Another two days passed without Alaric seeing anyone except for a silent servant before he was confident that he had correctly identified the alarm spells. More importantly, he had a plan to circumvent them.
He was still lost on the protection, or containment, wards.
Knowing they were abjuration based had proven less useful than he had hoped. The patterns built on the protection base were utterly unfamiliar. He used detection spells often enough that he had been able to find a core of familiarity beyond the foundational patterns. His repertoire of protection spells, and his use of them, was rather smaller and less common.
He had to assume that they would not allow any communication or summoning magics, though. There was little point to them otherwise. He could probably try tunneling out, but they had placed priests around him to prevent that. Going up or down were out. He had no idea how many feet or yards of ground he’d have to excavate, and no climbing equipment anyway. His attempts at air magic as a student had been, Alaric freely admitted, pathetic. If he was being generous. There was no levitating or flying up or down a shaft.
He could get around the alarm and detection spells, but he would have to think his way past the guard and dragonspawn.
Hours later, after the day’s last meal, Alaric’s palm met his forehead.
He did not know what was above or below his rooms, that was true. But, he could find out. Earth sorcery and his detection specialty. Too obvious.
He slid the dishes back to the door and ambled to his bedroom.
Once out of “sight” of the guards, Alaric became a blur of motion.
In seconds, he had the spartan furniture and rugs shoved aside to create a bare space several feet wide on the floor. He sat in the center, legs crossed beneath him.
Hands palm down on the floor to enhance the effectiveness, Alaric wove a bit of wizardry that verged on, the more advanced, sorcery. The spell sent energy down through the stone, to reflect off anything beyond, within a limited range. The reflection told him there was at least fifty feet of granite, with some bits of limestone and shale, beneath him.
Much too far to dig with his available tools.
Alaric rose, extending his arms over his head.
He was too short to touch the ceiling, by a couple feet.
This time, the magic burst found a foot of sandstone, a narrow gap, then a couple feet of local stone. Above that, what he sensed was a cavern.
A second pattern of wizardry discovered no life of note above him, only the usual animal cave denizens and creatures of the earth.
A slow grin spread across his lips.
The two spells, he thought as he replaced the furniture, provided a lot of information.
Most importantly, if he could reach the ceiling, he could escape the same way he had before.
Alaric’s eyes roamed the room, assessing the available furnishings.
The priests had stripped the place pretty bare. The bed was right out, he could not trust anything stacked on that mattress. It would absorb other furniture and be unstable. That covered what was still in the bedroom, really.
They had left him a table and chair in the sitting room.
Desperation and, Alaric had to admit, fear won out over good sense and planning.
If he moved the furniture, the guards and priests might try to prevent it. If he did not move the furniture, the guards would assuredly be activated the moment he cast the digging spell.
The thoughts ran through his head and were discarded as he charged back into the sitting room.
Banishing conscious thought, Alaric threw the chair on top of the table. He clambered up to stand on the seat, elbows bent to place his palms on the ceiling for balance and the spell.
The moment the energy released, the sorcerer saw the guards begin to move in his peripheral vision. He instinctively knew he only had a minute at most; fortunately, he could start climbing after seconds.
As sand fell around him, coating his face and body, Alaric hopped and blindly reached for the rim of the temple’s roof.
With a groan, he pulled himself up and groped for another handhold.
A crash from below told him that the guards had tried climbing his table.
Muscles burning from fingertips to shoulders, the sorcerer managed to pull himself through the hole. It became somewhat easier once the spell broke through so he could see and was not choking so bad.
Collapsed on rough stone, Alaric swore to work out more, especially pull-ups, if he made it home.
Only the sound of voices raised in alarm below drove him to his feet.
Without a conscious thought, he picked a direction, summoned a light ball, and ran, stumbling, away from the hole he had created.
The sorcerer—bruised, damp, bleeding, and completely tapped out—staggered out of a cave days later. Hand shading his eyes against the daylight, he looked around and tried to get his bearings. His pursuers had been left behind by the second day. After a few moments, he started hobbling down the mountain slope toward what he thought might be civilization.
As always, this is a pre-revision version. Any feedback, comments, etc. are very welcome. Additionally, I’m not entirely pleased with the conclusion (one area I tend to be bad at), so thoughts there are very appreciated.
Also I’ll include a PDF copy here (The Island Stories) for those who’d like to see the whole thing as one document.