The Caverns of Kildun Aalda--Chapter Twenty--George's Most Precious Find
Johanna looked around. “It is so dark; our lanterns are not casting enough light for us to walk easily in.”
“That is why we did not notice the ochre jelly lurking over our heads,” Britt said.
“I think I may be able to help,” Balon said. “Give me a minute.”
He closed his eyes and his body became rigid.
“What is happening to him?” Bard whispered to Johanna, startled.
“He is meditating, trying to bring one of his spells to the surface.”
Balon breathed deeply, slowly exhaling and inhaling with each breath. A flicker, just for a moment expelled from his body. Then it was gone. However, he continued with his breathing rhythm. The flicker came again and this time it did not disappear. His entire body soon had a faint yellow line outlining his body. Once the outline was completed, the line expanded from his body until the magic-user was consumed by a globe of light that expanded sixty feet across.
“Wow,” whispered Bard, surprised. The light emitted from Balon’s body, bounced off the walls around them. They were not finished and smooth like the rooms in the upper level; they were unfinished and irregular. From where they were standing, the passageways were about ten feet wide.
“No wonder it is hard to read the map for the lower level,” George said. He looked to the ground, which was covered by rock and debris. “We would have tripped on something, if we only relied on our lanterns for a source of light.”
“Remember,” said Britt, “there probably are not any doors down here. If we are looking for a cavern, we may have to look for areas where rock has fallen and blocked a passage.”
“It worked,” he said smiling.
“You are a seer,” said Johanna.
“I thought you were a medium,” said Britt.
“As I use more magic, I build my experience. It is like you Bard; you build your experience by fighting. Even though you are just a veteran fighter, I see in the near future that you will become a sword master.”
“How do you know when you can use a spell?”
“My own self tells me when I am ready. I meditate and learn all spells. If I try to perform a spell and I do not have the experience to do it yet, my self warns me.”
“What happens if you still try to perform a spell after you have been warned?”
“The spell could possible work. However, my body may not be ready to perform the spell and I can die doing it.”
With the steady globe of light coming from the magic-users, the group was able to walk down the passageway without stumbling into each other. They left the chamber where Bard almost met his end and followed a passageway that winded first to the south then went to the northwest.
“We can either go down this one,” George said, “or continue up the one we are on.” They had reached an area of the passage way where it continued to go north. It also branched back to the east.
“Let’s go down this one,” Britt said, indicating the one that branched to the east. “If there is nothing down there, we will come back to the main one.”
They traveled a short distance and an open cavern stood to their left. “I would not be surprised if we are close to the entrance back to the upper level,” Balon said.
George glanced down at his map. “You are right, Balon. All we would have to do is dig through the wall and we will be back right where we started. Since we found a room, we can explore.”
“What is that smell?” George asked as they approached the next cavern. Even before they came within ten feet of the entrance, a musky smell reached their nostrils.
“Troglodytes,” Britt answered. The smell was overpowering where they had to breathe through their mouths.
“It smells so bad, I can taste it,” the thief gasped.
When he first saw them huddled around a large stone, Bard thought they were at first Kobolds. However, instead of having a doglike head and a tail that resembled a rat’s, these creatures were reptilian. While there were only two of them, they both held heavy clubs.
“It is best to take these out from a distance,” Britt said. “These creatures will hit again and again with those clubs. Even after somebody is dead, the troglodyte will keep beating him until all that is left of his is a bloody mess. Those two are both warriors; at least I do not see any impalers.”
“What are those?” Bard asked..
“They use spears and javelins,” the dwarf answered. “They throw them at intruders.”
“What are they doing?” asked Johanna. “They were gathered around the rock, hammering it with their clubs, trying to break pieces off.”
“It looks like they are looking for food.” Several broken eggs shells lay around the rock. “I think they have eaten their young. When they cannot find food they usually attack humans and raid homes. If we attack these, we must make sure that we kill them. They do not take prisoners. I would not want to be taken as a prisoner, because I may be on the menu for their next meal.”
The troglodytes were too busy pounding at the rock and growling at each other, they did not notice the intruders.
“Maybe they will eat each other,” George suggested.
Eileena said, “I can use my arrows. Balon and Johanna back me up with your magic ones.
