Week 10, Meeting an Editor
Aphron came back with one prisoner missing after a brush with Rhydon. He made up a plausible excuse to tell the Duke's men and set wards around the party for the night. Meanwhile, Rhodri/Wu decided that the real Rhodri was too intimately involved with Rhydon to be a safe person to tell. Instead, he will tell all (or almost all) of the truth to Cochrum, tomorrow morning.
Accordingly, the next morning we set out to find Cochrum (not difficult; he was downstairs having breakfast) AND Rhydon. This was Cantrel's idea. We suspect Cochrum of being under a shapechange, and it would be nice to know that the real Cochrum isn't Rhydon. Therefore, Tom, David, and Penny went out looking for Rhydon while Rhodri invited Cochrum up to his rooms for a further chat. (We found Rhydon, too. At least it looked like Rhydon. Tom could have tested this with a mental probe, but if it WAS the real Rhydon, he could easily scrag Tom for his presumption. Tom left ill enough alone.)
Cochrum warded the room and Rhodri gave him a verbal report of last night's brush with Rhydon. (It is now the 30th of May, by the way.) Cochrum said the strange flickers were a projected nimbus spell, used as a focus to aid the sleep spell put on Cantrel and Bronwyn. (These two are present with Cochrum and Rhodri, in the warded room, by the way.)
Rhodri said, "Remember that last night I kept back some things? Well, we really need help and I feel you are the best help we are likely to get, so here's the rest of it, or as much as I can possibly give you --
Rhodri gave Cochrum a nearly full history of our team. He knows we are time travelers and, some of us, shape-changers. He knows about the diadem and the world-benders, and that they built his world. The only thing Rhodri kept back was that this world was patterned on a novel.
Naturally enough, Cochrum's mind was thoroughly boggled. He snapped his shields shut and sank to the floor. (Cantrel unobtrusively limbered up his disflorger, in case Cochrum showed any signs of being a world bender.)
Eventually, Cochrum came out of his stupor. "Yes, I see why you need some help."
Cantrel: "May Dr. Wu read you sufficiently to know you are not a minion of Rhydon or the world-benders?"
Cochrum consented, and turned out to be Stephan Corum, but not apparently a minion of anybody. Even now, not all of his memories are open, but Wu saw apparently authentic ones stretching all the way back to childhood.
Cochrum/Corum said that he thinks Rhydon might be a worldbender or closely monitored by them. Quickly, they developed a sketchy plan. Corum will shapeshift Rhodri, who will take up a new identity as a member of Corum's entourage. Rhodri will leave a note for Llewella and the family, saying, roughly, "This is no fun at all. I'm tired of raids and bickering and arcane mugging. I'm running away and renouncing any claims. This other Rhodri seems like a nice, well-meaning fellow; let him be earl." He will then vanish from the inn, leaving some money for Llewella and Margaret to get home on, and some more for the rest of the party. The other part members will wander about for a while, lordless, and, it will so happen, attach themselves to Corum's household. (Corum is, besides being a High Deryni on the Camberian Council, a minor noble.)
To kick off this plan, Corum figures out an alternate shape for Rhodri (who is already a transformation of his real self), and gives Rhodri a few lessons in the art, to let him maintain the form. However, all this training takes place in trance, lasting for half an hour, with the result that the rest of the party is left wondering what's going on in a warded room they can't enter. At the end of the half hour, he lets in Tom, David, and Penny, then, after introductions, raises a Ward Major (the toughest kind) and goes on with the training.
He also gives Rhodri some lessons in using the magical Deryni teleport devices, or "transfer portals" as they are called in the books. This is very useful, especially since there's a transfer portal back in Rhodri's manor (which he failed to discover). He also advised Rhodri not to trust humans with shields, as these rare people would be very good candidates for world-benders. He also told Rhodri about an old abandoned Michaeline retreat, up in the mountains, that he (Corum) uses as a hideaway. Finally, he advised us to shield the diadem detector. It could be spotted magically when you knew what to look for. All this done, he let down the Wards Major.
