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Soul Stone - Part One

Freddie Freeman
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"Ruien," cried Edele, "Nu timen en rilan! Timen rilen en ym!"

"Nai timen yn malas -- eu alaran!" replied Ruien.

"How 'bout you long-legs speak in common fer once?" Kalamaar in a sharp tone.

"This does not concern you, dwarf." Edele answered, arrogantly as usual.

"Oh, it don't, do it? I s'pose yer right. I shouldn't be so nosy -- but I can't speak fer Bravecleaver here!" threatened Kalamaar, slipping his huge, double-bladed battleaxe from its holster on his back into his hands.

"Put that away, Kalamaar. Edele meant no harm. We were merely discussing in which direction we should head. And yes, it DOES concern the dwarf." explained Ruien, eyeing Edele.

"We wouldn't be wonderin' if it weren't fer you leadin' us so far into this here wood! All because your little magic amulet told you to. You elves -- you trust your magic too much. If that amulet led you towards certain doom, would you blindly follow?" Kalamaar questioned, angrily.

Ruien, seeming somewhat stunned by the question, merely gave a stuck-up snort.

"And," Kalamaar started, "s'pose that there amulet of yers is broken -- s'pose that!"

"It is an item of great power, and cannot 'break'. My scrying is ineffectual in this area for some reason beyond our immediate control." Ruien told Kalamaar.

"And why, might I ask, is it not workin' as expected, oh high and mighty elven mage, whose powers of the mind surely surpass the powers of Bravecleaver here bein' lodged in yer arse?" said Kalamaar, now pleased with himself, having obviously won a verbal battle with a the High Elf.

"I do not know." replied Ruien, hanging on to the last bits superiority he thought he possessed.

"You don't know? But Ruien - I thought you knew everything! What with all your mighty magicks and all. Also--" Kalamaar was abruptly interrupted by Ruien, mid-speech, "Enough of your whining, dwarf." said Ruien, infuriated by the dwarf by now.

The three travelers were making their way through Blacktooth Wood on a mission to find a missing person. The three partners are members of an elite group of mercenaries, the Sylvan Wanderers. Hired by the wife of a missing merchant, they were told he was supposed to have been travelling through these woods, along with his caravan.

The three were a mixed group. Brother and sister Ruien and Edele T'landrias were High Elves. Ruien, an accomplished mage, was the leader of the group. His sister, Edele, was a skilled enchantress and was second in command. The siblings were tall and fair, as all elves, and were relatively young -- around 239. Kalamaar Ironforge, a crusty old dwarf, as well as a veteran warrior, was the muscle -- and pack-horse -- of the group. He went along with the elves' superiority complex, constantly reminding himself of the reward.

They had been searching for days it seemed. Their supplies were running low, and they were becoming fatigued.

Kalamaar emptied the last bits of a whiskey flask he was able to take along as "necessary equipment in case I have a liquor attack" into his wide-open mouth, wondering why he had come. It was supposed to be "routine" and over in a day or two. He was supposed to be counting his pay, greedily inspecting each gold piece at his leisure. But no, he thought; was walking on some wild goose chase that was sure to end with them dead, either by starvation or something else.

"S'pose we're on one of them wild goose chases or whatnot -- we should've found that merchant by now. If that wife was lyin, then-" Kalamaar was interrupted abruptly by Ruien, who was obviously tiring of the journey himself, "Then I shall incinerate her myself."

"Not if I chop off your woman-lookin' legs first, right Bravecleaver?" Kalamaar said, reaching behind his back to lovingly pat his battleaxe.

The party wandered on a few more hours. The light of day slowly drifted into an purplish shade of dusk. At last, they came to a somewhat circular clearing in the forest, covered by tall, thick grass, a few stumps of trees, and assorted shrubbery. There were large, scattered spots of blood spilled about, some of it red, some of it jet-black, as well as dropped weapons, shattered armor, and other signs of battle.

"By the infested arse o' me father!" exclaimed Kalamaar, squinting, "Look!"

Kalamaar had spotted an elderly man, seemingly dead, lying with his head resting upon a rock some yards away.

The trio hurried over the man, who was barely gripping on to consciousness.

"This has to be the merchant. Let's stuff 'im in 'ere and head back." said Kalamaar, opening up the pouch of the pack he was carrying. "The supplies are nearly gone anyways, so if I drink the rest of the water real quick, we should have enough room if I fold him up nice and compact."

"Don't be stupid, dwarf. I know it's in your nature -- but don't you think that the poor man's wife would prefer to see her husband returned alive, rather than dumped out of your pack?" answered Edele.

