“What is that?”
“The scry seemed to have failed for a few minutes,” she said. “I thought the spell had ended, but now it looks like it’s trying to get a fix once again.”
The image in the water cleared, showing not the dimly lit fortress in the capitol of Yeona, but instead a ruined city on a brightly lit day. Adalai gasped as she saw Asha climbing out of the bag of holding, grasping the Primary Control Rod tightly in her tiny fists.
“Where did he take them?” she hissed. Asha glanced around furtively and then moved out of the ruined building she had been standing in, just in time to see Belladonna loose an arrow from a bow made of bone.
Suddenly Abassi, who had been facing Asha and was surrounded by dragonforged, sprouted an arrow head from his left eye, and he crumpled to the ground, letting fall the smooth shaft of the chair leg he had picked up in the ruins of the tavern. With her scream, the dragonforged turned to face Asha.
“Your friends are in very grave danger,” hissed the elderly halfling. “If the Primary Control Rod is there-”
“I know, I know,” Adalai said, hastily getting up. “Do you have another earthglide spell prepared?”
The elderly halfling shook his head. “But you are a spellcaster. I have two scrolls of teleport that you may use.” He reached into his robes and removed a scroll case.
“You!” screamed Belladonna. “You stole the Control Rod!”
“Destroy the rod!” said the flat voice of what only could have been a dragonforged loudly. “We will control our own destiny!”
Adalai turned to watch in horror as Asha seemed to freeze as the horde of dragonforged descended upon her and Belladonna nocked another arrow.
“It seems all your friends are in danger,” the elderly halfling stated, handing her the teleport scrolls. “What will you-”
But before he could finish his sentence, Adalai had one of the scrolls unrolled and was gone.
He watched the scrying bowl to watch the final moments of one of his brethren when Adalai suddenly appeared there.
“Command them to self-destruct!” Adalai hissed, scooping up something from the ground.
“SELF-DESTRUCT!” Asha screamed suddenly, and all the dragonforged halted. Adalai did not wait around to see what happened, grabbing Asha’s wrist and quickly reading the last scroll, the two of them disappeared a mere heartbeat before Belladonna’s arrow sliced through the air precisely where Asha’s heart had been.
“No!” Belladonna screamed, “not again!”
The elderly halfling glanced over his shoulder to see Adalai and Asha arrive, but they did not appear.
“Hm,” he grunted, turning back to the scrying bowl. The image was fading, but did not disappear before the elderly halfling saw pieces of the dragonforged falling from their metallic bodies as they slowly fell apart.
“NO!” Belladonna’s voice resonated among the trees, sending birds flying in every direction, as the image faded and reformed to where the Primary Control Rod had reappeared: The war room of the Paladins of Gaebrellan. Precisely ten seconds after Miles and Gray arrived….
Miles and Gray appeared in the middle of the room among the top staff of the Yeonan military machine.
“Give us the Primary Control Rod and-” Gray started, but Miles wound up with his hammer and slammed it down on the head of the man closest to him. “Er… only that guy gets hurt!” Gray finished.
The man in charge looked up, seemingly unsurprised at their arrival, though the rest of the room seemed fairly shocked. “I am busy right now. Someone please kill them.”
Suddenly Asha and Adalai burst through the main doors.
“Wait!” yelled Adalai.
“Abdar’s eyes it’s busy in here,” exclaimed the man in charge. “I have a war to run, little sorceress, I do not have time for this.”
“We have the Primary Control Rod!” exclaimed Adalai.
The man stopped. Fixed his gaze on her. “Why should I believe you?”
Adalai held it up. One of the man’s attendants, the only man not dressed entirely in plate mail, studied the object.
“That would be the item in question, Lord Tarthis,” he said softly. Tarthis nodded.
“Very good. Give it to me.” His eyes were still fixed on Adalai, and suddenly Adalai felt very much as if she wanted to.
“Uh,” Miles said. “Did I miss something?”
“Abassi took the Rod from me,” explained Asha, her voice quavering. “He brought it to-”
“Shut up!” Adalai growled at them, trying to convince herself that just handing the Rod over was a bad idea.
“I thought he brought it to him,” Gray said, gesturing to Tarthis.
“Abelo was here,” said Lord Tarthis’ attendant. “But he did not give Lord Tarthis anything but a headache.”
Lord Tarthis, for his part, never broke his gaze with Adalai. “Bring that to me, child.”
“Uh,” Miles said, rubbing his temples. “No, don’t give that to him, Adalai.”
“Just shut up a minute!” Adalai hissed. Miles shrugged and took her advice. She held the Rod between herself and Lord Tarthis. “I will give this to you willingly,” she said, her voice shaking with effort. “If you will let me and my friends go unharmed.”
“No,” Tarthis’ voice was soothing. “You want to put that into my hand.” And he extended a scarred and pale hand expectantly.
“No!” Adalai broke eye contact. “That is the deal! The Primary Control Rod for the lives and safe passage of my friends and I!”
Tarthis looked irritated. “Safe passage to where?”
“The Yeona/Corvan border,” she said. “Swear to that on the honor of your position and I will give this to you willingly.”
Tarthis considered for a moment, then: “Agreed.”
“One second,” Gray said, holding up a finger. She took Adalai aside and whispered tersely. “You can’t give that to him?”
“What choice do we have?” she asked, her gaze imploring. “I like you guys and I don’t want you to die. Trust me!”
Gray searched her eyes for a long moment, then shrugged. Adalai walked toward Tarthis and handed him the smooth shaft of wood.
“Well,” she said with a smile, “it’s been nice and all, but we’ll be taking that free passage now.” She turned and headed for the doors.
Tarthis studied the rod and handed it to his attendant who muttered a few words as they reached the double doors.
“Something isn’t right here,” the attendant said.
“Run!” Adalai shouted.
“Get them!” roared Tarthis as they took off running.
“What did you give him?” Gray yelled as they ran.
“The chair leg Abassi used to trick Belladonna!”
“Long story, tell you later!” Adalai shouted and ducked as a volley of crossbow quarrels shot over her head.
They ran through a maze of corridors, dodging this way and that avoiding crossbow fire, occasionally battling guards, but ultimately made it outside the fortress. At one point during the pursuit, Adalai glanced up and seemingly nothing at all and spoke.
“Now would be a good time for some divine intervention, old man!”
“I didn’t know you prayed!” Miles said as he smashed a Yeonan guard’s head into oblivion.
“Seemed like a good time to start,” Adalai said, blasting another with a magic missile.
As they burst into the courtyard, a huge mass of guards was there to meet them. The walls were all lined with crossbowmen aiming their weapons at the group. Miles clenched tighter to his hammer.
“There is no way out of this,” he said softly.
“I just got off the Expendable list,” Gray murmured. “And here I’m going to die fighting.”
There was a moment. Just a moment as each opposing force tensed for the coming blaze of violence. And then there was a cry. It was not the cry of a human, but of a bird.
All eyes turned skyward as a huge bird swooped into view, lightning crackling between its feathers and thunder rumbling in its wake. The lightning quickly gathered and rained down on the Yeonan forces. Men began screaming and running in a panic. The group glanced at one another and began to run, just as the ground below them (for the second time in less than a week) fell out.
Strong arms caught them as the fell, setting them gently down, and each of the group found themselves staring into the face of men made completely of earth and stone. A burly dwarf stood among them, with a broad grin on his filthy face.
“Reckon that thunderbird’ll give ‘em wot, wot?” he laughed a deep belly laugh, and it was so strange, so alien in this moment that the others couldn’t help but laugh as well. “Come on then,” the dwarf reached up and clapped Miles on the shoulder. “Let’s go get a brew.”