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THE LEGEND OF KARZATIN

by Adrienne Ginsburg

Note: Palin, Caramon, Raistlin, Tasslehoff, Fistandantilus, Tika, Usha, Dougan, Laurana, and the rest of the Majere characters are all copyrighted by TSR. Characters mentioned in the story, such as Gnimsh, Tanis, Realgar, Astinus, Flint, and Crysania are also copyrighted by TSR. All other characters are copyrighted in 1996 by Adrienne Ginsburg.

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

One day, Palin Majere and Tasslehoff Burrfoot were sitting outside the front of their house. It was two years after the Knights of Takhisis had tried to take over Krynn. All was well now and both were lazily watching the sun's trail through the sky. It was the summer but not the one like the summer two years ago. It was hot, but not as scorchingly hot as it had been.

Tas gave a huge sigh and said, "Gee, I'm bored." This statement was the same exact statement that he had given to Usha, whom he thought to be Palin's cousin, when they were in the Tower of High Sorcery two years back.

Palin raised his intelligent eyes to look at Tas. He then uttered, "Yeah, so am I, Uncle Tas." He then set his gaze to the horizon. The truth was that he was bored. He needed an adventure. When he met Usha, he felt magic. He thought she felt the same way, too. Then, she ended up falling for a Solamnic Knight. It turned out that she looked to him only as a brother or the cousin he thought himself to be to her. He then sighed again. He needed something more. She was beautiful, but maybe that was not enough for him. When he met her, he was in a vulnerable state as a result of the loss of his brothers. He didn't realize at that time that he needed more in a girl.

'One day,' he thought to himself. 'One day, maybe I'll find someone my type. Intelligent, strong, and maybe beautiful.' With that he let himself smile ... until he realized Tas had been trying to talk to him for three minutes straight.

"Palin! Palin? Are you okay?" Tas looked genuinely concerned.

"Oh sure, Uncle Tas." He smiled again. "I'm perfectly fine."

"Are you thinking about Usha again? Gee, she was a nice girl. Although, she confused me at times. But then, Raistlin always confused me. Like father, like daughter, I guess. Right, Palin?" Tas wasn't yet convinced that Usha wasn't Raistlin's daughter. But as far as Palin was concerned, she might as well have been with the way things had turned out.

"Right," Palin muttered, not entirely listening. Then he was mentally forced to listen when Tas stated, "It's a shame she had to part ways. I don't understand what she saw in that Garith person..."

Palin stared at him. "Sorry! I didn't mean it. Honest, it just came out of my mouth!" Tas exclaimed. He then murmured to himself, "Hmmm... boredom always seems to get me into trouble."

Palin put his hand on the kender's shoulder. "It's alright. We just need something to do."

Tas nodded. "I wish we could go into the Tower again. I loved looking at all of those items. I wish I could have looked at them further before we went into the Abyss."

That declaration struck another cord in Palin. He gathered his white robes closer to him. A breeze caused his auburn hair to float, which he had let grow long. The breeze gave him somewhat of an exhilarating sensation as he pondered his magical powers. Not only did he have the Staff of Magius now but he also had the books bound in blue lining as well as the plain black books, all of which were given to him from Raistlin. A few other things, including a gold and emerald ring, some scrolls tied in yellow ribbons, a few vials of various colored liquids and a small locked metal box were in his possession. The catch of course, was that Palin wasn't powerful enough to use the spellbooks and wouldn't be for a while. He had tried to open one of the black books, but when he did he felt the weight of the cover and had not enough strength to open it fully. With the books in blue lining, he had tried as well but upon opening one of them, his hand felt a burning sensation and he had to close it. The sensation lasted for several days. The books were obviously power-detected and Palin hadn't touched them since. He was not informed of the powers that the vials and scrolls contained and the box he did not venture to open.

Raistlin told him that he would have such ability to open the box and use the items when the time was right. Palin decided that he would try to figure out the powers of the ring, vials, and scrolls sometime soon. But when was he going to do it? Was he scared? He had actually tried to figure out with a magic sense skill what the items did, but his skill wasn't proficient enough. He could only ascertain their state of enchantment. But then, how could he have cast a spell that Magius himself couldn't have cast? Could it be that Raistlin helped him? Or did he believe in himself more than Magius did? Whatever the reasoning was, Palin was not aware of it and Raistlin did little to help him.