“Good shooting!” Bard said when the elf shot the two troglodytes dead. Johanna’s and Balon’s balls of fire did not even form into arrows when the second creature fell to the ground.
George approached the rock that the troglodytes had been hitting with their clubs. It was a green stone that was glowing.
“Be careful,” Balon warned, as Britt reached out to touch it.
“It is only mica,” the dwarf replied. “Still I wonder what is making it glow.”
“Let me see,” George said and picked up a piece that had peeled off from the main foundation.
“From what you taught me, I think you are right, Britt. Yet, there is one way to find out.” He put the piece in his mouth and bit down.
“George! What do you think you are…?”
Bard reached out and grabbed George’s arm.
The two disappeared into thin air
“Doing!” finished Britt.
“What happened?” Johanna asked.
“They teleported to another part of the Caverns,” Balon said.
“George is alone!” Britt yelled. “He will not be able to defend himself! We have to find him!”
“Bard went with him,” Eileena said. “He will protect him.”
George looked around. “This definitely mica,” he said, “mica with magical properties.” He bit down on the stone again. However, nothing happened.
“Where are we,” George said drawing his sword.
Bard held his lantern up and looked around. “This looks like a cave. What is this stuff?” Bard asked pulling sticky stuff from his hair.
“It looks like web.”
“How do we get out of here?”
“It looks like an entrance over there. It is all covered with web. We have to cut our way out…”
A scurrying noise cut off George’s sentence.
“Be quiet,” Bard whispered. “I think there might be sp…”
In the next instance Bard was covered with a web.
“I cannot move!” he yelled. “Get out of here, now!”
A large spider approached Bard, unaware of George standing a few feet away.
George, with his knife in his hand, sprung on its back and sank it into the spider’s back. The creature fell to the ground, dead.
He ran over to Bard and started cutting the robe like-web from the warrior. “At least he did not have a tail to grab me.” Finally, Bard was freed. George looked at him and shook his head. “How do you get yourself into these situations?”
Bard did not say anything but drew his sword. “We have to cut through this web to get out of here. There may be more spiders, so be careful.”
“Bard, we may be expecting parents.” George pointed to a section of the cave. Ten giant eggs, lying in the web, looked like they were starting to crack.
“Help me over here. Then we will take care of those.”
They finally cleared an entrance to get them back into the corridor.
“Hold my lantern,” Bard said. He started to feel around in his backpack.
“What are you doing?”
“I am looking for my tinderbox. If those eggs hatch, we are going to have problems.”
“No. Please do not do that,” George pleaded. “They will not hurt us. Once they are hatched, they will go outdoors. The one spider was just looking for food.”
“You call me just food?” Bard laughed.
“Probably bad tasting as it is.”
Bard pretended to punch him.
“Spiders are not evil and I do not think it would be right to kill them, especially since they are babies. Let’s save the killing for the evil ones.”
“Let’s go and find the others,” Bard said, putting his tinderbox back in his bag.
“Shouldn’t we try to find George?” Britt asked. “If we bite down on another piece of stone, we should be teleported to the same place.”
“I would not do that,” Balon warned. “This type of stone is unpredictable.”
“What do you mean?”
“This stone does things at random. You may bite down on it and nothing happens. Sometimes the stone will help you. For example, it may heal you or make you wiser. However, it can also curse you. One person, I remember, went into a deep sleep for several days until the curse wore off.”
“So it is better just to look for George?” Eileena asked.
“What if he tries the stone to teleport back to us?”
“The stone is useless now. Once it is used, the magical properties are gone.”
“What do we do, wait for them or look for them?” Johanna asked.
“I say that we look for them,” Britt said. “Who knows what trouble George got himself into?”
The left the chamber and started walking south.
There is a cavern up ahead.
“Be careful,” Balon said. “There are only four of us.” When he saw Britt’s face became pale, he added, “that is until George and Britt join us again.”
He hoped that he was right.
George and Bard walked a short distance and came upon another cavern. However, there was nothing in it. “I wonder how far we are from the others,” the thief wondered.
“We are still in the lower level.” He knew this just by looking around the walls. They were irregular, rough and unfinished.
“I do not think Stephan and Joban ever got around to getting this fortress of theirs finished.”
“I see what you mean, said George. “The upper level, from what I can see is complete. Even though, all the rooms are full of dust, they can be lived in. I wonder what their plans were for the rest of the lower level.”
