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Another member of the party is found
         Gorkan's          Brother: A Prophecy Rises                    Ryuul
Chapter 8

Ryuul


They had been on the surface now for almost six days and other than the human encampment they had found very little of interest. Mortog and Branthony both learned how to skin and cut up an animal for dinner but that was about it. Now, that day would present something very peculiar.

"What this be?" Mortog asked looking at the edge of the snow that just stopped like a sheer vertical cliff face, only three feet tall. "This be normal, Jackel?" It was like someone had cut into a birthday cake, straight and precise; snow on one side and warmth on the other. "Have yeh ever seen anythin' like this before?"

"Neigh, this be like nothin' I's ever seen before." Jackel said scratching his beard. Stepping out of the snow the temperature had risen so much that everyone had to take off their furs. But before they did they all had to look at the wondrous scene in front of them. They dropped their packs and took off their tunics while staring at what lie ahead.
The trees had changed from the typical pines with nothing but snow under them to tall oaks and ash trees, and many more trees they had never seen before. There was undergrowth all around them with no snow in sight.

There were flowering trees which added some very vivid colors to their surroundings; colors that they had never seen before. Colors they couldn't possibly describe with words. There was this tree with the brightest color pink leaves at the end of the branches and behind it sat a tree that directly contrasted with what he saw up front. He saw a beautifully sculpted tree with shiny black leaves that made the pink tree look like it was painted on a canvas of black shimmering material.

'What be dat little thing?' A small furry purple rodent being chased by another creature of the same type ran up a florescent tree in front of him. 'I's wonder if'n dat be good eatin'?'

He blinked suddenly and looked around; both Branthony and Jackel were as equally in awe of their surroundings as he was. He was about to tell them that they must stay on guard when he was distracted by a large colorful bird with a long black tail that swooped down to land on one of the spaghetti-like vines colored in the brightest sapphire blue he had ever seen.

This bird had a long yellow beak with sharp black talons on the end of its feet. The color was astounding to say the least and that's when he noticed all of the other birds flying around, one had landed on a tree with bright orange bark and bright green leaves to eat an iridescent bug of some kind. He was snapped out of his trance when the insect let out a high pitched screech that could be heard from at least a mile away. 'dat, came from dat little thing!?'

He looked around once more and saw that everyone was still enthralled by this mesmerizing landscape. Deciding that they had stood there long enough he called for their attention.

"Guy's we can'no be standin' around like a bunch o' statues; we gots an artifact te look fer an me honor te win back. What if'n this isn't part o' da harpies illusion te git us into da mindframe o' bein' seduced by one o' them?" Remembering the warning that Cleary gave them about Harpies.

"This place be awesome!" Said Branthony.

"We's needin' te be findin' a place te rest fer a bit, maybe have some lunch." Mortog suggested. "An git used te our new surroundin's."

"No place like right here, break out some o' dat meat an bread from breakfast." Jackel said.

Mortog took out the meat and when they were finished with lunch he took out the map and the book to study them.
"This might be da harpy nest dat be on da map here. Let's not be gittin' too comfortable. Remember, it's dare song dat be gittin' yeh so as soon as yeh hear it, be blockin' it out o' yer head."

"I don'na think it works like dat." Jackel said. "They lure yeh te them wit dare song, remember? Then they torture yeh fer who knows how long an then theys kill's yeh when they be done wit yeh. It be da singin' dat causes yeh te mindlessly go te them."

"Bah! They aint be catchin' me mindless." Mortog retorted.

"I's not bein' sure this is such a good idea Mortog." Branthony stated. "Let's jest be stickin' te da outer edge o' this place. Remember, we jest need da artifact, not da Harpies, I's says if'n we can avoid them then let's do it."

"Yeh be scared o' a couple o' harpys?" Mortog insisted. "We all's good enough an trained enough te handle 'em. At first sight jackel can be shootin 'em in da throat so's they can'no sing. Dat be a good start."

"What if'n dare be more an three o' them?" Branthony fondled his swords nervously.

"Then we's be guttin' em all." Mortog said as he folded the map and put it back in the book.

So they sat there for a while trying to talk Mortog out of going through this territory. They failed to convince him.


