TMA Down Time

TMA Down Time
Art by @spoiledchestnut

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Session 46

Back in Glimmer, we all crammed into a single room staring at Klotonk who wielded the Wand of Orcus thanks to the magic-nullifying gauntlet. The gnome sat on the bed, talking to the voice in his head, the voice from the wand. The rest of us watched, mildly concerned. Apparently there was a hero trapped inside, some old enemy of Orcus called Arcanocles.
“It’s in Asimba then?” Kolae asked, drawing my attention back to planning.
“Yes,” Maziel confirmed, “we need to find the Crown of Command so it can destroy the wand.”
“Isn’t there a time bubble there?” I mentioned.
“Klotonk can destroy it,” Maziel said, pointing at the wand.
“Aren’t you worried about Primus?” Odison interjected, looking to his sister.
“Who’s Primus?” I asked, producing shocked expressions from the goliaths.
Kolae turned to Maziel, who shared my question with a shrug.
Feeps clambered over and sat down beside me. “What is a Primus?”
Kolae leaned in, frowning. “What did that Inculbram ask for?”
“Good question…” I started. “I can’t remember.”
The goliath sighed deeply, then gathered everyone’s attention and retold us what we had apparently forgotten. The room fell silent.
I pressed my back against the wall and rubbed the bridge of my nose. “Soooo, we went from raiding a dead king’s vault to potentially fighting a deity.”
“You’re welcome,” Kolae added.
“All the more reason we get this over with,” Maziel finished.
I looked around the room at our motley crew and sighed. “First light then.”
Lysandra squeezed my hand as we settled on the floor like everyone else in this tight space. No one was taking that wand from us without a fight.
“Don’t worry,” I whispered to her. “I’m not asking you to stay behind again.”


She smiled wryly. “Oh, I know.” She kissed my forehead then turned over to sleep.

As soon as I closed my eyes I found myself wandering through the haze of my dreams. I was in Stilt Town, in the middle of the village. I could smell smoke, and when I turned around, the whole place was on fire. I know who was responsible, and I found myself begging for help all over. A handsome man in unfamiliar clothing ran over; he felt familiar somehow. He grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me, ignoring the fires entirely.
“Taelim, you must go.” He said, pleading.
I turned to look back at the flames, uncertain. Then the ground shook, and I knew something heavy approached.
“Taelim!” the man cried again.
A shadow loomed over us. The man jumped in front of me, arms outstretched protectively, and I watched him turn to dust.
I looked up. Harthoon was standing there, as big as a castle. He laughed, raising one hoofbeat over my head. I swallowed, knowing what came next.
“Taelim!”
I jolted upright from my sleep, covered in sweat.
A cold hand clamped down on my shoulder. “Taelim?” Feeps whispered. “What is the matter?”
I wiped the sweat from my brow with a shaking hand. “We have to go. I think we’re almost out of time.”

