TMA Down Time

TMA Down Time
Art by @spoiledchestnut

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Session 11

This was an emotional session for me. As a player and character. Fun fact: it was supposed to be my last game, I was shipping off to live in Asia for a while. The battle to save Illium; and my DM had me sweating bullets.

This was my home. If I tried I could still picture crowds bustling through the market square. I remembered the ships docked in the harbor, an imposing show of our fleet and commerce. Then there were the high outer walls, dwarven made, barring danger from the peaceful city. Finally, the castle, the foundation of it all that watched its people with pride.
Now, as we teleported in the city center, my home was overrun. The demonic deformities that were Wroth burned and maimed in hordes. Contingents of dragonborn bearing the symbol of a five-headed dragon went toe-to-toe with soldiers defending fleeing citizens. Then the dragons. Five chromatic dragons flew across the city spewing flames and reaping chaos. Our guardians, the titan golems that stood at the four quadrants of Illium didn’t move to defend, they needed an heir.
No, gods, no... My mind raced, my wolf form whining as panic seized me. Maziel had one hand on my hackles, in a failed attempt to calm me.
“I have to lead the army!” Oliander called, turning toward the city gates. They were torn down, the impenetrable walls of my past now fallen, admitting entry to the Wroth that generations kept at bay. “Find the princess!” Like that, the Rose Knight sprinted away.
“Taelim,” Feeps began, “What do we--”
I bounded toward the castle, leaving my party shouting after me in a mad dash to keep up. I had to find an heir, Killian or Aunt Tylda, somebody to take my dad’s scepter and wake the golems. We had to fight back, or Illium would be ashes by morning.
How? How did it get to this? I bared my teeth as all I could think of was Jayce Valium sitting on my father’s throne, taking over and bringing danger to our doorstep with his arrogance.
The castle gates were unguarded. It didn’t surprise me that every capable fighter was likely doing their part in the battle out there. Feeps and the rest of the group caught up, panting, but the warforged took the lead, reading my intentions.
“We need to find Valium.” He said to me as we stepped inside. Home. The halls felt desolate, and we stopped at the first person we came across, a guard escorting an attendant inside.
The guard stopped and gaped when he recognized the warforged, eyes sparkling with hope. He opened his mouth to speak, but Feeps interrupted him.
“Take us to Valium!” The warforged demanded.
There was absolutely no hesitation. The guard turned on his heels and led us through the castle, up winding passages and halls of hiding citizenry with questioning looks. We hurried past marred memories that made me question the brash actions of a teenager those years ago. I knew where we were heading, my father’s study.
We stopped at the elaborate door, and the guard threw it open without ceremony. “My lord,” he announced. “Master Feeps has arrived!”
There he was, pacing the room like a peacock, tall bay windows overlooking the city and the turmoil outside. Jayce Valium, potential heir to the throne of Illium. He had been arguing with two guards and an attendant, evidently frazzled by the current situation and his inability to handle it.
“So you finally decided to show?” Valium said to Feeps with the inherited air of superiority that came natural. His eyes swept across our group. “And where is she?”
“I came as soon as possible, Lord Valium.” Feeps responded cooly. “As for the she,  I assume you mean Taelim?”
“Don’t play coy, warforged! Do you see this mess I’m trying to deal with? Where’s my scepter?”
I had forgotten I was in my wolf form. It felt natural, safe. What would have been a curse came out as a snarling growl and I pressed my ears against my skull. The room fell silent, except for the sound of discord outside.
Valium regarded me with a curious expression. “Elroar?” He asked, daring to take a step closer, forcing me back beside Maziel instinctively. I suppose I wasn’t over it. He smirked. “Ah, no, it’s female. Quite the bitch you have there.” He told Maziel, who said nothing in response. “Now then, where were we?”
“Taelim has the scepter,” Feeps lied. “It is her birthright after all. Now, where is Kililan?”
“Who are you to make demands?!” He pointed a finger at my guardian. “You try my patience, creature. Where is she with the scepter?”
Feeps glanced at me as I stood trembling, lips curled back revealing hungry fangs. The line between animal and human had been crossed.
“I am her guardian, directly expressing her wishes. Where is the Azure Prince or Tylda?”
