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Forgotten Lore (Updated M-W-F)

Lazybones

Adventurer
We can have Monday cliffhangers too!

* * *

Chapter 130

The room was slightly smaller than the vault where they’d confronted the flameskull, a bare cube with few distinguishing features. The remains of what might have been a stone font jutted from one wall, now cracked and dry. There was one other exit, an uneven slit in the opposite corner that led to another dark passage. An examination in that direction revealed a set of steps that descended in a gentle curve to a subterranean level of the complex.

Kosk licked his finger and held it in front of the opening. “Air moving,” he said.

“Think there might be another way out down there?” Glori asked.

“To save him the trouble of saying it, there’s only one way to find out,” Bredan said.

“Aye, but we’re in no shape for another fight,” Kosk said. “Time to make with the healing, I think.”

That was too good a suggestion to argue, so they settled down for a short rest. Kosk folded his legs under him and sat down so that a wall was at his back and the exit was right in front of him. Quellan unfolded his prayer mat from his pack and spread it out. He knelt and placed his mace and holy symbol on the fabric in front of him, then closed his eyes and began the soft chants of his prayer of healing.

Glori began playing a quiet tune on her lyre. The notes filled the chamber, evoking a place less stark and hostile than the barren interior of the shrine. Bredan drank deeply from his waterskin, then dribbled some water on a rag and used it to clean some of the soot from his face. He grimaced as he touched the fresh burns that hadn’t been fully eased by Glori’s cure wounds magic.

“Are you okay?” Glori asked him. She continued her melody, not bothering with her plectrum, instead flicking the strings lightly with her fingertips.

“Yeah,” he said. “Rather not do that again.”

“Let’s hope that the skull was the worst of it.”

Xeeta came over to them. “You invoked your magic again during that fight,” she said to Bredan.

He looked down at his blackened hands. “Yeah. I didn’t think, I just did it.”

“Perhaps what we do isn’t so dissimilar,” Xeeta said. “My own power is like a river that flows through me. It can be… difficult to control.”

“It seems like it’s coming easier, when I need it to,” Bredan said. “But it’s not something I can just do, like you both do.” He held up his hand and made a vague somatic gesture, but nothing happened.

“It took me three years to learn how to control my gift,” Xeeta said. “It was not an easy process.”

“I can’t imagine,” Glori said. “My master… he wasn’t soft by any means, but he never struck me, or belittled me, or asked me to do anything that wasn’t in my own best interest.”

“You were fortunate,” Xeeta said.

“I, ah… excuse me a minute,” Bredan said. He colored slightly as he got up and went to the furthest corner of the room, standing close against the wall. Glori and Xeeta both chuckled as they saw what he was doing.

“I guess survival trumps modesty, in the dungeon,” Glori said.

“Ugh, now I have to go,” Xeeta said.

“You can have this corner,” Glori said as she got up. “I’ll go bother our resident curmudgeon.”

Kosk barely flicked an eye her way as she crossed over to him and sat down, still strumming her lyre. “I can stop if this bothers you,” she said. “It’s just a habit I have. Helps sooth my nerves to play.”

“I suppose the others can use some soothing after what we just went through,” he said.

“So. Still don’t believe that what you do… this ki business… that it isn’t magic?”

“What I do is based on careful training of the body and focused self-control,” he said.

“So you say, but I don’t think I could run straight up a wall, no matter how much I practiced. Let alone punch through magical shields.”

“Most people have no idea what their bodies are capable of,” Kosk said.

“So can you punch through bricks and snap boards and stuff?” she said, winking to confirm she was teasing him.

“Perhaps, if there was need,” the dwarf said with a sigh.

“Cool,” she said.

“I need to meditate,” he said. “Using my ‘magic’ is taxing. It appears I will need to claim a spot quickly while there are still places free of puddles of piss.”

She snorted a laugh. “Go ahead, I’ll keep guard.” She shifted her melody into a tune that evoked a martial air.

“Play that any louder and you’ll draw unwanted attention,” Kosk said. But she knew that as he went over to join Quellan he was making a gesture of trust that she would warn them if something did appear from below to threaten them.

