I looked out the window and shuddered. Snow had fallen the night before, and it had not been cleared yet. I went back to the fireplace, and stirred the fire, then went to the iron stove and looked at the water that was boiling. Good, it was ready to brew the leaves of the drink I wanted to enjoy.
I crushed seven leaves because I wanted a strong drink, and dropped them into the small pot. Instantly the smell of tea filled the air, with a hint of peppermint. I inhaled and sighed.
It had been a cold winter these past three months. The weather was doing strange things. Ever since my dealings with the Prince's mage, and my resultant promotion to Wizard, first class, things had seemed strange to me.
The weather was strange, being promoted had been strange, and while my job was easier in a way, it was also more difficult in other ways. I had hired a Wizard to teach me more magic. He was currently having me read a book on magic and the subtlety of interactions in using magic.
I was learning a lot about the magic field, and manipulation of it through what was known as magic. The things I had already learned, had improved my abilities two fold, at least! I was now more powerful than before, and had learned several new spells that had previously been beyond my capabilities.
Another thing that was happening, was that I would get ideas for spells that were not told to me. Somehow, I was learning how to 'make' spells! It was a frightening thing. As far as I knew, no new spells had been discovered or made, in many years.
The roof let out a groan, the second in as many minutes. I was worried about the weight of the snow on the roof. I put on my winter cloak and hat... I already had my boots on. I moved the tea to the edge of the stove, so that it would keep warm, but would stop boiling. I had to clear some snow from the roof, as the weight was probably at my roof's limit.
I went out, and looked at the roof. It was very heavily laden with snow. I cast the first of several spells. Ten minutes later my roof was clear, but for a thin layer of snow. I left that last layer there. Snow acted as insulation, and there was no reason to remove the final couple of inches.
I looked at the street, and saw that the snow was mid calf level on a man my size. It would take me a long while to get to work today. I knew I would be tired if I walked, so I would cast a transport spell.
I made a breakfast of cheese, bread and left over beef from last night's supper. It was filling, but cold. After breakfast, I cast a foreseeing, and saw there would be no snow for at least four days, but extreme cold was going to set in.
Not good. People were going to die from this... the old, the sick and the very young were most at risk. I felt sad about it, but there was nothing I could do. Also, fire was a very real possibility, as people tried to stay warm.
I was finally ready for my last day of work. I was about to start my two days off. That was a perk of my promotion, getting two days off in a row. At the end of every ten day, I got two days of free time, which I enjoyed immensely.
The only thing wrong with my off time, was that they had a tendency to switch around my days off a bit. So, sometimes I would work four days, and get two days off, and work another ten. Happened every month, now, which changed the days off I had. Currently I was off on six day and seven day, and would work ten days and be off again.
I went to my small protected area in my cottage and closed the circle. I didn't want any accidents to befall the place, should I make a mistake in my spell. I took a final look around. I had banked the fire in the fireplace and replaced the front metal cover. The iron stove was similarly banked.
I had cast the major protection spells on my place, and was definitely ready to go. I started my incantation, and when it was finished, I had arrived at a similarly protected area within the Guard headquarters. There were three such protected areas, and all were watched closely.
The guard nodded to me, and went back to his bored look once he recognized me. I walked to the base of the watch tower that was built into the guardhouse tower, and entered my very own office. This was another perk of my promotion: my own office, alone, for a change.
I unlocked my door, and removed the small spell I kept as a security spell on the door. It had not been tampered with. I looked to my right and saw a group of two guards making their way up the circular stairway to the top of the tower, another two stories above the roof, which gave us our height for watching distance here in Coltron City.
I had been up there a few times, myself. It was warmed with a small stove, and had real glass in each of the four widows, which looked north south east and west. I knew it was warm up there. The guards had each been carrying a heavy bundle of kindling wood, with them. Later, someone would make another trip up with more wood for the stove. They had a bucket of water, wood for the stove, and a latrine built into the side. They were comfortable up there. A small table and four chairs completed the tower top's furnishings.
I entered my office after watching them disappear, and noticed the chill, right off. I sighed and built up the fire in my fireplace. Somehow, I had not banked the fire well enough, and it had gone out... again.
Which brought me to a new spell. It had suggested itself to me, just lately. I had been mulling the problem of the cold inside the guardhouse, this year. Once the stone walls were cold, it kept the inside cold as well, except for the heated places. The warmest place in the guardhouse, was the guardhouse kitchen. Most of us ate there in the winter, instead of going out, because of the extreme cold. I was sure magic could change that.
Only those who were outside patrolling had reason to stop at inns, and if they were on the job, a guard chit paid for their meals. Every fourth ten day merchants and everyone who had been paid with a chit collected money once they turned in the chits. Enterprising guards sometimes kept a few chits instead of eating with them, and would turn them in for a little extra coin. Other times they got busy, and had no time to eat. The chits should have been turned in at the end of the day if unused. Basic patrol guards were notoriously underpaid, though. The commander looked the other way when this happened.
I finally got a cheerful fire going, and sighed as warmth slowly trickled into my small office. Still, it was my own! As I had arrived half an hour early today, I had time to go over the stack of parchments that had been accumulating for the past three days.
After reading, signing, or ignoring what I had; I moved them to the completed stack. Someone would be in to take them, at various times during the day. I hated letting it stack up, but sometimes I got very busy.
As a Wizard, first class, I now had a departmental budget that I was in charge of. It was giving me a headache. I glanced out the window, but I did not have a view of the clock in the tower and sighed. It was probably time to make rounds, and be seen.
