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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 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.