The Ring

The companions crept toward the clearing. Wood smoke scented the air as Skrie peeked out from the bushes.

Karl was perched in the rocks above the camp, bow in hand. The halfling knew the man was up to no good when he nocked an arrow and pulled the bowstring. Whispering an arcane phrase, the ground at the man’s feet rumbled as the rocks danced. He jumped up with an “eep!” The three people in the clearing turned to face him. The woman spoke, gesturing toward the stone. A fire bolt shot from her hands, hitting Karl square in the chest. He collapsed.

Illeryl and Grubak drew their weapons. The half-elf climbed the hillside and dragged the limp form of Karl down the hillside. Grubak circled the perimeter, stopping near where Malusk and Theren hid. He nodded toward the girl.

“Come out, or I’ll set the forest on fire!” the woman shouted, hands moving.

Malusk stepped out from the bushes, hands held out from his weapons. Theren was nowhere in sight. Good.

“Where’s your friend?” the half-elf asked, searching the edges of the clearing, poking his sword into the bushes. “The Hin you’ve been traveling with?”

As he got closer, Skrie pulled the ring from her belt pouch, dropped it into the dirt, and covered it with her foot. Then she stepped out into the clearing, staying far from Malusk.

“Where’s the ring?” snarled Illeryl.

“I dropped it down the well in town,” said Skrie, looking up at the Helf. “I’ll leave it up to you to fish it out.”

Illeryl’s eyes narrowed.

“I don’t believe you,” he said.

“I don’t care what you believe,” the halfling shot back. “I’d check the well if I were you.”

“I’ve had enough of this!” came a screeching voice across the clearing. Aquila began speaking an arcane phrase that Skrie knew well.

The halfling widened her stance as she felt the ground shake and answered with a minor spell of her own, causing the earth to ripple under the young woman’s feet.

“We can keep this up all day,” said Skrie, “or you can come back with us and you and your uncle can talk this out on your own. I’ll let you decide.”

That was when Illeryl turned to attack Malusk; at the same time, Aquila began casting another spell. While Skrie watched, she heard, “Malusk, get out of there now!” followed by another arcane phrase.

Skrie dropped face-first, covering her head with her hands. That was when everyone in the clearing, except her, the half-orc, and the half-elf, fell into a peaceful slumber. Grubak launched himself in the direction of the spell, knocking Theren to the ground with an “oof,” from the elf.

Skrie raced to stabilize the fragile wizard. The half-elf stood stupefied for a moment before he and Grubak turned to face her, weapons drawn.

“You are outnumbered now, Hin,” sneered the half-elf, stalking toward Skrie, sword ready to strike. “Tell me where the ring is.”

“I told you already,” said the halfling, with an over-exaggerated roll of her eyes. “I threw it down a well,” she enunciated each word clearly.

“Wait, now,” said Grubak, putting a hand on Illeryl’s arm. “Let’s hear this one out.”

“Why?” asked the half-elf. “I, for one, am tired of these nincompoops chasing us all over the countryside. I don’t believe a thing a Hin says. So, let’s get this runt to tell us where the ring is, then leave the territory, like we planned.”

“No, Illeryl,” said the big half-orc. “Like you planned.”

Illeryl’s eyes narrowed at that.

“And what does that mean?” the half-elf snarled.

“Just what I said,” answered Grubak. “We are not going to kill these people, they are only doing what they were paid to do. We are going to tie this one up and leave.”

The bearskin-clad half-orc produced a length of rope, binding Skrie’s hands and feet, then searched the halfling. She watched as Illeryl dumped the contents of her coin pouch into his palm.

“This will do nicely,” he said with a sneer. “In exchange for the ring, of course.”

“What a crooked nosed knave you are,” taunted Skrie, “It must make you feel strong stealing from them’s that can’t fight back. What a fopdoodle.”

The druid pulled the half-elf toward where Aquila lay, still sleeping. Waking the girl, Grubak explained the situation. Shooting Skrie a disgusted look, the girl followed the half-orc out of the clearing as Grubak pushed the half-elf up the trail.

Wiggling her way over to where Malusk lay napping, the cleric gave her big friend a couple of kicks to wake him from the magically-induced slumber. Untying her, Malusk used the ropes to bind Karl so that he could get himself loose, but he’d have to work at it.

“Before the fight started,” Skrie said, “I dropped it in the dirt over here where I was hiding.”

“Why’d ya do that?” asked Malusk.

“I didn’t want them to find it if I got knocked out,” replied the halfling as she sifted through the sand.

The pair searched until they noticed the shadows shift, gathered the still-unconscious Theren, and headed back to Suncall and their rooms at the First Place Inn.

Previous: Tracking the Trackers

Next: Narrow Escape

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