Hiero's Journey, Chapter 11, Continued:
(For the previous installment of this series, transport yourself hither.)
In out last installment, a rescue party of dryads led by the redoubtable Princess Luchare managed to save Hiero's paralyzed bacon, and very nearly destroyed the vast psychic hive-creature known as The House. Shortly before bedding down for the night, however, the heroes determine that The House has not been permanently defeated – it manages to preserve a third of its realm by inducing some of its subordinate fungi to extrude a fireproof resin (273). Spoiler alert: We will be meeting this particular villain again.
Our heroes then go to sleep, and Hiero has one last dream vision of Vilah-ree, who lures him to her flowery boudoir for some splintery sexytime. Per Desteen is very taken with Vilah-ree's “cold” white body, which gives him something in common with Bella Swan. The next morning Captain Gimp suggests that other tree women visited the various sailors in their dreams. One hopes they don't develop oneiric arboriform chlamydia.
Luchare turns up with a jeweled golden torc obtained from Vilah-ree. It turns out her previous day's conversation with Lady V concerned granting the dryads permission to use Hiero and his male companions for stud service – this particular race of humanoids can only reproduce with aid of humans. This is reminiscent of dryads in the D&D multiverse, and I suspect Lanier is the original influence here. Hiero has an angry exchange with Luchare about this arrangement, but in the end he decides that the teenager is more upset than he is, and anyway, it's a nice bit of bling.
After breaking camp and bidding their farewells to dryad land, Hiero and his band head southward, skirting the edge of the forest, before turning into the remnant domain of the House. Hiero gets skittish when the group approaches a surviving puffball field but Luchare urges the group onward. Later, Hiero gets angry with his fiancee's insubordination and off-handedly threatens to “spank” her Luchare if she doesn't obey his marching orders – but I think we've determined who the real pimp is here. I mean that in a kindly and constructive way, of course.
The travelers split into search parties, and eventually Gorm the mutant bear discovers a mound covered with grass and thorns, under which he smells metal. He and the others dig out an ancient door made of “white bronze” (286), which Lanier explains to the readers is aluminum alloy. (Hiero and co. would never have seen this before, as aluminum is very expensive to refine without electricity). Prying open the door, the party sees a very, very long staircase leading deep into to the earth, and into the conclusion of the novel.
Coming next: High time for a climactic underground SMACKDOWN.