Aure the Topaz: Book 1 of the Aglaril Cycle

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The Pit

As they followed the tunnel, the ground trembled. Dirt from the ceiling rained down on them in a fine spray.

“Is the volcano inactive?” asked James.

“I don’t know,” replied Evan. “I’ve heard there was a fire giant living at the base.”

James gulped at the thought. “Yes, I’ve heard those stories; according to legend, he has a nasty temper but no one has ever seen him. He’s supposed to be a myth.”

“Let’s hope he is,” said Evan. “Dealing with a fire giant on top of everything else will be a bit much.”

“Amen,” said James.

They continued down the passage another forty strides when Brashani said, “Slow down, there’s a trap around the next curve.”

Evan slowed and peered around the bend in the path. Just ahead, he saw a deep pit. Its width filled the entire passage, and it was twenty strides across to the other side. He approached it with caution. Large, sharp, iron spikes were set in the bottom of the pit.

He waved the others forward. James and Brashani glanced into the pit and then turned back to face Evan.

“I don’t think we can jump across,” said Evan. “It’s too far, especially with the added weight of our weapons and gear.”

“We could climb down into the pit,” said James.

“Perhaps,” said Evan. “But we’d have to avoid the spikes and make sure they aren’t coated with contact poison or something equally lethal.”

“I can melt the spikes to make it easier,” said Brashani. “That might burn off any poison or other substance they might be covered with.”

“All right,” agreed Evan. “That sounds like the best plan.”

Brashani stepped up to the edge of the pit and sprayed the spikes along the left edge with fire. As flame touched the first spike, it erupted in a ball of fire that filled the pit and the passageway.

Without blinking, Brashani gestured, his hands positioned as if they held an invisible sphere in front of him. Instantly, the approaching flames halted and formed a large ball of fire. The wizard pressed on the invisible sphere and brought his hands closer together. The ball of flames responded, shrinking.

Brashani repeated the gesture until his hands touched and the sphere of fire shrank to the size of an orange. He squeezed one hand into a fist; the flame globe vanished, snuffed out and left only the faint acrid odor of charcoal.

The wizard turned and faced the others. “That was a surprise. They must have coated the spikes with oil. Not a trap, per se, but dangerous nonetheless.”

“What happened to the spikes in the pit?” asked Evan.

Brashani glanced down behind him. “The heat of the fire has melted most of them. We should be able to get across now.”

“Good,” replied Evan. “Let’s go.”

Evan climbed into the pit and then helped Daniel and Iriel down. James and Brashani climbed down by themselves. They started across the pit and the ground shook again.

“This is starting to annoy me,” said James.

“Just hope the shaking doesn’t get any worse,” said the wizard, “or we could be buried alive.”

“Thanks for the cheery thought,” returned the bard, sarcastically. “You’re a real comfort.”

They reached the other side of the pit and Evan pulled himself up and threw down a rope. James caught it.

“Daniel first. He’s the lightest.”

They tied the rope around Daniel and Evan pulled him up out of the pit.

They repeated the process for Iriel, with Evan and Daniel on the rope. Iriel’s footing slipped more than once and it took James and Brashani pushing from underneath to get her out of the pit.

Evan threw the rope down for James. The bard climbed up with ease, as if he had done it all his life.

Evan smiled. “Part dwarf, are you?”

“No, just a good climber,” replied the bard. “Spelunking in Rockborough has its advantages.”

Finally, it was Brashani’s turn. He did his best to climb up but, like Iriel, he had a hard time getting a good foothold; so in the end the others had to drag him out of the pit.

Once everyone was back in the passageway again, James said, “Let’s rest a moment. That was hard work.”

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