Alison gave them a long serious look and then her face relaxed into a bright smile. “You kids are so cute! I can see why you’d want to stick together.”
Jessie found herself mildly annoyed to be called a kid. She was pretty sure she was just a touch older than Alison, and she was certain Kyle was, so she wasn’t certain where the younger woman got off acting like some old matron. Then again, that might just be the shirtlessness talking. She was starting to feel cold in addition to the embarrassment. Which didn’t make much sense, if she didn’t need a space suit then why did she need a t-shirt?
Kyle was speaking again, “We’ve also both been hurt by the Archmagi. Thomas wasn’t content to leave Jessie out of it back when he was going after me. We both took a good look at them, the Archmagi I mean, after that, and neither of us liked what we saw.” He hesitated then seemed to overcome some internal struggle and continued. “I don’t want to sound paranoid, but you reached out to us, so I’ll say it. I think they may be up to something. They have secrets.”
Alison didn’t bite quite so fast as they might have hoped. Instead she asked, “What sort of secrets?”
“I think they may have access to magic that doesn’t follow the normal rules. Do you know anything about magic?”
“I’ve studied classical magic. My formal studies were… interrupted, but I’ve carried on by myself.”
Kyle nodded a little, like he was digesting a new fact. “Then you know that magic is ruled by the non-scalar law. The more people who try to do a spell at once the more energy each one takes. It’s why we don’t all cast a flying spell each morning to get to work or whatever.”
“We covered that in 101.”
“So the most disruptive thing possible would be magic that doesn’t have to contend with that. I think the Archmagi have it. I think they’ve got something, at least a few effects, that don’t care how many other users are casting the same thing at the same time.”
Alison raised her eyebrows and her eyes widened. If she had known, or suspected, the Archmagi could dodge the fundamental rules of magic then she was a very good actor. That was one of the things Charles, at least, wanted to learn. “Really,” she asked.
“I don’t have anything firm, but if you look into the history you’ll find fairly reasonable accounts of wizards communicating at a distance as though it was nothing.”
“Well, sure, they probably could. This spell we’re using now is pretty old after all.”
Kyle shook his head a little, “Sure, of course, but it’s not quite like that. I probably don’t know as much about classic magic as you do, but the feel of the accounts isn’t right. Generally speaking, if a precompact wizard had a spell they’d brag about being able to do something, but they’d never say how it was done, and they’d claim they were the only one who could manage it. The accounts of the communication are more like it was just assumed that every wizard over a given level could manage it, and they all acted like it wasn’t a very big deal.” He shrugged, “It’s not a lot to go on, but the feel of the accounts is just rather different.”
“So this relates to your taking the magical communications prototype?”
“Indirectly. There’s some market for magical communications these days. Not a lot, but some, when you need to communicate with no infrastructure or your worried your infrastructure is vulnerable to something.” He gave a little fake chuckle, “Then again, you’d know that, I expect?”
Alison smiled, again it was friendly, open, and shameless. “Communicating with a spell does have its advantages. It can’t be traced or intercepted, for example.”
“So long as those advantages exist, magi all over the world will keep digging into how to do it. At least a little. Most are focused on more important questions. However, as long as they keep digging we can look for the fingerprints of the Archmagi trying to stop them from finding the old secret I think might exist.”
“Kind of a lot of trouble for rather little gain though.”
Jessie realized she’d sort of let herself drift out of the conversation. That wasn’t too big a problem, but she needed to establish her own place in all of this, so she cut in. “We had to do something! The Archmagi are huge; untouchable even. This seemed like a place we could get a shot in, even if it was a weak one. At least we’d see how they respond.”
“Right,” Kyle agreed.
Alison thought for a minute and then asked, “Well, would you like a better opportunity to fight them?”