The Case of the Short, Short Prince

by Geron Kees

Chapter 32

The bowels of the earth.

Unlike the open spaces beneath the House of Fire, and the great dam they had visited, the route they now took under Methuwan was an almost claustrophobic warren of tunnels and stairs. It seemed designed to simply give access to portions of the underground, and no more. Perhaps because of the route that Moket had traveled to find himself beneath the city, entering by way of a discharge tunnel for water, it was not a place that was meant to be normally visited. Only accessed, should the need arise. The balcony above the generating room had been their sole glimpse of the more normal areas below the city.

Jamie had detected no electrums at all so far, not the sort that might detect them, nor any others even traveling by. He could still sense the immense reservoir of them behind and below them, emanating from within the grand hall full of the round generating devices of the ancients. So, while they were moving upwards, the access ways they traveled seemed to be in no hurry to meet with a definite way into the city.

"I keep expecting to encounter very large mice," Garvin joked, at one point. "They would love such a maze as this."

Jamie smiled at that, and even Snave emitted a grunt that suggested he agreed. "The ancients must have felt a need to connect the city above with every part of their works. But surely, no one came this way with any regularity. The route is a tortuous one, at best."

"That vibration I feel beneath my feet as we walk," Geert said, looking down at his boots, "and the small mumble of lesser gods that still speaks at the lowest reaches of my hearing. This must arise from the river flowing through the tunnels beneath the city.

"I suspect I know how they channel that water," Bastyin put in. "After our lesson with the way they created electrums at the dam, and the visualization I had in my mind about it, I suspect that the river comes from a higher point, perhaps even in the upper forest, and then takes a dive beneath the city, running downward through the tunnels, which would speed its travel. At the same time, the tunnels probably slowly narrow, which will increase the force and velocity of the flow, so that by the time it runs beneath those monstrous generating devices, the power of the water is quite impressive. More than enough to drive such fabulous engines."

Jamie smiled at his friend. "Your powers of imagination are impressive. I suspect you're very much right in your appraisal. The ancients were masters of using the natural forces to bolster their own."

"I have a sneaking suspicion that the ease of our travels through these lifeless corridors now does not bode well for what comes next, though," Sir Dorf mused. "Whenever the way to a castle seems undefended, it means the castle walls, themselves, are heavily fortified."

"Seems too easy," Gorge agreed. "Not like gray mages I know to be so lax. Where guards and magicks?"

Irik looked back over his shoulder at the knight, "I can't sense anything dangerous ahead."

"When we do encounter trouble, it will probably be on the order of one of the ancient's electrum defenses," Snave mused. "Jamie, I hope you have your feelers out."

"I do," Jamie agreed. "So far, I can sense the great hall below us, and perhaps several conduits for moving electrums from that place to others; but nothing anywhere near us that might qualify as a massing of electrums."

"Still, I would suggest that the way ahead is where we need be most on our guard," Dorf continued. "At some point, the route we travel will meet with more normal areas of the city. We can expect that joining to be guarded."

"We were able to enter the great hall under the dam without detection," Geert reminded. "It was just the rooms that control things there that seemed guarded by electrum watchers."

That had been true, Jamie remembered. The entire space had not been filled with guarding electrums. Only those smaller places where the old ones had controlled, and perhaps channeled their forces, had been guarded--

He suddenly stopped in his tracks, and closed his eyes. Jamie heard a soft whisper of steel on steel as Sir Dorf slowly drew his sword from its scabbard, but was too engrossed in the pictures that filled his mind to tell the man not to worry. For a moment Jamie was left to his own thoughts, until Garvin, to Jamie's right, moved closer, and gently bumped his shoulder against Jamie's. "A new vision, perhaps?"

Jamie took a moment to reply, his head now filled with brewing ideas. And then he opened his eyes, and turned to Geert, and smiled. "You have done it again!"

That lad looked totally bewildered, but then blinked and smiled broadly. "I have planted a new seed?"

"Exactly." Jamie turned to the others. "In all the places we have visited, only specific places were guarded against intrusion."

Sir Dorf smiled. "We knew this. Castles are heavily fortified. But no one wastes a guard on the outhouse, nor the path that reaches it."

Jamie laughed at that. "You're right." He turned to the gargoyle. "These warning forces are not everywhere, just in certain places. That means that the electrum defenses are in some way generated on the spot, where needed."

Jamie could almost imagine one of Snave's wooden eyebrows rising. "That would have to be true. Did we not already know this?"

"We did, and we didn't. Let's imagine how this might be done." Jamie frowned, thinking, and then smiled. "Ah. I have an idea."

"I would have been troubled if it were otherwise," Snave answered, with a definite smile in his voice.

Jamie laughed. "Imagine with me, if you will." He brought his fingertips together, and smiled at the gargoyle over top of them. "I have seen the groundskeeper at the castle watering those pretty gardens. He uses a large wagon with a mammoth of a barrel on the back, filled with water. And a rubberized hose, with a restrictor at the end."

"I believe it's called a nozzle, Jamie." But that he had Snave's full attention now, Jamie was sure.

"Whatever. Because the barrel of water is up high, and the hose connected at the bottom, simple gravity makes the water flow to the hose. The restrictor - the nozzle - at the end, causes the velocity of the flow to increase as it flows through the narrowed opening."

"The same principle used here to create a forceful flow of water beneath the electrum generators," Bastyin agreed. "What have you learned, Jamie?"

"You talk of water," Sir Dorf said. "How does this relate to electrums?"

"The two are nothing alike," Jamie agreed. "save for the fact that both can be induced to flow. So, let's imagine, for a moment, a specific scenario." He smiled then. "Suppose we have a corridor within a castle, the one we must pass through to get to where we wish to go. It is guarded by a man prone to sleep, and, in fact, when we get there, he is, indeed, sleeping."

"Not on my watch," Sir Dorf said, but with a smile. "Continue."

Jamie nodded. "In this hallway, there is a place where" --he smiled at Snave-- "a series of nozzles lines the wall from floor to ceiling, spaced so closely together that no man may slip between them."

"To what end?" Bastyin wondered aloud.

Jamie winked at the Lachess. "The flows from these nozzles are of sufficient pressure that the streams make their ways all the way across the hall, to be received by holes in the far wall. From there, each stream travels down a pipe and dumps into a large bucket, which is suspended from a structure like a balance scale. Holes in the bottom of the bucket allow the water to flow outward at just sufficient a rate to keep the bucket always full, as long as the hallway streams are uninterrupted."

