The Constructionist Guild was open, or so it seemed.
Tala noted that the entrance didn’t actually have doors on it. I guess they never close? That seemed a bit odd, but Tala guessed that Mages, especially Archons, likely kept odd hours.
As she strode inside, she again felt the magic in the surrounding stone scan her and project an infrared pulse, at least to her mage-sight.
It was nearly a minute before an attendant came out, looking a little bleary eyed. “Mistress? How can we help you?” She was inscribed, but not a Mage. An assistant?
Tala frowned. “Did I wake you? I’m sorry, the entrance was open so-”
The attendant held up her hand, clearly stifling a yawn. “It is more than fine. We wish to be available to our customers whenever they need us.”
“Oh…ok.” Well, I’m here already, and she’s already awake. “I came to see if my incorporators were ready. I commissioned two, yesterday.”
The young woman pulled out a slate from behind a nearby desk. “Name please?”
She waited for a moment longer. “Full name, please.”
“Don’t have a last name.”
“Oh!” She colored slightly. “My apologies, Mistress Tala.” She began working on the slate. A moment later, she brightened. “Here you are. Yes, they are complete. I can see you’ve already paid, so let me go grab those, and we can confirm receipt.” She left the room for a moment. Returning, she handed a small wooden box to Tala with a small bow, her slate now tucked under the other arm.
Tala took the box and opened it; the lid was attached with small brass hinges that moved smoothly and silently. Sitting in the cushioned interior were two obviously magical devices.
They each mirrored each other, and the other incorporator she had, in only a single respect: There was a circular opening in the center, just large enough for her two thumbs to go through, together.
The one on the right was a white material, seeming softer than metal, but still somewhat glossy. When she picked it up, it was lighter than she’d expected. Around the central circle, dull blades, or fins, radiated a short distance outward to an outer ring, all of the same material. Those blades, however, were very nearly black, and they held the same gloss as the white rings which bordered them.
The young woman was smiling. “That is the one for hot air. Care to test it? You can point it however you desire, as the air isn’t hot enough to permanently damage anything, here.”
Tala nodded, pointing the device at her other hand, which still held the box. She funneled some power into the device, but nothing happened. She sighed. Right, incorporators take a lot of power. She created the void around her gate, splitting the flow and sending just more than three-quarters of the power into the incorporator.
Hot air flooded out of the device. The assistant had been correct, it wasn’t burning hot, but it would quickly become uncomfortable.
It was a strange thing: the sound of rushing air was the only indication that something was happening. “Seems to work.” She looked up and saw the other woman’s eyes were wide. “What is it?”
The assistant cleared her throat. “That is a much greater flow than I’ve seen produced. If I may ask, Mistress, how much power did you funnel? Did I mis-read the customer beacon? You aren’t an Archon, are you?” She frowned, looking at her slate. “No… you’re not listed as one.”
Tala opened her mouth to answer but realized that she didn’t have a way to answer. “Huh… You know, I don’t have any way to convey it.” She placed the incorporator back in the box.
The woman cocked her head to one side. “What do you mean?” Then, she seemed to understand. “You’re not familiar with the theories of the rigorous documentation of magic. That is understandable, I suppose. Most Mages who join our ranks from the academy are missing that knowledge.” The look on her face made it clear how she felt about that.
“I guess not.” Tala felt a bit foolish. Weight has pounds, distance has miles, how do I not know a unit to measure magic with? It was a colossal oversight. This seems like the exact type of thing the Academy should have taught us.
“If you will allow, I can get a device with which you can measure your output.”
Tala hesitated. “I’m not really looking to spend more…”
“Oh! My apologies. This would be for you to use, in my presence. I’m sure we do have an extra, if you wish to purchase one, but that was not my intention. Honestly, I want to satisfy my own curiosity.”
