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P. S. Power

The Builder

Chapter one

The bell rang again, either the third or fourth of the day, a deep chime from the main tower. Torrence thought that was the case at least as he ran from the isolation chamber towards the empty commons. Maybe the fifth or sixth if he'd gotten lost in the working trance again. What was he saying? Of course he'd gotten lost. It was just what happened when you drove yourself like he was.

He'd done it though. Finished his first novel build. He'd made real magic.

Well, he'd done that before of course, making copies for class, but this time the magic was all his. It made a difference. A lot of people could make copies, only a few did new pieces. The difference between a copier and a full builder was huge. Most people didn't even attempt it.

Now if it just worked he'd be able to justify having missed classes to get it done. If it didn't work…

Well, it had better work. That was all. Otherwise he'd have to resign from school in shame, or at least pout and moan about it for a while. It would work. He could feel it. That or he was really hungry. It was hard to tell at the moment, the deep working trance could mess up basic perceptions for a while after you were done sometimes. He grinned and kept moving as quickly as his stiff legs could manage, so not very, all things considered. It was what stopped him from doing a little happy dance. That and the fact he simply had no talent for it. It was tempting to try anyway.

The sigil piece in his hand, a circle ringed with letters and symbols on a square of unfinished wood, all basically nonsense to anyone except him, had been drawn in black paint, the thick and cheap kind from the student store that took a while to dry. Most of the time at least. This time it had turned solid before he'd even finished the complex field structure, a very good sign considering the nature of the field he'd tried to create.

He hoped it was anyway. It was just possible he was imagining it, because the whole thing was such a big deal. To Tor. No one else would probably care at all. That was fine though. It hadn't been done for them. Really the idea was to prove he could build to get away from endless copy work. That wasn't hard, but it lacked… spark.

The build was fairly simple, if anything that got things to happen without physical effort could be called that. Most wouldn't think so probably. The field on the piece of wood in his hand simply told water to leave cloth, and other fibrous materials, within a certain area in space. It should, if the field was strong enough, mean that after washing clothes a person could have dry things ready to wear within moments, instead of waiting for hours, or even longer on rainy or moist days. It was a labor and time saving device.

The wood the focusing design had been painted on would dry out too, being fibrous material itself, just like cloth, but that shouldn't hurt anything really, as long as it didn't just turn to dust. That shouldn't happen, if Tor had gotten the whole thing right. Most people didn't on their first go, or so he'd been told in class, even professional builders sometimes had to try something dozens of times to get new things right, but he had high hopes.

Not to mention slight desperation. Now that everything occurred to him properly at least.

The school probably wouldn't kick him out for just missing a day's worth of classes for something like this, which was school related, but he'd need to show that he hadn't just been off in town playing the whole time, and then slapped some paint on wood as an excuse. Tor wouldn't ever do that of course, he liked school, and learning, too much to try and fake his way through. But did the instructors really know that? If he could think of it as a potential excuse, they probably would too. They'd been at all this a lot longer than he had after all. Age and wisdom were to be respected for a reason.

Tor kept running, passing other students as he went. Excitement fairly boiled from him, making him smile the whole time, a rare thing for him. A few waved, mostly boys of course, kids from his classes. Oddly enough, one who called to him was a tall, good looking girl with dusky skin and a brilliant white smile. He recognized her as one of the combat giants that regularly beat him in class, so he half waved back as he moved. No one tried to stop and talk to him of course.

They wouldn't.

His reputation as a very serious student stopped that from happening, especially if he looked like he was in a hurry or distracted. Or thinking. No one wanted to hear him go on for hours about his latest project, whatever that happened to be. While it fascinated him, the interplay of fields of information that could be made to reorder the fabric of the world, to most people it was just meaningless babble. Tor might as well sit around spouting complete nonsense at them. Actually, he knew that for a fact, because he'd done it a few times just to see what would happen. The responses were identical.

Almost no one could be bothered to really listen.

Rolph, the boy that he'd roomed with for the last two years never seemed to mind paying attention to what Tor said and he really tried to pay attention. But other than him and a few instructors, people just tried to leave their conversations at hello and see you later. That worked well enough for Tor, to tell the truth. Most people, other students especially, were a little boring, only caring about the latest song craze, or what clothing to wear on break. As if a student's brown trousers and tunic weren't good enough? What, were they the Prince and Princesses of the realm that they needed to do more than study for their futures? Rolph didn't do that at least. Not too much. For which Tor was eternally grateful. He didn't know what he'd do if his roomie had been one of that type. Go crazy probably and shove pencils in his ears to try and get away from the useless yammering.

Tor kept to a good jog, which would have made the weapons master, Kolb, happy. The older man seemed convinced that anyone that couldn't run the length of the kingdom and back inside a month was incurably lazy. That no one had ever managed such a feat didn't stop the man from hinting it was the highest sign of worth for a non- combat oriented student like Tor Baker. Too little to fight properly most of the time, short and slender, the head instructor liked to pick on him a little. Running beat having the military students beat the snot out of him daily so Tor did it without complaint.

True, most of them didn't really try to hurt him on purpose when he was forced, again by Kolb, to take them on in practice, but they somehow always managed it anyway. Generally because most of them were freakishly large. Like the tall girl he'd just passed, what was her name… Petra? She always managed to hand him a piece of his backside when they worked together, which was more than a little humiliating. Worse, Tor kind of suspected that the girl went out of her way to be gentle with him compared to the others, pulling her punches and sword blows. He'd seen her easily drive men over seven feet tall and three hundred pounds to their knees more than once. That Tor was still alive probably meant that she was coddling him like a baby. He decided not to worry about it and grinned instead.

He was a builder, not a warrior. Maybe a real one now. Unless the build didn't work. Then he was just screwed.

Keeping his pace steady he made his way up the three flights of gray stone steps to the outside walkway that led to his room. It was decent sized, the room, nearly as big as the bedroom he'd shared with his four brothers before he left home. Had it really only been two and a half, nearly three, years? Rolph complained about the tiny space occasionally, but then his family was rich, some kind of merchant empire thing that involved a lot of famous and wealthy people. At least from what little his roomie had hinted at when he got tired, or had grabbed a little extra wine with dinner.

The door had a real metal handle, a nice brass lever, and while it didn't have an “official” lock, Tor had made one that recognized him and Rolph when a hand was put on the design near the door. It also recognized anyone that belonged to the school, which was probably why they hadn't forced him to take it down yet. All it did was keep people that weren't supposed to be there out.

Not that he had anything anyone would want to steal, but Rolph did. Fine silk clothes, and books that Tor envied more than a little, as well as more gold than he'd had ever seen in one place before. To his surprise Rolph offered to let him read the books whenever he had spare time, not even worried that he might damage them or leave them smudged. It was nice to just kick back and peruse a history text every now and again, instead of spending all his time working on meditation or field work for building devices. Of course now that he could do his

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