"You listen here, elf-hag. I'm not about to sling this geezer over me back; then who'll carry our supplies? Surely not either of you two; I'll be as insane as my Uncle Jem the mountain gnome sooner than I'll see an elf carry a burden! So, the way I see it, the only choice we have is to stuff him in this bag; either that or cut him into pieces, that way we can each carry a portion - you think you could manage an arm? Maybe half of a leg?" Kalamaar teased, making violent, chopping motions with both of his hands several times.

"Again, Kalamaar, your logic is flawed. If the supplies are almost empty, we may as well finish them here, and have you carry the merchant over your back." Edele explained, pleased with herself.

Kalamaar simply mumbled something about "elf-chops" to Bravecleaver, his trusty battleaxe, sat himself on the ground, and began to lick the inside of his long-since dry whiskey flask.

Ruien's attention was on the merchant. He said, in a soft voice, "Old man� can you hear me? You are rescued."

There was no answer.

Ruien got closer, and said louder, "Can you hear me?"

Within a few seconds of that last attempt, the elderly man came around.

"I... I am Arinar. My... my caravan... ambushed... orcs... too many... my men... no chance..." answered Arinar, who seemed to be dozing in and out of a deep rest.

"Orcs?" shouted Kalamaar, "By the deformed third leg of me long-lost brother!"

"Where are your men?" asked Ruien.

"They... their bodies were taken... I don't know why..." answered Arinar, lazily.

"Were your men not able to defend themselves?" Ruien replied.

"They fought... fought bravely... wasn't enough... orcs were of... of the Blacktooth Clan... they... they were big... maybe... maybe as big as trolls..." Arinar explained.

"Blacktooth Clan? You mean not to tell me that not only are there Orcs, but they're of the Blacktooth clan as well?" Kalamaar asked, nervously.

"The Blacktooth Clan, if my beast-lore serves, are renown for their ferocity and strength. They are much stronger than normal Orcs; it's because most of them are half-Troll or half-Ogre, I believe. This complicates things."

"Not from where I'm standin', elf. I still says we just hitch up Arinar and get out of here. We've found our merchant, so let's get our gold!" Kalamaar said, his eyes opening as he said "gold".

"You are disgusting, dwarf." Sighed Edele.

"No... I'm not going back... my cargo... there was an item... must have it..." argued Arinar.

"Your life is more important than some item, Arinar," Said Ruien.

"No, no, no! You don't understand. The stone... you must retrieve it!" Arinar exclaimed.

"Ya listen here, ol' man! By the unnaturally loose bowels o' me Uncle Ogmosh, you're comin' with us!" Kalamaar threatened.

"That's my... final word... get the stone back... or I die here..." Arinar replied in a whispering tone.

Ruien, looking at Edele, gave a loud sigh, "Fine. We will find this stone. You said you were ambushed by Orcs... where did they go?" Ruien queried.

"West... east maybe... I don't know..." Arinar said, before closing his eyes, falling back into unconsciousness.

"By the tangled pit-hairs o' me sister, this won't do us any good! Which way are we supposed to go?" Kalmaar asked.

"Edele," Ruien started, "Alakari non �lar. Ghumnarin?"

"Yhai ghumnarin." Edele replied, while Kalamaar simply covered his ears, mumbling something about "durn complicated elf-speech".

"Mind lettin' the dwarf in on yer little talk?" Kalamaar asked, sarcastically.

"I believe we should travel..." Ruien paused, grasping an emeraldine amulet lying upon his chest, "west. Yes, west."

"And what makes you think yer right? Us dwarves ain't got a shabby sense o' direction, long-legs. I say we head east. I have a sixth sense of a sort, ya see. Whenevers I'm right 'bout somethin', I get this vibratin' sensation right down here-" Kalamaar was interrupted by Edele, "That's enough of your dwarven charm, Kalamaar. Besides, my brother's amulet is much more accurate than your... lower-area."

"Not from where I'm standin, sweets. Ruien here couldn't even find Arinar the geezer -- 'twas me! He said somethin' 'bout his scryin' jewel being messed up or whatnot. What makes you think it'll work this time?" Kalamaar inquired, eager to stump the elves.

"We do not," Ruien said in a firm voice, "but it is our best bet."

"I still say we go east, long-legs." gave Kalamaar with a snort.

There was a moment of silence between the trio; Ruien finally spoke up, "Edele, maybe there is another way, a more positive route perhaps -- maybe we should get more information out of our Arinar here. He seems to be unconscious again -- it'll take some effort to stir him. Can you wake him magically?"

"I can," started Edele, "but it may be harmful to him. If I wake him forcefully through magic, he may be injured."

"Why not just shout in his ear again?" Kalamaar asked.

"I believe he has slipped into a coma. Shouting will not help." Ruien explained.

Kalamaar sat himself on the grass and stroked his scruffy, brownish-gray beard. Ruien and Edele leaned upon their solid oak staves. They all wondered what to do next.

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