Elric climbed into the darkness of Burell's ship. As the air lock closed behind him, the interior flooded with light, transforming itself into a vast portico decorated with sheer hanging linens. Egyptian hieroglyphs were chiseled in the stone floor. As he looked down the ranks of stone columns, Elric could see in the distance the vibrant blue sky of a late Egyptian afternoon. A breeze ran past him, and Elric appreciated the scents of myrrh, cinnamon, and sesame. It was a lovely illusion.
Burell was stretched out on a lounge in a tightly wrapped gown of deep cranberry, dark hair piled on her head and accented with small golden starbursts. Slave men covered by the scantiest of shentis formed a semicircle behind her, two cooling her with fans of feathers, one feeding her grapes.
Elric sat in an ornate chair at her side. "I thank you for dressing the slave men."
"A token of my appreciation for your visit." She waved the slave with the grapes away. "I apologize for taking you away from the convocation. I realize this must be a very demanding time."
"You have something you need to discuss."
Elric saw her take a deep breath, gathering her energy. She was not doing well. Perhaps she had changed her mind about receiving healing.
"It's about my home," Burell said, surprising him. "I've noticed some disturbing activity around the spaceport on Zafran 8. We don't get much traffic there-at least we haven't in the past-for two reasons. We're on a marginal hyperspace route that connects systems off the beaten track. And what trade does come through our jumpgate uses the spaceport on Zafran 7, which is a much better facility. We get the shadier trade on Zafran 8. The port is corrupt and poorly run. It's easy to pass through without answering a lot of