The Eilythry World
Week 2, The God Gambit
We left Lorelei and Tom on Naza-back, facing the (invisible) door of the pantope, with a puddle of burning oil before and a foe behind. "In!" Tom yelled, and the Naza took them in without getting badly burned and without scraping them off her back. Unfortunately, the guard followed them right through the apparent stone wall and into the bridge. Tom ordered the door shut, but it was too late.
A few thumps, and the guard was unconscious. Pfusand put him in the sick bay, where she had the autodoc patch her up, as well as him. She left orders that the guard was to stay unconscious.
Meanwhile, Aphron had landed somewhere in the walled town that the castle overlooks. It was late evening and few people were about, but he still got spotted by a fishwife, who started shrieking about sorcerers. Aphron led the watchmen a merry hide-and-seek for a while, but eventually tangled with one of them and had to beat him senseless to get away. He was assisted in this by Dr. Wu.
Aphron, Wu, and David, now reunited, tried to contact the pantope and failed. Hm. They then turned their attention to getting out of town, since staying inside after curfew, with the watch out and angry, seemed a bad idea. Eventually, they managed to sneak over the walls while no one was looking. They spent the night in the woods near the road, sleeping, patching Aphron's wounds, and trying to contact the pantope.
Meanwhile-- Well, not really "meanwhile," Tom discovered to his annoyance that when he ordered the door shut, the pantope had severed all connection to the universe containing the medieval world. He re-established contact within minutes, but saw at once that the door now opened on a different location. The pantope party quickly made contact with the party in the field and found that it was now morning of the next day, and several hours had passed in the medieval world, though only a few minutes had passed in the pantope.
The pantope still opened on the castle courtyards, but now on a part facing the sea. The party decided to reunite after sunset and spent the day making rescue plans for Cantrel.
In the late morning, Aphron went into town to collect some information. He bluffed his way past the gate guard, went to the town church, and then to a tavern. At the church, he made note of symbolism (blessed sparse, unfortunately) and learned that the bishop was coming to town for the fair. At the tavern, he learned that someone had been tried for sorcery up at the castle. He then made his way out.
They decided to try the old God Gambit. (They had already decided that much when Aphron went to see the church.) Using make-up and costuming supplied by Wardrobe, their two gravity-belts, and a robot pegasus from the pantope's garage, Wu, Aphron and Noon would present themselves as heavenly messengers sent to collect the horrid sorcerer and deliver him to his doom. Just to be on the safe side, they would carry firearms and armor under their celestial robes.
That night, Wu and Aphron flitted into the pantope, flying over the castle walls unobserved and carrying David between them. The next morning, the "angelic" trio took off and floated serenely over the castle gates, attracting attention. Tom, using the comm unit as a PA system, called in a thunderous voice for the lord of the castle. Instead, he got the bishop.
The bishop brushed aside the instructions to hand over Cantrel and demanded why they had not announced that they came in the name of the Lord. Tom said he thought some things were obvious, but assured him that they did. The bishop then asked how it was they did not come in humble guise, as messengers of the lord are said to do, while the messengers of the Evil One are known to come forth in vainglorious similitude of the heavenly host. (This is the way the bishop talks.)
Damn. Tom answers, "Why, this IS our humble guise," and lets him chew on that one awhile. It occurs to Tom that these folk are not nearly as impressed by supernatural events as one might expect. Are they, perhaps, used to them?
His Grace now challenges Tom to say the "Lady's Prayer." Tom isn't Catholic, but he digs into his memory and comes up with the Hail Mary. He edits it a little, to make it more general, and pronounces it.
Apparently they have found the limits of parallelism to medieval Earth. The bishop replies with a full-throated exorcism (which does not work) and the soldiers on the tower-tops add some crossbow quarrels (which work).
There follows a merry little air-to-ground/ground-to-air shoot-out, with crossbows, longbows, and ballista. The trio does fairly well, considering there are only three of them. Dr. Wu disables one of the ballistas, and they take out the bishop. (His canon takes over the tirades.) Aphron even follows the fight down the stairwell of a tower, for a ways, with Dr. Wu bringing up the rear. But eventually they must beat a retreat to the pantope, where David and Pfusand have been waiting, itching for battle. (Lorelei has no such itch.)
As soon as he is able, Tom asks the pantope if it can make time pass more slowly outside than in. The Serving System can't, but it turns out that Tom can, from the helm, and does. Activity outside slows to a near standstill. (Activity was a large number of scared and angry people staring pugnaciously at the blank wall where they disappeared.)
Now they have time to think and prepare. They will need it, because the locals will probably execute Cantrel quickly now. As it happens, they have a prisoner -- the guard who followed them into the pantope last night. They can try interrogating him to find out Cantrel's exact location. But why wake the fellow up? The pantope, it turns out, has a mechanical mind-reader in stock, if we can figure out how to use it.
Well, they can't, not usefully. On their first attempt, DAVID abruptly yells, "I'll never tell!" and tries to run out through the bridge door. He knocks himself unconscious. On the second try, Tom passes out. When they recover consciousness, neither remembers anything useful -- just a lot of confusion and an identity crisis. Tom tries to put the mind-reader in a lower gear and the guard goes into a deeper state of unconsciousness. Eventually, they disconnect the thing and go to bed themselves, planning to let the prisoner regain consciousness normally and interrogate him by orthodox methods in the morning.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.