The Case of the Short, Short Prince

by Geron Kees

Chapter 34

"So much time has passed," Jamie said, looking at the image of the ring overhead. "Could those others still be out there, beyond the gateway?"

"We're still here," Porvus pointed out, "and with far less in the way of advantages to our credit than those people had going for them!"

"We'll have to go and see what Lodda is up to," Snave suggested.

Porvus leaned forward, his manner suddenly intense. "You have a way to get there?"

"Maybe," Jamie answered. "We have not tried anything approaching that sort of distance before now."

Porvus's intensity only increased. "Take me with you!"

Jamie considered that, and then shook his head. "I don't think we can. You don't possess the magick needed for the job."

The old mage curled his fingers into a fist. "Teach me, then! I will go with you to confront Lodda!"

Snave sighed. "He could be of help, if we could somehow get him there."

Jamie turned surprised eyes on his friend. "You think so?"

"Yes. I am only considering what may be needed to deal with Lodda. Neither, Porvus, nor Lodda, could have any notion beforehand that we might have a method of getting to the ring. So, this cannot be some sort of plot to get us there. I feel, if we can go, it will be a total surprise to Lodda. Having Porvus along might provide the necessary extra weight needed to win the day."

Sir Dorf pointed at the old mage. "You really think this one will betray his oldest friend?"

"I do not betray him, so much as guard the world!" Porvus snapped. "I must have a place to live, too! I'll be damned if I will let Lodda's games bring destruction to the only home our people have!"

Garvin turned to Jamie, a look of surprise etched upon his face. "I sense his feelings are honest ones."

Remarkably, so did Jamie. He looked at Porvus anew. "Just full of surprises, aren't you?"

The old mage looked taken aback, but then managed a tired smile. "I am too old to face the end of the world. I have a fondness for this one, if it can be believed."

"So, you would help us, against Lodda?"


Bastyin offered a soft sound that grabbed Jamie's attention. "Loves and hates can live together in the same mind, Jamie," the Lachess offered. "It is often the strongest of two at any given moment that guides the way." He turned his eyes to Porvus. "And sometimes, it is not the one we would expect."

Porvus wrinkled his nose in distaste. "This is matter of survival. For all of us. The gate must not be allowed to reopen. It could bring destruction to us all." He leaned forward. "I don't want to kill Lodda. Only stop his plans."

Jamie turned to Snave. "What say you?"

"Unfortunately, I agree with Porvus."

"Sir Dorf?"

The big knight shrugged. "I think he is willing to work with us, at least for the moment. And I agree that this world cannot survive a second dose of what happened to it once before."


The boy eyed Porvus unhappily. "Sometimes, justice must wait on practicality, I guess."

Jamie nodded. "Irik?"

The wolf had been watching Porvus, and now turned to Jamie. "I think this one wants what we want...for now."


The small man frowned at Porvus. "Not like this one. But not like is not same as not need."

Porvus let slip a short, surprised laugh, before turning to fix his eye on Jamie." Well?"

Jamie considered their options. There would be no way to take Porvus with them without first taking the old mage to the nether and giving him the magick of the new perspective. Jamie was unwilling to do that. But--

"There may be a way," he decided. He turned to Snave. "We must first see if even we can go. I propose we make that attempt. If we can arrive at the ring, I will then bring us back here, and give to Porvus the necessary mental image he will need to translocate himself there."

Porvus looked astounded. "You can do that?"

"Maybe." Jamie smiled. "If we can get there, and back, very probably."

Porvus's good eye narrowed. "That's how you were able to move about as you did! And to get to Methuwan undetected! You have the ability to take imagery from the minds of others, and translocate to places they have been, but you have not!"

Snave chuckled. "Told you he was sharp. I mean, when you get past the nasty part."

Porvus blinked at Snave, but immediately refocused on Jamie. "And the reverse works, too? You can share with me an image of a place I have not been before, which will allow me to translocate there?"

"That's why I said maybe," Jamie answered. "We haven't exactly tried that one before."

Porvus looked up at the ring floating in the dome overhead. "My feeling is that time grows short. If you need to make this attempt, you should do it now. The time to confront Lodda, if we are to stop his plans, grows near!"

"One thing," Snave said then. "Before we go any further. You said that Lodda seemed a stranger to you now. But you also said he was more powerful now than he had been as a mage. Can you explain that?"

The old mage frowned. "As I said before, there is an oracle out there at the ring. Properly, it is not within the ring, but aboard the ship of space nearby, which is also where Lodda is now."

"Not on the ring?" Jamie asked.

"No. The ring large machine, is the only way I can describe it. It's operated from the ships of space that used it. Don't ask me how, as I don't know. Even two centuries of studying the ancient's science has not been enough time to understand more than the basics. But there is one of these machine minds on the ship. Somehow, it has influenced Lodda."

"Influenced," Snave repeated. "Negatively, you mean?"

"Yes. I think the idea to reopen the gateway comes from this oracle, and that Lodda has somehow been swayed into going along with it. How he cannot fathom the danger involved in this action, I fail to understand. That's why I think his mind is no longer solely his own."

"As someone who can influence minds, you would probably know," Jamie said pointedly. It came out sounding a little nastier than he'd intended, but Porvus seemed unfazed by his rancor.

"You're actually right. Having placed ideas into the minds of others, that are capable of redirecting their actions, I think I recognize the process from its results. Lodda does not act like the man I have known for centuries. I suspect the things he does now are not inspired by his own desires."

"And that he is more powerful now, somehow?" Snave pressed.

Porvus held up his hands uncertainly, which Jamie took to mean the man was speculating, at best. "That is only a feeling. The machines out there seem to do his bidding. He has...I'm not sure of the term I should use. Perhaps equipped? He had equipped himself with machines that somehow are able to use magick."

Jamie and Garvin exchanged looks of surprise.

"Use magick how?" Jamie demanded.

The old mage looked annoyed again. "If I knew better, I would tell you. Despite the fact that they could not use magick as we could, the non-magickal old ones understood magick in ways we do not." Porvus waved a hand around at the interior of the dome. "Methuwan, and all the many technical facilities in the forest, were refashioned so that only those capable of using magick could use the machines there. This was to keep non-magickal humans from using the vast resources of this city and the works within the forest against us if it came to a battle. A familiarity with science and magick was needed to accomplish that task. Humans that were trained in science, but that had also come to magick, and could meld those two disciplines together." Porvus shook his head. "That learning was confined to Methuwan, and the non-magickal humans from beyond the gate had none of it."