But nothing stirred from the darkness below while they rested. Quellan completed his ritual, and each of them felt their physical pains ease as the healing magic of his patron deity filled the room. They took some of the food from their stores and ate, washing the cold provisions down with water taken from the many mountain streams that poured down into the valley. Rodan had mentioned that there was a lake on the eastern edge of the valley, a long crescent that froze over during the winter months. There were a lot of wonders to this place, Glori thought as she sat quietly and watched the darkness, strumming her lyre softly.

Their short rest extended out to over an hour, but finally they rose and gathered their things in preparation of resuming their explorations. Quellan refreshed his light spell, and with Kosk in the lead they started down the rough-hewn steps.

The stairs curved back in on themselves as they descended, and they’d completed at least one full circle by the time they reached the floor of another chamber. This one had the appearance of a natural cavern, or at least it did until they got a good look at it.

“Wow,” Glori said.

The cavern looked as though it had been formed from two entirely different places that had been shoved rudely together. To their left, the stone was a volcanic gray that was nearly black. The surface was irregular, with shards of the stuff jutting out that looked sharp enough to cut flesh. In the center of the wall, just visible at the edge of their light, there was a stone bowl the size of a bed, large enough that even Quellan could have fit within it comfortably.

The cavern to their right was a sharp contrast. The stone there was smooth and pale, and studded with clear crystals that sparkled in the light from Quellan’s spell. Instead of a stone bowl there was a depression on that side that held a pool full of crystal-clear water.

Where the two sides of the room met, roughly in the center of the floor, there was a jagged, meandering line of black stone, roughly half a step across. The line extended almost to where the plain stone at the foot of the stairs transitioned to the two unique styles of this chamber. The line split at that point, forming a decisive transition between where they stood and the cavern.

“Trap, guardian, or both, do you think?” Xeeta asked.

Kosk opened his mouth, but Glori beat him to it. “Don’t say it,” she said, shooting a quick look at Bredan. “Let’s at least get a good look first, eh?”

She strummed her lyre and invoked her magic. After a few moments a handful of softly glowing globes materialized in the air in front of her. With a wave of her hand she directed them forward, the dancing lights spreading out to illuminate both sides of the cavern. They didn’t reveal anything new at first, but as they reached the far side of the vast chamber the companions could see an arch of plain gray stone, and within that a set of stone doors. It was too far to make out any details; the far exit was over a hundred feet away, almost at the limit of Glori’s spell. She brought the glowing spheres back, checking the ceiling on the way. The cavern was maybe forty feet across at its widest point, the roof reaching a peak about twenty feet above. The jagged black line that separated the two sides extended across the ceiling as well.

“Hmm, an elemental theme,” Glori commented as her lights returned to her and winked out.

“Do we want fire, which I assume the obsidian and the bowl symbolizes, or water?” Quellan asked. “Bredan?”

The warrior shook his head. “I have no idea.”

“Do we have to choose?” Glori asked. “Maybe the line down the middle represents safety, sort of a balance between extremes sort of thing.”

“Or maybe stepping on the line triggers both traps,” Kosk said.

“All things being equal, I think I’d choose water,” Bredan said. “I’ve already been roasted enough for one day.”

“Spoken like a man who’s never been on a ship on high seas,” Xeeta said. “Water can be just as dangerous as fire, and I am at least resistant to the former.”

“I prefer being burned to sitting around listening to your chatter,” Kosk said, stepping forward onto the dark stone to the left of the black streak.

“Legendary monk patience,” Glori commented, but she tensed with the rest of them as they waited for something to happen. But there was no reaction, even when Kosk took another few steps forward.

“Let’s stay together,” Quellan suggested.

“If there is a trap, it might be better for just one of us to spring it,” Xeeta pointed out.

“Perhaps, but I’d feel better if we didn’t get too spread out,” Quellan said.

One by one they followed the dwarf into the cavern, staying clear of the separating line and the pale stone on its other side. Xeeta, again bringing up the rear, was the last to cross the divider. Kosk, in the lead, was about twenty feet from the stone bowl when suddenly a massive column of flames erupted within it.

Heat rushed out from the huge pyre, and the companions reflexively retreated a step back from it. None of them stepped onto the dark divider, but when Glori looked down at it she could see that pale glowing runes had appeared along its length, shining as if embedded within the stone. Glancing up, she could see that they extended all the way across the ceiling as well.

“Something’s happening!” she warned.

