Tala, Lyn, and Terry walked the darkened streets.
It wasn’t too late, so they were far from alone as they made their way through the cool, nighttime streets. They moved slowly, lethargic from their feast and high off their recent accomplishments.
The two Mages chatted about small things, shortly coming to the topic of relationships.
Apparently, several eligible men had been attempting to woo Lyn, but she’d turned down all comers. “I just don’t need that sort of complication in my life, you know?”
Tala shrugged. She knew that she, herself, was pretty at the very least, but she’d been an outsider since before her thirteenth birthday. Since I started using the iron salve at the Academy.
She shook her head, returning her thoughts to the present, and the fact that she really couldn’t relate to Lyn’s troubles of having men throwing themselves at her. Despite that, Tala inquired politely, and made appropriately interested noises to prompt Lyn to go on.
Thus, the walk was filled with pleasant, inane conversation, and Tala was content.
The Constructionists’ Guildhall was open, as expected, and Tala felt and noticed the same scanning and magical notifications upon entering. They were duplicated for Lyn, as well.
An attendant came out in short order, giving a bow. “Mistresses.” He straightened, warily eyeing Terry before turning his gaze to meet that of the Mages. “How can I be of service?”
Lyn looked to Tala expectantly, and Tala smiled. “I would like a cold air incorporator and a time-keeper.” She hesitated. “Well, I want to get the price of the second. The first is thirty ounces, silver, yes?”
The attendant smiled and pulled out a slate. “Let me check. One moment, please.”
Lyn was frowning. “Why do you want those things?”
Tala shrugged. “I’m tired of not knowing what time it is, and incorporators are dead useful.”
“They are incredibly inefficient. Why not get something that removes thermal energy from what it targets? That would be so much more efficient than a cool air incorporator. You are an Immaterial Guide, though I don’t recall you being familiar with thermal energy; there shouldn’t be that much of an efficiency issue, either way, if you decided to power it yourself instead of buying harvests to power it.”
She wasn’t wrong. The new set of inscriptions she’d received from Holly tested the width of Tala’s abilities as an Immaterial Guide. While she’d picked up enough of the basics to use all her inscriptions, her lack of a true, deep knowledge was harming her efficiency. It was one of the many deficiencies she needed to correct to reach her full potential.
The attendant cleared his throat. “She is correct, Mistress. Should I look for such an item, instead?”
Tala waved him off. “No, no.” She thought for a moment. “But if you have incorporators for lightning, acid, or coffee, I’d be interested in those as well.”
He blinked at her. “Coffee?”
She narrowed her eyes. “I know you have one.”
He cleared his throat and looked back down to his slate, not engaging. I know you have one.
Lyn placed a hand on Tala’s arm. “You haven’t really addressed my question.”
Tala gave the young man a last, probing glare before turning to her friend. “No re-inscription cost. I don’t have to keep them topped off or find power sources. They are also incredibly useful for training my Ways. I just think that Mages undervalue these things.” She smiled.
The attendant cleared his throat. “We do have several schemata for cold air incorporators. Were you looking for a specific temperature?”
Tala shrugged. “As cold as you have, assuming they are the same cost.”
“They are, and you were correct: Thirty silver ounces.” He made a note on the stone in his hand. “We do have a few for mild acids available, but any of the stronger ones are restricted. They require Archon authorization for purchase.”
Tala gave Lyn a meaningful look, trying to convey: See? If they weren’t useful, no one would care.
Lyn quirked a mirthful smile but didn’t comment.
Tala turned back to him. “I’m not interested in mild acids. I’ll return in a day or two to order a sufficiently strong one.”
The attendant seemed a bit uncomfortable. “Apologies, Mistress, but the rule isn’t mine. An Archon’s approval will still be required.”
Tala nodded. “As you say.”
He shrugged, clearly still confused, but returning his eyes to the slate nonetheless. “As to a lightning incorporator, we do have one, but there is a note attached, as well as an Archon approval requirement.”
