Rhonda Floam’s Diaries: Leaving Berimandry

Dollano 35, SP~4,909

Rhonda Floam

Leaving Berimandry

Before sunrise we had left. Donnessling thought it was best to leave without saying goodbye, as he put it. I can understand why. Olladdawa had stolen the white stone, the Eye of Dey, and now he kept it by holding Sheshoffiss’ life as ransom. Donnessling called him a thief. I would call him something much worse. He did save Sheshoffiss’ life. That is certainly true, but what I chose not to say to Donnessling is that I think he did that only to acquire the White Stone and for no reason other than that.

Note to Self: Once I’m out of this mess, I’m going to find out more about Olladdawa and the story I print will not be pretty, for him.

For an hour or so Donnessling led us through many streets and a variety of neighborhoods. We stopped in an alleyway not far from the docks. I could see the first light of sunrise over the bay. He gathered us in and looked to make sure there were no folk nearby who might hear us. Then he said the following (I don’t think its quite word for word, but I’m not far off — a good memory is an essential asset for a good reporter!).

“We cannot trust Olladdawa. You already know that much, my friends.” He hesitated for a second to let that sink in and then went on, “Neither can we trust the Berimandry Sorcerers. They have shown themselves to be a craven group no better than the beast who chased us through the caverns below the mountains, who wounded Sheshoffis.”

I saw Sheshoffis’ head lower. I think he was ashamed to have been the cause of so much trouble.

“I know this because of their betrayal of our trust and their theft of the Stone of Dey, but I know this for another reason. Three of them were outside our quarters in the middle of the night. They were conjuring a spell to suffocate us in our sleep. However, we struck them before they could finish their crime. They were dispatched immediately, and quietly.”

He looked over at Tollerring who nodded in assent while gently touching the hilt of his blade.

“By now the others will know that their friends are dead and that we are gone. They will be looking for us even as I speak, and they have many allies in Berimandry who are happy to serve as spies. Even the birds overhead and the rats in the streets may be in their service.”

I looked at the nossring around me and saw their grim determination, and their unswerving loyalty to Donnessling. I have so much respect for these folk!

“The sun has risen so we must now walk in silence until we are free of the city.”

He nodded at the nossring standing next to me, Eshtelling, who reached out to pick me up. I jerked my arm away, but before I could do more I heard Donnessling’s firm voice calling me, “No, my friend, this time you must do as I say.”

I could see in his eyes that he was sad to ask it of me. I don’t like being needy, and he knows that, and I know he knows. I wouldn’t put the others’ lives in jeopardy. I can’t walk quietly let alone in complete silence; something that came so naturally to the nossring. I stopped resisting and allowed Eshtelling to haul me onto his back. I hid my shame to (once again) be a burden.

With a quick glance to either side Donnessling led us forward at a slow run. Not a sound did we make…just amazing! At one point I closed my eyes and could barely tell we were moving, our gait was so smooth.

At first we headed toward the docks, but just before reaching that broad open area we turned into a narrow passageway on our right between two tall buildings, warehouses I believe. We made our way through backdoors and empty buildings, over wide roofs and below ground through ancient sewers.

After several hours we found ourselves in the dark, fetid basement of a very old, and very decrepit building. The walls were stone, held together (barely) with a roughly applied cement that dissolved into dust at our touch. Tollerring uncovered a hidden doorway that had been disguised as a part of the rough wall. The opening led into a rough stone, and sometimes brick, tunnel that we followed for what must have been several miles.

At last the tunnel rose and we emerged into daylight on a rocky bluff above the sea. Eshtelling set me down carefully. I was careful to thank him for his effort, which, of course, he acknowledged with nothing more than a polite wave of his hand.

Here we took our rest. Several miles to the east we could see Berimandry laid out along the coastline. It is actually quite a beautiful city which I intend to revisit some day!

To the north were the flat plains that extended across the middle of Shawmancer Island, and to our west stretched out the uneven coastline as far as we could see. We knew, though, that in that direction lay Partameer and our way home.

