want to lose Daewen, either, so they agree on a prearranged signal to drop the contact in an emergency.
Meanwhile, Wu & Co. have found the scene of the crime. Wu scrys the place and gets the feeling there was more than one man in black, which goes along with he scry of the body. We also find several inns in the area where they might have been staying. Tom gets the feeling they're being watched, so they return by a circuitous route to the junk.
Daewen finds men in black watching the "Rona." Learning this and feeling she could use some backup, Tom puts on the invisibility ring and the flying belt, then joins Daewen on the roof of a warehouse near the "Rona." Daewen prepares to attack and advises Tom to watch from a distance. She then utters a birdcall, and firecrackers go off below. (The birdcall was a signal to a street urchin she had hired to set off the firecrackers as a diversionary tactic.)
She flits away and Tom next sees her scudding over the waves, out to see, bearing a black (and red) burden, still struggling. Over the mental link, Tom picks up some cursing and much aggressive empathy. Then victory. Splash. And now she'd like to be picked up please. In a boat, so as to look normal. Tom flits back to the junk and arranges this.
As Dr. Wu patches her up, Daewen reports that her late opponent was VERY tough and a descent martial artist. He also seemed so flabbergasted at an aerial attack, she feels he can't be from the far future.
Wu then probes her victim's body and finds that, aside from his broken neck and being dead, he's in tip-top shape. He carries nothing of consequences. He once had some surgery, not of the quality of a pantope's (or a worldbender's) autodoc, but very good. Wu can't tell if it's too good to be from the 19th century. Tom then dumps the body far out at sea, with a black sash tied around its neck.
We then wait for dusk, and our examination of the monastery. We also begin to worry about the innocents who purchased the "Rona." Wu, who can write Japanese (well, Zennese, but close enough), writes them a general-purpose warning, to get them out of town:
"All is known. Fly at once.
-- A Friend"
At dusk, Tom flies out to the "Rona" to deliver this, but finds it is on fire. (Unobserved, Daewen flits out on backup.) He reports this mentally, then returns and gives the belt and the ring to Chris, who goes to the "Rona" and damps the fire with Alchemy. No one was on board, but Daewen finds a body floating in the water nearby. We reckon fire and death is enough warning for whoever survives that body and that this is enough altruism in this direction.
Now for the monastery. Chris and Daewen fly out for an invisible reconnaissance. All serene. They go to where the more senior party members found an entrance to a secret tunnel, in 1935. They can't find it. Probably it isn't there yet, but they go back to the junk and give the ring and the belt to Wu, so he can check it out with a Deryni probe. Yes, we have no tunnel. But there was/will be another entrance in the boathouse.
They find an earlier boathouse on the site, but the tunnel entrance is there just the same. And there's no one about. We bring in the junk, pick the lock on the hidden door, and file down the tunnel, Naza coming last under the worrisome name of "big gray cork." (We have been known to crawl under her in record time under such conditions.)
We need light. Lorelei kindles her Deryni nimbus and Daewen makes her sword flicker with elvish battle-shine. Wu conjures a Deryni fireball. And, you know, it STILL doesn't look the same as it did in Gwennedd -- more of a free- floating flame than a ball. The women's lights have a different texture, too. The Gwennedd/Middle-Earth world must have slightly different natural laws from those of Earth.
So down the tunnel we go. After two kilometers, we reach a point under the ornamental gardens. In 1935, there will be an opium cache here, but it isn't here yet. Finally, we come to a wall with a peephole in it. Peeping, we see the monastery cellar beyond. Tom detects a lot of low-level, diffuse psychic activity 15 to 20 feet up and to his left. Probably a bunch of monks meditating. He also sends out feelers for the once and future diadem segment that is going to be here. Nothing.
Daewen suggests that, since the presence of the segment would tell us a lot, we should try again to find it. Therefore, Wu probes for the lock to the hidden door around the peephole, then springs it. The hinges squeak, but Chris spits on them and Alchemically turns the saliva into lubricant. We sneak into the cellar and up the stairs. Tom sneaks down a hall to the room that will someday contain the segment. He puts out his psychic antennae again, but no, nothing. He does, however, feel the presence of the current occupant. Perhaps the feeling is mutual. He hears footsteps approaching, and so retreats to the cellar stairs and shuts the door. An elderly monk emerges, looks about in a puzzled fashion, then retreats.
We conclude that there are no diadem segments and no worldbenders here yet. Probably.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.