Look To The Leeward
Business as a privateer had been very good for Renny as of late, almost too good. The shipments across the Atlantic to New France had dried up, lately, with Napoleon sending shipments on routes that caused Renny and her compatriots and peers to have to look further and further afield in order to disrupt them.
Which explains why, today, the John D. Lees flew all the way down near New Granada. The island formerly known as Bermuda was neutral territory, which made it a rather attractive signpost and marker if one wanted to head that far south. And, lately, the French shipments across the Atlantic had been doing just that, just to avoid the entanglements and troubles they had faced in Northern waters. The Emirate didn’t like any of the current politics, but fortunately for them, Napoleon hadn’t bothered trying to conquer them. And a neutral port, as Renny had herself discovered, had value to all sides.
Thus, one fine day, sailing in the skies just north of Bermuda, Renny saw something unexpected--a dirigible with an unknown flag. It was not the Red shield and yellow stripe and Arabic script of New Granada, and it was not Napoleon, British, or anything else. She was rather smaller than the Lees, and her lines looked somewhat unfamiliar. But there she was, on a course north/northeast of New Granada. Renny’s ship was coming at it out of the west, in perfect position to plot an intercept course.
“Captain.” Hilbert Jones was Renny’s navigator, mathematician, all around brain guy. He stayed behind on the Lees when there was blood, since his brain was far more valuable than his passable skills with a pistol. “It looks like that ship is headed right up toward Talamh an Éisc.”
“There’s no one that flies that flag, far as I know.” Michael Keillor added, staring at it. “A red coiled dragon. That’s not the Empire of the Great Qing, not that I think they even have airships, much less any that fly on this side of the world.” He looked at Renny. “What do you want to do, Captain?”
Renny pondered for a moment. She would have sworn they knew every country that had airships. For that matter, more or less every current airship design, too, and this didn't match any of them. It didn't seem big enough to be a threat to the Lees, much less to Talamh an Éisc, but still... who were they? Renny was never much for resisting her curiosity.
"Jones, plot a course to gently intercept them. Keillor, make sure our gun ports are closed up, I don't want to accidentally provoke a fight. Then run down the flags and invite them to tea." She considered a moment further. "Oh, tell Pittman his language skills might be needed, too."
Renny absentmindedly checked the powder in her pistol and straightened up her outfit. Then she took a spyglass and studied the strange airship, wondering who it could be.
"Aye Captain," Jones and Keillor both replied. Keillor left the deck, presumably to follow all of Renny's orders to him. In the meantime, Jones started working on the course, and in short order, the John D. Lees took a course that puts it across, but well across, the unknown ship's bow. Even before the flags were out from Keillor, the smaller airship slowed to a crawl and put out flags of its own, asking to meet.
Some maneuvering and a gentle air dance later, the two airships flew side by side, a short gangplank crossing the narrow gap between the two ships. Jones' navigation skills in getting the ships together had been matched by the unknown airship, which managed to close the distance with skill as well.
Four figures stood in the bay of the unknown ship. The one dressed clearly as the captain is a dark-skinned young man; his second was a woman, also with dark skin. The two men behind them did look like they were Qing, wearing rather odd looking helmets.
"Permission for us to come aboard and meet you Captain," their captain called across. His English sounded almost too-letter perfect, devoid of any real accent.
"Permission granted," Renny called back. She eyed the windy gap between the two ships. "Would you like us to toss you a line to help you cross?" She probably wouldn't bother with one herself, but it seemed polite to offer.
She bit back the nervous urge to ask Keillor if the wardroom was suitable for company at the moment. He was a very able first mate, and if anything a bit too eager to please her. She was sure he would have checked already.
"I know I and my retinue would appreciate one, Captain," the man said. He gave a glance to the woman, who smiled, shook her head, and walked across the gangplank with all the confidence of someone born to airships and making the maneuver.
"You must excuse my commander," the woman said. "He does not have quite the head for heights that I do. Fortunately, he has other virtues. I'll take the rope back across," she added, nodding to Midshipman McIntyre, who had the coil of rope handy for the crossing. He looked to Renny, who also nodded, then he offered one end of the rope to the woman. She casually walked back to the other airship, as if she were walking down a street, and tied the rope off.
"Show off," the man said. He lead the group across, letting the woman take the rear in the process. As he stepped onto the Lees, he bowed to Renny. "Captain Cathak Fulmis of the Dragon Empire. You've already met Lieutenant Cathak Nyana, my second for this expedition."
