Week 11, Cover our Tracks
We were taking temporary refuge at the house of a man named Mark, a human friend of the late Stefan Corum. Cantrel asked Wu to put Mark to sleep, so we could speak more freely. That done, Cantrel arranged to speak to the rest of the party, minus Llewella, Margaret, and Aphron. He then revealed that Aphron had used a flying belt in front of Rhydon, a person that Stefan Corum suspected of being a world-bender. Cantrel inferred that this was the slip (among many possible such) that had revealed us to the world-benders.
Cantrel proposed taking our unconscious host, strapping him into the flying belt, taking him back to the clearing, and disflorging him. This would provide any subsequent world-benders with the proper body-count and account for the misplaced technology.
Tom and Penny would have none of it, on ethical grounds. Tom also pointed out that most of the "bodies" resulting from the fight were now thin films of blood and bone-dust, and if the world-benders could make a body-count from that, they would probably be able to see through the ruse in other ways. So we decided to just scorch the flying belt and leave it there.
Tom and Penny also undertook the task of persuading Aphron to give up the belt. He did this very readily, however, when we pointed out that it was a likely tip-off to Rhydon. Aphron shares the group's healthy dread of Rhydon.
We set out the next morning, accompanied by Mark. He had been getting bored with life on the farm, and decided to leave it, especially when we warned him that heavy-duty Deryni were chasing us and people left in our wake might receive rough treatment. (Translation: Mark is a new player character.)
But first Cantrel, Aphron, and Wu stopped off at the clearing where we had the battle last night, to drop off their bogus evidence. They approached cautiously, and it was well they did, because they found a wandering friar in the clearing. They observed him for a while, but the man appeared to be perfectly genuine. He looked at the impaled corpse and the blood splatters with dismay and finally knelt and prayed awhile. He then started digging a shallow grave with his knife.
Wu tried our new toy, the blue pencil, but it didn't work on him. Either Wu doesn't know how to work it, or it doesn't work on all Deryni. Cantrel stunned the friar with a low setting of his disflorger. Between them, they think they edited or at least scrambled the friar's memories, but they couldn't tell -- the friar was a Deryni, and his shields stayed up.
The party then set out for "Rhodri's" manor, to return the ladyfolk. The night we arrived, Wu left a note and some money for his "family," saying that he was fed up with the succession game and opting out. He then tipped the servants with another small bag of money and bestowed more tips on any servants we met on the way out.
As we rode away, we saw a campfire in the woods near the manor. We ignored it.
We decided to head for the coastal city of Coroth. This is the home of Barrett Delany, another high Deryni on the Camberian Council, a scholar who was blinded a few years ago, in connection with the rescue of some Deryni children from a pogrom. Wu planned to repeat the confession he gave to Stefan, and hope that it doesn't precipitate another attack by the worldbenders.
Also, Coroth is the port from which the yearly Grey Ship sets sail for Middle Earth, so we can try that if it seems indicated. We set out on the night of 1 June, and the ship departs on the 15th.
We avoided the roads and led our horses through the forests. On the third day of travel (June 4th), Penny was stalking a deer when it suddenly sprouted someone else's arrow. She retreated and saw a hunter approach and load the deer up on his mule. She reported this to the party and we left the area.
The next day, Cantrel felt watched. He spotted the watcher, snuck away, circled around, and watched him from the rear. Nothing kept happening. At length, Cantrel pronounced, "This is getting boring," which shook up the watcher. He was a woodsman, dressed more or less as Robin Hood's merry men are thought to be. He and Cantrel traded stares. He then reached into his shirt. "Don't do that!" Cantrel ordered. "Keep your hands in the open." Then, "Ho the camp! We have a visitor." The watcher had said nothing all this time.
Just then, Penny thought she saw something moving in the bushes. She warned Cantrel who stunned the watcher, and wheeled to confront ... a mule. Turning back to the watcher, who had sat down suddenly, he asked, "You all right?"
Cantrel brought him in, and tried to give him the impression he had had a fainting spell or something. Penny could not say for sure if he was the hunter she spotted yesterday -- she's not much on distinguishing humans -- but she thinks it's the same mule. Wu quickly determined that the man was a Deryni. The man in turn asked who Wu was. Wu gave the name Robert Gray.
By the way, Wu learned a touch of shapeshifting from Stefan just before he died, so he has been wearing a new face for the last couple of days. So we have Robert Gray, which is the false identity of Rhodri Greystoke, who is the assumed identity of an unknown time traveler, who has lent his form to Dr. Wu, who is played by Anton, who so far as I know uses his right name.
