Below you can read some short stories I’ve written as filler/between games/things that happened but not at the table. These were meant to fill the gaps between gaming sessions. I hope you enjoy them!
Thia joins the party
Adam stirred, the smell of bacon frying wormed into his brain. Was Kathra making breakfast?
Rising from his bedroll, he stopped. The slender form, hidden beneath a dark cloak, wasn’t Kathra. Nor was is Kaylynn. His hand reached for his staff.
“There is no need for concern,” a voice came from the hooded figure. “Here. She explains it better than I can.” A dark arm held out a sealed piece of parchment.
Adam moved closer, trying to make out the features of the cook, but she kept her face hidden. Taking the parchment, he said, “Thank you. I think.” He slid a finger underneath the cold wax, breaking the seal.
“Adam, do not grieve. I am not dead, though I am not whole either. Flink saved my life, and I owe him a debt that I cannot repay. In my soul, I know he is dead. And I fear that my own abilities, or lack thereof, were at fault. I did not say this to you, as I know you would disagree.
“I have returned to my temple. I must resolve this fear within myself before I can hope to adventure again. Indeed, I may never venture past the gates again. I do not know what Torm needs of me.
“I would not leave you alone, though. I appealed to colleagues, and one replied. She is gifted in ways I was not. Let not her appearance give you moments of despair. She is honorable, and lawful, and not all which she appears to be.
“May Torm bless you both.”
Adam carefully folded the letter. First, Flink. Helix was nowhere to be found. And now Kathra. The company was broken, but it was on him and Lynn to make sure a new group of companions rose from these ashes. One that could eradicate this curse and bring order back to the world.
“What shall we call you?” he asked.
The woman stood straight, her arms removing the hood from her head before she turned around. Pale yellow hair fell in a cascade of curls. She faced him, and he took a step back. Dark skin, but not the ears of an elf. A single tattoo on her cheek, marking her with the symbol of Kelemvor. She looked both human and dark elf at the same time. Indeed, a hunted look was present in her lilac eyes.
“I am Thia Bransdottir. Eat before the bacon grows cold. We have more companions to find before we can conquer the Fane.”
Jinnaari is sent to join them
Jinnaari swung his sword, pulling the blow at the last moment. The purpose of sparring with new recruits was to teach them, not bludgeon them to death.
“Althir!” the lieutenant’s voice cut through the din of the practice arena.
Jinnaari raised his head, his tail moving slightly.
“Commander wants to see you.”
Nodding, he left the arena. He paused at the weapons rack, putting the wooden sword and practice shield away before strapping his personal sword around his waist. Adjusting his cloak to make sure the symbol of Bahamut was visible. As a paladin, it was a matter of pride that his faith was where all could see it.
He strode through the compound to the commander’s office. He knocked on the door once and waited.
“Enter,” a deep voice responded.
Jinnaari opened the door. “You wanted to see me?”
“Althir. Yes. Close the door and take a seat.” The commander, another Dragonborn, shuffled through a small pile of parchment while Jinnaari settled onto the backless seat.
“I got a missive today from a colleague connected to the Paladins of Torm. Seems one of their clerics was out adventuring and their group stumbled onto something rather sinister. They were overpowered in the lost city of Omu, and lost a party member. The cleric’s faith has been tested, and another has been found to take her place. I’d like to send you to make sure the task they’re on succeeds.” The older Dragonborn leaned forward.
“What are they searching for?”
“A cure to the death curse that’s befallen the world.”
Jinnaari let out a low whistle. “A worthy and noble endeavor. Omu’s over in Cthult, though. And the way to it is long forgotten. How am I to get there? Or know who to look for?”
“The cleric provided for that. Here,” he handed a couple of pages over to Jinnaari, “are detailed descriptions of the rest of the party. The ones she knew would be together, at least. One is still lost, and they don’t know if he’ll return. Study those, and gather your gear. The portal will be cast within an hour.”
His eyes widened in surprise. “You’re sending me via teleport? Is this mission that urgent?”
The commander’s gaze locked with Jinnaari’s. “It’s the most urgent thing happening in the world right now.”
Lolth begins to plan
Lolth stirred, her discontent at the high priestess kneeling before her barely in check. Her legs absently played with some of the skulls laying at her feet. “You disappoint me, Herasta. For someone who has risen so high and led her house to such glory, I would have thought you knew better than to lie to me.”
