Written in cooperation with Anatol Rathbauer

Written in cooperation with Anatol Rathbauer.

*****

Vel'te, Se'lena and their Maran guests, Fullor and Ina were all sitting in
the living room, the two Dra'Keshi hunching over an old, decaying book.
Vel'te flipped the old pages somewhat disbelieving, before he asked: "And
you really think this He'mon is your Asman?"

Ina answered him. "It might very well be the case. There are discrepancies,
but these are to be expected when comparing century-old texts. But for all
we know, this is the closest match an SST team has found - ever!"

Se'lena raised a curious eyebrow when she spoke. "Well, that's fine, but
what do you expect us to do? The myth... the "text", as you refer to it,
doesn't mention where he went after being rejected by our kind. I fear your
search might be ended before it has even begun."

Now Fullor turned in, pointing with a finger at a passage of the text. "No,
this isn't entirely true. The text clearly states He'mon retreated to a
remote part of the Heartstone, deep beyond all the caverns of the city."

"I wouldn't exactly call this a clear position. The caverns under the
Heartstone are vast, and even if he was there, we wouldn't know where."

Fullor's eyes were glowing with excitement. "Indeed. And that's why we're
going on an expedition into the caverns to find any traces of He'mon!"

"We can't do that!" exclaimed Se'lena, "the caverns are old and dangerous.
Nobody has been there for ages, they are practically unknown territory. As
your liaisons we are responsible for your health and security, and can't
allow this."

"But," Fullor countered, "As your liaisons you are also liable to help us in
whichever way you can, by the order of your king."

Se'lena exchanged a look with Ina. She telepathically issued an emotion to
her, accompanied by the word "please". The Dra'Keshi knew that Ina, who was
a "magical", as the Maran called her kind, would be able to understand due
to her training with Se'lena. But the Maran woman only shrugged. Se'lena
threw her arms resignedly into the air.

"Alright," she stated, "we might as well start with the preparations." A
burst of cheering came from the Maran. Se'lena sighed, but Vel'te only
smiled. Inwardly he greeted the chance for an adventure. Of course he'd
never embarrass Se'lena by admitting that openly.

*****

Both Dra'Keshi set off to their homes to gather equipment, after the group
had agreed to meet beside the Royal Pillar in an hour. Vel'te reverently
took down the long and short blades hanging over his mantle place and slid
them into their appropriate sheaths which he had attached to his belt a
moment after arriving in his dwelling. Knowing that they would most likely
be unable to take dragon form within any but the largest caverns, the
Dra'Keshi warrior geared himself for humanoid combat. The blades he had
forged himself and were the pride of his life thus far. Each was made of
Drynor, a metal which was a rare mix of admantium and diamond. The blades
were both heavily enchanted and would never chip or break due to the
material from which he had forged them. Vel'te knew that Se'lena was no
warrior but would be a welcome support with her vastly superior magical
talents. Unsure as to what talents the Maran might have to add in support,
the Drak warrior prepared for the possibility that he would be the sole
hand-to-hand combatant on this journey.
After a half hour of packing and repacking to get a weight that would not
encumber him in battle, Vel'te departed his quarters and was first to arrive
beside the huge pillar. The chief difficulty they would likely face would
be food. Not so much a problem for the Maran, however Vel'te hoped that
Se'lena might have a plan considering the rather large amount of sustenance
the two Dra'Keshi would require.

Se'lena had indeed considered the food situation and having stopped to
discuss the planned course with Zylen, received 4 magical rings from him
which would negate that problem for the length of time they would be away.
Zylen's only condition on approving the endeavor was that one of them
contact him periodically with an update on their status.
After meeting with the king, Se'lena teleported into her secluded and
entry less dwelling to pack for herself. One section of the pack she would
wear was designed to protectively house the wide array of charged wands she
slipped into the 24 reinforced, tube-like slots that connected all around
the interior of the pack. She had created most of the wands herself, while
a few were gifts from friends, one was even a gift from King Zylen himself.
Once she was packed to her own satisfaction, Se'lena teleported to the
familiar location near the pillar. Arriving only a few minutes after Vel'te
had, the two Dra'Keshi waited for the arrival of their Maran companions.

