Back to Middle Earth
Week 6, The Gandalf Gambit
Welcome back to the future.
We left our heroes back in the pantope, preparing to execute the Gandalf Gambit. Dr. Wu is, as usual, in a state of deep identity crisis. He started out as a Zenner, took on the form, name, and gene-code of a Deryni named Rhodri, dropped the name, assumed a nondescript face, kept the gene-code, and has now put on a magical illusion of the appearance of Gandalf, along with the best costuming Wardrobe could provide. Many of the rest of us have also had plastic surgery.
Except Aphron. Aphron is missing. He was last seen going through the door to his bedroom. We greatly fear that Aphron has fallen through a glitch in the teleport system. We hope he doesn't starve to death, as this would cause inconvenience and mess. [Aphron's player can't make it any more.]
We open the pantope over the gate to the Lonely Mountain, the day after the Battle of Five Armies. We then wait for Gandalf to leave with Bilbo and Beorn. That happens. We then skip forward three more days and open the pantope in that handy copse of trees on the mountainside. The party then piles out, leaving the pantope open but invisible behind us.
We are hailed at the mountain gate by the dwarven guards and "Gandalf" demands to be let in to see Balin and the other surviving dwarves of Thorin's company. The guards go consult their superiors, then come back and open the gate. We are led through a twisty series of passages (which Tom commits to Total Recall), finally through a corridor with veins of silver in its walls, to a great hall. Three dwarves sit in state. Two look familiar to us, though we don't know which names to put to which faces. "Who goes there?" asks the unfamiliar one.
"Gandalf, of course."
"I want you to give a crown to these folk. They will pass it on to me, when you've found it. They'll know it when they see it, and I assure you, you will be recompensed."
"What crown is this that dwarves may not have?"
"You'll find out in good time."
Dwarves mutter among themselves and send off a messenger. Eventually, a procession of dwarvish guards enters, with a particularly well-dressed and crowned dwarf in their midst. Dain Ironfoot, King Under the Mountain, we presume. Just to be on the safe side, Wu/"Gandalf" magically probes the crown Dain is wearing. Nothing special about it; in fact, it's one we ran across in the dragon's hoard a while back. Dain has to have the whole situation explained to him again.
To which Dain replies: "You look a lot like Gandalf, for a human."
Wu blusters back realistically that he IS Gandalf, ignoring the crossbows that are aimed in semi-readiness at the floor between us and the king. "Contact Gandalf," Dain orders one dwarf, who starts to leave. Wu gestures, Cantrel does the actual levitation, and the dwarf comes to a dead halt. "Nice trick," comments Dain. He and many other dwarves stare intently at Wu, especially his hands. "Impressive. Very human." A very old dwarf comes forward and begins to sniff at us. Does Wu perhaps not SMELL right?
Over the telepathy net, the party agrees that we should cut our losses and run. "Very well," says Wu to Dain, "if you won't cooperate, I'll leave, and you'll rue the day I did."
The crossbows are now aimed solidly at us. "Stop, counterfeit!" The king and his party are between us and the only exit. However, we don't stop. They back away and one bow-dwarf starts to shoot. Cantrel unloads the crossbow with TK and it goes sproing.
The dwarves close in around Dain. "Gandalf" thunders, "Have them stand aside. Do not forget this day. I won't." The king and his guards back out the door, Wu shooing them like hens. A crossbow goes off and misses. "I'll thank you not to do that again." The king's party splits and we are left with a clear doorway, except for the two halberds crossed over it, held by dwarves on the other side.
Wu turns back to Balin and remarks, "Just don't come crying to me the next time you need help." Cantrel, who has carefully disguised the fact that he is the one doing the TK, pleads in his humblest tones to be allowed to go home to his family and farm, and tries to slide under the halberds. No go.
Wu then fakes up one of Gandalf's famous fireballs. The dwarves are very impressed and let him raise the halberds out of the way. Almost. One dwarf loses his cool, strikes blindly, misses, and runs away -- in front of us, so we'll just have to confront him again. sigh
We move out of the hall, back into the silver-veined corridor, and confront this dwarf again, Wu with fireball in hand. The dwarf attacks again and muffs it. A crossbow from the crowd fires and accidentally hits the other halberdier. Cantrel kindly pulls out the quarrel and the victim runs off. The original terrified dwarf blocks out approach with his halberd. Wu tosses the fireball into the air, karate-chops the halberd in two, and catches the ball again. The dwarf attacks once more, in sheer funk, with his ad hoc club and ad hoc axe. Wu puts him out of his misery with a sleep spell.
Tom takes the lead, retracing the path. At the top of a stair, we come on a hall full of dwarf warriors. We prepare to brazen our way through, but just then a tapestry flutters off the wall, revealing a hidden passage. In the doorway stand Daewen and another elf. "It's shorter this way!" she calls. We exit hastily, pausing only to leave a fireball to discourage the dwarves from following too soon.
