Chapter 106: Mage Hunt, Part I
We left our heroes trying to gather up N'Butu refugees despite the interference
from their hereditary enemies, the Kitsu -- particularly several Kitsu mages
and their assistants. After considering various alternatives and regretfully
discarding some amusing vengeances on the Kitsu, we settle on hunting down the
mages (of whom there are five) and, if necessary, their assistants (of whom
there are a couple dozen).
We resolve to use timelock detection methods and to be careful to keep our chronology as straight as possible. We then ask Desmond if we could sneak up on our quarry in freeze-frame or slowed time, then having him use his time-tricks to boost them into our timestream and the pantope. He could, but it would be very tiring, especially if we're talking thirty or so targets. Well, we can always just shoot them.
Using a an incendiary stick from one of the assistants, Tom dowses for the mage who made it. The stick promptly explodes in Tom's hand. Desmond slows Tom down and bats the brand out of his hand. Greywolf then casts a sleep on him and heals him. A few sore minutes later, Tom awakes almost okay, with the pantope window hanging in some random point in space, in freeze-frame. Ooookay, we'll try a different mage; we must be timelocked with that one. Tom limps off to an infirmary for more healing by autodoc.
Daphne, meanwhile, has taken another incendiary stick and done a retrocognition on it, seeking for an image of the mage. She gets it and shows it to N'Tabo Bey, who fails to recognize him. We store the image for reference.
Tom comes back and we then try dowsing on some of the magic amulets carried by the assistant we captured. They lead us to a couple of different mages. An amulet giving the wearer enhanced stealth leads us to the old mage-king, and to signs of borderline timelock. We try the shapeshift amulet. No timelock. Also no obvious mage, just a really big snake. Well, he is a shapeshifter, after all. We open the door and Dafnord opens fire on the snake, with heavy stun. Then Markel tries to reach through the door and drag it into the pantope. Tries to.
Instead, Markel is nearly pulled out. The Gargoyle lunges after him, to pull him back in. Gannar tries to do the same, but accidentally steps in front of Kate's stunner. Zap. Ouch. Thud. Now Gannar is falling out. Dafnord hauls him back in, while Kate helps the Gargoyle haul Markel in with TK.
This means that Kate and the Gargoyle are in a tug of war for Markel, with the snake on the other end of their friend. The Gargoyle and Kate both try to grab the snake, too, but only get armsful of vines and other vegetation. Dafnord adds his efforts. Suddenly, the snake lets go. Everyone falls back to their points of origin, and Tom slams the door back into window mode and freeze-frame.
We collect ourselves. Greywolf announces that this mage, like himself, is a trickster sort. He doubts that we were often really grappling with him, as evidenced by the armsful of vines we got. Carefully studying the scene in freeze-frame, he is able to locate the real mage, who is not snake-shaped at all, but in the act of crumpling to the ground from all the stunner fire (enough to take out several normal mortals).
Are nephilim resistant to stunner fire? Greywolf asks us to test the idea on himself. Dafnord obliges and Greywolf finds the experience unpleasant but not really debilitating. (He also almost decks Dafnord in defensive reflex, but holds himself back.)
So we switch from stunners to Dafnord's goop gun. We also make preparations. This guy will probably be hard to gain control of, even after we haul him into the pantope. We summon Blackthorn, for more magely backup, close the connections to the Tellemataru, so our victim won't go running around in it, roll up our magic tent for similar reasons, and then leave the airlock door invitingly open, to sort of direct his likely line of flight. Greywolf has Tom add some glamour in the airlock so it appears to open into some forest.
Tom opens the door. Dafnord sprays goop, getting lots of vegetation, but also snaring the mage. We haul him aboard and start stunning him. This annoys him and he starts to shapeshift into something novel and nasty. Stun-stun-stun-stun. He finally goes down. Unfortunately, the Gargoyle had its momentum built up and attacks him anyway. He rouses and its Gargoyle versus nightmarish shapeshifter for a few eye-churning rounds of transformational combat.
Then Blackthorn casts a sleep on the mage. We catch our breath. How to confine this bas- fellow? We can't have people cast sleep spells forever. Brigs and psilence seem dubious. We ask N'Tabo Bey, who says the best way is probably to have his chief order him to stop. Elegantly simple, if it works.
Dafnord moves the unconscious mage to a cargo airlock, while Tom, Markel, and the Gargoyle go seek out the Kitsu chief. In icy tones, we inform the chief about the mages' goings-on. The chief protests that he didn't know about it and does not approve. The ignorance may be genuine but we really doubt the disapproval. Never mind. Come and tell this one to stop.
The chief obliges and follows us to the airlock. We rouse the mage and the Gargoyle, with an interesting show of shapeshift skill, casts the mage back into his human form. The chief gives him his lecture, he collects several glares from us, and both are escorted back to the Kitsu area. We tell the chief he make have to do this several more times.
Before he goes back to his hospital duties, N'Tabo Bey advises us to keep the Kitsu under increased surveillance. Right.
One down, four to go.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.