Once the NoM family received hand-me-downs from the public, the Dwarves went to work.
Now that the hole she had dug herself was irreversibly deep, Gwen asked Walken for advice on how to best approach the bureaucratic bog. Eric wisely replied that personally calling the Metropolitan council was itself a lesson in futility; instead— she should leverage Lady Grey's position to plank over the paperwork quagmire.
After a few minutes of watching the Dwarves work, Gwen decided to operate through an intermediary. With a flourish, she dialled her Praelector.
"Ollie. Gwen here, how are things, buddy?"
"… Good?" the young man answered with a tone of caution. "Anything's the matter? No— trouble?"
"Nothing serious," Gwen playfully teased the Message Device, her voice oozing with honey. If Le Guevel had been present, the Magus would have sighed with pleasure. "Oz, listen, I was wondering if you could spare me an hour since I am preoccupied with our guests from Eth Rjoth Kjangtoth. Can you do that for me?"
"An hour? I suppose..."
"GREAT!" Gwen gushed with relief. "I need a retro-authorised Development Permit for our Dwarven allies to make a medium-sized house, like an R-2—"
"Extensive bunker." Walken coughed. "Maybe, Z-3?"
"Z-3... to make a large underground structure beneath the Isle of Dogs, like one of those parking complexes under Harold's, you know? Three—"
"About seven." Her advisor observed.
"Five storeys, down, two above at most," Gwen finished in one breath. "Make sure our dearest lady is clued in, okay? It's her property, after all. Once the Dwarven Workshop is up and running, it is sure to become a major centre for invest— for arcane learning! Don't screw this up, Ollie!"
"I know, Oz. I believe in you! Buy ya dinner later!" Gwen shouted into the pulsing Glyph, then snuffed the light with a wave of her hand before extinguishing the device entirely. "Phew— that was easier than I imagined."
"… Gwen." Her partner shuddered beside her. "If you do that to me, I will do terrible things to you in turn. Do you think Ollie will manage?"
"He'll be right. Would Oz ever fail in managing the Lady's affairs? Dare paper-pushers delay the Foreign Office's triumph?" Gwen grinned. "I know Ollie's type. They're the backbone of the Empire. I'll make it up to him later."
"By not leaving him with more surprise quests?"
Besides the pair, the Fabricator with the likeness of a Mantis was already perched on top of the rectangular hole, its long and geometric limbs busy at work inscribing Runes onto the transmuted stone surface. Considering that the Glyphs used in Imperial Spellcraft had their origins in Dwarven arcana, Gwen could just make out anti-corrosion and stability Wards deployed in the Enchantment Mandalas taught by Nils Kott. These would be tied into the city's mana-grid; thankfully, the isle had been built for heavy industry.
From the talk of what Yossari Vildrenbrandt had planned, the Dwarves were carving out a whole complex of workshops, inclusive of garages for their Golems. The team must have come prepared, for one of the Fabricators was using Spatial Magic to conjure steel girders into thin air before fusing them into place.
Meanwhile, the Diggers continued their work out of sight, perceivable only by the sound of their rumbling engines.
"Where do you suppose all that waste-water and soil has gone?" Gwen asked Walken after a while. "Should I be expecting a complaint from downstream?"
"The Dwarves are using an Elemental Exchange algorithm," the Magister explained. "Dwarven magic has extremely high mana fidelity compared to ours, so it's possible to exchange denser matter in the Prime Material with objects in the Elemental Plane of Earth. Take their Diggers, for example; I wager that their Spellswords are using a form of Conjure Metal admixed with Runic modifiers for Shape Metal. What they pick up goes back into the Plane, while the seam they're tapping is transmuted here in real-time—"
"Correct!" Yossari Vildrenbrandt's voice came through her vox device. "Well done, Magister."
Walken stared into the hole, then up at the Dwarven woman in the rumbling machine. "How deep are you digging? Once you're past the clay, its quicksand and oyster beds throughout."
"Oysters?" Gwen raised a brow.
Walken gave her a superior look. "Layers of it half-a-kilometre thick. It's a famous story, the death and triumph of the Brunels of Portsea. Have you heard?"
"Not at all." Gwen's curiosity piqued. "Care to enlighten us? Does it have to do with what Master Yossari is doing?"
