Aure the Topaz: Book 1 of the Aglaril Cycle

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Fear and Wind

Evan confirmed with Brashani that the trap in the cave was no longer a threat and James climbed down. The bard freed the second grappling hook from the cavern’s ceiling and handed it to Iriel. After putting his climbing gear away, James examined his legs and clothes. Red scratches covered his calves. They didn’t hurt but they were sore to the touch.

“Look at me. The ends of my trousers are all ripped and my tunic has burn marks from the lava earlier. It looks like I’ve been in a fight.” He shook his head. “I’m going to need a new uniform to perform in when we get back to Clearbrook.”

Evan smirked. “Let’s hope that’s our worst problem for the next few hours.”

James looked at him, realizing that ripped clothes were a petty concern at the moment. He blushed a little and went silent.

They continued on, out through the exit and down another narrow tunnel.

The passage turned right and then immediately left and widened into a cavern. Wind howled through the space like a tortured dog and Evan felt the first stabs of fear. He speculated: Is there a banshee living here?

“I sense magic,” said Iriel.

“I feel it too,” said Brashani.

“That explains the fear,” commented Evan.

The wizard glanced about the roof of the cave. “And the wind too. How else would the air howl? I don’t see any opening to the outside.”

“Regardless, Fear magic will be difficult to overcome,” noted the priest. “Can you remove it?”

Brashani tensed a few stiff muscles and then relaxed them. He sighed. “Not right now. I’m still pretty weak.”

Daniel stepped up. “Let me go. I’m not afraid.”

“You’re not?” queried Evan, raising an eyebrow.

“No. It’s like the lava burn; all I need to do is focus on walking through the cave and control my fear.”

Evan considered this for a moment. “All right. We’ll tie a rope around you that the rest of us can follow.”

“We should put wax or cotton in our ears too to block the sound of the wind,” said James. “That may help.”

“Good idea,” said Evan. “There’s cotton in my first-aid kit.”

They secured a rope around Daniel’s waist and put cotton in his ears. Calling on his training as a Qua’ril master, Daniel closed his eyes to meditate. A minute later, when he could feel inner peace beginning to grow within him, Daniel opened his eyes, bowed to everyone, and then started across the cavern.

His progress was slow; he had not gone more than a few steps when the wind intensified, which forced him back. Daniel stood still and fought the wind. He remembered the trial by air he had endured to become a Qua’ril master. It had been very much like this experience except it had not been in a cave, just a special grove in the forest.

He thought about his goal and reminded himself that Aure needed him. His fear melted away like thin ice on a warm spring day. He took a step forward. Then another. Slowly he trudged across the cavern to the other side.

Evan watched the rope uncoil and fastened another section of cord to it. After a few minutes, it stopped moving and Evan assumed it was time to follow after their comrade.

Giving the others some cotton for their ears, he said, “Try to ignore anything you see or feel. Just follow the rope until you reach Daniel.”

They put the cotton in their ears, took hold of the rope, and set out.

The wind picked up strength a few feet from the entrance and with it came fear, an unbridled urge to flee from the scene back the way they had come. Evan fought it with all of his being. He prayed to St. Michael for guidance and protection. He chanted a verse of scripture to himself and slowly the fear became more tolerable.

He turned to see how the others were doing. James was helping Iriel, who did not want to go any further. Tears stained her cheeks and ran down her face.

“James, take me home! I can’t go forward. I just can’t!”

James saw Iriel’s distress and removed the cotton from one ear.

“James,” Iriel repeated. “Please, I can’t go forward.”

“You must. Daniel needs us.”

“I know, but I can’t help him now. I’m too scared.”

“Nonsense. You are one of the bravest women I know. Fight it. Use your Qua’ril training. It got Daniel through this, maybe it can help you.”

“My training. Yes. I had not thought of that … I will try,” said Iriel.

James waited a few seconds and Iriel began to move forward again. He followed her, ignoring the thought that if he delayed, he would lose Iriel forever.

Brashani followed up behind. Fear raked at him. He was sure that the necromancers from Irenrhod had found him and it was time to run again. Maybe he should find a bottle of ale and hide somewhere. Then his old confidence resurfaced and he realized that drinking was not the answer. He had come to kick their asses and he was prepared to walk into a necromancer’s workshop and do whatever he needed to do to stop them. He smiled and his fear faded. “I will have my old life back,” he murmured, “or die trying.”

It took several more minutes for the group to cross the cavern and find Daniel. When they did, the fear, the wind, and the howling faded away.

Iriel kissed James. “Thank you for helping me. I was afraid you might leave me to fend for myself.”

“The thought crossed my mind, but then I remembered how much I love you.” He kissed her.

Evan cleared his throat. Everyone looked at him. “Well done, everyone. That was a particularly hard obstacle to get past. We must be getting close to the workshop. So be ready and stay alert.”

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