The stars in their courses move at the behest of laws set down by the Cosmos itself. Even gods like Sun and Moon feel the irresistible tug of cosmic forces keeping them to their schedule and orbit, despite them wishing to tarry awhile at a favorite place. Cosmic forces strained to keep the stars advancing along their trajectories, but the ray of light from the haggard man’s machine had pinned the star, Alta Vystra, in place. 

The effect was most intense in the vicinity of Alta Vystra, but it affected all the stars and tapered off with distance from her. The stars couldn’t move forward, so they began to pile up against each other, until the crush gave way and the stars began spiraling around each other like children dancing around a maypole.

The cosmic forces were building to oppose the obstacle to their preeminence, and soon evidence of that conflict was felt on Land.

“The stars began spinning around, and the human kept chanting his spell,” Peter said. “He only stopped for a moment when his machine began to shimmy and shake, and the ray in the sky began to waver.” That’s when the man leapt off his stool and yanked a lever on the bottom layer of his machine. Instantly, the gears on the bottom layer engaged the catchments underneath the rings on the middle layer. All of a sudden, the replicas of the stars and constellations on each ring, which cosmic forces moved in synchrony with their counterparts in the firmament, were resisted by the power of the fire-breathing, steam belching, iron-reinforced-oak-timber-braced mechanism on the bottom layer.

Understand that the replicas of the stars in the middle layer of the machine were cosmically connected to the actual stars in Heaven. Retarding the movement of the replica of Alta Vystra on the disc, simultaneously retarded the movement of the actual Alta Vystra in the firmament. The power of cosmic forces was attempting to restore the stars to their proper places. But the power of alchemy from the bottom layer, raised to the power of magic from the middle layer, combined to counteract forces that had been maintaining celestial order since time immemorial. Eventually, something had to yield.

Peter’s eyes widened with excitement when he described what happened next. “By now, the man was madly stoking the firebox with more lightning-wood, and turning knobs and pulling levers, so the machine could eke out more power. It was a fierce battle, like two giants grappling.” Peter neither knew nor would be able to comprehend that he was witnessing a battle between the ordered forces of the Cosmos and the headstrong force of alchemy. “The machine was straining and groaning and shaking mightily by then, sirs, but it held itself together. And all the while, the man from Land kept scanning the sky and furiously repeating, ‘Veni ad me. Veni ad me! Veni ad me…!’

Meanwhile, stranger things were happening on the land and in the sky. On land, the veins of magick ore in the mountain began to resonate with the magic spells woven around the haggard man’s machine. Errant winds from nowhere whipped at the man’s clothing. Sepulchral voices from invisible mouths began to moan. And the pale emerald glow that emanated from the ground here and there, surged bright beneath the oxcart, backlit the fog, and limelighted through the seams of the machine.

Up in the sky, a critical limit was reached. The ray pointing at Alta Vystra abruptly flared blindingly bright, accompanied by the cries of an invisible chorus, and suddenly the star-child was yanked from the heights of Sky and pulled toward the surface of Land. The star-child appeared as a pulse of brilliance as she glided down the ray of light from the Upper Reaches, much the way a pearl slides down the string of a necklace; through the Lower Reaches; and into the Domain of Land, until she reached—and passed through—the glass walls of the lantern box hanging from the haggard man’s machine.

Proportions are deceptive when denizens of Sky pass into Land. And so, Alta Vystra, who when seen up close in Sky was nearly as immense as Emperor Sun, now fit inside the lantern like a candle flame. Alta Vystra tried to shine back through and out of her glass confines, but because the lantern box was half-silvered and she was a being of pure light, she reflected off the walls time and time again. As the star-child floated inside the lantern box, apparently weightless, she came to understand that this lantern with the sorcery-enhancing whirligig spinning beneath it, was not merely a magical box. Alta was trapped inside the box. The lantern was…her prison.

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