Week 4, Finding a Gateway
We left our heroes with a pile of dead orcs and a dead troll, two levels down in the catacombs of Eastmarch. These unpleasant creatures had interrupted us in the middle of examining the secret inner chamber of a profitable-looking tomb. We resume our examinations.
The outer chamber of this tomb was lousy with traps, so we are still suspicious. Tom tosses a piece of orc-armor into the inner chamber, throwing it around a corner with a little TK. Nothing explodes, so Cantrel stands before the door and uses his own TK to open the coffin lid and tilt the coffin towards him for a look. It contains a mummified warrior, together with armor, a sword, and a knife. Nothing untoward happens as Cantrel uses TK to drag the coffin out of the inner chamber. The deceased's grave goods turn out to be enchanted for increased effectiveness. We're delighted.
The coffin's pedestal was also warded. Close examination reveals a hidden door in it. Cantrel recalls a Knock spell (general-purpose opening spell) he learned in Chyoxus. Wu is able to use his Chyoxan magic here, so why not Cantrel? Why not indeed? The Knock spell works fine, but the door doesn't swing open, it just pops out slightly. Cantrel opens it with TK but can't see inside and thus can't levitate beyond the door. Reluctantly, he actually enters the inner chamber, going fast and low.
Looking behind him, he sees exactly what he was afraid he'd see -- two figures flanking the door. One is thin and dark, leaning on an axe; the other hold a sword and looks glassy and luminous. Using TK, Cantrel throws the axeman at the swordsman; using feet, he boogies. The rest of us follow.
Outside the outer chamber, down the secret passage, out to the corridor, in record time. Don't slip on the orc blood. We pause and hear a steady, rapid tread approaching. Damn. We back off and see the crystal swordsman emerge. We throw knives, bullets, arrows, and crossbow bolts at the thing, but it is able to parry an indecent number of them with its sword, and doesn't seem to take much damage when they DO connect.
We retreat up to the second level and begin worrying about how the townspeople will take it if we lead this thing out into the sunlit marketplace. Poorly, we expect. We've been doing a LOT of telekinesis lately and are all getting low on psychic power, Cantrel and Tom in particular. Therefore, they break off from the rest of the group and try circling through the corridors, to sneak up on Glassy from behind.
On the way, however, we are attacked by an animal. It's about the size of a large pig, with the heavy forelegs and shoulders of a bulldog. It has no neck to speak of and a wide mouth, suggesting a frog. In fact, most of what you see is mouth. Cantrel takes a swing at it and it eats his sword. Tom puts a couple of shots into it and they pop out again. It then lunges at Cantrel and eats off most of the front of his mail shirt. Fortunately, it doesn't seem interested in the CONTENTS of the armor. Cantrel uses a bit more TK to fling the creature away and we retreat.
Meanwhile, Glassy has been approaching the rest of the party despite a steady stream of missile, both magical and mundane. Finally, he is within a few yards and Sophie yells "Stop!" in desperation. He stops. He goes on defending himself from missiles, but he stops and looks puzzled. Wu uses TK to trip him. And he shatters. Gad, that was simple once you know how.
About then, they see a pig-frog-bulldog go whistling by, howling. Tom and Cantrel come pounding up, a bit chewed. We catch out breaths and go back down to the second level to check out that tomb, pausing only for Sophie to take a souvenir shard of the glass warrior, still glowing gently.
The mummified axeman was just a mummy, thoroughly dead in the conventional way. The tomb yields a little treasure chest. It contains a very good healing potion (as determined later by the magicians' guild) and a tidy little fortune in silver coins. All in all, not a bad haul. We have the enchanted arms and armor of the dead knight, the silver trove and the healing potion, a gold and ruby amulet found in a previous tomb, and, oh yeah, the orcs. There's a bounty on orcs and trolls and such. We cut off the heads and string them on a rope, throat to mouth. The Naza then gets the distasteful task of carrying this grisly trophy up topside, where we cash it in at the fort. (Picture, if you will, something big, inhuman, and horned emerging from the darkness wearing a necklace of severed heads. Or don't picture it if you'd rather not.)
