tagSci-Fi & FantasyAmber's Enchantment Ch. 03

Amber's Enchantment Ch. 03

bydweaver999©

Chapter 3

Impossible Things


As the fires burned the air of Destran, the life the residents of this planet were used to seeing, surprisingly, not only survived, but thrived. It simply did so where the fires couldn't reach. In the far reaches of the atmosphere, birds, insects, and a few reptiles and mammals floated on the updrafts caused by the heat of the fires raging in the lower levels. These hardy fliers could stay aloft for decades without landing, which was a good thing, given the lethalness of the world below them for the next 50 years.

Just as life thrived above the flames, so too, did it thrive below them. Like the sentient beings that came to Destran so long ago (humans, and others), the native animal life sought protection below the ground. While some creatures did, in fact, take refuge in the caves and tunnels that riddled the hills and mountains of this young world, more of the non-flying life literally took to the ground. If someone could have survived the experience, each shovel full of earth would be teeming with life (that would perish as it was forced into the flames). Most people were unaware of the nature of the life forms native to this world, as they never ventured onto the surface.

*****



Amber's fingers traced the now familiar patterns of light on the underside of the refining bowl. She felt confident that she could do the required motions even if the lights were to somehow extinguish themselves. Not that such an event seemed likely. In the two months she'd been assisting Vesti, the glows from everything had gotten stronger. At times they were strong enough to be a distraction. She recalled a conversation she'd had a few weeks earlier with the wizard (who frequently lapsed into treating Amber as an assistant, whom he encouraged to ask questions).

"Master, can magic affect things it's not supposed to affect?" she had asked. As the glows became stronger, Amber had grown worried that she was somehow being harmed by the magic.

"That's an interesting question, Amber, one many apprentices ask. The simple answer is no. Unfortunately, the question isn't a simple question. A spell can be intended to accomplish one thing and actually do another when cast by a wizard of little experience or control. For example, I can cast a spell that rids my home of vermin. It's intended purpose is to kill the vermin themselves. But, and this is important for any wizard to understand, a spell designed to kill may not be intended to kill a pet, but it's supposed to kill pets. You see, a killing spell is supposed to kill living things. I can control it to kill only certain types of creatures, but it can and will kill anything that...gets in its way...so to speak."

"But just being around magic a lot won't hurt you, will it?" she asked, a tremor in her voice.

"Ah, now I understand. No, most people can't be harmed by simply being near magic in general. In rare cases, someone with the spark, who's untrained, can experience side effects from his gift. Frequently, that's how we recognize someone with the spark; they react to the ambient magic around them. You don't need to worry yourself over that, however. Your collar quenches the spark of any slave wearing it."

Vesti had pulled her close, caressing her as he answered, hinting at his desire for another round of enjoyable sex between the two. Amber couldn't explain, even to herself, why she never told Vesti about the colors she saw. Partly it was her training. Slaves were expected to keep to themselves unless, and until their Masters engaged them. The perfect slave was the one who did what she was supposed to do without bringing attention to herself. One obeyed the direct orders of her Masters, and answered any questions they asked, of course. Amber only asked questions of Vesti when he invited her to do so.

What Amber couldn't explain was why the colors surrounding magical devices was never one of the things she asked about. She'd come close on several occasions, but a twisting sensation in her gut kept her silent. Her thoughts returned to a conversation she'd overheard shortly after her arrival and starting to work with Vesti on tuning the bowls.

*****



Even in the glow of the orb of magical energy that made up a communication spell, Amber had been able to see the red flush of a near rage in the older wizard's face. "By the Gods, Vesti, are you mad? What insanity led you to teach a slave," the word spat in disgust, "magic?"

"Calm yourself, Ponet. I haven't taught magic to anyone, not since you recalled my assistant. Amber has merely assisted in the somatic components of the tuning process. She no more manipulates mana than your wife does."

"You leave my wife out of this. Slaves don't do magic. That's the law, Vesti, and you'd best remember that."

"If you're going to spout the law at me, be sure to get it right. That particular law is guild law, not civil law. In fact, the only reason they don't is that we demanded the Houses accept the spark quenching as part of the enchantments we put into their collars."