Herasta whimpered, her head lowered in supplication before the Goddess. “I don’t know what you mean, Holy One.”
Lolth skittered around the cavern, moving closer. “Your first born. The one whose was born under the correct signs. The one you told me was dead. She lives.”
Herasta shook her head. “That’s not possible. I told you. She looked like her father and I left her on the snowbank. I checked the next night and there was blood…the infant’s body gone. She couldn’t have lived through the night. There was a pack of wolves, starving. They had to have devoured her.”
Spinning some magic, the Spider Queen summoned a scrying mirror in front of Herasta’s face. “Then who is that?” she demanded.
The face within the web was practically identical to Herasta’s, but with some disgustingly human features. And the mark of Kelemvor that was seared into her cheek.
Lolth dismissed the image. “You will find her, subdue her, and bring her before me. I have seen her future, and she will be powerful. I will use that power, not Kelemvor.”
“It shall be as you command.” Herasta began to back away, her face still lowered.
“She has companions. I don’t care about them, though you may need to bring them simply to keep her from escaping. Except for the Tabaxi. He you may kill.” She paused. “One more thing, Herasta. If you fail me in this, I will tear down your house and you will have nothing left to rebuild it from.”
The woman raised her head at the challenge. Good, thought Lolth, she still has some spine.
“And when I succeed?” Herasta asked.
A mirthless grin split the Goddess’ face. “Then the only one who will be higher in my good graces will be Thia.”
Jinnaari is summoned
Jinnaari stormed through the stone hallway, his anger barely in check. I should be there, with them! Not here! The thought ran through his mind.
One minute, they’d been clearing out a room. The next, he was standing in the middle of the practice yard. Someone’d summoned him, taken him away from his task. The very task his Commander had said a few weeks ago was the most important thing in the world.
Torches flickered wildly in their sconces as he strode past. Strange. The chapterhouse shouldn’t be deserted. Yet he hadn’t seen another Paladin in the time since he’d returned.
The Commander’s door, situated at the end of the corridor, stood slightly ajar. Another warning sign. Drakkus never left it that way. Either it was open, or it was shut. Jinnaari slowed down, one hand easing his sword from its’ scabbard. He steadied his breathing and stopped, listening before moving forward. His tail swished from side to side in small, deliberate movements.
“Althir. Come in. We’ve been waiting for you.” A voice, commanding in a way that couldn’t be disobeyed, came from the room.
Jinnaari put away his weapon, but kept a hand on the hilt. The voice was familiar, but he couldn’t place it. It belonged to a dragon, or dragonborn, that much was certain. There was a tone that only one of his kind could create. A depth to the timbre that could make a soul cringe in terror, or know that help had arrived.
It wasn’t the Commander. He knew that much.
Stopping in the doorway, his gaze was drawn to the fireplace to the left. Logs burned with an unnatural yellow hue. Three chairs sat in front of it. The center one was unoccupied. Two cloaked figures sat in the other two.
“Sit,” the figure on the right commanded, pointing to the empty chair. “We have much to discuss.”
“I mean no disrespect, but I have a task that needs completing. I need to know why I’ve been summoned, and by who, before I’ll enter. Or you can just send me back where I was.”
The figure on the right rose, hands moving the hood off his head as he turned. “I summoned you because it is my right, Althir.”
Jinnaari’s eyes flew wide and he dropped to a knee. “My Lord Bahamut. I am yours to command.”
“Then get your ass in this chair as I told you to do.” The God commanded, irritation evident in his voice.
Without hesitation, Jinnaari moved into the room and sat down. He kept his focus on the fire in front of him and not those on either side of him. If one God was present, he was fairly certain the other was as well.
“We have a problem, Althir. My brother has a cleric. One that you’ve met.” Bahamut began.
“Don’t interrupt.” Bahamut snapped. “But, yes. Thia herself is not the problem. Rather, it’s her parentage.”
“My daughter has come to the attention of Lolth.” Kelemvor’s deep voice was tinged with sadness. “Lolth would use her skills to the detriment of all, have her create armies to do Lolth’s bidding. Scores of undead driders that could walk the surface of this world.”
