Welcome back to our re-read of The Evolutionary Void, part the fifth! This week we're tackling Inigo's 26th Dream and Chapter Five. So without further ado…
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Inigo's 26th Dream
For the first time in a long time, Edeard is using Makkathran’s tunnels to move around the city. It’s exhilarating for him, and he wishes he could just continue rather than help Marcol and his constables as requested. But there is a surprise in store for him: a young couple come flying along the tunnel from the direction he’s headed, naked and coupling! With the shock of others in the tunnels Edeard stops and heads after them, but ultimately loses them at a junction. What’s more worrying is that the city’s memories have nothing of the couple, only of Edeard.
“How in the Lady’s name did they …” His voice echoed off down the tunnel as he frowned at the shining junction. For a moment he thought he might have heard laughter whispering along the main tunnel. But by then he knew he was grasping at phantoms. “Honious!” he grunted, and asked the city to take him back to Bellis.
Arriving at a disturbance in Bellis, Edeard feels the strong farsight examining him, one that he hasn’t felt for years. As before, he can’t backtrack it so enters the dwelling to see what the disturbance was about. After assessing the situation Edeard discovers that the young man accused of psychic assault, Tathal, is a member of the Apricot Cottage Fellowship, and the business owner has now changed his tune and no longer wishes to press charges. After a brief warning Edeard and the constables depart.
As Marcol fills Edeard in about what happened, Edeard remembers where he knows Tathal from – Ranalee. With that in mind Edeard heads back to his office and sets Golbon and Jaralee to investigate the Apricot Cottage Fellowship.
Golbon groaned. “Not that again. We looked into them a few years back. They’re just a bunch of young merchants looking to make their own association and build up some political clout. They use a few strong-arm tactics occasionally, but no more than established businesses. There’s no criminal activity.”
“Good, then this will be a quick assignment for you,” Edeard countered.
With Edeard recognising domination as part of this recent incident he’s determined to look into it again, knowing that it will be difficult to prove anything as far as that goes.
Five Skylords are on their way to Querencia and the streets of Makkathran are bursting with people, many families helping their elderly relatives seek guidance, while the city struggles to cope with the influx of such numbers. Edeard and Kristabel visit Macsen and Kanseen in Sampalok, and Dinly and his fourth (!) wife are there too. They discuss the problem of Makkathran’s overcrowding, and the fact that there are no more rooms empty in the city. And Edeard makes a decision:
“When the Skylords come, I’ll ask them what they need to collect our souls. If the only place they’ll visit is Makkathran’s towers.”
Following this talk turn to the next Mayoral elections, and when Edeard will put his name in and run for Mayor. After some discussion and persuading by his friends, Edeard decides that he will run this time:
“Where in Honious do we start?” he asked. It was almost a protest.
“You leave that to me,” Dinlay said. “I’ve been putting together a team for a while.”
Edeard shrugged and shook his head. It was almost as if he had no say in the matter.
Edeard arrives at his office to a surprise visitor: Salrana. While nothing has changed in her animosity towards him, she has come in desperation to ask for his help in her husband’s will as the family are contesting it. While not happy about it, he finally agrees to talk to the Grand Master of the Lawyers Guild to see if he can arbitrate a settlement between them.
Edeard finally decides to pay a visit to Apricot Cottage. As he’s shown in he sees that the house has been adjusted for human habitation, something he though only he was capable of, but now it’s clear that others can do too. As he enters the upstairs room he feels the psychic strength of those present.
“Ah,” he said. “The nest, I presume.”
Golbon and Jaralee have investigated the Apricot Cottage Fellowship and found very interesting details – business ownerships and joint ventures, and all are ultimately focused around a core group: the Nest. As Edeard and Tathal have a conversation about their abilities it becomes clear that Tathal and his followers, for that is how Edeard sees them, are looking at a rise to power, that they are better than everyone else, that it is their destiny. Their use of domination is to their advantage, to pave the way for their future plans. Edeard is afraid of these people because of their power and goals, and finally leaves.
