Snakes weren’t slimy: she had been taught that in school, but this thing was. It had a lizard-like face, except that slime dripped over its luminous eyes. But it was twenty-feet high, and it was turning right for her.


Jeanette awoke to find her father holding her.

“Was I--” she began.

“No, but I could tell how bad your dream was. Do you want to tell me about it?”

There were reasons not to: it was connected to stuff she hadn’t told him, and he might think it was weird. But she had a pain in her chest.


They were in bright sunshine, on a green hillside, with white puffy clouds easing by on a warm wind. They weren’t standing on anything but grass.

Jeanette said, “Oh my god--Thyrsis and Antithyrsis--!”

The crows flew upwards from grass that wasn’t long enough to hide them. “We saw you vanish, so we flew into the same ground.”

“Well, this is pleasant,” said Grandmère Hutan, “but at the same time it’s a disaster. Where are we?”

“And was that or was that not a Decision Tree gateway? That shouldn’t have worked on you, Lord Elphinstone, nor you two crows.”


If it were indeed a troop train, it resembled the trains on the interdimensional railway they had taken before--including the fact that they seemed to be the only passengers. Tall as the train was outside, it resembled a slightly antique hotel extending out in nearly all directions.

Dr. Ransom spoke up first. “We are attempting to make our way to the Redoubt in the Night Land to join the fighting. Can you do this for us?”


The dragon bore an intelligent grin. If he had been fifty feet shorter, it would have been an invitation to punch it.

“In case your first thought was to doubt the bona fides of the Railway, it’s not their fault. This is, in fact, the causative nexus in space and time of the battle against Deep Chaos. It’s just that that battle has been lost. Completely so.”

Jennifer answered with an energy blast from a big projector. More so than any others of the group, she had run out of patience with explanations of all kinds. The dragon merely blinked the beam away.


Terence Ransom couldn’t help himself. “You look awfully familiar,” he said to the man before him.

“That’s probably because in my previous life I was an older authority figure in a number of interlocked cartoon series. In some of the later ones I wore an eyepatch. But then the Exile came.” He looked at Terence closely. “You look like a scientist I worked with.”

“I have no memory of anything pre-Exile,” Dr. Ransom said. “But we’ve come a long way to fight the thing out there. Put us to work.”

The man looked them all over carefully. “The crows sentient?” He asked.


As she dove into the mountain of fire, Jeanette touched her necklace and activated her physical shield, and her magical shield for good measure. This prevented her from seeing anything or from firing her weapon, but she could steel feel a tiny amount of the heat and feel the thump of the nasties colliding with her, and probably sticking to the shield.

Her bracelets erupted with squawking. “Are you completely out of your damn mind?” The voice of Thyrsis filled the limited space.

“Lord Elphinstone is going deep, and I’m following him,” Jeanette said calmly.


Searching through the command center, they found a few hand weapons, a few small clear panes that might be data storage, and a few unidentifiable small objects that looked intact. The rest had been taken on board the ship.


There wasn’t any weapon they could turn on the thing that was enveloping Jeanette’s father without disintegrating him or roasting him alive. He was already unconscious within the dirty purple gelatinous mass, which continued to thicken.

Jeanette did the only thing she could think of doing: she plunged her hands into the goop and tread to tear a breathing hole for her father. The stuff stretched but then started climbing up her arms. The fear in her couldn’t get any higher than the death of her dada, so she just kept pulling.


“I see it.”

Lord Silvertyger Elphinstone rumbled to Jeanette. His huge paw rested on the pommel of his sword. “I’d have been surprised if we didn’t pick up a parasite on our way through the portal.”