Week 32, Very Lost in Space and Time
When we left our heroes last time, they were even more nowhere than is usual with them -- they were in a black, weightless void, with the Black Mage, a water elemental, and Tom Noon's body.
Erratum: The glass ball that triggers the teleport rings is not smashed; it went off half-cocked, so to speak, and has lost part of its magical charge, but is still physically intact.
Since they seemed to have plenty of time, Pfusand asked the Black Mage where the zombie went who dropped down the Mage's portable hole. (See last log.) The Black Mage said that it would land in his magical pantope, where his animated statues would finish it off.
After careful consideration, the Black Mage offered the group three possibilities:
Wu and Chris offer to give the Mage what magical energies they have left, to power all these magics. The others chip in, too. Meanwhile, Alag has been napping. The reader should understand that Alag is very good at napping -- he can renew all his magical energies in a couple of hours' sleep. Usually. Not this time.
This is very bad. If this horrid nullity won't let us renew our energies, we have no more magic to work with than what we brought in with us. Gritting his teeth and husbanding magic VERY carefully, the Black Mage sets to work. First, he recharges the teleport rings. Then he analyzes the "magic" in a disflorger (which he rejects) and a laser (which he accepts). He enchants the laser and tells us we need the additional magical energy stored in the undine -- the water elemental, an uncomfortably large and close glob of water sloshing about like a B-movie giant amoeba. We tap this energy by shooting it with the laser. How exciting for all concerned.
Also, he has good news and bad news. The good news is that the area effect on the enchanted laser is very large. It will certainly take all of us. The bad news is that he isn't really certain WHERE it will take us.
He will try popping out. If he succeeds, he will try coming back for us. It may take him years to figure out how, but once he does, he will come back within the hour of his leaving us. As soon as he is gone, we will try popping out with our teleport rings. Failing that, we will wait an hour and try the enchanted laser. If we succeed, we should come and tell him right away (easy with a pantope), so as to save him the wasted effort.
We try napping anyway, but no one regains any magical energy. Just before he tries to launch himself out of here, the Black Mage uses a last remaining spark of magic to put a small but perfect recall spell on his signet ring, which he gives to Wu. This will help him home in on us. This spell will fade within an hour. We wish each other luck all around and the Black Mage incants.
POP He's gone. Now we gather into a group and try the teleport rings. Cantrel smashes the glass globe.
POP Nothing has changed, except we have some broken glass sailing dangerously through the void. We're still here. Or not here. Anyway, it didn't work. That leaves the enchanted laser. We settled down to wait the stipulated hour.
Unfortunately, after half an hour, the undine starts feeling hungry or restless or something. It begins sloshing around, extending pseudopods of water toward the group. Chris, who has the laser, feels we can't afford to wait for the rest of the hour. He summons everyone to him, Dices up a little luck with the dregs of his magical energies, and, as the water washes over us, fires.
POP Well, the water is gone, but at first it would seem nothing has changed. It is still dark and weightless. Oh, but there's a wind. And aren't those stars? And what's that dark shiny thing coming in fast from one side? I hope it's friendly...
~SPLASH~ We have dropped out of the night sky, into an ocean. Many of us were knocked out by the impact, and some are sinking. Cantrel is not because he had been maneuvering in the void with his high-tech flying belt. Tom's body is floating fairly well, its lungs retaining air because it isn't breathing. Lorelei and Chris are still conscious. Together with Cantrel they collect and rescue the others.
Once Wu is awake, he tries to make a light spell with his last glimmer of magic. He succeeds. (?) At least, he produces light. But it isn't the general nimbus he was used to in the Black Mage's world, nor the globe of hand-fire he was used to as a Deryni. It looks a lot like a real flame of whitish hue, dim and flickering. Puzzling.
Meanwhile, Tom's body isn't getting any fresher. Floating awkwardly about, with a friendly panda (Pfusand) for an operating table, Dr. Wu does CPR on Tom and throws a little magical healing in with it. (By now he is digging the magic out of the bottom of his brain pan.) Chris assists by psychically enriching Tom's blood with oxygen.
It works. Tom gasps and opens his eyes. "I thought you were NEVER going to get out of that void" are his first coherent words. "Huh? What do you know about that?" they ask. Tom explains that he saw most of it from outside. He's had a near-death experience.
Chris is intrigued, but Wu would rather know where we are NOW. Examining his all-purpose calendar watch by the dim flares of the hand-fire, Wu determines that we are on Earth, in the year 1872 AD. Examining the stars, Tom decides we are in the southern hemisphere. And the water is warmish, so we are probably in the tropics.
We float around. Tom lofts on HIS flying belt to dry off and get a little warmer. The moon rises. Yep, that looks like Earth's moon. We aren't certain about parallel worlds and such, but from the moon and the hyperspace coordinates, this must be AN Earth very close to the one where we met Victoria in Hong Kong in 1935. Very possibly the same Earth, if indeed there are more than one.
