Chapter 86: Herding Celebrities
We left our heroes at the end of a long stint of history-making by Braeta, Greywolf, and Desmond, with assistance from Daphne, and Tom acting as temporal taxi driver. None of them have gone through all those centuries personally, but it's been a long work-day for Tom, as well as for others, so we start the session with a nap...
After that, we're ready to start loading the celebrities among the nephilim. First, we open on the Tellemataru, a month later, and check with Morniesul to see if he's ready. Yes, he is. We'll fake out any nephilim who might be inclined to hijack the pantope by connecting the pantope doors straight onto the entry portal of Morniesul's "telemporter."
The telemporter connects to its target point through a long, black, frictionless tunnel of force or something. Tom considers that this looks menacing and the sliding is undignified, which will bother some of our nephil celebs. So he takes a slide down the tube, casting glamours as he goes, trying to turn it gold. He gets bronze. Good enough. And we set up a system of nice little oriental rugs for people to sit on as they slide, with cushions to receive them.
Now for the actual gathering. We drop Braeta, Greywolf, and Desmond off at selected places and times on Yazatlan, then flick forward and pick them up, via the telemporter tube, each now accompanied by one or more companions. As each party comes sliding down the tube, looking amused or disconcerted as the case may be, they are greeted by a friendly staff of Pemnals (hot-pink six-legged lizards from space) and by Morniesul, who whisks them away to the hotel-in-a-ship. Then back for more.
Daphne herself picks up Tallis, the sage who succeeded Kallin, and Taloc, the now-abdicated king of Denbara.
Eventually, we have three dozen nephilim standing around the conference center function room, being served hors d'oeuvres by Pemnal waiters, watching the flashy cooking display by the Krilnyap cooks (alien teddies). Braeta, Greywolf, and Desmond make introductions.
Robbie, who is going to be our go-between with Attalais back in Faerie, then stands up and gives the crowd a brief resume of the situation: Braeta came to us and asked us to find out what happened to the population of Destine. We discovered their abduction to Yazatlan by the dragons and have tried to lay plans to recover them. We will need you folk here to get everyone to come to pickup points so we can take them ... where they belong.
Destine? No, unfortunately the dragons have rendered Destine uninhabitable. We're planning on taking you to an uninhabited planet called New Hierow, where you can re-group and go out into space again ... or, if you want, to the Plains of Penance.
One of the nephilim remarks that we come at a fortuitous time; there have been lots of portents and rumors, lately -- pixie sightings, a famous tree that died, a foretold alignment of the stars. (The conspirators look at each other. No, the tree just happened to die, but the rest of it...)
So how easy will it be to gather everyone together at pickup points, quickly, before the dragons can notice?
Well, there's a popular festival happening in three days, concluding four days later. That's good for one area, though it's held two weeks later in another ... though people could be expected to gather in advance. And there's some stretch room. Mumble, mumble. In all, ten days from the pickup date ("now") is very good for a lot of people.
But one fellow, who talks like a Russian, says that his folk live scattered in mountainous country and are very hard to gather; they'd have to have started some months ago to be in position in ten days.
Another fellow, looking oriental/Polynesian, has folk spread all over an island chain, with a similar problem.
Tom stands and tips his hand a little. We can get those folk started some months ago. He explains that the spacetime of Yazatlan is completely separate from this one, so they can reach into it at any point in time. The crowd catches on very quickly, but then they're all demigods or close to it, and many of them have personal memories of the star-faring, relativity-bending technology that got them to Destine.
The next problem is they really need two or three times as many people as they now have, to adequately spread the word. (A few people sidle up to Tom and suggest there are some folk here we'd be better off sending away now, if you get their drift.) Around now, Robbie projects a globe of Yazatlan, Morniesul calls for someone to bring in marker boards, and things get heavily logistical.
They don't mention this sort of thing in the book of Exodus.
The quasi-Russian fellow, Kranov, figures he needs to contact a confederate five months ago, to get things started. Having Daphne along would help convince him. Daphne's very agreeable, and Tom drops them off.
They walk out into dark, mountainous forest. Daphne's woods-magic leads them quickly and surely to the nearest town, where Kranov hopes to find his friend, Chebastian. Everyone stares at Daphne and tells Kranov to try the next town. They get a horse and continue. There, they tell us Chebastian is in the next town. Then the nearby dale. As night is closing in, we try one more stop and meet Chebastian at an inn, Daphne having shown herself to a large sample of the local population. And Kranov, who looks 70-something, has shown his nephil blood, because he's still pretty fresh after all that trekking.
Chebastian looks rather like a forest bandit, but is able to instantly command privacy; the inn hall vacates at a hint from him, and he and Kranov plot, Chebastian casting curious looks at Daphne.
The next morning, Kranov goes to the barn to check on his rent-a-horse. As he heads out, Daphne notices six other guys headed for the barn, too. She flits over and finds Kranov looking for the stable boy. He's not around. After Daphne tips off Kranov, he picks up a hay fork, twirls it around, and knocks down the first tough to tackle him, impaling his foot to the floor.
Daphne, meanwhile, enchants the wood of the barn. The doors slam shut, locking out all but two other attackers. These, Kranov terrifies with tons of thoroughly justified chutzpah. He thumps a wall and some tackle falls on one. "You want me to turn him into a horse?" Daphne asks, playing along? "Very good." After the remaining touch nicks him with a knife, Kranov gets angry and pins the guy to the barn wall with his own blade. He dies.
Kranov then says they have to disperse the rest, so as not to distract Chebastian with this little affair, which is only some of "Tomas's boys." Kranov, we learn, owes money to Tomas...
Daphne persuades the barn to sprout some branch-like arms, reaching for the remaining toughs. They disperse very satisfactorily. No one is surprised to find the stable boy knocked unconscious. Kranov smooths over things with Chebastian and, in view of the destruction laid about, feels he no longer owes Tomas anything.
Daphne, Kranov, and Chebastian all show up at the collection point the next day, and get whisked back to the Tellemataru. Only minutes have passed aboard it. By now, we have 53 nephilim aboard. After enough plans are laid, they need to send out messengers. They figure they'll need about 120 pick-up locations. (Tom sighs.)
Kranov, meanwhile, takes Tom aside and -- determining that we're doing all this just because Braeta asked us to -- actually thanks him. How novel. It gives him a little warm feeling.
Tom then goes off and, using some liquefied mulch from the ship's forest, creates a small, tea-like bush. He passes out leaves from the bush, to use as dowsing tokens so he can locate all the pick-up points.
A woman asks us if we have considered that we can't possible get everyone in one sweep. Yes, we do know. We haven't really worked out solutions, but various tricks with space and time suggest themselves.
Tom says that this must be a process, not a single act, like the repeated flights of the New Blood from the Worldbenders. And maybe the nephilim themselves can help with the next waves.
The lady, Rose, agrees to that, but says some folk will want to take parting shots at the dragons. Katrina suggests that they might stay their hands if we can tell them they'll be coming back armed. Rose nods and goes off to talk with Greywolf. But she tells Tom that we still may want to make our first pick-ups include folk to act as peace-keepers.
Sounds very sensible.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.