TMA Down Time

TMA Down Time
Art by @spoiledchestnut

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Session 40

I was restricted to camel duty given my recent outburst, meaning Feeps babysat me in the pen just outside the Humorless Guard. The consensus was to wait for Vulcan. While this place was presented as an inn, it most certainly started as a mausoleum. All the rooms were crypts below ground, which I could return to after the others finished talking up the locals. At least there was a window looking inside the bustling space for the mounts to peer in. Who knew camels were like family here.
Since everyone thought Treetonk was a Shi'ar Sorcerer, given his illustrious form and “bodyguards,” he was getting all manner of attention. I sat on the windowsill, dejectedly sipping from my tankard and ignoring Feeps’ hushed beratement about earlier. My sulking provided ample time to spot the halfling making his way over from the darkened alcove where an onyx-skinned man with a mane of fire sat.
Fire genasi? I wondered, hearing Feeps finally grow silent to follow my stare.
The halfling hurried over to Treetonk, bowed, and placed a bottle of fine wine and a bowl of exotic fruit on the table. I strained to hear what the halfling said and only caught: “The Minx sends his regards, Shi'ar.” Five minutes later my friends were sitting with the so-called Minx, chatting quietly.
I sighed loudly, and that’s when the man waving his lute and smiling broadly sauntered over.
“What ails your heart, fair la–”
“I’m going to stop you right there.” I interrupted drly.
The man frowned, lute dropping to his side.
“Taelim, no need to be rude.” Feeps, still a camel, said aloud, producing a gasp from the man.
“It speaks?!” The man drew closer.
“Sure does. It’s a magic camel,” I said, feigning my enthusiasm.
The man grinned and bowed deeply. “Ian the Elite, at your service.”
Feeps was far more obliging than I. “What news of the world, Ian? You look well-traveled.”
Ian brightened, and by now I had given up on the conversation happening with the Minx since Ian’s droll voice demanded all the attention.
“What do you wish to know? I am indeed knowledgeable...for a price I can tell you all sorts of–”
I flung a platinum coin at his chest. “Talk.” Feeps coughed in my direction, and I rolled my eyes. “Please.”
Ian strummed his lute, “Of men or monsters, of dragons or mages?”
“I don’t care,” I replied, waving my hand airily. “Pick something interesting.”
That produced a quizzical look from Ian, but he obliged, plucking strings lightly. “I’ve heard tales of a group called Ornamental Chaos, they’ve defeated an Arch Magi by the name of Obsilon, stealing his Red Dragon Mask. Rumor has it, the Cloud Giant hides in Magaat, licking his wounds.”
Feeps’ head swung in my direction and he spoke in Sylvan. “Obsilon...was he in Master Viceak’s book?”
I nodded once, already considering the repercussions. “The Mage of Elements…”
Well, at least Naora is following through on her promise to destroy the masks. Screw you, Tiamat.
“Taelim?” A striking woman was standing before me, patiently waiting for me to return to the present.
Uncertain, I blinked at her for a few second before remembering it was actually Treetonk.
He leaned closer and lowered his voice, “The Minx...I think he can help us. He calls himself a finder of things. I bet he’ll know where Lysandra is.”
I stared past Treetonk, making direct eye-contact with the Minx; he was watching me with a smile. I shrugged and drained my drink. “Why the hells not,” I responded, slipping off the windowsill and into the inn, leaving Feeps peering after me.
I pulled up a chair, folded my arms and waited for the Minx to speak.
“You and your friends are not what you seem,” the Minx grinned.
“So you see through our illusions, but that’s not why I’m here. Is it? You find things I’m told. What's your cost?”
The Minx laughed heartily, then leaned forward on the table. I could feel the warmth of his body. His voice grew serious. “I can find anything,” he emphasized the last word. “The question is, what do you have in exchange?”
At this point, the truth was there was almost nothing I wouldn’t give to find the last shred of what made me happy. Illium was no longer mine, the Arch Magi had gone missing, and I was completely and utterly without direction. I licked my lips, but I already knew what I had to offer while within the sultan’s domain.
“You seem like the type that values information over material items,” I began, the glint in his eye confirming that suspicion. “You know those silver collars the sultan’s enslaved all his elementals with?”
