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II. Our first time



“What was that all about?” asks Harmon, once we climb up again and we’re all together.


“You healed him?” Fenric asks. “Why’d you do that? You have energy left to heal us? Did it occur to you, actually, that we might have a few minor cuts and bruises ourselves before the day is out?”


“I do know that, actually,” says Janet. “Look, I actually haven’t used that spell up to now, I had to know if it would work, they don’t always work the first time. And in fact it didn’t, if you need to know, it took me two shots. I’m all set now.”


“So you were just working it up to make sure you could use it. Excellent. And how many more times today can you use it before you’re out of juice, Janet?”


“Um, two,” she says. She looks to me for support. I’m not really sure what expression I have on my face. “Pretty sure it’s two,” she finishes.


“We go with what we have,” says Harmon, but he looks at the other three warriors as if, well, it’s not what he would have ordered.


“All shall be well,” cries Hurcus, and Benvolio and Opmpontonius give a hail of agreement. He waves his sword at the stairway down. “So, then, that-away? That where the lapis circular thingy is?”


“Sssh,” Fenric hisses, glancing back toward where the wounded Padric is still sitting against his rock. We exchange looks. He grabs the other men in a sort of rugby huddle; I and Janet and Eleanor settle for exchanging glances. “The Lapis Circlet,” he says in a very low voice. “Is said to have been held by the Old Order on the Fourth Level Beneath. Now we are not ready to go for that just yet, we’re not idiots, okay? We are only scouting.”


“And hoping to pick up some treasure, eh?” Hurcus suggests.


“Well, I know I am,” I say to the other ladies. Benvolio and Ompontonius are saying exactly the same words over there in the huddle.


“Okay,” says Fenric, glaring at me. I’m like, what? I turn to examining my wand. It was my fourteenth birthday present, a bit beat up now three years on, light brown wood, walnut, nicely polished. I managed to carve the word Daisy and a bit of a flower on it, near the base. “Okay,” he repeats. “Here’s the order. Harmon, Hurcus, you’re in front. Then me and Eleanor, I’ll do the mapping. Then Daisy and Jan, then you two take up the rear.”


“Aw, bloody right I can do that,” Benvolio and Ompontonius say, more or less intelligibly, along with various oaths, snickers, innuendoes and bodily noises.


Fenric tries to ignore them and says “Daisy, make light?”


“If anyone can make light of this, I can,” I say, and before Fenric can complain about my humor, I hold my wand up and say Gao! This one I had practiced often, and it works first time: a glowing orb of pink appears at my wand tip and casts light about us.


“We’re good to go, then,” says Harmon. “Ready, all?”


And so we hop down into the wide trench before the stairway, form up, and without further discussion head down into the earth.