“What do you call yourselves?”
Attunia made a face at her “cousin’s” question. “The ‘Pentatomaids.’ It’s a long name so I call us the Penta.” She continued to tell Syl the Pentatomaids were an extension of the Thieves Guild in Port Cecil. That guild was run by the Dartan family, headed by “a fat guy named Ignasio.”
The suggestion spell still holding, Attunia led them on toward the camp, despite repeated demands and answered refusals between her and Foradjinn for the return of her bow.
Within sight of a clearing, Syl sent out his blink dogs to reconnoiter. Furious barking met their ears soon after and they approached to see a comical sight. In addition to Syl’s summoned beasts, unknown fae hounds danced and chased one another, growling and snapping. Above the rest, a deep booming bark shook the surrounding trees. Attunia clapped her hands to her ears. “Merlin’s dog,” she shouted. “It’s an invisible dog only he can control.”
Another bark and Attunia shivered, eyes clearing. She broke away and dove into a nearby tent, yelling, “MERLIN!”
A scarlet rock-like thing launched from the woods and smashed into the campfire at the center of the clearing. From the ashes and embers rose a blocky figure of flesh and sod which roared and charged the intruders. Advancing, Alston felt something invisible lash out and bite at him but Syl’s Arcane Ward projected out to intervene. The gnome rogue followed Attunia into the tent and dealt the archer a deathblow as she turned to rejoin the fight, another bow in her hands.
The blocky giant, which turned out to be an earth elemental, wreaked havoc among the group as Syl showered the general area with fireballs. Merlin advanced from the edge of the clearing, a hooded, black robed figure who cackled, “The game is afoot!” Breeze blowing and coalescing into a shard of ice which flew toward Syl.
“If the game is afoot, does that mean it smells like you?”
Thrown off by the bard’s insult, the wizard lost control of his earth elemental and set a plague of insects upon the area. Alston looted Attunia’s corpse while Syl distracted the elemental with phantasmal force. Racing back outside, the gnome shot an arrow of entanglement at Merlin.
Meanwhile, Kaven and Cleo, his celestial steed, attempted to keep Merlin’s blink dogs busy with varied success.
Restrained by slithering vines, the wizard fell to the ground. Foradjinn strode over, placing his blade at his neck in an attempt to intimidate. Unsettled but undeterred, Merlin cast a fire orb and teleported away. The uncontrolled earth elemental broke free of the phantasmal force and searched for a fresh target; Merlin froze, having teleported close by but hoping to remain out of sight-
-until a certain maverick gnome cast minor illusion. A loud voice issued from thin air near Merlin, “Hey, look at me!”
The wizard could only squeak in terror as the elemental slowly turned and raised both fists high, then brought them down with punishing force. While the monster triumphed over its jellified foe, Syl advanced from behind to cast ray of frost upon it. Frozen in place, it could do nothing more than swing its massive fists out of reach of the group.
That and fell a few trees on various members of the group standing in line with ones close enough for it to strike. But at last, thanks to a combination of moonbeam and a divine smite from Kaven, it crumbled into dirt once more.
Syl proceeded to tear the camp apart in search of Merlin’s spellbook but only managed to salvage one page from a mostly-burned and blood-spattered volume. The rest of the loot yielded a scarlet gem, an invulnerability potion, and a pair of pelts – one of a bear, the other, curiously, of a winter wolf.
In the interim, Alston attuned to his plundered boots of speed and sprinted around and around the decimated camp.
As late afternoon turned towards early evening, the band traveled back to the road and soon the lights and walls of Haré rose before them. Passing through the northern gate, they spotted a familiar face: Ravenna, the elfish stablemaster. Though understandably chilly toward Syl and Foradjinn for their perceived untrustworthiness concerning the previous loan of her horse, she oohed and aahed over Kaven’s celestial steed.
Then, Alston headed to the temple while the rest proceeded to the Blue Horse Tavern.
Foradjinn wasted no time in finding Kartrana, ordering her another drink and silently extending his arm for a rematch with a grin. Due to her inebriated state, he managed to pull off a win. Still, she held no ill will and was soon enthralled by his tales and new tooth collection. As agreed, she returned his panther tooth for a kobold fang.
Meanwhile, Karl asked Igneel what he would like.
“Surprise me,” the elf monk shrugged.
“I like this one!” the barman laughed. “Where did you find him?”
“A hole in the ground,” Syl muttered.
Kaven chowed down on dinner, oblivious to the stir his armor caused among the patrons.
Kartrana mentioned there was a new owner of the sawmill and that she had done work there to sharpen tools, hearkening back to their last visit. She listened as Foradjinn described another sword he wanted made and invited him to the forge upon the morrow.
Syl talked to the bard playing and found him not to be Zanror.
Stealthing to the temple, Alston entered the dimly-lit sanctuary and sat upon a bench. Before long, a quavering voice echoed through the room, “Who’s there?”
Yennin appeared. “Alston! You’ve returned.”
“I wanted to seek your advice; much has happened since I’ve been gone.” Alston informed him of the fire gnome colony and of meeting Azerda.
Yennin listened with sympathy. “Promises to a god are not to be taken lightly, my son,” he agreed. He identified the religious library in Taiji as a place to find further information on Nagas and his quest for Azerda.
“What has been going on around here?” Alston asked after a moment of silence.
With aid from Danaser, a follower of Melikki from Taiji, they had cleansed the evil tree. However, strange creatures roamed the woods around the sawmill. Andrim had asked Yennin to walk with him some evenings to ascertain their identity but the old cleric had been unable thus far. Targen had received a courier from Port Cecil and a certain sneaky halfling still brooded in the shadows.
Silent for a bit longer, Alston cleared his throat. “And Kiethri?”
“She seems all right.” Patting Alston’s shoulder, the keeper of the temple of Helm arose.
“Is it all right if I stay here?”
With an understanding smile, Yennin nodded and left the sanctuary, leaving the gnome to think along among the flickering candles.
The Scaled Advent
Fall of Merlin and the Return to Hare
“What do you call yourselves?”