"And that was with good reason," the older wizard exclaimed. "If a slave could manipulate mana, they would be free to do so however their owners wished, free from reprisal, thanks to the near immortality those damned slave trainers insisted be included. We should have refused that."

"Maybe, but gold talks doesn't it; with a very loud voice. You and I know the guild is paid handsomely for those collars. Business is good."

"We're off the subject. You need to stop using that slave to help you with your magic."

"No, Ponet, I don't. What laws am I breaking? I'll tell you; none. Send me an assistant and I'll consider it. Honestly though, she's the best mundane assistant I've ever seen. She's obedient to a fault; she remembers the details of the motions needed with very little instruction; and she has a steady hand that flows into the motions. If all slaves are as good as she is, I'd consider obtaining one permanently to assist."

"And the fact that you can't fuck your apprentices has no bearing on the issue, I suppose," the image replied with a wry grin. "You're right, you aren't doing anything illegal, so long as she only does the physical motions you can't do. It's bad form, though, Vesti. It won't help your standing in the guild."

Vesti's sharp bark of laughter punctuated his comment. "My standing with the guild? Are you mad? The guild already thinks I'm nearly renegade. You and I both know I'll never be accepted in any meaningful way. That's why I was posted in this far hole. Out here, I threaten no one, and can be mostly forgotten. Would all the sins of my past be forgiven if I suddenly stopped using a slave to help me?" He saw the look in Ponet's face, all the answer he needed. "I thought not. Just leave me be, and I'll not bother the guild either. I've grown comfortable in this far hole, and am content to live out my life here." With a sharp motion Vesti had ended the speaking spell and turned away.

*****



Amber had been with Vesti for almost two months and was due to return to the caverns of House Grantlo in three days. While she was looking forward to returning to the home she'd known for the last year, she knew she would also miss the light hearted wizard. What she was most looking forward to, however, was not having to wear her slave dress so much. Unlike the slave tunnels, the caverns that were home to the Lustren family teemed with children. Unless she was at Vesti's home or the Louvet mines, Amber had to wear the one piece dress that hid her form with disturbing totality.

"Amber, wait up there," came the voice Amber had grown to recognize and enjoy. Melan Lustren's slave, Tewant was hurrying through the paths, carrying a basket of some sort. Tewant's slave dress was quite a bit different from Amber's; being longer, with the hem almost touching the floor, but showing more cleavage. Amber had learned that each slave house had their own slave dress style. She found it ironic that the thing that made it easiest to distinguish which house a slave came from was something they wore only sometimes, and grudgingly.

Stopping, Amber replied. "Yes, Tewant? What do you need?"

"Mistress wants Master Vesti to look at these," the slave panted.

Opening the basket, Amber looked inside, seeing the familiar glow of magical devices. "Do they need to be adjusted?" she asked.

"No, Mistress wants to know what they do."

"She doesn't know? How is that possible?" Amber asked, a frown crossing her continence as she noted the strange color emanating from the devices.

"I don't know. Mistress didn't tell me and..."

"You didn't ask," Amber finished with a smile of understanding. Looking closer, Amber realized that she had no idea what the things were. Their shape was something she'd never seen before. Made of metal, they looked like a tube that had been bent at right angles. At one end there was a crystal of some sort, the source of the unusual glow; black in color. The other end seemed to be solid. Looking back at her fellow slave, she assured Tewant, "Yes, I'll take these to Master. Did your Mistress say how quickly she needed to know?"

"Yesterday?" Tewant giggled. Both slaves knew well Melan Lustren's impatience. Demanding things to be done yesterday wasn't uncommon.

"I'll let him know. I have to go, Master is expecting me soon. I think he wants to use me tonight."

"Oh, you lucky slave. Have fun."

"Oh, I will," Amber gushed as she turned back towards Vesti's quarter.

"Master," Amber called out as she entered her temporary home. As she slipped the dress over her head, she continued, "I'm back."

"I can see that, little slave. What's that?" he asked, looking at the basket.

