Chapter 8

Theo came reeling into the training yard behind Raze. His eyes were glazed and his limbs weren't bending at the joints.

"What's up with him?" Harvey Whetton burst out laughing.

"Nothing. He's fine." Raze said casually. "The first leg of our jaunt north through Cobblers Wood and we all know what awaits us there."

"Oh not that rotten swamp." Seth groaned. "Seriously, it's been used for training for centuries as it's still as grotty as ever."

"It's part of the curriculum. We'll head out and discuss it on the way." Raze lead his band of young adventurers out into the wilds of Cobblers Wood. "So! the swamp is at your disposal. Earth elements and Water Elements are present, obviously. Any suggestions about the other two?"

"Air from the reactions and natural processes there. The air is tainted but it's still Air." Berwick answered.

"Fire from the inferno ants that live on the drier ground. This source is obviously tiny so Fire magic is severely limited." Harvey reeled off.

"Bollocks." Spider gave its opinion and Raze sighed in exasperation. "Inferno ants my highly polished shaft. What use is that? Inferno Ants live in ... inferno hills. Yes? Why? Because it's warm. Why is it warm? Because there's an underground lava lake under the swamp. Sod all limited about a lava lake."

"How do you know?" Raze asked. "Not that that's an option. No. Absolutely not."

"I ... don't know." Spider sounded a bit confused and that was very un-Spider. "I feel something weird. Maybe one of Dick's knots. I think I've seen it."

"Seen the lava lake?" Raze said in surprise. "How? When?"

"Before it was covered in all that swamp crud. It's in a cavern."

"I'd have to get on to the geology lot to verify all that. What were you doing in a lava cave?"

"How the heck should I know? I'm a staff! Obviously I was taken there by a Mage. So seeing as we're limited and restricted by a bunch of rock studying hippies with no social skills, we have to ignore the lava. Bureaucratic bollocks." Spider stated.

"Actually it's Health and Safety regulations." Raze corrected and Spider snorted. "So! Any ideas?"

"Fire the Regulator, using the lava lake."

"Not you, Spider, ideas from the class." Raze clarified.

"Drain it?" Berwick suggested.

"Oh yes! Move the honking great swamp somewhere else to be a honking great swamp! Excellent!"

"Spider, do hush. Learners? Yes? The point Spider was making, albeit in an arsish way, is that a simple drain by earth manipulation or even mundane, physical methods, is just moving a mass from one location to another." Raze used earth to create a mini trench at the swamp's edge. The nasty fluid oozed along it and formed a sickly looking pool. "We'd still have a swamp."

"We'd never do it anyway." Theo shrugged. "It would probably take every Mage in Sunstroke. New plan. I'll use Dick."

"Um ... I'm not sure about that." Raze said warily.

"I'll never build up a tolerance if I don't use it." Theo said eagerly.

"Well said, Theo." Spider decided to rejoin the discussion. "Keep your mittens on and go for it."

"Spider ... "

"No, listen Raze eh? Mages, right? Not civil engineers! Dick does its megafart the other lot aggravate the ants and warm the fart up a bit. Ew! Yes I know. Evaporation." Spider said.

"Evaporate the entire swamp? Don't be a gonk, Spider." Raze rolled his eyes.

"Let me at that lava and I'll evaporate it." Spider muttered. "No not the entire swamp, you ponce. We need rain! Get it? No of course you don't because you're not as mystically magnificent as me. Rainfall on the swamp, which will occur with cooling. It can't cool unless it's warm, can it eh? Hence the sparky boys over there. Once they stop fannying about with ants, the vapour component will condense and fall as ... RAIN! Woohoo! Don't interrupt, Raze. Listen and learn. The rain disturbance on the swamp surface will give the young 'uns a head start. All they have to do is sustain and amplify the disturbance ripples. Make the sodding swamp vibrate! Or at least enough of it to report to those old gits in the University. Heck I'm bloody awesome."

Raze had to blink and sit down as he worked out the rest of Spider's convoluted plan.

"Vibrating liquid will cause larger particles of gunk to come to the top, basically." He said eventually.

"Not fully purified, admittedly, but that would run into extracting fine solids from a suspension and all that tat. I doubt Clan Conjurer over there are up to that yet." Spider said casually.

"No, nor do they need to be at their level." Raze nodded slowly. "Oh and Spider? Thanks for adding the word 'yet'."

"Just get on with it for pity's sake." Spider heaved.

"Right you lot! We'll go over the plan ..." Raze was cut off by a gale force wind, courtesy of Theo and Dick. Theo hurtled sideways into a tree and Seth fell onto the ant hills. Berwick fell face first into the swamp and Harvey launched into a spinning ascent when Theo's air spell turned into a whirlwind.

"Well that went to sod quite quickly." Spider commented.

"Spider! Do something!" Raze shouted. "He'll be killed if that wind drops him!"

"I can't hold Dick!" Theo shrieked as Dick dragged him through Seth and the anthills, then sent him hurtling skyward to join Harvey. This resulted in the whirlwind whizzing off over the swamp and hundreds of lava ants whizzing over Berwick.

"Spider!" Raze was trying frantically to stop Berwick from being burned using water manipulation and the swamp.

"Put me on the ground Raze!" Spider ordered. "Never mind him! Roll him into the sodding swamp! Put me down!" Raze dropped Spider and shoved a heavily tanned Berwick into the swamp, securing him to Berwick so he didn't sink.

"He'll ... Torment's Tits!" Raze watched in amazement as Spider began drawing the whirlwind towards itself, the two boys with it. He began casting his own spells to direct the wind inland and almost lost concentration when he saw Spider absorbing the spinning wind. Two minutes later, Theo and Seth dropped in a heap next to Raze then the wind was gone. "Theo! Harvey! Sacred Nelly and all the Orphans, are you hurt badly?"

"Dizzy and I feel ..." Harvey vomited over Raze's boots. "Sick."

"Ack! Theo. Theo are you injured?" Raze tried to ignore his boots. Theo shook his head.

"I dropped Dick." He said miserably. "I lost it, Raze. I lost Di..." Dick came shooting out of the swamp like an arrow and knocked Raze clean off his feet. "Dick!" Theo grabbed the staff and hugged it close to his chest. "Dick I thought you'd gone!"

"Ohhhh I feel ill." Spider groaned.

"Spider!" Raze ran to the staff. "Are you alright?"

"I just absorbed a pigging hurricane! Of course I'm not alright! I'm all bloated and fat."

"You look undamaged. Are your spells still intact?" Raze asked.

"Dick gets hugged and pampered. I don't even get a thank you. I thought I hated wizards but I don't. It's just you." Spider snapped.

"I'm sorry, Spider. Thanks." Raze started to haul Berwick and Seth out of the swamp. "We need to get to a hostel. Seth and Berwick are soaked to the skin." Raze turned round to see Theo cradling the Reptile harness, Dick and Spider both nestled in it.

"I'll carry them, Raze. You help the others." Raze was prepared to swear he heard Spider blow him a raspberry as they left the swamp.

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