"Yet the oracle upon the ship of the stars has this knowledge?" Sir Dorf asked. "How did that happen?"

Porvus licked his lips. "I don't know. But I suspect--"

When the man did not go on, Jamie held up a hand questioningly.

Porvus sighed in frustration. "I suspect the oracle here in Methuwan has been in collusion with the oracle upon the ship."

Jamie stared at the man. "Is that possible? I thought you said the oracle here was not well?"

"Yes. But I have recently had the thought that maybe its weaknesses have allowed it to be subjugated in some fashion by the oracle" -- he waved a hand up towards the ring above them -- "out there."

"How could that happen?" Garvin asked. "They are so far apart."

"One thing you must learn about the ancient's technology is that everything talks to everything else." Porvus pointed around at the machines within the dome. "Nothing happens with one machine where other machines are not aware of it."

Jamie felt a tingle of surprise at that. "How? How do they speak to each other?"

Porvus hesitated a second, obviously thinking. "There are several methods." He turned and pointed to one of the large machines nearby. "See the conduits that enter there, from the next machine over? Notice how they glow?"

Jamie turned to look, and was presented with some of the tubes he had been noticing all throughout the works of the ancients, like pipes, save that they seemed to carry light within. "I have suspected these tubes to carry information of some sort."

Porvus nodded. "They do. The light they carry is regulated in a special way."

"What special way?"

The old mage laughed. "If I knew, I would say. There are even machines here in Methuwan whose mission it is to maintain such things. They have tried to explain the workings to me, but--"

"You don't have the background you need to understand," Snave injected, when the older mage paused.

"Yes." Porvus shook his head. "So many wonders here, that have remained unfathomable."

"What is the other way of communication?" Jamie asked.

The old mage looked thoughtful. "Even more complex than that of the light tubes, and less able to be understood."

Jamie smiled. "I am willing to try."

For just a second, Porvus watched him, before nodding. "You are a riddle, young man. But...the ancients had a way of filling the very air with information. Broadcast is what they called the method. The way it was explained to me is that there are waves of knowledge that are somehow dispersed into the air in every direction. When these waves of knowledge reach another machine, it is able to sense them...and read them."

Jamie drew in a startled breath. Electrums! Or, one of the forces associated with them. So, his guess about how they could be used had been correct!

Porvus narrowed his good eye at Jamie. "I see that touched something within you. What do you know?"

Jamie looked around the interior of the dome, and then back at the older mage. "The air here is full of such knowledge. It flows everywhere. If we move through it, the knowledge of our presence is added to it, and the machines know we are here."

Porvus watched him in silence a moment. "That's part of it, yes. The ancients had many machines that could detect the presence of all sorts of things, including people."

"It's how you knew we were in the first red tower," Jamie reminded. "And again, that we had stopped within a room in the tunnels below the forest. You have been able to track us at several points as we approached Methuwan."

"Not me, personally." Porvus nodded at him. "The machines, yes. They simply alerted me to your presence. And then, after the battle in which you killed Skoda, you somehow managed to evade detection."

"I became aware of these patterns that could detect us," Jamie agreed.

Porvus looked annoyed all over again. "How?"

Jamie laughed. "Are you going to tell me all of your secrets?"

Porvus's annoyance deepened; but then a flicker of humor crossed the old mage's face, dispelling his ire. "Not today. Very well, don't tell me." His good eye flicked again towards the ring suspended in the dome above them. "It's time for a decision. Are you going to try to get to the ring?"

Jamie turned back to his friends. "I think it's time to make the attempt."

Snave moved closer, and lowered his voice to a whisper. "If we leave here in the new perspective, our true selves will remain here in the dome. I think that is unwise."

Jamie smiled, "Me, too." He turned to Porvus. "We shall return as quickly as possible."

He brought them into the new perspective, and quickly ranged back to the pretty room they had occupied earlier, and simply wished to be there. In a moment, they were.

"Oh, back here!" Garvin said delightedly. "A nice place to wait, anyway."

"Did you see how quickly the return trip was performed?" Snave asked. "The places between the dome and here were but a blur."

Garvin shrugged. "Perhaps the new perspective is similar to translocation, in that a place one has been before can be reached quickly again."

"I think what we have are two modes of travel," Jamie suggested. "The first is a sort of wander mode, where we can explore at will. The second is a travel mode, meant to get us to a destination quickly. I think it's all in the nudge we give our perspective.'

"I have a question," Geert posed. "How do we expect to find this ring in space? We cannot simply travel upwards into the sky and expect it to be there, before us."

"And it is not visible from the ground, or we would have spied it before," Sir Dorf added.

Jamie frowned at that. "I will admit the thought had yet to occur to me." He smiled at the looks of surprise on his friend's faces. "So, we will consider the problem now," he finished.

Irik looked up at him. "I know the night sky, somewhat. Enough to tell me that if we can see this ring in the same portion of the sky as the moon, it will be in the same direction."

"We are only guessing that they occupy the same portion of the sky now," Bastyin offered. "We don't know if the representation within the dome is wholly accurate, because we have never seen the ring in the true sky at all."

Jamie held up a hand. "I know this sounds pretty basic, but I suggest we first see if we can travel upwards beyond the atmosphere at all."

Garvin grinned at him, and bumped his shoulder against Jamie's. "A good point, my Jamie."

Geert rolled his eyes, but looked to be in a good humor. He pointed up at the room's ceiling. "That way?"

"Yes. But first, full shields and invisibility. I don't wish to risk our being found here while our minds are elsewhere, even for a second."

Snave grunted. "My feeling is that we would return here instantly, should our true selves be threatened. We are, actually, here. It is only some very complex magick, conceived by the lens in the nether, that allows our minds to appear to roam free."

Jamie hadn't quite decided on how the new perspective worked, but Snave's appraisal sounded good enough for him. "Still, full screens and invisibility."

Shields winked into existence, and the entire group vanished. But Jamie still knew exactly where everyone was, even without his enhanced sight activated to spy their knacks. They were as one now.

He looked up at the ceiling of the pretty room. That way.

They rose, passing through several floors above their own, before Jamie prodded them outside the wall of the tower and into the late afternoon sky. They rose quickly then, leaving Methuwan behind them. The city spread out beneath them, became a jewel perched upon the wall at the open end of the valley holding the Forest of Night; and then they accelerated quickly into the sky. In only moments, they had risen so high that they could see the full extent of the forest, and then the plains beyond, and then the sea.