***



Cleary overheard every word of their conversation. As he stood behind a regular pine, he too, stared in awe and wonder at the impressive scene in front of him, all the colors were so vivid he couldn't help but stare a little. But Cleary wasn't as easily taken in by the scene. 'At least me's will be able te git out o' this cold soon.' His endure elements spell works, but only to a point, he still got cold, especially when sleeping or when he was hungry.

He would need a protection spell; it would protect them from mind control and magic, among other things; though he would have to put it on all three of them leaving him exhausted and hungry. The spell would last a considerable amount of time but he wanted to wait until they got a little further into the forest to join them lest his imprint in the snow be discovered. It dawned on him that he would need to put it on himself or he would get sucked in by their song as well. He just hoped he had it in him.

He watched all of his friends draw their weapons and proceed into the forest after deciding on a way to go. He jumped over the line and quickly went to work on casting his spells thinking that now was the best time to cast the spells, they could encounter the Harpies at any time. So he went to work, first Mortog, then his brother, and finally Branthony. After each spell he cast he felt himself getting weaker, he had just one more to cast, on himself. He was now ready to get closer to watch the battle and hope to the gods that they survived.


***



"Alright guys. I's be knowin' dat we can handle these beasts without a problem." Mortog encouragingly said.

"Yeah, says yeh, what happens if'n they start singin'?" Branthony asked.

"Bah, yeh'll do fine, we's jest be havin' Jackel shoot 'em in da throat, he's a great shot."

"This be crazy, but then so's am I." Jackel said as he knocked an arrow in his expertly crafted bow. "Lead on o' fearless one." Mortog shot a glance back at Jackel only to find him grinning.

They all moved ahead into the forest in the direction the map had suggested. The small rodents and the magnificent birds landing on the most vibrant of colored trees kept their attention as they walked, but Mortog, being ever vigilant, he was trying to focus on the goal ahead of them instead of being over stimulated as was his friends it seemed. He would have to take a break soon just to let them ogle. He was also getting tired of fighting off this distraction; it called to his attention like a Harpy's song. 'Maybe this really be their way te git me mind off o' them so they can more easily git us.'

They walked for hours and saw nothing; they even took a break a few times to rest and have some water. Their pace had quickened due to the fact that they were all becoming more comfortable within the woods. All of their weapons were holstered, but ready at a moment's notice.

As they got farther into the forest it became more and more overgrown. They finally sent Branthony up front. He used one of his swords as a machete to hack away at the ever growing colorful foliage, until he came across a field. They all witnessed the rise of many walls, some connecting, some fifty feet tall and some even higher. There was a bell tower that was still almost completely intact. But as far as they could tell these were abandoned ruins. Purple and green moss grew all over the stones. They had been careful of what they touched in case anything was poisonous, after all, they didn't have a cleric with them.

"We's should go on over an see what we's can find." Mortog suggested. "There might be da possibility o' magical weapons. Mabye yeh be findin' yerself a magical quiver an some arrows." He told Jackel. "An yeh haven't even used yer swords fer battle yet, yeh might find a magical sword; dat could always help yeh out, dependin' on what it be doin'."

"An dare could also be da possibily dat da Harpies be in dare." Branthony reasoned.

"Bah, I think I's jest be mistaken is all, we might not be anywheres close te da harpie nest, fer all I's know we passed dat a long time ago.

"Yeah right," Branthony said under his breath as they wandered closer to the ruined temple. They would find a good spot, out of normal sight, to set up a makeshift camp.

"I's thinkin' we should be stayin' here tonight. We have cover if'n we be gittin' attacked by who knows what." They wandered inside the boundaries of the ruins and found a good spot to make camp. It was surrounded by several walls and was set inside what would've most likely have been the center of the temple. 'Now if'n these guys would trust me's we'd all be okay fer da night.' Mortog thought to himself as he prepared the fire. He sent them off to look around the ruins to see what they could find but Jackel came up short and returned early.

"What are yeh about?"

"I haven't found a thing yet yer highness."

"Knock it off Jackel! Yeh know I's jest tryin' te be realistic here." Mortog barked.

"Yeah, yeah." Jackel said as he unpacked his bedroll.

