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Chapter 28: In Which Cala Makes a Stand

The art of magical movement is as vast as man's imagination. A magician could move through shadows, he could move through light, through sound, through air, through glass, through fire, with the power of a reflection or the moisture in the air. The methods are as various as the people who use them, and each magician eventually finds the way that suits him best.

Sometimes the mode of travel is decided by its purpose. Some ways are more efficient than others, some are faster, some are more impressive while others are silent. And some are utterly surprising.

And the element of surprise was what they needed most. It would be difficult to surprise, now that Marning had shielded them from the scrying eyes of Quintoxe or any other magician he might be in league with. Any half-trained magician would know to watch closely every mode of travel and keep them booby-trapped.

But then, their plan could work. It had been Rat's idea and the reason that it could work was that it didn't really involve magical travel. "He's seen me as a rat though," the boy said.

"He wouldn't be able to guess the extent of it," Marning said with confidence. "It's beyond any magician's wildest dreams."

Rat seemed doubtful as he buttoned up the collar of his shirt. It was cold outside, but they would do this dressed lightly. They each wore simple black breeches and a black shirt. Marning had arranged for soft leather boots meant for moving silently – they would need nothing else beside.

He looked at the boy thoughtfully and for the millionth time asked himself if he was doing the right thing. Did life's twists and turns force him to abandon sound judgment? It was necessary work; he was obliged to act before Rat was acted upon. But was this taking it too far, for the sake of gaining this boy's trust?

It was dangerous. Life and death hung upon a thread. But then, it had to be done, and it couldn't be done without Rat.

"I'm ready," the boy said in a low voice, as if he were trying to sound older than he was.

"Good." Marning nodded solemnly. "Then lead the way."

Rat didn't hesitate; he did not give the room a second glance. It was as if the idea of fear did not even cross his mind. "I'll take us to somewhere near enough. From there we can find a way in," he said as he struck a match and lit an oversized candle. Strange shadows danced across the walls, twirling and twisting as the flame flickered and grew. They both watched as the wax began to melt in a small circle at the base of the wick. The flame continued growing, wider and taller, until it burned well over their heads.

Rat diverted his gaze from the fire and met Marning's. The Grand Master nodded once in approval. The boy hesitated this time, his lips moving as he went over Marning's instructions. Then his hand shot out right into the flame, slicing the fire in half. A gate opened. He drew his hand back, closed his eyes in concentration before he lunged forward and melted into the flame, sucked in by the gate he had opened.

Marning watched as the boy's liquid reflection turned and turned within the puddle of wax at the base of the flame, before he himself followed. A flame gate was a fail-safe way to travel. It was impossible to place traps along this path, unless the one who wished to place traps had encountered the candle upon which the flame burned.

For a moment there was that feeling of being as smooth and hot as molten wax. For a moment there was no beating heart or rushing blood. For a moment everything was golden, everything flowed, stretched and burned. Then the cold, hard night took form all around them. They stood in their stiff shirts in the moonless street, their breaths forming clouds of steam as they shivered. Rat's form was nothing but a deeper darkness in the dark. Marning wondered where they were. He had grown up in the city, and while he certainly did not know it as well as Rat did – it had changed so much in the last sixty years – he still knew quite a large portion of its alleys and streets.

Rat - YA FantasyWhere stories live. Discover now