Both Fullor and Ina had chosen to wear the Elven clothes they had been using
for the past couple of days instead of their Maran ones, although they had
been repaired, as the Dra'Keshi trousers and blouses seemed more fitting for
an expedition to unknown places than the traditional, long robes of the
Maran. Their backpacks were crammed full with things they thought could come
in handy, and especially Fullor looked like he could outclass a small army
in terms of equipment. Most intriguing, apart from the rope he had wrapped
around his upper body from his right shoulder to the left side of his hip,
the machete that was visible through his clothing and the Dra'Keshi hat he
wore, was the fireweapon dangling from his belt.

The Dra'Keshi greeted them and Se'lena unpacked some of her wands, offering
them to the Maran.

"I am not sure whether you have weapons of your own, but in case you don't I
thought I thought it would be wise to teach you how to use these," she
commented, stretching out a wand to each of them. Ina took one and looked at
it admiringly, but Fullor waved his hand defensively.

"I rather rely on my Kor & Valan's," he announced, patting the weapon at his
side. Vel'te's eyes narrowed to slits as he stared at the Maran weapon. He
couldn't make much of it, as he had never seen such an object before, and
finally asked resignantly: "What is that?"

The Maran drew the pistol and showed it to the Elf. "It's a revolver from
Kor & Valan's, thus the name. Usually civilians are not allowed to carry
weapons, but these were supplied on our ship in case of an emergency. The
SST department isn't allowed our more modern weaponry, so it sticks with
them. Since I'm not magical like Ina, I will abstain from this little...
experiment of using wands instead."

"A revolver?" echoed Vel'te a bit helplessly.

Fullor sighed and decided to simply show him. He singled out a wooden plate
displayed in front of a small shop and pointed at it. "I'm going to destroy
it - without magic. Just simple physics!" Fullor raised the pistol, took aim
and fired. The bullet was hurled out of the short barrel with a sharp
bang. That was the last thing that went right.

A few centimeters before hitting the plate the bullet changed its direction
and headed off towards the high end of one of the outer walls of the giant
chamber before it apparently lost its speed and came down again, describing
a soft bow in its flight. As it touched the ground it unexpectedly gathered
new momentum and rocketed back, now aiming directly at Fullor. It approached
his head at a few times the speed of sound, and Fullor closed his eyes
reflexively in anticipation of imminent death. The bullet, however, reduced
its speed again until it came to a complete halt approximately a hand's span
away from his temple, still rotating in the air. Finally it turned around,
hitting a satin curtain, ricocheting off it and hitting the pallette near
the initial target, destroying a good dozen of other wooden plates.

All four members of the little group stared wide-eyed at the disaster.
Nervously scratching his neck, Fullor stuttered: "I guess this Q-Dex has
a... erm... somewhat different character than ours in respect to... natural
laws..."

Vel'te was polite enough not to comment on the faux pas and went off to
apologize regarding the broken dishes. Meanwhile Fullor put the revolver
back into the pocket of his belt and went over to Ina and Se'lena in order
to take one or two of the wands after all.

*****

Handing a wand to each, Ina and Fullor, Se'lena demonstrated the proper way
to hold the magical item and how to speak the command words while depressing
a gem embedded within the haft. Once the Dra'Keshi woman was certain that
the Maran were familiar enough with the wands that they would be able to use
them at least moderately well, she explained how the runes engraved into the
side of each detailed what type of wand each is. Pointing out the runes of
fire and force on Fullor's which indicated it would emit a flaming sphere
that would travel until it impacted upon something and explode with powerful
force. Upon Ina's wand were the runes of lightning and a chain, which when
activated would send a powerful bolt of energy toward the directed target
and then arc into the next nearest being, and then the next nearest still.

