“That still doesn’t explain how he knew to come to find me.”
“You have this to thank for alerting me.” Riggit held aloft a staff. It was the same one she had used as a weapon against the slime monster. Muck still dripped from the end where it had impacted with the monster. “This is a knocker. Basically, it allows someone with no training to knock on the gate and asked to be let through. You probably don’t know how to specify which gate, so more than likely you knocked on all the gates in the Far Shoals. That’s not as impressive as it sounds since most of them are abandoned. They aren’t as much use since the gates on your end were shut down for the most part. We were the first to answer, so we stepped in to help.”
“I have so many questions,” Cassandra gushed. “I’ve been studying the ruined gates in my world for years, trying to figure out their secrets, and here you are with all the answers. I don’t even know where to begin.”
“Well,” said Riggit, offering her a hand. “We were just sitting down to eat dinner when we heard you knock. Would you care to join us?”
“That would be delightful.” She took her companions both by the arm and let them lead her to their home.
They walked along a dirt path that led out of the valley and up a small hillside. Nestled among the trees was a cute but bizarre house. It was a three-story cottage made out of stone. It had a rising stone tower in the center, and the roof was thatched. A small tendril of smoke rose from a long thin chimney, and wooden windows handsomely garnished the walls on each level.
Just inside the round wooden door, the marvels continued. There were bookshelves filled with leather-bound volumes and loose brown paper tied with straps. Steam pipes and metal gears crisscrossed the ceiling and walls. They hissed and whirred lending to a pleasant background noise that fit the place, and made it feel warm and welcoming.
“This is amazing. Who designed all of this?” Wonder was evident in Cassandra’s voice.
Schvark puffed up with pride. “That would be me. We have hot and cold running water, a shower, a steam-powered stove, and pneumatically powered tools, all of which are fed from a boiler in the basement.”
“Everything in here is so cozy,” Cassandra continued to gush.
Riggit grinned proudly. “I’m responsible for the interior decorating. We’ve carved out quite a life for ourselves despite the fact that we don’t have many drachmas.”
“Is that money?” asked Cassandra, then without waiting for an answer she charged on. “I live on an airplane. I call her the Rubber Duck because she is yellow and she floats. Speaking of which, do you mind if I use your shower? I feel disgusting.”
Schvark appraised her, nodding in agreement. “You can use the shower if you tell me what an airplane is.”
“It’s a flying machine, and I’m the pilot.”
“Fascinating,” mumbled Schvark. “A flying machine that also floats. I would love to see that.”