Rhonda Floam’s Diaries: The Price

Dollano 34, SP~4,909

Rhonda Floam

The Price

It’s been two days now since Sheshoffiss’ healing; a successful healing, I would add.  Sheshoffiss is still tired, as would be expected, but we think he’ll be able to travel soon, so that we can at last leave Berimandry. Donnessling’s plan is to make our way to Partameer City where we can find a ship to get us back home.

I’d noticed that things were tense between Donnessling and Olladdowa ever since the healing ritual.  As a good reporter, I had to find out why, and earlier today I found my opportunity. I saw Olladdowa heading up to the top floor of the house, to his own private workplace. I followed a few minutes behind him (no one else was around) and hid in a large hall closet that was on the other side of the wall to his room.  I was hoping to listen in (as I had done several other times), but he’s a very quiet worker, so I had gotten basically nothing from these clandestine sessions. This time, though, I got lucky. Just a minute after I hid myself away I heard another set of footsteps approach Olladdowa’s room. I heard a knock and then Donnessling’s voice asking to come in. I heard something like papers moving and a desk drawer closing. A moment later Olladdowa called out his permission to enter.

The conversation started quietly, and politely. Donnessling expressed his thanks for the hospitality. He places great value in adherence to the courtesies.

Then he thanked Olladdowa for saving Sheshoffiss’ life.

“It is our mission, to help those whose bodies have been afflicted with the worst the world may offer,” was Olladdowa’s response. As best I could tell from the other side of a wall, he seemed pleased to be thanked, and even more pleased to be praised.

“It is now time to return the Stone of Dey to Sheshoffiss and complete the healing.” With this Donnessling’s tone changed subtly; more firm and direct.

“If only that were possible,” was Olladdowa’s response. “I am afraid, my dear friend, that the white stone is now beyond his reach. The ritual has changed Shesshoffiss’ Energetic composition. He can no longer channel this artifact.”

“Then you must redress this mistake.”

There was a delay in Olladdowa’s response as I assume he digested the insult.

“There was no mistake, my friend.” The response was cool and fixed.

Donnessling’s voice rose and he asked, “Then it was done deliberately … my friend?” 

Olladdowa’s response was now fiercely plaintive, “It was the only way to save him!”

“You lie!” retorted Donnessling with ferocity.  “I saw you plant the Kurn marker during the healing, after the danger had passed.”

Olladdowa was shocked that his treachery had been revealed. He was clearly rattled and his response lost its prior finesse, “There is no such thing! Kurn markers are a myth. Only old tales not worth telling tell of them. Those stories are fantasy, not sorcery!”

Regaining his composure at least slightly, he continued, “You must not believe these fables, my friend. They will lead you only to delusion, and potential harm.”

“Threats will not benefit you, Olladdowa! At least not with me. Here is the marker.” Donnessling must have shown something. “And, I saw you plant it in his chest.”

There was no longer any attempt by Olladdowa to control his voice. He shouted back, “We heal in whatever way is effective!”

“You severed his connection to the Stone of Dey!”

“We did what was necessary.”

“You did what you needed to make the white stone your own! And, now you will return it.”

“It cannot be done. It …”

“No! It can but you refuse. You will restore his connection or I will bring this to the Council.”

“Perhaps you will change your mind if …”

“Nothing, other than restoring the connection will change my mind.”

“Perhaps the life of your friend will!”

There was a profound silence. Then Olladdowa continued, but now his tone was more comfortable, as if he had control of the situation. “The kurn will remain, and, since you seem to know about them, you know that it cannot be removed without great care and by those that fixed it in place.”

Another pause. My guess is that Olladdowa was giving it time for his threat to sink in.

“The kurn will remain, but will do no harm to its vessel as long as the white stone remains here with us.”

Heavy footsteps crossed the room. Then I heard the door jerked open and quickly slammed shut. Negotiations seemed to be over — at least for now.

Rhonda Floam’s Diaries: The Ritual

Dollano 32, SP~4,909

Rhonda Floam

The Ritual

The healing ceremony took place in a large room at the back end of the house. The building was a very old structure on an older street. Stains marked the floor and walls where the spilled brews of other ceremonies, over many years, left a part of their story.

I wasn’t supposed to be there. At least I assume I wasn’t, but I am a reporter so as far as I’m concerned that’s my invitation! I managed to sneak in as everyone was focusing on preparation for the ceremony. There was an alcove just inside the room, near the door, with several statues standing in it, and I found a spot behind one of them — a tall ishiri wearing ornate robes and a tight-fitting six-sided hat.

