Chapter 6: Inside the Dolman
We left our heroes preparing to enter the now-concave dolmen in the circle of stones. They line up in the order Brunalf - Tom - Kate - Markel - Braeta - Robbie - Dafnord, on a rope. Salimar keeps an interdimensional eye on them with her Third Sight.
The cat drives his egg in, and finds a foggy sort of tunnel. He bumps around a bit. We follow, one by one, until we get to Markel, who is immediately in trouble. The controls fritz on his grav sled and the engine dies. The sled sinks to the ground. Since bringing the sled was the main thing Markel was doing, he decides not to go in, but stays back with Dafnord, who is acting as anchor.
Robbie can empathize with the grav slad, when he enters. He begins getting damage signals as soon as he walks into the rock. (This is actually fairly normal for walking into a rock...) He perseveres, but the signals just keep coming in from all over. He and the rest of us find we are plowing through a kind of palpable fog. Tom tries using clairvoyance to see through it and discovers that Second Sight is less use than the ordinary kind, here.
Braeta is the first to see shapes ahead. Something flits by us. It is, in fact, Salimar's Third Sight viewpoint, visible here as one of those things you glimpse out of the corner of your eye.
Suddenly, Tom gets an arrow in the chest. Over the net, Salimar remarks that she senses life forms. No kidding... Fortunately, the arrow didn't have much momentum behind it. It pricks Tom in the sternum and gets stuck in his shirt. He plucks it out and conjures ectoplastic armor for himself and Braeta. (Kate has kevlar and Brunalf has his egg.) Salimar remotely glamours up a stone wall between the cat and the rest of us, so Brunalf's egg appears to trail a moving wall.
Brunalf now moves forward and turns on his running lights. An arrow hits his dome. Four figures are now clearly visible ahead. Two have bows (and one is re-loading), one has a spear, and one has a sword. Or a long knife. They look like children, the knife-wielder being the smallest, the spear-carrier the tallest. Around them, we see a cavern.
"We come in peace! Please don't shoot me!" cries the cat. This puzzles them, but they keep him in their sights. Tom has Brunalf ask, "Do you know anyone named Leander?" This causes a muttered conversation among them. Salimar sends her viewpoint over, but the words are so fragmentary, we wonder if the conversation is semi-telepathic. Also, the kids, like us, seem able to sense the viewpoint here. And one of the archers is staring through the glamour wall, at Braeta.
Between this and the fact that poor Robbie is now making distinct crackling noises as he moves, Salimar gives up on glamour and takes down the wall. This causes some consternation among the kids.
Tom tells them, "We're not invaders. We're here to help." This is greeted with frank disbelief. And one archer is still watching Salimar's roving viewpoint. For her part, Salimar is examining the cave, discovering bedrolls, blankets, and other signs of simple habitation. She and Tom agree that these four look like somewhat elven children.
Tom conjures an image of Leander and asks if they recognize him. While they are muttering about that, he casts some invisible ectoplasm on the blade of that knife, as a safety measure. Robbie follows suit on one of the archers, gluing the arrow to the bow. "Hey!" cries the archer, noticing. The little sword-maiden goes pale and charges us. "Mara!" cries the spear-carrying boy. Quickly, Tom embeds her waist deep in ectoplasm. Since he was in a hurry, the effect is that she is suddenly wading in a mound of lime jello.
Mara sputters furiously, while the spear-boy breaks out laughing. Salimar glues down the remaining archer's arrows, while Brunalf quietly readies the egg's stunners. The first archer, though, has worked loose and now fires at the cat. The arrow sticks in the plastic dome of the egg. Tom floods their quivers with more lime jello.
Robbie, feeling short of temper, fires his plasma gun in the air and cries "Enough!" Kate TKs the spear out of the grip of the eldest, but he is actually fast enough to retrieve it, looking angry. Mara, struggling out of her jello, cries "Timmon!" to the boy.
