Check and Mate
Evan had James land the ship a short distance from Molin. The elder wizard saw the vessel descend from the sky and lay there without moving. Once the ship had come to rest on the ground, he closed his eyes and waited.
As he stepped out of the boat, Evan scanned the area. They were in the middle of an empty field. Tall brown grass bowed in a gentle breeze. He saw no one moving about and no birds in the sky. He turned back to Iriel and said, “Cover me.”
“Faroth mane,” returned Iriel; she nocked an arrow into her bow.
Evan drew his sword. “Brashani, come with me. The rest of you stay here. I don’t want to risk your lives; if Brashani and I fail, you four will need to come up with another plan.”
Tindolen raised an eyebrow. “What can we four do?”
“Warn others, at least.”
Evan waited for Brashani to climb out of the boat. Together, they approached the fallen wizard slowly. As they approached, they noticed the grass around the elderly mage was black and scorched. Small fires burned and smoldered around him in several places.
Brashani gestured and the flames died out. “No sense starting a wildfire,” he murmured to Evan before he formed a ball of fire in his right palm.
Molin popped an eye open when he heard Brashani’s voice. He watched the pair advancing on him briefly and then closed his eye again.
Brashani and Evan came closer, stopped, and stood over the prone figure for a moment.
“Think he’s dead?” asked the fire mage.
Evan considered this but noticed the other wizard’s shallow breaths.
“No. He’s playing opossum.” He turned to their quarry and asked, “Where’s the gem, Molin?”
The wizard said nothing; he sat up slowly and held his head with his left hand. He moaned. A faint smile played on his lips and an opaque dome ten feet in diameter sprang up out of the ground and enclosed them.
“Wha …?” sputtered Evan. He looked at the enclosure; it shimmered like polished steel.
An electrical charge shot out of Molin’s hand and knocked Evan back. He hit the magical barrier and slumped to the ground.
Brashani threw the ball of fire in his hand. It exploded on Molin’s chest but left him unharmed. Molin laughed and threw a stream of electricity at Brashani. The fire mage gestured for a shield but the electrical flow shattered it and struck the wizard. He collapsed.
Molin laughed again as he approached Evan and kicked the priest’s sword to the other side of the dome. The wizard concentrated and electricity sparked around his hand.
Evan opened his eyes and saw Molin standing over him. He wanted to groan; he felt awful. He looked for his sword and once he failed to find it, Evan realized he needed a plan of action fast. He smiled and hoped he would be able to thank Sir Ahlan, who had taught him the trick he was about to use.
He kicked out with his legs and hit Molin behind the knees.
Molin cried out as his legs buckled, his concentration broke, and the electricity in his hand evaporated.
Evan stood up and saw his sword on the other side of the dome. He started for it, but only got halfway across the space when Molin tackled him from behind.
They wrestled on the ground, rolling in one direction and then another. Finally, Evan broke his opponent’s hold and began hitting Molin repeatedly about the face and shoulders. Blood oozed from the wizard’s nose and the corner of his mouth.
Evan stopped his assault. Molin didn’t move; his breathing was shallow. He stood and glimpsed his sword where it lay. He turned back, faced his adversary, and asked, “Where’s the gem?”
Molin did not answer.
“Where is it?” Evan screamed.
Molin opened his right hand.
Evan glanced at Brashani, who still lay unconscious on the ground. He hoped his friend wasn’t dead. When he looked back at Molin, he saw the wizard hadn’t moved. The topaz was still in his right hand.
As he bent over to take it, Evan watched Molin carefully. He suspected treachery and glanced at the gem. As Evan gazed upon the jewel, Molin struck him with another electrical blast. The charge knocked him back off his feet.
Molin stood and smiled. He stumbled forward and held onto the dome to steady himself.
Evan shook his head to clear it. Enough is enough, he thought. He rolled to his feet and ran at Molin, slamming him against the magical barrier before the wizard had time to complete another spell. Evan saw Molin go limp and eased the former court mage to the ground. In the old man’s right hand, Evan saw a faint yellow glow. He pried his opponent’s right hand open and saw the Aglari resting there, no worse for its ordeal.
He took the topaz from Molin, placed it in his pocket, and stood. He went over to retrieve his sword. As he grasped the hilt, Evan heard Molin stir.
“It’s mine, you fool,” the wizard murmured. “Give it back. It’s my gem.”
Evan watched as Molin slowly crawled toward him.
He’s like a mad dog. I guess what Tindolen said was true. He’ll never stop craving the gem.
Evan tensed his jaw and tightened his grip on his sword. He contemplated killing Molin to end his craving for the jewel. He raised his sword and then lowered it. He could not kill the man, not in cold blood and not in the middle of an empty field. There was not a soul around for miles. At the same time, he couldn’t leave Molin here either. He’d die of exposure.
Molin reached Evan’s boot and stopped moving. Evan felt for a pulse and found one.
Brashani moaned and the priest went to him. “How do you feel?”
“Lousy,” said Brashani. “He shattered my shield and then stunned me with that electrical blast of his.”
“Can you do anything about this magical dome he created?”
“Yes, give me a minute.”
Evan helped Brashani to stand. The fire mage placed one hand on the magical barrier and concentrated. It wavered and then dissolved. Evan saw Tindolen and James standing on the other side of it. The gem merchant was scratching his head.
“What happened?” asked Tindolen. Evan told him and concluded the tale by saying, “Molin’s not dead, just unconscious. Let’s tie him up and take him back with us. Eric can put him in jail for theft.”
“All right,” James agreed, as he took some rope out of his backpack.