“Didn’t you tell me that it was bad to get aetherium in a wound? I seem to remember you lecturing me about that when I started using it in my glass work.” Izabela’s voice lowered in an attempt to mimic Dmitrio. “Remember to always wear gloves when cleaning up the inevitable broken glass.”
He smiled. “I don’t sound like that.”
“You do.” She studied his eyes intently. “Still, I see only slight traces of it in your eyes.”
“I have a higher tolerance to it than you do,” Dmitrio said gently. “And I have ways of using it effectively so I can draw it out. No, it wasn’t that slight exposure that silvered my eyes and even that is fading rapidly. You needn’t worry.”
“You managed to get more of it into your blood?” Izabela raised her eyebrows incredulously.
“I’ll get to that.” Dmitrio rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly. “First let me tell you about Erinn’s workshop.” He summoned up an illusion. “The cavern was a fantastic garden, like a warm forest oasis in the desert. Water was piped up from a deep pool and fell in a rainbow of droplets back down from the ceiling.”
A waterfall sent a fine mist over plants growing around a deep pool and made the marble path slick. Sunlight filtered down through vines and sent rainbows dancing in the droplets. An archway ahead led into a library with shelves on every wall, floor to ceiling. Most of the books were rotted by time, mold, and worms. One crumbled at Dmitrio’s touch.
“Too bad,” said Mal. “Whatever aetherium was protecting this place has long faded.”
“Can you tell if Marta was here?” asked Teri.
“It’s possible. If so, I doubt she found anything of value,” said Dmitrio. “Let’s check the next room.”
Teri pulled him back from the doorway and pointed to a tripwire. “Careful. Stand back and let me see what I can do.”
Teri traced the wire up the other side of the arch to a partial glyph. A small bag of aetherium dust was set to dribble down the wall when the wire broke and complete the symbol. He traced the wire back to the floor. “Hand me something heavy. A book or a stone.”
“How about this?” Mal handed him a jade rabbit paperweight.
Teri hefted it. “Should do the trick. Dmitrio, cut the wire when I say.”
He held the wire and nodded. When Dmitrio cut it, he held the tension while lowering the wire to the ground and put the weight on the end. They collectively held their breath. The aetherium did not spill. Teri grinned up at Dmitrio.
“Well done,” Dmitrio said.
“Any idea if we can remove the aetherium?” asked Teri.
Dmitrio cautiously stepped through the archway and studied the glyph. “A fire spell. Marta was definitely here. I can tell by the way she swirls the tail of this character.” He removed the bag of dust. He opened it, touched the dust on the wall, and drew it down into the mouth of the bag. “This could come in handy later.”
Mal poked at a pile of cloth on the floor. “Looks like she ransacked the place.”
Drawers were dumped out, the mattress thrown up against the wall and cut open, rugs rolled aside, and lids of trunks torn off. Even the fireplace grate had been pushed aside and ancient ash searched. Dmitrio picked up a silk robe. Dry rot had long ago set in and it crumbled at his touch.
“Pity,” Dmitrio said.
Teri lift up a corner of an askew wall tapestry. Faded blue, silver, and green threads traced out snow covered mountains and forests. “Such beautiful work.” A puff of dust and lint plumed as it crumbled.
copyright 2015, all rights reserved, Kimberley Long-Ewing