A moment to breathe

"What the hell was that?" Venne's words were breathy and barely audible as he breathed out, relaxing from his tense pose.

"If I knew what it was, I'd have known how to kill it," said Lianna, pointedly not relaxing.  "Were you going to use that sword to help me, or just stand there with it looking pretty?"

"I... I don't know," said Venne looking down at it, twisting his hand to see all of the blade.  "When it shrugged off my dagger like that I didn't know what to do."

"The dagger was a good blow." Lianna still wasn't relaxing, but her words were less like accusations now.  "If it had been alive that would have hurt it badly.  Where is the dagger now?"

Venne nodded, understanding that this was as much thanks as Lianna was willing to give, and looked around.  The dagger had landed near the skull, which had cracked across both eye-sockets.  He picked it up and checked to see that the blade was clean before making it disappear into his sleeves again.  Lianna kicked the skull before reaching down and picking it up, peering into the eye sockets.

"Whatever spirit animated it is gone now.  Still, better to be safe than sorry."  She dropped the skull again, and it bounced once on the floor then rolled to a halt.  She stamped down, smashing it into several pieces, and then gathered up the other bones, snapping most of them in half.  "I can't guarantee it'll stop it, but it'll be harder to put it back together again."

"What about the druid?"

Lianna turned round and looked at Mirko.  He was still unconcious on the floor, sprawled out like a puppet with cut strings.

"He's still out?  I suppose we wait for him to wake up then.  Get his map, you can update the floorplan while we wait."


Venne had finished the floorplan, made some annotations and put everything away again before Mirko stirred and woke up.  He sat slowly upright, his head feeling tender and swollen, almost as if he'd been drinking heavily.  He rubbed his temples, then his eyes, and looked up.

"What happened?" he said thickly, his tongue feeling too large for his mouth.

"How much do you remember?" Venne got in quickly before Lianna could say anything.

"You -- you opened the door," he said slowly.  "Lianna went through and then there were leaves everywhere.  Just... just a blizzard of leaves and a pressure.  And then I can't remember anything else until... I remember thinking I had to get rid of the leaves.  I think I....  No, I don't remember any more."

"Look around you druid, do you see any leaves?"  Lianna's voice was cold.

"Maybe I... I..."  Mirko gave up.  "I don't know.  I don't know what happened.  Is everyone alright?"

"We're alive, druid, which is what counts.  If you're done resting, we've got stairs in the next room and a tower to finish mapping before night."

There was a look in Venne's eyes that might have been sympathy, but Mirko looked away quickly, using his staff to help him get to his feet.  He had a nagging feeling that something important had happened, but it was clear that Lianna was angry again.  He was barely back on his feet before she was drawing her sword and leading the way across the map room.

The End

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