WiP 19 (2018)

And right into a group of servants.

In the ensuing collision, shouts were raised and limbs became tangles.

When things sorted themselves out, Alaric found himself hanging above the floor.  Vice-like grips held his arms to the sides, as twin statue-guards suspended him from hands of stone.  The few servants were bowing and prostrating themselves before the priest, who was smiling faintly.

The language was unfamiliar, but Alaric got the gist.

The priest’s tone was obviously happy, albeit restrained.  He guessed the servants would be rewarded.  His own fate was less certain, but more concerning.

Alaric relaxed as best he could, trying to relieve the tension and ache in his shoulders.  He was pretty certain his head had connected with a foot, or maybe one of the guards.  Whatever he had hit, the entire back of his skull was throbbing.  The adrenaline spell helped dull the pains a bit, one good side effect, but the sorcerer worried about concussions.  He would need some self-healing or a healer as soon as he could get one.

Finally, the priest sent the servants on their way.

She turned to Alaric and his captors with a humorless smile.

A sharp command sent the guards marching down the hall.  Although they kept stone hands clasped around his arms, at least they lowered him to walk, so his arms would not pop out of their sockets.

The woman led the way confidently.

In fact, Alaric thought he detected the hint of a bounce to her steps.

But, that could have been a concussion talking.

He must have blacked out, for a while, because the next thing he knew, he saw two hands hovering a couple inches above his face.  And he was lying on something vaguely comfortable.  Someone, presumably the owner of the hands, was muttering in a language he could not identify.  It sounded repetitive though, like an incantation or a prayer.

The hands moved after a few moments and Alaric lifted his head to see an older man in the temple’s priest robes.  He noticed a gold braid along the hems, though.  The man said something in what sounded like the same language as the woman who’d caught him.

In seconds, the old man’s face was replaced by Jdal’s.

Frankly, Alaric thought he preferred the old man.

The Agrum’s features were serene, edged with a subtle tension.  His eyes, though, were a flickering orange.  They practically shone as the color rippled.  Any doubts the sorcerer had about the priest being part-dragon evaporated.

Suddenly, Alaric felt the strong desire to pass out again, maybe for a couple years.

Whatever was coming next, the sorcerer suspected that any attempt he could make to escape would be exponentially harder.  If he ever got a chance . . . or wasn’t executed.

Even though the other priests he had met so far treated Jdal with a deference that bordered on outright worship, the Agrum struck him as the type who prided himself on being in control in public.  Which made Alaric glad there was at least one other person there, and hope the older man did not leave.

Just above a whisper, the healer said, “The blood of dragons is very thin in him, or the spells would have been faster and more effective, Agrum.”

The head priest merely nodded, his jaw tight.

Alaric, really wanting the healer to stay, managed, “Thank you,” past a dry throat.

The old man allowed a small smile.

“I do as I am called to.  Do not make me do it again too soon.”

“I’ll try,” Alaric said with a tiny chuckle and a glance at Jdal.

“You will come to no harm here, unless you bring it upon yourself, either through foolish resistance or further attempts to leave without our permission . . . Alaric Saul.”

The sorcerer couldn’t entirely hide his surprise from his face.  He was certain Jdal had caught the flicker too, before he got his poker face in place.

“We too have some, little, knowledge of scrying spells, Alaric.  And some power as well.  Surely you have sensed our auras just as we have sensed yours.”

“So, what happens next?”

“You will be confined again.  While you were unconscious, my junior priests . . . combed the room for all writing implements and sharp objects.  Your stunt between rooms was interesting to some of the priests, we admit.  Your ring will also be confiscated.  We can take it by force, or you can surrender it.  Our own wards will be placed on the room, additional guards will be placed inside the rooms, and the suites to either side will be occupied by senior priests, who will be monitoring your activities.”

There would, he assumed, be other protections in place.  Possibly more subtle ones.  Otherwise, why would he be told about these guards and measures.  No one would, Alaric thought, be dumb or arrogant enough to explain everything preventing his escape.

He realized that Jdal’s open hand was extended and, reluctantly, wriggled his ring off, to deposit on the waiting palm.

That, plus his failed escape, seriously cut his available power.

But, Alaric figured, magic wasn’t going to be what broke him free this time, if he could get free.

Or, at least, not magic alone.

They had the suite sewn up tight from that perspective.

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