The Price of Magic – Chapter 12 Excerpt

The lizzies carried the large cogs, springs, and sprockets out of the building and stacked them in the back of the task lorry. The copper and steel parts all looked so normal, like the pieces of a very large clock. But Wizard Peter Bassington could feel the magic radiating off of them like heat from a fireplace. They were parts of the great machine built many years before by Professor Merced Calliere—the Result Mechanism. A huge steam-powered machine designed to add, subtract, multiply, and divide large numbers very quickly, the Result Mechanism plotted out water and sewer lines, created projectile trajectory charts, predicted the movement of the planets, and determined the optimum paths for the city’s trolley lines. It could in fact, compute any series of numbers for any purpose, including creating magic spells. Wizardry was at its heart, nothing but mathematics.

Anyone who could master advanced mathematics could become a wizard, memorizing the abstract formulas for the eldritch forces that were bent to one’s will. Wizards set these formulas in their brains like a housewife set a rattrap. Then with a single gesture and word, they released the magic. Once that was done, they had to reset the mathematical formula again. Sorcerers on the other hand, did magic without arithmetic. They could detect the magic in the world around them and tap into it naturally. No one could learn to be a sorcerer. You were either born one or you weren’t. For that reason, there might be thousands of wizards in the Kingdom of Greater Brechalon, but fewer than a handful of sorcerers.

Several wizards had used the result mechanism to formulate spells. As a result, magical energy was drawn to the building housing the great computer. For years, the machine stewed in the magic soup, until it became dangerous—perhaps even sentient. Senta had put it to sleep and now Peter was disassembling it and melting down the individual parts.

“All right! That’s enough for this load!” he called to the lizzies.

The one who could understand Brech signaled to the others and they climbed into the rear of the task lorry with the machine parts. Peter locked the solid oak door of the building with a large padlock.

“You must have just about all of it by now.”

Peter turned to see the pasty, emaciated form of Wizard Bell, in his seemingly oversized blue police uniform, complete with hexagram.

“Good day, Wizard Bell.”

“Wizard Bassington.”

“I seem to run into you fairly often on this side of town.”

“Police constable,” he said, pointing at his uniform.

“I didn’t realize that police wizards walked a tour.”

Bell shrugged.

“Yes,” said Peter. “I think one more load, and it will be all taken care of. Sorry to see it go?”

“No, of course not. Can’t have dangerous magical artifacts falling into the wrong hands. What is your sister planning to do with the building?”

“I don’t know. I suppose she’ll have to work that out with the governor.”

“Right,” said Bell, giving a thin-lipped smile. “Well, I’ll be on my way.”

He turned and strolled north. Peter looked around for a moment and then spotted one of Szoristru’s lizzies. Peter was still paying them to watch the police wizard, though they had yet to find anything worthwhile. Climbing into the lorry’s cab, he nodded to the driver, who in turn, started the engine.

It took over an hour to drive across town to the foundry. The large metal-casting factory, a massive building at the southern edge of the city, had only been completed the previous summer. It wouldn’t come into full production mode until spring was well on, and the iron ore that was being mined by the lizzies arrived by train from the mountains. For that reason, it had been relatively easy to rent the facility. Most of what had been the Result Mechanism was stacked just inside the main entrance—now just so many bars of copper and steel.

By the time the lizzies finished unloading the lorry, the sun was sinking toward the western horizon. Mr. Flint, the foundry manager, stepped over to where Peter was supervising.

“We can stoke up the furnace and get started on these now, but we’ll run into evening overtime.”

“Perhaps it’s for the best if we wait until tomorrow,” said the young wizard. “I have an engagement this evening, and I really should go home and get cleaned up.”

Mr. Flint nodded, and hurried off to see to the closing of the factory for the night.

“Lance, can you give me a lift home?” Peter asked the driver, who nodded to the affirmative.

“More work tomorrow, same place,” he told the lizzies, peeling off a five mark note for each, double for the interpreter.”

Then he climbed back into the lorry cab and the vehicle zoomed up the street.

“Home in time for dinner,” said Baxter, when he passed through the parlor. “That’s something new.”

“Just stopped by to clean up and change clothes. I’ve got a date with Abby tonight.”

“I like that girl. Shame she had to end up with you.”

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