Another book that doesn’t seem to have many teasers. Must be something with the search engine. Anyway, Path of the Traitors was a fun diversion from the main plot of the series to follow some side characters. It still had an impact, but I felt that I needed to give them some closure. It explained some more of the prophecy’s background too. This is a fun, low key scene. Enjoy.
Quail and Altia scratch their heads in unison, the pair trying to figure out the secret to the many passages built into the floor. Every confident attempt has been met with failure and a temporary enchantment ranging from enlarged hands to being transformed into slugs. All of the travelers still feel like they are coated in a thin layer of slime even though it has been an hour since they recovered. The only consistent result from making a choice is that they reappear in the center of the room, which is the star-shaped platform that cushions their landing. A gong is attached to the dais with a sign promising a safe return to the library for anyone who wishes to strike the instrument. Nobody has dared to test their luck since a trap would be equally as bad as being ejected from the vault without the diary. Chairs and a small bookcase are on the widest of the platform’s points, the shelves holding tales of heroes who learned that there is no shame in retreating. One of the tomes remains open on the floor, the shattered remains of Vile’s toothpick fused to the page he tried to stab out of frustration.
For the fifth time, Quail trips off a narrow walkway and falls into a hole, his flailing grab catching Altia and dragging her along. The others wait patiently for the pair to either return or enough time has passed for them to safely guess it is the correct path. Like every time before, a long note rises from the shadows and their friends are ejected with incredible force. They sail towards the boarded doorway in the ceiling where their bodies burst into a rain of golden sparkles, which gently swirls back to the platform. Quail and Altia are gradually reformed by a gust of cold wind, but the startled pair remain on the floor until they are sure the enchantment is gone. Sitting up and moving next to each other, they go over the map and request plate for the countless time.
“There has to be a clue somewhere,” Trinity interrupts while reaching out with her aura. All of the magical traps make it difficult to discern a safe passage and the channeler tries her best not to set the enchantments off with her prying. “You said the map changes every time one of us goes through a hole. What if the entrance moves? There must be a pattern to something like that or the Garians would be constantly getting lost down here.”
“If everything switches after a failed attempt then maybe they make a mistake on purpose to figure out the current configuration,” Nimby says, working off the theory. Tossing a rock into one of the holes, he frowns when nothing happens. “Too much to hope that inanimate objects can set these things off. I didn’t see any visual cues when Quail and Altia set off the last one, so it has to be memorization. None of this helps us anyway because we don’t know where the right path is in the first place. There has to be an answer around here.”
From his perch on the gong, Vile whistles and gestures for the others to come closer. “The best way to test this theory is to go through the same hole twice in a row. If the same thing happens both times then we know the entrance doesn’t move. I would volunteer to go, but I prefer to remain safe and whole. My vote is for the suspicious guide who is still far too accommodating to a bunch of outsiders.”
“I don’t want anyone going into a hole alone,” Trinity states, wrapping a cord around Altia before the elf can make the jump. Pulling the overly excited guide back to the group, the channeler takes her by the arm. “The last thing anyone wants is to pick the right hole and face whatever is next alone. I doubt the only defense is a complicated passageway puzzle since somebody could pick the right path through either dumb luck or learning the secret. Altia and I will both go. First, are you sure the map and plate say the same thing, Quail?”
“The door is in the floor,” the mapper reads, cringing at the simple rhyme. Tapping at the parchment, he makes another quick count of the holes that cover the entire page. “Not much help there since we don’t see a sealed entrance anywhere. Then again, this place is huge and the corners aren’t getting much light. The challenge could be getting to one of the walls and shuffling along to the right spot.”
“One theory at a time,” Altia retorts, gripping Trinity by the wrist. She tries to pull the channeler along, but finds that the other woman’s feet have bonded to the floor. “Fine, you go first and pick the hole. I know I’m being used as a shield, so I figured it didn’t make any difference. You people are very rude to strangers.”