Home > Scholar of Magic (Art of the Adept #3)

Scholar of Magic (Art of the Adept #3)
Author: Michael G. Manning

Chapter 1

   Will stared up at the towering stone edifice that loomed over him and the other workers. The Lanover Dam was a massive structure that rose eighty feet above where he currently stood, at the base on the downstream side. Not stone, concrete, he reminded himself silently, using the term from his engineering class. It looked like stone, though.

   As he had recently learned, there were several different types of dams, but the Lanover Dam was what was known as a buttress dam. Originally it had been built as an arch dam, but the structure had shown signs of incipient failure and later builders had added the buttresses, massive iron and concrete supports that angled up from the downstream side, to reinforce the dam wall.

   “They should have built it with buttresses in the first place,” opined Will. “There’s no way a wall that thin could hold all that water.”

   The lead engineer, a man named Duncan, shook his head. “It did, though, for nearly fifty years. But you’re right, it wasn’t quite thick enough.”

   “I don’t see how it would last five minutes, much less fifty years.”

   “It’s the arch that does the trick. As it comes under load, the hydrostatic pressure compresses the concrete, increasing its strength,” explained Duncan. “They just miscalculated a little when they first built it. It’s a miracle they managed to fix their mistake before it collapsed.”

   “Why didn’t they just fill in the downstream side completely?” asked Will. “Like a gravity dam.”

   “You’re talking about a huge increase in the amount of filler and concrete to do that. An arch dam solves the problem with structural elegance and saves a lot of expense.”

   Will gave his preceptor a lopsided grin. “And yet they had to buttress it anyway, and now we’re doing it again. Why do we have to remove this buttress anyway? Wouldn’t it be better to just build two new ones on either side of it?”

   “We’re going to do that, but removing the old one is just as necessary. Damage can’t be fully seen until we get it out of the way. If we just put a bandage over it by filling it in, we won’t be able to see if there’s seepage.”

   “If it’s seeping, wouldn’t we see the water?”

   “Not if it’s underground, which is most likely where it would be. We could bury this thing under stone and concrete only to have the entire thing wash out from underneath. Then it would all come crumbling down in a rush. Trust me, doing the maintenance properly is well worth it.”

   Will’s fellow student, Stephanie Beresford, was sitting in a camp chair nearby. Being the daughter of a viscount, she seemed to feel that field work was beneath her and she wasn’t shy about showing her displeasure. “I really don’t see why we need to be here,” she whined as she poked lazily at the tiny fire elemental hovering in front of her with one finger.

   Duncan sighed. “Even as a lady of the realm it’s always handy to be well educated about practical matters.”

   “I don’t see why,” she huffed. “I’m never going to be an engineer anyway.”

   The instructor looked away, but not before Will saw the look of annoyance on the man’s face. Being a commoner, Duncan couldn’t afford to offend the young aristocrat, even if she was his student. Most of the teachers at Wurthaven were noblemen themselves, but some, like Duncan, weren’t, which forced them to perfect a balancing act of authority and their lower social standing.

   Will could definitely sympathize. He didn’t plan on becoming an artificer or engineer himself, but he had gained a lot of respect for the meticulous thought and planning that went into their work. Contrary to what he had once believed, a lot of rigorous math and preparation went into building things. It was every bit as much of a science as alchemy, and in the case of a dam, a lot more people’s lives depended on the engineers getting it right.

   As Will watched, the laborers finally peeled back the concrete casing that made up the bulk of the buttress they were carefully demolishing, exposing the iron brace. Seeing them hard at work destroying the structure made him nervous, but a new buttress had already been completed on one side and a heavy iron temporary brace was already in place on the other side to take up the slack as the damaged buttress was removed.

   “Would one of you like to do the honors?” asked the instructor.

   “Honors?” asked Stephanie, who had finally gotten out of her chair.

   “Now that the metal is exposed, we can accelerate their work by changing the properties of the iron,” said Duncan.

   “He wants us to weaken it,” added Will helpfully.

   Stephanie sniffed. “No thanks.”

   The instructor grimaced. Having a sorceress do the job was preferable since using her power wouldn’t shorten her lifespan, but the young noblewoman didn’t have much concern for the problems facing engineer wizards.

   “I’ll do it,” volunteered Will.

   “Are you sure?” asked Duncan, barely concealing his relief. He had even less desire to use his magic if he could avoid it. “For something this big we usually prefer to have a sorcerer on hand, for obvious reasons.”

   But at least he has a good reason, thought Will. “Anything she can do, I can do,” he announced.

   “You’re aware of the cost?”

   Will nodded. “It won’t cost me anything. Talk to Master Courtney if you don’t believe me.” Alfred Courtney was the head of the Research Department at Wurthaven and one of the few people who knew some of the details of Will’s unique capabilities.

   The engineer nodded. “He said something to that effect, but it’s hard to believe. Very well, show me what you can do.” He waved a hand in the direction of the crumbling buttress.

   Will moved closer, until he was standing directly beside the exposed iron. Working from memory, he constructed the sixth-order spell that would allow him to manipulate the metal’s material properties. At the same time, he expanded his outer shell and began to absorb as much turyn as possible. He waited until he was at capacity before channeling the energy into the spell and releasing it upon the iron. Its appearance changed before his eyes, and the iron began to look dry and powdery on its surface.

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