"It be kinda weird how dat snow jest stopped dare an da forest began, I's been wonderin' why dat happened all day."
Jackel told him. "Dare must be some magical force allowin' this place te be snow free, because by all accounts we should be in da snowy part o' da mountains. Da map says nothin' about no heated jungle, this jest be weird." Jackel finished.

"I's not fer carin', this is where we is an dats all dare is te it. We be havin' te deal wit it anyway, no matter what, might as well make da best o' it." Mortog tells him stoking the fire and getting the meat ready for supper. 'Look's like me brought wit me a pack o' cowards. I's can handle whatever I's be needin' te, besides, this could be fun too. I's means, why not?''

"I's don'na know, still feels weird te me." Jackel said, though unheard by Mortog.


***



One of the girls had come home with a project due about angels and demons. She, of course, knew a little bit about this subject from school when a demon had inhabited a superintendant. They had no idea why he was going crazy and even the clerics couldn't figure it out, until they had to throw him in the dungeon. That's when the demon came out to play. Darcey paid close attention as the subject fascinated her so. When her youngest daughter came to her for help with a book report on angels and demons she was happy to help. Her husband was still nowhere to be found. Though he did take walks with her outside the house now. He never stuck around long enough to help with the kids in any way; he just sat in his study, doing who knows what. She had been finding that as time went on, she stopped caring. Maybe if he was doing what he wanted to do it might bring him back. But this new king would assure that his business would never get off the ground again. 'Will I's ever be bein' happy wit him again?' Turning her head to look toward the study, a tear strolled down her cheek. 'Have I's completely lost him?'

Helping her daughter only managed to bring back the memories of helping Mortog with this particular project. And it also worked to help liven up her mood just a bit. She helped schazoll with her homework as best she could and then started to prepare lunch for everybody, yes, it was the weekend and she had managed to get at least one of her daughters to do her homework early, and thank heavens it was her youngest; she would develop this skill throughout her school career and be all the better for it. 'She will attract a fine husband indeed. I wish Mortog were here, he always managed te be puttin' a smile on me face even when I's didn't want te.'

What she hadn't realized yet was what was brewing inside her own head within the inner reaches of her mind. Dinner time rolled around and she waited for Mortog absentmindedly. While she was deep in heavy thought she came up with a sure-fire way for them to be rid of Keldron forever. She never thought that this day would be such a great day in her mind. 'This was goin' te be marvelous fer sure! an this was a whole lot better than me's original plans, bless those Angels an demons!'


***



Phaebeus floated through the open window in the tall spire that Beltron had called home for the last few months. He wandered into the study where papers were strewn about the floor in a haphazardly fashion. The inkwell had overturned on a particular piece of parchment and as he bent down to pick it up he noticed that the ink had formed some kind of writing on a piece of parchment paper. Of course the inkwell had run dry so he had to find more from someplace else. The markings he did see looked almost like a riddle to him. No doubt, he had to find more ink.

'Shit! I have to call the queen.' He walks back into the other room tripping over some of the scrolls still on the floor; he kicked them to the side as he walked through the hallway.

"You just got there? Tell me, does he have it? Or do I have to make you kill him?" The queen asked curling her dark black locks of hair between her fingers.

"I'm not sure, he isn't here, he must be out looking for it, but I did find something he did not"

"I don't care what you found, I want that artifact! Make it happen!" She yelled. He bowed in front of the image in the mirror and the image of her faded from sight, he found himself staring back at himself once again.

He found more ink in the study and continued to decipher the map; unfortunately it was in an obscure elven dialect, it also seemed to have dwarven writings on it as well, ones that he didn't know. He certainly knew how to try and decipher the text but it would be shoddy at best.

He raised his hands over his blonde head and chanted some words, his blue amulet that was attatched to his belt started to glow and he could see that some of the runes turned into readable letters while some continued to remain a mystery to him. 'Maybe I can figure this out using common sense.'

He looked at the parchment and sat down behind Beltron's desk. He sat studying his ancient language for a while before getting up to go to bed. His alarms would trigger if any intrusions were to come within a hundred yards of his resting place should Beltron come back. More than enough time to get him ready to kill Beltron, weather he had the artifact or not. 'He's not leaving this citadel alive; no matter what!'


'What's happening to me?' Beltron thought as he sat on his rock and pondered. He just wasn't going to let on that something was wrong, or right, or wrong, or whatever was going on with him, he knew things were going to get better. How did he know? He just knew.

