"Those corridors aren't really safe, Priestess," Sorgan replied. "My cousin Torl will be right there in the temple. Why don't you just give him one of those gold blocks every morning? Torl loves gold, so he won't let anything happen to the lady who gives him a gold block every morning at breakfast time."
"It shall be as you have requested, mighty Sorgan," the tiny priestess agreed.
It was all Sorgan could do to keep from laughing out loud. There were two people in the temple who hated each other with a passion, and now they were both paying Sorgan a block of gold every day to protect them from each other.
It was about noon two days later when Torl came back out to Sorgan's imitation fort with four blocks of gold. "I can't for the life of me find out where the treasure-room is located, cousin," he declared. "Bersla and Alcevan never leave that throne room but morning and evening, one of them hands me one of these gold blocks."
"The pay's very good, cousin," Sorgan said. "And the work's not really very hard." Then he frowned. "The only drawback is how long it's likely to take us to empty out the treasure-rooms—assuming, of course, that they're each filching these blocks from a different room. For all we know, they could both be taking the blocks out of the same room."
"If that's the case, that room will get emptied eventually."
"That's all right with me, Torl," Sorgan said. "One day with no pay, and we're out of here."
"They probably will kill each other as soon as we're gone, cousin," Torl said.
"And we'll both be terribly sad when that happens, won't we?" Sorgan suggested with a wicked grin.
"I don't really think that's going to break my heart, cousin," Torl replied. "It might bend it just a little, but I'm fairly sure it won't break."
"You do have a fairly strong heart, cousin," Sorgan agreed.
Then they both laughed.
It was later that same day when Veltan came crashing in on his pet thunderbolt. As usual, the loud crash shook Sorgan right down to his toenails. "Where have you been?" he demanded of Lady Zelana's younger brother.
"We did have a family emergency, Sorgan," Veltan replied.
"I know," Sorgan said. "What are you doing about it?"
"We haven't really decided yet. Is anything unusual going on down here?"
"I think it's called 'church politics,' Veltan," Sorgan replied, "which is a polite way of saying 'open war.' Takal Bersla and tiny little Alcevan are right on the verge of going all out. So far, all they've been doing is sending out murderers to kill off various members of the opposing side. Bersla and Alcevan both know that they're in mortal danger, so they've both hired me to protect them. I've got men over in the main church keeping the churchies apart." Then he grinned. "Actually, this upcoming war has turned into a golden—and I do mean 'golden'—opportunity for me. A while back Takal Bersla hired me to protect him, and the next morning teenie-weenie Alcevan came by, and she also hired me. Each one of them pays me a gold block every day to keep them alive, so this is turning into a profitable little war for me. They hate each other all the way down to the ground, and I'm fairly sure that there are a couple of other things they'd like for me to do, and they are almost certain to make me even more interesting offers before too many days go by."
"You're not really going to get involved at that level, are you?"
"Of course not, Veltan. I will take the gold, though. Then I'll just take the money and run."
"That's terrible!" Veltan exclaimed.
"I know," Sorgan admitted. "Fun, though."
Torl came out to the fort a few days later to bring the loot to Sorgan. "I think you might want to take a fairly close look at these blocks, cousin," he said. "I think I've found the gold-block warehouse. If you look at the blocks, you'll see that each one of them has quite a bit of sand ground in along one side."
"Why would anybody do that?" Sorgan demanded.
"It's a way to hide the gold, cousin. That coat of sand makes these gold blocks look like ordinary building blocks."
"Well, sort of, I suppose. What's the point of doing that, though?"
"It's a way to hide the gold. I have found the place where Aracia kept all her gold."
"Well, finally!" Sorgan said. "Where is it?"
"In her throne room, cousin. Actually, Holy Aracia's throne room is walled in with solid gold that's been disguised to make it look like ordinary bricks. I scraped a few places with my knife when nobody was watching, and sure enough, every brick I scraped was actually a gold block."
"That throne room is enormous!" Sorgan exclaimed.
"It is indeed, cousin, and it's walled in with solid gold. I'd say that one of Aracia's priests—possibly Takal Bersla—came up with the idea even before Narasan's Trogite army arrived here last autumn. We've spent days and days looking for the gold warehouse, and it's been right there in front of us every time we went into the throne room. We're going to need a lot of ships to carry our gold when we leave this place."
Sorgan began to tremble violently. "I think I'd better go over there and have a close look," he said. "I don't think we've got enough ships in the whole Land of Dhrall to carry that much gold, and I'm not going to just sail away and leave most of it behind."
"It's safer here, cousin," Torl declared. "They won't know that we're in this hidden corridor, and quite some time ago I pried out a couple of ordinary stone blocks so that I could see what they were doing in that silly throne room, as well as hear what they were saying to each other." He paused for a moment. "If I'd just reached in through the holes I'd made in this wall, I could have gathered up several dozen of those gold bricks."
"You missed your chance, Torl," Sorgan said with a faint smile. Then he peered through Tori's small opening. He was just a bit startled when he saw fat Takal Bersla sitting on Aracia's gold throne. "Isn't that pushing things just a bit?" he asked Torl. "Aracia's only been gone for a week or so, and now the Fat Man has sort of usurped her throne."
Torl shrugged. "At least it protects his back if somebody tries to kill him. Then, too, he almost certainly believes that he's going to come out the winner in this skirmish he's having with Alcevan."
"My fellow priests," Bersla declared in his oratorical voice, "dear Holy Aracia has gone forth to look upon the creatures who are currently invading this most holy of the four Domains of the Land of Dhrall. It is by her command that I have taken her place here. She has spoken to me, and only I know what she wants."