Jinnaari couldn’t help the low whistle that escaped his lips. “I know Thia. She detests that part of her heritage. You have nothing to fear, My Lord. She would not willingly do this.”
“The problem isn’t that she’d do so willingly, but that Lolth and Her minions would manipulate her into doing so to save others. Thia has a good heart. Too good, I fear.”
Bahamut spoke up. “Lolth’s commanded Thia’s mother to find her, bring her into the Underdark to be converted to the Spider Queen’s service. One attempt has already been made, though Thia and her companions were able to thwart it.”
“If this is the case, then send me back!” Jinnaari insisted. “I cannot protect her from here! And what of the death curse? Why bring me here to talk when I should be there, fulfilling my vows?”
“The group is well suited for the task at hand. I have seen their future, and in this quest they will succeed.” Bahamut sighed. “But I need you to learn additional skills. To defeat Lolth in Her lair will not be easy. I will not let you fail, Althir. Stay in this realm for now. Training will be provided. When you are ready, and they need you, I will send you back.”
“How long will I be here?”
“Time flows differently here. That’s impossible to answer in a way you’ll understand.”
Jinnaari shook his head. “I do not like this. I should be there.”
“I don’t care if you like it or not, Althir. Your choice is simple. Stay and take the training I require of you, or leave my service.” Bahamut’s voice cut through any resistance Jinnaari still held onto.
Lowering his head, he replied, “Then let’s get on with this.”
Help is sent
Jinnaari spun, ducking underneath the axe, and swept the legs out from underneath his opponent. The dark elf grunted as his body hit the stone floor. With a smooth motion, he positioned the tip of his sword at the creature’s throat. “Do you yield?”
Hatred glared back at him, but his foe nodded. Jinnaari stood down. “Take a break,” Drakkus commanded. “You’re slowing down, Althir. He almost had you that time.”
Nodding, Jinnaari crossed to the barrel of water that sat in the corner and splashed some on his face. “You’ve had us sparring for over an hour, Drakkus. Even you’d be tired by now.”
“My kin will not let up simply so you can rest, Paladin.” The Drow’s words were full of contempt. “We are many. There’s only one of you. Eventually, we will overwhelm you. Herasta’s daughter will be rescued. You can’t hide her forever.”
Jinnaari clenched his jaw, refusing to respond to the taunt. He rested his hands on the windowsill, looking out to the courtyard below. Despite what Bahamut and Kelemvor told him, he still wanted to be with his companions. That’s where he should be, where he’d be of use. Not stuck in a small room, sparring.
Two figures moved quickly across the open area. The female elf’s bright red hair stood out like a beacon. Her companion, a gnome who left behind dirt on the flagstones with each step. Ahead of them, a portal opened. Without breaking stride, the pair entered and disappeared.
“The Gods are not without compassion, Althir. They sent help to your friends. Thia will be kept safe.” Drakkus stood next to him, keeping his voice low.
“For how long?’
“With that pair? Who knows. Rhaine doesn’t have the same…theological restrictions that Thia does. At least the Tabaxi’s pets will remain healed now. Savy isn’t your level with a sword, but she knows how to use one.”
“Rhaine and Savy? They sent those two?” He shook his head. “One’s going to burn her way through Chult. The other will drive creatures away from her stench.”
A dry laugh came from behind them. Jinnaari turned, glaring at the Drow.
“You sent them? Might as well just escort Herasta’s daughter to Lolth’s temple now. We do not fear fire. Or filth.” He secured his white hair into a ponytail, snickering.
Jinnaari lunged at him, one hand circling his throat. Without thought, he slammed the dark elf hard against the stone wall. For the first time, he saw fear flicker in his eyes. “If that happens,” he growled, “you will be the first to die.”
The elf laughed. “Try.”
“Althir. Stand down.” Drakkus commanded.
Releasing his grip, Jinnaari took a step back. He stroked the cross piece of his sword with a single finger. All he wanted to do was end this creature’s life.
Rhaine stepped through the portal and scowled. The jungle was hot, humid. “Come on, Savy,” she told her companion. “Let’s go find this group. Sooner we take care of things, sooner we can get out of here.”
“It’s awfully damp,” the gnome responded. “Do you think there’s any mud puddles?”