"A scale?" Geert asked. "What does it weigh?"

"Nothing." Jamie grinned. "Its purpose is to balance the load of the bucket against a metal device with sharp arrowheads upon it, which is suspended above the sleeping guard's rear end."

Garvin laughed. "Poor fellow!"

"He sleeps on duty, so my sympathy is a small one," Sir Dorf said, smiling. "Go on."

Jamie nodded. "So, as long as the streams across the hallway remain uninterrupted, the water flows, and the arrowheads are kept from pricking the sleeping guard's behind. The balance is delicate, though, and even a small interruption of the flow of water from above will quickly allow him to be poked."

"I see," Snave said, sounding amused. "So, someone entering the hallway and breaking the streams of water immediately lessens the flow to the bucket, which rises - and allows the other side to descend, causing our guard to be pricked!"

Jamie nodded. "And he leaps to his feet, howling in pain, and alerts the castle guard to an intruder."

Sir Dorf sighed mightily, but his smile said he had enjoyed the story. "So, the fellow yells, and the guard comes."

"Just so," Irik said, with a wolf smile. "An ingenious device."

"The point of this?" Snave asked then.

Jamie nodded. "Suppose...just suppose, an intruder comes along equipped with his own tank of water, and series of hoses. One by one, he places his own, um, nozzles into the holes in the wall, allowing his own water to flow to the bucket below. He need not even break all the streams. Just enough that he can crawl beneath the remaining ones and pass, without waking the guard."

Snave's dark eyes seemed fixed on Jamie. "So, if we enter a space filled with the ancient's warning electrums, and move through in such a way that they think the stream has remained unbroken--"

"We can pass, undetected," Garvin finished. "Wonderful, Jamie!"

Jamie frowned, thinking. "I'm not sure that's the best analogy. I don't think we will need to bring, or even produce, our own electrums. The ones the ancients use will surely be patterned in specific ways, hard for us to duplicate. Rather, we need a way to make their own electrums just flow around us, and keep moving, so that the stream only seems unbroken."

All were silent a moment, thinking.

Garvin gently elbowed Jamie. "When we were first in the Forest of Night, that night at the great chasm, you reinvented our shields to make us invisible. You said that worked by taking the light and simply moving it around the circumference of the shield to release it on every other side of the circle, so that all contained within was unseen from every angle. Something like that, perhaps?"

Jamie narrowed his eyes, considering. That had worked for light, which was in some ways similar to electrums, though without the charges. Would such a modification for electrums be the same?

"Maybe. It's an idea, at least."

"Something to do with the electrum dispersion additions to our shields?" Snave wondered, but then grunted. "No. Dispersing the electrums would send them off randomly, unable to meet their holes in the hallway wall. It would be the same as being detected."

"A thorny problem," Sir Dorf said, scratching his head. "Quite above my level of understanding, I do believe."

"Me, too," Gorge said. "Still not sure how make bird that carries messages!"

That brought a round of smiles. The things they had learned were complicated, indeed.

"Another thought," Bastyin offered. "We must worry about electrums detecting us, and you have mentioned that there may be devices that can see us. I suspect that means there may also be devices that can hear us."

Jamie blinked, remembering the two-way window they had used to speak with Porvus in the tower in the forest. Such a device would need to be able to both see and hear to do what it did. "It's alarming, the number of ways the enemy may have to detect us, then."

Garvin shook his head. "Is there a way to move about, unseen, unheard, and undetected by electrums?"

"It sounds as if one would need to be a ghost to slip by the defenses of the ancients," Sir Dorf mused.

Jamie turned to face the knight. "Ghosts?" He smiled. "Ghosts."

The knight returned the smile. "I love you, Jamie, and I admire your many skills, but I don't think becoming a ghost is the way to win here."

Garvin patted Jamie's shoulder. "Perhaps becoming as a ghost?"

"My thoughts, exactly," Jamie replied. "Perhaps fooling these tiny electrums is not the proper way to approach this problem of detection. Perhaps, if we could simply avoid them completely--" He broke off, his mind racing ahead, and then nodded. "I think I'd like to talk to Flitch."

Geert brought his hands together in an excited, though silent clap. "More wonders to learn!"

"Do we all go?" Garvin asked, smiling.

"Yes. Gather round, friends, and everyone touch."

"It sounds to be not a straightforward task," the nether being answered, when Jamie put the question to him. "You wish to be able to move about in your own world, without being subject to the natural forces and rules there that would make you detectable by others?"

"Like a ghost," Jamie agreed.

Flitch turned to him, his golden eyes looking puzzled. "I don't know the term."

"Supposedly, after the death of the body, the spirit goes on in non-corporeal form, still able to think in some fashion, but not able to interact with the real world much, if at all." Jamie smiled. "Except perhaps to appear at random to frighten others."

The nether being's eyes widened at the idea. "What a marvelous concept!"

"You like the idea of scaring people?" Geert asked, sounding surprised.

"No. I like the idea of the spirit continuing after the death of the body. To my knowledge, that does not happen, at least, not in my universe."

"It's not proven to happen in ours, either," Sir Dorf remarked dryly.

Jamie frowned at the nether being. "Your kind lives a very long time," he remembered.

"Yes. But we do end, at some point." Flitch watched him a moment longer before raising his branchlike hands to place them together while he thought. "An interesting problem. How to move about in complete contravention of the natural laws of your universe, and yet still be able to maintain awareness of where you are and what is happening around you. For cutting yourself off from detection by all forces would likely also mean cutting yourself off from all input from the world around you. You might be undetected, but you would also be unable to interact with your world, as it would be as invisible to you, as you were to it."

"Well, we can't have that," Jamie said, smiling. "I can't think of a way to do it, but thought perhaps you might have an idea or two."

"None that immediately comes to mind," Flitch confessed.

"Perhaps the nether machines?" Garvin asked Jamie. "They have supplied things that you have wanted before, without you telling them just what to do. You simply stated what you needed."

"Yes, but usually the lens knows what I need, even if I don't. That need is somehow communicated to the nether machines." Jamie patted the front of his shirt. "I have offered another idea on how to deal with this problem of detection to our small friend, but I haven't heard anything back just yet."

In response, Jamie felt an electric tingle from the lens upon his chest as it warmed, and then a wash of colors through his mind that was the delighted laughter of the small life within the lens as it now clearly contemplated the problem. Jamie grinned at that now, feeling a sense of relief. "Ah. It seems now that our small one is eager for the task."