"Unbelievable!" Snave said softly, enthralled by the view.

The sky began to darken around them, and the curvature of the planet below them to appear. Faraway lands that they could not yet imagine came into view, other continents than their own very large one, and an ocean dotted with islands and covered in lines and swirls and whirlpools of clouds. The sun grew brighter, and soon shined at them with a harsh yellow light, even as the sky became night filled with stars.

"There!" Garvin called, and their perspective swung around to one side.

Around the curved surface of their world, they could see the larger moon coming into view. Jamie gave them a nudge that way, and the satellite began to grow rapidly. Their pace must be enormous, and yet there was no physical sense of movement at all. Only the fact that the satellite rushed towards them at breakneck speed conveyed any sense of motion at all.

They were almost to the brightly glowing orb when the distinctive ring that was the gateway of the ancients detached itself from one limb of the moon and appeared fully beyond. Jamie shifted their direction slightly, and they reached the moon and swung around it, catching a glimpse of the cratered surface, the mountains, and the dark plains, before reaching the terminator and passing beyond. The ring centered ahead of them then, and grew slowly - much more slowly than the moon itself had grown - and Jamie realized then that the view within the dome back in Methuwan had been deceptive. The gateway ring was much farther beyond the moon than they had first been led to believe.

Faster, Jamie thought.

The ring suddenly grew larger, and they were upon it in an instant. It floated in the darkness, outlined by tiny red lights around its rim, and was accompanied in flight by a sizable swarm of tinier objects, some of which simply floated nearby the ring, and others which moved about its surface, accompanied by infinitesimal, winking lights.

"It is not whole yet," Sir Dorf observed. "Note how parts of the ring are still not closed in with a clean surface?"

Jamie could see that. Obviously, the repairs to the ring were progressing quickly now. But that there was still work to be completed was also clear.

"That must be the ship of the stars, there," Bastyin said, and their perspective turned slightly to one side.

Jamie could see it now, the thing that had simply looked like a long splinter in the image in the dome back in Methuwan. It was poised in the darkness some distance from the ring, and to one side of it. As they approached the vessel, it became something else, a cylindrical construct tapered at both ends, with rings around the end pointed away from the gateway, and a series of tear drop-shaped blisters upon the surface of the ship, ranging in the other direction along its length.

"No sails on this one," Geert remarked, the humor in his voice making Jamie smile.

"What motivates it?" Irik wondered, sounding duly impressed.

"I imagine there are forces here we cannot even guess at," Snave replied. "This vessel is far larger than I imagined, too."

That was evident as they continued to approach the ship. Jamie finally decided it was as long as any good town was wide, and that walking its length would be akin to walking from one gate of Lyrix to the one on the opposing side.

"Ancient people not play games with size," Gorge offered. "Not seem to know when to stop making things bigger!"

Jamie was among several that chuckled at that. The ancients had built on a grand scale, indeed, but that there must have been reasons for what they did, he was certain. While the old ones had sometimes seemed extravagant in the things they had made, they had never seemed wasteful at all. This vessel of the stars was surely enormous because it needed to be enormous, and for no other reason but.

They drew near the hull, and Jamie stopped them. The surface before them was clean and smooth, looking of one piece in every direction they could spy. That, in itself, was an incredible accomplishment, as he could not even begin to imagine fabricating something this size with nary a seam visible anywhere.

"Can we get in, I wonder?" Geert asked.

"Let's see." Jamie gave them another nudge, and they approached the grand wall before them and passed right through. The wall itself was as thick as any one of them, and beyond that was a narrow void full of the machinery of the ancients. An inner wall confined those things between the two, and when they passed through that they found themselves just beneath the overhead within a long corridor. Jamie dropped them so that they appeared to be standing on the deck, and they had arrived.

"We're actually here," Garvin said, sounding amazed. "Is there a limitation on how far we can go?" he wondered.

"We arrived here very quickly," Snave replied. "And my feeling is that we could have been here even more quickly, had we so desired."

"I wonder." A spirit of adventure limned Bastyin's voice. "If we pointed ourselves at one of the stars, and said go, would we arrive there?"

"The stars are much farther away than the moon," Sir Dorf answered. "I can't imagine getting to any of them in a short period of time."

"We don't know their true distances," Bastyin reminded.

"No," the knight agreed. "Save what Porvus said about those distances, that they were inconceivable."

"Which truly corresponds to epic in my mind," Garvin decided.

"We won't be trying to go this day, anyway," Jamie said. "But perhaps another?"

"Then which way do we go from here?" Irik turned them to face the direction Jamie knew was toward the giant ring. "I sense someone that way."

Jamie sensed something in that direction, too, but he had no idea what it was.

"That way is as good as any." Jamie nudged them forward along the corridor, slowly increasing their speed until it was as fast as he might be able to run had he been there in person.

"It occurs to me, "Snave began, "that even in this new perspective, we are confining ourselves to old ways of moving about."

Jamie laughed within his mind. His friend was always thinking! "How so?"

"Even as we move about within this enormous vessel, we still tend to stick to hallways we would take if we were actually walking here."

"That's true!" Garvin injected. "We could just as easily turn and go right through the walls."

"But we don't know what is beyond them," Irik added quickly. "I am reminded of our view from the balcony, while beneath Methuwan, of the room where the giant water cylinders of the ancients generated electrums. What would happen to us if we turned through a wall and found ourselves inside such a device? Could it harm us, even in this form?"

"An interesting idea," Snave replied. "My feeling is that it could not harm us, for we are not actually here. We crossed from our world to this very vessel through space, which, by ancient accounts, is airless and full of dangerous forces. If that could not harm us, could anything?"

"This new perspective seems to not interact with anything," Geert offered. "In order to be harmed, some form of interaction must take place."

"But we can see from here," Jamie pointed out. "Everything around us. Is that not a form of interaction?"

No one said anything for a moment, until Sir Dorf laughed softly. "It is always what we don't know that is most worrisome. I am already worried enough about being so far from Lyrix that I could not actually walk the distance in my lifetime to return. Adding in all these possible worries seems unnecessarily troubling."

"We're just trying to be prepared," Geert argued, though with humor in his voice.

"How can be prepared for what do not know?" Gorge asked.

"It's why we imagine the possibilities," Bastyin returned. "To have at least considered what might happen will in some way prepare us for the actual eventuality, should it occur."

"But still not know what to do about!" Gorge argued.

Everyone laughed, and Jamie felt some of their group tension slipping away. Their new perspective had so far shown them only the positive side of its workings. Was there even a negative side to any of this?

