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Mother Goose Chase

Chapter 5: The Oakley Family

by Ann Broomhead

New Blood Logs:

Tom Noon's Tale


In Chaos

Voyages of the Nones



Mother Goose Chase

Ancient Oz


Adventures of the Munch

Lanthil & Beyond

Robbie and Salimar ease forward into the choiry, sit on one of the benches next to the door, and listen to the music of the Covenant. Daphne joins them for a few seconds, but is soon up again and looking around. A closed door arouses her interest, and she is though it before Robbie can think, "[Daphne, come back] here. Don't bother [these people]."

Her response is a perky and heedless, "[There's] no one [in here for me to bother]."

Goaded, Robbie enters the room, to find it hanging with green satin choir robes in every size imaginable, plus a few more. The pixie is holding up one of the robes to herself, trying to see how it looks on her. "Do you like it?" she verbalizes.

Robbie is abruptly reminded of her fondness for pilfering, and makes a hasty promise. "We'll get you one tomorrow. Don't disturb the people; they have serious work to do." He radiates we're-leaving-now.

Happy with the promise, she leads the way back out of the room and into that vast open space filled with music. Amiably, Salimar joins them, and they return to Gannar and the car, and so back to the Ridgeway.

On the way in, Robbie remarks to our guards that the singing at St. Bride's was wonderful, and asks it is available on any channel in any medium. They explain that it isn't, because that might draw too much attention. Robbie nods in understanding, before joining the others in Kate's drawing room. Angel is quietly watching cartoons at one end of the room, and the others are discussing the evening's events.

Robbie talks about Bishop Randall's theory on immanence and transcendence, and wonders aloud how valid it is. We note that Bishop Taurmegil seemed to disagree but did not propose any alternative. The robot considers the possibility of visiting him to discuss his situation further.

We found the suggestions of conflict with Faerie sort of surprising and definitely interesting, and we agree that it might be fruitful to meet with the diplomats of other realms - after our quick visit to the Oakleys. A perusal of their Yellow Pages equivalent turns up Avalon, Norembega, Punt, Peristan, Tir na N'og, Oz... "Oh, let's go there!" several of us burst out involuntarily.

"Why?" asks Kate. "What's special about Australia?" Her time-hopping has skipped her right over Frank Baum's stories and several movies of varying quality, but she still accepts the assurance that Oz is not Aus.

Although we've just finished a large and stressful dinner, not everyone is ready for bed. Perhaps a bookstore is open? Gannar consults the net, and reports that there are many businesses that are only open at night. This sounds promising, and we are soon off to a bookstore and coffee shop on Third. The foot traffic is revealing; there is more of it than earlier, and there are greater variations in size and shape than you would find in, say, London. We enter the "Bell & Candle" and browse around. This is obviously one of those places the fay come to let their hair down. There are tiny people here, and a giant nursing what has to be his very own mug. It had not escaped us that the "windows" were one-way mirrors, with the mirror side out.

We buy coffee, lattes, mocha, the odd pastry, but none of the (overpriced) chocolate fruit, and stroll through the aisles, perhaps hoping for books to leap off the shelves and say "Buy us!" None do. Returning from there, we spot "Tyley Travel" and poke our noses in there. The counter lady looks very elvish, and we explain that we're here from the West. Alas! This agency only manages bookings to mundane realms, but it turns out that she went to school in Pericles. We chat a bit about Hellene. She then explains that usually, in order to get to an arcane realm, you must contact someone from that realm. This makes our idea of visiting embassies sound even better.

As we leave, we ask if there is a theatre district. She assures us there is one, which turns out to be near the Ridgeway, but warns us that the plays are very mundane. They certainly are, and most of them have just let out, except the latest revival of "The Rocky Horror Show", which is only now starting.

In the morning, we eat, pack, release our guards, and check out. We've retained our car, and Gannar settles back in as our driver. There is the promised side trip to pick up a green satin robe for Daphne, and then it's out into the countryside at a few hundred feet to follow the roads to Oakley.

