Illusin looked nonplussed at this response. Before he could speak, however, one of the injured mages sat up, groaning with pain as he did.
“Archmage,” he gasped out, “They took it.”
“The artifact?” Illusin demanded. At his underling’s nod, he continued, “Who took it? Where did they take it?”
“Please, archmage,” one of the other wizards pled, “He’s badly injured, he should be seen by a healer immediately.”
Frustration evident on his face, Illusin nodded a curt assent. The mage murmured a spell, and his injured companion floated gently up into the air. Two of the mages, gently grabbed his arms and started towing him off. The worst hurt of the other mages were being treated similarly.
Illusin glared at those remaining. “Well? Did not any of the rest of you see what happened? You three!” He barked at a small cluster of wizards, “You were also to guard the artifact! What have you seen?”
They looked at each other, each daring the others to speak first. At last one of them said, “We were at the door, when we heard a tremendous explosion. We had to unseal the door to get in, and when we did… well, there were already all of the Madness-Touched, and…”
“I caught a glimpse of him!” One of his companions interrupted. “Someone in Guild robes disappearing around the corner!”
“You mean to suggest it was one of our own?” The Archmage demanded, just as another of his colleagues walked up behind him. Almonihah snorted, but Garkhen tapped him on the arm before he could say anything ill-advised.
“I suspect it is so, Illusin,” the newcomer said, startling the addressed archmage.
“Why do you say that, Ganver?” Illusin asked, turning to face his colleague.
“To be done so quickly, without destroying the outer wards? I thought it the only obvious possibility,” Archmage Ganver replied. “None but a high-ranking member of our Guild could perform such a feat.”
Illusin looked like he wished to disagree but could not think of an argument to make. Satisfied that he’d silenced his fellow Archmage, Ganver turned to the remaining mages. “That being the case, our mystery thief would likely anticipate our most predictable responses, and will thus be shielded against magical detection. However!” He turned to the two half-dragons. “We do not teach classes on tracking here in the guild. Perhaps a Ranger might be able to figure out where he has gone?”
“Across stone?” Almonihah asked, incredulously. “’f it was grass, sure, but here…” He trailed off and narrowed his eyes. “Wait.”
Carefully he went back to the breach in the wall and looked around. “Lot ‘f dust,” he murmured to himself, looking about. “There. Bootprint.” He didn’t bother pointing it out to anyone else, rather searching for another.
“There. Dust on th’ boots now…” He muttered, starting to follow a faint trail down the hall.
This story needs to quit proving Almonihah right about mages.