4- The Stone Unturned

Under a tent at the Wayfarers Brotherhood camp on the shores of Nedaria's Landing, a groan escaped from Calliav Giniuar's lips and his eyelids quivered.

"Morden, I think he's finally waking up," said Nedaria Debeian. She had been watching over Calliav for days, trying to guide him back to consciousness and out of his coma in any way she could. She tried potions offered by various shamans in the brotherhood as well as using her gift to see into and guide minds.

"I guess we need to chat before 'e comes to, eh?" Morden Rasp replied, walking over to Nedaria, lending her a hand to get her to her feet. She winced as she stood, putting her hands on her lower back and stretching.

"I've been sitting for so long. I hadn't realized. I suppose I'm getting old," Nedaria said.

"Ye're as young as the day I found ye hidin' with them bloody Kerran in Erud's Crossin', me dear," Morden smiled crookedly. "Good thing Erudites age slowly, eh?"

"Your flattery won't work with me, Morden. I'm not as easily won over as most," she replied with a hint of a smile.

"Aye, I do know that. Always a tough one. I suppose that's one reason I'm so fond of ye' always keeping me on me toes," Morden said. With a sideward nod, Morden motioned to Tondal Di'Xevar to head to the shore. Tondal walked with the grace and silence of a panther, despite his heavy plate armor. He didn't want to disturb Calliav.

A soft breeze from the sea wove between the three friends as they looked at each other, knowing the time had come to reveal the truth to Calliav.

"This 'as been coming for some time and we must be prepared to lose a friend over this, ye understand? I will handle the task of tellin' 'im," Morden said. "We might 'as well be ready for anythin'. I'm still not sure what that mage is capable of."

"You better believe you will be the one to tell him, Morden," Nedaria said sharply. "It was your idea to keep it from him."

Tondal just looked between the two of them. He had little to say about the matter.

Morden felt Tondal's indifference and eyed him.

"I suppose ye're not gonna say anythin', because ye think this was all meant to 'appen this way, eh?" Morden suggested.

"Aye," Tondal said with a shrug. Morden looked at both of them, sighed, and turned away. He walked up the grassy slope.

The mage had woken and was trying to sit up. When Morden reached the tent, he helped Calliav keep his balance by supporting the weak mage's back with his left hand. With a scarred right hand, Morden worked a flask out of his satchel and handed it to Calliav so he could drink some water. Calliav took a few sips before looking into Morden's eyes.

"What is troubling you, Morden?" Calliav asked in a raspy voice.

"I need to talk to ye, but I was goin' to wait until ye're fully awake, friend," Morden said. "And let me say, it's nice to 'ave ye back."

"No need to wait. Speak now. You have me curious. Remember too that you just never know how long I'm going to be awake," Calliav grinned.

Morden crouched down, sitting on his heels. His face was blank and cold. His eyes turned to the ground as he drew in a breath to speak.

"See, this is 'ow it is. Well...um...when ye first came to us to find that silly stone -- the Grozmok Stone -- we didn't know what to make of ye -- ranting and crazy and all that," Morden spoke slowly, carefully searching through his words. "We agreed to 'elp ye, knowing we could. In fact, we already 'ad."

Morden started picking blades of grass from the ground and rubbing them between his fingers, avoiding Calliav's eyes.

"Look at me Morden. What are you saying?" Calliav asked, his face masked with a cloud of disbelief. Morden lifted his eyes to Calliav.

"We 'ave the Grozmok Stone. We got our 'ands on it long before we met. We nicked it off them trolls at Broken Skull Rock," Morden said in a low voice.

Calliav's mouth dropped and he clutched his heart as though he felt it breaking apart. He looked to the shore, his glistening eyes pleading with Nedaria and Tondal to indicate it wasn't true. Both Nedaria and Tondal shamefully looked away from Calliav and turned to face the sea.

"Don't blame 'em. I told 'em to keep their traps shut, friend," Morden said. "If ye just give me ye're ear for a short spell, I'll tell ye 'ow we 'appened upon that stone and why I didn't tell ye sooner."

Calliav was frozen with a mix of emotions, but managed to nod. Morden moved to sit cross-legged in front of Calliav and began recounting the tale that brought the Grozmok Stone into Nedaria and Morden's hands.