|"Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it."|
"What's the meaning of this, you disrespectful fingerlings? Rousing my out of my sleeppool at this time of day!"
"I told you, Ulliny, the Great Skeeve desires to speak to you."
"The Great who? Never heard of him."
"That's almost comforting." I muttered under my breath.
"What was that, handsome?"
"Great Skeeve..." Ixthol spoke formally as they arrived next to us. "This is Ulliny."
"So I gathered." Aahz snarled. "Look, gramps, we're short on time here. We want to know about Penbrius."
All three of the Daglarites took an automatic step or two away from him. I stepped in front of Aahz and spoke.
"My apologies for my colleague's behavior. He sometimes forgets to use the proper respect when talking to a magician."
Aahz made a strangled noise. Someone, Tanda I think, giggled.
"Really?" The elderly Daglarite eyed me shrewdly. "And how would you know that, fingerling?"
I spread my arms theatrically and rose a foot or so off of the ground. I spun around once, slowly and settled back to earth. I continued: "Please, Ulliny. Let's step off to the side here for a moment and discuss some things, one magician to another."
"Very well, Great Whatever-your-name-is. If you want to know something about... him, let's go talk."
We moved a few paces away from the group.
"So, what's a nice Kladh like you doing hanging out with a Pervert, anyway?" He grinned, showing a mouthful of still-sharp teeth.
"That's 'Pervect.' He's my partner."
"This is Toros Daglari, Great Whosis. I've seen his kind here on vacation. They will always be Perverts."
I stifled my annoyance. Now was not the time to get into an argument.
"Is it true? Not about Pervects, but that you once visited Penbrius' realm?"
"Down to business, eh? Good. My skin dries out if I'm away from my pool for too long. It was a long time ago, now. Maybe fifty years. I was learning to dimension hop. Went to Kaykayman, Augar.. Agger.. (can never pronounce that one..), the usual stops. Then I got interested in the... what do those Deveels call them... Temples.." He glanced at me and grinned a little. "You know know there’s more than just the one, doncha?"
"Most of us get interested at one time or another. Go look. But there's never anything to see, you know. We go and look and then keep our Promise not to tell... although I'm breaking it now, aren't I?" He laughed, a strange but not unpleasant bubbling sound. "But you already know some it, I see, and it's to another magician, so that's all right. Where was I?"
"You went to look at the Temple up there."
"Yes, that's right. Snooped around. Saw nothing, got ready to leave. Then.. then.." He looked around, then back at me. "I happened to look at the Doorways. To the other worlds. And there was one there that I hadn't seen before. Just jumped out at me."
"Where exactly were you.."
"I'm getting to that! I was in one of those little rooms that branch off from the main passageway. I could only see the Door in that room. If I stepped into the hall, the Door disappeared. Same in all of the other rooms. So I went back to the room, and Hopped. Had to see, didn't I?" He shook his head. "I saw. I saw all right."
"What happened? What was Penbrius like?"
"I made another Promise that day." He spoke flatly, but I could see that he was afraid. "And that one, I'm keeping. What happened then is.. between me an' Penbrius. Or maybe just Penbrius and Penbrius." He gave me another sharp-eyed glance. "You going to go visit Penbrius, Great..?"
"Skeeve. Yes. Yes I am."
He shook his head.
"Goodbye then. You know everything I know now." He shook his head again, and turned away. I walked back to the others.
"Will you see that he gets home, Ixthol?"
"Of course, Great Skeeve." He gestured to his assistant, who went off with Ulliny.
"What did he say, Skeeve?"
I looked at Aahz and made a 'go ahead' gesture. I knew we would have had to walk a lot further away to get out of the range of his hearing.
"He was actually inside a specific room in the Temple when he jumped, huh?" Aahz was obviously pondering deeply. "Makes sense. We saw how they can distort Dimension Hopping. Maybe, in that one room, it distorts whatever shield he's got in place as well.."
"You didn't try when you were up there before?"
