The next offering was made during the night: pots of meat. Hobbit meat. Kyuskay was the only one willing to eat it. He says faeries, by which he seems to mean anything not human, is, well, not human. I think the Crystal has affected him particularly badly. Miara keeps giving him that measuring look of hers, that promises a clean death if nothing else. Unfortunately, at some point, she's directed that gaze at each of us.

Before too long, we were graced with a troop of six beastmen: four bear-men, one horse-man, and one bird man with two heads, who was their leader. They regard us as avatars of Tzeentch. Although I shudder, I'm not sure they're wrong. They're beastmen, and I intend to keep my distance from them. The four bear-men got into a snarling fight, and the horse-man whines constantly, but I am not touching them to heal them. They're on their own.

At lunch, Kyuskay tried to create a fire, but instead brought down a lightning bolt. Miara had Slurk make a fire for us, and Kyuskay cooked and ate the hobbit meat. I sat down, as far away from the beastmen as I could, and ate what José, Ashe, and Bark had provided. I hadn't found any decent greens to eat, unfortunately, and I fear sickness will hit us soon if I continue to not find any.

Carmella sat beside me, silent as always. I swear, when and if we destroy this Zoggin Rock, I will quit my wandering and establish a hospice in Kreuzhofen. Perhaps then Carmella will return to her old self.

That night, Bark dressed a deer that the beastmen brought for us. Meat, but still no vegetables, or roots, or berries, or anything else. The next day was hard. We were assaulted by a large horde of hawks, and then the path we followed got very steep. Our progress slowed to a crawl, despite the good weather that still held. It would take us an extra day, at least, to get where we were going. The temperatures grew colder and colder. Besides angry hawks, we also had to beware some sort of ice leeches. The footing was treacherous on the glacier we eventually found ourselves on.

But we finally stood on the ice, looking at a small hut that was surely our destination, perched at the edge of the glacier. Goldrim, backed up by Miara, got us invited in to speak with Zockri the Younger. We left the beastment outside, out of sight of the dwarf, who most likely would not appreciate them.

He did not really answer any questions, and he usually did not seem to speak to us in particular. But we learned a great deal.

To understand why we made them, you have to understand the times. The dwarven civilzation was at its height. Wonders, riches, engineering marvels. We had beaten the elves and our other enemies, driving them away. The elves were of little concern to us. We knew the gods of chaos, but did not pay attention to them. We were complacent and proud.

I was a proud engineer. My father Zockri the Elder was famed for his marvels, and I was expected to contribute as much as he had. I apprenticed to the great Wismag the Sagacious, desginer of many ingenious steam-powered machines. He had a new thoery: a new source of energy that would be better then steam. To wrest power from the earth itself. Crystals of power, manipulating the energies of the powers of the earth. It was not magic. It took us many years.

We built our lab under the Yetsin Valley. We built devices to channel the power of the crystals, and even shared their powers through the air. We transported the receiving apparatus to the World's End Mountains. I stood before the receiver, ready. My colleagues remained in the Yetsin Valley.

You can guess the rest. We failed. The device at Karaz-a-Karak exploded, wounding Gotrek and nearly killing me. Explosions and earthquakes occured all along the World's End Mountains, causing many deaths. Our civilzation was devoured by earthquakes. The goblins attacked us, sensing our weakness. It was our fault -- we destroyed the entire dwarven civilzation. We separated the crystals, but even then there were portents of doom. They would be put together by fools and would destroy the world. And here you are, fools.

For 4000 years, he waited for us to show up. And he insisted there was no way the Crystals could be destroyed. He did not believe magic or Tzeentch had anything to do with the Crystal, nor did he believe in the powers of chaos. It was just a mechanical failing, a failure of planning, or engineering, or fabrication. "A scientific experiment that went horribly wrong."

After the explosions, he returned to the lab at Karak Vagnal to discover all of his colleagues dead, the dwarven civilization in ruins, and that it was all his fault. He climbed up this mountain, built this hut, and planned to sit here until he died. 4000 years later, he was still alive, and could not die.

He did draw a quick map to show us where Kadar Vagnal was in relation to Kadar Gravning. It would be easy to find, and he thought we might find some answers there.

As I bent over the map, memorizing it, I heard the slam of the door as it was thrown open and an axe buried itself full in Zockri's face, who staggered backwards and fell heavily against the far wall. The wall that hangs over the glacier's edge. The floor tilted, and tables and chairs slid against the far wall. I fell onto the floor and tried to stay put. At the door, I glimpsed Mechitdile, frozen in place.

The hut stabilized for a moment, somewhat tilted, and I heard groaning, and then a sudden load CRAAACK! Mechtilde jumped back out of the hut's doorway, and the hut itself broke free from its foundation and started sliding down the ice of the glacier beneath us. I grabbed the map and stuff it into my pack. We all braced ourselves as best we could. Kyuskay, Miara, and I managed to keep our places, but the rest slid and hit the far wall.

The hut's sliding gained speed, we felt outselve flying through the air for just a moment as we went over the cliff, then a tremendous bump as we hit the ice and continued sliding downwards, ever faster.

I hit hard and could feel the bruises. already. The hut slid faster and faster, bumping against rocks or trees or whatever was out there, and sometimes tumbling. Zockri's dwarven hut stood up to all the abuse, but we tumbled around inside like dice in a cup.

During one of the more stable, slidy moments, I composed myself long enough to summon an air elemental. I told it to go outside and slow the hut down, and try to stop its sliding ultimately. It did so, and our movement did, very gradually, come to a halt.

The hut stopped with the door on one side, the floor on another. Kyuskay went to look out the door, and the hut slid a few more feet and stopped again. We all heard the cry of the hawks again, and Kyuskay said they were circling us. We were back where we started.

As Kyuskay started climbing out the door, the hut slid another few feet, then began rocking gently, as though it were on the edge of something and nothing was holding up one side. I silently instructed the air elemental to keep the hut motionless and steady. We all held still for what seemed like a long time but was probably less than a minute. The air elemental told me if wasn't strong enough to carry the hut, so I summoned up a second one. Still not enough, but I wasn't willing to gamble on keeping control of more. I told everyone to hold on tight and instructed the air elementals to sort of push/drag the hut down the cliff to safety.

The bumpy ride was short, but the hut disintigrated along the way. At the bottom, it splintered around us. Before I could move and start to take stock of damage, there was a roaring sound and suddenly a ton of snow and debris rained down on us.

I told the air elementals to dig us all out as fast as they could, which they did. We were all still alive.

Including, horrifically, Zockri the Younger, with the axe still buried deep within his skull and bisecting his face. He screamed, hopelessly, "I can't die!"

Miyara practically, but with no compassion, told him he had to help us first. He could die when we managed to destroy the Crystal. Kyuskay removed the axe from his head. Adding insult to injury, one of the wallboards splintered and impaled Zockri. Still alive. He groaned and begged us to destroy the crystals.

Looking at Zockri, I was overwhelmed by a renewed desire to see the Crystal destroyed, no matter what else might happen. Then I will return to Kreuzhofen and found a new hospice.

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 ~