In general, he felt stuck. He was waiting for things to happen, time to progress. What WAS he doing? Wasn't it time that he ventured out on his own? Went on a trip? He finally decided for it and spoke aloud. "You know, Tas, maybe it's time we went out into the world. I know it sounds crazy but ..." He then turned around to look at his companion ... except he wasn't there!

"Tas!" he exclaimed and ran through the house. Palin found the kender in his room going through his wardrobe in the closet. "What are you doing?" he asked him.

The kender looked at the young mage. "I'm going on a trip." He then continued going through his clothes. The kender decided on a white tunic, blue pants, and a blue cloak to match. He gave a nod of approval and stepped down from the stool, which was lying against the closet. He plopped down on the floor and placed the clothes in a big sack.

"By yourself? Where?"

Tas moved over to a chest near his bed and opened it. He grabbed a handful of scrolls and laid them in a row in front of him. Tas then closed his eyes, mixed the scrolls, and picked one up. He opened his eyes and carefully unfolded the chosen scroll. He glimpsed at it and a second later, announced, "Cristyne! I'm going to Cristyne!"

"Cristyne?" Palin appeared stunned. "But that's so far away! How are you going to get there?" He peered at the map.

"I'll find a way. I was told by a fellow kender that a long time ago a cave in Cristyne held a chest of treasure. Many say that it's only legend and that the cave is dangerous because a great old and powerful monster was supposed to have lived there. A lizard, I think."

"I'd still like to know how we're going to get there!" Palin stood up and put his hands on his hips while beginning to ponder.

Tas gazed up at him. "You mean you're going to come with me? Great! We'll have so much fun! I'll take care of you and show you around... and we can split the treasure!"

Palin had to wonder at that. If anything, he thought that HE would have to keep an eye on TAS. He then shrugged to himself and murmured, "I'd better get packing myself." He then announced to Tas, "We'll make plans after we're both finished packing."

As he walked towards his room down the hall, he thought about how they were going to get to the island. Probably by ship, he concluded. Raistlin was at the Tower of High Sorcery for the time being. He would have encouraged this trip. But what would Caramon say? His father might not object to their trip being that peace was restored to Krynn. But one could never truly know. And what about his mother?

While he was pondering, his sisters Dezra and Laura bumped into him. "What are you doing, Palin?" Dezra asked. The two looked up at him with smiling faces. The girls looked more like their father with their brown hair, but they still retained the green eyes from their mother like Palin and his brothers had. Dezra was two years older than Laura and Laura stood a few inches taller than Tas.

Palin couldn't help but smile. "Nothing much, Dez. Where's Dad?"

"He's in the yard cutting up some wood. He wants to make a table so we can sit outside." Laura piped in.

"Okay, darling." He chuckled, brushing Laura's bangs out of her face. Maybe one day, he would have a daughter. This he mused as he went off into his room. Dezra tapped Laura on the shoulder and exclaimed, "Got you last!" Laura in return went to chase after her sister so they could continue their game of "tag".

Palin looked over his room and then went to packing. He knew the hardest thing to decide on what to bring would be his magical items. While going through some of the drawers, he came across a red cloth. It was Usha's. A token of friendship, she gave it to him when she said goodbye. Palin closed his eyes and sighed. He had told her that he loved her and she had said the same. But how long had they known each other? Not very long. Not long enough for true love to develop. Maybe he was foolish to start something too fast.

The two had both gone through a traumatic situation. Usha had lost her people and Palin his brothers. When the War against Chaos had ended, there were matters to be settled. Usha needed a place to stay. Palin couldn't have seen any reason for her not to stay at his home. But she felt awkward. She told him, "I need to get myself together. I was sheltered all my life and when I went through what I did, I realized I needed to learn more about life and myself. I need some time alone."

She then ventured off and thought about the knighthood. Palin didn't want her to go alone but she refused his help. He realized that he had to let her go like his father had let him go. Only Palin didn't realized that she wouldn't come back. A few months later, he received a letter explaining that she decided to join the knighthood. He was utterly surprised. Daughter of Raistlin or not, he never thought she would take to battling. 'I guess she never really possessed magical talent.' he acknowledged.

The situation then grew worse. He wanted to visit her. He begged his uncle to teleport him to the High Clerist's Tower. Raistlin reluctantly agreed and Palin was admitted to Usha's chamber. He was bedazzled. Her back was to him and she was exercising; doing arm lifts from a bar that hung over her bed. He saw her silver armor, shining on her bed and a sword sheathed lying next to it. He stood in the doorway, listening to her breaths as she worked. One other thing he noticed was that she cut her hair. It was still silver and shining like the color of her armor, but it tumbled down her shoulders and no farther.