“No kidding!” Bredan said as he drew his sword.

“Retreat is blocked!” Xeeta shouted. They turned to see that the opening that led to the staircase was now gone, replaced by a smooth stone wall. The tiefling confirmed that it was real a moment later when she smacked it hard with her rod.

“Other side,” Kosk warned, his voice level and controlled, as if he’d expected something like this all along. The companions looked over to see that the water in the pool had begun churning wildly, as if someone had thrust into it with a giant invisible oar.

“Oh, man,” Bredan said, just before the first guardian revealed itself.

The fire continued to surge, as if the bowl had been filled with logs soaked generously in oil. But even as Bredan spoke the flames moved. Tongues of fire became a tendril that extended out of the bowl, stretching until it touched the floor of the cavern. The tendril thickened until it was strong enough to support the full weight of what was obviously a magical creature, an entity of pure energy.

None of them were surprised when the roiling waters of the pool responded in an echo to the fire-thing’s appearance. The water, spinning until a whirlpool had started to form, suddenly rose up into a tidal wave that splashed up onto the floor of the cavern. It clung together in defiance of the laws of physics and began to surge toward them. On the far side of the room, the fire creature did the same.

“Elementals!” Quellan announced. The look on his face was sufficient warning of the danger they faced, in case the obvious threat of the odd creatures was not enough.
 

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Lazybones

Adventurer
Midweek cliffhanger! Everybody gets a cliffhanger!

* * *

Chapter 131

Kosk didn’t wait for the fire elemental to come to him. He charged forward and lunged in, sweeping at its leg with his staff. The blow seemed to have little effect on it, though the staff came back charred black from the brief contact. But the sheer intensity of the heat pulsing off the creature drove the dwarf back. As he retreated the elemental swept out at him, forming a burning “arm” that slashed out and caught him on the side before he could get out of the way. He stumbled back, his new tunic already starting to burn as the flames caught on the fabric.

“Kosk!” Quellan yelled, already charging to his friend’s aid. But Kosk warned him back with a gesture. “Get its attention!” he yelled.

Trusting the monk’s instincts, the cleric lifted his mace and shield and rushed to the attack.

Bredan was only a few steps behind Quellan, but before he could join the fight he was distracted by a disturbing sight: the water elemental rushing toward him. He held back, looking down at the jagged line that partitioned the cavern in two.

But his assumption that the elemental wouldn’t cross that line almost cost him dearly. The creature surged over the divider without difficulty, forming a long “arm” much as its burning cousin had a moment before. Bredan started to dodge, but too late to avoid being clipped across the shoulder in an echo of the blow that Kosk had just absorbed. For a moment he was stunned; the thing was made of free-flowing water, but its tendril had felt as solid as a battering ram! The force of it knocked him back a step, and only the instincts of endless hours in the practice yard kept him from collapsing to the ground.

“Bredan, look out!” Glori warned.

Bredan shook himself out of his daze just in time to avoid a second pseudopod that slammed down into the ground right where he’d been standing. He looked up to see the huge mass of the creature looming over him. He looked at his sword—what could he hope to do against such a thing?

Quellan gritted his teeth as a wash of heat seared his still-tender skin. He’d managed to hurt the fire elemental with his mace; apparently the stories he’d read about the efficacy of magical weapons against planar entities had been accurate. But the fire elemental was quick to counter, driving him back with solid blows that seemed insubstantial until they hit. He’d caught the first on his shield, surrounding him with a bright corona of flames that had looked impressive but had done no damage, but before he could react it had slashed under his guard with an impact he’d felt even through the layers of his armor. He could feel the metal heating just from proximity to the thing, and hoped that whatever Kosk had in mind, he was going to do it soon.

He didn’t have long to wait. As soon as the elemental was fully engaged with the cleric, the dwarf came rushing in again. This time Kosk didn’t bother with his staff, instead charging forward with one hand tucked in close, poised to strike. He ignored both the flames still licking up one side of his body and the aura of heat that surrounded the creature. Quellan thought he caught a glimpse of something in that fiery nimbus, a flash of light as the dwarf roared and unleashed a punch directly into the central mass of the elemental.

Perhaps Quellan shouldn’t have been surprised, but it still amazed him when the elemental shuddered from the impact of its much smaller foe, and was driven back.

