It took six people and a heavy cart to get Madog to Misha’s workshop. Even with all that help it took three tries to get the automaton onto the workbench. Through it all Madog was patient and took it all silently. Misha too was silent, only speaking when absolutely necessary. It wasn’t until everyone had left that Madog spoke.
“It hurt Papa.”
Misha petted his friend on the muzzle. “I know. I’ll make you all better soon. First we take off the damaged parts and I’ll repair them.” He whispered something and caressed his metal friends face. The automaton seemed to relax and it’s eyes closed.
“He’ll sleep for a while,” Misha commented. “Or as close to it as he ever comes.”
Rickkter looked at the still form on the bench. “I wonder if he dreams?”
The fox shrugged. “I’ve never thought to ask him. I don’t even know if he sleeps.”
“We know very little about Madog in spite of all your research.”
“True, but I’ve learned so much about him but I can spend my whole life and still not know everything about him.”
“We know a lot more then we did a year ago,” Rickkter commented. “I think it’s time for this magic to reappear. It has been forgotten for too long. I see you’ve altered the place,” Rickkter said changing the subject.
The workshop was far different from the simple one Misha used to have. No longer was it just a small room with a set of workbenches to hold tools. The small benches were there but there was also a larger one built of stouter timber reinforced with steel bolts. The walls held scores of tools of all shapes and sizes, most designed for handling and working metals. Some of the tools were unique, fashioned to Misha’s specification and made of odd metals not usually used.
Of all the changes the most prominent filled one, whole wall. It was a forge, small but very well built and supplemented with some potent magic. Up until now the fox had only used it to mend and fashion various little pieces to test it but now the forge would see it’s first serious use. He noted a rather amount of coal neatly piled next to the forge in a wooden box. Resting atop the coal was a large wooden shovel that seemed almost new.
“You like the new additions? The Keep created it for me but I still had to have it reinforced with magic to withstand the higher temperatures I use.”
The raccoon nodded. “Must have been costly.”
“I have the gold for it,” the fox said as he checked the door for the third time to be sure that it was locked and bolted. “Are we safe from anyone spying on us?” he asked, changing the subject.
Rickkter nodded solemnly. “Why all the secrecy?”
The fox didn’t answer immediately but moved to the work bench that stood against the west wall. Picking up one end he moved it away from the wall. He knelt down in the space he had made and touched the gray stones of the wall in a specific pattern. There a faint rumbling noise and one of the blocks that made up the floor tilted on end revealing an open space beneath. Reaching into the space Misha quickly removed six books of various shapes and sizes and placed them on the bench next to Madog. Then he shifted the block closed and moved the bench back to it’s rightful place. “I used to keep these on a shelf in plain sight but after the whole adventure with the Baron and Omega I’ve kept them secure.”
The raccoon was curious about the books but he had more sense then to touch them without Misha’s specific permission. The fox might not have been a powerful mage but his sister and brother were. There was no telling what wards protected them. “What are they? I recognize the one on top as a very rare copy of Muritins ‘Exotic Magic’ but none of the rest.”
“That isn’t some half completed copy,” Misha explained. “That is THE Muritins ‘Exotic Magic.”
“The original?” Rickkter asked his curiosity rising. “That was supposed to have been destroyed when Muritin was killed. All his possessions were destroyed by the order of the King.”
Misha nodded. “The Mages guild had the sense to save some things. They let me borrow it.”
“At what cost?” he asked suspiciously.
“Seven pages of the runes I copied off of Madog’s outer skin and two off of his frame. All unique. And before you whine, none of them were ultra powerful, although one was an improved silence spell that the guild had never seen before.”
The book ‘Exotic Magic,” had a cover made of a strange blue leather. Rickkter doubted that the color was the result of magic and briefly wondered what creature it come from. Misha opened the tome to a part about halfway in and placed a finger on one of the symbols drawn there. “Look familiar?”
The raccoon looked closely at the pages which were blue like the cover and had symbols and writing drawn in blood red. Rickkter didn’t doubt that it was blood, probably human but possibly elf maybe even dwarven. The ink didn’t bother him, he had three books written in blood, one human, one elf and one whose species he wasn’t sure of. What did bother him was that magic written in blood tended to be dangerous and hard to control.
