Week 2, With the Little Folk
We left our heroes victorious in a glen containing several nasty humanoids (all dead but one), a couple of dozen pixie-types (alive), and the smoldering tree-houses of the pixies. After helping to quench the fires, Tom introduced everybody with names and broad gestures. One of the little folk came forward and introduced himself as Menway of the Imri. Pfusand shook hands with one Ranoul.
While Tom worked on diplomacy and language, Dr. Wu tried a Deryni rapport with one of the little folk. Nothing. He tries a probe. Not even shields. No psychic activity beyond what one finds everywhere in this world. He can only dimly feel their internal structure; what he does feel seems human enough.
Wu tries a probe of David, also Deryni. Same muddy physical impressions, but he can feel David's shields and latent magical powers. He then tries Tom, who's plain eo-human. Same vague physical impressions, and just a faint tingle of Tom's human psychic powers. Alag feels just like the locals.
We decide to spend a month or so with these little folk, if they'll have us, helping them rebuild and learning their language. Tom is pretty good at both these things, though he finds his Knack of Tools damped, possibly because he is reading off the skills of nonhumans. Cantrel finds this prospect boring, so while we consolidate our position, he goes out scouting, coming back to report every three or four days.
At the camp, one of the first things to figure out is what we do with this big nasty we have prisoner. After considerable effort, Wu is able to force a mind-see on him. About all we determine is that he hates us (we knew this) and that he works for a magician named Gorlach the White. Since he is too dangerous to keep around and we can't let him go, we kill him, much to the satisfaction of our hosts.
Cantrel scouts about the local woods. They seem to go on forever to the northwest. There are mountains to the northeast, grasslands to the east, and a river to the south. He finds a valley full of very old stone statues and some paving stones. He also spots a glimpse of a monitor-sized lizard, possibly bipedal. The little folk, when told of this, identify it as one of the lizard people, who are harmless.
Cantrel eventually spots a pair of the big uglies -- "unmen," the little folk call them. They do NOT spot him, so he follows them stealthily. They avoid the valley of the statues, enter a pass, and come out in a large valley overlooked by a large rock formation that might be a very ruinous castle. There is a small village of rounded huts in the valley floor. The two unmen enter this openly and quietly, so they are probably welcome there. Cantrel probably wouldn't be. He cases the ruin/rock with his infrared binoculars and finds hot spots. The place is inhabited.
Back at the treehouses, Tom has been learning basics of geography and politics while learning the language. "Imri" turns out to be the clan name of these little people. Their race is called the Faen, Faens, or Faar. The funny globular trees are "bollwoods," the huge gnarly ones are "briar oak," and Pfusand looks something like a Mo Pi from Chi'in, only she's too big and the black and white splotches are arranged wrong.
This world has one large moon and two small ones. Working on a werewolf theory, Pfusand tries to change shape when the large moon goes dark. She succeeds, but not in the direction she wanted. She now looks like a normal Mo Pi, i.e. she is smaller than before and is now clearly a bipedal panda. Of course now her clothes don't fit. The Faen kindly give her clothing of the kind they last saw on a Mo Pi -- silk pajamas. (This strikes a chord. The last time we saw silk pajamas, it was Dr. Wu who was wearing them, because HE had turned into a panda. That was the cartoon world.)
Daewen finds that "Daewen" and "Alag" don't sound particularly like Faen names, so she decides to travel under her middle name, Loaen.
Back to geography and politics. We are in the northwest corner of a continent that looks rather like a rhinoceros facing to the left. We are near the root of the horn. To the south is the empire of Hreme (that being the capital city). Southeast are the Golden Fields, said to be full of magic. To the far east is the Chi'in empire, and further still, there is an island off the east coast called Nyon Hwan. To the south of Chi'in is a wilderness called the Wild Winds and another empire called Kung Lao. All these lands are dominated by humans of various breeds. Nonhumans are commonest in the Golden Fields.
Notable among humans are the Three Archmages and the Twelve Great Mages. The Three are the Golden, Silver, and Crystal Mages, named after the material of the staves. The Twelve are known by their colors -- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, purple, brown, black, white, and pink. The nearest wizard is Gorlach the White, who lives in that horrid castle, deals with unmen, and is generally unpleasant. Other wizards are pleasanter. The pink one, a lady, is said to be quite nice.
As an experiment, Wu and Cantrel take the diadem detector to Gorlach's castle, though they keep a healthy distance. Nothing. Experimentally, Wu scrys it. Remember how well Deryni probes work here? He is overwhelmed by an instant prÚcis of the exciting life the tracer has been leading in our hands. He also learns that it is a high-powered magic device for detecting things -- all kinds of things not just diadem pieces. For instance, he and Cantrel play hide and seek with Cantrel's ray gun, and the detector can locate that.
While they are experimenting in the woods near Gorlach's castle, they are attacked by three, uh, people. These aren't unmen. They look like they might have been human once, and might have spent some time dead. Zombies.
Wu and Cantrel use an exciting blend of telekinesis, sleep-casting , nunchuks, and sword. When they are all dead (or deader), they loot the bodies and examine them. Even when they were alive, they were very unhealthy, only vaguely human, although they used to be more so. One was carrying a small amount of money, heaven knows why.
And as they leave THAT battlefield, they run into six unmen. Having run into them they run away. Eventually they lose them and return to the Faen.
When the month is over and Tom, at least, has a fair command of the Faen tongue, we decide to head for the Golden Fields, since this is the likeliest place to find a way home. Our first stop, however, will be a human village, where we can gather information. The Faen tell us of the town of Two Willows, where they sometimes go to trade in silk for manufactured items. They provide us with a guide and off we go.
Afternoon finds us at the Great Willow Inn at one end of town. The innkeeper is very surprised at such a mixed party -- humans, Faen, a Mo Pi, and a Hero. A who? That's Cantrel. Cantrel, in case you never knew, is unusually large and handsome for someone whose major occupation is being inconspicuous. It's a burden to him. Just now, it's got him labeled as a Hero, as if that were a race or something. Maybe it is.
Tom tells innkeeper that we are from very far away, in the northeast. He readily believes that, if the first local language we learned was Faen. (He doesn't speak much more than Tom does.) He also informs us that a trade route comes through here, and they expect a caravan through for Hreme sometime in the next day or so, but no one is expected who is headed for the Golden Realm.
We aren't in this town to make money, but the stuff is well known to be useful. We give him a carefully edited list of our skills and he names someone Wu might want to try healing and an old woman Tom could help with chores. He gives us a lesson in the local monetary system as we buy a round of beers. We thank him and retire to the end of town.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.