We stood staring at the opaque bubble that encompassed the valley of the Asimba mountains. Frozen in time, thousands of modrons were stuck, mid-flight, over the bodies of countless simulacrum humanoids. Floating above it all was an island with a tower of glistening metal. Klotonk affectionately called it the Island of Misfit Toys, the home of Primus, and I don’t think he was kidding. When our wizard dispelled the bubble, each and every one of those modrons toppled to the ground in cacophony of clanks. As far as we could tell, they weren’t functioning. Nothing was.
We moved toward the mountain boundary, in the shadow of a colossal stone fortress that could have easily been mistaken for its own mountain. It was the home of the Asimba dwarves, like an iceberg, the rest was in the mountain below.
There was nothing stopping us from strolling right up to main entrance, nothing living at least, there were only the unmoving bodies of simulacrum. The toys of Primus. Inside the archway, the chamber opened into numerous passages. We stumbled across a service elevator of sorts, and we rode it down to the lowest floor. We traversed another empty tunnel, the biggest thus far. It led us toward a colossal set of double doors. The beauty and intricacy of the doors should have stopped us, but instead, a perfect circle burned through the door caught our attention.
Maziel approached it carefully, “The edges are hot…”
Swallowing our reluctance, we filed in through the hole and onto a huge balcony overlooking the city below. This time we faltered. The city of Asimba had to be the biggest I had ever laid eyes on. Towering buildings dominated this cavernous space in all directions, unconventional in every way. At the heart, over dark waters, the castle of former King Xee beckoned us.
As we crossed the bridge toward the king’s castle, ahead we could see another perfect circle in the door, its edge glowed red-hot. One of the Maziels took lead, with another in the back. The rest of us carefully followed into the palace’s gigantic foyer. The moment we entered, we found Primus.
The tall metallic figure had been climbing one of the grand staircases. Upon entering, it stopped and turned toward us, a single glowing green orb in the center of its face trained on our location. With unhurried footsteps, Primus moved in our direction.
“Identify,” a deep, droning voice demanded. “Identify.”
None of us responded.
The green light sweep over us, and Primus went rigid. “Templating.”
We exchanged uneasy glances.
Then something strange happened. Primus’ form slackened. It lifted its head and spoke in a voice I recognized. “Templating complete.” It was using Feeps’ voice, and I could have sworn, it gestured the same way my caretaker did.
“Unsettling…” I heard Feeps say beside me.
“My former template was erased.” Primus continued in Feeps’ voice. “My network disconnected.”
Ahhhh, that explains why the simulacrum weren’t moving.
Suddenly, its head locked onto Klotonk, the orb scanning the wand. “That item does not belong to you. Concede it immediately.”
Klotonk cocked his head. “That took a weird turn. Um, no.”
It happened far faster than any of us could predict. With a blinding light, my body was writhing with pain, and I could hear the others crying out. When I opened my eyes, a translucent wall boxed us in the room and Primus had ripped the wand from Klotonk’s grasp.
“No! What are you doing?” Klotonk called out while the rest of us went to work.
From one of the staircases, I heard a warcry as a red-headed kender flipped into view. We might have all be shocked at Cosmo’s return, if weren’t for the fact Primus had just taken one of most powerful artifacts in existence.
Unthinking, I changed into a giant crocodile and clenched onto the arm holding the wand.
Primus looked down at the reptile that was me dangling from its arm, then Primus proceeded to target the others. Arrows bounced off its metallic frame and Klotonk pleaded with Primus through the din of back and forth combat. With another flash, and more pain, the wand was gone.
“It has been removed from this plane. Mortals should not dabble in such artifacts.”
“You can’t, it has to be destroyed!” Klotonk yelled back, I could see his fingers itching to trace spells into the air, but I think part of him knew the truth. We were outmatched.
A blast of radiant energy smashed into Primus, and it didn't seem to notice. I continued to clamp down on the arm, despite the wand already being gone from existence.
“Logic dictates that is impossible.” Primus declared, unmoving.
“Not impossible!” Klotonk said, slamming down the gauntlet. Primus’ orb swept over the item, and for a moment I thought it actually hesitated.
“Stand down.” Primus said simply, raising a single hand.
I got the feeling this was our final warning.
“You stand down!” Klotonk demanded, as furious as I had every seen him. “We’re here to get the Crown of Command and destroy the Wand of Orcus.”
Primus didn’t move.
The gnome was panting, and the rest of us stopped, including me. We just waited. Klotonk pointed to the gauntlet. “It lets me hold the wand, we know what has to be done. Arcanocles said as much.”
Primus lowered his hand. “You are being deceived, mortals. Arcanocles does not reside in the wand, but in the crown.”
Klotonk’s mouth formed an “O,” and then the very real possibility of being controlled by Harthoon set in. After all, the wand was his phylactery.
Primus loomed over Klotonk, examining the gauntlet. “The crown is in the king’s vault.” He pointed downward. “Do you have a Soul Monger?”
Klotonk shook his head slowly.
Primus stood still for a long moment, but none of us dared speak in that silence. Primus rattled out a list of coordinates and pointed in the direction. “Retrieve this object. If the phylactery is destroyed, it will trap Harthoon's soul. Then that, too, can be destroyed, and he with it.”
We didn’t need to be told twice. In this uncanny turn of events, we scoured the city for the object, returning like obedient children. Like a looming shepherd, Primus guided us toward the vault.
Even in jest, I’m pretty sure Xee’s horde might have matched the collected wealth of entire nations combined. Unfazed, we moved through chamber into chamber, bypassing traps and locks with Primus' help until the crown was before us. Primus summoned the Wand of Orcus back into existence.
Klotonk put the Soul Monger on the ground. Barely a graze between the two artifacts and they both disintegrated into ash. A hazy green energy was sucked into the monger, and Primus promptly obliterated it.
“It is done.” Primus said simply.
The rest of us were just happy we remembered to breathe.