(again). A man appeared in the corner of the room, in Medieval garb, but holding his cape draped over the right hand, and holding a short wand in the left. He pointed this wand at Corum, who froze, like a stopped movie. Wu gave this interloper a karate chop, but found him protected by a telekinetic shield. Bronwyn then leapt across the room and tackled him. He was not proof against her, but neither was she proof against the disflorger he held under his cloak. Fortunately, she was able to interpose her spear. The spear vanished in an explosion of splinters, one of Bronwyn's hands got pulped, and she got flung across the room. This gave Cantrel a clear target. He fired his own disflorger, and the intruder exploded into a bloody film all over the room. Cantrel made a dive at the disintegrating form and retrieved the foe's disflorger from the fragments of fingers that had held it... and suffered massive burns to his hands thereby.
While we regained our feet and cleared our heads, Corum thawed out. He started to cast a defensive web spell, stopped, and raised wards instead. Tom gave him a telepathic update of the bits he had missed. Rhodri healed Cantrel and Bronwyn somewhat, then had a hurried conference with Corum, who 'ported out.
THEN WE SCRAMMED. We flung some money at the innkeeper, gathered up the stunned Margaret and Llewella, and the other party members (all of whom only know there were two loud explosions, and blood all over one room).
We rode anxiously off the road for the rest of the day. That evening at camp, Corum walked in from somewhere. Sure would like to know how he tracked us. Even more, we would like to know how the world-bender tracked him. Rhodri and Cantrel suspiciously asked, "Who are you?" Corum allowed Rhodri to probe him, and seemed to be Corum, so far as Rhodri could tell. "This problem will crop up whenever we separate," Corum reflected. He proposed we stick together for the time being. We set watches and bedded down.
During the morning watch, while Cantrel and Corum were on guard, three figures in tight-fitting golden clothes came flitting over the ground, brandishing pistols. Corum threw some disney-dust which failed to connect. Cantrel disflorged one. A second shot through Corum's defensive web and wounded his shoulder while a second used a disflorger on Cantrel -- set on stun. The third got impaled by Bronwyn, who got stunned in the last act of her dying foe. By now, Tom was up. He attacked with sword and was repelled by a telekinetic parry. The sole surviving world-bender then blew away Corum. David's arrow and Penny's crossbow bolt bounced off him, but Cantrel, revived in the last moments by Corum, blew him away.
gasp pant Picking over the scant remains, we found the impaled world-bender was carrying:
Rhodri recalled, from Corum's scanned memories, that a human of hermitish habits lives not far off and was a friend of the late Corum. We decide to head there. The guy is a plain farmer and shocked as hell by our bloody appearance. He must have been shocked some more when Rhodri/Wu suddenly lost his memory. This was while he was probing the wand. He remembered nothing since leaving the inn.
While Tom gave another telepathic update, Cantrel examined the wand and somehow divined one of its functions -- a memory eraser. He promptly turned it on Margaret and Llewella, to let Rhodri give them something less shattering and incriminating to remember later.
Rhodri, meanwhile, had recovered and re-probed everything including the wand. It had two functions -- freezing a certain class of people (Deryni? Key characters in plots, who may be specially treated or constructed?), and editing memories. Obvious, this is a basic tool of the legendary plot inspectors, whom we have probably been sparring with. We shall henceforth call it a blue pencil.
Rhodri also recalled that Corum is a shapechanger, and Cantrel had been exhibiting some curious knowledge just recently. Was it really Corum who died out there? He aimed a probe at Cantrel and hit shields. Just mental shields, but shields. The body was apparently Cantrel's, but the mind was inaccessible. This is more or less a good thing.
But now we must start with a whole new set of plans. We now know that it is VERY important to stay away from people mentioned in the plots of the books. We also know how tough and fallible at least some world-benders are. Should we go into hiding? Should Rhodri shapeshift? Should we make tracks for the boat to Middle Earth? It is definitely a poor time to take out life insurance.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.