"Usha." He whispered her name softly, but loud enough for her to hear. She turned her next, met his gaze, and jumped down. "Palin!" she exclaimed, her gold eyes bright with pleasure.

She ran to hug him but he gripped her arms. "Let me get a look at you." She relaxed a bit, her breaths slowed down from the moment of rest. She pushed the bangs out of her face.

"You cut your hair." he stated, glancing at her arms, which had become toned.

"Uh, yes." She looked down, uneasy. "I thought it would be less of a hindrance in battle." She waited for his response.

He finally answered, "You're still beautiful." She smiled and hugged him. He shivered, having grown unaccustomed to her nearness.

A moment later, they heard the sound of clanking armor and Usha jumped back. She sat down on her bed and Palin turned. A man a few inches shorter than Palin stood in the doorway. His build made up for his height, Palin apparently noticed. He was young but his armor was somewhat worn. He had shoulder-length dark brown hair and piercing blue eyes. They were cold to Palin, cold like a blue pool of ice. Despite the icy stare, the man had a smile on his face.

"Usha, lovely Usha. What are you up to this afternoon?" He said it with a shocking calm and Palin didn't quite like the way he used the word 'lovely'.

"Uh... Garith!" Usha slowly stood up. "This is my friend, Palin. We fought at the War against Chaos together." She smiled and walked over. "Palin, this is Garith."

If the word 'lovely' wasn't enough of a blow to Palin, the word 'friend' finished it off. Even though it was spoken with unintended disloyalty, it topped the icy stare by far for his despair. Before he knew it, Palin was shaking hands with Garith and reluctantly looking into those eyes again. And to make it worse, the man's strong grip made Palin's fingers ache. He wrenched his hand free and looked to Usha.

"Garith and I are supposed to go training in the afternoon." Usha explained. A little red appeared on her cheeks and Palin got the instinctive feeling that he was no longer wanted around. It certainly hurt. "I guess I'll leave you two then," he said emptily and headed for the door, his white robes hastily following.

When he was a few feet down the hall, he heard Usha running after him. "Wait, Palin. Before you go. I'm sorry that it had to come to this. I wanted to get to know you, but before I could do that, I had to get to know myself. I really love it here. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I..."

Palin couldn't listen anymore. The rest of her words disappeared into the murkiness of his mind. He turned and ran off before the tears could come out of his eyes. Then he paused to catch his breath. He looked around the corner to see if she was still there. She was not. He crept back slowly towards the door. He had to know if she and Garith were involved. He edged back towards the door and peered inside. The two were holding each other close.

That was all Palin could bear to stand. He walked away in agony. He touched the teleport ring Raistlin gave him on his finger and materialized back in his house.

Palin folded the handkerchief and placed it back in the drawer after he was able to shake off the horrible memory. He thought about the teleport ring which he had in a pocket of his robes. He took out the ring and looked at it. He could have used it to teleport him and Tas to the island but the ring was useless if he had never actually been to the place or seen it before.

"Damn, if we could only get to Southern Ergoth," he muttered.

"Wait!" he then snapped his fingers. "If we go to Qualinesti, then maybe we could get Laurana to take us to Southern Ergoth!"

Just as the idea seeped into Palin's mind, a voice came from across the hall, getting closer and closer. "Southern Ergoth! Did you say Southern Ergoth?" Tas peered with his head in the door.

"Yes. Yes, Tas. I have an idea. It will get us at least halfway towards our goal."

"Great! When are we leaving?" Tas jumped up and down.

"Tomorrow morning, I supposed. I'll have to have a talk with Father first, though."

"Don't worry, Palin! We'll find a way to get him to let us go!" Tas straightened up and yawned. "Oh, my. My boredom is turning into tiredness. I'd better get some sleep. Good night!" with that, he skipped back down the hall.

Palin had to smile after witnessing Tas' cheerfulness. He then continued packing and dozed off to sleep.

 

CHAPTER TWO

Morning came with a soft knock at the door. Palin was getting dressed and he gave a little "just a second". He opened the door and Tika was standing there. "Come down for breakfast, darling." She greeted him. She then headed down the stairs and her son followed.

Tas, Caramon, Dezra, and Laura were at the table and seemed to be enjoying their meal. Dezra and Laura were giggling and making funny noises with Caramon was trying to quiet them down. Tika passed Palin a plate of eggs with bread and he sat down next to Tas.

