Swamped Chapter 53 Page 5

There’s a point that’s struck you as odd ever since you made contact.

“You seem to know something about how to make the gateways. Considering you’ve been using them, too.”

“Not exactly,” the figure says. “For the most part, we are only able to reopen gateways that have closed recently. Beyond that… our wizard has some ideas on how to change the destination of a gateway, but we’ve had few opportunities to test.”

“Well, what do you know about them? In terms of how the magic works.”

There’s a pause.

“Honestly? We don’t really understand it. When they’re active, they produce lots of ether… but there’s no noticeable buildup of ether before they activate, or after they close. Nothing else we know of works like that. We’re only able to reactivate them by…”

They stop suddenly. This must be a big secret. But then, it’s one you have a guess at.

“You use time magic,” you say. “Move time for the gateway backwards to when it was active.”

“Believe what you want.”

You didn’t expect it to be that easy. After all, you’ve been out here for years struggling to find scraps of evidence that time magic really existed. If these people have been using it, they wouldn’t want to just tell you that. They’ve been keeping themselves hidden for a reason, after all.

So you leave that for the moment, and move on.

“There seems to be more than one wizard in their group. Any idea how many?”

“We believe we’ve seen six others, aside from the most powerful one. They usually don’t send more than one of the weaker wizards out on a task, though. Our best guess is that they’re doing a lot of magic in a lot of places at once, so they have to spread their wizards thin.”

Seven wizards? In an age where wizards have all but disappeared? That’s worrisome.

“Well. Thank you. I suppose that’s all I have to ask for now… Do you have a name you’d like me to call you by?”

“Our leaders would probably prefer we not contact you again.”

“Tough. Come back here tomorrow night, same time. Or send someone else if you can’t make it yourself. We have a common enemy and if we don’t at least stay in contact, we’ll get in each others’ way. So. Do you have a name?”

There’s a pause.

“They gave me the name Ela. It means ‘desert winds’. I suppose there’s no harm in letting you know that. I wish you well, Director.”

Unsettling that they know your title. But perhaps unsurprising, given that they’ve been hiding from you up to now.

“Good luck to you to, Ela. I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

But just as you’re about to leave, you think of another question.

“Just out of curiosity. Do you have any idea what’s happening with the Maiden’s Veil?”

“The stars? We have noticed.”

“I didn’t ask if you’d noticed. I asked if you had any idea why.”

Ela shrugs.

“The gods may know, but we do not,” they say. “Farewell, Director.”

Well. That seems to be it for that conversation.

What now?

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You’re now Marshall, Corvus just finished getting you caught up.