Chapter 25 – Discussions and Revelations
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The Long Vine Inn was welcoming and agreeable. Not the best furniture or food, but certainly above a seedy portside bar that I had seen enough of in my life. We had however retreated into one of our rooms to have a talk with the Professor. 

“We all deeply respect you, Professor, not just because of your gifts.” I had taken the word to lessen the tension of what had so far been an exchange of sharp remarks between uncle and niece. “We truly need you and your expertise. But you cannot allow yourself to be misled when so much is at stake.” 

He merely looked at me and nodded.  

“You must understand that you completely missed the remark by the Councilwoman that would bind us to produce flux to her and only her. You trust people too readily and you should not do that here. We have little idea of any of these peoples, even if they seem friendly and well-intended to the immediate eye.” 

The Professor sighed. “I was sure it would be a good deal, so maybe you could let your strictness slide for once.” 

Anne raised an accusing finger at her uncle. “And I told you it wasn’t abo-” 

I put my hand on her finger so she would lower it. “And we have told you it was less about the strict rules and more about the fact that these rules exist for a reason.” I looked at Anne until she nodded in contained anger. “The guild of alchemists controls the distribution of flux so strictly because no single person should be trusted with it. Councilwoman Wyde does not seem trustworthy enough to hand her such power, but we could ill tell her that, couldn’t we?” 

The Professor seemed to accept. “Fine, then. Who will do the negotiations then?” 

I paused for a moment and thought about it. Anne was probably the best, having received a good education in diplomacy. Sarita on the other hand, of an upper stratum of society as well, also knew her way around the cultures and etiquettes down in that world. I decided on the more mature one. “Anne has shown good tact and intuition in these sorts of matters, why not her?” 

Anne nodded. She looked at her uncle and obviously suppressed any petty thought of familiar quarrel. A few moments passed by before he nodded. “Very fine then. For the sake of politics, Anne shall have the word.” 

Anne smiled. “Do not worry, Uncle, you are still the academic head of this expedition.” 

A peaceful silence settled between us five – six if counting Chrysita in her crystal that laid on a table by the Professor’s bedside – and turned into an awkward silence. 

“Now what?” Brad had asked the exactly right question. “Where do we go from here?” 

The Professor answered. “Well, we should wait until morning and then visit Thorin’s shop again for all that information.” 

That’s when a thought shot through my head. “Wait! We left an entire vial of flux with Thorin. What if the councilwoman figures out how to reproduce it?” 

The Professor looked at me with concern in their face. “I hadn’t thought of that at all.” Then turned to Anne, who was obviously thinking about the conundrum already. 

She returned from her contemplation. “If the alchemists who made that particular batch did their job right, it should be pure, untainted and without traces of its origin. But I am not going to bet on that. We have to convince him to give it back.” 

I had to raise a second concern that had just then appeared to me. “If the councilwoman can get us out of jail, she can probably also get to Chrysita, her body is still confiscated and our Flux is on her backpack.” 

The others nodded again. 

“And I don’t think he will be eager to part with it if his wife is so keen on getting her hands on it.” 

“Why don’t we just steal it?” was Sarita’s proposal. 

Brad chimed in with a scolding tone. “Listen here Princess Magpie, we all know stealing stuff is your go-to solution, but we cannot keep this up.” 

Sarita merely furrowed her brow. “Who’s Magpie?” 

“Actually, Brad,” Anne spoke up. “I think that might be the best solution, she has a point. If we remove it before he can reopen his store, it’s the surest way to get it out of the Councilwoman’s hands, if it even still is in Thorin’s shop at all.” 

“Who’s Magpie?” 

“Do you not think the man will notice something is off? I mean, without the Flux, the vial won’t turn on. Also, I don’t want to break even more laws just to get by in this world. So shortly after we abducted a chieftain’s daughter?” 

“What’s Magpie?” 

I had to admit silently that this was indeed another daring action against people who harbour us no ill will. 


It took us no whole hour that we had made a plan, prepared the necessary spells and go through it again. Sarita, Anne and me would go to Thorin’s shop and attempt to retrieve the flux in the vial. We decided to leave the vial at least as a sign of good will and to reduce the chance of being found out before Thorin hands us the information. Meanwhile, the Professor and Brad would try to retrieve the cask on Chrysita’s backpack, at best legally, to not get into trouble with the guard, at least not right away. 