Edeard held up a warning finger, grimly aware of how pathetic that must appear to the nest. “Stop interfering with other people’s lives; leave their minds alone. You are not their superiors. We are all—”
“One nation?” Tathal inquired; the mockery was palpable.
Edeard turned and left the room. He was somewhat surprised he was still alive and allowed to do so.
Back at the ziggurat Mirnatha and her husband, Olbal, are visiting.
“So what’s new?” Mirnatha asked as she settled back into a sofa and reclaimed her teacup from a ge-chimp.
Edeard hesitated. You really don’t want to know that. “Not much. Still being bullied.”
Mirnatha clapped her hands delightedly. “Excellent. Well done, sis. Keep them on a short leash, I say.”
Edeard and Olbal exchanged a martyred look.
Olbal and Edeard talk after dinner, with Olbal worried about his nephew who has gone missing while in Makkathran to arrange a new deal with merchants for his business – there’s just no sign of him. Discussion leads to more talk of why he was in Makkathran, and new merchants on the scene offering a good price. Edeard promises to talk to the district captain to see about putting a higher priority on it.
In bed Kristabel gets the truth out of Edeard about what’s going on, and he admits to the strength of these psychics, and how much they worry him. Edeard tells her that he has to stop what they are doing, their thoughts of the powerful psychics ruling over the weak, and when she asks if he can do it Edeard replies:
“No.” He sighed. “But this time I really have to try.” Lady, but I don’t want to have to do that kind of thing again.
While Edeard believes that, one-on-one, they are equally strong, it’s the mental union where they can join strength that really worries him. With Tathal the key to it all Edeard has to figure out a way to get him on his own…
Salrana tells Edeard that any objection to her part of her husband’s estate has been lifted, and she will get what she is left. However, Edeard hadn’t even talked to the Lawyers Guild and knows that this is simply the Nest showing him what they can do.
Edeard discovers that Gealee, Dinlay’s newest wife, is an informant to the Nest, and talks to her, revealing this knowledge. He tells her to leave Dinlay, and she spills the same line that Tathal gave him, that they are strong and will rule over the weak.
Her smile became cold. “Join us.”
The command was so strong that Edeard’s eyes actually watered; it was like having a needle of ice penetrate his brain. “Ladyfuck.” He staggered backward struggling to shield his mind. Gealee made no move, no attempt to follow up her demand.
“You see, Waterwalker? That was just me, and I’m not even the strongest of us. Do you really think anyone can resist the entire nest?”
Gealee leaves to return to the Nest, and Edeard knows that he may have to use his resetting ability to deal with this, and approach someone he’d rather not to find out Tathal’s origin…
Edeard pays a visit to Ranalee in the House of Blue Petals, discovering that she is pregnant. She taunts him, as usual, and when he asks about Tathal he discovers that the baby is his. He also finds out the Tathal has used domination onher, but not in the same way – Ranalee was already on the path, she simply taught him the subtler ways and then he used them on her, pushing her further along his desired route. She also offer Edeard to join them, but he refuses and makes to leave.
“Thankfully, not all of your family is as stupid and reactionary as you.”
He stopped, knowing he was doing exactly what she wanted. A puppet to her manipulations again. “What do you mean?”
Her answer was a triumphant smile. “I told you once we would have your blood.”
Edeard heads straight to Apricot Cottage, discovering that the entire avenue it is on is part of the Nest, and that his twin daughters, Marilee and Analee, are there, no longer quite what they were. Edeard confronts Tathal, telling him to undo what he’s done, but he refuses. Tathal knows that Edeard has another ability, but does not know what it is, only that it gives Edeard unwavering confidence. He also reveals that he watched the scene where Edeard killed Owain and his gang after he’d first used the rest ability.
“Your words. Spoken in the seconds before you slaughtered Owain and his conspirators. I have watched the memory of the chamber below the Spiral Tower many times. You were impressively brutal, Waterwalker. Even Mistress Florrel was ripped apart by that frightening gun. An old woman, though not a harmless one, I imagine. But what did you mean by that? I have been sorely puzzled. You spoke as if you’d seen the future.”
