Trik, Ebon, and Fenn leaned against the rock-hewn wall of the city. Trik looked out from the shelter at the narrow bridge spanning the cavern. The sand was still and silent in the depths. “It has gone,” he said.
Ebon sheathed his sword.
“Are you sure?” asked Fenn, looking into the depths. His hands were trembling at his sides.
Trik turned away from the other two and stepped onto the hewn road that led into the city. Ebon followed him, and Fenn rushed after Ebon. “Wait for me,” he shouted.
They walked along a street, hewn from stone, but polished so finely that their reflections appeared in its glassy surface. The road continued for a long way, winding among the hewn stone abodes up to the high palace. There the road ended, and a great stair began that spiraled to the top of the highest tower of the palace.
“That is some climb,” said Fenn, looking up at the tower.
“There is no other way in,” said Trik.
They began to climb, and once again Trik was ahead of the other two, but this time Fenn was far behind Ebon.
As they arrived at the top of the tower, Fenn was out of breath, but Trik was smiling. Before him stood the doors to the palace, sealed without any handle or lock.
“Locked,” said Fenn. “We’ve come all this way for nothing.”
Trik reached out with his hand and placed his palm on the slab of stone. A moment passed, and then the two doors shuddered and opened inward.
“Elven magic,” said Fenn.
“A simple barring spell,” said Trik.
They entered a great hall with polished stone walls. Above them, the roof of the hall was of a transparent kind of stone, and light passed through it and illuminated the corridor. The hall extended for some way before opening onto a large throne room. As they approached the throne room, Fenn shuddered. “What is that there?” he asked, pointing at something on the floor before them.
Everywhere about the throne room were skeletons, lying on the floor or leaning against the walls of the room. “Unwelcome guests,” said Trik.
At the end of the throne room was a high throne and sitting upon it was the remains of an elf dressed in royal robes and armor. His head and hands were reduced to bone, but in his right hand was a green gem.
“The High King of the Elves,” said Trik.
“The handstone,” said Fenn, his eyes gleaming upon it. He rushed forward to grab it.
“Stop,” shouted Trik, before Fenn could grasp the stone.
Fenn turned around. “Why?” he asked. “There is nothing to fear.”
“Look around you,” said Trik. “It is cursed.”
Suddenly there was a dull quiet laughter. The dark eyes of the Elf King began to glow, and his jaw began to move. “Beware,” said the Elf King. “No unworthy man may touch this stone and live.”
Fenn stepped back from the throne.
“My Lord,” said Trik, approaching the throne. “You have borne this burden for centuries without peaceful slumber. Let me relieve you of it.”
“What makes you worthy?” asked the Elf King.
“I am Trikdemos, My Lord,” said Trik, “Prince of the Gray Elves of Glimendore.”
The glow of the Elf King’s eyes faded, and the bony fingers of its outstretched right hand unclenched the stone. “Trikodemos,” said the Elf King, “you may have it.”
Trik took the stone from the Elf King’s hand and admired it. It was smooth and polished, and there was a light in it. He took a cloth from his cloak and wrapped the stone in it.
“Let us go now,” said Fenn, turning away from the throne, “before he changes his mind.”