Chapter 9 Scene 1

by Richard Perkins
This entry is part 32 of 65 in the series Doormaker's Fall

Chapter 9: The Winding of the Way

“The Doormaker Council is seen by some as a suppresser of knowledge. But the Council was the first to preserve knowledge in written form for later generations. Without Council support the Guild schools would not exist. If the Council restricts access to the more powerful teachings of the Doormaker’s Art, it is only to protect the public. An untrained and unrestrained Mage is a danger to himself and others.”

Consolidated Histories of the Doormaker Council

The drone was little more than an air screw with a message cradle attached. The finest artisans of the Crafters Guild built each drone to the specifications of the High Council. It was a composite structure, simple yet cunningly made.

First the fibers of the iron weed pod, whose strength dulled the sharpest blade, were woven around a wooden core to form a hollow vertical cylinder. The fibers were bound in place with the sap of the weeping pine, whose resin cured to pale, gemstone like crystals under the right conditions.

The blade was cut from two thin sheets of mica, which formed in layers that delaminate easily with only the slightest guidance from an earth mage. The two split circles were mounted in a spiral around the central cylinder while the resin was still wet. Then they were coated with their own layer of resin bound iron weed fibers, until no seam or joint could be distinguished.

The message cradle was a cage of silver wire, designed to clutch the Council message tubes tightly until they reached their destination. It was suspended below the cylinder, bound between the laminated iron weed fibers of the cylinder and its spiral blade.

After assembly, the drones were fired in oven of superheated gas. The flame polished the drones to a lustrous shine. Once cooled, Greater Mages infused each drone with traces of elemental energy from earth for strength, from water for weather resistance, and from air for affinity to the winds. Small enough to rest on an open hand, the Council’s drones were as light as air, as strong as stone, and as timeless as the sea.

The one cradled in Gunther’s left hand this morning was already loaded with Simon’s message tube, addressed to the High Mage of the Greater Council of Doormakers.

For the tenth time that morning, Simon wondered how his superior would receive the report. But rather than dwell on it further, he nodded to the young air mage. “Whenever you’re ready, Gunther.”

Gunther looked to Bernard. The Common air mage passed one hand over the drone slowly, nodding to himself. “You’ve augmented the air infusion with your own energy pattern I see?”

“I thought it would improve my control over the long distance. Better affinity with the cyclone, this way.”

“Good thinking. Well, no sense delaying any longer.”

Gunther nodded, and took a calming breath. Then he put his right hand above the drone’s open cylinder. Simon felt a sudden cold breeze in the early morning air, and the drone began to spin. Driven by the miniature funnel cloud Gunther had dropped into the central cylinder, the drone quickly spun up until it hung suspended between his hands. He dropped both hands to his sides, leaving the drone spinning in the air before him. The low hum of the spinning blades suddenly rose to a high pitched whine and the drone shot upward. The sound of the drone quickly faded as it arced across the sky.

Gunther watched its progress until it disappeared from sight over the horizon to the southeast. “It should arrive within the hour.”

Simon nodded once. “Excellent Gunther. Do you need to stay in one place, or can you guide it while we travel?”

“The higher winds are favorable today. I should be able to control it on the move.”

“Then we proceed northwest. How are our supplies Bernard?”

“The caravan is loaded. We’ve secured a reptile team and local handlers from the outpost.”

Simon raised an eyebrow. “Was that necessary?”

Bernard shrugged. “Under the circumstances, I thought it wise to conserve our energies and use the resources available. The handlers are also experienced with the territory we must cross. Such details may be the difference between arriving at this unknown Gathering fully rested, and not arriving at all.”

Simon couldn’t fault Bernard’s reasoning. Although he could have carried the caravan indefinitely on a wave of sand with help from elemental earth power, it would tire him. This way he could save his strength for other considerations, like reconnaissance. Or defense, should that prove necessary.

Simon smiled briefly. “Once again, you justify the Council’s faith in your ingenuity.”

Bernard rolled his eyes. “I must be inventive to achieve the goals we were set with the resources we were given.”

“Just so. Well, time escapes us.”

The three Doormakers shouldered canvas packs with their personal gear. Then Bernard lead them down from the dune crest on the edge of the outpost and back into the market square. There two wagons were hitched to teams of giant lizards. They were larger cousins of the wild lizard that had attacked them, but trained for life in the harness. Though horses could cross parts of the Great Desert on the Migrations, their present journey would be a death sentence for even the hardiest mount. These scaly beasts, native to the sands, would haul them and their test equipment into the heart of the high desert. But would they bring them back out again? Simon doubted it would be so simple.

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