Renny considered. If they have the same first name, it's probably their surname, right? They're too close in age to be father and daughter. Siblings?
"Captain Ranait Nic Gearoid," Renny said, "and this is Lieutenant Michael Keillor, my second. We hail from Talamh an Éisc, but, um, we don't represent them in an official fashion."
"Of course," the Captain replied. "We do represent the Empire and our House in an official fashion, however. We do seek to treat with you, and not Talamh and Isc." He paused. "Talamh an Éisc." He waved behind him, and the two soldiers crossed as well, if reluctantly.
"Would care to join us in the wardroom? I believe we've got some tea brewing."
"Please, lead on, Captain," Fulmis said, and followed her into the bowels of the Lees. As Renny predicted, the wardroom was not only more than presentable, but tea was quickly dispatched to all and sundry. Fulmis took one end of the meeting table, and Nyana sat at his right side. The two soldiers stood behind the both of them in a parade rest stance.
Renny sat next to Fulmis, opposite Nyana, and Keillor sat down next to Renny.
Fulmis allowed himself to indulge in a sip before speaking. "Thank you for agreeing to meet with us. We had considered trying to track you down on your home ground, but when we realized you were in the air, we decided that a meeting on your own ship would be just as comfortable for you, if not more so, in some ways."
Renny nodded carelessly at this statement, busying herself adding maple sugar and cream to her tea. Fulmis sipped his tea some more. Lieutenant Nyana, who had been enjoying her tea, at an subtle signal from her superior lowered her cup and began to speak.
"To begin." she says. "No doubt, Captain, that you are surprised by the look and provenance of The Pride of Mela, are you not? Rather unlike any ship you've seen?"
"You've got two propellers, separated!" Renny enthused. "Can you control them individually? That would be some maneuverable!" [In Renny's English, "Some" used like this means "very", more or less.]
"It is a design someone with even your experience," Lieutenant Nyana replied, "has not seen, it's almost certainly true. The Pride of Mela is not a ship you could possibly have recognized. There is a reason for that, Captain, and for the same reason why you didn't recognize our flag, either. Or are we wrong, and did you recognize it, Captain?"
Renny shook her head. "Some Qing flags have a dragon on them, but Michael tells me yours is different." She shrugged. "It's a big world."
"A big world," Captain Fulmis picked up smoothly from his Lieutenant. "Given the nature of the world, though, now comes the part where you are going to possibly consider all of us mad."
"If you can design an airship like that, you're clearly mad in a good way."
"I'll do it," Lieutenant Nyana said, giving Fulmis a smile.
"You see, Captain, we're not from this Earth of yours at all. We arrived in New Grenada only about a month ago, which was our entry point to your world. We're travelers of the worlds, seeking trade, allies, friends, and those with the talent to travel worlds. We believe that you, Captain, have this ability. All of our indications have led us to you."
"You came here from another planet looking for me?" Renny saw herself as exceptional, but this claim was clearly hard to buy. Then the bit before that caught her attention. "Wait, I have the ability to travel through space?"
"Not interplanetary space in the sense of exiting the Earth's atmosphere," Lieutenant Nyana said. "This is not the right world for those sorts of shenanigans. But there are worlds out there, Captain. Endless worlds. Your ability to reach other worlds is a bit more prosaic than flying to them. There is a space between the worlds, that connects the worlds. It manifests as a varying, endless staircase with Doors that open onto other worlds. Only certain people can open the Doors that reach this staircase and reach these other worlds thereby."
No wings. Renny stole a quick glance at Fulmis's feet. No cloven hooves.
"I can't open Doors," Lieutenant Nyana said. "I've not the talent. But Captain Fulmis can --" Fulmis nodded at this "-- and he brought me and the rest of our group here.
"And so can you."
"Am I a changeling, then?" Renny seemed somewhat taken aback by the direction the conversation had gone. "Are you fairies?"
"You are not strictly a changeling, and we are not Fae," Nyana replied. "We do share a heritage, a descent, a bond, and a gift in common. We call those of us who can manifest one of the Elements of the Five, the Dragon Blooded. I am one of these. Certain of the Dragon Blooded, like you, and the Captain, are Dragon Blooded with that additional ability to open Doors."