"Why do you always look like you are fighting someone with your swords or daggers when nobody's around?"

"I need to keep in shape if I'm to outwit or out last my opponent. Don't you need to practice your spells to get better at them?" Jadus pulled up his right sword up and slashed his left one down at an angle continuing his maneuvers.

Beltron looked a little confused. He had never really thought of that and wondered if it would help him get better. 'Not that I have any problems to begin with, but I might as well try.' "I'll have to try that." He said with some thought, so he moved his hands around in a giant circle and mumbled some words to himself and aimed for something in the distance and fired off his low level fireball; being a lower level spell it didn't take a tattoo to allow him to use it. It hit his mark dead on. He shook his head and with another movement of his hands he sent off his most deadly of spells, his chain lightning. He stood there with a satisfied look on his face but also looking tired. "Nope I'm all good." He smiled at Jadus who was standing there a little stupefied.

"A little notice would be appreciated next time your highness!" Jadus bent down to pick up his dagger and holster it.
"I guess that's the difference between you and me, I have a natural gift and you have to practice at yours, wouldn't you love to be me right now?" He sat down on the rock next to him and pulled out a piece of Nookworm to munch on, it really was quite delicious.


Meanwhile at Beltron's desk back at the lair, sat another mage sent to kill him and retrieve the artifact at all costs, including Beltron's life, If it should come to that. 'Oh it will! I'll make sure that little sewer rat never steps outside again!'

He was already on his tail by mid morning. He kept trying to scry for the artifact but it had proven to be useless; Beltron had already tried that rout no doubt. 'Maybe Beltron has a map or some scrolls on him of importance that I could use to find this thing, whatever it is.' Phaebeus thought. 'I wonder if he even knows what to look for? Hells! I don't even know what to look for.'


***



"Alright everybody let's git some shut eye, Branthony, yeh have first watch tonight."

"But I had first watch jest da other night." Branthony cries.

"Aye, but it's already been three nights."

"Already Mortog, really?" He stirs in his bedroll and finally gets up and pulls out his two swords, one magical and one, well, just a sword he got from his father. He hadn't found one in the catacombs beneath the ruins. He fumbles with his equipment to make enough noise to keep everyone awake at least for the next thirty seconds or so.

At the end of his shift, he tapped on Mortog's foot to awaken him. Mortog woke up in a cold sweat, his heart was pounding hard inside his chest and he was grasping for breath as he struggled to remember the dream that caused his breathlessness. He started to steady his breathing as he sat up and began looking around bringing him back to reality.

"Yeh okay, Mortog?" They both heard some rustling in the forest to the west of them. They both looked and Mortog, shrugged it off, got up and walked over to put on his breastplate and shoes, when from out of the foliage came six little goblins, they seemed very cautious. These weren't your ordinary goblins either; they all had spears and wore slimy orange armor. The moonlight shown bright on this night and it almost rained down daylight as they could see every single one of them in clear detail, it also helped that dwarves were exceptional at seeing in the darkness seeing as how they grew up and lived in caves.

"Yeh go left an I'll go right." Mortog whispered to Branthony after waking Jackel with his foot.

"Right an I's be stayin' in da middle while I's puts on me leathers an picks 'em off of yeh if'n yeh gittin' too overwhelmed." Putting on his armor Jackel turned around to peer over their protective wall. "Good they aint been seein' us yet, dats a good thing."

"They look like there lookin' fer somethin'." Mortog surmised.

"Maybe they's be lookin' fer us." Jackel told them.

"Don'na yeh think they'd know where we is already if'n they be lookin' fer us?" With a scowl on his face Mortog looked him straight in the eyes. "They live out here, they be seein' us long before we be even knowin' they be here. Yeh should know dat wit all dat experience yeh got."

"Sorry, me's jest gittin' a little rusty I guess, but dat be a good point. So then what yeh think they be lookin' fer?"

"I's not fer knowin', nor do I's care. All's I's be seein' in front o' me are a bunch o' dead Goblins." Mortog chuckled as he started across to his vantage point.

Branthony crept low as he silently moved to the westernmost wall. His padded leather feet falling one after another until one tripped him up on a raised stone and his armor clanged together just so softly. But it was just enough for the Goblins to turn and cautiously start towards him.