The Minx drew even closer, hungering for what I had to say. “The unbreakable ones, crafted by an Arch Magi...yes, what of them?”
“Want the word that shatters them?”
“Taelim!” Maziel and Treetonk seemed to say at once, but it was too late. The offer was made.
The Minx’s eyes widened. “Y-you’
“That Arch Magi was my father.” Not biological, but who cares. “Her name is Lysandra, she’s held in a prison somewhere in Magaat. Provide me with the information to help find her, and if it’s reliable, the shattering word is yours.”
The Minx practically threw his hand at me. I took it, and we shook.  “Tomorrow night,” he said, hurriedly getting to his feet. “I’ll meet you back here.”
I rose as well, reaching for the still full bottle of wine. “Fine by me. I’ve got no better leads.”
The Minx swiftly walked out the Humorless Guard, taking his small entourage with him.
“I hope you know what you’re doing, Taelim,” Maziel said at my side.
“Not anymore.” I moved toward the stairs, suddenly sleep seemed like an acceptable notion. “Feeps,” I practically shouted across the room. “Come inside, I’ll pay to have pets in the room.”
The camel obeyed, trotting through the door after me. The others followed me down into the spacious crypt that was our room. No one chided me as I drained the wine by myself then drifted off to the sound of Feeps humming a song from my past.

It felt like morning came the moment I closed my eyes, but I dragged myself out of bed to wash and dress like everyone else. We didn’t have many other options that weren’t asking for trouble, so breakfast upstairs became the only objective. We took on new forms that wouldn’t draw attention, except for Feeps, who became a centaur. Apparently, a camel felt demeaning.
As we ate in silence, a limited amount of patrons sharing the space with us, the door to the inn was thrown open. We glanced up to see Vulcan, bowing to cheers as the others welcomed him in. The earth genasi slumped into an empty booth, smiling wearily.
“Vulcan!” Treetonk waved excitedly, producing a quizzical look from the genasi.
“We’re disguised,” Maizel whispered to our gnome.
Still, the the genasi strolled over, taking a seat. “Greeting, strangers. Have we met?”
“It’s us,” I said. “The impatient travelers from last night.” I gestured at the group. “Seeming spell.”
“Ah! You fooled me!” He chuckled. “How have you fared? Find your friend?”
“Not yet…”
“Mr. Vulcan,” Feeps began mildly. “Would you happen to be acquainted with a Minx?”
Vulcan sat up straight, grinning. “That’s the one I was going to introduce you to!”
“Oh, joy,” I replied. “Welp, we met him. He’s...helping.”
“If anyone can find your friend, it’s that one. Have some faith.” Vulcan gratefully started on the food we slid his way.  With a mouth full of eggs he asked, “Still need some guides? I’ve got a good group of boys looking for work.”
“Considering Taelim’s record, perhaps we should,” the goliath, Odison mumbled, producing a glare from me.
Vulcan shoveled more food into his mouth, swallowed, downed a glass of milk then jumped to his feet. “Will you be here?”
I opened my mouth to answer, but Maizel cut me off. “Yes. We aren’t going anywhere.”
“Great! Give me one hour,” Vulcan said, and like that, he was out the door.
I looked to the others. “Think they have mimosas here?
True to his word, Vulcan returned an hour later, trailed by two interesting looking fellows. One was tall and thin and bore more knives than articles of clothing, that was Egba the Digger. The other was shorter, bandoliers crisscrossing his body with ample amounts of explosives, Pila the Sapper.
“Taelim,” Treetonk began under his breath. “Please don’t light fires near that man.”
I eyed Pila’s backpack, swallowing as he left a thin trail of gunpowder. “Noted.”
Vulcan slapped both the men on the back. “Here’s my lot! I can vouch for both of them. You supply the coin, they supply the services.”
“Coin we have,” I replied warily. “Can they get us around without being seen? Or take us to, I don’t know...those underground jails…?”
“Yes,” the newcomers said in tandem. “Which one?”
Maizel glanced at me, eyebrows raised.
“Right, you’re hired.”