Pulling two more wands from her pack, Se'lena provided Ina with a wand of
Icy Blast as a backup for the Arc Lightning wand she already had. For
Fullor she gave him an Energy Arrow wand to go with the Flame Blast wand he
has. Watching how the Maran had picked up on the technique of wand usage,
Se'lena was particularly impressed with how quickly Ina had understood.
Making a mental note to hopefully find time to look closer into the Maran
female's magical aptitude. Turning with a nod to Vel'te when he returned to
them, Se'lena indicated that they were as ready as they were going to be for
the trek into the UnderCaverns.

Sending a quick mental notice to Zylen that they were heading out, Vel'te
led the group along the Northern Avenue until they reached a crossing with a
particularly ancient looking statue of a powerful looking Dra'Keshi in elven
form. Turning the point of the statue's left ear, a spiral stair appeared
within a stone circle behind the crossing's centerpiece.

Leading the way down into the darkening depths the stairway descended into,
Vel'te was thankful when Se'lena summoned a floating globe of light, which
took position just over and behind his head and followed him unerringly.

For the most part the walls around the circling stair were solid, though an
occasional fissure or chasm was passed during the group's downward descent.
After roughly two hours walk, they reached the bottom of the stone stair
where only a single man-sized cavern wandered off southward at a slightly
downward slope.

Se'lena had taken up the rear, while the two Maran had walked in between.
Upon arriving at the base of the steps, she cautioned that Lizords were
likely to be fairly numerous and aggressive down in the UnderCaverns.
Further mentioning that the wands of Arc Lightning and Energy Arrow will be
most effective against them, Se'lena pulled a wand of her own from the pack
and nodded toward Vel in readiness.

*****

As they were walking through the uppermost level of the UnderCaverns, Fullor
noted that the walls appeared to be hewn more and more hastily, as if the
ancient Dra'Keshi who had done this work had been in a hurry to complete it.
Whereas the walls of the narrow cavern had been covered by runes and symbols
near the stairs, now they were rough and primitive, with sharp edges
standing out everywhere. Fullor wondered whether the lizords were the cause
for this, but didn't ask.

Arriving at the exit of the cavern they discovered a whole new world.
Standing in awe at the edge of a small cliff - or a very large stair, they
couldn't tell - they gazed at the endless natural caverns stretching out in
front of them. No longer was there a single way to follow, or even a
labyrinth of tunnels, but merely an almost crystalline structure of stone
pathways, tunnels, caverns and slopes.

Vel'te turned around and looked at the Maran.

"We have to make a decision at this point," he said. "There are three ways
down. One is practically impassable for reasons... you don't need to know.
One is relatively safe, but it will take us many days to reach the next
level. The final one is fast, we could reach our first destination in one
day or two, but it is a rather dangerous way. I think it's your choice," the
Dra'Keshi added.

Fullor thought it over, but Ina beat him to answering. "We only have
supplies and food for two weeks, isn't it so? That means we have to turn
around after one week, and if we need even only five days to reach the next
level, we've practically failed before we started. So I guess this was more
or less a rhetorical question?"

Vel'te smiled faintly. "You are indeed very smart, Ina. Fullor?"

The male Maran nodded confidently. "Hey," he exclaimed, "a bit of adventure
has hurt nobody, has it? So where's that fast lane?"

*****

The route they had chosen was pretty exhausting, to say the least. Vel'te
and Fullor were still going at the front, followed by Ina and Se'lena. The
Elven constitution of the Dra'Keshi and the Maran's natural adaptation to
rough, mountainous terrain helped them to press forward, but even Vel'te
began to feel tired. Again and again the group had to unpack their ropes and
hooks to climb over a collapsed section of the ceiling or balance carefully
through fields of deadly stalagmites and stalactites. Ina had already
received a bad scratch when she had tripped as they had crossed a steep
slope full of rubble, but she "took it with dignity", as she said. A few
times they had heard suspicious noises, but no lizords had shown up so far.
Vel'te explained that this upper level of the UnderCaverns was like a
natural barrier to keep them out of the city above: the paths were either so
dangerous or so long that practically no lizords made it to the stairs.