Rickkter wasted little time pondering the book or its material, just the contents. Misha’s finger rested upon a page full of symbols many of which the mage did recognize. The first that caught his eye was a tightly packed swirl of lines and geometric symbols. He had seen such a rune before, in Madog. That symbol had been carefully scribed onto the automatons metal spine.
“It has a surprisingly large section on Automatons,” Misha commented. “Mostly various runes and formulas but it did have several very helpful spells. Also there was a dozen pages of instructions and some basic theory. The best was on how to inscribe and charge the runes and symbols of the type on Madog. It’s clear he drew many of them by copying from some other tome but others seem to have been traced. You can actually feel the indentations of the paper form where they rested on the scribed lines of the runes.”
Rickkter carefully placed a hand on the tome and wasn’t struck by any wards. Misha had temporarily suppressed them. He could feel the powerful magic still in the book but it was safely locked away and wouldn’t hurt him.
Misha closed the book with a loud snap that made everything in the room jump. Rickkter barely snatched his hand free of the closing pages in time. “I didn’t give you permission to look at the rest of the book. Just the part on automatons,” the fox said in a cold and deliberate manner.
“I just wanted to look at a few parts.”
“I know exactly what you want you want to look at,” Misha countered in an angry tone. “And I have no intention of letting you see them. There is a good reason they destroyed all of Muritins work.”
“Misha, I know how to handle such magic.”
“I know, that’s why you won’t be reading any more from this book. It’s a dangerous item of magic. And once I’ve copied the parts I need it goes back to the Guild for safe keeping.”
“I could show you one or two worse in my possession,” Rickkter commented.
“I am well aware of your little toy box Rick,” Misha explained in a harsh tone. “I’m just trying to keep you from adding to it.”
“Have you looked at the rest of book?” the raccoon asked casually.
“Yes,” Misha answered flatly and offered no further explanations.
Rickkter made no attempt to get more information from his friend. He knew Misha had no intention of saying anything else. He slowly moved his hand away from the book. It’s valuable information unread for now.
“Can you fix this much damage?” Rickkter asked changing the subject. “Repairing the metal is easy but can you restore the magic?”
Misha’s hardened look softened. “I’m not sure,” he said in a calm tone. “When I restored Madog the first time most of the damage was due to weather and rot. The majority of the magic had survived intact. The damage Zagrosek did was as much magical as physical.”
“Which is why you asked for my help?” Rickkter asked.
The scout nodded in agreement. “I’ve had a little success but I have never been a good mage.”
“Your brother is one of the ten most powerful mages on the continent. You must have some ability, even if you inherited it in your blood.”
The fox nodded, “True, but the blood seems a little thin in my veins.”
“I doubt that. You wouldn’t have been able to repair Madog if you weren’t a good mage.”
Misha didn’t answer at first but just shrugged. “Automaton magic is nothing like ordinary magic. I’ve had to relearn everything from the ground up. I’m like a first year apprentice. I just wish I had access to the Amber orders library.”
“We will find it someday Misha,” Rickkter replied. “I know it still exists. That much I have been able to discover.”
“Then you have been looking for it.”
“Of course. Did you ever think I wouldn’t?”
Misha nodded. “True. A lost library full of forbidden and forgotten magic. You’d be attracted to it like a shark to blood.”
“You are just as eager to find it as me,” Rickkter commented.
“True,” Misha admitted, nodding his head.
Rickkter waved a hand over the pile of books. “Any other interesting goodies?” he asked.
“Not really. Just a few bits and pieces of information mostly descriptions of various automatons but I did find a vague mention of the Amber order in one tome. There are two real treasures,” the scout explained. Misha reached to the bottom of the pile and pulled out two books. One was barely the size of the palm of his hand, it’s bronze cover green with verdigris.
The second book was slightly larger then most tomes but not unwieldy. It’s cover was a soft green cloth and embossed on the front in gold was a broad oak leaf with a fox head below it. That was Misha’s own heraldic symbol. This book was Misha’s personal spell book. In it was the sum of the foxes magic knowledge, every spell he knew or hoped to know.
Rickkter knew that Misha was capable of casting spells but he had never shown any real ability beyond the most basic level. In the year the raccoon had known Misha he had seen him actually cast fewer then a dozen spells.
The fox held up the smaller book in the palm of his hand. “Ever seen a smaller book?”
“No, but I’ve seen a few that came close,” was the mages answer. The book itself was devoid of any magic, not even a simple preservation spell. “What is it and where did you get it?”