"I hope that our simple ability to quickly move about will keep us out of trouble," he said. "So far, while it does seem that master mages have some sense of our presence, even in this state, none of the ancient's technology has reacted to us. We can't discount the possibility that we might be detected still, but at this point we have no reason to feel like anything could be done about it. We must always remember that we are not actually here. Just some part of our awareness. What harm can be done to awareness?"

"Just so," Irik answered. "Perhaps not to walk so lightly at the possibility of danger, until we actually meet it."

"What about Porvus?" Geert asked. "We have been here now. Should we go back and get him?"

"Not just yet," Snave answered, before Jamie could. "We don't want to land him in immediate danger, nor do we wish to tip off Lodda that something new has been added, unnecessarily. Having Porvus appear at the wrong moment might just force our hand here."

"Especially when not know what hand we hold!" Gorge added, laughing.

"Exactly." Snave was enjoying this new exploration very much, Jamie decided. Having stood so long guarding his brother's shop, it seemed obvious now that being out and about in the world was a truly heady experience for him.

"We also do not wish to be careless, simply because we are having so much fun," Jamie said, trying not to laugh.

"We won't be careless," Snave agreed, sounding as if he had caught Jamie's bit of humor. "But let us not be rigid in our thinking, either."

Jamie brought them to a stop. "You still sense someone ahead of us?" he asked Irik.

"Yes. Even more strongly now."

"Directly ahead of us?"

The wolf paused a moment before answering. "Ahead, and above."

"Aha." Jamie turned their perspective to look upwards, and then nudged them that way. They passed through the overhead, through a space between full of light conduits and other devices, and appeared on a deck above the one they had just quit. It was, to the eye, identical to the one they had just left.

"And now?"

"Still forward, and still higher," Irik returned.

They played this game several more times, until they finally appeared within a corridor the was wider than the ones they had previously visited. This one was also less plain, the walls being covered in cheerful designs that were attractive to the eyes. Jamie realized then that the ancients never decorated their corridors with removable items, like tapestries or paintings. None of these passageways were really plain, being decorated admirably in some fashion; but everything was part of the walls, themselves, though these decorations were no less pleasing to the eyes. Only the utilitarian corridors beneath Methuwan, which they had traveled from the tunnel allowing the river to emerge from beneath the city, had been anything like plain.

"Here," Irik said then. "Forward still, but on this level."

"This corridor has a slightly more regal look to it," Garvin observed. "It may lead to something important."

"We shall see. That way, Irik?" Jamie turned their perspective in the direction of the gateway, which he had now decided was also towards the front of the ship.

"Yes. That way."

Again, Jamie nudged them into motion, and rapidly brought their speed up to a pace faster than they could have run. Doorways In the walls swept past them on either side, a few open, but most of them closed. Jamie caught glimpses of rooms beyond the open doorways as they passed, but their pace was too rapid now to discern what lay within.

"Can you imagine having to walk from one end of this vessel to the other?" Sir Dorf asked, disapprovingly. "Surely, they must have had a faster way of getting around."

"They probably did," Geert offered. "Like the lifts by the stairways in so many places we have been."

"I would not relish confining myself to one of those little rooms," Garvin said. But then he laughed. "Were I actually here, that is."

"They certainly had a faster way to move about such a sizable vessel," Snave decided. "But it isn't obvious what it is. Any of the many doors we are passing could hold a clue. Jamie, there is no need to confine our pace to one where we can easily observe our surroundings. A dose of pure speed now might quicken our explorations here."

"Coming right up!" Jamie gazed down the corridor ahead of them, which still looked endless. Faster.

The corridor instantly became a blur, and immediately an obstruction presented itself to their passage. Jamie barely got a glimpse of it before they were through it: two steel doors, which looked to part down the middle and draw back into the walls to open. They were closed, but they proved no hindrance to their passing. Beyond them, Jamie got a brief impression of a large room of some sort, filled with the ancient's machinery and bustling with activity, and a large window before them, filled with stars; and then they had passed through the nose of the vessel and were once again in space. Jamie stopped them then, stunned.

Snave laughed, his voice full of surprise. "Perhaps a bit too fast?"

Jamie also laughed. "This will take some getting used to, I think!"

He turned them about, and they found themselves gazing at the tapered nose of the vessel. It was featureless, though Jamie was certain he had seen a window on the inside. Nevertheless, he nudged them back, and they passed within the skin of the ship once again.

There, the huge room full of machines winked with lights and mumbled with faint sounds all around them. At their back was a truly colossal window, which ran the breadth of the room, and of which there had been no sign at all from the outside. The view within the window was of the ring, looking incredibly busy as swarms of the ancient's machines worked all around its circumference.

Jamie turned their perspective back, and looked around the large room. It was completely empty. The sense of motion and activity came from many of the smaller, rectangular windows, placed about the room, each of which showed some form of activity taking place out on the ring. The slanted tables arrayed with starry lights were here, too, as they had been seen in many of the places of control of the ancients. The room positively buzzed in Jamie's mind with the flow of electrums, everywhere, including the sort that would detect them were they actually there.

And in all of this open space, no people, not a one.

"Where do you feel this someone is, if not here, Irik?" Jamie asked.

"That way." Their perspective turned slightly, and Jamie spied a doorway at the center of the back of the room. The corridor they had arrived by was to one side of the room, and another, matching set of doors, could be seen on the other side of the room, signalling another corridor there. But in the center of the room's rear wall, a single, closed steel panel advertised yet another way to leave the room. He nudged them towards it, slowly this time, until they passed through the door...

This room was smaller, by far. It was circled, incredibly, by another window, that gave them a view of the space beyond the vessel in every direction. The doorway they had come through was now a part of the window, with just a red bar of light above it to show where it was supposed to be. Behind them, the immense ring hovered in space. But to the rear of the room was visible one narrow, illuminated limb of the moon, and beyond that, in the distance, a quarter view of the beautiful blue and white sphere of their world, the larger bulk of it cloaked in the slumbering darkness of night.

Jamie took a breath of wonder at seeing the pair of worlds, so beautiful there, suspended in the wider darkness that held the stars. That their world was not unique among the stars only enhanced that wonder, the idea that many such worlds were home to others almost too enchanting to contemplate.

"We found him," Garvin said softly.

