Deep in the mines underneath Craghammer Mountain slumbers an ancient and powerful evil. Or so said Colbie at least, dramatically retelling what he heard from the bartender in the previous town. Personally, Shy thought that was hogwash. He could tell Matt was also blowing off the excitable bard, whose tendencies to overexaggerate local legends had already gotten them intro trouble before. Chickens would never be the same again for the party since that time in Tipton.
“Brunner said that it was sealed by a powerful wizard centuries ago, and the seal can only be undone by someone bearing that wizard’s signet ring. Let’s just hope one of us isn’t secretly descendants!” Colbie snickered, examining his own family crest.
Shy sighed and shifted his weight, unnoticed from where he stood at the back of the party. He legitimately couldn’t imagine having a noble signet ring. Maybe if he managed to do well in his study of magic, he would have some sort of legacy to pass down. He’d always thought that Talowyn’s Construct Golem sounded like the sort of thing he’d want to develop, and developing a new spell was the best way to get established in the magical community. And it would do his parents proud – they’d helped him get into a wizardry college, which was no mean feat. Studying magic was ridiculously expensive, and Shy had two other siblings their parents also had to take care of. So it was only fair that he payed them back someday.
Suddenly, a whirlwind of blue descended on Shy from beside him, badly startling him. Wren, awkwardly half-bent over to get her arm over his shoulder, clamped down on him before he could squirm away or make a scene and whispered in his ear quietly, “Bet that Colbie’s so fixated on that monster that he wouldn’t notice if the two of us got our hands on all those sweets he bought in town.”
Shy looked nervously up at her grinning face, suddenly feeling a little light-headed. A quick glance at Colbie, who was passionately arguing with both Matt and Liz about the risks of a detour to see the “ancient evil”, and another one at Brent, who seemed to be determinedly ignoring both Colbie’s antics and Wren’s mischievous intentions, made up Shy’s mind. He nodded determinedly.
Wren’s answering smirk lit up her face, and the sight of it almost made up for the argument at camp that night when Colbie noticed his food gone.
It was a gorgeous morning. The sun rises over the lake, creating beautiful reflections, and the mist had yet to fade from the valley. While most of Radio Silence still lay asleep in their tents, two figures sat huddled around the remains of their fire.
Liz poked at it, trying to coax it back to life. She was having little luck, the morning dew dampening the wood. Her tinder hadn’t done much good. She was just about getting sick of trying when Wren threw out a hand and released a jet of fire so powerful that instantly lights the stick Liz was holding alight. Startled, Liz cried out and dropped the stick as it began to burn her hand.
Wren apologized profusely, but Liz waved her off. It was clear the tiefling woman hadn’t slept much, as usual, so Liz would hardly hold her mistake against her. And, well, the fire was going again. Despite the rising sun, the morning was chilly.
Concentrating on her burned palm and reddening fingers, Liz sent a burst of healing magic towards them, soothing the aches and restoring the skin. It was an easy fix, and casting always made Liz’s heart swell. As radiance engulfed her hand, she noticed Wren’s curious gaze. Wren always seemed interested by Liz and Brent’s celestial magic. Early in the group’s formation, she had a lot of questions about why the two were so different.
“Wren?” Liz prompted, unwilling to push too hard for an explanation, but sensing that Wren might need some encouragement to speak up. The other woman just shook her head, brilliant red curls falling around her shoulders.
Liz let the subject drop, and stood to go fetch the cooking pots, only for Wren to finally say what was on her mind. “What’s it like, having a connection to a god?”
Frustrating, Liz wanted to say, but that sort of answer was unlikely to be helpful. Frowning, Liz sat back down and examined the woman across from her. “Well, its different for everyone, of course. Because I’m an aasimar, I was born to it.” Liz’s lips quirked. “Being a young aasimar creates a strong sense of duty to the celestial you serve. Mine was just strong enough that I chose to become a cleric. The gods… don’t speak much. But I can feel connected to them sometimes. Since my beliefs matches theirs, there’s a reverberation between us that I feel when I call on their power.” She couldn’t describe it any other way, the way she felt echoes of her deity’s presence. “But it’s strange, too. It feels like holding something within yourself that wasn’t meant for this earth.”
Wren nodded slowly, and Liz can see in her eyes that she genuinely understands the feeling. A shiver runs down her spine. She has long suspected that Wren’s fiendish powers ran deeper than simply being a tiefling. The way she channeled her ancestors when she raged was unique. Oftentimes the sheer force behind it drove enemies to their knees. “Like you can never know what they want from you, right? Because of how different they are from mortals,” Wren theorized.
“Yes,” Liz whispered. “Exactly like that.”
The dragon’s hoard was massive. It must have weighed tonnes, even accounting for the dead dragon atop it. As Colbie slipped on yet another pile of gold, he decided to accept his fate and simply be consumed by the treasure. He could hear Matt snickering at him from a few feet away.
“Brent!” Colbie whined loudly, catching the attention of the nearby goliath. “Matt won’t help me up!”
A heavy sigh came from Brent, who put down the ruby goblet he had been examining to come aid Colbie. The size difference between them made it easy for Brent to reach down and simply haul the halfling-elf to his feet. As Colbie dusted himself off, he beamed at the paladin, “Thanks! Unlike some prats, you know when to help your mates!” And then quickly trotted off towards the collection of golden instruments. While nothing would replace his guitotter, it never hurt to have backups – especially if they had cool magic abilities. Given Shy was already investigating several weapons that Matt and Wren had dumped on him for magical properties, and Liz was making her way through a collection of scrolls, Colbie would just have to wait.
Well, they were still quite pretty. He grabbed a whistle and examined the engravings on it. Flaming skeletons riding flaming horses. Huh. He’d have to keep this one.
All of a sudden, a cold hand grasped the back of Colbie’s neck. “Ahh!” He shrieked, and wheeled around to see the culprit. Matt was standing there, still grinning.
“I found something you’ll like,” he promised. “Come see.”
Colbie was nothing if not indulgent of his best friend, and so tailed after Matt. He led Colbie away from where most of the group had clustered, to the other side of the giant dragon corpse. “What is it?” Colbie whispered loudly, playing at secrecy. Given the look that Brent shot him, he utterly failed.
Matt just huffed in amusement, and pulled a crystal disk off the pile of treasure and angled it towards Colbie. Colbie’s eyes instantly lit up, taking in the vivid sunset it displayed. “It moves, too,” Matt tells him. Colbie squints closer at the crystal. The sun does seem to be slowly but steadily descending out of view.
His mum would have loved this, of course. She always lauded the beauty of nature, and it was one of her favourite things to sing about. Colbie’s finger itched for his guitotter. Something he inherited from his mom was how much nature inspired his music. “I’ve got the perfect melody from this. Let’s compose?” He half-asked, half-demanded of Matt.
And, well. Matt was nothing if not indulgent of his best friend. He pulled out a small notebook and sat down “I’ve had this new song in my head recently…”