The man seemed to be an inconveniently curious woodsman. He burbled a lot of questions, which Tom parried with dull answers. Meanwhile Robert/Rhodri/Wu probed away looking for high tech items. Sure enough, there was something funny implanted just behind his mastoid process (that's behind the ear, anatomy fans). He turned to Cantrel, who was gone.
Cantrel found he was being menaced by the woodsman's mule, so he had wandered off on another little explore. Aphron did a psychic scan for him and hit his brand new shields. Omigod, there's a Deryni sneaking around out there! Cantrel felt the touch and went back to camp, also thinking of hidden Deryni. Once back, he learned of the implant from Wu and quickly clubbed the woodsman senseless. Then there were some fractions of explanations about shields, though most of us still don't know Cantrel has them.
Now, is this woodsman a world-bender, or just a stalking-horse of theirs? There was nothing else odd about him, but the implant was definitely a psionic machine of some sort. The mule, it turned out, was carrying a little "calculator" with shoulder-holster, packed in its bags.
We relieved the guy of his worldly goods, to make it look like a mundane theft, then released the mule a few hours later. Probing the equipment, we decided the "calculator" had something to do with communication. There was also a slightly enchanted ring. We buried them.
That night, the diadem tracer gave its first faint directional reading since we arrived. It pointed vaguely west. We're going south-east. Oh well.
The next day (June 6th), we picked up ANOTHER sneak. A Deryni. With something funny in his mastoid process. And a funny machine strapped under one sleeve. Aphron jumped him and looted him. The funny gauntlet scried as "magical" in an oddly impersonal way. Aphron seized telepathic control of a bird and tried to use the gauntlet to fry the bird. No luck. Wu tried and managed to stun himself silly. We buried it (the gauntlet, not Wu).
June 7th, sixth day of travel, and ANOTHER spy. Deryni. Thing behind his ear. Aphron ambushed this one, too. Dr. Wu dusted off his surgical skills and removed the gizmo in the mastoid bone. The man's shields suddenly felt softer. They felt a whole lot softer when Wu dosed him with merasha -- the Deryni drug -- and tried to read his memories. Unfortunately, the drug disordered his mind. We learned that the man had been sent to track the party by his master, who was curious about us. He was to find out where we were from, and there was something odd about that. He was to report back telepathically.
The implant, meanwhile, probed as psionic and seemed connected with telepathy somehow.
Wu tried to blue-pencil the spy, and more or less succeeded.
On the seventh day, we encountered a road again, four days' road-travel out from Coroth. We traveled along it for one day, while Wu probed everyone we met. He thus managed to offend a stray Deryni.
Eighth day (June 9th). We left the road and soon heard a party of armored knights approaching on horseback. They stopped near our exit point and began looking for us. Wu managed to probe the leader without being noticed. He's Deryni, and a member of the Mastoid Club. We laid low while the knights blundered around. Eventually, the leader sat down, pulled out his knife, and used it as a focus for a trance.
Aphron now seized control of a horse, using it to spook all the others. By the time he was done, the knights were chasing all their horses up and down the road. We moved on.
Ninth day. (June 10th). We came to a new road and decided to press forward as quickly as we could for Coroth. We arrived on the eleventh day. We lodged at an inn, while Wu and Aphron went to Delany's house.
Delany was out, they were told by a nervous young serving girl. They said they would call back and for her to please try to get word to Master Delany that some friends of Stefan Corum wanted to see him.
We moved inns the next morning, but Wu went back to the first inn to see if any message had come. No, but STEFAN CORUM was there (last seen spread thinly over a large stretch of woodland). Furthermore, this Stefan recognized Wu in his guise as a made-up relative of the original Stefan. Wu retreated in great confusion and was not pursued.
That evening, Penny posted herself on the inn's roof, and observed Stefan II enter Delany's house.
Now what? Is it the original Stefan, who somehow faked his death? (Illusion is one of the Deryni powers.) Is it a reconstructed Stefan? If so, how can it recognize Wu in a guise made up recently and corresponding to no real person? IS this guise as fictitious as we thought? If this Stefan is a perfect copy of Stefan I just before his demise, that argues so much power on the part of the world-benders, we should not still be at large. So it probably isn't a perfect-continuity copy. So what is it? What should we do about it? Can we go to Delany now? Or should we try for Middle Earth? But won't the ports be closely watched? Who IS this mysterious time-traveler whose form Wu wears? What will Margaret and Llewella think when they find "Rhodri" gone? Who was that camping out in the woods near the manor? Was the pack mule a disguised world-bender? Did we leave the water running back in the pantope? Let's go back and check....
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.