“Madog simply dropped it in my lap one morning with no explanation. The only thing he ever told me was ‘You start now.’ Nothing else. As to what it is. It seems to be a sort of basic primer for automaton magic. The type of thing a first year magic student is given at one of the Magic academies.” The fox extended his hand out to Rickkter.
“It described some of the basic theorems behind Automata and no less then twelve good spells I’ve never seen nor found described anywhere else. Even the Guild has never heard of them,” Misha commented.
Rickkter carefully took the offered book and gingerly opened the cover. The pages were of brass smoothed to the texture of glass. The writing hadn’t been inscribed with a pen on those pages instead they were engraved using a hammer and die. It seemed oddly appropriate for a book about automaton magic. He looked through its metal pages scanning the words and diagrams inscribed there.
As a mage Rickkter knew a wide variety of magic types and could use many of them. Those that he could not use he at least understood. But the spells the raccoon was staring at now he didn’t understand in the least. He was looking at theorems and formulas that he had never seen before. Stopping on one page he concentrated on the spell written there. All that Rickkter could tell was that it had something to do with shaping metals at low temperatures but nothing else. This was a type of magic he had never seen before. With a lot of time and effort he could understand it but that would take months of study. Even then the mage realized he would never be truly proficient in it.
“Can you understand any of this?” the raccoon asked.
“Of course,” Misha answered in a surprised tone. “I’m still working my way through some of the more advanced theories but the spells were simple enough. I was casting them within minutes.”
The fox walked over to workbench and picked up a straight, metal bar as thick around as his wrist. He closed his eyes and softly whispered something in a tone too low for even Rickkter’s sensitive ears to pick up. The bar glowed with a soft blue light and Misha began to stroke it with one hand. At first there was no sign of change but then there was a perceptible thinning of the metal. As the raccoon watched the bar grew longer and thinner with each stroke as if Misha was squeezing the metal with his fingers. In a few minutes it was as wide as a finger and three times as long as it originally had been. The glow faded away leaving a metal bar greatly altered.
It was a display of magic that impressed Rickkter. He knew several spells that could duplicate what his friend had just done but none used magic like that. He realized that Misha was using real automaton magic, something no living mage had done in centuries. What true unnerved him was that Misha did not seem to realize just how monumental what he had just done really was.
“Misha, what else have you uncovered in your research?” Rickkter asked trying not to betray any emotions.
Misha looked at Rickkter for a moment before speaking. “Some. I believe I’ve identified all the basic runes on Madog’s skin and frame. There are seven; two for the skin, one strengthens the skin, another makes it more flexible, two others do the same for the frame. The last rune is a one of magic resistance. That rune is more powerful then I’ve ever seen before.”
“Did you give that to the guild?” Rickkter asked.
“Of course not,” the fox answered. “I’m not stupid enough to reveal to them ALL of Madog’s secrets. Something’s should remain secret.”
Rickkter examined the ugly tear in Madog’s skin. The strong aura of magic covered everything even the razor sharp edges. Some of the magic he recognized as protection spells of various sorts. Others were silence and power spells meant to make Madog quieter and more powerful. Still other magic he didn’t understand at all but he did recognize them from the last time he had examined the automaton. He couldn’t find anything he didn’t recognize.
“What type of magic did he use against Madog?” Misha asked. “It was black but it burned like a flame.”
The mage shrugged. “I’m not certain but I see a lot of heat damage but little residue of the magic itself.”
“That’s good. There any active magic left there? A surprise or booby trap?”
The raccoon shook his head. “None.”
“Surprising, but the fight was probably too fast for him to do anything more elaborate. Lucky for us.”
Misha bent over the prostrate form of Madog. “I’ll remove the damaged skin first and then we can get a better look at the damage inside,” he explained. “I don’t think Zagrosek struck any of the important things like the power source or the main engining parts but I’ll check them anyway. I’ll start with panel one hundred nineteen, twenty and one hundred thirty four. All are damaged.”
“You’ve numbered them” Rickkter asked.
“Madog’s skin is made up of two hundred separate panels. Each one is unique and crafted for a specific spot,” Misha explained. “Numbering them is the only way to keep them all straight.”
“Makes sense,” Rickkter commented.
Misha picked up the smallest screwdriver the mage had ever seen. The blade was almost too small to see. “One, nineteen and one twenty I can remove easily but one thirty will be harder. It will take time to remove the weld joints.”