Tathal uses domination on him, and Edeard barely manages to escape, resetting to the moment before he entered the cottage. From there he reset further, to a time when Tathal is younger. He finds that even then he is too late, that Tathal has started building the Nest.
Tathal narrowed his eyes. Misgivings leaked out from his shield. “What do you want?”
“Not you. You’re too late.” Edeard remembered a day from a couple of years previously. Reached for it—
Edeard continues to reset, hoping to find a time when Tathal hasn’t started on the path to the Nest, but he simply can’t find it. Instead he ends up at the tavern when Tathal’s father drank, nine months before Tathal is born, feeding vinac juice into his ale…
Tathal was never conceived. Never existed, so could never be remembered or even mourned.
He returns to Makkathran, remembering what had happened the first time he lived through these events.
He recalled it all. The events. The conversations. Even the weather. There was little he wanted to change. At first. Then he grew weary of the sameness. Knowing became a burden as he became exasperated with people repeating the same mistakes once more.
The only thing that differed now was his dreams: still bizarre, impossible, but fresh, new.
Cheriton is undercover in the Colwyn City confluence nest looking for the Second Dreamer, and everyone there is on high alert trying to spot her after the change in the Silfen path that comes out in Francola Wood.
This is ridiculous, Cheriton thought. She’s not an idiot. The whole invasion force has one goal: to find her. She’s not going to walk right back into the middle of them.
With the locals angry at Living Dream followers, there are violent acts taking place in the city. Cheriton sees one such act coming against Danal and Mareble, and knows there is nothing he can do. But that’s when a new mind enters the gaiafield, one that is exceptionally strong. As the mob attack them both a voice is heard:
“That’s enough,” a woman’s voice said calmly. A dark figure stepped into the middle of the mob.
Sympathy and kindness wash over Danal and Mareble, the crowd backing off.
Danal raised his head, a look of incredulity rising over his pain. “Dreamer!” he gasped in wonder.
“Hello, Danal.” Araminta smiled.
As she faces down the mob they drop their weapons as the police arrive, telling her that she is to come with them, but Araminta instead turns their focus to escorting her where she wants to go. As they reach the dock, her presence bolstering the faith of the Living Dream and bringing the followers to her, Phelim awaits her.
I just have to keep going, she told herself in that little core of identity she didn’t share across the gaiafield, be an unstoppable force just like I promised Bradley. The true followers won’t stand for anyone interfering with me, not now that I can deliver the Pilgrimage. That’s what Living Dream stands for; it is everything to them.
She continues at her pace, telling Phelim that he won’t go unpunished for the violence committed in their attempts to find her, and continues on towards the wormhole to Ellezelin. She tells Mareble that she is safe now and can go home until the ships are ready to take them on pilgrimage.
Araminta raised a hand to her newfound friends and walked into the mouth of the wormhole, where she was engulfed by Ellezelin’s warmer, yellower sunlight.
“Holy crap!” Oscar muttered.
“That’s not her,” Tomansio said.
“She’s fucked us,” Beckia grunted. “Totally fucked us. She’s killed the whole galaxy.”
Well, that’s a polite way of reacting! Still, Araminta didn’t give them any other conclusion in the circumstances. But that doesn’t stop Oscar’s team from coming up with ideas of why she’s embracing Living Dream and the pilgrimage, all the while gifting her sight and emotions to the gaiafield. But despite it looking like the operation is over, Oscar is decides to stay under cover for the time being, just in case.
Araminta is now moving through Greater Makkathran on the way to Makkathran2, and planning on entering through the North Gate, just as Edeard did, and then walk to the Orchard Palace to see Ethan. Crowds gather along the streets to watch her progression, while Ethan has convened the council at the entrance to the palace to meet her.