"Good morning, Palin!" Tas beamed. "So, are you going to tell Caramon about our trip?"

Caramon raised his eyebrows. "What trip? Are you going on a trip?"

"Uh...yes, Father. I wanted to speak to you about that. After breakfast."

"Can't we discuss it now? I'm sure your mother would like to know as well."

"Alright." Palin put his hands down on the table. "Tas and I want to go on a trip. We need to get to Southern Ergoth."

Tika and Caramon looked at each other. "Why Southern Ergoth?" Tika then asked.

"There's an island west of the continent called Cristyne. Word has it that there is a treasure hidden in a cave on the island." Tas explained.

"Oh, that!" Caramon made a gesture with his hand. "That's a legend." He turned to his wife and continued, "An old legend claims that there is a reptilian monster guarding the treasure."

"Ooh! What kind of treasure, Daddy?" Laura asked.

"What do you think of when you think of treasure?" Caramon replied. "Lots of gold pieces, jewelry, magic scrolls ..." he paused when he saw his son's eyes light up. "Oh no. No! You don't really believe this do you, Palin?"

Palin straightened. "Whether it's true or not, I want to go. I need to go out into the world and experience life. I'm not getting much accomplished by sitting here day after day. And besides, Tas is bored."

Tika and Caramon looked at each other again, then at Tas who was nodding and smiling. The two knew the seriousness of boredom from a kender.

"Maybe you're right, Son." Caramon said as Tika heaved a sigh. "It's time you made decisions for yourself. You certainly showed us that you could make the right decision two years ago. I trust your judgement."

As he spoke these kind words, Palin got up and walked over to his father. He embraced him and Caramon hugged him back.

"Oh!" Tika exclaimed. She went over and hugged the two of them.

"Wow! Is this a hugging party?" Tas got up and put his arms around them. Laura and Dezra giggled and joined them.

"Now, do you have a plan to get there?" Caramon demanded when breakfast resumed.

"Palin has an idea." Tas declared. "He thinks that maybe we could head over to Qualinesti and visit Laurana. Maybe with her help, we can at least get to Southern Ergoth."

"That's not a bad idea." Tika said. "We promised to pay her a visit and see how she and Gilthas are doing. We could all ride over there and see to it that you get across the ocean."

"And then we'll be on our way." Palin assured them. "We're already packed." he added.

"Then we'll leave this afternoon." Caramon announced.

By early afternoon, all was made ready for the trip. Laura and Dezra were left in care of Tika's midwife. Two horses were made ready. Tika and Caramon rode on one with Tas and Palin on the other. The kender and mage brought their sacks and loaded them on the horses.

The trip to Qualinesti took the whole afternoon and part of the evening, but everyone was kept occupied with their own thoughts or Tas' stories about horseback riding and the like. Laurana was overjoyed to see them and had dinner served in celebration of the family's arrival.

Laurana was content to have her son back, although her grief over Tanis' death scarred her permanently and could be seen. They talked of past times and of peace in the present, hoping that it would last for the future. This then led to their discussion of Palin's need for a boat. Laurana was more than happy to offer them aid. She assigned a crew of elves to ready a boat in the morning for Palin and Tas.

Morning arrived and the boat was prepared. After breakfast, Palin and Tas were lead to the shore. The boat wasn't large but it was sturdy. It was fit for about eight people and composed of vallenwood, a gift from Palin's hometown. Fortunately, after the War, the elves became more kindly to others of their continent as well as to between themselves.

"We have learned much." Laurana had said the day before. "The War against Chaos opened our eyes and we had to abandon our own troubles. Enough bloodshed has been spilled of ours and for stupid reasons. We realized that if we were willing to fight against Chaos for our lives, then our lives had to have meant something to us."

Today, Laurana stood proud and beautiful. She had a long gray gown on and a headband pressed against her golden hair. Her arm was around her son and the rest of the elves were at her side. "Let peace and happiness be with you." She bid the two travellers.

Caramon and Tika hugged their son. Tika kissed Palin's forehead and handed him a bundle. "Here's some food for a few days, if you can't find any."

"Be well, Son." Caramon patted his arm. "I hope you find out more about life. In fact, I know you will."

He then turned to Tas. "And as for you, I may regret saying this, but take care of your nephew for me, alright?"

"Of course, Caramon. I'd be honored." The kender stood tall and proud. Caramon then gestured for him to come close and the big man hugged him. Tika gave Tas a kiss on the cheek and he blushed.

