The Prophecy Takes Hold
Once James had bound Molin’s arms and legs, he lifted Molin’s body by the shoulders; Brashani picked up the elder mage’s feet. Together, they carried Molin’s unconscious form carefully toward the sailboat.
Tindolen walked up to Evan.
“Here,” Evan said, and thrust the topaz into the gem merchant’s hand.
Tindolen took it and looked at his old friend. He noticed bruises on Evan’s face in several places and it seemed to him that Evan’s countenance was grim and unforgiving. “Sorry for all the trouble my gem has caused.”
Evan paused, sheathed his sword, and sighed. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t take it out on you. It’s not your fault.” Evan turned away and followed James and Brashani toward the sailing ship.
Tindolen watched Evan walk away then he gazed at his jewel and examined it carefully. Finding it undamaged, he smiled and placed it in his vest pocket. He patted it, felt the slight bulge, and was satisfied.
James and Brashani reached the flying ship and lifted Molin into it. Iriel and Daniel, who had been sitting in the vessel the whole time, helped ease the wizard into the bottom of the craft.
“We should be getting back,” Evan said as he stepped aboard.
James took his seat at the helm. Brashani sat down across from Iriel. Evan turned back and saw Tindolen approaching. Once he was aboard, James maneuvered the boat into the air and set course for Clearbrook.
As they flew, Tindolen looked at Evan. “Now tell me, how did you recover the gem originally?”
Evan looked at James, who cleared his throat and told the story. Tindolen listened, marveling at not only the obstacles that Evan and the others had overcome, but also at James’s style in telling the story. When James had finished, Tindolen said, “So death mages and dukefs want my gem. There’s an unholy alliance.”
Evan rubbed his forehead with the tips of his fingers. “Indeed. Although Ebalin may not be a dukef. He may be an unhappy elf from Oldarmare or a rogue element in the kingdom. On the other hand, it may be that the dukefs are supporting various groups of necromancers to undermine the entire kingdom. I don’t know.”
Tindolen shrugged. “Regardless, since necromancers tried to steal the gem once, they may try again. I need a better way to protect it.”
“Any idea why they want it?”
“Judging from what James has said and the way the gem was enchanted to the helmet you found it on, my guess is they are trying to create different types of magic weapons powered by the Aglaril. Exactly what these items would be and would be able to do is anybody’s guess, but any weapon of sufficient power in the wrong hands is dangerous.”
Brashani rubbed his forefinger across his chin as he pondered the discussion. “That makes sense. Such items would be more powerful than other similar types of items because the Elf-gems are inherently more powerful than other magic gems.”
Tindolen considered the fire mage’s words. “And that bodes ill.”
“I should say so,” agreed Evan.
“I don’t understand, Uncle. What is so bad about making magic items from the Aglaril?” asked Iriel. “Isn’t Balodol a magic item?”
“Yes, of course, my dear. But think for a minute, Iriel. If necromancers create magic rings or amulets, say, from the Aglaril, the resulting items could ignite whole cities in fire or encase entire armies in ice. Or they could set a pestilence upon the land. It is hard to say; it all depends on the spells placed into the item. But regardless of the item created, it all suggests the necromancers mean to wage war. But that’s not the worst of it.”
Iriel’s eyebrows knitted. “It’s not?”
“No, what’s worse is that when you bind an Aglari to a wand or a helmet or anything, you suppress its individuality. It appears to be like any other gem. Only it isn’t; it is much more powerful, as Brashani noted.”
A look of realization swept over Daniel’s face. “That’s why Aure stopped communicating with me.”
“Yes, it had been enchanted by then. It is also why there are rules about who can use the Crown of Power, so that only the most worthy wield it. But the necromancers, by creating a separate magic item from Aure, circumvented these rules, allowing anyone to use the power without the risk of failing the Tahteem. In short, they are fomenting war and anarchy.”
Iriel’s mouth fell open and her eyes nearly jumped out of her head. She shivered and hugged herself, as she tried to restore warmth to her body.
James grimaced. “I suppose it is a good thing the locations of the other Elf-gems are not known.”
Tindolen looked at the bard with sadness in his eyes. “Only for the time being. Assuming I can protect my gem adequately, they will go after the others.”
Evan ran his hand through his hair. “But isn’t that where Amelidel’s prophecy comes in?”
Tindolen thought for a moment, then his face brightened. “Oh, I see what you are suggesting. Because you cannot force the prophecy to come true, you are wondering if the prophecy’s magic will guide events so that the necromancers and dukefs cannot find the other Aglaril.”
Evan nodded his head. “Something like that, yes.”
“I’m afraid it does not work exactly like that. They still have free will.”
“So they are free to search for the Elf-gems using whatever method is available to them, regardless of the prophecy?”
“Yes, except the prophecy’s magic is guiding them too. So they may not be able to find any gems because they are forcing events. Or it may be that they will find some of the Aglaril by accident in much the same way I found Aure.”
Evan didn’t like the sound of that, but he wasn’t going to try to fight magic so subtle that it guided events all across the kingdom.
Daniel pulled on the merchant’s sleeve. “Mr. Tindolen, sir?”
“Are you saying we can’t search for the Aglaril?”
“Not if we want to find them and have the prophecy come true. We cannot force those events.”
