We're off to see the Wizard...
Week 5, Establishing a reson to trade
Marsina prepares an outrageous pot of tea for the Black Mage--who remains unconscious, still recovering from his recent injuries--while the rest of us vainly probe into the secrets beyond the shields of the fourth room on this side of his quarters. Rebuffed, we decide instead to wait for the Black Mage to recover.
The Black Mage stirs in about a half-hour. Chris and Cantrel come close to his bedside, hoping to reassure the Black Mage with familiar faces, but he still seems too dazed. Chris tells him to rest, and assures him of his safety. Fortunately, the Black Mage seems to accept this assurance and doesn't turn all of us into small toads.
We continue to wait, and we look around for lunch. Dafnord finds Deering off by himself again, looking intently at his book, which displays some type of calculation or report in a language we can't read. We don't ask him what he's doing this time.
Another half-hour passes and the Black Mage stirs again. This time he recognizes several of us, although he is a bit disoriented.
"Did we make it?" he asks. "We did." replied Chris. "Oh, good. Phew! I'm enormously hungry!"
The Black Mage looks about, no doubt smelling the outrageous pot of tea, and suddenly realizes that we're not exactly the same group of people he left rather abruptly back at 0000000000000.
"Wait, you're not all here! In fact...." "It's been about six or seven years for us." (Chris again.) "How long for me?" "Only about an hour." "Oh, good. Phew!"
Chris explains to the Black Mage that we've had quite a long journey and we've come back to settle up for the help he provided us against Gorlach. Therefore, we arrived just in time to catch you. ("Not quite catch you, that is" -- Jake.) The Black Mage nods in understanding and accepts an cup of that outrageous tea from Marsina as those of us who haven't yet met the Black Mage introduce ourselves. (The Black Mage doesn't seem to be listening closely, being charmed by Marsina's ministrations.)
Suddenly, the Black Mage asks whether we need help to leave--we assure him that we don't. This is a relief to him, confessing that he's made quite a mess out of his recent time travel experiments. We mention the Fold that we encountered (subjectively) earlier. He seems to know about it and babbles out a confession of sorts: "...it seemed easy at first, but now I've found that working around the castle area has become quite difficult"; "I wish I had more time to teach my Black Candidates, although they certainly had more time than I had".
"You know," he concludes," you can tell when it's the last time through-- it's the only one that makes sense."
The Black Mage pauses to take another cup of that outrageous tea, then makes another sudden realization: he asks us how we got into his self-contained quarters! Chris defers that question and brings up the disturbance that the townsfolk reported occurring a few hours (objectively) prior to our return to Hreme but the Black Mage doesn't know what we're talking about.
Chris then explains our journey from that point on, mentioning that we simply followed him through the door that he left open. The Black Mage catches on to this, noting that we've learned more and lamenting the fact that his doors are quite observable. Chris confirms that we've been learning magic, assuring him that we're nowhere near his class). Then, Chris mentions the Dimlai Findlay Alatar.
The Black Mage identifies her as the foremost Black Candidate and asks whether we know her. ("You used the informal, short version of her name, so naturally I assumed you knew her.") Chris relates the story on how we received her regards (not identifying from whom we received them) indicating that while she may have met us, we have yet to meet her. The Black Mage nods, telling us that the Dimlai Findlay Alatar is also investigating time travel magic. We ponder the ramifications of this as Deering clears his throat. (We actually forgot he was there for a moment.)
Chris introduces Group Commander Anthony Deering, and we all sit back and listen to his story. Deering introduces himself as a detached operative of Paratime, and roughly outlines the purpose of his mission: to arrange a business agreement for technology exchange. While doing this, he provides more details of the organization he works for.
Paratime, Deering relates, is chartered with maintaining the "temporal peace" in his world, preventing people from making "messes"--such as the Fold we encountered (subjectively) earlier--and "cross-time banditry". He claims his organization has been highly successful to date, although he doesn't explain how, but admits they've been having increased trouble with people traveling between worlds.
Deering explains that they had heard rumors that Hreme had better dimensional travel technology, therefore they felt they could arrange a mutually beneficial exchange of technology. Ashleigh, truth-reading, can find no lies in Deering's tale. The Black Mage, however, is quite surprised that Paratime has heard of him. The Black Mage says that only Dimlai Findlay Alatar and the other Black Candidates know of his work, and that in all of his travels he's been very discreet.
"I thought you we're with them," interrupts the Black Mage, referring to us. "No," replies Deering, "we happened across each other accidentally."
Deering continues, mentioning that his organization is fairly new to dimensional travel and pointing out that considerable resources were spent in sending him to Hreme. ("Detached officers are chosen for their ability to act independently. You see, they weren't sure they could bring me back.")
Deering confirms that they've fought "space/time pirates" from time to time. We jump on this point, asking for names and descriptions? Deering admits that one is particularly troublesome: Killer Desquesne. (Deering has never heard of a person named Rashid.) We all ponder the ramifications of this while filing out to let the Black Mage rest.
Alag conjures up a few comfy chairs for us to rest upon--and sleep, because it's getting subjectively late. We set up a watch to so that one of us keeps an eye on Deering. Sure enough, Alag spots him (via second sight) fiddling with his book and a coin-shaped object just before sleeping.