Valium snapped. “Guards! Seize this lot. If they won’t tell me where Taelim is, we’ll beat it out of them!”
The words, the threat triggered something inside of me. Pent up frustration, loathing, nothing but worst intentions for the man who had frightened me into a corner, forced me away for fear of what he might do. I lunged. Eager to sink my maw into his throat, but it was too late.
Feeps knew me inside and out. Before I struck, he had whipped out the odd scroll the Incunabula gifted him, shouting out a spell before I knew what was happening. Valium cast one last look of annoyance before he turned to stone entirely.
The room froze, and I staggered back on all fours cocking my head at the turn of events, tail wagging against my will. Would I have killed Valium? It certainly felt like it, and I wondered if my guardian feared it as well.
The guards seemed to wake out of their daze, drawing swords and approaching us.
“Wait!” Maziel threw up her hands. “Change back, Taelim!” Maziel yelled while the rest of the party huddled defensively.
The name kept the guards at bay as they inadvertently searched the room for the missing person, their missing leader.
I obeyed, if uncomfortably. Well, they’ll learn the truth about what I am if I survive long enough to tell it.
There I was, half-elf form shifting awkwardly under their awed expressions. As if they didn’t believe I was here after all this time. They gaped at me, then Valium’s petrified from, then Feeps and the party.
“Um,” I began in a quiet voice. “I can explain…”
“Taelim!” Feeps commanded my attention, waving the scepter about. “Killian or Tylda. Now!”
I nodded and motioned to the guards. “Killian, bring him here quickly.” They seemed to hesitate, as if ashamed of some truth I didn’t yet know. “Hurry!” I called, shaking them out of it. They fled the room to do as ordered.
“Wooooow,” Cosmo commented once we were alone. “Is home always like this?”
I tried to laugh, but I felt nauseous. My head was brimming with worry as I paced in front of the windows. We need to fight. I need to defend the city. Then my eyes caught sight of something peculiar outside the city walls.
“Klo,” I called to gnome who scampered over. I pointed, directing him to my line of sight. “Is that--”
“A summoning circle…” He gasped, hand over his mouth. “The biggest I’ve ever seen.”
From there I watched the Wroth pour in, reinforcements seemingly unlimited. “We have to shut it down.” Out there, a black dragon patrolled alongside the ritual, letting out an intimidating roar. “That too…” I swallowed hard.
“And the four others,” Maziel reminded me as we observed a red dragon light up the merchant district.
The doors of the study were thrown open and two guards dragged in a semi-conscious Killian. He looked half starved half beaten, and the guards must have seen the fury in my features.
“Princess,” one stammered. “Lord Valium had us question--”
“Just get out!” I yelled, disbanding them. I dropped to Killian’s side the second the door closed.
Familiar blue eyes watched me from swollen eyelids, and he smiled despite his wounds. You look like shit, I wanted to tell him. Instead, I placed a hand on his chest and casted quick healing spells. He sighed in relief, as most of his bruises and cuts disappeared, revealing a familiar, if haggard man.
“Glad you made it,” Killian said hoarsely. “As you can see, Valium didn't take kindly to me finding you. Sank my ship and threw me in the brig. Don't know what he told everyone though.”
“Killian,” I said softly, helping him to the window so he could see for himself. He muttered a string of curses, and I turned him toward me. “I-I have to ask you something. A favor,” I hesitated, beckoning for Feeps. “How much do you care about Illium?”
He beamed and tried to lighten the situation. “As much as my left hand.”
Cosmo laughed and I rolled my eyes. Even Maziel chuckled as she leaned against the doorframe.
“Really, Princess,” he cleared his throat. “Just let me grab a weapon, I’ll lead a group outside. We’ll clean this up.”
I placed two hands on his shoulders, growing serious. “You’re the rightful heir of Illium.”
Killian blinked at me, then snorted amused. “Riiight. But really, I swear I can fight.”
Feeps lumbered over bearing the scepter, and I guided the warforged’s hand into Killian’s. The Azure Prince raised his eyebrows as he held the scepter. Gently, I pushed him toward the window where he could command safely.
“I promise,” I began in low, desperate voice. I had begun to feel it, what I knew to be true all along. That I was helpless to help my home. “I’ll tell you everything.” I started toward the door, motioning for the party to follow. “Wake the titan’s, send them after the dragons. Defend the city.”
“What about you? Where are you going?” Killian called after us.
“To do what we can.”