Tala cocked her head. “The note?”
“This says a minimum of one hundred mana per second is required to incorporate even a mild shock through the only currently successful schema. It is marked as a high Fused or Refined item.”
Tala slumped, disappointed. “Ah… Well, that’s not very useful.”
“I can add a note that you’d be interested in more potent or efficient versions, if such are ever successfully created. I believe that such are a current topic of research for a couple of our Archons in Surehaven.”
She perked up. “That would be wonderful.”
He took down her specific information, including how best to contact her.
“Alright then. So, how are we looking on a time-keeper?”
He nodded, smiling. “I have several available: From one that simply displays the month, day, and year with discoloration, to one with glowing symbols displaying the time down to the millisecond. There are obviously many in between those, as well.”
Tala blinked at that. Who would need such a thing? “I’d probably be happy with something accurate to the quarter hour?” She barked a laugh. “Slag, I’d be happy with accuracy to the hour.”
He nodded, looking at his slate and manipulating it until he found what he needed. “What I have of that type is a potentially magic-bound item, requiring re-inscription every week to three months, depending on the mage empowering it.”
That is not ideal. She sighed. “How much?”
“Two ounces, gold, for the device, but once purchased re-inscription is ten ounces, silver.”
Tala’s eyes widened. Yeah, no. She sighed, shaking her head. “Thank you for looking. That is more than it’s worth to me.” She hesitated, then asked. “Why does it need to be inscribed so often?” She hesitated, considering. “And why does it have to be magic-bound?”
“Both excellent questions, and they, happily, have the same answer: We’ve not found an easily compatible power-source.” He gave an apologetic half smile. “Time magic hasn’t been found to exist on its own, and untyped power does not efficiently convert to work with time-scripts.”
Tala just stared at him. “Time-scripts.”
“As in time magic.”
Time is immaterial. Could I study these scripts and translate them into a potential inscription? She almost laughed at that. Yay! I can have an inscription that tells time. “Why use such an esoteric power, then? That seems…odd.”
He frowned. “How so, Mistress?”
“Why not make something that functioned like a clock, or a pocket watch.”
He began nodding. “You mean something with a regular cadence inbuilt? It is possible to use such for the regular measuring of time. Some of those have even been constructed.” He lifted the slate up, slightly, indicating the very device he held. “These are actually built on a similar platform, but believe it or not, those using time scripts are actually less expensive, both initially and overall. We do have mechanical watches as well, though.”
“Oh?” Those slates are ridiculously expensive. Maybe, the mundane way is better?
“Yes. We, here at the Constructionists’ Guild, pride ourselves on pursuing all avenues of creation.”
“How much would a pocket watch be?” I could keep it in Kit, make sure it isn’t broken? She had a thought; Kit could manipulate dimensionality within itself. Could Kit wind a watch, if it was placed inside?
“Ten gold, plus or minus an ounce, depending on materials and embellishments. We request a month to properly craft each custom order.”
“Oh…” She sighed. “Thank you. I suppose I’ll just have to make do.” Or, I can find some craftsman who will sell me a less precise timekeeper. That should cost less.
“Understandable.” He gave a polite smile, then returned to business. “I do have one of the freezing air incorporators in stock, if you’d like it now?”
She nodded. “That would be wonderful. Thank you.” She hesitated. “Wait a moment.”
“You never gave me an answer on the coffee incorporator.” Tala’s eyes narrowed. What are you hiding?
Lyn cleared her throat, placing a hand on Tala’s arm. “Apologies. She’s had a stressful day.”
The young man bowed and left to get the item she’d requested.
“What was that about?” Tala turned on her friend.
“I could ask you the same question.”
Tala gazed suspiciously after the departed attendant. “Someone has to have made one. I just know it.” No inter-guild-pressure would prevent me from making one…if I could.