In the center of the room, seated within a ring of soft blue light, was a man, dressed in dark leathers and cape. He was a big man - he would have been tall and broad of shoulder if standing - and was possessed of a wild head of curly brown locks strewn with gray, that, in combination with a similarly colored beard below, gave him the slightly wild appearance of just the sort of demon mage that Jamie had imagined Lodda to be. Certainly, he was of a size and appearance to be the brother of Skoda, that ill-tempered mage that had nearly taken Jamie's life in the stone caverns beneath the Forest of Night.

But to be certain --

"Is this him?" Jamie asked Snave quietly.

The gargoyle's voice was equally soft. "Yes. Lodda."

"What's he doing?" Garvin asked, just as softly.

A voice spoke in the room then, but it did not come from the seated man. The language used was not the one Jamie knew, but there was something familiar about it, nonetheless.

"I understood that!" Irik declared, sounding surprised.

"An ancient tongue," Bastyin said then. "One I have heard before, as well!"

"What did it say?" Jamie asked urgently.

Irik's voice now sounded intense. "It asked, 'What do you sense?'"

Lodda turned his head then, his dark eyes landing almost directly upon them.

"Something new. Something utterly, completely, new."

Jamie was surprised. The tongue was the same one, but this time...he had understood the words.

"A magickal force?" the voice from out of thin air asked.

"Yes. But like none I have encountered before. It is here, in this room, with us."

"What can you tell me about it?"

Lodda took his time to answer. "Nothing. Only that it is something I have never encountered before."

Jamie backed them quickly from the room, and then from the ship, itself.

"Why did you leave?" Geert blurted.

"We were detected by Lodda," Jamie returned. "Just as Porvus felt our presence. I don't want Lodda to focus on us just yet. We have to return for Porvus, first."

Their perspective swung around until they were facing their world again. "I'd like to see how quickly we can get there," Snave suggested.

"Won't we have to look for Methuwan?" Garvin asked. "That may take some time."

Jamie considered that, and then hmmed to the others. "I think it's all in how we word the commands we give this magick. Generalized commands yield generalized results. So, specific commands should--"

Retrace our path to the dome in Methuwan, he thought. Quickly!

What happened next took his mental breath away. The moon leaped at them and was suddenly past, and the surface of the planet swelled so quickly that Jamie found himself yelling in alarm with the others. They barely had time to register the blue of the skies and the greens of the forest, and then Methuwan appeared, and they were back inside the dome, once again seeming to stand upon the floor by the large machines.

Porvus still stood in the same spot, as if waiting. He frowned then, and looked around carefully, until the gaze of his good eye rested mostly upon them. "Are you back? I sense this very unusual magick again."

Actually, they were back in the pretty room, and only their perspective had returned to the dome. Bring us here, to Porvus.

For a full second, Jamie felt himself and the others back inside the room in the far tower; and then they flowed across the city in an instant and found themselves standing in the same place that only their perspective had occupied a moment ago.

The whirlwind of movement left Jamie feeling a little queasy, and for a moment no one in his group had anything to say.

Finally, Snave let forth a grunt that sounded a little less than happy. "That will take some getting used to, no question."

"I'm surprised it affects your senses much," Jamie said curiously. "I didn't think wood could get dizzy like a human body could."

Snave laughed at that. "I see from every bit of my surface area, so the effect of that motion is amplified. My mind is still my mind, and subject to the same disorientation as in life."

"But did you see how fast we returned here?" Garvin asked.

"I couldn't fail to miss it!"

Jamie laughed at that. "It's a little hard on the stomach. We will just have to experiment with movement until we find something that doesn't make our eyes rattle in our heads."

"Are you there?" Porvus asked again. "Come...let us not play games!"

"Another problem comes to mind," Jamie said then. "The only way before that we have been able to take images from the minds of others has been to have them touch the lens. I am not of a mind to share the lens with Porvus."

"That would be a tactical error, in my opinion," Sir Dorf agreed, sounding alarmed. "I cannot imagine a world in which someone like Porvus has possession of a lens!"

"Nor can I," Snave agreed.

"Perhaps this new perspective?" Garvin suggested. "It might allow us to briefly share our unity with Porvus? Long enough to give him the image?"

"I don't see how," Bastyin said. "We are all a part of the perspective because we share the magick. Porvus does not."

Jamie turned his thoughts inward, to the lens. What think you?

He experienced another swirl of colorful delight in the back of his mind in response, and then the answer was clear to him.

"Oh, my!"

Garvin laughed softly. "The lens knows all, and sees all!"

"It doesn't actually," Jamie said, smiling. "But it does know better than I how to use some of the magicks we've come to learn. A moment."

He redirected their perspective, and in a moment they had returned to the pretty room.

"I feel like I am marching in circles now," Sir Dorf said, a hint of humor in his voice. "We have returned here again, why?"

"Because I just learned something from the lens I didn't know until now. Watch."

Jamie turned their perspective again, and in a mere second they had flowed back into the dome in perspective only.

"This needs to be done remotely, I think," Jamie explained. "Observe."

Porvus was still standing in the same place, but now looked more than irritated. Jamie gave their perspective a tiny push, and they moved over to the man and flowed around him, bringing him into their midst.

Porvus sucked in his breath in shock, and held up his hands defensively. "You cannot take my mind!"

"I don't intend to," Jamie replied. "You can hear me?"

The old mage's good eye moved about in what could only be fear. "Yes. But I can't see you! You have invaded my mind!"

"No," Jamie said. "You have not lost control of yourself. Believe me."

Porvus took a deep breath and calmed himself. "This is unheard of magick! What are you, young Jamie?"

"Just someone trying to right a few wrongs," Jamie replied. "Now accept these images, if you will."

Jamie transferred several to the joined state of perspective they momentarily shared, one of the wide hallway within the ship of the stars, another from just outside the door to the room where Lodda had been found, and another from inside that very room. He concentrated, reinforcing the idea that he had been to these places, and doing his best to make Porvus feel that he had been to these places, too.

The old mage gasped. "I...see them. I see them as if I have been there before!"

Jamie sighed, and backed away their perspective. Again, Porvus looked amazed, and briefly patted the front of his clothing, as if ensuring that he was, indeed, still there. "That was...that was amazing. I have never experienced magick on this level." The look in the old man's eye plainly suggested that Porvus was just dying to ask more questions - but then a clear impression of resolve replaced the momentary look of thirst the man had displayed, and Porvus settled back on his heels and briefly looked as though he was running through some inner ritual to calm himself. Clearly, the old mage was disciplined, even if that discipline seemed to escape its bounds from time to time.