Over six hours had passed since the adventurers had entered the
UnderCaverns, and Vel'te suggested a rest. At first Fullor tried to object,
but the Dra'Keshi pointed out that as long as he was the leader of the group
and carried the responsibility, he would decide the rests. Finally Fullor
gave in and sat down on a stone like his colleague and the female Dra'Keshi.
He had to admit it was good to rest a bit. Vel'te left to check the way
ahead of them.

When he returned a few minutes later, the expression on his face was grave.
Fullor jumped to his feet when he saw him and asked: "What is it? You look
concerned."

The Dra'Keshi pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. "The way down has
broken in. Apart from a small ledge there's nothing left. We have got to
turn around and take the other way."

"What?" shouted Fullor. "You mean you dragged us through this backyard of
hell for four hours to have us turn around now?"

Ignoring the Maran's angry voice, Vel'te answered as calm as always: "Yes.
It is too dangerous."

"Too dangerous?" inquired Fullor, his face somehow lighting up. "That means
that it *would* be possible to go there, but only *dangerous*, right?"

Now even the Dra'Keshi's eyes narrowed ever so slightly because of the anger
he felt. "No! Not "only dangerous", but very dangerous. Chances are you - or
we - wouldn't survive."

"Let me tell you something," began Fullor, "I live while my comrades and my
friends on the Garolf died, I survived drifting through space and I risk the
life of another friend on the surface. I did not do all that to turn around
now, the first time my race found a trace of Asman, because I am afraid of
climbing over some ledge that is likely to be laughed at by Maran children.
I will not turn around. If you like, go home, I will find He'mon on my own!"

Angrily he stomped away towards the direction Vel'te had come from. The tall
Elf sighed, threw Ina and Se'lena an enervated
look and followed the Maran.

He found him standing on the edge of the virtually vertical slope that led
downwards. There had been a way down, but now only a foot-wide ledge led
into the dark abyss below. Hands on hip the Maran evaluated the situation.
"We will have to go with large distances in between of us in order to not
put too much strain on the ledge. It looks fragile. I would also like to
bind us together, but I fear that the rope we have isn't long enough to
allow the distance we need. I think it's safer to go down on our own. What
do you think?" he addressed the Dra'Keshi behind him.

"You're the mountaineer," he replied. Smilingly, Fullor turned around and
tapped his hat. "By Asman, was that a joke from you? I already thought you
had no humor!"

The Elf smiled back and answered: "I do have humor. But I keep it for
special occasions. Like now, when I maybe won't have many more chances to
joke."

Fullor was already on his knees and searched for a halt to get down on the
ledge, which started approximately two meters below the edge of the slope.
He found some and slowly pushed himself over. When his feet found the stone
protruding from the wall, he let go of the edge and carefully walked
downwards. After a while he signaled Vel'te to follow, and he did the same
he had done, in typical Elven manner a bit more elegantly than he had, but
much less secure than the Maran who had grown up in the mountains of
Maranar. They repeated this process with Ina and finally Se'lena, who had to
stuff their wands away in order to have both hands free to cling to the wall
and secure their balance.

Fullor had just managed to get round the third turning of the ledge, which
were the most difficult spots of their little free-climbing tour, when they
suddenly heard a noise. The group stopped, and everybody concentrated listening for its source. But the noise didn't repeat itself, and only a few
small stones rattled down the slope. Fullor turned around to Vel'te, and
both exchanged a mistrusting look. They knew something was wrong, but they
did not have the chance to investigate right now. So they continued their
way.

Making their way step by step, they were only a few meters further down the
treacherous way. Now Fullor and Vel'te were after the turning in the ledge,
while Ina and Se'lena still were above. The noise had been already
forgotten, as they struggled to continue their way on the most narrow
section of the ledge. Suddenly it was brought back to their attention.