Not to be outdone, Mortog in turn made a louder noise off to the east of Jackel's position whom was getting ready to fire off arrows in whatever direction they needed. There were six of these slimy little rodents and they all worked together as a unit. So the crew needed to be a cohesive team as well.

Three went towards Branthony and were trying to sneak up on his position. He huddled there with his back against the wall and his swords at the ready. They all had spears and he knew they would have to turn quickly to use them and he knew he would be able to get to two of them before the third would even become a problem.

He crouched and waited for the Goblins to come over the top of the wall. One leapt over the wall and he waited for the second one to hop over the wall, but he didn't come, so he immediately thrust his swords into the dainty, orange little creature's back; blood exploded all over Branthony like a squashed bed bug. From his left came a stinging spear that pierced his shoulder digging first into a chink in his armor then into the soft leather lining and finally coming to rest inside his taught muscle. With a splash of red goo he let out a cry then heard a loud 'clap'. He was now faced off with a small Goblin coming to retrieve his spear out of Branthony's left shoulder. Branthony got a little help tugging out the spear as the Goblin pulled at it as well making little grunting noises all the while. 'How cute!' They both yanked at it pulling away some of the armor with it, causing even more pain. With his one good arm he swatted the spear away from the little rodent as soon as it cleared the armor, knocking him sideways. With the spear in the goblin's hand, Branthony's sword was abruptly thrust into its tough scaly throat. Before it could gurgle out a yell he looked for the other one and saw that it was lying over the wall with an arrow sticking straight out of the back of its head. He looked down at his bleeding shoulder wishing they had brought a cleric.

Jackel could hear the sounds of steal into flesh on both sides of him, but behind him arose another threat, this one was much more serious. Two Harpies arose from the catacombs and started singing.

Meanwhile, at the same time Branthony was engaged in his fight, Mortog had three little problems all his own. They all jumped down off the wall in front of him at virtually the same time. He spun quickly cleaving one of the soft scaly creatures right in half. The other two stabbed at him as he twisted, knocking away one spear with his heavy double-bladed axe. The other spear rolled harmlessly off his armor. He continued his everlasting spin and with a step forward he brought his mighty axe to bear down on the second Goblin making him wish he had never gone over that wall. The creature seemed to grab onto his spear in one final attempt as the top of his body slid off the bottom. Spinning around for the last time, his lip curled upwards into a small smile as the other little creature grabbed its spear and decided to make a go of it. The little scaly creature stabbed at Mortog sloppily and he just toyed with this little creature until it finally turned and ran when Mortog took its spear from him. At this point he had other problems to deal with as he heard the singing coming from behind him. 'Durnet! Don'na EVER underestimate yer enemy!' He remembered Dargus telling him. 'They were jest da distraction!'

Jackel spun around Knocked, aimed and fired an arrow right at the first Harpies throat. The Harpy caught the arrow in mid flight. 'I didn't see Dat comin'.' It looked at Jackel and seemed to smile, as if to taunt him into firing another one, and then with one hand snapped the Mythril shaft in half. Jackel did the only thing he could; he fired more arrows hoping to hit the creature with at least one of them. He fired at the creature's crotch and then immediately at the creatures throat. 'HA! Direct hit!'

The Harpies stopped singing for just a moment while the larger of the two Harpies pulled the arrow out of its throat and stared Jackel down and somehow managed to start singing again.

The harpies lingered in the air, slowly flapping their wings and hanging in the air as if by some magic that they couldn't detect they approached his position singing. 'I's hafta find a way te stop dat infernal singin', at least in this one closest te me. 'An why aint we already under dare spell?'


Cleary saw the whole thing. He managed to cast all three spells before the harpies became a problem, but that would only protect them for so long, they had to defeat them soon lest the song take over their minds, and his as well. 'All's I's havin te do is stay hidden an not go te them when they call, I can rescue them, that would surely show them that they need me'.


Branthony saw what was happening and rushed to Jackel's side when the lead Harpy grabbed him by the ankle. He took a stab at it with his magical sword and missed swinging wildly and haphazardly dropping that sword. 'Dat was stupid I's be better than this!' was his only thought as the Harpy hoisted him about four feet off the ground. Both Harpies were singing and he was now giving into the song taking one last attempt to slice through the creature's leg with his remaining sword, he missed again, he felt himself drifting, but could do nothing to stop it, he dropped his sword to the comfort of the song.