“Look, you gotta stay somewhat clean. From what I was told, Thia’s a bit sheltered. Doesn’t trust many people beyond her temple. It’s going to be hard enough to convince her that you’re here to keep her safe. If she wants to vomit when she’s downwind, it’s not going to help.”
“Fine. Can I still sing when I hit things?”
They started to move toward the ruined buildings in the distance. “Rhaine?”
“Why are you here?”
“Because they’ve got a Tabaxi that likes to play with dead things. Thia’s barely able to tolerate their presence. Kelemvor instilled His hatred for undead in her. I’m keeping them alive.”
“No fire?” Savy asked, a pout on her face.
A mirthless grin crossed Rhaine’s face. “Oh, no, my friend. There will be fire.”
“In the camp!” Rhaine called out. “We’re friendly!” She stopped just out from the edge of the jungle, where she and Savy could easily be seen.
“Sure we should stand here?” Savy asked.
Rhaine nodded. “I saw one of them earlier, the Tabaxi. It’s going to be hard enough to convince them we’re here to help. Going in with swords drawn isn’t going to make them trust us.”
“Them? Or just her?”
Rhaine shrugged. “Either one. Doesn’t really matter.”
“Come closer.” A voice called out from within the ruined building.
Nudging Savy forward, they approached at a measured pace. “Keep your hand off your sword,” Rhaine cautioned the gnome.
They entered the doorway, stepping around pieces of rubble the jungle hadn’t reclaimed yet. Four of them, plus a few creations. Good. Everyone was here.
“You’re Adam,” she pointed at the warlock. “Lynn…Helix…and Thia.”
“You know us,” Adam replied. “But we don’t know you.”
“I’m Rhaine. This is Sir Savy Savv. Lathander sent us. That’s the short version.”
“Not good enough.” Lynn replied.
“Fine,” Rhaine sighed and crossed her arms. “Kelemvor found out Lolth wants to poach that one,” she pointed a finger at Thia, “and doesn’t like the idea. So, He went to Bahamut. Who REALLY didn’t like the idea, either. That’s why Jinnaari’s not here. He’s being trained to take down Lolth. But this whole death curse crap has Lathander pissed, too. So, He sent us to help you guys with that.” She reached for a pouch on her belt. “Here,” she held something out to Thia. “Kelemvor sent me with this for you.”
Thia moved forward and opened her palm. Rhaine dropped a single pearl into it. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“Okay, so here’s the deal. Savy’s going to do whatever she can to keep the Drow from taking Thia again. We’re going to have a watch on her, make sure we purify all the food and drink before we eat, all of it. I’m here,” she turned her attention to Helix, “to keep your pets alive. One thing. You’re going to have to tell me when they need a heal. With them being undead, there’s no blood for me to see. I won’t notice if there’s new nicks in the bones. Thia, you take care of the rest of the group.” She looked at each of them in turn. “I get it. You all want the dragonborn back. Too bad. Savy knows what she’s doing with her sword. And I’ve got a few spells that’ll make crowds easier to manage. You’ve got the two of us and we don’t believe in letting people die. Or get kidnapped. So, let’s solve the problem and fix the world. Without losing anyone along the way.”
A Message for Caelynn
Caelynn tossed in her bedroll, trying to find a position that passed as comfortable. No matter which way she turned, a pebble or dirt clod dug into her.
“Lynn,” a familiar voice whispered.
She sat up, “Jocelyn?” she whispered. “Where are you?” Frantically, Caelynn looked around the room they slept in. Adam faced the door, his back to her. Rhaine paced the room in measured steps. Everyone else slept.
“I don’t have much time. Just listen,” her sister’s voice was tired. “Acerack knows you’re coming. He’s told me I have to leave a trail for you to find. Please, sister…don’t follow it.” Pain crept into Jocelyn’s voice. “Leave me to my fate. If you come, he’s going to kill almost all of you. He’s made a deal with the Drow to hand over one of your friends. And…and…” her voice trailed off.
“What, Jo? Tell me!” Caelynn insisted.
“He wants to take you for his concubine, like he has me. Just stay away, Lynn!” Jocelyn screamed once, then went silent.
Caelynn started, the nightmare fading as fast as her heart pounded. Adam turned his head, looking at her with concern. Rhaine stopped mid stride, one hand on the mace hanging from her belt.
Waving off their concern, she laid back down. She’d tell Adam. Later. She still didn’t trust Rhaine or Savy enough to include them.
