Karnus looked up from his crystal ball at the two adventurers standing on the other side of his desk. “So, Darokin City it is, then. The magic users guild is probably the best target. It looks a bit the worse for wear at the moment, but I’ve spent a lot of time there.”
Sylarin nodded at the wizard. “That would be perfect. Can we go today?”
The elf glanced round at his companions. Adriana had been scowling at Karnus but turned to meet her friend’s gaze and nodded.
“Very well,” said Sylarin, “I’ll go first, and then Adriana can follow.” The elf stepped forward. “Ready when you are.”
“You may wish to have a flight spell in place – it mitigates some of the risk.”
Sylarin nodded and imbued himself with magical flight while Adriana rolled her eyes and cast another spell on herself. The elf turned back to Karnus and nodded.
The wizard stretched out a hand and spoke a few words of magic, and the elf faded from sight, instantly dispatched across the vast distance to the capital of Darokin. The wizard turned to the Adriana with a raised eyebrow. “Are you ready?”
“Absolutely,” said the female magic user, her brow furrowed in a scowl. Karnus ignored her attitude and stretched a hand out towards her, reciting the words to the teleport spell once again. As the wizard completed the final syllables, a curious smile crossed the woman’s face and she raised a hand, revealing a gleaming ring on her finger.
Karnus raised a startled eyebrow as he completed the spell, and then suddenly found himself falling through the air. He tumbled as he plummeted, arms wheeling as he frantically tried to grasp what had happened. The ground rushed towards the wizard with alarming speed. Suddenly, something slammed into Karnus, carrying him over the ground and depositing him roughly on the floor, where the wizard rolled clumsily to a stop, sprawled out upon the flagstones.
Before Karnus could orient himself, Sylarin landed gracefully beside the sprawling wizard and levelled his rapier at his throat. “Welcome to Darokin, Master Perdissium.”
Karnus’ eyes moved slowly from the point of the rapier to the elf’s face. “You’ll want to think very carefully about how this plays out,” said the prone wizard.
“You’ll excuse me if I feel that I have the upper hand here, sir.”
Karnus’ gaze returned to the rapier, whose unwavering point was aimed squarely at his jugular “A ring of Spell Turning? Clever. You’ve gone to some effort to get me here, Sylarin. Why?”
The elf’s gaze was steady, determined and intense. “I wanted to make sure our little chat was on my terms.”
“Well, that’s certainly worked out well for you.” Karnus was acutely aware of the fact that his staff, his wands and most of his other magical accoutrements were now a thousand miles away in Glantri City. He suddenly realised that this was the first time he had been separated from the Staff of Hutaaka since Bargle had briefly taken it, and felt all too vulnerable as a result.
“So,” asked the wizard, “what is it you would like to chat about?”
“You ensorcelled me and forced me to tell you all about Rheddrian and his origins.”
“Was that a statement or a question?”
The elf’s eyes narrowed, “don’t think to toy with me, sir. I am a patient man, but I do not take kindly to people prying in my head.”
Karnus sighed deeply, “okay, yes. I laid a charm upon you.” The wizard shifted his weight, “Look, would you mind if I got up?”
Sylarin maintained his intense gaze for a second before nodding and stepping back, allowing the wizard to rise. “Make any motion which I think may be spellcasting, and I’ll run you through.”
Karnus nodded as he rose, one hand held high in acceptance, the other clutching at his back, which was remarkably sore from his rough landing. He straightened up before the elf with a groan, and looked around the deserted courtyard of the Magic Users Guild of Darokin.
“You did more than enchant me,” said Sylarin, “you did something to me in that inn. I don’t remember much, but I do know I told you everything about Rheddrian. That’s information that we’ve all sworn to keep secret…”
“Yes, well, I might have used a more… advanced form of enchantment to glean a few facts. Is that why you’ve brought me here? Vengeance?”
“Security. You know far too much for my liking, sir.”
“So I am to be your prisoner?”