"I still don't know if my translocation magick will be strong enough to take me there," the man said now.

Jamie sighed, and brought his group back to the dome. The move was made quickly now, with a minimum of concentration. He relaxed the invisibility in his shields, and appeared to Porvus. "I think it will. I think Lodda lied to you about not being able to take anyone back with him. I think he wanted time alone on the ship to see what he could learn there."

Porvus's good eye narrowed. "That remains to be seen." He looked up at the ring floating in the dome overhead. "Do we go there now?"

Snave appeared next to Jamie. "We must form at least a minimum of a plan, don't you think?"

The elder mage clasped his hands behind his back and frowned. "I must now admit that I simply intended to confront him. But that is probably not a wise course to take."

Snave moved closer to Porvus. "In your opinion, is Lodda of superior ability to yourself?"

The other man winced, and a look of anger appeared on his face. But it only lasted a second before calming to something more contemplative. "A good question. Every mage has his strengths and his weaknesses. There are areas where Lodda has always been better than I. And I have abilities that he cannot match, as well." Porvus shook his head. "I am less concerned with Lodda's learning than I am with what new powers he has gained in his alliance with the oracle aboard that ship. Machines that can use magick in some way. I can only imagine what that might mean in battle."

"There would also be defensive and offensive machines on the ship, wouldn't there?" Irik asked.

By this point it seemed plain that Porvus had decided he would no longer to be irked by being questioned by any of Jamie's group. "The ship will certainly be able to defend itself. One thing the non-magickal humans excelled at was weaponry. But the bulk of any weapons there will be turned outward, to defend the ship. There will surely be machines within to defend the vessel against boarders, but they are probably no harder to deal with than the very same devices that defend Methuwan."

"Your shields are proof against them?" Jamie asked in surprise.

"Yes. The ancients apparently were concerned with incapacitating trespassers, rather than destroying them. Only their battlefield devices were lethal in nature." He frowned at Jamie then. "Although you had little trouble dealing with the battle tank I sent to find you in the underground."

"A rather fearsome device," Geert said, with a mildness to his tone that caused Jamie to smile. At the time, the spider tank had seemed a terrifying machine!

"The blue lance," Snave added, sounding curious. "A marvelously destructive weapon."

"The ancients called these directed energy weapons," Porvus informed. "The ones their ships of the stars carried were many times larger and more destructive than the ones carried by their battle tanks."

Jamie could scarcely conceive of that. "Yet any the ship above us might carry would be unable to turn inward, correct?"

Porvus's eye widened. "No. There will be nothing inside the vessel of that nature that should be able to overcome my shields." The man smiled then. "Or yours, I would imagine."

"Then why do you worry over a confrontation with Lodda so?" Snave asked.

Porvus turned, paced away a moment, and then paced back, thinking. "My feeling that Lodda and the oracle aboard the ship have been working together to perfect machines that can use magick is strong. These machines may be able to perform magicks at many times the power of any mage." He held up a hand, helplessly. "What if that is so? How do we combat a machine that is not susceptible to the one weakness that all mages possess?" He leaned towards them then. "Machines cannot be killed."

"I beg to differ," Sir Dorf said. "Jamie quite clearly killed the metal spider you sent to deal with us in the tunnels below the forest."

Porvus frowned at that. "Maybe. Just how did you destroy that tank?"

Jamie sighed. "Secrets, again."

The old mage sighed heavily, but then nodded. "There may come a time when we can talk with less wariness. I am honest in my desire to protect this world. So, should we prevail against Lodda and his machines...well, then we shall see about talking of secrets."

Jamie shrugged. "The future has yet to come. Anything is possible."

"Very well. Then I propose that we start action against Lodda and his machines right away. The longer we wait, the more uneasy I feel."

Jamie nodded at that. Seeing the future was not always about visions. Sometimes, a sense of something good - or bad - approaching, was all you got.

"Can Lodda see you through that invisibility trick of yours?" Jamie asked.

Porvus laughed. "No. But can he sense my presence? I would say yes to that. Even as perfect and elusive as your invisibility trick is, I could still sense something amazing and unusual nearby."

Jamie nodded again. It was already proven that Lodda had sensed their presence, even in just a perspective form. He suddenly recalled his own sense of something afoot when Wanda Pegfoot had entered Thorvil's shop under the guise of invisibility. Snave had also sensed her presence, though neither of them could actually see her.

So, what was it they were sensing, then?

Jamie closed his eyes, feeling time slow as he contemplated the new perspective. He could feel his friends around him, a part of their new group unity. And, somehow, Porvus nearby, but not in the same way, because he was not a part of their group. But, beyond that, what did he sense from his friends? And from Porvus?

He let his inner self become very still, while at the same time giving it eyes of a sort, which could see everything around him. He could see the nearby machines in his mind's eye, but that would likely be because he had already seen them with his own eyes. He shut out the machines, allowing himself to only sense the living beings around him.

A vague ocean of light came to him then, and he realized this was the ebb and flow of electrums within the room. Many simply were there, on no mission that he could determine, as if just passing through. Others formed distinctive lines and followed them around the room, changing in color and brightness as they did so. These, then, were electrums passing along the many circuits that the ancients had manufactured for them to travel, doing the business the ancients had set them to do.

He became aware then of similar lines, composed of the tiny, strange, quadruple-arrowhead shapes that he thought of as the components of light. Again, many simply filled the room, on no concrete mission; while others formed lines arranged all in one direction, and flowed along them at a speed that left them as ribbons of light instead of individual parts. These would be the light conduits of the ancients, that somehow carried information all around their world, stored in unique configurations of light.

And then...Jamie spied something similar to the things that were light, but organized differently, spinning and turning in place, it seemed. With a start, he understood that he was seeing the knacks of those in the room with him. But he was seeing them without using his enhanced sight. And rather than tiny vortices of light that spun and pulsed like lightning caught in a closed fist, these knacks he could see now resembled much larger objects, something familiar, something he had only just recently seen, even...wait.

He had it now! When they had ascended into the sky on their way to the ring, and looked down upon their world, Jamie had seen amazing vortices among the clouds, places where those vast trails of misty vapor seemed to come together to spin about a common center. This was what he was seeing now, and it was a far different view than he got when he viewed a knack with his extended sight.

