The Tide of Shadows - Chapter 20

Adventure Date: March 29, 2014

Last Updated: July 19, 2014

Tide of Shadows Log #20 – Pitiless as the Sun

They all stared at the tunnel that was not a tunnel.  “So what do we do next?” Shribryn asked no one in particular.  The enchantment was simple yet devastating.  Ska’arr wrapped Lord Farragut’s body in a shroud once more after they had both been crushed when entering the short tunnel.

Kat looked at the tunnel.  Sticking her arm into the tunnel experimentally, she jerked it back quickly as the tunnel slammed down like a set of jaws.  She did it once again with similar results.  The tunnel seems to close in a set manner like it really was the mouth of a stone beast...  Pulling out pitons, she began hammering them into the wall on the edge of the tunnel.  Grasping the idea, Shribryn began hammering in her own set of pitons on the opposing wall of the tunnel.

Within short order, the pitons were all in place.  Turning to the others, Kat said, “Wish me luck!”  Stepping into the tunnel, the tunnel walls seemed to quiver as they sought to close down on Kat.  Seeing that the tunnel was secure, Kat stepped further into the tunnel.  With a violent screech, the pitons were wrenched out of the walls as the tunnel collapsed down on Kat.

Kat felt a moment of wrenching agony as the tunnel walls began to crush her.  The walls...too strong...I can’t break free.  Only hope...focus concentration...ignore pain...but it’s so hard!  I much!  Through sheer will, Kat shut off the pain.  Her body faded from the material plane.  Knowing she only had a short period of time to escape the trap, Kat floated through the Ethereal plane and coalesced beside her companions.

Pelias was shocked at Kat’s state.  Her body was badly battered.  Blood pumped from multiple wounds and Pelias could see several ivory protrusions – multiple bones had been shattered.  With a quick prayer, he summoned his holy energy and placed his hands on Kat.  She shook as her wounds began to knit themselves – dislodged bones and organs were pushed back into place even as her flesh closed the ghastly injuries.

Once she was able to draw a full breath, Kat smiled weakly at Pelias.  “Okay.  So that didn’t work.”

Ska’arr had run out of patience.  Spinning his flail over his head, he smashed into the tunnel rock.  Chunks of stone went flying.  Soon Raven joined in.  Enhancing her staff with magic, she began bashing the stone as well.  One of her strikes proved too successful – a large stone ricocheted off the ceiling and struck Raven in the forehead, knocking her on her back.  The unexpected blow addled her senses – Raven shook her head to clear the stars dancing before her eyes.

Ska’arr seemed not to notice Raven’s bad luck.  He continued to smash the rock and the tunnel began to visibly increase in size.  Kat noticed that, as Ska’aar struck deeper into the tunnel, the tunnel mouth didn’t clamp down.

“Ska’arr!  Stop!”  Kat had to finally grab Ska’arr’s arm to get him to stop his mad swinging.  “I think the trap is no longer functional.  You’ve damaged it enough.”

Saying a quick prayer to every deity of luck she knew, Kat stepped into the tunnel.  Nothing happened.  “It seems safe.”  Checking the tunnel for further traps, Kat carefully moved forward.  The tunnel ended after only 10 feet and narrowed to a 5 foot opening.

Kat peered into the room.  It seemed to be a large octagonal room, but it was completely pitch black.  Her dark vision allowed her to see into the room partially, but she couldn’t see the full scope of it.  Looking about, Kat could see that the ceiling was about 30 feet up and the floor was made of smooth stone.  In fact the quality of stone work made her draw the only conclusion – dwarven craftsmanship.  Drawing out a vial, she began to coat her shortswords in magical oil.

Knowing that the element of surprise was gone, Raven stepped into the room boldly, her hooded lantern bathing part of the room with light.  Even as she stepped forward, Pelias gently touched Raven’s shoulder.  As Raven strode into the room, she began to grow in size until she was twice her original height.

Shribryn coated her spiked chain with magical oil and stepped in.  Focusing, she sought to sense any movement within the room, but found no signs of any other beings other than the other Stalkers.  But Ro-Lund-Do’s ally saw four humanoids in this room.  Where did they go?

Ska’arr moved into the room and looked about.  Tossing an everburning candle into the middle of the room, they still could see no signs of the four humanoids Prima had seen.

Secundus!  Go search the room for threats and report back to me.  Scuro’s mental lash made the vampire spawn jump.  Quickly turning gaseous, Secundus began exploring the room.