"It knows it?" Bastyin asked.

"Certainly. The lens knows what I know. So, it knows that we now seek a way to move through Methuwan without alarming the ancient's electrum watchers, without alerting them to our presence."

As Jamie finished speaking, he felt a sudden intensifying of the force from the lens, one that made him gasp. "Something is happening!"

For the first time in a long while, Jamie sensed again a furious turning of pages, a perusing of scrolls, an examination of notebooks; all the recorded magicks that Jamie had read in the Master Thorvil's library. The process had become so fast by this point that it was scarcely noticeable anymore; but this time there was something different about it, something more intense, more comprehensive. Jamie felt the completion of the task...and then a continuation, as new tomes were scanned! He closed his eyes, staring into the depths of his own mind, and suddenly understood what was happening.

The lens had scanned the Master Thorvil's library of magicks, and then moved on to scan Skoda's! For Jamie had taken that master mage's knack, and all he had known.

But - the lens had scanned those new magicks right after Jamie had obtained them from Skoda. Why this intense scrutiny again?

He watched as pages flew by his inner eye in a blur of motion, and millions of lines of print in a dozen languages, many unrecognizable, flowed through his mind. And then this new process was also complete. Jamie took a breath, amazed at the thoroughness of the exam. The lens had not just scanned these magicks, it had imprinted each and every letter of information into neat and accessible areas within the new realm that was Jamie's joining with the lens. Now complete, there seemed a staggering--


Jamie gasped as the process began now a third time, and more giant volumes of magicks and spells were sifted and examined in incredible detail, indexed and cross-indexed with the two previous libraries, and placed into the fantastic, growing archive of knowledge that now existed in the meld that Jamie shared with the life of the lens. This was the knowledge of Urvan, whose knack Jamie had also taken. But those magicks of Urvan's had also been scanned before!

Yet - this time was different. The three scans of magickal knowledge were now as three stars of bright light floating within Jamie's mind, and as he watched, they suddenly moved together to form a single, brilliant star. As the three separate libraries combined, an incredible bursting of energy filled Jamie's thoughts, as millions of new links were formed, between every magick the three master mages had each known individually, and every other one the other two had known. Jamie flinched at the sheer power of the melding, as the total magickal knowledge of Urvan and Skoda was now integrated with the incredible library of knowledge that Thorvil possessed. The result was a sheer volume of magick that Jamie could not have imagined before this time.

And then he felt Garvin beside him. "I'm here, Jamie," the other boy whispered, as he seemed to place an arm around Jamie's shoulders.

"Can you feel it?" Jamie asked, his own voice a whisper. "Can you see it?"

"Some," Garvin replied. "I can sense the vastness of it. The depth of it. is frightening to behold."

"There must be a purpose to this," Bastyin said, and Jamie sensed then that all his friends were close with him in mind.

"It's an index," Jamie explained. "But like no index before it. The lens had indexed each body of knowledge once before. But this index combines them now. Everything that three master mages had learned in their long lifetimes, but joined in such a way that each magick is related to every other in a fashion that shows how they may be made to work together."

"This means you now can work any of these magicks at will?" Geert asked, sounding awed.

"No." Jamie replied. "The information is there, but I would still have to perform each new magick once learn it. But in battle, the lens can feed them to me very quickly."

Sir Dorf laughed. "But, as we have seen in the heat of battle, new magicks simply burst upon you!"

"Yes." Jamie considered the new joining within his mind. "But this index is built as a tool for the lens. Where once it would have needed to search all three libraries independently for answers, it now can search this single, unified knowledge base as one. The indexing now provides insights into which magicks may work together to augment other magicks, or which might be combined to create new magicks. It will allow the lens to feed me new magicks in defense or battle as fast as it finds them, only now that process will be even speedier. And, once I have used them, the magick that learns and remembers magicks will know it for me. All of you, too. Once you see a new magick worked with your extended sight, your own magick will remember it for you."

"A major accomplishment," Snave said. "I believe your lens wishes to have this index so that it can pull from the sum of this knowledge an answer to the very question that brought us here."

"I believe the lens already had some ideas brewing, from the questions I have already put to it," Jamie informed. "I think this latest accomplishment was a key needed to finalize that stream of thought."

"So, it would seem," Flitch said. "Observe."

Jamie opened his eyes, and saw that a group of nether machines were busy now, gathering elements from the ground beneath them. The machines tore up strips of the nether landscape, which healed so quickly behind each moving machine that it was as if nothing had happened at all. The machines moved quickly through their phases, transforming into each new step in the production sequence, until all of them suddenly ground to a halt in a circle around Jamie and the others..

"Notice, the machines are eight in number," Snave pointed out. "One for each of us?"

"I would guess," Jamie agreed. "But...what have they made?"

In answer, the machines emitted a collective grunting sound, and the drawers in their fronts popped outward.

"Quickly," Flitch urged. "Each of you step to a machine! And do not be surprised by anything that happens next!"

Easy to say!

But such was their discipline now that no one paused to question. Each of them stepped towards a drawer, and Jamie looked down into his.

As had happened several times before, something leaped out at him --

No. It flowed outward, in waves, and was simply upon him, dark and slippery, like he might imagine the tentacles of some sea creature to feel. The sensation crawled over every portion of his body in a second, a rather frightening chill, but one which immediately grew warm and less threatening before he could even think to feel panicked. For a moment the feeling of being surrounded persisted, and then it seemed to simply evaporate away, leaving a sense of well-being behind its passing.

"Never get used to this," Gorge said then, his voice sounding strained. "Some good magicks scarier than bad ones!"

Jamie smiled at that, and then laughed. He felt good now - very good. Whatever had been applied to him had erased any weariness he may have had, and left him feeling as fresh as if he had just crawled from bed.

"The aftereffects are rather nice," Sir Dorf confirmed, holding up his hands as if to see if anything had changed. "I feel ready to face the world now."

Flitch moved closer to peer at them. "How do you feel?"

"Pretty good, actually," Jamie answered. "Sir Dorf is right. This magic has left me feeling restored."

"I must wonder in which way," the nether being mused. "We don't know if this has simply touched your minds here, or has reached through the doorway to your world and touched your bodies, as well."

Jamie laughed at that. "I will never figure out how that works. How we can be here and act upon things as if we were physically here, but we are not. When I used to stock Master Thorvil's storehouse in the nether, I brought things with me. Packages and bottles and vials, all filled with necessary items. How could I do that, if I was not really coming here?"

