Aure the Topaz: Book 1 of the Aglaril Cycle

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Best Laid Plans

That night, Brashani sat alone at a table in the Grey Horse Inn thinking about the Aglari. Given the events of the past few days, one thought kept running through the wizard’s mind.

How safe are these gems to use?

He had to conclude they weren’t safe at all unless you were worthy, as judged by the Elf-gems themselves.

Which begs the question: is the boy worthy?

Brashani couldn’t answer that question, but he suspected the answer was no. That could mean trouble ahead. The image of a crazed Qua’ril master flashed through Brashani’s mind.

He shuddered as Iriel came to take his order.

“Is there a problem?” asked Iriel.

“No, I was just thinking. Do we know whether Daniel passed the Test of Purity?”

Iriel shook her head. “Actually, I don’t. But I do not think he took the Test. Only people who use the gem must submit to that scrutiny.”

“Then it is coincidence that Tindolen gave him the gem to carry?”

“I would think so. Or, as Uncle Tindolen said, ‘Amelidel’s prophecy is guiding events.’”

That seemed like hogwash to Brashani; but given the power and skill of the elven seer Amelidel, he wondered whether the prophecy was more like a magic spell. Brashani had never heard of a spell so big and powerful that it shaped events and he knew little of divination aside from pyromancy. He supposed the principles were the same but the execution of the spell was different.

“But Tindolen doesn’t know that the prophecy is guiding events,” the wizard said, after a pause. “He only thinks it is.”

“He would not say a thing were so if it were not. And I remember Uncle telling me that he has spoken with Amelidel, who knows the prophecy is working.”

“But how could one seer and mage cast a spell to affect the entire world?”

“Amelidel has knowledge handed down to the elves from the Makers of the World. Who can say what he can and cannot do?” Iriel replied.

Brashani scratched his head. “Hmmm. All right, I’ll concede that. But that does not answer the question of whether Daniel can use the gem. And if he can, think of the power he could accidentally unleash!”

“As a master of the Art, he is obligated to keep his life in balance,” stated Iriel with reverence. “I think he knows using the power of an Aglari would upset that balance.”

Brashani wasn’t convinced. As he saw it, something had to be done to safeguard Daniel, the gem, and the rest of the group — not to mention an innocent passerby who might become the victim of the gem’s power unleashed in a weak moment.

I might be able to help if I could hold and study the gem we have. The idea resonated in Brashani’s mind.

But how? Daniel seems reluctant to part with the one we have. And I don’t have the equipment I need to study it. The best I can hope to do is analyze the magic used to enchant the gem and that will tax my power reserves without the support of another mage.

Realizing the scope of the task, Brashani turned his attention to the first step of his goal — finding a way to get hold of the gem so he could study it. If he could even spend a little time with the gem, he would gladly exhaust himself casting spells to unlock whatever secrets he could. And there were other simpler spells he could try first to see what effect they would have.

“What will you drink?” asked Iriel.

Brashani looked up at her. “Hmmm? Oh, sorry. Have any Old Troll Ale?”

Iriel scratched her head. “I don’t know, but Mr. Jones did say a new ale arrived today.”

“Well, if it’s Old Troll, bring three steins. Otherwise, bring me the darkest lager you’ve got.”

“Very good.”

Returning to his thoughts, Brashani considered when and where to cast the spells he wanted to try. Ideas began swirling in his mind. They would all need careful thought. With luck, he’d know something before they left Clearbrook.

James stretched out on his straw mat, thinking about the journey ahead. He hadn’t really wanted to give up his job here, but the search for the Aglaril would be an experience of a lifetime; he couldn’t pass it up. It would be hard and dangerous, and that concerned James a little; he wasn’t a fighter, but given his experiences this week he thought he could handle himself.

And when it is over, I can write a firsthand account of the adventure. Maybe I’ll compose some poems and ballads about the saga too. Then I can tour the kingdom reciting the tales to large crowds in all the best taverns in the realm. Of course, given what Tindolen was putting up to finance the trip, James suspected he wouldn’t need to work for a while once the search was over.

Then again, he thought, if we find all the Elf-gems and the Crown of Power is remade, war is likely to follow. Who knows what life will be like after that? If we win the war and the royal line is restored, the royal palace, Azahnon, and the old capital, Andropolis, would most likely be rebuilt. If we lose …

James really didn’t want to think about that. He glanced over at Daniel, who was meditating on the straw mat next to him. Daniel’s life would likely change the most, assuming they found members of his family. He would probably want to live with them for a while to learn about his past.

And what will happen to Iriel and me?

In a racial war against the dukefs, would they be permitted to marry? Did James even want that? And regardless of who won the war, would racial tensions be any better after the conflict ended? James didn’t have answers to any of his questions. Perhaps locating the Elf-gems was not such a good idea after all.

Evan doesn’t seem to think it is a bad idea. James trusted the Michaeline priest’s judgment. I just need faith: faith in the future and faith that things will work out for the best.

He shook his head. Too bad that’s not me. I prefer to take one day at a time and deal with each day as it unfolds. That seems to work just fine for me.

Iriel entered the room.

“James, it’s time to perform.”

The bard looked up at her. “Already?”

Iriel nodded her head.

“Okay, I’ll be right there.”

“Very good,” Iriel said and left.

He stood up and stared at the door. He smiled.

Maybe I will marry her, if she’ll have me. We’ll see. One day at a time.

End of Book 1

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