Week 29, Audience with the Black Mage
When we left our heroes last time, they had just battled their way into the presence of the Black Mage and politely asked for an audience. The Black Mage ushers them up the stairs, through a drawing room full of knickknacks, into a study equipped with European-style furniture.
Cantrel stays to "browse" in the drawing room. The Black Mage keeps the door to the study partly open. Cantrel picks up and puts down various innocuous-looking items. One, a small bottle, turns out to be more active than you might suppose -- something inside starts moving around. When Cantrel shakes the bottle experimentally, the contents becomes very excited. He puts it back down and moves away. The doors of the drawing room swing open to admit a levitating golden tray stacked with goodies. Cantrel helps himself as it glides by.
In the study, Tom is explaining in fuller detail about worldbenders, the pantope, the diadem and its segments, the threat of subverted history, and so forth. Having explained our problem, he then offers the Black Mage various inducements to help us. As an inducement on the large scale, he points out that the worldbenders are aggressive and imperialistic sorts who might very well like to add the Mage's world to their transdimensional empire. On a smaller scale, Tom offers the chance to look at outworld magics, a chance to annoy his old enemy Gorlach (whom we still have to settle with), the desirability of preventing Gorlach from learning how to use a disflorger or a diadem detector, and possible services from us in return for his help.
The Black Mage remarks that, at the very least, we come with a fascinating tale to tell. He then gazes searchingly at each of us in turn.
Meanwhile, in the room next door, Cantrel has found a small wooden frame holding a light metal hoop. He fetches an unused torch from his backpack and experimentally pokes it through the loop. He feels a slight resistance after poking far enough, and the hoop moves back, as if an invisible membrane were across it. He pushes harder and a faint glow appears in the hoop. He hears a faint ringing noise. At this point he stops. The hoop doesn't, however, and starts to spin, while the faint glow within in contracts to a well-defined spot of light. Back in the study, we all hear the faint ringing noise, and the Mage looks up from his contemplation of Lorelei to cast an irritated glance out the door. The spinning, glowing, and ringing subside.
Wu moves to the door and beckons Cantrel in. Cantrel declines. His reason, though he does not state it, is that he does not want all the group's eggs in one basket. The rest of us feel that we are already thoroughly in the Mage's power, whichever room we are in.
Done with his scrutiny, the Mage politely asks for some proof of our odd tale. Tom offers to verify it under a truth spell, or to perform some odd magics, like his Tools skill, or Chris's Dicing talent. The Mage remarks that he has already noted the odd glamour that Daewen clothes herself with, like nothing in his experience. Wu suggests showing the Mage the "watch" Tom is wearing. This is actually a loan from Daewen, giving one's current position in 13-dimensional coordinates as well as serving as a worldbender alarm, walkie-talkie, pocket calculator, and bottle opener. (It was probably invented by the Swiss army.)
The Mage is indeed impressed. Not only does its operation detect as magical to him, it is layer after layer of precise and intricate "magic," and, most bizarre of all, is not shielded from interference as any such magic made in this world would be. (This prompts Wu to try casting an Analysis spell on his own watch, something he never thought to do. Sure enough, it detects in the same intricate, unshielded fashion.)
Out in the drawing room, Cantrel has noticed that he is being watched by a stuffed hawk.
The Black Mage announces that he believes us, but that he is at a loss on how to get us back to the pantope. You need to know more about where you're going to open doors between the "planes" that way. The Mage has never connected with any planes but the Nine Worlds, and we seem to be from outside that system.
Hoping to get some useful background information, Tom asks for a description of the Nine Worlds. The Mage cautions that their history goes back to the beginning of Time and is shrouded in myth. Tom assures him that all the best worlds are like that, so he proceeds. He describes a monotheistic cosmology with a Christian or Platonist flavor to it. We learn that the djinn and gods are exiled to their respective worlds among the Nine and appear to be fallen in varying degree from the Heavenly Host. We could dismiss all this as parallel-world mythology if we hadn't met and battled real djinn ourselves.
The Mage then asks for more information about the, Ah, location of the pantope. As far as he can tell, it seems to be strictly nowhere. Tom assures him that this is our own understanding of its position. Unless you want to say it is in the Self-Containment Housing in its own garden. The Black Mage remarks that he once tried to put something inside itself that way as a lab experiment, but found that once he was done the object was completely full of itself. Tom explains that you have to create a region in which things are shrunk, like the djinn-bottle we were trapped in. Then you open the dimensional door into the shrunken region and--
The Black Mage suddenly sees how to do this. He catches fire with great professional energy. Then he notices what a grandly defensibly position being nowhere is (we always thought so), and starts to say something like "Why that young pup would NEVER think to find me if I --"
He breaks off and starts incanting. Wu does an Analyze: the Mage is revving up an amplification spell of some kind. Suddenly, all the characters in the room except Lorelei are frozen in stasis. "What are you doing?" she demands. "Just stopping them for a bit." "Cantre--!" she starts to shout, before she freezes up too.
