Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...
Part 3, Will you help me?
"Will you help me?
The large, powerful woman suddenly looks small in the overstuffed chair as the soft richness of her strange voice fades off in the plea.
Tom takes a sip of tea. A long sip. Thoughts flash through his head, half verbalized --
'Definitely have to find where that shingle is hung out.'
"I would like to help you," he says cautiously. "But I should clear up some misunderstandings. First, so far as I know, neither I nor any of my companions are of your Blood -- no nephilim or mazzikim." He mentally squashes his recent speculation about Deryni. "In particular, I'm just a child of Adam." More mental squashing, no matter what Jonathan says.
"On the other hand, you may still have come to the right place. We are a band of ... wanderers, and we have wandered very far indeed. Including the Summer Lands and the half worlds. We are of many kinds, including the Fair Folk. I can't speak for the others, but we have undertaken help like this before." Tom is thinking, of course, of the Marginalia.
"I have a question, though. Understand that, to me, you seem to have as much right in the world as I do. But you tell me your kinsfolk were attacked and exiled from Earth at the behest of the Powers. I think those Powers are the ones I know as the Eretsarin. If an Eretsar were to blaze forth here and now, and demand to know how you justified your presence here, what answer would you give?"
She pauses, trying to find the words or to perhaps just to find the control to answer Tom's question. After a moment she begins to pace the parlor, which suddenly seem to be a small and confining place.
"In the face of their power, what answer could I give? If they catch me, their will shall rule. None who are mortal born could hope to best them. But that does not make them right."
Her passion begins to rise as she talks. Her accent deepens.
"The Great Houses, except for Man, all exist because they could not live according to the Plan. The Dragons were born of their pride and vanity. The Fair Folk born in their bloodshed and violence, and the Old Gods born of their lust. We could not choose to be born or not. We did not violate this sacred Plan of theirs, yet we are the ones who must pay for its violation, torn from the world that is our source and nature."
Energized by fervor behind her words, she stops pacing and fixes her attention squarely upon Tom.
"Is it any wonder that my people and the remnant of the Fair Ones chose to hide, and fight hopelessly, and die rather than surrender to such unjust imposition of the Plan. Did the Plan matter to Them when they begat and bore the Dragon Kings? Did the Plan matter when the Powers battled upon the Earth, and shed their blood upon it? When their blood and power gave rise to the Fair Ones? Did the Plan matter when they lay with sons and daughters of Man?
"Let them pay the Creator for violation of the Plan."
The hairs rise on the back of Tom's neck as she talks. In the silence after she has finished, he realizes that the hairs of his arms has risen as well, and he briefly flicks his eyes from her to the room around them. It all looks surprisingly normal, which seems inappropriate somehow. He'd almost expected to see... what? St. Elmo's fire licking the metal of its furnishings? Perhaps. It certainly wouldn't surprise him.
Tom thinks he may not use the phrase "electrifying speaker" as casually ever again. He snaps his attention back to Braeta, who seems to know the direction of his thoughts, and smiling exhales a bit, and seems to deflate back to a normal woman, or as normal as this house has known.
"I'm sorry." She says. "I... It is a matter I feel strongly about, but have never spoken aloud in ..." She shrugs and smiles as she realizes how long. "...thousands of years.
"I'm sorry, I should not vent my feelings upon you." With a bit of effort she sits back down in her chair.
Tom takes a couple of deep breaths and recalls that her family are famous for throwing lightning. A pity he didn't have any instrument recording ionization or changes in electrical potential; it might have been interesting. But more to the point--
"I understand," he says quietly. "I have been through some trials myself, and there are people and events I cannot speak of coolly. I think you answer well. Your words remind me of the words of Azaroth to Meshael, as I have read them in this book. And the words of Alvirin to Azaroth." He rises, fetches the silver-bound copy of "Races of Earth" and hands it to her. "Perhaps you have read it. Or perhaps you have lived it. I'd be interested to have your opinion of it."
