Teague scurried through the manor house and toward Lord Lewis’s workroom as fast as his bandy old legs could take him. He went through the great hall, past a small chapel, up a flight of stairs, through another hall, and down a long, enclosed hallway. All of these rooms were lined with narrow windows of glass that gave an ever-changing, twilight panorama of the Lewis estate as Ezra trudged from space to space.

The late, lamented, but unquestionably stodgy previous baron, Emmanuel Lewis, had left his son and heir, Charles, a sprawling barony that was prosperous enough. However, Lord Lewis was an extraordinarily learned man with many wondrous, state-of-the-art ideas of his own to benefit the barony. It was his idea to establish his own glassblowing foundry to produce glazing for all the manor’s windows. Only a wealthy cathedral could match the glazing of his own home. The new windows protected against the vagaries of the elements and made the manor more comfortable, while offering unprecedented views of the countryside.

Ezra glanced out the colonnade of windows and was enraptured by what he saw. The hour was eventide, and twilight was painting the deeply shadowed forest near to the manor house in colors of dusty velvet and old jade. Normally, the fields and pastures rolled gently like folds of saffron broadcloth, and the river that meandered through the lush farmland sparkled with points of amber. But now, the fearsome windstorm bent century-old trees like saplings and sent sinuous waves through the tall grass like slithering snakes. Rippling curtains of woodland debris hung suspended in midair. And high overhead, fierce winds drove sharp slivers of clouds through the evening sky like golden daggers through indigo silk. 

Ezra had an unlimited view across the estate, and what he saw in the distance made him shudder. Faraway, a thunderstorm was approaching and its dark-gray clouds roiled like knights on destriers galloping near. Nearby though, the gale left the sky light-gray and the atmosphere surprisingly clear. Proportions and distances are deceptive when denizens of Sky pass through Land.

The windstorm still made Teague nervous. It tried to rattle and blow into one window, and upon finding it shuttered, tried to rattle and blow into another. It seemed to Teague that the wind had a mind of its own, and it sensed his progress through the house, pacing him step by step from outside the manor’s walls. And for a moment, Teague even thought he heard the wind whisper, “Let me in!” But that was ridiculous, Ezra reasoned. It was just the wind.

Ezra eventually came to a covered bridge that connected the manor house proper to the pell tower where Lord Lewis studied his scrolls and performed his experiments. As Ezra passed a narrow, framed window, he heard the storm outside make the latch rattle. Ezra was grumbling to himself about how that particular latch never fastened properly, when the wind suddenly screeched, clawed the casement open, and shot through a jet so strong it almost spun Teague around back for front. But Ezra fought back and braced himself, pulled the portal shut, and secured the latch with an extra hard tug. Outside, the defeated wind howled in frustration.

Ezra wasted no more time conjecturing, but scurried as fast as he could to his destination: Lord Lewis’s peel tower.

The peel tower had existed on the barony property for longer than Teague could remember, and Teague had worked for the Lewis family since he was a boy. They say the late baron occasionally went to the tower in the dead of night to dabble in black magic, or to get away from his family when he was in one of his black moods, but mostly he just kept the tower for storage. It wasn’t until young Charles Lewis inherited the barony and set about repairing and refurbishing the property, that the new baron decided to adopt the peel tower as his personal study and workroom. There, he could explore the more arcane—and dangerous—aspects of mixing magic with alchemy. 

The peel tower was a nearly windowless, square, black granite monolith divided into two double-height ground and upper levels. An external, public, covered stairway connected the two levels. There were only two man-sized doors to the tower: one on the ground floor and one on the upper.

Lord Lewis had entrusted Ezra, as his chamberlain, with keys to every locked coin chest, storage trunk, and room in the entire manor—except the two tower doors. The young baron jealously kept and guarded those two keys for himself. So, to reach the stairway and the door to Lord Lewis’s workroom, Teague first had to edge past the forbidding, ironclad oak door on the ground floor.

Teague didn’t know what the young baron did in the mysterious chambers behind his sturdy doors. But Ezra knew enough about his sire’s affairs to be aware that he regularly exchanged missives with amateur mages and alchemists like himself, who scoffed at using perfectly serviceable words like “craftsmanship,” “smithy,” “workroom,” and “alchemy.” Instead, they toyed with using new fangled words like “engineering,” “machine room,” “laboratory,” and “science.”

Lord Lewis said in passing that the chamber on the ground floor of the peel tower contained a “machine room” to power his magical and alchemical experiments. Sometimes, when Ezra walked past that ironclad door, he caught whiffs of the magic being worked in the room. Magic smelled like fresh-cut cedar, or smoldering incense, or the pool beneath a waterfall, or a meadow full of spring flowers, or the top of a newborn baby’s head. 

But lately, most of the time when Ezra walked past the ironclad door, his senses were assailed by alchemy, or what Lord Lewis was lately given to call, “science.” Science smelled like burning brimstone, or vomitous bile, or the air after lightning splits a tall tree. Science sounded like the rattle, hiss, and clank of machinery. Science felt like the rumble of earthquakes, or war drums, or the thunder after lightning strikes too close for comfort. Call it alchemy, or science if you will; but either way, Ezra Teague did not like it.

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