Renny's eyes clearly registered there was some significance to the "strictly" in Nyana's comment, but she contented herself with sipping tea and letting the conversation continue on.
"Show her," Fulmis said. "My gift would be even more dangerous to show in a wooden ship than yours."
Nyana chuckled. "True." She stood and moved to the back of the wardroom and put her hands together. Over the next few seconds, the temperature in the room dropped, and a breeze from nowhere picked up, swirling around Nyana. Curls of a miniature storm cloud started to form around her, as if she were the eye of a storm aborning right in the wardroom. Tea cups shook, the eyes of Renny's crew went wide, and the air smelled of rain.
And then over the next fifteen seconds, the effect faded. The storm around Nyana faded, the wind died, the temperature stabilized. Things returned to normal.
"I am blessed by Mela, the Dragon of Air," Nyana said once the effect was over, "for whom we named our ship. Now you know why I walked your plank with no fear, Captain. I am an Air Aspect."
Jones murmured a prayer to the Virgin Mary. Keillor just had his eyes flicker back and forth between Renny and their otherworldly guests.
"I had just assumed you were accustomed to our world of the sky," Renny replied off-handedly, as if saying the first thing that popped into her head while her mind raced to try to make sense of all this. She looked at Captain Fulmis. "I suppose your aspect is Fire?"
"It is," Fulmis replied. "And it would go ill for us all if I were to show you the blessing of Hesiesh and condemn us to a burning ship and likely death." He raised his cup and used it as a pointer. "It would not be wise to try and invoke your own First Manifestation here and now for similar reason. But you, too, Captain Renait, have a blessing of one of the Five, as we do. Air, Fire, Earth, Wood or Water. One of the Dragons has so chosen you."
"You are human," Nyana said, "but of a special bloodline, one that the Dragons have chosen at this time for exaltation. Consequently, you're related to us, perhaps distantly, perhaps less so. A Warden comes to this world two centuries ago, sires a child, and that child becomes one of your ancestors. Even with all of the children, though, few exalt as Dragon Blooded, and fewer as Wardens."
Renny took several long seconds to respond. Finally she settled on "How do you know? I've never done anything magical."
Keillor raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
"Oh, that duel," Jones commented.
Fulmis smiled slightly. "Show her, Nyana."
Nyana pulled out a small tetrahedral shaped piece of stone, jet black with one of the points coated in gold. "An artifact created by our Empress. This detects Wardens."
"It sometimes shows plain old Dragon blooded." Fulmis added. Nyana frowned, stood. She pointed the gold-capped point toward herself. Nothing occurred. She pointed it at the two soldiers in turn, with similar results. When she pointed at Fulmis, the stone vibrated, excitedly, for as long as she pointed it at him.
"Now, all of you." Nyana stretched her hand out and pointed it at everyone in the room in turn. When she pointed her hand at Renny, the stone vibrated, just as it had with Fulmis.
"This is not ironclad proof for you, of course," Nyana said, pulling back her hand. "That would require bringing you to a certain location. Or attempting to get you to fully manifest your Imprint. That latter could be dangerous, although I have learned a technique to do so."
"Put up or shut up?" Keillor said quietly to Renny.
Renny gave him a little nod. "Will that work if anyone is holding it? I'd like to try it myself, if you don't mind." Any charlatan can make something in their hand vibrate, Renny thought.
"Certainly. It only works for Dragon Bloods. You will be able to work it, but your crew likely will not," Nyana said.
Nyana deposited the stone into Renny's palm, where it sat inert. It felt smooth and heavy in her hand.
"Think Seek my children," Nyana instructed to Renny. "It's a psychic activation, and it stops when you stop thinking the thought."
Renny pointed at herself. Nothing happened. Seek my children, she thought, and it started vibrating. Taking it more seriously now, she put it through its paces, pointing it at various people and trying to time the command thought so that it couldn't be something one of them was doing that was triggering it.
She was impressed, but still didn't understand how this could work. "I'm sorry," Renny said, "I like the cut of your jib, b'ys, and I don't mean to be all suspicious. But I'm trying to understand all this. Yes, that stone pointed at me... but what you said earlier implied you knew it was me you were looking for, not just someone in my direction."
"We did get some additional research from her Highness," Captain Fulmis said. "You have to understand that the Empress is older than anyone in Creation... the Empire... by several hundred years. She's a warden herself, of course, and has enormous personal resources, resources we're not all certain about. It's a way for her to maintain her power. So she provided these artifacts, as well as some dossiers of candidates. We presume she used some divination spell."