Epilogue:


It could have been bad, that’s what we told ourselves when we walked out of Asimba that day. We had come to learn Primus had basically been restarted, forgetting its old self and latching on to a random new personality, which was Feeps. That, in all probability, was why violence hadn’t escalated.
Strangely enough, Primus, with no desires except that of Feeps’, ended up at Illium. As regent adviser, Primus helped launch the kingdom into an unmatched age of civilization and advancement. Primus even rebuilt the titans better than ever.
So, what became of the rest of us? Well, after Primus we were heading off to find Graz’zt, but again Ornament Chaos beat us to the task. With that done, there were no more open threats to follow. We ended up chasing our own paths, but of course we remained friends to our dying days.
Maziel, to no one’s surprise, ended up marrying her other clone. They made each other very happy, in addition to some third-party love with that kenku, Beau. She never did use her boon to kill a god. I think after Lolth died, she was content to watch how Ellistraee led the drow. I ended up helping Maziel and the drow reclaim Solstice, where I was able to change the region's climate to their liking. Now, they had a home on the surface, and as thanks, they became allies of Illium and other cities of light.
Cosmo started another circus with his family, aptly returning to our roots by calling it: The Main Attraction.
Yaup ended up becoming a general for Illium.
Klotonk, to my great delight, became the Arch Magi of Invention. Oh, and he eventually found a girlfriend with the same passion for books and tinkering that he had.
Feeps lived as long as I did, becoming the Arch Magi of Melody. We both ended up serving Illium whenever it called us back.
As expected, I took up my father’s mantle and became the Arch Magi of the Hunt. My first target was Ildigrith, and I enjoyed every moment of slaying that dracolich with my sword, Radiant. I moved my father's tower closer to Illium, somewhere secluded along the coast. Killian and I ended up being close friends, getting over our differences now that we had chosen different paths. I still look after his heirs. In time, I worked up the courage to ask Lysandra to marry me. She gives me shit everyday, but I love her.
Sometimes I think about how it all started and where we are today. It never fails to bring a smile to my face to know my friends and I, in short, changed the world.

