TMA Down Time

TMA Down Time
Art by @spoiledchestnut

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Session 21

Around this time last year, my friends were heading off on their next adventure, leaving me to clean up the mess Tiamat and the Wroth wreaked in Illium.
Had it already been a year? A year of trying to get Illium back on its feet. A year trying to rear a new king. A year of being engaged, not just to Killian, but to this kingdom and my responsibilities. Where had the time gone?
I’m still here. At least I'm trying.
“Taelim!”  Klotonk came scuttling into his living room, appearing from some trapdoor that led into his basement lab. I lounged on the couch, petting Mug and chatting with his new roommates, a succubus named Minerva and the black dragon, Munari. Apparently this was the same succubus Klotonk had swapped bodies with after the Tiamat ritual mishap. She seemed nice, for a demon living passively in Illium. Besides, she offered me a drink.
“I'm here, as promised,” I said. “What's up, Klo?”
You forgot? I figured you'd be the first ready to go!” Klotonk answered excitedly.
At that moment, Maziel and Cosmo burst into the house. Somewhere down the street I could hear the drunken laugh of Dagon not far behind. Maziel slammed the door shut.
“Go where?” I asked cautiously.
I had been bound to the castle the past few weeks, a house arrest of sorts. My aunt was still miffed about the dragon, and the kidnapping, and the…it didn't matter. To worsen matters, Feeps took her side. Of late, the warforged had taken to berating me about my choices, and I was afraid we were growing apart. He was bound to me and Illium, not both when I ran off.
“The Goblin Market of course!” Mug added, stretching leisurely on my leg. “I'll take you! It's going to be fun. You like fun, Taelim.”
That's one way of putting it.
Still, the Goblin Market was on a whole new level. Located in the Feywild, it was a yearly market, meets expo, meets anything you can think of. Operated by the Unseelie Fey, it was considered neutral ground for all to attend. An endless showcase of the amazing and bizarre.
I was sitting upright now, giving away my enthusiasm at the prospect. There was going to be a tournament, and the thought of returning to action riled me up.
Then I winced. Krow. Illium’s Fey ambassador. He would tell my aunt if I showed. I wondered if I could bribe him, but knew the odds were slim. Cranky, old troll.
“I don't know, guys. I'm already on thin ice…”
Dagon kicked open the front door. “All the booze and women and fighting! Are we leaving yet!?”
“See? You'll be missing out,” Cosmo half sang, hopping on his feet gracefully.
I gazed up at Maziel as if for direction. The drow said nothing and shrugged.
I jumped up. “Screw it, I'm in. Lead the way Mug!”

Apparently a gateway to the Feywild existed in Illium. Had I known, my excursions might have been more frequent, and far easier. Hidden in some warehouse run by genasi, the owners panicked when I walked in, seemingly escorted by an entourage. I quickly explained I was just here for a way to the Goblin Market. Their postures relaxed, showing Mug the gateway. The grinning, magic cat opened it with ease. We stepped through, transported to another plane.

I felt like a child on holiday, overwhelmed by an endless stream of sensory overload. The place was packed, a constant bustle of movement, with even more people teleporting into the hub behind us.
Maziel pushed us off to the side, hands on her hips. She addressed all of us, but her eyes were locked on me. “I've booked us stay at an inn,” she shoved a small piece of parchment in my hand that had a name and address. “Do what you will. Shop, carouse,” she leaned in, “but stay out of trouble.” Her eyes flickered to Dagon warninly. “I've got errands to run, then I'll enroll us in tomorrow's tournament.” She waved a hand, and with a swish of her black cloak, she melded into the crowd.
I glanced around, finding only Dagon staring around excitedly. In another moment, he ran off in search of his own pleasures. So I wandered aimlessly around the market, stopping at peculiar stands, trying new foods and hoping I wouldn't regret it later.
It didn't take long for me to be recognized and stopped. I found myself in a secluded alley away the main thoroughfare. Here stalls melted into actual shops, guarded by shadowy characters.