Tala shrugged. “Oh, sure then.” After an instantaneous pause, she asked. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
The woman looked down at her own chest, then back up. “Oh! I completely forgot my name tag. Apologies, Mistress, I am Anan.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Anan.”
“Likewise, Mistress Tala.” Anan bowed slightly, before leaving again. She was only gone for a brief moment, returning with a flat, round disk of a material that resembled dark steel. “We can test the other incorporator after, if that is acceptable to you.”
Tala nodded, smiling as she held out her hand. “So, I just send power into it, like a magic item I’m charging, or empowering?”
“Precisely.” Anan put the device into Tala’s hand.
“Won’t that bond it to me?”
“That is an excellent question. This device does not use the power that it is given by a Mage, it simply analyzes it. Therefore, no bond is created. You don’t need more than an instantaneous pulse of power for it to register. It will only register to the first decimal place.”
“Huh, good to know.” Tala glanced down at the disk. “Here it goes.” She still had the void around her gate, and she had been channeling the excess into Flow. She took that portion and sent it to the disk in her hand. The metal lit up, and Tala immediately moved the stream back to Flow. “Fourteen point three.”
Anan was nodding. “As I suspected. That is quite impressive, Mistress.”
“What’s it mean?”
“Well, one mana per second is the standard amount of power produced by an average human.”
“And mana is a unit of magic power, then.”
“If I remember right, it stands for: Magic Accumulated Naturally, Average. One mana is defined as the amount of power an average, non-Mage human produces through their gate every second, averaged over time.”
“I suppose that makes sense.” Tala blinked, thinking through the meaning of what Anan had said. “Wait…So, I’m producing more than fourteen times what a standard human does?”
Anan shrugged. “Probably more, actually. I doubt you funneled all your influx into the device.”
She’s right about that. Wait, that means that my active scripts currently use magic at around four or five times what a normal person’s gate produces? Holly truly was insane. “I guess I didn’t actually have a reference.” Surreptitiously, she let the void drop and channeled all her standard flow into the medallion for a brief instant. Four point six. She smiled. Not terrible at all.
“Ah, of course. We usually test incorporators at three or four mana per second. From what I understand, the head researchers for new designs often stress-test their prototypes at around a hundred MPS, but they’re all Archons, and I’ve never seen it, myself.”
Tala found herself desperately wanting one of these measurement devices. No, Tala. You’ll just start obsessing over numbers… She still wanted it. She reinstated the void and briefly pushed all the power at the medallion, letting her body draw from her reserves. Eighteen point five. So, just more than quadruple the flowrate.
Anan grinned. “I can see that look in your eyes. You want one.” Her gaze flicked to the medallion, which Tala still held. “I also see that you’re already testing it out.”
“I am, and I do, but I shouldn’t.”
The assistant’s grin widened. “That is surprisingly wise. My understanding is that the Archons, here, forbid their Mages and Magelings from using these for anything other than required tasks. Apparently, it can cause odd developments within magic users who use them too often. I don’t think it’s a side effect of the device, but apparently such Mages soon have their heads filled with numbers and become obsessed with exactly how much power goes into each script activation, how much they hold, and things like that.”
Tala could see that being quite appealing, actually. “And that’s bad?”
Anan shrugged. “I wouldn’t know, myself, but the Archons seem to believe so.” She seemed to ponder. “I believe what was conveyed was something to the effect of: Magic isn’t numbers, withdrawals, and deposits. Your mental constructs and proper inscriptions are more important than any number. Attaching numbers too closely to various magical effects can taint, and even weaken, the mental constructs for their spell-forms.”
Tala found herself nodding. “I suppose that makes sense. The three points on the triangle and all that.”
Anan gave her a puzzled look but then just shrugged, again. “Such are the things of Mages.”
Tala paused, then decided to go for it. “If I may ask, why aren’t you a Mage?”
