Farrell paused outside the door before knocking. For years this door had been off-limits to him and the other students. Once he was permitted to visit, he found any reason to avoid coming here—even when summoned.
Now it created a conflict of emotions. Rather than struggle with the two warring sides, he knocked on the stock door. Like most doors in Haven, this one had been infused with magic to make sure his presence was heard inside. Given the size of the suite and the age of the occupant, Farrell waited patiently for the door to open.
Kel smiled when he saw his guest, something Farrell noted Kel did often when he showed up.
“Grandson.” He stepped back to let Farrell come inside. “I expected your visit, just not this soon. From what I hear of your reputation, early mornings are not your preferred time.”
That part of him also seemed a lifetime ago. “Considering you are the reason I can no longer sleep late, you of all people ought not be surprised.”
“Bah.” He waved Farrell into the suite. “You know I was merely the messenger. Honorus made you the children’s parents, not I. Though I must say, I think He made an excellent choice. You and Miceral are very good with them.”
“They’re sweet—well, Geena is. Bren can be a handful at times.”
Kel laughed from deep inside. “Oh yes. That boy is a rambunctious sort even at barely two. He will keep you both hopping as he grows.”
Farrell wanted to point out that he might not live long enough to raise Bren and his sister but knew Kel would admonish him for negative thinking. “That’s being generous. I’ve already had to use magic to keep him in line.”
“Oh? How so?” Kel lowered himself into a large overstuffed leather chair.
The sight caused Farrell to miss a step. Pushing through the moment, he took the seat opposite and remembered other such times he’d been in this room, in this chair. Then the owner was Grand Master Heminaltose, and Farrell had been his student.
“He has—had—this habit of flinging his bowl off his tray once he’d eaten his fill. The first time he did it, Lisle screamed so loud she startled both children into tears. Then she fussed at me—me—as if I had a hand in Bren’s behavior. Five minutes of how he was taking after his messy parent drove me to find a solution—fast.”
Kel laced his fingers into a steeple and leaned forward. The playful grin told Farrell his ancestor was enjoying this moment far too much. “And what did you come up with?”
“When he shoved the bowl, it stopped a few inches off the table. Lisle was able to bring it back and tell him not to do that again.”
“And that worked? I’d imagine he’d be so amused, he’d do it again and again.”
“And you’d be correct.” Farrell chuckled at the memory. “I put a second spell on the bowl. When he tried to do it again, it shocked him. Lisle told him that his bowl would only hurt him if he tried to throw it. She had to put his hand onto the bowl a couple of times to convince him, but now he doesn’t toss the crockery around anymore.”
“Ingenious. How did you come up with that idea?”
“I didn’t. My mother used it on me when I was Bren’s age.” Maybe Bren was a lot like him. “According to her, I did the same thing. Since it worked on me, I assumed it would be effective.”
Kel laughed and sat back. “Or perhaps he’ll prove more stubborn than you.”
“Perhaps.” Farrell scanned Heminaltose’s old rooms. “You’ve not changed anything.”
“There’s no need. Heminaltose was a practical man. His quarters reflect that trait.”
“That’s one way to put it. The few times I came inside when he was alive, I used to think they reflected his tendency to control everything.” He shrugged. “Are you ready to go or should I come back?”
“Now is good.” Kel grasped his white staff and used it to lift himself out of his seat. “I have nothing pressing to do, so I’m ready for my tour of Haven.”
“I’m not sure I’d consider our walk to Trellham a tour, but if you’d like to call it that, I won’t argue.”
“You are wise beyond meager years, Grandson.”
As happened every time Kel made a public appearance, crowds gathered wherever they went. A new feeling of hope had permeated Haven once word spread Kel had returned. Even Farrell felt more confident, enough that he brushed aside the implication of what the reaction said about Haven’s faith in him. They made a quick stop to pick up food and then set out for ancient Trellham.
“An interesting use of Doors,” Kel remarked after they’d left the boundaries of Haven. “I never thought to hide the lines inside the rock.”
“Heminaltose did it more to protect people from accidentally hurting themselves.”
“Still, quite clever.”
Farrell closed the portal and motioned them toward their destination. “Can you show me how you were able to hide Trellham from everyone except me?”
“Ah, I’m not surprised you want to know about that curious bit of magic.” Kel moved in the direction Farrell indicated. “Unfortunately, I cannot show you how it works, but I can tell you the theory behind it.”