“There she is,” said an old woman, obscured by a ragged hood. She cackled beside a double-wide door to a candle-lit lounge.
A second woman behind her snickered. “The princess, just as predicted.”
A third woman said nothing, and just watched me from under her hood.
I stared at the trio, checking the scimitar at my side. They hadn't barred me in anyway, but we were alone.
“Alright,” I faced them squarely. “You have my attention.”
The trio cackled. “Baron Slith, the Wroth Leader of the South, he sought you out.”
The vampire lord? I thought to myself. One of my many future problems.
“Is that so?” I asked, pleasantly enough. “And what could he possibly want from me?”
“A truce with Illium.” They said in tandem.
I folded my arms across my chest. “So the Wroth side with Tiamat, fail their invasion, and we destroy them. Then they go silent for a year, and suddenly a truce is on the table?”
They nodded, again in unison.
I suppressed a shudder. A truce. At what cost I wondered. Still, I had enough problems on my plate. If Illium didn't have to worry about the Wroth, we wouldn't need to battle them on the southern front. For now.
“The catch?” I questioned.
“Just the truce,” the old women said together.
I shrugged. “Fine. I'll send an envoy to Slith. Let's see who holds up the truce longer.” I started to walk away. I heard their laughter echo behind me, but when I looked back they were gone.
Time to find a drink.

I was the first back to the inn, and the common room was sparsely crowded. I took a seat at the bar and ordered something I couldn't pronounce. Admittedly, I didn't handle boredom well. A new place, a new experience, I created my own entertainment.
After a few drinks, I quickly found myself surrounded by other patrons, chatting enthusiastically and exchanging tales of my adventures, each of us trying to best the other. I think I won, because the drinks kept flowing, and I never found myself without one as I sat there, engaging the crowd around me.
Then I saw her. She had been watching me gloat over my party's prowess. When our eyes met, she slowly made her way over. By then the crowd had dispersed, and we were left sitting at a small table as she bought me another drink. Her name was Lysandra. She smiled as she listened to me ramble, laughed at my ridiculous mannerisms, and kept the alcohol flowing.
I think it was the way she watched me. Curious, yet intrigued, as she if actually wanted to know more about me, not just the figure associated to the kingdom of Illium. Which I had definitely given away. No, she asked about me.  Taelim. Not the bastard princess forced to uphold a title.
Was it more than that? Even impaired by booze I could feel my uncertainty, but it was wholly overcome by her presence. I wanted to find out more about her, to push that line I blurred. So, in my drunken stupor, I let her lead me upstairs, and forget about my friends for the night.

You know when you wake up with the sudden realization you made a huge mistake? While I did that often, somehow this felt worse, because I knew, in part, I had wanted this. To damn all my obligations and do what I pleased. As I rolled out of bed as quietly as I could, I hurriedly strapped on my armor and weapons. It wasn't fast enough.
Lysandra was watching me with those intelligent, ever-curious eyes. While she had the appearance of youth, something about her stare betrayed years of wisdom, and so much more.
I faltered halfway through buckling my belt. “I don't remember much…” I admitted. The only thing I knew was a pounding headache, currently my companion.
Casually, Lysandra folded her arms behind her head. “Let's see,” she began slowly, taunting me. She laughed at my expression, which must have been some mixture of sheepishness and horror. “We mostly talked, Taelim. All night. You mentioned Killian. A fascinating choice of king you're engaged to.”
A disgruntled groan escaped my lips before I could stop it. “Technically engaged, yeah.” I replied, recognizing my own misery. I found her eyes again, unable to look away. An olive complexion could not stop me from blushing wildly.
“Oh, and something else,” Lysandra said, swinging her legs off the bed. “I convinced you to join the Unseelie. Which stopped the assassination Timony ordered on you.” She finished coolly.
I just blinked at her.
