In the alcove along the corridor my companions and I were having our breakfast. It was the third morning since we had been taken in by the nomads, as guests, prisoners or hostages, depending on one’s view on our situation. I had finished the plans for the ramp and showed them to my companions to make sure everyone knew their role and the demands I had of them.
Brad was the most vocal about the work distribution. “So we’ll be doing all the heavy lifting while you just meditate?”
I sighed, I had to explain every single part in detail again it seemed. “The stones will be cut exactly to demands by the Professor, then pulled by Chrysita to the construction site, where you, Sarita and our friend in blue will unload them and stack them to pillars. When the time comes to build the arcs between the pillars, I will project a force field to support the arch while our friend in blue lifts the stones up to you. Then you and Sarita just need to put the blocks onto the projection and assemble the arch completely before my concentration runs out. Once all stones of the arch are in place, I can let go of the projection and the arc supports itself.”
Brad nodded with scepticism in his eyes, he was not shy to show his overall discontent with the situation. “Very well then, let us get at it!”
I shook my head. “Not yet. First, we need to clear the construction site of soil. We can ill build stone pillars on soft soil, can we?”
“So, what part of that will be ours?” Brad sighed.
“The Professor and I will dig up the soil until we hit bedrock, you will simply move the soil somewhere else.”
Sarita and the Urshog were entirely indifferent to the promise of hard physical labour, I suspected because our friend in blue was used to it and Sarita because she had no frame of reference.
The work was relatively straining on the Professor and me too, even though cutting soil was much quicker and less straining then cutting wood or stone. We used simple magic to make deep cuts into the soil to make a five-by-five feet square, then lifting off the layers one by one. The soil was then transported away in buckets and barrels on the sled pulled by Chrysita. The steward had told us of a place where we could load off the soil so they could use it later on, either to make more fields or to use for clay.
It was indeed Sarita that complained first. “My feet hurt.” Was her first ailment. “My back hurts.” came next. “I’m tired.” was inevitable. “I’m taking a break.” was her bold claim before lunch time even came around. Brad had to scold her back to work. By the time that lunch finally did come, she had resorted to a constant groaning and sighing to give air to her discomfort.
After lunch even I had to admit the work was getting to me. With energies persistently being conducted through my veins, it soon felt as if they had been rinsed with freshly brewed tealeaves. Nonetheless, our job had to be done, for the good of Anne’s care.
After a day of hard work and another dinner among the people of the village, we were about retire to our chamber when I took Brad and the Professor to the side to tell them about what I had seen in the old Magus’ chamber.
The Professor was disinterested in such thing for now, merely waving it away with “We can start scheming once our expedition’s safety is ensured.” then turning to his chamber.
Brad on the other hand had a very strong opinion on it. “Just recently you told me we would not run or steal this time. Now you want to return to that?”
“Brad, I never said we should steal it, but we must consider resources that are present.”
Brad remained unconvinced. “No, this sounds too much like another plot like that. I will not take part in it. I don’t care if you and the Professor want nicer robes or more prestige, find another way and without me.” With that, he pushed past me and went to bed.
Left there, I stood alone in the empty corridor, until I turned back to the way of the central hall. There stood the sickly young woman, holding a tray of bread and water. Once spotted, she addressed me.
“I was wondering if you are still in need of anything to eat or drink?”
I shook my head. “No, we are fine.”
She raised an eyebrow, threw a quick glance back into the corridor and turned around. “I’ll just leave this by the table then.” She disappeared around the bend.
I could not shake the feeling of impending trouble. This woman was obviously far more aware of situations than I would have guessed. I would have to watch my words around her. For now, all I could do was follow her advice and get some rest.
Uneasy sleep found me that night. It was a tossing and turning, occasionally rising in the dark to the sound of merely Brad snoring. It was a slow rhythm that should soothe the mind, but beyond it I heard my own heartbeat. I decided to put on my robe and leave my chamber.
Just as in Slabtown, there existed two days in this village, one for those that rose with the mist and those that rose when it set. I headed for the central hall and sat down on one of the steps running up along the inside wall.
It did not take long for the young woman to find me and sit down next to me, actually rather close I would say. With her eyes like burls of dark walnut sitting deep in their sockets, she skewered my careless mood. “What is it you want to steal?”
“What?” My confusion and surprise were genuine for the moment.
“I heard you talk about grabbing something from us and then running.” Her glare did not let up.
“No... Well yes, we did talk about it, but it was a misunderstanding. We do not intend to steal anything, I promise.”
Her glare still did not let up. “We all know not to trust unfettered mages, but everyone else seemed to have forgotten that the moment they could make you work for us. Well, don’t feel too complacent. For now, you still have eyes on you.” She stood back up with a last glare and went back into one of the tunnels.
I could still feel her icy eyes even as I lay in my bed that night. She eyed me more than closely.