Chapter 112: Mage Hunt, Part VII
We left our heroes trying to eliminate the Kitsu mages and their assistants who are hindering our evacuation of the N'Butu. Last session, we eliminated one mage and twelve assistants, or maybe two mages and eleven assistants, depending on the status of the guy we reduced to a small glassy crater with his own lightning bolt. We know we got rid of the shapeshifter mage.
Reckoning up, we still have the mages we've dubbed Mr. Lucky, Mr. Zippy, and the Mage-King, plus maybe someone else, and about a dozen more assistants to go. Sigh.
Onward. Tom picks up a teleport amulet and tries to dowse for its maker, owner, or whatever. The connection feels slippery. Mirien taps him on the shoulder. He looks around. She looks a little out of focus to him, until she seizes him by the shoulder. Everyone else sees Tom look out of focus until she grabs him. "You shouldn't try to do stuff like Flitting in a pantope, Uncle," she tells him.
Very interesting. Tom had not been trying to do any such thing, but it looks like the magic in the amulet was trying to suck him in. He and Robbie and Mirien look over the area carefully, but find no damage to the pantope itself. Hm. Let's try another token.
We use the chunk of cat-skin cloak from some guy who successfully repelled us before (in Part IV). The window produces darkness. A glance at the helm shows slow movement of the coordinates, so we're tracking something, but in the dark.
We try setting up a little window, for infrared illumination, in our armored airlock. When we open it, CLANG! Oops. Looking in the airlock by TV, we see lots of mud and gravel. So we seem to have opened the portal on high-pressure mud.
Markel tries clairvoyance through the window portal and sees faint, moving outlines, possibly humanoid. We're probably looking at a mage who can walk through earth. We try to fast-forward to some point when he's out in the open.
Tom sort of leans into the motion, then falls over, screaming. His feet are stuck to the deck, causing him to topple and wrench his knees and ankles. Kate lifts him up with TK and Mirien cushions him with ectoplastic foam. Mirien suggests he pull his feet out of his boots, since these appear to be what's stuck -- fused with the deck, on close inspection.
Tom complies, but the sole of one foot hurt. A few layers of skin appear to have been melted into the deck. They help Tom through a portal, to the autodoc aboard the Munch. This autodoc, sentient and very intelligent, finds traces of beryl in Tom's foot, along with damage that looks sort of like chemical burns. Tom notes to himself that it didn't seem to be the "burning" that hurt, just pulling his foot out of the deck.
Once again, the magic on the token appeared to try to suck him in -- he was tracking a mage who walks through earth, and started to sink into the emerald deck of the pantope.
He limps back into the pantope and joins Mirien and the Gargoyle in looking over his boots. They haven't sunk any further into the deck, and there's some unfamiliar psi signatures in the area. Some foreign magic in the pantope. Markel uses his qui-based clairvoyance and feels the area of the boots is "twisted." General conclusion: at least one of the remaining mages has terrific retaliatory spells or skills.
Unless this is something about Tom. We have kate try driving, aiming for the same guy, but the timelock detectors start to go off, and the Gargoyle gets a Bad Feeling, which we are coming to respect. We back off.
Consulting with Braeta, Desmond, and Greywolf, we conclude that, even if we gather up all the mages and assistants, the N'Butu will never gather back together again in the time allotted -- a day or so before the dragons get suspicious and start investigating. (Remember the dragons?) So, now that we've whittled the Kitsu mage-terrorists down some, we might as well try gathering the N'Butu directly. Since they're understandably leery of anything weird (which certainly includes us and the pantope), we'll have to use trickery.
Accordingly, we locate a couple dozen N'Butu in a group, then select a receiving hold on the Tellemataru, next to the N'Butu area, and glamour it to look like the forest just ahead of them. We open the door nice and wide. Robbie, the Gargoyle, and Markel on his dragon drop into the forest behind them, to herd them along. Robbie fires his blaster.
They start scattering. Someone takes time out to chuck a spear into Robbie. Someone else shoots him in the back of the head with an arrow. Fortunately, neither human nor robot anatomy really seem to apply to Robbie any more, but he's still hurt. The Gargoyle also gets a spear chucked at him. In the end, we end up with a whole big four N'Butu and damaged team mates.
So much for herding them.
We find a group of eighteen and manage to get a dozen before they catch on to something weird and we lose the remaining six.
Tom estimates this will take a week of pantope time, at least, and we'll literally have to be in about fifteen places at once, on Yazatlan, several times over. Bleah. Could the N'Butu chief help?
We send Kate to ask, accompanied by Markel. This turns out to be a mistake. The chief brushes Kate off, repeatedly directing her to his wives' area, apparently because she's female. As he turns to go, Markel tries to detain him by catching his upper arm.
A brawl instantly ensues. Markel winds up getting knocked out by some patriotic N'Butu, while Kate tries to loft and still get caught and slugged across the room. Robbie and Gannar come to the rescue. Gannar removes our casualties while Robbie stuns all the N'Butu billigerents.
Once everything has died down, Robbie faces the chief (who was mostly watching with abstract interest) and explains our problem without preamble (or apology). The chief confirms that N'Butu are trained to scatter when attacked. "What would draw the N'Butu in?" he asks. The chief recommends a large, peaceful-looking village of N'Butu.
Fine. We can arrange this, especially if the N'Butu we've got are willing to help. Meanwhile, let's step up security in the N'Butu area of the ship.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.