One after another they sat down, with Namil sitting closest to Lin. The dwarf paced back and forth a while, glancing at the trio every so often.

"All right. Namil, in your house have you ever seen anything exceptionally rare? Have you ever seen anything perhaps, valuable?" Lin asked, trying not to sound too aggravated.

"Of course. My parents collect everything valuable." Namil replied, still unsure as to why these four dwarves were in his house.

"Okay, specifically, have you ever noticed a crimson orb?"

"I'm pretty sure they have a red ball..."

"This is no red ball. Please think hard. It is glossy, reflects light, yet soft to the touch. This orb feels something like mud when you touch it, but it looks like glass. Have you seen it?" Lin waved his arms frantically, trying to convey what it was. Namil sat in thoughtful silence when Andril ventured to speak.

"I've seen it. I know of this orb, it is placed on the highest shelf in one of the guestrooms." His voice was tentative, as if he was not sure why he should tell them this or what it would effect.

Lin's face broke into a wide smile, "This is indeed wonderful tidings!" Lin exclaimed. He stopped short of hugging Andril, and settled for having a quick meeting with the other dwarves. The miques cast uneasy glances at one another, each of them wondering what was going on.

Before they had an opportunity to discuss anything, the four dwarves were leaving. Namil protested, but they ignored his confused pleas.

"Namil, what on Last Earth is going on?" Pearl demanded, standing from the oaken bench. Namil shrugged, a few dark strands of hair falling in front of his eyes. She gave an exasperated sigh, and stomped into the kitchen.

"I'm cooking something for us." She announced, and shortly the sounds of a prepared meal (and smells!) drowned out any thoughts Andril and Namil may have been having.

Just as Pearl was setting out plates, there came a tremendous knock on the door. Andril moved forward to open the door, and was greeted vehemently by the quartet of dwarves. In Lin's hands was indeed the crimson orb they'd described. Namil felt a spark being lit in his heart, and the start of a fire.

"Did you steal that from my house?" Namil demanded in a deadly soft voice. Lin glanced up and with a jerk of his head affirmed that it was indeed stolen from his old house.

"I'd like it if you would return that." He said, his teeth gritted together, giving his voice a hissing tone. Lin took no notice of his aggravated voice, and simply replied that was not possible.

An uneasy silence then took place of the conversation, and Lin realized he had upset the mique. Too late to apologize, but he could try ignoring it. The silence grew and grew, becoming more stifling and heavy. Andril thought at any moment the silence would choke them all to death.

"Would the rest of you like to stay for supper?" Pearl asked from the kitchen, breaking the silence. It shattered instantly, and conversation began after Pearl's question. She set an extra four places as the two groups of friends chatted.

As they ate the cooked lamb Pearl had made, it became apparent Namil would not forgive Lin so easily. The mique glowered at the dwarf from across the table as the rest talked away. The history of the crimson orb was eventually told, and what an interesting story it was!

In the beginning of Last Earth, there was no light. The land was always in darkness, but it did not matter because the creatures that lived then had no need for light. But eventually they wanted it, and a dispute arose. Should the light be the color of fire, or the color of gold (which back then was rather bright)? It was a bitter dispute, but of course in the end the gold hue won out.

But another light source was made, the crimson orb, and in it were the powers of old. Those who held it had a valuable weapon, with strength beyond words. It could be stretched and molded as you liked, but in a days time it would become a round globe again. Andril and Pearl marveled at the thing, but Namil would have none of it.

In his mind he was wondering how his parents had gotten such a thing, and what these dwarves wanted it for.

"So what do you want with the crimson orb anyway? Why could it not have stayed here?" Namil finally asked as Pearl delivered slices of apple pie to each plate. Florin, Vali, and Brolie (for those were there names) shifted uncomfortably in their seats, but Lin did not squirm at all.

"That is a rather complicated matter, Namil." Lin stated gently.

"Well I for one would care to hear it."

"I'm sure you would. But it may not be the happiest thought for you to have in your head before bed."

"Nightmares do not bother me."

"Fine then, you and your friends should sit down and listen carefully then. There is more to the crimson orb than I have yet told you, and after that tale you must listen further to a bit of history." Lin touched Pearl on the arm as she sat down, and shook his head.

"No, my dear, you have been quite kind to us, but I'm afraid this is not a matter concerning you." He said softly, trying not to appeal to her temper. But his luck had run out for the night, and he knew it as he watched her skin flush.

"I have been here so far, I think I have a right to hear this. Nightmares do not frighten me either, so please refrain from thinking me weak." Pearl said tartly, crossing her arms in a last action of defiance.

Lin sighed, and glanced to his friends. They gave no sign of caring whether or not she stayed, so he removed his hand, and she sat down.

"The crimson orb could only ever be used by the high beings of Last Earth. In the first age, many tried using it, but it killed as well as corrupted. You could be tricked into thinking you were unbeatable in the glistening scarlet armor, but it might suddenly stretch just enough so another's weapon would scathe you. And if you were to wear it for more than a day's time, it would simply fall off you and leave you vulnerable.

