Sarah had taken the relative quiet of recent months to return to her research. Unlike the other members of the house, she always wanted to make noteworthy contributions to magical knowledge. It wasn’t about making a name for herself, or at least, it wasn’t about just that. There was a tradition, and she wanted to be part of it in a substantial way.
Most mages with her gift focused exclusively on illusions, and Sarah excelled at them. However, there had to be something more, the opposite effect. If the gift could conceal, could it not also reveal? Dispelling illusions was common enough, but her research focused on finding techniques for sharpening the senses, allowing her to notice things otherwise hidden.
Now that things in the house had settled into a new equilibrium, she had some time to get back to this work. Settling into her new role, she had finally begun to relax a little. When she had run the house under Thomas, she always felt him watching her, judging her decisions. Trying to run his house was very different than running her own. The responsibility felt less oppressive; she could look after the well-being of the members without worrying that someone might overrule her. In gaining more responsibility, it had become less of a burden.
There were changes to get used to besides her own. Since the time-travel incident, Thomas had become even more reclusive, which was the exact opposite of what she wanted. For now, though, he didn’t seem to be causing any new problems. On the other hand, Julia was much more social than she had ever been.
Sarah had to constantly remind herself that Julia had had fifteen years to grow, to change, while the rest of the house didn’t even have time to absorb her absence. In effect, she was now the oldest mage in the house, and it was a bit jarring. As she explained it, she had actually missed everyone, and that’s when she realized she wanted to be a member of the house.
There were other matters to attend to, such as finding a new member to fill the hole Jason’s death had left, but those could wait. For now, she was enjoying her research and could forget the problems of the house.
As if on cue, there was a knock at the door. “Sarah? It’s Julia. We might have a problem.”
Placing the book she was reading onto the small table next to her armchair, Sarah sighed and rose to open the door.
“Please tell me we’re out of milk or something of that sort.” She knew Julia wouldn’t have bothered her over such a trivial matter, but she clung to hope.
“I’m sorry, no. I had a portal accompanying David on his visit to that other magic shop. It was forcibly closed, and I haven’t been able to reopen it.”
“You think something happened to David?”
“If only that was all it was. I haven’t been able to open any portal outside of the house. To anywhere.”
Sarah quickly understood the implication. “We’ve been surrounded by a barrier?”
“It seems so.”
“Do you know how long?”
“Only the last five minutes at most. My portal was fine until then.”
“Get Rebecca. I’ll retrieve Thomas. Meet in the kitchen as soon as you can.”
Julia nodded and hurried to Rebecca’s door.
Was this finally the consequence of Thomas’s time experimentation? Attacks on houses were uncommon, but not unheard of. Thomas’s own experience was just one example. Sarah hoped he had come up with some idea for how to survive this.