“Pitiful, absolutely disgraceful.”

Hilt squatted over Zibnizik. She looked at her blade, poised over his throat, and tutted.

“Zibnizik, if I were in a grading mood, I would fail you on the spot. No perimeter guard, no wards to speak of, and not even someone keeping watch. That is a failing grade.”

“Lady Hilt,” the gnome said, not taking his eyes off the weapon. “Pardon my rudeness, but I’m not in classes with you.”

She tapped him on the head with the flat of her blade. “No reason to not study the basics.”

Book nudged Yuva awake with his paw. The elf blinked, and awoke.

“Mister Book?” She rubbed her eyes. “What are you doing here?”

“I am on a quest,” Book said. “For that ever-elusive prey, the roaming cup of coffee. Hilt assures me that if I just keep looking, late into the hours and around wandering students, I shall find the cup that shall finally soothe my soul.”

“Sometimes I just hate you.”

Book shrugged – an impressive gesture on a sphinx. “I’m an evening person.” He flicked his tail, and the fire roared awake.

Yuva raised a hand. “Um, Masters? What are you doing here?”

“Same as you,” Hilt said. “Looking for Bin and the Leaves before they go and do something incredibly stupid.”

“Like charge into Archiwreck territory looking for a relic?” Zibnizik asked.

“Exactly like that.” Book drank from a cup of coffee. Zibnizik frowned, and checked. There wasn’t a coffeepot around, and the fire had just been lit. Book patted his bag, and smiled.

“This is truly wonderful.” The other three had to wait several moments as the sphinx enjoyed his mug. After several gulps and a long sigh, Book set the mug down by the fire, and smiled again.

“Now that we are properly awake, Hilt and I also have to tell you that things are far worse than they appear.”


“The Leaves aren’t going after just anyone’s work,” Hilt said. “They’re trying to find Suffrn’s cache.”

Zibnizik and Yuva stared ahead, confused.

“Suffrn?” Book asked. “Suffrn the Caged? Dwarf mage, specializing in lightning?”

He gave a long look at Zibnizik. “I seem to recall a few lectures I gave in your classes about dwarven magic in the third millennium. Given your interest in history…”

“I’m certain the memory has just been misplaced.” Zibnizik failed to mention that Book’s lectures on magic could stretch on for days if he could not hear the hourly bell tolls. He was most likely back in his room at the time, studying from history books and paying a first-year to take notes.

Book gave a long sigh. “Suffrn was known primarily for lightning, something that, while remarkable, is not completely extraordinary. But he became known as the Caged because of his ability to capture electricity, and harness it to his will.”

“That seems extraordinary,” Zibnizik agreed.

“Indeed. It was rumored he could ball up lightning, make a house of storms, and even create golems of electricity that remain on guard to defend his resting place to this day.”

Yuva and Zibnizik stopped breathing.

“Reports of this may be exaggerated,” Book admitted. “But since no one who has investigated the rumors has ever returned, who can tell?”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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