Bits and pieces began filling in. She was an agent of the Unseelie Fey, she asked me to join her. Almost begged. I couldn't say no, I didn't want to say no.
Wait, did she just inadvertently save my life?  I closed my eyes and finished collecting my gear. Gods dammit.
“I'm sorry. I have to go,” I mumbled. “We can't...I, um…”
She shook her head. “It's alright,” Lysandra said, though something in her voice suggested it wasn't.
I hesitated for another moment. “Bye, Lysandra,” was all I managed, not even making eye contact as I hurried out the room.
I started to wonder if leaving was my mistake, but I rushed out of the inn all the same, sprinting to the arena.

The stadium was packed with people of varying degrees, and I had the misfortune of sitting between two half giants. I gave it a solid five minutes of reconnaissance before making my escape.
Screw it, we can handle whatever comes.
I found my friends in one of the waiting halls. Dagon had seen better days, and Maziel was hovering beside him mad about something I must have missed.
The others were missing.
“You're early,” Maziel said, “the free-for-all got moved to this evening.”
I shrugged. “Figured I watch some of the competition, but...that didn't work out.”
Maziel was studying me quietly, and I got the strange feeling she knew something I planned to keep from her as long as possible. If anyone kept to the company of secretive folks and dangerous orders, that was my dear drow.
“Where's your dagger?” Maziel said instead.
I glanced down at my belt, noticing with a sickening feeling my father's dagger was gone. My temper spiked, and I could only think to accuse the last person I was with. Lysandra.
I turned on my heels.
“Be back in time to discuss tactics!” Maziel shouted after me, but I was already sprinting out the door.
I ended up back at the inn, panting. The place was empty except for the innkeeper.
I bolted up the stairs, and just as I feared, the bedroom was empty. Curling my hands into fists, I stomped down the stairs angrily.
The innkeeper smiled at me warmly. “Don't worry, girl. Your friend said she'd be back. What's her name…?”
“Lysandra,” I offered hopefully.
“Aye, that's it. Take a seat. Drink. Hah! Surprised your head ain't swimming from last night.”
“Oh, you have no idea.” I replied dryly, taking the cup he offered. There I waited, forced to sit with my fury.
True to his word, Lysandra showed not long after.  The moment she walked through the door I forgot my anger, and anxiety replaced it.
She grinned coyly, taking a seat besides me, buying me enough time to gather my courage.
“Didn't think I'd see you again so soon,” she began.
I raised my eyes and met her intense stare. “I lost my dagger. Last I checked, I had it last night.”
She rested her chin on her hands, unperturbed. “And you think I took it?”
I shrugged, glancing away.
Lysandra chuckled softly, spreading her arms. “If I had know it would bring you back here, maybe I would have. But no, I didn't do it, Taelim.”
I turned to face her, and felt my composure shatter. Taking a deep breath I shook my head. “I shouldn't blame you, I's important to me.”
She put her hand on mine. “Describe it to me.”
I did so, and when I finished, she lightly jumped off her chair, beckoning for me to follow.
“Come on,” Lysandra said. “If someone took it, I know where it will end up.”
I trailed her confident steps like a puppy. Never before did I feel so out of my element. Not like I minded, by the time we stopped at the dilapidated storefront, sandwiched between two buildings, I almost forgot what I came for.
Inside, the little room was impossibly packed with odds and ends of all sorts. Books were piled to the ceiling, dividing the place into tight aisles. Trinkets and questionably filled bottles littered any available surface. I found my way to the back where an old man in gray robes watched me attentively.
“Hi,” I started quietly. “I'm looking for a dagger. I lost it today…” I described it briefly.
The old man reached under the counter and placed my father's dagger on the counter.
“That's it!”
“Wonderful,” the old man said. “What will you pay for it?”
I said nothing at first. I forgot all words and ire won out. Pay for my own dagger?
“What?” I snarled.
He smiled, unamused. “You have something of value I think. A special collar. Right?”
I placed my hands on the counter, leaning forward dangerously.