The other Stalkers moved into a defensive position into the room.  Looking about, they could all see that the room was well built.  Suddenly, the light from the everburning candle diminished.  Turning, they saw a stony hand had reached out from the floor and engulfed the candle.  The hand retreated quickly back into the floor, taking the candle with it.

Though it happened swiftly, they could see that there had been something strange about the stony hand.  If it was an elemental, it wasn’t healthy.  There was no mark left on the stone floor to indicate that anything had occurred.  Tossing out sunrods to illuminate the room, Shribryn and Kat began circling the room, searching for any signs of danger.  Pelias made arcane symbols with his hands, chanting softly.  His form shivered and suddenly there were several identical images of Pelias moving about.  Scuro erected a field of force around himself and looked about.

Master!  We are being watched!  Secundus materialized beside Scuro.  I saw a rocky protrusion that was sticking out of the floor.  As I approached it, it turned towards me and I saw its eyes flicker with anger before it sank back into the floor.  I was close enough that I could sense a kindred spirit.  I do not know what they are, but the creature straddles the realm of the living and the unloving.

Scuro digested this information.  This could be beneficial.  Moving forward, he drew a wand and tapped Ska’arr on the shoulder.  Ska’arr began to grow in size.

Throar seemed lost in his own thoughts.  Oblivious to the threat around him, he walked into the room studying the pattern on the floor.  Though he could see no overt image in the pattern, he could tell immediately that the pattern was made to honour Moradin the Soul Forger.  Throar would need more time to study the pattern to find its true meaning.  Looking around the room, he saw that the doorway that they used to enter the room was closing quietly, yet rapidly.  Shocked, Throar stopped himself from fruitlessly rushing towards the almost closed entrance.  He realized that there was no way he could stop the doorway from closing and he knew that Moradin would provide a means of egress to those who were faithful.  He just had to be observant for the clues Moradin would leave to guide him to freedom.  Throar continued his examination of the floor’s pattern.

“There’s another one,” Raven hissed.  As quickly as it had popped out of the floor, the rock-like head disappeared beneath the floor’s surface.  Frustrated trying to find the creatures, Pelias began scanning for magical auras in his vicinity.  Seeing no auras in the floor, walls or ceilings, he continued to scan the room looking for any signs of the creatures.

Without warning, four rock-like humanoids emerged from the floor near Pelias and Ro-Lund-Do.  They looked like earth elementals, but there was something very wrong about them.  Stone and earth crumbled from their bodies, and they radiated a palpable aura of death.  With a roar, they struck.

Both Pelias and Scuro jumped back, but not quickly enough.  One of Pelias’ images flickered and disappeared as a stony fist smashed through it.  Pelias buckled over in pain as another fist struck his side.  Feeling his flesh pulp beneath the blow, he cried out.  The pain was more than physical – as the stony fist came into contact with him, Pelias could feel part of his life force being pulled out.  Hearing an agonizing hiss of pain, Pelias saw Ro-Lund-Do clutching his shattered forearm.  A look of loss and rage swept over Ro-Lund-Do’s face as he understood the true danger they faced.

“What has happened to you?” Throar cried out in anger.  “You were supposed to be the final guardians to this holy place!  You have become fallen!  Begone!  Your unholy presence is not welcome here!”  With that, holy energy erupted from Throar.  He recognized the necromentals – undead elementals – and he knew that they were a terrible threat.  The tainting of this holy sanctum was almost complete and the thought of Moradin’s allies being corrupted in such a manner was unbearable.

Scuro felt his minions shriek in agony.  As Throar’s holy energy burst forth, it had not only engulfed the necromentals, but Prima and Secundus as well.  Prima’s ethereal body was torn to shreds by Throar’s holy energy and Secundus turned and fled.

Enraged, Scuro threw his titanic will against the closest necromental.  Kneel before Scuro!  The necromental was too different, its mind too indecipherable for Scuro to subjugate.  The necromental swung at Scuro in retaliation.  Darting low beneath the necromental’s fist, Scuro fled from the necromentals.  If he stayed, he realized he would be overwhelmed.  Besides, it would be better to let the peons handle the necromentals.

Coughing up blood, Pelias quickly concentrated and formed an orb of fire and holy energy.  Launching it at the necromentals, he saw the stone of their bodies bubble under the intense heat as the fireball ripped through them.  The necromentals shrieked in agony as the holy energy threatened to snuff out the evil that pervaded their beings.

