Daniel woke Evan, James, and Iriel.
James groaned and held his head with his right hand. “What happened?”
“Molin knocked you out with a lightning bolt,” reported the lad.
Evan moaned. “We’re lucky we aren’t dead,” he said and rotated his right arm at the shoulder to work out the stiffness that he felt.
James struggled to his feet; Evan did the same.
“Did you see where he went?” Evan asked Daniel.
The teen nodded his head. “He flew off into the sky.” He pointed through the large hole in the wall.
Evan sighed and picked up his sword. He sheathed it. “All right, we’ll have to go after him in the elf’s sailboat. James can fly it, and once Molin lands, I can confront him.”
“He’ll kill you,” James said, helping Iriel to her feet.
“We should all go,” said Iriel. “He can’t attack us all at once.”
Evan considered the suggestion, concerned for the others’ safety. Yet they seem to be prepared to do whatever is necessary regardless of the cost to themselves. Evan smiled to himself and felt the pride he normally reserved for his men after a successful campaign. “All right,” he said at last. “But let’s wake Tindolen and Brashani first. We can use their help too.”
Molin circled Clearbrook twice and took in the sights. He had always wanted to fly but he had never had the power before. With the Aglari in his possession, power was no longer a consideration. He could feel it and tapping the power was easy. But there was something else there; a presence. He tried to block it, but he couldn’t.
Molin Black, hear me. I am Aure, Giver of Light. You have used my power to hurt others and to take what is not yours. I cannot permit this to continue.
You can’t stop me. I have the power.
But I am the power. Only people who submit to the Tahteem, the Test of Purity, and are judged worthy may use my power or that of my brothers.
You’re bluffing. Trying to scare me with some made-up story.
I speak the truth. If you use my power without passing the Test, you will go mad. Others will come and hunt you down. You will die.
Bah! Let them come. I will kill them all.
Evan heard Brashani cry out in pain as he helped the wizard to stand. Iriel ran forward to help her uncle.
“How do you feel?” asked Evan.
Brashani rubbed his face with his hands. “Like a pin cushion.”
The priest glanced at the merchant. “Tindolen?”
“No worse for wear,” replied the jeweler as he stood. “What happened?”
Evan sighed. “Molin’s stolen the gem. Daniel says he flew away but we can follow in Ebalin’s sailboat.”
Brashani felt the need for a drink, but he suppressed it. “All right, let’s go.”
Tindolen raised an eyebrow. “He’s using the gem?”
“Yes, I think so,” said Evan. “Why do you ask?”
Tindolen shut his eyes tightly, as if in pain, and sighed. “Then he’ll be tainted by the power unless he passed the Test.”
Evan narrowed his eyes. “What test?”
“The test that the Aglaril conduct before they let anyone use them. It is a test of character called …”
“… Tahteem, the Test of Purity,” said Daniel.
“Yes,” Tindolen agreed, then looked at the lad and smiled.
Evan didn’t like the sound of this. “What does this test entail?”
Tindolen shrugged. “I don’t know, but remember that only the most worthy can use the Aglaril. This is how the gems ensure the person wielding them is worthy. If he does not take the Test before using the power, he will increasingly crave the Aglari’s magic and ultimately go mad. He must be stopped, possibly killed.”
Evan’s jaw tensed. Maybe the Elf-gems were better off lost. He dismissed the idea almost as quickly as it had occurred to him. The dukefs had to be driven from Andropolis and the House of Richmond needed to be restored. The Elf-gems were the best hope of achieving both goals.
Tindolen stood with Iriel’s help then brushed off and straightened his clothes.
Evan sighed. “Tindolen, will you come too?”
“Me?” asked the elf with a furrowed brow. “Why me? I’m no fighter.”
“You know the most about the Aglaril. We may need this knowledge.”
The gem merchant considered this for a moment. “All right. I’ll come.”
They turned to leave as Eric climbed into the hole left by Molin. “What happened here?” he asked.
“It’s a long story. Suffice it to say the gem’s been stolen again and we were just leaving to pursue the thief.”
“Who stole it this time?”
“I’ll tell you later,” said Evan.
“All right.” Eric surveyed the damage. “Frank is going to be livid.”
Evan and his companions dashed out of the great hall through the hole in the wall to avoid the crowd in the lobby. They made their way across town once more and down to the harbor; they climbed into the single-mast sailboat. James got behind the wheel and Tindolen magically severed the moorings. A moment later, the boat zoomed into the air.
“Which way, Daniel?” asked James.
Daniel concentrated for a moment. He looked up and pointed above them. “There!”