The crowd then gave the two a farewell and the boat crew climbed aboard. They helped Tas and Palin in. The waters were for the most part calm and the sun lie lazily in the sky. A few clouds were dispersed across the horizon. After what seemed about two hours, one of the elves passed Palin and Tas a basket of food for lunch. His name was Leyas and although his face contained several scars that possibly could have been caused by fighting in the War two years back, his long reddish-blond hair and muscle tone filtered out his youthful appearance and gave one the impression of his being graceful.

Palin looked up at his tanned face from munching on some bread. He asked, "Is there anything you can tell us of Southern Ergoth? Like the populace?"

"You'll find all kinds. A lot of humans, an elf here and there, kender and dwarves a plenty." He passed Palin a waterskin. "Quite a bit of gnomes since their territory lies not far in the west. Goblins are a possibility as well as minotaurs, but minotaurs roam much farther north. You never know, though."

"I was in Southern Ergoth once." Tas said, wiping his mouth with a handkerchief. "We were travelling and someone asked us if we could save their daughter from a band of minotaurs who would only give her back for a ransom."

"Where were these minotaurs holding her captive?" Palin stopped eating for a moment.

"Oh, relax! They were up north. But finding them wasn't easy." Palin passed the waterskin to Tas and he started gulping. "We spent days looking for them. Then we were camping and Raistlin noticed another fire in the distance. He warned us to stay where we were and that he would take care of it. Then whoosh! He turned invisible. I could vaguely hear some rustling of the grass. I really wanted to stay there and be good. But I couldn't help it. So I followed him."

Tas noticed that the elves turned to look at him. "A few minutes later I saw the minotaurs. They were laughing up a storm but I couldn't understand what they were saying. They weren't talking in Common. Anyway, I didn't want them to notice me so I crept behind a bush. Then I heard Raistlin's voice in my ear and before I could say anything I thought my hair would be ripped out of my head. I also felt something slip over my mouth. It felt like Raistlin's hand. He then forbade me to speak and told me that he'd turn me invisible if I promised to do him a favor. The girl was tied up against the tree a few feet from the minotaurs."

Tas gasped for air and handed back the waterskin to Leyas. "He wanted me to untie the girl and when he was to cast the surprise spell, we would run."

"So, what spell did he cast?" For once, Palin was surprised that he had the patience to listen to one of Tas' stories.

"He summoned this great big fire elemental. The minotaurs were scared out of their wits!" Tas started to stand up in the boat from excitement but Palin gently pushed him back down. "As this happened, I untied the girl. She was in shock because she didn't know who was untying her but I spoke to her and urged her to run. Then I had to tell her which way to run. One of the minotaurs saw her go and shouted but I hit him over the head with my hoopak. Before any of them knew it, they were all knocked out unconscious with a whip of my weapon!"

"And then?" Leyas asked, disbelieving.

"Then we got out of there! We ran back to everyone and we all left immediately to bring her home and be free of the minotaurs before they woke up. Seriously, Palin, I think your father was jealous because he missed all the fun. He refused to believe me. They all did. Except for Raistlin, of course. You can ask HIM."

"Maybe I will," Palin said. "In any case, I wonder how he was able to cast such a powerful spell. Was it before he took the Test?"

"Probably not, I think he became a lot meaner after he took it. No offense. But now, I think he's actually nicer since the last War."

"Enough chatter, kender. We're almost there." Leyas looked out and saw milk-colored beaches looming close ahead of them. A few figures could be made out moving on the shoreline. The sun was still high in the sky and the clouds were evading it.

As they neared the land, Leyas took out a piece of tan-colored parchment from his pocket. "Look here." He put his finger over the parchment and Palin glanced over. "This is where we are. A day or two north could lead you to Daltigoth. You can find food and shelter there. The quickest way although not the most easiest way to Cristyne would be through the mountains northwest after passing through Daltigoth. You'll have to find a way to get across the ocean, though. Perhaps, you can find someone who has a boat."

"We'll have to find a way, somehow." Palin agreed.

"Here, take the map."

"Thanks." Palin put it in a pocket of his robe.

A little while later, they reached the shore. The elves exchanged farewells with the travellers. Leyas patted Palin on the back and said, "Enjoy your journey, young mage. And watch out for the kender, or rather watch him." He then chuckled and offered the basket to them to keep as they got out of the boat.

Palin stood up, dusted off his robes, and grasped the Staff of Magius. Tasslehoff took the basket after adjusting his pouches. He turned to look back at the elves. They turned themselves around in their seats and adjusted the oars. Then Leyas gave a "pushoff" and dived into the boat with agility.