They all walked in with Olladdowa leading the way. Several of their helpers carried Sheshoffis and laid him on a thick wooden table in the middle of the room.

Olladdowa placed himself at the head of the table and his two assistants were on either side. At the other end was Donnessling, the only one of the nossring they allowed to participate. The other sorcerers lined up along the walls. I guess they were prepared to help if their help was called for.

The room went quiet when Olladdowa placed his hands flat on the table in front of him. He then raised his arms and began to chant. His voice was low and the words were from an ancient tongue. Though I didn’t understand what they meant I could feel their solemnity, and they filled the room with a heavy stillness.

When he stopped the sorcerer to his right raised his hands and slowly passed them over Sheshoffiss’ body. They were covered in tattoos, which seemed to be letters or words. My guess was that they were from the same language that Olladdowa had just been chanting.

His hands stopped and hovered over Sheshoffiss’ midsection just over his wound. I noticed the tattoos flutter and then slowly lift themselves off the sorcerer’s hands and fingers. They floated above Sheshoffis and then slowly drifted down. They hovered briefly over the wound and then continued their descent to disappear beneath the putrid gash in his flesh. Sheshoffiss jerked as they entered his body, but then settled into stillness. His muscles seemed to untighten slightly.

Olladdowa resumed his chanting. It was a different song and different words this time. As the words drifted over Sheshoffiss a soft light filled the room. It pushed away some of the gloom from the space and I felt a hope.

As the chant continued, so did the tattooed sorcerer. Her fingers shifted in an elegant motion above Sheshoffiss’ wound as if she was playing an invisible harp inside his body.

Her fingers suddenly stopped. She seemed to be straining as if she was lifting something heavy that she could not afford to let go of. It was then that the third sorcerer reached down to one of the bowls on the table in front of him to quickly scoop out a thick, wet poultice of some kind. He applied it carefully, and gently, to the wound.

Sheshoffiss cried out in pain and his body jerked away from the healer’s hands that were touching him. Olladdowa’s voice grew stronger and the words suddenly carried commands in them. At the same time the tattooed sorcerer’s hands came alive again. She tugged at this unseen thing and her fingers danced as if that thing was trying to slip away from her control. At one point she cried out and reached down, and suddenly a moss green light covered her hands. She looked down the table at Donnessling who held a glowing green Stone in front of him. I could see his lips move in a silent speech as the Eye of Darmyn glowed stronger. He nodded to the sorcerer and she resumed the movement of her hands in the air above Sheshoffiss’ wound. Now, though, her hands were bathed in a green light and her work seemed lighter and her hands steadier.

The ritual continued for many minutes. Olladdowa’s chant changed a number of times. The sorcerer on one side of Sheshoffiss reached for, and softly applied, one poultice after another and sometimes stretched oddly-shaped leaves over the cut. The tattooed sorcerer’s hands were in a constant struggle with the unseen thing, and Donnessling, sweat dripping from his forehead, continued to draw the strong green light from its source.

Suddenly, the tattooed sorcerer shouted forth a word that cracked like thunder in the room. A swirling black and gray mist rose out of Sheshoffiss’ middle. It suddenly flared with a terrifying darkness, like a living nightmare preparing to drive its dreamer mad. Before it could the three sorcerers and Donnessling thrust their arms toward this evil thing and with a single voice cried out a word that broke the dark thing. A piercing cry of malevolence and pure hatred mixed with the crackling sound as the black and gray mist was shattered and replaced by a fresh white light and clean air.

The room suddenly brightened. The three sorcerers stumbled back from the table and fell into the hands of their fellow conjurers who had rushed out from their waiting places along the wall. Donnessling was barely standing. I was about to rush out to help him, but before I could he started moving around the table. He made his way to Sheshoffiss’ side and stroked his forehead. Sheshoffiss’ eyes opened and Donnessling met them. I could see the tightness of his shoulders unwind in relief. He smiled lovingly down at Sheshoffiss who returned the gaze.

