A round of looks went around after Alison announced her intention to bust open the hidden room, and for a moment, just a moment Kyle thought the children might show some sense and leave the spell alone. It wasn’t such a far-fetched idea. Bob surely knew the dangers of performing insufficiently studied magic, Lynn as well given all the spells he’d attempted during his hunt for immortality, and Fern didn’t seem like a risk taker. Unfortunately, for that hope, Alison saw the doubt on her group members faces as well and moved to rally them.
“I’m not going to lie, this might be a risk. But we’ve got to take risks!” She punctuated that sentiment by hammering her fist into her hand, “We’re trying to build a better world here. One doesn’t do that from the safety of their couch. You get out there, and you put your ass on the line. I’m right here with you, if I didn’t think this was going to work I wouldn’t be in this room. In fact, if you all backed out right now I’d carry on and try it by myself. However, you each understand how important it is to break the power of the Archmagi and distribute magical knowledge fairly! I know you’re willing to do what it takes!”
With that they were decided. Kyle saw expressions slide from hesitance to certainty and each of the Children stood a little straighter. Kyle suppressed a frown. The Children might or might not mean well, he decided, but they just weren’t his kind of people. If he were going to pull the pin on a grenade he’d figure out how to do it with a robot no matter how attached he was to his end goal. Couldn’t an autocaster take this risk? Irritatingly enough, Kyle realized that when this was all over he was going to have to apologize to Charles. The Archmagi might be a bunch of self-important old bastards, but at least they realized they could screw things up no matter how good their intentions were.
“So, it seems obvious, that we channel magic into the symbol for Quintessence. The spell must already be active to some degree and that will fuel it enough for the door to actually open. I think the most direct approach is I start feeding energy into it and you guys stand ready to assist if I can’t manage it on my own.”
“No,” Kyle said surprising himself.
“I don’t think you’re in charge here,” Alison answered him rather coldly.
“I’m not trying to tell you to stop,” though he mentally added: because I doubt you’d listen. “But this looks like an Archmage thing to me, and we’ve got to be ‘worthy’ to open it. That probably means we’ve got to have enough magic to open it. I don’t think we should start by half-assing it.”
“Excuse me! I won’t be half-assing anything, and I’ll have you know I can gather a pretty good charge.”
Kyle shook his head. “I’ve seen you work, and I’ve actually dealt with an Archmage – fought one in fact. You’re not even close to their league.” Then he inhaled and let magic come with it. It could have gone very wrong. He could have just sucked in air and been left looking like a fool. But, for once in his life, everything went correctly. Kyle had been readying himself, letting his mind slide into the mindful state he needed to connect with magic and the small flair of adrenaline in his gut had actually aided in that. When he pulled in charge it flooded his body kindling his eyes and skin to amber fire instantly. Small trails of flaired power followed his every moment and he felt the energy humming across his entire form expanding his awareness and begging to be spent in some great act of defiance against the rules of the universe.
All of the children took an involuntary steps back at the display of force and there were a couple of hushed exclamations. “I can summon a decent charge, and when I fought Thomas he schooled me like a little kid. If we’re going to do this, we should all link up and hit this thing simultaneously. I will walk if you’re not even willing to take that precaution.”
There was a moment of silence. Or, at least, no one spoke. Kyle felt the power humming through him so strongly that he almost imagined everyone else could hear it as well. Alison finally answered sounding a lot less confident, “Yeah, sure. I suppose that’s a good idea. We should link up, present a unified front. There will be more energy spread between us if that’s an issue and I guess it’s not like it hurts if it’s not. Everybody meditate, gather some charge.”
There were nods from around the room, a few more nervous glances, and then everyone settled down on the floor to gather their energy.
* * *
Kyle walked back into the basement finishing off the last of his coffee. There was, he was realizing, a certain amount of awkwardness to being able to grab magic quickly when everyone around you needed to summon it slowly, but at least he hadn’t needed to go into the spell thirsty and in the few minutes he was absent most of the crew had been able to get their charges up.
In fact, it looked like everyone except Alison had energy. For a second, it surprised Kyle that she was last, then he realized she’d probably been pretty ticked off at him when he’d left. Not, maybe, the most conductive attitude for meditation. Still, as he watched she opened her eyes which now held an amber glow, and rose to her feet looking her usual serene self.
