Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Shadows and Light

Dearest Em,

You missed another corker last night, let me tell you; made one of your infamous cocktail parties look like a school picnic. What with the horrendous storms that raged across the Grid, the sudden bouts of swooning suffered by several of our travelling companions and some strange dislocations, it was eventful even by our standards.

It started well enough, with everyone gathering at the Circus to await Oolon's arrival in the Cabinet. He was what Miss Saltair described to me as "fashionably late" (although I'm sure she also said that was what ladies did, not gentlemen) but Miss Seisenbacher kept up the side for the ladies by being later. It was a rare old gathering, let me tell you.

Believe it or not, that's Mr Mesmer. Apparently he's been so concerned by the odd transformations occurring to his friends upon entry into Tanglewood that he decided to place his brain in a big jar. The theory goes that only the bodies are affected, not the mind, so if the body isn't there, he can't be turned into something small, cute and fluffy. Its a sufficiently daft theory that it just might be right, but he's such a card.
Of our other companions, we were graced that night by the presence of Miss Rothschild, Mr Chaplin, Miss Virrginia Tombola, Terry, Alfonso and Miss Seisenbacher, who sadly had to leave on unexpected business before we launched (though her skirt had left far earlier, much to her consternation).

It seemed that Oolon knew someone on an island and had a reason for going, but I'd managed to miss the details somewhere along the way (probably hunting for the teapot; do you know where he's hidden it?). The flight was mostly uneventful, with a few bumps and jolts signalling the arrival of the storms. Still, we landed without incident. Er, mostly. The doors did jam and we did sort of end up stuck in them, but a good shove from that husband of mine freed the blockage and out we spilled into the courtyard of a fairytale castle (and thank goodness Burt was napping at the time, or it could have been very embaressing).

Apparently this is the home of a Mr Pendragon, a Lightsmith that Oolon has worked with on several occassions in the past. If it was the past; maybe it was the future. No, better not start trying to figure that one out, it always gives me a headache. It was quite a bit like home and there were mushrooms, too.

And can you see the rays of light? Oolon says that they're Mr Pendragon's friends and that he gives them life by talking to them. So Mr Pendragon has to be some sort of magician to be able to talk to light. The beams and rays were so pretty and sparkly and added to the overall sense of otherworld in this place. So, as you might imagine, it was a little disconcerting when Oolon announced that we shouldn't split up or wander off alone as this was a dangerous place to go poking about. If what happened later hadn't happened, I would have accused him of just doing that because he likes to worry me and Terry, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

We did all split up anyway because its just in the nature of these things, as you know. Virrginia discovered a very odd dungeon underneath the castle, full of boats and oars and dummies with wings and she went off for a paddle about. Terry shot off across a bridge outside the castle and Oolon wandered off as well. I had another dizzy spell (but no Mr Whittlesea this time) and poor Mr Chaplin suffered some sort of dislocation in place while I was catching my breath. I'm beginning to wonder if all this gadding about leaves a person open to odd effects and increased susceptibility to storms. I should really have a chat to Oolon about that, provided we find him again.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Miss Rothschild became very animated at an aetheric message she had recieved from Oolon, who was concerned for Terry's safety. The mannequins were very creepy, so I was immensely glad to leave the dungeon and go back into the sunlight. Not that we were there for long, because Terry had managed to find herself in some sort of underground catacombs with a big pretty swirly thing at its heart.

It changed colour and everything. Terry was transfixed by it and she said it spoke to her, which really wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. After all, we're both pretty senstive to these things. Not that I heard it, but she's not given to fibbing. We weren't the only people amazed by the pretty thing; for once, there were other travellers (just as confused as us) - Miss Mathy, Miss Dryke and Mr Lowey.

I think Oolon was thoroughly enjoying himself when Burt captured this frame. I kept it because it struck me that he looked like a tiny little star baby safe in the womb of time, a comment which elicited much dismay from our friends (who thought it was a little risque) and a big sigh from Oolon (who I don't think realised that anyone had seen him playing).

Miss Rothschild was thoroughly enjoying herself as well as she had made a new little friend, a lifeform that we named a Babybling. She called hers Mathilda and seemed to be getting along famously with the little creature, who followed her about like a shiny puppy. Several of us managed to attract the attentions of these delightful beings, particularly Terry, who ended up with quite a gaggle of them.

There was also a very sumptuous tent in the cavern, which was pretty puzzling (you can see it behind Mathilda). Why on earth would anyone want to camp down there in the cold and damp? I suppose it is a good vantage point for the ever changing pattern of lights on the large orb, but I can't see why you'd want to stay for too long. Humans are such contrary creatures.

