(The big finale. Continues from here. Part 1 may be found here.)
From the Journal of Katherine Melissa Jameson:
Having left Governor Linden's mansion, I could not help but notice that I was in an old, old part of the land. One plot after another was owned by people of ages quite incomprehensible. For example, MadameThespian Underhill, of Hep Cat Central was born 12/18/2002 (while Gov. Linden was born 9/1/2002). (Bear in mind that these people clearly use some odd method of numbering the years, as everyone knows it cannot be the twenty-first century.) Even by the ancient standards of Caledon, this land was old, and felt quite primitive.
Not nearly as old, but as alien as anything I had yet encountered: Miss SoNaTiKa Pixelmaid.
Miss Pixelmaid glowed in the darkness, and wore a sign bidding others not to touch her, as she was "full of scripts." Her calling card said something about "Battlestar Galactica," but this reference was equally bewildering to me. The people of this continent have strange ways indeed.
Leaving Miss Pixelmaid, I looked up to see a very large tower which, upon closer inspection, proclaimed itself to be the Ivory Tower Library of Primitives.
Its entrance was marked with the Lindens' special insignia.
It was clearly a place of power - raw, untapped power. I knew that this was my destination.
As I stepped inside, I was astonished to see the priest who had sent me on this mission. How could it be? I stared at him, noticing subtle differences. Where the priest had a scar on the left side of his face, from mouth to ear, this man had a scar in an identical location but on the right side of his face. He was, in short, the priest's mirror image.
He looked at me and nodded almost imperceptibly. "Ahh, you have arrived at last." He swept his arms to indicate the displays behind him. This will take you back to when the world was new. No bling, no particles, no garish signs, just...primitives. The building blocks of the world."
Well, yes, certainly, primitives, building blocks, and all that. Quite useful, or so I've been told. But, ah, don't we know this already?
"Behold!" he said, "The plywood cube!"
"This is the powerful secret I have been sent to bring back to Caledon? I can't help but say I'm rather disappointed."
"No, you fool woman! These are merely the most base of the the states of matter. The real power is smaller, much smaller."
"Microprims, you mean?" I laughed. "We already have those, too. Caledon has a Mr. Alastair Whybrow, a jeweler by trade, whose specialty is microprims. Have you seen his thousand-prim tiara?" It was quite a pretty thing, though I could not see myself wearing a tiara. I moved my head a bit so the not-really-a-priest could see the spider earrings from Mr. Whybrow's Sparkle of Sound shop.
He looked exasperated. "This is what they send me?" he muttered. "Not microprims - something much deeper, much more fundamental, much more powerful." He intoned the last word so forcefully that I took a step backward. This turned out to be a good thing.
"And that would be...?"
Before he could answer, a red dot appeared on his chest. The expression on his face turned from exasperation to shock as a loud crack! rang out. He crumpled to the ground, blood pooling around a large wound.
I threw myself to the ground. The shot had obviously come from a powerful rifle positioned some distance away. The gunman had an amazing eye to hit his target so precisely, and I did not want to test his marksmanship by continuing to stand. When no second shot came, I crawled toward the priest's near-double. He was dead, and if there was a secret to be told, it died with him.
I scoured the tower, looking at the tutorials, seeking a clue to what the man had been about to tell me. I found nothing.
Having failed in my mission, my thoughts turned toward home and what might await me there.
I made my way back to the coast and found a seaport. I bribed my way aboard a merchant vessel heading toward Steelhead, whereupon I returned eventually to Caledon, many weeks after I left that fair nation. My final leg was on a Caledon Air Transport airship that took me to the Downs mooring station.
In my absence, my heartbroken Viscount had moved on to a younger, titled plaything, while his father, the Earl, had found himself in a substantial legal mess when his business partners in a housing scheme discovered that the Earl was keeping a separate set of books from his partners in order to hide the massive amounts of cash he was keeping for himself. I was the least of his concerns.
"So, all's well that ends well?" Rhianon said when I was safely ensconced on our couch, a brandy by my side.
"How can you say that? I wrecked my beautiful airship, not to mention lost weeks out of my life and saw a man shot to death in front of me!"
She smiled. "I can't do anything about the unfortunate man, but the walk was good exercise, you saw many new things and gained insight into the ways of the Mainland, and..." She stood and opened the curtains, then handed me a spyglass. "Take a look at the Downs landing strip.
I did as she asked. There, in the distance, was a brand-new Steamray just in front of the hangar door at Mr. Daniels' airfield. I squealed with delight. "But how...?"
"When word arrived that your airship had been destroyed on a Ban Line, I threatened to deploy against the property owner the most powerful weapon of which I knew: lawyers. He agreed immediately to replace your airship."
I toasted her. "Rhianon, you're the best little sister a girl could have."