“That may be a mystery to us, forever. Still, if the elders are planning to make this a tourist attraction, they may want to consider sealing off a majority of the lower level. It can be dangerous.” Just as he said this, Bard tripped on a piece of uneven floor and fell to the ground.
“Are you okay, Bard?” George asked him. For once, there was no laughter in his voice and even had a hint of fear.
“Yes,” he said getting up. “How about you?”
“To be honest, this is the first time I have been underground like this. When went on missions, when we were underground, we were always near the entrance. This is different; it feels like the walls are closing in on me.”
Bard understood. Even when he had ventured into the catacombs, he was not this far underground. If he did not get out of here soon, he could go mad.
“I wish Britt and the others were here.”
“Just keep going, George. Things will be fine.” He took one of his knives out and laid it on the floor of the cavern, with the blade pointing to the west.
“What are you doing?”
I am hoping to leave a sign for them to see. It shows the others which direction we went.
“Good thinking, Bard.”
“This one is empty,” Britt said, disappointedly looking around.
“They can be anywhere,” Balon said. “We will just continue as we have been before. Knowing how George is, he can be around a corner ready to pull a practical joke on us.”
“True,” said Britt, unconvinced.
“He has the best sense of direction,” Eileena said. “He probably will make it back to the library. I bet when we get back up there, he will be sitting in that divan, reading from one of the books.”
“When I get a hold of him,” said Britt, “I am going to knock some sense into the boy. Then I will buy him all the books he wants out of my own cash.”
“I think we will all do that,” said Johanna.
After coming to another empty cavern, Balon said, “Let’s get back to the main passageway, and continue traveling north.”
Bard looked at the pile of stones in front of him. It looked like some had fallen away, leaving a hole. “I think there may be a cavern. Stand back and watch my back.”
Within minutes enough rocks were cleared away and they were able to crawl into a small cavern.
Bard shone his lantern and the light reflected off the sunken eye sockets of a corpse.
“George, be careful,” Bard warned as the thief approached the body. “Johanna had warned us that sometimes ghouls appear to be dead. It is their way of potential victims coming close enough for them to attack.”
George found a pole lying near the body and prodded it with it. However, the body, sitting propped against the wall of the room, fell over to its side.
“No, it was somebody unlucky enough to not survive the caverns.”
Bard approached George and cast more light on the body.
“This happened a long time ago.” The body only contained bones and the tattered remains of leather armor. All the flesh had decayed away.
“A thief,” George said. “I wonder if he was belonged to the party that the berserkers killed.
“No this happened before that,” Bard answered. “It must have been at least a year.”....
George suddenly wanted to get out of the room, out of the caverns and as far away as possible. “I wondered what happened to him.”
Bard looked closely at the neck bones and saw two marks. “It looks like he was bitten by a giant spider. They are very poisonous and he probably did not have a healing potion with him. It appears that he just crawled in here to die.”
George caught a glitter on the remains of the thief’s cloak. He bent down and removed decorated silver stud that was used to fasten it.
“I wonder how many times the caverns have been explored.”
“I believe that he just came in by himself,” George was looking through a purse that was lying near the remains. Some thieves will go through extremes to get extra money. They do not have any regard for their own safety.” He removed eight gold and eight silver pieces and handed them and the silver stud to Bard. “I personally would rather leave these. It is one thing when you find treasures that monsters are guarding. However, when if comes to a fellow comrade, even one I do not personally know, it is different.”....
“I understand,” Bard said. He looked at the skeletal hands of the body of the thief. It was still grasping a crossbow. “This is still in excellent shape,” he said picking it up and looking at it. “We may need this.”
“Here is a quiver of arrows,” George said.
Bard fitted an arrow into the crossbow and handed it to George.
“This will be better that your knife. Have you ever used one before?”
“Eileena taught me. But I have only used it while we hunted. It has been a while and I might be a little rusty.”
“Just make sure that I am not in the way.”
George almost gagged. An overpowering smell overcame him. He knew that smell. He remembered the troglodytes. Just behind Bard he could see one approaching. This one was carrying a spear.
“Bard, fall to the ground, quick!”
Without pausing to ask, Bard fell to the ground.
George shot the arrow at the creature. Before it had a chance to throw the spear, it fell to the ground dead, with an arrow jutting from his chest.