“Then, why hide it? If they actually had such a device, they would sell so many.”
“I don’t know. I haven’t figured that out, yet.”
Lyn shook her head, seemingly deciding it wasn’t worth engaging on the topic, further.
Five minutes later, Tala had paid and departed with Lyn and Terry in tow.
The new incorporator was fascinating, and she turned it over in her fingers, examining it more closely.
Like the other incorporators, there was a simple opening in the center, just large enough for her two thumbs to go through, together. This particular one looked to be made of perfectly clear glass, though it felt like metal to her fingers; she couldn’t have said why, though. The cross-section of the circle moved through various shapes in seemingly random order, the ridges coming together and diverging at irregular intervals.
She tested it, and true-to-order, air came out that was almost cold enough to make her hand hurt, when she put her fingers in the flow. Well, it would have almost hurt before my inscriptions. Now, it wasn’t even uncomfortable, despite the chill already in the air.
She funneled power into the device, sending a stream of cold wind at Lyn.
The woman scrunched her face in a mockingly-outraged grimace. “Stop that!”
Tala grinned and tucked the incorporator away. “Fine.”
Lyn shook her head. “You seem so child-like at times. The simplest workings of power are enough to fascinate you.”
“Am I supposed to be insulted by that? Magic is awesome!”
She grinned. “No, I don’t think I meant it negatively. It’s refreshing to work with someone who still finds joy in such things.”
Tala chuckled. “Glad to help, I suppose.”
They fell back into casual conversation as they returned home, together.
* * *
Tala woke the next morning, content.
She stretched and exercised, still acclimating to her increased weight.
After her soul-work, she moved into the bathroom where she used a full seven void-channels to fill the tub. One, as always, kept her body supplied with the ongoing power requirements for her active spell-forms. Four of the remaining went to her hot water incorporator, two to the cold, leaving the water quite hot, but no longer near boiling.
It took less than a minute to fully fill the tub, so that didn’t stretch her capacity, but instead of disabling the void-channels, she moved them to Flow and her magic-bound items, while she pulled out her two air incorporators.
Her items filled to capacity, she moved the channels to dump into the air incorporators. Let’s see how long I can hold this.
So, she stood there, over her bath, fully clothed.
Well…slag. She did not want to just stand there for close to twenty minutes. Ideally longer. Her bath would cool, maybe even begin to dissipate. Probably not that. I think I have at least an hour.
She looked around at what she had with her, and her eyes fell on Flow. I wonder…
She shifted the path of the void-channel for one of the two incorporators from her left hand to her right, while she, likewise, moved the incorporator itself. That way, she could continue to funnel power to them both with her right hand, each sending a steady stream of air upward. She then drew Flow with her left and laid it on the shelf, placing the two rings atop it.
Now, how do I… Thinking back to how she’d shifted from her left to her right hand, she made a similar mental movement, but this time it was from her right hand to Flow.
The channels moved easily, now moving through the ethereal connection she had to the knife, rather than down her physical arm.
Hesitantly, she pulled her hand back, continuing the flood of power, now using her soul-bond to Flow as a conduit.
It worked! Tala gave a little hop of glee, and immediately had to reach out and steady the incorporators, her landing having shaken the room. Don’t forget, Tala. You are quite…weighty now. She snorted at that.
Air, hot and cold, still flowing from the devices, Tala undressed and took her hair out of its standard, utilitarian braid.
The power still flowed without pause.
She bathed, keeping a portion of her mind locked on her seven channels.
The magic never wavered.
Her bath done, and her body clean, she retrieved her comb from Kit.
Quick strokes with the comb left her hair water and tangle free, and she took the hot air incorporator from Flow, moving the requisite void-channels back to her right hand. There is an odd strain, when I shift the course of void-channels.
She dried herself with the hot air, switching hands, and paths for the power, as often as reasonable.
