"Harold, build a fire," Ivo said.
"Get Harald to do it, Little Rat is hurt," replied the thief with a note of concern in his voice. The halfling wrapped a length of cloth around the young orc's head. Blood soaked through quickly and joined the drying trail down the little Rat's face.
"Oohhh!" Little Rat moaned.
"Good, you're still alive," said Harold.
"Head hurt," the small orc put both his hands to the wound, then pulled them back as if he touched a burning coal. "Ow!"
"What were you thinking," chided Harold. "Knives are next to useless against those things."
"We need to burn these bones," Ivo put his foot down on a hand that crawled across the floor like a spider. "They're pulling together like the body of a troll."
"Ivo," Harald said, "there are no doors that I can see, just that portal. A fire might smoke us out."
Ivo broke the skeletal fingers beneath his foot and scattered the fragments of bone with a kick. "Keep an eye on the remains then or we will be fighting these creatures all over again."
"We?" Harald shook his head.
"Take the light," Ivo handed the ranger the enchanted torch, then stood by Harold and stared over the halfling's shoulder. "That looks well done."
"I've had lots of practice," Harold said securing the bandage he had wrapped round the orc's head. "Mostly on myself," he mumbled.
"If you are done then help me search," said Ivo. "There should be another way out. You are sure that Talberth went through the door?"
"It might not matter," said Harald. The ranger bent and grabbed the largest piece of a broken skull from a pile of fragmented bone. "This room is not the one that my sword touched through the mist. I felt walls close to either side, but here," he nodded toward the swirling mist, "here the door is in the middle of that wall."
"He went through the middle door,"Harold looked up. "It looked like solid stone. Who can tell in a place like this if that door lead to this room."
"I will use a spell," said Ivo. "The same that I used before, but it will only show me where magic is active and how strong. If the doors are simply hidden we will have to find them by other means."
"I can help there," said Harold.
The thief had finished binding the young orc's wounds. Ivo gestured and spoke gnomish words of magic that the others could not make out. Slowly he pivoted in a circle and pointed with his hand, and where he pointed glowing light came forth. The skeletal bones showed as a vibrant green. They were scattered about the room, some in piles that flowed like bugs atop a carcass, others were mere fragments that lay still, too far away to join together and reform. It was the back wall of the room that reacted the strongest. From floor to ceiling, from side to side, it glowed blue, bright enough to light up the entire room.
"That's something," said Harold. "I think we have found our door."
"Before we go further in we should make sure we can get out," Harald lowered the enchanted torch he held. The glow seemed even stronger in the dark.
"If that is a door," said Ivo. He pulled the silver wire from his pack and straightened it out again. "Hold one end, I will walk through and see if this door still leads out."
* * *
"Man-Ze-O, Em-Pere!" Talberth commanded. The skeletons froze in place leaving Talberth still bound in stone manacles that floated in the air. The words of ancient Suel worked like a magic spell, whatever force controlled the animated bones recognized the old imperial tongue and obeyed. "Miz-So, Miz-So Ep-Ze" he shouted. One of the skeletons began to tremble then came apart, its bones clattered to the floor. "Hells!" Talberth cursed. "Obviously not the right command."
A breeze touched his face; it raised dust and made him sneeze. Somewhere a door had opened, from where he stood, held at to the chamber wall, Talberth could see the far end of the room. At the entrance there was a figure, gray as stone but insubstantial as a cloud. It floated like the mist that seemed to form its body. The closer it came the more it appeared to be a man. Talberth could make out greater detail in the smoky haze; Arms, legs, a head with flowing hair; that was certain. It wore a cloak that billowed behind it like a flag, blown by a wind that Talberth could not feel. It had a bearded face and eyes that glowed as red as coals just stirred to life. When it was only an arm's-length away it opened its mouth, a black and empty pit, and words flowed out. The creature spoke as if from somewhere far away, its form simply a conduit that linked its spirit to this oerthly realm.
"Fe-Mos Su-El, Fe-Et Su-El," the voice wailed.
"Suel Ve-Vae," Talberth told the wraith.
"Su-El Pos-Fa-Ner Ver-Uz," the wraith replied. "Ob-Te-Em-Ro," it bowed down before Talberth and the manacles came free. The mage dropped, his arms felt like they were on fire. He hugged himself and rubbed at the muscles. A sharp pain jumped from the small of his back and between his shoulder blades.