“The fact you know that makes me...very unhappy. Like this is a setup.” I was breathing hard now, very much aware of the small space and how shifting into a fire elemental would match the wrath I felt. Alongside setting this place ablaze.
My hands curled into fists, and at that moment, a small arm tugged at my shirt.
I glanced down hotly. It was Klotonk.
“Taelim!” He laughed, evidently uneasy. “Can I talk to you? Like now?”
I gritted my teeth and let myself be lead away by the gnome. Lysdandra followed without saying a word.
“I caught the gist of that,” Klo started hurriedly. “I know you can get...ahead of yourself,” he held up his hands before I could bark out a reply. “Just hear me out...this might be one fight we don't want to start.”
“Give me one reason,” I replied, arms on my hips. “Go.”
“We're inside of a dragon. He's a dragon. An old, strong, BIG dragon. But he's Gold, and actually quite nice.”
I heard Lysandra whistle softly.
Klotonk looked at me pleadingly.
“Fine.” I stormed back to the old man. As calmly as I could muster, “I can't give you the collar. But the dagger is...important to me. What else do you want for it?”
“How important?”
“It was my fath--it belonged to the man who raised me.”
I raised an eyebrow. “How do you know that?”
“Will you tell me what he meant to you?” The old man continued without falter.
I sighed. “He guided me to the best of his abilities, despite how...defiant I was. He was the strongest man I knew, and he deserved better than me. He's gone now, and all I have left of him is that dagger.”
The old man nodded, and slid the dagger across the counter. “It's yours.”
Hesitantly, I picked it up and returned it to my sheath. “Thank you.”
“Can I make you an offer?” The old man asked.
I nodded. “Sure.”
“If you ever want to know about Viceak, in exchange for the collar, call my name three times. Grayleaf.”
“I'll keep that in mind.”
With that, the three of us left the store. Klotonk exhaled audibly beside me.
“Come on, I'm not that bad,” I patted the gnome’s back.
He didn't comment, which said it all. He did add, “I think we should head to the arena. Maziel is probably docking us.”
“Meet you there?” I offered.
The gnome nodded. “Bye, Lysandra!”
When he was gone, I turned to her. “I'm not even surprised you know each other.”
She smiled crookedly. “I'm very well connected.”
“Listen, I, um…” I scratched the back of my head uncertainly. “Thank you,” I eventually blurted. “I couldn't have done it without you.”
She inclined her head playfully. “Good luck in the tournament.” Then moved to go.
Lysandra stopped and looked back at me.
“Maybe after you can join us for dinner?” I smiled, starting to regain my confidence around her. “We'll have a lot of gold to spend.”
She laughed and waved, sauntering away. “Count on it.” Then she was gone, leaving me staring after her.
I took my time getting to the arena.

Our group handled the arena competition, it was largely unseasoned fighters trying to make a name. That wasn't a surprise to me, but they weren’t the only creatures there. Devas and demons brawled violently, which was to be expected given their history. At some point, Dagon and I even began tallying our beaten opponents, to the roaring cheers of an enthusiastic crowd.
What wasn't expected, or legal, was when the Devas were decapitated. We quickly realized the last ounce of any good alignment was us. This wasn't just a tournament. It was personal for our familiar enemies, or the hired hands of them.
This proved even more true when Tiamat cultists revealed themselves, joining forces with the demons. Suddenly, two of the cultists turned into twin blue dragons, going for the kill.
That's when the arena managers intervened, teleporting the dragons out of the Feywild. They gave us the pleasure of handling the remaining demons. The crowd was wild by now. Maziel, for once, looked happy to publicly accept the victory and gold on our behalf.
That night we drank, feasted and caroused like the celebrities we were. I reveled every moment of it, because soon after, I was homeward bound.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Session 20

After returning from Solstice, we learned that Primus couldn’t be killed. Well, shouldn’t was more along the lines of what the Magus of Myth said. The man-made god was created by the Cabiri, for the Cabiri. Then Primus became sentient and killed all the Cabiri. When an alliance of giants and dragons killed him centuries back, Primus essentially reincarnated. That’s when he was sealed away, locked in eternal sleep. That is, until my friends broke his bonds and released him back into the world to dominate all living things.
