Swamped Chapter 47 Page 2

“There’s no room for ether baffles. That is to say, something to keep the ether from building up. It would just destroy itself once it was activated.”

You’re more than a little confused.

“What’s this got to do with ether? I thought it was a voice box. What, it needs magic to work?”

“I haven’t worked much with ether, but I see what he means now,” Simone says. “The exact details are complicated, but essentially, Dominique and I were working together a while back and we figured out that ether flows similarly to sound. What this means is, if you’ve got a device designed to let sound through, it’s also going to be able to let ether through unless you take specific countermeasures. It’s not actually a problem unless you’re in a high-ether environment…”

“But we can be pretty sure there’s a powerful wizard associated with whoever kidnapped you,” you conclude. “So, there’s probably lots of ether going around. Still, isn’t this just one part of the machine? The ether baffles could be built around it or something.”

“They’d be significantly less effective in that case,” Theodore grumbles. “So you’d need to add more. It would be a tremendously inefficient use of space, and would likely complicate the control mechanisms you’d need to make the thing move. I suppose I can’t prove it to be impossible, but I can’t see why you’d design it that way.”

“What if it was the metal?” you muse. “Like in that old fairy tale where the wizard’s magic can’t pierce the purified silver armor. Could you make the machine out of stuff that keeps the ether away by itself?”

“Theoretically,” Long says. “Silver’s resistance to enchantment is greatly exaggerated by folklore, but there are other metals known to impede ether flow. However, all of them are very rare. Constructing an entire human-sized machine out of them would take more such metal than likely exists on this continent. And yet Simone saw several of them.”

“On this continent,” Rider muses. “But we don’t really know anything about what sort of supply other continents might have, do we?”

Everyone pauses to consider this. Finally, you speak up with the obvious question.

“How would you even get to another continent? That would take months, maybe years, by sea.”

“How did you and I travel from the swamp to the desert in the space of seconds?” Rider asks in return.

“I don’t actually understand how we did that,” you say. “Other than it involved magic. But you think there are gateways between continents, too?”

Rider pauses for a bit before answering.

“Corvus,” he says. “We have a member from a faraway land. Another continent entirely. Have you ever wondered how, exactly, he got here?”

“From time to time,” you say with a shrug. “But I never gave it that much thought. The rule is, you don’t go prying into another Marshguard’s past, after all.”

Rider says nothing.

“Wait, hang on. Are you saying you found out how? And it was a gateway?”

“If I did learn such a thing, I would not have the discretion to reveal it myself,” he said. “I will only say that I conducted an investigation.”

Well, that’s frustratingly vague. But Rider seems to think it’s relevant.

So where do you go from here?

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The lodestones… the compass. Positing that the kidnappers have something to do with the appearance of the gateways, maybe creating or manipulating them intentionally as their own means of intercontinental transit, can we map the known positions of the gateways in time and space and look for a pattern? It could reveal where the kidnappers have been or where they’re going, giving us clues to their motives.