Session 45

That first night we camped beside the ruins of an old Raven Queen temple. The giant ravens perched in the crumbling towers while the rest of us made camp below. We didn’t even bother with small talk, our groups kept to themselves. I drifted off to sleep, dreading the tower to come, but I didn’t think about possible dangers along the way until it woke us up.
“Bobert, go home!” Erdan called out to someone that looked exactly like him, albeit in armor.
I groggily got to my feet, noting the others in Ornamental Chaos were up and tense with anticipation.
“I’m here on behalf of my patron, Erevan Ilesere. You can’t stop me brother,” the fellow called Bobert proclaimed. He pointed over toward our group.
Ilesere. The fey deity of tricks?
I could hear Maziel nocking an arrow. With her chin, she gestured toward the ruins where I could see figures stalking behind trees.
There was an uneasy standstill.
“Is this guy going to be a problem?” I called out to Erdan, tiredly.
Erdan opened his mouth to speak, but Bobert touched a tree and disappeared within. He reappeared in front of me. In one motion, he drew his sword and sliced across my stomach. Needless to say, no one hesitated.
While Ornamental Chaos busied themselves with the archers in hiding, Maziel and Klotonk were upon Bobert in seconds as I stumbled back, trying to catch my bearings.
“Stay away from my ward!” Maziel yelled, sending an arrow into Bobert’s chest.
Klo animated several small stones and pelted the elven knight.
I clutched at my wound, channeling healing magic and trusting my friends to handle the rest.
Bobert, thoroughly bruised and bleeding, moved toward me again.
Really, though, why do I make random strangers mad?
Bobert lunged at me, but another arrow staggered him, buying me time to duck out of the way. The elf knight raised his sword again, but a volley of stones smashed into his skull. I cringed as Bobert’s body dropped.
“No!” Erevan called out, running toward his brother. “I could have reasoned with him. Klotonk how could you?”
The gnome looked from Erdan to me, helpless. He had saved my life by killing another.
Maziel kneeled beside me. “Are you okay?”
“I’ll live. Thanks,” I said, pointing toward the archers the others marched toward us.
Maziel’s features darkened. “What’s the meaning of this?!” She roared at the captives.
One of the archers hesitated, looked at Bobert’s body, then cleared his throat. “O-on behalf of Erevan Ilesere, you’ve been intervening with the plans of gods, jeopardizing the fey...”
Maziel grabbed the elf by the collar. “Your god, the god trickery, claims Titania’s Knights of the Green Court are jeopardizing the fey. The very ones who killed Orcus.”
The archer hesitated, furrowing his brows at the statement.
“Exactly. You better rethink your god, who by the way is aligned with Graz’zt.” Maziel pushed him away. “C’mon, we’re leaving.”
Erdan and some of the others from Ornamental Chaos didn’t budge.
“I’m taking my brother back to Glimmer,” Erdan said solemnly. “I have to try to bring him back...”
Maziel sighed. “Fine, go. Who’s coming with us to the tower?”
Dmitri and Xillali stepped forward.
Begrudgingly, the rest of us parted ways.


