TMA Down Time

TMA Down Time
Art by @spoiledchestnut

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Session 2

I can’t be the only person who lives vicariously through their role-playing character.
Anyway, I should probably mention I’m trying to recollect memories from about four years ago. Order of operations may be blurred for flavor.

I’m the sort of druid who prefers the company of animals to people. I spent fifteen years of my life being told how to act, what to wear, where to be….It never worked. I never worked. Something didn’t feel right about being cooped up like an animal and presented to the world as this prized possession. It wasn’t until I learned I was a druid, and illegitimate to boot, that my life began to feel natural.
“Taelim,” Maziel called, snapping me out of my thoughts. They paused. “Do you even want to be called that?” She shrugged, and I repeated the gesture mentally. “Whatever. The goats.”
I raised my eyebrow. “What about them? They’re goats.” Granted, they appeared a bit frazzled when we all popped suddenly into existence, but they were just spooked. So the goats continued to bleat, running around with no apparent purpose. In time (about six seconds), they resolved we weren’t a threat, and returned to chewing the lush grass at their feet.
Klotonk gasped and pointed at another torn fresco near the end of the clearing, it’s broken image resembled an expansive library. His feet took him forward, but Maziel stopped the gnome by the collar, and Klo kept trying to move forward before he noticed with a heavy sigh.
“Something’s not right,” Maziel grumbled, suddenly serious. “Something’s here…”
“And I think we gave it a way out,” Zan added quietly, turning back to our newly repaired portal then to the still broken one in the back.
No one moved.
“Wait here,” Maziel ordered and proceeded to head toward a forest at the far end of the grassland.
“Maziel. Do you think that is wise?” Feeps tried to call after the drow, but she was bent on whatever caught her attention. In moments Maziel was gone.
“So,” Cosmo started distradely. “What would the goat say?”
“Oh. My gods,” I threw up my hands, and begrudgingly pushed forward to have a conversation. With goats. Because I was the animal whisperer in the group.
They watched me with wary eyes, but didn’t stop eating. I squatted at their feet and cast the minor ritual that allowed us to speak in the same tongue. That of goats.
“Hey...everyone,” I began awkwardly.
They collectively stopped eating and gaped, mouths full of half-eaten grass. “Humaaan!” They swarmed me excitedly like little horned dogs. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it was a nice break from these last few days. So I stroked their heads and offered them some of my rations, to which I nearly lost a hand, but I made friends. Lots of excitable friends.
“I have a question for you all,” I announced as calmly as I could.
“Humaaan! Food!”
“I already gave you plenty, questions first.” They hushed, jittering slightly. “Now, is there someone else here? Someone besides those people?” I pointed to my party.
“The Maaaster!”
“Noo! Maaaster deaaad!”
“She killed him!”
I collected my bearings and tried to be more specific, stifling frustration. “Okay, there’s a master. Whom I assume owns--owned this tower.” They chattered and bounced on their hooves. “All right, so who killed him? Who’s she?”
“She’s here!”
“The daaaughter!”
“Her daaaughter!”
“Here! With us!”
My body went tense, and I couldn’t help but lift my head slowly above their little furred bodies, taking in my surroundings. At that moment I grasped Maziel’s fear: we weren’t alone. They weren’t paranoid after all.
“Her daaaughter!” They continued to screech.
“Daaaughter of the witch!”
“The witch! The witch!”
“The witch?” I repeated slowly, partly afraid of the answer.
“Maaaster kept her here! Kept them both!”
“Daaaughter of the witch!”
“The witch!”
“What which!?” I nearly shouted.
“Baaabaaa Yaaagaa!”
The goats scattered in sudden fright, fleeing to the far end of the plains and huddling together. I gaped after them.
“What did they say?” Maziel’s voice sounded behind me.
I clutched my chest, jumping to my feet and trying to play off my surprise. “We shouldn’t be here.”
I regarded the drow quietly, her body bouncing lightly on her feet as if ready to bolt. As if the drow knew what I would say, and grasped it in a way I couldn’t. I wanted to stayed silent, defiant, but Maziel had this way of scolding me into shape. At barely nineteen, I was the youngest in the group, and born into nobility, I didn’t often take orders. The drow was different. While I thought they aimed to protect us, they also lead.
The whole party approached.
I shifted uncomfortably. If anything they would know more about this witch than I would. “Something about a witch named Baba Yaga. I think her daughter killed the master of this tower.”
