Even at the edge of Mag Turea, the three of us stood out among the lumbering fomorians, duergar and other creatures of the Feydark. Outside the walls, we hurried across the open fields where the temple of Hiatea was nestled. Like everything else in the city, it was enormous. It reminded me of our jaunt through the Shadowfell, stumbling inside the rib cages of Primordials. Whatever beast once bore these bones, it was certainly apt for a giant’s temple.
A roar greeted us the moment we passed through the towering archway. The inside resembled a massive enclosure more than a temple. Perhaps there was more beyond the doorways in the back, but my attention was drawn to the titanic reptilian beasts that wandered the area. They ranged in size and shape, everything from the elongated necks of a brontosaurus to the skittering legs of an aquilops-like beast.
A firbolg in hides and furs approached us with a warm smile, patting the triceratops that stomped along beside him. My eyes went wide when I noticed the baby trike in her arms.
Klotonk patted my hand as if to say, Don’t get distracted.
We had one goal in Mag Turea: talk to the fomorian king, Bres, and request entry to the fey gate his people guarded. If there was time, we could help with the apparent unrest in the city, but only if time allowed. Apparently, Klo had met an old formorian woman named Granny Poultice on the Gilded Lotus. She bore the aura of most every fey court. For whatever reason, she wanted to see Bres stay in charge, offering an unnamed favor, but clearly one of significance.
I swallowed the urge to reach out and pet the beasts, trying to compose myself before the apparent druid.
“Hail, adventurers,” the firbolg smiled warmly enough, though her Common was a bit broken. “What brings you to the place of Hiatea?”
The baby trike squeaked in her arms.
“What is this amazing place?” I blurted despite myself, eyes fixed on the golden orbs of the small creature in the firbolg’s cradle.
Klotonk and Beck both sighed.
The firbolg laughed. “You’re a druid, yeah?”
I nodded vigorously, and to my unending delight, she extended the baby triceratops to me. In that moment, I fell in love with the beast, offering it every word of affection I didn’t even bestow upon people.
“My name’s Lithia,” she started, “and here, under Hiatea’s blessings, we care for the beasts of the city.”
“I’ll admit,” I replied, accepting rough kisses from the baby trike. “I don’t know much about the goddess.”
This seemed to surprise the druid, who brought over another caretaker named Kervan, as both endeavored to win me over with the giant goddess of hunting, nature and agriculture. Hiatea was apparently a damn good fighter who slew a hydra, and the flaming spear bit caught my attention.
At some point, Klotonk stepped forward mildly and spoke up. “We’re actually here looking for King Bres, would you know how to reach him?”
A mixed look of fear and surprise overcame the fomorians.
“You shouldn’t show such favor for King Bres. Not anymore,” Lithia said in a low voice.
“Former King Bres,” Kervan corrected quietly.
Lithia nodded. “He was overthrown by King Nuadu Finn Fail. The city guard has been...silencing any remaining supporters.”
I glanced at Klo, and he met my eyes with a grimace. That didn’t bode well for us. Further contemplation halted, because I had failed to see what unfolded around us. Over the course of our conversation, the beasts within had grown restless. A guttural roar reverberated around the chamber.
I watched in horror as a massive tyrannosaurus smashed through his quartered-off pen, and in a single snap of its jaw, crush the life of the caretaker ahead. Then the stampede started. The other beasts barreled in from the back of the enclosure, thrashing and attacking caretakers and smaller creatures alike. They thundered straight toward us.
“No!” Lithia screamed, lunging forward only to be seized by Kervan.
“They’re going to crush us!” Beck cried out.
Like a frozen moment in time, every beast in the roam was suddenly thrown into the air. They stopped, well over a hundred feet high, spinning and thrashing in place. My eyes quickly assessed the situation, and I spotted another tyrannosaurus bash through one of the pens in the back, apparently missed, trailed by a large triceratops.
I spun toward Klo, “Did you reverse gravity?”
“Yeah,” the gnome admitted tentatively, “but I didn’t think about what happens when the spell ends and they fall...”
My jaw dropped. I instinctively eyed the babies in the corner, floating in play, seemingly unaffected by the sudden lust for rage. Mindlessly I put the baby I was holding in Kervan’s arms, pushing him back.
“Don’t hurt them!” Lithia called toward Beck who moved forward, despite the t-rex stomping toward us, maw open wide..
I grabbed Beck’s wrist. “Don’t step in the center of the field, you’ll go up with them!”
The tyrannosaurus smashed through the side pens, stopping to smash and destroy whatever object was in its way. The trike took the lead and barreling forward.
I’m crazy, this is crazy. Still, I stepped in front of it and attempted to talk to the charging beast down, prepared to shift into one need be. To my shock, and relief, it skidded to a halt, snorting and pawing the ground.
“What’s wrong?” I tried in the creature’s tongue.
It hurts! It all hurts! The beast bellowed back.
I eyed the colored foam at the creature’s mouth. They’re sick...poison?
“I got this one!” Beck called, drawing my attention and confronting the tyrannosaurus. It didn’t go well, but the tiefling somehow avoided being eaten alive, casting a spell and seizing the monster in invisible binds.
I placed a hand on the trike in front of me and cast a restoration spell. At once the beast’s body sagged in relief, and it collapsed to the ground, calmed.
“There’s not much time!” Klo said, eyes staring upward.
“Heal the others!” I said to Beck, then turning to Lithia. “You, get on my back, and gather the younglings as we go!”
The firbolg gave me a fleeting look of confusion, until I turned into a quetzalcoatl and lowered my head. She leaped on, and we took off, trying to gather the babies and safely return them to the ground.