Without speaking, she traced a glowing circle of magic in the air roughly centering it around the spot where gravity was a little wonky, then connected a line from the circle to a point just a tiny bit short of the quintessence symbol. “If everyone would please join hands along the edge of the circle we can all direct our energy to the symbol at the same time. Thus will the door be opened wide!”
Thus will the door be opened wide, Kyle thought raising his eyebrows. He could see how the moment was worth just a bit of drama but that really wasn’t the right note. Nor was it the correct binding. “Um,” he said trying to take a much more respectful tone than he’d used during his previous protest, “If we do it like that whoever channels the least magic is going to limit the flow of the group. I think it would be better if we joined up in a slightly more complex way.”
Alison jerked her gaze back to him and gave him a look that pretty clearly said: You’re pushing it. When she actually spoke, her voice was reasonably polite with only a bit of an edge, “If we all just connect directly to the symbol we’ll supply it with power in an uneven way. Some spells don’t like that. It might make the door jump around or change in size.”
“Oh, yeah, right. But I was thinking more like this.” He moved to the circle Alison had made and drew a complex fractal binding next to it. The binding was known as “The Master’s Trove”. Charles had taught it to Kyle; though it wasn’t a Archmage secret. It’s loops followed the bleed patterns natural to magic slipping free of a binding and as such it held magic vastly better than the “Apprentice Trove”. He worked his way around the circle making five of the knots, one for each caster, setting a wide open limiter binding after them, then charging them enough that they wouldn’t fall apart for the better part of an hour.
By the time he’d finished, Lynn was leaning close to one of the trove’s inspecting it, “Hell of a binding, dude. What does it do?”
“In this case? It’s going to act a lot like a reservoir in an irrigation system.” Then he took a gamble and obfuscated the source of that knowledge slightly, “I take it there wasn’t an autocaster circuitry requirement in your program?”
Lynn laughed, “There was an elective. It wasn’t very popular.”
Kyle scratched his chin and looked down at the bindings. They were a start, but if the spell was a real power hog it could empty the troves and they’d be back to feeding it magic at the rate of the weakest mage. Time for a risk, in that case. He sketched what he hoped would look like another binding leading into the circle in front of the trove closest to him. Visually, it was much simpler than the Master’s Trove: just a fork in the line of the magic. One side of the fork lead to a small gap in the line then the Master’s Trove. The other side narrowed out to almost nothing for a ways then went to a line which totally skipped the Master’s trove instead terminating just before the next split in the binding. The catch was the side of the line that bypassed the Masters trove was shrouded in the weakest darkness effect he could conjure powered by the side of the line that had to work it’s way through the gap. He worked his way around the circle fronting each Master’s Trove in the same way, then looked up nervously to see if anyone was paying attention.
They weren’t, which was fortunate because what he’d done was a very serious Archmage secret. He’d just dumped a bunch of simple single use RTL not gates into the spell. The small gap in the line would act as a resistor, the darkness shrouded section a semiconductor. If the power out of any upstream fell too low then it would get clipped out of the circle and there’d be two or more magi feeding the same Master’s trove. It turned the degradation of the flow of power through the spell into a step function, and kept all the casters connected to the spell at all times without the risk they would have taken by all feeding on giant power reservoir and connecting it directly to the spell. Of course, each trove could fall and then they’d just have a circle feeding the door at far less power than the troves had, but that was the risk of trying to power up the Door manually.
Alison walked up behind him, “Those are some interesting bindings.” She said it in the same voice she might have used to comment on the weather. Kyle couldn’t tell if she was being deliberately non-committal or if she really didn’t have an opinion on what he’d done. He hoped it was the latter and suspected it was the former.
“They’ll allow us to store a large charge of power and then feed it to the spell very evenly. Here, start feeding power in right there. Let it flow pretty freely and don’t let up until that,” he pointed at the Master’s Trove, “starts to burn off power with enough random effects to make visible light like this.” He let a pop of magic out into the air without direction. There was a crack and the usual flash of random energy.
Alison gave him a sardonic look, “I’m getting the impression you consider Classical Magic inferior to Magical Engineering, but I assure you I know what unformed discharge looks like.”
“Yeah, of course. Sorry. I just got a bit caught up in setting all of this up.” Kyle looked around the circle and realized the other Children were already in position each on filling a Trove. He positioned himself in front of the still unoccupied slot and began to charge his own binding.