For his part, Alaric went along quietly, certain that even at two to one odds he had no chance of fighting free. Those odds plummeted once they reached the corridor. There, they were joined by four life-size statues of stone men. Two took the lead at the priest’s gesture, and two took the rear.
As they walked, Alaric noted the statues moved with an almost natural grace and ease. He saw no hint of stiffness or awkwardness. They were unlike the handful of constructs he had seen as a student. The scholarly side of his mind wondered whether they were animated differently or if the art had lost its potency or finesse as it fell out of favor among modern sorcerers. Maybe place mages could experiment . . . he added that thought to the long “If I Get Out of This” list.
His thoughts were replaced by a mental sigh and flood of relief as his escort returned to his rooms. They were the same, he thought. The stone men simply turned to face the center of the hall, two flanking his door and the others opposite them. One of the priests caused the door to fade, a heartbeat after Alaric remembered to suspend his wards.
They waved him in, but did not follow.
He watched as the door re-solidified, and he reactivated the wards.
To test, Alaric thought of the door opening.
The door remained solid.
So, Jdal had already changed it, probably while they had been talking in his office.
Suddenly, his plans to create a back door did not seem so silly or paranoid.
The priests were still nearby, probably. They could not have walked very far. Plus, Jdal was, he had to assume, concentrating pretty hard on the room and his movements. The statues didn’t strike Alaric as being very high on the intelligence or free will scale. Which meant they were probably for intimidation or would be activated should he somehow open the door or otherwise draw the head priest’s attention.
Patience and waiting.
It was a good thing, Alaric thought, that he had built up the former over years of research. Finding the best resources often took painstaking research, especially for ancient primary sources.
Since he did not wish to appear suspicious, or draw more attention, the sorcerer found a spot on a particularly plush and soft rug. There he sat, closed his eyes, and began his meditation, as if he were outside recharging.
Within minutes, Alaric had himself in a light trance, just deep enough to relax yet remain aware of his surroundings.
He quickly decided to wait until after a servant brought dinner. Maybe even an hour or two later than that. Then, no one would be coming to his rooms for several hours, maybe a bit less. Waiting a little longer should, Alaric hoped, divert Jdal’s attention. The priest might expect something right after the meal, but he had to sleep sometime.
Meanwhile, meditating helped him rest, kept him from getting too bored, and should bore anyone watching.
Hours later, with no contact beyond the servant who had brought a tray of food, Alaric gave in to his boredom and nerves.
He walked into the bath and checked his spell one last time.
Before activating the latent magic, Alaric drew on the energy stored in his ring.
He shaped it into a few detection spells, for locating and seeing a person from afar.
Then he twisted the mental patterns, redrawing them in ways that he hoped would serve to reverse their effects. Once they seemed right, Alaric imagined the patterns draping themselves over his body. With luck, he thought, they would work as expected and might fool even place magic. That was the part he was really uncertain about. And how quickly Jdal might realize he had disappeared.
Alaric drew in a deep breath.
As he released it, he activated the spell on the wall.
The rock within the circle of symbols began to rapidly dissolve, leaving a thick layer of sand behind.
It was a simple digging spell, but he had had to enlarge it.
Within seconds, enough stone had been eroded for the sorcerer to begin crawling through.
Maybe eight feet later, Alaric found himself standing in a bedroom. The layer of dust on the room indicated that the place had not been used in a long time.
Too late, it occurred to the sorcerer to wonder if the suite’s door would open for him, from the inside.
Certain he was merely jinxing himself, Alaric strode through the abandoned suite to place his hand on the door. A series of dust born coughs interrupted his concentration. After they passed, he focused on the door opening, as with his own room’s.
And nothing happened.
Alaric looked for a couple seconds to be sure.
When there was no change, he shrugged.
On to Plan B, he thought. It was more energy use than he wanted, but there was no other, quick, option.
Touching the wall with his palm, the sorcerer shaped a smaller version of the earth spell he’d used in his suite. Within seconds of the spell being released, he had an opening to the corridor, far down the hall from the sentry statues.
Alaric stuck his head out to see if the guards had responded.
Once he saw they were standing at attention, still as, well, statues, he boosted himself through the hole and into the corridor. He speed walked to the nearest corner and ducked around it, just trying to get out of sight.
Minutes later, he was crouched in an alcove.