“Good shooting, George,” Bard said getting up. “Here is some advice for the next time. Keep your eyes open when you shoot that thing.”
“Will do,” said George as he fitting another arrow in the crossbow.
“There is another side passage just ahead,” Eileena said. Thanks to the light coming from Balon, she was able to make it out easily.
Britt did not see any thing, but made a silent plea, “Help me find George. And also Bard, I keep forgetting about him.”
The corridor sloped downhill and at the bottom was a cavern. The walls were wet with water, which glistened like diamonds and the light reflected off the droplets.
“A sunken cavern,” said Britt.
While the small cavern next to it was empty, the one across from these two was considerably larger. The floor was even and level. However, when they approached the center, the floor sloped downwards. The middle of the carven was about twenty feet lower than the even surface of the floor.
“Look at the slope,” said Balon. He sat down. “I believe these are seats that have been carved from the rocks.”
Balon and the other sat next to him.
“I wonder if this was some sort of arena,” Johanna said.
“I think it is,” said Eileena. “However, was it an arena for men to train in? Or was it just for entertainment?”
“Are you thinking that Stephan and Balon put some innocent human down there and watched in enjoyment as he was torn apart by some vicious beasts?”
“Hopefully,” said Balon, “we will never find out.”
“I agree,” said Britt. “If we ever did find that was the use for this cavern, I would totally lose respect for both of these men.”
“That also goes for me,” said Balon.
When they left the arena, Johanna asked, “What is that glow?”
“It is coming from Balon,” said Britt.
“No, there is something glowing from over there,” she said pointing to the left.
“I see it too,” said Eileena.
Sure enough, there was, coming from another cavern, a soft purple phosphorescent glow. They walked to the cavern and all the walls were illuminated. Balon did not have to use his own light source in this cavern, there was enough light. However, where was it coming from?
Eileena walked over to the wall. “There is a purplish mold on the walls.” She looked up. “It is even on the ceiling. The light is coming from the mold.”
“We better leave,” said Britt, remembering the mold in the garden room. “It could be dangerous.”
“This one is harmless,” said the elf. “We have this in my homeland. I just cannot remember its name.”
“Somebody was just recently killed in here,” Britt said, when he saw a body of a female lying in a corner. “Make that a something was killed,” when he was that the creature had the head of a female and the body of a hawk.
“What is that?” asked Johanna.
“It is a harpy. They are nasty creatures. They lure unsuspecting people because they look like human when they are not flying. This one has a beautiful face, so she probably tried to attract a man. He must have killed her before she did any harm; she would have torn him to pieces with her talons.”
“I thought they liked to live near oceans and swamps,” Eileena said.
“Most of them do. Actually the ocean is not too far from here, maybe a few more days of traveling by foot. All one has to do is continue through the mountains and it is at the other end of the forest.” He looked around the cavern, but did not see signs of any more harpies.
After making sure the room was secure, Britt said, “While I want to continue on and look for George and Bard, and believe me I would if I was alone, I think we will do better if we eat and rest for a while. I think we will do better if we have a clear and fresh start.”....
After they left the hidden cavern where they found the skeletal remains of the thief, Bard and George traveled up the northern passageway.
“They can be anywhere,” said George. “Who will take care of Britt, if we can not find him?”
“The others are with him,” said Bard. “Do not worry, we will find them.”
George halted. “What’s wrong?” asked Bard.
The thief held up his hand and waved for Bard to be quiet. Tilting his head, he listened.
“I hear running water, like a stream. It is just ahead. Come on! What are you waiting for?”
Keeping his sword ready, Bard followed George. Just ahead of them was a large pull of water. It was twenty feet across and approximately eight feet wide. A nearby stream was feeding it.
George looked into the depths of the pool. “Something fell into it,” he said, pointing. At the bottom were crossbows.
“Those look like the one that the orc had on the upper level.” Bits of leather were floating one the surface. Bard grabbed a piece and looked at it. “This is orcish made,” he said looking around. “We better be careful in case we run into any more.”
“They looked like they have been here for a while,” George said, looking at the mold that was covering it. “Maybe this orc is gone.”
“I wonder if this was the pool that Johanna almost fell into,” Bard said, remembering the trap she had stumbled across on the upper level.
