Chapter 9

The hostel experience soon descended into buffoonery. Angus Belcher, the proprietor, told them that a fire wasn't allowed because he was saving up to buy a cow. After fifteen minutes of bickering, Spider was fed up. It wasn't just the hearth that burst into flames, it was the entire wall, four tables and a dozen chairs. They had to make a run for it when Angus hauled his six sons in for assistance. Darkness had long since fallen when Raze called a halt and decided to set up camp by a small stream. Raze gave up his cloak and his shirt and under-vest while Seth and Berwick's own clothes were drying by the campfire. Theo was settling the Reptile, containing the staffs, on a soft bed of leaves.

"I think they're both alright." Theo said to Raze.

"Do you believe they have feelings? I must say I've never even considered that." Raze sat by Theo.

"I don't know how you can think like that. I suppose I'm just clingy because I've had Dick for so long, but Spider? Raze it converses with us, it's very intelligent, it makes us laugh and it thinks ahead enough to save our lives. How can it have all those things and not have feelings? They're all part of the same package, aren't they?" Theo shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't know." Raze sighed. "I'm not sure what package Spider fits into because there are no other Spiders. We're taught all our lives that things like staffs, wands and the like are tools. Blacksmith Bashem has a hammer but I'm sure he doesn't consider it's feelings when he's using it. Are our tools so much different?"

"Of course they are." Theo looked confused. "Spider's very obviously different but it's unique, like you said. Dick is like a hundred staffs from all over the realm, just like Bashem's hammer, but Dick is a part of me and only me. I channel spells through it, no one else does and no one else could. It works with me, and reacts to me."

"Spider told me about a sort of kinship between staff masters and their staffs. It doesn't happen with other tools. Spider must have had a hundred or more of these kinships but can't remember any of them." Raze smiled.

"So I'm lucky that I'm Dick's original."

"And he's lucky I'm his original." Spider piped up. "No other staff would have put up with him."

"Spider were you earwigging?" Raze smiled at his impudent tool.

"I thought there might have been a whiff of gratitude in there somewhere seeing as I'm glorious and I saved every bugger's skin. No biggie."

"Look, Spider, of course I'm grateful, and so are the kids. What you did was beyond words, seriously. Thank you." Raze lifted Spider from the harness.

"Are you sorry for being an arrogant ignoramus?"

"Deeply sorry."

"And do you feel bad for trivialising my wind predicament earlier?"

"Unbearably so. Anyway, what about Angus Belcher's Inn? What was that about?" Raze tried to sound stern.

"Tight fisted old slag." Spider sniffed. "Two kids soaked and freezing and he's too miserable to put a fire on? As though I need the pyrotechnics of a manky old skinflint. Mine are much better."

"I can't argue with that." Raze rubbed his eyes.

"Everyone's asleep except you. You aren't impressing anyone." Spider stated.

"I'll have to keep watch." Raze settled himself against a tree.

"Do you really think anything at all can get within thirty feet of here without me noticing? I don't sleep and I can screech like a barrel of opera singers."

"I never thought of that. Nice one, Spider." Raze leaned over for the harness.

"Don't put me back." Spider said quickly. "No disrespect to Dick or anything but ... well ..." Spider floundered.

"What's wrong? That harness cost a fortune." Raze pointed out.

"Yes I know and I'm worth it, but can't I stay out here with you?" Spider mumbled.

"I suppose so but why?" Raze asked suspiciously.

"Oh forget it, you lanky streak of piddle. I risk rune and glyph for you lot but when I have a teensy, innocent request you side eye me and ..."

"Oh cool your cantrips!" Raze settled on the ground by the fire and tucked Spider into his side. "Comfy?"

"Armpits are a tad whiffy." Raze tutted and moved Spider onto his chest. "Much better. Sweet dreams."


Thankfully the night passed without setting off Spider's opera skills so that was two things in one to be grateful for.

"Can you all stop packing for a minute." Raze stood infront of his students. "It's pretty clear to all of us that this field trip hasn't gone exactly to plan. You all handled everything perfectly and I'm proud of you. Having said that, we've had some hair raising stuff chucked at us so if you want to call it a day then not a soul in that University would argue the point. We could go directly home and be back for supper and it won't affect the already outstanding grades you've earned."