The other woman smiled slightly. “I didn’t have the funds to attend the Academy, and I didn’t want to take on debt. I’m learning, though, and my supervisor thinks I’m nearly ready for a keystone inscription.” She looked down, clearly a bit embarrassed by the fact. “It’s not the same as a formal education, but I think I prefer learning on the job.” She looked back to Tala, her eyes twinkling, just a bit. “Besides, I’m being paid to learn now, instead of the other way around.”
“Huh. I wish I could have done that.”
Anan glanced to the side, seeming a bit out of her element, once more. She brought the subject back to the matter at hand. “Well, do you wish to verify the other incorporator?” She held out her hand.
Tala placed the measurement medallion onto Anan’s palm, the number immediately vanishing as it changed hands.
Tala’s attention returned to the wooden box in her other hand and to the second incorporator.
She opened the lid, focusing on the device. This one was a twisting copper ring, and even though it didn’t look at all like one, it somehow evoked the idea of a copper kettle.
As she looked closer, Tala noticed that the cross-section of the twisting shape was a triangle. There were four and a third twists around the circuit of the device, and Tala couldn’t see a seam, anywhere. It was slightly warm to the touch, where the other had just felt room temperature.
“That one could damage some things in here. Would you mind pointing it at that corner?”
Tala looked over and saw a small grate set in the floor of the front corner of the room. “Oh! Sure.” She took a few steps that way, orienting the ring to point at the drain. She again directed the excess power from her void-surrounded gate through the lensing device. A healthy flow of steaming water streamed out. It was just more than the rate from the cold tap in Lyn’s bath room, if Tala was estimating correctly. “Very good. This will do nicely.”
She allowed the stream to end, moving the power back towards Flow. Ha! Flow gets the flow.
She hadn’t aimed perfectly, and the corner was now liberally splattered with droplets of water. “Can you hold this?” She held out the box containing the hot air incorporator towards Anan.
Anan accepted it.
Tala re-empowered the hot water incorporator, then carefully touched the water streaming forth with her other hand. It was a bit too hot to comfortably leave her finger in it. “Yes, this will do nicely, indeed. Thank you.”
Anan bowed, slightly, handing the box back.
Tala placed the incorporator back in and closed the lid. “How long will the water last?”
Anan pulled out her slate and manipulated it, reading from the surface. “That one is particularly stable. For quantities of less than five-hundred gallons, stored together, the water should remain material for at least an hour.”
Easy baths, here I come! “Wonderful. How do you need me to confirm receipt of the items?” Tala slipped the box into Kit.
“Just certify here.” Anan held out the slate, a sharp spike of stone rising from one corner. The magic for the morphing of the material was faint, but still registered to Tala’s mage-sight. Fascinating devices.
Tala glanced at the contents of the slate. They were simple: she was just acknowledging that she had received the goods that she had already paid for. She allowed her finger to prick on the stone and marked the slate. As usual, the blood faded instantly, the spike of stone retracting. That must be an expensive feature.
“Is there anything else I can do for you this morning, Mistress?”
“No, thank you, Anan. I appreciate your assistance.”
“We are here to serve. Take care.”
“Take care, and good luck!”
“Thank you, you as well.”
“Thank you.” Tala departed without another word.
Once she was outside, Tala glanced at Terry. “You were quiet, and she didn’t seem to care much about you being there.”
Terry shifted slightly but didn’t respond.
She shrugged. “Either way.” She turned and headed towards the training yard. It was going to be a wonderful day.
As she walked, she recreated the void, and split her flow two ways: body and a magic item. She quickly recharged Kit, then her clothing, then the hammer, and finally Terry’s collar, before redirecting the excess power fully into Flow once more.
There we go. Terry had shifted irritably when she’d placed her hand on his neck, but he remained dedicated to his sleep.
If she remembered right, she hadn’t gotten to the training yard until close to nine in the morning, the day before. So, she was still close to an hour ahead of schedule. I could go and check in, see about a place to train? That could be valuable. At the moment, she was just wandering, her void in place and power strengthening her bond with Flow.
