Chapter 3: Designs
We left our heroes in Lanthil, having just been given the use of an
air-gondola. Its immediate use is to go see Daewen, up in the
foothills, to ask for help and advice on how to go hunt for Tom. But we
may well wind up using the ship itself as the expeditionary vessel.
"Has it got a name?" Salimar asks the senechal. "Alqua," (Swan) the elf replies.
Robbie and Gannar fly up and look it over. The pilot demonstrates the controls and remarks that you need to know the locality's prevailing winds, too. After Moranna says it's okay, the pilot is willing to take us to see Daewen in her country cottage. He sails rather close to the luminous falls, tacking upward considerably faster than the sails should allow, but that's elves for you.
Soon, we reach the tableland on which the upper plateau sits. It's wooded, and in the woods we find Daewen's house. There's barely room between the trees to bring the gondola down. We get as low as we can, then have people float or climb out.
Daewen meets us at the door, obviously interupted in the midst of cooking. Salimar explains our needs and our tentative plans. Would some silverwood be a good material for reinforcing the boat?
While they discuss adding silverwood hoops and a cabin, and doing scaling tricks to create a magically large below-decks where there is now only luggage space, Daphne flits around back and surveys Daewen's garden. Very nice. Just started, of course. Surely, she could help it along some, especially that young silverwood tree...
Out front, after a few minutes, Daewen notes that Salimar is planning for the worst. That, she points out, could be very dangerous when going near Chaos' Rim, where one's expectations shape events. And how long do we want to take, making all these preparations?
Robbie asks Daewen what she would do. She would Walk -- in her own way, which is to say, witchwalk. We can't do that, but might we ride Marcher ponies, Salimar asks? All the ponies are being ridden by other folk, out on other emergency measures.
How about Brunalf, the neo-cat who can pilot his own little dimension ship? He hasn't been seen recently, Daewen tells us, and, cat-like, he seems to have slipped away without anyone noticing when.
Gannar suggests having Markel's dragon tow the air-gondola. This looks promising, but needs some rope-work to keep him out of the way of the float atop the gondola.
Robbie prefers the idea of rigging a propeller to the gondola, powered by the magic in the luminous water off the mountain. Daphne points out that you can take lots of the water with you, if you store it in containers that are larger on the inside than on the outside...
Daphne, Daewen, and Moranna stay to talk about wood magic and start creating magically enlarged casks, while the rest of us take the gondola back to the castle to ask the senechal if we can keep it for our expedition. Given our own relatively high status and the fact that Daewen Herself gave us a note approving the idea, he of course says yes.
Next stop is the chandler down in the town, and Tethycles' ship yard. On the way down the cataract, Robbie tries to learn some steering from the pilot. Tries. Oh, well.
We find Tethycles on a ship-in-progress. He and Robbie discuss propulsion systems, such as the magic propeller and the dragon. Salimar asks if we could stow the float in a reduced-scale cabin. Tethycles answers that that would probably reduce its lift. He recommends we do clever things by rigging the float with elven rope.
While we are there, we learn that he made the air-gondolas, or at least their wooden hulls, and that they are thus already seaworthy.
On to the chandler for rope. He recommends certain re-weavings of the float's net, and about eight lines of elven rope, spliced by pixies if we can get them to do it for us.
Robbie sets about recruiting pixies. He flits back up to the castle and finds some likely-looking "mouse" holes in the kitchen wainscotting. There, he posts help-wanted ads. Word spreads quickly, and later that day a swarm shows up around Robbie, back in town. They don't negotiate; the mutter -- about things like "cats" and "basement people," clearly remembering the infamous Battle of the Basement.
Robbie assures them the cat has nothing to do with this and offers them food in return for weaving. Before he can elaborate, they whizz off and snatch ribbons, bootlaces, string, and ravelings off anyone and anything in sight. They then start weaving it into an impromtu doiley, in mid-air.
They are interrupted by an irate sailor in what's left of an unraveled sweater, who destroys the tangle in the air and berates Robbie soundly for stirring up pixies. He leaves, and Robbie must now face irate pixies angry at Robbie for not defending his employees or forking over the food.
Robbie is rescued, more or less, by a Silver Service officer, who hears the story, shakes his head sadly, and recommends Robbie seek help at the castle. Robbie lofts and heads back to the castle, telepathing ahead to Kate, asking her for several chocolate cakes for the cloud of pixies trailing him.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.