A dirty, dark-green claw swung down from the ledge above Ina and tried to
catch her. With a scream she evaded the paw, which had a sick-looking color
on its scales and stepped forward with only a bit too much force. The stone
below her foot cracked and she fell off, head first down into the gorge. Now
everything happened very fast.

Se'lena grabbed a wand to cast a protective spell on Ina, but a
bone-armored tail tip hit her hand and she let it drop. An instant later a
claw grabbed her throat and she struggled to break the creature's grip. The
same moment Ina caught the ledge a few meters below and crashed hard
against the wall. Vel'te leapt forward to hold her, but surprised by the
impact on the wall, Ina let go of the ledge again and slid further down.
Jumping into the empty now, Vel'te missed her and sailed over her head down
into the abyss with waving hands. But Ina had no time to be shocked, as
suddenly a rope appeared left of her and she grabbed it. Some feet later her
fall was stopped.

Fullor thought his arm would simply be ripped off when the rope suddenly
pulled on his right arm. Clutching the wall with his left one, he let out a
cry of pain and tried not to let go of the rope on which Ina was dangling.
He briefly realized that Vel'te had to be dead already and looked up at
Se'lena, who was starting to get an unhealthy color in her face as the
arm - if it was an arm - of the beast blocked her from getting into position
to realistically break the grasp. Fullor closed his eyes and cursed himself.

Suddenly he felt a cold breeze and then the weight of Ina, hanging on his
rope, was taken away from his arm. For an instant he thought she had lost
her grip on it, but then he saw it. Or better, him. Vel'te, now in draconic
form, was sweeping upwards through the gorge. It was far too small for him
and he ripped his wings and bruised his legs, but he was able to fly.
Holding Ina secure in one hand, he lurched up to observe the beast release
Se'lena and flee into a deep crevice. Before he could fall back once more,
this time maybe not able to find enough place to fly again, he transformed
back into Elven form. Exhausted and wounded, they all took a rest before
finishing their descend to the next level of the UnderCaverns.

One hour later they had reached more solid ground again, and Se'lena cast a
healing spell on them before they readied a camp for the "night". None of
them had talked since the attack, but now Fullor broke the silence.

"Thank you, Vel. Thank you for everything."

The Dra'Keshi was lying on his mat with closed eyes. Ina and Se'lena were
already sleeping. He raised one hand and said: "I would like you to use my
full... ah, never mind, it was a pleasure to be of help."

Fullor grinned and lay down himself.

*****

The rest was well needed and served greatly to recharge the individual
members of the group. The two Dra'Keshi, not needing sleep but rather the
restorative meditation known as Reverie, remained aware of all that occurred
around them while they rested.
Both Vel'te and Se'lena remained aware of a small gathering of Lizords a
fair distance off, they could tell by the excited chittering of the
creatures that the Lizords were likewise aware of the humanoids. However
for some reason the Lizords were either unwilling or unable to approach
nearer, thus the rest passed without incident and Vel woke the Maran when
the time was right that they all be moving on once again.
Following the rather exciting and eventful climb down, the group was quite
satisfied with the fairly level and clear region that they now moved
through. After some time the immense cavern narrowed down and ended with
two smaller cave openings leading off into narrow corridors. Se'lena was
somewhat surprised to notice that the corridors were not exactly natural in
formation. While they certainly had not been formed to any level of detail
that those within Heartstone were, at several points the angles were too
straight to be natural.
Having taken the corridor on the left, as either looked as good as the
other, the path traveled for some distance before opening into a room that
was quite obviously not of natural formation. The only entry or exit was
the one they passed through as the group entered and gazed about with no
small measure of awe.
The entire room was cut from some crystalline material that seemed to meld
perfectly with the stone of the corridor just at the point where the exit
stood. The crystal was too thick to see through with any amount of clarity,
however it could be seen that an immense cavern even larger than that which
they had passed through earlier extended away into obscurity beneath this
crystal room. Filling the entire center of the room a perfectly circular
table, seemingly formed of the same crystal as the rest of the room, melded
seamlessly into the floor. A circle of chairs, likewise melded with the
floor of the crystal were positioned evenly around the table and numbered 16
in all. Etched into the slightly larger seat at what appeared to be the
head of the table, the personal seal of Valik remained visible and clear as
if it had been formed that very day.
Moving around the table with a rather captivated look, Se'lena darted a
glance toward Vel and pointed at the surface of the table with obvious
disbelief.

