In the uppermost chamber of the wizards’ tower in Alden, High Mage Liatur frowned. Before him, written on large swaths of parchment, were the designs for the additions to the tower. They jutted off into open air; some curving upward, others sideways, but all with the intent to follow the flow of the arcane through the tower. He had received them yesterday, a week after the stone had arrived for their construction. Liatur had instructed his scribes to write them down exactly, to provide a copy for the masons. Based on the expressions on the men’s faces around him, he prayed that they were accurate.
“How long will this take to build?” Liatur found himself asking the chief stoneworker standing beside him. The man, although respected and recognized as one of integrity and knowledge, had not stopped gaping at both the initial construction of the tower, as well as the additional wings on the plans before him.
“Well,” he began, collecting his thoughts, “I’m still not convinced that there chambers here, and here,” he pointed to upper rooms built to circle the tower, “are going to hold. There’s nothing to support them.”
Liatur sighed. If only Lord Hathen had allowed him to request Halsladian stonesmiths. “The chambers will be supported by arcane energies. All that is required is that you and your men assemble them on the ground, and we will position them on the tower.”
The stoneworker laughed under his breath. “All right, but don’t come to me when they fall off.” He furrowed his brow, examining the plans again. “We have the stone, but we’re still waiting on metal and other materials. Once we have those, it should be no more than four months to completion.”
Liatur nodded, allowing himself a slight smile. He had expected worse. “Excellent,” he said. “Let me know as soon as you are ready to begin assembly. I will make arrangements for our enchanters to meet with you to discuss the engravings and spells required before the masonry can begin.”
The stoneworker bowed formally, his body curved at nearly a right angle. “As you wish, High Mage,” he intoned, then left the room. Liatur looked back at the plans. When the additions were first proposed a month ago, he hadn’t expected anything such as this. Neither had Lord Hathen, he was sure. But Archmage Velsyph had insisted on expanding the number of wizards living in Alden, and so they would press forward.
On the edges of his mind, Liatur felt something pulling from the ether, something unusual. He closed his eyes, allowed his mind to touch the ley lines. “Is someone there?” he asked, his thoughts traveling through the arcane. A few mages replied, but nothing that felt like the strange pull. Liatur slowly checked the enchantments securing Alden. Wards set on the walls were intact, the outer wards showed no intrusion, all structures were fine. And yet the pull was still there. What could it be?
His mind flew to the focusing crystal, placed at the heart of the tower. A physical anchor for Alden’s spellweave, should anything be amiss, Liatur would recognize it. However, it seemed to be functioning properly, with its link into both the spellweave and the ley lines intact. And yet… Liatur gasped. Arcane energy had ceased flowing into the crystal as it should, turning from a powerful river into a calm spring. Horrified, Liatur watched as the flow ebbed further, until it had nearly stopped. He followed the link, allowing his mind to enter the natural ley line. It, too, was nearly drained of power, like a riverbed during severe drought.
Liatur felt the pulling sensation again, as if something dragged both his mind and all the arcane energy away, like a riptide. Liatur yanked backwards, returning to himself. With a quick thought, he cut off the focusing crystals in Alden from the ley lines. His mind rushed back into his body, knocking him onto the floor. He lay there, panting for a time, trying to regain focus. He felt a burning on his forehead where he impacted the hardwood.
An undermage rushed into the chamber. “High Mage,” he began, breathless, “are you all right?”
Tenderly, Liatur attempted to rise. He propped himself onto his side, reaching for his forehead. Drops of blood coated his fingers, but nothing major. He looked up at the undermage. “I need to speak with Lord Hathen, immediately,” he said, allowing terror to enter his voice. Now was not the time for self-control. “Something has gone terribly wrong.”