“The wound will now heal.” It was the voice of Olladdowa. He was exhausted but relieved as well. He looked to his two comrades to make sure they were not hurt. Seeing they were not in danger he nodded to one of the sorcerers supporting him. She turned and motioned to several others. Gently they placed Sheshoffiss on a sturdy stretcher and moved him to a room where his recovery would be well looked after.

It was over.

Rhonda Floam’s Diaries: The Berimandry Sorcerers

Dollano 31, SP~4,909

Rhonda Floam

The Berimandry Sorcerers

The journey from the mountain-side down to the City of Berimandry was short and uneventful. After everything we’d just been through I was happy to have a slow, steady descent down the slopes and to see the sunshine on a clear day.

We arrived just outside of the city at midday. Donnessling wanted to stay hidden, as much as possible — carrying Sheshoffiss was not exactly inconspicuous — so he led us through a less-populated neighborhood. It was also a scruffy part of the city; not well-kept and a bit dangerous, though not to a party such as ours.

We soon entered a neighborhood filled with two- and three-story buildings mixed in with a hodge-podge of plain plaster and brick homes. It looked old, very old. I wondered if we were passing through the ancient core of the city, before it was a city.

Suddenly Tollerring pulled Donnessling aside. I happened to be in the front of the party so it was easy to eaves-drop on the conversation.

“Are you taking us to them?” Tollerring asked, with an emphasis on ‘them’.

“We have no choice,” replied Donnessling.

“We must! There are many healers in this city, and many good ones, including,” he said, interrupting Donnessling before he could reply, “including those we could trust.”

Donnessling looked away and up the street, to the destination he had in mind.

Tollerring waited patiently for his reply, and he eventually got it, though he was not pleased with it.

“This wound is not simply to Sheshoffiss’ body. It seeps into his very core, his soul, into the Energies that makes him a whole living being.” He looked Tollerring squarely in the eyes and said, “I would not go to them if there were any other choice. We must, or Sheshoffis will die, and in a manner that is terrible beyond belief.”

Tollerring nodded, not in assent, but in recognition that this must be Donnessling’s decision.

I wondered what all this meant, and I soon found out.

The walk was not much further when we reached a particularly disheveled stone building. The front door seemed little used. Donnessling pounded on the door three times. He waited and was about to pound again when it opened to reveal a small, elderly human who was clearly not happy to have the door knocked on so loudly, and seemed even less happy to have visitors.

“What do you want,” the human asked, not quite shouting.

“I am Donnessling and I have come to see Olladdowa.”

The human started when Donnessling spoke his name and could not hide the surprise, or fear, in his face.

“I will let him know that you …”

“No, you will let us in. Now!”

The human was unwilling to stand in Donnesslings way so he simply turned and went into the back of the house, seeking for help.

Donnessling led us into a large hallway and we closed the door behind us.

As the door clapped closed, two ishiri and an ushen approached us. The tallest ishiri led the three of them and the human trailed along behind.

“Donnessling,” said the lead ishiri. His tone was careful and his face controlled, as ishiri are good at; however, there was also menace in his voice and there was no hint of welcome.

“Olladdowa,” returned Donnessling and bowed his head only slightly. “We come to your house seeking your aid.”

Olladdowa said nothing for a long pause and then, “Did you expect to be welcomed?”

“I did not, but we have one with us who is deeply wounded.”

Olladdowa openly sneered and was about to reply when Donnessling cut him off, “He was attacked by an ancient thing that wielded the Eye of Mark against our friend, Sheshoffis.”

Donnessling was calm, almost casual as he said this, but as soon as he mentioned the Eye of Mark, Olladdowa’s stern demeanor was broken. He gasped in shock at this news, and then looked at Sheshoffiss who had been carefully laid down on a couch in the wide room. The two other sorcerers behind him were also taken aback, and a small group of others had begun to make their way into the hallway.

Olladdowa motioned for us to move into a large adjoining room and to place Sheshoffis on a couch.

Olladdowa leaned down to make a closer inspection of Sheshoffis, and when his eyes drifted to his, which still clasped the white stone, he abruptly straightened to look back at Donnessling.

“The Eye of Day is all that has kept our friend alive. His wound was deep. I have done what is within my power but I can do no more. Will you help this zweyjen who has committed no offense to you other than to be in my company?”