"Tewant gave me that. Mistress Lustren wants you to identify what the magical devices inside do."

Vesti had moved next to Amber and started to stroke her arm, but stopped at her response. "She has a magical device she that she doesn't know the function of? How did that happen?" he asked as he took the basket from Amber. Amber started to respond until she saw the look of shock and...horror (?) on his face.

"Master? Is something wrong?" she asked, concern causing her to forget her requirement not to pry into her owners' affairs.

Vesti, seemingly unaware of Amber's breach, whispered, as much to himself as to Amber, "Very much so. These shouldn't exist."

Vesti looked as if he didn't want to touch the devices; almost as if they frightened him. After several seconds, he closed the basket and handed it back to Amber. "Amber, take these to the workroom. Don't remove them from the basket until you've cleared the table and set the ward stones on the corners. Do you remember which are the ward stones?"

"Yes, Master. They're the brown stones with gold flecks that I keep separate from everything else. Master, are these things dangerous?"

"Not to you, thanks to your collar. But yes, they are dangerous, I think. That's what I'll have to find out. I'll join you shortly."

Once Amber was out of sight, Vesti went to a spot on the wall and passed his hand over it, mumbling words that had no meaning. The area glowed briefly, revealing a sliding panel. From the recessed alcove, Vesti removed a golden ring with a stone similar in appearance to how Amber had described the warding stones. Once the ring was on his finger, he went through a complex series of hand motions, accompanied by what Amber had come to recognize, from the fact that her collar didn't translate the words, was obviously an incantation. As he did, a golden glow flowed out from the ring to encompass his entire body. To the outside observer, the glow faded, but to Vesti's eyes, the glow fit over him like a second skin.

Amber's eyes widened in shock when Vesti entered the workroom glowing a rich gold color. Vesti smiled, misunderstanding why she was surprised. "I see the wards activated," he said.

"Yes, Master," she answered, eyeing the similar glow surrounding the bench top; a glow that had grown out of the stones when she'd placed the fourth one in its position.

"The wards will protect the other devices in the room," he explained, though he kept to himself the real reason the wards were up; that he was fearful of danger to people living in nearby caverns. In one respect, Vesti already knew what the devices were intended to do; at least in the broadest sense. The aura around them told him that these items were intended to kill something. Theoretically a black aura signified the total absence of mana, something that was simply impossible. Mana was everywhere, even in the very rocks themselves. It simply didn't flow in non-living things; at least not without the help of an outside force, such as a wizard's spell. Vesti, along with every other person on the planet, was unaware of the mana flows initiated by the burning times, which did, in fact, cause mana to flow into non-living things. Of course, even had they known, wizards would still have attributed that flow to the workings of an outside source.

Vesti retrieved several things from his shelves and placed them inside the ward Amber had created with the warding stones. Amber could see his golden glow merge with that of the ward as his hands reached through, the natural tendency of wards with similar frequencies to merge playing out before her. The first item was a flux crystal. The normally clear crystal glowed red with the stored mana contained in it. The crystals had the property of being able to hold vast amounts of mana. The enchantment on the crystals was such that, while mana could be stored in them, they would emit mana when magic was done by someone or something they were in contact with. If the crystal on the end of the device was truly mana free, the flux crystal should seek to pour it's mana into the device's crystal.

Touching the flux crystal to the device he was examining, there was a bright discharge and the flux crystal turned clear. Both Vesti and Amber saw a momentary flicker of light, green in color; the same color, Amber noted in her mind, as the portals she'd traveled through.

"How very strange," Vesti muttered. "where did it go?"

"Where did what go, Master?" Amber asked, her natural curiosity combining with Vesti's previous encouragements to override her training.

"The mana," he answered without looking up. "It couldn't have been destroyed." Amber moved around the table, wanting to get an unimpeded view of what he was doing. "Stay clear of the ward, Amber. This thing is dangerous, I think."

"Will you be okay, Master?" she asked, concern rising in her voice.

"Yes, I have a personal ward up."

