We spent the rest of the day trading stories, sitting in Ostohar's tiny apartment on the floor, drinking wine or ale. Miara asked him for a story about battling the Grey Mountain orcs, probably looking for an opening to help. His story was rather vague, as all his stories turned out to be. The details of fights, tactics, and such were full of details, but traveling and timing were vague.

He said he came here on purpose, to clean it out and reclaim it for the dwarves. He traveled for "a long time" (months? years? decades?) before finally locating it. (He should have asked the monks of Eyrie for a map.) He was surprised by the state of Karak Ostohar: completely clean. Eventually (how long?), he said he finally found the Grey Mountain clan. For many years now (what's many to a dwarf?) they have hunted each other, and he considers it his life's work to outlive the Grey Mountain clan.

The other stories he told were mostly about his battles with creatures of chaos (orcs, goblins, beastmen). He's spent a lot of time (how long?) in the World's Edge mountains, which are a considerable distance from us, here in the Black Mountains.

As evening approached, he said it was time to find us some place to sleep, and apologized for the lack of amenities. I looked around. It was certainly a lot more civilized, even empty, than the forest had been the last two months. I smiled. At least I could hope for a real bed.

He showed us to a block of small apartments. There were three next to his, and then four more across the great hall. Seven rooms, instead of the usual three for the whole group. Something approaching privacy! But no, Miara vetoed that. Despite Ostohar's assurances that this place was safe and the orcs hadn't dared come up the stairs in years, she was unwilling to separate us so much, and she insisted on posting a guard. So, I shared the middle room with Carmella and her, as usual. Bark, Ashe, Sean, and Goldrim took the outside room; Sun, Kyoskay, José, and Prestley the inside room.

Ostohar warned us not to go down either the main stairs at the end of the hall or the secondary stairs in the middle. We can explore this level as much we want to, both inside and out. José asked the last time Ostohar had met up with the Grey Mountain clan. He said he went on nightly patrols and met them "regularly". (Once a night? Once a week? A month? A decade?)

The armory was right close to our apartments, and José quickly tried to determine if there was anything enchanted inside. There wasn't, but he said Ostohar was pretty well decked out with things magical.

José made us all a fine dinner, and we finished the evening with more stories and with Sean's Ballad of the Battle for Eyrie. The night passed quietly, and we were not, in fact, attacked by hordes of orcs.

José made breakfast, but we didn't see Ostohar. We all split up for the day. Miara warned everyone not go off alone. Ashe went out hunting alone, of course, but then he hardly needs company in the forest. Prestley, Kyoskay, Goldrim, and José went puttering around the buildings outside, and Bark went into the city to tan his hides. Sun, Sean, Carmella, and I stayed behind. I said I'd like to spend some time in the altar room, and Miara said as long as we stayed up towards the front of the cavern, we shuld be fine. Then she went and broke her rule and went browsing through all the rooms on this level by herself.

I spent much of the day in the altar room. I cleaned off Bianca's altar, re-arranged everything the way it's supposed to be, and performed some devotions I haven't been able to in a long time. It was a peaceful afternoon, and I returned somewhat refreshed. I still don't know what to do, but for now, I will simply keep the Crystal of Air safe.

We all gathered again for dinner, which José uncharacteristically burnt rather badly. Miara reported what she had seen on her prowl through the rooms on this level, mostly uninteresting. Apartments, dead gardens, taverns, shops, an arena, an apmphitheatre; what you expect from a dwarven mountain city. The others told what they had found in town. Again, just empty buildings, although they did find one with the X luck symbol all over it. Lord Ostohar joined us for dinner, but he wasn't very interested in our description of the city. Nothing new to him.

After dinner, Ostohar excused himself, explaining that it was time for his rounds. Miara again offered our assistance, and he again refused. Goldrim was silent, but looked frustrated. José tried to persuade Ostohar that some help might make things go faster. Ostohar just grunted and said he doubted it. Kyuskay, through Miara, asked if he could accompany Lord Ostohar merely as an observer, but he declined even that. Fully armed and armored, he stalked off with a lantern.

Once he was gone, Goldrim said quietly that the neck guard Ostohar wears has a mark on it, which looked like the inginia of a member of the royal family. He declined to say anything more, but looked thoughtful and a little worried the rest of the night.

José spoke right up, "I think we should send Kyuskay to secretly follow this Ostohar fellow."

Miara disagreed, saying, "He has directly commanded us not to go."

Prestley offered to go, but again, Miara said no. I never can figure her out: she is dismissive of anyone not Nipponese. But then, she often shows deference to anyone in authority. Yet she seems to suit her willingness to obey them to her personal objectives. In this case, I figured she'd be all over just going down there, so her commands to everyone not to disobey Ostohar surprised me. But then, she said, "We must gain his trust in some way if we are to help him 'find his way'." She still baffles me, but that at least made some sense.

Miara gave us all a quick tour of the top level, showing us the arena and the amphitheater. There wasn't really anything of particular interest. I figured she was trying to waste time and distract everyone from following Ostohar down the stairs. Then we reached the main set of stairs, and stood at the top looking downward, where we all wanted to go.

Curiously, Miara agreed to José's offer of throwing a lighted pebble down the stairs to see as far as possible. The stone steps are massive, at least 50 feet wide (I paced it off), and utterly empty. About 100 feet down (pure guesswork by counting the steps) there was just empty floor, then more steps down beyond. We did the same thing down the smaller stairs, and saw much the same thing, except these didn't pause for a landing but went on at least 400 feet (another estimate based merely on the length compared to what we had seen before).

I was close enough to Kyuskay to hear him say quietly to Miara, "You know using a pebble to light the stairs was unnecessary. Without any light, I could have just looked down and told you what I saw." I had forgotten he could do that, but I was surprised Miara had.

She replied sharply but very quietly, "Yes, but throwing glowing pebbles down these stairs might very well attract any orcs down there. If there are any." Left unsaid was if they came up, we could justifiably go down and not anger Ostohar, thus both helping him and not alienating him.

Before Kyuskay could make any answer, Prestley said, "Hey, let's go seach his quarters, I can just stare through the walls."

Miara said very sharply, "No, that's just rude."

But behind her back, José silently fomented dissent, nodding and pointing to direct Prestley to go ahead, when he gets a chance later.

Miara did suggest that we waited to see where and when he comes back up.

Ravenna, A Monk of the Biancan Order

Part the First:
Blood and Mud

Part the Second:
Murder and Mayhem

Part the Third:
Puzzles and Crystals

Part the Fourth:
Dwarves and Rocks

Part the Fifth:
Diplomacy and Daggers

Part the Sixth:
Crystal and Chaos

Part the Seventh:
Sheer Insanity

~ The End ~