Week 45: In Vino Veritas
When last we left our heroes, they were in the kitchen, where Greywolf
was sipping lemonade and telling us about Desmond, a fellow Destino who
had been abducted by the draconians to the world where we found
Greywolf. Desmond had arrived approximately 700 years before Greywolf,
and might have some theories about why the draconians are kidnapping
the nephilim and their descendants. Unfortunately, Greywolf doesn't
have any tokens of Desmond with him. However, he does have a book of
Desmond's back at his village. It's a diary Desmond kept of his travels
in the northern archipelago. It's also the only book in the village.
Another grim reminder of how far the Destinos and their children have
Tom asks over the net, "Do we evacuate them?" meaning the village. This leads to a general discussion of the difficulties of rescuing a population scattered over time as well as space. Timelock becomes a very serious possibility.
Concerned about what the draconians will do if we rescue a village from their midst, Robbie asks Greywolf what the draconians are likely to do. Greywolf isn't sure. Perhaps Desmond will have a better idea.
Tom gestures to Greywolf to join us as we head towards the Emerald Metaphor. First Greywolf speaks with Obedan, who appears to give his assent without taking his attention from the roast he's working his way through. As we walk through the living room, Tom asks, "Is Obedan of the blood?"
Greywolf considers, then replies, "He seems to be touched a little. Such folk seem to have knacks."
At this point we've reached the endless white, glowing stone plane of the Emerald Metaphor. Tom punches a few keys on his console and the second omniport shows the clearing where we rescued Greywolf and his party. Tom freezes time and asks, "Now, which way is your village from here?"
Greywolf considers the view and hesitates, mumbling to himself, then gestures, "Thataway..."
Tom tries to nudge the window in that direction. Unfortunately, he doesn't have any fine control in this universe. Instead of moving gently (he has the gain turned way down) the viewpoint moves at a great speed down the trail that Greywolf and his friends came down. When it stops, Greywolf has no idea where he is. They really should put street signs in this jungle.
Tom returns the viewpoint to the clearing, and then raises the viewpoint into the air. Greywolf is getting a touch of vertigo from the violent movements, but he gamely tries to get his bearings. "In that direction. It's by a great lake." While Greywolf flew on Destine, that was many years ago, and he hasn't had an aerial view of this world. Eventually we find the right lake. It's only relatively great. We can locate the village by the smoke plumes. Greywolf mutters something about the women being told to be careful with their fires. We can barely make out the structures. They fade into the surrounding woods. Greywolf directs us to a small hut under a tree. With a lucky nudge, Tom manages to get the viewpoint into the hut. It's about 7x10, with a small amount of wooden furniture and a beehive oven. Tom starts time, changes the window to a door, and waves Greywolf in. Greywolf hesitates at the threshold, then steps through. He rummages under the bed, and comes up with an oilskin-wrapped bundle. He starts back to the door, then goes back to the bed, lifts the mattress, and comes back with a long, thin bundle. When he comes back, he explains that it's a (large) sword and dagger. Leaving it would have caused trouble, since it's to great a fortune of iron.
The book is handmade, with handmade paper. The writing is in a tight but neat hand which has faded over time but is still legible. Tom uses it to dowse for Desmond, but preferably just after Desmond and Greywolf had parted. After a couple of tries, Tom manages to open the window on the shore of a sea or large lake with a set of islands visible in the distance. Greywolf immediately identifies this as the inner sea, and the middle island as Calonteri, where Desmond was headed.
Tom dowses once more for Desmond. Zot. We're now looking out at a bustling market square full of (human) people. Greywolf apologizes that he's lost the knack of picking a person out of the crowd, but after a bit recognizes Desmond as one of a group standing on a building's steps near the edge of the market, deep in conversation. Now we just have to get Desmond. Greywolf points out that none of us would fit in in the market. Even he would stand out as a foreign barbarian. Tom snaps his fingers and glamours himself into the heavy Grecian-style robes that Desmond's companions are wearing, complete with full beard. Greywolf nods understanding, and Tom glamours him as well. Kate volunteers to go, and glamours herself. Brunalf insists that he wants to go too (Greywolf hadn't realized that the cat could talk) and Tom glamours him as a toddler. To our surprise, the gargoyle steps forward. It's shape-shifted into a semblance of the local costume, only the "fabric" is it's own granite-like surface. Tom blinks, then glamours it too, as a child of about 10. Turning to the controls, Tom tries to move the viewpoint to a nearby alley. Zip, we're in a field outside of town. Tom resets, and tries again. This time we're in the middle of a (relatively) empty street, a couple of blocks from the market square. There are only a couple of people nearby, and they're not looking our way. Tom suppresses the warning glow around the edge of the window, then converts it to a door. Kate leads the way through, followed by Greywolf and the two "children." (Greywolf helps the gargoyle through, even though the "little laddie" really weighs over 800 pounds. Don't arm-wrestle with Greywolf.) Kate glamours the door invisible, and for good measure puts a large, steaming cow-pie just below it.
