9-8

Raulin’s first course of action was to try the door. Yes, it was closed and the boy had locked it, but that didn’t necessarily mean he had done it correctly. He stuck his fingers through the bars and pulled, feeling the tug against him that meant luck hadn’t made his escape easy. He examined the lock, hoping it was some simple skeleton key system he might be able to pick quickly. No luck there, either. He touched his left breast where his picks were, only to remember they were still in his arong-miil. He swore under his breath and began his next step.

A further examination revealed that two bars of the door were rusted enough to pop with some force, but they weren’t next to each other and neither would give enough space for him to squeeze through. The floor under the door was the same stone as the stairway down to the basement, so he couldn’t tunnel underneath. The frame around the door was sturdy. The walls of the alcove were stone facing the stairway and dirt on the other two walls, thick and likely to take days or weeks to tunnel out.

A thorough search of the room yielded broken bottle shards, mice nests, pieces of labels and paper, and a corkscrew. The corkscrew was sturdily made and, try as he might, he couldn’t bend it to use as a lock pick. The ceiling was dirt and he might have been able to tunnel into it and above the dirt of the top of the stone wall, but there was nothing for him to stand on and no footholds in the wall.

It was him, a locked door, and hundreds of bottles of wine. It was a situation his order called brekreli-fi-randa, “at the mercy of luck”. He sat back in his corner and realized he would have to wait for someone in the household to return or, somehow, for his group to realize what was going on, where he was, and a way to get him out.

In the meantime, he had a corkscrew and hundreds of bottles of wine. And he was feeling a bit thirsty.

 

* * *

 

Al looked down at Anla’s configuration, then raised an eyebrow as he looked at her. “You want pie?”

“Triangulation,” she said.

He stopped for a moment, looking at the scene more carefully. “You’re talking about using the chalice spell to find him. Using points of reference when we trigger it and…yes, I think that might work.”

Telbarisk was patient and said nothing as Al and Anla rose and paid their bill. They walked outside and Al led them to the main road of Monsard, Fair Street. “I’m fairly decent with guessing distances, but in this case I won’t have to worry about being a little off. These roads look like they’re laid out in Ghenian residential blocks, which are standard distances of 132 by 1,320 feet. We just need to count off forty of them to get a mile. So, Anla, if you stay right here on this corner, I’ll walk Tel a mile down the road. Tel, can you keep Anla’s position in your mind and remember how far away she is?”

“I can try,” he said, still confused as to what they were doing.

There was a little fudging of numbers due to some blocks being commercial, but Al fixed his position just shy of one mile and had Telbarisk stand next to him. “We are almost exactly one mile from Anla now. Can you still sense her?”

“Yes,” he said, his eyes closed.

“Good. Can you memorize the distance between us and her?”

He imagined the street as a long, thin rock, light but rigid. In his mind he picked the pole up and put it in the air, moved it side to side, and placed it back down. “I think so.”

The two headed back to Anla. “Now we need to get to the edge of our threshold. Anla, you stay at our first trigger and we’ll go some distance away.”

* * *

Raulin had picked a bottle at random and stumbled into a red he suspected was from Kipraud. While most people thought that country was merely a poor man’s version of Sayen, Raulin had to admit they knew how to make a better than decent wine.

As with most things, Raulin savored what he had when he had it. He let it light his mouth with apples and pine needles and a little hint of chocolate, then let the liquid wet his throat. Oh, it was good. He took another sip, then another, and restrained himself from any more for some time. It wouldn’t be advantageous to be drunk should something come along.

He sighed and leaned against the wall. Five contracts and he’d somehow botched four of them. And this one seemed beyond his capabilities as a trirec. He wasn’t going to escape this without a considerable amount of luck or, when he finally gave up, screaming at the top of his lungs until he was found and arrested.

A wave of nausea hit him, then cleared just as quickly. He spit on the ground. So, they knew. That was nice, but they still didn’t know where he was. That was crucial, and maybe something he’d have to consider when it came to future jobs. If there were any.

* * *

“I still don’t understand where we’re going,” Tel said.

“Okay,” Al said, stopping their progress. “I don’t know, either, but we will find out once we trigger the spell.

“What we’re doing is creating what’s called a sector, almost. It looks like a slice of pie,” he said, holding his thumb and index finger in a triangle. “Anla is at point A. We’re going to find point B. If we know the distance between A and B is one mile, and the distance between A and Raulin and B and Raulin are also one mile, we can create an equilateral triangle that will pinpoint us to where Raulin is. How are we doing?”

“Still not there. How do you know these things?”

“This is part of the math I took at Amandorlam.”

“Do you think you could teach me? Unless, your teachers would be upset you passed on knowledge without permission…”

“No, no,” he said, yawning. “I mean, I couldn’t teach you everything Amandorlam taught me in the basic courses, but they can’t stop people from passing on that knowledge. Besides, if a family is wealthy enough, they get tutors to teach their children geometry. I knew all that before I went to Amandorlam.” He rubbed his eyes. “It’s going to be a long night. I hope Raulin appreciates this.”

“He will,” Tel assured him. “We are almost there.”

It was just a few more minutes of walking until they were one mile from Anladet. “Okay. Now we need to start stepping back until we break the circumference.”

* * *

Raulin spit out his wine again. “Mrr,” he moaned until the sickness abated.

Twice now. Hopefully they weren’t trying to encourage him to move, like he had done to them on the first day they were joined. He wiped his mouth and grew a little hopeful.

* * *

“All right, Tel. We now have our two positions. Here’s the trickiest part: you need to measure one mile from us and one mile from Anla’s spot and make them connect at a point.”

