Shards of Oblivion
In Which We Learn Of Locke's Previous Misadventures
The dwarf tore a blackened rag from the remnants of the tapestry, wiping it along the blade of his sword to remove the fresh gore. “Fenris!” he barked, whirling on the githzerai. “What good is yer magic if’n yeh can rewrite the laws of the multiverse but yeh can’t hit a goblin?” He kicked at the closest charred corpse.
“Technically these were hobgob—” started Fenris, before the dwarf Cabel cut him off.
“And you!” Cabel roared, pointing a stubby finger at the elf. “Why did you go after the lizard? I thought fer sure you’d head fer the drow. I took six bolts in me nethers before I realized yeh weren’t backin’ me up!”
Locke, poised over the bodies of the fallen drow, looked up. “A lizard?” he asked incredulously. “It was a dragon, Cabel! A dragon! We always put down the largest threat first.”
“Bah, a tough wyrmling,” sneered the dwarf. He sniffed, and looked down at the pile of remains. “Besides, I thought you faeries went berserk when yeh run into the dark breed o’ yer kind.”
The elf paused his search, and sighed. “Yes, it’s unfortunate, but true.” His gaze meandered between his two allies. “Many elves feel there is some blood debt owed to Corellon, and they aim to extract penance for Lolth’s betrayal from the hides of drow. Such a waste of energy.”
Fenris arched an eyebrow. “And you fancy yourself above all that, Locke? It’s odd to hear you speak so. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were…mournful.”
Locke looked down at the dark bodies. One pair of red eyes glared unblinking at the ceiling. He reached down and closed them gently. “We are not so different, they and I. For a time, our bodies might take a single form, but how long does that last? A lifetime, if we’re lucky?” The dwarf and the gith glanced at each other, concern etched on Cabel’s face. “Stoned by a basilisk, what difference is there between us?” Locke continued. He motioned toward the dead dragon and the pile of drow. “And what difference between these, now that the ravens and rot grubs will have their way?”
“Are you going soft on us, elf?” grunted Cabel.
Locke laughed softly. “No, just nostalgic. My father was a bralani in the court of Shinaelestra. While he usually looked like an eladrin noble, his true form was a gale of chill wind. My mother, as far as I can tell, was a dryad, a sorceress of some skill, and she shed skins with impunity. My guess is at least one of them was an elf the night I was conceived. An accident of chance, or seduction, and I’m bound to this form, but I could just as easily have been one of these poor bastards on the floor. Or a smelly, thick-headed numb-nutted dwarf like you.”
The dwarf was about to retort, but his eyes rolled back and he collapsed to the floor.
“Looks like the drow poison finally kicked in,” mused Fenris. “He’ll be a pain to carry back to the surface.”
Locke walked over to the dwarf’s crumpled form. “I’ll bind his wounds and remove the poison. But first, let me Gentle Repose the dragon. No good letting the hide rot.”
The gith peered closely at Locke. “We have no thief and no healer, yet you manage to hold this crew together. Is there anything you can’t do?”
The elf paused for a moment. “Fly.”
* * * * *
The dwarf exhaled loudly through his mangy beard. “What do your elf eyes see?” he grunted.
“Nothing, berk; it’s dark. Shut yer bone box so I can hear.” Locke closed his eyes, straining for any clue of what lurked behind the rusted iron door.
Not a sound, but a scent. No, a sense. Ah, magic, all around the doorway. Lightning, and an alarm. This one was powerful, and tricky to disable, but whoever set this trap put too much faith magic wards.
Locke beckoned to a robed githzerai looking on from behind the stalwart dwarf. “Fenris, I need fire, here.” The elf pointed to the center of the door.
“Blast it apart?” The wizard began to roll up his sleeves. “That’s six inches of iron, so it’s going to be loud.”
“No, the entire door jam is trapped — Chain Lightning and a Sending.”
“Bugger us all!” choked the dwarf. “How are we getting through that?”
Locke put up a hand for silence. “Calm down, Cabel. The traps run the length of the frame, but the door itself is unprotected. I just need a hole in the door.”
Fenris barked a laugh. “It’ll take days for me to cut a hole through that door big enough for us to climb through. Anything stronger than a cantrip will set it off.”
“Not quite, but close enough,” smirked Locke. “I just need a pinhole. Take your time.”
The incredulous gith approached the door and stretched out his hand, muttering a few words before a fine red beam shot from his fingertips. Sparks flew from the metal as a small spot began to glow a dull red. He paused a few minutes later, and a tiny shaft of golden light pierced the darkness, shining through from the other side. “Now what?” said the wizard.
Locke let out a low whistle. “Diogenes, come,” he whispered. A shimmering form appeared beside him, blurred like a reflection on choppy water, before focusing into a canine shape — a tuft-eared yellow dog.
“A blink dog,” murmured Fenris. “Clever.”
“Oi there,” said Cabel, looking flustered. “I don’t go in fer this teleporting nonsense. I ain’t getting’ chopped into bits and squeezed through a hole when I can walk where I need.”
Fenris stifled a chuckle. “Teleportation doesn’t work like that. Sightlines are only used to cross-reference destinations when jaunting through the ethereal. There is no intervening space, and the body’s integrity is —”
“Enough, you two. Anyone who wants to be part of my crew must be willing to take uncomfortable risks. Stop complaining and follow me.” Locke reached down and took hold of the dog’s collar. “I need to hitch a ride, my friend.”
Diogenes looked up, wagging his tail, and Locke disappeared. Then the elf’s voice came from beyond the iron door. “Cabel next.”