She glowered. "Are you sure? The doors and windows are going to be . . ."
"Beautiful. If they can't keep it under a hundred thou, we can just leave the magic screens in the dome."
Keiq choked faintly. "I was thinking it might run fifty thousand . . ."
"I'll believe it when I see it." He grinned at her horrified expression and headed for the ladder. And while I'm up there, I'll put some danger signs in front of the tower "closet" so some poor fool doesn't try to walk on an illusion.
The Safety System guys finished up and packed up, the job accepted. And payment made, of course.
Ice had half of one staircase frame done when he felt eyes on his back. Glanced over his shoulder to see an audience of five window-and-door experts gawping at his work.
"That . . ." the big redheaded guy cleared his throat, "is a very interesting use of magic. How the hell did you learn that?"
"Oh, a little from a retired XR guy on Tall Trees. Then Xen Wolfson. He can do wood and stone too."
"Damn. I'm surprised your not doing the windows yourself . . . quite apart from the spooky stuff you've got on them all ready."
"Yeah, that's almost as weird as the closet with no floor."The skinny old guy sidled up and touched the support Ice had just molded. "It's not even hot."
"It gets a bit warm, but never really hot." Ice shrugged. "I could do all the doors and windows, but I do have a day job, so . . . same as the fire things, I'm farming them out to the experts."
"Right, well, Miss Keiq said to ask you about whether you wanted one estimate or to break it off into a few at a time?"
"Hmm. How about the whole ground floor as one estimate. The upstairs balcony doors and the double doors at both ends as the next, and the rest of the windows as a whole."
"How about those basement windows? They're sticking up pretty far."
"I . . . will think about them. I haven't seen any pictures, so they can probably be plain, but leave them out for now."
I ought to look them over, enlarge them and brighten up the space down there. Not that I haven't already got too much space . . .
"Gottcha. I'll send you the estimates and contacts next week."
He gathered up his crew and hauled them away.
Keiq wandered in from the kitchen, reading her comm. "My boss--who's a loyal War Partier, and by virtue of annoying everyone in IS, has somehow not heard we're an item--wants me to get back to work and investigate you. What ought I investigate?"
"Umm, there was that mess in Makkah last year, umm, 10 Qadah. Oljo was there, and the rest of the Wrecking Crew. Oljo has probably inferred a lot about me, but has been warned that speculation could get current agents killed."
"Just my mom, so far as I know, but I couldn't tell him that." Ice snickered. "You could tell him that you don't believe that rumor that that horrible Icka actually struck the Prophet, but you'll check it out. Oh, and the missing report on Hermann. Utne Neartuone London Britain. The Police Chief of Center City, who was hauled off by Icka and never seen again."
She glowered at him.
He looked innocent.
A corner of her mouth turned up. "How much Warrior's privilege is involved? This time?"
"Umm, Hermann/Utne didn't get a trial before he was hauled off to Makkah to answer to the One. Actually, that might be more Agent of the One stuff. Mandy and company went to Makkah on their own, for fell purposes. No privilege needed."
"I see. Well I did find some fascinating . . . Drat, it looks like you friends are here. We'll talk later." Keiq snorted. "Speaking of guests? Do you have that barn, with the working toilet handy? Having been raised by four big brothers, I of course ignored the workers who were here all day occasionally dashing off into the trees. But your female co-workers might appreciate civilized facilities."
Ice fetched it, set it up outside the ballroom, and called a local restaurant that had claimed to cater parties. The glum voice on the other end cheered up when he said "right now" and quick guess as cars kept coming, "fifty people. Food and drinks, burgers or sandwiches would probably be best."
Keiq had been talking to the first arrivals, Pointing at things from the outside, then heading in.
E-one and E-two were the first through the doorway, and the women with them were definitely twins.
Ice strolled out to meet them as the Speed Team parked and joined them.
Ice cleared his throat. "On your left, we have the formal dining room. Yes, it is twelve meters long. And as you might guess, I have no idea where I will find a table to grace its soon-to-be-tiled-with-black marble floors."
That got laughs, and boggles at the ballroom which was ten meters wide and eighteen wide.
"Speaking of having no idea what to do with a room. I'm hoping that leaving the ballroom empty is an option."
Laughs and shaken heads.
"Swear to One, Ice. You are insane." Scar eyed the double staircases, what was left of them. "But then I suppose a project like this does keep you out of trouble."
"Or in." Ux grinned. "Now we've heard things about a huge bathroom with gold fixtures?"
"Just as wrecked as the rest. The master suite is even more ridiculously oversized for the purpose than the dining room. This is the study, and then . . ."
"One! More arches?" Icks walked in looking at the ceiling.
"Steel encased in concrete. I think with a preservative spell on the steel, there's an astoundingly small amount of rust in the basic structure."
A snort from someone else. "Recently renewed, surely."
"Who knows." Ice waved at the bathroom. "Needless to say, once I get the basic plumbing in, I'll be installing something that pretends to be a period throne. But without the gold embellishments."
One of the twins stepped up and eyed the over sized bath. Snickered. "So was this a spa or a goldfish pond?"
Bunny bounced up to look at it, and up at the rusty pipes sticking out of the wall. "Bath and shower, I think, but what was he thinking?"
"Probably about having fun with his three wives." Keiq strolled up. "Unfortunately for him, they refused to move here, and he married a teenager who reminded him of his first wife. One Jeb said they argued constantly."
"Oh dear." The other twin poked around at the rest of the room. "What's with the danger sign?"
"Careful!" Ice lunged and grabbed her as she leaned on the wall and didn't find it. Pulled her back.
She was grinning. "A secret entrance! In the loo! Where does it go?"
"There used to be a tower . . . are you Joke or Jax?"
"Jax. Did the tower fall down?"
"No, they couldn't stop the roof from leaking--it was originally flat, and I don't think they knew what they were doing, I mean, flat roofs are old tech. So they took the tower down and put on the tile roof I'm trying to fix." Ice braced himself on solid wall and stuck his head through the illusion and looked up. He'd replaced the wood, but used the old tiles elsewhere. Most of the metal staircase had collapsed, and after his depredations, there was nothing left above his eye level.
He leaned forward and checked the walls for attachment points or . . . that crystallized spot? He ran a finger up and down it . . . nothing. If it was an old light switch, the spell had faded.
He pulled back, and stepped away. "We're thinking about rebuilding the tower, just because the house isn't over the top enough, as is."
Everyone agreed that the house needed a tower. The people started climbing the ladder to see the domed room, the bare empty women's quarters . . . some devotees of antiques drooled over the thousand year old Counter tiles and the cast iron stove.
The twins spotted the ladder to the basement and Ice bounced a couple of lights down to augment the fast disappearing daylight.
Squeals of joy. "Like, totally WOW!!!!"
"It's the best Goth hangout ever!"
E-one and E-two hustled down the ladder. "
"Hot damn. This is amazing." E-one walked out to the middle. "If you made a ramp you could park your cars down here."
Jax bounced up and batted ger eyelashes at Ice. "After you two move in, you're going to need a maid and a cook, right?"
"Yeah!" Joke started grinning. "We could wear really short dresses with frilly white aprons!"
"Garters, fish-net stockings and high heels!" Jax bounced her considerable assets.
Ice back pedaled and tried to hide behind Keiq.
"Oh no you don't, buster, you have to handle this all on your own." She elbowed him back out.
Ice cleared his throat. "First, I can afford to hire acutal employees. Second, garters and fish-net stockings are a bit too much. Third? The size of this place makes rollerskates more practical than high heels . . . well, apart from the stairs."
The twins' eyes rounded, and they turned to look at the huge space. "Rollerskates!"