Silence descended on the hut, the faint hum and crackle of dispelled magic still hanging in the air. Weapons were sheathed and Tarkus took a defensive position by the door, standing guard and eyeing Tell suspiciously while his companions explored the room. Grimlock got to his knees and began unbuckling the headless dragonborn’s armour, which appeared to be of a high quality, while Gregg advanced with curiosity on the chest sitting in the corner. Greil turned to Tell, who was still in the form of a tree-like humanoid, hunched over due to the limited headspace.
“Let’s step outside,” he suggested, “I’d like to speak with you about a few things if I may.”
“Certainly” the dryad replied.
As they turned to face the door, an explosion boomed out from the opposite corner of the shack, with a shockwave powerful enough to cause all to teeter momentarily on their feet. A blast of arcane fire, intensely hot but crafted to avoid igniting flammable objects, streaked across the room, fortunately failing to cause injury; for the finely tuned senses of the adventurers allowed them to raise their defences quickly enough – all except for Grimlock, who was too preoccupied undressing his kinsman. The dragonborn rolled over into a crumpled heap and howled for a few seconds before calming himself, getting back up and silently returning to his task.
Wiping sweat from his brow (a natural reaction not only to the surge of flame but the general shock of narrowly dodging an explosion occurring only inches away from his face), Gregg peered into the chest. The box was almost empty; its relatively large interior home to naught but a skull sized sphere, bound in a dark green cloth. Tentatively, eyes darting around for further trap triggers, the invoker lifted the ball from within and began to delicately unravel the material from around it. All but Grimlock watched with baited breath, even Greil and Tell, whose journey outside had been interrupted by Gregg’s actions.
The shroud fell with the faintest of whispers, a small cloud of dust coughing up around it as it settled on the wooden floor. The invoker’s back was to everyone for a few moments more, tension rested on their shoulders with an almost physical weight, Grimlock now even looking up, transfixed. Gregg turned slowly, not taking his eyes from the object in his hands as it was revealed to the others – a glass ball, filled with a milky, opalescent haze, its surface free of imperfections. As he stared intently at the orb, an image began to form, swimming out of the inner-mist as a hallucination may appear to one wracked with fever. An angular elven face, contorted into an aggressive snarl, shimmered in the haze with increasing size and clarity.
The entrance to the shack was smashed open forcefully against Tarkus’ back, throwing flying splinters into the air as shattered pieces of the door rained around the surprised goliath. A well armoured figure stood silhouetted in the gaping aperture, stoically regarding everyone within. With great reluctance, and still staring darkly at Tell, Tarkus turned extraordinarily slowly to face the new arrival, acting against his (possibly self granted) title as the newcomer took a solitary, confident step into the hut.
“Gentlemen” Euven announced – more a general statement than a greeting.
“Euven,” Greil began, his voice risen with irritation, “It seems we can’t shake you. What is it that you’re doing here?” Gregg watched the situation thoughtfully, concerned that the reappearance of this mysterious elf could not be coincidence. Just what had he gotten himself into?
“Once again, I imagine our goals are similar, wizard. I am here following up on something. Where is the witch?”
“Gone” Grimlock growled.
Euven’s eyes darted around the gloomy room, scanning, “Dead?”
“Not dead.” Greil replied, “But gone. What is it you wanted with her?”
Euven paused before speaking, his eyes locked with Greil’s, “I have reason to believe she has a connection with the murder in Goxhill. I found this in the elf’s house” he said, producing a glass orb from beneath his cloak, identical to the one in Gregg’s possession in all aspects other than dimension; Euven’s orb was around half the size. As he held the sphere out for all to see, his attention was drawn to the item’s twin gripped between Gregg’s hands.
“What is that?” he demanded, with militaristic authority.
Gregg, caught off guard, took a moment to stammer out a reply, “This? An impressive beard, my fine sir!”
“Fool, bring the orb to me.”
The invoker glanced over at Greil, who gave a curt nod.
“I want it back” he said, passing the sphere over to the elf.
“Fascinating,” Euven announced after a brief time examining the pair, “and you found this here?”
“I did,” Gregg replied, “Within a cunningly trapped chest…”
Greil interrupted the orb related proceedings with a question, “Have your learnt anything more of Nathir’s murder?”
“Mm, yes” he replied in an airy tone, his attention still firmly on the spheres, “It is my belief that he was a traitor.”
“Indeed. A spy, providing information to enemies of the Elven Empire. Possibly involved in the smuggling of magical artifacts.”
“I see,” Greil’s eyes darted to the dagger, still fused to the dead dragonborn’s lifeless hand, “And it was the orb that led you here? How?”
Euven met his eyes, “A contact of mine within the village suggested this course after I showed her my discovery. Rhea, it seems, is often bothered with the local’s questions about anything even vaguely related to magic.”
“It’s the same reason we’re here” Greil held up his freed hand.
“I see” the elf’s gaze returned to the spheres for further examination, lasting only a few seconds before he turned back to Gregg, holding the larger orb out to the invoker, “Both seem to be inactive now. Curious.” The mystical stones were pocketed.
“Perhaps we should continue discussions outside, our friend here seems rather cramped” Greil suggested, gesturing towards the still hunched over dryad. “Agreed,” replied Euven, “If possible, I would like to question you more about the witch?” he asked, turning to Tell. “More than happy to, bitch tried to kill me.”
The three advanced on the door, joined by Gregg. Tarkus stood to one side to allow them all to pass, that is until Euven, who was last in line, attempted to cross the threshold – the goliath jutted his leg out suddenly in a childish attempt to trip him. Euven sidestepped the bulky, muscular leg with ease and reached down for the hilt of his sword in one liquid movement. The weapon was drawn before anyone could react, the only sound a hushed whisper as the blade was freed. Lifting it above his head, blade facing away from Tarkus, Euven brought it down in a fast, powerful sweep, slamming the pommel into the goliath’s face, shattering his nose. Blood sprayed between Tarkus’ thick fingers as he cried out in shock and pain, his hands covering his dismantled features. Euven continued on his way out of the hut.