The next day, we are all comfortably rich. We return to our normal routines around Eastmarch. But Tom has some inquiries he'd like to make. He knows of two likely routes out of the world of Eastmarch -- through the door into Faerie that Daewen discovered in the oak growing through the dwarf's smithy, and by way of The Golden Boar tavern. Tom asks Daewen if she could get him an interview with a high-ranking elf in town, or could herself make inquiries about Faerie. Daewen gets him an interview with Lord Dinedhel and comes with him.
Dinedhel (meaning "silent elf") lives in an elegant town house of spare, spacious style, sort of elvish Danish modern. A little elven maid shows Daewen and Tom in and they exchange polite greetings with Dinedhel himself. He is quite forthcoming with his information, despite his name. Yes, Faerie adjoins several other worlds and the world of Hreme and Chyoxus could be one of them, though Dinedhel has never heard of such places. However, there are risks for mortals traveling through Faerie. One can become entrapped, enmeshed, and be unable to leave. Dinedhel can't explain what the criteria are for getting trapped, but he thinks Tom, for instance, has a pretty good chance of entrapment. Tom gives Dinedhel heartfelt thanks for this warning and takes his leave.
Next stop, The Golden Boar, this time with Chris, to talk to the proprietor, Elias. The Golden Boar tavern opens out on many, many worlds. Elias can visit any of them, though his customers can only return to the world from which they entered. Tom asks Elias if he could make a deal with Elias to deliver a message to a mage in another world.
Elias asks which world, and Tom describes that of Hreme and Chyoxus in some detail -- the astronomy, the rough geography, the system of fifteen mages. Elias remarks that there are several like that. ...Oh... Tom goes on to describe the Black Mage and how his world is part of a system of Nine Worlds. "Yes, those usually are." Elias then asks what the message would say. Tom explains it would be a request for the Black Mage to come and get us. Elias remarks that (1) giving the instructions on how to find Eastmarch would be an interesting exercise, and (2) he is reluctant to open Eastmarch to a powerful mage for whom it might not be ready. (Given the existence of the well and the local mages' guild, this seems like excess caution to Tom, but never mind.)
Tom squares his shoulders and explains that the Mage himself is really just a means to an end. We wish to return to our own place. In the process, Tom describes pantopes (places or craft that are nowhere, from which you can open a door to anywhere). Elias then asks how we acquired this pantope (the word falleth trippingly from his tongue), and Tom outlines in very vague detail the way in which the Jack Patrol was picked up by the dying owner of the pantope and entrusted with collecting the remainder of a very powerful artifact, so as to deny it to a group of tyrants.
"You mean the Captain is dead?" asks Elias.
Tom jumps, recovers, and says No, just a few minutes away from death, in stasis. He then opens out a little and gives Elias some more details about our mission. Elias is horrified. Collecting the diadem sounds like a terrible idea to him. (We point out we are doing so only to get rid of it.) Having anything to do with the worldbenders sounds worse. We briefly describe wandering through Hong Kong twice, first in 1934, then in 1872, both times with a Naza, and he is nearly speechless. He does, however, tell us that we're lucky. ("Ah, this must be some new meaning of the word "luck" that I'm not familiar with.") After all, we all came through the well together, which hardly ever happens. So perhaps we can carry this off after all. Tom's general impression is that Elias thinks the only thing worse than executing out mission would be not executing it. One thing sure: he wants us out of Eastmarch before the worldbenders trace us here. ("TRACE us?! Through death and resurrection?!" "Just give them a millennium or so.") Tom comforts Elias with the possibility that Nguyen Cat was working alone. Elias comforts Tom by volunteering to take us all home right NOW, the sooner the better.
Tom steps outside to call in the troops. Elias, meanwhile, startles everyone in The Golden Boar by banging on a tray with a spoon and announcing "Last call, folks! The tavern's closing!" He hustles everyone out after about half an hour, which is the time it takes the pantope crew to pack hurriedly and assemble. He then ushers us into a back room of extremely irregular shape, walks over to a lectern and asks Tom, "You got any numbers for this place?"
Tom calls on his Total Recall skill and rattles off the thirteen coordinates of Gorlach's lab, which was the last place we left the pantope. He then recommends that Elias add an hour onto that, to avoid paradoxes. Elias does something at the lectern, then says, "Now I don't want any dilly-dallying when I open that door."
And there we leave them.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.