Yolette jumped to her feet as the door opened, admitting almost all the other occupants of the house. They were all filthy, covered in blood and slime and gluey bits of webbing.
“Kalisa said something happened to Joris, and then she ran out of here!” Yolette reported nervously.
“Yes,” Haden said. “Our first order of business is to find out what happened to Joris. If he’s in trouble, we have to go after him. Hells know the man can’t take care of himself for five minutes.”
Talan glanced at Haden, Hexla, and Mal. “I don’t suppose any of you can wave your arms and locate him?”
“Who?” Mal asked. “Oh, him. Not really, no.”
“I can try,” Haden said. “But I’ll need to go shopping first.”
Talan sighed. “It probably would have helped if we’d caught Kalisa before she left.”
“Don’t worry,” Haden said. “We’ll find him.”
“Also that dwarf, Eldgrim, he came by the shop looking for you,” Yolette told Sheen, who thus far had been silent.
“He did? What did he want?” Sheen asked.
“I dunno, he didn’t say.”
Sheen nodded. “Then I’d probably better go to Twelve Factols. What do you need to go shopping for?”
“I need a mirror,” Haden said. “For scrying.”
Talan rummaged around in his pack for a moment and pulled out a beautifully ornate glass. “I found this on Alantavra. Would it help?” Haden took it from the ranger’s hands and examined it thoughtfully for several moments.
“It should be all right.” He placed the mirror on the coffee table and sat cross-legged on the floor. “Do we have anything personal that belongs to Joris?” They searched the room quickly, coming up with a book of Mystran parables. “That’ll work,” Haden said, and began casting the spell. He watched the glass for a time, then shrugged. “Nothing.”
Talan frowned. “He may really be in trouble.”
“Maybe,” Haden said. “But the spell doesn’t always work perfectly. I can try again tomorrow, after I get some sleep.” He looked down at his clothes and grimaced, making an arcane gesture that vanished the filth. Mal made a similar gesture and everyone’s grooming was restored.
Haden awoke suddenly feeling that something was not quite right. It was still dark, but he could hear the sound of frantic conversation coming from below. He opened the door cautiously and peered down the stairs, encountering Talan in the hallway. The ranger was gripping a naked sword and looking alarmed.
A fire still burned in the living room grate, casting a dim reddish light into the room—just enough to foul Haden’s supernatural vision. All he could make out was a shadowy figure standing over another. He glanced at Talan and gestured for the half-elf to cover his eyes, then threw a light spell into the room.
“AAAH!” Mal shouted, wincing in the brilliant glow. Tulio threw himself back in his chair and groaned.
“Mal, what in blazes are you doing?” Haden demanded.
“Trying to find out where the portal to Thazia is, of course.”
“You know, I was having a particularly good dream,” Talan said, scowling. “Couldn’t this wait until morning?”
“I was trying to be quiet,” Mal said, “but he’s being . . . uncooperative.”
“Because you’re being a horse’s ass!” Tulio shouted.
“If you’d just tell me what I NEED to KNOW—“
“I would if you’d ASK ME NICELY!!”
“Keep it DOWN!” Hexla’s voice issued from above. Haden glanced back up the stairs to see Sheen also peering into the hall.
“False alarm, go back to bed,” he told her. Mal was opening his mouth to retort to Tulio. “Both of you SHUT UP!!” The elf’s mouth snapped closed as though he’d been slapped. Haden favored Talan with a long-suffering look.
“Well?” Mal asked when several seconds had passed in silence.
“Mal, Our first priority is to find Joris,” Haden said. “We can talk to Tulio about Thazia when he’s feeling better.” Haden shifted his gaze to the human thief. “As for you, Mal was partly responsible for saving your ass. It wouldn’t kill you to offer him some tolerance and respect. I’m going back to bed.”
Talan woke up for the second time when Hexla pulled the curtains back, admitting the glow that passed for sunlight in Sigil. He stretched and gave her a quick kiss, then trooped downstairs to let Ari out and scrounge up some dog food. Haden was sitting on the floor in the living room scrutinizing the mirror again.
“That’s not good,” the bard remarked in a virtually emotionless tone, his gaze far away.
“What’s not good?” Talan asked.
“Well, it looks like Joris has been turned to stone. And he’s being transported somewhere by what seems to be a wizard.”
“Definitely not good.”
“How well do you know the terrain in . . . uh . . . Faerun? All I can see are bleak rolling hills dotted with the occasional rocky outcrop. One looks like a big face.”
“That sounds a lot like the Evermoors. The face sounds like the Old Man. It’s crawling with trolls, or at least it was. They were becoming a serious problem.”
“What’s a troll?” Haden asked.
“Something we want to avoid if we can,” Talan said.
“It looks as though they’re heading toward the ruins of a big fortress.” Haden sighed and blinked, his eyes focusing on the room. “That’s it. Let’s go get Lissy and see what she can do for us.” He looked over at Tulio, who still hadn’t moved from the armchair. “Do you want to come with us? We have some armor and a Morningstar you can use.”
“I don’t know, maybe I better,” Tulio said dubiously. Hexla wrapped her arms around Talan’s chest and kissed him goodbye very thoroughly.
“Moping around here won’t help,” Haden said. “Let me go get that armor.”
While they were outfitting Tulio, the door banged open and Sheen entered, shaking snowflakes off her cloak. “I went to see Eldgrim. He just wants me to see if I can commission a suit of armor from one of the smiths at the clan where I grew up. Have you found Joris yet?”
“Maybe,” Haden said. “Talan thinks he might be in the Evermoors.”
“That’s not too far from Waterdeep,” Sheen said.
“It’s close to the High Forest, too,” Talan added. “Maybe you can explain about the trolls to Haden.”
“Trolls?” Sheen asked. “They’re big rubbery green humanoids that are always hungry. I think they’re a type of giant, actually.”
Lissandra was in Vander’s at her usual table, sitting hunched over a breakfast. “Hi, Lissy!” Haden bellowed, throwing his arms around her and planting a kiss on her cheek. Lissandra’s face twisted, but she didn’t quite flinch.
“G’morning, Haden,” she muttered.
“I hope we’re not interrupting your breakfast,” Talan said.
“Not at all. I don’t suppose any of you have seen Jazra?”
“She was at the Temple of the Abyss last night,” Sheen offered. Lissandra’s nose wrinkled.
“Visiting her sister, I bet. Oh, well, it isn’t the first time she didn’t make it home. I’m sure she’s fine.”
“You’ll notice she doesn’t ask why we were there,” Haden said aside to Talan. Talan snickered.
“She seemed fine when we saw her. We do need to ask you for another favor, though,” Sheen said carefully.
“Sure, sure, name it,” Lissandra said.
“We need to go back to Faerun, as close to the Evermoors as possible. Joris got . . . banished.”
“Really? I’ll be that was uncomfortable,” Lissandra said. “Lucky for you, I’ve got just the thing. There’s a portal just up the street, called the Gate of the Clueless. It’s a special type of portal. Different keys will take you to different Prime worlds. If you have something with the arcane mark of a wizard from Faerun, for instance, it’ll take you to a cave at the foot of the Lost Peaks.”
“But as long as we have the correct key, it won’t accidentally dump us in the wrong place, right?” Talan asked.
“Right. You may want to hold the key out in front of you, though, so it doesn’t open for something else you’re carrying.”
“Do we have something with the arcane mark of a wizard from Faerun, though?” Haden asked. Lissandra popped a last bite of bread in her mouth and flipped over her breakfast plate, then drew a glowing symbol with the tip of her finger.
“You do now,” she said, handing Haden the plate.
“Thanks, Lissy. You know we love you the most. No matter what anyone else says.”
Sheen poked him in the ribs. “She just ate. It’s rude to try and make her throw up.” Lissandra chuckled, then laughed at Talan’s pained expression.
“Just up the street, in the alley that runs behind the Tenth Pit.” It turned out to be an archway supporting a bridge between the Tenth Pit and another building across the alley. The air sizzled as Haden held up the plate. They emerged in the mouth of a damp and chilly cave. Winter had come. Fortunately the sky above was clear, and the sun shone down brightly. Talan took a moment to orient himself and then set off.
“If we meet any people,” Sheen remarked to Haden as they walked, following Talan, “you should keep a low profile.” Tulio pointed to Mal.
“Mal’s an elf,” Sheen said. “There are lots of elves around here.”
“Yeah,” Haden said. “Just don’t let him talk to anyone.”
By midday they had reached a road, which Talan identified as the Silver Way after some casting around for a milestone. They crossed the road into the blasted countryside known as the Evermoors, reaching the immense face-shaped rock late in the afternoon.
“There’s prints here,” Talan said. “They lead off that direction.” They took a short break, then continued on, following the tracks. Sunset was rapidly approaching by the time a ruined fortress came into view. A trio of blue-skinned giants were barely visible, guarding the ancient gate.
“Uh,” Sheen grunted. “Frost Giants, I think.”
“Are those better or worse than trolls?” Haden asked.
“It depends on your perspective.”
“I think that’s Joris near the fortress entrance,” Talan said, squinting. Everyone strained their eyes, but no one could make out more than a small lumpy blur. Haden blinked and turned his head away, catching sight of movement on a nearby outcrop.
“We have other problems. Looks like an ambush,” he whispered, pointing with his chin. They all began moving toward the outcrop. Then Talan chuckled.
“It’s Kalisa. Well . . . Kalisa and someone else I don’t know. She’s in disguise.”
Haden waved. “Heya, Ridley!”
The other person peeked around the edge of the rock. “Um . . . friends of yours?”
“After a fashion,” Kalisa said. “This is Sheen, Talan, and Haden. And Here’s Mal. And . . .”
“Tulio,” Haden said quickly.
“And I am Kalenthor Nailo of Silverymoon.” He was an elf, dressed in elaborate blue and black robes. His glossy dark hair was held in a queue by two straight ebony sticks.
“There can’t be two of them,” Talan muttered.
“Two of what?” Mal asked.
“Nevermind,” Talan replied quickly.
“Joris is from Silverymoon,” Sheen announced.
“Yes,” Kalenthor replied. “I believe I’ve even met the man, but that was over a year ago.”
“So what are you doing here?” Sheen demanded.
“I was after a thief who fled here with a magical helm he pilfered from the temple of Mystra. I had no notion that he’d acquired a prior acquaintance as statuary.”
“Your thief did this to my Joris?” Kalisa demanded.
“I did not witness the act, but such a thing is not unknown,” Kalenthor said.
“We’re going to get him back,” Sheen said stoutly.
“Excellent,” Kalenthor replied. “I am certain his father will be pleased. You should act quickly, though. I’ve only seen the three Frost Giants, but when they spoke to the thief they intimated that more would be along shortly.”
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