As I sweep the stone wall behind the huge tapestry, I feel a bulge under my fingers. As I lift the fabric even higher a smile full of satisfaction blooms on my face.
“Victor!” I shouted all excited at the sight of my find hiding behind a heavy tapestry. - Victor, come here at once!
My brother slowly approached me with his suspicious face.
“What did you find again?” he snorts.
“There is some kind of lever here." I reply, not paying much attention to his annoyed face. “I wonder what it activates.”
With a laborious movement I reach with my hand for the lever, when suddenly my brother grabs it at my wrist and looks at me with a murderous gaze.
“What are you doing!”
“Can't you see? I'm trying to see what this lever does." I reply.
“This trigger can blow us up!”
“If this was really the case, why is it hidden behind a heavy tapestry of roses? After all, the clue said "In the woven garden there will be a lily that will show you the way to me." There is a lily flower engraved on the lever. Also, from what I remember, you're a mage, so you'll cast some kind of protective barrier or something and it will be over.”
“Magic doesn't work that way, Raphael.” Victor says, massaging his temples. “The last time someone officiated here was about six centuries ago. And imagine that he didn't do a thorough, archival analysis of the magical safeguards in this castle. Some protection spells may have so soaked into this place that even the Purification Spell won't exterminate them, let alone...”
While my brother is still talking, I abruptly turn around and pull the reins down.
“Raphael!!!” He ripped out with all his might in my direction the dark-haired man.
However, in return for an answer, I felt the shaking of the stone floor and the sound of stone sliding against the floor, which rumbled loudly in my ears.
When the awful sound stopped, I looked around the chamber to see that the fireplace that stood next to it, a large ornate bookcase had moved, revealing a torch-lit passage upstairs.
And that's how you do it - always trust your own gut feeling, because the prejudices of others will always bring you hours of lectures about why it is their prejudices that are right.
I felt a smile of triumph bloom on my face.
“And what?” I asked myself sarcastically in my brother's direction.
“What "what?"” He asked with an indignant expression on his face.
“We are in one piece. Nothing fell on us. There was no explosion of Fireballs or other grandeur... Don't you think you have something to tell me?”
“Yes" He replied, pointing a chastising finger in my direction. “One more such outburst, and I'll personally badger you.”
After these words, Victor heads towards the open door, leaving me with a disgusted expression on my face.
What is he so nervous about today? Let him loosen up his galoshes - I understand that this artifact is very important to him and may give him the coveted title of Expert in Magical Artifacts or whatever - well, but how much can you dwell on it? I'm not that stupid and he knows it well.
With a quick step I join my brother at the entrance, which turns out to lead to the stairs to the upper floor.
“Stairs? Quite an unusual sight in the fortresses of the old sorcerers.” I say, seeing the stone steps illuminated by torches.
“Not quite. Not every mage in the old days used teleportation or transmission magic.”
With a snap of his fingers, my brother conjures up a flame that lights his way like a candle.
“Why?” I ask, taking out a torch from my grasp to light the stairs and begin, slowly climbing the stairs with Victor.
“This was not a common practice among higher-ranking mages. It was mostly determined by the fact that the paths to their laboratories were infested with neutralizing runes, so using teleportation would be ineffective. Transmission magic, on the other hand, was not developed enough at the time to break through the runic barrier.” He replies, walking proudly upright.
At his words I squint my eyes in concentration, wanting to look into the old scrolls of my head to analyze his words once again.
“Wait, because I'm not catching something here. If there are magic-blocking runes here, then, how can you conjure fire here?”
“The runes have probably partially worn away after so many centuries. I would be able to cast a minor spell or illusion here. On the other hand, even a bit more magic throw would not work here.”
“This sounds quite logical.”
Suddenly I hear a click - like a button being turned on. Or a ratchet.
With all my strength I pull my brother backwards, just before he seems to have missed the collapsing step.
Victor wobbled slightly, but eventually settled on the last step and my shoulder.
“It was close." Says the mage, still looking dimly at the spot where the stone step had been a second ago.
“Too close" I add, then lean over the staircase where the pressure plate is located. “Somehow, I don't recall you mentioning this type of protection.”
The tile was created in such a way that it would not break out of the stone staircase. Even a keen eye would have trouble seeing this switch. You can definitely see that this is the work of a professional.
“Because such magicians did not assume. Runes, magic artifacts, and even magic traps. That's right. But not something as primitive as trapdoor tiles. No mage would stoop to something like that.”
“And maybe, that's why the mage set them up here. He figured that no more powerful mage would expect such, as you put it, "primitive" safeguards. The mage would have pressed on the plate. He would not be able to cast any spell, so he would fall. And then he would get hurt because of it. A mage like you, for example.” I say, getting up from my crouch, then turning towards my brother. “Alternatively, it could have been a protection against non-magical beings. Such as myself.”
“Here you may be right.”
“The main thing now is to be careful underfoot. As far as the staircase ends, there may be definitely more surprises upstairs than here.”