He pulled out a folder and put it on the table and opened it. The top sheet was a picture, true to life, of Renny, standing on the deck of her ship. There was writing on the bottom of the picture in an unfamiliar script. Renny studied her own picture.
Other images were below hers, of a variety of people, in various locales. She recognized none of them and some of them looked downright alien, like the young glass helmeted woman in what looked like very strange body armor. Renny's gaze lingered on that one, wondering what her life was like. She was frustrated that all of the pictures were annotated with the same sort of writing.
"So, a set of wardens were chosen, given a team, the dossier, and a stone and sent off in various directions to find these candidates. We happened to have come to your world, and made preparations to find and meet you."
"We left your world temporarily, headed to a friendly world also with airship technology, and obtained the Pride of Mela," Nyana said. "If we bought an ordinary airship in your world, you might not have been as curious as to parley with us."
Keillor gave a little snort at the notion that they had worked that hard to engage Renny's curiosity. Clearly they didn't know that much about her.
Renny, on the other hand, was dreaming about upgrading the Lees. Then she came to a decision. "All right," she said. "Where do we have to go to test this properly?"
"The nearest Door," Fulmis said in reply, "is back on New Granada, in an old inn. There are likely other Doors on your world. But that's the one we know, and at a location we know on the Stair. I propose we fly back there, which I understand is a neutral port in your conflict with the French, right? We land, we go to the Inn, and we make the test there."
"The Door masks itself from those who are not aware of the Staircase," Nyana said. "When we came out, it appeared that we were just exiting a back room of the Inn. If you pass the test, you will be able to open the Door onto the Stair itself. That would be the ironclad proof. If the Empress' divination is wrong, and you cannot do so, then we will leave and no longer waste your time. Perhaps pay you for your time and trouble. Or we can certainly look to forge a relationship for the future, if you were inclined."
Renny considered a moment. "If we go back with you, and I try this Door" -- she took care to pronounce the capital D -- "succeed or fail, you will help us upgrade the Lees' engines and steering to match those of the Pride of Mela?"
Nyana looked at Fulmis, who gave a nod. Nyana, a pleased look on her face, turned back to Renny. "Agreed. Succeed or fail, we'll help you upgrade the Lees with the Mela's technology and design. That is more than a fair compensation for your time and effort."
"We hope," Fulmis interrupted, "that in turn, if the divination is correct, you will consent to make a journey with us through the Stair to the Empire. What you decide from that point is up to you, but House Cathak would be honored to accept you as a member of the House."
"Peleps might be well interested in an airship captain," Nyana said. "Also, she does look like a classic Ledaal."
"Both True," Fulmis said, turning back to Renny. "I do wonder if the latter is the ultimate source of your bloodline, Captain," he said, smiling. "They are a House usually aspected to Air. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Do you have any further questions, or shall we retire to our ship and make course for New Granada?"
"The once!" Renny replied. "Shall we trade seconds so Lieutenant Nyana can continue to brief me?"
"Any objection, Lieutenant?" Fulmis asked Nyana.
She was already shaking her head. "None, Captain. I would be happy to continue to represent our interests here."
"Good," Fulmis said. He rose, and looked to Keillor. "Whenever you're ready, of course, Mr. Keillor."
"Anything in particular you want me to see, Captain?" Keillor asked Renny. "Aside from the engines, of course."
"Just keep your eyes open," Renny replied quietly. "I'm sure there's a lot to be learned." She mostly wondered what they were like as as a crew. But if they were truly from another world, there were probably lots of interesting differences Keillor would pick up on.
"Sir," Keillor said.
Once Fulmis, his guards, and Keillor were safely on the Pride of Mela, Renny led Nyana toward the Lees' bridge. Nyana's eyes drank in the details, studying, examining, breathing in the Lees. She held off on questions, but the clear curiosity and investigation in her gaze was palpable. Renny, always proud to show off her ship, was delighted at Nyana's interest. She was starting to think she had found a kindred spirit in the stranger from another world.
"Jones, bring her about as quickly as you can," Renny said once they reached the bridge. "If we're quick about it, we'll get a chance to see the Mela turn -- ought to be quite impressive. Then we'll follow her back to New Granada." She grinned at Nyana.