Water flashed into steam as Xeeta hit the elemental with a series of scorching rays. The creature recoiled but only to reorient itself on this more serious threat. Bredan tried to block it, but when he slashed at it with his sword the blade only passed through it as if it really had been just normal water.

“You can’t have it both ways!” he growled in frustration.

“Back! Stay back!” Glori shouted. At first Bredan thought she was yelling at him, but when he glanced over he saw that she was strumming her lyre with one hand while pointing at the elemental with the other. But either it didn’t understand her or it wasn’t affected by her magic, as her suggestion had no effect.

But before the water elemental could begin a fresh surge toward Xeeta, the fire elemental, knocked off balance by Kosk’s ki-enhanced strike, stumbled into it from the side.

If Xeeta’s spell blasts had created steam, the collision of the two elementals created a wild explosion as their opposed elements canceled each other out. The beings recoiled instinctively from each other, but it was clear that the interaction had not gone well for either. A big chunk of the water elemental’s upper surface had been carved away, while the fire elemental was missing one entire side of its “head”. But it was clear that while the things could be hurt, they were not susceptible to damage to specific parts of their anatomy like a humanoid creature.

The companions pressed their attacks while the elementals were distracted. Quellan hit the fire elemental again with his mace, while Bredan came up behind the water elemental and slashed at the thickest part of its body with his sword. This time he felt some resistance, but he also clearly got the creature’s attention. He tensed, expecting it to form another bludgeoning arm, but instead it just rolled forward onto him. He started to let out a surprised yell, but it was abruptly cut off as the elemental enveloped him. He drifted up into its mass, struggling in vain to escape as water poured into his nose and mouth and he began to drown.
 


Lazybones

Adventurer
Chapter 132

Bredan floated helplessly within the body of the water elemental. He struggled, trying to find a way out, but without anything to push off he could not get any traction. Panic flashed in his eyes, clearly visible to his companions standing just a few feet away.

“Bredan!” Glori cried.

Xeeta stepped forward, flames flashing around her hands as she shot another series of scorching rays into the body of the elemental. Bredan flinched back as the flames slashed into the creature, but none of them penetrated to where he was. Fresh plumes of steam rose from the mass of the monster, briefly obscuring it and its prisoner from view.

It only took a moment for that fog to clear, and when it did Glori was charging forward in its wake. She leapt directly at the creature, her outstretched right hand stabbing deep into its body. As her fingertips closed around Bredan’s ankle, her face just barely outside of its enveloping substance, she unleashed a thunderwave.

The sonic pulse shot through the creature, driving it back. She clung desperately to Bredan, holding onto him as the elemental sloughed off of both of them. The fighter had been hit by the wave of energy as well, and blood coursed from his nostrils and ears as he fell to the ground, but it seemed a small price to pay as he coughed up water and took in blessed gulps of air.

Glori’s spell thrust the two elementals into contact once more. This time it was only a brief, grazing impact, but it left both of them scarred as more of their respective substances were evaporated. The elementals, unable to take their frustrations out on each other, rebounded on their mortal adversaries with a renewed fury.

But the adventurers had not let up. Even as the fire elemental turned back toward Quellan, the cleric slammed his mace into its substance. The magical weapon tore a chunk of burning matter free, leaving another gap in its body that was slow to fill. Each time it suffered such a hit the creature seemed to diminish. It continued attacking, but while the cleric’s face twisted in pain as its fiery claws continued to scorch his armored frame, he refused to give way.

On the far side of the battle Xeeta poured a stream of burning hands into the water elemental. The tiefling’s dark eyes seemed to glow in echo of her summoned fire, and as she drew back flames continued to burn around her hands. She stumbled back a step, her expression clearing as if she was coming out of a dream.

The elemental turned on her, but once again Bredan stepped into its path to block it. His sword had been left inside its body when Glori had pulled him free, but as he extended his hand the weapon materialized in his grasp. The elemental poured at him, perhaps intending to duplicate its earlier attack, but the warrior held his ground. At the very last instant he swept his sword around in a glittering arc that bisected the entirety of the creature. With a sharp shriek the surging wave came apart, dousing all of them with water.

The fire elemental flinched as the back surge of water swirled around its base. Kosk dove forward, letting the water douse his still-smoldering shoulder before rolling up into a punch that sizzled as it impacted the creature’s fading form. At the same time Quellan came up and matched the hit on its other side. The elemental quivered between them, pulsed one last time, and then came apart.
 