“I’m hoping it won’t come to that.”
Karnus’ face hardened. “Trust me, it won’t.” His face softened again and he gave a sigh. “Look, Sylarin, I have no wish to make an enemy of you. Rad knows I have enough of those at the moment.”
“You’ve hardly acted in the manner of a friend,” replied the grim faced elf.
“On the contrary: my actions were driven solely by concern for one of my best friends. Once I learned that Lana Budanter had become involved in your organisation I was compelled to learn more about you, in order to ensure her safety. I was concerned with what I’d heard of Rheddrian’s organisation – that a powerful wizard was creating a network of spies across the world, and that my friend was involved in this. If you were in my place, wouldn’t you have wanted to find out more about such a group?”
Sylarin slowly nodded his head, reluctantly conceding the point.
The wizard continued; “so, I used my most reliable methods to find out what you were after. I admit, I may have taken my inquiries a little far, but I have an inquisitive nature.” Karnus shrugged meekly, “it’s a flaw.”
Sylarin held Karnus’ gaze for a long moment. In the silence that followed, the wizard continued. “I meant what I said about wanting to help, Sylarin. Now that I know the full extent of the threat facing this world, how can I possibly stand by? I still believe that with my contacts in Glantri I can be of great assistance with your enquiries.”
The wizard looked deeply into the elf’s eyes. “I’ll understand if you feel you can’t trust me, but I truly do want to help…” Karnus lowered his gaze to the floor as he trailed off.
Sylarin sighed deeply and lowered the point of his rapier. “I cannot fault you for the concern for your friend, but I cannot forget that you possess knowledge of Rheddrian that only I and my companions have. While I can tell you would be a powerful ally, you have betrayed my trust – how can I be sure you will not betray Rheddrian when it’s convenient for you?”
Karnus shrugged, “your friend claims to be acting to save the world. What motive could I possibly have to interfere in that?”
“The motivation of all wizards: the acquisition of power. Rheddrian warned us of the dangers of interfering with these devices…”
Karnus waved a hand in a dismissive gesture. “Nonsense. What’s the point in power if there’s no world left? And you evidently don’t distrust Adriana…”
“She knows what is at stake here.”
“And now I do as well. That puts us on the same side. I’m just as concerned for the survival of the world as you, so I’m equally motivated to investigate this matter further with or without you. Surely if we collaborate we have a much better chance of success…?”
Sylarin regarded the wizard for a long moment while he thought this through. Eventually, he sheathed his blade and looked up into the wizard’s eyes. “Very well. It seems I must take the risk of trusting you further. Adriana will be remaining in Glantri.” Karnus rolled his eyes as the elf continued, “she will be actively pursuing our investigations there. If you would seek to regain our trust, you will assist her in any way she might require, and report to her anything you discover.”
Karnus, evidently insulted at the notion of acting as nurse-maid to Adriana, held his tongue.
“But rest assured, sir,” continued Sylarin with a dangerous glint in his eye, “you will be watched. Adriana knows of everything you did to me, and she will be on her guard against further… tricks. Any sign of further betrayal, and our relationship is at an end. If Adriana is harmed in any way, you will have my friends and I to answer to.”
Karnus held the elf’s stern gaze, his eyes dark and dangerous, then nodded slowly. The elf stepped back from the wizard, then turned and began to walk away. He stopped after a few paces and turned back to Karnus. “I assume you’ll be staying the night?” he asked of the mage.
Karnus’ dark aspect broke as he patted his pockets, realising that he had left his wallet sitting in his study. The elf noticed his angst and reached into his pocket, drawing forth a small pouch and throwing it at the wizard. It jingled as Karnus caught it.
“There’s a nice inn around the corner,” said the elf as he turned once more to leave, “until next we meet, Master Perdissium.” The elf’s footsteps clattered on the paved courtyard as he strode away.
Karnus stood staring at the elf’s retreating back, dark thoughts swimming about his mind. “I look forward to it,” he said in a soft, intense voice.
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