“Screws and welds, why use them? A simple spell could easily bind the skin.” Rickkter asked.
“And be dispelled just as easily. Most of his plates are held in place by extremely tiny screws but a few use bolts that are just as small. Also a few are welded and six are even glued into place. Madog’s creators concentrated the magic on enhancing what was build with tools and metal. You’d be surprised how much of Madog’s strength has nothing to do with magic and comes simply from excellent crafting.”
The fox moved to the forge and opened a small metal door at it’s base. It revealed a darkened interior behind it. Misha began to shovel coal into the forge being sure to spread it evenly over the metal grates.
“This is anthracite coal,” the fox explained. “It burns hotter and cleaner then regular coal. I had it specially imported from the south.”
“Must have cost a lot.”
“It did, but it’s well worth it,” Misha commented as he shoveled. “The metals I use require very high temperatures to work them.”
When he had a nice, even coating in the furnace he put the shovel back into the coal pile, it’s usefulness done. Next he took small bottle from off the workbench. Removing the cork stopper he splashed the liquid contents all over the coals. The empty bottle was placed back onto the bench.
Misha picked up a long tapered piece of wood that was at least two feet in length. He whispered a few words and the tip burst into flames. Reaching carefully into the forge he touched the burning tip onto the coals which instantly burst into flames. He extracted his arm from the flames and held it up. The limb was unhurt, seemingly untouched by the flames. Even the fur on his arm was unsigned. “Another spell I learned in my research,” he explained.
“Very useful if you’re going to be working with flames and molten metal,” Rickkter commented.
The vulpine nodded in agreement as he checked the fire. “This forge should be hot enough in four hours or so. Just enough time to remove the panels.”
Panel one, nineteen was held in place by no less then forty seven screws. Forty of them were easily removed. Of the remaining seven, three were simply missing, ripped out completely. The remaining four were damaged and had to be cut and drilled out. Panel one twenty took even longer to removed as it was even more badly damaged. It took almost three hours to remove the remains of the two panels.
Misha took an oddly shaped metal tool from off a shelf and laid it onto the top of the forge which was now glowing red with heat. In spite of being so close to the forge no heat radiated into the room. All of the heat was contained within the forge or vented out through the chimney behind it.
In a minute the tool was red hot except for it’s wooden handle. The tool itself was simply a long metal rod with a flat tip. It was a welding tool. At that heat any metal it was touched to would melt easily, forming a welded joint. Or if touched to an already welded joint it would break the joint and free the pieces of metal from each other.
Skin piece one hundred thirty was a disaster. It had been ripped and melted into several different pieces each of which had to removed individually in order to get into the interior. It took three long, hot, laborious hours to remove all the pieces that were the remains of the panel.
Finally he placed the welding tool carefully onto the workbench to cool. Misha returned to Madog and finally got a good look inside of the automaton. He didn’t like what he found.
“His rear hips are even worse then I thought. They are fused into a molten lump. I can’t save any of the parts from it.” Misha commented. “I’ll have to make a new one completely from scratch. I can save the legs themselves but the ends that attach to the hip joint will have to be reshaped and possibly replaced.”
“How long will that take?”
“Just removing the old hip will take me all day. Fashioning a replacement will take at least a week. I’ll have to cast the basic pieces and then mill and shape each one by hand. Thankfully with spells I can cut the time. Without magic it would take me months. I can at least mock up something temporarily so Madog can at least move about.”
“I’m not sure,” the fox answered. “Wheels perhaps.”
Misha and George stood in one of the numerous corridors of Long house. “I’m still not sure of this George,” Misha commented
The black backed Jackal morph said shook his head. “Neither do I but we cannot just ignore the possibility of making peace.”
“With Lutins there is no such thing as peace. The little greenies are always killing each other.”
“I know but perhaps we can get them to stop trying to kill US. Besides what risk do we have?” George explained. “It was single message from just one lutin chief. All he’s asking is that we don’t attack his tribe till the summer equinox. In return he won’t attack us.”
Misha pondered for a moment before speaking. “I’m not sure but I’m willing to give it a try. I’ll have to ask the Duke first.”
“VARROOM!!!!!” came a voice from behind them.
“I doubt the chief will live up to the agreement for very long but it will give us some peace,” George commented ignoring the interruption.
“VARROOM!” came the noise again. This time closer.
