Sharra and Dornir waited soundlessly for Hinckley to leave. As he tried to slip through the kitchen back door, they ambushed him. But, as is his reputation, the halfling proved to be slippery indeed.
He made a break for the back road; the same, by a stroke of luck, Kollin Shyre's battalion was using to head back to town.
Lady was the first to intercept Hinckley, making him drop the map.
"Ah, Hinckley! To what do we owe this odious honor?"
"Choke on dragon dung-"
"Take him, boys."
Hinckley is quickly chained, and Kollin hails the familiar looking pursuers.
"You're Sharra Foxpaw, and her elven partner, correct?"
"Yes, we are, soldier of Darwynia."
"Please, I am Kollin Shyre, friend to Lord Kelperth and Captain of the Guard. Why were you pursuing this thief?"
"We observed his meeting with a very unsettling looking creature. This map he dropped seemed of the utmost importance, and leads to some artifact we're unclear on, yet gravely important."
"Hm. It could be coincidence, but the High King of Cedrica has just put out a call to all nations. We're on our way back to the Keep to relay it to Kelperth himself...Despite it's sensitive nature, I'd wager to say we're on the same quest here."
"As much as I respect the nation of Darwynia," Dornir spoke, as usual, with careful consideration of his words, "I cannot allow us to surrender this map to you...If that was what you were about to suggest."
"I understand your compulsion. After all, you both are legendary hunters. I'd only trust one other person to assist you-
"Boys! Take this slimy thing back to the keep. Relay the message to Kelperth with one other addition: That I regret my absence, but shall be accompanying legendary heroes to find the Crystal of Earth."
...Hinckley escaped custody of the Darwynian Royal Guard three minutes later, of course.
Chapter 4: The Mage Talonmere
Upon further discussion, it was decided amongst the three traveling companions that the Crystal of Earth was indeed the prize they both desired. The forces that kept it hidden had attempted to use an agent to secure it further, only he had been apprehended. Surely, if such forces were able to keep it hidden so long, Hinckley would not be the only agent moving to keep it safe.
Next, where indeed does the map lead to, and how trustworthy would it be?
It could be enchanted to show the wrong location to prying eyes, or it could be an invaluable tool that dropped into their laps.
Dornir's suggestion of seeking the Mage Talonmere's advice seemed the most sound, and so the trio set out to the borderlands between Darwynia and Benoic, where the Mage's lair lay.
After a warm greeting and surprisingly bitter Hallow's Bane tea, they adjourned to Talonmere's study and discussed the map.
"Well, it is definitely enchanted. There's a thumbprint charm, and some sort. Of. Vocal...There!"
A flash of light, first purple, then a sickly yellow, swept over the room. The map rose, then fell dead to the tabletop, rolling out perfectly flat.
"Seems whoever gave him this map was being the utmost secretive...AHA!"
All three heroes, despite their collective legendary fortitudes, jumped in surprise.
"See? At first this map clearly showed a path to the Mystic Isles! I daresay, I'd actually believe such a thing would be found there myself...But what if it wasn't?"
"Is not the Mystic Isles the home of the magic of Avalonia?"
"Calm, friend Dornir. Surely, your people keep the most sacred resting place of the Druids well and wisely. But there are Dark forces at work here. Somehow, sadly, there are those that are actively seeking to keep the Crystal from being found. Look at the map now-"
He slid it over to the trio, who perused it closely. A red line cut a path South, through Benoic and into Antyria, high up into the highest mountain. At the very peak, a large red dot pulsated. The Crystal of Earth lay there, and who knew what else to guard it.
"Isn't that on Anytrian soil?" Kollin asked. "Hm, we just ran into Anytrian soldiers not several hours before we met you."
"There must be a connection. Do you think they know?" said Sharra.
"Surely not. They were at the convention in Cedrica too, heard the news at the same time. Unless there's been a conspiracy-"
"There's no time for conspiracy theories," Dornir cut in, his voice firm. "We must set out at once. We know there will be others looking too, but we must find it first."
"Well said, my Elven friend. Surely suffering an old man such as me won't be too much of an inconvenience? I feel I may have a few talents that would prove useful on your quest."
"We would be honored to have you travel with us, esteemed Mage." Sharra, Dornir, and Kollin all bowed.
"Oh, get up, you endearing yet insane children. We have a Crystal to find!"
To be continued!
Edited by Jason Cicchini, 29 April 2012 - 08:23 PM.