Which left us with two options. Wait or fight. We had allies and armies. The dragons were bound to Illium, and in extension, me. Then there was the Arch Magi, who were there to save the world when groups like ours made mistakes. Stopping Primus was our priority, but how did you face a god that controlled you? It’s what kept us from acting, all the while I kept imagining Primus setting his sights elsewhere. Like Illium.
The idea that Primus might come for Illium unnerved me. I already had Tiamat as an enemy, and probably others I didn’t know of. I did what I do best, and stepped away from the city. Having returned from Solstice well past our three day limit had upset Feeps, even when I explained the time spell. He and Killian had taken to reminding me that my place was here, and running about endangering myself wasn’t very princess-like. Fed up, I found solace in the nature beyond Illium’s walls, far from the city as I dared to go alone.
I left without a word. Not like I heeded anyone but myself, a privilege of my birth I suppose. I was working on it. Maybe if I wasn’t so absorbed in resenting my responsibilities, I might have seen the figure that snuck up behind me. When the silver collar snapped around my neck, I only had time to glimpse the familiar black dragon stepping out of the woods. It was a creature I recognized, one I couldn’t forget. The dragon I fought in Illium. Then I blacked out.

I awoke on my knees upon the marshy floors of a swamp. A place I knew. I was in the Sump, in front of some overgrown cavern, cleverly hidden if not for the group of people standing at its entrance. Two elves, casters of some sort, a female and male. Three halflings of varying professions, and a blue dragonborn beside a mysterious woman. Then my focus found a face I recognized. Klotonk.
Another clone? I wondered wearily, my body seemed to ache all over. Definitely. How did I get here?
The gnome’s wide-eyes were watching me, fearfully. I glanced over my shoulder and saw why. The ancient black dragon crouched low, alongside some mage in dark robes. Off to the right was a foreign warrior, bearing accents from the far east.
“Munari. Is the deal on, or off? One princess for the information that I asked for.” The mage behind me asked.
I snorted. Joke’s on you, I’m a bastard.
The black dragon growled as if keeping me in check. I could feel his warm breath on my back, but the silver collar around my neck held me still.
“Easy Shimmerlee,” the mage said to the dragon. “We’re almost done here.”
The mysterious woman named Munari seemed to think on her answer. Eventually, she nodded. “All right, Timony. I’ll take the princess as agreed.” She pulled out a scroll from her robes.
Timony grabbed me by the collar and pushed me forward. He dropped me a few feet in front of the group before taking off the torc and waving it in front of me, smiling. Then he snatched the scroll from Munari’s hand and walked back to the black dragon.
“Munari, I should probably tell you,” Timony began casually, gesturing at the group of individuals. “They’re the ones that killed your dragon friend. What’s the name? Vodja.”
“What?!” The foreign warrior demanded, stepping menacingly toward the group.
Munari gasped, turning to them in disbelief.
“Wreccin,” Shimmerlee snarled. “We got what we came for. Let’s finish this.”
The warrior named Wreccin wasn’t a man at all. He transformed entirely into a black dragon.
I didn’t have another moment to consider this before Shimmerlee pounced on me, talons swiping down. I dropped, instinctively curling up. Still, I could feel the claws shred open my back, my leather armor barely saving me from being torn to ribbons. Satisfied with his work, Shimmerlee stepped away.
In the distance, I could hear Wreccin roaring and charging the others. Combat unfolded at full scale.
Fury wasn’t enough of a word to encompass my feelings. Ignoring the searing wounds on my back, I leapt to my feet and changed into an earth elemental. I watched Shimmerlee’s smug look turn to disbelief.
“Takes more than that,” I said, though the words spilled out in the garbled tongue of elementals.   