George looked up towards the ceiling but could not see anything through the darkness above their heads. “I can not tell…” All of a sudden he saw a figure sneak out from the shadows. “Bard! Look out!”
Even as George yelled his warning, he felt something leap onto his back. Whatever, it was, it was small and light. It was striking at his back with a weapon like a rock or a small knife. However, whatever weapon it was using, it was not doing any harm.
Reaching back with his arm, he tried to grab at the creature. However, he could not grab it effectively. Hopefully, George would not try to use the crossbow on the creature. With his luck, he would miss his target and impale him instead.
However, George only stared at the attacker in shock. Why was he not doing anything to help him?
All of a sudden, George yelled, “Shyla! Get off him!”
The creature dropped from Bard’s back and ran and cowered in a corner of the cavern.
“Shyla, it is me, George. There is nothing to be afraid of. Nobody is going to hurt you.”
“George?” a scared female voice answered. “It cannot be. George is dead.”
“No it is me. You had heard wrong. I got away. Please come out and we can talk.”
A female, smaller than George, timidly approached the two. She looked at him. She started weeping. “I cannot believe it! It is you. I was told that you jumped in a river and drowned.”
“My friend only said that to protect me.”
The girl stepped closer. Bard saw that despite her disheveled hair and haggard face, that she was very pretty. No wonder why George was in love with her.
“Is he your friend?” Shyla looked at Bard.
“I hope so,” George said.
“He actually is more like a little brother,” Bard replied.
“Shyla, what happened to you? I returned to the thieving guild and you were gone. How did you end up in the caverns? How have you been surviving?”
“When I though you were dead, I could not stay there. I decided to make it out on my own. You know how I was as a thief. Well, I decided to join a group coming this way and not tell them how bad I was.”....
“We saw bodies when we first entered.”
“Yes, it is a shame that I never got to know them. I did not even know their names. I, more or less kept to my self. Well, it seemed that they knew less about their skills than I did about thieving. We were attacked as soon as we entered the caverns. I was the only one who got away alive.”
“Why are you still here?” Bard asked.
“I honestly did not have any place to go. I could not go back to the guild, knowing that you were gone. My mind was always on you George and filled with bitterness for how that thief set you up.”
“I do want to find him some day and get even with him.”
“Oh, you do not have to worry about that,” Shyla said. “You may not realize this but you had many friends at the thieving guild. Joseph was caught with important confidential government papers. Now he is in prison and will not see the sun for a long time.”
“Who set him up?”
“You were not a good thief. However, you always did an excellent job in getting even with people.”
“Yes, I remember those pranks you played on me. Then I would always come up with something better.”
“How long have you been in the caverns?” Bard asked.
“How have you been surviving? What have you been eating?” George shuddered as he pictured her eating spider eggs.
“I have been getting food, mostly wheat and flour from the storeroom.”
“That must have been your footprint we saw.”
“Why are you in the lower level? It seems to be dangerous. I even want to get out of here,” Bard said.
“How did you ever get down here?” George asked. “Bard was almost melted by the ochre jelly.”
“I fell through a trapdoor on the upper level,” Shyla said. “I landed in the pool of water.”
George embraced Shyla. “I am never going to let you go again,” he said sobbing, not ashamed that Bard saw him like this. “I love you Shyla. I wished I had told you this before.”
Shyla reached up with her hand and gently caressed his tear-wet cheek. “George, I love you also. I never told you because I did not think that you had the same feelings. I thought you just saw us as friends and nothing else.”
“Shyla, you are shivering.” He took a blanket out of his bag. He was thankful that Britt had suggested this before going to the lower level. He had known it would be cold and damp.”
Bard reached into his bag and pulled out several cans of C-Rations. “Before we move on, we should rest and get something to eat. I am sure Shyla would want something better than stale food.”
They sat eating the food quietly. George kept his arm around Shyla’s shoulder, determined to protect her in what ever way he could. His fear of being in the lower level was gone now that he had his Shyla back. Bard stood watch while George and Shyla slept. While he knew the protection blankets would protect them from wandering monsters and other unpleasant things, he wanted to watch for Britt and the others. Still, it was getting colder down here by the second. Putting his own blanket on him, he sat down next to George. The warmth of the blanket chased away the chills.