“BEEP! BEEP!” came the voice a lot closer.
The two canines stepped to the side, pressing their backs against the wall. A gray colored object streaked down the corridor. It was Madog. As he raced past Misha caught sight of the ugly bronze patch on his side. It still made him wince to look at that even if it was only temporary till he could fashion a more permanent skin. Both of Madog’s hind legs were gone. Instead where his back legs should have been were two wheels that were attached to his body by a metal strap and harness.
“VARROOM! BEEP! BEEP!” Madog shouted at full volume making both canines wince.
The automaton was moving at a considerable speed and in seconds he was down the corridor. When he turned a corner he was moving so fast that one wheel left the ground. There was squeal of metal on stone, then silence.
“VARROOM!” came the automatons voice faintly.
“Misha,” George commented. “You really need to get his legs fixed. He likes those wheels too much.”
“I know but it’s not easy to make those parts.”
George nodded. “What does he mean by Varoom and Beep?”
“I’ve no clue. All he would say is that he’s a thousand years too early.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to know.”
Caroline found her love seated at a table playing with clay and wax. Scattered about him were lumps of clay, wax, piles of paper and scrolls and a score of oddly shaped pieces of metal.
She wrapped her arms about him and tenderly nuzzled him. He eagerly returned the gestures, in the process splattering clay and wax all over her.
“What are doing?” she asked looking at the debris scattered all over the table in front of them.
“Trying to make a master to mold Madog a new hip.”
Caroline just looked at him quizzically.
“I have to make Madog a new hip joint,” Misha explained. “To make a mold I need a master piece to work from. To make the mold from. I want to make a piece out of wax, then pour plaster around it. When the plaster dries I heat it up and the wax melts and pours out leaving me with a perfect mold. Then I pour the molten metal into the mold and wait for that to cool. When it’s cold to the touch I remove the mold and I have a perfect casting.”
“So what’s wrong?” she asked.
“I can’t get the wax carved right. I can shape hardened steel with my bare hands and cut through stone with my axe but I can seem to control two pounds of wax,” he explained in frustration.
“What are you trying to make exactly?”
He pointed to a scroll that was laid flat on the table in front of him.
Looking at it Caroline saw a line drawing of a complex item she couldn’t understand. “You want to make a cast of THAT in one piece?”
He looked at the drawing and then at the otter. “Ah . . yeah,” he answered hesitantly.
She shook her head. “You have to break it up into several pieces.” The otter took a pen and drew several lines on the drawing dividing the part into four pieces. “That should work.”
The fox examined the drawings for a moment. “That makes sense!” He pushed a twisted lump of wax towards Caroline. “Now you need to make the masters.”
“ME?” she exclaimed in surprise. “You’re the one making the parts.”
“But you’re the artist.”
“I’ll do it but I’m NOT working with all that molten bronze.”
“Actually it’s an alloy of a dozen metals. None of them cheap. But I’m no artist. You are.”
She just scowled at him for a moment and tried to come up with an answer. But he did have point. He was a lousy artist. A great lover, but a bad artist.
The first thing Caroline noticed when she entered Misha’s workshop was the light and the heat. The entire room was filled with a strong red glow and the temperature was sweltering. She stripped out of her vest quickly and dropped it onto the one empty place left on the workbench.
The source of both the heat and the light was the forge which was fully lit and glowing red with heat. Misha was bending over the forge looking into a metal pot that was on top. Inside the pot some molten metal bubbled with the heat. If being so close to that great heat bothered him the fox didn’t show it.
Looking up, Misha’s tail started to wag. “Hello Dear,” he said softly. “Best to stay there any closer and the heat could be deadly.”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m pouring Madog’s hips today. I thought you’d like to help.”
“Of course! I’ve always wanted to see how you made all those parts for Daddy’s clocks.”
“Those were easy. I’ve never cast anything this big before. Some of these parts weigh four or five pounds each. For instance the new hip for Madog is being produced in six parts. All of varying size and shapes,” Misha explained as he gingerly picked up one of the six wax models. He carefully placed the wax object into a wooden box that was a bit larger then the part itself. “Each box was crafted for a specific part, shaped to match that parts odd shape.”
“Will you pour the plaster please?” Misha asked nodding with his head in the direction of the workbench. There was a good sized wooden bowl perched on the bench.