Flitch's golden eyes looked amused. "You ask a question that has been asked countless times before by others, and never properly answered. Things may be brought here, but people can only come in mind. My own suspicion has long been that things may come here because things have no awareness. Bringing them here would not sunder any mental links they have with their own world. People, however, are aware of the world around them. Perhaps removing that awareness, even for a time, is impermissible. My own experience is that what is real has rules as to why it is real, and none may circumvent them. Perhaps bend them a little, but never break them entirely."

"A mystery perhaps for another time?" Sir Dorf said. "It always worries me to be here, while our bodies are left behind."

Flitch offered a rustling laugh. "Some part of you is with your bodies still. They are not left behind. A part of your mind visits here. But because time does not exist here like it does in your own world, your bodies remain unmoving, caught between the seconds, while you experience this place as if time still marches onward."

Jamie gaped a little at that. "You mean our visits here happen between one thought and the next, in the real world? But I remember these events as if they were real!"

"They are real, Jamie." Flitch raised his branch-like hands almost helplessly. "I simply relate what I think is the reality of the aether. The why of much of it is as yet unknown."

"My head spins with the revelation," Bastyin said, smiling at Jamie. He brought a hand to his chest and patted it twice. "But should we not return and explore what has been given to us?"

"I guess we should." The reminder that they had yet to face Porvus and Lodda was sobering. Jamie's brief elation at feeling replenished receded again.

"One thing has yet to be said," Geert pointed out. "What does this new magic we have just obtained actually do?"

"We cannot say for sure here in the nether," Garvin reminded. "Magicks only truly work the way we expect them to work back in our own world."

Jamie paused at that, and sent a query to the lens. What have you wrought this time?

A swirl of delighted, colorful laughter was the only answer. Jamie frowned at that a moment, but then had to smile. "Our little friend seems amused at the question. But I sense in the response a bit of elation, which suggests that the lens feels we will find the answer to be to our liking, when we return."

"A moment, before you go," Flitch said. He came forward, and extended one branched hand towards Jamie. Within the tendrilled fingers was a small oval of bluish-white, looking like a carved ivory robin's egg. "I have been working on the problem of us communicating when you are not here."

Jamie gasped. "You found a way to talk to us from here?"

"Not all of you, Jamie. Just you. At least for now."

Jamie extended his hand, and accepted the oval. "How does it work?"

"Simply carry it with you. It knows its duty."

Jamie frowned at that. "I guess my secure pocket will do, for now. I would hate very much to lose it."

Flitch laughed his rustling laugh. "You cannot lose it, Jamie. Even if you were to cast it away from you, it would find you again."

Jamie looked at the little ovoid doubtfully. "I cannot set it aside? Will this allow you to see and hear everything around me?" He spared a look for Garvin, whose own face mirrored Jamie's disquiet at the idea of the nether being always with them, even in moments of intimacy.

"I will not be able to see or hear anything, Jamie. This device allows for us to communicate in thought. Only those thoughts you direct to me will be received by me."

"Oh." Jamie brightened. "That's fine. I just had a moment of anxiety at the thought that...I mean...that's fine." Jamie winked at Garvin, who grinned broadly in return. He turned back to smile at Flitch. "And I can call to you?"

"Yes. Even if I am not in the aether, but back in my own world, I will know you have called."

Bastyin raised a hand towards Flitch. "A question, if I may." He pointed at the egg. "If our group is in the shared experience of the lens, would that allow all to communicate with you?"

Flitch's golden eyes blinked in surprised. " might. Your group are able to share experiences in thought back in your own world?"

"We can," Jamie confirmed. "The lens allows us to act as one, as long as we are in physical contact."

Jamie detected a pleased look arrive in the nether being's eyes. "What a wonderful experience that sounds like! I suggest that we try it, when time permits."

"When time permits," Sir Dorf echoed. "Shall we be getting back?"

Jamie smiled at the knight. "Oh - I suppose."

Sir Dorf rolled his eyes, but only smiled in return.

"Farewell, for now, friend Flitch," Jamie said. "Or, perhaps not. I will try the communication as soon as we return to our own world."

"I will wait, then, to see what happens. Be safe, Jamie. And, all of you."

"See?" Jamie said, turning to look around the corridor they had been standing in. "No one has bothered us while we visited Flitch, Sir Dorf. No one can."

The knight nodded. "I understand that. And yet, my heart is still glad that we have returned to ourselves."

"Our knight takes his duties seriously," Garvin offered, smiling.

Jamie patted Dorf's arm. "He does, and we are grateful for that." He looked around the corridor, and sighed. "This continual pattern of corridors and more stairways leading upwards has become monotonous. These passages seem to have no real use at all, save as a tedious link between the lowest levels and those above. I have to wonder where it will all end."

"There is an absence of the lifts we are used to seeing around other stairways, also," Sir Dorf pointed out. "Anyone needing to go this way could not be in any hurry."

"And neither are there here any of the many odd things that follow the walls and ceilings in other tunnels we have visited," Bastyin observed. "Pipes, and boxes, and things that glow, and things that hum. Perhaps this is a way to be used only in an emergency? Such a way, with none of the sciences of the old ones in place, might be very hard to find by others."

Jamie reflected upon the complete lack of the old one's science here, and nodded. "Perhaps."

"It would be nice to finally see where all these steps lead," Geert agreed. "My calves are starting to complain about the stairs."

Jamie looked up at the ceiling of the corridor. It was made of the smooth white stone of the ancients, and absolutely featureless. How many more levels would they have to traverse, before arriving at a more proper entry into Methuwan?

Jamie felt a stirring in his knack, and the ceiling blurred to his eyes then, and seemed to melt away. His gaze seemed to travel through a fair thickness of the white stone, and then he saw a corridor above them. But no sooner was that avenue revealed then the ceiling of that way also peeled back, and he saw into yet another corridor above that one. And then, quite suddenly, the process increased in pace, the corridors above them revealed one after another, and then gone, to instantly be replaced by another above. Until, quite suddenly, a final iteration of the many corridors and stairways above them presented itself, and then vanished as had all the others, providing a new view altogether. He was now looking into a room full of machinery, many, many levels above. Sounds came to him then, the whispering sounds of machines, and with that sound, the feel of electrums filling the room. He instantly sensed their patterns, and knew that some of these electrums were of the sort that would sense them and report their presence in the machine room.

"Oh," Jamie, whispered, as he overcame his initial shock. "Everyone touch me!"

"There is no need," Snave's voice came to him then, sounding subdued. "I can see what you are seeing, even without touching you."

