Aure the Topaz: Book 1 of the Aglaril Cycle

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Asking for Help

Brashani sat in the common room of the Grey Horse Inn. Sweat beaded on his forehead and dust covered his brown leather boots and beige trousers. Iriel walked up to him.

“Can I take your order?”

Brashani nodded his head, wiping his forehead with the sleeve of his white shirt. “Old Troll ale, if you have any; otherwise, a stein of beer.”

“Anything to eat?”

“Hmmm … no, not now. But if I get hungry, I’ll give you a holler.”

Iriel gave him a sideways glance that made Brashani think she did not approve of his drinking.

Too bad, he thought. Who is she to pass judgment? Has she just walked from Irenrhod to Clearbrook over the last week? I doubt it.

He was hot, tired, and thirsty. He had also escaped a brush with death from the necromancers that controlled Irenrhod. If he wanted a drink then, by the Twelve powers, he was going to have one.

Iriel left to place the order and Brashani glanced about the room. He saw an old man standing by the fireplace. He was doing sleight-of-hand tricks.

Hrumph, Brashani said to himself. That’s what magic has come to now.

Then another thought crossed Brashani’s mind and he turned back to examine the man in detail. Slender and frail, the magician had a proud bearing, as if he had a noble past. Brashani had seen that demeanor before, years ago, back when he was employed. It was the bearing many mages once had.

It should be easy to determine if he was a mage. But not here, not now.

Iriel returned with a stein of beer. She placed it on the table and left without a word.

Brashani took a swig and felt the liquid revive his parched throat. He sighed. Perfect. That hit the spot.

He licked his lips to savor the taste of the beer on them and drank again. All the while, Brashani watched the old man perform tricks that were beneath any mage.

I can’t watch him any more; it’s too degrading. He turned away and thought about what he would do now. I need a job and a place to live, assuming that’s even possible. If Clearbrook is like most of the towns I’ve lived in, I’ll be unemployed and living on the street.

Brashani grumbled to himself at that prospect and decided not to accept that outcome for a change. His old confidence surged for a moment and he longed for his old life back. He knew that the only way to reclaim it was not to just accept what life handed him; he needed to work for the things he wanted and that would mean looking for a job and a hovel somewhere in town. The mage squirmed in his chair because both tasks would be unpleasant, but he resigned himself to doing these chores … eventually.

He wanted to stroll around town first to get a sense of the people and learn where things were. He would enjoy that at least. Learning about a new place was always interesting. Perhaps the townsfolk would surprise him and be more open to wizards. He doubted it, but it was possible.

And, before I look for a place to live, I’m going to need to see which parts of town are safe and which are not.

Once he was familiar with the town and its people, Brashani would have a few questions for his fellow wizard about how he could fit in. In the meantime, he would enjoy his beer and hope the elder mage did not embarrass himself too much.

Brashani spent a few hours walking through Clearbrook. The people seemed friendly and pleasant, and the town seemed like any average-sized town in the kingdom.

He noted that there were no magic shops in town. Figures. As I expected, these people must be mana phobes. He shook his head and sighed. On the other hand, I won’t have to pay the high prices I usually find in a magic store.

Investigating the town further, the wizard found only a single jewelry store and no one of appreciable wealth aside from the gem merchant and the town mayor.

That’s good, thought the wizard. That means the necromancers won’t be coming here. Unless the gem merchant is hiding the jewel they want.

Brashani thought about approaching the town jeweler and asking if he knew anything about a fabulous gem because the urge to know if Clearbrook was a potential destination for the necromancers was strong. If the town was a possible target for the Irenrhod dark mages, he’d have to move on.

He rolled around the idea of talking to the town jeweler in his mind and dismissed it.

That’s not standard procedure, he reminded himself.

Standard procedure, at least the one he followed back when he was an investigator for the town guard, called for a divination to learn whatever he could. But without a magic shop, that would be hard.

Guess I’ll have to improvise and visit the apothecary for the ingredients I need. And maybe the wizard I saw earlier can help me. If not, I might be stopped before I start.

Brashani sat down at an empty table in the common room of the Grey Horse Inn. The old man had finished his performance and was taking his final bow. Brashani watched the man make his way through the room and stood up to meet the magician at the double doors that separated the common room from the foyer.

“Excuse me,” said Brashani. “Do you have a minute? I’d like to talk to you.”

The old man stopped; his forehead furrowed. “Me?” he asked. “You want to talk to me?”


The man eyed Brashani. “Do I know you?”

“No, we’ve never met, but we share some things in common.”

“Such as?”

Brashani held out his hand and a small fire appeared in his palm. It burned for a few seconds and then disappeared without leaving a mark or scar on the wizard’s skin.

The old man’s eyes narrowed. “What do you want?” he said suspiciously. “I don’t do that sort of thing any more.”

“Oh? Why not?”

“I’m retired.”

Brashani gestured toward the stage of the common room with his head. “Then why all the sleight of hand?”

The elder man’s head moved up and down as he sized up the other wizard. If Brashani did not know any better, he’d think the old man was giving him a ‘who-the-hell-are you?’ look.

“Not that it’s any of your business,” said the old wizard, “but if you must know, I need a little money to make ends meet. But otherwise, I’m done conjuring and wielding magic.”

“That’s fine,” Brashani said and smiled. “I don’t need you to conjure, just to help me with a divination.”

“I don’t know,” the senior mage said with hesitation. “Sounds tricky. Those things never come off the way you want them to and you end up with more questions than answers.”

“Sometimes,” Brashani conceded. “But I’m a natural fire mage. So pyromancy comes a little more easily for me.”

“Hmmm,” said the other man. “Never tried that. How does it work?”

“I burn some herbs, inhale the smoke, and stare into the fire. With luck, I’ll see images which will tell me what I need to know.”

“What do you need me for?”

“To keep me grounded. If I stare at the fire too long, my spirit can leave my body and I will lose myself.”

“Sounds dangerous. I’ll pass.”

Brashani said nothing for a moment. How obtuse is this guy? Pyromancy isn’t dangerous. Didn’t he learn the fundamentals of magic? He sighed.

“It’s not dangerous,” he said at last. “Just shake me gently after five minutes.”

The old man scratched his head. “That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“Well, if that’s all, I will help you. When and where?”

“Now, if you are free and have somewhere private.”

“I know just the place.”

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