"I think you will indeed be impressed," Nyana said.
The Lees did get started turning first, which gave Renny, Jones, and Nyana a nice view of the Pride of Mela going through her paces. She proved to be amazingly maneuverable, turning in an impossibly tight arc by Renny's standards. She traded a brief look of awe with Jones; then he moved the Lees to follow the Mela. Renny considered exactly how that maneuverability would help in a fight, and was suddenly very glad they were not fighting the Mela.
Nyana, however, seemed a little disappointed. "A bit sloppy on the part of the Captain," she said. "Not quite as crisp as it might have been." She shrugged. "But, then, I cheat."
"Cheat?" Renny said. "Do you mean you can use your -- air magic? -- to make it turn even more smartly than that?"
"At the very least, an Air Aspect such as myself can produce an elemental air effect to provide better speed. Properly placed, the turn speed could be significantly increased."
"But in Gossamer worlds where sorcery is functional, most especially Manifestation of Air Mastery gives airships increased maneuverability by means of a summoned air elemental. There are also spells that can change a sailing ship on the water to fly in the sky. You can layer both spells together, of course, for even more effective effect."
"How would you have reacted," Nyana challenged Renny, "if you saw a galleon flying toward you instead of an airship?"
"I'd have soiled myself, most likely," Renny replied. "A big sailing vessel flying with no airbag? I mean, everyone knows about Jack and his punt, sure, but that's a story, no one I knows ever saw anything bigger than a bird fly without an airbag. No, you picked the right approach -- familiar yet intriguingly different."
Nyana nodded, letting some of the distance to New Granada get eaten up before speaking again, allowing a stretch of companionable silence. There was obvious pride in her eyes as she watched the Pride of Mela go through her paces.
"A galleon would have been conspicuous anyway," Nyana said reflectively, smoothly picking up the conversation again. "There is something to be said for not disrupting and messing with a Gossamer World you hope to have good relations with. And a flying ship would definitely cause such problems if someone else spotted it.
"I'd rather not have Napoleon's forces shooting at us out of panic and fear. Or any other nation for that matter."
"I don't think they'd have presented much trouble to you," Renny said.
The Dragon Blooded officer gave a nod of agreement.
Renny let that sit for a second, then changed the subject. "I do have responsibilities here, you know. I can take a vacation, but I can't just leave forever." A sudden thought struck her. "If I go with you, it's not going to be one of those stories where I spend a day Elsewhere, and when I come back it's been seven years here?"
Nyana shook her head. "With few exceptions, an hour is an hour everywhere, be it walking on the Grand Stair, taking tea with the Empress, shopping in the Bazaar on Deva, or on the deck of this ship, sailing your skies. Where a Gossamer World's flow of time is different than that is usually due to the action of someone who purposefully exerts such control over it over and within that world."
Renny relaxed a bit when she heard this.
"Actual travel through time, thankfully, is impossible," Nyana added. "I'd hate to be eliminated from existence before I was even born by the Dwimmerlaik."
Renny's eyes betrayed a moment of utter confusion at this observation. In a second she had gathered her wits, and plowed on ahead with the conversation. "How many places are there, accessible from this door?"
"Overall?" Nyana said. "A high number, so high as to be meaningless. I don't think they've invented infinity on your world yet, have they?"
Renny frowns. "I know the infinite, but I'm not sure how it would figure in arithmetic?"
"Beyond a countless number, possibly," Nyana replied.
Renny pondered the difference between boundless and countless while Nyana continued.
"The Door only opens onto the Staircase itself, if that's what you mean," Nyana replied. "Doors are fixed objects in space-time, artifacts connecting the Staircase to Gossamer Worlds. The number of Doors you can access through the Staircase... you can't count them, Captain. Beyond every Door is a different place, usually a different universe." Nyana's eyes glowed with delights. "It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid."
Renny's look suggested that she wasn't timid, but was perhaps still having a bit of trouble following all this. "So... It's like there is a hallway on the other side of the Door, and that hallway has many other Doors, and they each go to another world? Your Dragon Empire is in another one of those worlds, and this Deva you mention yet another? Only the hallway is somehow a stair?"
