Goldmight spread his arms wide. “Masters…”

Book laid a paw down on the ground. “Goldmight. I should have known this was all your doing. Luxar has written about the possibilities of this cache for years, and yet nothing came out of it. Is that why you were willing to put everyone in danger?”

The fairy gasped in shock. “Danger? I would never!”

“Really?” Hilt looked around. “You seem to be missing Ona and Kleb.”

“They had a prior engagement,” Nutrose said quickly.

“With a doctor?”

The Leaves fell silent.

“I thought so. When we passed them trying to stumble their way back into town, I would have thought some of you would have turned back. But the possibility of the treasure that eluded the Sorcerer of Light was too much for his apprentice to resist.”

Goldmight protested. “This isn’t some vanity! Suffrn’s work has been lost for centuries, rotting in here. And no one at the Circle has ever been willing to investigate?”

Hilt slashed her sword at a wall. Gravel flew into her waiting hand. She threw the rocks straight at the door. The golems came to life, and slashed at the gravel. It disintegrated in an instant.

“That’s why. No one has even gotten past this first defense. And trying to tunnel in elsewhere sets off the lightning Cage that Suffrn was so famous for. We are not risking our lives just for someone else’s work.”

“Well, we are.”

Hilt spun around, sword in hand. The leader of the Archiwrecks bowed his head, and smiled from the entry-way.

“Lady Hilt. And Mister Book. Two Masters from the Circle of Bel Haven. I am honored that you came to inspect our site.”

Two dozen Archiwrecks appeared behind him. No weapons this time, just spell books. They chanted in a low voice, adding their power to his own.

“But this is a private dig, and you are trespassing. Leave.”

Book glared at Goldmight and pointed at the Archiwrecks. “Also, you were rampaging through a known bandit guild’s territory. Perhaps not a good idea.”

The math seemed certain. Four from Lady Hilt’s party, six from Goldmight’s, against twenty-five Archiwrecks that had just purged the weakness from their ranks. Any attack would be merciless.

Bin snuck a peek back, and spotted Zibnizik and Yuva. He waved, and smiled weakly. If they were there, it might have been his fault. He couldn’t imagine Zib getting out of the Circle for much. He was going to have to make it up to him.

Hilt held up her sword, and sheathed it. “We just wanted to collect our apprentices,” she announced. She moved towards the Leaves, and bowed. “Let us go, and we will leave immediately.”

“Don’t be absurd,” Nutrose muttered, loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Nutrose,” Goldmight said. “Don’t.”

“Why?” Nutrose looked around. “It’s obvious they can’t allow us to live. We’ve seen the defenses, and most of their faces. We know who they are, and where they’re stuck. If we leave, the next thing that comes is an expedition from Bel Haven. With security forces.”

The Archiwrecks’ eyes widened.

“Besides, they’re ruthless enough to try and kill us when our backs are turned,” Nutrose said. “It just makes sense.”

Goldmight spun around him, and shouted. A lance of light flashed from his fingertips, and struck a mage about to throw her own spell.

“Oh, no…” Zibnizik moaned. “Conflict.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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