Besides, she might need Adam’s help to kill her sister. Whatever she was going through, death was going to be better if she couldn’t get her free.
Adam and Maynard
“You should’ve had that kill, Adam!” The staff growled at him in his own language.
Adam sighed. “Maynard, I know you want to be the best magic item ever, but you won’t get there simply on kills alone. Savy has Dawnbringer. That alone should tell you something. She’s going to take down more monsters than I can.”
“Enough! I didn’t select you to hear excuses!” Maynard interrupted him.
“What is it you want from me, Maynard?”
Visions flooded Adam’s head. Mounds of treasure, a palace greater than any king’s, and multitudes of people from all races sat on the floor around a single throne. On it, Adam sat with Maynard resting across his lap, the ends of the staff resting on the arms of the throne.
“Eternal glory.” The longing in Maynard’s voice sent a shiver down Adam’s spine. There was nothing the staff wouldn’t do to obtain what it saw as its’ destiny. Absolutely nothing. Adam could go along for the ride and share in the outcome, or the staff would find another.
“Yes, Adam. I will find another if you cannot get your act together! Your companions are, for the most part, serviceable. The Tabaxi is humorous, so I would keep him around. A purring cat at our feet shows everyone we’re kind, benevolent.”
“You said ‘for the most part’. I’m almost afraid to ask who you don’t like.”
“The cleric. There’s something not right in their head.”
Shaking his head in confusion, Adam asked, “Which one? Rhaine or Thia?”
“Yes,” the staff replied before it fell silent, refusing to answer any further questions.
Jinnaari gets news
Pain shot through his Jinnaari’s body, making the muscles contract. He struggled to catch his breath as the brief respite washed over him. Beads of sweat dripped from his scales.
He wasn’t sick. He knew that much. This felt natural, organic. It was as if his body was waking up to a new reality.
Only he didn’t have any warning. Just agonizing spasms that jerked him from his bed. The impact with the floor woke him. He hadn’t been able to get off of it since then.
The door to his room opened, and he heard Drakkus’ familiar step. “I can’t…” Jinnaari gasped. “Not right now. Something’s wrong with me.” A fresh wave of pain, accompanied by nausea, wracked his body.
“Bahamut agrees. He’s had news.”
“Adam? Thia? Helix?”
Drakkus moved around to him, settling on the bed. “No. From Bozaks.”
“The clan?” Taking a deep breath, Jinnaari forced himself to sit upright and look at his Commander. He’d not been at his clan’s home since he came here and joined the order. But it was never far from his thoughts.
“Seems the elder died. Given the death curse, they burned the body over risk him becoming undead. He didn’t have an heir.”
The burning began to concentrate on Jinnaari’s back, and he was desperate to scratch it against something.
“Althir, you mother was selected to lead them. You’ve been named her heir. Bahamut himself went to do the ceremony.”
Drakkus’ words penetrated the fog of pain, barely registering in Jinnaari’s brain. A primal scream erupted from his chest as the newly formed wings forced their way out of his skin.
“All hail Jinnaari Althir, Prince of the Dragonborn of Clan Bozaks.”
“Let me go!” Adam clenched his jaw, fighting against the hold that Maynard had put on him. He felt the strain on his muscles, knew he’d fall flat on his face if the staff relented, and didn’t care.
“I’ve been down here a long time, Adam,” the voice echoed in his mind. “I know what’s up ahead. The group can handle it without you. And we have to get a few things straight between us.”
Adam relaxed a little, but not completely. In the dark corner of his mind, in the one part of his psyche that Maynard hadn’t wormed into yet, he remained alert. “Like what?”
“Are you going to be reasonable?”
“I’m listening.” Adam wasn’t going to commit to anything beyond that.
“It’s a start,” the staff snorted. A truly odd sound. It wasn’t human, but Maynard excelled at conveying a sense of derision. “We have to develop a plan, you and I.”
“For what? We’ve got a mission. Kill Acerack. Remove the death curse. Keep Thia away from Lolth and the Drow.”
Pain seared through his legs. “Not that plan, you idiot! The one where I am given the glory I deserve! It won’t happen as long as that gnome,” disgust dripped like ooze off of the word, “wields DawnBringer. We have to drive them away from the party. Or make sure they’re killed. Your choice.” Maynard paused. “I wonder if the Tabaxi knows my language.”