I put my light cloak back on to guard me from the chilled corridors, and left my office. I left it unlocked, as I was working. This let people know I was around. I only locked up when I left the building.
I was not needed for the shift change briefing, another perk, and I would get a runner to bring me news if I were needed. Another perk of my job. Wizards first class were not bothered with dreary shift change meetings.
I walked into the bunkhouse five minutes later, and noticed I hardly felt warm at all. This cold snap was definitely creating problems, everywhere. This brought me back to the idea I had for a warming spell.
No one was sleeping. The guards who were off duty were bundled up or were standing as close to the two fireplaces in the bunkhouse room as they could. No one was asleep, that I could see. They looked at me, then ignored me, which was fine.
I walked to the east wall and studied it a moment. I took out a metal stylus and gathered a bit of power to inscribe the spell into the wall itself. I gathered my thoughts and began.
My strokes with the stylus were slow but sure on the stone wall. It was as if this spell wanted me to create it.
As I inscribed the basic spell, I could feel the slight drain that came with a newly won spell, or a spell performed for the first time. This power was drained from your inner strength and it always happened. After you learned the spell, though, the draining disappeared. You then only got that feeling when you powered the spell.
I lost all track of time as I wrote the spell. I could feel my bodily power draining, slowly; but that was only an annoyance to me, as I worked on the spell. Then after finishing the spell, I lost more power when I powered it.
I was finally done, and I stepped back from the wall. I could already feel a gentle warmth emanating from the wall, but it was continuous. It was almost like a gentle breeze, but not as strong.
"Wizard?" I heard behind me.
I turned and noticed a guardsman I had not noticed before. He was wearing the armband of a runner.
"Yes?" I asked.
"Commander's compliments, and he asks you meet with him at first hour past noon meal," he said.
"Very well. Your message is delivered, and thank you," I responded.
Hmm, I had not been called to his office for a couple days now. This did not mean I didn't know what was going on. No, those parchments I received contained daily reports, as well as a ten day schedule. I was kept informed as to what was happening, and responded, as I needed to. I did read everything that came across my desk, daily; several times a day, as a matter of fact.
Still, now that I was almost equal rank-wise with the commander, this message did not bode well. A summons usually meant trouble, and I hated going out in the cold as much as the next man.
I stepped further back from the wall, and noticed the chill surrounding me was lessoning from my spell. I was pleased and would come back and check on it a bit later. I wanted to make sure it didn't get to hot in here.
I left the bunkhouse and noticed a rush of the few guards within towards the east wall. Well, at least they were pleased. Still, it had taken a lot out of me, and I decided to go raid the kitchen and see if the cooks had anything left over from yesterday, or something else to eat. Working magic was hungry business, and the best way to restore lost energy was eating.
I was given a bowl of thin soup, which the cooks always kept warm, and cheese with bread. That took the edge off my hunger. It was still another two hours 'till lunch time, anyway.
I thought about the magic I had just performed, while I ate, and was pleased with myself. It was a level of magic I had not been able to achieve, before. As for the spells suggesting themselves, or seeing how to structure them, this was definitely new for me. It proved my rank again, and my power. As a matter of fact, I felt I was verging on the low end of Mage magic! It was very exciting to realize that.
I went back to my office. I worked over the scheduling of magical workers, and the budget, some more. I had to have my budget for the next ten day worked out and on the commander's desk, no later than shift change, if I wanted the next two days off. I hated working the budget, while the commander had been pleased to get rid of that task. One less worry for him.
Finally, the lunch bell rang, and I knew it was eleven thirty. I was starving, as the light snack I had eaten earlier, was already gone from my stomach. I made my way to the officer's mess, and got in line there. It was on the opposite side of the regular mess hall, though it was in the same room.
I took the sliced roast I was offered, and the bread, and the soup. I had a large appetite, today. To top it off, I got a large ale to wash it all down. My name was checked off on a list by a clerk sitting at the head of the line. He did this for two reasons. One was to keep a daily record of how many ate, so they would know how much food to prepare on a given day, and two was to make sure I was authorized to eat there. Sometimes people snuck in. That was a rare occurrence, now, with the new system in place.
After cleaning my plate, I went back for seconds. This was a rare occurrence for me. Usually, I ate the one serving, and that was it. I got another bowl of soup, which was almost thick enough to call stew, except it was all vegetables. I also picked up more bread, and a sweet cake. I took it all back to my place at the long table.
I slowly ate my soup, savoring the chunks of potato, carrots, tomato, and onion. It was also a little thicker now that it was half gone from the big soup pot. This was fine with me, as it added to the body of the soup, and I sopped up the juice with bread after I was done with most of the soup, wiping my bowl clean.
I went back to my office, and added more firewood to the fireplace, and considered when I would next feel able to work my new spell. Since I had once done it, I would not feel the drain of creating or doing the spell for the first time. That was a plus, and it would be handy to have, in this room.
I took my boots off, and applied another layer of polish to them. No telling what he would want, and I was going to look my best. Ten minutes later, I was again wearing my newly polished boots, and my uniform was immaculate. I put on the light cloak I kept in my office, and wore that to the meeting. I hated wearing my winter cloak indoors, no matter what.
After that I made my way to the commanders office, and was told he was in and would see me by his clerk. I nodded, knocked and went in when bid to do so.
"Ah, Farnum. Good. Listen, the Commandant of the Guard is arriving in two hours. I want you in the deputation to greet him when he arrives. All the senior officers will be there," the commander said.
"When did this happen? Did I miss reading it in the daily report?" I asked.
"No. I got the missive this morning, with notification he was coming down from the palace," the watch commander stated.