"As can I," Garvin agreed.

"That room is many levels above us," Irik said. "I sensed twenty, if not more, levels between where we are, and that place."

"That feels about right," Sir Dorf said. "I believe that machine room is where we would wind up if we keep climbing these stairs."

Jamie took a breath then. He could feel his companions with him, just as if they all touched, and were joined by the lens. "This is wonderful!"

"Look," Bastyin said, and Jamie felt the view of the far-off room turn. "A doorway in that wall."

Again, Jamie felt shock. Bastyin had directed the view, as if he could control it just as well as Jamie!

"Another one, there," Irik said, and the view shifted again. "And much larger!"

Jamie stared at the door before them now. It looked to be made of the steel of the ancients, not something that could be easily forced.

"Perhaps if we examine it more closely?" Snave wondered, and then their perspective seemed to move right up to the door. The panel was indeed a massive one, and looked of the type that would draw back into the wall if opened. The white rectangle of a hand lock was upon the wall next to the door.

A way through into Methuwan? But...they must pass through a room full of revealing electrum patterns to get to it!

But then, on a hunch, Jamie nudged their perspective forward...and they passed cleanly through the door!

Now a hallway was visible, though this one was about as different from the corridor they actually stood in far below as could be possible. The entire overhead glowed with a soft light, and the walls were decorated in a pattern of raised squares that was quite fetching. The floor was not of stone, but was composed of small octagonal tiles, alternating black and white, and equally appealing.

But what Jamie sensed now was more electrums, filling the corridor, and of the patterned sort that he knew could detect them. He turned to examine the hallway, and as he did, he felt a small twinge in his mind as of warning, and then his eyes were drawn to a small box high up on one wall, from which something strange protruded, a tiny, glassy globe on a stem.

"An eye!" Snave said then. "I somehow sense it!"

Jamie did, as well. That these small boxes and their little glassy globes could see was somehow now apparent to him. He looked down the hallway, and saw several more of the eyes in the distance. The entire way was closely monitored!

"Have we seen these eyes before?" Garvin asked. "Strange that we never noticed them elsewhere."

"We never had reason to notice them, I think," Snave said. "For until now, we would not have recognized them for what they were."

"Something has changed with this new perspective we have," Jamie agreed. "I no longer simply suspect which patterns of electrums can detect us, I am sure."

"And they seem to fill this hallway, just as they did the machine room we just left," Bastyin agreed. "We cannot pass this way safely."

"The science of the ancients is all around us," Snave mused, sounding amazed. "I have never sensed it so strongly as now!"

"A gift of this new magick," Jamie offered. "We have been offered a broader view of things, I think." New perspective was right!

"A door over there," Geert pointed out then, and their view turned again. Jamie could see now that the opposite wall of the corridor had doors spaced along it regularly, and also that these doors looked far less formidable than the large one they had passed through a moment ago. The white rectangle of a hand lock was beside each. Jamie was immediately reminded of the many doors they had opened in the first red tower they had visited.

"Should look," Gorge said. And they seemed to move towards one of the doors, to stop before it.

Jamie could feel the searching, revealing electrums all around them here, filling the corridor. Were they actually standing before this door, in the flesh, they would have been detected by now. But, what if, like the last door...yes. Jamie gave their group perspective a last little push, and they passed through the closed door and into a room.

"Oh!" Garvin said then. "How splendid!"

Now, the feeling of familiarity was even more pronounced. Here was a suite of rooms just like those they had seen in the first red tower they had visited, which had looked as if people had lived in them. There was comfortable-looking seating spaced around the room, and other types of furniture, low tables, cabinets, and bookcases, many of which seemed to hold small items of interest. There were decorative views within rectangles upon the walls, and restful patterns of light in a small alcove that seemed designed solely to delight the eyes. Unlike the rooms in the red tower, which had given the impression of being hastily stripped, this room looked as if the owner had merely stepped out for the day.

But the real charm of the room was in the far wall, which looked to be one huge sheet of the ancient's incredible glass, and which looked out upon a park-like scene in which a fountain issued a stream of water into the air, which rained back into a rippling pool below, around which flowers grew. There were benches nearby, though no one occupied them, and through the trees they could see other buildings, and the bases of what were surely some of the towers they had seen through the dragonette's eyes from above.

That this was a view inside Methuwan, at ground level, seemed plain.

Jamie took a breath, and allowed his new senses to move about them. There were no guardian electrums here in these rooms, and he sensed no eyes, either hidden or upon the walls. The room had a strangely neutral feel to it, which suggested to him that they were the first visitors it had seen in a very long time. But what most impressed him about the room was the feeling of safety, at least momentarily, that it seemed to offer.

That's where we want to go, he decided.

An amazing, airy sensation crept up Jamie's legs, and filled his entire body. He heard the others draw startled breaths just like his own, as the sense that they were still in the featureless corridor far below the city briefly returned, only to immediately give way to a new motion, as they seemed to rise upwards to the overhead as one, and effortlessly passed through to the corridor above. And then, in one continuous motion, and just as effortlessly, they passed through to the corridor above that one, and then the next, and through all the many corridors above, and then through floors and walls, and voids between them, and into the pretty room with the view beyond the glass.

In only a moment the feeling of motion was gone, and a sense of where they actually were returned to Jamie, and where they were now, was in the pretty room they had viewed from afar.

They had made the journey in a completely unknown manner!

Jamie stared around in wonder, unable to speak. His friends were all there with him, and Jamie's eyes lit upon Snave, who was turning in a small circle, inspecting the room. In a moment the gargoyle had turned to face Jamie, and there he stopped. "That was about as far removed from the translocation I know as could be possible," the gargoyle said, sounding quite mystified.

Jamie blinked at that, and then had to laugh. Snave sounded at least as perplexed at this occurrence as Jamie felt himself!

"You think that's what that was?" Bastyin asked, sounding equally overcome. "It had none of the feeling of the way we have moved previously."

"It didn't feel like translocation to me," Geert agreed. "Something else, entirely. We passed through the intervening walls and floors" He suddenly grinned, and turned to Jamie. "Like we were ghosts!"

Jamie and Garvin exchanged astonished looks, and Jamie again felt the colorful swirl of laughter in the back of his mind as the lens expressed delight with their reactions.


Sir Dorf squinted at Jamie. "This is somehow the result of the combination of the magickal knowledge of Thorvil, Skoda, and Urvan?"