Amber had moved to where she was opposite Vesti. He selected another of the items he'd brought out a cone shaped one and held it above the strange and discomforting device. Amber saw a bluish light emitted from the cone. Vesti moved it above the device so the blue light played over it. A section of the tube, right where it was bent, glowed blue itself.

"Curious," Vesti muttered. "An activator." Picking the device up, he tried to hold it so that it would be easy to touch the activator without constantly doing so. Soon his hand was wrapped around the shorter end of the bent tube with the crystal resting below his hand. He noted in the back of his mind how the shorter end seemed designed to make holding the thing and touching the activator comfortable actions. Vesti's thumb rested next to the activation spot and he moved his thumb to hover over it. "Clearly, this is how it's supposed to be held." Knowing the ward was secure, he pressed his thumb against the activator, oblivious to the fact that the other end was pointing directly at Amber.

A spark erupted from the end of the longer part of the bent tube (which seemed to naturally point in front of the holder), flashing nearly instantly to cross the distance between the device and Amber. The ward seemed to have no effect on it, though Amber thought she saw a hole appear in the ward itself. In less than a second, Vesti took his thumb off the activator, dismayed when the spark didn't dissipate. He moved the end away from Amber, only to watch the spark bend and arc to stay connected to the slave. In horror, he saw that mana was flowing from Amber into the device. When dropping the thing didn't stop the energy connection, he brushed one of the warding stones off the corner of the table, breaking the ward entirely. Noting the greenish aura from the crystal, he selected a spell to close portals and cast it.

The energy stream winked out and Amber collapsed to the floor. He reset the ward and rushed to Amber's side. He watched in horrified fascination as mana seemed to flow from Amber's heart to fill the rest of Amber's body, filling in the blackness that was an absence of mana in her. It took only a matter of several seconds for the normal mana patterns to reestablish themselves in her, though the bright center of her normal pattern (something he'd noticed only one other time before) was much dimmer than it had been.

Amber's eyes flickered open and she gasped, clutching at her chest. "Master! What happened?"

"You tell me. What did you feel?"

"I...there was a burst of pain, then it felt like I was having a long orgasm. I'm not sure I liked it. What was it doing to me?"

"I'm not sure. What it looked like it was doing is supposed to be impossible. It may be a very good thing that I had a slave for an assistant. This might well have killed anyone not wearing a slave collar."

"But...I thought magic couldn't kill."

"That's only partially true. Magic can't kill directly. I can't cast a spell that simply snuffs your life out. I could cast a spell that bathes you in fires so hot as to incinerate you, and you would die. Well, not you, but a non-slave."

"So...what did the device try to do to me?"

"I don't know. I need to investigate further. I need to know where this thing came from." Picking up the device, Vesti didn't see Amber's shock when her attention was brought back to the device since, like many slaves, Amber tended to look directly at the person she's speaking to. As her eyes passed over the device again, she saw no colors emanating from it. She quickly scanned around the workroom and realized that none of the colors she'd grown used to seeing were present any more. As he put the strange device back in the basket, moving with great care so as not to activate it again, he ordered, "Put everything back where it's supposed to go, Amber. I'm going to see Madam Lustren."

"Yes, Master," she replied, her distant voice unnoticed by the wizard too distracted by his own concerns. Amber moved to obey, having to think harder about what she was doing. She'd spent the past months using the colors to sort the items on the shelves. Now, the only reason she could put them back where the went was that she'd seen them taken from their spots just a short while ago. All the while, she pondered just why she couldn't see the colors now. Did the device's...attack...on her have anything to do with it? One of the things she'd learned in her youth in Kafka was that the simplest explanation was usually the correct one.

While Amber followed his orders, Vesti started to walk with a purpose towards Melan Lustren's house. Just before he reached the door, he had a thought and placed one of the devices in the hidden alcove in the wall. Unlike most of the inhabitants of the Lustren caverns who lived in caves dug into the cavern walls, the leader of the clan lived in a free standing building near the center of the cavern. As someone who led with a style that had her personally involved in all aspects of her clan's business, she wanted to be easily accessible to any of her extended family, and their servants.

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