Journey to New Europa
Chapters 1 & 2, Searching for a home
We start our adventure in southern Faerie, in the settlement of Vinyagarond. This is the home of the New Blood, a clan of elves (mostly) founded in part by Daewen, late of the pantope crew. A lot of water has gone under a lot of bridges since the days of the pantope campaign. Daewen's highly extended family now lives in Faerie but Daewen feels that they need to find a land of their own. To this end, several members and friends of the New Blood mount an expedition into the Chaos Marches at the edge of Faerie, to look for new territory -- or possibly to make some, chaos being what it is.
The expeditionary party includes:
After several days' travel through the idyllic landscape of Faerie, we approach the Chaos Marches. They are visible as an iridescent bank of cloud and mist, shimmering as if through heat haze. As we approach, Tom and Mithriel take various kinds of survey readings, to measure the distortion of space-time.
Following a rumor picked up en route, we find a "peninsula" of relative order thrusting out from Faerie into the chaos. It lifts up into a rocky rill, with haze above and around it. Almost like a very rough road. Maybe that's what somebody had in mind.
Hiking down the rill, we find varying levels of chaos, but space-time is never really steady. The overcast gives no night and day. There is no horizon and no clue about distances off the rill. (Indeed, distances are not well-defined off the rill.) People have varying opinions about how much time has passed since, say, the last meal. The various timers and watches in Tom's equipage have different opinions, too.
Occasionally, there is a branching in the rill and we pause to explore. Sometimes, on the return journey, we find the geography or the distance different from the way it was on the trip out. We never find much beyond some scrubby vegetation.
Occasionally, on the rill itself, we find faint traces of earlier traffic. For instance, we come across little circles of a few largish pebbles. When she scrys, Lorelei finds these have traces of magical use. Apparently, someone used these circles of rocks as a focus for a magical campfire. The impressions of the camper(s), however, are vague but unpleasant.
Once, we find a promising lead. There's a largish patch of nature down one side-rill. It opens out into forest, though the sky is still nowhere-gray. Hiking through it, we hear and see a few hints that we are being followed. Eventually, though there is no night, we decide we've done enough for the "day" and pitch camp. This is done with a magic tent, booty from a long-age adventure in the world of the Hremish Empire, part of the pantope campaign. The tent is larger on the inside than the out, and luxuriously equipped, as soon as you unpack it.
Lorelei sets wards around the tent, and we post a guard. We also leave out some trinkets, as friendship presents. They aren't touched, but Mithriel, on her turn at guard, spots the locals. They are about the size of ten-year-old children, though adult in features; one is dressed in rags, the other in bark. They could be any of dozens of tribes of rustic Low Fays.
The next "morning," we go exploring further into the woods and find a clearing containing a sacked village. It was destroyed some time ago. Lorelei's scrying suggests that it was much bigger folk who did this to people like the small ones in the bush.
We also find a muddy-looking pond that Z scopes out as polluted in some way, and a grave. Lorelei scrys the grave and we learn that it was dug with bare hands, by people who, though sad, also had a certain grim satisfaction in knowing that "they" hadn't "got" these particular kinsmen.
The upshot is that, out here on the fringes of reality, some big folk have been raiding these small folk, apparently for pure destruction and to "get" them, very probably as part of the traffic down the rill-road through chaos.
We return to camp after a day's worth of exploring, and repeat our routine of the previous sleep. The two little men show up again. As we leave the next day, we spy back at them with clairvoyance and overhear them talking to each other in a rather debased dialect of Quenya. When we stop and call to them, they become very agitated and, one at a time, run off.
On the way back to the rill, we find a cliff where no cliff used to be. That's chaos for you. Tom dons an amulet that turns him into an eagle, and he flies up to the top of the cliff with a rope. Between levitation on the one hand and the rope plus mountaineering skills on the other (and friendly levitators standing by), we cope with the new cliff.
Back on the rill, we continue, though it has become obvious that whatever lands may crop up out here are probably not as pristine and vacant as we would wish.
The next thing that happens is an atomic explosion. Well, maybe not, but it looks like one as we see the fireball in the distance expanding toward us. A sheet of glitter washes over us, tingling with magic, but leaves us unharmed. The local geography is a little more stirred up, however.
