I will confess that I thought the worst when one of the villagers came rushing into my small chapel – really no more than a shrine with pretensions of grandeur, though my flock took pride in it – with a look of panic on her face. My immediate thought was that Deirdre had been found out and someone had gotten hurt. To my relief, this turned out to not be the case.
“Goði,” she said breathlessly. “Adventurers, in the town square. They have a demon with them!”
I actually smiled.
“Get indoors,” I said confidently, taking up my round shield and my faithful axe. “I will go negotiate.”
One of the perks – and drawbacks – of being the priest of a goddess of war is that in almost all circumstances I am expected to be armed and armored, except within my own home. Thus, I did not have to prepare further, though my painful lesson with Deirdre did cause me to pause and layer myself with defensive magics before going to meet the adventurers. They were a motley crew – an elf, with shockingly pink hair and a mismatched outfit like she’d been drop-kicked through a closet, a giant in dark, concealing plate chewing on what appeared to be the back half of a roasted dog, and – ah, the “demon”. I laughed.
“Well met,” I called to them, smiling broadly. “Please forgive the villagers their fear, lady tiefling. They are not used to your people here. Welcome to the Glade.”
The tiefling smiled back, a sideways grin of patient indulgence. “Not my first rodeo, priest. I’m Kyria. This is Endeca, and the asshole who won’t stop eating is Morris. We’re looking for a drow.”
I froze, then forced myself to relax. “My name is Leif, but I’m afraid that you’ve come to the wrong place. There is no -”
The pink-haired elf – Endeca – looked up from a small book that she was writing in and interrupted me. “The drow with the stars in her soul, Leif the Heretic. We’re here for both of you and we don’t have a lot of time to explain.”
I met her green eyes and saw complete earnestness there – that, and fear, creeping in around the edges.
“Follow me,” I said softly.
They followed with remarkable professionalism and quiet. As we entered my friend’s territory in the woods I raised my voice, to wake her and warn her of our approach.
“What is it you’ve come for?” I asked.
“Extra-terrestrial warfare,” Kyria answered simply.
“Nope,” Endeca answered cheerfully. “The stars are falling and they want to put tentacles in places where tentacles ought not go without firm consent and safety measures.”
“BLACK GODS GIRL,” the giant roared around a mouthful of food, “WILL YOU STOP SAYING THINGS LIKE THAT?”
Endeca danced away from his irritated swipe – his hand was as big as her face – and stopped up short when she saw Deirdre perched in a tree high above us, bow strung but no arrow nocked.
“Interesting friends you have, Leif,” the drow noted mildly, her eyes fixed on Morris. “Time for them to leave.”
“You’re like me,” Morris answered in a low whisper of astonishment.
“I have more class. Leave.”
“Deirdre,” I interrupted. “At least hear them out.”
The tiefling looked up and, to my surprise, bowed. “They call me Kyria. I am among the faithful of Bast, Queen of Cats. You are familiar?”
Deirdre nodded, shifting in her place on the branch.
“A month ago, I was contacted by one of Bast’s servants,” Kyria continued. “My goddess has had a vision of wrack and ruin, inflicted by horrors from the depths of the stars who come to steal all life on this world and leave it barren and blasted in their wake. We five are to prevent it. We even have some guidance on where to start.”
“And you need me?” Deirdre said skeptically.
“Do you know another drow with the stars in her soul?”
My friend’s face took on a surprised expression. Softly, she opened one of her rifts before herself; another crackled into place at the ground, shining with starlight. She stepped through, closing them behind her, but she kept her eyes on Morris.
The two of them stared at each other for some time, and then slowly little motions got made. Morris set his meal down and put his hands on his hips. Deirdre moved her bow to one hand. The rest of the group stepped back near me.
“They’re communicating,” Kyria murmured helpfully.
“They’re not saying anything,” I objected, equally softly, as Deirdre shouldered her bow and kept her hands away from her weapons.
“Sure they are,” Kyria answered. “They’re just speaking Shitty Childhood.”
Morris offered his hand out to shake, which Deirdre took. Visibly, both relaxed.
“Good to have you aboard,” Morris said with the ghost of a grin. “We’d best get moving. There’s an ancient observatory, hidden beneath feet of snow, at the top of the Forsworn Peak. We’re needed there.”
“I’m certain it’ll be enlightening,” Deirdre answered diplomatically, letting go of the handshake. “Leif, what about the village?”
“Give me a day to prepare them and they’ll be able to care for themselves. The world comes first,” I answered. “I should begin now.”
The others nodded, and I heard one final exchange as I began to walk away.
“So,” Endeca asked, her tone all mischief. “What are your thoughts about, say, long, flexible appendages?”
“GIRL,” Morris bellowed, “I SWEAR TO HELL I WILL EAT YOU!”