The team of attendants assigned to Jeanette were in the room, as the companions came in: Lord Silvertyger Elphinstone, Senhor Capoeira Capybara, Grandmère Hutan, Thyrsis and Antithyrsis the crows, and Jeanette’s father Terence Ransom. The paladins from Broceliande, Sirs Amadis, Ogier, and Huom had come in behind the tiger: all four had entered with swords drawn, but sheathed them when no enemy seemed present. King Oberon came in with a retinue of guards, but dismissed them since that nearly filled the capacious bedroom.
Oberon went directly to the bed, raised his hand--then faltered. Everyone in the room saw this and reacted with dismay--though only Dr. Ransom and Lord Elphinstone knew the reason for this: the disastrous interdimensional experiment they had participated in earlier that day. Instead, he waited for the senior Healer to enter the room.
Magister Tanbark Cyrrh was a slender figure with the long face and close-curled antlers of a deer, and touches of silver around his eyes, tall ears and nose. The first thing he did was pull down a globe that had been floating invisibly over Jeanette’s bed and made a number of passes with his long delicate fingers. He summoned one of the attendants with a wave, and said, “See if you can decipher this: there seems to be two voices speaking at once, the second very very faint. It’s my guess that the faint voice is the important one. At once, please.”
It wasn’t clear what the attendants did with the globe, but they handed it back in under a minute. The magister took it in his hands in silence and held it, making it clear that there was going to be no public show. At length he handed off the globe and got closer to Jeanette. He pulled down the covers. “Briefly, she tried to use the power of her necklace while still in a weakened state. The first thing she did gave here a severe trauma--but it was her second effort, probably to undo the first, that threw her into the coma. Paradoxically, had she been stronger, the results might have been far worse.”
He stood at her head and touched the stone one removed from the center--and slumped. King Oberon was quickly at his side, holding his other hand, and both hands glowed. They stood that way, and Terence heard one of the attendants whisper, “by the light--what was she trying to do?”
It was nearly fifteen minutes before anything happened, and then it was Jeanette. Suddenly bursting into tears. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Please don’t be mad at me!” Dr. Ransom jumped forward, but it was Magister Tanbark who put a soothing hand on Jeanette’s chest. “No one is mad at you, Jeanette Ransom: what you did was brave and beautiful, and from the depths of your heart. But magic often requires more than that. Rest now: you should be walking around by noon tomorrow.”
Jeanette put her hand on top of the magister’s. “I’m still sorry. Thank you.”
“Then you’re welcome, my dear.”
The magister and the king both mandated rest for Jeanette, and it was all Terence could do not to park himself at her bedside. But the capybara pulled him away, saying, “If she’s suffering from guilt right now, your miserable face--and believe me, that’s what it is--is the last thing she needs to see.
Senhor Capoeira took Ransom to the room he shared with his mice, and there was a magnificent dinner laid out. It was laid out for one, but the capybara pulled a chair over and shifted around some of the large number of utensils and dishes so that Terence had a sumptuous place too. “You may have to eat the entrée with the fish fork, but that never killed anybody.”
After a few courses, Senhor Capybara retreated from the battlefield. “It does my heart good to know that I’m offering master chefs the opportunity to ply their arts at the highest level,” he said. He looked at Terence’s plates: he had eaten, because the food was extraordinary, but had hardly done the spread justice.
“Listen, Doctor, I know what you’ve been thinking. Ever since I precipitated your participation in this adventure, it’s been like we’ve been walking around with sticks of high explosive in our pockets. But that makes it all the better that we’ve found ourselves here. We have both answers to many questions and powerful protectors, which is, combined with the comforts and diversions, a splendid combination. So celebrate our good fortune amid your quite legitimate concern.”
"I suppose you’re right,” he said, but it sounded like a lie to him.
“Dr. Ransom, you should know by now that I’m always right.”
In the middle of the night, Jeanette awoke. There was a man standing at the foot of her bed. He was wearing one of those Declaration of Independence coats like King Oberon wore, but it was all black. One arm had its hand tucked into a pocket, which made it look like it was paralyzed. In the din light his face was a bit heavy, but not ugly or menacing.
“I’m sorry to interrupt your slumber, Jeanette Ransom, but I’m here on important business. I am the King of Ys.”
Jeanette nodded, thinking that she was probably not in danger. Not here, and not after today.
“Your friends the crows will probably have rousted out your companions, but before they arrive, let me say that I mean you no harm--and that that is why I have come to you tonight.”
“You don’t sound like you’re lying,” she said flatly.
“I’m relieved to hear it,” he said.
In a rush, bur not noisily, her father and her companions came into the room. They all recognized the figure. Terence said “Are you OK, Jeanette?” And she said “uh-huh.”
Turning to include them, the King of Ys said, “I am here to tell you that you must leave Avalon, and soon.”
“Why?” said Grandmère angrily.
“For the city’s sake as well as yours,” the king responded. “I know what pursues you, and Oberon does not. I also know that neither he nor I will be able to stand against it when it comes in force. It is Deep Chaos, and while Oberon has not met it before, I have. I will simply say this: if you are not gone before the Deep Chaos musters itself, you will all die, this time forever, and Avalon will suffer the fate of Haven.”
“So that is what was behind the wavering of Oberon’s powers,” Terence said.
Jeanette spoke up, “None of you seem surprised to see him.”
“I have visited them all,” the king said.
“He gave me a black blade. I have tested it, and I have decided to keep it,” said Lord Elphinstone.
“And the rest of you?” she asked.
“Nothing,” said the capybara.
“Nothing,” said the orangutan.
“Nothing,” said her father.
They’re all lying, she knew.
“Jeanette, my fellow king and I devote ourselves to different courses: he to growth and change, and I to memory and preservation. I keep the change within bounds for him, and he keeps me from turning to stone. The line of power our cities sit on extends through myriads of universes, and the destruction of our balance will cause untold damage. You must believe me, and you must go.”
“But where? If it’s all that horrible, where can we possibly go? Or do we just run forever?”
Senhor Capybara said, “We have asked everyone on up to Oberon about the Redoubt, and nobody knows anything. I assume you don’t either, unless you’re saving the best for last.”
“Not nothing.” And the king looked at Terence. “My kinswoman Parise d’Avignon has given a name to me: The Night Land.”
“And where is that?” Grandmère growled.
“East of the sun, west of the moon. That’s all I can say.”
“All you can say? What a load of meaningless crap! What does that even mean?’ The capybara said hotly.
“SILENCE,” said the king.
“I said those were all the words I had. But I have one thing more.”
With a violent motion he thrust his one good arm above his head, and pointed straight up.
He left Jeanette’s room, and so did the others, even her father. It was a long time before she fell asleep.
Lord Elphinstone and Dr. Ransom walked down the hallway, not saying a word. Abruptly the armored tiger shoved against Terence, pushing him through a side doorway into an anonymous room.
He turned on Terence. “What is the black stone you’ve kept fingering in your daughter’s presence?”
Terence hesitated, and Silvertyger stepped closer, towering over him. “Answer me and with the truth.” He bared his fangs.
Dr. Ransom slumped. “It was given to mr by the King of Ys. He said it has the power to return Jeanette home, with no memory of all this.”
“Give it to me.” Lord Elphinstone extended an enormous paw.
Dr. Ransom scowled and drew himself up.
“Give it to me or I swear that you will never leave this room,” the tiger snarled.