At this point, Nick breaks out the Map of Here -- a magical creation by Daewen, using glamour to show a map of wherever you are at the moment, with special attention to interdimensional disturbances.
The Map of Here is definitely disturbed. Especially by the next firestorm sweeping along the path. It passes over us harmlessly, too, though the Map of Here registers a lot of activity, makes up several new kinds of marker never seen before, and seems to no longer have a legend so much as a myth. Tom's dimensional survey equipment is similarly boggled and several of the test watches have folded their hands and refused to cooperate further.
The third fireball washes away the rocky rill entirely. The Map of Here reduces to a sheet of glitter, rather like the shimmering fog of chaos we find ourselves freefalling in.
One of the tests Tom routinely tries when exploring the Chaos Marches is trying to affect the chaos by Dicing -- TK to affect random events. He uses it here to create a path for the party to hike on. This works. It's a bit unfortunate that Mithriel chose the same moment to do the same thing with her witchwalking skill, but she manages to adapt to Tom's idea of a path. (Tom is not adroit enough to adapt to hers.)
We hike dubiously along this, wondering what next. The next thing turns out to be a cluster of mysterious lights in the chaos. They give a strong impression of animation, but an attempted telepathic contact is so alien that we give up and travel on. Tom conjures a rope for everyone to hang together with.
Then, abruptly, the path crumbles and we are back in freefall. Just as abruptly, the chaos-mist clears and we are standing on grass. Around us is a circle of standing stones. Above is pale blue sky and around is countryside. Tom tries to cast a defensive invisibility. It shorts out in a burst of Disney-dust. Lorelei tries to raise wards and gets similar pyrotechnics.
Outside the stone circle stand several people in white robes. They look very pleased, in a solemn way. Further off are more people in street-clothes. Victorian-style street clothes. Some of the folk in robes begin doffing them and reveal that they, too, wear Victorian clothing. In the middle distance is a road, where are parked various light carriages with horses and some heavy, primitive cars.
One of the white-robed gents presents himself as leader and welcomes us. We ask where we are. In Somerset, England. Near the town of Somerton.
And when are we? What year is it?
The gent is amused and pleased at this question, and replies that the year is '72. He is even more amused when we ask the century. The year is 1872, in full. (Tom eyes the early automobiles doubtfully. They're a little too early for any version of 1872 he knows of.)
The gent admits that he and his colleagues summoned us -- not us in particular, but a general summoning for something to help their problem. When Tom, starting to steam at having been ripped through chaos and off course by an irresponsible summoning, asks coldly what their problem is, the man declines to specify.
This vagueness does not improve Tom's temper. He asks the man -- Alexander MacLeish, he introduces himself as -- why he thinks we will try to solve it for him, if he won't even tell us what it is? (Much less ask before recruiting us.) MacLeish explains that the problem is a world-threatening one and that, being folk of moral fiber, we will undoubtedly wish to solve it once confronted by it. (Moral blackmail doesn't endear MacLeish to Tom, either.)
MacLeish is mildly interested to hear he snatched us from Faerie. He has no clues to offer us except to proceed to London and look for -- he pulls out a memorandum book -- a Miss Katrina Konstantine and a Mr. Sherlock Holmes. (Everyone very consciously does not look at Ashleigh, big sister to one Sherrinford Holmes back on the Classical Line.)
Nick tries some clairvoyance to peer into MacLeish's book. This works fine. (And our telepathy net is still up.) In addition to the names just mentioned, the page also lists "Tom Olam" and "Somerset Hall." Nick then begins clairvoyantly leafing through the book, but finds little less intelligible -- though lots of pretty, Celtic-style knot patterns. These resemble the pattern on the medallion that MacLeish wears under his waistcoat. MacLeish appears not to notice any of this clairvoyant spying.
Unable to wring anything more out of MacLeish, specifically a return conjuration, the party heads off to the nearby town while MacLeish and friends wander back to wherever interfering sorcerers come from, satisfied with a job well begun.
Experimentally, Tom tries to TK a pebble. It goes flying off at a random angle. Great. So psi is significantly different here and our usual skills are out of kilter.
Nick suggests that, once we get this world saved, we might consider collecting payment from MacLeish for services rendered. "But does he have anything we want?" Dafnord asks. "His liver," Tom suggests.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.