“It's hard to disagree.”
We climbed a few more stairs until finally we were on the coveted floor, without any more problems. The stairs led to a long corridor decorated with many tapestries with flowers embroidered on them.
Although it had been a long while, further on Victor seems a bit tense after that action with the trapdoor.
“Victor, this isn't your first sinkhole ever. There is nothing to shake." I throw in indifferently.
“I know, but it was the first one that could actually do me harm. If it wasn't for you and your donkey stubbornness to come here with me, I would probably be lying there broken.”
“And if I had let you go, I would have bored to death at home. So the conclusion is simple...“ I interrupt theatrically. “We need each other. Whether we like it or not.”
Before we knew it, we found ourselves at the end of a corridor, which was crowned to the curiosity not with a window, a door, but a huge dark mirror.
-“And what is this?” I asked, illuminating the mirrored panel located on the wall.
“It looks like a mirror" My brother replied with equal curiosity. "But it is certainly not ordinary.”
“So much of it and I can see myself, genius.”
He slowly zooms his hand along the glass plate.
-“I can feel the magic in it. But I don't associate that the clue mentions a mirror, a glass panel or any other shamrock.”
“And by chance, wasn't there a part that said "Only a word can open the door to me"?” I ask.
“Yes." He confirms. “So it could be a talking mirror-door. Except that we don't know what the password to his garden is. And the wrong one can even cause the door to be opened to the breeding ground of bears or other demons....”
“Hey, grown glass with a reflection! Roses are mere weeds compared to lilies!” - I shout at full volume.
“Raphael!!! We don't know how many opportunities we have to guess the password, and you've already wasted one!“ Victor shouts at me.
“Hello, sir." Suddenly speaks a powerful, strong voice coming out as if from inside an oversized mirror.
At that moment, I watch as the darkness in the depths of the mirror, is slowly dispelled by the warm rays of sunlight, which slowly gets in until it consumes all the darkness of the glass sheet.
“Really?” asks sarcastically toward the mirror my brother, then flips his frustrated gaze back to me. - Really?
Ironic, isn't it?
“As I said: We need each other. And it looks like you acutely need me today more than ever.”
After getting to the other side of the mirror, I parted my lips and shook out my eyes, wanting to see every last detail of the landscape around me.
The first thing that caught my eye was a small waterfall that fell into a rather sizable body of water, on which spreading lilies drifted gently like feathers on huge leaves. The entire lake was surrounded by spreading bushes of chrysanthemums, roses, azaleas and hydrangeas, and the path around us was a kind of tunnel created from vines and purple like amethyst lilacs. The entire garden was illuminated by the light summer sun, which every now and then the delicate branches of the trees muscled my skin. It looks - as it probably also is - like magic.
“This garden is amazing! And so huge! I didn't think, honestly, that magicians knew how to grow such wonderful plants" I said looking around with my eyes wide open.
“Acutely, Turlen was fascinated by plants of all sorts and their uses. He loved them and cared about them. Definitely more than he cared about his relationships with other rational beings," he says, then pulls a pencil and his journal out of his bag and begins to scribble something in it.
“This, why his most powerful artifact resembles a lily?” I ask.
“Exactly.” confirms, then returns to his thoughtful expression again - We got inside the garden. Half of the success is behind us. However, we now have a small problem....
Problem, after problem. Just like it was with the mirror, the lever or the trapdoor - I assume.
“Which one again?” I ask tiredly.
“We do not know where in this garden he could hide this artifact.
I look at him with a gaze full of inner frustration.
“Tell me you're joking, Victor," I say toward the dark-haired man. “I beg you. Tell me this is some kind of unfunny joke.”
I put my hands on my face, then slowly run them upward to my ponytailed black hair.
“Great, truly delectable.” I added sarcastically.
“Today, you handle your tasks with exceptional ease. Maybe whack some magic phrase or pull some completely unfamiliar lever, then maybe you'll find it," says my brother with a hint of annoyance in his voice, looking at me meaningfully, then goes back to writing down his difficult scientific formulas in his journal again.
Was that supposed to be sarcasm? Could it be that my big brother feels disheartened by the fact that today I am the one who has better luck at traversing this castle than he does? That's pretty unusual for him.
“Hey, you don't have to be so fussy," I reply.
“I'm not fooled”
“I'm not epiphany, Raphael.” he snorts.
I have known this idiot for twenty years and I know when he is out of sorts and when he is not. That's why when I say he's fooled - he's fooled.
“You are, you are. You just don't want to admit it. As always," I say, calmly approaching him.
“I'm having a worse day today.”
“When I saved your skin or broke some security before, you didn't have a face like today. I know that something is going on.”
Victor sighs heavily, then turns to me with a sad expression on his face.
“Amicia rejected my engagement.”
After these words, I see his eyes glaze over slightly, then a single tear slowly runs down his cheek. The dark-haired man removes his monocle and massages his temples with his other hand.
