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“Wake up, sleepyhead.” a voice in my head shook me from the comfortable cocoon of warmth that I had lost myself in. I hadn’t been asleep, not for some time, but there simply hadn’t been a reason for me to start moving. When I had woken up, I had been snuggled up to Sigmir, with the furs we used as bedding wrapped around the two of us. Listening to Sigmir’s breathing, I was sure that she was still sleeping, the darkness around us lending credit to the idea, so I had rested my head back on her chest and simply let go of myself, letting my mind wander without thought.

Until the voice in my head, Lenore, was making me get up.

“And here I thought it was roosters that made you get up in the morning.” I sent over our link, adding just the right amount of grumpiness and humour to make the joke work.

“They, too. But I want to know what the Grandmother taught you, to protect yourself. She isn’t the type to simply teach you a spell, no, it’s more likely that she gave you a broadly applicable hint that you have to figure out for yourself and I am just as curious as you always are.” Lenore pushed, her own opinions and memories strongly influenced by my own. It didn’t help that she was right, the Grandmother hadn’t just explained how I could stop someone from using a link to attack me, whether through the Astral River or another medium, apparently it was possible to use almost any element, it just depended on your skill with it. No, she had used one idea I had used before and hinted at ways to expand on that idea, how it could be used to cover the issue.

Lenore must have eavesdropped, or was that thought-dropped, on me, otherwise she wouldn’t have pushed me to think of the exact idea the Grandmother had mentioned. Somehow, it turned into an interesting game, Lenore trying to badger me into thinking about the conversation with the Grandmother and what she had transmitted while I was thinking about anything but that. We were both limited to the other’s surface thoughts, sifting through memories required assistance of the one who was holding them and Lenore’s curiosity was driving her insane. Finally, after a few minutes of mental tag, I relented and mentally relayed the conversation, causing her to fall silent, deeply in thought.

“There’s a lot more to that than concealing us from magic, isn’t there?” she asked after quite a bit of contemplation.

“There is. I even think that I could use it on others but before I try that, I’d like to experiment a little, hopefully on someone we don’t care about. Unless I miss my guess, using that type of magic comes with significant risk.” I explained, adding the mental images and concepts I was thinking about.

The idea the Grandmother had mentioned was the simple act of using Blood-Runes to strengthen myself, drawing them directly on my body and slowly infusing Astral Power into them. She had asked a simple question, why not make such a marking permanent? I was a Blood Mage after all, I should be able to carve a magical formation directly into someone’s body, using Blood Magic to draw out the person’s magic to infuse it into the formation. That way, at least according to her, it was possible to create a lasting, permanently active effect that didn’t need to be consciously maintained.

Of course, she had talked about a way to carve curses directly into prisoners, using their own magic to imprison them into their bodies, making me think of my own attempt to create slave-collars and the horrible failure that had been. Curious where I had gone wrong, brought it up, causing her a good laugh, even if she went a little pale when I mentioned the being that had tried to push through. Just that reaction made me wonder what on Mundus that thing had been, other than something that just should not be. She had told me where I had gone wrong, mostly by using an external medium to hold the magic, which caused, for lack of better word, transmission loss. If I carved the formations directly into a body, that loss would be reduced to zero as unused power went back into the body, ready to be used again.

“Too bad we didn’t know that yesterday, we could have used a centaur or two.” Lenore mumbled, causing me to grin at her pragmatism, it was just like my own.

“On the bright side, if we go back to the road and stumble upon the rest of them, we can combine the pleasure of taking revenge for harrying us like prey with the excitement of magical experimentation. Isn’t that great?” I asked, causing her to break in cackling laughter. She gave a good cackle, I had to admit that, a Raven’s beak and vocal cords were just made for cackling and cawing.

“Now you are making me hope that a few of the silly ponies are trying to ambush us.” she admitted, after calming down a little.

“What’s going on?” Sigmir asked, her voice thick with sleep. Apparently, Lenore’s laughter had woken her up.

“Lenore’s just being silly.” I told her, before pushing myself up a little so I could give her a good morning-kiss.

“Mhm…” she mumbled, in clear enjoyment, but once I let up a little, she easily pushed me up, just a bit, so she could look into my face without her eyes crossing.

“Are you really alright? You were a little strange last night, the day shouldn’t have exhausted you to that degree. Did something happen with the Grandmother?” she asked, remembering the sometimes mercurial temper of my teacher.

“No, it was just a little difficult to divine a way to speak with her. Transmitting my mind through the Astral River was a little exhausting but it was worth it. And I’m fine ,really.” I promised, trying to convey that I truly was fine and not putting up a front. I knew just like she did that I would try to hide a potential weakness from Adra and Rai, so if something had been wrong the evening before, I wouldn’t necessarily have admitted it.

My assurance seemed to have been enough for Sigmir and we simply laid there, enjoying the closeness of the other, until dawn broke and we decided to get up.

It didn’t take us long to break camp and return to our travels. With a little prodding from me, partially because I hoped to stumble upon a few cenaturs that would volunteer to be experimental subjects, partially because the ancient road would speed our travels up a great deal, we decided to return to it. Not directly, that would have been a little reckless, I wanted a few test-subjects not stumble into a patrol near the town, so getting to the road would take most of the day.

As we walked, I used the time to teach Rai, relating the teachings I was learning in the book given to me by Mrs. Wu to him. I had to translate them into concepts he understood but, for example, the difference in method between overcoming a scrying-ward that was triggered by motion and a motion-sensor were minute. Sure, if you wanted to disable them you needed different skills and tools but disabling wasn’t the wisest choice at all times, circumventing them was far easier.

Sadly, I had didn’t even know if some of the concepts I was explaining existed on Mundus but if I could come up with potential ways to translate real-world methods of private security into magical concepts, others would be able to do so as well.

The biggest problem was that Rai was a little lacking in the detection of magic, he could smell its presence, similar to me, but where I had Lenore to cover the problem that smell and taste were imprecise in some manners but highly distinguishing in others, he didn’t have a Lenore. So, even as I described security-ideas to him and how to counter them, I tried to figure out a way to give him some sort of universal tool, the easiest way would be to teach him a general counterspell, using the darkness-runes of Devour, Magic and most likely Shadow, something that allowed him to use his own Shadow and Magic to break others. He had some talent with Darkness, especially Shadow, Magic, so it might work. But it would take a bit of time, even if I asked Adra for help in testing the spell.

Late in the afternoon, Lenore came flying back to me, reporting that she had found the road but that there was a small centaur-camp. Looking at her memories, I was relatively certain that those centaurs were just an ordinary party, maybe hunters or traders using a magical bag, but at somehow, I just didn’t care, they were in the wrong place at the wrong, or maybe right, time.

“There’s a small centaur-patrol near the road. Rai, we’ll take care of them, once night has fully fallen.” I told my disciple, while I was beginning considering the best ways to handle the attack. If I wanted them alive, I’d have to be a little more careful. Dead Centaurs made bad experimental subjects after all.

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Tsaimath

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