Chapter 84: Pixie Led
We left our heroes in the pantope, having just rescued Obedan and his guards from a palace coup. Only Obedan didn't want to be rescued; he wanted to stay and fight it out, so Greywolf had to punch his lights out.
Obedan is now recovering consciousness. Braeta and Desmond approach, limbering up their tongues, and Greywolf retreats to the tent. Robbie summons a number of gun platforms, training them on Obedan and setting them on stun. Markel goes looking for the box of stun grenades, and thinks it would be nice if they were over here behind the force-field generator...
Sure enough, our demi-god king wakes up bellowing. He finds all his guards standing around him, at attention. The one who was impaled and clinically dead executes a sort of salute and a smart "At your service!" Obedan is suitably startled, and he and the guard, one "Mesach," thrash things out about who's dead (no one) and how long it's been since the fight (depends on who you ask).
Obedan starts to sputter when he sees Braeta and Desmond, and demands to know where his other guards are. Desmond tells him we rescued all the ones we saw. Braeta, looking particularly majestic, points out brightly that -- thanks to the good offices of the player characters -- it was relatively cheap to rescue The Plan!
Obedan looks a little guilty and a little truculent. Dafnord changes the subject by offering to fetch Obedan a drink from the tent. On his way back, Greywolf emerges, saying, "No, no, here's a better vintage." He then places an identical cup in Obedan's hands and gets a growled thank-you. Desmond and Braeta turn off their semi-divine charisma and seem to deflate somewhat.
Changing subjects again, Braeta points out that, eventually, we'll need a place to put all the of the people involved in The Plan. A big place.
Fine. We remind her that we have the offer of the Tellemataru, Morniesul's trade ship that looks capable of shipping small moons. But what, exactly, is this Plan?
It's nothing very detailed. They're building up a suitable set of myths and legends, and getting them to circulate, so that they are well-known by the time in Yazatlan's history when we picked up Greywolf -- this being the latest date we've visited, and thus the earliest date we could extract the human and nephil populations.
The people we need to gather up first are the ones who'll spread the word. Minstrels and poets and troubadours, for preference, but also some nobles and kings. A volatile lot, given all the nephil blood among them. It would be good to keep them separated.
Daphne asks Braeta about the source of nephil powers. It varies. Braeta herself, daughter of Zeus, pulls power from Earth and Storm (and thus is at a considerable disadvantage in the pantope, or on most spaceships). Desmond can now draw power from the timestream itself. Obedan, the king, draws it from people.
Katrina points out that we can use the pantope to timeshare the process of gathering our publicists. Tom agrees, and suggests we visit the Tellemataru and ask Morniesul about hosting these rumor-mongers.
We connect the pantope to the Tellemataru, in high orbit over Hellene, thirty years ahead of our home date. We fast-forward through another day, then open into Morniesul's office, to find him at his desk.
Once he learns of our needs, he suggests "the second east conference level." This turns out to be a luxury hotel, embedded in the ship, fitted out with the individuality and detail of a high-class bed-and-breakfast. It has views on the huge belt of domed-over forest that girdles the ship, which should please the prospective guests. They may need to get used to the alien staff, including hot-pink little six-legged dragons (Pemnals) turning down the covers and putting mints on the pillows, and wart-hog-faced semi-humanoids (Crasslk) tending the gardens and, together with the Pemnals, the forest.
The conference center can take at least 120 people, and Braeta only expects a few score, though they're the sort you want to give lots of room. We arrange to bring these folk over in four weeks, Morniesulās time, to let him get things ready.
Meanwhile, Daphne's has gone buzzing about the forest and discovered a true treasure -- a transgenic chocolate tree. Not something producing cocoa beans, but something more on the lines of chocolate-flavored pears. Salimar has to go in to get her out, and has to agree to carry a large number of fruits back with her. Daphne declares her intention of planting some seeds and using her woods-magic for all she's worth to boost the seedlings.
We go back to the pantope, with some ornamental figs in pots to brighten up the area around the tent, plus some unoccupied pots of dirt for Daphne's project.
But we also have a project for Daphne. Desmond asks to be dropped off in Obedan's erstwhile capital, to circulate and plant some prophecies that a "forest spirit" will be around to check up on the new king, Taloc.
He returns after a few days/moments, and reports that, as he feared, Taloc is ruling with a heavier hand than they'd wish, the result of the ill feelings spawned in the coup. Now it's Daphne's turn to go do the promised checking-up.
We drop her off in a grove in the palace gardens, where people come to be private. (Snicker.) We pick a day that is a couple of months after the coup. Daphne flits into a date palm to snack and await events.
She's in luck. Only a few minutes later, three military types come striding along the garden paths, muttering about "petty tyrannies" and "do something!"
She drops a date pit on one's head and, when he looks up, asks exactly what the problem is. He sputters. She urges non-violent ways, which fails to impress him nearly as much as her presence, but he stays polite. The three men bustle off to find some real privacy.
Some hours later, a young man comes along the path, looking for something, possibly Daphne. She lets him wear himself out, then, when he starts re-tracing his steps, staring at the ground, she pops up behind him and asks brightly, "Have you lost something?" He startles well, then asks, "What are you?"
"I'm the Watcher."
"Oh. Right. I've been looking. Very similar, watching, looking. Um. (That sounded really stupid...)"
"How are thing?" Daphne asks.
"Oh... well enough. And you?"
Daphne ignores this and gnomically remarks that rulership is like water -- hard to hold with a tight hand. "That should be better known," she adds, then vanishes when he looks away at the fountain for a moment. He stares around, then leaves, shaking his head and muttering, "Well, Kallin, that was sagely done..."
When nothing else appears to happen, Daphne pops back into the pantope and debriefs. Greywolf and Desmond identify Kallin as a sage trainee, and feel that we've made a good start.
We drop Daphne off again a fortnight later, back in the garden. The first person she encounters is Kallin. He's not particularly looking for her this time -- it's been two weeks, after all -- but when he glanced up into the date palm where she was first seen, she pops up at his knee and asks, "Are there birds up there?" He gives another good startle. He tells her things are better now, more peaceful, but mostly because the discontent have been scared into caution. Taloc isn't acting very different. But then, Kallin hasn't repeated Daphne's little parable about the water, either. Well, then, could Kallin send Taloc here?
Kallin pales at the idea, but goes off. A while later, the head sage and Taloc's fire-throwing wizard return to the garden, where Daphne reveals herself posing on top of the fountain, imitating part of the sculpture. The sage is relieved to see that Kallin isn't nuts, but reported truly. He asks Daphne how she got there. "I'm supposed to be here," is her only reply. She then repeats the parable of the water. The sage replies with thanks that are flowery but lukewarm. He and the wizard then depart. After a bit, so does Daphne.
Once she's back in the pantope, Desmond asks to be dropped off a few days later, to wander the taverns and markets and get the feel of the city.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.