The Price of Magic – Chapter 8 Excerpt

“Thank you for meeting me, Master Bell,” said Peter Bassington.

“Just Bell please, or Wizard Bell if you must,” said the man seated across the table from him. “Things aren’t as formal here as they are in Brechalon.  Besides, you’re not an apprentice anymore.”

Wizard Bell picked up the cream and poured a small bit into his tea.  He was a thin, pasty-skinned man, his blue police uniform seemingly two sizes too large for him.  On his shirt, where most constables wore their badge, he had a hexagram, a symbol of his art.

“Well, thank you.  I needed some advice and with my sister gone, and you the only master wizard in the colony…”

“I am happy to be of service, of course.  You don’t have a way to contact your sister?”

“I can contact her if necessary.  I would prefer not to bother her with this.”

Bell sipped his tea and waited.

“I’ve leased out the new foundry.”

“That must have been expensive.”

“Yes, it was.  But I didn’t have any choice.  I’ve got to melt down some metal, mostly copper and steel, to ingots.”  Peter looked around to make sure he wasn’t being overheard.  There was no one close to the two wizards and nobody suspicious-looking to be seen.  “What I need to know is whether I need any special precautions, since the metal carries a strong enchantment.”

Bell nodded.  “It’s the Result Mechanism.”

“How did you know that?” Peter demanded.

“One can’t be much of a wizard if he has walked this town for the past three years and not noticed the thickest aura of magic around that particular building.  Have you been to take a look at it?  The feeling is palpable.”

“Yes, I’ve been there.”

“Melting it won’t remove the enchantment, you know.  I don’t know that it will even be weakened.”

“We expect as much. But at least it won’t be used to mass produce magic spells.”

“I don’t know that anyone has melted down so much enchanted metal, ever,” said Bell.  “I don’t really know what might happen.  My suggestion is to be ready to dispel anything that might pop up.”

“That’s kind of what I thought.  No other advice?”

“No.  I don’t think so.”

“Well, shall we just enjoy our dinner then?”

An hour later, Peter stood in the shadow beneath a large oak tree and watched as Wizard Bell walked briskly down the sidewalk.  He hadn’t needed the older man’s advice about magical metal.  Neither did he need confirmation that the wizard knew about the Result Mechanism.  He had seen him at the warehouse building where the great machine was stored.  What he needed was more opportunity to figure out what the fellow was up to.

Bell walked to the end of the block and turned left.  Peter decided that he must be headed for his apartment on Pine.  Spying the trolley approaching, the young wizard stepped out of the shadows and quickly crossed the street to the trolley stop.

The city of Port Dechantagne maintained a trolley system that was constantly expanding.  New lines were being laid, and they supported twelve trolley cars, each pulled by a huge, three-horned triceratops.  Recently two additional trolley cars had arrived by ship from Brechalon, and now awaited the addition of at least two more dinosaurs to pull them.

The triceratops brought her vehicle to a stop, and the driver climbed down to feed her from a large bin filled with shrubbery.  Stepping up into the vehicle, Peter dropped a pfennig in the glass box near the driver’s seat, and then sat down to wait.  The light in the west was fading and dark clouds gave the city a gloomy feel.  The lamplighters were busy, but the yellow globes of illumination did little to brighten up the landscape.  Two middle-aged women climbed into the trolley cab and took seats a few feet away from Peter.

“Such a terrible thing,” said one.

“Yes it is.  Nothing to be done about it, though.  It’s all a part of God’s plan.”

“Terrible thing for the young mother though.  Terrible thing.  At least she’s got her little girl.”

“Excuse me, ladies,” said Peter.  “I don’t mean to intrude, but I couldn’t help but overhear.  What is it that has happened?”

“It’s the Colbshallows,” said the first woman.  “Do you know them?”

“The chief inspector, do you mean?”

“Yes.  Their wee baby has passed.  Crib death, you see.”

“What a terrible thing for a young mother,” the other woman repeated.

“A terrible thing for anyone,” said Peter.

The driver climbed back into the cab and rang the bell.  The triceratops started, jerking the trolley into motion.  Peter lost himself in his thoughts as the vehicle traveled the ever-darkening streets.  The two women got off sometime before he did.  In fact, he didn’t even notice them leaving.

When he stepped off the trolley to walk the last mile to the house he was feeling in an odd mood.  He had never quite felt this way before.  It was as if he could see his own mortality.  He had been in danger a few times in his life, particularly when he was  running errands for Master Bassington… his father.  He had felt sad when he had found out that his father had died, killed by a dragon here in Birmisia.  But it wasn’t quite the same.  There was something about the death of a little baby, a miniature little person with all the promise in the world, the way that an acorn held the promise of a mighty tree, which changed one’s perspective about things.  Peter wasn’t a child anymore.  It was time to make his mark in the world.

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