“Wake up, Bard!” Bard slowly opened his eyes as a boot nudged him gently in the legs.
Britt was grinning down at him. The others were here with his in the chamber.
Bard rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He had not meant to fall asleep. “How did you find us?” he asked.
“Boy, your snoring is loud enough to wake the dead!” Britt laughed.
Bard reached over to the two snuggled up next to him. Gently shaking the thief, he said, “George, wake up. Britt found us.”
The thief mumbled, “Leave us alone, we are trying to sleep.” There was silence that a small snore. Then all of a sudden George sat straight up. “Was I dreaming or did you say Britt is here?”
“What am I going to do with you, George?” Britt asked. “You are always getting into trouble.”
George ran to the dwarf and embraced him. “I though that I would never see you again.”
“Please,” the dwarf said. “Do not scare us again like that. You had us all worried. It is a good thing Bard was with you.”
“Thanks to George, I was almost eaten by a spider.”
Britt looked over to George’s blanket and saw that it was trying to move. “Okay George, what are you hiding? I thought I told you that you can have no more pets.”
George ran over to the blanket and gently shook Shyla. “Shyla, wake up. We found our friends.”
A young woman, slightly smaller than George, sat up and began rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.
Britt was thunderstruck, “Is that...? It cannot be.”
“Yes this is Shyla. Those were her footprints we found upstairs.”
By now Shyla was standing and looking around.....
“This is Shyla and these are my friends. You alremet Bard and this is Britt, who is a father to me.”
Shyla smiled shyly at the dwarf and then her eyes fell on the familiar robes that magic users wore. She stared at Balon and began to back slowly away in fear.
George did not notice and continued to introduce the others. This is Johanna; she is a cleric and this…Shyla, what is wrong?”
She continued to stare at Balon. “It is you!” she hissed. “Stay away from me!” She ran and cowered in the corner of the cavern.
“Shyla!” George ran over to her. “Balon is my friend. He will not hurt you.” He looked to Balon and saw that he had lowered his head and slumped to the ground in despair.
“He…he…he…killed the others.” Shyla started sobbing hysterically and all George could do was hold and comfort her. He looked at the others. Even though he did not say anything, his eyes said, “Help me.”
Johanna approached and said. “Balon is kind and gentle. He will not hurt you.”
Balon stood and approached the others. He stopped a respectful distance away. Shyla saw in the light that he had tears running down his cheeks.
“Please,” said the magic-user dejectedly. “If I have done you any wrong, let me know. If I killed someone, it was an accident. I only kill what is evil.”
“He has a blue aura,” said Eileena. “That means he is good and lawful. We witnessed this ourselves. If he was anything but good, his aura would have been yellow.”
Shyla licked her dry lips. “A magic-user was the main cause of their deaths.” She quickly told the others of how she got involved with the unfortunate fighter and dwarf.
“The magic-user that was with them told the berserkers to attack. He spoke in some sort of language that sounded like souls burning in hell. It was horrid; I had to cover my ears.”
“But we found the magic user impaled with a sword. It had gone right through his body and into the wall,” Bard said.
Shyla, not taking her eyes off Balon, said, “He impaled himself. He took the sword in his hands and thrust it right through his own heart. He was laughing when he did it.”
Balon wailed and put his head in his hands. Sobbing, he fell to the ground.
“Balon!” George and Johanna yelled at the same time and ran to him. Shyla, seeing George’s gentleness as he tried to soothe the magic-user, helped get het composed. She now knew Balon was not like the evil magic-user. She walked over to him and knelt by his side and gently rubbed his back.
Britt helped the magic-user sit up. “Have some of my wine,” he said handing him his flask.
“I promise that I will never hurt you or anybody else in this chamber. I will die first before I do!”
Shyla sat next to him and held his hand. “I know now that you are good. I am sorry that I was too harsh.” Just as George had held her, she held Balon and comforted him.
Soon Balon had composed himself. However, his face was very pale. “I promise that I will die first before I hurt any of you.”
Johanna said, “Balon, I have known you all my life. You have been a father figure and a very good friend. In all these years, you have been nothing but gentle. You have never killed or hurt anything, unless if you found it necessary.”
Balon took a deep breath. “It may explain why I was able to communicate with the orcs... I never was able to do that before.”
“I thought you new how to speak, in the orcish tongue.”