Tas waved. Then he turned to Palin. "That Leyas guy was rather nice but I wish he would have called me by something more respectable than 'kender'. Like 'Mr. Burrfoot'."

Palin put his hand on Tas' arm. "A tragedy indeed. Well, come on, Mr. Burrfoot. We haven't got all day. If we'd like to make it half way to Daltigoth, we'd better start now." Palin then trudged along and Tas quickly followed.

There were a few humans fishing and some elves taking in the midday sunshine. Palin asked one of the humans which direction was north in order to confirm Leyas' instructions. A few miles out Palin and Tas came to a forest area. The forest was vast, but it was extremely peaceful. Along their trek, they encountered numerous squirrels, a few rabbits, and even a deer. 'Nothing like Wayreth.' Palin thought. After having gone through THAT forest, any other forest seemed like a picnic.

Nightfall and beyond passed with the two travellers still passing through woodlands. They finally decided to stop and make camp. Palin felt like he was going to pass out right then and there. He hadn't had this much exercise in months! Yet, considering that mages didn't exercise, it actually wasn't a surprise to him. He sat down against a tree with his staff and sack next to him.

Tas plopped down right in front of him. "Phew! That was some walk! I guess it's good for me to keep in shape. Flint says that I'm getting old but I think he's just jealous because I was made a hero in two Wars. I'm enjoying this, how about you? Palin, are you okay? You look like an overworked horse! Here, let me get your sleeping bag out for you."

Palin gazed at him, trying to relax. 'Maybe we should have stayed home. This is too much for me. We have to do more walking tomorrow too! Oh, Tas, why did you have to pick a place so far away?' Thoughts as these popped into Palin's mind. But then determination appeared and took over. 'I have to learn to be strong. Maybe Tas is right about exercise. Everyone goes through life the hard way, well, some people more than others. But you don't get something for nothing.'

"No, Tas, I'm okay. Thanks for asking." He finally answered. Thinking that he should at least have enough strength to take the bag out, he rummaged through his sack and finally found it. His staff had been lit since it became dark out and it glowed with a pale light. He laid it against the tree so it would have more of an effect. Then he felt his stomach grumble. How could he forget? His tiredness had almost outweighed his hunger.

Palin looked up and noticed Tas already poking at basket. "Wow, am I hungry! Oh, Palin! Here, take some." Tas had his sleeping bag already laid out and a bowl was placed in front of him with some of the food all mixed in. Palin glanced into the basket and saw some bread, cheese, fruit, and some meat left over from a cooked bird. He also saw some sweetcakes and a waterskin. Thinking it was Leyas', he checked it and noticed that it was actually full. Content, he grabbed some of the meat, two apples, and a piece of bread with cheese.

When Tas was finished eating, he lie on top of his sleeping bag and gazed up at the stars. "Isn't that beautiful? Wow, Palin, I'm really happy now. My stomach is full, it's a nice night, and for once, I'm not bored."

Palin looked at him and smiled. "You're right, Tas. It's really nice out here. But maybe one of us should keep watch."

"I'll keep watch. You can go to sleep when you're ready."

"Then you can wake me up and I'll keep watch." Palin finished the remnants of his meal.

Tas started to talk again. "Wow, if only Flint was here to watch them. Ooh, there's Solinari. I can't quite see Lunitari, it must be blocked by the clouds. And Nuitari is always hard to see. Too bad my glasses of true seeing wouldn't work on something like that. I think I was always much of a star gazer. Flint always called me a 'doorknob of a kender' though and said that I had too much imagination for being one. I guess I could take the last part as a compliment. I know Raistlin sometimes looked at the stars. He would make patterns with them, though. I could never understand that..."

Palin tried to listen patiently but he grew tired easily because he was weary from the walk. He gladly snuggled in his sleeping bag with the Staff of Magius right beside him. He extinguished the light from it, but its touch was still warm and smooth. Before he drifted off, his mind was troubled with some nagging thoughts about Usha. He wished he could have shared a night like this with her. A few tears settled into his eyes but no a moment after that, he knew that something was bound to happen in the next few days.

 

CHAPTER THREE

Although Palin had a deep sleep, his mind could not evade from being disturbed by frightening dreams. Terrorizing voiced seeped in and out. Mist swirled in infinity. The most prominent vision was of a light blue flare drowning out a dying gray atmosphere. After this occurred, Palin awoke.

