TMA Down Time

TMA Down Time
Art by @spoiledchestnut

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Session 42

I blinked awake, trying to grasp my surroundings. I was sitting in the city center of Illium, staring up at the castle from the heart of the teleportation circle and wondering how in the nine hells I had gotten here. Wearily, I noticed the whole party was around me, including the others who had gone to Szith Morcane.
The half-orc, Yaup was squatting in front of me, grinning widely. “Feeling better? Feeble Mind is a strong spell….”
“What are you talking about…?” I began, only to stop short. It all flooded back to me: Magaat, the fortress prison. Lysandra. I leapt to my feet. “Where is s—”
Two arms suddenly wrapped around me, holding me close. “You saved me,” Lysandra whispered. “Thank you.”
This time, without a spell to blame, I was speechless. All I could do was embrace her back, wishing I never had to let go. She was here, she was safe, it was over. I could see Maziel, alongside the other version of herself, both giving a thumbs up. I’d have to thank her later for finishing what I clearly couldn’t.
With reluctance, I cleared my throat and pulled back, glancing away and grateful I didn’t redden easily. I didn’t even know where to begin. Sorry is probably a good start, I thought miserably, knowing that wasn’t about to happen right now.
Then a different thought surfaced, and I felt the desire for violence rise. “Where’s Minerva?” I growled.
In one hand Klotonk waived Fiendkey, Baba Yaga’s staff, and in the other, the golden collar that was around the succubus’ neck. “I sent her back to her was the only way to free her, but she told us a lot of interesting information.” He turned the collar around in his hands curiously, but Maziel stepped forward.
“Why don’t we take the rest of this conversation back to your place, Klotonk?”
“Wait!” I blurted, turning to Feeps. “The power gemdid we get it back?!”
Feeps shook his head, “Treetonk is studying its properties alongside the pyramid. He assured me that he will return with it once that is finished.”
“Privacy, people,” Maziel reminded us. “Civilians are starting to talk.”
“What else is new?” I grumbled, motioning for us to move. Luckily, Klotonk’s place, or the barren stone shed over his hidden lab, was nearby. As we walked, I had to resist the urge to look at Lysandra, to take her aside and ask her how she was doing, to promise her this would never happen again, not while I lived. However, matters Minverva mentioned to the others took precedent, or so it seemed, so I obliged.