"This can only be the original War Room of Valik himself. That seal on the
head chair was only used in his own personal journal and was never allowed
to be used anywhere else by his own request...or so the legends say..."

With a gasp of excitement, the female Dra'Keshi leapt up onto the table and
walking slowly around the edge while her lips moved silently in reading the
inscriptions etched directly into its surface.

"The entire center of this table is a starmap!" Se'lena exclaimed with
growing excitement at their find. "It is dated before the
Cataclysm...and..." A look of dismay crossed her features as she turned her
gaze fully toward Vel'te and the Maran.
"It is labeled 'Origin Q-zone'. According to the distance marks it was
roughly 4 times larger than our zone is now. It confirms what was
discovered regarding our original homeworld system, which is labeled here as
'The Origin System'. It contains our three homeworlds in shared orbit with
what we know know as the three spider elf worlds. And has that unknown 7th
planet also, exactly like the map found above in Heartstone."
Walking along the edge of the crystal table to stand at the end opposite of
the head seat, Se'lena leaned over and read silently again before
continuing.
"There are two other systems shown here within the Origin Zone. One is
labeled 'Oryn the Archer' while the other is unnamed. This one must be the
Andorian's system...Their star is Oryn Prime..."

Hopping down off the table, Se'lena sat upon the edge with a satisfied look
on her face. "I need to notify Zylen about this so that he can decide how
to best preserve this site. It shall take only a moment and then we can
continue on our original objective..."
Glancing toward the Maran to see their response, the Dra'Keshi mage smiled
thankfully in return to their simultaneous affirmative nods.

The process of sending a psychic request for communication to Zylen was more
difficult and time consuming than she original figured, however eventually
the connection formed. Dismissing the oddity as being a factor of the
crystalline material or some such disrupting factor within the caverns
around them, Se'lena quickly explained the findings to Zylen and awaited his
response.
During the mental conversation, Se'lena had a growing feeling that something
was not right, and the king's response that 'the find was insignificant and
bore no further investigation' confirmed her fears that something was indeed
terribly wrong. Thanking Zylen for his time and then closing the
connection, Se'lena's serious and grim expression spoke volumes before she
explained with words.
"The king has been corrupted, or replaced by someone or something. That was
not Zylen I just spoke with...of that I am absolutely certain. I must
contact the other two clan leaders and see if they are still themselves. If
they are they must be made aware of this..."
Vel'te nodded with understanding and agreement before gesturing that he was
going to backtrack the path to ensure it was still clear should they need to
move quickly. The Maran were rather confused, but didn't interfere with the
Elves.

Contacting first Lysia on Dervish, followed by Forsid on Ember, Se'lena
breathed a sigh of relief when she closed the connection after informing
them both about the find and the matter regarding Zylen.
"The other two clan leaders are still themselves. Of that I have no doubts.
They are speaking together now and shall attend to the matter...Regardless,
we should likely put some distance between ourselves and here in the case
that whatever that was in Zylen's place was able to track my communication
back to here."
A loud grinding sound from the wall behind her caused the female Dra'Keshi's
hopes to fall shattered around her as she turned about to see the cause.
The crystal of the wall opposite from the exit moved and shifted as if alive
and suddenly lurched forward. Stepping out of the wall, a huge humanoid
figure made entirely of the crystalline material stood within the far end of
the room at a height easily over 18 feet tall.
A somewhat different sound from behind and shout of alarm from Vel, caused
the three of them to spin about in time to see the male Drak slide into the
room amid a shower of rock dust as the entire corridor collapsed behind him
into impassible rubble.