“I can speak to orcs in the common language and they can hear me in their tongue. I spoke to the orcs in their own tongue, orcish. That is one language I do not want to learn.”
“How did you communicate, then,” Johanna asked, dreading the answer.
“I have been affected by the dead magic user’s spirit. I am afraid that his evil has entered my body. There is only one thing I can do, but leave.”
“You cannot leave us,” Johanna said. “You are our friend; you have to stay.”
“If I stay, I may bring harm to the ones close to me.”
“Your aura is blue.”
“True,” he said. “I will stay. If I leave, if the evil overtakes my goodness, I might be protecting you. However, I may be bringing harm to others.”
A female’s voice spoke in Balon’s head. “Do not be afraid, buddy. Things will work out in the end.”
There was only one person in his life who called him buddy. However, that was not possible. She was dead.
He looked around. “Did any of you just hear anything?”
The others shook their heads. “Are you okay?” Johanna asked with concern.
“I am now,” said Balon. When ever he heard that voice, things did work out. It was not his imagination. Still he missed her, longing for her touch. “She spoke to me again.”
“That is great!” Johanna exclaimed, understanding what Balon was saying. He saw his sad eyes. “One day you will see her again,” she said encouraging.
“I will stay with the group, they are my friends. Even when I traveled with the clerics, I was lonely, except when I had your company, Johanna. However, if something goes wrong, there is a way, I can protect you.” Balon, once again became the calm and gentle magic-user his friends grew acquainted with. “George, can I speak to you for a few minutes.”
The thief went to Balon and they stood to the side.
Balon reached into his robes and pulled out a dagger with jewels and carving etched on the handle. “I am giving you this. If you never have to use it, that will be good. It will be yours to keep.”
George stared at the beautiful knife. Alone, it was worth more in gold pieces than any of the other gems they had already found. “Why are you giving this to me? I do not deserve something like this.”
“Even though you are nothing but a thief, you have more courage than any other person I see. You are always alert and jump into action immediately. If you see me, or even expect me, trying to harm others in the group, you must stab this through my heart. Not only will it set me free, it will also kill the evil spirit. The blade is long enough where you can stab me right through the back.”
“I cannot do that,” George said.
“I hope you never have to do that,” the magic-user returned. “You may wonder why I am carrying this knife.”
“Yes, I thought magic-users were not to carry any types of weapons.”
“We can carry them. However, we cannot use them. That is why I need someone to carry out the task. If I used the knife myself, I would be sending the spirit on to another unlucky person.” Balon looked over to Shyla. “She needs the most protection.” He reached into his bag and gave George the protection ring. “Give this to Shyla. It will keep her protected. There is still magic in it. Once the power is gone, it still is a beautiful and valuable ring. Think of it as her engagement ring, I foresee that she will be your wife some day.” The magic-user winked at George.
George, even though the mission Balon gave him was disturbing, was enjoyed. He looked over at Shyla and beamed.
“George,” Shyla smiled, “I would love to be your wife!” She threw her arms around him and embraced him.
Britt looked over at George and Shyla, sitting and chatting together. Now that she was back in his life, George was going to be a different person. He loved to play practical jokes and basically annoy everybody in sight; she would keep him in line. He was only doing that anyway to cover up his own personal pain. Now she was back and the thief was the happiest that the dwarf had ever seen it. Still, if they continued with the mission, Britt felt that Shyla would only hamper it.
George looked up and saw Britt looking at him. “I need to speak to Britt for a second,” he said kissing Shyla.
He walked over to Britt and sat next to him. Before the dwarf even had the chance to say anything, George said, “I know what you are thinking.”
“You do?” asked Britt skeptically.
“I told you that Shyla was not a good thief. That is true. However, she is a very good lookout. I always took her with me to watch my back while I was climbing walls and picking locks. She was even with me, the day I was set up.”
“I did not know that.”
“She warned me when the guards started their arrows. I could have escaped quickly but I wanted to make sure that she was safe.”
“Then I jumped from the wall, I told her where to run. Then I made sure that she was safe, that no one was chasing her, before I ran.”
“Do you mean to tell me, that if you were alone, we may never have met?”
“I am pretty sure. The thing is, while Shyla may not be a good thief, she is brave. She is not afraid to save somebody’s back if he is in danger.”