Cantrel goes on a little exploration and sees something dark and irregular in the water. It turns out to be a reef just below the surface. He tells the rest and he, Daewen, and Tom (the three with flying belts) tow the others to the reef, where we can stand around and dry off except for our feet. (Chris dims this improvement in our status by telling us that the southern oceans and reefs of Earth had lots of poisonous critters. We tread warily.)
While most folk doze, Tom tells Chris about his near-death experience. After keeling over in Gorlach's tower, he went through the often-reported rush through a darkness full of ringing sounds. He emerged to see Pfusand toss his body into the pantope door. Gorlach was also present, also bodiless, raging at him in a fashion we may call telepathic. He seemed impotent. A being like a blaze of light took him away. Another light asked Tom if he wanted to try getting his body back. Tom considered. His life flashed before his eyes and he also contemplated the attractions of the infinite light. A bit reluctantly, he decided he really had unfinished business. By now, the material world was not in evidence. The being of light returned him to the vicinity of his body, i.e. nowhere, and left. So Tom silently witnessed most of the discussion and experimentation in the void and the fall into the ocean.
Dawn is coming. Tom lofts to try and find some land. Chris borrows Daewen's flying belt and accompanies him. (Daewen is trying to sleep on a reef without sitting on poisonous sea urchins. Cantrel and Wu are trying out their arcane powers, to see how they work on Earth. They are getting vaguely normal.) Chris and Tom spot a ship with masts and sails. Excellent. It's even headed roughly in our direction. They descend and tell the others. The experimenting showed that Cantrel's ring of invisibility still works, so Chris (the most normal-looking and healthiest member of the party) will use it to case the ship while flying. If it looks tolerable (and we aren't feeling choosy), he'll dip down into the water, become visible, and start yelling for help. He flits off, keeping telepathic contact with Tom and communicator contact with Cantrel, via his wristwatch.
Daewen sighs and remarks that her elvish glamour would probably be too hard to explain. She lets it drop, leaving her clad in not much more than some heavy cobwebs. She and Alag also try to shake their hair over their pointed ears. This brings Tom's attention to Pfusand. A bipedal, talking panda is even harder to explain than a naked lady. He recommends that Pfusand turn into a naked lady. This should be possible, since we are now on Earth, which seems to have the same natural laws as Middle Earth, where she is a shape-shifting Beorning, a were-bear.
Pfusand agrees and changes. Surprisingly, she soaks up a fair bit of sea water, like a sponge, including some dissolved coral reef, and turns into a Naza, four legs, horns, eyestalks, and all. She makes a satisfied sigh, like one escaping a tight girdle, and remarks that this feels good. That's nice, but it's even harder to explain than any sort of a panda, much less a naked lady. (We never foresaw a day when a naked lady would be the EASIEST available choice to explain...) Tom asks her to change back before this shape sets or gels or something, but alas, it already has. sigh The transition through that non-cosmos seems to have screwed things up. Tom begins making up explanations as best he can. We're shipwrecked explorers and found this strange animal on an island far to the south. Let's hope no one on that ship knows any biology.
Meanwhile, at the ship, Chris is flitting about invisibly. This ship is the "Rona," a two-masted schooner or something, and it carries at least a few light cannon. It flies no flag. The crew are a mixture of races and costumes, with no uniforms evident. They speak various kinds of accented English. One gent in white clothing and a red cumberbund seems to be the captain. Well, they don't sport parrots, peg-legs, or eye-patches, nor do they go around saying, "Arr, matey," so maybe they aren't pirates. We can't be very fussy.
Chris dunks down into the water at a suitable distance, takes off the ring of invisibility, and starts yelling.
"Ahoy!" says the ship, in the approved manner. "Ahoy!" says Chris. "Where are you from?" (Dry land. What the heck is this?) "Portland," says Chris after a hasty telepathic consultation. There are about half a dozen Portlands scattered through the English speaking nations. "There are eight of us, over on that--"
"Cap'n!" cries the lookout, "There's folks out there walkin' on the water!" At this point, the ship is close enough for someone to throw Chris a rope, so someone does. He climbs out and explains that the "water"-walkers are on a reef. This relieves a somber-looking minister who was praying anxiously as he looked at the apparent miracle. The captain chuckles and said he had figured that but didn't want to spoil the preacher's fun. Chris introduces himself ("Christopher Marlowe") and is introduced to Captain Hayes. Besides the preacher, there is a burly, red-bearded man in a red-and-white striped shirt, a black with a golden ear ring, and an oriental. A colorful mixture.
But if you want a color mixture, you should see what the lifeboat is picking up. The sailors hardly know which makes their eyes bug more, Daewen in wet nothing-much, or our, um, thing. (We insist on taking it. "Its very tame.") This keeps them from immediately noticing our garb and equipment, a random mixture of Medieval and Buck Rogers. They make two trips. On the first, they take most of us (jockeying for a good hb view of Daewen). On the second, they take Cantrel's 200 lbs and Pfusand's three-quarters ton.
This should be an interesting voyage.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.