Neurotic

I plan on living forever. Or die trying.
Did you miss the fact that it is Friday? What kind of lame cliffhanger is this? Where are those hair pulling ones from Varo and others from The Pit?! ;)
Oh, just ignore me, good story, like we're used to.
 

carborundum

Adventurer
I don't think i could handle THREE cliffhangers in a week :)
Great stuff as usual, and a tough fight! Could Kosk use ki to make his fists magical yet?
 

Lazybones

Adventurer
I don't think i could handle THREE cliffhangers in a week :)
Great stuff as usual, and a tough fight! Could Kosk use ki to make his fists magical yet?
That's not until 6th level. The party is right on the cusp of 5th.

I'd do cliffhangers every post if I could, but our poor heroes need a chance to catch their breaths. :)

* * * * *

Chapter 133

The companions just stood there for a moment, letting their minds catch up with what they’d just experienced. Finally, Glori unhooked her cloak. She let it trail through the lingering swirls of water that were slowly draining back toward the pool before rushing over to Quellan. She pressed it around him, the fabric sizzling as it absorbed the heat that the elemental had infused into his armor. A few feet away Kosk was scooping up a few handfuls of water to douse the smoldering embers that were still clinging to his robe. The new garment was already almost as ruined as his first, and it hung pathetically askew as he straightened and turned to the others.

“These two going to come back?” Kosk asked Quellan.

The cleric shook his head. “I don’t think so, but I cannot be certain, not with what we’ve already seen in this place.”

“Then we should press on,” the dwarf replied.

“We’re all beat up,” Glori said, as she channeled a cure wounds spell into the injured cleric. “I don’t know about Quellan and Xeeta, but my magic’s almost depleted.”

“I can still utilize my cantrips,” Xeeta said. “But yes, my higher-order spells are spent.”

“We still have a few healing potions in reserve,” Quellan said. “Bredan, are you all right? I only caught a glimpse of what happened, but that could not have been a pleasant experience.”

“It would have been worse if not for Glori’s quick intervention,” Bredan said.

“Seems like a poor bit of dungeon design,” Kosk said. “The guardians were almost as much of a danger to each other as they were to us.”

“I don’t believe that was an accident,” Xeeta said.

“What do you mean?” Glori asked. She went over to Bredan and treated him with another cure wounds spell. The warrior was soaked through, but he nodded in thanks as the healing magic seeped into him. It looked like he was getting his second wind, but he still moved a bit stiffly as he joined Kosk in looking at the stone doors on the far side of the room.

“Whoever built this place,” Xeeta said, “They obviously did not want to keep everyone out. If this place is like the site we explored near Northpine, then it was built to protect something, while leaving it accessible for some possible future recovery. Otherwise they could have just put it in a deep hole and covered it with a thousand tons of rock.”

“So these guardians and traps are a set of trials,” Quellan said. “Designed to let only a certain type of intruder through.”

“The stone creature above let Bredan pass,” Glori said. “But the rest of the guardians apparently didn’t get the message.”

“If you ask me, the people who built this place were insane,” Kosk said. “Whether they were Mai’i, Eth’barat, or something else entirely.”

“Whoever built it, we have to follow this out to the end,” Bredan said quietly.

They started toward the far arch. The stone floor in front of it was raised slightly, just enough of a step to separate it from the rest of the chamber. The stone there looked to be the same as in the rest of the complex, the common rock that was indigenous to this region. The doors themselves looked to be solid slabs of stone, set on pivots that were recessed into the surrounding threshold.

“I wonder what artifact we’ll find here?” Glori asked, while Kosk gave the doors a thorough examination.

“What makes you think it will be an artifact?” Xeeta asked.

“Well, that’s how it’s worked out thus far. Besides, what else could it be?”

“A hungry dragon, given our luck,” Kosk muttered. But he stepped back and reported that he hadn’t found any traps or other dangers upon the doors.

The doors didn’t have any handles or obvious latching mechanisms, so once more the three men took up positions and pushed. This time the doors swung open with relative ease, though their sheer size and mass still required a good amount of effort. They kept pushing until there was enough of a gap for even Quellan to slip past easily.