“There you are!” A deep voice boomed. Yaup turned the corner into the temple. Then, “Oh shit!” The cleric of Kord was swept up in the gravity field with the other beasts.
The deep gnome, Fizz, held back behind him, considering his options safely out of the spell’s reach.
“I helped him!” Beck shouted out happily, stroking a now calm t-rex.
“Yaup!” Klotonk called, “cast restoration on them!”
By the time I reached the ground with Lithia and a slew of younglings, Yaup had healed the majority of the floating beasts. Their rage wasn’t what scared me. The reverse gravity spell ended, and the creatures tumbled out of the sky.
At the last possible second, their fall faltered, and about a foot off the ground, they began to rise up again. The second rise was ended immediately, and they fell, not more than a foot to safety. We wasted no time in healing the reamaining ailing creatures.
When it was all done, I turned to Klotonk. “Two spells. That’s why you’re the smart one.”
He grinned. “I almost didn’t think of it.”
“Thank you!” Lithia came running over, embracing us. “I can’t show my gratitude enough. Nothing we could do would repay you for saving them.”
The baby triceratops I had been playing with earlier ambled over. I scooped him in my arms, nuzzling him, enjoying the stress release.
“Do you want him?” Lithia said, hand on my shoulders.
My eyes widened. “Really?”
She chuckled. “I see that look. It’s the least we could do, and I know you’d take care of him.”
“NO!” Maziel’s voice called. The drow entered the temple enclosure, trailed by the mysterious kenku, Beau.
My brows furrowed. I didn't know what angered me more: the fact I had actually been worried about her safety while we risked our hides, or that she once again tried to stop my fun.
“You don’t have a say,” I replied defiantly. A tense silence filled the moment.
Maziel cocked her head, her voice a warning. “Taelim…”
“C’mon, Brax,” I said, holding the baby I dubbed closer, Lithia following me tentatively. “Welcome to the Main Attraction. We haven’t had a dino since our circus days!”
Maziel cursed my name behind me.
Our party wearily took to the streets, avoiding the path of larger creatures that dominated Mag Turea. With clear instructions to avoid the fomorian palace, and any of the new king’s guards, our options were limited. Every step earned wary glances from the locals.
“It was drow darts filled with poison,” I explained to the group, barely above a whisper. “Even Beau confirmed it.” The darts were what started the stampede, enraging the creatures. With possible drow involvement, who knew what implications that created. Maziel already got dirty looks from the city folk.
“What was the name of the tavern the firbolgs suggested?” Maziel grumbled.
“The Auntie’s Poultice,” Fizz offered, pointing a finger around a street bend.
Alleyways are never promising shortcuts, especially backstreets in a city that doesn’t like those from the Material Plane anyway. Halfway through the dark street a group of mercs in red caps barred our way, another filling the space behind us. They drew their weapons, as thugs were apt to do.
Calmly, I opened a dumpster and put Brax and Little Oddie inside.
“Red Caps…” Maziel announced, as if their choice of headgear weren’t indication enough. Assassins of the Fey, though who they took orders from were still a mystery, especially since Lysandra was missing. Maziel drew her bow and nocked an arrow.
“You were told to say ‘no,’” one of the assassins said calmly, eyes fixed on Maziel.
The rest of us didn’t bother appearing surprised, we just braced for the worst.
Maziel’s arrow flew, and the steel-toed mercs charged.
My first instinct was to change into whatever beast would fill the space and run down the swarming hats, but Klotonk cast a wall of force that cut off half of the Red Caps, forcing me to full stop.
“Sorry!” He called, squeezing behind Yaup as the other mercenaries charged from behind.
A heavy boot hit my shin, dropping me. I narrowly avoided the blade that drove into the ground beside my stomach, drawing a deep scratch. It was nothing compared to the wound when Fizz shot this long-barreled gun and took my opponent's head clear off. In return I summoned a thorn whip and pulled his own mercenary in between our ranks as we quickly disposed of the hired sword.
The finale came when Klotonk launched a fireball that incinerated one half of the alley, leaving piles of ashes where the Red Caps once stood. The assassins behind the wall of force took one last look, then fled.
“Leave that one alive,” Maziel said, casually strolling toward the gasping figure under Yaup’s boot. “I have questions.”
Admittedly, I didn’t have the stomach for the brief bit of torture Maziel and Fizz managed, drawing the answers out of the Red Cap before eventually ending his life. I spent those few moments letting Brax run around the bodies of the fallen while we looted anything of value.
“They take orders from contracts by Eight Leaf and Long Tooth Nancy,” Maziel said, filling the rest of us in. “Though who assigned this particular hit on us,” she shrugged, evidently annoyed.
We managed to stumble our way out of the alley undetected, covered in grim and blood. At last we were at the door of the Auntie’s Poultice, not to be confused with Granny Poultice. Maybe they thought it was an ode to her. Who knows, who cares.
When we opened the door, the chatter of the relatively sparse room died at once. Tieflings. Everywhere. What looked to be the owner, a red tiefling man in dark leathers was leaning on the bar counter.
“Welcome…” he said slowly, eyes taking us in.
We all turned to Beck.
Our tiefling bard laughed uncomfortably before stepping forward. “Hey there, friend… we’re, um, looking for rooms.”
The red tiefling chuckled. “I bet you are, seems like you’ve all had a rough time. Come in, take a load off!” He slipped off his stool and put an arm around Beck. “Folks call me Long Tooth Nancy, but you can call me Nancy.”