The Professor and I had revised our spells accordingly, to reshape just tiny portions to gain entry without anyone noticing. Both of us had to learn to do more with less energy. With such a hard limit imposed on us, we had to get much shrewder with our constructions. 


My team made its way back to Thorin’s shop, I knew a store of such a wealthy person would have some sorts of magical defences, but that would be a problem to be solved then. I had prepared a perception spell to spy out exactly that. 

Due to the store’s remote location deep in one of the better quarters, it was not hard to be left alone for a few moments and thus, I had time enough to look for any arcane weavings, traces or reactive substances. I concentrated my mind on the little influences even inactive magic has on the world and while many houses in the area were obviously secured very tightly, Thorin’s shop was not so much. A few simple triggers lay by the door and the windows, but technically, I could have just reshaped a hole into one of the walls, reached through and turned the doorknob from the inside. Afraid I had overlooked something, I instead focussed on an often-neglected spot: the chimney. 

Nothing seemed to prevent any sort of intrusion through it, nor any transmutation of the chimney itself. We climbed onto the roof where we inspected the tiny opening a bit closer. 

“It looked bigger from afar.” I had to admit. It was roughly one foot across. 

Anne shook her head. “There’s no need we can all fit through there.” 

“Only one needs to, there’s a trigger on the inside of the doorknob, if you turn it from the inside, it disarms the other security measure.” 

“Well, I am not fitting through there any way.” Anne crossed her arms, eager to start an argument and propping up her breasts with ostentation. 

“I was thinking of someone else.” I looked to Sarita, much more nimble, thin, and not yet fully bloomed as Anne. 

Sarita herself knew what was asked of her and rolled her eyes. She took off her cloak and tucked her clothes tightly under her belt, then I cast a spell on the inside walls of the chimney to make it slippery and even somewhat malleable. With a bit of help from us, she managed to squeeze all the way through, like an especially large bite of food with a big gulp of ale. 

We heard a PLOPP-sort of sound as she arrived below. She somehow managed to get out of there and soon after, the front door opened. 

Sarita was more than just black. Clumps of coal and soot stuck to her fur and I had to suppress a laughter. She herself was little amused. We entered and began to search the shop and its many rooms by the dim light of our moonlight crystals. We did not know how much of the neighbourhood was up and about their businesses, but we did not want to risk being seen by making an obvious commotion. 

We were done with the main shop room and about to split up to search different areas when the door to a backroom opened. From shadow, the spindly stature of Thorin Wyde entered the room. 

“Looking for this?” he held up the vial with the flux inside. “or maybe just this?” he raised the Professor’s staff, which he had left in the store before being taken into custody. 

We were all struck by fright in the eyes of being caught, but Thorin seemed not eager to call alarm or stop us. Instead, he walked to the large table in the room’s centre and put the vial and the staff down on it. 

“Take it and be gone.” 

I managed to close my agape mouth and asked him the obvious. “You are not angry that we are trying to take your property?” 

Thorin, now further into the light of the dim crystals, smiled. “It really is only mine when I give you your payment as agreed, damn, I did not even think of it when I came here. I just remembered your master’s staff and wanted to make sure it is where I thought it was, then I saw the vial and the powder. But nonetheless, I know why you want it back. That powder is powerful, that much I understood. My wife knows that too, but there was a time when she had worked together with people to further everyone’s well-being, rather than try keeping it all for herself and forging some intrigue.” Thorin sighed and his gaze trailed off to the ground. “I hate seeing her become this most efficient and successful of politicians. Take the damn stuff before she shows up for some reason. And take this with you as well!” he out a large envelope and a stack of coins on the table, our agreed upon payment in both currency and information. “You should be out of the chamber soon; a malignant air follows you.” His face showed no well wishes our way, but worries that we might not leave soon enough. 

My companions were still contemplating Thorin’s revelation and so I decided to grab the vial, undo the plug and empty it into my flux pouch. I put the empty vial back. “It can also feed of fleeting life force, like blood fresh from a wound or sprouting seeds.” 

He looked at me. “The more you tell me, the more your plan to keep this secret is likely to fail.” 

I nodded and took the items, Anne the payment, the we bowed in gratitude and left the shop. 

I still think back to those events in pure confusion. The fate had taken some odd and weird turns that I dared not question, and still don’t.