Thia ran through the dark streets, one hand raised to keep the hood of her cloak over her head. The inn wasn’t far from the temple. After what had happened, though, it felt like miles.
She rounded one more corner and caught sight of the building. Finally. Warm candlelight beckoned from the windows. The sound of music drifted out as two men stumbled out of the door and into the street. She glanced back, checking to see if she was being followed. No one she could see. Quickly, she pulled the door open and stepped inside.
Caelynn was up on the stage, playing her instrument. Helix and Moon sat on the edge of the stage, watching. Thia scanned the room, finding the rest of her friends at a large, round table. She maneuvered around the other chairs and took a seat where her back was against a solid wall.
She then buried her head in her hands.
“Thia?” Adam asked. “Is everything okay?”
“I thought you were staying at the church,” Jinnaari added. She heard everyone shift their chairs and move closer to her.
“There was an…incident.” She heard her voice tremble. It was impossible to keep the terror out of it.
“What sort of incident?” Jinnaari’s voice was low, but insistent.
“They caught an acolyte pouring something into the well. When they tested the water, it’d been poisoned.”
Adam let out a low whistle. “With what?”
“They weren’t certain. It wasn’t deadly. It was some sort of sleeping draught. Potent enough to put the entire cloister to sleep for days.” Thia finally moved her hands from her face. Absently, she picked at a worn spot on the surface of the table. “It wasn’t even magical. Just some compound that would’ve put every single person that drank from that well asleep. It was strong enough that even food cooked with that water would’ve been affected. They questioned the Acolyte. She said it was supposed to be a love potion. She’s been pining for someone. She bought it in an alley from a Drow.” She dug into the folds of her cloak and brought out a small glass vial. Placing it on the table, she continued. “I didn’t find out until tonight, after they figured everything out. The High Priest brought this to me and told me to leave. He didn’t think they could protect me any longer.” She paused again. “His exact words were, ‘The cost of keeping you safe is one I can pay, yes. But I cannot risk all of Kelemvor’s followers without their permission’.”
Jinnaari reached out and picked up the vial. Thia watched him turn it over in his hand while she took some deep breaths. The panic and fear were subsiding. She was with her friends. If anyone could keep her safe, it was them.
“Damn,” the paladin swore.
“What?” Adam slid a mug of mead over to Thia.
Muttering her thanks, she took a long drink. The honeyed liquid slid down her throat. She wasn’t someone who normally drank much, but she seriously considered getting drunk tonight.
“See this mark here?” Jinnaari held the bottle out to Adam. “That’s a guild marking.”
“So? The bottle was made by a glassmaker’s guild member. What’s wrong with that?” Adam asked.
Jinnaari shook his head. “It’s not a glassmaker mark. That’s the seal of the Yathtallar. They’re master assassins,” he looked at Thia, “trained by Lolth Herself.”
“Why can’t they just leave me alone,” she whispered. “I’m nobody. I don’t even know who my mother was, outside of she was Drow. I’m not a threat to anybody.”
“It’s not what you are now, Thia. It’s what they know you’ll become. The Gods have seen your future, and are making sure the power you’ll wield one day isn’t misused.” Jinnaari paused. “We took care of the death curse. Now it’s time we take the fight to Lolth.”
“You’re suggesting we go down into the Underdark?” Adam asked.
“I think it’s time. This isn’t going to stop until Lolth is dead, so let’s make a plan and take care of business.”
“What if,” she drew a shuddering breath, “what if She gets to me and I change into something evil?”
“It’s not going to happen.” Jinnaari took a drink from his tankard.
“But what if –”
Jinnaari reached out and grasped her shoulder. “It’s not going to. Stop thinking it will. The only way to get Her to stop hunting you is to kill Her. And I can’t do that from here. She’s not going to come to us, so we need to go to Her.” He stared at her, “We’ll keep you safe, Thia. Trust us.”
A tray full of drinks dropped into the center of the table, the amber liquid within sloshing over the brim of the mugs. Grinning at them, a man turned one of the empty chairs around and sat down. “Hey, you all look way too serious! Have a drink on me.”
“This is a private conversation, friend. I suggest you find another table.” Jinnaari growled at the newcomer.
The man picked up one of the tankards and drank noisily. “This is where I need to be, though. You all need to lighten up, relax. I mean, sure, you’re going down into the Underdark. You’ve got Drow assassins trying to kidnap your friend there. But that’s for tomorrow. Tonight, we need to get drunk and get to know each other better.”
“You know quite a bit about us, friend. That could be a bad thing.” Adam replied.
“Look, do you honestly think that only Bahamut and Kelemvor have a stake in all of this? Lolth’s pissed off most of Her family with trying to poach that one,” he pointed a finger at Thia. “And They’re going to make sure She’s chastised for it.” He took another drink. “Name’s Pan, by the way.”
“Who sent you?” Thia asked.
A grin split his face. “I’m so glad you asked! Let me tell you about my Lord and Savior, Ash!”