Aure the Topaz: Book 1 of the Aglaril Cycle

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From the Ashes of Disaster

Evan woke the five sleeping guards lying by the harbor entrance and told them about the theft. One of them went to find Eric.

More guards arrived with the harbormaster, Sam Hartshorn, a minute later.

“I seen the trouble the elf caused,” said Sam. “So I fetched s’me more men to help.”

Evan grimaced. “You’re too late. He got away.”

Sam placed his right palm against his face. “Blimey. What did he get away with?”

“A good friend,” murmured Daniel sadly from his seated position.

“Tindolen’s gem,” replied James.

Eric came running up a few minutes later and took charge of the scene. He began by questioning Evan and the others.

Evan recapped the events for his friend, describing how the elf put the guards at the Grey Horse Inn to sleep and how they discovered the gem was missing. “We pursued the thief and, as we approached the harbor, we saw the extra guards you had posted here, asleep. Despite the darkness, Iriel saw movement at the end of the pier. I charged forward, but I was too late. He had already put the guards on the pier to sleep and he was aboard his boat ready to leave. Before I could close in and jump into it, the ship flew away into the darkness.”

“I see,” Eric said. There was no irritation in his voice at the mention of magic, but there was in his eyes. “Continue.”

“That’s it. We really don’t have any way to pursue him.”

“Okay, thanks. If I have any other questions, I’ll find you.”

They walked back to the Inn slowly. Evan was unaccustomed to losing, and this time was particularly hard because of the value the Elf-gem had — or could have had — to Thalacia. He would also have to explain to His Grace how the elf had eluded him, thereby forfeiting any chance to locate and apprehend Jormundan. Evan wasn’t looking forward to that conversation; His Grace would not be pleased by this news.

Perhaps if he had brought along at least one of the Michaeline knights, as His Grace had suggested, the elf would be in custody now. That was a possibility, but Evan had no time for such conjecture. He had to keep his attention on the theft of the Elf-gem and what the loss of it meant.

Perhaps the necromancers are the ones meant to reunite the Elf-gems? No! That can’t be right. Then Evan realized he didn’t know whether the theft helped or hindered the prophecy.

It doesn’t matter either way. I can’t let necromancers acquire any of the Elf-gems. The chances of them perverting the jewels into weapons are too great. But what choice do I have? I can’t stop the elf who’s stolen Tindolen’s gem.

He looked to the heavens and prayed to St. Michael for aid.

They entered the main square. The statue of King Illium and the clock tower cast deep shadows over the cobblestones and the fountain in the middle of the quadrangle. As they walked, Evan was in the lead. Behind him, James strolled beside Iriel and Daniel. Brashani and Molin trailed last.

Daniel trudged along, his head down, as if he had lost his best friend. Iriel frowned and looked ready to cry. The bard tried to think of something to say to cheer them up, but he was tired and nothing came to him.

“I need a drink,” murmured Brashani.

That roused Iriel. She stopped walking, turned around, and shot the wizard a nasty look.

Molin came to a halt. Brashani froze where he stood. “What?”

“A drink? At this hour?” she cried with venom.

James stopped walking too and cringed as she spoke. The last thing they needed was to get into a fight with each other. Evan heard the exchange. He turned back to look at the others.

“Sure,” said the mage. “It helps me think.”

She stared at him and then laughed. James glanced at Iriel and then gazed at Brashani, who shrugged. “Beats me,” said the wizard.

Iriel laughed until tears ran down her face. Finally, she stopped. “How utterly absurd. But thank you, Magus Khumesh, I needed a good laugh.”

She resumed walking. Brashani scratched his head and muttered, “But it does help me think.”

They exited the square and approached the Grey Horse Inn. As they drew near, Evan saw Tindolen waiting for them by the hitching post in front of the Inn.

“Uncle?” Iriel said with a quiver in her voice.

Tindolen smiled at his niece. “Iriel, good morning.”

“You’re up early,” observed Evan with surprise.

The merchant frowned. “Yes, well, not by choice, I assure you. I heard Aure’s cries for help.”

“Then you know the gem’s been stolen.”

“I do and, judging by your behavior, I’m guessing the thief got away.”

“He did and we’ve no way of following him.”

“You don’t, but I may know of one.”

Evan’s mouth fell open. “You do? How?”’

Daniel looked up at the jeweler. His face brightened slightly and his blue eyes gleamed with hope.

“Ay?” said James in disbelief. “And what might that be?”

Iriel’s eyes grew round and she felt a lump in her throat.

“You’re kidding,” laughed Brashani.

Tindolen shook his head. “The town inventor, Cornelius Cornwall, has invented a way to fly. You may be able to pursue the thief that way.”

Evan considered the merchant’s words. He remembered Cornelius from his days as a boy in town. The man had always struck him as absentminded and a scatterbrain. He doubted the man could have invented a way to fly, particularly since he was not a wizard. But if they were going to pursue the thief, they would need to find an answer quickly or the gem would certainly be lost to them forever.

“How did Cornelius invent a way to fly?” asked Evan.

“I don’t know,” replied Tindolen. “What I can tell you is I had tea with him last week and he showed me the plans he had for a device. He claims it can fly. I didn’t really pay close attention since such things bore me terribly. If you are interested, we should pay Cornelius a visit.”

Evan nodded his head vigorously. “All right, let’s do that and as quickly as possible.”

Evan and James ran inside the Grey Horse Inn to grab their backpacks; if they were going to pursue the thief, they would need all their gear. While they were gone, Iriel approached her uncle. Tears from the corners of her eyes streamed down the sides of her face. “I’m sorry, Uncle. I failed you.”

Tindolen smiled at her. “Nonsense, my dear. I’m sure you did the best you could. The important thing now is to find the elf and reclaim my gem. I’m counting on you to help Evan do that.”

Iriel smiled weakly. “Then you’re not angry or disappointed?”

“With you? Certainly not.” He smiled again and she hugged him.

“I won’t fail you again.”

“I know you won’t, my dear.”

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