Summoning a shield of force in front of him, Ska’arr stepped forward and struck a necromental with his chain.  Chunks of rock flew like rotten flesh.  Two of the necromentals dropped beneath the surface of the floor while the other two turned to face Ska’arr and Pelias.

The moment the necromentals struck, Shribryn dashed towards the sounds of combat.  Tapping into her innate powers, she suddenly vanished from sight.  Continuing to run forward on silent feet, she struck a necromental.  As her chain lashed down, Shribryn called forth fiery energy from within herself and drove that energy down the length of the chain.  Gouts of flame engulfed the necromental as Shribryn dove underneath the necromental’s fist.

With a scream of rage, Ska’arr smashed down on the burning necromental.  The necromental’s shattered body struck the ground.  Using the momentum from the blow, Ska’arr twisted his body to add more momentum to the next blow aimed at the second necromental.  But as he turned, Ska’arr spotted a glowing sphere in the fractured chest of the necromental.  What is that?

The distraction proved costly.  His balance slightly off, sparks flew as Ska’arr’s chain skittered along the ground instead of skimming just above it.  The tip of the chain hit the ground and skipped up, catching Ska’arr in the ankle, almost severing the tendon found there.  Ska’arr stumbled and just managed to maintain his footing.  The pain was excruciating and he could barely put any weight on his injured ankle.  Uh oh.

Dashing forward, Raven spun and struck the necromental with her staff.  The necromental’s head was driven into its chest and it collapsed to the floor, the spirit that animated it gone.  “Ska’arr, that’s how you spin and attack!”  Ska’arr grimaced in pain.  Pulling out a gem, he peered at the glow emanating from the necromental’s chest through the gem.

With no necromentals in sight, Pelias, Scuro, and Throar began healing everyone’s wounds.  Though the respite was momentary, several of the group’s wounds were healed, giving the Stalkers a better chance of surviving the encounter.

A sudden shriek ended with a wet squishing sound as Secundus, who had been cowering in fear on the far wall, was grabbed from below by the necromentals and crushed beneath their stony grasp.  Launching another holy fireball at the necromentals, they retreated beneath the floor to escape the searing flame.

Pelias scanned the room for the necromentals.  Turning, he saw Throar reach towards the glowing sphere in the fallen necromental’s chest.  Touching it, Throar was surrounded by a flash of light and was gone!  Surprised, Pelias recognized the nature of the magic that had sent Throar elsewhere – it was similar to the magical field that had teleported them here to this underground temple.

“Don’t touch the glowing sphere!” Pelias shouted out.  “It is a teleportation spell to some unknown location!”

“Let’s see if there are any other surprises inside these things!” Ska’arr said.  His chain smashed down on the second necromental, rupturing its chest cavity, but there was nothing inside.

“Since our resident expert is gone,” Kat said, “I’ll see what I can decipher from the patterns on the floor.  Maybe they’ll give us an idea of where our hairy friend went.”  Knowing she would be vulnerable, Kat moved closely to Ska’arr for protection.  Looking closely at the floor, Kat’s eyes had difficulty following the convoluted runic patterns.  Staring at the pattern made Kat dizzy and slightly nauseous.

The necromentals rose from the floor and struck at Ska’arr.  Instinctively, Pelias launched a holy fireball at the necromentals.  Unfortunately, both Ska’arr and Kat were within the blast area.  Kat saw the fireball coming and reacted with lightning speed.  Diving between the closer necromental’s legs, she tumbled and threw herself at its leg.  Catching onto the roof surface, she scurried up to the small of its back just as the fireball exploded.  The necromental took the brunt of the blast – she could see fire blasting past the necromental’s body, but not a lick of flame reached her.

Ska’arr ‘s hair was on fire.  His eyebrows were non-existent.  This didn’t seem to deter him though.  The necromental in front of him shielded Ska’arr from most of the fiery damage.  Ska’arr swung his chain at the necromental.  Ska’arr shifted his weight to his injured ankle to get the maximum force, hoping his ankle would hold.

Unfortunately, his ankle gave out and he fell forward.  Releasing one hand from his chain, Ska’arr caught himself before he fell completely prone.  Using his forward momentum, he continued his swing, wrapping the chain around the necromental’s legs.  As Ska’arr continued to fall, he twisted, wrapping himself in his chain.  The chain was drawn tight instantly, pulling the necromental off its feet.