The sky was covered with a mirror of the grey in his dreams, except for one spot that loomed bright through the trees. The sun was weakly trying to break away from the clouds. Or was it Lunitari falling? The spot was low enough for it to be taken into question.

Palin tried to gain his composure and looked around. Tas was sleeping peacefully a foot away. He envied his peacefulness for a while. He also realized that Tas probably didn't stand watch. Or at least not after talking himself to sleep. He had to smile at that. He then reached for Leyas' basket to see how much food was left. They would also have the food that Tika gave them. That should at least last until they got to Daltigoth.

Palin took some bread, cheese, and apples. Let the kender sleep until they needed to leave. He decided he would go fill up the waterskin, remembering that he had seen a small stream on the way to the campsite. He turned and walked east for several minutes. The stream was flowing. He bent down and dipped in the waterskin. When it was full, he placed it on the ground. 'It would be nice to take a bath.' he thought. 'Well, we can do that when we get to Daltigoth.' He picked up the waterskin and clutched his staff.

A moment later, he thought he heard something. A rustling through trees, footsteps on grass, perhaps? Palin started walking quickly back to the campsite. Tas was still asleep, in fact, he was snoring softly. "Tas! Tas! Wake up!" Palin nudged him.

"Huh...h... what?" Tas muttered. "Oh! Palin! I had the most wonderful dream! Flint was there and we..."

"Tas! No time to tell me now! We have to leave... and I think someone's coming..." Palin declared before Tas could finish. He ran to grab his sleeping bag and stuffed it in his sack. "Hey, take the basket! You can eat as we go!" He handed Tas the basket.

Tas tried to gather his stuff together as quickly as possible, but one of his pouches fell and a few items rolled out. "Reorx!" Tas exclaimed and tried to pick them up. As he was doing so, a figure emerged from the trees. Tas heard Palin gasp and responded, "Oh, Palin. Relax! It's a dwarf." Tas placed his pouches on his belt and went up to the dwarf. "Hullo there! My name is Tasslehoff Burrfoot. What is yours?" The kender held out his hand.

The dwarf spat on the ground. Palin glanced at him suspiciously. He was clothed in muddy red robes and his hair was brown. his beard was long and brown and it looked like it hadn't been combed in weeks. His face was rather unbecoming; he had a few warts spread throughout. One last thing of notice was a golden-colored axe strapped to his back.

"Hurrumph, kender." The dwarf muttered.

"Hey, you're a derro, aren't you?" Tas continued. "Flint told me about the derro a while back. He once this Theiwar called Pitrick. He wasn't a very nice guy. He was a really powerful magic-user, though..."

Palin listened to this and a thought came to him. What if this derro was a mage? It was true that derro were the only dwarves capable of magic and this one was dressed in robes!

Tas kept talking. "Flint was a hill dwarf. Hey, you didn't tell me your name yet!"

"Raugh. And I don't like hill dwarves." Raugh growled. He went to reach for the basket.

"Are you hungry, Raugh? Oh, I'm sorry, I'd love to give you some food but I'm hungry myself and being that we have to leave I'll need it for energy for our walk..." Tas moved it out of the dwarf's grasp.

The dwarf muttered something and took a dark grey block of stone out of one of his pockets. It had huge runes inscribed on it that looked dwarven. He pointed it at the kender and his hand with the basket froze. The basket dropped to the floor. "Ow! That's cold!" Tas cried, feeling his fingers grow numb.

Raugh laughed and put the stone away. Meanwhile, Palin struggled to concentrate on a spell. He had a pinch of sand on his fingers and was whispering the incantation when the derro stalked towards him. Palin opened his eyes and edged further away, hearing a warning cry from Tas. He closed his hand tightly. That gave Raugh just enough time to cast his spell.

Raugh needed no components and within seconds flames shot through his fingers. Palin was ready to dodge and actually evaded four of the flames. But a fifth one flew across and struck his left arm. The blow was hot and excruciating. Palin let the staff drop from his left hand and closed his right palm. He pressed it against his left arm and ground his teeth, trying to keep whatever composure he had left. He HAD to cast his spell!

The dwarf was doubling over with laughter when something struck him in the back. Grumbling, the derro rubbed his back and turned slowly, too slow to escape another blow from Tas' hoopak. "That's for not being nice!" Tas shouted and the second blow fell across the dwarf's cheek. He screamed and started to run towards Tas, who started bucking and taunting him. The dwarf was limping because of his injured back. Then he sneered and bent his arm to snatch the axe from its thong. As his fingers made contact, the axe started to glow a faint yellow.

