45: Preparations and Purges
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“What if we just… seal the floatation chambers?” Kory asked, throwing idea number twenty or so at the metaphorical wall. “That rot stuff needs to physically get to the crystals, right?”

“No, I don’t think—” Bassi began, before she slowed to a stop, her mouth still open. “Actually… that might work. Hopefully the rot can’t go through the air in a pinch.”

“Oh, with your wind magic, we might be able to take all the air out of the chamber,” I said, tapping my chin thoughtfully. “A vacuum would nip that problem in the bud. I doubt even magic can get through literal nothing.”

“That’s… possible?” Bassi asked, at the same time that Jitters gasped, “How does that work?”

“I don’t actually know how you do it, but I know it’s possible,” I said apologetically.

We were sitting in one of the three lounges within the airship, trying to figure out a plan to combat the rot magic before it dropped us out of the sky. The lounge was so nice, with faded red carpet and dark wooden furnishings. It was situated inside the envelope with most of the other deck space, windows running along one wall. Currently the view was of the hangar wall, but one day it might see sky again.

“I know the vague theory,” Kory said. “I don’t know how we’d apply it to Bassi’s magic. The chambers that house the crystals are probably more than capable of withstanding the pressure though. They’re very heavily armoured.”

“Well then,” I said, grinning. “It looks like we have some testing to do!”

****

 

“Bassi,” I said gently, two days later as we napped together in our room. “I know we’re being all snuggly together, but I have something to tell you.”

Her body went rigid, and I quickly hastened to add, “It’s something you’ll like.”

“What is it, then?” she asked, relaxing again, her fingers continuing to play with my hair.

“This vacuum thing that you’ve been practicing. You could do it around someone’s head,” I told her. “Suffocate them. It’s not just an interesting technical challenge. Hell, I bet you could do damage with it in other ways. Increase the pressure in their lungs until they pop. That kind of thing.”

“That is incredibly gruesome, Mist,” she chuckled, switching to scritches with her fingernails. “I think I’ll practice it, but keep it to myself. Others who can manipulate the wind might use it against us too. It’s just… it’s a terrifying amount of power.”

I hummed in blissed out happiness. “I’m surprised your people haven’t messed with that kind of thing in the past.”

“Air has always been considered to be an empty thing, Mist,” she told me, kissing the top of my head fondly. “The idea that the very air we breathe is just another fluid that can be removed from a space, it isn’t one we ever considered. Then there’s the concept of a vacuum in itself.”

“I guess so,” I mused.

It was amazing how much knowledge we took for granted. Of course, we hadn’t had angry gods of destruction to get in our way.

****

Two days later, and we’d successfully created a way to depressurise and then repressurise the crystal chambers. Then, Victoria of all people had made a discovery. It had started when Bassi was explaining enchanting to me while she was around, because the chamber mechanism used an enchantment made from her wind magic to function.

Having listened to Bassi tell me how she mixed her fae wind magic and her divineling powers together, Victoria had enquired about the basic principles of enchanting. Bassi had happily taught her what little she knew. The next thing we knew, two days later, Victoria was rushing into the lounge with the excitement of discovery burning in her eyes.

“Okay, so that little side project you wanted us to work on is actually paying off,” Jitters was saying. “We have the parts for the mechanism, but we won’t have time to build and install them before—“

“I figured out how to fight the rot magic!” she exclaimed, as everyone inside the room glanced up from the table where we’d laid out our plans for the ship.

Bassi, Leon, Kory, Jitters, and I were in the room, and we all froze, waiting for her to continue.

“I realised that you can counter it with healing magic, right? I got close to an altar that the monsters had around one of those weird statues, which they were using to like, grow some nasty rot stuff. Anyway, I’m a mage, so I just threw a healing spell at a clump of the rot and it… it fizzled! I mean, the rot fizzled, not my magic. I specifically cast what would have been a holy spell, back in the game we tested. Anyway, yeah, it totally worked,” Victoria told us excitedly. This was the most animated and enthusiastic I had ever seen her, and it was kind of cute.

“Alright!” Leon grinned, moving forward to offer her a high five. “Nice work!”

Accepting the high five, Victoria continued to speak. “That’s not all! I was like, yeah nah, that’s fine and stuff but we can’t just hunt down and heal a little blob of rot magic on the ship while in the middle of a fight. I was like damn this is going to be a pain, and then I realised… why not just heal the whole ship?”

“You… what?” Bassi asked, giving voice to the stunned, confused expressions that the rest of us wore.

Pointing directly at my lover, the mage said, “You said there were like, special ways to prepare materials to receive magic, right? You also said that you could enchant crystals to amplify a spell. So I was like, what if we created a… a network of wires throughout the ship, ones that could let someone channel a spell through them. I know it would dilute the spell to the point of being completely useless as a healing spell, but we don’t need that. We just need the holy magic to touch the rot stuff to make it fuck off.”

“Really, that’s all it takes?” I asked, intrigued.

“Yes tha’am,” she grinned, giving me a sly little wink as she threw out the little play on my pronouns. “It’s like a reverse infection or something. It’s like the holy magic can touch the rot and start consuming it as fuel. It’s pretty crazy. The monsters were able to put a stop to it with some sort of spell of their own, but unless there’s one of those alabasters to step in, the rot just burns off.”

“That sounds actually doable,” Bassi said after taking a few seconds to ponder the idea. “Goddess, it will definitely work. Assuming what you say about the interaction between the rot and the healing magic.”

“Time to find a whole ton of copper wire, then,” Jitters said, leaning down to write that into the list of shit we needed to scavenge from the city.

Kory nodded and pulled out a schematic of the ship he’d drawn. “I’ll start planning out the routes. We’ll need to test the range of the crystal spell repeater things first, though.”

“It’s a plan then,” Bassi said, clapping her hands together. “Let’s get to work.”

****

Three days later, and we were ready for our first test. The bridge was a fairly decorative place, as far as the bridges we’d seen in other airships went. Glass windows dominated the upper half of every wall, while the various instruments and gauges needed to fly the ship were arrayed at various stations around the room.

At the center back of the bridge was a slightly raised platform that commanded a clear view of the rest of the room as well as through the windows. It bore instruments and controls that appeared to have been plucked from all different eras and vehicles of earth. The platform left little doubt that it was a position of authority in the bridge or that it was the captain’s podium, I could totally see Bassi standing behind its wheel exuding relaxed control.

The front of the Captain’s podium was dominated by a large, varnished timber steering wheel that looked as if it had been plucked straight off a Dutch East India trading ship. To the left of the podium were polished brass throttle controls reminiscent of the Titanic’s, while to the right was a series of mechanical levers resembling a railway lever frame controlling elevation as well as other important functions and flight surfaces.

The rot purging system, as we were calling it, was a bare copper plate to the left of the Captain’s podium. It wasn’t nearly as well mounted as everything else on the bridge, but it did the job.

Everyone from the leadership of our little party was standing on the bridge as Victoria readied herself to cast her spell. Placing her hand on the plate, she glanced at Bassi, who nodded for her to continue.

Light coalesced around her hand, and then pulsed into the plate. I could feel the magic go out and into the ship, each healing node activating and washing over the ship. It felt like a nice, warm breeze that made my body’s aches disappear for a few moments.

“It works!” Victoria grinned, turning to cast a triumphant gaze over the rest of us. “It fucking works!”

“Hell yes it does!” I grinned, clapping a few times in congratulations.

“Does that mean the ship is ready to fly?” Leon asked.

Jitters and Kory glanced in each other’s directions, then nodded to Leon. “It absolutely is.”

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