Ska’arr continued to twist, unwrapping himself in the process and smashing the loose end of the chain into the fallen necromental.   Unfortunately, his chain rebounded and struck him squarely in the jaw, stunning him.  The other necromental stepped forward and smashed down on Ska’arr’s prone form.

“No!” Kat leaped off the necromental’s back.  She had hoped to be a distraction to it, allowing her friends to smash it while it tried to dislodge her, but she changed her tactics.  Flipping in mid-air, she drew out her hand crossbow and launched a bolt at a small crack in the necromental’s tough exterior.  The rock that composed the necromental’s body began to crack.  While she had been hanging onto the necromental, Kat had gotten a closer look at the necromental’s body and saw that the rock was flawed and could be split if sufficient force was placed in just the right spot.

“Its shell’s cracked!” Kat yelled exultantly.  Raven’s staff struck where the rock was cracked, causing large chunks to fall away.  Diving away from the necromental’s wild swing, Raven saw that the softer earth underneath was now exposed.  A ball of flame engulfed the necromental, bursting it apart.  With Kat and Raven’s help, Pelias was able to land the killing blow.  Turning back towards Ska’arr, they watched as the last necromental sank into the floor.

“C’mon big guy!” Shribryn strained.  She was trying to move Ska’arr away from where the necromental had sank into the floor, fearing it would attack from below.  “You’re too heavy for me to move on my own!  Give a girl a bit of a hand!”  Ska’arr was too dazed to provide any help.

Raven was moving towards Shribryn to give her a hand when she spotted a stony hand reaching from below about to grasp her leg.  Leaping up, she somersaulted in mid-air and smashed her staff down on the necromental as it sought to climb out of the floor.  Leaping out of the grasp of the necromental, Raven saw it suddenly engulfed in flames – Pelias had blasted it.  Succumbing to the damage, the last necromental sank to the floor.

As the necromental fell to the floor, the superheated rock cracked.  Within its chest, they saw a metal-bound stone book.  Ska’arr, having just managed to shake the dizziness from his head, crawled over to the necromental and pulled the book from its chest.  Seeing the hammer and anvil engraved on the surface of the book, Ska’arr recognized Moradin’s holy symbol.  “I think we have found the Tome.”

Scuro smirked.  “That’s great, but how are we to deliver it to Foehammer?”  He pointed towards where the entry had been.  “It seems our exit has been barred.”  Realizing their predicament, the group sunk into silence.

“We do have one option,” Pelias said.  Looking around at the others, he hesitated to state his proposal.  “We could use the glowing sphere to teleport ourselves out of here.  The major downside is that we don’t know where we will end up.”

“Anywhere is better than here,” Shribryn said.  “Being buried underground in a dwarven temple is not how I pictured our story to end.”  The others murmured their assent.

“So it is agreed,” Raven said.  “Let us travel.  One way or the other, we will have a better chance than if we stay here.”  With that, they each touched the glowing sphere, were dazzled by a flash of light, and winked out of existence.

When their vision cleared, they saw that they were back in Kryptgarden forest.  Raven recognized the trail – they were about a mile up the trail into the forest.  A shout of joy caused them to turn about.  “I didn’t know if you guys would make it!”  Throar had been resting beneath a fallen tree trunk by the trail and leapt up when he heard the Stalkers appear nearby.

After a brief celebration at their reunion, the party decided to rest from their ordeal.  After setting up camp near the trail, they all rested by the fireside.  Soon, most of the group were sound asleep, too exhausted to talk.  The only exception was Throar.  He seemed to be of such good humor that he talked incessantly with whoever was standing guard.

“I’ll tell you,” Throar prattled, “those unholy elementals boiled my blood!  But I feel some sorrow knowing that the children of stone were corrupted by an evil undead force.”

Scuro threw Throar a look full of venom, but the dwarf never noticed.  Scuro began a sarcastic remark when, out of nowhere, a large golden armored humanoid teleported before him.  Recognizing the marut and knowing its nature, Scuro fled in fear from the inevitable.  “Keep it away from me!”

Raven was on the other side of the camp watching the trail.  She had blocked off the dwarf’s meandering conversations and focused on remaining vigilant.  She heard Ro-Lund-Do say something to Throar, but she paid it no mind.