Tom resumes his seat. "There is a tradition in my faith that only the fallen among the Powers begot and bore children with humans. In any case, the example of Meshael shows that the Powers are probably not united on such issues. That would be to our advantage, if we found ourselves confronted with them--" Tom was half thinking aloud. He hears his words, the implications sink in, and he develops a cold sweat. "--or their agents." Only slightly, better if their agents are Dragons.
"But that is, I hope, a very remote contingency. Let us turn to something more practical. First, to get it out of the way, let me ask you formally, have you been telling me the truth? Are you leading me or my companions into a trap?" And he turns on his telepathy, tuning it to the empathy depth. Braeta, of course, can read his emotions, but there is nothing there that wasn't already in his face and words -- caution, indecision, a desire to help warring with fear of a trap.
Braeta nods her consent, and Tom contacts her telepathically. He can immediately tell that she is uncomfortable with the contact, but, steeling herself to it, she reaffirms the truth of her tale and the sincerity of her plea. Tom, sensitive to her discomfort, drops the connection as soon as the task is done.
"Thank you." He turns the telepathy off. "Well, then, as I said, I cannot answer for my companions. We must wait for them to return from another errand before they can hear your case for themselves. But I think the odds are good that they will help."
A look of disappointment flickers across Braeta's face when Tom says they must wait, but looks pleased at his assurance.
"What kind of help do you want? The most obvious action to take, I think, is to take ship for Destine and investigate. The other thing we might do is journey to Faerie -- the Summerland, or near it -- and take council with more of my companions there. There is a great lady there, who is the heart of our band, so to speak. Most of us are her companions or her family. If you wish, we might leave for Faerie now."
Braeta says, "Yes, I had hoped we could go to Destine. I have a chartered ship that we could use." She looks eager, then resigned. "How long will it be before your companions return?"
Tom shrugs. "It depends on their choice and how good their aim is. The aim is really not a problem; the ship's computer handles that and is quite good. But we never established how soon they wanted to come back. A matter of no more than a few days, I'd guess."
"If we must wait, then perhaps it would be good to consult with the others in Faerie." She looks once more impatient and disappointed, but turns to what can be done here and now. "How long will the journey to Faerie take? Is there anything we must do to prepare?"
"We can leave for Faerie immediately. I'll want to pick up some equipment and perhaps enough food for a few meals. If we're in luck, my companions will be at the first place we come to. Otherwise, we may have to travel some. Into the Chaos Marches.
"As to how long it takes-- Well, that depends. For us, it's a matter of a few minutes, unless, as I say, we have to travel, in which case it could be most of a day. But you know how loose the time-relation is between mundane and fay realms. It's impossible to say how much time will pass here before we get back. If we go to Faerie, I must certainly leave a note for my friends.
"You have a ship chartered? Then one thing to discuss is whether we take your ship, ours, or both." (Or all three, but Tom doesn't know about the Obscura; you lot acquired it after your last contact with him.) "Our ship has guns, you see. And some good instruments. It's a scout craft. You must tell me about yours."
Tom is also hoping that the "Fast Times" will be in port. If it can't navigate to Destine itself, we could try taking a token so it could follow to Destine, or even try taking one of its omniports or the whole everted "Fast Times." But of course you can't tell.
"You know, I rather recommend going to Faerie. My traveling friends are likely to want to do that anyway, when they get back, and we may save some time if we can tell them we've already discussed matters with the others. Of course, they may want to go back to Faerie anyway, to re-equip, but that'll probably be a much shorter trip."
Braeta, who has been nodding in response to Tom's explanation, says, "If you think it best, then yes, let's go to Faerie. I have never been all the way to the Summerlands, but I do know some of its paths and borders. If you have companions there, then I would be very glad of their counsel."
Tom gathers a few things together and leads Braeta to the study where the mirrors that are the family's gateways to Vinyagarond, Co-Dominion Helene and other worlds are. As Soon as Braeta sees the mirrors her eyes brighten. She studies them and the room with a fixed intensity.
Tom walks slowly to the Vinyagarond mirror and sets his palm on its surface. After a few moments, the glass beneath his hand begins to feel softer. Soon it feels as if the mirror is liquid beneath his touch. All he would have to do is break the surface tension....
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.