"No." Aahz sighed. "We tried as soon as we got back to the mainland and realized where we were. Or Gus did, anyway. He had no luck. But if we can do it .."
The lightning, and rain, had started up again, worse than before, so we were forced to hike back up the hill again, once again saying goodbye and leaving Ixthol behind at the bottom. For the most part, we all walked silently, each of us wrapped up in our own thoughts. All too soon, however, the familiar gray shape loomed into view, the path opening out into a clearing in front of a black entrance. This Temple wasn't quite as covered with foliage as the one on the island, and it gave me my first really good look at one of the structures. The square block radiated menace. The faint forceline drains(?) shooting out of it like the probing proboscises of a flock of mosquito-bats didn't improve my opinion.
"I say, not the most cheerful of places, is it?" Chumley commented, squinting through his rain-streaked glasses at the building before us.
"I dunno." Gus grinned. "I sort of like the color." He flexed his gray wings.
"Stow it, guys. Let's get this over with." Aahz snapped. I repeated my trick with the ward torch, and we entered the building, looking for the proper room.
"I see it. It's there." Tanda spoke up almost at once. "There's one there now that wasn't there before." We stood crammed into one of the small rooms off the main passageway. The cool wind gusted up from down below; Aahz and Gus’s previous visit had left the blocking wall a pile of rubble.
Chumley and Gus nodded agreement. I closed my eyes and looked, but couldn't see anything different. But getting an exact count on the number of doors was oddly difficult, like they kept fading in and out. I didn't know if the Temple was causing it, or if it was something you just go used to after a while..
"Are you sure?" I asked nervously. "I don't see.."
"Kid.." Aahz growled. "You promised."
"Skeeve?" Chumley sounded surprised. "You can see dimensional connections?"
I realized that we hadn't mentioned how we got off of Chirosovo. "Yes. Aahz showed me. It was the only we could get off of Chirosovo."
Chumley faced Aahz. "It was about bloody time you showed him. We've all been wondering about it."
"He's still not ready. We need to practice a lot more. Which reminds me, Skeeve.." He crossed his arms. "You may have forgotten what I said about you going home, but I haven't. Now that we can get into Penbrius' realm, you are going back to Deva." He produced the D-Hopper. "You take the D-Hopper and get out of here."
I looked down at the cylinder and back up at Aahz.
Aahz said nothing, but took a step closer to me.
To my immense surprise, Tanda interjected herself into the confrontation, stepping in front of Aahz.
"Aahz?" She spoke softly.
"Get out of the way, Tanda."
Tanda slapped him across the face. Hard. Unlike my feeble attempt, Tanda’s blow knocked Aahz’s head sharply to one side. The sound seemed to ricochet around the small room for an eternity. After he got his head twisted back around straight, Aahz looked at her, his jaw hanging open. Mine was open as well.
"I'm sorry, Aahz, but that had to be done. It's the only way to get you to listen to me. We've had this discussion before, but it seems you need a refresher. In case you hadn't noticed, Skeeve here is now old enough to make his own decisions. Yes, what we are about to do is dangerous. Incredibly dangerous. But it is no longer up to you to decide whether Skeeve comes with us or not. And if you try again to send him away, I'll..."
"I'll stop you."
"We'll stop you." Chumley spoke up.
"That's right." Gus added.
"Aahz, we need him along. He's the only real magician we've got, and whatever Penbrius has waiting for us, our chances of getting through it are probably doubled if Skeeve is with us. I know it and you know it. It's time to let him go. Even if it means he gets killed. If we all get killed."
Aahz looked at me. Just when I thought I had seen all of Aahz's moods, he would come along and drop a new one on me. Like now. If I didn't know better, I'd have said he was about to cry. Finally, he straightened up "Let's do it. But you still take D-Hopper, kid. If something goes wrong... I started to say that I had a place to run to now, if things got really hairy. But I didn't think Aahz would appreciate that comment. I silently took the D-Hopper and stuck it in my pocket.
We gathered close to together around Chumley and he Hopped.
And it worked. Suddenly, we were in the realm of Penbrius.
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