"The Grand Staircase -- that's what we call it -- has a lot of forms and shapes along its length," Nyana replied. "Some places it's a tight, spiraling staircase like in a lighthouse: cramped, confined, claustrophobic. Others it's like a series of grand ballrooms connected by short stairs that continue the theme of a rising series of levels. In other places, it's a series of hallways, connected by stairs. Some of these stair sections are short, others go for miles. And all along it, no matter what shape the Staircase takes, are the Doors to worlds. To this world, to the Dragon Empire, to Deva.
"To everywhere, Captain, as best as I can make out. Scholars at the Heptagram have arguments about what that means, actually."
Renny chewed these ideas over. "You mean to say there are as many different worlds as there are Doors?"
"If not more." Nyana said. "Doors only open where there is a Door on the other side. There may be worlds out there that have no life, no buildings, and therefore no Doors for the Staircase to connect to. More than one Door can connect to a World, however. And we are back to comparing infinities again." She smiled. "The infinity of worlds and the infinity of Doors on the Stair."
Beyond Nyana, through the window, the island of Bermuda, New Granada was starting to appear. The Pride of Mela had already started to change its course and mien, showing its flags to signal an intention and request for mooring.
Still thinking about what Nyana had said, Renny nodded absently at Jones to let him know he had permission to follow suit.
Not long thereafter, the Lees was given permission to moor, and on a tower alongside the Pride, was soon secured at the airfield. They walked down the gangway to the mooring tower, and then down to the base. At the base, already having dealt with their officials, Captain Fulmis, more Imperials, and a very excited Keillor waited for the Captain to make arrangements for the ship.
"We'll have to get everyone clear before I reclaim Pride," Nyana said, with a smirk on her face.
"Pardon?" said Renny.
"Wait and see," Nyana said smugly.
Renny hurried to deal with the New Grenadan officials.
It took a little wrangling for Renny to get the New Grenadan officials to get the Lees in dock -- they tried to bargain upwards as much as they could, in a reverse of the usual negotiation with a merchant. New Granada had not survived without seeking every financial advantage they could.
With the docking fees paid, Renny turned to regard the Imperials and their ship. But the tower that had held the Pride of Mela was empty. There was no sign of the ship at all.
Captain Fulmis led the Imperials toward Renny, Keillor, and her crew. Nyana continued to have that "Cat that ate the canary sort of look" on her face. The New Granadan officials, Renny realized, seemed to have no conception of the fact that the Pride of Mela was simply not there anymore.
Renny shot Nyana a (friendly) how the hell did you do that? look. Could that be a trick that I might learn? Renny thought. Hiding an airship in plain sight would be some good!
Nyana blew on her nails and smiled.
Captain Fulmis said, "We're ready to show you the door."
Renny nodded. "Lead on." She tried to keep a straight face, but inside she was a bundle of nerves and excitement. Could she actually be somehow magical? Or could this be some strange, elaborate trap? Though the Pride could almost certainly have taken the Lees in a fight, so this would be a very roundabout way of going about it.
Renny realized she trusted Nyana. All right, she thought, let's see if I can do this.
As Captain Fulmis had promised, he, Nyana and the rest of their crew, about a dozen individuals in total, led Renny and her staff into the city and down some side streets.
Keillor was a bundle of energy and excitement as he fell in beside Renny. "Captain, you won't believe what I saw on that ship. The engine room was like something out of faerieland. I don't quite know what sort of fuel it was using. Their engineer tried to explain it to me, but it was all gibberish, something about essence and crystals. It looked kinda like a regular engine, except for, well, the fuel. The weapons on the ship were definitely not standard, either. Maybe these folks really are from another world. If Old Boney's Empire had this stuff, or anyone, they'd be masters of the skies."
Renny grinned, and quietly told him, "We're going to get it first."
The Green Star was clearly an inn that catered to outsiders, as well as the impious, judging from the large collection of bottles of alcohol on the wall behind the bartender and the kegs of beer. The clientele of the Inn were mostly non-Grenadan -- a mixture of British, French, and more distant travelers. The staff clearly recognized Fulmis and company from their previous visit.
But Fulmis ignored all this and headed right toward a storeroom door. Forming a circle, his crew hemmed around the tight space, and Nyana came to Renny's side.
"Here's the deal" she said. "That is a door to a storeroom. And it is a Door" -- the capitalization was obvious -- "to elsewhere. You open the Door, wanting to reach that Elsewhere. If you are who we think you are, you can do that. You can open the Door. That's why we brought you here."
"Ready?" Captain Fulmis asked.