The day is pleasant and the view is fine, so we spend most of our effort on enjoying the passing scene. After half an hour, Dafnord's roving and critical eyes spot an unusual speck against the clouds ahead of us. As Gannar flies us closer, it resolves into a human figure, hanging from a bell pull? a scarf? dangling in mid-air. Gannar slowly brings us in, and Dafnord slips out onto the running board. The figure is clearly a fat little old lady, and from her gestures, she is thumbing a ride. We have room. Dafnord hooks her out of the sky and onto one of the jumpseats. She winds up her scarf and starts chattering. She is Goody Cob, a midwife traveling to Aikenyard, she's late, and she's obliged to us for picking her up.

Kate categorizes her accent as "English country folk", perhaps Midlands, and manages to interrupt the raucous flow to explain that we too are traveling to Aikenyard, for the christening, and that she is the godmother from Lanthil. Goody Cob exclaims, "I was born lucky!" at the coincidence. She had come from west of Utterley and had not expected to arrive for at least two more hours. Now she'll be there within half an hour.

Always on the lookout for an information source, Robbie begins a stream of queries. No, she's not afraid to fly this close to the East of Tighmark; no one would see her up here. Yes, there will be other godmothers, most of them members of the Oakley family. And godmothers "give presents, promise to take care of 'em. Get 'em in good with the Powers. But here, he gets the geas put on 'im right away, and that gets 'im in good with the Powers." We think we know what she means.

Now it is the midwife's turn as inquisitor. "Y're the foreign godmother?" Yes. "And these folk are...?" Kate's friends. "So ye got his knickers in a twist?" with a nod to the West. Oh, yeah. Daphne asks for our hitchhiker's take on the events, and we hear the usual story about the Patalan ambassador, the Patalan spy, and the Hunt. Goody Cob then remarks, "Talking is dry work. You got any gin?" We do have a djinnish eidolon, but hardly think that it will answer. We offer some candy that Daphne has thoughtfully stashed in Robbie's pockets.

About then, Gannar brings us down to the road into Oakley, a town that is quaintly seventeenth century in its flavor. Aikenyard is, unsurprisingly, an estate in vast grounds. The road leads us first through a fine, and markedly tidy oak forest, then across a lush lawn dappled with small, firmly-shaped oak trees, and trees with drooping clusters of yellow flowers, which also seem to be oaks. We wonder if the Oakleys have bred these trees to have large, ornamental flowers. We reach the gate in the inner wall. It is closed. We have time to examine the coat-of-arms displayed on it: three oak leaves on a gold background with the motto "Semper Querques", or "Oaks Forever."

A voice inquires who we are. Robbie announces that we are "Mr. Roberts and Katherine Carter of Lanthil." After a glare and directing head nod, he adds, "and Goody Cob." The gate opens, and we glide up to the front entrance, where we are met by an imposing butler with a regrettable undershot jaw, and a nondescript fellow in green livery with gold piping. "Welcome to Aikenyard," intones the butler as we empty out the car.

The underservant removes the car smoothly, as the butler turns to our extra passenger. "Welcome to Aikenyard, Goody Cob."

Our luggage is plucked up by more servitors in green, and disappears from our view. The butler leads our growing entourage through a spacious hall, paneled undoubtedly in oak, into a smaller room containing a young couple. They are unquestionably the parents-to-be, Tintilasea and Hirgalad. She has wavy brown hair, green eyes, and a tall, slender build. She is sitting down so it is hard to be certain, but she seems still two or three months from term. Her husband is physically similar, but is more heavily built.

Tintilasea smiles up at us, as the butler announces us: "Lady Katherine Carter of Lanthil, and Goody Cob."

She dismisses him with "Thank you, Swinburn" in a tone of great relief, and stands up to catch "Nursey Cob" by the hands. We are happy to watch the two of them drag each other off to their special arena of interest.

Hirgalad apologizes for what he perceives as great disorder, explaining that the manor is filling with members of the Oakley family coming from near and far. We assure him that we understand, and Kate introduces every member of the party. He smiles somewhat distractedly, and finds us someone to lead us to our rooms and our luggage, past darting servants in green and gold, and family members who are tall, green-eyed, and athletic.

In the upper hallway near our rooms, we are greeted by two men, one obviously a family member and one not. The former is Malinalda, who introduces himself as an uncle, being the brother of Hirgalad's mother. The other is Narion, his secretary, a nervous young man with a ruddy complexion, black hair, black eyes, and a stammer. We introduce ourselves, and Daphne quickly asks if there are any mundanes about. He promises us that there are none. Emboldened, she then asks if it is all right if she flies. He is the classic indulgent uncle, and assures her that she may.

