After returning to their rooms, the night slipped by silently as tension between the three boys hung thick in the air. Morning came and as Billy awoke he noticed that Zak wasn’t in his bed, or in the room at all. He listened to see if he could hear him but could only hear Trey’s heavy breathing.
Returning to the bedroom after searching for Zak and eating breakfast, Billy shook Trey to wake him. It failed. He grabbed Trey’s mattress and tipped it. Trey fell onto the hard floor. He still lay fast asleep.
“By the sprites, he is hard to wake up,” Billy muttered to himself.
Next Billy held Trey’s nose closed but the sleeping boy just started breathing through his mouth instead. Billy placed his other hand over Trey’s mouth but still his chest rose and fell and he did not seem to be suffocating. Billy could still hear Trey’s breathing and upon closer inspection realised he was breathing through his ears.
“What the hell?” was all Billy managed to say.
Billy could no longer be bothered with messing around. He lifted Trey’s body over his shoulder and left their room. A servant passed him along the corridor and gave him a suspicious look.
“I’m taking out the laundry,” he stated as he shoved Trey through the laundry chute. There was a series of loud thuds then quiet. Billy smiled pleasantly to the servant then headed for the laundry room.
As he arrived there, Trey opened the door and sleepily rubbed his eyes and yawned.
“Why did I wake up in a laundry basket?” Trey asked.
Billy ignored his question. “Never mind that, Zak has gone and so has his axe. To make matters worse, he’s taken the Nimula book.”
“That can’t be good.”
“No it can’t.”
They checked in with Dawn to see if she knew where he was, but she didn’t. They were about to leave the inn to search outside when one of the servants stopped them.
“Can I help you with anything?” he asked in a slightly disapproving, snobbish manner.
“Yes, you can,” answered Trey. “Have you seen a boy our age, black hair with blond streaks, carrying an axe about as tall as he is?”
“I have,” stated the man with disgust. “He is in the study.” He pointed down a corridor to their left. “Third door on the right.”
They ran to the study and barged through the door. They entered a relatively large room occupied with five square tables, a candle in the centre of each, and a large chandelier taking up most of the roof. Books lined every wall.
Zak was sitting in the far corner of the room, his axe leant against the wall at his side. He seemed to be intently studying his grandfather’s book of Nimula. Pux stood nearby, a mess of materials at his feet and several open books that dwarfed him were laid out around him.
“What are you planning?” asked Billy suspiciously.
Zak looked up at the looming figure of Billy and smiled sweetly. “Nothing,” he replied innocently.
“What are you using the book for?” asked Trey.
“I’m broadening my horizons.”
“More like preparing an imminent catastrophe,” sneered Billy.
Sounding hurt, Zak replied “What gave you that idea?”
“You’re a walking disaster,” said Billy
“I’m clearly sitting.”
Trey sighed. “If you promise not to cause destruction and panic you can stay and keep the book.”
“Fine,” said Trey. “Me and Billy are heading out to see Avocado Dusk perform tonight, and Dawn said something about an important meeting, so if you blow something up or summon a bloodthirsty monster, you’re on your own.”
The day passed by uneventfully after that. Neither Zak nor Dawn were seen during the rest of the morning. The time of the performance arrived and Trey and Billy set off, feeling excitement for the first time in over a week, the horrors of the past few days and the task before them forgotten for a scant few hours.
The streets were filled with groups of happy youths, all heading to the stadium where the concert was being held. The adults shunned the kind of music that the troupe played, preferring the classical lute performers of their childhood.
As they walked, Trey bent down and scooped up a smooth stone. This was the fifth he had picked up since their arrival into the city but he offered no explanation when asked.
The stadium was located at the very centre of the city and was Onlasar’s most popular form of entertainment. When it was first constructed it served as a battleground for warriors to test their strength and skill and criminals to face their punishments. Huge audiences had gathered to sit in the many tiers and enjoy the blood. Times grew more civilised and the stadium became home to events like races, plays and performances.
Trey gazed upon the stadium in amazement. The entrance was a magnificent door as high as ten men were tall and so wide five broad shouldered men could walk alongside each other without even brushing shoulders. The wall continued for another five men’s worth of height above the door.
Carvings of the stadium’s history and the feats of those who fought within it covered the wall’s surface. A smaller door was dwarfed by the old main entrance, but this was the door the crowd was heading for. It was just wide enough for two men to walk shoulder to shoulder through it but a man took up half that space collecting tickets.
After handing their tickets to the man they entered the main building. It was like walking into another world. The roof was painted like a perfect night sky. Every star was a small white flame, as was the moon which hung in a netted cage and filled the room with heat like the warmth of a thick cover on a cold night. Five tiers ringed the central area although only the first two were in use by the crowd.
When everyone had taken their seats a chatter of anticipation arose. A burst of flames near a side door attracted the crowd’s attention. Three men stepped out onto the central stage and the crowd exploded with cheers. The men made their way to the middle where a drum and two new model lutes, named lutars, were placed.
The noise decreased slightly as the band said a brief introduction. It soon picked up again as a steady melody was played on the lutars, increasing in volume and pace. Trey took a stone from his pocket and whispered to it. It glowed for the briefest second then faded back to being a normal stone.
Many songs were played, including ones that Trey and Billy had never heard before. Billy had noticed that Trey was acting strange and kept bringing out various different stones. If Billy thought right, he was casting Nimula on them too.
The concert ended and the crowds began to disperse, their spirits high after a wonderful night. Trey headed off back to the Silver Chalice saying he had some things to attend to but Billy stayed to try and talk to the band.
When Trey returned he could hear Dawn’s ‘nonexistent’ snores from within her room. He entered the boys’ room but it was empty. Zak still wasn’t back.
Trey found a basket and placed all the different stones from his pockets into it. He spoke some strange words and a green fire erupted around the stones. It died down but, defying logic, the stones still gently burned with the jade flames. He shoved the basket under his bed then climbed into the sheets and fell asleep.