For the remainder of the day we lounged, drank, and ate with our new guides. Vulcan had bid us farewell, heading for the Suk to hawk his wares. As time transpired, the Humorless Guard slowly filled with patrons. Late in the evening the Minx entered, trailed by a bodyguard and a strange figure in wrappings with a veil across their face. The Minx gestured for us to follow, and we were led into a secluded room downstairs.
Once inside the space, the new figure removed their veil, revealing a familiar white mask. From behind it, the Glaistig’s voice rang out. “Hello...”
I sighed, “Gods damit.”
Maziel stepped closer. “Are you here to barter information?”
The Glaistig chuckled. “You could say that.” She turned toward me. “I know you don’t trust me–”
“You killed my father.” I snapped.
She paused, then, “He took my mother…”
I threw up my hands, then stopped, looking away. My hands fell limply to my side. I didn’t have time for grudges. “You know why we’re here. Help me find her.”
The Glaistig nodded, “Lysandra is important to me as well. It’s why I’m here to help. As far I know, she’s being held at Dusk Mount. Aleph or Doresain’s presence was said to be present there...”
The room fell silent at the mention of the Orcus worshiper. I could feel my temper rising; his interference had nearly destroyed Illium, and now Lysandra…
“Taelim,” the Glaistig’s voice interrupted my plotting. “Do not engage him. Disrupt his work, free his prisoners, but do not fight him.”
I stared at her, unwavering. “I’ll make no promises.”
She sighed. “I hope you succeed. I’d consider it a favor if you do.” She turned to exit the room. “Good luck.” Then she was gone, leaving our party and the Minx alone.
I made for the door, but stopped by the genasi before going. “I hope she wasn’t lying, especially if you want that word.”
Then I left, the others right behind me.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Session 39

After only a few short seconds in the blistering sun outside of Magaat, sweat trickled down the bridge of my nose. In the distance, the two-level city of the desert metropolis dared us forward. Four titans, rumored to be alive, held the second tier up—the sultan’s city. Even I had to admit they made Illium’s titans look small.
“It’s twilight...and I’m sweating,” our goliath cleric grumbled, tugging at his armor.
I glanced around at the group that had volunteered to help me find Lysandra. There was Kolae’s brother, Odison. Maziel’s clone and Klotonk’s crystal golem alternate self, legs specially crafted from trees I had Awakened. Then there was the Creature Feep, my lifeline. I think Feeps knew what this meant to me, and how I’d do anything to get her back. He was here to keep me from doing that.
“Lys has to be in one of those Impenetrable Jails…” I began tentatively.
“Like the one we broke your father out of?” Maziel replied.
“Yeah...Illium just finished paying back those damages. My guess is they’ve upped their game. We just need to know where to look...”
“I can help with that!” a voice offered from behind.
We spun around to find an earth genasi grinning at us, holding the reigns of an overpacked camel. He held out his free hand, “Vulcan. This here’s Savina,” he inclined his head at the camel.
“How do you propose to help us, good sir?” Feeps questioned politely as I approached the camel.
“Careful, miss!” Vulcan started, but stopped when the camel accepted my touch. “Huh...she’s usually a biter.”
I shrugged. “Animals like me more than people.”
“Anyway,” Vulcan resumed. “I can get you through the gates, I know lots of people. I’m a merchant whose made...friends.”
“I bet you have.” Maziel added. “What’s the cost?”
Vulcan’s grin widened. “Need some potions? I’m always looking for new customers.”
I pulled out a pouch of gold and handed it over, receiving a few vials in exchange. Savina’s nose began rummaging through my pack for more food.
“I can take you through the gates first thing in the morning," Vulcan said. "They'll be closed by the time we get there anyway. Tomorrow I can introduce you to some folks at the Humorless Guard. They know the city in and out, they’ll be useful guides.”
I groaned. “Morning’s a long way off.”
“Taelim,” Feeps turned to me. “Rushing blindly into a foreign city is not wise.”
I looked at him sullenly and switched to Sylvan. “She’s rotting in a jail cell, Feeps.”
The warforged’s posture fell, and he turned to the genasi. In Common: “It seems we shall find our own way in, thank you for your assistance.”
Vulcan nodded. “Okay, hopefully we cross paths again. Safe travels in the sun!”
