Section I: Spells
Section II: Blessings
Section III: Magical Appliances
“A parlor trick, that’s all this blessing is. You pour your magic into ordinary stone which then turns into a greenish liquid, as long as you maintain the blessing. Whatever could it be good for but to astound the simple folks who gape at the supposed power of the cleric?
“Goodness gracious, I will never understand how any priest could be willing to spend the time and energy to learn how to craft this blessing – and to ask his god’s approval! Is any god truly happy to see his or her followers waste their time with such silliness? They must marvel at the stupidity of the mortals all the time. Parlor tricks!
“What are we priests? Just a bunch of wizards with different spells?
“Looking at some of my supposed brothers of the cloth, I am tempted to agree. They soil their consecration to a god! Use your powers, use your faith to further the godly cause – that is what a priest is supposed to do. That is what he was born for!”
“There isn’t a day that I don’t get down on my knees and thank the gods for the ability to turn stone into liquid. By all the holiness in the world, I’d be dead a dozen times over if it weren’t for this blessing! And so would a couple of my best friends.
“Let me tell you about this, all right? Just one example, that’ll be more than enough. One day, about two years ago, we were down in Robhovard. Awful place that land, cold, freezing, and full of savages that cut off heads about as often as you’d tie your shoes. Zhona had dragged us there, with her tale of a great treasure hidden near the Gorge. None of us had anything better to do, so we went along with her idea – and, great Nash’geo, if we had had any idea just how cold it is down there, we’d better just spent whatever dimes we had left.
“Now travelling is obviously something I enjoy – why else would I have taken up the service of Nash’geo? But the lord knows that there are plenty of better places about. Give me Kraznyczar any day! Bad as that land is, it’s far better than Robhovard.
“So, there we were, clad in thick furs that did little to keep either of us warm. Levkiel, a part-elf, was almost falling off his horse, shivering as he was. And Zhona kept talking about this marvelous treasure she’d heard about. Gold and jewels, hidden in a fortress built by Uldivion the Terrible after he had been driven out of Ibrollene. Uldivion had surely amassed a great fortune during his time as dictator, and all records surviving from the twenty-ninth century agree that he took much of it along when he ran from the rebel troops. There have been many stories about where he went, what happened to him later on – some even claim he’s still alive and that one day he’ll return to ravage Ibrollene once more and take revenge.
“In other words, there was pretty good cause to follow Zhona. She’s always had a knack for uncovering secrets, and this time – it seemed – proved no different when we indeed found a fortress. It wasn’t the kind either of us had expected, not the large castle you’d imagine. Instead it was carved from the stone of a small hill, with a brick-and-mortar front that didn’t look very imposing at first. The defenses were less obvious – but they were no less solid. I wouldn’t care to attack a place like that, under any circumstances.
“But it looked deserted, and we found no sign of any living soul within the first rooms. Just remains of what furniture there had been, a lot of dust and some weeds, the sturdy kind that needs little light. Spiders were plentiful, and it took Zhona only a minute or two to be completely covered in cobwebs. Well, that is also one of her characteristics. She’ll find cobwebs, dirt or mud in the cleanest of places.
“There was no sign of any treasure, either. ‘Probably further in,’ Levkiel said. I grinned. ‘You can bet your blue ears on that, friend!’
“It took us several false starts to find the path into the depths of the fortress. The corridors had looked to be very straightforward, but they proved to be a maze pretty soon. Two hours later it was that we found the right staircase, lit the torches we had brought along and descended.
“And that’s when the trouble started. The first signs were odd noises, scratching, shuffling – rats, we thought at first. Then the door behind us suddenly slammed shut, and light flared around us. We were in a large hall, bisected by a triangular piece of rock in its center, roughly hewn and inscribed with runes.
“And on both sides of the rock, there were small, fierce creatures garbed in furs, raising axes and a ferocious cry. Wild dwarves! Dozens of cúchulain, all ready to attack.
“We had barely time to draw our weapons before they clashed into us. If you’ve ever fought a cúchulain, you know that they are one of the toughest breeds of warriors you can find. You can hack and slash at them, and they’ll probably just laugh at losing an arm. If they were just a little more disciplined, these would have killed us within seconds of their assault.
“As it was, we survived those seconds, and a little longer. It’s all a blur to remember it. I’m sure that I carved serious wounds into several of them, but none of the cúchulain fell. It was a classic stand-off for a while – but there were only three of us and dozens of them. The outcome was unpleasantly obvious – when I remembered the liquefying spell.
“’Cover me!’ I cried, leaped behind my comrades and hoped that they would be fast enough to close the gap. They were, even though Levkiel took a deep cut in his leg.
“I focused on the triangular rock, threw all my magic against it. The rock trembled for a moment, and I thought my power hadn’t been enough. Just when I was ready to abandon the attempt, a stream of liquid ran down the top of the rock. It splashed onto the ground, onto the cúchulain alongside it – and soon more liquid ran down.
“My heart was pounding with the effort, but I maintained the blessing as long as I could, turning about a third of the rock into liquid. No more than half a minute had passed, and almost all the wild dwarves were drenched in it. All but the ones closest to us – and fortunately not more than a few drops had hit my friends or me. For then I let go of the blessing.
“Instantaneously what had been liquid turned back to stone. Several cúchulain became rocky statues that moment, some fell writhing to the ground – those who had inadvertently swallowed the liquid and now had hard stone in their throats, in their stomachs. Some were rooted to the spot, locked in by stone manacles around their feet.
“All of a sudden, there were only four cúchulain left who could reach us – and they were terrified by what had happened to their comrades. Zhona and Levkiel disposed of two of them within a second of each other, then I joined them once more to assail the final pair.
“A minute later they were dead as well, and then we could turn our attentions to the other survivors, those who could not move their feet. To our fortune, their arms were hardly more mobile, weighed down by pieces of stone welded to their bodies. More than crying fiercely at us they could not do, and we considered whether to explore the fortress further.
“’There’ve gotta be more of’em,’ Zhona said.
“Levkiel tied a make-shift bandage around his leg, looking meaningfully at me. I nodded. ‘And we let ourselves be cut up for nothing?’
“She grinned. ‘Just asking,’ she shrugged, and then we went on.
“All right, it would have made a better story if we had actually found the treasure of Uldivion the Terrible. As it was we just found a couple more cúchulain – just a few, fortunately – and a couple of gems they had stolen from the gods know where. It wasn’t much, but it was at least something to show for our trouble.
“So, folks, let nobody tell you that the blessing to liquefy stone is worthless. It can save your life!”