Jamie searched within himself, and the lens joyfully supplied the answer. He had to shake his head in wonder. "In part, it seems. This is a totally new magick, that none of those mages could have known on their own, but which the lens was able to produce by combining the knowledge of all three."

"Scary," Gorge offered, staring at the place on Jamie's shirt where the lens lived below. "Glad lens is on our side!"

Snave moved closer to Jamie and Garvin. "We are witnessing something entirely new now, I believe. The lens was created as a joining, somehow, of the intense spirit that you and Garvin share. It is not just the knowledge of three master mages that have produced this new magick. Those libraries provided the raw knowledge, but you and Garvin, embodied in the spirit of the lens, are the forge where this new magick was birthed. Such a melding must be truly unique in all the world. There will be no other like it, ever, I would think."

Jamie raised a hand and placed it over the lens, and felt the warmth of it beneath his shirt. He could sense the pleasure that the small life that lived within the lens had received from helping them to arrive here in this new and unprecedented fashion. In a way, it was a mirror of the pleasure he felt, himself, at the life he and Garvin shared, and at the bond they shared with all of their friends.

Their very good friends.

"It's not just Garvin and I," he decided, shaking his head. "And not just the magick of three master mages. Somehow, we have all done this, together." He smiled around at his friends "This happened while all of us were of one mind. All of us are a part of this new magick. We now have the means to explore this place, undetected, and to choose the places to move to where we will stay undetected. This is not at all what I first conceived as a way to deal with the various monitoring methods of the ancients. Rather than pass through them, undetected, we have been given a method of sensing them without doubt, and avoiding them completely." He grinned at Sir Dorf. "Consider it the ghost of an afterthought."

The knight's eyebrows rose, and he grinned. "Ah."

"At this moment, anyway," Snave added quietly, "I feel this new magick is as yet only marginally explored."

Jamie frowned at the gargoyle. "You think it can do more?"

"Examine it yourself, Jamie. Look inward, at this new thing. It's sense of size astonishes me."

Jamie did just that, closing his eyes and turning his mental eye on what had just happened to them, and the forces he had felt involved. He didn't understand those forces yet, but even a cursory examination of them now seemed to agree with Snave's appraisal. There was much more to this new magick than they had yet discovered.

"It is different from other magicks I have performed," Jamie agreed, opening his eyes. "Magicks generally do one thing very well. And, we have learned to combine magicks, so that they do more than one thing very well. But this magick--" He shook his head. "This magick would seem to be able to do a multitude of things, without the need to purposely combine several magicks."

"But what other things?" Geert asked, his eyes wide.

Jamie shook his head. "I don't know yet."

Snave grunted. "And it seems to be yet another magick that is always on, and needs no ties to perform."

Garvin briefly bumped his shoulder against Jamie's. "If the lens combined the magicks of three master mages, in such a way that each magick can now call upon others to work with it, might not the result be a magick that adapts quickly to new situations?"

Jamie stared at his friend, and then smiled. "Maybe."

"Our movement to this room was very straightforward," Bastyin said. He pointed at Jamie. "You simply desired to come here. I could feel it. There was none of the sense of darkness and brief removal from the real world that comes with a normal translocation. We did not go from one place to the next instantaneously, but rather passed through all places in between to arrive here. I rather liked the directness of it, myself."

Sir Dorf smiled at that. "As a tool for scouting, and then approaching an enemy, I can think of no better."

"It seems we do have a way to explore this place now, undetected," Garvin said. "But first --" He leaned closer to Jamie and whispered something into his ear.

Jamie blinked at that. "Oh! In the excitement of discovering this new perspective...I forgot!"

He closed his eyes then. "Flitch? Are you there?" Jamie thought.

"Yes, Jamie. It seems the device works as intended."

"I can hear him, too!" Geert whispered.

"As can I," Irik agreed.

Sir Dorf nodded, and Bastyin smiled. "Our new magick has brought us closer, it seems."

"Can you hear them, Flitch?" Jamie asked.

"Yes. Are all of you in physical contact, as you described?"

Jamie shook his head in wonder. "No. This new magick also seems to allow us to share thoughts and experiences without the touch we once required."

"Splendid! An amazing development!" Jamie sensed the whispery rustle of the nether being's laughter. "But I cannot say I am terribly surprised by this."

Jamie recounted the new powers they had acquired, and a brief round of speculation on what other things the new magick might provide came next. Finally, it seemed they had exhausted their ideas for the moment. "We just don't know any more yet. We're still exploring this new thing," he finished.

"I don't wish to be a distraction, Jamie," Flitch said. "You will need your concentration for what is to come. But should you need me, call, and I will answer."

"I'll do that," Jamie said aloud, as well as in thought,. "As always, thank you, Flitch!" He felt the link with the nether being close. Jamie smiled around at the others. "I guess we need to start looking around the city."

"Why do you suppose this room is not monitored like the hallway outside the door?" Irik asked, sounding curious.

"Perhaps because people lived in these rooms," Garvin suggested. "The ancients seemed to have had a respect for privacy."

"Not just that," Sir Dorf added. "There is no normal way to reach these rooms without first passing through areas that are monitored. On that theory, there seems no reason to watch inside the rooms, because anyone coming and going would be monitored in the corridor outside."

"Anyone going normal way," Gorge added, grinning mischievously. "We not normal!"

Everyone laughed at the joke.

"I'm hungry," Geert said then, shrugging out of his pack. "The porting of this food must, at times, be accompanied by the eating of some of it, else the load will never lighten."

"It feels safe enough here for a pause," Sir Dorf agreed. "I could use something tasty, myself." He sighed then. "Even something not so tasty!"

That idea seemed to meet with approval, and everyone found a place to sit to eat.

"These seats are nice," Garvin said, sighing as he settled back into one. "I would happily sleep in one of these."

"We may have to," Snave offered. "Or, rather, you might have to." He sighed. "I will just stand in a corner and keep myself company, as usual, while everyone rests."

Jamie offered a small, sympathetic pout to the gargoyle. "I'm sorry you cannot sleep, Snave. But I must say it is wonderful for us to be able to sleep, knowing your watchful eyes are awake!"

"I think we are falling into a pattern here," Sir Dorf said, looking around their new hiding place while munching on a hardtack biscuit. "Our every new base seems to be a small room hidden away from the enemy's eyes. It shows a lack of imagination on our part."

That brought a round of laughter. As if their imaginations could be questioned at this point!

Geert snorted, looking around the room. "This seems quite cozy to me. Are you saying this is not better than a barren room with just bales of hay for seats?"