Suddenly, she heard a girlish shriek behind her.  Turning quickly, she saw Ro-Lund-Do running away into the forest.  A humanoid, much larger than a human, stalked after him.  The creature was outfitted in golden armor over its onyx-colored body.  What surprised Raven was that the creature seemed to be made of mechanical parts.  Uncertain where it had come from, she only knew that it threatened Ro-Lund-Do and that she needed to help him.

The others, woken up by Ro-Lund-Do’s girly scream, dashed after the marut.  Shribryn ran forward and fell back – she had run into an invisible wall of force.  Winded, she struggled to her feet and began feeling the wall, looking for a way to circumnavigate it.

Seeing Shribryn fall, the others realized that there was an invisible barrier blocking them from reaching Ro-Lund-Do.  Pulling out his grappling hook and rope, Ska’arr threw it over the wall of force.  Catching it on a nearby tree on the other side, Ska’arr began climbing the rope.  Throar grabbed the loose end of the rope and pulled it taut, making it easier for Ska’arr to climb.

Meanwhile, Raven climbed a tree.  Running along a thicker branch, she leapt from the branch as it began to bow underneath her weight.  The branch acted like a springboard, launching Raven far forward.  Landing in a tumble, she got up in one smooth motion and darted towards the marut.

Kat flickered into the ethereal plane.  Moving past the wall, she reappeared behind the marut and drew her swords.

Pelias stopped and summoned a spiritual weapon, hoping to slow the marut down.  A glowing longsword appeared by the marut.  The sword swung but it was unable to penetrate the marut’s armor.  Scuro, hoping that one of the spiritual weapons would prove effective, summoned his own spiritual weapon.  A glowing scythe appeared and seemed to be equally ineffective.

The marut ignored everyone and everything else and was focused solely on Scuro.  “You only prolong the inevitable.”  The marut’s monotone voice was cold and harsh.

Scuro was in a state of panic.  “I’ll do whatever I must to cheat you of your prize!  You cannot stop me!”  The marut disappeared and suddenly reappeared in front of Scuro.  Its hand lashed out faster than the eye could follow.  Grabbing Ro-Lund-Do by the front of his shirt, the marut hoisted him off his feet.

“Wait!” Scuro pleaded.  “Why are you here?”

“You will understand.”  The marut opened its mind to Scuro.  Scuro’s mind was flooded with images and sensations.  Scuro was dazed by what was happening to his mind.  The marut continued.  “We will now talk in private.”

The Stalkers rushed forward.  Scuro managed to pull himself together.  “Let it be!” he shouted.  The others stopped in confusion.  Before they could do anything else, the marut and Ro-Lund-Do disappeared.

A short time later, Ro-Lund-Do reappeared beside the others.  He was unharmed, but his eyes were haunted.

“What happened?” Kat demanded.  “What did that thing want with you?”

Scuro just looked down at Kat.  Shaking his head as if to clear it of cobwebs, he said, “I don’t know.”  No matter how much the others demanded answers, Ro-Lund-Do could not, or would not, provide any.

The following morning, they broke camp and headed out of Kryptgarden Forest.  Within an hour, they were free of the darkness-shrouded forest.  Taking a small break, the party rested on contemplated won what they had seen and accomplished.

Ska’arr approached Throar.  “I have a favour to ask of you once more.”  Gently, Ska’arr pulled out Lord Farragut’s shrouded body.  Ska’arr bowed his head in supplication.  “Could you return Lord Farragut’s spirit?”  His voice broke.  “I eternally in your debt...if you could return my beloved companion to me.”  Ska’arr’s kept his gaze down.  Tears ran down his cheeks unashamedly.

Throar cleared his throat.  “There is no debt between us.”  Throar put his hand on Ska’arr’s shoulder.  “You and your friends have saved my life.  You allowed me to find the grave of my ancestor and give him his final rites.  I am certain that he resides in Dwarfhome now, drinking and carousing with Hanseath, and taking up arms with Clangeddin Silverbeard.  That is more than any dwarf can ask.  I will pray to Moradin for the strength and goodwill to draw your friend’s spirit back to his body.”

Everyone watched as Throar knelt in front of a large, flat stone.  Lighting incense, Throar placed Lord Farragut down on the stone and passed the incense over Lord Farragut’s body.  His voice called out, beseeching the gods to allow Lord Farragut’s spirit return to his mortal shell.  Lord Farragut’s body glowed and rose up from the stone.  Floating on a glowing bed of power, his eyes sprung open.  Looking about, Lord Farragut saw Ska’arr.  Getting to his feet, he leaped to Ska’arr and wrapped himself about his throat in a tight embrace.  He was back once again.