We come out in the entrance hall, confronting six surprised dwarf guards and a shut gate. In the short journey, Daewen makes it plain that she knows Wu isn't Gandalf. In fact, we suspect she recognizes the whole party. She also wants us to hurry, although she supposes that "the luck won't break until we're out in the open." Cantrel floats us all up over the gate, while Wu gestures to make it look as if he's the one doing it. Once over the gate, Daewen whistles up her horse and that of the other elf. We run, followed by dwarves.
Eventually, we leave them behind and Cantrel, on the horse behind Daewen, has some breath for questions. "Who's your friend?"
"My grandson, Alag." Oh.
Soon, we are back in the copse, near the pantope door, and Daewen has some questions of her own. "Who's after you?"
"All the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain, I'd say," says Wu.
"Just dwarves? Good. Look, you're clearly not local. Or you'd know that wizards aren't human. And they all have glamour."
"A magical optical effect."
"Like this?" asks Wu, glowing momentarily with his golden Deryni nimbus. Daewen shudders. "N-no. Look, are you SUPPOSED to be around here?"
"What do you mean `supposed'?"
"You just stumbled in here, didn't you? From VERY far away. In some conveyance ... or the like ... of your own...."
Cantrel wearies of this hinting and asks, "Do you run this amusement park, or are you a paying customer?"
Daewen grins grimly. "I do pay."
"Well, we're trying to bend the rules."
"I figured that when I got fated into that mountain so easily. There was a caravan going in just as I came by. I fell in behind them and no one asked any questions."
"What year are you from?" Wu asks.
Daewen rolls up her sleeve and glances at her wristwatch. We compare numbers for a while and determine that she is from a time near the 400th century, Anno Domini. That's 100 centuries after the captain's time, but, we think, before the worldbenders.
And by the way, the worldbenders will probably be here soon. That's why dwarves are the least of our worries. Tom suggests that they step into the pantope. He gestures toward the invisible door, just as a human figure starts to shimmer into shape before it. The sharp-eyed spot a disflorger in one hand and a blue pencil in the other.
Pfusand charges through the figure, hoping to disrupt it. She receives a hefty jolt, and stumbles into the pantope. The figure flickers a couple of times and resumes forming.
Daewen draws her sword, mutters to Cantrel "What of the boys?" (meaning her grandson and David, who are on lookout for dwarves), then steps up to the new-formed worldbender and smacks him. He rolls over, landing in a battle-ready crouch. Cantrel TKs the disflorger and blue pencil out of his hands. He gets the blue pencil for himself, but the disflorger stops midway between them. Apparently the worldbender does TK too. But not after Daewen slices him a few more times with her sword. At her suggestion we grab the body and all pile into the pantope.
Tom stops exterior time and Wu sleeps Alag, Daewen's grandson. This is because Alag was born and raised in Middle Earth, never suspecting the high tech world his grandmother came from. He's finding the pantope a little hard to take in the midst of pitched battle.
Daewen asks if we have heard of Allied Epochs and is relieved to find she can even say the name without getting timelocked. Tom tells her we have, and tells her the truth about our year of origin (2485). He also tells her that we met her some time from now, though he doesn't see how that fatelocks her into running into us over and over. Neither does she ... yet. She then says she would like to keep Daewen's presence continuous, so she needs her doppleganger. She directs Tom to a cave in the Gundabad Mountains, north of the Desolation of Smaug. There, we resume normal time and, cautiously, send in a floating spy-eye before entering ourselves. The eye, working in infrared, shows a motionless double of Daewen ... and a man in the local semi-medieval style of clothing. We break out the disflorgers, set them on stun, and send out Daewen, Cantrel, and Wu, with Tom at the helm. There is a quick scuffle and the figure goes down stunned.
Daewen goes to the cave wall, opens a hidden panel, and pulls out a thing like a briefcase. We pile prisoner and doppleganger back through the door, stop time again, and slide back to the wilderness near the Lonely Mountain. On the way, Tom learns that Daewen is about 500, but her character has been in Middle Earth for 2000 years, her doppleganger taking up the slack. The doppleganger is a person in her own right, unaware of Daewen's high-tech life. Each has a helmet that records her experiences. When they change shifts, they swap helmets. Daewen now swaps the helmets and kicks out her double along with the horse. We disconnect from Middle Earth entirely.
We revive and interrogate our prisoner. "Where are you from?" "Not here. I'm from Middle Earth!" "?" After a lot of cross-questions and crooked answers, we determine that he is from ANOTHER mock-up of Middle Earth. He is another customer, this time dating from the 30th century. He had been leading a band of insurrectionists in a bit of guerrilla warfare against some bandits. A storm came up and he found his way to the cave where his gate was -- the gate he arrived by. He blundered through SOMETHING and found himself in Daewen's Middle Earth. It was obviously the wrong place. The stars were wrong, the sun moved through the sky instead of remaining at the zenith, and there was no sign of the other ringworld. ...uh-huh... Since we have no idea where he's from, we have no idea how to get him home.
Furthermore, since he and Daewen both come from times earlier than the worldbenders, they both have the same interest that we 25th-century folk do in making them keep their paws off the past. We end the session with Tom explaining about diadems and thing, and Daewen giving a quick rundown of the plot of "Lord of the Rings."
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.