The king of the fomorians, Naudu Finn Fail, forgave us in the end. I think he was more relieved we hadn’t outright betrayed him. Still, he promptly recalled his request for our help finding the former king, Bres. That was fine by us since Finn Fail planned on escorting us out of the Feydark by opening the gate to Szith Morcane, our final destination.
Me? I wasn't thinking about anything but Lysandra as I was steered forward by my friends. I felt as if I had willfully ignored her suffering, like I could fix it later with an apology.
The king and his entourage led us, unsurprisingly, to the drow temple. Finn Fail proudly stepped forward, his large hand rippling the back mirror walls. A portal shimmered into existence, and from the tear, blood washed over our feet. The obsidian city beyond was promptly forgotten. Screams echoed from within the temple, and the portal was immediately closed. At once, the doors were thrown open and the High Priestess staggered out, clutching her chest, a grimace set on her face.
Her body tore in two down the middle, and from the split emerged a massive snake-like female with six arms. Deadly blades materialized in her hands. From the back of the temple, the dead male drow rose up from the ground, reborn as bodaks.
Naudu Finn Fail was promptly whisked away, ringed by his guards, while our group stepped forward. Balor and his wife, Cethlenn the Thundering Sky, flanked our sides, as if eager to spill blood.
“Long live the Dark Prince,” the marilith hissed, then she was a flurry of blades upon us.
There wasn’t time to question the name, in seconds we were surrounded by the horde. A few minutes more and the former drow-turned-demons lay dead at our feet.
“The Dark Prince…” Yaup repeated as we all slouched against the wall to catch our breaths.
Maziel circled the chamber within earshot. “They couldn’t possibly mean…”
“Graz’zt.” Yaup affimed.
Balor eyed our group, but Maziel was already giving orders as if the giant didn’t head the fomorian army. “I think it best you investigate any leads on Graz’zt followers in Mag Turea.” She paused, then added. “For Finn Fail’s sake of course.”
Balor gave us an unmoving stare for a few more moments before he turned and lumbered off.
A low boom made me jump. Klotonk wailed as green flames licked up the door in the back of the temple. “Noooo! All the books!”
“Sorry...I should have realized it would be trapped…” Maziel grumbled, hesitating over the forlorn gnome.
I pulled my attention away, trying to focus on anything but what I wanted to be doing.
I shouldn't be here.
I should be searching for her.
Maziel was in my face, in fact, the whole group was looking at me. Unsteadily, I rose to my feet and followed them outside.
Finn Fail was waiting beside the temple wall, ready to get us out of his realm, even if it meant round two of mariliths.
I stared blankly at the wall where the portal was earlier, the king starting up the ritual again. In that moment, I balked.
“I can’t do this.” I said aloud. Everyone stopped to stare at me. I quickly found Maziel’s eyes, shaking my head.
I expected a reprimand, even blatant disapproval. Maziel took me aside, her back shielding me from the others’ curious stares.
The drow opened and closed her mouth several times. Eventually she found her words. “Don’t go alone. Ask the other me. We...care about you, Taelim.”
“Treetonk will definitely help too!” Klotonk piped up, having slipped between us undetected.
“I’ll...ask both of them. Thank you.” I threw my arms around the two. “Don’t die.”
Maziel smiled grimly. “I should be telling you that.”
“Can you wait a few moments?” I offered tentatively, “Maybe I can ask Kolae to join you?”
The drow nodded slowly, and I hurried up to the giant druid, Thundering Sky. “Hey, I need a favor.”
Polly gasped as we stepped out of a tree and into Illium’s royal courtyard. I hadn’t forgotten my promise to return the former slave back to her homeland, even if I paid one-hundred gold to pay off her indentured servitude. As I watched tears stream down her face, for a moment I forgot my own problems.
Brax, the baby trike, leaped from my arms and began to frolic around the lush yard, grabbing the attention of the guards nearby. I looked over my shoulder at the fomorian druid who helped make this trip possible.
“Princess!” The guards proclaimed as they ran over, gaping between me and the fomorian.
“Princess?” The fomorian and former slave seemed to say at once, sharing their shock.
“Technically, no.” I admitted in a low voice, but that didn’t stop me from barking out orders. I gestured for guards to come closer. “Find Kolae, bring her here.” The first guard ran off with a hesitant salute, still eyeing the fomorian as he left. I then turned to the remaining guard. “Bring Polly here to the seneschal, she’s looking for work. Treat her with kindness. Please.”
I turned to Polly, who was wide-eyed and uncertain, but still blissfully happy. Freedom was freedom. “I don’t have much time to explain,” I started, “but no doubt they’ll fill you in. Can you look after Brax for me while I’m gone? I’ll let the castle know he’s my pet.”
Killian is going to love this...
Polly blinked at me, as if trying to grasp everything that was happening. Suddenly, she threw her arms around me. “Thank you! Thank you so much for this.”
I grinned and slowly pulled away. “You’re welcome.”
She and the guard moved out of sight, not without looking back more than once.
Well, at least I make some things right.
After a few more moments, Kolae, the goliath paladin of Melora, came into view, trailed by her twin brother, Odison.
“Hey..!” I chimed up, as she folded her muscular arms over her chest. “Right then.” I deflated, then pointed a thumb at Thunder Sky. “Want to go to Szith Morcane?”
Other Maziel, check. Treetonk, check. Odison, sure why not. That was nice of him to volunteer. I was running party members through my head, scrambling to get us ready for wherever we ended up. We still needed to identify the location of where Lysandra was being held, but there were plenty of casters around the court to call on.
I turned a corner and slammed into something metallic. Feeps’ hands righted me as I stumbled back.
“Princess Taelim, why have you returned without your bodyguards?” he asked, worry visible across his warforge features. His eyes scanned the corridor. “Your wizard, your ranger, your fanatical idiot--have you once more split the party? Princess, must I remind you that to do so is--” he cocked his head, “--ill-advised.”
“I, um, I…” I stammered, averting his eyes and failing to collect myself. “There's...something I have to do...someone I've failed…” I briefly glanced up. “There's a lot I haven't told you, and I don't know if I'll get the chance...but first, I have to do this...I can't fail he--I have to go, Feeps. Where this path goes,” I shrugged, “but I know you're busy being a better servant to this city than I could ever be, so I guess I'll leave you to it.”
I hesitated, then turned to leave.
Feeps' voice rang out. “Princess, Ilium is stable now, and I am confident the Elder Council can deal with any surprises for a while. I am currently more concerned about your well-being. You cannot hide your distress from me. If you will permit me, I would accompany you on this quest.”
I stopped in my tracks. Then I fell apart, moving to embrace him tightly. Despite being a construct, he was always the most comforting thing in my life. I nodded into his chest. “I've missed you.” I pulled back, turning away to wipe at my eyes. I motioned for him to follow. “We should probably get going.”