“But Aure wants help finding his brothers.”
“I know, Daniel. But there’s no other way.” Daniel’s upper lip trembled a little.
“But I promised Aure earlier today I would help him find his brothers. If we cannot search for them, I don’t see how I can help him.”
The elven gem merchant was silent for a moment as he considered Daniel’s remarks. “That would certainly solve both problems we are facing.”
Evan scratched the back of his head. “I don’t follow.”
“Think, my boy. It will be harder to steal my gem if it is constantly moving about and changing location. And, if Daniel can locate the other Aglaril, we needn’t worry about anyone else locating them or using them for evil purposes.”
Evan’s eyes grew wide. “But you just said we can’t search for them.”
“True. We’ll need another reason for Daniel to be wandering about the kingdom.”
“And Daniel can’t do it alone,” replied Evan with concern.
“No, you are quite right. There’ll be many dangers and he’ll need help. I can certainly pay for his expenses but that alone is not enough.”
James cleared his throat. “Perhaps we could help him. Daniel and I were planning to search for his family anyway once we saved enough money to do so. If you can finance us, we could do that and look for other Elf-gems at the same time.”
Tindolen studied the bard closely for a moment. “And whom do you mean by ‘we’?”
“Me and …” He looked at Iriel, who gave a slight nod of her head, “… and Iriel.”
The merchant smiled. “Excellent. That works perfectly. You, Iriel, and Daniel searching for his lost family. And in the process the prophecy will work through you. Before you know it, I’m sure you’ll have found five or all six of the missing jewels.
“But be careful,” Tindolen continued. “You cannot force events by searching for the Aglaril. Doing so only delays the prophecy. Your purpose must be to locate Daniel’s family. Only then will the prophecy be able to guide you down the paths needed to find them.”
“If you say so,” offered James.
Tindolen gestured toward Brashani. “What of the mage in your group? He could be a great help.”
“That depends,” answered the wizard. “What happens once all the gems are found?”
“You would return them to me so that the Crown of Power can be remade.”
Brashani shook his head. “You’ve misunderstood me. What will we get in return?”
“Oh,” said the merchant. “You mean like a reward.”
“Well, I will pay for your supplies at the start and give you enough money for several months. I will also give Iriel a sack of gold and a bag of gems that you can sell as you need to, so you should not want for money. Beyond that, you will be paid for your time once all the Aglaril are found and given to me. The specific terms will have to be discussed, but I’m sure we can come to some arrangement.”
Brashani raised his eyebrows and inclined his head, impressed. “All right. That sounds like the best job offer I’ve had in a long time. I’ll go.”
“Good,” said Tindolen. “Four people traveling together should not draw too much attention, so you should be able to search discreetly.”
“Is that so important, Uncle?”
“Absolutely. In fact, it is critical that you travel as inconspicuously as possible. If the dukefs learn that you are searching for the Aglaril, I’m sure they will send assassins to kill you.”
“And if necromancers want the gems too,” said Evan, “they are likely to abduct and torture you so that you reveal what you know, or worse, so that you turn over any gems you do find.”
“Therefore,” said Tindolen, “Speak to no one about this.”
Daniel cocked his head to one side. “What about Father Evan? He should come too.”
Tindolen smiled at the thought and regarded his old friend.
Evan smiled at the lad, pleased that he should think of him. “Would that I could, Daniel, but I have many matters waiting for me back at court.”
“And yet without you,” noted Tindolen, “I’m sure they would have all perished on your journey to reclaim my gem.”
Evan shrugged. “Perhaps, but that doesn’t change my duty to His Grace or his court.”
“Then perhaps they might be accompanied by someone from His Grace’s court — a friend of yours, say?”
“That may be possible.” Evan rubbed his chin as he considered this idea. “It will take some convincing by me and it would mean they would all have to come with me to Wrightwood.”
“Do what you can,” said Tindolen. “Frankly, I think they would benefit from your knowledge and experience on the open road. At least for the first part of their journey.”
“All right,” said Evan. “I’ll help get them to Wrightwood.”
“Excellent,” said Tindolen, smiling. “You can all leave town together once St. Sebastian’s week is over.”
The sailboat glided over Clearbrook harbor and settled back into the berth it had left less than an hour before.
Evan and his companions walked up the pier after mooring the boat. Eric was standing there talking to one of the harbor guards. Two of the town guardsmen stood behind Eric, awaiting orders. As Evan reached the end of the pier, Eric noticed him and went to talk with his friend.
“I was just asking about you,” said the guard lieutenant. “Welcome back, again. Care to enlighten me about what happened?”
“We’ve only just returned,” said Evan. “As to what happened …” He trailed off and scratched his head, not sure where to start. “Well, Tindolen was about to set wards on his gem when …” began the priest, and he proceeded to describe the events of the last few hours, summarizing their pursuit of Molin. In conclusion, Evan said, “Once I had the gem, it seemed wrong to kill him. So, we loaded him in the boat and brought him back here. You can put him in jail for theft.”
“All right,” said Eric. “Where is he now?”
“Trussed up in the sailboat.”
Eric motioned to the guards behind him. “Take Molin to the jailhouse. He can stay there until a magistrate can hear his case.”
The guards nodded in acknowledgment and scurried down the pier to find him.