Before he could fully take the weapon out of its hold, Palin was ready with his spell. Trying to ignore the pain from his wound, he closed his eyes and once again focused. The power of the magic sizzled through his veins and wrapped him in ecstasy. He spoke the full incantation this time and his right hand raised up and forward. The sand sailed downward towards its target and Raugh's body fell.

Tas jumped backward. The dwarf's arm was still clutching the axe. His body was in an awkward position but, he was sleeping soundly. "Phew!" Tas gasped. "He was one tough dwarf."

"How did you manage that, Tas?"

"Well, my hand was still sore but I tried to shift the weight of the hoopak more on my other hand. It's still sore, but I guess it will get better soon. It's more sore than cold now. How about you?"

Tas looked over at Palin's arm. There was a tear on his sleeve and blood could been seen through it. "It hurts." Palin reluctantly admitted.

Tas searched through one of his pouches. "Ah! Here we are! I have a first aid kit. Caramon suggested I take one and he gave it to me." Tas took a little bit healing salve from a tube and Palin offered his arm. "There."

"Thanks, Tas. And thank Paladine!" Palin drew a deep sigh. "I hope we can get to Daltigoth today. We'd better get moving before he wakes up."

Tas was one step ahead of him. He had put his sleeping bag away and adjusted his pouches on his belt. Then he stuffed a piece of cheese in his mouth. "Hurwy thup, Pthalin! Letz geth ourta there!"

"What?" Palin turned, adjusting his sack.

"Let's go already." Tas exclaimed. He was already trotting off, almost hidden by the trees.

"Right!" he mumbled. He went to pick up the staff. Having had to let it drop after his arm was bruised, he lifted it and felt the cool, smooth wood. He felt safe letting it fall while the dwarf was busy haggling with the kender. Then he brushed off some dirt from his robes. They'd really have to get cleaned up when they got to town. Even Tas' clothes were losing a little of their luster from the dust and dirt. But, hey! They were only out in the rough in one day! Would things get a lot worse before they could get better?

Palin picked up his robes to catch up to Tas. He looked up at the sky. The bright spot was gone. There would be no sunshine today, he though miserably. The sky even looked like it darkened a little. He then felt his arm. A burning sensation lie there. Would it ever cool down?

Palin then looked at Tas. He was chewing on an apple. He also noticed a purple pouch sticking out of the sack and along with that a blade. "Tas!" he scolded him.

"What?"

"How did that axe and pouch get in your sack?"

"Oh, those? I was just watching them for Raugh. I only wanted to see that he didn't hurt anyone with them."

Well, Tas had a point there. An unarmed magic savant had to be at least a little less dangerous than an unarmed magic savant.

One thing that Palin truly didn't understand was how the axe held up in the sack. And better yet, how Tas was able to snatch it up. Fortunately, his question was answered.

"I think that axe has magical properties." Tas said. "It's as light as a feather."

"It does." Palin agreed. "I could tell. It has a yellow glow about it. And that would explain how a dwarf mage would be able to wield it."

"I wonder if it does anything else." Tas spoke with an edge of excitement.

"Let's hold that thought off for a while, shall we?"

Palin had enough problems to worry about. What would happen when the dwarf woke up? Without his magical items, the derro would be angry and find enough reason to pursue them. Then it would be to their advantage for it to rain. He also hoped that they wouldn't stumble across any other trouble, at least not until they got to Daltigoth. Then they could stock up on some supplies.

Palin then had another thought. Did Tas manage to take the block of stone with dwarven runes on it? Palin's eyes were sharp enough to catch a glimpse of a dark grey object projecting out of Tas' pocket.

"Tas? What is that in your pocket?"

"Oh, this? It's the stone that Raugh used to freeze my hand. Better off without it, he is. Here, wanna look at it?"

Tas handed it over. Palin's hand traced the ancient runes. He knew no Dwarven, Elven was the closest thing to a second language that Palin understood and he knew not even enough of that. He still felt a sense of elation tracing the letters, however.

"You can hold on to it, if you want." Tas offered, munching on some bread.

Palin flushed. Was he enjoying possession of the item too much? He then pondered giving it back to Tas. But then, who was better off holding it? A human mage or a kender? Palin finally responded, "Ok, I'll hold on to it. Just in case we run into any more trouble."

They marched on. Palin closed his eyes for a moment, held the Staff of Magius tight, and prayed for rain.