“I'm sorry Victor.” I reply, putting my hand on his shoulder. “She gave you, at least a reason for refusal?”
“Magical heritage," he answers almost automatically. “She laughed at me. She said that she could never marry a mage. She stated that marrying a mage would be derogatory to her family and she would come off as desperate.”
What a foolish, spoiled dumpster.
“So you mean to say that she rejected you just because you are magically gifted?” she asks ironically. “What a stupid woman.”
“She's not ditzy, she just...” he breaks off, then takes a deep breath, holding back the tears smoldering in his eyes. “I don't think I'm right for her.”
“I would more use the statement that she is the one who is unsuitable for you, but he doesn't want to argue.” I counter “At least you know where you stand Victor.”
“I do," he interrupts. “I know that no one else of higher status will even look at me as a potential candidate for marriage.”
“Victor, don't be dramatic. It can't be that bad”.
“Amicia is a delight in company. She'll probably treat my confession as a funny news story to tell others. Something that is only worth laughing at.”
“Don't worry, if she does something like this she will regret it very, very bitterly. Remember that the clergy in our city adore me...”
Father Lucius continues to adore my news about cruel, ancient heretics whose lives were cut short by being burned at the stake. I wonder how he'll react to the news that one of the young ladies who brims in the company is unfortunately telling lies about our beloved God....
My brother smiled slightly.
“You always know how to make me feel better, but please...” he says, looking at me meaningfully. “Do not accuse her of heresy or being a witch. Even if it makes me a laughing stock.”
“Okay...” I break off. “I'll try not to do that. But I'm not promising anything”
“Thank you," he says, wiping tears from his eyes and forcing a smile on his face. “Where did we end up?”
“On the fact that you will embrace your tense rump and help me look for that magic flower.”
“Actually. Let's get moving.”
After searching around a pond, a waterfall, huge beds of herbs and vegetables, a small gazebo, and poisoning ourselves with some fungal spores I can't name, we headed to a greenhouse with some of the most exotic plants I've ever seen in my life. Each bud, leaf or fruit has its own unique color and shape. They look so majestic. So magical.
“If this artifact is not here, I have no idea where he could have hidden it.” Replies my brother, exhausted from wandering through the huge garden.
“In fact, if I were a magician, I would hide the artifact here myself," he adds. “Not everyone would have the courage to move among plants that can even eat you.”
“It's true. Only a mage can really walk here peacefully without fearing for his life," my brother confirms.
As I take more steps behind my brother, suddenly something glowing among the tall grasses on the side path catches my eye.
“Victor, wait," I stop him with a tap on his shoulder, then point my finger in the direction of the illuminated feature. “I think there's something there.”
“It is probably some old watering can or spade. Nothing worth our attention.”
Nah... I'm going to check it out anyway.
Therefore, as soon as my brother turned around, I move towards the sparkly object with all my speed. As soon as I approach the spot of shine, I gently lift the leaves of the plant, and to my eyes appears... a watering can.
“I think you had it Victor, here indeed there is nothing worth noticing except this one...” I say, shaking the metal gardening tool, at which it makes a rumbling sound. “A watering can?”
I look inside the watering can.
“Victor! Victor! Come here at once!” I shout at full throat, smiling at the same time, like a child on Agnik.
Inside this metal slightly rusty flower water bucket is the most famous, most powerful artifact of the Master of Plant Magic Turlen! Pinch me, because I must be dreaming!
“What happened!” screams the terrified and breathless dark-haired man.
I plunge my hand into the metal vessel and pull out the crystal lily as gently as I can.
It looks tek delicate. Its petals look like polished diamonds, the stamens look like they would be made of amber, and the pistil itself would be made of amethyst. One feels a magical aura from it, which could be a destructive force or the power to help many people. However, one still has the feeling that all it takes is at least a small violent movement and the flower will shatter into tiny pieces.
However, my bart does not share my enthusiasm. On the contrary - at the sight of the artifact made of precious stones, Victor turned pale, as if he saw a ghost.
“Raphael... Slowly put it down," he says firmly. “Immediately.”
“I don't understand.” I reply confused, holding the flower further in my hands.
At that moment, a purple plume of smoke began to emit from the flower, and just as it was beginning to slightly irritate my nostrils, I feel a strong push that knocks me to the floor and knocks the artifact out of my hands.
As he realizes what's happening, I see Victor step into my place, and purple fumes fly at him. My bart starts coughing slightly, then falls inertly to the ground.
“Victor!!!” I shout, running up to my brother's body.
The flower glows softly, then goes out, and the smoke from it stops.
I lean over the body of the dark-haired mage looking for signs of any life signs.
“Victor!” I shudder, patting my brother lightly on the cheek in sheer terror. “Victor, wake up! This is not funny!”
I check his breathing. He stinks of pate, but he's breathing.
“Victor! I beg you Victor, wake up!” I shout, shaking him by the shoulders. “Wake up! I beg you!”
But he didn't move. He didn't move at all.
Like under a spell.
Merci pour la lecture!
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