Chapter 7: Experimentation

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Ber, Day 27 of Rhexia, Winking Moons, Year 602

"Then came the days of whist'ling wind and frosty crust of snow. The icy heart of Boradîn lay frozen there below." —From Observations on Heladrithian Travel, by Qu'ia Lennar, Urdan Poet

* * *

Bricot glanced momentarily toward the open door, thinking that he'd seen Farax striding past. But he was clearly mistaken; the flash of moving clothes had turned out to be nothing more than an errant breeze rustling a distant curtain.

She'd be teaching in an entirely different part of the university at this time anyway, and Bricot shook his head at his own foolishness.

The evening before had been very pleasant, giving him time to relax and chat with the other teachers in the local Craestor pub. It had been Farax's idea, and Ishka had organized the outing. Seldom did any of them spend time together outside of their regular university duties, and they'd all joined in enthusiastically.

Farax could drink a lot more than he'd expected she could.

"Master?" one of his students asked, raising her hand.

"Yes, Bela?" he called, willing himself to focus until the completion of his class. He was giving a lecture at the moment on the properties of incendiary and combustible brews.

"How did the Eralian forces not foresee the Tragedy of 571?" she asked incredulously. "Surely the thought must have occurred to someone that transporting that amount of combustibles would be dangerous."

Several of her fellow students nodded. All twelve of them were scattered comfortably about the room, with the bulk of the class settled at a large rectangular wooden table and its accompanying chairs.

"That's an excellent point, Bela," Bricot said. "And I'm sorry to answer you this way, but it was a massive oversight."

As most of the students present shook their heads in amusement, one or two of them laughed, and someone let out a low whistle.

"Think about it from their point of view," Bricot suggested. "Urdan regiments were headed their way and they were in possession of some very experimental, very important research materials. When threatened, people make strange choices sometimes."

The students listened with interest.

\"General Pon needed to move a large amount of martial material from a local warehouse to the Keep at Barthin where his forces could use it," he continued. "I suppose they could have left all of the brew at the warehouse, but Pon knew Eral desperately needed the kind of firepower that those materials could provide. At that time, the best way to transport it was very slowly, by wagon. And since the components of those news potions were so new, no safety controls had been adopted yet."

There was a short pause while this sank in.

"Who can tell me why it's safe to transport this amount of martial material today?"

Connor raised his hand. He was a student in his fortieth odd summer, invited to Craestor on a scholarship for alchemical excellence. "Technically, it's not absolutely safe," he said, worrying at his thick beard with one of his hands as he spoke. "Shipments can be waylaid at any point. It's putting a very powerful weapon in the hands of enemy forces."

"Granted," said Bricot. "But?"

"But," continued Connor, "Martial materials are constructed differently now. There are some that respond only to the velocity reached by certain types of catapults or that are only activated on impact of a certain strength. But the most popular, and probably safest, type of slung potion is the one that needs a charge."

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