The big knight smiled. "No. But, just once, I would love to spy upon the enemy from atop some gloriously sunlit tower."

"With a nice view," Garvin added. "That would be pleasing!"

"Hopefully, we will soon no longer need to hide at all," Jamie offered. "It is time for us to be more aggressive, I think."

"We have examined magick in action," Snave reminded. "But we still don't fully understand how to counter it."

"I think that will come in time," Jamie suggested. "The lens works tirelessly on things while we move about. Almost, I can feel a solution. We simply must take care until it arrives."

"So, now that we are actually inside the city, what is our next step?" Sir Dorf asked. "A careful reconnaissance might prove enlightening."

"We should be able to use this new magick to do that from this very room," Irik suggested.

"Agreed." Jamie looked around at the others. "It should be interesting."

Geert looked around at the others, licked his fingers, and leaned back in his seat. "It seems we are fed. Whenever you're ready."

Apparently, appetites had diminished in the excitement of the moment. Everyone had finished eating, and seemed anxious to move onward. Jamie nodded to his friends. "We no longer need to touch. Let's just go." He turned, and looked to the clear wall and the fountain beyond. "That way, I think."

Jamie felt himself move forward in thought, and pass through the transparent panel of the ancient's glass. They were immediately among the trees, while the fountain burbled happily off to their right. Small birds sang in the branches, and Jamie briefly saw the quick bolt of a rabbit as it crossed the lawn and disappeared beneath some bushes. He smiled at that, that such peaceful things could occur here, a place they had come to see as the bastion of evil.

"It seems that life is permitted inside the city," Snave observed. "Once, this was probably quite a pleasant place to live."

"It's still nice," Garvin decided. "And once rid of Porvus and Lodda, it can be a home to people again." Jamie felt the warmth of his friend's smile, even if he couldn't see it just now.

"That tower, over there," Sir Dorf said, and their perspective turned to face a sleek needle that rose up towards the heavens. The view turned upwards, as if they had tilted their group head back, and Jamie could see the iridescent peak of the tower above, bathed in sunlight. "Notice that the top is not a splintered ruin, as are the towers in the forest? Whatever violence once struck them, it seems to have missed the mark here."

The city was in splendid condition, what Jamie could see of it. It looked new and well-kept, a far cry from the half-buried city of Cotrin on the other side of the world, almost reclaimed now by the desert. That the forces that had once attacked the entire world had not visited here was interesting.

Jamie gave them a good nudge, and they suddenly swooped across a large tiled court to the tower in question. In a moment they had passed through the outer wall, and stood within. Here again was a room filled with machines, and the tingly sensation of electrums that would sense intrusion. What this vast hall of strange devices was doing, Jamie could not even guess.

He looked at the ceiling of the room, and took them upwards. The next floor was totally different, a large hall with many seats in it, and no one present to admire such a grand setting. Jamie moved them up another level, found it filled with large rooms full of the mysterious crates of the ancients, with their fantastically neat runes stenciled on the sides. These were all smaller crates, which could be carried by hand, yet their mystery was as large as any of the boxes they had yet seen. Opening one had so far been beyond their means, and what hid within could only intrigue.

The next floor held what looked like offices. Jamie had seen several of these bureaucratic nests back in Lyrix, and while those dens of authority had been a far cry from these clean and spotless spaces, the basic functions were so similar as to be unable to be missed. A desk was a desk in most any time, and the layout of the rooms, with their work spaces meant for writing and their cabinets meant for storing records, seemed similar in every generation.

Jamie moved them upwards, a floor at a time. Some floors seemed to hold more offices, while on others they spied things that could only be mysteries. Each floor was unattended, and each seemed to have the same neutral quality that the room where they even now sat, while their minds roved in exploration, possessed. Despite their cleanliness and order, no one had visited these places in a very long time.

After the first few floors, which had seemed to be universally watched by electrums, and where the little eyes seemed to watch every corridor, they seldom encountered rooms that had this security. A few here, a few there, each with noticeably sturdier doors between the hallways without, but otherwise unremarkable in outfitting. The secrets they kept would remain secure, at least for now, because Jamie simply passed them through such defended places without much pause beyond a look.

"Again, the security is concentrated in areas where normal people must pass in order to reach other areas," Sir Dorf pointed out. "The first three floors are heavily watched, while those above only watched on a per-room basis. Such security cannot take into account translocation, surely."

"Nor our less instantaneous form of entry," Jamie added.

"It seems these places were built before the advent of magick here," Bastyin suggested.

"We don't know that," Garvin countered. "We have no idea what surprises might be in place to leap upon someone translocating inside here."

That was true. The sense of abundance that Jamie felt in regards to the ancient's technology was nearly overwhelming here. There were so many varied devices present in these rooms that his new sense, which apparently could call his attention to such things, seemed now content to make him aware of all that was here in a very general manner, without calling his attention to every device. The result was a basic, powerful feeling that electrums stirred everywhere, and that many were the sort that did not detect, but instead powered the things the ancients had used. But Jamie was content with this sense, feeling that the new perspective would call his attention to any one of these devices that might prove dangerous to them.

They passed through thirty floors before finally arriving at the top of the tower. Here there was a large, circular room, ringed with the remarkably clear glass of the ancients, obviously a place meant for observing the city. Beyond the windows they could see the tops of other spires, and even the top of the wall that encircled the city. Briefly, for just a moment, Jamie caught site of something large and by now familiar moving atop that distant wall, before it vanished behind a dome.

"Gliftok, there," he told the others.

"They probably watch from atop the wall everywhere around the city," Sir Dorf suggested. "And yet, their numbers seem small."

"Look there!" Irik called then. Their perspective turned, and they were gazing out at the next spire over from their own. There, within the glass structure at the top, they could clearly see two people, standing and gazing out at the city.

Jamie grunted. "Your wish to spy upon the enemy from atop a sunlit tower has been granted, Sir Knight!"

"Can we fly?" Garvin asked then. "I mean, if we pass through the glass here, could we move directly to that tower without falling?"

"Yes," Snave answered, before Jamie could. "I'm sure we would. We are still back in the room where we have eaten. Only our perspective travels here." The gargoyle chuckled. "It has no weight, to speak of."

"A look?" Bastyin said. "We may learn something by listening."

"We cannot be seen, correct?" Sir Dorf asked.

"No," Jamie answered. "But I cannot rule out our being sensed somehow, by another mage."