After a good night's sleep, the Black Mage wakes up and putters about. He offers Marsina breakfast but accepts the rest of us as well with good humor. Rested and fortified, the Black Mage again asks us why we decided to drop by. Chris mentions again that we're indebted to him for his help with Gorlach and we wanted to return the favor by helping him to develop navigational equipment. Also, we were looking for instruction in self-containment technology.
He explains various details on the complexity and nature of the necessary spells-- teleportation magic is necessary, instead of the alteration magic would might expect; then the spells to maintain the containment are quite expensive. He seems to be adding up a ledger in his mind and comes to the conclusion that he's open to the agreement, assuming we can deliver our part of the bargain.
We point out that our requirements and Deering's are different. Deering takes that statement in good humor and notes that the Black Mage should consider him only a minor ambassador. Deering offers an invitation to the Black Mage to return to his world for further negotiations. Ashleigh casually asks Deering how his organization found out about the Black Mage, testing a theory. Deering says that one of his colleagues was given the description and location of the Black Mage and Hreme.
"Sherrinford Holmes?!?" exclaims Ashleigh. "I'll throttle him!"
Theory confirmed: The Paratime organization was unwittingly started and/or helped along by the groups previous visit to the Literary Timeline. (This explains the earlier recognition of Ashleigh and Lawless--they're historical figures to Deering.)
Deering goes on to explain that the Paratime organization has a standing order to try and re-establish contact with us. ("Obviously," adds Deering, "you're of interest to the Directorate.") He admits he doesn't know the motivation behind the order, and lists several of the people included in the order. (These are all pseudonyms of the group used at the time of their last visit to the Literary Timeline.)
Deering, glaring at Dafnord, admits that finding us was a bit of a jackpot. Every time he was interrupted, he was trying to ask for backup! Apparently, we visit there again at some point--or someone is taking up our name--as Deering refers to a most amusing incident involving "Beckett" attributed to Ashleigh. (Meta-digression: are we also "Paratime"?)
We return to a technical discussion of navigation and self-containment technology. The Black Mage says the key component is sheer POWER. The skills are comparatively easy and he believes we are capable of the task. Chris explains that we can describe and build navigation devices but we don't have device to determine our location. The Black Mage understands and explains his limitations--one important one being a lack of concepts in his language-- but says that he's accomplished location determination via a form of mirror magic. (Say, that's why all those mirrors are lying around!)
Deering pipes up, mentioning that the theoreticians of his world haven't determined exactly which set of dimensions describe reality, therefore, they cannot move arbitrarily and instead move along paths--but they can move very fast along those established paths! One thing that his group would like to learn is the ability to make arbitrary jumps. Ashleigh warns Deering that his people should keep the knowledge secret, even the knowledge that the machines can be built relatively easily. ("Let's keep the secret in the family.")
We return to the technical discussion. Chris hands the Black Mage a Watch, asking him to figure out how it works. The Black Mage says that there will be a problem because he thinks about location in a way other than symbolically. He needs to research a method of correlating the magical signatures he senses with the mechanical symbolism of the Watch. Chris explains his applications a glamour magic--causing "light and illusions: to behave mathematically, sense, and react to input. A philosophical discussion ensues. The Black Mage is skeptical: dealing with this type of magic will require considerable research on my part. (Chris finds this refreshing.) He admits that he's not sure and suggests that some mutual studying should be done, in order to ground each other in our respective magics. Chris agrees.
Deering pipes up again, saying that he understands what they're trying to do, he doesn't think he can contribute much but he is more than willing to contribute. Babbling anxiously on, Deering repeats his offer to return (all of us this time) to his world, where he assures us we'll be well received.
Yah, right. The net goes up. After quick deliberation, we decide that we don't have any compelling reason to start establishing relations with Paratime. Therefore, dismissing Deering as "mostly harmless", we concentrate on figuring out what to do with him. We decide to send him back to his timeline, but randomly within it--sorry-- with the message that we're willing to do business in the future and we'll call you.
We include the Black Mage in the net and bring him up to date. He points out that Paratime seems to have enemies, and he doesn't recommend we get embroiled in their problems. On the other hand, their enemies may be our enemies someday, therefore it behooves us not to antagonize him. We all agree on this approach and drop out of the net. We explain to Deering, that we're "not unwilling" to deal: we don't want to throw away a good opportunity, but we also don't want to acquire your enemies.
Deering seems to understand and agrees to take the message from the Black Mage and us back to his leaders. We dither on how to get him back when Deering suggests that he might be able to return on his own, providing that he begins from the there and then when we returned to Hreme.
The Black Mage opens a mirror door to a point just outside the town a few hours (objectively) later than our point of return. Deering bids us farewell and leaves. We open a window and watch him get into a "Buck Rogers" style outfit (flat black with silver piping) with backpack. He then fiddles with his book and takes off. ZOOM! [Say, didn't he say that he couldn't get back on his own, or something like that?]
After closing the window, we turn to the Black Mage and ask him what we should call him--perhaps the Lexan Mage? He shakes his head--the Lexan hasn't gone over well--and says that he hasn't established a new name. For now, he says, we should simply call him "Mage".
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.