Chapter 1: Dinner and Drinks
Note: After our recent time-trip back to our recent battles, we left copies of the ship's sensor logs with the house system, showing the saurians entering the battlefield with the dimensional gateways. Perhaps these will be of some help to Chris and Nick. Perhaps.
Our heroes have arrived in Lanthil just before dinner. We dress and show up in the dining hall. There, among others, we find Melusine and Jonathan, but Daewen and Aelvenstar and conspicuously absent. Tethycles is there, though, and Dafnord wants to talk to him later.
Fallataal shows up, after having changed clothes twice before hitting on the right level of dress for the occasion. (He usually considers himself "staff," not family, but we told him to come.) To show a proper deference, or something, he presents his hostess, Melusine, with a present. She unwraps it, to find a nicely cleaned, but quite fresh, skull from a sabre-tooth tiger (a Kalidah from Oz, actually). She either exhibits or expertly simulates enthusiasm over this. It certainly makes a good conversation piece. Killing monsters would be quite cathartic, just now, she thinks.
So, what about Tom? He was last seen, we learn, headed widdershins along the coast of Lanthil, toward the Back of Beyond, "flying" a window of the Emerald Metaphor. He has been gone about three weeks. Dowsing hasn't found him, and telepathy hasn't contacted him, not even when Daewen used a chunk of emerald from the Metaphor as a token.
Robbie asks, again, how these extradimensional saurians can complain about us being anachronistic. Jonathan replies that they are not extradimensional. They are members of an interstellar community some distance from the Ecumene containing the KaiSenese Association and the Terran Reach. This community is mercantile in basis, and has a vigorous and centralized time patrol of its own -- much more centralized than our Allied Epochs. Speaking through this organization to Allied Epochs, the saurians claim that we attacked them in an act of piracy. These saurians filed a very formal protest with the 737th Convention of the Allied Epochs Council (spacetime coordinates unknown and immaterial), then specified the places they wanted this complaint carried to -- i.e. the portals to Tighmark, Avalon, Atlantis, etc.
(...and a little door pops open in Salimar's mind, on a memory. She's an agent of KaiSen, from the far future. She has just remembered that this was the event after which she must not approach the contemporary KaiSen again. In fact, she now recalls that this event is why she was sent back in time. She wonders what she'll remember next....)
So these saurian aliens look exactly like tools of the Lilim from our point of view, but we have no clear case against them.
And let's not even mention nephlim.
As for the saurians' "dimensional gateways," Jonathan remarks that there are many kinds of hyperdrive, and some of them look like that when in operation. sigh
We urge Salimar to try locating or contacting Tom, just for completeness. She asks for a chunk of emerald from the Metaphor, such as Daewen used. Eyes turn to Daphne...
She returns a "Who, me?" stare, then shrugs, and produces from somewhere a chip of emerald. Salimar uses it as a token, but has no more luck than did Daewen.
In that case, how should we go hunting for Tom? Dafnord recommends following the same coast in a boat. Jonathan notes there are even some boats here that fly.
After dinner, Markel and his dragon go out hunting, having heard about the Ice Age aurochs that have been brought in for game. Robbie goes to the library, seeking the books Tom looked at last, hoping for a clue. There's no checkout system or anything like that, but this is the same batch of books he often consulted in Lanthil, and they had a way of shifting around to present the desired volume to the browser. This time, however, nothing happens. Even when Salimar tries to dowse, all they find is a volume on the history of privacy.
Taking the hint, they give up on the library and try Tom's rooms. The door is locked. Salimar tries a Knock spell, which empties all her vacuoles onto the floor but doesn't open the door. Fifteen minutes later, after she's picked everything up with Robbie's help, they decide to try the "wizard's tower" laboratory that Tom picked out for himself.
It's a disappointment. Tom hasn't been in Lanthil long, and all they find is a sort of electrical shop with no rough drafts of maps or similar clues.
The robot and the alien return to Tom's rooms, where Salimar tries her Third Sight to at least look around through the closed door. This works just fine, but is just as disappointing as the lab. Either Tom has barely moved in yet or he's been depressingly tidy when he packed up to leave on the expedition.
Meanwhile, Dafnord has decided to declare himself "on leave" and go into town to visit a pub. Daphne and Gannar decide to go with him. The way into town, or the way Dafnord chooses, is a system of enchanted boats. The castle stands right next to the glowing stream coming down off the plateau from the Lightfall, and there are gondola-like craft moored there. Dafnord loves them.
The trio gets in and casts off. It's quite a long way down to the town, really. Over a waterfall. About the time Dafnord starts comparing the ride to jumping form low orbit onto Aphrodite, Daphne bails out and flies the rest of the way down under her own power. Gannar considers doing the same, but decides he ought to hang about until just before the boat is dashed to pieces, so as to save Dafnord if possible. Meanwhile, he's getting some rare emotional stimulation. Terror, to be exact.
The boat arrives, intact, near a quay opposite a pub apparently located for the specific convenience of the people coming off this white-water flume ride. It's called "The Silver Key."
Inside, we find a mixture of dwarves, sailors, and waitresses, the latter being elves of some tall, robust stock like the Tuatha de Danaan. One comes to get our orders (a bottomless pitcher of ale for Dafnord, a restoring shot of vodka for Gannar, and an exotic liquer for Daphne).
Somewhere into the third pint, Dafnord is hailed by a voice from hip-level. It's a dwarf, tankard in hand, weaving slightly, who asks if he is "da Fnord." When assured that he is, the dwarf, one Grumbletor, explains that he's looking for connections. Work on the castle and the town is winding down, and he wonders if da Fnord has any other construction jobs that dwarves might usefully do.
Yes, indeed. Dafnord has long planned to build himself a little lodge, further up the mountain, behind the castle, next to the river. He and Grumbletor discuss details enthusiastically, if not very coherently, for some time. Dafnord gives the dwarf his card for later reference (and possibly to help him remember this evening once his head clears). Dismissed, Grumbletor salutes smartly, missing his own forehead on the first try.
Gannar declines any more alcohol and seeks out a more sober dwarf. He asks the fellow about recent events in Lanthil. Elves are moving out of the woods, into town, because of the Ice Age animals out in the wild; seems some big predators came in along with the aurochs, and ground sloths can be very cranky. On a positive note, sea trade is picking up. It really started when the giant moved in. There's a 70- or 80-foot giant, living across the straits, who wades out into the harbor every morning to cast his net, and trade really started with buying his fish. (This is someone to interview about Tom.)
Once the night on the town is done, the trio returns to the quay. It turns out that the enchanted gondolas also go up the waterfall. Soon into the ride, Gannar and Daphne peel out. Dafnord hangs on as long as he can, but is thrown out. Fortunately, Gannar is able to intercept him after a few meters, and set him on the footpath you're supposed to use instead of riding the return leg. The trio returns to the castle without further incident.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.