Tom tries to start over. He cleans up Mara and offers the kids food. "We don't want to hurt you, or we would have by now," he argues. Robbie suggests Braeta try another high-charisma recitation of "it's all right." It doesn't work nearly so well as it did on four-year-old Leander.
Tom tries a different tack. He asks them for help, locating Leander's folks. He explains again that we're not invaders, but have come in a ship, investigating. At least this time they don't attack, but go into another semi-telepathic huddle. "Well," says Timmon, "we'll let you show us this ship you mention."
Dignity thus preserved, they gather up their possessions and follow the cat out -- though they navigate the palpable fog better than the cat, who bumps into the walls again a few times. It's just as bad going out as coming in, for Robbie, who decides he probably knows what humans mean by nausea, now, and that it's cause, in his case, by lots of static charges assaulting his innards in defiance of his usual grounding connections.
We exit the rock, retrace our path through the woods, and re-board the waiting Munch, which impresses the kids. Robbie goes to bed for a quiet little power-cycle. The rest of us make introductions and learn the kids are Timmons (the eldest, the spear-carrying boy), Stepha (on of the archers, a boy), Leeah (the other archer, a girl), and Mara (the little girl with the sword). Timmons and Mara are brother and sister, as are Stepha and Leeah, who are their cousins.
Tom asks if they're elves, or partly. They are very reluctant to talk about this. He shows them Kate (an elf) and glamours images of Daewen and other elven friends. They remain unconvinced that we're a real company of elf-friends, until we produce Blue, the tarsier Mithriel created. Stepha registers the elven vibes coming off him and is very impressed. They finally allow that they're part elf but are "not supposed to talk about it." it's rude, because it makes other people feel left out.
It appears that some elves or folk with elven blood secretly accompanied the nephilim and their followers out to Destine. Elf-blood does not distribute itself evenly in families; Stepha has more than his relatives here, and Timmon and Mara have a brother and sister who could not hide in the dolmen from lack of elf-blood.
The children tell a story very similar to Leander's. (They know Leander slightly.) There were terrible sounds in the night, they were rousted out by older relatives, and bundled into the hiding place. They glimpsed a lot of black ships. Timmons is our main source of information, and gets very upset, as he reflects on how long it's been, and his folks haven't come back for them. It also becomes clear that the responsibility he has carried for the younger ones weighed heavily on him. Tom rather ineffectually reassures him he did a good job.
Timmons is also very upset that everyone else has vanished. Tom tells him we're trying to track them down. By way of demonstration, we show them the Map of Here (which Stepha is deeply impressed by, in terms of profound elven magics). We show them the recordings of our retrocognitions of the evacuation of the space station. (They don't recognize anyone.)
To demonstrate dowsing, Tom asks for a token. Timmons offers a hair comb, reluctantly. "She said I might want it," he remarks forlornly. Tom seeks "her" and becomes quite sure that she is no longer in this continuum -- and she didn't leave it by dying, either. He tells Timmons this, for whatever comfort that may be. Salimar does a retrocog on the comb and learns it was the prized possession of a woman of noticable age and elven blood, hence bookmarked with lots of moments of high drama from her life. The last bits corroborate Timmons's story, up to the point when she gave him the comb, shortly before they parted.
We've been feeding them while we interviewed. We now offer them bed. They accept, though it takes Timmons a while to come down off his nervous tension and let go of the excess responsibility he's been under.
Once the children are put to bed, we begin data-crunching on the information in the Map of Here. Edvard gives us the time pattern -- first, there were a few green markers, in an area of low population density, but near high-density centers. Looks like scouts. A few weeks later came the flood of red markers. At first, these were in rather neat arrays, on the ground, as if one for every N people. But are these red marks arrivals or departures? Then a whole bunch show up in the middle of the city. Then there are scattered clusters of them. The red markers start appearing in the evening, which tallies with the kids' reports. Some of the reds are up in the air, as it might be those ships. The two blue markers that yielded the five semi-elven children occurred early in the wave of reds.
It's time to seek out some of these markers and do retrocognition.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.