Staring at the hole, an insidious ache beginning to throb in his left temple, Kal decided to throw caution to the winds.
Hell. Tiny hole, tiny brain, they match, he thought, turning to Pickle, who flinched.
Do I scare him that much? the warrior thought, smiling kindly at the mage, or at least showing all his teeth. Fascinating...
"Pickle," he said, showing more teeth. "Do you think you could make that hole bigger at all? After all...you may be confused but I'm sure you can make a contribution."
Falcon nodded approvingly, apparently under the impression that Kal had turned over a new leaf. Pickle gave him a slightly suspicious look, and cleared his throat.
"I think so," he said, some confidence leeching back into his words as he pulled out the spellbook once again. Kal patted him benevolently, wondering if he really had revolved a fresh tree-frond.
Nah, he thought, watching the mage scrabble through his spells and wondering how much threat it would take to speed him up a little. I'm just hiding under the old one...
"Found it!" Pickle announced triumphantly, just at that moment. Snapping the book shut, he made a mystic gesture that resembled a man attempting to swat a mosquito with some kind of vegetable (it was quite a specific gesture, oddly enough) and pointed at the small opening.
"Ego sum mortuus si vos operor non patefacio!"
As Falcon, Rufus and Kal watched, the tiny gateway trembled, the rock rippling...and began to grow.
"Well I never," breathed Kal, as the tunnel grew perfectly and halted at exactly the right height for comfortable walking. "The magi-moron got something right at last. Maybe I'll let him keep all his limbs just this once."
"Splendid!" Falcon cried, applauding with what the warrior considered unnecessary vigour. "Quite the finest spell-casting I've seen in my life!"
Pickle blushed and looked down modestly. "It was nothing, old chap," he purred, and giggled like a little girl. Kal clapped him on the back in celebration, quite hard.
"Nonsense, it was a wonderful display," he exclaimed, adding for the mage's sole benefit, "Almost enough for you to retain the use of your legs."
Pickle's blush drained away slowly, and he swallowed. Kal showed his teeth again, and nodded amiably at a slightly puzzled Falcon.
"Since this is his work, I think our dear pal Pickle here ought to be the one to go first," he suggested. Pickle, already as white as a sheet, went the colour of sour milk, and cast an appealing glance at Falcon. But the ranger seemed to approve; even the rat was nodding. His gaze swung to Kal, who fingered his axe and grinned at his Companion. It was the type of grin that usually comes accompanied by big teeth and orange stripes.
Pickle swallowed again, pulled his hat more firmly onto his head, clutched his spellbook tightly to his chest, tilted his chin at a brave angle, and then dropped abruptly to his hands and knees and scuttled inside at high speed, to get it over with.