The sun had just started to peek over the Tower’s northern buildings, Connacht and Dee, as Tobias dressed to leave. He left aside his instructional attire, including the impractical scholar’s robes. Instead, he’d chosen a simple white henley-style shirt with dark trousers and spotless medium brown canvas and leather hiking boots. In deference to the situation, he decided to add a straight, single edged hunting knife from the Tower armory and settled it on his right hip. His knapsack was slung on one shoulder and he chose to keep his staff in its full sized form—nearly six feet of highly polished, medium brown wood painstakingly carved with glyphs of various sorts.
Tobias Jacobs, a master of the Tower, took one final look around his sitting room. He gave a shrug and sigh. If there was anything else he needed or was forgetting, it wasn’t coming to mind at the moment. Better not keep the others waiting.
He strode across the early morning grounds, the unaccustomed weight of the pack shifting on his back a counterpoint to the equally unfamiliar, albeit slight, weight of the knife. The walk to the pub took him south of the class buildings, skirting the woods to his right hand side. It didn’t take long for the one story stone and wood building to come into sight. The red door was closest, the blue was on the other side.
Tobias passed under the weathered wooden sign that bore a indistinguishable head splitting the words “Dean’s Head” above and below. Where the name had come from, no one had been able to tell him. As far as anyone knew, there had never been a dean at the Tower, or anyone historically important named Dean. It was one of the campus’s lesser mysteries.
A dim light was already escaping through the front pair of eastside windows.
Tobias quickened his pace, hoping it was one of his fellow faculty, not the Headmaster.
It wouldn’t bode well to start off his first field project by arriving later than the Headmaster. Waite and the others probably wouldn’t care, but he would.
A sigh of relief escaped his lips once he slipped through the brightly painted door to find Donovan Verner, the proprietor, was the only occupant in sight. The older wizard was starting to go bald, his white hair thinning in the back, but usually showed the energy of a much younger man. Tobias was comforted somehow to find the man still clad in his trademark trousers, t-shirt, and apron ensemble, even though there were no patrons, nor would there be.
Donovan nodded, a silent morning greeting that Tobias returned as he set he knapsack down on a table.
“Anyone else here?”
“Saw Master Riallo heading this way when I came in to open up,” the older man said, already absently cleaning a glass stein, “but she must have gone zerstreut.”
Unfamiliar with the word, Tobias guessed from context. Sometimes the wizard shifted into his native German in mid-sentence. Everyone got used to it eventually.
He started thinking about whether to wait seated or standing when the red door opened again.
Oifa and Gavin walked in, the former’s staff clacking on the stone paving then shifting to thuds as they switched to the wood flooring.
Salovich, Tobias noted, hadn’t changed a thing in her attire. She’d just expanded her staff, as he had, to six feet of a white wood, unadorned except by a pair of feathers that seemed to be tied on with pale leather. And she carried a solid, knit satchel of a kind he associated with mushroom gatherers, a plain steel and silver clip knife attached high on its strap.
She noted his gaze and smiled, “For harvesting, only.”
Marker was, as he always seemed to be, a contrast juxtaposed against Oifa. His traveling attire, apparently, consisted of a tight forest green shirt under a sleeveless jerkin of heavy leather sewn with steel rings and loose black trousers tucked into sturdy boots that reached halfway up his calves. His wide belt supported a pair of wooden shoto, one mahogany and the other a white wood, as well as a hunting knife that could have been the twin of Tobias’s. He carried an incongruously modern grey backpack and over his right shoulder poked the handle of a . . .
“Is that a boltcaster?”
Gavin nodded, “For beasts.”
The man casually reached over his shoulder and drew what appeared to be a shotgun forestock and grip. There was no barrel or shoulder stock. He handed it toward Tobias, who gingerly took it in two hands.
With a casual inspection, he spotted a couple glyphs of an unfamiliar nature.