He puzzled about that a moment, and then suddenly understood. Enhanced sight allowed one to see a mage's knack, and to watch the ties of magick drawn there. It had never occurred to Jamie that what he was seeing at those moments was the result of a purposeful view designed to give him just that look at magick aborning, and no other. But what he was seeing now--

He narrowed his mental eye, focusing on the vortices. The eye of each was as he had already understood a knack to be from his enhanced sight, a tiny vortex of its own, dancing and twirling above a mage's head. But what he was seeing now described that small vortex as itself the center of a much larger vortex, where something was drawn in to spin rapidly around the center, as if...ready to plunge into the heart at a moment's notice. But what force could a knack draw, if not electrums or light? What force - but, of course.


When viewed with the processes they had developed before now, magickons only came into view when magick was actually being performed. But the truth seemed to be that every mage was the center of a vast vortex of magickons, drawn into orbit about the knack, ready to be used at a moment's notice. This attraction, this larger vortex, could be sensed by at least some other mages. As a mage moved about in the sea of magickons that flooded the world, he created a local whirlpool around his knack, that followed him everywhere. The many currents such a whirlpool would form could intersect, and be felt within, the whirlpools of some other mages. This sensing of the interaction of forces was apparently a talent all on its own, and not every mage could determine when another mage was close by.

Another mage, or a witch!

So where, then, was this ocean of Magickons born? Jamie turned their perception, but the sea of magickons seemed to be there, extending away in every direction. He got no sense that they rose somehow from the world beneath them, that they were formed from the planet, itself. And, the right of that judgment seemed clear in the light of the fact that they had used magick to travel to the ring. A planet-bound force would have ended when they had left their world, wouldn't it?

That meant that the ocean of magickons pervaded the space round their world, too. He turned the perspective upwards, and in a moment they seemed to be high above their world again. Still, the magickons seemed everywhere, an immense cloud that softly glowed in the perspective now attuned to view them. He turned slowly, until the harshly radiant disc of their sun appeared, and there Jamie had an epiphany. Faintly, a pattern of movement came to his inner eye, a sense of where this cloud of tiny, magickal engines originated. The ocean of magickons in which their world was immersed, he could plainly see now, radiated outward from their sun!


Their perspective fled forward now, racing at the sun, which grew to almost horrifyingly immense proportions in an instant. Before Jamie could stop them, they plunged within the luminous sea that was the surface of the star, flashing through its substance without so much as a moment of hesitance, and without feeling any of the terrible temperatures and pressures that must reign there. Deeper and deeper they went, at a speed that caused the material through which they passed to seem only a blur of motion.

And then they slowed and stopped. They had arrived. But where?

Here, electrum particles moved everywhere, dancing among electrum fields that spun and turned and roared outwards at immense velocity. Jamie could clearly see the difference between the two now, when he never could before. Electrums existed in a huge variety, some that presented as incredibly lively grains of intense vibration, and others that seemed related to these little vibrating engines but could only be viewed as waves in their motions, for they flowed and moved like the waters upon a beach. That immense forces were at play here seemed clear, forces that they could not have withstood for even a single instant in true human form. They were at the center of their sun, a place Jamie was certain that no other had ever witnessed before.

Their perspective turned, and Jamie spied something new. They approached it, and Jamie peered at it closely. At first seeming a smooth and featureless orb of some different material than the sun itself was made of, Jamie circled it three times before he suddenly understood that what he was seeing was not material at all. It was, instead, a ball of something similar to an electrum field, but much more dense and unforgiving. A sense of mass came to him, of mass so incredible that this tiny orb challenged the very sun it inhabited for massiveness. And yet, it was scarcely larger than he was, himself.

Its appearance was deceptive, he somehow understood, as this was not a true orb at all, but the semblance of one formed so that he could see it. The actual event of its existence was something much more, one that was well beyond his ability to both imagine and to understand. Here, at the heart of their sun, amidst conditions he could barely comprehend, was the face of another reality than the one they knew. Jamie gave them a nudge, and they moved closer to the orb, until it hung directly before them, twisting and flowing like something alive.

And then, quite suddenly, they passed within it.

For a moment Jamie felt almost turned back upon himself, and then they were through. The other side of the orb looked and felt much the same, with similar intense, turbid motions, the same incredible forces at play. But here, the feeling was different. The substance around them felt richer, stronger, friendlier, in some amazing fashion. They turned, and shot outward, and in mere moments had re-emerged from the sun and into the space around it. And there, they stopped.

Jamie felt himself take a breath of amazement. This was not the space they had left behind them.

Here, the stars were everywhere, closer and mightier than the tiny points of light he knew in their own night sky. Here, the feeling of immensity was somehow more intimate, more welcoming. Magickons packed the space around them, part of its substance, part of its very reason for being. The feeling was incredibly enchanting, incredibly fulfilling, and incredibly familiar. Jamie struggled with that feeling of knowing for only a second or two, before he had it.

This was a nether sky around them now, and these were nether suns. They had passed through a strange pathway in the heart of the their own sun, and emerged in a different place, altogether. A part of the nether, surely, but one which he had never imagined to exist. He turned their perspective now, and gazed back at the sun they had just left. Its coloring was different than the comfortably yellow-white star he knew. This sun was almost blue-white, and larger than their own. The ocean of magickons that filled this place pressed right to the surface of the blue star, where they formed energetic streams and plunged inward, totally oblivious to the turbulence at the surface.

For a moment he simply staggered at that ideas that came and went in his mind, as the lens interpreted and analyzed this universe around him, the delight of discovery flowing forth from the small life within like embers born upwards from a campfire by a strong draft. The warm friendliness of the suns everywhere seemed to call to him, even as the incredible multitude of magickons played around him, joyful at his presence. For a moment the series of images coming from the lens nearly overwhelmed him; and then his mind's eye had zoomed in on one of the small, energetic travelers, and the mental hand of his mind reached out to grasp it. His hand closed around it, and then he was off in a flash, born along with the magickon as it raced back to the sun.

Jamie found himself among a stream of similar magickons, all flowing in the same direction, and he gasped as they plunged, en masse, into the sun once more. He followed the magickons as they sank deeper and deeper, until they found the dense orb at the star's center, and passed through it, just as Jamie had done moments ago. Passed through it, and into the heart of their own star, where they were radiated outwards again.

Jamie released the magickon, bid it a charmed farewell, and then the world blurred around him, until he was suddenly standing within the dome again.

For a moment he could not think straight, so taken was he with the implications of all he had seen.

"What wonders were those we just witnessed?" Garvin breathed, seeming from right next to him.

Jamie blinked, and allowed himself to come back to reality. Garvin was indeed beside him.

"You saw?" Jamie asked, amazed.