"Oh, absolutely." Ever the happy talker, Walken indicted to the depthless drop even now growing deeper. "About two centuries ago, during the reign of Mad King George, a Transmuter called Marcus Brunel tried to tunnel under the Thames. A few months in, his team of proto-Transmuters made it down and under the thalweg, fighting brackish water, seeping sewerage and Mer-Goblins. Fearful of the river falling in; they tried to dig deeper. Unfortunately, once the clay layer was exhausted, it turns out London sat on an enormous bed of oyster shells from the Draconic Era. Realising that he'd just about ruined his chances at making history, he tried to transmute back up through to the clay, only to have the underground water overwhelm him and his team. Marcus was a tenacious pioneer though— after the investments dried up, he worked on it alone— and came close to succeeding, until heavy floods from the rain season crushed his tunnel, erasing a life in its prime."
"By the Sju Dorfran," Yossari hailed from up on high. "Always a shame to lose a fellow Digger. Tunnelling accidents happen though. Usually, it's because we delved into the lair of something, or that 'something' is digging into our tunnels. Let me tell yer, becoming trapped between an angry swarm of Ember Ants and a Fabricator too bulky to turn around is a terrible way to go. You said there was a triumph?"
"Indeed, that would be with his son," Walken continued. "Isambard Brunel, who proved not only to be an apt Transmuter but one of the greatest Engineers of the Spellcraft Revolution. It was he who sought out the Dwarves and apprenticed himself to learn their craft, not the first to try— but one of the few to succeed. Master Vildrenbrandt, have you heard of Isambard before?"
Yossari's machine continued to churn while its pilot thought it over. "I was a lass back then, so I wouldn't know. If memory serves, I was being schooled at Eth Jarlethurkon-Gintor Kjangtoth. That was before the Murk turned completely dark."
"A shame. At any rate, the future Meister Brunel returned from studying in Bavaria with a modified method of Dwarven Engineering which utilised runic steel—" The Magister indicated to the labour being carried out by the mantis-crane. "To prevent flooding, he additionally designed the first elemental-exchange transformer, what you see used in our waterworks today, to displace the Thame back into the Elemental Plane of Water. It's called the Brunel Water Engine."
The story appeared to have garnered the interest of the Journeymen as well, who came closer to listen to the Magister speak.
"A patient man, unlike his father, Isambard worked slowly and meticulously, taking a decade to inch his tunnel into the shell-bed. Meanwhile, he became responsible for two other engineering innovations— the modern dockyard used to build Atlas-class ships— and of course, the original transatlantic freighter-carrier."
"Amazing, is he dead?" Yossari asked.
"I am afraid he is."
"Aye, yer short-lived humans. Yer burn bright, and yer dies like Murflies."
"Compared to Dwarves," Walken agreed, then returned to his tale. "The younger Brunel, after eight years, succeeded in tunnelling below the Thames with only rudimentary Spellcraft and imported Dwarven knowledge. Yet, his work was extraordinary. It's still in service today. I am sure Gwen's even used it."
"Indeed, if you rode the Subway, it means you've passed the original tunnel at some point. The Brunel Tunnel is still in operation and perfect condition almost two centuries on."
"That does sound impressive." Yossari's tone grew admiring. "Maybe we'll visit."
"Please let Gwen know before you do," Walken advised once more. "You will need a permit to enter the tunnels, and the trains will have to be routed. If your people could be so kind, Gwen could certainly use your help in improving transportation on the Isle of Dogs."
"Yes, just give the word." Gwen gave their Master Alchemist the thumbs-up. "I know a guy, Ollie. He's the man who can get it done!"
For Gwen, January passed with the swiftness of a Wanka at full-mast, skittering across the salt flats on all ten legs. On the subject of her Spellcraft theory, she had made significant progress thanks to Brown's merciless gavage. Though her "lacks" remained ample, Gwen had already unlocked better dresses with nicer fabrics, as well as more stylish heels. The improvement came as no surprise to herself; she was a mature age student with no lack of discipline, and now the results were showing— at least for some of her tutors.
In Abjuration, Nils Kott's Munich-winter began to thaw once Gwen started to show more promise in alternate forms of Abjuration Magic. She could now carve out with speed and accuracy the basic Mandala known as Alarm, synthesising Abjuration and Enchantment with low-tier Illusions like Clarion Call to blare out an air-siren. The effect itself was superficial for someone who possessed dogs, a Drake, Kirin and worm, but the theory provided the groundwork for higher applications. Perhaps because Kott felt like Gunther-lite, she found herself rapidly warming up to the man, and her subsequent enthusiasm in investigating mana-vitality efficacy made their relationship easy and amiable.
