“Merciful fucking gods Morris, do you have to always be eating?”
The knight looked up from his meal – a charred rat on a stick, purchased for infinitely more than its value from a hungry beggar who would eat well indeed tonight – at the irritated expression of his companion. The tiefling woman – Kyria – leaned on a cracked glass staff, her split half-cloak hanging limply in the chill fog of Starfall’s river district. Dew coated her horns and dripped down her face, giving her a teary look that contrasted her perpetual scowl.
Morris shifted in his place, his dark plate armor scraping against itself, and rested the hand with his rat skewer against his knee. “Just tell me what she said.”
In response, Kyria tossed something small at Morris. He caught it one-handed, only to drop it when it writhed out of his hands and screamed. Before he stomped on it, the knight saw a worm-like parasite, with clawed legs and a mouth with too many teeth, trying to find its footing to leap at him.
“They’re coming,” Kyria said simply. “And we’re needed. We need to get our wizard and then go pick up a drow and a priest in the Morrow Woods.”
“I don’t remember volunteering for this shit,” Morris complained. He took another bite of his rat and glared at Kyria.
“If you don’t want to do the job, find a housecat and ask it to tell Lady Bast to piss off.” Kyria put a hand on her hip and waited, but Morris remained silent. “That’s what I thought. So get up off your nihilist ass and go do something with your life. We’ve got shit to do.”
“What’s the point?”
“I swear, if you’re going to make puns about it the whole way I’m going to kill you and have the priest bring you back when we get there.”
* * * *
Endeca was having a disagreement with her master over the disposition of her free time. Having just made what she felt was a rather good academic point on the matter, she decided to punctuate her argument with a spell that surrounded the lich with a cloud of slashing knives. The undead wizard slapped them aside with an irritated dispelling and glared up at his hovering apprentice.
“You agreed, when you became my apprentice, to aid me in my research. Gallavanting about the landscape with your pet psychics is not helping me, Endeca Moondotter.”
“You didn’t tell me you were a lich, Wayland, and you can bite my pristine, silken ass,” the young elf said with a huff. She folded her arms across her chest. “It’s not like you can actually stop me unless you’re willing to go down with the ship.”
“I can kill you with a word,” the lich hissed.
“And then I won’t be able to disable the traps that’ll destroy your phylactery,” Endeca shot back, a smug look on her face. “Why don’t you just sleep a century away like other liches and wait for me to get all paranoid about wrinkles or something?”
“You are impossible, girl,” the lich said with a sigh. Wayland leaned on his staff. “…The Hegemony. She’s sure?”
“Straight from the cat’s mouth,” Endeca said solemnly. “You’ve told me the dangers of prophecy and divination before, and I’m mindful of them – I am! – but Bast’s are some of the best, and she says it’s gotta be the five of us for whatever reason. Success not certified, of course. But how badly would having everyone enslaved and mutated by freaks from space disturb your research?”
Wayland contemplated this in silence, witchlights burning in his empty eye sockets. He looked up at his irritating, challenging apprentice, with her mismatched but heavily enchanted clothes, her defiant expression, and her violently pink hair. So unlike him, and yet the two had found a respect for each other that surprised themselves, their associates, and presumably several interested divinities.
“Significantly,” the lich said at last. “Prepare for your journey, with my blessing. Steal what lore you can from the Hegemony. Bring it back so that we may add it to our own. And do try not to die.”
“Yessir,” Endeca said happily. The elf grinned at her undead mentor and vanished in a white-blue flash of conjuration magics. The lich tutted – the girl’s teleportations were still sloppy and easily traced. He’d need to correct that in her later. Sometime in the next few decades, perhaps. They did, after all, have plenty of time to spare.
* * * *
A week later, Kyria and Morris – the latter having to stoop to fit inside the door – entered the Slime Bucket Inn and Tavern in Misthaven, only to find that Endeca was already waiting for them, her bulging pack on the table and her mismatched boots up on top of it.
“Got’cher message,” the elf said with a wide grin. “Tentacles, huh? Not the fun kind?”
Morris blanched and went right back outside.
“Not the fun kind,” Kyria confirmed, managing to somehow smile and scowl at the same time. “Good to see you again, Endeca. We need to go pick up our last two members for this venture, in the Morrow Woods.”
“Elf and a drow, right? How will we know it’s them?”
“I imagine they’ll be the only elf-and-drow pairing not trying to kill each other,” Kyria said with a shrug.
“Yeah,” Endeca mused. “That’d do it.”