Emery had to admit that the class was interesting. Applied magic was probably one of the more interesting courses he’d had to take so far. Any of the applied magics were more interesting to him then their theoretical counterparts, really.

“With such a place as this: seemingly untouched by human interference, unpolluted and pristine, why are there no plants?” the professor asked. “Analyze the soil and discover the problem. Also answer the question, if people wanted to move into the area, what would they need to do?”

Emery nodded and headed off with Miles to begin analyzing the soil. Emery took samples from three levels of the soil, getting progressively deeper. As he worked on that aspect of the project, Miles began analyzing their first sample.

“This seems fine,” he said after a short while. “Actually there should be plants growing in it.”

“Maybe one of the deeper samples will show contamination,” Emery said softly. He analyzed their second sample and blinked in shock at what he found. “There’s all kinds of toxins,” he hissed to his brother.

“That explains the lack of plants… and animals for that matter,” Miles returned. “How do we mitigate it?”

“We’d need to know where they came from,” Emery stated. He stood and, contrary to what the other students were doing pulled out his dousing wand. “There’s an aquifer here,” he said. He tilted his head and asked, “Could the toxins have come through the aquifer and wound up here?”

“With the extensive karst topography we have here, it’s altogether possible – even likely,” Miles said. “Let’s follow the aquifer… but not so far that we lose the teacher. We’ve already basically answered both questions, really.”

Emery sighed and nodded. “Let’s go talk to the professor,” he said. When they reached the professor he said, “We know why there’s no plants here and where to start with mitigation.” The man nodded and Emery continued as he handed over their notes. “The top-most layer of the soil is unpolluted, but contamination from the aquifer that runs through here has polluted the rest of the soil.”

“If people wanted to settle here, they would first have to stop the pollution that is happening upstream and then clean the water and soil,” Miles finished.

“We were wondering if we could follow the aquifer upstream and see what’s causing the pollution,” Emery said.

“Judging by the contaminants you found, what is likely?” the older man asked.

“People dumping garbage into a sinkhole,” Emery said sourly.

Miles nodded and added, “There might be some industrial waste also.”

“You’re both right,” the man said. “We’ll save our field trip in mitigation for another day. For now, write up your findings formally so we can present them to the town planning board.”

Both boys blinked in shock and nodded before dashing off to follow his instructions. A part of Emery felt exhilarated by the idea of presenting their findings before the planning board. After all, if they were planning on being wardens some day, investigations of this sort would be par for the course.