After a bit of hunting about, we managed to find another way out of the cave system but it was a bit wet. Terry and I could fly out and Mr Mesmer had his portal, but poor Miss Rothschild was stranded as we couldn't be certain that it was dry water and wet water has such a terrible effect on her. Very fortunately Alfonso managed to secure a boat (I have no idea where he keeps these things, but he always seems to find something appropriate no matter what the circumstances) and made good everyone's escape from underground. And we had the added delight of Virrginia's yellow gentleman friend coming to keep us company as well.

Oolon led us on around the marvellous parkland; I must say, Mr Pendragon really knows how to manage an estate. There were allsorts of curiosities scattered about it to delight the Victorian mind; giant clocks, observatories, ponds, burning bushes and another swirly thing. This one was blue and flat and sadly very disappointing to stand on for all its prettiness; I had hoped for a least a tingle in my toes when I clambered into it, but it was just a very clever optical illusion.

We wandered a bit more, then Oolon announced that he had located Mr Pendragon. Well, he could communicate with him, but neither he nor I could work out where Mr Pendragon actually was, so I went to find him. He's very nice, as long as your not flammable; Terry and Virrginia described him as hot and then got all giggly, so I take it that they weren't referring to his temperature?

Dear Miss Rothschild had become most distraught, as Mathilda had taken poorly and gone all black and smokey. Oolon was also becoming very distracted as well and began to hurry us back to the Cabinet far sooner than I would have expected. Do you know he brought us here to deliver a beehive? All things considered, it may turn out to be a very costly delivery.

Now I know you'll be pleased with me as I'm remaining calm and objective, just like you said I had to. But things could be very bad, very bad indeed. I managed to get back into the ETD with no problems, as did Mr Mesmer; and Miss Tombola and Alfonso did so reasonably easily. But Miss Rothschild ended up on a tropical island with a shark for company (a big one) and Terry didn't appear for an absolute age. She told me later that the Cabinet momentarily vanished from the castle courtyard before she and Oolon could enter it. When the Old Girl reappeared, she didn't have much power left (inside we had no idea that we'd landed again at all) and she'd had to run and fetch a Babybling, which Oolon used to power up the doors. Terry thought that Oolon was right behind her, but something must have gone wrong and he never appeared at all.

Alfonso and Virrginia tried but failed to make head or tail of the console controls, so we couldn't go back and we couldn't go forward; we couldn't land either. It was all a bit of a puzzle. Miss Rothschild tried to talk to Madame (as she calls the Old Girl), but she wasn't listening and seemed to be just as bemused as the rest of us. Terry and me were pretty certain we'd be alright hanging about in the aether because of our natures, but we really couldn't be certain that it was safe for the humans (and the disembodied brain) or Miss Rothschild.

Terry decided that she should be able to pull us through to Mayfair, one by one, using her natural talents (I can manage one or two, but I'm only little and Terry has far more experience of these things), which she promptly did. Everyone arrived safe and sound, thankfully, and Mr Chaplin reappeared as well, a bit tetchy and most put out by both his missing the adventure and Oolon's disappearance. Virrginia, Alfonso and Mr Mesmer had attempted to make some alterations to the console while they were waiting to be rescued (something to do with more steam), but the results were not to their satisfaction. Everyone was in a very dour mood.

We had hoped that the Cabinet might have made her own way back to Mayfair once she was a little lighter, but that didn't seem to be the case. We knew that Oolon hadn't taken his transmat bracelet with him, because Alfonso had found it on the workbench in the ETD and we were all very concerned as to how he was going to find his way home. We got a nasty shock when we discovered that the charging apparatus had also vanished from the gardens and Terry began to wonder if Oolon had "left" without her. Virrginia was most worried that he wouldn't be able to feed himself properly wherever he was, but Alfonso pointed out that Oolon's pockets were bigger on the inside and there was always cake to be had (although I do hope he doesn't try to eat any of those moth-eaten old jelly babies he has hanging around in there).

It became clear that there really wasn't anything further we could do, so we decided that we should all go home and try to get a good night's sleep. I have to admit that I'm worried but do you know, I don't think anything truly awful has happened to him. For a start, I think I'd know. And secondly, he promised. He said he wouldn't go off alone again to try and face the darkness and I believe him. However else he might behave at times, his word is something he holds true to, no matter what. It won't stop me from looking for him, but he'll come home. And if he doesn't, I'm going to kill him.

You go and get yourself a nice martini, and I'll let you know as soon as we find anything. And if you find him first, I'd appreciate it if you could send the butterfly back so I can put Terry's mind at rest.

All my love,


1 comment:

Hotspur O'Toole said...

Drat! Missed out on another fine journey, 'twould seem. I appear to have dropped off the radar entirely. If you need an extra hand that's good with a saber, do let me know some time..