Just for something to do, I suspect, Miara strung her bow and shot an arrow up the shaft. It penetrated the magical shield, but no one could figure out what that information got us.

We heard some scuffling up there, then silence. Prestley tried to hypnotize the dwarf who called down to us, but he said it was too hard to do when he couldn't see who he was talking to. For several minutes, all was quiet. Miara tried to get Ashe to do something with the zoggin' rock, but it took her asking Carmella to ask Ashe to do so before Ashe did. At my sister's suggestion, he immediately sat down and began staring into the thing. Carmella tried half-heartedly to talk Miara out of using it at all, but acquiesced when Miara insisted.

Stalemate. Most of were down here, but Goldrim and Kyuskay were both upstairs. By the silence, I assumed they were prisoners of the dwarves. I sighed. It was time for the Crystal again. I seem to use it more and more. It always seems to be the answer to our problems, which worries me greatly.

I conjured a tornado in the room above: I had no need to see it, as I had already been in the room. After a few minutes, we no longer heard the sounds of dwarves being blown around by the winds. Prestley looked up again, and discovered he could see into the room: the magic wall was gone.

He said there were two dwarves in the room, pinned to the floor by my tornado. No signs of our comrades, though. H coudl just make out about 10 dwarves just outside the closed door.

José likewise said there were no magic users among those dwarves.

Miara thought for a few moments, and described our three alternatives. I thought it was obvious which one she preferred. Go back upstairs and attack the 2 in the room, then the 10, then whoever else was left until we freed Goldrim and Kyuskay;l eave here and re-enter through the front door and perhaps come upon the dwarves from behind; go find Mendri and see if we could enlist his aide. Nobody was in favor of the last. We don't know if we can trust him or not, and besides, the dwarves up there don't like him either. We don't want to get caught in the middle of a dwarven civil war.

While the others discussed the first two options, José took out the Book and prayed to Varena over it, asking for a hint on which symbol to use in this situation. She did not answer him. Miara asked him what, exactly, he can accomplish magically. She was thinking of the dwarven mages upstairs: we have never had much luck fighting mages, since none of us have any mgaical ability to speak of.

He said he can detect magical things and people, speak with anybody in any language, create those little lighted pebbles and coins, conjure fireballs, light cigars, pull a rabbit (or other small creature) out of his hat, keep himself dry in the rain with Miara's little paper umbrellas, make people temporarily stupid, blow people across the room with a wind, make people feel friendlier towards him (if they don't already hate him), and mildly curse someone if he has a piece of the person and he's within 12 yards.

Miara filed that away in her head somewhere, but otherwise said little but that it was time to head back up into the little room. She had to get Carmella to retrive Ashe from his communion with the zoggin' rock. I conjured up a couple of air elementals to ferry us all up the shaft. I also changed the tornado in the room into a blast of wind to hold the two dwarves against a wall and out of our way. I hoped that with them immobilised we could avoid unnecessary bloodshed.

Miara rode an elemental first, and then the rest of us follwed. Between the winds and the dwarves screaming bloody murder, the dwarves outside the door certainly knew what we were doing. I readied myself mentally for a battle that I didn't think would go very well.

Once we were all up, Prestley looked through the door and said there were 50 dwarves clustered in a circle around the door, with one standing more forward. They were waiting for us to open the door. Then we all heard a dwarf say to us, "Do you have Gadrik's body?" Prestley said they were wearing the same insignia as the dwarves we saw outside, before, so these are the same pissed off dwarves, not Mendri and his clan.

Miara admitted we had the dead king's body, and they offered a flag of truce for us to hand it over to them. She negotiated an exchange: Gadrik's body for Kyuskay and Goldrim. She also told them we found ghouls in the caves, fought them, and discovered the body, which was true enough.

We made the trade. Goldrim and Kyuskay were asleep and I could not wake them, but they were otherwise unharmed.

Miara and José held a discussion with the dwarves. They argued back and forth a little on our motivations for invading their hold, but Miara shot back with the fact this is a holy dwarven shrine, not their personal domain. The dwarf finally said that when Goldrim woke up, maybe he could join their expedition. Miara then asked them to wake up both Kyuskay and Goldrim: they did the latter but Kyuskay remained asleep for a while longer.

The dwarf introduced himself to Goldrim with the exhausting litany of his ancestors, and Goldrim answered with his own list. From then on, things seemed to go much more smoothly. They obviously preferred to talk to a fellow dwarf rather than Miara. Since they were initially unfriendly to him and to us, I think they're getting a little desperate about not finding Hargrim's tomb with Mendri getting closer. Even our help was better than nothing. I also think they expect some leverage with Gadrik's body.

At any rate, Goldrim made our non-position with Mendri clear, our group's abilities in caving and undead-fighting, the circumstances under which we discovered Gadrik's body, and he got us hired onto their expedition. Miara did make sure the contract ended if hostilities broke out between the dwarven groups. The last thing we wanted was to be drawn into fighting on one side or the other. We left the difficulties of finding the Crystal of Water while under contract to them to solve later, if it arose. We were all in agreement, considering Goldrim's visions, that all the Crystals must remain out of the dwarves' hands. We try not to think about Goldrim himself carrying the Stone of Stones, perhaps the quintessential dwarven zoggin' rock.

And so we were hired by the dwarves to find Gadrik's tomb.

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 ~