|Well away from the Dwarven camp, Wagbeard gestures toward a fallen pile of masonry, indicating that Jack should sit.|
The Shaman draws a wooden tray from his pack and lays it on the stone, filling it with soft soil scraped up from the shattered floor.
“Let us read your fate,” Wagbeard says. He sits laboriously upon the stone and draws a slender wand from his belt, a wand of tapering, glittering stone, like a stalactite plucked from the roof of a cavern deep in the earth. He closes his eyes and uses the wand to gently stir the soil, tap and poke it, trace seemingly meaningless lines in the surface, all the while humming and chanting very quietly to himself. Gradually, under his seemingly purposeless ministrations, the soil in the tray begins to heave and raise itself. Wagbeard withdraws the wand and opens his eyes, although his steady droning chant does not cease. Particle by particle the grains of soil pile themselves in the center of the tray, forming a mountain. A chunk breaks away from the peak of the miniature mountain, leaving a broken profile. Suddenly Jack recognizes the shape – it resembles the profile of Crumbling Peak sketched in ink upon his map of the Plateau. Now the soil of the miniature mountain shudders, and a chip of ruby worms its way to the very tip of the broken peak, winking forth as if a dozen flickering candles had suddenly flashed their light through its facets. The effect is so reminiscent of flames flung forth from the many throats of a Pyrohydra that Jack has no doubt. The divination is clear – the Pyrohydra he seeks dwells atop Crumbling Peak.
However, the soil is not finished speaking. The ruby chip subsides again into the soft pile, and now a new stone trusts forth – a small piece of crystal, winking with murky blue light. Jack grasps at meaning and finds it – the Nightcrystal! The crystal shard is visible for an instant only, and then the miniature mountain suddenly collapses and gasps forth the last of its animation. It is a pile of dirt again. Wagbeard grunts and lifts the tray, tossing the soil aside. Tray and wand return to their places among his possessions, and the bent and gnarled Shaman thrusts himself aloft by means of his cane.
“The Gnomes of Earth have spoken. You understand your destination?”
“Crumbling Peak,” Jack says, rising. “The Pyrohydra I seek waits for me there.”
“And you understand your destiny?”
Jack closes his eyes, seeing again the Dreamfruit-nightmare of the Nightcrystal. When he opens his eyes again, he nods. “I am the Guardian of the Nightcrystal.”
Brother Wagbeard nods once, satisfied. “The Eglantier Crest will only delay you further with their toasts of friendship and talk of valor. You should leave now before they awake. Take this; it may be of use.”
From among the many strands around his neck, the Shaman selects a plain leather cord, from which hangs a strange blue-white stone. A vortex of pale energy swirls in the heart of the stone, generating a gentle luminescence.
“A Vortex Stone,” the Shaman says. “It may be used to summon one of the ancient powers of the earth to your aid, but it may only be used by the dead. Keep it safe.”
“Until I die?” he asks, amused and puzzled. The Shaman silently inclines his head.
Although the Shaman’s gift confuses Jack, he accepts it silently and hangs the strange stone around his neck.
The Shaman gestures to the tent flap. “Go now.”
Add the Vortex Stone to the Amulet Slot on Jack’s list of equipment and remove two Healing Potions from the Pouch of Ghrul.
Add the following to Jack’s Journal: the Dwarf Shaman Brother Wagbeard has divined my future and claims that I have a great destiny. The Shard of the Nightcrystal appeared in his divination, and Wagbeard asserts – as did the ancient Guardian – that my destiny is bound with that artifact.
If you think Jack should go confront the Pyrohydra immediately, turn to 32.
If Jack has not already braved the Lake of Razor Eels, he can delay his quest to rescue the Princess and do so now. Turn to 20.
If he has not yet visited the Dwarves of Oakstump Hall, he may do so at 7.