Arkmar put the little grey box, a pentagonal prism, between them. They looked at it. “I don’t know,” said Ryel, “I don’t feel up to just opening it.”
Arkmar picked it up and looked at it closely. “If it had a spell on it,” he said, “what spell do you think it would be?”
“Could be instant death for all we know.”
“Why would he put that on there? What else might it be?”
Ryel squinted at the box. “Some kind of disease, I would think,” she said. “That temple’s deity was one of the ones that spread pestilence. But there’s a lot of those.”
“Could be,” said Ryel, raising her eyebrows and pursing her lips.
“Friend of mine,” said Arkmar, “priestess of something, well, she was assistant priestess of something at the time, I don’t know if she made priestess—!”
“Okay. Go on.”
“She used to call the Flaming Oratory spell when she wanted to rouse people but half the time she said the lightning spell instead.”
“They have a word in common,” said Ryel. “Did she kill herself?”
“No, but she came close several times.”
“This would be set to do more than come close, Arkbar.”
“Arkmar. It would be nice for you to remember it. I saved your precious Elvish life. So, what’s the likelihood, do you think?”
“I’m guessing pestilence,” said Ryel. “Arkmar.”
“Very good.” He half-smiled at the box.
“What?” He looked at her with a big grin.
“With this, your one wild and precious life.”
Arkmar laughed a little. Then he turned his gaze back to the box. He put his other hand on top of it, twisted a little, and raised the top. He raised his bushy eyebrows. He set the open box down between them, the lid off to the side.
Ryel leaned over and looked in. The box was shadowy, but that was just the low light. She reached in and took out a small, thick coin of shiny metal.
Then she took out a key, of a coppery alloy that was rather tarnished.
She peeked back in and took out a rather large ruby, carved in a complicated way. It seemed to her at a brief glance, which was all she felt like giving it, that it was somehow representational without looking like any real thing.
She looked back in, and saw one more thing: a hollow dark cylinder about an inch across and an inch high. She reached in and picked it up. It was made of a hard heavy yellowish metal, but not exactly gold. It had designs of some sort on the outside and inside surfaces, but they did not seem representational.
There was a shattering noice. She looked up, instinctively palming the cylinder. Arkmar was looking at a hammer she hadn’t noticed he had in his belt. Its head was cracked and chipped. Before him, the ruby was smashed into at least five parts and hundreds of shards.
“Okay,” said Ryel. “How and why?”
“The hammer’s got potency of smash. Had it, the damn ruby broke it. I didn’t bring a spare.”
“It was not to remain in this world,” he muttered. He met her eyes and she raised her eyebrows. “You looked at it. You know. Ach, I get it now. Elves are attuned to trees, and Dwarves to rocks. It is a rock. Well, now it’s a bunch of rocks.” He carefully picked up the bigger pieces and put them in a little bag he got out of his pack. “Still worth a pretty penny, don’t you think?”
“Oh, sure,” she said. “It just took me by surprise. I suppose you could have said something.”
“I suppose I could have. Did you disagree with the action itself? Out with it.” She smiled and said nothing. He grinned. “But you,” he said, “you do not commune with trees. No, your language is the language of knives and arrows.”
“Oh, I do pretty good with mosquitoes,” she said. “What else is in that box?”
He dumped it out. A dozen small gold coins fell out, and three modest diamonds, and a human toe bone, as both of them knew on sight.
“Smash it?” said Ryel.
“Guess so,” said Arkmar. He started whacking the bone with his broken hammer, and the bone disintegrated. “Well,” he said, “it wasn’t magic. You want the key and the coins?”
“You take the coins,” she said, holding up her hand with the cylinder in it. “I’ll take the key and this little trinket.”
“And the map.”
“Well, we can both have the map, while we stick together.” She started to get up. She swayed, gathered herself, then fell in a swoon. She came to almost instantly, and said, “I think I need a healer.” She began to swoon again.
“Here,” said Arkmar, holding out his flask, “have another dosage.”
She took it and swigged a good mouthful. “Ah yes,” she said, “thank you Doctor Arkwad. Er, Arkmar.”
“Need to get you to Doctor—!”
“Edgardo,” said Ryel foggily.
“You use him? I use him.”
“Yeah,” she said, pulling herself up to stand, leaning on the wall. “I use him.” She leaned over. The damn stings. She felt like throwing up, and so, she threw up. Still, the thought of Doctor Edgardo checking her all over for wounds gave her renewed strength.
“You can make it, sister?”
“Yeah,” she said, “for Edgardo, I can make it.”