"What does that tell you?" asked Harald. The ranger bristled with impatience.
"Look, the wire is frosted near the end where I held it to the mist," Ivo held the piece of enchanted silver in his hand and waved it toward the ranger. "But further on it is merely cold to the touch. It tells me a little tale; listen and I will tell it to you."
"Sorry Ivo," Harald apologized, "I'm just worried about Talberth."
"I'm worried myself," said Ivo. "The mist looks no more than half a foot thick, the frost on the wire goes no further. The wire was not destroyed; it was not yanked from my hand, as it might be if magic had transported it. It is not bent, so no trap was triggered by it passing through the mist."
"That is no test for traps," the thief spoke up.
"No Harold, but what else do you suggest?" asked Ivo.
"Use that sword of yours," he said to the ranger. "Let it drag across the ground. See if there is a floor beyond that smoke, we could take a step and end up falling down a shaft like the one we saw back in the room of statues."
Harald drew the long blade and stared at it for a moment; he hated to use the blade in such a way.
"I don't think it will break," the thief said sarcastically.
"All right, I'll give it a try," Harald said, but he was reluctant and moved with excessive care.
"I thought you were in a hurry," Harold complained.
The ranger held out his claymore, the hilt in both his hands and let it slide across the edges of the mist along the frame. He felt a firm resistance and the blade ground against some unseen surface beyond the smoke-filled portal, but he could hear nothing from the other side. Using the strength of his arms and shoulders he pushed hard against the ceiling, the walls and the floor, but there was no result. Nothing gave, no trap opened up beneath the blade, only the feel of something that stopped the point from moving further and a growing cold which chilled the metal of the sword. "There is nothing," Harald said then the ranger stepped into the mist and disappeared.
"Wait!" Ivo and Harold called out together. The thief grabbed for the ranger and passed through the mist close on his heels.
"Hey!" Little Rat shouted. The young orc followed Harold without a moment's hesitation.
Ivo still held the silver wire in his hand. He looked at the mist filled gate for a moment then carefully bent the wire into four even lengths and slipped it into his pack, then stepped into the mist.
* * *
Chilling cold reached for him but Harald brushed it aside and stepped through the mist. It had only been the lightest touch then he found himself standing in the dark. The ranger stopped and tried to sense the room around him. There was a different feel then what he had expected. Through the mist his sword had pressed against some obstruction to the right and left, he shifted the claymore so that the blade swung to either side but met no resistance. Harald stepped back and as his foot slid across the stone floor something collided with his leg. It squeaked out with alarm and sent the ranger jumping forward in surprise.
"It's me! It's me," the halfling thief cried out.
"Curse it Harold," exclaimed the ranger. "You're lucky I didn't cut you in half!"
"What're you stan..." Harold began to say but Little Rat came leaping through the mist and knocked him down.
* * *
"...iiing!" Harold's word became a loud screech as he was knocked over and tumbled across the floor.
Little Rat scrambled to keep on his feet, bouncing back from the impact with the small but stout halfling that nearly sent him through the mist again. He steadied himself, a wave of cold passed across his backside which was partly through the smoke-filled portal. "Yiii," he shrieked, echoing Harold's yell.
"Stop playing around!" the ranger called out. "I can't see a thing, where is the light!"
"Ivo has the light." Harold grumbled. He had turned the tumble into a roll and came up facing the door.
"That's good," said the ranger, "I'm the one who needs it."
"It's your own fault," Harold told him. He turned around to face his friend and felt Little Rat grab him by the shoulder. "What?"
"Look!" the young orc pointed, his arm brushing past the halfling's nose.
"That's Harald," said the halfling, "what's the matter with you."
"No!" Little Rat pointed harder, his arm shaking, his finger jabbing at the space around the ranger Harald's side. The halfling leaned toward the side and crooked his neck, Harold's eyes widened as he caught sight of the creatures that Little Rat pointed a shaking finger at. The room was unlit except for a soft glow coming from the misty door but the halfling and the orc could see, their kind had eyes meant for the seeing in the dark. Old wooden frames that might once have been beds littered the room, the remains of tables, chairs, a row of shelves smashed down the center but their corners still hanging from the sides, and rising amid the debris were bones. A skull sat on a spine without ribs or arms, but it bent and brushed itself across a loose pile of yellow-ivory sticks. Like iron filings jumping to a loadstone, the bones joined with the spine. It shook like a wet dog and its ribcage clicked into place. As Harold watched at least six skeletons formed and began to clack toward them on their fleshless toes and heels. The ranger heard the noise and turned his head so that one ear was directed toward the sound.
"Harald! Behind you!" Harold shouted at his friend.
"What is there!?" the ranger brought up his sword so that the long blade waved back and forth, higher than the halfling's head. The point thunked into a skeletal chest, but Harald had put no force behind the blow and the point skittered over the monster breast bone and passed harmlessly between its ribs.
"Skeletons!" Harold exclaimed. "Hit it! You just poked one with your sword."
"Keep down," the ranger brought his claymore over his shoulder and swung the blade like a scythe. It struck a skeleton that leapt forward, the edge cut through its spine like a stalk of wheat, severed a boney arm on its way out and then the blade came up high over Harald's other shoulder. The fleshless legs and waist clattered to the ground, but the torso pulled itself toward the ranger, one hand reaching out; the stump of an arm scraping on the stones.
"Got one!" shouted Harold. "Only another five to go."
"I can't see them," the ranger said, "tell me when to..."
"Now!" Harold shouted as two more skeletons came within the reach of the ranger's sword.