“Can’t or won’t?” Farrell hadn’t meant to sound so suspicious.
Kel’s expression turned serious, and he stopped moving. “Farrell, I have remained alive all these extra years for no other reason than to share my knowledge with you. There is nothing I would willingly withhold from you. I can’t show you because I am no longer the Champion of the Six.”
“I’m sorry, Grandfather. Every interaction before I found you taught me to question what you were withholding.”
“A fair point, but now you must feel comfortable that I will be forthright with you. If the Six won’t allow me to answer, I will tell you that as well.”
The good mood he’d had walking and talking with Kel had vanished, and Farrell nodded his agreement. They completed the short walk to Trellham’s gates in silence. When they arrived Kel stopped and took a moment to stare up and down.
“Three thousand years ago, these beautiful doors were the last image I had of this once bustling city. I wasn’t sure I’d get a chance to see Trellham reborn.”
“So you didn’t use the gates to give the priest the book you left for me?”
“No.” Kel ran a hand gently over the carved stone door. “Honorus directed me to use the Door between Fracturn and Trellham instead of breaking the seal on the city. Startled the beard off the poor priest in residence.”
Farrell pulled on a handle and the door opened smoothly. He paused before entering. “Let me notify Father Aswick that we are here. He is old even for a dwarf so I don’t want to shock him.”
A small puff of smoke flew from his palm and into the city. Farrell followed his spell and lit the torches in the entryway. Before the pair had walked far, the tiny cloud returned and stopped by Farrell’s ear. The smoke hovered for a moment, then dissipated.
“He is not in, so we may proceed as we like.”
Once clear of the tunnel, Farrell lit the city’s main crystal.
“Just as I remembered it,” Kel said as his eyes scanned the landscape. “Though not much could have changed unless you allowed it.”
A smile stretched Farrell’s face as he observed his grandfather soak in the details of the place where his fame began. He wished he could have seen a young Kel march from behind the ranks of so-called greater wizards and accept Seritia’s challenge. To have seen the faces of the “great” fall as Kel did what none of them could. If only….
“I asked you to accompany me to Trellham because I have an idea on how to free the dwarves but am unsure it will work,” Farrell began.
“Tell me what you’re thinking, and I’ll chime in when I have something to add.”
Farrell leaned against the stone column. “As it has been explained to me, somewhere in the city you opened a one-way Door for the dwarves. Given the infinite nature of the void I have no idea how to find them wherever they are.”
“As I told you, neither do I.”
“I know, but….” He took a deep breath and held it for a heartbeat. “I believe I can look back through time.”
The silence that followed made him feel foolish. If such a thing were possible, Kel surely would have figured it out centuries ago.
“An interesting idea.” Kel nodded. “Can you expound on it?”
“Let’s go sit and eat and I’ll explain.” Kel’s tentative approval perked up Farrell’s spirits. He searched their surroundings and then looked into the city. Pointing toward an open space, he said, “How about down there?”
“That looks acceptable.” Without waiting for Farrell, Kel flew off the steps and down into the main part of the city.
The open space Farrell mentioned appeared to have been a marketplace. They found a wide stone bench and used it as a makeshift table. Farrell laid out the food he’d ordered the night before and hoped his grandfather found something to his liking. He piled cold chicken, cheese, and bread onto his plate and was pleased to see Kel select several items the cooks had provided.
“To begin,” Farrell said before taking a bite. “I make the assumption that time is constant. Once a moment has come and gone, it is over, and there is no ability to go backward and change or correct it.”
“In that I would concur.” Kel nodded before picking up a slice of salted pork and putting it between some bread. “There is no credible evidence that it is possible to travel backward in time.”
Farrell swallowed his food. “But, even though the moment is gone, it should have left some mark on its surroundings that we should be able to trace backward. The trick is finding the right spell to make that happen.”
“Do you believe you’ve found that spell?” Kel’s eyes had a twinkle Farrell had not seen before.
“I do, but it requires the aid of another powerful wizard.” He paused to let Kel ask a question, and when he didn’t, Farrell took it as a sign he should continue. “I believe I can follow time backward, but to do so requires an anchor I can use to pull myself back to the present.”
“Hmm.” Kel munched on his cheese. “Talk me through the particulars of your spell.”
“Do you want me to show it to you?” Farrell didn’t bother to control his enthusiasm.