“Helix?” Dread seeped into Adam’s soul.
“Teach him. He’s an excellent creature, one with a great sense of self preservation. And a love of special objects like myself. I need a back up plan.”
“Why?” Adam really didn’t want to know the answer, but the question left his mouth before he could stop himself.
His legs became unlocked, and he stumbled forward. Maynard had released him, and fallen silent. You know why, he thought. He dashed down the stairs, intent on finding his companions before the staff decided to kill him where he stood.
Into the Maze
Biting into the apple, Jinnaari walked toward the blacksmith. Henry had asked for five days to alter the armor to accommodate his new wings. He’d given him seven.
Steam rose from the forge as he neared. They were busy today. For a moment, Jinnaari contemplated spending some more time practicing his flying skills. No, he thought, I’m as good as I can be without the armor. Time to find out how to compensate for the weight.
“Evening, friend,” he called out as he ducked under the low hanging awning.
“Your Highness,” Henry bowed slightly. Jinnaari’s tail twitched. He didn’t like people here using his new title. “I didn’t expect you today. Is the armor not fitting well?” He picked up a rag and wiped his hands with it.
“What are you talking about? I’m here to pick it up now. I haven’t seen it yet.”
Henry looked at him, concern on his face. “I finished it two days ago, as promised. One of the new recruits came, said he was to bring the armor to you. Drakkus’ orders. Perhaps it’s being blessed?”
“I’m sure it’s a simple misunderstanding. I’ll go find the Commander and get this straight.” Curiosity ran through his mind as he left the smithy. Why would Drakkus pick up his armor and not tell him?
“Prince Jinnaari!” A young boy ran toward him. “The Commander says you’re to meet him. I was sent to show you the way.”
“Is there a problem?”
“No, not that I know of. But he said you had to come with me right now.” The boy darted ahead then turned back around, waving his arm. “He’s this way.”
Something wasn’t right. “Let’s go back to my quarters first. I need my sword.”
The boy’s eyes widened. “No, you can’t. You have to come. Now. That’s what the Commander said.”
First, no armor. Now, no weapon. It wasn’t ideal, but the boy was insistent. Sighing, Jinnaari tousled the boy’s hair. “Fine. We’ll do it your way. Lead me to the Commander.”
The boy led him through a few familiar tunnels, then veered down a seldom used passage. “Where are we going?”
“It’s not far. I promise.” The boy reached for a torch burning in a wall sconce. “The staircase is this way.”
They rounded another turn and came to a dead end. “Lad, there’s nothing here.”
“Are you certain, Althir?” Bahamut’s voice sounded from behind him.
Jinnaari spun around and lowered his head, “My Lord.”
Turning, there was now a sturdy wooden door, bound with iron, in the wall. Torches flanked it, flickering with an unnatural green light.
“The dark one you’ve been training with escaped. He’s in there. Find him, destroy him before he can get to the portal in the center. Do this, and you will be allowed to return to your companions.”
“I need my armor and sword.”
“Everything you need is in that labyrinth. More, even. It’s up to you to find it all.”
“That’s the test, then? Kill one Drow, find my gear?”
“The dark one isn’t the only inhabitant within those halls. And they guard the treasures within well. If you can get past them all and find the portal, you’ll complete the training I require of you.”
Jinnaari looked back over his shoulder. “I will do this.”
“For Thia’s sake, I hope you do. You will get no help from me or Kelemvor once you enter. If you don’t succeed, death will not be swift or merciful. The denizens make examples of failure.”
Squaring his shoulders, he took a deep breath. Reaching out, he tugged at the large iron ring and swung the door open. He grabbed at one of the torches and crossed the threshold.
Helix Makes a New Toy
Helix took a deep breath, pausing in his work to dab at the bead of sweat that threatened to run down his nose. A mistake now would not get the results he wanted.
Adam kept watch over the party, leaving Helix time to do what he wanted. This would be a surprise for all of them, one he hoped would be well received. With Thia, it was impossible to tell. Savy and Rhaine wouldn’t care. Lor, well, how does one read a Dragonborn’s face? He’d learned Jinnaari’s tells, but hadn’t been around Lor enough yet.