The doors opened onto a long corridor hewn from solid rock. This one was wide enough for several of them to walk down its length side-by-side, with a ceiling that curved up to a rounded peak ten feet above them. They followed it for a good forty or fifty feet before it deposited them on the edge of another sizable chamber.

This one wasn’t quite as long as the elemental room, but it was much taller, with a ceiling that was only barely visible at the edge of Quellan’s light. The walls were rough and irregular, save for the one opposite the entry. Once again that one was of a different composition than the rest of their surroundings, a sheer slab of a pale, coarse tan stone that didn’t look like anything else they had encountered since their arrival in the Silverpeak. There was a single feature in that wall, a carved figure that resembled the dragon head of the chimera they’d recently fought, if rather vaguer in its details. The dragon, if in fact that was what it was, stuck out about three feet from the wall at about eye level for Quellan. There was a dark opening between its open jaws, a feature that had them all giving the stone head a wide berth as they advanced into the room.

“It’s a dead end,” Glori said.

“Possibly,” Xeeta said. “But look, there’s a gap around the edges of the slab.”

Quellan held up his spelled mace, and the others could see what the tiefling had noticed. The tan wall was in fact separated by a gap from the rest of the cavern, a narrow opening that extended all of the way around it. Still giving the stone dragon-head a cautious eye, Glori advanced until she could peer into the gap at the base of the wall. It wasn’t much of a space, maybe a foot across at its widest point.

“There’s a bit of a breeze coming up from below,” she said, holding a bare hand out over the opening.

“Careful,” Quellan said. “There could be anything down there.”

“Anything thin,” the bard replied. She strummed her lyre and conjured up a fresh batch of dancing lights, which she directed into the gap. As they descended they threw up long shadows along the surface of the tan slab.

“This shouldn’t be here,” Kosk said, frowning at the pale wall. “This is the wrong kind of stone for this kind of mountains. It doesn’t belong here.”

“How did it get here?” Quellan asked.

“I don’t know, but there’s a lot of it,” Glori reported. The glow from her lights was barely visible now at the edges of the narrow chasm. “This goes down a long way. I can’t make out an end to it.”

“This must be the reason for this place, then,” Xeeta said. “It seems unlikely that they’d want someone to shimmy down into that gap.”

“Even I don’t think I’d fit,” Glori said. “And I’m the smallest among us. No offense, Xeeta.”

The tiefling smirked. “None taken.”

“Perhaps the key is the dragon carving,” Quellan suggested. “Though it looks pretty obviously like a trap.”

“I’ll take a look at it,” Kosk offered.

“Can you even reach it?” Xeeta asked.

Kosk shot her a dark look, but he didn’t get a chance to respond.

While the others had been talking Bredan had slowly approached the pale wall, moving around the far side of the dragon head to a clear spot. He pulled off one of his gloves, and as Xeeta teased Kosk the young man reached out slowly and rested his fingers upon the stone. It felt slightly rough beneath his fingertips, like pumice, and after a moment he felt something else, an odd warmth that spread through the contact into his body.

“Bredan, what are you…” Glori asked.

She was cut off as light flared out of the stone. The glow originated where Bredan’s fingers touched but quickly spread throughout the entirety of the slab. The light suffused throughout the stone but it had barely reached the edges of the huge block before it began to coalesce into an intricate pattern of lines and runes that resembled the page of a truly massive book. None of the markings appeared to be in any language that any of the adventurers knew, but the five of them could not look away as they stood there, spellbound, ensnared by whatever magic Bredan had triggered.
 

Lazybones

Adventurer
Chapter 134

Glori was the first to shake clear of the enchantment of the glowing wall. She tore her eyes away and shook her head to clear it as she took a step back from the gap that separated the tan slab from the rest of the room.

“What was…” she began, but wasn’t able to finish her thought for a moment as she shook off the lingering effects of whatever spell had snared her. She was careful not to look directly at it as she stumbled over to the cleric. “Quellan! Quellan, snap out of it!”

The cleric started and looked at her in surprise. “Glori? What…”

“Don’t look at it! We have to help the others.”

Quellan nodded and turned to Kosk, but the dwarf and the others were already beginning to come out of their fugue. The markings continued to glow within the pale stone, but they no longer seemed to have the same magnetic pull on their minds that they’d had on their initial manifestation.