Kel chuckled and waved his hand. “No, my impatient grandson, not yet. My reputation for pushing the boundaries of magic notwithstanding, it would be prudent to talk this out before we rush into spell-casting.”
Farrell took a drink to hide his disappointment. Discussing his idea was the right thing to do, but he’d wanted to test his theory for a long time. “Where do you want me to start?”
“The beginning is generally a good place.” Kel gave him a mischievous grin. “But I’ve never been one to do things the usual way. How do you get magic to turn back time?”
“I don’t, really. My spell allows my wizard’s sight to look backward.”
“Wizard’s sight? Fascinating. Have you tried this before?”
“Just with very small time increments.” Farrell gestured and realized he never finished the meat he’d picked up. He put it down and wiped his hand. “I started small—just a few seconds. When I tried to do more, I nearly couldn’t get back to my consciousness.”
“Which is why you need another wizard to act as your anchor.” He nodded several times as Farrell’s smile returned. “How does the second wizard allow you to find your way back?”
“It’s like a rope.” He’d gotten the idea from how Miceral pulled him up after he tested the underwater-breathing spell. “I tug on the link, you pull, and I drag myself back to the present. Of course, that’s how I think it should work.”
Kel put his plate down and leaned back. “It has been a long time since I’ve had the chance to discuss theoretical magic with someone willing to test the boundaries of what we know. Tell me more about this safety line and your main spell.”
Despite having asked Kel to come with him for this reason, Farrell felt apprehensive. Heminaltose and Sanduval had chided him for wasting time on foolish ideas. And Kel was beyond either of them. When he looked at his grandfather, he saw the twinkle of genuine interest in the old man’s eyes. Farrell’s hesitation melted away, and he took a drink before starting. “It’s probably best if I start with how I merge with another wizard.”
Farrell’s heart pounded as he assumed a comfortable stance. He tried to stand in the area Kel indicated he had stood to cast the original spell. Of course he’d come to Trellham hoping to try his idea, but he didn’t really expect they would. None of his previous mentors or teachers would ever have condoned trying one of his new spells without a minimum of several months’ review. Kel didn’t need ten minutes to recognize the ingenuity of Farrell’s hypothesis.
He took a deep breath and cleared his thoughts. Congratulating himself on his brilliance was the surest way to fail. Right now it was just an idea. If it didn’t work, he wasn’t so smart. He extended a link to Kel.
A tug on his link told him Kel was ready to begin. Farrell focused on what they were doing. Away from the shielded rooms in Haven, he had to be careful to conceal his work before casting such a complicated spell. Satisfied no one would hear what he was doing, he began.
Seeing himself and Kel move in reverse disoriented Farrell, and it took a moment to realize the spell worked. He watched the awkward way they both moved and laughed. As expected, time marched backward at the same “speed” as forward.
To address this, Farrell had woven a thread into his spell to allow him to control the speed at which he moved through time. Like the rest of the spell, however, he didn’t know if it would work. Touching the thread, he paused. Despite all his protests that Heminaltose and his other teachers were too conservative, Farrell had followed his master’s most basic lesson—try the easiest path first. Now he had second thoughts that it had been wise, given the complexity of the spell.
Kel—the image of Kel from the spell—moved abruptly, and Farrell banished his fears. He pushed the spell to roll back faster. If it didn’t work, he and Kel would find a different way.
Time moved noticeably quicker, and soon his image and Kel’s were flying back toward the entrance. But even this new pace wasn’t enough, so he prodded the spell to increase again.
Flashes of light followed by darkness flickered in his mind. Khron appeared atop His temple to mark when He’d ordered Farrell to free the dwarves and quickly disappeared. Farrell doubled the speed and noted the extended period of blackness that followed.
The series of flashes coinciding with his “discovery” of Trellham allowed him to gauge his progress. He doubled the speed three more times, then began a mental count.
The first unexpected flash surprised him, but he decided not to stop and investigate. From his knowledge of Trellham’s history—or lack of anything significant for the last thirty-plus centuries—he suspected they marked the times the high priest stepped out of the temple to relieve his boredom.
After another prolonged period of utter darkness, he began to slow down the spell. He’d decreased the speed twice when a flash occurred that didn’t blink out an instant later. Farrell immediately stopped the spell.