As to Lynn and Adam…they’d both think it was completely justified. The warlock in particular.
He looked back down at the small pile of ashes he’d scooped up. It was time. Grasping the cylinder of wood he’d spent the last hour hollowing out, Helix poured the ashes into the center while muttering the spell. Using a rag, he lifted the small, metal pot off the fire and began to use the melted wax held within to seal the end.
Steam rose as the wax seared into the wood. The smell, a combination of materials and a hint of fear, made him smile. The rod was barely a foot long. Inside, Maynard began to wake up.
What have you done to me?
Helix smiled. “I found you a new home!” he replied enthusiastically.
As what? There was a note of fear in Maynard’s voice.
“You’re a kitty brush! You can stroke my fur and get out all the knots!”
A wail, full of despair, echoed through the room. Adam turned, looking at Helix. “I don’t want to know, do I?”
Helix smiled, holding up the new toy. “Now Maynard can be the most powerful kitty toy! Just like he always wanted! There’s all sorts of things he can do to make me happy!”
Into The Maze part 2
The door closed behind him on silent hinges. The sound of the bolt sliding into the lock, however, echoed down the stone corridor in front of Jinnaari. The light from the torch in his hand only illuminated so much. He didn’t need it to see, but it was the only thing he had to defend himself.
He had no armor or weapon, but he would find the Drow. One of them wasn’t leaving this place alive.
Moving slowly, Jinnaari crept down the hallway. The light gave him away, yes. But that didn’t mean he should run, screaming a war cry. Until he found things to help him, that is.
As he followed a curve in the wall, the light bounced off a glint of metal. Settled into an alcove sat armor. He breathed a sigh of relief. He rested the torch against the wall and took a closer look. It appeared to be his, the same set he’d asked Henry to alter. He donned the protective clothing, taking his time to buckle each strap securely. There wasn’t room in the hallway to fly, but he spread his wings anyway. The blacksmith had done a wonderful job, as they came free quickly and without any hesitation.
After he put on the last piece, he picked up the torch again and inspected the alcove. He’d found his armor, but not his sword. Just above eye level, a small hole in the rock drew his attention. Reaching inside, his hand touched a hilt. Jinnaari drew it out, hopeful it was his weapon. It was a longsword, yes, but this was caked with rust and grime. The layers of age and neglect crumbled away from his grip. What was underneath was still solid. It wasn’t his sword, and he didn’t have his gear to clean this one up, but it was still sharp enough to do damage.
“You won’t catch me,” the Drow’s voice echoed through the corridor. “Thia will be brought before Lolth and turned to Her service. And I will be rewarded for it.”
“Over my dead body,” Jinnaari muttered back. With sword in hand, he left the torch behind. He didn’t need it to hunt his prey any longer.
The Boneless Cat Puzzle
“I don’t get it, Rhaine,” Savy kept her voice low. “I mean, I know cats can sometimes look like they don’t have any bones. But Helix didn’t even have a skull!”
“I don’t know either, Savy,” she replied. “You were there when he got decapitated. Didn’t you see what happened?”
Savy’s lower lip stuck out as she pouted. “I was charmed, Rhaine. I only knew what that damn thing wanted me to know. Which was I needed to stick my head in its mouth when Helix got done.”
“Sorry, I forgot. It just doesn’t make any sense.” Rhaine looked around the room. Everyone else slept. They’d put Helix’s body and head into Caelynn’s portable hole. He was already dead. She didn’t really miss the Tabaxi, to be honest. Thia, though, had withdrawn into herself. Enough that it bothered Rhaine. It was bad enough the Drow were chasing her down. Thia wasn’t used to being outside her temple, didn’t have the hardness she needed to be adventuring. Losing a companion like this, not being able to resurrect him, had hit her hard. Still, the other cleric had skills.
Rhaine went back to how the corpse had looked when the fatal chomp happened. Helix’s body went limp. He was dead, yes. You’d think that would be normal. But there was more to it. Almost like he was nothing but mud and glop inside with only his skin and fur holding him together.
“Get some sleep, Rhaine,” Savy commanded. “You need to get your spells back before we put those eyeballs in that door. I’ll wake up Adam in a bit.”
Nodding, Rhaine settled into her bedroll. There was a high likelihood they’d be fighting something tomorrow. She just hoped it wasn’t something they couldn’t handle.