With Keridwen Le Guevel, Gwen's lessons in seemingly irrelevant things continued. To teach her the proper use of Illusion beyond the cosmic utility of PowerPoint, Gwen had taken up painting and singing. To Gwen, who had never had the opportunity for either, the exercise proved a relaxing counterpoint to the mental strain of solving Brown's puzzles and the constant disappointment of Kareena Patil. Initially, Le Guevel had intended to kill two birds with one stone by providing her with lessons in classical instruments favoured by the nobility. When Gwen began having vivid flashbacks of earlier life under Helena, she had opposed the training outright. To her tutor's frustration, Gwen had little talent for either— though the purpose, Le Guevel explained, was to ease her training in Illusion and not produce art or song. For Gwen, as much as she was tempted to blow "Keri" away with an old-world Top 40: say, Toto's Africa; she refrained for fear of another leak like what had occurred with Jun. Le Guevel forgave her, then moved on to dancing lessons. One time, Le Guevel even invited a partner, a middle-aged NoM dandy for Gwen to exercise her limberness. The whole hour-long session, Gwen's face had burned like the setting sun; besides the waltzing couple, her tutor took notes.
Comparatively, Magister Kareena Patil's tongue-lashes left her bruised and bleeding. In response, Gwen retorted that Patil had unrealistic expectations— after all, she was performing admirably with Abjuration and Illusion and making steady headway with Mandalas. She was an Omni-Mage, Gwen snapped back, not an Omni-human. Perhaps it was the Magister's attitude, or maybe she refused to yield to Patil's constant conjecture that Gwen possessed some sort of learning difficulty, or mayhap the woman reminded her of Helena; the two got along like Void and Lightning. Neither looked forward to their lessons and their time together merely resulted in more resentment. Later, in private, Brown had told her that Kareena was the one who had devised most of the puzzle-Mandalas for Gwen's home and that she should not judge a Mage by their scowl.
Finally, as January came to a close with its snow and sleet, swelling the Thames, three unanticipated events marked the conclusion of a busy month in a foreign land.
The first was the polarising opinion of what the Sun Herald insisted was a Dwarven Fortress and what the city of London had lodged as a workshop. The news went that Gwen Song, responsible for opening up relations with the Dwarves, was now a Demi-loving turncoat looking to profit from the people of London. All that good-will she had created on the Isle of Dogs, the paper inferred, was merely a cover for this outrageous land-grab for the "Squats". Gwen's displeasure was that the Tower made no move to impute the Herald Sun for publishing flaming bullshit and that during her weekly audit of the isle, groups of reporters would crowd the manor, clamouring for her to confess. The truth, Gwen suspected, lay with Walken who convened with London Metro to discuss the possibility of paying the Dwarves to expand beneath the Isle of Dogs. With the Fabricators, they could likely complete a circular route of the eastern Underground within half a year.
The second event to catch her by surprise happened at Emmanuel College, midway through massaging her rainbow-hued duck. While pampering her drake, a triumphant shout from the Old Court had sent the pair reeling against the park bench.
"YOU! You've been modifying Dede?" Maxwell Brown Dimension Doored beside them, his face scarlet with a disapproving scowl. "Gwen, why?"
Deeply ashamed, Dede's gooseneck withdrew into its body.
"Dede, Dada isn't angry." Maxwell promptly changed his tone, much to Gwen's surprise, then discomfort. The Magister then invited himself to sit beside her and the duck. After several kisses to the duck's head, he turned to her accusingly. "Dede is a wild animal, Gwen. A Familiar or a Spirit might take to your Druidic Essence kindly, but a free creature like Dede? What you've done is highly unethical."
Still shaken, Gwen wanted to know why.
"Essence!" Brown seethed; rarely had she ever seen the jovial researcher in such a mood. "All animals have their scents, and when it comes to Magical Beasts, Essence, no matter how meagre, determines their physiology, tier and being. I know that you've had fortuitous encounters and your body is nothing short of miraculous, but you shouldn't be polluting innocent creatures with your— emanations!"
"Dede loves it though." Gwen wiggled a finger like a worm.
"Quack! Quack!" Dede agreed, kicking its little orange feet.
Brown sighed. "Gwen, you're of a certain age, so I think it is safe to say you're not the wholesome young woman you pretend to be, certainly not with Keridwen Le Guevel sinking her claws into your brain. You've had boyfriends, right? I do apologise for the plural, but one can only speculate— but think on this, how would you like it if someone came along and took advantage of your impoverished wisdom?"