Dozens of Doors had been opened around the city. Armies from around Nendor stood in formation, waiting to return home. Reengaging his spell, he tried to set the speed at well more than normal, but not so fast that he missed his spot. Farrell left the spell alone as soldiers left and Doors disappeared. When a large contingent of dwarves from Fracturn and Colograd formed a column on either side of him, he knew he was close. Touching the spell again, he slowed it to something close to standard. Soon tens of thousands of dwarves stood shoulder to shoulder as time marched backward.
He noted many of the warriors looking behind him. When he turned he saw a young wizard walking backward toward him. The man turned, and Farrell came face-to-face with a young Kel. A deep sadness was etched in the lines of his face, and his eyes appeared watery. His ancestor stopped a few inches from Farrell’s position. Despite the odd sensation of standing in the same space as another person, Farrell did his best to put his feet on top of Kel’s.
The appearance of the astral forms of the Six made him jump, and he nearly lost control of the spell. He stared up and saw Seritia looking his way. She appeared to acknowledge his presence. Though he knew She was looking at Kel, he felt as though She stared into his soul. Kel raised his fist and a Door, easily as massive as the one Farrell had created in Agloth, winked into existence. It stretched from one row of dwarves to the other.
Kel walked backward and disappeared. Once he was out of sight, row after row of scared but resolute dwarves—the remnants of an entire nation—moved rapidly out of the prison Kel had made. They passed through him as they backtracked their way into Trellham. Having quizzed Kel about how many dwarves had entered the void, Farrell moved time faster to avoid a long wait.
When the last dwarf disappeared, Kel returned. Farrell had to rush to slow time down. When Kel turned, the sad expression was gone, replaced by a look of pride. Kel stopped a pace forward and slightly to the right of Farrell’s position.
With the images still moving past his inner sight, Farrell moved to where Kel stood now. His pulse started to race in anticipation, and he resisted the urge to stop the spell too soon.
The space between the Door lines returned to normal, and he watched Kel work in reverse. One glowing point at a time blinked out of existence. Farrell waited until Kel moved away from the spot to stop time from regressing.
He took a few moments to clear his thoughts. Legends spoke of this moment, but Farrell needed to be sure not to miss anything important. Having seen it unravel, he didn’t expect anything unusual. But he needed to see it move in the “right” direction to be sure.
Then again, this was the most difficult spell Kel or anyone else would ever attempt. It was so complex, only the mind of a Goddess could envision it, and only the greatest wizard of all time could cast it.
Farrell ordered the spell to let time progress naturally. Waiting for his ancestor to return, he scanned those assembled around him. Serious and grim, the dwarves looked on to see the fate of their brothers and sisters. Parallel to Farrell’s position, dozens of wizards stood in a group behind the dwarves. Most wore skeptical expressions, though a few bordered on contempt.
The Six also bore silent witness. Khron wept, Lenore and Arritisa looked sympathetic, Falcron appeared dispassionate, and Honorus was resolute. Seritia stared at him as if things were going exactly as She had planned.
All accounts of the day spoke of the confident and cocky Kel who walked forward proclaiming his prowess and boasting to do the impossible. This Kel appeared unsure but determined.
Seritia gave the wavering young wizard a nod. This time when Kel extended his staff outward, Farrell mimicked the move and position. The pair slowly laid out the Doors—one in the past, one in the present. Kel reached out his hand and Farrell did likewise. Together they pushed magic to rip open a portal in the void. Farrell sought to tether a link to his ancestor’s work and bring the dwarves home.
Simultaneously, two Doors flared into existence. Farrell looked at the Six, and Seritia held his eyes with Her gaze. He tried to turn but felt compelled to keep still. Finally She blinked and the moment passed.
The goddess nodded. “It is done.”
Farrell didn’t wait for the events to replay again. He tugged on the link to Kel and sought to return to the present. The struggle to extract himself felt like running through chest-high water. Events continued to move at a normal pace. The problem wasn’t returning to his time. He could increase the spell to take events back to the present. The difficulty was extracting himself from the dream state his consciousness occupied to see the echoes in time.
Focusing on the link, Farrell pulled hard. An equally hard tug came back, and Farrell latched on and heaved with all his will. The resistance shattered, and he sped forward toward the present, his present, like a fish being reeled out of the water.
Images flashed by so quickly he had to ignore them to avoid getting dizzy. A moment later he emerged back in his own time and he opened his eyes.