A Bit of Hope
Jinnaari pulled the sword from the drider’s body, watching closely in case his last thrust wasn’t deadly. A low hiss escaped the creature’s throat as she breathed her last. Good.
He pulled out a rag and wiped the blood and ichor off the blade. Strange. There was no real light in this maze, yet the weapon he’d been provided gave off just enough for him to see. As he worked the cloth against the edge, more of the rust fell away. There was something magical about it; his soul felt a kinship with this sword.
Jinnaari shoved aside his curiosity. He had a job to do. Aust was still ahead of him, heading to the portal. He had to find the Drow, kill him before he reached his friends. Before Aust could kidnap Thia, and turn her over to Lolth.
He kicked at the drider’s corpse, and something scraped against the floor. Kneeling, he noticed a pendant. Picking it up, he examined it. It felt good in his hand.
“As I said, many treasures would be found within the maze.” Bahamut’s voice came from all around him.
Not wanting to second guess his God, Jinnaari clasped the chain around his neck. He began to search the creature with a purpose. Where there was one gift, there may be more.
Hidden within a pack was a black silk cloak, with silver threads interspersed in the weave. Unsure of what it was, Jinnaari shoved it back into the pack and slung it across his body.
He would find out what the items were, all of them, in due time. Now, however, he hunted.
Resolve is Tested
“Thia!” Rhaine shouted at her.
“I’m fine,” she replied. Moving carefully, she pulled herself free of the remnants of the webbing. “Once Adam killed the priestess, most of it dropped away.” She shuddered, brushing the last of the sticky strands from her cloak.
“Anyone hurt?” Rhaine called out again as Thia moved around the body of the demon and joined the party.
“I am!” Lor replied, one hand clutching her side.
Thia waived the redhead’s hand aside. “I told you already, I’m fine. I’ll take care of her.” She approached the dragonborn and started to cast a healing spell. At the same time, she listened.
“This wasn’t normal, Adam. Lathander be damned, we were in a dungeon. This group targeted us, pulled us here. Thoughts?” Rhaine’s voice was tinged with anger. Thia understood it. She was angry herself. And terrified.
“No, it wasn’t,” the warlock answered. “They were after something.”
“Not something, Adam. Me.” Thia’s voice shook. This was wrong. All of it. There’d been too many close calls lately. Eventually, one of her companions would be out of range of her spells and die trying to keep her safe. “Maybe I should just go back to my temple. I can hide there. All of you would be safer if I wasn’t here.”
Rhaine spun around and looked at her. “You think they’d stop hunting you just because you were in a temple? Lolth doesn’t give a damn about the other Gods. Their holy places have no reverence or fear among the Drow. You go back there, Thia, and every single person that helps hide you would die. Every person in the town or village that ever walked onto the grounds would be slaughtered. No. You’re staying here. Kelemvor sent you out to help this group, right? Get rid of this death curse crap?”
Thia nodded, swallowing hard. The guilt rose within her. So much blood would be on her hands.
“Then stop feeling sorry for yourself and do your damn job.”
Caelynn moved closer and knelt in front of her. “Thia, you’re here for a reason. Same as the rest of us. Rhaine’s right, though I don’t agree with the words she chose.” Lynn turned her head and shot a dirty look at the other cleric. “You’re not in this alone. None of us are going to let the Drow take you anywhere. When he’s ready, Jinnaari’s going to rejoin us. At some point, though, we’re going to have to deal with this complication. You can’t run forever.”
Adam cleared his throat. “Listen to Lynn, Thia. The best way – the only way – for us to get Lolth off your trail for good is to kill Her. That’s Jinnaari’s job. Ours is to keep you safe and get him close enough. As to this,” he kicked at the corpse of a dead spider, “it’s going to get worse as they take us seriously. We’ll take care of them, though.”
Caelynn rose. “Enough of this talk. We won the fight. That’s all that matters. No use dwelling on what might’ve happened when it didn’t.”
Thia looked at the elf, “You’re right,” she said with a quivering breath. “One step at a time.”
“And the next one’s this way,” Adam called out from a nearby wall. He stood next to an opening. The room where they’d rested the night before lay beyond the threshold.
Thia settled the hood back over her head, hiding her features. Kelemvor, give me strength, she prayed within the silence of her soul.