Canto 18 – Spelunking with Dinosaurs
Ged had gotten the planetary coordinates from Frieda for the so-called Hammer of God. As they took instrument readings on the surface, they could accurately determine by use of a gravitometer the device was located in one of the deep places in the Bedrock Undercity. An expedition would be organized to retrieve it before they believed Trav and his Slaghoople connection would be able to mobilize the criminal element.
Ged took both Tara and Tkriashav along to teach him more about Psions. He couldn’t help but look longingly at the beautiful teenager, Tara Salongi. The facts of it made him feel terrible. Bam-Bam Salongi and Sinbadh went along for muscle. Ham couldn’t help but bring the beautiful Nebulon Princess and her young son. The two of them seemed to persistently attach themselves to Ham, though Ged noticed the boy looking at him more than once.
The Slate Cliffs had a huge cavern opening in their northernmost face. It was there that most people gained access to the Bedrock Undercity. The rocks there were an oily gray and led into a series of caverns that were torch lit and gloomy.
“Do you know anything about these Ancient artifacts?” asked Ged, looking sternly at Tkriashav.
“Yes,” said the almond-eyed master. “I know what prophecy says. The Prophecy of Master Xan says that the White Spider shall be reborn and he shall use the sacred tools of God to remake the Great Web Across Darkness.”
“Good God!” said Ham. “What does that mean?”
“Ged is the White Spider, the Weaver of Golden Destiny. I have foreseen this myself. The tools of God are the ancient relics of Grandfather whom some describe as God Himself. These would be the Crown of Stars, the Hammer of God, the Celestial Dragon, and the Orb of Essence. Ged will use these, I believe, to remake the very stars into a new and better Empire.”
Ged sighed. “That’s a lot to ask of a simple hunter.”
“You will do it, I have seen.”
Tara slipped her hand into Ged’s and smiled up at him shyly, more like a teenager now than when Ged first met her. He felt uncomfortable, thinking of what they’d already done together. She was still very much a young girl. Still, he couldn’t make himself let go of her soft and delicate hand.
They entered a wide and much-traveled stone footpath into the middle of the Undercity. Many cave men and women were already there, going about stone-age business. A billboard advertised the big Rock-ball game on Monday night, and another mentioned Stone Cold Cola in glowing terms.
“What will you teach me about being a Psion?” Ged asked morosely.
“I can’t teach you much. You are already a Master of Shape-changing. You can control cellular regeneration. That power alone will make you immortal as long as your brain doesn’t die. Your power as a hunter will also make you formidable. And Tara telepathically gifted you with most of the instincts you didn’t already have. If you know enough about a creature, if you can read its DNA, then you can become that creature. Unlike most who can change shape, you are not limited by your size. You can change into things both larger and smaller than yourself.”
“How do you know this?” Ged asked, puzzled and irritated. “Is it by your vision?”
“Oh, no. I can also read your mind.”
Ged looked violated and perturbed. He had not even sensed another’s presence in his head.
“Don’t be offended, my son,” said Tkriashav soothingly. “It is not as intimate a reading as Tara did. You still have secrets that I will not violate. I am as strong a telepath as you are a shape-changer. I can even read the Nebulon boy, and he’s going to be a very powerful telepath with tutoring.”
Ged looked at the naked blue child clinging to Ham’s reluctant hand. “What can you tell me about the two Nebulons?” he asked.
“The Princess has a very important father. He will not be pleased with the boy, a child caused by abuse as a prisoner in the Imperium. His father was a Galtorrian-fusion bully. The boy as yet has no name. What he does have is psionic ability, and a strong connection to your future as the White Spider.”
Ham, on hearing this, stroked the boy’s bright yellow hair with a loving, sympathetic touch. “What’s the Princess’ name?” Ham asked.
“In her language, she will now be called the Madonna. She is mother to a fatherless boy. The name is Inouijuc. She is very much in love with you Ham. She believes she owes her life to you, Trav, and Ged.”
“Princess Inouijuc,” said Ham, “What shall we name our boy here?” Ham put a hand on the blue child’s soft shoulder.
“Hamfast Aero Junior,” said the Madonna clearly and without hesitation.
Ham blushed. Then he smiled. He didn’t say another word or protest the decision. Ged also smiled. He couldn’t help hoping that Ham decided to settle down with this pretty blue princess.
Ahead of the party, a row of raptor riders lined themselves up across the road. Nine of them. The riders were armed with stone-flingers and spears.
“What do you want, Goober?” Bam-Bam Salongi asked of the beady-eyed leader.
“We mean to help you and your friends, Bam-Bam,” Goober Slaghoople answered the silver-haired caveman. “A friend of mine witnessed the death of Rocko Slaghoople. That other group after the Hammer is evil and foul. They must not have the thing.”
“We welcome your help,” said Tkriashav. “As Rocko’s nephew and only living male relative…”
“I am now leader of Don’t Go Here! Yes,” proclaimed Goober Slaghoople.
“We are honored to have your help,” added Ged. “My brother, Ham, and I are the new owners of the Don’t Go Here Space Port and the Grange Station. We will be working with you from now on for the planet’s own good.”
“Don’t Go Here has a star port?” asked Goober Slaghoople, flabbergasted.