27 Aurorsmoon 459
The old wizard deftly navigated the clutter in his parlor, balancing a tea tray on three slender fingers as he used his other hand to keep his robe from snagging on anything. Jasmine watched in utter fascination, amazed that no magic was used in the process of traversing the room. Unlike men, elves showed their age very subtly, and Adlion was old indeed. His skin had a pallor to it, his narrow brows were heavy, and his hair was so white as to be nearly without color. Jasmine refrained from reaching out to catch the tray as the magus drew near. Despite his age, he seemed remarkably… stable.
The wizard’s narrow eyes met her own and he smiled. Jasmine kept her mask firmly in place, but she strongly suspected that he knew what she was thinking. Whether it was simply remarkable intuition or some sort of ensorcellment, Jasmine had no intention of laying her thoughts bare to this doddering Shahalesti. Adlion laughed as he settled into a chair opposite her own, crooking a finger to encourage the tea to pour itself. Jasmine raised one delicate eyebrow.
“Just trying to set your mind at ease,” he offered, his voice surprisingly clear. “I wouldn’t want my shaking hands to compromise your… um… wardrobe.”
Jasmine snorted, coloring slightly. He probably didn’t receive many visitors, few of them in any kind of armor, but he hadn’t hesitated to invite her into his little house. It occurred to her that he likely had nothing to fear from most visitors, given his years of study in the arcane arts. Yet his manner was easy, his movements relaxed. He certainly didn’t perceive her as any kind of threat.
“Show me,” he said, gesturing toward the scroll case in her lap. Jasmine deliberately took a sip of her tea before handing the tube across the table. Adlion’s graceful fingers wrapped entirely around it as he accepted it, almost carressing it in his hand. He examined the container for several seconds before loosing the clasp, and Jasmine detected the slightest movement of his lips. She smiled as she took another drink. The old elf hadn’t reached his golden years without being cautious.
His eyes sparkled as he recognized his own handiwork, and he grinned as he glanced Jasmine’s way. His gaze lingered briefly at her throat, and she resisted the impulse to reach for the pendant secreted beneath her jerkin. He knew… she could see it in his eyes. But he said nothing. The worship of Sarinine was not spoken of aloud, not by strangers. But the secret they shared filled the space between them and gave her a moment’s pause. Adlion was Shahalesti by birth, a fact that she couldn’t dismiss entirely, but they were far from his homeland and the gods who watched over his people.
“So you seek the dreamstone,” he said, settling back in his chair. Jasmine nodded, schooling her features to stillness once again. He watched her for several moments before sliding the documents back across the table. “I’m sorry,” he intoned, “but I no longer have it.”
Jasmine blinked. That wasn’t the revelation she’d been expecting. “May I ask who does?”
“For that,” he said, groaning as he got to his feet, “you’ll require access to the monastery to the north.” Jasmine breathed a sigh of frustration, somehow not surprised that her goddess had elected to set the artifact firmly on the raod ahead. Adlion seemed not to notice. “I studied with Longinus and Pilus for a time,” he continued, “living in Eresh and using my skills for the betterment of the community. It was peaceful. When I left, I gifted the stone to the monastery.” His fixed her with a piercing stare as she joined him on her feet. “They had little interest in the stone’s power,” he added.
Jasmine nodded, reading the warning in his eyes.
The party purchases fresh mounts and leaves the city of Yen-Ching traveling northward, into the mountains. On the third day of their journey, they are ambushed by a Ragesian patrol led by a goblin worg-rider. Following a prolonged, bloody battle on the treacherous mountain path, they manage to take a single prisoner. Joshua separates from the others and interrogates the man. The soldier readily describes the Ragesian encampment at the gates of Eresh, and the mysterious malady that seems to have afflicted the soldiers who remain near to the town, and Joshua frees him with instructions to flee southward, away from his countrymen.
The heroes rest for the night, planning their morning approach to Eresh and the Monastery of Two Winds.