Naevys Melith’enddare brushed her long red hair over her shoulder as she rushed down the stairs. She came to the door to the basement and pushed it open. There was a short corridor with three doors, one at the end and two on the sides. Most of them were used for storage. She knocked slowly three times on the door on the left, following with two quick knocks. The door opened just a hair before being fully opened. She walked in.
“Naevys, where have you been?”
Of course, he was angry. She was supposed to be here over twenty minutes ago. It wasn’t her fault that Madame Copley wanted to discuss her future with her. She had just passed her exams and Madame Copley wanted her to consider applying for an assistant teaching position. Naevys had feigned mild interest at the time, but now in front of him, she rolled her eyes. “Onaetil, I was listening to Madame Copley go on and on about the benefits of remaining locked up in Thril Gandir forever.”
“How exciting,” he said in his least excited voice. “Are you sure she didn’t suspect anything?”
“She’s as clueless as she ever was.” Naevys smiled as she spoke. Most of the teachers were clueless. It was only due to Mr. Waterfall’s insistence that she would be a good teacher that Madame Copley wanted to speak to her at all. What she really wanted was to be assigned an adahi and get out to see the world, or at least go home, like her brother had, but she had too many marks on her record, including disappearing for three days when it was time to return to Thril Gandir the last time she had a temporary adahi a couple of years ago.
It was that last mark that had sealed her fate. She was stuck in Thril Gandir, at least for the time being if they had their way. They had made a special concession due to her status as the daughter of Mage-Lord Athimas Melith’enddare of Elenduil. If she could keep from getting any more marks for twenty years, then she could start applying for an adahi.
Twenty years was a long time. She wanted out now.
“What about your brother? He didn’t cause any trouble with his visit, did he? I told you not to ask for his help.”
She frowned. She had tried to get his help at first. It would have been much easier with his assistance. He was better with warding and translocation spells. While she wasn’t sure how good he was at unweaving wards, he had to be better than she was. Onaetil could do it, but it would be faster with two. Not to mention how much easier it would be to have someone helping from the outside. Unfortunately, he had said no and threatened to tell on her if she tried. That was a year ago. She had planned alone with Onaetil since then. “He left this morning. He didn’t bring it up, nor did I.”
“Good. The last thing we need is him interfering. Were you able to get the focus stones in place today?”
“Yes. Right after my brother left, I went and put them in their spots. That’s when Madame Copley found me, right after I placed the last one in the library.”
“Yes, and now we have to hurry because the boat will be leaving soon.”
Naevys nodded. She had warded each stone. When it was found she would know. Her wards would also strengthen any spell passing through it, until it was broken. All it would take was one touch of the stone. That was her job, to warn Onaetil when to switch to the next stone. Onaetil’s job was to channel his spell through the stones to make it look like the ward was being unraveled from somewhere that they weren’t. Naevys felt it was a great plan, and now it was time to put the plan in motion.
“The stone in the children’s dorm is first, right?”
Naevys nodded again. She focused on the ward around the first focus stone as Onaetil started whispering his spells. She could feel his magic poking against the wards that kept them imprisoned in Thril Gandir.
“Gently, Onaetil. There’s still enough time to do this without being reckless.”
Onaetil said nothing, but she knew he had heard as his spells lessened in intensity. She continued her focus on her ward around the focus stone. She felt the snap as it broke only moments later. “Crap. Already? Switch to the second year classroom, quick!”
Onaetil frowned and mumbled, “You couldn’t have placed them further apart? The children are all on the north side all the time.”
“Just switch,” Naevys replied with a twitch of her ear.
She focused on the ward on the next stone. Again, she felt Onaetil’s spells pushing hard against the city’s wards. “That’s probably what made them find the first one so—” Her ear twitched again, “Next stone, cafeteria. Calm it down this time. They’re finding them too fast.”
Onaetil’s ear twitched as well as he switched his spell to the next stone. She could tell his spells were lessened in intensity again. She waited nervously. She couldn’t tell how much progress he had made if any at all. Was he almost done? Had he barely touched them? Only a few minutes later she felt the ward around her stone break. “Switch to the teen dorm.”
“They’re going too fast.”
She frowned. She guessed not much progress had been made. “We still have a few more. Just keep it steady. They didn’t find that one as fast.”
She wasn’t exactly sure who ‘they’ were. The mages who earned high positions within the city usually did so in secret. The only person they knew of who was in a position of power was the adahi captain, and adahis were not the ones keeping the wards up.
Again, only a couple of minutes passed before her ward broke. “Shit! Next stone. Stables.”
Onaetil looked at her. His expression said everything without a word from him.
“Keep going,” she said. She agreed it wasn’t looking good. They only had two stones left, and Onaetil didn’t look like he had gotten far with his task. She felt a burst of anger at her brother for not agreeing to help. They could be out of here already if he had done something.
She forgot about her anger as the ward around the stone in the stables broke. “Switch to the Deturian Chapel.”
Onaetil didn’t even bother giving her a look this time, but she did feel his spells ramping up again. If he was close, maybe it would give them the advantage they needed so she refrained from telling him to work more slowly.
Again, it was only a few minutes before her ward broke. “Library,” she said. It was the last one.
“Be ready to grab the stuff and get out of here.”
She looked at him. Clarification would be nice, but he resumed his spells. Did he mean he was almost through or he wasn’t even close? If the ward on her last stone failed, they would have to leave. They had been finding the stones fast, it was possible they knew where the next one was as soon as they found one, and if they did, then as soon as they found this one— “Crap.”
“They found it?” Onaetil asked.
“We need to go. I’ll head to the cafeteria. You head to the library.”
“What about our stuff?”
He picked up both packs and handed hers to her. “People carry books around in their bags all the time. Just act natural.”
She nodded. He was already heading towards the door. She followed behind him, both of them taking two stairs at a time as they rushed out of the basement. The split at the hallway at the top, and she headed towards the library, her pack on her back.
She was the most likely to run into the people who had found the stones as the last stone was in the library. Had Onaetil planned that? It was too late to turn around and not look suspicious now as she turned down another hallway. This one had other people in it. She matched the pace of the others. Most of them were other mages, like her, but she saw two adahis and an older mage walking quickly down the middle of the hall.
Act natural. She glanced around. Everyone else was looking at the mage and two adahis so she did too. They walked briskly past her. She joined the others in gaping at them for a few seconds before returning to their own business.
She walked at a normal pace towards the library, swearing in her head to give Onaetil an ear-full later on for sending her this way.