We all crammed inside the tiny space, Pila and Egba slumped against the wall, exhausted. I made it a point to stop by and thank them before descending to the basement with the others.
“Hey, after we all get some rest, I’ll take you back to Magaat in the morning. I owe the Minx anyway.”
“Aye, yeah, no worries.” Egba grinned. “It was fun and crazy.” The two smiled at me, then their smiles broadened at the figure behind me. I turned to see Lysandra waiting at the ladder.
I owed them, and they knew it.
As Klotonk fiddled with the gold collar, Maziel retold everything Minerva had confessed back at the prison, when I was nothing more than a babbling dragon. Turns out that Aleph, or Doresain, had been gathering a host of powerful figures, including several of the Arch Magi, and binding them to gold collars to do his bidding. Working alongside the lich, Harthoon, they’ve been receiving orders from some other higher power since Orcus died.
I leaned back in my seat, turning to Maziel number two, who had apparently come back from the Demonsweb Pits. “So, how was Lolth?” By now, shock and awe had lessened into dull sensations. We just had too much to deal with.
Maziel shrugged. “Torog freed Selvetarm to try to kill Lolth, but we killed him instead, well Kolae did, but Lolth still died in the end. She gave us her power to give to Ellistraee, so at least she’s on our side now I suppose. Oh, and Torog is being manipulated by Graz’zt.”
I nodded slowly, then turned to Klotonk. “Hey buddy, do you have any liquor?” I had the desire to drown everything I just learned.
Klotonk didn’t respond, he was utterly entranced by the gold collar, muttering to himself.
I cocked my head and watched him for a moment. I knew he got enveloped by his studies, but somehow, there was something off. “Klo?” I tried again, slipping off my seat and approaching. I shook his shoulder gently. “Ah, shit...” I placed my hands on his face, channeling restoration magic.
The gnome wizard jerked awake. “Whoa! That was intense.”
I poked his forehead lightly, my voice stern. “Rule one: you don’t get to study this collar without supervision. Clear?”
Klotonk frowned. “Fair. That was pretty strong domination magic,” he eyed the collar for just a moment longer. “I think I need to take this to the temple of Ioun in Hestavar.”
I sighed, then patted his shoulder. “I think we all have things we need to pursue, but where to start…”
“Taelim,” one of the Maziels started, I couldn’t tell which one I had spent the last few days with. “I think I should meet with Ellistraee, inform her of recent events on your end. If Torog is being played, then dealing with him might be exactly what Graz’zt wants.”
“And you want me to take you to the Feywild.”
Both versions of the drow nodded in unison.
“Yeah sure, I’ll go see my mom. I should really look into that instruction book Viceak had. If someone’s making stronger versions of the collar with it, I need to get it back. She might know people my dad hung out with.”
“First, I suggest we all rest up for the night,” Feeps spoke up cheerily. “It has been quite a long day, and it appears matters are only growing more complicated. Tomorrow morning we can—” his voice cut off. Shouts were heard from above, then Egba and Pila were calling down to us.
We rushed up the stairs. The door was open and the small living room was bustling with Shi’ar.
What the…?
I moved toward the door and stepped into the street. Down at the teleportation circle I could see more and more...refugees blinking into existence and looking terrified. A hand fell on my shoulder, and Egba pulled me back inside, talking hurriedly.
“Magaat...the elementals warned the Shi’ar to leave. A huge shell was placed over the city. They can’t go back.”
I exchanged glances with the others. We had seen a shell before, the one at Solstice, altering time itself, and from what I learned, there was one up at the Asimba Mountains, trapping Primus within.
I closed my eyes and sighed. Added to the ever-growing list. When I opened them, Egba and Pila were looking at me hopefully. “Have the Shi’ar head back to the city square, I can see guards coming. They’ll handle the refugees, I’m sure.” I’m sorry, but I have absolutely no power to help otherwise. That’s what happens when you abdicate. I only had a room in the castle because of who I was, that and my aunt and Feeps were still part of the council.
Egba nodded and spoke to the others in their native tongue. Then he and Pila both followed the Shi’ar, feeling obligated to do so. Eventually, I was alone in the room with my friends.
“Meet here tomorrow morning?” I asked wearily.
They consented, and Feeps moved to follow me back to the castle, waiting patiently as I hesitated. While some remained, permanent residents of Klotonk’s home, others like Yaup and the goliath twins left. As they went, I had my eyes on one, and she watched me in turn.
I pulled Lysandra aside, trying to find the courage to speak. This used to be so easy, why is this hard now? Then the answer hit me: Because I failed her. I had pushed her away, and this is all my fault to begin with. 
“Taelim?” Her voice brought me back to my senses.
“Will you come back to the castle?” I asked in a low voice, almost pleading. I hurried to explain. “I just want to keep an eye on you is all, and I can get you a room—”
Lysandra began to walk toward the door, me trailing her like the besotted dog I was. “I think after everything…” she started slowly, thinking to herself. “Maybe I could stay with you?”
“Yes,” I blurted almost instantly. 
She smiled tiredly. “Lead the way.”

Despite everything, I still didn’t know where to begin—how to start over. Still, Lysandra went along with it. When she came to bed, she fell asleep almost at once while I watched her, unable to rest until she had found peace. She was broken, I thought, having been tortured and imprisoned for information. I knew she was a keeper of secrets, that her job with the Unseelie came at a cost, and yet, it should have never happened in the first place. If I hadn't pushed her away. I promised I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice, that I would protect her, no matter the cost. Only then did I find sleep.
Long before dawn, I was woken up by nightmares, imagines I couldn’t remember but they haunted me regardless. Drenched in my own sweat, I looked down to find Lysandra still fast asleep. Quietly, I got up, washed and dressed, and waited for morning to follow. 

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