Preparation for Adventure
Briana placed the small disk over the keyhole. Its magic gently tingled her fingertips. With a satisfying click, the bolt in the door retracted. She grabbed the handle, thrust her backpack into the opening, and then buried the disk into the potted plant standing beside the doorway. The page would retrieve it later, and the only mystery would be how the council room had somehow been left unlocked.
Briana entered the chamber and let the door swing shut. The heavy drapes had been pulled back earlier, but because it was a moonless night, the blackness was deep. Perhaps the two rows of chairs were gone, and the council table returned as well. She reached into her pack in order to snap a glowstick, but then halted. Now she only had five left, and to waste one here would not be wise. She had to start thinking like an adventurer, not some pampered doxy wondering about dinner the next day.
Feeling along the wall, she felt a sconce and found the indentation nearby containing matches. The flickering glow of a single candle was enough. Yes, the chairs were gone, and the large round table had returned to its usual place. The door into the portal still stood on the other side of the room, beckoning like a seductive siren.
Briana set her equipment on the ground for one last check before proceeding. She would have to hurry. Dawn was not far away, and she needed to be gone before anyone else would come—before anyone would stop her from what she was going to do.
She smiled with satisfaction. Her cloak would be cover if the climate turned out to be cold. The surface of a goatsack of water filled almost to bursting was completely dry; there were no leaks. A dagger for the left side of her belt and a stout baton of ironwood for the right. Two loaves of hard bread and a change in underwear completed her essentials. She would wear her tunic, leggings, and boots for the entire journey. There was no need for anything more.
Briana looked over the provisions a final time. She replaced one loaf of bread with a sack of sweetmeats. After all, she was only to be gone for a few days.
The instructions for the portal, native dictionary, and the language guide left by the visitor joined a coil of string, a slim journal, some quills, and a small bottle of ink. How her father had managed to keep everything in his head on his own saga, she could hardly imagine.
Her father, Briana thought. What would he do if she were caught? He was widely regarded as just and level-headed, but when it came to his own family. . .
She turned her attention to her small trove of precious objects—toys from her childhood, things long since put away. None was powerful of course—those were too rare, too expensive. But what she did have might come in handy in dealing with the primitives. She had one for each of the five crafts: Thaumaturgy, Alchemy, Magic, Sorcery, and Wizardry.
From a thaumaturge, a short metal cylinder, shorter than the width of a hand, cut into two pieces lengthwise—one piece named the ‘king’ and the other the ‘queen.’ It was a teaching tool for youngsters for ‘once together, always together’ and ‘like produces like.’ Briana remembered hiding one-half under something like a handkerchief and then manipulated its twin so the first would soar and scare her older sisters
Next, her collection of glowsticks from an alchemist. She had bought a batch of two dozen when she was twelve, and she had wasted most of them over the years until she realized that those remaining should be saved until there was a real need rather than an imagined one. Snap one apart and there would be a soft glowing light lasting for many minutes.
She grasped the dark crystal of columbite, its color an unusual deep brown-black. It was a source of niobium, the magician had explained at the bazaar. Used in rituals producing strange forces that never faded. Useless unless the iron was stripped away first, but it was all a child needed in order to pretend.
The sorcerer’s telescope came next. Yes, a telescope, but somehow rendered the size of her hand, sights for both of her eyes rather than only one. The light bent back and forth inside, the sorcerer had said, so that the telescope need not be long and cumbersome. The best part was that the chant one had to say in order to make the device work was short and simple. Despite what everyone knew—how difficult it was to recite correctly three times through, and the headache that would occur when there was a miscasting—each time she had used the strange telescope, she had not faltered. Each time she saw clearly images from many paces away—a charm of far-seeing, as potent as any in the sagas.
Finally, five mitematches bound in string, their tips coated in alchemical preparation that caused the shafts of ironwood to burst into flame when rubbed against a coarse surface. The imps from the demon realm on the other side of the fire were almost the smallest of all. Although they had surprising strength, they were as tiny as baby moths and their wills feeble and easy to dominate. Briana remembered how her sister had swatted helplessly as one whined around her head as it had been commanded.
riana brushed the direction of her thoughts away. Yes, these were juvenile things, most likely cheap diversions to keep children occupied while parents bargained for items of true craft at the bazaar. That did not matter. The important thing would be the reaction of the natives to them if the situation arose.
She reassembled her pack, attached the bedroll, and shouldered its straps. The sky outside was growing lighter. Soon, someone would come to the chamber. There was still the workings of the portal to be mastered. She started to drop a note saying she was going, but then thought better of it and crumpled the parchment into her pack. She toyed with a loose strand of hair for a second and then slowly walked over to the waiting door. Its handle tingled to the touch—yes, true magic.