Scuro snarled in disgust.  He watched the ceremony and was gravely disappointed when he saw that, this time, there was no secondary spirit for him to take advantage of.  The ferret was whole.

Again, the group celebrated.  Even Ro-Lund-Do seemed of good cheer to see that Ska’arr’s companion had returned.  During the celebration, Pelias pulled Kat aside.

“Are you still curious as to what happened between Ro-Lund-Do and the marut?” Pelias asked.

Kat nodded.  “I just don’t understand why he won’t tell us!” she whispered.  “I’m dying of curiosity!”

Pelias was curious to, but not just for the sake of knowing.  Ro-Lund-Do had shown himself knowledgeable in the ways of necromancy, more than a cleric of Aman-Ra should know.  And Pelias wanted to know why.  Pelias was loathe to use subterfuge to gain information, but he felt it was necessary.  He had to know Ro-Lund-Do’s true nature.  “Ask him about the marut.  We will see what we will learn.”  He neglected to tell Kat that he would be reading Ro-Lund-Do’s thoughts.  Pelias hoped that Kat’s pestering would distract Ro-Lund-Do and make it easier to discern his true intentions.

Kat went over and poked Ro-Lund-Do in the side.  When he looked down, she began a tirade of questions.  “So....whatwasgoingonwiththemarut?Whywashelookingforyou?Didyouseehowbighewas?....”  The deluge of questions was never-ending.  Scuro was immediately annoyed.

Pelias closed his eyes and focused his mind.  Opening up a link between his mind and Ro-Lund-Do’s, he began peering at his thoughts.  Immediately, he could feel the heat of Ro-Lund-Do’s annoyance.  Or was that someone else?

Suddenly, Pelias’ mind was thrust out of Ro-Lund-Do’s.  By sheer will, Ro-Lund-Do had broken the link between them.  Never had Pelias encountered someone capable of doing this.  Though his spell had been abruptly terminated, Pelias was certain that Ro-Lund-Do was unaware of what had transpired.

Ro-Lund-Do continued to tell Kat to be quiet and to stop pestering him.  Scuro smiled.  He had sensed the intrusion and had put an end to it.  Ro-Lund-Do does not need to know that his allies are turning on him.  Let the little cleric fumble around in the dark some more.  When the time is right, I will reveal myself to him, to all of them, and then they will understand who their master truly is.

As the celebration wound down, Raven asked, “Before we continue, can we determine which of these items are worth carrying?  I don’t like acting like a pack mule.”  The others laughed.  Gathering all the items they had found, Pelias and Shribryn began identifying the magical items.

Ska’arr leapt to his feet.  “Wait a second!”  Frantically searching about his pouches and backpack, a look of fear grew on his face.  “The Eye of the Dragon is missing!”

“Is it possible you dropped it when you were fighting?” Throar asked.

“I had placed it in a hidden, inner pouch of my backpack,” Ska’arr explained.  “Even if the amulet had been destroyed, its remains would still be inside the pouch.”  Ska’arr’s face went red with anger.  “There is nothing in the pouch.”

“Let us backtrack and see if we can find any clues,” Shribryn suggested.

Returning to their camp, they searched the area.  Raven found footprints in the dirt near where Ska’arr had been sleeping.  The tracks seemed to appear out of nowhere and then vanish.  She called the others over.  “Hmmm.  I don’t recognize this footprint.  Whatever it is, it is not natural.”

Ro-Lund-Do bent down to examine the footprint.  After a quick scan, he stood.  Scuro said, “You are right to say that it is not natural.  The footprint is that of an ethereal filcher.  They jump between the ethereal plane and the material plane to steal shiny objects.  They are like annoying little hin, but better evolved at their trade.”

“How do we catch it?” Ska’arr demanded.

Scuro shook his head.  “It is nearly impossible to find them.   They lair on the material plane, but because they can jump to the ethereal plane, they can travel wherever they please.  Their lairs can be anywhere.  Most of the time, they are only accessible if you are able to travel to the ethereal plane.  And that is if you are lucky enough to find where the lair is located.”

“Maybe I can help,” Pelias suggested.  “If the Eye of the Dragon is not too far off, I can use divinations to trace where it has gone.”  Pelias walked over to a nearby tree and snapped off a dowsing rod.  Holding the dowsing rod in front of him, Pelias closed his eyes and began his spell.  The dowsing rod glowed and seemed to pull Pelias this way and that.  He moved with the dowsing rod wherever it led him.  Soon enough, he opened his eyes.  “The Eye of the Dragon is too far off for me to locate.  I’m sorry.”