I longed to reap my vengeance on the dragon, to see him slain for everything he had done, to me and to Illium. But something else came first on my revenge list. I barreled toward Timony, and loomed over the man. In one motion, I took the silver collar from his hands and slammed it around his throat.
Then time froze.
I was suddenly back in my half elf form, the silver collar around my neck.
Wait, what?
Timony chuckled. “This belongs to me.”
Before he had a chance to spellbind the collar, I remembered something I forgot in the heat of battle. Well, in my unthinking rage. I had the Primordial’s boon, the ability to open what I pleased. I reached up and unlocked the collar. Timony gaped at me, and I relished his shock and fear.
“Now, I’m going to kill you.” I swore darkly.
Timoney hesitated, then vanished from sight. Far away, I could hear him shouting something in draconic, earning an equally vicious snarl from Shimmerlee.
“Munari wait!” Someone was calling.
I turned to see a third black dragon in place of the mysterious woman. Only, this one took flight, as fast as she could from the battle.
Meanwhile, in front of the cavern, Wreccin was engaged with the group, and losing. Even his dangerous bite and lashing tail did little to discourage the seasoned fighters. By the time the larger dragon, Shimmerlee, joined the fray, it was already too late.
A roguish looking halfling had perched atop the cavern, lining up a perfect shot. He fired the killing blow straight into Wreccin’s skull. The dragon toppled.
The battle seemed to come to a standstill.
Timony gave one last look as Shimmerlee made a running leap, scooping up the mage and carrying him way. “This isn’t over!” He shouted.
Said the coward.
Klotonk ran over and I threw my arms around him.
“When Munari said she was bringing a princess--I swear I had no idea--” the gnome tried to explain, but I held up a hand.
“Eh,” was all I replied. “Besides, I got a present out of it.” I held up the silver collar, grinning. “Who are your friends?”
The group gathered round. They called themselves Ornamental Chaos, which seemed fitting considering the shit we just survived. Erdan was an elf wizard, and Xillali was an elf druid. Both were scholars, so my attention fell elsewhere. Derek was the chef/assassin who had delivered the final blow on Wreccin, while Naora was a stout Paladin of Kord. Doki was their jolly, if distracted, bard of questionable allegiance. Finally, Dmitri was the blue dragonborn of little words.
I immediately forgot half their names.
“Well, I have no idea how long I’ve been hostage,” I admitted, unable to resist a bashful grin. “That collar knocks you out….I should probably get back to Illium.”
“Wait, Princess Taelim!” Naora called. “I have to speak with you!”
“Um, sure. You’re all welcome to join me. Illium’s a free city and all--”
“Everybody hush!” Derek called out, perfectly still. His head was tilted, carefully listening. “Do you hear?”
We all fell quiet. Then we heard it, the buzzing steadily drawing near.
“That sounds like a lot of insects,” I said, not exactly optimistic about the matter.
“A swarm,” Xillali confirmed.
It was growing so loud we nearly missed the beat of wings. The black dragon, Munari, landed beside us.
I was the only one who reacted hostilely. Klo put a hand on mine and shook his head, so I remained still. For the moment.
Munari shifted back into a woman, features panicked. “We have to get out of here! Before the plague arrives.”
Klotonk immediately set to work casting a ritual, and Erdan stepped beside him doubling their speed.
“Where to?” The gnome called.
“Illium?” I offered, and the rest consented. We leapt into the teleportation circle and vanished just as the swarm of insects descended.
We were back in Illium’s central hub. Suddenly,  the claw marks on my body were the least of my concerns. In the center of the city, surrounded by thousands, I whipped back around on Munari.
“No! She’s friendly!” Klotonk intervened.
I glanced between the gnome and the dragon woman. Then sighed.
“You cannot turn into a dragon. Not here,” I said warningly, trying to control my voice. “If Klo vouches for you, then you’re welcome to stay. Though I don’t think my aunt will like the idea of--”
“She can stay at my house!” Klo piped up.