He goes on to categorize the current disturbance as the result of a mere fright, as it was unlikely to be a real contraction. We inquire where he is from, and get the unexpected answer, "London." Before anyone can follow up on that, Daphne asks him about the flowers on the oaks. He explains that the Oakleys have indeed bred them, and that that is just one of several oak breeds they have produced. Daphne follows up with more questions, each pleasantly answered. Narion excuses himself, and a few of us slip off to our rooms.

As the discussion continues, a young lady come up and asks for Narion. Daphne indicates which way he went. Robbie returns from his unpacking, and joins the conversation. A stern-looking elven couple and their luggage are led up the stairs. They are family, they are older than Tintilasea and Hirgalad, and they turn out to be Lady Mallammen and Lord Minargalad, Tintilasea's parents. We barely finish introductions before they hurry off to be with their daughter. Kate rejoins the hall conversation.

Fallataal has unpacked, and is waiting while Markel settles his "mastiff" into their new quarters, when they hear a male voice from the hall, calling "Laskalen? Are you there?" One of the doors in the room opens, and a young woman quietly slips through from the next bedroom.

Apologetically, she asks them to say that they have not seen her, should anyone ask them. Fallataal points out that since they have not been introduced, they can not have met, so they must never have seen her. She smiles gratefully, and glides over to the open window. She gestures, but since the oak does not seem inclined to come to her, she sighs and seems about to speak. She then hears that voice again, and returns the way she came.

The voice is followed by its owner, as a senior-looking gentleman of the family steps in from the main corridor, and asks the two Lanthilor if they have seen Laskalen. He gets smiling negatives, and introduces himself as Galentarma. He then asks if they are from foreign parts. Fallataal introduces himself as "Fallataal of Lanthil" and then Markel. The old gentleman nods, says, "We shall see you at lunch, then," and leaves.

After the time it would take to count to three, Laskalen pops back into the room. She beckons, and Narion slips through to join her. Laskalen explains briefly that Galentarma is her father. They thank Fallataal and return back into the other room.

The time claimed for lunch has arrived. We've unpacked, freshened, and changed. We mill around in the hall until everyone is out, and then find our way down to the dining room, inquiring of passing servants to stay on the right track.

It's a large, airy room with several French doors leading into a garden with oaks. There are already lots of people eating at the large table. We help ourselves to the buffet as we listen to Nursey Cob holding forth as she eats, "She's doin' fine. Not even a contraction. You'd think she'd never had gas before." We sit down in a series of gaps near a human clergywoman. Markel checks his dog, and introduces himself: "Markel of Lanthil."

"Oh, are you a diplomat?" asks the pudgy cleric.

The shy dragonrider disclaims all skill in the diplomatic arts, and explains that he is here only as part of Katherine Carter's entourage. She introduces herself as Susanah Grey, the local vicar, and compliments him on his "nice dog." Robbie introduces himself and predictably joins the conversation. He asks about the relationship between the mortal and elven clergy here, and Vicar Grey explains that the two run in parallel around Oakley, but that in other parts of Tighmark, things are more intertwined. Robbie is pleased with this sharing of spiritual authority, and says so. Then he mentions that we were the people who brought in Goody Cob. She murmurs something that sounds appreciative. Robbie then asks, "Does she always travel by scarf?"

The vicar looks a bit thoughtful, and says, "No. I just hope she doesn't run afoul of Warder Brightman for it." She goes on to say that Goody Cob is in charge of the naming, and is part of the Faerie kirk. Robbie then turns the talk to the singing of the Covenant at St. Bride's.

Kate finds herself next to Malinalda, and they chat about London. Both can speak with some familiarity of how the city has changed over the years. She samples the brown acorn bread that has pride of place on the table, and finds it much less bitter than the bread she had as a child. Dafnord is listening desultorily to that conversation when an attractive young lady sits next to him. She is Galandwen, a cousin of Tintilasea. She points to a younger version of Hirgalad, and explains that he is Linlas, Hirgalad's younger brother. He catches her gesture, and nods civilly at them both.