Shortly after she was fully dry, she reached her limit and had to allow the void-channels to collapse. Nearly half an hour. Nice! And that was with the added strain of shifting routes. The previous day’s efforts had paid dividends. I wish I could spend that much time, every day, working on improvement.
Shortly thereafter, dressed in elk-leathers and with her hair back in its simple, strong braid, Tala left the bathroom.
Lyn was waiting in the sitting room. “Finally!”
Tala stopped, surprised. “You’re awake?”
“Of course, I am! My Archon evaluation is first thing this morning.”
Tala’s eyes widened. “Oh! I’m so sorry.”
Lyn waved her off as she carried a pile of things into the bath room. “What’s done is done.”
Tala frowned. “Wait… Wasn’t it scheduled for midmorning?”
“Midmorning is effectively first thing. Mind grabbing me breakfast?”
Tala laughed, grinning. “Sure, that’s fair.”
Lyn smiled as she closed the door.
“Well. It seems I’ve got to get breakfast.” She shook her head. “Terry!”
The bird flickered into being, already seemingly asleep, on her shoulder.
“You know, I’m aware that you are awake.”
He didn’t respond.
She shrugged. “Either way.”
* * *
Tala returned as quickly as she was able with two breakfast deals. That place really does have good prices.
She’d had to purchase a second jug for the extra coffee, but that wasn’t a huge loss. At least, that’s what she told herself.
Two and a half silver. She still had budget to use, due to her four days of unconsciousness, not to mention Rane’s generosity. Lyn will have one, at most two, sandwiches and some coffee, leaving me with at least ten sandwiches and close to two gallons of coffee. All in all, a good use of funds.
Thankfully, Tala returned before Lyn finished in the bath, even if not by much.
The older Mage came out in a robe of thick, fluffy, towel-like material and joined Tala at the table. Tala, of course, had to kneel beside the surface instead of using the chair, which undoubtedly would’ve failed to hold her.
“These look amazing!” Lyn looked through the various sandwiches and chose the one that looked best to her.
Tala poured her friend a mug of coffee from one jug before drinking straight from the other. “Hope you like it.”
Lyn took her time eating her one sandwich, though she was steady in her pace, only pausing to drink from her mug.
In that same time, Tala devoured eight of the things and finished a gallon of coffee.
“That can’t be healthy for you.” Lyn pointed at the now empty coffee jug.
“The caffeine alone has to be tweaking your brain to no end.”
Tala shrugged. “Not really? I think I mainly have issues if I don’t drink it.”
Lyn gave her a flat look. “You know, that’s a pretty clear indicator of a serious, physiological addiction.”
“Then, I’m addicted to sleep, food, water, and air.”
Tala waved her off. “Do you want another sandwich?”
Lyn gave the remaining three a long look, then shook her head. “They’re great, but I’m quite full. Thank you.”
Tala shrugged. “Fair enough.” She took another and began quickly eating it.
Lyn shook her head. “Well, I’ve got to get going. Wish me luck?”
Tala shook her head in turn, giving a half smile. “Nope. You don’t need it.”
“As kind as that sounds, in theory, I’d still appreciate the more standard gesture.”
She grinned. “Very well: Best of luck, Mistress Lyn. May the next time we meet, you be known as Mistress Lyn Clerkson, Diamond Archon.”
Lyn winked. “You better believe it.” Without another word, she headed for the door, waving goodbye over her shoulder before she closed it behind herself.
Tala sighed, sinking down until she was sitting on her heels, kneeling beside the table. “Well, Terry. It’s going to be a busy day.”
Terry gave her a one-eyed stare.
She laughed and tossed an especially large chunk of jerky for him. He snapped it up without appearing to move. The jerky had vanished from the air at least six feet from him. “You’re a wonder.”
He didn’t deign to react.
She ate the remaining food and downed the rest of the coffee with alacrity before rising and heading towards the door. “Alright! Time to go learn a new way of fighting.”