Olladdowa’s manner changed. He seemed to be considering his options. He stepped back from the couch, and the wounded zweyjen, and with a chilling indifference, he said, “This is not our concern,” and turned to leave the room.

I have never seen Donnessling so angry, “You would condemn this folk to death? Tell me how you can call yourself a healer, if that is the case.”

Tollerring placed himself between Donnessling and the head of the sorcerers, who had stopped at the shouting. Without turning around Olladdowa spoke again, “Tell me, Donnessling, in whose house do you now stand?”

Donnessling was struck by this statement. This time Tollerring looked like he would be the one to start the fight, but Donnessling recovered and held him back.

“My apologies, Olladdowa. This is your house, House of the Berimandry Sorcerers, whose wisdom is great and who have fought against darkness for many centuries.”

When Olladdowa turned, Donnessling bowed from the hip, and added, “I hope that you will not let your decision be guided by my discourtesy.”

“Your insolence can be forgiven. It is not altogether unexpected.” Donnessling gave no hint of the insult directed at him. With a villainous smile he continued, “We shall help, but, of course, we require payment. I am sure that you are willing to make a sacrifice for your friend.”

Donnessling winced. “Of course.”

“The White Eye will be sufficient.”

Donnessling did not move, but his eyes lit with an angry blaze. “The Eyes of Drawnwyn cannot be bartered. It is not permitted.”

“If this is how little your friend’s life means to you, then it can mean no more than that to us.” Olladdowa’s words were defiant and cold.

“I cannot give you something that is not mine,” Donnessling insisted. He hesitated and then continued, “I can, though, offer you something that is in my possession.” He held out his hand. In it was the shimmering green stone that I recognized from our encounters with the gray creature.

“The Eye of Darmyn,” said Olladdowa with a greedy glower on his face.

“Yes,” said Donnessling, “the Eye of Spirit Energy. This would be a welcome tool for a healer, would it not, Olladdowa?”

He choked back his obvious longing for such a treasure, and retrieved his composure.

“It does not have the significance of the White Stone.”

“And, yet you will receive only this and no more.” Donnessling motioned to us to gather Sheshoffiss’ body and prepare to leave.

“Wait! This will be acceptable, but you must first provide me with the Stone.”

“I swear it shall be yours, if you heal Sheshoffiss,” said Donnessling, “And you know that a nossring’s word, once given, cannot be taken back.”

Olladdowa smiled with an odd satisfaction.

“Yes, and so it is,” he said. Then, nodding to the human who had met us at the door, he continued, “ Follow Hespin. He will lead you to the room where your friend shall be healed.”

Turning to the two sorcerers who stood behind him he said, “Let us prepare,” and the three left the room.

Rhonda Floam’s Diaries: The Way Out

Dollano 30, SP~4,909

Rhonda Floam

The Way Out

A number of events from this day must be faithfully recounted.

First of all, the creature that had the gray stone in its possession, the enemy who pursued us for so long, is gone and, according to Donnessling, was hurt badly and won’t be coming back any time soon. Second, it’s not dead, also according to Donnessling. I trust that he knows.

The third thing is that Sheshoffis cannot be woken. The good news is that he’s not dead. Donnessling tried everything that he could, but the wound was simply beyond his abilities to heal, even if he had not been wounded himself and utterly fatigued as he tried. Tollerring had urged him to use the white stone, but he told us that he could not. Apparently each stone requires any new master to learn about the stone before they can use it. As Donnessling told it, the Stone and its user must bond with each other, and that process could take a good deal of time. Much more than what Donnessling had.

Note to Self: So, how is it that Donnessling could use the purple stone that he captured from Begkragk so quickly? There is more going with that than meets the idea. A good story to investigate if we live to tell the tale!

When Donnessling finally stopped his efforts to cure Sheshoffiss, he told us that he had been able to save Sheshoffiss from death, but just barely, and that the zweyjen required more skills than he could provide. He said he knew of a sorcerer’s cabal in Berimandry that could aid our friend.

Last thing, and the worst (but perhaps most expected) was that we could hear the moraktatha advancing toward us. They had clearly been frightened off by the gray creature, and then even more by the battle of lights, but at last they were regaining their courage. Or, perhaps their hunger was proving greater than their fear.

