This is for the nature of magic blogfest over at Tessa's Blurb. I hope you enjoy it:
In general, apprentices to master mages get used to some rather odd things in the course of their duties. After all, when one’s teacher, mentor, and general employer decides that what he absolutely needs for his next spell is a flower recovered from the bottom of the Pit of Doom, or a tooth from an enraged dragon… well, it isn’t going to be the bloke in the dressing gown getting out the climbing gear and pliers, is it?
Terrance, apprentice to Ogilvy the Magnificent, knew that as well as anyone. Even by those standards though, the task that he currently found himself performing was so far outside any normal job description that it couldn’t be seen with a telescope. He would have been well within his rights to tell his master where to shove it, in fact. Of course, he would then have been reduced to a small smear of grease on the carpet, but at least that would probably have counted as constructive dismissal.
Terrance hadn’t done so, however, which was why he now found himself halfway up a crumbling tower, a long loop of copper wire over his shoulder, steadily working his way from handhold to handhold.
“Can’t you hurry up?” his master called from the bottom. “At this rate, Sithian the Slimy will be back before you’re at the top, and then what will I say?”
“Tell him that you were practising levitation and it went wrong,” Terrance snapped back. “Better yet, actually practise some and get me up there quicker.”
“You know I can’t do that. I have to conserve my strength.”
The really annoying thing was that it was probably true. After all, Terrance wouldn’t be climbing up another wizard’s tower, looking to siphon off magic straight from the receiving aerial at the top, if his master had strength of his own left.
As resorts went, it was pretty final. You didn’t steal another mage’s supply. Well, not like this, at least. You could build your tower higher if you wanted, to block out the signal. You could bribe one of the suppliers to get their quota thanks to an “administrative error”. That was normal, healthy competition. But running around with copper wire and a few hundred wands to serve as batteries was just... theft.
Terrance worked his way up another few feet of tower. All this because his master was too disorganised to check the fine print of his payment plan. Cut off, right before Terrance was due to take his test. How was he supposed to do a decent left-hand path reverse and emergency conjuration with no magic about?
Oh, and it had also put quite a big dent in Ogilvy’s Great Project, too, but Terrance was less worried about that. After all, that was what had caused the problem in the first place. Working day and night on it, powering up circles and weaving ancient runes in the air itself… hadn’t the old man ever heard of a fair use requirement?
Once one company had cut you off, of course, it took forever to get connected up to another. They’d spent the week trying everything: trafficking with dark powers that asked them to leave messages in the summoning circle after the agonized scream, petitioning the powers of light for a grant, everything. Nothing had worked. No one wanted to know. Even the endless junk-mail promising cheaper, faster magic had stopped coming through the post-box.
Currently, the tower was running off an old ring of power, but that wouldn’t last much longer, which meant…
Well, for one thing, it meant getting up onto the damn roof before the owner of this tower came back. Terrance swore. He was sure that he ought to have a safety harness, or a proper ladder, or something. If the Elven Safety Executive spotted them, they’d be in almost as much trouble as if they were caught by Sithian.
In spite of it all, Terrance soon found himself cresting the tower’s top, copper wire in hand. All he had to do was reach out to put it over the aerial, and they could start. Terrance extended his hand gingerly, trying not to think about the amount of power just a foot or so away. Several KiloToads at least.
“Get on with it, Terrance!”
“Yes, Master!” Terrance sighed and put the loop over the aerial.
The Elven Safety Executive does not in fact produce a handbook for stealing other people’s magic. Perhaps it doesn’t wish to condone such behaviour, or possibly it just knows that elves tend to get theirs from the wind, the trees, and copious amounts of singing Fol-de-lol (you didn’t think they did it for fun, did you?). If they did, however, it would contain one very important instruction.
Always wear gloves.
Terrance screamed as enough raw magic to shift half a city poured through him, his hand seeming to glue itself to the mast. He wrenched backwards, trying to jerk it free. For just a second, nothing happened. Well, nothing except blinding agony, assorted fireworks going off in front of his eyes and the faint sense that he could taste custard, anyway. Then all of that stopped, and Terrance achieved his aim. He threw himself back from the aerial.
Of course, back from the aerial in this case also meant straight off the top of the tower, but you can’t have everything.