"It seems worth a try," Geert suggested. "We will at least learn if anyone can spy us in this new guise."

Jamie nodded, and moved them forward. They passed through the glass and into the air, and Jamie felt only a mild discomfort for a moment when he realized how high they seemed to be above the ground. But they weren't really flying, and there was no way to fall. He stared forward, at the two people he could see in the other tower, who now had their backs to them, looking out the other side at the distant wall.

And then they were arrived, and passed through the glass of the other tower.

"--men are nervous," a voice said then. One of the men, dressed all in gray, turned, and his eyes scanned the other towers around them. But that he was totally unaware of Jamie and the others seemed certain.

"I understand such feelings," another voice said - and it was a voice that Jamie instantly recognized! The second man turned, and Jamie spied the patch covering the man's eye. "I feel unsettled, myself."

Porvus! The man turned further, scanning the city below, and the fox-like face of the master mage came fully into view. He was dressed in a silvery outfit with black accents, a far cry from the plain gray the second man wore.

"It's him!" Geert hissed.

"Can they hear us?" Garvin whispered, immediately after.

"No," Snave answered. "Remember, we are together here in thought. We have no voices here to be heard."

The first man, the one in gray, blanched. "If the men know that even you are nervous, it will not go well for them."

Porvus grunted a dismissal. "They will do as they are told. I have worked my little magick on all of them, remember?"

The man in gray pressed his lips together in a faint sign of distaste, but gave no reply.

"Besides," Porvus continued, "my sense of discord does not arise from the same source as theirs does. Not mostly, anyway."

The gray mage shook his head. "You do not fear these new mages?"

Porvus laughed. "Fear is for the young. For the old, disquiet is the best we can do." He turned to look at the gray man. "I respect these new mages. They have shown themselves to be a formidable group. I would learn their secrets, if I could."

"I think they will not be inclined to share."

"No." A brief flash of pain crossed the face of the old master mage. "Urvan foresaw his own death at the hands of this young mage. And the destruction of all we have built here. But my own visions have not proven so clear. They seem unable to take into account this thing that Lodda has become."

The gray mage raised his shoulders briefly in a clear shudder. "He is no longer the mage he once was."

Porvus frowned at that. "He is no longer the man he once was, you mean. But I feel he may be more powerful now than he ever was as a master mage. In just these short few weeks, he has become as a stranger to me. I no longer know him, nor understand him. And I fear his plans now endanger the whole world."

"What will we do?"

"Continue as we have been. At some point he is going to want to bring the repaired ring above the world to life again. Then we may have an opportunity to thwart his efforts."

"He may detect our plans," the gray mage offered nervously.

Porvus grunted unpleasantly. "It's why we come to places such as this to talk. Here, the eyes of the machines do not spy. Here--" Porvus suddenly squinted then, and held up a hand for silence. "Wait."

He closed his one eye, and slowly turned in a circle. For a breathless moment, Jamie thought the wily old mage had somehow sensed them watching.

And, perhaps he had.

Porvus opened his one eye. "They're here. Within the city walls. The new mages. The one called Jamie."

The gray mage's eyes jerked wide open, and he looked around anxiously. "Within the city walls? How? Where?"

Porvus turned and observed the look of fright on the other man's face, and chuckled. "I don't know the answer to either, exactly. But they have arrived." Porvus closed his one eye again, held out a hand, and turned slowly once more, concentrating. The man was a master, surely at least as potent as Thorvil, himself. Jamie refused to underrate the mage, and made ready to take them away from this place, should the need arise.

Porvus's hand stopped when pointing in their general direction. Not right on the mark, but close. His eye opened. "Can you hear me?"

"Can we speak to him?" Geert asked.

"That would be unwise," Sir Dorf said immediately. "He suspects we are here. Let us not confirm his suspicions."

"I don't think we can speak to his mind when he is not a part of our group," Snave said. "So, I don't think we can speak to him in this condition."

"I know you are here, somewhere," Porvus went on. "I sense...something new. Something different. It can only be you." He shook his head. "Conditions have changed. I want to suggest a parley. A truce."

"Surely not!" Geert breathed softly.

Porvus frowned, obviously concentrating. Then he turned and pointed out the window into the city. "See that dome? We must meet there." The man shook his head. "This is no trick to get you in a place where I hold an advantage. This is not about our differences, our battles. This is about...the future of our world." An almost desperate look came upon the old mage's face, forming lines that Jamie would never have expected to displace the normally cold ones that lived there. "It's important that we speak! It is my belief that the fate of this world hangs in the balance!"

Jamie turned their perspective, and gazed in the direction Porvus had indicated. A large green dome, looking like an emerald glinting in the sun, was visible there.

Porvus moved his hand in a small arc. "Somehow I know you can hear my words. The importance of this matter cannot be overstated. It is imperative that we meet!"

The gray mage shook his head. "Even if they hear your words, they won't believe you."

Porvus clenched his right hand into a fist. "They must! We must meet with them. Perhaps, together, we will be powerful enough to halt Lodda's plans. He must be stopped, lest he destroys the entire world!" The old mage took a sudden, startled breath then. "We must go. I sense the machine stirring. We must be there if it awakens again." Porvus pointed again at the green dome, and waved a hand in their general direction. "Please. We must meet. I go to the dome now. At least consider my words!"

Porvus turned to the gray mage then, placed a hand on the man's arm, and both men disappeared in the green glow of a translocation.

For a moment, all were silent.

"That...was unusual," Bastyin finally said. "Jamie, this may sound unwise to you, but...I sensed the man was speaking truthfully!"

"As did I," Garvin said, softly. "Jamie, what can this mean?"

"Something has happened," Snave decided. "I know Porvus, and fear is a stranger to him. But what I just saw in him now was as close as it comes. Something has Porvus so upset that he is willing to negotiate with us!"

"But can he be trusted?" Irik asked.

"No." Snave sounded adamant. "I would not trust him. But that does not mean we should not meet with him."

Jamie considered that. "Very likely, if we go there in this perspective, no harm can come to us, anyway."

"Then that is what we must do," Snave returned. "At least go and look, without leaving the safety of our room. And then we can make a decision on what to do next."

"All must be in agreement," Jamie decided. "I will not force anyone to go and meet with Porvus, should that be our decision."

Because, somehow, Jamie knew that would be their next decision. Something in the old mage's manner had spoken to Jamie's own future sense, and Jamie could feel that future coming now, all in a rush. The feeling he had been having for some time, that their quest would end in a sudden confrontation, now felt like it would come to pass.

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