The otter picked up the bowl and found that it was full of wet plaster. Moving carefully she poured the plaster into the box her lover was holding. She didn’t stop pouring till it was completely filled. With one box filled the two moved to the next box repeating the process until all six models were covered with plaster.
They left the plaster to dry. Misha began to work on the pot of molten metal that rested on the forge. He sniffed the fumes and eyed the molten mass for several moments. Then he turned to the workbench nearby. On it were numerous small piles of various metals like bronze, steel, iron and many Caroline didn’t recognize. Also there were many small piles of various powders of many different colors, shapes and consistencies.
Misha picked up several pieces of metal from the bench and dropped them into the pot one at a time. First bronze, then iron and lead and lastly a small piece of silver no larger then Caroline’s thumb. “The metal must be a very specific mix of metals,” he explained to her. “Certain metals have to be added in VERY specific quantities or the magic will not work properly.”
After adding the metals the fox picked up a handful of a blackish-gray powder and lightly sprinkled it onto the molten metals. All the added items quickly disappeared into the mass without causing any change that the otter could see. Misha must have sensed some change because he nodded his head and his tail wagged in delight. “Perfect,” he announced.
The fox examined the first box they had poured plaster into. The plaster had long since dried and formed into a nice, hard mold. Picking up the box he held it over the forge for a minute. Had her lover not been protected by spells the heat alone would have surely have killed him but the spells did work and soon the wax in the mold was molten. Moving carefully he tipped the mold over a bowl and the hot wax poured out and into the container. Then he held the mold over the forge again for several seconds.
“Any wax remaining in the mold will evaporate,” he said, answering her unasked question.
Misha then placed the now red hot mold onto the floor and stepped back a moment. “we need the mold hot so that when the metal is poured in it doesn’t shattered from the heat.”
Moving to his workbench the fox took a small paintbrush and a bottle of paint out of a drawer. “Hold out your right hand,” he asked in a soft tone.
Caroline did as she was told and extended her right hand. She watched as the love of her life dipped the brush into the paint and then touched it to her palm. He used fast, flowing strokes to paint a complex symbol in blue onto the otters flesh. “This should protect you from most of the heat and fire but don’t get too close.”
She nodded in understanding but Caroline couldn’t help but feel uneasy. She didn’t like Misha working with things so dangerous. As Long scouts she and Misha faced danger in combat every day but this was different. That was a danger they could both fight openly. Somehow being burnt to death by molten metal did not seem like a good way to die.
“I want you to stand as far back as possible,” Misha said in a serious tone. “This molten metal is not to be taken lightly. My spells will protect you but there is no sense in taking any chances.”
Misha moved to the door and picked up a tool that rested on a shelf. It had a long, thick metal handle with a ceramic pot on the end. The pot itself was large enough to hold over a gallon of liquid and had walls as thick as her fingers.
Moving slowly he dipped the ladle into the molten metal and then held it over the bubbling pot for a moment. Placing each step carefully the fox moved over to the first mold. Misha tipped it lightly and a thin, crimson colored stream of hot, liquid metal poured out and down into the mold. A loud hissing cut the air as a large cloud of steam and smoke erupted from the interior of the mold. When the mold was filled he straightened the ladle and the stream stopped flowing.
The fox retraced his steps back to the cauldron full of molten metal and refilled the ladle. With the ceramic container filled moved onto the next mold. One mold was filled, and there were a dozen more left to go.
They let the moulds sit for week before Misha was satisfied the metal had cooled sufficiently.
“What do we do if the part turns out wrong?” Caroline asked. Casting is not an easy thing to do and she didn’t want to have to repeat it.
With a hammer in his hand he looked at the otter. “We start over again. The mold is put back together and I pour it again.” With a few swift blows the box fell apart revealing the plaster mold inside.
“But to get the part out you have to smash the plaster mold,” Caroline commented.
“I know but do I have a choice?” he said as he starting smashing the plaster. In moments a greyish brown piece of metal was visible amidst the plaster.
He carefully picked up the newly created part and began to examine it for defects. “Besides. Casting the parts is easy compared to what comes after the filing and fitting.”
“What’s that? There’s nothing left to do once the part fits perfectly.”
“The enchanting. For these parts to work powerful magic has to be embedded into them.”
“That doesn’t sound easy,” Caroline said as she removed the box from around another part.
Misha ran a finger along a rough edge of the new part. “It isn’t. To be honest I’m not sure I CAN do it. No one has successfully cast an automaton spell in centuries but many have died trying.”
