Week 17, Jumping Back
Tom started the evening's play by stepping up to the pantope's helm and calling on his untried Knack of Tools. It worked and he was able to open the pantope on Gwennedd of 1 May 1112. There was a diadem segment on the bridge, and everyone else was facing out the door with the meanest weapons they had, short of disflorgers. Tom smeared the pantope across five weeks of Gwennedd time in four hours of pantope time, from a point in space near the homestead where Rhodri the Time Traveler drops off his grandsons. The result, we hope, is to lay the trail we tracked to no effect while in Gwennedd the first time. This will leave us free to acquire the diadem segment back in the past, we hope.
No one burst into the pantope during our smoke-screen run. Tom disconnected and dropped back a full century. We opened on the same locale, a rolling meadow near some woods. Wu stepped out with the diadem tracer and heard a scream. He got a clear, powerful reading BEHIND him, toward the pantope. Where there are lots of diadem pieces. sigh He stepped back in, Tom pivoted the door, and we saw a hastily retreating peasant. Oh well. Wu stepped out again and took another reading, just to be sure. Yup, behind him.
Wu and Cantrel stepped out together and armed in local style, and Tom disconnected the pantope completely, then re-attached as closely as he could. Wu and Cantrel saw the tracer flicker. "Too quick, Tom." Tom did it again and let 30 seconds lapse for the scouts. No, the segment is not on this world yet. The scouts got back on and we jumped ahead a decade.
Rather to our embarrassment, we found a small shrine erected on the sight of Wu's apparition. We put out the scouts for a 30-second search. No diadem. We repeated this every ten years, searching forward, with a suitable amount of randomizing so that no one will start hanging around for the miracles that happen here every ten years, like clockwork.
On our thirtieth anniversary, we startled a couple of shepherds.
On our fiftieth, Tom accidentally reconnected twelve minutes after the drop-off point. No sign of Cantrel or Wu. Uh-oh. Tom tried to fall back to the drop-off point but overshot. He moved forward and found the right time but the wrong place -- we saw a man on horseback go thundering by past the door. "Looks like a timelock to me," opined Aphron, and Tom agreed. He moved back to the twelve-minute point, or just after it, and reconnected for real, opening the door invisibly on the wall of the shrine.
Elsewhile, Cantrel and Wu had stepped out for their sixth reading. They were on the low hill that bears the shrine, and had just emerged from the wall. Cantrel heard hoofbeats in the distance and, since no door opened behind them, hid himself and Wu in some bushes near the edge of the woods.
Horsemen rode into sight. One immediately pointed and called, "Over there in the bushes!" Then another said, "No, behind the tree!" A strange man bolted from behind a nearby tree and dove into the woods. Horsemen followed. But there were still three or four horse for our scouts. They faked being a pair of drowsing peasants, but one horseman fired with a crossbow. Cantrel parried it with his psychokinesis, meanwhile mumbling, "Hey! Wha's 'at for?"
"More of them over here!" the bowman called. So much for acting. Wu and Cantrel ran for the woods, pursued on horseback. As the horse leapt over their clump of bushes, both had the same bright idea -- each used his PK to trip up the horse. Fortunately, Cantrel took the right leg and Wu the left. The horse did a nose-dive into the turf.
The other pursuers weren't doing much better. One man got trampled by his horse, and the chase dissolved into chaos. Wu and Cantrel hid out in the woods and, just about the time they were catching their breaths, looked at the tracer. Still nothing. Then flick! Then a steady signal pointing toward the shrine. "They're playing with time," Wu remarked.
Back at the shrine, the rest of the party walked out of the wall and heard hoofbeats. They retreated into the wall again, but the sounds soon faded. The scouts came in sight. Tom emerged and waved them in. When the coast was completely clear, they bolted for the wall and vanished.
We continued our time-scan. At a time nineteen years prior to our first appearance in Gwennedd, we got a weak reading, slightly south of west. Wu took the opportunity to scry the shrine itself and found there was some weak magical energy left in it, having to do with its construction. And someone had been gravely hurt or killed here. Twice, someone had tried to make something magical here. Hm.
We moved the pantope to slightly north of St. Jarlath's and took another directional reading. Then to St. Iltyd's. Then to Culdi. Then to Droghera. It became clear, after consulting a map, that the diadem segment was in the capital city of Rhemuth. Irritated sighs all around.
We parked the pantope in a stone outcrop a short way outside the city, on Monday the 14th of May, 1093. We set it to reconnect every dawn following a full moon, plus one extra connection a week from "now." And we set forth.
You may recall that we all have new faces. We also have new names, as follows:
Victoria Lawless --> Megan LawlessWe are yokels come to see the big city. The big city, Rhemuth, dates in part from the Roman Empire (or appears to date from the local equivalent). It has traces of a grid pattern to its streets, an outer wall and an inner wall, and a big, fancy castle looming over it from a nearby mountainside.
We passed the gates with minor questioning from the guard (we claimed to be from a village outside Carbury) and, once inside, found the segment was in the castle or the cathedral. We made a pious tourist-stop at the cathedral, saw several items that will be of considerable interest in about 25 years, and determined that the segment was in the castle, across the courtyard.
The castle crawls with guards, of course, and has its own inner and outer walls. We gawked tourist-fashion at this, looking for weaknesses. Ha!
We then took rooms at the Lion's Head Inn, selected for the numerous sneaky ways we could escape from it if need be. Then we split up to run various errands. Some went shopping for local armor. Victoria sought a dressmaker and demanded to be made inconspicuous. A real challenge. Tom and Fogi went pub-crawling and learned that the current king is Donal Blain (due to be killed in two years by the evil Deryni chief known as the Marluk). His heir is Brion, who had been king for seven years when we will be here the last time. Morgan, the first openly practicing Deryni noble, is now only two.
Cantrel found that the castle was somewhat approachable by its postern gate. Pfusand and Lorelei were loitering around said gate, looking like job seekers. When questioned, they acted like job seekers and were told that there was nothing right now, but the king was going to throw a big diplomatic bash on Saturday and they would need extra help then.
Tom hiked up and down the mountainsides flanking the castle and determined that the diadem segment is somewhere in the mid-section of the building. This Saturday, he plans to be in the crowds around the cathedral and courtyard, to see if the king carries the segment on his person, as one of the crown jewels, or something equally awkward. If we're really lucky, we'll get a look at the thing, slip back to the pantope, and be able to run off a copy. Maybe.
Wu and Aphron, meanwhile, concocted a plan to use Wu's left-over signet ring to forge a letter of recommendation for Aphron, who will apply for a post on the guard. On second thought, maybe Cantrel would be a better plant. We'll see.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.