"I am not sure how your analogy works." Gwen narrowed her eyes, a little confused, more so insulted. "Are you saying I… took 'advantage' of your duck?"
"Dede is his 'own' duck," Brown snapped. "Don't be insensitive."
"You've changed him!" Brown growled. "Dede was a loner, but he was a mighty-fine duck, you know? How's he going to find a mate now? Who is even in the same realm as Dede? The female mallards are terrified of him. Did you know the other day he fought with a male for their attention, and he swatted one into the water so hard it broke both wings? Some of the students had to take the poor mallard to the infirmary. After that, the hens fled. If Dede had tried to mate with one— sweet Jesus— excuse me, but by God..."
"… Maxwell." Gwen felt uncomfortable enough to change the topic. "You seem to know a lot about ducks."
"I also know a lot about respecting our campus fellows, alright? Dede's no different. You need to recognise his autonomy."
"Dede has autonomy?"
Brown nodded. "Dede is brilliant, always has been. Many of our finest Magisters and scholars spend their time here at the pond, the students as well. Maybe it rubs off? I am not a cryptozoologist, but after what you pulled..."
The Magister took a deep breath. "Did you know your Familiars and Dede have been harassing our students? Shaking them down for food and crystals?"
"They have?" Gwen looked around for her missing Familiars, who were gone as soon as Brown confronted her. Their absence meant that Magister Brown was likely telling the truth.
"And they've been splitting the loot. Dede knows arithmetics."
"Are you sure he's originally a duck?" Gwen was very impressed. Not even Alesia's decade-old Caracal could do that. At the same time, she wondered if Dean Luo's Air Elemental, Ellen, could do mathematics.
"And he knows how to buy bread from the local delicatessen."
"That's not that crazy; Ariel used to exchange crystals for chicken legs near Fudan."
"Dede gets the change exact and gets his order delivered to the pond. He also uses coupons."
The Magister pinched his brows.
"The point is, how's Dede going to find a mate? How can Dede fulfil its purpose in life? Did you give him a purpose before you elevated him with your Draconic morphology?"
"No… but I see your point."
"I think I do…"
Brown watched her, and in her instructor's eyes, Gwen saw herself helplessly shrug. When Dede paddled on her thighs and soulfully comforted her trespass, an unfortunate parallel, her dearest Evee, rose to the fore of her mind. Her mind grew gravid with doubt— as with the duck, had she done right by Elvia, or had she made her friend's situation infinitely worse? Was giving Evee Sen-sen her mistake? Or was Sen-sen merely the symptom of a bigger problem? The affection she felt for her Evee was as generous as ever, but now those feelings felt tainted— by guilt, by self-loathing, by the poor returns.
In the end, student and tutor petted the duck, fed it Crystals, and spent the afternoon in quiet contemplation of Dede's future.
The final event occurred the next day, on her morning jog through Cambridge, whereupon a familiar face on the front page— that of her friend Elvia Lindholm, confronted her.
Afraid of what she might read in the Herald Sun, she picked the Guardian.
"HOSTILE DIPLOMACY" read the headline in bold print. Below was a picture of Elvia in what looked like her Nightingale school clothes, blonde as spun gold and cute as a button.
Morbidly curious for what she was about to learn, Gwen strolled back to Emmanuel to pick up her Familiars, walking as she read.
"… Junior Cleric from Nightingale moves the Manx with compassion." The paper had printed. "Since last November, London's fragile and often callous diplomatic ties with the indigenous folk on the Isle of Man has resulted in wide-ranging skirmishes costing lives on both sides. The hostility broke on Thursday evening when the Manx leadership offered a ceasefire and truce, unexpectedly agreeing to pull their presence from the isle's south. Though the isle has long since belonged to Britain in legality, the Manx have continued to flout the treaty of 1347. With the present agreement, however, ratified by the Wood Elves of Tir-Mara, the Mageocracy anticipates a long-lasting peace…"
Gwen skipped the fluff until she got to the paragraph with Elvia.
"Doctor Lindholm, who last week was responsible for uncovering atrocities committed by mercenary-Adventurers under the command of Colonel Sarah Tarleton, had been forced to escort her rescued prisoners back to their hidden home. Aided by the Guardian's own Dominic Lorenzo and Ser Mathias Rothwell of The Order of St Michael, the trio located and then proceeded with diplomatic talks. The Arch-Druid of Tir-Mara, Primarch Golion…"
The story further goes on to mention that Elvia had convinced the Druid of the Mageocracy's sincerity and that her warning was the straw on the camel's back that broke the strained relationship between the Manx and the Elven Enclave on the isle. Without the Elves' support in the war, the Manx could only pull back to designated safe zones ruled by their allies.