It is safe to say that all who ever wore this as armor in a battle died in the fray. After all, it was designed to do so. The powers were not all kind and wise, there were some evil with dark plans. One such was Droloin, who was in favor of the fiery light. When it was voted to be a golden hue, he made one to represent fire anyway. The others got a hold of it, and were amazed by its powers.

It could stretch as far as twenty feet in each direction, and could tell which side the one who used it was on. If you were of good, it would be a tricky thing to get to work. If you were on the side of evil, it obliged to every whim and command. And if you were to lift it high above your head, it would shine a brilliant light. A blinding light that could stop a battle in seconds.

Such a thing could never be permitted to be used by the enemy, nor could they wield it without guilt. Destroying it was the best option, but they knew not how. Every idea was tried, but still it lay before them intact and in the best of shape. Then they heard from a spy that the material itself was indestructible, but you could destroy it of all powers.

On the far eastern boarders of Last Earth there is a land called Nonkogen, small, but deadly. It is inhabited by the worst of creatures, and every step is filled with danger. Not even the powers themselves made it through unsigned, but at last they did make it. On the shore where the water meets Nonkogen there is a mighty cavern. It is as deep as any mountain is high, and the floor is slicked by the oceans water.

At the very bottom there is a small pit, tiny and barely noticeable. In it is the first water ever to appear on Last Earth. It is the purest water and can cleanse both people and things of evil. It is there they would have put the crimson orb if Droloin had not been lying in wait. A mighty battle ensued, and the good powers were forced to flee with the prize.

As they laid out plans to return to Nonkogen and destroy it, the first occupants of Last Earth arrived. Elves, dwarves, and men flooded the land of Last Earth. The time to plan was cut short as the races began to fight. A mighty war over who was to be master over the northern land of Last Earth, the most beautiful and calm of all places was fought.

Some with evil hearts banded together, and managed to take the crimson orb. The leader was of the race of men, and he used the weapon in battle. Great armies of elves fell at his feet, blinded by the fiery light. Unlike some things, it does not take long to corrupt you. Soon the man, so called Anarmir, was under power of his weapon. He would go and slay hundreds while he wore it, but one day he fought too long. A dwarf, Lokie, was in a fierce battle with him when his armor fell off and wrapped back into a ball.

Anarmir was so startled; Lokie was able to deliver a fatal blow. And so the orb passed to the dwarves, my family, actually. We quickly became well-known, and bad luck followed us everywhere. Rumors of a powerful Istari followed my family those many years ago, until a final robbery stopped it. The crimson orb had been safe for many years, had passed safely from the first age to the second. But then when my grandfather was visiting near Lokea, he was robbed. They took everything, including the crimson orb.

We suspected at first the wizards, but we knew not which wizards were good and who bad. But as a score of years past with nothing, we suspected a mique had done it. We did not know who, and my grandfather died a while before, we did not know what family to suspect. For years we've been tracing it, and now we have finally found it. But there is more.

I imagine this will be hard for you, but you must understand. In order for the crimson orb to be fully weakened, all who have touched it and lived must go with us to its destruction." And with that the dwarf took a deep breath, and noted the look that came into their eyes. He knew Namil and Andril had touched it, but Pearl should not have. She had never seen it before, so she was free to leave.

"But, my parents." Namil asked in a strained voice, "They surely have touched it!"

Lin bowed his head, and averted his eyes from Namil's. Yes, they surely must have. And that was why they now lay dead on the floor of their home. "Forgive me." The dwarf said softly.

Namil let out a choked sob, too horrified to even voice his thoughts. Truly they had never been loving to him, but they were still his parents! And now they were dead? All because of something they had stolen from a stranger.

"We have to go with you or else it will not be destroyed?" Andril asked in amazement, horror shining out through his thoughtful eyes. Florin nodded gravely.

"It is a horrible thing, but if you do not come than you would have to suffer death." Florin said, his eyes grim and determined.

"What about me?" Pearl asked, a bit more terrified sounding than she meant.

"Well, you're free to go. You said you did not scare easily, so I assume you will sleep well tonight." Florin replied, as Lin seemed lost in thought.

"But, I touched it as well."

This was met by uneasy silence, and this time it was Brolie who spoke. "Then I think you will be traveling with us."

"Or suffer death?"

"Yes, those happen to be the options."

"You are not a group for happy tidings."

"Perhaps no, but we need an answer."

Pearl sat thoughtful a moment, before nodding. "I'll go." She said, although every other part of her body screamed that she planned on staying right where she was.

"Do you honestly expect that no one here will be bothered by the fact my parents were murdered? Or that the murdered family has a son and best friend who have gone missing? Or that a mique who isn't even an adult yet leaves without a trace?" Namil asked, obviously a bit upset.

"Actually we were quite expecting that. Which is why we need to get a move on, if we are to avoid any curious neighbors." Lin answered, stuffing the crimson orb into a silken sack, and the shoving that into his pack of stuff.

"Then we are to be given no time to say good-bye?" Pearl cried, leaping to her feet. The dwarf eyed her sympathetically.

"I'm afraid not." Lin replied, shoving food into his pack. The other dwarves followed his lead and began packing.

It was with a heavy heart, regretful thoughts, and bitter tears that the three miques gathered their things to prepare for the journey ahead of them.