Mortog, finishing off his meat tray, came barreling into the fray with his magical axe held high. He pushed himself off a nearby wall and with some grace came crashing down the backside of one of the Harpies. It moved forward enough so as he could only create a small annoying cut down the beast's spine. It yelped however and moved forward halting its singing spinning to face Mortog head on.

The other Harpy turned to face its injured comrade in a protective manner and Jackel let loose a volley of arrows right into the side of the beast's neck. He wasn't taking any chances and as the beast came crashing to the ground it dropped Branthony as well. The beast appeared dead by all accounts.

Jackel ran over to Branthony who still lay there dazed and brought him back to reality with a couple of slaps to the face and some shaking. He came back but was still dazed. "C'mon boy, yeh needs te git up an chop dat things head off or somethin', Move it!" Jackel stood there dumping arrows into the other Harpy as it started singing again.

Branthony jumped up just as the downed Harpy was beginning to rise. It was too tall for a neck shot now, so Branthony, still in a daze pushing off like he has to lift four hundred pounds struggled with each step until he ended up coming to a sprinting dash, his feet landing hard on the ground toward the creature, pushing the swords together to form a scissors formation he jumped on the creature's chest knocking it back to the ground, lay each sword on one side of its neck and cut like a pair of scissors cauterizing the wound with his magical sword. 'So DAT'S what this does.' He thinks almost aloud.

Mortog landed on the ground on one knee with one smooth motion but as he saw Branthony coming directly at him for backup, the remaining Harpy began singing again and Branthony immediately dropped his swords and succumbed to the song once again halting his run. Mortog began feeling its pull as well. Out of breath and ideas, the creature remained in the air his large bat like wings swayed softly above the ground. He saw arrow after arrow wiz by the creature. Finally, Mortog dropped his axe with a loud clanging sound right onto the hard rock beneath his tired feet.

With Branthony and Mortog both out of the game, even Jackel had a problem focusing enough to get in any clear shots on the beast as the song finally took him. He watched as the beast moved over toward Mortog and covered him with his shabby grey wings, Mortog was now in the air.

A fireball rocketed straight toward the beast and struck the creature's chest. Its chest began to smoke as the creature reared its ugly head back and cried out in sheer pain and ceased its singing. Another fireball missed its mark this time and Mortog shook himself out of the trance he was in and sprang back to life still hanging from that awful Harpy, as did Branthony. Jackel came to life once again and began piercing its body with arrows.

"DUCK!" Came a sultry female's voice from the distance and the two looked back and ducked as a bolt of lightning sizzled into the creature's chest and it wasn't just a flash, it looked as if it were a rod that flew through the creature. The thing fell to the ground completely limp with Mortog still in its clawed feet.

"Yeh guys okay?" Mortog yelled getting slowly to his feet shaking the bugs from his brain. "Keep yer eyes open fer more threats, Dat lightnin' strike came from somewheres."

Mortog surveyed his surroundings and could find nothing.

They all kept looking around and saw all the dead Goblins but they still looked for other threats that might be just around the corner.

"C'mon out! Yeh helped us out a little; I's at least like te know who yeh are." Mortog scanned the moonlit area hoping to see something. "Fer a proper thank yeh."

"My name is Ryuul (RYE*ool) and I mean you no harm." She said in a loud and authoritative voice.

"I's Mortog, da fellow wit da bow is Jackel, an Dat guy over dare is Branthony. Now show yerself." Mortog demanded.

"I need your word that you will not attack me."

"Why would we be attackin' yeh after yeh helped us stop dat Harpy?"

"You'll see in a minute." She said. "But I must have your word as honored Dwarves."

"Aye, yeh have it m'lady." Mortog threw that one in because he had read it in a novel from school as a sign of respect.
She said but one word in a language they didn't understand and then they saw a soft green glow emanate from a figure forming in front of Mortog.

Everybody got into battle positions immediately. Mortog had his axe up and crouched like all of his friends.

