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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.

HAPTER 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.