Having spent nearly a year with my circus family (figuratively and literally), we’ve come to know each other extensively (except certain questionable genders). So even though Maziel usually came off as the cool and calculating head, I could discern their moments of fear.
“Time to move!” The drow ordered, corralling us.
Klotonk bolted as fast as his little legs could carry him toward the library painting, while a string of curses followed from Maziel. He waited there with pleading eyes.
“You know who that is?” I asked at the drow’s side.
Maziel regarded me wordlessly. Yes.
“C’mon!” I whined. “Tell me!”
We stopped beside Klo and the fresco.
“Baba Yaga is a very dangerous witch, and her daughter...even more so.” The drow’s voice was hardly above a whisper.
“And who’s her daughter?” My curiosity begged aloud.
It was only until I planted my feet firmly and folded my arms that Klotonk took me by surprise with his answer. “The Glaistig…”
Zan gasped, but the magnitude went over my head. I mean, I lead a sheltered life up until four years ago, and I didn’t exactly relish my schooling. That’s what Feeps was for. Still, when Klo and Maziel huddled together, practically pleading to leave, I got the picture.
Feeps quickly repaired the portal. Naturally, the  gnome was the first one through.
Sometimes Klotonk gets...distracted. So the chaos being wrought in front of us almost eluded him in favor of the shimmering wall of books on either side. The floor of the library was strewn with rubble, and what looked to be parts of a thoroughly severed owlbear. Wind whipped up overhead, and a broken hand broom and dustbin crawled across the floor trying to clean it all up like a wounded animal.
In the midst of it all, a gnarled old man in black robes waved his arms as he chanted a spell over a ritual circle. He paused, mid-sentence when we all appeared from the ether, the runes on the floor glimmering against his form.
I nudged the gnome gently as if to remind him: “Potential fight first, books later.”
“Who are you?” The man demanded, bony fingers gently swishing at his side, keeping his current ritual alive.
“Adventurers,” Maziel replied calmly, eyes drawn to the raven symbol hanging from the man’s neck, the very same we looted from the body outside the tower.
“You’re not welcome here,” the man replied, but something about his tone didn’t back his claim.
“Are you the master of this tower?” Feeps asked.
The man regarded us warily, then he spat. “No. I’ve no love for the master of this tower. Two of my priests were lost trying to gain its...that’s none of your concern.”
I watched Feeps from the corner of my eye, encouraging him. For a walking instrument, my friend and caretaker was quite persuasive when he wanted to be.
“Come now. I’m sure we can work out an agreement,” Feeps chimed up. “You seemed to have gotten far.”
“But I guess not far enough if you’re trying to rebuild that teleportation circle!” Klotonk piped up, clearly meaning to be helpful instead combative.
Something metallic clanged to the floor, and Cosmo hurriedly scooped up the sparkling silver key.
“The Key!” The man cried.
“Where did you even get that?” I asked quietly, only partially surprised. Once upon a time I might have asked: When did you leave the party? And how do we constantly lose track of you? But this was Cosmo.
“Eh, some chest that tried to eat me. Different portal.”
“The Key,” the man reached outward, fingers unfurling, but he didn’t dare leave his circle.
“What’s this Key for?” Maziel questioned coolly.
The man pointed toward the ornate door at the back of the library, nestled between carefully crafted shelves. “It’s the only way out, you fools!”
“Then I suppose we’ll need it too. Unless you have something better to offer,” Maziel tried, the flat line of their lips curling upward at the edges.
I’m going to be honest. There’s likely nothing this man could have offered that any of the party wanted. Except Maziel. The rest of us generally contented ourselves with enough gold to buy food and booze, and the occasional warm bed. Maziel led another life, one that shaped them into this mystery none of dared to unravel. Which was fine all the same, I mean, up until today my true identity was shrouded in secrecy too.
So when the man summoned a massive wind elemental at his side, its gutsy limbs whipping up the contents of the room, we didn’t hesitate to draw weapons.
“Your lives for the key,” the man in black robes offered, evaluating us carefully. Not intelligently enough it would seem.
The drow sighed, drew her twin short swords that glimmered with magic and turned to the rest of us. “Another fight to the death I suppose.”
The elemental roared, producing a howling wind that ripped through the air. It surged forward and Maziel and Feeps intercepted the creature as best they could.
Zan looked at his fists, then at the caster who shot off a fiery explosion, sending the kender ducking for cover and forfeiting a clean shot. The monk lunged forward and I hurried after.