But there was no time to think about the consequences. The crystal humanoid
moved with an agility, which mocked its appearance and approached Se'lena,
who was already reaching for one of her wands. Fullor tried to jump between
them, but the beast didn't even take notice of him and simply ran him over.
Swinging his crystal hand in a wide blow it struck out for the Dra'Keshi
woman, who leapt aside to avoid it. The being followed that motion and tried
to squash her beneath its fist. In the last second Se'lena rolled away from
under the crystal block and the monster struck only the ground with force.
The whole room shook because of the mighty blow, but the creature didn't
stop for a moment.

Meanwhile Fullor had managed to get out one of the wands that had been given
to him. Not remembering which one it was, he spoke one of the command words
and pressed the gem...nothing happened. This drew the beast's attention on
him. The large, shiny head turned around and Fullor thought he could see an
evil glance in it. Trying to remember the other command word he had been
given, he slowly retreated backwards. Of course the creature followed him
across the room. As it reached the center, an audible cracking made by the
floor interrupted its advance. Looking at the ground to its feet, the
creature decided to go along the walls rather than right through it. Fullor,
now in a corner, made a quick decision.

Running right into the middle of the room he attempted to hang onto the
crystal monster, which was still carefully avoided stepping onto the cracked
section again, as the millennia-old floor had obviously been overly
strained by the first hit. But he had underestimated the being's
intelligence. Lifting both its fists high above its head, it collected all
its strength and let them come down like an over proportioned hammer. The
floor finally gave in under the blow and collapsed, dropping several large
crystalline chunks along with Fullor down into a lightless hole. Vel'te
jumped to the edge of the hole and caught Fullor's hand just in time to save
him from falling into the abyss. He only let out a muffled sound of pain,
but held the Maran firmly. As he tried to pull Fullor back onto the floor of
the room, he didn't sense the kick of the crystalline warrior that knocked
him unconscious and sent them both tumbling down into the hole.

Se'lena spoke rapidly the words of a soft-fall spell centered between Vel'te
and Fullor just as they fell through the hole, hoping it would protect her
two companions. Naturally, that had kept her from concentrating on the
monster, and now it was stepping near her in an aggressive stance. Se'lena
prepared to cast another spell, yet had no time to complete it as the
creature extended one of its razor taloned claws forward to tear her into
pieces. The attack halted short as the beast shuddered sideways and fell to
one knee. With Surprise, Se'lena peered around to see Ina staring amazedly
at her own wand. The Dra'Keshi smiled and pointed her own wand at the beast.
She would use the time Ina had bought them. Using the powerful magic of the
sonic wand, Se'lena shielded her face and urged Ina to hide behind the
rubble of the collapsed corridor with a mental warning. Sonic waves, in a
frequency so high that not even the elf could hear it, struck the monster
and shattered it into a rain of sharp crystal shards. In the agony of death
it threw its arms up one last time, crushing the ceiling before also the
arms themselves dissolved into thousands of small crystals. Large stones
were falling down now in a wave of dust, small rubble and remnants of the
crystal beast.

When the dust clouds disappeared slowly, the hole in the ground had been
sealed by tons of stone and crystal. Se'lena and Ina both dusted off their
clothes and looked through the breach in the ceiling, which let in a breeze
of more or less fresh air. Ina climbed up to take a look and shouted down to
her comrade: "Se'lena, there's a way back into the corridor we came from; we
can crawl through a hole over there! Now just get up Vel and Fullor and we
can go and take the second corridor back at the crossing."

When there was no reply, she came down again and looked quizzically at
Se'lena.

"You can do that, can't you?" she asked.

"I just tried...nothing happened..." the Dra'Keshi answered with a grim
expression on her face. "Something in the crystal itself seems to be
preventing my teleportation magic from working..."

Ina swallowed bitterly and stared angrily at the hole in the ceiling. "Will
we be able to find them?" she asked tentatively. Se'lena only walked by her
and began to climb up to the breach.