Iriel and James left to find Tindolen. After they were gone, the gaunt old man turned to Evan and held out his hand. “I’m Molin Black.” He pointed to the balding man. “That’s Brashani Khumesh.”
Evan shook Molin’s hand. “Evan Pierce. You are the mages Frank hired as entertainers?”
“That’s right,” said Molin.
“Is there a law prohibiting us from entertaining folks?” Brashani grumbled.
Evan sighed. “No, of course not. Why would you think that?”
“Because there are plenty of other laws that prevent us from doing just about everything else. It’s a wonder we are allowed to eat, breathe, and dress ourselves.”
Evan recognized the hyperbole.
“Don’t mind him,” said Molin. He shot Brashani a sidelong glance before continuing. “He’s just a troublemaker.”
“Is it troublemaking to rebel against circumstances that have deprived you of your livelihood?” asked Brashani.
“You are free to practice your craft,” Evan observed, “so long as no one is hurt.”
“Horse feathers!” spat Brashani. “In most communities, mages are feared and shunned. So unless I want to live a segregated life in Ravenhurst, where most mages live now, I have to pretend I’m not what I am or live on the fringes of society, poor and alone like a beggar.”
“That’s not really anyone’s fault,” said Evan. “Magic is unpredictable even in the hands of the most skilled practitioners. You can’t blame ordinary folks for being a little scared.”
“No, but no aristocrat or religious leader has bothered to champion our side, thanks to that lead-headed knave, Constance III, and his encyclical on the evils of using magic. ‘Manipulation of the life force and its elements is strictly forbidden.’”
Molin sighed in exasperation and stepped away from Evan and Brashani and stood next to the display case. Neither man noticed.
“That’s right,” Evan replied, “but the edict is about necromancy, not the use of magic as a whole. The passage you quoted addresses how necromancers use magic to manipulate the life force to give a semblance of life to dead things. Clearly, such actions are evil and unnatural, and are forbidden.”
“That’s what it is supposed to mean,” said Brashani. “But your illustrious General Cosgrove, a Michaeline knight of the highest order, I believe, interpreted the edict differently.”
Evan blushed at the mention of Cosgrove’s name. “Yes, I know. He misinterpreted the phrase ‘life force and its elements’ to mean ‘the elements of life’ and used that as an excuse to invade Marngol and send hundreds of innocent people to their deaths.”
“Precisely,” said Brashani. “But it was more than an invasion in which people died; it was a massacre that overwhelmed and destroyed the town. Cosgrove came in superior numbers and attacked by surprise.”
Evan cringed. “You were there, I presume.”
The wizard nodded his head. “I was working as an investigator for the town guard in Marngol when Cosgrove’s troops arrived by land and sea. They started killing mages before anyone knew what was happening, and by the time we did, the battle mages were scattered across the city or holed up in their towers. It was only a matter of time before the city fell.”
“I’m sorry,” said Evan. “Truly, I am. I can also tell you that the masters of the Michaeline order have apologized for Cosgrove’s actions and stripped him of his rank. He died in one of the dungeons of St. Bartholomew a few years later.”
Brashani snorted. “And their apology fixes everything? Marngol was thousands of years old, originally built by the elves in King Argol’s day. It still lies in ruin, and the lives of hundreds were taken or were changed forever. I’ve wanted to go back and try to bury the dead and set things right, but I barely have enough money to live on.
“And what’s worse,” the wizard continued, “is that because of Cosgrove’s actions, the dukefs were able to capture Andropolis. If not for the massacre, we would have been able to rescue King Leonard and reclaim the city.”
“I do not doubt it,” said Evan. “Why do you think the dukefs attacked Andropolis only a few weeks after Marngol fell? They knew our strength was halved. Many in my order believe Cosgrove was working with the dukefs in some way and demanded his execution. But no proof was ever found.”
Brashani said nothing for a moment. When he finally did reply, his voice had lost some of its anger. “You’re the first Michaeline priest to agree with me, at least in part, about the massacre.”
“Well, we want to make amends.”
“That will be difficult, but your attitude could certainly heal some wounds … if it were shared by your fellow priests.”
“I believe it is,” said Evan.
“That remains to be seen,” said Brashani.
Tindolen entered the great hall with James and Iriel following closely behind.
“I understand that our young friend is talking to my gem,” said the senior elf.
Evan smiled to see the gem merchant again. “Yes, that seems to be the case. The gem seems to be the one initiating the conversation.”
“Indeed!” cried Tindolen. “But, from what Iriel told me on the way, you do not have independent corroboration of his story.”
“That’s true. We only have Daniel’s word for it since none of us can talk to the gem.”
“But if Daniel and the gem have been talking, perhaps Daniel knows something about the Aglari, something known only to a select few.”
“Like yourself,” replied Evan.
“Exactly. I did considerable research on the Aglari once I found it and uncovered a few facts known only to those who bother to scrounge about in the Vault of Legends.”
“The Vault of Legends,” repeated James. “The elven repository of myths and fables?”
“The same,” said the jeweler. He turned to face Daniel. The lad was staring at the topaz once again and Tindolen placed his hand on Daniel’s shoulder. He shook the lad gently, and with glazed eyes, Daniel peered up at the gem merchant. “Daniel, have you been talking to the Aglari?”
“Then tell me something about it. Something you couldn’t know any other way.”
“His name is Aure,” Daniel replied.
Tindolen recoiled, as his eyes swelled with emotion.
“I take it from your reaction,” said Evan, “that it’s true. He talked to the gem.”
Tindolen nodded his head. “As far as I know, the names of the Aglaril are recorded in only one scroll, which rests in the Vault of Legends.”
“So the only way Daniel could know the gem’s name is if he spoke with it.”
“Yes,” said Tindolen. “Amazing. As a human and a non-wizard, he shouldn’t be able to talk to it at all.”
“According to Daniel,” James offered, “he was raised by elves and learned Qua’ril from them. Using these techniques, he has been able to talk with the Elf-gem telepathically.”
“That’s even more astounding,” noted the merchant. “That means that most elves should be able to do the same thing. We all learn Qua’ril in our youth for basic self-defense.”
Evan narrowed his eyes on his friend. “But that also means that any non-elf who learns these techniques should be able to achieve the same effect as Daniel.”
“You’re forgetting,” Molin interjected, “that Daniel could be a natural telepath.”
“Perhaps,” replied Tindolen, as he considered both comments. “Or advanced training may be needed. I notice Daniel wears the traditional white Qua’ril uniform worn by masters of the Art.”
“Regardless,” said Brashani. “I don’t think you want the gem talking to him. It will raise concern.”
Tindolen sighed. “Such a suspicious race you are. But as I understand it, few people are coming to view the gem. So what harm can it do?”
“To others?” answered the priest, “very little, but what about Daniel? Having another voice in your head must be distracting.”
“I suppose it might be,” said Tindolen. “But I think that’s easily fixed.” He glanced at the lad. “Daniel, can you block Aure’s voice?”
Daniel paused a moment. “I think so.”
“Good, then do so,” The gem merchant turned to face Evan. “Satisfied?” he asked the priest.
The demon hunter stroked his chin. “I suppose so, unless there’s a way to tell the gem to stop sending to Daniel.”
“Even if there is,” said Tindolen, “from what I read, the Aglaril have a strong will of their own. Giving them orders is good only until they decide some other course of action is warranted.”