While the others thanked Pelias for his attempt, Scuro gave a snort of derision.  The magic here is so paltry and weak.  It is only through my blessings they have survived this long.  With nothing to be done, the Stalkers headed to Triboar.

As they entered the gate, Throar said to Pelias, “I am glad to be back in Triboar.  Me and Ghelryn “Goldhand” Foehammer are old friends.  I’m sure that Foehammer will give me the reward for finding the Tome of Moradin.”

Pelias was incredulous.  “What?  I think the dwarven spirits have clouded your memories.  We had saved you from the murderjacks and protected you as we acquired the Tome!  At most, you deserve a half of the reward we will each be receiving!”

Throar gripped Pelias’ hand in a firm handshake.  “Done!  Do you mind giving me some coins so I can celebrate our victory while you collect my share?”  Pelias pulled out a small purse of coins.  Throar promptly snatched it out of Pelias’ hand before he could start counting out coins.  Whistling a happy tune to himself, Throar headed towards the closest bar.  Pelias could only shake his head.  I think I’ve been played the fool...

Arriving at Foehammer’s Forge, they found Ghelryn working in the smithy.  Banging on a pillar with his fist, Ska’arr got the dwarf’s attention.

Pulling out the Tome, they all saw Ghelryn’s eyes widen with awe.  “You’ve done it...” he whispered.  His voice rising to a shout, he repeated, “You’ve done it!”  Gripping the Tome tightly to his chest, he stared at it in disbelief.  “I will pray to Moradin tonight and give thanks for this blessing.”

His eyes never leaving the Tome, Ghelryn addressed the Stalkers.  “You have my eternal gratitude and that of the dwarves as well.  I will be taking this back to our people.”  He turned as if to begin the journey immediately.

Raven coughed to hide a smile.  “Our deal is in place?”

Ghelryn finally looked up.  Grinning, he kicked open a hatch by the anvil.  “Pull out the chest.”  Ska’arr reached over and hauled the heavy chest out.  Ghelryn kept a tight grip on the Tome.  “Open the chest.  The bags of gold are yours.  As agreed, Foehammer’s Forge will make any armor or weapons you desire for half the usual price.”

Pelias smiled.  “Before you continue, your good friend Throar had also helped us procure the Tome...”

“...after we saved him!”  Kat piped up.  She gave Pelias a questioning look.  He’s not here.  So he doesn’t get a piece of the pie.

Pelias was about to continue when Ghelryn interrupted.  “Never heard of him.”

Pelias and the others were shocked.  Then Pelias grinned ruefully.  He played us for a fool once again...

Ghelryn looked puzzled.  “Was he important to you?”  The party remained confused.  These guys must be a little slow today...  “Anyway, I will also guarantee that any enchantments you need placed on your items, a quarter of the cost will be removed.”  The party smiled in satisfaction.

“How skillful are you at the forge?” Scuro asked.

Ghelryn was taken aback, as well as the others.  Normally Ghelryn would be insulted, but he was too happy with the return of the Tome of Moradin that he let the comment slide.  “Whatever you want, I can make it.”

Scuro sent a mental message to Dra-Koo-La.  Peeking his head from underneath Ro-Lund-Do’s hat, the undead bat gave a little screech.  “I want a chain shirt of mithral made for my little friend here.”

Ghelryn gave a short laugh.  It would be incredibly difficult to make, but he had given his word.  “Done.”

The others commissioned armor and weapons, and did a little bit of shopping.  Shortly, Shribryn pulled Ska’arr aside.  “What are we going to tell the Gypsy Queen?”

Ska’arr shrugged.  “We might as well get this over with.  Besides, she may have a way to track the ethereal filcher.”

Heading to the gypsy’s hovel, they found it empty.  “Guess she’s not home,” Shribryn said.

“Well, we’ll need to tell her what happened sooner or later,” Ska’arr replied.

“I guess it will have to be later,” Shribryn laughed.  “Besides, what would happen to our reputation if we didn’t have the bauble?  Now we have a chance to find it.”

Ska’arr joined in.  “Yes, I guess we do.  Let’s find the others and plan how we will get the little thief.”

“You mean the filcher, not Kat,” Shribryn chided.  Ska’arr only smiled.