"In an additional gesture, Lindholm has offered to remain behind to relocate the Manx, providing much-needed Clerical aide to a desperate and destitute people ravaged by centuries of war and discrimination…"
"Our little Evee's all grown up." Gwen sighed as she crumpled the paper. "To think a month ago, Mathias was using her as a rug."
Suppressing her ambivalent emotions, she wondered when was the right time to give Elvia a call and ask how her friend was— and how she felt.
A few days later, Elvia did not call, and neither had she. Gwen had put the matter behind her, for it was so easy to be distracted when one wanted to be, and Elvia proved an easy victim to the insanity of her schedule.
With the Dwarves now settled in, the repair of the printing press was underway. Accounts had to be balanced as capital flowed out and then rebalanced when a sudden rise in the enterprise of Tonglv and its associated projects saw her funds replenished. Yossari proved perfectly happy aiding in her immediate need for office space, especially now that a limited-permit had been issued to Lady Grey to accommodate whatever urban planning Gwen desired.
As he had promised, Walken blood-sealed the contract without incident and assumed his position as an executive of the Millwall-Cubitt Development Group. Taking advantage of Gwen's permit, the Magister asked the Dwarves to erect the company's first official office space. It was a prospect both Grey and Gwen found agreeable, as Walken could now keep an eye on the Dwarves and oversee the town from up on high.
A day later, Richard arrived, bringing Elis and Lucas from King's College to seek out internships. Gwen placed them under Walken, roles the trio took without complaint, then personally toured the isle for outstanding issues to be resolved.
Once the chaos settled, Gwen observed that the peninsula was finally something other than a dilapidated Dickensian wasteland of muck and refuse. The most significant change was in Millwall, where the streets had been cleared of trash, and the public buildings were once again in use. Shattered windows that once gazed out like blue-addicts onto A-12-06 now held both light and people, giving the town a feeling of human warmth. When Wally conducted the January census, he recorded a total of three thousand inhabitants, and just over a thousand vagrants who desired abodes in Millwall. Concurrently, Elvia's clinic and soup kitchen had expended thrice and was known all over the region for its thick, gut-settling SPAM soup.
For men on the isle, those who were able-bodied were employed by the printing press, either as cleaners, fitters, or day-labourers helping the Dwarves. Public projects like the restoration of the mud-covered roads continued, delivering gainful employment to hundreds, even though Richard and Lea could clear the lot in a week. With wages being paid on time and in LDMs, merchants smelling opportunity had set up stalls and rented shops closer to the shore, selling enigmatic sausages in a bun that not even Caliban would eat, at least not without the sauce that cost extra.
Other labourers came from as far as Stratford and Vanbrugh to find work, for Gwen had given orders to keep as many bodies as possible on the isle. When the construction began in earnest, she had told Walken— there would not be enough hands even if they drained the inlet from Limehouse to Plumstead.
Then in between her life of increasingly more convoluted puzzles, training with Nils, persevering with Patil, tending ducks with Maxwell, limbering with Keridwen, and High Tea with Lady Grey, Petra arrived to preserve Gwen's sanity.
Gwen's second time at Heathrow was met with far more success than the first. Rachel Swann, Ravenport's replacement Director of Security at the ISTC station, had instructed her people to recognise Gwen on sight. Little did she know, her order was wholly unnecessary, for its entire staff, those not yet laid off— had all witnessed the legendary lumen-recordings of the Devourer's tantrum that lead to Director Reeve's dismissal.
Her infamy became apparent when she teleported in with Magister Brown in tow. As if via divination, two uniformed guards stood ready with welcomes and hellos, asking for her business and destination. When she said that she would not be travelling interstate and that she was instead here to receive a friend, the atmosphere visibly relaxed, and the guards explained themselves.
"The arrival lounge is this way," the officer directed them toward a section of the ISTC that Gwen knew a little too well.
"You're a celebrity," Brown teased her with a smirk. "I doubt they have any idea who I am."
"You should try having a ring with your entire inventory confiscated." Gwen chuckled. "I bet you'd fight them to the last mote of mana as well."
"Oh, I would— but I don't have a Lord Marshall to back me up. What if I get arrested?"
