At breakfast it was noticed that Queen Parise had gone. This was more than a little disturbing, but Senhor Capoeira Capybara said what everyone thought: “Had she embraced and said good-bye to all of us, we would have had to swab the decks with tears.” There was also the feeling that they were now powerless and unprotected, but that also made the swift and secret departure a good thing.
At least that was the theory.
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod took up the practice--obviously designed to irritate their mother the Captain--of saying ‘that was cool, but not Queen of Broceliande cool’ and similar evaluations, for which they were often enough consigned to the Paradox Swan’s rigging.
The ship continued its stable trajectory in deep intergalactic space as it proceeded with its map of the perturbations in the continuum that gave the signature of Deep Chaos. Jack Shift had not returned, but all of the companions who wore white gloves made a point of standing up to the signals that had laid them low at their first encounter. It was again Senhor Capoeira who suggested that they may have actually been hit by the wavefront shock of the Exile that first time--but both terror and pain could be overcome by determination.
After many false starts, Jeanette Ransom now felt it was almost a duty to actually read the book she’d gotten out of the Universal Library, What’s Been Did and What’s Been Hid. She was also therefore half-convinced that it would be agony to read. The initial visual impression hadn’t done anything to contradict this: small type and small margins, and big paragraphs. Somebody could say “I love books” genuinely and mean books with nice big type, Lots of open space as a function of dialogue, and as many pictures as possible. And alarm bells and sirens could go off at the first sighting of a footnote. It was like loving cheese but drawing up short at bleu cheese.
Hid (as she was calling it) was, it seemed, non fiction and a memoir of someone named Iqbal Oryx Tløn, which actually gave her hopes. He seemed to be at times a merchant and at times a bureaucrat, and it wasn’t the Earth she knew. She’d read enough fantasy that started out slow, and there were some really great names like The Democracy of the Million Islands, and the Unremarkable Mountains, that kept her going. And it turned out that Iqbal was pretty amusing as a writer, as when he described an official as “a bag of scented tobacco that had somehow managed to pass a job interview.”
But as she was wondering whether this would all be tariffs and monopolies and parties he hated and dinners he didn’t, and as she noticed that in terms of inches she was not making very much progress at all, she came up on this:
“--In the pursuit of this trade agreement I was introduced to an aggressively pleasant Dame, with magnificent taste in clothing and futile essays in rouge and mascara, who took a great liking to me and went on at length, and at many laps of the course, about her great-great uncle who was so eminent that a cathedral was named after him, only to be burned and sown with salt in a subsequent enthusiasm. And since I absolutely had to meet him, I ended up meeting him.”
“This turned out to be a felicitous turn, because the g.g.uncle was one of those aged sepulchres whose only decay seemed to have occurred in his inhibitions. He expressed affection for his g.g.grand niece with enough qualifications as to be almost universally applicable, but still had a fondness for her. He was also eminent enough to be regularly presented with gifts of brandy older than he was and narcotic cigars each worth a promising young man’s salary, which his constitution no longer allowed him to enjoy. So it was I became a regular, pleased the g.g.niece to no end, and furthered my commercial cause.”
“Upon learning of my genuine if inadequately nourished fondness for antiquities, he guided me into his treasure-cave. One of the oldest Bactrian translations of the Ipsiad, complete with the wine-stains of the drunken copyist, and a damaged but still readable codex of the Pnakotic Manuscripts. But his greatest treasure was a long fragment of a nameless document written, he said, in the script of the Pelerins, or Pilgrims, who existed before this world was formed. I knew enough, from similar conversations to know that such talk was not the mad blasphemy most modern states declare it to be. He told me that it had taken a number of anonymous endowments to compile a syllabary of Pelerein, enabling this to be read at all: and it was an account of that mysterious races movement from their original home of Centre to that of Haven.”
“He requested that I, upon his death, ensure that these treasures be transferred, under the guise of the redemption of a lien, to a repository in some civilized land which didn’t burn its libraries with such regularity, under such pretexts that the Clerks of probate would have no opportunity to take the scraper and the torch to the manuscripts. It was by no means easy, but I set up a maze of entails and foreign escheats that could save a live heretic from the stake. In return, my commercial endeavors met with smashing success--enough to stave off the punishments arising from my previous embassage. (Transliterations and translations of the three documents are included at the end of this volume. Since enlightenment is a fragile thing, they do not appear in the table of contents or the index, and require an application of the Ferantz Process to deliver them from the invisibility many Powers still wish upon them.)”
Jessica fumbled around for a second book mark, put it in the page and closed the book. Pilgrims! Haven! And something she hadn’t heard of before--Centre! Making sure the bookmark on the all-important page was not going to fall out, she flipped to the back. Sure enough, before the index, there were more than twenty blank pages. So now the question was—what is the Ferantz process?
She came to the conclusion that her best bet was Diotima Urania Gearhart. Her second thought was Captain Ngozi Makena Odile, but Diotima was thousands of years old and was from Avalon. So she went down to the lynx’s niche workshop. (She and Jeanette slept together, but she didn’t want to wait for the evening.) When she saw Diotima, she was surrounded by an ocean of gears, ranging from small to silvery dust. She had a loupe in her eye, and was using her claws to move the particles this way and that.
Having prepared her question every step of the way, she said quickly and distinctly, “The Ferantz Process. It’s a way of making invisible text visible. Do you know anything about it?”
“It sounds rather medieval. Magic or real chemistry?”
“Well, I’m not completely sure. Probably chemistry.”
“Any clue as to the universe or timestream?”
“Can I show you?”
The lynx nodded, and Jeanette leaned over and lifted her up, making sure that none of the parts were destroyed. She realized that it probably would have made more sense to bring the book to her, but what was done was done.
She set Diotima down on the bunk, opened the book first to the text passage, and then to the part with the blank pages. Diotima, still with the loupe in her eye, inspected the book closely.
“Did you know that there’s microprinting on the edges of the blank pages? Well, no, I didn’t think you would.” She adjusted the loupe. “Hmph.”
“What does it say?”
“Ha. This is good. ‘There is no such thing as the Ferantz Process. That is to throw off the censors. Simple heat will cause the text to appear. Your friend from the past, I.O. Tløn.’ I like this guy.”
“He writes like that.”
“So now heat. Ah, I have it. Get into bed, Jeanette.”
Jeanette figured it out almost as quickly as the lynx. He slipped into bed and pulled the covers up. Immediately, they started getting warm.
“Nothing yet. Try pulling them right up around your chin. Hands close to your body. That’s the girl.”
The blank pages started filling in. “What are we looking for?” Asked Diotima.
“There’s supposed to be a document of the Pilgrims--the ones who built the Railway, and the builders, I think, of Haven.”
“Fascinating. This might be it.”
Jeanette looked at it. It was a flowing script she hadn’t seen before--not even on the map they had found. She started to run her hand over the script.
Then she stopped. Or rather, she was stopped. She couldn’t move her hand--or the other one. She wanted to scream then, but couldn’t because she couldn’t breathe.
It was the necklace--the necklace from Haven. It was strangling her.