Theodore hefted the canister of thaumatic fuel into the exam room, grunting and huffing. It weighed as much as a stone slab and the handle dug into his hands. He only managed to get half way across the room before he had to set it down again and catch his breath.
Things had been hectic all morning. Even though Dr. Stillwell gave his permission for the experiment to take place, the University was too overwhelmed with patients to set up the equipment. So, Theodore got up before sunrise to make sure it got done. He sent Oboe to fetch an ailing fairy from the Whirlwood sanctuary while he caught the first trolley bound toward the university. He wanted to make sure everything was perfect.
There was a lot of heavy lifting, moving machinery around, but half his time was spent pouring over technical manuals to puzzle out how everything connected. It was the most fun he’d had in weeks.
He dragged the canister up to the console and attached the fuel line. Double checking the diagram, he took the rune rod and tapped the canister twice. It lit up, and the entire rig sprang to life with a soft hum. The diagnostic crystals shivered, hanging over the examination bed like a chandelier. With this, they would be able to track the magic aura of the test subject in real time.
“Impressive,” Stillwell said, entering from the hall while Theodore was running tests. “I had my doubts when you said you’d have it ready. And you’ve no formal training? I wish half our students had your aptitude.”
Theodore’s smile was feeble. “My assistant should be here soon with the dream sower. Did you find a volunteer?”
“Yes, he did, damn it.”
Duke Ambergrail was wheeled into the room by a student. Theodore gaped. This was the last person he expected.
“You think you can fix me, do you?” He said. “This had better work, or I’ll make sure the Governor has you sacked.”
“Y-your lordship.” Theodore cleared his throat. “It’s a… pleasure to see you again. Were you… informed about the nature of this experiment?”
“The duke is aware that he will be exposed to fairy magic,” Stillwell said. “I’ll be frank. He is desperate for an alternative form of treatment. Our ambient magic diffusers are losing their effectiveness on him. My prognosis, given the rate of his decline, is that he has less than a month to live.”
Felix Ambergrail stabbed the floor with a walking cane. “I’m your test rat, Deputy, but don’t think for a moment that means I’m a fool. The only reason I’m indulging this test of yours is the off chance it might keep me alive. We’ll do this, but I’m still a duke, and we’re doing this on my terms.”
His lordship was no less charming than the first time Theodore met with him. “Meaning what? “
“I sent my bodyguard to keep an eye on your conspirators,” the duke said. “If Mort suspects anything, he’ll chop them apart. I need this to work, but I’d sooner die than fall prey to a trick of the fey.”
As frustrating as it was to be stuck working with this man, Theodore realized this was an opportunity. If he could prove to the duke that the fairies were the key to ending the epidemic, it would be that much easier to have the ban undone.
“Do whatever makes you feel is necessary,” Theodore said. “I promise that you will not be in any danger. All that will happen is that you will be given a fairy dream and, If the experiment is a success, you should begin to recover once you wake up. Maybe then you’ll see that fairies are not a threat to us.”
“We shall see,” Felix said. “Have a seat. Your pets should be here shortly.”