I could try another Archon star… If she could maintain the spell-form while resting between periods of void-enhanced power accumulation, she might be able to do it. She started trying to do math in her head, but she didn’t have solid numbers. Something told her that was a good thing; she had to trust her instincts, trust her power.
I think I could match the stronger star I have in less than two stints with the void. She stopped walking as she came to that conclusion. She’d taken four hours to make that star, now she was estimating that she could make it in half an hour? Give or take.
Even taking into account the void’s effectiveness, that meant that she’d nearly doubled her base flow-rate. Just as Rane said. It lessened a bit, but not nearly all the way back to how it was before.
A nearly manic grin spread across her face. No wonder Holly was unimpressed with my gate, when she first checked me. I must have barely been above a non-Mage. She almost laughed. I might have even been worse than a mundane, for all I know. Now, though. Her face hurt from her massive smile. Now, I’m making real progress.
She knew that she wouldn’t keep doubling her output, that would be insane to expect, but she could likely keep the pace with a linear growth. If I can add roughly three mana to my base accumulation-rate every two weeks or so. She shook her head. No, I’m not going to obsess over the numbers. I will progress and enjoy every step.
She nodded to herself, still insanely pleased. So, am I going to make another Archon star? She didn’t really have a use for such, if she was being honest, and it wouldn’t be better practice than anything else she was doing. No. I’ll keep my current work.
She paused. If I can maintain it between cycles, I could make a star in a few hours… That…that might just be worth it. Become an Archon this afternoon? She snorted. She doubted it was as simple as: ‘Here’s the star!’ ‘You’re an Archon.’
I’ll ask Holly this afternoon. She hesitated, the thought of more inscriptions putting a bit of a damper on her enthusiasm. That will take more power to maintain… Knowing Holly, it might perfectly use up all of her standard flow of power.
That would make a lot of sense, actually. Her inscriptions seemed to take a bit more power, when more was available, but not a whole lot. Likely, they would take more if they’re put under stress. It was fair to assume that healing a broken bone, or deep laceration, would take more power than when the scripts were idle.
She supposed that she could make a bunch of little stars and combine them into one of enough power to be seen as acceptable, but somehow that felt like cheating: like she wouldn’t actually be earning the title. If I want to take shortcuts, I can just force my way in with my current stars.
She kept deflecting her mind away from obsessing over the numbers she’d just learned. The more she thought about it, the more keeping the separation made sense. The better a mental construct is, the less magic will be needed, and the more effective a spell-effect will be. If I got it locked in my head that this effect took this much mana, then that would permeate the mental construct, and keep me from ever improving in that facet. She shook her head. It was a subtle trap, and if Anan hadn’t explained the basics, Tala could easily have fallen for it.
These thoughts were all well and good, but she still hadn’t decided where to head, now. No reason to go anywhere else. To the training yard!
It was a pleasant walk, and she soon arrived to find the training yard in a very similar state to the day before. She had no idea if the same people were there, or doing the same activities, but the general sense of the place was the same.
She smiled. Maybe this place will work for me. She definitely liked the overall atmosphere.
She’d had to allow the void to vanish once more, resting while she walked, before resuming the exercise just as she arrived.
Just like the day before, when she stepped from the street into the training yard itself, someone immediately stopped what they’d been doing and approached her.
“Mistress, can I be of assistance?”
Prompt bunch. “I’m to meet Guardsman Adam, to assist with a class, today, and I hope to utilize a training space until then.”
The guardswoman seemed a bit taken aback. “Oh, umm. Let me go see what I can find out for you.”
The woman gave a slight bow and departed.
Tala used the time, while waiting for the guardswoman to return, to take in those practicing around her. Thankfully, the wait wasn’t long.
The woman nodded. “You can proceed to that building, there. An officer will meet you, just inside.”
“Happy to assist.” The woman returned to her stretching, and Tala set off across the yard.