She smiles warmly at Dafnord, and asks if he is one of the diplomats in the Lanthil delegation. Modestly, he insists that he merely provides security for the diplomatic mission, and compliments the wonderful reception that they have received. She offers him a tour of the garden, and he accepts.

She takes him by the arm, and leads him outdoors, smiling at Linlas as they pass. Once out in the garden, she relaxes and explains that she and Linlas had been engaged, but that they have had a row, and would he mind courting her just a little? Dallying with an elven maid is not Dafnord's idea of hardship, but he knows that his judgment may not be utterly perfect in the circumstances, so he checks with Kate. "[Is it] okay [for me to pretend to] come between (Romeo & Juliet) [who have been split by a] family row?"

Kate's reply is an easy "(Amusement.) Don't hit anyone."

Cautiously, Dafnord asks about the row. It seems that she'd gotten a new, short hairstyle, and he had said that she had hair like a hedgehog. "And then the conversation went downhill from there," she concluded sadly.

Dafnord looks at her hair and forebears from commenting. They stroll from tree to tree, and he learns exactly what kind of oak each is.

After her second helping, Daphne relaxes and looks around the room. A squirrel dashes along a small ledge up near the ceiling. Twisting around, she finds that the ledge runs all the way around the room. Her curiosity piqued, she lofts out a nearby door, and looks at the outside of the house carefully. There are little flaps high up on the walls, and then she spots a squirrel in a green jacket scampering along a branch. "Hi," she says, but it flicks away.

Spotting Dafnord and Galandwen, she settles into the tree over their heads, starts eating the fruit she thoughtfully brought with her, and listens.

Their talk has turned to methods of coaxing Linlas into a bit of jealousy, and Dafnord suggests his best mating display: sword work. She agrees, and he slips into the house and quickly returns with Umbra. He moves gracefully and skillfully from sequence to sequence. That she recognizes the Uzumic passage from "Amazon Kendo Queens 7" is disconcerting, but ultimately pleasing. She keeps checking the window; there's no overt response from Linlas yet, but he is watching. The Acro essays the Love Sequence.

Linlas is still just watching, though starting to turn colors. Galandwen smiles suddenly, and claps her hands, producing a shower of sawdust. She makes a face, and does it again. This time she produces an oak staff. Blushing, she explains that long ago, she had seen this great movie about Robin Hood, and she and Laskalen had repeatedly played the quarterstaff duel between Hood and Tuck when they were girls. Dafnord agrees to her suggestion of a little gentle sparring.

So they begin. Fallataal is watching them, while also keeping an eye on Linlas, who is still seated, but who has paused in his eating, with his fork halfway to his mouth and his mouth open to meet it. The Lanthilo elf strolls toward the door, ostensibly just to watch the show. His call of "Fine move!" draws a smile from both participants. He smiles and waves in return, and manages to get a look at Linlas out of the corner of his eye. He then starts to remove the largest acorns from the ornamental display.

Robbie is also watching Linlas. When he turns purple, the eidolon asks the vicar, "Is he okay?"

The vicar stares searchingly at the elf, and then turns around to look at what he is watching. "Oh, my God! That looks like Amazon Kendo Queens!"

Robbie turns to watch as well. He then pings Dafnord gently. Dafnord responds with a telepathic, "[Is] (Linlas) watching?"

The response is all he could have wished: "Yes, [and turning] purple."

It is about then that Linlas stands up, giving a roar, and lunges for the nearest French window. However, because Fallataal had set his acorns free, Linlas doesn't make it. He slips on the acorns and ends up flat on his back. Robbie reports the events to Dafnord, and gets back "(Good.)"

Linlas finally gets up, and stalks out the window with as much dignity as he can muster. Servants scoop up the acorns; only a few were actually crushed. Markel casually makes his way to a second French window, followed by Fallataal. Kate follows Linlas through his.

"What do you think you're doing?" Linlas roars at Dafnord.

Dafnord continues his sparring, and replies without pausing, "Parrying at a disadvantage."

"Take your hands off our women, you philandering outsider!" Linlas makes the mistake of reaching for Galandwen. Thwack! She gets him in the breadbasket. "Don't talk cheap melodrama, Linlas," she advises crisply.

