Master Calhwin stood in the doorway of his workroom staring darkly at the cooling slag that quite recently had been his two biggest assets. The tiny, secret antechamber to his private workroom at the school had held two very complex devices. The first had been a minute crystal cube, surrounded by magnifying mirrors, which reflected whatever person or location he chose. The cube was tiny, so the conduit it opened was tiny, so nobody ever noticed they were being watched. The second had been a thin plane of tiles made of mother-of-pearl and obsidian. The tiles were held together in a lattice of metallic and organic fibers. It had been a doorway to distant places, the most significant being his even more secret cache of materials and enchantments in his family estates.

More frustrating than the loss of the two machines was the prospect of having to travel halfway across the realm just to get to his supplies. The cleverness of keeping his materials far out of harm's way had just been turned into a nightmare of inconvenience. Still, he told himself, it had been worth it. He had learned something for his pains. He was the only person who knew the stakes and that put him well ahead of any possible competitors.

There was only one person to bring up to speed. She would be angry as hell about the damage, but she was the better strategist and their partnership had always been profitable. Ruthless and trustworthy were a hard combination to find, but they had found both in each other. Together they were unstoppable, which was just how they liked things.