We sprinted headlong out of the castle, just in time to hear the low groan of metal moving into motion. The titans at the four corners of the city stretched their weary limbs, eyes alighting with magic energy. They smashed their fists together, goading the soaring dragons to draw near. Even from the courtyard, we could hear the echoing cheer of the people. The fight was on.
The titans heavy footfalls stomped over the fighting groups, weaving their massive feet through city blocks. The chromatic dragons made an enemy of each, diving forward for battle, but the black dragon lingered at the city gates, knowing full well what it protected.
It was odd to reach the city walls and stand atop the ramparts, staring back at the soldiers who eyed me with equal disbelief. They cheered our group, banging swords against shields, and knowing hope had arrived. At last, I never felt so welcome.
“Taelim!” Klotonk pulled me close, forcing our group to huddle. “I have an idea!”
“I’m all ears,” I said, admittedly distracted by whizzing arrows overhead. I yearned to fight something.
“I can dispel the circle! I’ll cast Invisibility on myself and make it over there. Can you distract the dragon?”
I glanced at the gargantuan black beast that spewed acid in an arc, keeping soldiers at bay and encouraging Wroth companions forward as they materialized in droves.
The gnome procured a handful of potions while we looked on, not doubtfully, just concerned with the thought none of us might make it out of this. He started to down them one after another sticking out his tongue in a grimace after each swig.
“Klo…” I tried, wanting to make excuses, but I knew we were quickly running out of options.
“You guys handle the dragon,” he said decidedly, finishing his last potion. “Leave the circle to me.”
I dropped to one knee and embraced him. “Be careful, buddy.”
He chuckled. “Of course!” He started to move, then added, “But when I get back, I wouldn’t mind taking a look at your dad’s book stash. I saw some pretty tempting titles.”
I grinned. “You got it.”
Then he was off, muttering his spell and disappearing entirely from sight.
“Hey guys,” I said to my friends, eyes locked on the black dragon. “Thanks for not bailing.”
Though they said nothing, I knew they had my back, as I undoubtedly had theirs.
“Soldiers clear out!” I called, waving my arms and creating ample spaces around us. “I’m about to piss off a dragon.”
I tilted my head up at the sky, black oil occasionally falling from the overcast ceiling. I reached up, muttering the words for my spell. Above, the clouds darkened into thick thunderheads, crackling with electricity. I slashed the air and pointed at the dragon as bolt of lightning slammed into the beast who bellowed furiously. I walked to the edge of the wall and repeated until its eyes met mine.
With a thunderous roar the dragon beat its massive wings and leapt into the air. With a few more flaps, it dropped onto the wall before us, revealing an impressive set of teeth. Its presence alone was enough to make us take an unconscious step back, except for our kender, who wouldn’t knew danger if it swallowed him whole.
Congrats, Taelim. You got its attention. This is where you die.
Every playful skirmish, every dungeon battle, each time we barely walked away didn’t quite prepare us for this ancient beast. But we gave it our everything, if not for our own hides, then for our friend working his way to the ritual alone; and if not for him, then for every citizen in Illium unable to defend themselves.
The black dragon clawed and bit, and we dodged and struck back. Acid burned beside our boots, and we stumbled around the difficult terrain trying to avoid being knocked off the towering wall, or slashed to ribbons.
We battled the beast for what seemed like an eternity, all of us at the end of our resources. But then, weary as we were, it snapped its maw forward, and this time found its mark. Feeps was swept upward in the dragon’s jaws, and I watched in horror as it crunched down, splintering my best friend’s body.
At that moment the air distorted, and a magical energy pulsed through the field. The dragon turned in horror to see the summoning circle had been dispelled, leaving no trace of Wroth in the vicinity. In fact, there wasn’t a living creature in hundred-foot radius. Nothing. The black dragon gazed around the city, evaluating. It realized something for the first time since they invaded: they were losing.
By now, the titans had killed at least one of the chromatic dragons, and were already teaming up on the others, annihilating danger as they went. Wroth were spilling out of the gates, fleeing droves, only to be cut down by Illium calvary.
The dragon dropped Feeps and leapt into the sky. It did one lap around the city, signalling for others to flee or follow. The remaining chromatic dragons joined, fortunate enough to escape pursuit unlike their ground forces. All that remained now was cleanup, but I was too distracted to think about it.
I slid over to Feeps, and wrapped my arms around him, refusing to let him go.
“Taelim. I am fine. Please do not worry.”
When he said that I wanted to cry. I thought I’d witness my best friend get devoured, and I couldn’t do a thing to stop it. I did a cursory check over his body, he appeared functional, even though the bite marks sizzled with acid.
“We’ll fix you,” I promised. “We’ll fix Illium too.”
He smiled at me, and I detected pity. “If that is what you wish.”
I said nothing. I truthfully didn’t know.
“Shit! Klotonk!” I jumped to my feet, but hesitated at Feeps’s side.
“Go!” He encouraged. “I will be fine.”
Cosmo, Maziel and I barreled down the steps and into the fields, striking down running enemies with certain satisfaction. When we stood at the center of where the summoning circle existed, not a single soul remained.
I closed my eyes and cursed. We’ll find you, Klo. I swear.
Eventually, I shuffled back to Illium and watched with pride as the city reclaimed itself. A towering half orc bearing the symbol of Kord carried the broken Feeps toward me. Off to an alley, Cosmo and a raging dwarf with silver arms were slaughtering remaining dragonborn.
Maziel hovered at my side, arms across her chest. “What now, princess?”
I shrugged. “I have no idea.”

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