Linlas produces his own quarterstaff, and the two elves go at it in earnest, with matching dialog.

His mission accomplished, Dafnord returns inside to eat. Fallataal returns a handful of pebbles to the graveled path, and follows him inside. Dafnord tells him that he made the right move with the acorns.

The question now buzzing among the diners is Who was that swordsman? When Mallammen asks it in Kate's vicinity, she explains that he is Dafnord of Lanthil.

"Ah, your security officer? You must feel very safe."

Kate reflects that Dafnord is not the sole cause of their feelings of comfort, but agrees.

Tintilasea's mother continues the conversation by asking about Dafnord's sword.

Kate sighs mentally. How can she possibly know what she should and shouldn't say to these people who want to know if Lanthil would make a good ally? She begins to explain that Dafnord made Umbra out of Chaos, and that it is just what Dafnord wants it to be. People are impressed.

Outside, the sparring continues. "We haven't done this in a while," observes Linlas.

Daphne, still watching from the tree above them, seizes an opportunity. She coaxes the tree into blooming, and sending a shower of pink blossoms down on Galandwen and Linlas as they work back and forth.

Galandwen refers to the falling blooms, "This is a nice sign, don't you think?"

Linlas stops to really look at the flowers. She wacks him as he does so, then cries, "Oh, beloved!" and drags him back into the house through a door which does not lead into the dining hall.

Daphne makes herself a wreath of the pink blossoms for her hair, and returns to her friends and the food. We eat, and chat with the people near us. Mallammen is riveted by Daphne's flowers. She soon learns that the pixie was in the tree during the byplay, and made the tree to bloom. Again Daphne is drawn into a deep discussion of gardening. Mallammen is pleased with the possibility that the oak will bloom in pink again the following year and entranced by the idea that it might breed true after Daphne's had a long talk with it. She invites the sprite up to her room later for a good, long talk.

Minargalad shakes Dafnord's hand, and draws him into conversation. "Excellent show. I haven't seen good recreational sparring in some time." Dafnord replies amiably, and asks about Linlas. Tintilasea's father explains that Linlas is his second cousin, but that Galandwen is most closely related to him through his sister-in-law, Mirgalen, whose niece she is. He then admires Umbra, and is impressed to learn that it is a named sword. He learns a more detailed version of Umbra's creation in the Chaos Marches.

As the vicar tucks into a frothy-looking dessert, Robbie brings up her familiarity with the "Amazon Kendo Queens" series. She responds calmly that Dafnord's work had looked like a scene from it. Robbie agrees that her observation is undoubtedly correct, since Dafnord has the entire series, and studies each one closely. Since she wants to know if the kendo in the movies is authentic, Robbie calls over Dafnord, and he informs her that the moves are quite authentic, and does this with perfect sincerity. The conversation meanders, and soon the vicar learns that Dafnord is from the Jack, which she knows as the Lost and Found Colony, and that he was part of Cantrel's Own Ranger Corps, joined the Jack Patrol, and so is in Lanthil as part of a detached unit of the .

She probes a bit about Lanthil. We explain to her that Daewen is not a ruler, or even a leader per se, but is primarily first among equals. We try to express to her our desire to not have anything like a royal family, and how this conflicts with the expectations of newcomers to Lanthil. Somehow, we mention how the building of the castle by the dwarves has gotten entirely out of hand. She nods understandingly, and we explain that we had a similar problem with leaving a dwarf running on Hellene.

She is shocked, and blurts out, "On Hellene? In public?"

Dafnord promises her that it was far from any public space, and no one ever saw the dwarf, but that we didn't realize our problem until after the fifth sub-basement had been built.

We all brood on the indefatigable energy of dwarves.

Markel left lunch early to take his "dog" for a "walk" around the grounds. Eventually he finds a large open area beside a long straight wall, and turns the mastiff back into a full-sized dragon. The creature stretches and lofts. After a pass beyond the wall, it expresses the opinion that the area over there is confusing. Markel lets it know that it should stay inside the walls. It agrees, and turns to the woods to do a little hunting. Markel warns it to not eat anything wearing clothes.

Updated: 7-Oct-06
©2002,2005 Ann Broomhead and Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.

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