Izabela smiled. “So was he impressed?”
“I suppose so. We talked late into the night and across the next few days about, well, everything,” said Dmitrio.
“And the first kiss?”
Dmitrio just smiled. “Quite promising.”
She lightly kicked his shin under the table. “Give.”
“Ow, alright, alright. There’s no need to resort to violence.” Dmitrio shifted out of her range.
“That twinkle in your eye suggests otherwise, my dear sweet brother,” said Izabela.
Dmitrio laughed. “I can still throw you over my shoulder and drop you in a lake.”
“I’d like to see you try.” Izabela smiled broadly. “Come on, details.”
“The sky that night was quite clear. The desert air makes for good viewing conditions. We were discussing theories as to the nature of celestial bodies. He has a small telescope and we were using it to count the moons of Aerelio. We were standing quite close and he asked if he could kiss me. I, naturally, said yes.”
“Kissing under Aerelio’s moons. How romantic. Was Amori visible?”
“It was just coming around Aerelio’s belt when he asked,” said Dmitrio.
“A most promising portent,” said Izabela. Was Dmitrio blushing? She smiled. “And when did you first share a bed?”
“The fourth night after the kiss, if you must know. And that is as much as I’m going to say on that, little sister. No matter how much you attempt to kick my shins.”
Izabela laughed. “I’ll leave it for now then. Did you find Marta?”
Dmitrio’s smile faded. “Yes, though it took several days of searching to find an entrance into Marcia’s Peak. Mal was able to finally locate it using her aetherium detector. We found traces of where Marta had used some to open the rock face.”
“You’re certain?” asked Teri.
“It’s the strongest signal,” insisted Mal.
Dmitrio ran a hand over the rock. His fingers tingled as he brushed against very faint silver-orange lines. “It’s hard to see but there’s traces of aetherium dust here. The other sites were veins of raw aetherium. The processed dust feels different.”
“So there’s a door here. Can you open it?” asked Teri.
Dmitrio put a glove on his left hand then put aetherium dust on his right. “Mal, please pull off the glove for me.” In response to Teri’s puzzled look, he added, “I can feel the lines Marta drew if I don’t contaminate this hand with additional dust.” He slowly traced Marta’s work with this left hand, adding fresh dust with his right. “I recognize this pattern, he said absently. “Mal, refer to the notes we gathered at Erinn’s Folly.”
Mal pulled them out of his satchel and shuffled through the pages. “This one?” She held it where he could easily see it.
“Maybe. I was thinking of the one with the cog in the upper right corner.”
“Ah, this one then.”
“Yes, I believe so.” He used the diagram as a guide, confirming each line with the faint traces of silver-orange before adding more dust. When he finished, the dust outlined a door with an intricate snowflake pattern nearly as tall as he was. He wiped the dust off his hand and sat down on a boulder to rest.
“Here, drink this,” Teri said gently. “Are you well?”
Dmitrio drank the lukewarm tea left over from their breakfast. It was strong and tasted of bitter tannins and too much honey. As he drained the mug, he decided it was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted. “I am well. Thank you for your concern.”
Teri squeezed his shoulder. “How did Marta know to do that?””
“It’s difficult to say. Perhaps there as another diagram on the notes she took or she had another source of information,” said Dmitrio.
“How’s your head?” asked Mal.
“The tea helped,” said Dmitrio. He stood. “I believe we press here and here to open the door.”
The rock swung silently inward. The passageway was dark as ink, quickly overwhelming a beam of sunlight. The floor was roughhewn rock.
“I’m guessing not the main entrance,” said Mal.
Dmitrio created a ball of light and sent it just ahead of them. “Probably not, though I’m guessing this was Marcia’s preferred entrance.” The light hovered over a bench with rotting boots underneath it and the remains of a tattered cloak hung from a hook. A set of boot prints traced a path through the dust.
“Marta?” asked Mal.
“Most likely,” said Dmitrio. “Check your detector. I feel the hum of aether ahead.” It vibrated the very his very bones with a familiar resonance.
“You know, I could light a torch. You don’t have to wear yourself out,” said Teri.
“This is no trouble at all. Just a basic illusion,” said Dmitrio.
“There’s aetherium being used up ahead. The dials are at maximum,” said Mal. She put the device away. “Though I don’t think you really needed me to tell you that.”
“Even I can feel it,” said Teri. “The hair on the back of my neck is standing up.”
“Let’s proceed with caution,” said Dmitrio. “I’d hate to get caught in whatever she’s doing.”
The path sloped upward and curved to follow the outer wall of the mountain. Sapphire lined alcoves for aetherium lanterns, long fallen to disuse, marked every fifty steps. Dmitrio estimated they’d made three turns up the mountain when rough stone changed to marble with lapis lazuli inlays of alchemical symbols. Ornate brass lanterns flickered to life as they approached. The humming grew stronger as they ascended.
Another two turns brought them to a large pair of double doors with a heavy lock. Dmitrio traced the edges of it. “It seems to match the key taken from Erinn’s Folly.” He pushed at the door and it swung open. A key with a garnet head rest in the lock on the other side.
copyright 2015, all rights reserved, Kimberley Long-Ewing