Week 31, Assault on Gorlach
After preparing inside the Pantope for ten weeks, we open on the Black Mage after six months of his time. Wu steps out and runs through some tests of his magical powers. He finds that, although he is still a Deryni, he is rapidly sliding into the powers of a mage of this world. The Black Mage opines that this would be a startling thing in arcane combat -- possibly as startling for Wu as for Gorlach.
As part of his effort in the battle, the Black Mage makes a set of teleport rings. Each of us wears one, and they are all keyed to a hollow glass sphere that we entrust to Cantrel. When Cantrel breaks the sphere, everyone wearing a ring will be teleported to the Mage's castle.
The Mage also gives us a wicker basket lid. When dropped on the ground, it creates a magic portal through which the Black Mage will appear (in his snazzy new costume of the Wizard of Space and Time).
On second thoughts, Tom rejects the back-scanning approach. It risks timelocks just to give the impression of retreating when we are really approaching. Nice, but our high speed relative to local time will be a much greater advantage, without etiological risk. Neither will we bother to move backward in time. The Black Mage feels he would have heard if Gorlach had been successfully trashed a few months ago, and since he heard no such thing, the odds for such an effort would be poor.
Tom therefore opens the pantope onto a set of coordinates he recalls from a place near Gorlach's castle, back when we were trying to get Cantrel uncursed. From there, he approaches the top of the highest tower in a series of leaps, always keeping outside time stopped. The borders of the door sparkle and flash as we penetrate the magical alarms. We have undoubtedly tripped them, but we hope to move faster than Gorlach can react.
Our last jump lands us directly in the tower room. As bad luck would have it, the door is in the very act of opening or closing, and a few bony fingers are visible grasping the edge. Around the room we see a circle of lab tables littered with sorcerous junk. There is no sign of the diadem detector, but we do see a familiar macrometal knife on one table.
Tom sends Victoria to the auxiliary bridge. He means to open a second door from there to just behind Gorlach. Victoria can then deliver several laser bolts at the wizard, from behind. We let a millisecond lapse, then chuck out the bottle containing the djinn. That's the PLAN, at least.
But a second door is too much for our rickety old pantope. At least, it can't do that AND keep bucking the time-stream. The main door shimmers, there is a resounding CRACK, and an unfortunate difference in air pressure drags Pfusand, Wu, Alag, and Tom out of the pantope and into Gorlach's tower. Time-rates are now equal. The door opens, Gorlach takes one glance at us, and casts some vile magic at the four time-travelers.
(I love it when a plan comes together.)
Very fortunately, we all resist the spell successfully. Alag chucks the djinn bottle at Gorlach. He has the wicker lid but does not yet drop it. Gorlach gestures at the bottle. It goes BOOM and the djinn starts materializing as a swirling, angry cloud. In the background, we can hear Victoria cursing from the auxiliary bridge.
Wu casts with the wand of paralysis while Pfusand and Tom fire laser and disflorger respectively. Daewen and Cantrel jump in and add their fire. A glassy sphere springs up around Gorlach and there is another explosion. Gorlach staggers back. Quickly, Tom thumbs his disflorger up to full strength and fires again.
Gorlach is consumed in a fireball. Tom, Wu, Cantrel, and Pfusand are blinded by the flash and knocked down by the shockwave. Back in the bridge, Chris levitates the lid from Alag's limp hand to the floor. The Black Mage quickly rises up out of it, his head wreathed in multi-colored flame. (A disguise perhaps? Or just part of the new costume?)
Gorlach turns on the newcomer, shouts, "Die!" and casts some spell. The Black Mage is thrown onto a table. Just then the djinn knocks Gorlach down the stairs. Gorlach retaliates in some way and there is an unearthly shriek as the djinn dies, releasing all its magic at once. The magically sensitive Lorelei hears the psychic cry echoing in her mind.
The Black Mage is no longer visible on the table; instead, there's a vague cloudy mass that seems to be positively glowing black. This is the same table, by the way, that Cantrel rolled under when he was blinded by the flash.
While Gorlach is temporarily out of the picture, Wu heals his own flash blindness, then fixes Pfusand and Tom. Pfusand turns into a bear -- well, into a panda actually, being in this particular world. Chris starts levitating a likely-looking chest into the bridge.
Just then five zombies appear in the room. One of them happens to appear over the magical hole in the floor through which the Black Mage entered. "YAAAaaa..." Okay, four zombies. The party quickly blasts them with their ray-guns But even before we finish, they are dropping lifeless, as if Gorlach had reconsidered. As we finish, Chris levitates the bowl containing the undine (water elemental) into the room, meaning to throw it down the stairs and flush out Gorlach.
Tom, meanwhile, has been worried about Gorlach's whereabouts. Very worried. And suddenly his Knack of Finding kicks in for the first time. Tom knows that Gorlach is standing at the top of the stairs, invisible. He fires. At the same instant, Gorlach drops his invisibility and casts a spell. A moment later, Gorlach disintegrates and Tom's heart stops.
Most of the party has no idea what happened. They saw no Gorlach; they just saw Tom fire and collapse. Pfusand tosses his body into the pantope. Chris has hauled the chest into the pantope and is having a robot search for our belongings. It finds no diadem detector. Meanwhile, Victoria yells, "We're losing our main connection!"
Under the table, blind, Cantrel starts feeling cold and sick. He suspects the feeling is related to the glass ball for the teleport spell. He turns over, trying to reach the ball, and...
crunch The ball breaks. Our teleport rings go off in the presence of unstable pantope doors and whatever that void is into which the Black Mage disappeared.
Present are the Black Mage, Cantrel, Wu, Lorelei, Pfusand, Daewen, Alag, Chris, Tom's body, and a large blob of water representing the undine. After struggling out of the water and casting a light spell, Wu finds that this is ALL that is present. They are in a void, with no light, no gravity.
For the first time, they notice how dead Tom looks. The Black Mage says he was suspended between worlds through most of the battle and got a fairly good look at what happened. Tom killed Gorlach just as Gorlach hit Tom with his infamous Fist of Death spell. The Black Mage puts Tom's body in stasis, to keep him fresh against the chance of revival (Tom's own favorite first aid measure).
The mage reluctantly explains that he dreadfully fluffed his dimensional magic, thus producing the strange void on the table. Then the teleport rings and the sour omniports queered things even further. He rather thinks that among us we managed to ruin the idea of location. We are nowhere at all. Indeed, Wu's watch gives no readings on its locator function. It's rather like being in self-containment on a pantope, but without the pantope.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.