Saturday, December 6, 2014

Incognita - Iceheart

Incognita - Iceheart

Flip was working late into the night. Which was not unusual in any sense. His Alchemy lab was bustling with activity, even as the moon rose towards midnight. Borico the transmuter mulled over a trio of bubbling cauldrons, the contents of which should have been unpleasant, but somehow gave off the scent of warm mulled wine. Hafiz was studying the bone totems on a workbench, and Mikaela the cleric was scribing scrolls, sitting at a desk surrounded by open tomes.

For himself, Flip had taken over a pair of workbenches, tomes were neatly arrayed out wards and a small magical circle had been painted in flowing ink on a silken roll of parchment. A glittering sliver of ice floated a handful of inches above the circle, sending a dancing cascade of light in all directions while he worked.

While he had never been much of one for assistants or peers, Flip was somewhat fond of the feeling of magics going on around him. It reminded him of the time he spent in the army, amongst other artillery mages. It had been a kind of school, or camp in the training days. Mages swapping stories, reading and researching, trying to one up each other with new and strange trappings into arcane power.

There was a certain hierarchy to magedom that outsiders did not appreciate. The trappings of being learned imbued them with a strict sense of deference amongst peerage, and the three casters often deferred to him in matters of magical study. Not that he cared overmuch for what they sought to do, but it was reassuring.

Flip and the others were given only the barest of warnings from Manor, “Sir, Kelwyn the Cleric appr-” before the Lab door swung open and a chill breeze invaded their workroom. The serenity of the room and its work was shattered by the chatty human.

“I’m back! You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get ice at this time of night, Flip!”

The cleric’s arms were laden with a pair of wooden crates, dressed heavily with chill linen and what the mage knew were massive blocks of ice.

“I suppose I would not, but you will tell me I am sure.” commented Flip dryly.

“I went to a tavern first to see if they would part with any, but they wouldn’t, so they recommended I try an Inn, and I couldn’t just go, so I had a drink first, and then met these men who had dice…”

Mikaela looked up then. “Are you...drunk Kelwyn?”

The cleric had the good sense to look at least a little sheepish. “No! Well, no. I had a drink or two, but then I said to myself...Flip is waiting for that ice! I had better get going! So I went off-”

Flip cut in without looking up. “Put the change on my workbench, and the ice in the holding container.”

Now the cleric went a bit red. “There...uhh there wasn’t any change sir.”

Now Flip turned his head from studying his tome. “There...was no change?”

The cleric looked anywhere except at the Mage. Hafiz intently ducked his head down at the totem, and both Mikaela and Borico attempted to look very busy right then. “Uhh. No. *Ahem. Sir.”

Flip stood upright, still balanced evenly on his stool before the workbench, he crossed his arms. “You took five gold pieces, and returned with four litres of ice wrapped in linen?”

“Uh. Yes."

“So that would make it almost thirteen silver pieces a litre for water?”

This time, the cleric kept his mouth shut.

“That water, was it blessed by a priest then? Maybe by the archdeacon himself? Maybe it came from an elvish-sanctuary stream? Or from the old world, kept in a cask of ivory?”

“Uh, no….Flip. It was hard to get at this time of night...though.” The cleric mustered.

“Ah of course. The one single inn, in the whole city that has ice. Of course, how foolish of me. Well here is what we will do…”

Now everyone tried to look extremely busy.

“We are going to keep this ice, carefully keep it. And I am going to go to that inn, and burn it into the ground, right down to the very stones. And we shall have a monopoly on ice in this entire city and can sell it for a hundred gold pieces a litre. Yes? Does that sound like a good plan? This is an excellent plan if I do say so myself.”

Then the halfling hopped off his stool, a swirl of latent fiery magic cascaded around him as he made for the door. Finally Kelwyn snapped out of it, fright painted on his face. “No! Sir I’m sorry I gambled away the change.”

The room went deathly still.

Flip turned, and his face was unreadable.

“Ah. All things are clear now.”

The halfling approached Kelwyn then, it would have been an almost comical sight, the tiny halfling and the human, being led almost genially to the workbench. “Do you know why I asked for more Ice?”

Kelwyn was bewildered at the turn in emotions of the halfling, and could only stammer out, “A new...uh spell you are working on?”

“Yes! A new spell! Excellent. I will demonstrate!”

Then the halfling raised his left hand, his fingers rippled and the swirl of magical weave surrounded him. Everyone watched spellbound, Flip’s mastery over evocation was mesmerizing, a kind of deadly artist at work in ways similar to fire spinners or sword swallowers. With a wave of his hand, the wards surrounding the floating sliver of ice vanished, but before it could tumble, the sliver shimmered once, brightly.

Flip’s magic coaxed the shard, there could be no other word for it. As though the mage had but asked politely and touched the points and placements that he wanted. And with a savage suddenness, the shard cascaded outwards, a thousand sharp and jagged points of glistening ice exploded forth, like some form of twisted snowflake it expanded in an eyeblink. The force of it splintered the workbench, a tendril sent a lantern flying, and the room dropped by ten degrees in a moment.

Where there had been that sliver of ice, now was a person sized ball of icy spikes that radiated outwards with wicked intent. Had there been a creature anywhere near the workbench, they would’ve surely been impaled at least a dozen times on the hardened tines.

Flip smiled, “I call it Iceheart”.

Kelwyn shivered.