Week 22, Searching the King's Quarters
It's the third Sunday of January, 1094. Many of the castle servants go to early Mass. The pantope crew, however, makes their way to the pantope door in a tree at the edge of town. It opens every Sunday at dawn.
Victoria and Cantrel wander off into the depths of the pantope. Victoria comes back wearing a curious, baggy, out-worldish looking garment, with her spear at the ready. She says that she'll guard the door. This garment is not utterly wrong, and better to fight in than her lady-in-waiting costume.
Tom places a loaded cross-bow pistol within easy reach and prepares to turn on his Knack of Tools. Just before, Cantrel tells Tom that Victoria has been acting peculiar and slips him a disflorger set on stun. Tom is to stun Victoria if she does anything suspicious.
Everyone is disguised to some degree or another. Cantrel, Wu, and Aphron are the first wave for the assault.
Feeling that it will cause less noise on worldbender sensors, Tom elects to drive the door continuously from forest to castle. This is a jumpy ride to watch, since this was not the Captain's usual method -- he usually just popped in. Steering a 3-D course through 11-D is tricky, and gives Victoria a case of hyperspace sickness. However, we eventually arrive in the king's chambers.
We see a small room luxuriously furnished with overstuffed chairs. Cantrel steps out and Tom disconnects to let him take a 30-second tracer-reading on the diadem segment. It points to the corner of the room.
Tom reconnects and Aphron and Wu enter the drawing room. Tom tries to steer the door toward the corner, but the door wobbles, shrinks and grows, and sparkles. Tom suspects magical/psionic interference. In any case, this is as close as we can get.
Cantrel hands out some small bottles of anti-merasha potion and the trio checks out the room next door. It's an audience chamber of a private sort. The tracer indicates the segment is in a third room, diagonal to the room with the pantope in it. Cantrel checks out the door and is sure he hears someone breathing on the other side. Given the locks on that door, they are locked in.
They burst into the third room and find that Cantrel was wrong -- the room was empty. Cantrel makes up for this slip by quickly locating the hidden panel behind the bookcases. (The third room is a library.) Behind the hidden panel are:
2 books, a scroll, a jewel case, 2 goblets
Wu detects wards around them, and verifies that the diadem segment is in there somewhere. Aphron scrys the area and gets rather overloaded. A lot of passionate history is wound around the things in this cabinet. He detects at least two kings receiving their royal powers through it, and an impression of a miserable priest, who was probably the first king, Cinhil, who renounced Holy Orders to take the crown, and hated it.
Since we are dealing with heavy magic, Wu sets up wards. He then probes at the words the king set up. They feel soft, feeble, almost ready to-- pop Oops. A bubble of sleep-gas spreads out, knocking out Wu. Cantrel uses his telekinesis to float the loot out safely, and puts it all in a bag.
He then drops the bag. That's distinctly odd. Aphron tries to pick the bag up by TK and breaks the bag. Odder and odder. They begin to suspect a spell. Tom once more tries to move the door toward them, now that the wards are down, but fails again. Cantrel grabs the loot up by hand and, clutching it to his chest, runs for the pantope door. He drops things. Trial and error show it is the jewelry box that doesn't want to be stolen. He winds up trying to push it along the floor, through the pantope door.
We camouflaged the door to look like part of the wall. Cantrel now forgets which wall it is. Fogi comes out to help, while Aphron recovers the unconscious Dr. Wu. Just then, two guards come in.
Cantrel tries to TK the box through the door and misses. It opens and spills. On the next try, everything goes through but two items -- a pierced ear ring and a cloak clasp. Having read the books, we suspect these are the Eye of Rom and the Tooth of the Lion, two enchanted items needed to give the new king his quasi-Deryni powers. Probably one of them is the segment. Cantrel grasps the thing firmly in one fist.
Meanwhile, Aphron has seized control of one guard and set him to fighting the other. In the pantope, Lorelei seizes all the scattered loot and takes it to the lab, where she touches each piece to the diadem. Nothing.
Aphron continues the puppet fight and locks the door they came in through. (He thought he HAD locked it. Not quite, it turns out.) Victoria shoots the non-puppet guard and Aphron finishes off the puppet.
By now, Tom is firmly convinced that we are victims of a timelock, trying to change the past. We will have to leave a duplicate item in order to leave. Just after Tom decides that, Cantrel tries once more to stick his hand into the pantope and drop the Eye of Rom. He succeeds. Victoria takes it to the lab. Lorelei touches it to the diadem and it changes into a crystal. Ta-da!
Wu goes to the lab and discovers that, unlike any other segment, this one is convertible. You can remove it from the diadem and it turns back into an ear ring. He probes it in both states -- both seem perfectly genuine.
Outside, Cantrel and Aphron scatter furniture and bits of loot to fake the appearance of a robbery. They take the bodies into the pantope. Tom then finds that he can't recall how to disengage the pantope. He asks the Serving System to do it. Dead silence. Very dead. After a few moments, the autodoc is heard calling from sickbay. It's the only other machine that speaks our language. It tells us the Serving Intellect is down. We can't disconnect.
Tom voices his opinion that we are caught by timelock. He finds that he can open a second door to a place in the countryside and close the door in the palace, but he cannot escape this world.
Wu probes away at the Eye of Rom and goes deeper than he expected. "Oh, I see!" And it falls into two parts, a crystal and a ruby ear ring. Tom reconnects to the palace and Cantrel leaves the Eye in an out-of-the-way place as if it had tumbled there in the fight.
We still can't disconnect. Tom thinks he has figured out the timelock -- we have lived in the future, under King Brion, the successor to the "current" king. Brion, according to the plot forces already in motion, will have to acquire his royal magic in a flaming hurry. The magical materials must be there waiting for him. MUST be, because Brion DID acquire his powers and reign peacefully for many years. We've lived in those years. So we must leave the Eye of Rom. AND the Lion's Tooth. Once Cantrel drops that out the door, we disconnect.
Now we have seven of the thirteen diadem pieces. Wu re-inserts the crystal. The entire assembly turns into a sort of abbreviated helmet. At the same time, Wu gets another recorded telepathic message, like unto the one we got when we started the Gwennedd adventure.
The next segment is on Middle Earth, as we already knew. The mysterious person who went about distributing these segments gave it the shape of a crown and dropped it into the treasuries of the dwarf lord Thror, King Under the Mountain, shortly before Thror's mountain is due to be sacked by the dragon Smaug.
Nothing is ever easy. At least it's in a part of the Tolkien corpus we've read.
However, we won't have Victoria with us this time. Nor will she give karate lessons for a while. She is carrying Cantrel's child. Wu is flabbergasted. "You mean you didn't-- You let-- This is the 25th century! I mean, the 300th. I mean-- This is hi-tech!" They just smile.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.