“What… what was that?” Quellan asked.

“I don’t want your bloody magic book messing with my mind, boy!” Kosk growled. Bredan just looked confused, blinking as he stared up at the wall.

“Something definitely just happened,” Xeeta said. “My reservoir of spell energy… it’s completely refilled.”

“Mine as well,” Glori said. “And my burns… they’re healed.”

“Whatever it did, it happened to all of us,” Quellan said. “And so far, at least, the effects appear to be benign.”

“Speak for yourself,” Kosk said. “I don’t like the idea of some ancient magic taking liberties with me.” He gestured toward the wall. “Especially when all it has to say is a bunch of gibberish.”

“Bredan, do you know what it means?” Glori asked. “Bredan!”

He started and looked at her. “No,” he said. “I don’t…”

Before he could finish, they were interrupted again, this time by a gentle pulse from the markings on the wall that drew their attention back to the surface. It was followed a moment later by the emergence of a glowing stream of light from the open mouth of the dragon sculpture. The stuff poured down like a trickle of water, except that when it struck the stone floor of the chamber it simply vanished without even a splash.

“Okay, what’s that now?” Glori asked, her voice growing a bit strained.

Xeeta stepped forward, a look of awe on her face. “It’s an arcane source,” she said. “Raw magical energy…”

“That doesn’t exactly tell us much,” Kosk muttered, but the tiefling stepped forward eagerly, so eagerly that the others retreated a wary step back. But all she did was thrust her rod into the steady flow of light. Instead of dividing around it the way a normal stream would have, the glow soaked into the rod. The brightness spread down the full length of the dark wood until it shone as intensely as the spell that still radiated from Quellan’s mace. It lingered for a few moments after the sorceress drew the rod out of the current, then slowly faded.

“Um… what just happened?” Glori asked.

“Quickly,” Xeeta said. “We don’t know how long the flow of power will continue.”

Even before she finished speaking Bredan came forward, his father’s sword in his hands. Without waiting for approval he thrust the bare blade into the arcane flow. The steel absorbed the glow much as Xeeta’s rod had, and as it approached his hands a sigil began to take shape within the blade right where it met the hilt. Bredan stared at it as he drew back.

“Will it affect a bow?” Glori asked. “Or should I do my lyre? What if touches skin? Is it safe?”

“I don’t know the answers to any of those questions,” Xeeta said.

“It won’t harm you,” Bredan said.

“Well, that’s reassuring,” Kosk said.

Glori stepped forward and shoved her bow into the glowing cascade. Once again the light spread through the shaft of her weapon, but as the bowstring passed through the current it sizzled and came apart. Glori quickly drew back the bow, but the damage had been done.

“Oh, damn it,” she said.

“Do you have another bowstring?” Quellan asked.

“I do, but that was my best one.”

“The stave, it’s still taut,” Kosk pointed out.

Glori stared at the weapon in surprise, confirming the dwarf’s observation. Carefully she felt at it, and as he fingers touched where the string should have been, suddenly they could see it, a line of pure white light. It seemed to sparkle as she drew upon it. “Okay, that’s pretty cool,” she said.

“It’ll ruin the bow if it keeps the stave permanently bent,” Kosk said.

“Something tells me that it won’t,” Xeeta said. “Quellan, you’re up.”

The cleric stepped forward. “My mace is already magical,” he said. Instead he held out his shield. Again, instead of deflecting the flow the battered wooden disk simply absorbed it. When he drew the shield back the gouged wood had been replaced by a sheer surface, upon which a softly glowing sigil that marked the outline of an open book shone. Even when the glow faded, the insignia remained.

“That is… How did it… I admit, I am amazed,” the cleric said.

“Your turn, Kosk,” Glori said.

“Bah, I’m not touching that,” the dwarf said.

“It won’t hurt you,” Bredan said.

“I agree with prudence and caution in most cases, but in this case I think I would agree with Bredan,” Quellan said.

“If he doesn’t want to go, I’ll do something else,” Glori said. She reached for her sword, but before she could draw it Kosk abruptly shoved the burned end of his staff into the arcane flow.

The magical stream abruptly ceased. At the same moment the runes embedded in the wall vanished, along with Quellan’s light spell, plunging them into utter darkness.
 



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