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matapam
19 September 2018 @ 12:32 pm

Chapter Five

Off To See The Wizard

At breakfast, Urial and Dogwood gave her an excited and somewhat garbled directions to find Archwizard Nil, spoken of in wide-eyed excited-scared tones.

"And it's on the equator! It'll be hot there!"

Which sent her back to her room to make a short sleeved shirt the innermost of her layering and leave off the tights beneath the riding pants.

Brr! This is what an Ice Age World calls spring?

Out in the barn, Mink rolled her eyes. "Did you pass the sheep farm when you rode in? Notice that stumpy tower? Go around behind the tower. The dimensional gate is in a courtyard with an ordinary gate keeping the livestock from wandering back and forth. If no one's in the buildings, just follow the path down to the beach. They do all their practicing on the beach."

"You've been there?"

"Sure. Sometimes I take horses back and forth, or deliver stuff."

After a day off, Carousel was ready to go, and happily galloped and trotted the ten miles. The tower, while stubby, wasn't really ugly, what with big windows with sills full of greenery, and the surrounding orchard in bloom.

There was a path through the orchard, did it go around to the gate?

"Are you going to the Wizard School?" A high voice from up in a tree.

"Oh, hello! Yes, is this the path?"

Shaking branches and a fall of flowers; a thin figure jumped down from the tree. "Yeah, follow me. I'll open the gate for you." The girl was maybe seven or eight years old, a head-full of curly blonde hair bouncing as she galloped down the path. Talking all the way. "Grampa has pinto horses too. I like them! Are you a wizard?"

Carousel’s ears were perked up. :: A people foal! I remember them from the farm . . . they take a long time to grow. You wouldn’t think their dams could stand it. ::

Rael giggled. :: But their sires and grandparents often help. And this one’s pretty independent. ::

:: True. And she has a wonderful mane. ::

The child dragged open a wooden gate to a circular yard where a circle of blue sky and grassy sand dunes or sandy hills stood unsupported.

"Right. Thank you!" Rael turned Carousel toward the . . . beautiful summer day across the gate.

"Say hi to Granpa Nil!"

***

Rael grabbed a hank of mane as she aimed Carousel at the gate, but the mare hopped through like an old hand and trotted down the sandy double track in front of them. "I’d heard that was worse than corridoring, for horses."

Carousel just snorted.

Rael spotted two long green-tiled roofs on the far side of the nearest hills. She looked back . . . rolling low hills, the grass looking greener and thicker that direction. As the track crossed the swale between the low hills, Rael spotted the buildings below the roofs. Two three-story ornate marble edifices, with columns and carvings and steps as broad as the whole building . . . The road was paved for a few hundred meters . . .

And that was it.

Just two huge buildings, plunked down in the middle of rolling hills.

Rael cocked her head at a sound . . . Surf? She stopped Carousel in front of the first building. No sign of anyone, and lowering her shields confirmed that both buildings were empty.

“Some Wizards School! What did Mink say? If no one's there just follow the path to the beach?” She peeled out of her jacket. Wiped sweat off her forehead, and took off the long sleeved shirt as well. Carousel moved out as soon as she picked up the reins and headed for the path.

The hills lost more vegetation, becoming definitely sand dunes and then beach.

Carousel slammed on her brakes and snorted at the big waves.

"It's just water, silly."

A snort of disbelief. :: Water is not supposed to do that! ::

Rael spotted movement to the left, and leaned that direction. Carousel kept a suspicious eye on the aggressive water, as she headed left, resisting Rael's attempt to get her out onto the firm wet sand.

Rael could feel the power usage ahead, and spotted fireballs soaring out over the waves.

Nice! No fire hazard.

The fireballs stopped as the two tall figures turned toward her. She blinked as she recognized the closest one.

"Duke Dydit. I didn't realize . . ."

The tall, good-looking man just grinned. "That I didn't stay at Ambassador Never's side full time? Rael Withione, correct? I don't think we ever actually spoken." His sleeves and pant legs were rolled up . . . unlike the decrepit beach bum coming up behind him.

Rael looked beyond the ragged cutoff pants and threadbare shirt and into the eyes of a predator. She swallowed. "Xen suggested I should come and impress Nil with my shield piercing abilities."

The old man eyed her, then turned his head. "Bari! Come take the lady's horse." He looked back at Rael. "And then we'll just see who impresses whom."

Maybe I ought to have just stuck to kissing sleeping gods.

Rael slid off and handed the reins to a wiry muscled carrot top of a boy, and walked out to meet the Archwizard.

"Shield piercing, eh?"

She had to force herself to not squirm under that narrowed gleaming stare. "Well, it's more like sneaking through than piercing."

"Indeed? Get through this."

Rael boggled at the sheer strength of the physical shield, then raised her own as she reached and felt the frequency of . . . the first layer. Matched that, matched the second, reached and tapped the wizard, jerking her fingers back quickly as the man threw up another shield as he stepped back, startled.

"That . . . Yes. I am impressed." Nil turned to glare at Duke Dydit. "Get that smirk off your face."

Dydit grinned. "She almost a granddaughter-in-law. That gives me a right to smirk."

The old man glowered at him, and turned back to Rael. "So do you do the same to mental shields?" His hardened as he spoke.

She already had the frequency and double shielded to incoming before she matched frequencies. And whispered aloud the wizard's surface thoughts, "long it takes her to Holy Cats!" and then shielded as hard as she could.

Then frequency shifting shields, energy shields, one of each . . .

It turned into a whole day exploration of her techniques, his adaptations, her adjustments . . .

They had to break several times to eat and drink and rest.

With students looking on wide-eyed.

"I think I interrupted your class."

"Wizards need to be flexible. It's good for them to see that even I have a few things to learn."

A chuckle from Dydit. "Like staying at least ten feet away from Oner Princesses? And hoping they don't know about warping light?"

Rael grinned. "It's not well known. So . . . has Xen had any luck flying?"

Fortunately there was a brisk wind off the ocean, so she demonstrated. Kiting up a hundred meters, circling a few times, and managing to make the smooth landing look easy, instead of unusually good luck in not plowing face-first into the ground.

"More kite flying and gliding than flying, really." She giggled at their expressions. "Learning to land is the hard part."

Nil was frowning. "Just a pull, and shaped shield wings."

"A head wind, and a tail for stability. Frankly it's showy and fun, but not terribly useful except in an emergency when you need to get down from a high building or aircar in a hurry."

Dydit grinned. "I think I'll wait till no one is looking before I give it a try."

Rael pointed. "I'd recommend starting from up on a sand dune. For a soft landing. Although anchoring your pull might be harder in loose sand. And, umm, Dydit? Your heavy build is going to make it difficult."

He eyed her wiry muscled thinness and nodded. “It may take a rather large surface area to get me aloft.”

Rael rode home in the twilight.

:: Sheep are really boring . . . and there were a couple of really scary black goats. I didn’t like the way they looked at me! ::

Rael nodded. “I’ve heard about the black goats. They’re evil wizards under a transformation spell . . . I didn’t realize there were any left . . . Or that there were any new ones.”

:: They were nasty! The suggestions they made! Goats should not talk! ::

Rael giggled and agreed. And back at the inn, wolfed down a delicious dinner. "Bison? Huh."

"Yeah, we import it from the New Lands." Urial grinned. "You should go see the Rip while you're here. It's neat."