Whatever it might be, we had to leave and leave immediately.

Donnessling told us that we could not go back the way we had come. It was too dangerous, and, though no one said it, we were all relieved that we would not take that course.

The exit that we had originally sought only hours earlier was not far away and we made haste for that with several of us carrying Sheshoffiss’ unmoving form. I also noticed that Tollerring was helping Donnessling forward. They were trying to hide it from the rest of us, but I could tell. I’m sure Donnessling wanted none of his to know just how weakened he was.

The exit was not hard to find. It was a large opening and looked as though it had at one time been quite elegant. The remains of columns bordered the opening on either side and beneath there was a border trimming the doorway that had once been elegant and, I think, contained words in an ancient language. Once inside I could see that the tunnel walls were old and covered in grime. There were patches where well-fashioned tiles shone through.

I was sad to leave these mysteries behind, but time was of the essence, and I could already feel the tug of Emotion Energy from the mass of moraktatha approaching us.

As we made our way down the tunnel, I could feel the malevolent pull of those foul creatures lessen. It would seem they would not pursue us past the confines of the cavern. I could feel the fear leave me, and I could see the shoulders of my nossring comrades ease as they, too, could tell that we were now beyond their reach.

We marched through the passage for many hours. It would frequently turn one direction or the other and there were many passageways that we met and crossed, and sometimes took. Donnessling’s knowledge of this place was impressive. Even amazing, though there were a couple times when I thought I saw a quick flash from the green stone as he took a minute to consider a direction for us or a choice among alternative tunnels.

The first sign that we were near the end was the fresh smell of trees and some flowers. As the tunnel turned sharply to the left and veered steeply up we could see a bright stream of light ahead. Our pace quickened and the tunnel suddenly turned into a wide, tall cavern. At its end was a doorway that must have been at least sixty feet high, and the sunlight was now strong and clear. We covered the last few hundred yards in no time and emerged onto a wide, flat shelf far above the plains below. There, far below us, tucked into a pocket between two spurs of the mountain, was the City of Berimandry.

It was mid-day. We had traveled through the night, and had traveled and fought before that. Our exhaustion finally settled on us all. We would have continued if Donnessling had commanded it (that is how loyal his nossring comrades were to him, as was I), but he could see our state, and his was no better (likely worse), so he gave instructions for us to eat something and to rest. The words had barely left his lips when he lay down against a mossy covered side of the small plateau and fell asleep.

At that point Tollerring took charge to make sure everyone had food and he stood guard as the rest of us slept.

When he woke us, the sun was low in the sky. The last of our journey took us down the mountain and to the outskirts of the city. Donnessling led us to the house of a farmer who knew Donnessling and welcomed him with open arms, as did his family.

Here is where we will spend the night. The farmer, a man named Kellen, sent two of his sons to fetch the sorcerers who would, hopefully, help to heal Sheshoffiss from his deep wounds. They should arrive first thing in the morning.

And now my day is done. We are safe in this place and we were fed again, with an abundance of fresh food. That has restored at least some of our aches, and it gave me the strength to write this entry.

Now I will join my companions for a long night of needed sleep, and we will see what comes to us tomorrow.

Rhonda Floam’s Diaries: A Last Battle

Dollano 29, SP~4,909

Rhonda Floam

A Last Battle

We were exhausted from our exertions of the last few days, but, even more than that, we were weary from the loss of our friends. Or, at least, I was weary. My nossring companions showed little emotion, but I’ve been with them long enough to know when they’ve been affected, and I could tell they felt the loss deeply. Even so, they carry on.

Note to Self: Someday that will be me!

We started the day’s journey by trying to find the way out. The one that Donnessling had told us about. We had traveled for a while, and Donnessling had just told us that we were close when we heard a huge crashing sound up ahead. It sounded like some of the tunnel had caved in.

Donnessling sent two of his commands ahead to see what had happened. They returned soon and told us that the ceiling up ahead had caved in and the tunnel was now blocked. They told us that the collapse was extensive and not something we could simply dig through.

