"What the hell are you doing?" the orc inquired.
"I thought you were dead."
"What makes you think I'm dead?"
"You weren't breathing?"
Harrick looked down at himself and realized that, except for talking, no, he wasn't breathing. "So that's what that one does." He plucked out the quartz next.
"What're you doing?"
Harrick explained his experiment. "I think there are runes there, but they're too bloody small for me to see, I can't think of anybody around hereDubricus might have a magnifying lens," he realized out loud. "Want to come with me?"
Terzin begged off, and Harrick headed over to Dubricus' chambers, where the still all-but-bedridden adventurer was conducting an impromptu lesson for the Keep children. Harrick listened to a quarter hour of the lecture and wondered why a man with such talent and knowledge was out in the wilderness trying to get killed.
"Ah, Harrick, you're feeling better?" Dubricus asked when the children had gone, giving his visitor a hearty handshake.
"Somewhat. Do you have a magnifying lens?"
"Bring it out, I've got something I want to check."
"What is that?" he asked, obviously sensing the elemental force contained in the bag.
"Yes, I know, I'll show you."
Harrick brought out the rod he had tested and examined it under the glass. There at the very center was the tiniest of flaws. They had used some spell that unrolled the stone like a bolt of cloth, and written at its center.
"Blast, still too small." No way to make it out.
"What is that?"
"That is where the rune is."
"You're kidding me."
"No. There." He showed the other. "Somehow they unfolded this thing, carved the rune in the middle of it."
"What is that?"
"Might be Djann work."
"May I?" He took the stone and the glass carefully. "You found this in the caves?"
"Damn, I wish I'd been with you."
"No you don't, you'd probably be dead again."
"According to the good Brother, I was very nearly dead. Head fungus."
"Head fungus. Have to remember to stay away from those."
"You should especially remember not to explode three of them at very close range."
They looked at the other stones, but since they were opaque or nearly so, it was impossible to tell if they had the same central rune.
"Do you know what they do yet?"
"I know what the iridescent one does. If it's in contact with your flesh long enough, you don't need to breathe. I think, from what I can tell, they all give you an aspect of stone. So I'm going to have to experiment with the other two, they apparently activate if they're left in contact with flesh long enough."
"What are you going to do with them?"
"I don't know yet, it depends on what they do."
"Well, I would recommend not telling anyone else about them. Obviously, our traveling band you can trust, but these things would be worth a fortune."
Our? He let it pass. Mentioned that the two of them might want to trade spells, and when Dubricus remarked that he was looking peaked, acknowledged that he could use some rest. Returning to the inn, he tried with the quartz next, and spent the better part of the day with it against his skin.
Eventually he realized that he'd never eaten lunch, that it was well into time for dinner, and he wasn't hungry or thirsty. He set the stone done and immediately felt hunger. After eating, he tackled the third stone. Fell asleep with it in his hand and woke entirely recovered from his ordeal, a full day before he had expected to be up and about. He set the stone down reluctantly, but his wounds did not mysteriously return.
Now that was useful. Things were looking up.
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Copyright © 2000 Brian Rogers et al