"Dickie didn't bail me out for fun," Gwen explained as they made their way across the lounge. This time, she was at least in a calve-length coat; last time, she had teleported in wearing a summer dress. "If you recall, I was grilled within an inch of my life in that car."
Brown laughed. "I am jealous. You have no idea how generously people will pay to arrest the Duke of Norfolk's ear for an hour. To think he came to you, free of charge and in person. There's little wonder the tabloids speculate."
"No need to tell me about it. I am living it." Gwen quickened her pace. "Come on. I think Pats should be here already."
ISTCs, unlike the air-lounges of her old world, were relatively instant for those with HDMs and passports. The only obstructions facing legitimate travellers were crystals and customs, a problem only for those who were Class VI War Mages carrying enough capital to fund a city-wide insurrection.
At the glass doors facing the retro-futurist decor of the lounge, Gwen spotted her cousin seated beside the un-endearing face of Magister Wen.
"PETRA!" She rushed forward.
Petra looked up from her tablet.
Her cousin remained as comely as she had always been; if a bit pale from the long-distance teleportation. Tall and svelte, Petra's hair fell loosely about her shoulders, while on her shoulders hung a long sleeved one-piece that wrapped her figure snugly. Like herself, the Enchanter had forgone her coat. As an old Moscow girl, Gwen figured, Pats must not think much of London's meagre single-digit winters.
Beside her, the future Meister Wen looked like she walked out from Heilong Laboratory, got on a cab, strolled through the ISTC, then arrived at Heathrow's lounge. Her face was its usual shrivelled-pickle self, and her eyes still possessed that lifeless, glassy quality that came standard in old Mineral Mages.
The two girls crashed in a fierce embrace, with Gwen enveloping her cousin by lifting her into the air. Petra's body felt so soft, her hair smelled terrific, and it felt amazing to hug something other than a Familiar, or a duck. "Pats! I've missed you so much. Lord knows enough has happened with you gone."
"Gwen— you've…" Petra appeared surprised she could breathe. "You've lost your Draconic-strength? So it's true?"
"Aye, it's true." Gwen let her go. "We'll talk at Peterhouse, your new home. I've got a private suite there. Or on the Isle of Dogs where I've got a manor."
"I am going to Peterhouse?" Petra turned her head.
"You're not?" Gwen looked to Maxwell Brown, who was shaking Wen's hand and offering the usual English platitudes. That Vice-Chancellor Butterfield had sent Gwen to retrieve the scholar from Fudan had been a message in itself. Roslyn-Marie Wen was a research fellow, a Meister by virtue of what the college had exchanged— not by academic merit. Likewise, as Brown would be taking over from Wen as the chief researcher of Gwen's mystical prowess, the inclusion of the Magister in their welcoming party was an indication of Wen's future place at Cambridge. In a way, Gwen almost felt sorry for the researcher. If she were to reach the apex of her life, she would hate for it to be half-arsed and co-dependent on politics. "Greetings, Magister Wen. You're looking well."
Wen inclined her chin. "Hello, Gwen."
Still holding Petra's hand, Gwen waited for an answer from Brown.
"Well." Her tutor grinned. "I imagine that as a post-graduate, Magus Kuznetsova can pick whichever college she likes. That's how it usually works, you know? Either we pick you, or you pick us. Not everyone's inducted by Lady Grey personally at Hall. Besides, you're a Magus of the college— but not yet its student— how's that for an irregularity."
"Magus?" Gwen met her cousin's crystallin irises.
"Dean Luo was very kind." Petra beamed. "I had enough units completed anyway, and moving to Cambridge as an undergraduate would prevent me from progressing in Spellcube research."
"I am happy for you, Magus Kuznetsova!" Gwen squeezed her cousin's hand.
"The same, Magus Song."
The two laughed, drawing eyes from around the lounge.
"Magister Brown, I was thinking of Queen's College," Petra answered their earlier question. "They have a very advanced corpus of work regarding Dwarven technologies."
"Oh-ho-ho, Dear Petra—" Gwen interrupted before Brown could deliver the news himself. Huffing arrogantly, she imperiously placed a hand around Petra's waist and another around her shoulders. "If it's Dwarven Runes yer' ken, yer in for a treat, lass. Say, how's the liver these days?"
"My liver?" The researcher cocked her head.
"Aye-aye." Gwen grinned with teeth, doing her best Hanmoul. "Tell me, lassie. Yer ever pass out from a Dwarven Jäger Bombe before?"