by Tom K. Loney and Christina Lea

Chapter 3, by Christina Lea

"This thing," Sash the Green said, squinting disdainfully at the revealed Void-craft, "This thing is supposed to fly? Is there a giant athlete around here somewhere who's going to hurl it over the horizon for us?"

Cutter had to admit, the Void ship did look a lot like a discus. It appeared to be made of brass and tin, roughly the diameter of a small tavern, and shaped like two dinner plates pressed together with the convex sides facing outward. The large, bubble-like windows were lined with-

"Arkimedes, is that amber?" Mousehide asked, pointing exactly where Cutter had been looking.

The dwarf engineer smiled, "After a fashion," he said, puffing just a little bit with pride. "You might call it 'pre-amber'. Our alchemists concocted the stuff by cooking moisture out of the sap of carefully bred desert trees. The Void is insidious, and can claw its way through the tiniest crack. Our soft amber helps seal it out. The bound elementals circulate in the narrow fringes of the craft, and the crew sits comfortably-"

Sash snorted, but allowed Arkimedes to finish.

"In the central structure, where there are also food stores and a crystal where the lead spirit is bound. You'll note also that the center is designed to remain still while the outer rims spin."

"Food," Mousehide muttered, "which begs the question of just how sure the tinkerers really are about this schedule we've been memorizing." They had been through days of training since they agreed to go to the Looking Glass. They had been taught what not to do in the Void, and how to command the elementals that would be keeping them alive there. The trip, according to everything they had been told, would take approximately three of the four quarters of the day, although the sun would become an unreliable timekeeper as they crossed the horizon. Cutter noticed that Nemo had overheard Mouse's comment and was frowning ruefully. Sash, despite her initial disdain, was eagerly examining the Void craft.

The hours that followed were a sheen of moisture sizzling away from a hot rock. Strapped into the seats at the center of the craft, they waited while spirits of air and fire screamed around the edges of the saucer. Finally, the world of Elder itself rejected them, sending a great cyclonic tentacle of wind down to suck them into the Void. Cutter noticed that Sash was frowning in concentration, and wondered if she was communing with the elemental spirits. The Void ship tumbled end over end.

Sash the Green touched the central crystal and said something like, "Shriftspinth oarsreach." The Void ship lurched hard to one side, then settled into a fairly steady course, skipping sometimes like a flat rock on water, but otherwise staying smooth. The elementals hummed quietly in the periphery.

"Well done, sorceress," Nemo said. "I've seen the wizards who conjured those spirits handle them less skillfully."

Sash snorted, "Hardly surprising with that lot," but couldn't seem to contain a satisfied smile.

A flash of gold shot through the roof, then the floor, and was gone. Cutter unbuckled himself from his chair and jumped up. "Did you see that?"

Blank looks all around. Everyone got up. Mousehide peered out one of the round windows, "They did say there could be visual illusions, Cut. Wow, look at this!"

Over the edge of the saucer, they could see part of a great bluish sphere, with large greenish-brown patches that had to be the continents of the wolrd of Elder. Cutter tried to place what he was looking at, and found one that looked like it could be Athebes, although it was oddly misshapen compared to the maps he had seen. Clouds scudded over the globe at various points, sometimes in lumpy patches, sometimes in spirals. Where the world curved out of sight, there was a strange distortion. It was hard to look at, but it reminded Cutter of tiny golden fish darting back and forth in the light.

Cutter looked away, blinking. Three golden streaks shot through the floor into the central crystal. "There! Look at the crystal!" The three golden shapes were pulsing inside the crystal, and dark veiny patches were spreading out from each.

"Ooh, I don't like that," Mousehide said.

Nemo, the only one who hadn't run to the crystal, said, "I like this even less." He was looking through one of the portals to the spinning periphery of the ship, where several more golden flecks were whirling around them, each with its own black veins.

"Gods below!" Sash hissed, "They're infecting the elementals!"


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