The Cleric Conservator bowed deeply. “Dreamer,” he said. “Welcome. We have waited so long for this moment.”
Araminta explains her reasons for coming forward – to end Viotia’s suffering – and promises to guide the faithful into the Void, calling on the Skylord to confirm that they are welcome.
Again she appealed to the Skylord, who said: “We await you. We will guide you.”
The gasp of joy from the crowd outside was audible through the hall’s thick walls.
Araminta and Ethan move into the palace, with Ethan asking if she plans on continuing to share with the gaiafield, to which she tells him that she will do until they enter the Void. She asks for details on the progress of the ships, the drives, and the political costs for getting what they need, to which Ethan gives her the details, though not without some hesitation. After the meeting Araminta directs her question to that which escaped Sol, Ilanthe, to talk. She’s happy to take them into the Void, despite knowing she is evil, but Ilanthe tells her that she simply wishes to achieve a different goal.
“Knowing this, knowing I will oppose you, do you still wish to come with us?”
“Yes. Do you still wish to take me?”
“So be it. Our fate will be decided within the Void.”
Following this Oscar talks to Paula, convince that Araminta is up to something, despite the fact that she is sharing her sight and emotions all the time. All Oscar asks is that Paula humours him:
Paula smiled wearily. “All right, Oscar, I certainly haven’t got anything else for you to do. Stick with the original mission; see if you can make contact with the Second Dreamer.”
Paula, meanwhile, contacts Admiral Juliaca to discuss current events and what they can do to slow, or stop, the pilgrimage. She also finds out that Qatux and the High Angel are on the way to Earth to see if they can help break through the barrier. They also discuss Aaron, Inigo, and what to do about them:
“I won’t let it slip, I assure you. I have a ship which can reach the Spike quickly when the need arises.”
Aaron is once again immersed in dreams of repressed memories, of weapons fire and people screaming around him. And as he awakens he remembers a procedure that took away the pain in his mind.
“Oh, crap, this has just got to stop,” he moaned as he slowly pushed himself up into a sitting position.
As he leaves his cabin Corrie-Lyn and Inigo are eating breakfast – Corrie-Lyn hungover, as usual – and she’s once again far from polite to him.
“Corrie-Lyn, we’re going to be on board together for a while,” Aaron said. “As you may have noticed, this ship is on the wrong side of tiny, and there ain’t a whole lot of it working too good. Now, I don’t expect you to be gushing with mighty gratitude, but it’s my belief that basic civility will get us all through this without me ripping too many of your fucking limbs off. You clear on this?”
Corrie-Lyn storms out and leaves Aaron and Inigo to talk. The discuss the situation, and Inigo raises the issues Aaron is having with his dreams, and the fact that he only knows what to do at certain times. Inigo then goes through to see Corrie-Lyn who tells him why she is upset – that he left her and Living Dream, and without even telling them why. Inigo admits that the final dream he had – the fabled Last Dream – told him that there was nothing for them in the Void.
“Why?” she implored. “What is that Last Dream?”
“Nothing,” he whispered. “It showed that even dreams all turn to dust in the end.”
Inigo says he left in the hopes that Living Dream would slowly die, that leaders that followed would turn it into an old-style religion, promising but never delivering. But with the Second Dreamer it has all come to the fore again, pilgrimage finally possible. So now they are heading to see Ozzie, Inigo surmises that those behind Aaron are opposed to the pilgrimage, for Ozzie does not like Inigo for turning his gaiafield into the basis of a religion:
“You see, I perverted the whole gaiafield to build a religion on. That wasn’t supposed to happen. As he told me, and I quote. ‘The gaiafield was to help people understand and appreciate life, the universe, and everything so they don’t get fooled by idiot messiahs and corrupt politicians.’ So I’d gone and wrecked his dream by spreading Edeard’s dreams.”
Despite this Inigo wants to work with Ozzie to give solving the problem of the Void their best shot.
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That's us done again for this week. Join me here next time where we'll go through Inigo's 29th Dream and Chapter Six!