Afterthoughts

“I wish ye wouldn’t do that,” said Malusk when Skrie sat at the table with the fighter and the mage at the First Place Inn.

“Aww, did you miss me, Big Guy?” asked the halfling, grinning at her half-orc friend, reaching for a piece of bacon from the thresher in front of him.

“Ye know what I mean,” he shot back. “I cain’t protect ye if’n I don’ know where ye are.”

“I know, Mal,” Skrie responded, patting the half-orc’s hand. “But we needed the ring back.” She looked around the common room, then reached in her belt pouch. Pulling out a cloth, she unfolded it to reveal a plain nipple ring with a stone of the brightest blue. “I’ll check it for magic when we get back to the room,’ she whispered, wrapping the item and returning it to her bag.

“I still think we should give it to Geordo,” said Theren. “after all, he hired us to recover it.”

“I wanna know what it is first,” replied the halfling. “He lied to us about the girl, so why not about his ‘items,’ too?”

The mage sat back, not happy but acquiescing.

When they finished breaking their fast, they went upstairs.

“This doesn’t make sense,” said Skrie, looking at the ring lying on the cloth. “Why would Geordo call this his ‘Precious’ and not mention the girl?” She scratched her head, perplexed.

“Maybe,” began Theren, tapping a finger to his chin. “Maybe the ring has some property that ensorceled him.”

“There’s one way to find out,” replied Skrie. “I can set up a ritual to Detect Magic in an item,” the cleric began pulling the necessary components from her pouch.

“Ah,” said the mage, “good idea. If it’s magic, I’ll see if I can Identify it,” he began searching his satchel for the items he would need to complete his ritual.

A quarter candlemark later, Skrie saw the blue aura surrounding the jewelry. She also felt something … wrong about it. It felt slippery and dirty, like well-used cooking grease that had burned too many times. A memory flooded back.

Skrie stood staring at the portrait by the dim light of her hooded lamp. She had seen that face before but couldn’t place where. As she studied the painting, the woman’s ring caught her eye. A deep blue stone surrounded by three colors of gold filigree emanated a sense of … something from the canvas. The young halfling couldn’t identify the feeling, but it made her skin crawl.

“Well, then,” she said, “that answers that question. And there’s something else,” she stopped, unsure how to describe the oily darkness that swirled insidiously through the glow. “I can sense something … not really evil, but not far from it. It makes my skin crawl.” She looked up at her friends, releasing the spell.

“Ye okay?” asked Malusk, concern in his yellow eyes.

“Aye,” replied the halfling, wiping her palms on her trousers, then rubbing her head.

“It’s got some kind of evil embedded in the magic,” Theren said when he completed his spell. “I wouldn’t put it on if I were you,” he finished, looking at each of his companions.

“Give it back to Geordo?” asked Malusk.

“Not yet,” said Skrie, “I wanna know what it is before I give it to a man that didn’t tell us the truth. Let’s take it to a temple and get a priest to tell us what it is.”

“Does anyone have any silk?” asked Theren.

“No,” said Skrie and Malusk, in unison.

“We need to shield this somehow,” said the mage. “It will influence the wearer, but I can’t tell how.”

“Lead?” asked Skrie. “Maybe the smith has a lead box we can buy.”

“That could work,” replied Theren.

Two hours and a tough negotiation later, the evil was contained in a pewter box, undetectable by magic. They felt safe—for the moment.

Previous: Narrow Escape

Next: The Damned Priestess

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