“Really! You’re from Llanduvar?” Lucy enthused. “I’ve never met anyone who was actually from Llanduvar! Henry! Come here please!”
Her husband excused himself from a mixed-gender academic discussion. He was tall: Lucy was tall for a woman, and Henry was a head taller than she was. He was well-dressed in a comfortable, professor-at-leisure way. Lucy in the office had looked 35 but was actually 97 or something; this Lucy looked in her early forties, and her husband seemed a solid, handsome fifty. They both had several rings on each hand; she had three necklaces, he had one. He looked like he had just this morning finished grading a pile of papers and hadn’t a care in the world.
“Hi there,” he said, glad-handing Rob. “I’m Henry Whistler. Lord Whistler,” he added with a laugh, shaking Lilah’s hand. “Professor Whistler. You’re from Llanduvar? Really?”
“I’m Lilah Bay,” she replied, “and this is Rob, my assistant, and we’re doing some work for the Llanduvar Trust, kind of trying to find out about ways we could serve the emerging world of wizardry and, um, alchemy, in terms of, especially,” and she looked at Rob as if she was bringing up a delicate subject, “making the transit issue more robust, more, um, reliable. Do you use Llanduvar for conferences, Professor?”
“We go every year,” said Henry. He and Lucy both laughed: standing side by side they squeezed each other affectionately with one arm. “She always has a conference, and I just like hanging on her arm and pretending I know something.”
“Oh, he’s funny,” said Lucy. “Henry is the active scholar of us still. I’m just a country alchemist.”
“Who presented at the conference three of the last five years,” said Henry. “So what do you need to know? That we plan on going back?”
“Well,” said Lilah, “our chief concern is with how you travel to and from Llanduvar. What do you think of the transit arrangements? Are they too, um, ad hoc?”
“All right,” said Lucy, “if you want suggestions: it is a little inconvenient that we all have to make our own arrangements. It seems workable, but you’re not sure where you’re going to wind up, you don’t have a jump beacon, most of us don’t have jump machines, actually almost no one who goes to your conferences has one. Just a sort of portal port would be a huge improvement.”
“But you’ve never had a serious problem? With transit?” asked Rob.
“No, but I can see how we could,” said Henry. “I’d love to work with your people on building a beacon, or a portal housing, or whatever. I’m not the alchemist here, I’m just an old wizard, but I’ve always liked tinkering.”
“And you don’t have a problem with time mechanics, that kind of stuff,” said Lilah.
“It’s not as though I understand all the strange nuances. But for jumping to another universe, it’s not as though it really matters, is it? We’re not going to go back in time and change history. We kind of like the way history turned out, don’t we?”
“Ecstatic,” said Lucy. “What could be better than this life we have?”
“It seems like a great life,” said Lilah, looking around. “Well, you’re regular visitors, that must be why I got your names. Funny thing is, we have you down as living at Endweith. Any idea where Endweith is?”
Lucy and Henry looked at each other, equally mystified. “No idea,” said Henry. “I don’t even know where it is. It’s in Olvar?”
“It’s north of here,” said Rob.
“Okay,” said Lilah, “we’ve taken too much of your time. Do you mind if we sort of putter around a little? Do you find some spots are better to leave from than other spots?”
“We do,” said Lucy. “Third floor gallery, or the clearing in the middle of the orchard.”
“Mind if we do some measurements? Not inside, just maybe that orchard.”
“No, no, it’s excellent, really,” said Henry.
“And before you go,” said Lucy, “you must try the cheesecake. It’s not spelled up, either, Cook made it fresh!”
“Thank you so much,” said Lilah. “We’ll make sure to try some, once I’ve got some work out of this guy.” She looked at Rob. “Ready, Champ?”
“Sure,” said Rob.
The two strolled away toward the gate. They stopped just inside and pantomimed a few measurements. Then they strolled on out to the front of the castle and took a minute to assess the watchtowers. “I think they’re kinda cute,” said Lilah. “You think they’re a bit much?”
“No,” said Rob, “no, I can see how you’d have to have little towers.”
They gazed up for another moment, and then Lilah gave Rob a sudden look and headed for the side door just inside the gate. Rob took an extra moment to figure out what was happening, and caught up just inside a wood-paneled corridor that ran within the curtain wall, lit by the open door behind him and the draped window onto the courtyard.
Five meters in front of them stood Annelise, facing away. She had her wand in her hand.