Kyuskay suggested we let the rocks fall on the dead former king Gadrik's body to make it look like he died in an accident. Miara retored rather sharply that she thought that was a poor idea. "Not that I have a better one," she muttered. "The situation is not good."

There was a load of rocks held up by timbers in the hole straight over our heads. José said if he sent up a fireball and burnt the timbers, the rocks would fall down, making it much easier for us to get through. Otherwise, we're stuck tunneling here, too, expect straight up. Of course, the smoke and noise will alert the dwarves. At this point, anything that means I don't have to use the Crystal of Air is good.

Miara was not happy about this choice. We could waste 2-3 days tunneling, giving the dwarves here that much more time to find us or the Crystal of Water. Not to mention the arrival of Mendri, complicating matters. We very much wanted to find it before anyone else even knew if was here. The other choice to was blast our way through here and hope we could get somewhere before all the dwarves in the hold above came down on us.

Miara listened to everyone's preference: nobody wanted to dig for a few days. So she said to José, "Do it."

José produced a fireball, and we all moved well out of the way. He threw it up the shaft and ran back. It burnt for a minute and then went out. He did it again, and this time rocks and smoldering timbers fell down, with a great deal of noise. When all seemed quiet and no more rocks rained down, Goldrim moved up to assess the damage and relative stability. Kyuskay went with him, since Goldrim can't see in the dark. Those of us who held lights shielded them so as not to backlight them for anyone who might be above us.

He said he saw a ceiling. The rockpile was 10 feet below the top of the shaft, so Goldrim threw Kyuskay up the shaft. He called back down, very softly, "Come on up, but be quiet."

José had Goldrim toss up his staff with a rope attached to it. Kyuskay laid the staff across the hole because he couldn't find anywhere else to tie it off to. We sent Goldrim up first, and he pulled the rest of us, with the help of the other strong people.

Prestley was the first up, so he could look to see what was outside the room. Then Miara, José, Caramela, Ravenna, Sun, Ashe, and Bark. Prestley said there were about 20 dwarves outside, waiting for us. While there was a quiet discussion on what to do now, Prestley waved his hand at us. He said, nearly silently, that one of the dwarves had moved up and placed his ear at the door to listen to us. Miara motioned for complete silence, then motioned that we should all return downstairs as quietly as possible.

Our alternatives had gotten even worse: fight 20 seriously pissed off dwarves, or spend 2-4 days tunneling while they look for us, and they were sure to find us.

Miara unhappily admitted that there was no way we could fight off 20 dwarves. I was relived -- I was afraid she would just wade right in. Even more unhappily, she said, "Even though we don't want to waste time while Mendri approaches, tunneling seems to be our only way." Prestley said the boxes were mostly full of food, so José flew up to tell Kyuskay to throw down the boxes, and then come down. Then he returned. Ashe and Bark caught boxes. Miara watched. Although she appeared impassive, I could feel waves of impatience radiating from her. She wanted Kyuskay to come down immediately, but couldn't yell up to him to do so.

A few boxes were caught quietly and placed on the ground. Then we heard commotion above: the door burst open. We heard a struggle, but couldn't tell what was happening. Miyara said several things in Nipponese I didn't recognize, in a bitter voice.

José stared at the rope and said it was a shame there was no way to get Goldrim up there. My heart sunk, but I said, "yes, there is," and I took out the Crystal of Air and concentrated on it. From above, we heard Kyuskay yell, "Escape while you can! Stick with the plan!" As if Miara would desert him -- sure he knew better.

I managed to conjure up an air elemental, and sent it carrying Goldrim up the hole. Once up there, it hovered for a moment before Goldrim yelled down to me to tell it to put him down. I did so, and then told it to attack the other dwarves up there, but not to harm Goldrim or Kyuskay.

We heard more sounds of fighting and struggles. Prestley then said he wanted to go up there, as well. So I conjured up another air elemental, told it to carry Prestley up, and place him safely wherever Prestley directed it to.

It only went up halfway. I firmly told it to keep moving. I realized it wasn't my will that flagging, but something was preventing it from moving up. The other one quickly came down and joined the other, stuck halfway up the hole. Leaving Kyuskay and Goldrim alone among a hoard of dwarves.

José cast a spell and said there was a wall of magic up there that prevented anything remotely magical from getting past it. Great. The Crystal and the elementals being useless, I called them back down, released Prestley, and dismissed them. Miara yelled up the shaft for both of them leap down the shaft immediately, if they could. We were unsurprised when neither one came hurtling down, though Miara looked frustrated.

We next heard some discussion, although it was hard to hear exactly what they were saying. The next clear thing we heard was from neither Goldrim nor Kyuskay. A dwarf's voice called to us, in Old Worlder, "We have your friends. We'd like you to surrender." We looked to Miara. Her eye was on José, who was readying another spell. She was silent and held up her hand to keep us silent until José finished. A few seconds later, he said quietly, "There are two mages up there." Miara asked what he could do about them. "Nothing. I don't even know what that Thing is, that blocks magic." Miara looked extremely disappointed. Air elematals couldn't get up there, nor could fireballs. That not being bad enough, José pointed out that we were probably surrounded.

While we heard José's status report, we heard more struggle and then fighting again above. José called up to Kyuskay and Goldrim, in Nipponese, and told them about the presence of two mages with them. Nipponese has become a handy way to speak in code, since we can assume that no one else speaks it.

Miara called up, also in Nipponese, and asked Kyuskay if was free or being held. He replied that he was "demonstrating his fighting technique". Miara lookedd satisfied with that.

José figured he could try his flying spell and fly Prestley up the shaft, but even the small Preatley was too much for the frail priest-mage to carry while flying. Damn.

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 ~