With that, we trudged through the remainder of the sweltering heat toward the city. By the time we arrived, night had fallen. As expected, the gates into the city were closed, a queue of travelers forming along the towering walls.
“We look so out of place…” Maziel said aloud, stopping us before we got any closer.
A drow, half-elf, crystal golem, goliath and centaur warforged who's partially furniture. Yeap, pretty conspicuous.
“I have an idea,” Treetonk offered, flipping through his spellbook. With a few hand gestures we transformed entirely. Treetonk took the shape of a voluptuous noble woman, and Maziel and Odison appeared to be "her" bodyguards. I had very little changes since my complexion was close enough, but Feeps, the camel sighed at my side.
“And now?” Odison’s bass voice wondered aloud.
“We find another way because I’m not waiting until morning,” I said, already walking along the wall despite the party’s collective musings.
By the time we found the crack in Magaat’s barrier, the warmth had faded, replaced by a biting chill. I blinked up at the seemingly inviting lack of protection, then turned to find the others watching me.
“I mean, you know I’m going in.”
Feeps stepped forward, palm upward. “First, allow me, Taelim.”
I missed my first line of reason.
The camel, or at least the illusion of one, stepped up and began climbing the wall, which was a sight in and of itself. Feeps disappeared into the break. After a moment, he cried out. Then, “Ouch. There are several instruments of...determent.”
We followed, careful of the jagged glass positioned to pierce intruders like ourselves. Creeping out, we looked down onto an enormous, well-manicured courtyard. It belonged to the extravagant manor up ahead. I leapt down, Maziel cursing my name.
The moment my boots hit the ground a voice rang out. “Who has stepped into the garden of my master?” What I thought was a pile of rocks collected itself into a vaguely humanoid form.
I could hear the others scurrying after me.
Admittedly, I was growing impatient and brash. More so than usual. Who knew that time-sensitive situations to save the one you loved did that to a person. “Who’s your master?” I demanded right back.
The stone golem loomed over me, followed by three more.
“Who has the right to ask?” Its grating voice countered.
Feeps was probably far calmer and better situated to respond, but I was on a roll for misfortune. “The Princess of Illium, now what are you going to do about it?”
Treetonk and Maziel collectively moaned, and Feeps' placed one hand on my arm as if ready to shake sense into me.
The golem was unmoving, and in the distance, lights in the manor bloomed into existence. It was a long ten minutes of me pacing before the lord of the house made his way over in night clothes. He looked....unhappy.
“The Princess of Illium in my backyard at this hour.” He sounded unimpressed.
“Yeap that’s me, entitled as ever. Can we go now?”
Horror swept over my friends’ faces, and Feeps leaned into my ear. “Taelim. Please, stop talking.”
I pushed the warforged away, and faced the lord who didn’t bother with his name.
“As brazen as they say you are,” the noble sneered. I folded my arms, but he cut me off. “I think Regis would pay nicely for your head.”
The name rang a bell. Regis was the head cleric of Erathis' Church in Illium, and I knew he didn’t like me, or the fact I was a druid. He probably blamed me for all of Illium’s problems. Still, we had gotten on a bit better after I had renounced the throne and Killian and I separated. As the noble raised his hand and conjured a spell, I got the impression those facts hadn’t traveled far.
I looked at Feeps, “You never told me that Regis wanted me dead. That bastard.” I changed into a rhino and charged the titan.
The fight was brutal, but it ended as quickly as it had began. By the time we destroyed the titans, the noble created a fiery sigil that sent almost all of us reeling in pain. Except for Feeps, who had a rapier pointed at the man’s throat.
The Creature Feep, as collected as ever, addressed the noble. “I apologize for our lack of decorum, good sir. Please excuse the princess and our intrusion. With your permission, we shall take our leave.”
The noble nodded carefully, the blade pricking a drop of blood. The sigil vanished, and the pain with it. The warforged bard deftly sheathed his weapon. Like a mother hen, he helped me and the rest of the group to our feet, leading us to the courtyard’s exit.
“You should come visit Illium,” I yelled over my shoulder. “I’ll repay the—”
Maziel slapped a hand over my mouth. “Seriously, Taelim, shut up.”
Feeps turned back and bowed with a flourish, “Let none of us speak of this night again.”