Orcus’ tower loomed in the distance as our giant raven glided over a forest I could have sworn wasn’t there the last time we visited this place. Dmitri had turned into a blue dragon, his true form, and flew beside us. I had to repeatedly remind myself he was on our side.
The raven dropped us in the tower's courtyard, a mist clinging to the ground. The giant creature cawed loudly then took off.
Guess we’ll find another way back.
“These trees were conjured here,” Xillali whispered, as we all instinctively clustered together, each facing a different side.
Harthoon had to know we were here, but a different voice called out to us from the forest.
“Hello, my pretties. Harthoon says it’s time for you to die!” rang the familiar voice of Ildigrith, the dracolich that had destroyed part of Illium.
Taelim! my dragon-hungry sword shouted in my mind.
I know! I turned toward the forest and grinned. “Fight me, coward!”
The dracolich tittered, and heavy footfalls echoed toward us from the forest’s edge.
A balor, wreathed in fire and bearing a huge sword that crackled with electricity, stepped into view. It was flanked by two other demons with bat-like wings. A deep laughed echoed from the balor’s throat. “No, girl, you’ve slain my brothers. You fight me!”
Mmm, shit.
The balor charged, and the other demons followed. Ildigrith erupted from the forest canopy, but Dmitri was ready, and the two dragons wrapped themselves up in a battle of claws and wings.
I had just enough time to turn into a Brass Dragon as the balor raised its gigantic sword and swung at me, its mane of fire licking at my scales. The others busied themselves with the demons nearby.
For every slash and bite, the balor matched my blows with a shocking swipe of his sword. Each tore through my hide, and my body begged me to drop the dragon form. I could hear Feeps in the background, inspiring us, a wave of his magic pushing us on. I matched the balor’s roar, and we continued to battle.
A horn blew in the distance, and I vaguely recalled the undead armory that should have been patrolling nearby. They found us, and soon we were surrounded. A terrifying roar from Dmitri managed to keep them to forest, but they continued to pelt us with arrows from afar.
By now, I was having a difficult enough time standing on my own, and a heaving balor grinned madly back at me. Maziel’s arrow took it in the eye, and I used the opportunity to rip open new wounds. Another volley of arrows sunk into its skull, and suddenly the flames on the balor’s body were sucked within. Its eyes glowed brightly, and it opened its mouth as flames spewed out. It exploded, knocking me back and leaving a crater where it stood.
“I’ve got you, Klotonk,” I could hear Odison say through the ringing in my ears.
“Come back here!” Dmitri roared, and I knew Ildigrith had fled once more.
That turned out to be a blessing. Now back as a half-elf, I clambered to my feet just in time to watch new opponents step out from the tower.
Maziel whipped around in time to see Harthoon, the Wand of Orcus in hand, flanked by the undead figures that were Maziel’s mother and two sisters. Time seemed to stop.
“So, do we kill dem?” Dmitri asked tentatively, looking to Maziel.
I could see Maziel’s entire body go rigid with rage. “Hell yes we kill them. All of them!”
Two undead centaurs galloped out of the tower, and Xillali and Dmitri immediately rushed to meet them head on. I hesitated, as did the rest of us, and Harthoon used that opportunity to point the wand at Maziel and fire a dark energy into her chest.
Maziel screamed as her armor practically melted off her frame. Fear coursed through me at the thought of losing this fight, of losing my friends. I quickly gestured my spell’s requirements, pointing the healing surge at Maziel. The effect was immediate, and the drow got to her feet with a determined grin.
Harthoon whipped his head in my direction. He trotted forward, ignoring Maziel who was battling her deceased relatives. He moved beside Klotonk, who had busied himself keeping the army at bay. With a wave of his wand, the gnome popped out of existence. Harthoon moved on, ignoring Dmitri who had torn a centuar to shreds and enveloped Maziel’s mother in lighting.
I turned into a mammoth and charged, goring the lich with my tusks.
Harthoon cocked his head down at the wound. He waved his wand once more, mumbling: “Help me! We made a deal!” to no one in particular. A ball of black energy was summoned into existence, and it exploded in a wave of necromantic energy that left us writhing.
I dropped my form and slowly got back up, managing to conjure a storm overhead. I sent bolts of lighting into Maziel’s family, and then Hartoon. The lich narrowed his eyes, annoyed.
As Harthoon loomed over me, I waited for that familiar word, the one that would snuff my life out in an instant. Instead, a bony figure finger reached out and touched my forehead. Pain washed over me, dropping me to my knees. Then images flooded my vision: I was standing in my father’s tower, staring at the Glaistig who approached his throne. I watched, frozen in horror, as she ended his life, his head rolling along the ground.
I screamed, clutching my head. Harthoon laughed maniacally, until an arrow erupted from his throat. He ripped it out, choking, but another arrow took its place, then another, and another. Harthoon spun toward Maziel.
The drow calmly raised her bow and fired into Harthoon’s skull. The light in the lich’s eyes died, and he disintegrated into a pile of ash, leaving only a gauntlet and the wand behind. With a pop, Klotonk appeared nearby, looking about wildly and braced for battle.
The army stopped attacking, and as quickly as that, they turned and fled into the forest.
Maziel’s remaining sister closed her eyes and smiled. “We’re free.” Her body turned to dust in the wind.
Maziel dropped, turning away from all of us, her shoulders heaving. With an effort, I got to my feet and approached her. I wrapped my arm around her sobbing form.
“My family's final passing, freed from everlasting torment…” she choked.
I said nothing and just held her while the others tended to wounds.
Eventually, Maziel collected herself, wiping her face before turning to face me. I am happy to have dealt the death blow, but I almost wish you got to do it.”
I leaned into her. Nah, who better than my second mom?” I shrugged. “You've always looked out for me. Thanks for saving my life. Also, don’t tell Lysandra."
Maziel returned a genuinely warm smile, and together we moved toward the others.
“Let’s get the hell out of here please.”