Greywolf leads the way to the market square and catches Desmond's eye. Desmond looks surprised, makes his excuses to his companions, then hurries over and embraces Greywolf. "Greywolf, my friend! You are far afield." He then notices Greywolf's companions. "Who are the children?"
Greywolf glances at the other three, and just says, "Friends. If you have time, I'd like to introduce you to some folks I'm sure will fascinate you."
"Of course! Where are they?"
"This way." Greywolf gestures towards the street where the omniport is. Kate leads the way. As she approaches the cow-pie, she disappears, as she appears to step in it. Desmond follows before he realizes what has happened, and find himself on a softly glowing plane of white stone, facing a cone of a similar but brighter material. Whirling around, he sees the door shrink to a glowing green dot that starts to drift. Greywolf introduces the assembled party.
Visibly gathering his wits while Greywolf names each of us, Desmond says, "I take it that we're elsewhere."
Tom replies, "Yes. Almost nowhere."
Desmond grins. "There must be a story to this."
Tom grins in reply. "Yes, well... This is a small pocket universe. If you'd like to step into a real universe, it's over this way." And gestures to the other omniport, which is still attached to the living room on Hellene.
Desmond walks over and examines the yellow glowing edge of the omniport, then looks through. "Over here, you say, is reality." He steps through and starts to look around the living room. "A fine house. I..." He stops in mid-sentence, then walks slowly, zombie-like towards the library.
Tom steps forward. "This is our library."
Desmond answers slowly, "We're very far away." He turns to Tom with a tear working it's way down his cheek. "Had I any question, you've answered it. This is an alternate reality."
"We're on Hellene. You might know it as 70 Ophiuchi A 3. We're 17.3 light years from Earth."
"I'm sorry, I can can't say I remember where that is. Though I do remember Earth..."
Tom gestures to Braeta. "This is Braeta. She is one of your people. She arrived on Destine and found it deserted. She then came here and asked for our help. It's currently 2516. It's only been a few months since you and the rest of the population of Destine were abducted."
The color drains from Desmond's face, and he starts calculating. Then he looks at Tom with a shocked expression and says, "It's been 863 years since the kidnapping. Almost a third of my lifetime." He snorts, and gestures at his garments, "We dressed similarly then."
Tom gestures towards the kitchen, "Would you like some wine?"
Desmond starts to shake his head, then he stops and asks, "Made with grapes?"
"Yes I suppose so, unless it's some of that awful elderberry stuff."
"I was going to say no, but... grape wine! Come, Greywolf!"
Tom leads the way to the kitchen, where Obedan is working his way through a third roast. Greywolf and Desmond determine that while it's been 118 days since they parted for Desmond, it's been 9 years for Greywolf. As Desmond completes the proper obeisance to Obedan, a tray floats in with a cut crystal decanter of a golden wine, along with a crystal goblet. At a gesture from Tom, it floats to Desmond, who pokes it gingerly, and then examines it closely. "A more subtle mechanism than I remember from Destine. Our technology was behind, wasn't it?" When Tom nods, he picks up the decanter and pours the wine into the glass, then tastes the wine. "It's sweeter than I remember... but wine from grapes..."
"I believe that it's a Hellene vintage." Tom pauses, then continues, "Perhaps I should start by explaining what we know about dragons." He then explains about Lanthil, Lilim, Marginalia and Chaos Rim. He finishes by wondering if there is any connection between the Lilim and the draconians of his world.
"Yazatlan is what the dragon folk call the land," Desmond tells us. "As far as I can tell, the dragons evolved naturally. Their history is ancient and they are related to many of the beasts of the world."
Tom conjures up a statuette of a dragon trooper. Desmond examines it, and says, "They are sometimes called the Mandrake. In a loose sense, they look like that. I don't believe that they are native. They can shift shape, somewhat. The mouth is not enough. The muzzle..." While he searches for words, Tom morphs the statuette to match Mr. Olive-Green. "Yes! That's what they're like."
The statuette disappears, and Tom makes another of saurian "officers" from the manta ship. "How about this?"