"What?" Spider exclaimed from the Reptile. 'Hasn't gone to plan.'? Magic is not planned! I've said this already!"

"Spider when we can't cover all variables then it's time to ..."

"Oh don't give me that tripe. Take me out and hold me up. I want to look inspirational." Raze sighed and did so. "Much obliged. How Many variables were involved in the War of the Crevice? Lower and Upper Crevice had strategists who were legendary. Planners, basically. Are you telling me there were no variables? Cack. And Did the Warrior Mages say 'Nah, we can't cover the variables.'? You'll never, ever cover everything, especially not when it comes to magic. Planning requires logic prediction and magic is neither of those. That swamp didn't go to plan but so what? We handled chaotic, natural magic with reflexive, natural, magical, responses and here we are! You do deserve praise and good grades but as Mages, you'd have deserved naff all if you'd arsed about with a plan. The Elements aren't planned and there's sod all you can do about it."

"Spider we can't be irresponsible when it comes to students. Who are you? General Bumfitt?" Raze countered.

"General what?" Spider guffawed and the students snickered. "Never heard of the loser. I'm not saying we have to put anyone in danger, but danger happens whether we like it or not. You can't tell these kids that risk doesn't exist if they stay in a nice safe University, reading nice safe books, and doing nice safe things that don't apply to life outside. What's the point in being a Mage if all they do is sit in a hall learning how to turn feathers blue? I'm sure the Upper Crevicers would have been terrified of that one."

"So the theory behind it doesn't come into it at all?" Raze argued.

"Of course it does, you knobhead, but they're training to be Mages, practicing, working Mages. Reward their understanding of theory, by all means, but don't cut out the practice because there are unknown variables. That would be far more dangerous than any swamp, anthill, or superfart."

"So learning on the job." Raze said flatly.

"Getting real life experience of what the job entails." Spider corrected. "If the blacksmith mashes his thumb with his hammer he's not going to stand there and say 'Oh this wasn't in the text book. I'll just ignore it.'"

"I think we all get the point." Raze stated. "Well, what do you lot think?" He asked the students. "What Spider says makes practical sense but it isn't Spider who's taking the risks. You're all old enough to make important decisions but don't feel obliged to do anything you aren't comfortable with just because Spider and myself make grand speeches."

"Well I do. You couldn't win a raffle let alone a debate." Spider sniffed.

"I'd like to continue." Theo stood up. "I want to be a staff master and I can't do that if the only thing I ever use Dick for is making master Goode's geraniums grow and polishing master Norfolk's baubles."

"How degrading." Spider said. "There again what do you expect from crusty old farts called Norfolk and Goode. Think about it Raze."

"Yes I get the pun." Raze gave Spider a dirty look. "That's great, Theo. What about you Berwick?"

"Well to be honest, these field trips are usually as dull as all Torment. No one looks forward to them. So a bit of variation isn't a bad thing. It'll do the University good too if everyone knows we actually have field practicals that are actually useful. I'd like to go on too." Berwick nodded.

"That's a very good point, Berwick." Raze said. "I'd mention it to the Elders but half are deaf and the other half think a field trip is to do with open air drug taking. I'll just bypass them."

"Just so he can keep a good idea to himself." Spider tutted. "Master Faze does all the best field trips and what not."

"Better than brashing isn't it? Well done Berwick. Harvey?" Raze turned his attention to another student.

"Anything's better than Hal Logger and his privy doors. I'm going too."

"Maybe you should have left his scree alone then." Raze stated.

"Oi! I'd never have let you find me if it wasn't for his wet thuds. Well done Harry." Spider approved.

"That just leaves me." Seth stated the obvious. "Raze says I'm a hazard in my own right no matter where I am so I may as well be in too." Seth shrugged and his wand went off and made a raspy noise. "I swear I don't know why it does that! People think it's me and it's not! Maybe Spider can take a look at it."

"Yes!" Spider said.

"No!" Raze said at the same time. "Sacred sod, perish the thought. So! Groper's Reach, here we come!"

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