"Yes," Geert replied, from nearby. "We traveled with you, it would seem."

"And witnessed a fabulous secret," Bastyin added. "That magickons are truly an ocean around us, and that the disturbance our knacks make as we pass among them can be felt by any other with a sensitivity to the motion."

"Not just that," Snave added, sounding stunned. "We saw where magickons originate, in a universe of the nether, and how they pass through some incredible break that links the inside of our sun to the inside of a star in another universe."

Jamie nodded. "We have come to view the nether as a different place then we know, but that is now seen to be wrong. The nether is not one place, it is many."

"Each a universe as our own," Sir Dorf said. "And all existing in the same place, it seems."

"And each with differences in the rules that govern them, yet of a same with their friendliness to life," Irik added.

Jamie smiled. "You saw. All of you! You felt it, just as I did. You understood."

"All places same place, just not same place." Gorge said.

Jamie laughed. It had become so clear now that it could not be denied. The nether was not one place at all. It was many places, each a nether itself, that word simply now defining universes that were not their own, but which existed in the same place as their own. How this could be, Jamie had no idea. If he looked around him, all he could experience with his eyes was the universe in which he lived. Yet there were many others, many others, which were unto themselves and unique, but which somehow occupied the same place as their own universe, if not the same space.

The universe from which magickons hailed was here, all around them, but normally not available in any way to their senses. Not available to be seen, or touched, or visited, or even understood. Not to be interacted with in any way at all.

But here, in the system of this star, a most unique occurrence had come about. This star - their star - inhabited a place in their own universe that was exactly in the same place as a star in one of the many nether universes that occupied the same place, in some other space. And because these two stars shared forces in the same place, a...tunnel?...had been opened between the two universes within the heart of each star, places of such intense energies and fabulously twisting tensions, as to be unimaginable to the mind of someone born of the comparably sedate plains of a mere planet

This tunnel allowed magickons to move from a universe of the nether into their own, there to be radiated outward with the powerful and energetic winds their own star exhaled. Jamie's world was bathed in magickons, literally submersed in them. Humans had come to this system totally unaware of this amazing chance occurrence, because magickons were not a thing they knew, or understood, or could measure. The life that had been born of their world before the arrival of humans was raised in this sea of strange forces, but humans did not know them.

So magickons had come to know them, and had changed them over time into a form of life that could interact with both universes, and so had come to harness a new power born of another reality altogether.


"What are you doing?" Porvus suddenly asked, suspiciously. He looked around the room then. "You see something here I don't?"

The old mage had not been privy to their thoughts, but had even so somehow sensed their excitement, and focus on something elsewhere. Jamie shook his head, suddenly feeling time catch up with them again. "No. It's nothing."

The older mage watched them a moment longer, his suspicion plain. But then a resigned look entered his eye, as he understood that there was nothing to be done about it at this time.

Jamie closed his own eyes, willing his thoughts to still, forcing his attention back to the here and now. This was a momentous discovery, but even the lens seemed to scarcely understand it as yet. "We'll discuss this later," he told his friends. "It's importance cannot be denied, but other matters press us."

"We must return to these new ideas as soon as possible, though," Snave urged. "They are of immense meaning, I think!"

"Even I can see that," Sir Dorf managed.

"Secrets here, waiting for us," Gorge agreed.

"It was magnificent," Geert breathed again.

"And telling," Irik added, quietly.

Jamie held up a hand then for silence. He willed his thoughts to clear and return to the task at hand, and turned back to Porvus. "I was thinking, that you might translocate out to the ship of the stars, and simply knock on the door of the room where Lodda is stationed." He smiled then. "Even better, translocate right into the room with him."

Porvus narrowed his eye at the change in direction of the conversation, but then his thin lips formed a definite smirk. "It would be a shock to him. He will not be able to imagine how I came to be there." He frowned then. "What about you and your group?"

"We will go by our own means, and be there with you. Out of sight, as it were."

"Lodda may detect your presence, even as I did."

"He will," Jamie confirmed, "but he will not know what to make of it. He will sense the same odd, new sense of magick that you did. But he will not know it signals that you have company. We will listen as you speak with him, and determine a course of action by what he says."

"One thing," Snave asked, his attention once again on the matters at hand. "Do you feel that Lodda will attack you if he feels threatened?"

Porvus laughed. "Of course he will. Friendship only goes so far with Lodda."

And, with you, Jamie thought privately.

"Can you stand against him?" Snave continued.

"Initially, yes. Lodda is unusually proficient with attack magicks, as you well know. I have some strengths in defensive magicks that will counter him. What I am wary of are the machines he has allied himself with now. I have no idea of their capabilities, nor whether I can defend against them."

"He has only had so much time out there, alone," Sir Dorf said. "Hardly enough time to advance a completely new science."

Porvus shook his head at that. "If it was just Lodda, alone, you would be correct. But the machines of the ancients are frighteningly fast at what they do. I put nothing past their abilities."

"You can always translocate back here if you feel outmatched," Geert said.

Jamie suppressed a smile at the way Porvus bristled at that. Geert had a way of pricking the old mage's pride that was proving interesting.

But the elder mage nodded then. "True. I can always leave again, just as I got there."

Jamie did not mention that he could close off the ability of another mage to translocate away from the scene of an encounter. Since Porvus did not seem afraid that Lodda might do such a thing, it suggested that the other mage had no way to interfere with translocation, either. Again, Jamie was surprised that he might know some things that Porvus and Lodda did not. But, it was not proof of anything, and caution was still the word of the day.

"I would suggest we go there first, and position ourselves," Jamie outlined. "Give us a single moment to get there, and then follow."

"I may as well go directly to him," Porvus decided. "Any other approach would seem out of place."

"He will be surprised," Snave said. "What will you tell him?"

The old mage offered a rather unpleasant smile. "That I have been working on the problem of translocating to people I know, rather than places I have been. He and I actually discussed such a possibility once, but nothing much came from it. We were too busy at that time with getting Methuwan going for magickal experimentation."

Jamie arched an eyebrow at that. "Is such translocation possible, do you think?"

Porvus patted his fingertips together in delight. "Secrets, once again."

Jamie laughed. The old mage was a handful, but he could almost imagine liking the man under different circumstances.

He nodded. "Give us a count of 100, and then follow."

"I'll be there."

Jamie took them rapidly into the new perspective, and back to the pretty room. There they went invisible and raised full shields, and then left once again for the ship of the stars.

There to meet Lodda, and perhaps to end this quest once and for all.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead