A Kender’s Wanderlust

Forest

A Kender’s Wanderlust
by
J. Littler

The air was mild for late fall, there hadn’t been a cloud in the azure sky for weeks. “A perfect time for me to travel back to Kendermore. All my friends have been killed by ogres anyway.” Edmund Barkwood muttered happily to himself as he stuffed his pouches full with what he could find from his late friends’ broken down wagon.

He was tall, rich and well dressed (for a kender), with his well groomed topknot, high black boots, pale green pants and silk shirt. His hoopak was even made of silver and rosewood. Numerous pouches were draped over his thin form. And, luckily for him, he was even educated.

At age thirty-nine he has (as most all kenders have) traversed most of all Ansalon. From Palanthas on down to Tarsis and across the continent to the Blood Sea, he had journeyed. His knowledge of Krynnish jails was vast. He had, a few years ago, attempted to join that Conclave of those interesting wizards as a red robe, but when it comes down to it, he’s still a kender and, well, they said no. Oh, well, he had thought, I could still be a bard.

He and his friends from the Thieves Guild (they told the kender that they were actually borrowers and didn’t really steal, which was why he allowed himself to join up and was travelling with a bunch of thieves at present) were traveling away from a small village they had cleaned out two nights ago. There was in the village, a black robed wizard’s residence. The leader of Edmund’s group, named Darm, hadn’t liked this, and so he had all of them leave the village immediately after. “If he caught us wit’ his stuff he’d prob’ly turn us all into lizards and eat us!” he had told them.

For that very reason, they had been riding two nights straight. Two nights, riding down a bumpy dirt road with no one in sight, nothing to worry about. That is, until now. This was the night the ogres came.

It had been foggy and cold, an hour after the darkness covered the sky, and as luck would have it, their wagon had broken off it’s back wheels tumbling into a ditch. “Damn! Now what are we gonna do?” Darm had said. No one answered, his men stared around sullenly. This was certainly not turning out to be an easy getaway they had expected.

After a minute or so of silence, the mens’ thoughts were abruptly pulled away when the horses started to wildly strain against their harnesses, whinnying and pawing at the ground. All of the thieves were just standing and staring around in confusion, out in the open. Completely unexpecting, as five ogres jumped out of the darkness to surround them.

Luckily Edmund had not been in the wagon (he had dropped one of his pouches out of the back while it was still moving and, while no one was looking he jumped out to look for it, but soon fell in a hole). And so, he was the only survivor. But the kender did get an excellent view of the action safely hidden in the ground.

The next day, after awakening in the same hole, he found the wagon in even worse condition than last night.

Peering around, he began to make an inventory of all the things left in the wagon, “Gee, I don’t remember this thing. How’d that get there? What’s this?…..” Soon he could barely move for his pouches had accidently slipped down around his knees and his arm got stuck in between two drawers that hung halfway out of one of the stolen, massive chests.

After a minute he managed to free himself and fix his pouches in their proper positions. Finding nothing else he could take with him, Edmund decided to find out where he was (he’d forgotten). The kender stuck his little head out the doorway and was disappointed to still find himself on a long, flat empty plain. The ground flowed out endlessly to the east and west. Far ahead, to the north, the flatland gradually gave way to hills. All was quiet and peaceful. And for that very reason, extremely dull. “Oh well, maybe those ogres’ll find me again and tear my limbs off. I’ll bet that would be interesting!”, here he sighed, “Seems those hills are the only things different around here,” he said, eyeing his surroundings, “and since any way I go is as good as any other, I guess I’ll head there.”

Starting off in that direction, the kender began to pass the time by looking at all the goodies in his pouches. A silver candelabra, a small flute, someone’s left shoe, a few necklaces and several gold steal coins where among some of the kender’s newly acquired possessions. Taking the flute, he began to play an impromptu piece, skipping merrily over the tall grass.

The sun had just risen over land, Edmund saw. The sky had streaks of pink and purple stretching across it. Few clouds were present to mar the striking beauty that was the sunrise. Looks like ink spilled over a huge map, he thought, looking up. Still walking, his eyes above him, he soon tumbled down a deep hole. “Drat!”, he mumbled, “This is the same hole I fell in last night. Watch where you’re going!” he waved a finger irritably at the hole, “You could hurt some one ya know!”

After thoroughly admonishing the aperture, he got up. Picking up the flute and crawling out, there was a flash of metal to his right. Going over to it, he crouched and picked his fingers through the dirt. Finally, his hands hit the something that was the source of the beam. Lifting it from the loam, he discovered it to be a necklace.

An oval sapphire pendant outlined in silver dangled from it. Sunlight reflected off its mirrored surface, striking at his eyes, dazzling him. Edmund could tell instantly that this was no trifle, but a rare and valuable piece of jewelry. It was fairly heavy for its size and felt unusually warm to the touch. Probably just the sun’s doing I guess, he thought as he put it on. He didn’t know why he did it, his arms and hands seemed to move of their own volition. Just as the metal touched his neck the hair there bristled, but he didn’t notice.

Edmund snapped his fingers. “I know where I am!” He pulled out a clump of maps and hurriedly looked through them. “Ah ha! I’ve found it!” Edmund put the map down and stuffed the rest back in his sack. After staring intently at the remaining map for a second he said “I’m just north of Silvenesti. Good thing I remembered.” He smiled smugly. “Hey, I just realized I sure talk a lot to myself when I’m alone.” Here he shrugged, “Well good, at least I’m not to far from home—”

Edmund tried to rise, but his legs began to feel wobbly and he collapsed back to the ground. Grabbing his stomach, he began to feel queasy. A drowsiness quickly assailed him and, to top it all off, his left leg hit a rock and throbbed painfully.

Rolling onto his back, the kender stared at the rising sun. A fuzzy ball of color was all Edmund’s eyes could make out.

Lying there in the grass, Edmund tried once again to stand up. But to no avail, his body feeling stiff and heavy.

After a minute, though, he started to relax, the strange sensations somewhat abating.

The wind rose, blowing strongly from the east. The grass by the kender’s head danced wildly in the breeze. Hair blew in his eyes but he was too tired to brush the strands out. The air felt very comforting. Then, his vision started to blur severely. A prodigious yawn escaped his lips. An adjacent copse of trees waved to and fro, all being very calm. The kender felt his eyes close.

A copse of trees!? Abruptly he sat up, all torpidness gone, staring around at a forest that just materialized out of nowhere to arrive at his feet.

“How’d these trees get here?” he wondered. All around him were trees, tall oaks in fact, all around except directly behind. Edmund turned and saw he stood upon a tall knoll. There were many other lower ones around it. And off to right, the bumpy land ended and a plain began. It was the same plain he had just been traversing he realized. The expanse seemed endlessly long from up here, he could barely make out the collapsed wagon in the golden morning light.

He looked down and saw he was uncomfortably close to the edge of the steep hill. And while he was curious about how it might feel to tumble all the way down into the jagged rocks thirty feet below, he really didn’t want to get his clothes dirty, and so he backed away, grasping his hoopak tightly. He had just been starting to contemplate how in the Abyss did he suddenly find himself in the hills when only a minute ago he was at least half a mile away when he heard voices. The kender ducked down (in case it was the ogres) and crawled toward the sound. He heard deep gruff voices. They seemed to be arguing,”Weaddfiveeggs andtwograpefruitsthenaddthelivecrab.” one said. “Nononono! Twoeggsthen thecrabandfivegrapefruitsyoudummy!” another argued. Edmund decided this certainly looked interesting enough to continue listening, and the voices didn’t seem likely to stop for the moment, so he made himself more comfortable. They just kept on speaking quickly together, arguing over grapefruits and eggs and something called the helmet of intelligence or some such thing. Soon he became bored. Why all this fuss over a salad and a helmet, he thought.

He decided it best to hop out from behind his bush and tell them how to make a much simpler salad. Right when he got up and peered over it, he was astonished to find, not two people standing around a salad bowl full of eggs and grapefruit, but several gnomes sitting in a circle around a gully dwarf with a metal bowl over his head. Two gnomes that were standing fit the voices he heard. One had a tablet full of scribbled figures on it and was petulantly waving it in the other’s face. The rest were either muttering to themselves staring at there own tablets, writing furiously, or just plain sleeping. He had just opened his mouth when there was a loud boom and a blinding flash of light. Gnomes, eggs and grapefruit flew everywhere. One particularly large egg yolk hit the kender right in the face. The force of the blow knocked him off his feet. Voices shouted “Save the helmet! Save the helmet!”

Then all was quiet. The egg seeped into Edmund’s mouth and onto his tongue. Pretty good, he thought smacking his lips, although it needs a bit more salt, and I really don’t enjoy it in my eyes. I can’t see! He got up and wiped the yellow goop from his eyes.

Taking one step forward, he promptly tripped over the unconscious gully dwarf. As he picked himself up he heard a groan to his right. Edmund (somewhat bedraggled but too overcome by his kender curiosity to notice) walked over and found a gnome laying face-up on the ground, one of the same gnomes he saw arguing. “Hey you. Get up.” Edmund said happily, kicking the little man on the foot. The gnome sat up groggily and groaned again. “Toomanyeggs…” he mumbled to himself. At the sight of the kender, he jumped backwards four feet clutching his backpack to his chest. “Oh! You’re awake, good.” Edmund said, “My names Edmund, and who are you?” The gnome shook his head and mumbled weakly “Thoughtyouwereagiantegg—”

“Enough ’bout eggs!” screeched the half-dead gully dwarf in the distance. “Me?”, pondered the kender, not hearing the dwarf, “Well no, I’m not. But I bet that would be pretty fun! Have you seen any around? I’ve always wanted to meet one. Well not always, but since just now I did. Hey, have you met one? What was it like? Did it slither around muttering how it was gonna cook you?” By this point the gnome fainted. “Hey! not again!” The kender sighed and picked the gnome up onto his feet. He started to shake him. Then he heard a strange squeal directly behind him. Edmund whipped around, dropping the gnome, to see what new wonder awaited him. Unfortunately, it was only the gully dwarf awakening. He put his attention back on the gnome.

“Ohwhatadaymymynextimeweshouldusesomeparsely—” The gnome was jabbering on even before he was totally awake. Still talking and now fully conscious he shuffled over to where the other gnomes lay stirring dazedly. My my, the cheerful kender thought, what a peculiar group I’ve stumbled upon. But, then again, all gnomes seemed peculiar to him.

For the rest of the day after all of the group awoke the gnomes explained to Edmund that they were in the process of perfecting a device that would make anyone a genius. Gnill —the gnome he met after the explosion— told the attentive kender that they still didn’t have the ingredients precise yet, as the kender first saw with the explosion. The gnome said something about referring it to the committee (whatever that was) and asked Edmund if he wanted to help. He gladly said yes but was later disappointed to discover that he wouldn’t be doing any of the technical stuff, just gathering ingredients and wood from the forest. “Safety precautions” was all Gnill answered for the kender’s questions of why. “Probably get us all killed.” he had muttered under his breath. But Edmund thought they could kill themselves easily enough without him, for every day it seems the gnomes would be saying “We’ve finally got it!” only to have their hopes get blown away with the puff of smoke after the explosion, gnomes shaking their heads and muttering “There’s always tomorrow.” and, “Lose more test subjects that way.”

After that first day, the gnomes inquired about his name, being that it didn’t sound kenderish at all. “Well”, he had said, “my name—my first name anyway—was given to me by a human lady. Some one had stolen her purse and I found it. Can you believe that! How could anyone steal anything! It’s awful what the world’s become these days. Anyway, I had found it lying in some guys backpack lonely and forgotten. So I decided to keep it company. The next day while I was rummaging through it, this lady comes over to me and says that’s hers and asks me how I got it. I told the truth, that I found it lying in some forgotten pack. I gave the purse to her and we started talking. She asked me about my family and I told her that they all got burned alive after my father decided to find out what it would feel like to have his arms burned off when the fire accidently started a conflagration. The whole house was ablaze! It was great! Anyway she then asked what my name was and I said that my parents must’ve forgotten to give me one because I couldn’t remember it so she named me Edmund.” He took a deep breath.”She was real nice. Anyway, then I went to look at some nice maps lying on a table and when I looked behind me she was gone. I wonder where she had to run off to.” He shrugged and went into the forest to get some wood.

After a couple of days the group had traveled north to the Bay of Balifor and set up camp out on its southwestern coast. The gnomes had finally gotten some progress in their research of what they called “nylon” which they were using to make “umbrellas” (the helmet of intelligence being stuck in committee) Edmund, not particularly interested anyway, would wonder up and down the coast looking for any other people who could tell him some stories about dragons or other equally intriguing subjects. Asking questions like, if they knew any dragons personally . But, unfortunately, none whom he met were that talkative. Usually he would receive answers such as “Please! Go away!” and the like. Every now and then his neck would experience a burning sensation and some dizziness would assail him. He dimly recalled that the feelings started after he acquired the knuckle, but he never gave it much thought.

One starry night Edmund was lost, and bored. It was a nice night. Cool and breezy. The kender had been thinking about how nice it would be to get lost at sea, dying of thirst, eating raw fish to survive, when a strange sound disturbed his thoughts, the same sound that he had been following. He was getting tired and decided to try to find his way back.”Hmm, let’s see,” Edmund said aloud, twisting his topknot around his fingers, “I was on my way back to camp when I heard something. I followed it for a while to see why it was wandering around in the forest in the middle of the night. Then I got sick of walking around so and I sat down to rest. Then-” there it was again, louder this time, a kind of scrape, scrape, crunch, shuffle, scrape that was coming from, well from right behind him! The kender whipped around, and was confronted by an army of hobgoblins.

At least, that was his first impression. They actually numbered in about twelve, all carrying shortswords and maces with leather armor. “Well hullo!” Edmund said cheerily, and it seemed a few of the hobgoblins grimaced in disgust before a coarse hemp bag was thrown over him and everything went dark.

The sound of flapping feet brought the bedraggled kender to reality, that and the bucket of cold water that was splashed over him. He sat up dizzily to find himself in a cage full of people, all of them weak and sickly. His hoopak was gone, but strangely enough, he still wore the necklace. Hobgoblin and human guards stood around the cage, weapons unsheathed. He appeared to be in a large cave with overhanging stalactites like massive teeth preparing to crush them all. He coughed, the whole place reeked with some putrid odor. Probably coming from the hobgoblins and that pile of bones covered in green fuzz, the kender thought. The dim cave was about thirty feet tall and endlessly long, the torches burning on the sides of the grotto only illuminated a limited area.

Brushing wayward strands of wet hair out of his eyes, he saw a heavily cloaked figure appear out of the darkness and come up to the cage holding a key. Edmund started getting a severe burning sensation around his neck and as the figure opened the door it increased to the point where he was overwhelmed and he fell back. “Get over here kender!” the man growled and reached in. At that moment a bright blue flash shot out of the necklace’s pendant and enveloped him in deadly, dancing sapphire flame. There was a loud whooshing sound and a squish as the cloaked person fell into the guards. All that was left of him was smeared all over the floor and those guards. One of the humans retched.

Edmund got up, eyes wide with wonder. “I did that! Wow! I thought about splattering that guy and Bang! it happened.” Staring at the grisly sight, he realized he wasn’t home free just yet. The kender decided to try out his necklace, so he thought about being invisible. The hair stood up on the back of his neck, and then, he was invisible. I better look around and find out how to get out of this dark cavern, he thought as he quietly left the cage, making no more noise than a mouse. Now, where to go from here.

Past the cage, after about an hour of walking with nothing but dark rock around him, he finally could make out a small shack in the dim torchlight coming from the walls. It looked to be a guard room. Coming closer to it, Edmund could hear snores and groans emanating from within. He passed around that.

On and on he walked, desperate to find an exit. After what felt like several more hours did Edmund sense a change in the dull monotony that was the cave. And that was only the floor getting steeper. After a moment, the air began to get more humid as he went ever lower. The walls began to glisten with the moisture. Farther and farther, step after step, he kept on.

Why he could see so well, he didn’t know, the torches having ended long ago. The light had an odd pink cast to it and as hard as he tried, he couldn’t name its source.

He just kept walking and walking. The cave going on forever, and finally, Edmund forgot where he was, not really caring anymore, and got to thinking about his necklace. “So, it’s magic,” he murmured to himself,”I do love magic. I guess that’s the reason it always felt so hot around my neck, and why I just appeared on that hill! Man, I wonder what else it can do,” he continued, grasping the pendant,”When I get back, I’ll be the most popular kender in all of Kendermore!” With fond dreams of using it to save his homeland from legions of vicious and ruthless dragons, having a statue made in his honor, he kept going.

He had just taken a breath when he rounded a corner; and gasped in amazement at what he saw. Edmund had just stepped into the most interesting place he had ever been in his whole life! He stood in a humungous cavern. Lined with glowing pink crystals and strange plants, it looked more like some distant moon than a cave. The air was so heavy with moisture now, that a thick fog permeated the area. He could barely see his feet, yet at the same time everything else stood out with vivid clarity. The soothing drip, drip sound could be heard easily in the distance. Across the great expanse, a bright blue lake could be seen, glowing with the same weird light as the crystals.

That’s why I could still see, the kender thought in amazement as he ran to one of the many pink minerals. It was about three and a half feet tall coming to his shoulder, others were up to ten feet, looking like solidified waves of frozen liquid. He could feel a strange aura of energy around them whenever he got within three feet of one. Feeling its surface, Edmund was thoroughly delighted to feel the thing pulse beneath his fingers. It convulsed rhythmically, like the beating of a heart. He stared hard at the surface, thinking he saw faint eyes staring back at him. Nothing, he mused. Just my imagination.

He turned to study the top of the cavern. Long, wide vines hung from the expansive ceiling. They swirled and rocked, as if a strong breeze assailed them, yet the kender couldn’t fell any wind, seeming to whisper to one another as he passed them on his way toward the lake.

The whole area was bowl shaped, the top of the bowl made of hard bedrock, while the sides of the depression seemed to be layered in clay. The walls around the lake looked mirror smooth, reflecting the light of the lake directly back, creating an almost palpable looking wall of brightness. Which ended at the end of the lake itself, the rest of the cavern floor being moderately dim. Blind crickets hopped here and there, being stalked by equally colorless and eyeless geckos.

The ground started softening as the lake loomed ever closer, Edmund’s footfalls starting to make squishing sounds. After a few seconds, his feet slowed. His legs beginning to have a tough time pulling out of the ground, this part of the cave floor being especially sticky and gooey. He was practically panting with the effort. After a few more minutes of this, he stopped. Looking down, he realized for the first time that he was sinking. Edmund hadn’t noticed it before, but now that his attention was directed to it, he could see his feet sink just a tiny bit with each step he took. Looking around, the kender was beginning to get worried. The nearest solid ground was twenty yards away now, and he noticed that those strange vines were a lot lower than before, almost touching the ground. It looked to Edmund that exit was now not an option. They slithered and writhed as he watched. He decided to continue on, not really wanting to find out if the vines were friendly or not.

He barely reached the lake. The spongy ground had swallowed him up to his knees by the time he finally saw the sandy coast that surrounded it. Edmund crawled gratefully onto that sand and collapsed into a soggy heap.

The kender sat up and rubbed his scum filled eyes. Peering hazily around the grotto, Edmund decided he was hungry. After a few minutes, he found a piece of reasonably clean rye bread in his vest pocket. Immediately, he began munching. A few minutes later, he finished and prepared to stand. With a yawn, he pulled himself off the gritty floor. I need a bath, he thought eyeing his brown spattered clothes, (he did look like he just came out of a fight with a Minotaur), so he jumped in the lake.

The water felt strange to him as his skin made contact. It was as if the liquid began poking and prodding at him with invisible fingers. Well, everything’s strange around here, Edmund thought, so he ignored it.

He was about to yawn when, for some reason, everything went blue. He was being sucked under! Swallowing a mouthful of water, his hands tried to grab whatever was pulling him, but they felt nothing. Frantically, he kicked and paddled, hoping to get to shore, yet it was far out of reach now. Down and down he went seemingly for hours, his hair streaming out behind him, yet strangely, he did not drown. The bottom came into view and he saw where the suction was coming from. A huge hole rent the smooth crystalline bottom of the strange lake.

Suddenly his speed shot up and he whooshed down the hole, then up, where the water ended. Edmund found himself flying through the air to land head on a rock wall.

After resting face first on the warm stone floor for a moment, he rolled onto his back. Dazed, and seeing stars, the sopping wet kender looked about him. He saw he was in a perfectly rectangular room with walls of granite. Fifteen feet high, twice as wide and fifty long, lined with green globes of light, smelling like ogre vomit, Edmund was thoroughly delighted. This is the most adventure I’ve had in years! he thought merrily. Edmund sat up and went to remake his topknot, which was spewed all around his head and face, when he realized it was dry! And so were his clothes! Must be the searing heat coming from that wall, he thought. And the searing heat coming from that wall must be originating from that evil looking rotting head that just appeared right from that crevice above my head, he realized staring dreamily up at the ceiling. The heat was making him feel giddy, accompanied by his headache and what not, it sure made a strange combination. Like drinking an entire jug of wine.

The kender blinked, looking up again and quickly returned to reality. The head of the creature, he saw, was about five feet long and two feet wide, not counting the neck that tapered away into the crack, for which Edmund could see only part. It stared at him malevolently, steaming liquid bubbling from it’s decaying jaws. The thing reared it’s head back, and the kender knew that he had seconds before it would attack. I wish there was someplace in here where that thing couldn’t get to me, he thought. And just as he thought that, the monster attacked. Edmund dived under the creature, a mere scant three feet from it’s jaws which crunched loudly as they slammed into the stone floor. The beast roared in pain, deafening the kender and shaking the very foundation of the rock itself, rubble tumbling in his face.

The creatures saliva burned to the touch, and he was being drenched in it. Suffocating from the heat, Edmund looked behind him and was surprised to see a long tunnel stretch before him. Quickly, he ran for it. More liquid pouring in waves behind him. He gagged as the stuff entered his mouth. The taste as well as the heat making him feel nauseous. He entered the entrance and quickly rounded a corner.

Panting, he practically fell to the floor, he was so tired. “Reorox! What a day!” he huffed, and passed out cold.

Edmund awoke to a hard floor and moist hot air. Looking around, he at first didn’t recognize where he was. Then it dawned on him. “Oh yea. Right. Trapped in tunnel.” he said groggily, struggling to force himself up. Brushing himself off, he leaned against the wall of the tunnel.

For a few moments, all he could do was stare at the wall in front of him, his mind reeling with the events that have been transpiring recently. Finding a powerful magical necklace, getting trapped underground, almost drowned and almost being bitten in half, he was already having one spectacular week, and he still had more to go! And he was still alive! Suddenly energetic, he jumped to his feet and started down the hall.

After about fifteen minutes of walking, he was beginning to get bored. The ceiling was about ten feet tall and lit with lanterns every five feet or so apart. Edmund slipped now and then for the floor was uneven and slippery with moisture. Never diverging, seeming to go on forever in the dim light, the environment was fairly uninteresting. No holes in the walls or pits in the floor for monsters to jump out and eat you from. This was certainly one of the most dull and uncomfortable places I’ve ever been in, he thought drearily. Now the lake on the other hand… He kept on walking.

After a bit, Edmund’s pace began to deteriorate. Then, “Now this is something different!” he whooped. Looking ahead, the kender could see a strip of large rents marring the surface of the floor, much nicer than the monotony of smooth cobblestone. They zigzagged drunkenly, sometimes winding up the wall. A few of the largest even cut through the ceiling itself. Walking to the edge of the first pit, he looked down and couldn’t see it’s bottom. Must be deep, he surmised. It was too wide to jump over, and Edmund wondered how in the Abyss was he to cross all these clefts. Sighing, he tried to reason it out. “They’re probably too deep to just jump into and climb out the other side (I probably would be smeared all over the rocky bottom if I jumped), and they’re too wide too just hop over, so that leaves, the ledge.” Squinting, he could see a bit of the floor extending out from the left wall. Just wide enough for a kender.

Grimly, Edmund stepped upon the slippery, debris filled path. He inched his way forward, arms trying to grip the wall as he felt his way along. After a while, the kender’s confidence rose. Then without warning, his left foot missed its mark and dangled in empty space for a few terrifying seconds. Yanking hard, Edmund got his foot back upon the ledge. Breathing heavily, he started off again.

As he inched forward, his hands and feet began to feel numb. This proved to be a great annoyance, for Edmund now really couldn’t tell if he still held his grip upon the wall or not. Also, he didn’t no for how much longer he had to go. And he was already exhausted! The kender didn’t even know if the ledge beneath his feet might end in the next step or so, for that matter. With that thought, Edmund forced his head to turn in the direction ahead of him. He could barely see the narrow area stretch into the distance. It continued without break until lost in shadow at the end of his vision. Good, he thought, at least I still have some ground.

One hour passed. Edmund felt a cool updraft spill over him as he wormed his way on. He could hear waterfalls below him. It sure seems a long way down now, the kender thought tiredly. I bet if I fell at this distance, I probably could take a nap and then wake up in time to see the ground rush up to meet me!

Another hour passed. And thankfully, Edmund’s feet landed on firm ground. Peering behind him, he looked to see all the treacherous ground he had covered. After all that work, oddly, he wasn’t that tired anymore. His necklace was feeling hotter than usual, he noted.

Edmund sensed it had been weeks since he last saw the sun. Indeed, he even felt his memory of what it looked like, seem to fade. Around here it was so very dark. The kender swallowed hard. He was so very thirsty! What he wouldn’t give for a nice drink of water. His mind going back to the waterfalls he had heard beneath him on the ledge. Grabbing his swinging pendant, he asked, “You know, I’m really thirsty. Could you poof up some water or something—”, a light rain appeared over his head. A cup materialized in his hands and Edmund drank gladly. And when he was done, they both vanished. Cracking his fingers and smiling cheerfully, he turned and left the scarred path behind.

After a while, Edmund found what he had been waiting for. He saw that the tunnel ended gratefully in a door. Walking up to it he observed a golden doorknob protruding from glossy rosewood, a cast of a writhing golden snake wrapped around the knob, glaring balefully into empty space. What a curious looking statue, he thought. It seemed to the kender that whenever he stared into its eyes, they twinkled with life. He shrugged off the notion, reaching for the knob. Then, the kender was taken aback to see the snake move! He withdrew his hand just in time from being bitten. “Wow!” Edmund breathed, staring at the snake, which seemed to oddly be growing larger every second. It slithered to the floor and hit it with a clank, the snake’s metal scales scraping across the stone floor. Edmund took a step backwards, and, for some reason, couldn’t move back any further. The snake started to move toward him. Slowly, almost leisurely it approached. It was about twice his size now, And moved to rest five feet in front of him, lifting it’s head to the kender’s eye level. Edmund grasped his magical pendant “Quick! Do something. I’m going to be eaten in the next five seconds if you don’t.” he told the device sternly. He said this under his breath (so the snake wouldn’t hear of course, if it could hear. Edmund wasn’t sure).

The pendant finally did do something. It began to glow blue accompanied by the now accustomed to burning sensation on his neck. The snake suddenly backed away, as if afraid. Edmund, seeing this, boldly took a step forward, forcing the snake against the door. “Ah, ha! Now who’s running, mmmh!” he said, taking the pendant and hitting the snake over the head with it. There was an instantaneous explosion as he did this. Metal odds and ends flew around him as he himself flew through the air until he splattered against the wall. At least he thought he splattered. Waiting a few seconds for the sparks to settle, he stood up slowly (in case anything was broken) and cracked his knuckles. Finally!, he thought, things have gotten interesting again! Gleefully he strode to the door, and before he opened it, he patted his pendant lovingly and placed back around his neck.

Finding the door not locked, Edmund opened it, and almost fell straight down a dark spiraling staircase. Catching himself just in time, he stood directly at the edge. It was carved directly out of the floor, he saw, which was made from brown cobblestones, unlike the tunnel from where he had just come. Stale, dry air wafted up from its shadowy depths. Grasping the pendant, he said, “Hey! How ’bout some light!” In acquiescence, dull blue light spewed forth from the crystal. The kender started on down the steps. There were not many of them, it didn’t take long until he had reached the end. Edmund was now in what looked like a very large room. So large he couldn’t see any walls, only a floor and ceiling were visible. Even with the glowing pendant, he was surrounded in shadow.

As he stared into endless space, not deigning to go any further, a strange sound became discernable to his pointed ears. At first, it was a low ringing that seemed to come from the kenders own fevered mind. But he soon realized that it was originating from the room itself, as though it were annoyed at having an uninvited kender tromping upon its sacrosanct halls. Edmund felt frozen. Even as he began to pick out things in the darkness, which seemed to be receding with the droning sound’s appearance, even when he could sense that horrible presence rising, which caused such a shiver of fear that no kender should feel, he still couldn’t move. He could barely breath.

The room suddenly fell silent. And with the silence came light. Decaying visages hovered all around the gaping kender. Connected to those heads were shambling mounds of ancient bones. Gray tatters of what must have once been clothing hung around their crumbling bodies. A musty smell spread out from their forms. Like mold, suggesting that they must have been dead a long time. There must have been dozens, all carrying rusted and blunted swords. And behind them was a figure much more dark, a sense of superiority and power flowing from it. Carrying a staff in its left hand, swathed in black robes, was, of all things to run into on the face of Krynn, a lich.

An abomination of nature, chilling the blood to even look upon its ghastly visage. Edmund, faced with it, was having trouble standing. His legs turned to butter and his stomach felt like it were to leap out of his mouth. But he shook the feeling off and tried to stand tall.

Speaking with a surprisingly clear voice for one whose vocal cords had rotted away centuries ago, the lich pointed at the kender’s neck. “That necklace has been lost from me for three hundred years. And now as fate would have it you kender, have run into one of my hobgoblin search parties unwittingly bringing it back to me. Now I shall escape my subterranean prison and return to the world which banished me.”

Edmund couldn’t think, he was being slowly dragged across the expanse to be thrown at the lich’s feet. So, I’ve found the owner to the necklace, he thought. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. The lich began to grasp the chain and prepare to pull it off, the kender flinched as the fingers bit into his skin. I’m probably gonna die, Edmund thought, probably—

Struck with an idea, he rolled out from the surprised lich’s reach and grabbed the pendant, his pendant After all, he’d found it. Mentally commanding it to attack the lich, he jumped behind a fallen pillar (in case the lich felt inclined to reciprocate his attack, which he probably would). Just as a blue fireball of flame sped forth from his sapphire, as he expected, a nice counter of raining needles of white light shot out from his opponent’s dead hand. He dropped to his knees. But not in time to prevent two of the needles from piercing his left shoulder.

Screaming, he felt like a thousand wasps had stung him in the same spot. Then, his entire left arm went numb. He peeked around the column to see with satisfaction that the lich had been damaged as well. Edmund was amazed with how the events of his life had taken off. I’m battling a lich!, he thought with ecstatic pride. And I’m still alive!

His reverie was broken when he heard low chanting. I need some shielding, the kender mentally told the pendant. Just as he was surrounded in a bubble of energy, a great wave of boulders flew at him. He was swept backwards into a wall. Standing up, he again commanded his necklace and again the magical fireball shot out to strike the ancient mage. Fragments of bone and cloth spewed out over the floor behind him.

Getting to his feet, the archmage spoke. “I’m impressed, a kender gaining control over such a device.”, he bowed to the speechless Edmund, “My name is Olron.” he added. Edmund came to his senses and responded, “Well, hello Olron! I’m Edmund Barkwood.”, he bowed to the lich, “You know, I’ve never met a lich before. And well—” Olron cut him off, “You have equaled my magic with your magic. We seem to be at a stalemate for the moment. And being so, I would grant you safe leave of this place, to return to the surface. But only if you relinquish my necklace.” Edmund stared at the glowing sapphire that felt so warm in his hand, and said, “But if I give you this, than you’ll be free of here to cause more trouble above. So, I’m sorry but I’m keeping it.”

Sighing, the lich pointed at the ceiling above the kender and commanded it to bury him. “So then it must now come to a dual. The one who survives escapes.” the lich replied. Stones gave way instantly as the voice which was too alive for such a being ended. Edmund charged ahead, centering all his thoughts to make his shield stronger. It became so bright it should have blinded him, but didn’t. He heard bones crunching under the falling boulders and saw the army of skeletons retreating into large rents within the walls.

Looking ahead, he saw Olron flying at him, surrounded by writhing firesnakes, all hissing and spitting. With a resounding boom, wanderer and sorcerer connected. The force of magic and velocity sending the two forms about fifty feet back.

Edmund spun through wall after wall, until finally, he skidded to a halt. Opening his eyes, he saw he was lying in an underground stream, now running red with his own blood. Looking closely at his chest, he saw ten finger wide slashes run down it about three inches. Prodding them gently, he realized they weren’t too deep. He’ll live. Then, he realized something else. Something very harrowing and distressing. The magical necklace was gone. As he stared more intently at himself he thought he could see a fine blue powder completely covering him. The remnants of the pendant, his mind registered. And slowly as he watched, the grains infused themselves within his wounds. They began to glow with a familiar sapphire glow, and then the light was gone. And with it, went his wounds.

Edmund crawled down the tunnel, feeling the cool water flow around his hands. A light wind touched his forehead, revealing to him that this must be a way out. Yes, a light appeared as he rounded a bend. The kender saw that weird pink glow. He saw the lake with its overhanging vines, knowing now where he was. Standing up, he tried walking.

Without warning, a loud wail emanated behind him. He twirled around as fast as his tired body would let him. There, in torn black robes, was the lich. Missing about half his skull and walking on one leg, he didn’t look all that threatening. But still, Edmund felt the look in his red eyes that could well freeze the blood. Olron fell to his one knee. Opening his cracked maw he forced out the words, “Well, kender, you were lucky to have such a powerful device in your possession. Else I would have defeated you before the battle even begun. But now, I’m free!” He laughed, or tried to, but instead his jaw cracked and he choked. It seemed to Edmund that Olron was disintegrating before his very eyes. Then, the lich collapsed into the stream where his bones were washed away by the splashing water.

Edmund Barkwood (still alive) walked across the mouth of the old cave, cheered to finally see the sunrise once more. He’d been underground for about a week! As walked down the path, he listened to the sounds of the surface world. Birds chirping amiably, squirrels jumping from tree to tree after each other, the wind. It was all so inviting.

“Well, I guess I’ll be heading back to Kendermore,” he thought aloud, “Wonder how I’ll afford a ship to board on though. I’m awfully tired of walking.” His thoughts were interrupted when a flash of light caught his eye . Looking in that direction, he spotted something lying in the shadow of a great oak, glowing faintly red. Trotting over, he lifted the object to his eye.”Hey, a ruby!” Pressing into his palm, it felt strangely warm. The kender smiled. Stuffing that hand into a pouch, Edmund was not startled when he pulled out a fistful of gold coins.

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