From behind, I could hear Klotonk adding his fair share of magic to the fray, and in seconds, the wind elemental was beat in a sudden stillness of air.
“No fair!” Cosmo yelled, watching as the silver key was plucked from his pockets by a phantom hand and rushed toward the caster who bolted toward the door.
“Taelim!” Maziel cried.
I scanned the room around me.
Zan leapt over the wide desk, dodging another magic barrage from the wizard nearly at the door.
“TAELIM!” Maziel bellowed, wild white hair adding to an already dangerous ensemble.
I extended a hand. Vines suddenly rushed to life from the little pots on the back table and wrapped themselves around the man, squeezing him tightly as he toppled to the floor.
The caster cried out, gripping the key, but Zan mercilessly brought one foot down and freed the object.
Cosmo didn’t need to be told twice, and the kender wasted no time rummaging through the man’s pockets, liberating currency and tossing aside trinkets that Klotonk perused.
“Now then…” Maziel smiled as he approached the wizard. “Time for questions.”
I turned my attention to the rest of the room, presumably free of any further life threatening scenarios. I stopped at the fresco of the throne room, the same we saw when we first entered the tower.
“Familiar.” Feeps said quietly at my side. “All of it. Don’t you think?”
I nodded. Eerily so.
Something bumped against my feet. I looked down at the little broken broom as it tapped against my boot pitifully. I scooped it in my hands and brought it towards Feeps, sympathizing.
“Can you mend him?”
A bizarre metal smile assured me.
Klo came sprinting over. The gnome wizard who constantly craved knowledge of all sorts was effectively losing his mind. Distracted and all over the place with the magic that filled this room.
“What ARE you?” Klo asked the broom that bouncing happily whole on the floor.
The broom didn’t respond to the question. It did just hovered by my feet, as if looking up at me, the dust bin right beside it.
“I think it likes you, Taelim.” Feeps encouraged, and I only then grasped his possible connection with it. Both inanimate objects brought to life.
“Ugh. Thanks?” I responded, wondering if it would respond to pets. I decided not to, and it found new meaning cleaning the room in a frenzied state.
Klotonk immediately set his sights elsewhere. They fell on the winding staircase leading to a loft, a clearly exclusive section of the library. He gasped audibly. He placed one foot on the base of the stair and his entire body froze with tension.
Slowly, he removed his foot and backed away.
“What? Is there something up there?” Cosmo asked excitedly, preparing to bound up there.
Zan grabbed the kender’s arm, stare fixed firmly on the gnome.
“That,” Klo said quietly, “ is some seriously dangerous magic.” He slowly wiped a trail of blood from his nose. He gazed forlornly upward. “I will break you one day,” he swore.
I turned toward the loft, then back at Klo. I got it. Well, not with books, but with something you ached for just out of your reach. “One day, buddy,” I placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sure you’ll shatter the spell in time.”
He smiled reassuringly, and I mimicked the gesture, even if I quietly hoped the odds of us returning were slim to none. To occupy his mind, he sat on the desk overlooking the teleportation circle, jotting down the runes that set its coordinates.
“Listen up,” Maziel called out, hand on the head of the now unconscious man. “This here’s Bargle, he’s a high priest of the Raven Queen. Turns out, he was here searching for...collars?”
“Like the one on Hissblood?” Zan asked.
“Quite possibly. He, ugh, wouldn’t say who sent him…”
“Oh, Maziel. You have such a way with others,” Cosmo snorted.
“Right, then I’m guessing he didn’t find out much from the look of this place,” I gestured around the unkempt room the little broom worked manically to tidy.
“We’ve got a couple of portals left,” Maziel shrugged hopefully. “I’m willing to bet we missed some.”
“What about that one?” Zan pointed to the throne room.
I shivered, and didn’t follow his gaze.
“Hey,” Maziel said, letting Bargel fall to the floor in a tight bundle of vines. “You okay, Taelim?”
“Yeah,” I straightened, hopefully seeming my cocksure self. I wasn’t.
The drow certainly didn’t buy it.
I grit my teeth. “You want to go? Fine! Then what are we waiting for?”
I turned toward the portal and extended a hand.
“Taelim, wait--”
The long room of elaborate white stone and ornate fixtures wasn’t just familiar. It was identical to the one in Illium. My eyes followed the trail of blood to the bent and broken silver collar that rested alone in the center of the room. Bloody footsteps proceeded to the dais where an equally intimidating throne governed all. On it, was the body of my father, Viceak, his severed head resting in his lap. His listless eyes passed right through me, disappointed as ever.

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