Dmitrio squinted in the bright afternoon sun. The sky was clear and a blue so deep as to nearly be black. Waves of heat shimmered across the sand for as far as the eye could see. Mal joined him as he leaned on a boulder as he got his bearings.
“I’ve got an aether meter. You’ll throw off my readings so stay still,” she said.
“Not a problem.”
She turned a brass nob on a palm-sized oak box. Needles jumped to life, one pointed to Dmitrio and the other oscillated on the middle of the scale. “Yep, still contaminated.”
Dmitrio grunted and tossed an illusory spider at her. It landed on the box and danced.
Mal waved it away and growled, “Sulphorous wastrel.”
Dmitrio settled down in the shadow of the boulder as Mal mapped the hilltop for aetherium. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the pressure of cool rock against his back. The air was dry and dusty with a hint of water. He frowned. “Water?”
Dmitrio opened his eyes as Teri sat down next to him and offered him a water skin. “Thank you. I smell water. Is there a source nearby?”
“No. Nothing for several miles. The sky is clear, so it’s not rain you’re smelling.” Teri took the water skin back, his hand brushing against Dmitrio’s fingers. “Was it this?”
Dmitrio tried not to stare too long into his eyes. “I, uh, no. I don’t think so.” He deliberately looked away. “Perhaps there’s water below us.”
“In Erinn’s workshop?”
“That would make sense. Can you smell it?”
Teri stood and offered Dmitrio a hand up. “No. But you’re the one who’s been playing with the aetherium.”
As Dmitrio followed the scent of water, he tried not to think about how Teri had held his hand a little longer than necessary when he’d helped him up or his slightly crooked smile as he’d turned away to check on Mal. The smell was strongest near a set of three boulders. Dmitrio knelt down and found that the rock was wet in the shadows.
“I found something.” Dmitrio and Mal spoke at the same time.
Dmitrio stood and peered around the boulder. “Mal?”
“What did you find?” she asked.
“What appears to be a vent. You?”
“The aetherium readings are strongest by these rocks and I can’t blame it all on you.”
“Let’s look for an entrance,” said Teri.
copyright 2015, all rights reserved, Kimberley Long-Ewing