BOOK TWO: The Wizardry Compiled
Part I: LOAD TIME One : Politics and Strange Bedfellows
You can always tell a really good Idea by the enemies it makes.
Pelus the wizard paused for dramatic effect. " . . . and so, My Lords, we must act quickly," he concluded ringingly.
For the sixth time that morning.
"Not so quickly, not so quickly," old Honorious said testily from the end of the table. He cleared his throat and prepared to restate his position for the eighth time.
The traceried windows along the south wall of the council chamber had been thrown open and the fitful summer breeze rustled the brightly colored tapestries hung along the buff sandstone walls. Outside trellised roses climbed the walls and peeked in the windows, perfuming the air. The stained glass in the window panes threw patches of brilliant color on the walls, the table and the men and women in the chamber.
Sitting at the long wooden table was the Council of the North. Fifteen of the mightiest wizards in the World-and one programmer from Cupertino, California who was bored out of his skull.
William Irving Zumwalt, "Wiz" to his friends, "Sparrow" to most, tried to shut out the bickering and concentrate on the latest improvement to his magic compiler. It wasn't easy, especially since every so often he would be called on to say something and he had to keep at least one ear cocked to the conversation.
The Council had been arguing over the same point for the entire morning. Everyone knew that eventually they would do it, just as everyone knew the idea was good as soon as it had been proposed. But Agricolus had to get his opinions on record, Juvian saw an opportunity to snipe at Pelus and Honorious was constitutionally opposed to anything that looked like action. The result was a three-hour wrangle over nothing much.
For Wiz, who had made a career out of avoiding bureaucracy in all forms, it was sheer torture.
And I thought ANSI standards committee meetings were bad. He tried to shut out the incessant droning and concentrate on the idea he was developing.
A shimmering green shape began to form in the air in front of him. Wiz realized he had been moving his lips and that was enough to start the spell up. The wizards on either side of him glared and he quickly wiped out his unintentional handiwork, flushing under their eyes.
"Come, My Lords," rumbled Bal-Simba from the head of the table. The enormous black wizard was clad in his usual leopard skin and bone necklace. Somehow he had managed to seem interested through the entire morning. "The hour draws nigh. Let us decide." He gestured to a ray of light moving along a design inlaid in light wood in the darker wood top of the table. The spot of light was almost at the end of the design.
That was one merciful feature of the Council meetings. By custom and for arcane magical reasons they lasted no longer than it took the sun to traverse a certain arc in the sky. That meant about four hours.
So Honorious grumbled, Juvian sniped and Agricolus had one more thing he wanted to make clear, but they voted nonetheless and of course they decided to act.
Wiz stood with the others while Bal-Simba led them through the closing ritual. Another morning shot to pieces, he thought as they filed out of the council chamber. He sighed to himself. It could have been worse. All the Council members could have been present.
He turned and saw Moira waiting for him. The redheaded hedge witch was wearing a gown of sea green that matched her eyes and set off her milk-white freckled skin. Its cut showed off her figure as well. Wiz thoroughly approved.
"Darling, have I told you you look lovely?" he said hugging her.
She gave him a look that made him catch his breath. "Why no, My Lord," she said, with her green eyes wide. "Not for, oh, at least five minutes."
"Too long." Ignoring the Council members who were knotted about talking, he kissed her.
In a vague way he knew he had improved in the two years since he had been kidnapped to this world. A more active life had put muscle on his slender frame. He had let his dark hair grow shoulder length in the local fashion. Tight breeches and puffy-sleeved shirts had replaced jeans and short-sleeved white shirts. Over-all he now looked more like a romantic's idea of a pirate than a pencil-necked computer geek.
But Moira had been beautiful the first day he saw her and she had only gotten more beautiful. Well, he admitted, maybe that was subjective. They had been married for less than a year and brides were always beautiful. Then he looked at her again. Nope, she was definitely more beautiful.