(Continues from Clockwork Wizards)
“What is that?”
As the image clarified, Etienne saw a bark covered quadruped trotting with its nose in the wind. It loped down an unfamiliar cobbled street, claws clicking as it drooled. Sharp canines protruded from a malformed jaw.
“A malformed construct authored by no one I recognize.” Great-grandfather shifted the view in his magic ball until a line of low buildings in the drabber colors of the suburbs came into view.
Unable to identify the stone-and-crystal edifices, Etienne shook his head. He had no idea which suburb the creature prowled.
“And you want me to deal with it?”
Great-grandfather nodded. “Trace it back to its maker. I want to know who to charge for damages. There are laws about this kind of thing and I don’t appreciate upstarts breaking them. It stirs up the populace, and we don’t want that.”
Worse still, if someone reported it to the King. Etienne shuddered at the thought. Let High King Mavadrid stay ignorant of this little fiasco.
“Do you know where this thing is?”
Great-grandfather smiled. “It’s all part of the test my boy. You have to find and deal with it without my aid.”
And how could he manage such a feat with his powers bound and his access to the Etherosphere diminished? Etienne regarded his great-grandfather. He opened his mouth to inquire about those bindings, but Great-grandfather spoke first.
“I’ll unbind you so you can take care of this with a minimum of fuss. But please be careful.”
Great-grandfather left all the risks unsaid, but Etienne understood. His ancestor possessed a power signature shared by some of his descendants, including Etienne.
Murmuring, his great-grandfather squashed the mirror flat and elongated it into a knife. With a rustle of his embroidered robes, Great-grandfather struck a heroic pose. He held the magic-wrought blade above his head, point to the ceiling. The Etherosphere flowed down it setting the crystalline blade on fire.
One chop broke the seal. The second sliced through the bindings themselves, and they slid away in a half visible cascade. Etienne stepped out of the shimmering pile and stretched magical muscles in all four dimensions. His link to the Etherosphere strengthened and became a robust pipeline instead of a trickle.
He could do anything, but he chose to do as his ancestor had bidden him. Something pulled at him and yanked his gaze to the bed. A young man lay draped in sheets calling a name he knew. A name tied to part of him but not the whole. The part of him which was still Etienne stirred and responded.
“Will you stay with him?”
“He belongs in the infirmary and that’s where he’s going. At least I know now where to lay the blame for your slipping grades. ” Great-grandfather glared at Willet who coughed into a handkerchief.
No argument he could make would sway his great-grandfather, so he made none.
“You can visit him there when you return but after I receive a full report.”
Etienne leaned back misting before he hit the glass. Once through the window, he shot upward toward the Etherospheree, where magic waited to be shaped and given purpose. A shadow broke from the stonework and follow him on bat wings. But Etienne had eyes only for the Etherosphere’s rainbowed hued swirl of light high above the cloud deck.
To be continued in The Crushing Gargoyle…