Cantrel's paranoia, it seems, was justified. He dives into the study with a hit and roll and fires a wand of lightning-bolts at the Mage. The Mage staggers, but raises his hands and incants and Cantrel freezes. It seems that the other characters' resignation was justified, too.
Sometime later, we find ourselves in a large wooden room. We are sitting comfortably in low chairs, unconfined. We are rested and unwounded, and wearing simple white robes. Before us stands the Black Mage. He too looks none the worse for wear. Behind him are six of his animated stone guards. Behind THEM is a long table bearing all our equipment.
"I gather you regard us as a security risk," says Tom.
The Black Mage agrees. He insists on keeping the idea of self-containment a secret, so he threw us into stasis as a precaution. Six months have elapsed, he tells us, during which he has been experimenting with making self-containing structures -- pantopes done with magic instead of technology. After losing several prototypes to the undimensioned void, he has now succeeded. We are in a magical self-containing box. He impresses on us that he is the only person who knows how to get out of this box.
This is all fine with us. Not having any attachments in this world, we don't really are if six months of its time just slid by. We do stop to ask about Beygar. He's still living out there in the forest around the castle. He seems to be fine, though he certainly doesn't fraternize with the Mage's minions or the things that go bump every night.
Tom asks what those things were. The Mage explains that he built his castle at a crossroads of the Nine Worlds and most of the apparitions were passers-by, though some were his visitors. His visitors, it seems, sometimes include members of the Host. This gives some of the party members theological qualms. I mean, the man is saying he routinely does business with angels....
On a more cheerful note, the Mage tells us that a cat-warrior came by, in company with an oriental princess. We strongly suspect that this is Tomukato, back from Djinnistan with the princess he set out to rescue. We had always assumed the princess was another cat-person, but we never really stopped to ask. How nice to know he made it.
Thus we brush the missing half-year aside and get back to engineering our escape. The Black Mage is now eager to see us leave this world and is descent enough to want us to take our bodies with us, still attached to them and all. Hear, hear!
It turns out that the Black Mage cannot open a magical gate into the pantope or any of the worlds we visited, but he CAN teleport something at random. Well, Chris has this talent for making the right random thing happen. Putting them together, we ought to be able to do something useful. We faithfully promise the Mage to leave this world and never return in the future. (We ask if it's okay to return in the past. The Mage does a double-take, then says yes.) We then have our stuff packed up and adjourn to a quiet place in the foothills, a few miles away from the mountains. On the way, we find Beygar, pay him off, and bid him adieu.
Once we are all in position, Tom takes a coordinate reading and writes the numbers down as part of a message to Victoria. (Remember Victoria?) We then put the message in a proverbial bottle. The Black Mage fires a completely haphazard teleport spell at it while Chris directs this unguided missal to the pantope.
And in it is Victoria standing in the pantope bridge, 8.5 months pregnant, with a disflorger at the ready. Hallelujah!
We rush back in. But remember the translation tube between Middle Earth and this world? There is a similar one between us and the pantope. As we cross it, most of us do not change in external appearance, but Alag completes his transformation back to Middle Earth sylvan elf and Pfusand, long a panda, turns back into a Beorning in bear-shape. (She was careful to call out to Victoria and identify herself before entering. The rest of us vouched for her.) Wu translated from a Deryni to an ordinary-human magician; it may be that Wu translates back into a Zenner rather than a Deryni. We haven't decided yet.
Before we disconnect entirely, we give the Black Mage some gifts. Tom presents him with a solar powered calculator to help with the math necessary for pantope operations. Wu gives him a plastic staff. The Mage thinks this substance, unknown in his world, is a very appropriate gift for a wizard who now dwells outside any world.
The Black Mage in return gives us some gifts and advice. He gives us a bottle containing a water elemental and a wand of paralysis. He tells us to attack the highest tower of Gorlach's keep, and to be sure that none of us is sick when we attack, since that would give Gorlach a hold on us. The paralysis of the wand will not work as well on Gorlach. And we should attack quickly.
We thank him, close the door to invisibility, and stop exterior time. (Meaning we freeze the Mage. Seems only fair, after all.) We propose, first, to see through the birth of Cantrel and Victoria's child, then to connect to Gorlach's keep shortly after he robbed us, then get our equipment back, particularly the diadem detector.
It ought to be exciting. Meanwhile it feels good to be back home in nowhere again.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.