"This is why." She said flatly. She was a bit of a short elf, standing a little taller than Mortog at four foot two. She still had some growing to do. She had glowing golden hair and was wearing green armor. "Because I knew you would hate me just because of what I am. Again, I am no threat to you, in fact I wish to aid you on your quest, there are those among my people's that say you are just but boys and that you are not the heros that the prophesy claims you are and that you will only get yourselfs killed. I believe otherwise, so strongly that when they sarcastically told me to go and aid you, I took it upon myself to do so. I have been tracking you for days now. You introduced most of your crew but who is the little one hiding over there?" She said pointing to a small outcropping of walls.

"What are yeh on about?"

"You have a little dwarf that has been tracking you for as long as I have, maybe longer. He's right over there in a cloak of concealment." She told them in hopes of taking some of the pressure off of her for the time being, she knew dwarves to be a suspicious and cautious race. That's what she had been taught.

"Gosh durnet! Yeh stupid elf!" Cleary comes out wearing his cloak of concealment from the neck down. They, except for Ryuul, began laughing hysterically. Mortog put his hands on his knees and stood there in his breastplate laughing as were Jackel and Branthony. Was that a sight to see.

"What's so durrned funny?" Cleary asked.

"You are." Ryuul said starting to giggle herself.

"Durnet!" Cleary says as he pulls off his cloak and folds it up in his arms.

"So you're a cleric?" She asked walking cautiously closer to the group. "What's your other specialty?"

"I's not fer knowin' how ye knew I's be here an if ye did know I was here, why didn't ye come te me earlier? An what yeh be meanin', 'other' specialty?" Cleary asked looking at her puzzled with one of his odd faces that he's becoming known for.

"Hey Cleary let's git yeh over here te da fire an warm yerself up, it's pretty cold here tonight. Then ye both can be tellin us why yeh's be here for real." Mortog told him. "Yeh too Ryuul, I's not fer turnin' away a lady. Yeh can tell us why yeh bein' here." They walked over to the fortified campsite; Mortog leading the way.

"So what yeh be meanin' another specialty?"

"all of us spell-casters are a natural at something, meaning we don't have to do any prep-work, like emblazon tattoos on our bodies. Once you've managed that you can start to learn a new class of spells, like a second job." Ryuul tells him laying her staff next to her by the fire. "That's when you can start emblazoning spells onto your body and you can use them to aid you in healing and protecting or in battle, like a battle-mage, we will have to explore this with you in time, I can be a wonderful teacher." She said seductively brushing his cheek with her hand.

"I's be makin' these tattoo's fer nothin'? Bein' a cleric has always come so naturally te me, but I's don'na ever rememberin' a time when I didn't emblazon these tattoo's on me body. Healin' magic run's in me family line. How do I's be findin' me this 'second job'?"

"Well work on that later right now let's get you to learn to use your natural ability without using your tattoo's we need to get rid of them anyway to make room for another class." Ryuul told him.

"Wait jest a minute, why are either o' yeh out here in da first place? Yeh go first Cleary. I's should jest send yeh home, but yeh know's I's can'no." Mortog scolded, sitting on his log next to the fire.

"Well fer one yeh durned fool, yeh go on a quest like this not takin' a cleric, yeh must be stupid or, really stupid an brave. Yeh think yeh know it all do yeh? I's protected yeh from da cold, an Jackel from those humans an yer ears from them Harpies, yeah, dats why yeh didn't succumb te dare songs right away. I's be protectin' yeh all da way!" Cleary said in a huff. "An it aint easy I's be tellin' yeh dat!"

"Bah! We coulda been doin' fine without yeh." He looks over to his friends sitting on the logs getting ready to eat, all three with dire looks on their faces telling him that he was wrong and that they desperately needed a healer with them. "we's be bein' fine without yeh, but since I's can'no send yeh home, I's guess we be stuck wit yeh. Actually, it be good havin' a friend wit me, someone I's know, Dat is." He said looking back at his new friends. "So what about yeh, little missy, what be yer story, why did yeh decide te help us out, when we didn't even need yeh?" Mortog says without looking back at his friends knowing the scowls that would be on their faces.

"By my count, all three of you had succumbed to the song already; I just stopped the last one from taking you all to their lair, that's all. But I'm after the same thing that you are, but not for my people, for yours. It is after all a Dwarven artifact?" Ryuul asks him.

