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.”