Talberth glanced up into the burning eyes. "For-Es Mo-Nas-Tre," he intoned the dusty words. The wraith stood and turned, it waved a finger and the skeleton offered Talberth its arm.
The chilling cold lasted only a fraction of a second, but Ivo shivered as if doused with an icy wave that soaked him to the bone. His hand stuck to the silver wire he held. Carefully he peeled it from the palm of his hand so that none of his flesh came away with the metal. "Back again," he said to himself.
The chamber appeared the same, two mist-filled doors, one to either side; the floor crisscrossed with lines, lengths of silver wire showing where they had risen from the cracks. Ivo was glad that the magic of the portal was playing no tricks on them. There were problems enough for a lifetime just dealing with the giants, they needed no more distractions only a place of rest and safety. So far they had found only trouble and mysteries that they did not need and had no time to solve.
He pulled on the wire signaling the others that he was safe and about to return. A step took him into the mist, his long nose touching the swirling surface, but a voice called out and stopped him.
"Ivo!" Talberth exclaimed, surprised but very pleased.
"Talberth!" Ivo let the silver wire slip from his hand. "Where have you been?" a note of caution crept into the old gnome's voice. His fingers flexed suddenly aware that he had dropped the wire. With reflexes that belied his age Ivo snagged the silver strand just before it disappeared into the mist.
* * *
"This place is amazing," there was a childlike wonder in Talberth's voice. "Ivo, these enchantments must be from the days of the imperium."
"Evil days," Ivo said. He pulled hard on the silver wire several times and waited for a reply. Strong hands dragged at the metal strip from the other side of the mist.
"We must explore, there is so much to discover here," Talberth went on not listening to the gnome.
"That will be up to Telenstil to decide," Ivo told him. "We are not here to search ruins. Remember that Talberth. I'm going back to get the others, you stay here." Ivo looked over at the mage. Talberth had turned away, he examined the door-frame that surrounded the reddish mist as Ivo watched and did not say a word. "You're not listening. Talberth!" Ivo shouted.
"What?!" the mage spun, startled by the call, he had drawn an enchanted wand from his sleeve quick as a back-alley thug might draw a knife and held it ready, a word of activation on his lips.
"Come here, I'm not leaving you behind," said Ivo wagging a finger at the mage. "We will go through here and collect the others."
"That is the way I went," Talberth said, "well, that is where I was thrown, but it was through there that the skeletons caught me."
"Yes, we had the same encounter," said Ivo. "Harald made short work of them."
"They should listen to me now," Talberth shook his head. "If only I'd realized what they were saying at the time. They were trying to talk, I'm not sure what they tried to say but they were speaking ancient Suel no doubt."
"They are still rattling about," Ivo lead him to the mist, "we can let one pull itself together and you can talk with it all you like."
"I don't want to..." Talberth objected.
"Nonsense," said Ivo as the old gnome nudged him through the doorway and into the mist.
* * *
"Curse it, what is Ivo doing?" Harald complained.
"It's that portal, hells," muttered Harold. The halfing gnawed at his thumbnail in frustration. "We couldn't find some cave, no, we had to come here. I hate ruins, I hate the woods, I hate the stinking giants. When we get out of here I'm going back to Greyhawk and I'm not leaving it again."
"Wait," Harald felt the silver wire shift in his hand, "something is happening, I'm getting a signal from Ivo." The ranger stumbled back and a good length of wire came through the mist. "What is he playing at, there's the signal again. Harold stop complaining and grab your knife, there is something strange going on."
"You drop that wire and grab your sword," Harold told him.
"I'm not letting go till we find out what happened to Ivo," Harald replied, but he shifted the wire to his left hand and balanced his claymore as best he could in his right. Three strong tugs were placed on the silver strip and Harald gave back two short pulls. "That is the signal, he's coming through."
"That's not Ivo," yelled the halfling.
Harald let the wire slip from his hand and grabbed the hilt of his sword with both. "Talberth!" he exclaimed as he brought the blade back and prepared to strike.
"Wait!" it was the halfling's turn to yell. "How do we know it's Talberth. Where is Ivo?"
"Don't move," Harald warned and brought his arm back again.
"Don't be stupid," Talberth put up his hands as if to ward off the huge steel blade. "It's me! It's me!"