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Travel to Habblestone

Habblestone was hard to get to. In fact, it was impossible to get to by ordinary means. And that was why it had been chosen by the Union of Contemporaneous Magicians as a meeting place. High in the mountains of Delstatis, it couldn’t be reached by road and one would have to be a goat to get there properly overland. No, the only way to get there alive was to take a boat up the Menagalesi River as far as Wart’s Landing and from then on it was magic all the rest of the way. Which meant having magical transportation abilities if one wanted to get there. And, of course, although most of the wizards had some sort of such a spell, others, who had not specialized in it, would find the trip took about seven evenly spaced out incantations.

Of course, the time of year was important too, as in the dead of winter one could find oneself materializing inside a wall of ice. So, preparations had to be very precise. This time of year, though, late summer, things were about as easy as they could be.

Aurelius and Tim, therefore, found themselves standing on the pier at Wart’s Landing with several bags that Tim was attempting to manhandle to shore. Aurelius had his long staff and was wrapped in his Cloak of Emergence. Tim had his woolly coat and a huge scarf that made carrying the bags all the harder as he kept tripping on it. They were dressed for the mountains. That and the fact that inter-planar transference could get chilly. At one point it looked like Tim would plunge into the icy river, but Aurelius hooked him back at the last second with the end of the of the gnarled black staff.

Once everything had been piled on shore, Aurelius walked up the stone steps of the transportation dais and looked around. It had been used recently. He could tell by the slightly burnt outer edges. That would be Triggan the Distant, Aurelius thought, he can never do anything without a lot of flame and smoke. Bit of a show-off, really when it came to fire. But what you can’t manage by fire, you can manage by elemental transformation. That was Aurelius’ specialty.

In terms of the trip from this point, Aurelius knew from past experience that it would take three spells to get to Habblestone. So, he started to prepare mentally as Tim struggled with the bags up to the dais. He was more than a little worried this time. What with the off-kilter results of a lot of his recent spells, this could end up being a difficult trip. A few days ago, while tending to his garden, he had used a flight spell to get a spade from across the yard because he didn’t feel like struggling to his aching knees again. Well, the spell had worked all right. Too well, in fact, as the spade hurtled across the ground in a blur, narrowly missing his head as it passed and buried itself up to the hilt in his best apple tree. Neither he nor Tim could get it out and in the end they just broke the handle off and left the blade embedded deep in the trunk. Fortunately, he could heal the surrounding bark and bole of the tree enough for it to survive. So, yes, he was a little worried.

Tim arranged the bags in a circle and sat on one of them observing his master. Tim loved the old man and truly wished to please him, but he felt like no matter what he did he was always making mistakes. Always getting in the way more than helping. He truly wondered if it would ever be possible for him to graduate to anything more than apprentice. His friend, Gormat, he had met at several enclaves was much more suited than he. He was envious of Gormat’s ever-growing skill.

Finally, Aurelius was ready. He fixed his staff to the hole provided for it in the middle of the dais and stood beside it, one hand over his eyes. He began the incantation. Tim strained to hear, but Aurelius mumbled in tones too low to be overheard. Suddenly, the staff started to glow with a silver light. There was a sound like the buzz of bees, but very loud. Then, in a flash they were standing on a plain overlooking the valley from which they had just traveled, but several hundred feet up and standing on another dais, this one made of wood.

In a moment, and after another short burst of magical words, another flash and they were at the mouth of a cave a few miles from the last stage. But there was something wrong. There was no dais here where once there had been. Aurelius looked around puzzled and then realized that a part of the cliff face had disintegrated and fallen away. And it was that part of the cliff that had contained the dais.

“What’s the matter, sir?’ Tim asked, from his position amidst the pile of bags that had materialized on his head for some reason.

“The dais is gone, Tim.’ Aurelius replied. We shall have to either walk and climb to the next transportation hub or try a spell without a hub. I don’t know if that would be wise given the fluctuations in the ether these days. We could end up anywhere.”

“Well, I don’t mind trying, sir. I trust you.’ Tim said.

Aurelius weighed this in his mind and was about to relegate himself to climbing with his tired old legs to the next hub, a daunting prospect, when there was a movement in the air, as if a squall was starting up, and then an orange flash and there before them stood a woman of about fifty, dressed in scarlet robes and wearing goggles.

“Sabbatha Godenwelt! How wonderful to see you?’ Aurelius cried.

The woman, taken aback at arriving here to find someone else, looked about, spotted Tim and then re-focused on Aurelius.

“Aurelius of The Displacement,’ she said, warmly, taking off her goggles. ’Why you haven’t changed a bit.”

“Well, I’m a lot older,’ Aurelius said, looking down bashfully.

“Yes, yes you are.’ Sabbatha said plainly. She wasn’t one to mince words.

“But you, you have hardly changed at all!’ Aurelius said.

“One of the advantages of specializing in Temporal Manipulation,’ she replied. “It actually keeps you pretty fresh. But why are you standing here in this bleak spot, why aren’t you moving on?”

“Well, as you can see the transporting dais is gone. Must have tumbled down the mountain. And, to be honest, I’m a little concerned about transporting without it. What with all the strange spell results I’ve getting lately. And also, I have Tim here to look after. Can’t risk harming him.’ Aurelius added this so that Sabbatha wouldn’t think him growing timid in his old age. He had always fancied her since the old days and what was left of his male pride left him a bit stoic.

‘That is certainly a concern,’ Sabbatha said. “Why just yesterday I was attempting to rejuvenate the fourth-hand maid to the Princess of Rill and when the spell was done she was only three years old. Needless, to say, she was a bit put off. I managed to get her back to her real age, but the rejuvenation never really took hold. I had to lie a bit to convince her it had.’ Sabbatha laughed. Aurelius had always liked that laugh. "Perhaps,’ Sabbatha went on, ’if we combined forces as it were, we could crack on together?”

“Yes. Yes, that might work,’ Aurelius said. “In fact, I do have something up my sleeve that I’ve been working on. But it takes a bit of time to make it happen.”

“Well, time,’ said Sabbatha,’ as you know, is my stock in trade.”

“My thought exactly. Tim, get the bags off your head and stack them against that rock over there. Sabbatha, I suggest that we skip the next dais and with the force of our combined spell, we head straight to Habblestone.”

“Fine by me, I find this mountain air a little too frigid for my liking. At least at Habblestone we’ll be inside. What do you want me to do?”

“Give me your staff for a moment, if you will.”

Sabbatha handed over her fine light green staff, with its opal tiger’s eye gem at the top and Aurelius placed his together with it. He tied the two staffs together with a piece of hemp and moved over to Tim.

“Come, Sabbatha, stand close to me. I’m afraid, for the sake of the spell, we shall have to place our arms around each other.”

“Well, all right dear, but just so we’re clear, I enjoy being single.’ She laughed.

Together, standing on the windy promontory, they held each other as Aurelius started the incantation. He felt Tim’s arm slip around his waist and saw that he had come behind them and had an arm around both his and Sabbatha’s waist. He rapped Tim on the head with his knuckles. Tim jumped back.

“Two will be plenty,’ Aurelius said, and in a flash, they were gone.

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