Donnessling looked at Sheshoffiss whose eyes were closed. He seemed to be trying to recall something, perhaps some very old memories. When his eyes opened he looked back at Donnessling, and said, “There is a place, further on, which leads out of the mountain onto its western foothills.”

“Wells’ Cavern,” was Donnessling’s response, “It is a dangerous place. For many years now it has been overrun with moraktatha, if the reports are true.”

Sheshoffiss agreed with this assessment, and emphasized how foul the moraktatha are. Snakes are bad enough, but these are large ones — some are longer than an ushen is tall — and they are particularly loathsome. The worst thing is that these creatures don’t just swallow their prey whole; they devour our selves, too. All of our memories, thoughts, and feelings become a part of the moraktatha that eats you. Not a pleasant way to die — as if there was some way to die that was.

The two of them debated while the rest of us waited. Neither seemed to like the notion of Wells’ Cavern, but they decided that it was either that or going back to the horror of the ancient city we had just escaped.

Once they made their decision, Donnessling gave instructions to Tollerring and told him to lead the way. Tollerring has taken the place of Allsassring as Donnessling’s commander. Neither of them mentioned Allsassring’s name when the assignment was decided.

It was not a long journey, and we arrived outside the cavern in the late afternoon, stopping before we entered to prepare ourselves. The plan was for Donnessling and Sheshoffiss to use their stones to form an Energetic shield around us as we moved forward and the fighters would form a ring around us to kill any that might get through. It was key that we all stayed together, inside the protective field, as we moved across the cavern to the exit.

Donnessling and Sheshoffiss stood close to each other and chanted to their stones. As the light rose, Donnessling nodded to Tollerring, who slowly led us out of our hiding place.

All of our swords were drawn and the light was enough for us to see a dozen yards in every direction.

Our gait was disciplined and slow, giving us time to search the smooth floor around us. The sleek gray skin of the moraktatha might easily blend in with the stone of the cave, making them all but invisible to us.

The minutes passed slowly. Our concentration never wavered and the stones emitted a steady stream of white light tinged with green and purple.

When we had marched about halfway across the cavern Donnessling whispered a word for us to stop.

“Something is wrong,” he said.

Sheshoffiss responded, “We know that this is their…”

We heard a soft hissing from the far end of the cavern. Donnessling cocked his head to listen carefully and drew the green stone, the stone that matched to Spirit Energy, closer.

“It is the moraktatha. They have drawn away to the far end of the cavern, and they are afraid.” He looked at Sheshoffiss. I could hear the surprise in his voice and I could see his brow furrow when he added, “But they do not fear us.”

A loud cracking sound broke the silence. The stone under the feet of the Nossring to my left broke apart and our companions fell. To my astonishment, they were sinking into stone as if its hardness had somehow become soft and malleable. I could see their eyes lit with pain.

“It is here. The creature that carries the Gray Stone,” Donnessling announced to the air around him. “There,” said Donnessling, pointing toward the other side of the cavern.

As one he and Sheshoffiss leaped forward. We were now in the dark, but could see their light as they swept toward some unseen destination.

I could see streams of green and purple light twisting themselves around each other to form a long, focused stream. Then the white light completed the braid and the three lights shaped into a sleek, powerful spear of light. I could hear sharp popping sounds and see sparks of light as the streams merged with each other making this weapon ever more powerful.

Without warning the three braided lights hurtled themselves into the dark. There was an explosion as they crashed into a dark gray cloud that had something hard and gray in its center. Something in the grayness struck back to deflect the assault, but the white light burst into brilliance and drove the spear of the entwined lights forward.

Suddenly a cry of pain pierced the cavern’s air. Then, unspeakable words in an ancient tongue rang out with what had to have been a terrible curse. When the curse completed, the gray cloud snapped out of existence and its remaining misty shards dissolved into the air.

Tollerring ran forward accompanied by three other nossring to see after our companions. I quickly ran after them.

We arrived to find Donnessling, depleted but still conscious. He was leaning over Sheshoffiss holding the green stone against the zweyjens chest. Sheshoffiss had the white stone in his hand, but it gave no light, and he was lying stiff on the floor and barely breathing.

I could see the green stone throbbing in Donnessling’s hand as he rallied against his exhaustion to try to keep Sheshoffiss alive.