"Aye, well it is, an it aint, it's kinda complicated." Mortog explained further. "Yeh see it was made a long, long time ago by da humans, Dwarves, Elves an a race we haven't figured out yet. So yeh see, it kinda be all o' ours, but I be gittin' it fer my peoples, not yers. Maybe by gittin' this artifact I's be able te restore me family's honor. But now dat yeh be bein' here, yeh can translate some o' this fer us, I'm fer thinkin' we need all four races in order te find this thing. Yeh be on probation here wit us, like an audition. Now, why yeh really here?"

"That's perfectly fine with me, I also want to see a little action, like all of what we just did. They have been training me to use my powers and for what? To never be able to use them for anything? I don't think so." She told them.

"What powers do yeh hold?" Mortog asked.

"I can heal some light wounds."

"Bah, I's can do dat well enough, what else yeh got?" Cleary asked.

"Well one of the master spells I have is to be able to animate a plant to fight for us." She told them and they all burst into laughter. The guys sat around and laughed as she got angrier and angrier while not knowing what they were laughing at.
"Look out! It's a killer dandelion!!" Someone said while laughing hysterically. She, however was not laughing.

"Have you ever been attacked by a large pine tree, Its limbs like a giant's club. Have you ever been hit by a huge club like that? It could very well send you to your grave, wouldn't you like to have someone to change it's focus, yeah, I'm that good."

"I's fer bein' sorry, we not be tryin' te laugh at yeh. It was jest too easy." Mortog stated. "What else can yeh be doin'?"

"I can make it rain fire. I bet you won't laugh at that one, now will you?" She said very annoyed.

"Dat be a handy little skill te have m'lady." He says as he stops laughing realizing that he hurt her feelings. "I's be sorry, we's not be meanin' te hurt yer feelin's, But, yeh gotta admit, da thought of a dandelion runnin' across da ground an bittin' yer ankle is kinda funny." He said chuckling trying to stifle a full on laugh, but then she started to chuckle just a little bit at the thought of it and he busted out laughing again, as did she.

"Okay, how did yeh find us, we be coverin' our tracks pretty good an everythin'?" Asked Jackel.

"I used an ancient map that my people gave to me." She said as she came down from a laughter high. "They told me to return it the next day when I came back, but i'm still out here, whoops. Looks like I stole their precious map. They didn't think I would be able to make it out on my own." She said sarcastically.

"So, if'n it's dat easy te find us then we probably be in some danger now." Jackel said.

"Oh?"

"Yeah, yeh be thinkin' our king aint be sendin' someone after da book an da artifact?" Jackel reasoned. "An if she can find us, how easy would it be fer them te find us?"

"Well, Jackel, what yeh think we should do about it then?"

"We best be hiddin' our tracks better an maybe even start movin' at night, like, now."

"Naw, I want te wait until mornin' so as we can look through da catacombs down dare te see if'n we can git any good gear. Branthony be needin' a new sword as do I an yeh be needin' a magical quiver an some new arrows."

"I could use a magical staff of some kind." Ryuul said.

"I's aint even sure we's want yeh te come along wit us, this aint no durned adventure were on, I's be on a mission an as yeh could plainly see it be dangerous an I's aint got no time te babysit no durned elf." Mortog stated clearly for everyone else to hear.

"We can'no be jest leavin' her here te git herself killed by a team o' Dwarves, if they be comin' after us." Branthony said. "Yeh know they be doin' awful things te her if they find her."

"Bah! They be catchin' up te us anyway an we may be havin' te fight 'em off, but I's sure's hopes not."

"An don'na yeh want some extra muscle te help us out if'n we be needin' it?"

"You know guys I don't need someone to stand up for me, I can hold my own just the same as you all. Don't underestimate me."

"See she be good fer our team." Branthony said.

"Apparently they want yeh in wit us, so yer in, but don'na make me regret dat decision I aint needin' te be distracted by havin' te protect yeh."

"I can hold my own, Mortog, I truly can." She said matter-of-factly.

Mortog just looked at her, trying to come up with a reason to tell her no. 'I wish she weren't so durned pretty. What's me's thinkin'! She's an elf!'

"Yeah, we be seein'." Mortog said at last. They left for the catacombs that night since it is neither day or night down there.

                   14

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