Al showed him again by drawing with his fingers against the side of a nearby building. Tel nodded and closed his eyes.

The stone pole was laid to Anladet, which he felt was accurate. Then he moved it from their position to the direction Raulin was in. He tried several times to make another pole for Anladet, but his mind felt jumbled by the information. He was forced to place it from her in and shift back and forth between the two points until he felt he had a spot that was as flat against the earth as possible where the two distances connected. He redid this several times before he was satisfied his measurements were correct. “We can go back to Anladet.”

About an hour later, they stood in the cobbled Sunray Square, the sign and statue reflected by the still burning gas lamps. “I don’t think that’s him,” Al said.

“He wasn’t going to be precise,” Anla said. “I’m really proud of him. Now, somewhere nearby is Raulin. All these houses look nice, which means he was likely stealing something from one of them. There aren’t any mason halls or police stations that I can see; that’s a good thing. It means he hasn’t been arrested or captured.”

“How do you know he didn’t fancy some lady, seduce her, then fall asleep in her home?”

She gave him a quick glower. “Let’s make a bet on it, then, since you’re so keen to accuse him without proof. If Raulin was caught or captured or barred from getting back to us outside his own means, then you have to be nicer to him. If Raulin has been laid up somewhere because of his own morals, meaning he has the ability to return to us right now and hasn’t, then…then I will promise to act more like Mrs. Auslen in the future.”

He actually did consider this for a few moments. “It’s not exactly fair. I mean, what if he was doing something illicit, then got caught?”

“Fine,” she snapped. “You win those, too. If he was doing anything other than his job, then you win. Why do you make it seem like it’s such a terrible thing to be nicer to someone else?”

“He still hasn’t apologized for the way he treated me in Iascond. But, it’s more that I don’t like taking bets I can lose.”

“Fine,” she said again, this time with less anger. “Telbarisk, if you could start looking in houses for anything unusual. A man trapped behind some rubble or pacing in a small place.”

He systematically went through each house on the street, pointing out possibilities. Most were just servants sleeping in cramped quarters or on hearths in the kitchens, but she kept certain ones in mind.

It was well past midnight when they finally moved on to Briordic Street. Anla appreciated Tel’s thoroughness, but the lack of sleep and her nerves were starting to make her a bit irritable, and she started pacing as he pointed out all possibilities. She wished he could determine what was important to report and sift out situations that weren’t even remotely Raulin.

“We should try again in the morning,” Al said.

“What if he’s hurt?” she snapped, stopping mid-stride. “There are a number of injuries he could have that he could die from if he doesn’t get the care he needs…”

“There is a man in that house underground,” Tel reported

“Underground?” Al said.

“He is in a room under ground with no exit. There are many things in with him, like the ship-in-the-bottle you got me, Anladet.”

“He’s in a wine cellar,” she breathed. “That’s what he was trying to get; a specific bottle of wine. Why aren’t there any exits?”

“The room is stone on one side. There is metal in the stone, but it is flush against the wall.”

“He’s locked in,” she said, sighing in relief. “Can you tell if he’s sick or injured?”

Telbarisk shook his head. “There is liquid on the floor near him.”

“Is it blood?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why don’t you ask him, Anla? You were able to talk to Lady Silfa when she was captured.”

She stopped for a moment and considered this. “I…I’ve only been able to do it to people I can see. I’m not sure if I can…” She shook her head and turned towards the house.

* * *

It was a lovely dream. He was in bed, holding a beautiful woman. He brushed her hair off her shoulder and was about to kiss her neck when she was behind him. In the way of dreams, this wasn’t abnormal and he sighed as she leaned close to his ear. “Raulin?”

He knew that voice. “Anla?” He turned around and was going to kiss her when he saw her standing naked as she had in the river. Her face, though, read concern and he began to slip from unconsciousness.

“Are you okay?”

He opened his eyes, heavy lidded, and saw nothing in the dark room. Stone. Wine. Theft. Stuck in the cellar. “Yes. Are you here?”

“We’re outside, on the street. You’re not injured?”

He sat up, twisting his back to remove the stiffness of his muscles. “Just my pride. Made a rookie mistake and didn’t cover my exit. I’m locked in here with no way out. I’m surprised you guys found me; good job.”

“We got creative with the chalice spell.” He heard some pride in her voice. “How do we get you out?”

With Telbarisk at his disposal, the situation improved greatly. He walked over to the door and examined it quickly. “Tel should be able to pull the bolts that hold the door to the wall. Let me know when he does this so I can catch it before it makes noise.”

He waited a few minutes before he heard Anla again, her tone dry, humorless, and flat. “Al informed Tel that doing so would damage the owner of the house’s property and that was against the law and that he could be arrested for that.”

“He didn’t think that one through, did he?”

“That’s our wizard: always tripping over his own justice.”

“I don’t see a way to get out of here without damaging property.” Actually, there was one way. They could stagger themselves back to the hotel, grab his lock picking tools, and bring them to him. He declined to mention this because he would rather starve to death in that cellar then let them touch his arong-miil. It was essentially like playing cards with your hand facing your opponents. He couldn’t talk his way out of that, should Arvarikor find out about them handling his night gear. “You’re going to have to think of a way to get the servants to open the door. Tomorrow, I’m thinking.”

“Yes. Until then, do you know of a nearby park that we can sleep in?”

“If you head southwest, there’s a nice one that has a pergola. Maybe you won’t be spotted by the police.”

“Okay. Until tomorrow, Raulin.”

“Until tomorrow.  And thank you, mezzem.”

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