I cocked my head. “You have a house?”
The gnome waved a deed happily in front of my face. “Inherited it recently! Oh, you’re going to love my plans for a laboratory. Snee can come and help build…”
I drowned him out. I was already imagining the lecture I was going to get from Aunt Tylda and Feeps. Maybe I shouldn’t tell them about the dragon.
“A word, princess?” Munari asked politely. “And you three as well.” She gestured to Klotonk, Naora and Xillali.
I held up a hand. “Maybe not in the hub of Illium? I’m already getting looks, and it’s a matter of time before I have to report back. Where’s this house of yours, Klo?”
The gnome beamed. “Let me show you!”

The place needed work. That about summed it up. Still, Klotonk seemed happy enough, even as all of us squeezed inside his living room.
“Now then,” Munari said, having pulled the four of us into the kitchen. “I have a request to make, and I believe you four the most inclined to accept.”
I folded my arms and bit my tongue. A black dragon that didn’t try to kill me, it just needed something from me.
Klotonk picked up on my reluctance, and spoke up. “Is this about the masks?”
Munari nodded.
“What masks?” I asked dryly.
“Soooo,” Klotonk said. “Turns out there are dragon masks of different colors. They control dragons….and summon Tiamat if gathered.”
“Like the red one in Solstice?” I blurted, and Klotonk returned a questioning look. “Err, one of your clones came with us. I’ll explain later. Continue.”
“That’s exactly right!” Munari said. “The red one exists in Solstice. I know the location of each. I need you to destroy them all. Please.”
For a time, no one responded.
“Even if I had the time to reap my revenge and destroy all of these masks, what’s in it for you, dragon?”
“With the masks destroyed, Tiamat cannot be summoned. Is that enough?”
“And dragons can’t be controlled.” Xillali added, hand on her hip.
“Yes,” Munari admitted. “A win for each of us. Will you help?”
Again, the four of us exchanged glances. Eventually, we agreed. The opportunity was too great to pass up. Munari told us everything we needed to know.
I started to make mental notes of the accumulating tasks I had on my plate. Between running a kingdom and trying to find favor with the Arch Magi, I already felt stretched thin. Wearily, I headed for the door. I had a lot of explaining to do.
“Wait, Princess Taelim!” Naora came running for me.
“Oh, I forgot. You wanted to chat?”
The paladin halfling nodded. “I won’t bother you with the details, but I originally sought you out to give warning: dragons were going to attack your city.”
I scratched the back of my head. “I hate to break it to you, but that already happened.”
“Er, well, yes. I failed to warn you…”
We stared at each other awkwardly. Then I reach for the door handle.
“No, wait! That’s not the rest! I swore an oath, in failing you earlier, I have to serve your cause.”
“Listen, Naora, I appreciate it, but I have no idea where this is coming from. You really don’t have to do this. Honestly, I don’t even know you.”
“Please! Trust me. Klotonk can vouch for me.”
I sighed, and lifted my gaze. The gnome was happily chatting up the party, going on about digging a basement and building his laboratory.
I shrugged, giving in. “What exactly do you want from me?”
“To serve, to fulfil my pledge really. I had a mentor...I failed her, and you. It’s really a long story…” she trailed off, recollecting some painful memory. Quietly, she finished her train of thought. “A task, give me something to redeem myself.”
I exhaled deeply, shifting uncomfortably beside the door. My eyes swept over the bizarre cast, then they fell on Munari. “All right, Naora. Here’s an idea. You see, whenever I leave Illium, I get grief from my advisors. You can imagine that would make hunting these masks difficult. Since, I despise Tiamat, I want it done. Make that your quest. Find and destroy all of them, then you’ve done your job.”
The halfling paladin beamed brightly. “It will be done. Thank you!”
I inclined my head and slipped out of the house. I gazed up at the castle of Illium in the distance. Taking a deep breath, I headed home, trying to think of a good excuse for being kidnapped.