Misha locked the only door and then nodded to Rickkter. The raccoon mage spoke the final words of the spell. The fox knew that it’s magic was quickly enveloping the room they were in, sealing it off from the rest of the world. Nothing outside the room could not get in and nothing that happened inside could escape. Whatever happened today, Misha and Rickkter could expect no help from anyone till the spell itself finally faded.
“How long till that shield fails?” Misha asked.
“Six hours at the least,” Rickkter answered. “Is that enough time?”
“It should be,” Misha answered. “Is it strong enough to stop anything that might happen if I make a mistake?”
“You won’t make a mistake, but it should contain anything.”
The fox turned back to Madog who had been silently and patiently waiting through all of this. “Papa fix good,” the automaton said confidently.
“You realize just how dangerous what I’m going to do is?” Misha asked his metal friend. “Trying to work this type of magic is dangerous.”
Madog looked at him with a gaze that seemed wiz beyond time itself. “Axe dangerous if used wrong but she never hurt you. You know how to use it right way. You use THIS magic right way. I know that. Great one know that! He choose you to fix me. He choose you to bring magic back.”
Misha had no answer for that, and for once neither did Rickkter. The raccoon stood silently for a long time before shrugging his shoulders. It was as close to an answer as he would ever give.
The fox picked up a scribing tool and stared at it’s sharp point intently. He had owned this particular one for over a decade. It had been made to his own specifications. It was a well used implement that he had grown fond of. Misha had used it countless times over the years. It had even been the tool he had used to inscribe his own emblem onto Madog to gain control of him. It was an old friend and he would need every advantage he could get for the upcoming ordeal.
Misha brought his mind back to the present. He had to concentrate if this was to be done right. He closed his eyes and focused his mind on the point of the tool, trying to concentrate and picture every last part of it down to the smallest scratch and bump. In his mind the fox began to feel the flow of power building up, seeping from very world around him into the tool. It was a trickle at first but it quickly grew as he opened his mind and body to it. The mage began to guide this stream carefully into the tool until the scribe itself glowed like it had been heated in a furnace. Now he used his mind to contain that power, to keep it from flowing out and wasting all his effort. It was not an easy task as the magic did not like being contained and it struggled to break free.
Opening his eyes he could now see the magic that filled the tool, magic that he had gathered and for the moment controlled. Taking a deep breath he bent over the still form of his friend Madog and touched the scribe lightly on the piece of metal that was the automatons shoulder. This was one of the new parts he and Caroline had created and spent weeks polishing and test fitting till it was perfect. The part was physically done and only needed the magic to make it work.
He had a specific rune in mind, a simple one really. It was a rune of protection and durability meant to strengthen the metal shoulder and protect it from physical blows. Another rune would protect it from magic but Misha did not feel ready for that one yet.
The first part of the rune was a half circle going counterclockwise from upper left to lower right. The first mark was one of the most important as it set the standard for the rest of the scribing. Done right the rune would be powerful, done wrong and the rune would be powerless or even worse, wrong, it’s magic acting in unforeseen ways and manners.
Misha no longer paid attention to the world around him. His mind was centered solely on the work in front of him. Moving slowly he began to mark the needed line in the metal moving slowly and steadily. As he did Misha slowly released a tiny amount of magic and it seeped into the line and the metal it was inscribed into. The hard part wasn’t releasing the magic but controlling it so the power didn’t flow out all at once. It had to be a steady trickle of magic, not a sudden torrent. Too little magic and the symbol wouldn’t work. Too much and it could explode in his face or do any of a hundred other deadly things. The arc of the half circle had to be perfect, not the slightest variation or scratch. After what seemed an eternity he finished and with some effort stopped the released of magic. He could feel the power in the tool pushing against his minds control like a spirited stallion tugging against it’s tether. It would have to wait a moment. A quarter hour had past and the fox had to rest a moment before continuing. He was vaguely aware of Rickkter standing nearby. The raccoon was watching silently and without moving.
The next mark started at the point where the first one had ended and consisted of a line angling up and then down again like an inverted V. Moving slowly he scribed the line which had to be straight as a ray of sunlight. Slowly, very slowly the line came forth and was charged with the magic. Each little bit of the line seemingly taking forever. Finally he finished the mark and allowed himself to relax a little but not totally. He had too much power under his control to relax completely. One slip and all his effort up until now would be wasted.