"There are three races, or species, that are of similar configuration. The color around the eyes differentiates them."
Tom replaces the statuette with an image of one of the "alien" manta-ship pilots. "And this?"
Desmond strokes his beard, then replies, "Yes, I've seen a drawing of these. They're from the far east."
Tom replaces the image with the cobra-man from the dragontrooper's memory. This gets a definite reaction from Desmond. "Ah! That is the heart of one of my theories. I had heard tales of the folk of Patala. [An image of a cigar-chomping duck with bushy eyebrows and glasses comes over the net. Robbie's not sure from where.] One day, when I was in one of their cities, I saw someone who looked like this."
"How did you get into one of their cities?"
"Twice I went in chains. This time I represented King Mithras. There was a truce, you see. We had control of the source of some herbs which they needed. The city was named Yaktan. As I walked past one of their temples, I saw an image like that through a narrow window. It seemed to me that it was being treated as a visiting god. I didn't see the entire body, but from the way the lower body was angled, it must have been serpent-like for it's lower portion. From what I was able to find out, they're shape shifters. One theory is that they are using us as the stone on which to sharpen the knife of these people."
The silence following this statement is shattered by the sound of the back of the chair that Dafnord had been leaning against being broken. He looks at what he's done, and walks out. Over the net, he announces that if anybody wants him, he'll be in the shooting gallery. Working off rage, to judge by the empathic overtones.
After wetting his thought with a sip of wine, Desmond continues, "If you would allow me a wild flight of theory, I think that Yazatlan is a hybrid biosphere. Do you remember that herb I told you about? The more terrestrial races must eat it. However there are other races that don't appear to need it."
Tom tries an image of the lamiae that jumped him back in the Chaos Marches, when Mad Jack saved him. "That a traditional representation of a dragon from home." [I remember it as "demon," not "dragon." --Earl]
Finally, Tom shows a picture of Markel's dragon. "That's reminiscent of some beasts, but that's speculation."
We then discuss the second world that appears to have been raided. Desmond says slowly, "I wonder if that was Chronopolus?"
"Time City? We didn't find anybody. Only ruins."
"Once I met one of the Blood who had come upon a man who was badly injured. He (the injured person) must have been one of the First Generation. He claimed to be from the eastern continent, and remembered Chronopolus before Yazatlan. I heard this 237 years ago. It happened 51 years before I was told the tale. We tried twice to send ships to the eastern continent. They never returned."
Robbie suggests, "We could go look..."
Desmond sighs. "I don't believe that you can rescue the children of Destine. It is told that our people came into the world by accident and in contradiction to the Great Plan. And it was determined that our folk were told that we must get ourselves to other worlds. It is said that the Father of All Elves created a world and he took his folk there, but for a remnant. And it is said that the Nine Kings and Nine Queens and great dragons in a city called..."
Desmond falters. For a while it had sounded like he was reciting an epic. Tom offers, "Would you like me to help? I'm very good with memories"
Desmond declines, and then continues, "It is said that 'they were called together in a golden city at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and at the end of seven years summoned a representative of the Eretsarin and sent forth to the' ... 'and because of the debt of blood, the four Mothers and the four Fathers would create in the mountains of Kâf, a city on the third of the great mounts of Kâf. And the Nine Kings and the Queens who had been Nine would take all of their race.' They were sent away. I never heard the saga, but our people were told that a place would be made for them. ... 'and on the Mountain of Fate would create 7 times 7 cities for the children of the blood of man and' ... something. And we would have to be moved there. Many refused, and there was a great war. Many of us hid in the bowels of the Earth. And the ends of the Earth. Slowly we came back. The remnant of the fay and our folk. It is said that none who went to the Mountain of Fate or the Land of the Tree..."
Over the net, Tom interjects, "That would by Faerie."
"... would have commerce with those of us who remained behind and went through the... something... 'and returned to the lands of our following.' But we would have to forswear the world. They would have to shun us, or else restart the war."
"These forty-nine cities would be better than Yazatlan," Tom points out.
"The place of penance! But there was something more..."
While Desmond thinks, Tom goes to the library and returns with a copy of "The Races of Earth," which he offers to Desmond, who accepts it gratefully. After glancing through it briefly, he asks about the folk on the far side of the mirror. Tom introduces Mirien and explains about the New Blood and Vinyagarond.
"Until this moment I only knew about two folk who created realms. The King of the Elves and the executors of the plan. And now you tell me that you've created a realm and helped created another. How can I help you?"
Tom replies, "You already have."
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.