Aure the Topaz: Book 1 of the Aglaril Cycle

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Flying Keys

Evan and the others did not move until they were sure the giants were gone. When he was certain it was safe, Evan stood up and brushed himself off.

James walked up to the priest and gathered the rope he had thrown. “This is one for the books. I’ve never seen a giant up close before. It will make a terrific tale.”

“I’m sure it will,” agreed Evan. “But let’s get what we came for first and go home.”

“Of course,” said the bard.

“Are you hurt?” asked Iriel.

Evan patted himself down, and flexed his arms and legs. “No, I don’t think so,” he said at last. “But my ribs will be sore for awhile.”

Brashani nudged James “You think that giant was something? I once fought a fire elemental.”

“Really?” James’s eyes narrowed and he slid his jaw to one side. “Or are you pulling my leg?”

“It’s the truth. It was guarding a shipment of items tainted with dark magic. I had to fight the thing and then deal with the criminals that had summoned it in the first place.”

“I’d love to get those details for a tale some time.”

“Okay. Maybe after St. Sebastian’s week ends.”

They continued walking through the cave for a few minutes until Evan finally spied the exit. As they left the cavern, they stepped into a hallway of finished stone, wide enough for two people to walk abreast. The corridor had a ceiling of average height and went straight for forty strides, with a door at the end.

“The workshop could be behind this door,” said Evan. “So look sharp, everyone. Are there any traps on the door, Brashani?”

“No, I don’t sense anything special.”

“Good.” Evan cracked the door open and peered inside. The room had an eerie, dim light.

“Something’s moving inside,” said Iriel softly. “I can hear it.”

Hazarding a more substantial look, Evan poked his head into the room. At first, the chamber appeared to be empty; on the far wall was another door. Then something whisked by him. He followed the motion and saw an odd bit of metal flying through the air. It was roughly cylindrical and about a quarter of an inch wide and half an inch tall. A metal wire, eighteen inches long, ran from the top to the bottom of the cylinder to form a large, crude handle.

Evan saw no purpose for the handle since the metal cylinder flew so fast it was nearly impossible to catch. The cylinder arced up toward the ceiling, stopped, and hovered in the air. Next to it were five more metal cylinders with similar handles. They hung in the air for a few minutes, then one dipped down and flew around the room, eventually returning to its starting position.

Pushing the door open, Evan waved everyone forward. The metal cylinders seemed harmless enough, which concerned him. So far, the necromancers had employed obstacles that were designed to deter the curious, with the obvious exception of the weight trap in the cave; those spears had been meant to kill. So, were these metal cylinders harmful or simply a deterrent of some sort? Evan didn’t see how they could be either. He ran his right hand through his hair and watched the flying objects for a moment.

James, Iriel, and Brashani also stared at the metal bits suspended in the air. Daniel ignored them and continued toward the door on the far wall.

“Are they harmful?” asked Evan as he turned to Brashani.

“No,” replied the wizard, after a moment. “I don’t think so. I can’t be sure without a full analysis, which I don’t quite have the strength for, but I’m not sensing any traps.”

Evan scratched his head. “All right, then let’s take a look at the other door.”

As they approached the far end of the room, Daniel said, “The door’s locked.”

Brashani stepped up. “I might be able to unlock it magically. I think I have enough strength now for that.”

“Good,” said Evan. “Try it.”

Brashani placed his hands on the door and concentrated. After a few seconds, he lowered his hands and stepped back from the door.

“How ingenious,” said the wizard.

“What is?” asked James.

“The magic in this room.”

“I don’t follow,” said Evan.

“Well, obviously the metal cylinders flying about are part of a spell. The door is locked magically, too.”

“So how is that ingenious?”

“They are both part of the same spell.”

Evan glanced at the door and then at the ceiling. “Does the door have a keyhole?”

“Yes,” said Daniel. “But we have no key for it.”

Brashani smiled and pointed to the metal cylinders suspended in the air. “Yes, we do.”

Daniel’s eyes grew round as he realized what the wizard was suggesting.

“You think you can make a key out of those bits of flying metal and open the door?” asked James.

“If we can catch them, yes,” responded the fire mage.

“Exactly what I was thinking,” said Evan.

“How do we capture them?” inquired Iriel.

“Wait until they fly by,” suggested James.

Evan shook his head. “They move too fast. I doubt any of us can snatch them out of the air unless someone has a net.”

No one spoke up and Evan took the silence as confirmation of his assumption.

“I could shoot an arrow through the space between the cylinder and the metal wire. If we tie a rope to it, we should be able to pull on the rope and capture it,” Iriel suggested.

Evan tapped his right forefinger against his lips while his mind was deep in thought. “Yes, that seems like a possibility. I’m guessing it will be like bringing down a kite on a windy day, but if James and Daniel help me, we should be able to manage. Let’s try it.”

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