He spent several minutes studying the next mark which was more complex then the previous two. It consisted of four half moon symbols arraigned in a semicircle around the previous two marks. Over all three were no less then four separate, geometric symbols, each more complex then the last.
Misha gathered his strength and began to slowly carve the mark, moving slowly and carefully feeding energy into the line to power the final magic that was needed. He could feel the power slipping a little, trying to escape his control and he had to fight the instinct to speed up. He found himself fighting the magic more and more with one part of his mind and the rest guided his hand along the needed route. The further along he got the more he had to wrestle with the power he was trying to instill into the metal. He moved steadily along and each of the needed symbols slowly appeared on the metal and was charged with the needed magic. Finally with a twist of the tool he inscribed the last symbol.
Tired, he stepped back and admired his handiwork. The new protection symbol glowed with a power that seeped into the entire part making it as strong and tough as the older ones.
“Perfect,” Rickkter said breaking his silence for the first time in several hours.
The vulpine laid the scribing tool onto the workbench carefully. His hand and wrist were numb and he messaged them to restore the feeling. “That’s it for this morning, Rickkter. After lunch I’ll do another one.”
The raccoon nodded. “How many do you need to do?”
“Twenty seven,” came the reply. “I’ll save the hardest for last.”
Misha was getting used to this. He had scribed over two dozen symbols over the past month but this was different, far different, far harder. Those symbols had been ones of protection, stealth, strength or durability. All were simple compared what he was now about to do.
This rune was different. It was a rune of animation meant to allow Madog to move and control the shoulder and the limb attached to it. It was very complex magic that was meant to do many things. This meant that the symbol he needed to do was also very complex. It was not actually a series of patterns drawn together to form one symbol but one, long, very complex one. It had to be seamless and had to be done as one line without a break or once lifting the tool from the metal. Just learning the pattern and how to draw it had taken him weeks. He wasn’t sure he HAD learned it properly. There could be no mistakes on this one. The tiniest error would most likely kill him. Quickly he hoped.
From the moment his scribe first touched the metal he could feel the magic in it fighting and bucking to escape. This required far more magic then he had ever used before and it was a lot harder to control. It took all his effort to keep the tool straight and moving in the needed direction. Suddenly it wasn’t just a small task to contain and shape the magic, it had become a war. It was a full blown conflict between Misha’s will and skill and the magic’s raw power fighting to be free. This was a war of inches, curves and angles.
The tiniest movement became a struggle that took all his will to do as he tried to contain and harness the magic as he inscribed the lines in the metal. His arm started to cramp up and he tried to block the pain from his mind with little success. The cramping was soon replaced by a more frightening numbness that slowly crept up his arm and across his whole chest.
His whole body hurt and it took every last bit of will to control the scribe and the magic it has holding. But he didn’t stop, he couldn’t stop now. There was too much magic wrapped up in the unfinished symbol. The fox had no doubt what would happen if he lost this battle. A small part of him wondered how much of the Keep would be destroyed and if Rickkter would survive the explosion.
He pushed on guiding the tool with his hand and guiding the magic with his mind controlling each with the same care and skill. He was tiring now and he had to fight the exhaustion that made his hand tremble.
Misha was approaching the end now and he could feel the magic swelling and fighting him allying with the pain and exhaustion to force him to make a mistake, any mistake. He fought them all pushing the feelings and pain out of his mind and keeping the magic under control. But they kept pushing harder and harder and he felt the magic swelling up, threatening to engulf him.
Then he was done. He had scribed the last part, connecting the ending to the place he had begun harnessing the magic. Misha felt and saw the whole shoulder glow with the power he had just put into it. The strength left his body and Misha collapsed to the floor without the energy left to even stand up.
Rickkter loomed over him splashing cold water over his head and muzzle. “Rest easy,” the raccoon said calmly as he examined his friends body.
“How is Madog? Can he move his leg?” Misha asked.
“He is well. The symbol is perfect. All of his legs are working fine.” The raccoon pointed to a corner and there was Madog seated on all four of his legs.
The automation stood up and walked in a circle several times, all of his legs moving perfectly. “You fix good mage,” he cheerfully explained.
Rickkter patted Misha on the shoulder. “Congratulations. You’re the first new Automaton mage in one thousand years.”
Misha felt a warmth at those words. The realization of what he had accomplished sank in. “Mage.”