Story:Holy Opposites Chapter 11
Axio nursed his ale and listened to the bullshit all around him.
“I doubt he really punched a bear in the nuts,” he muttered. Cavria giggled.
“He is a little short. Can a gnome even reach a bear’s balls?”
“One wonders.” Axio sipped his drink and looked around. “He’ll be here.”
Cavria was sitting beside him, munching on bread and a light whiskey. “So… this friend. He knows about weird monsters?”
“His family has been in the business of killing them for a hundred and forty years,” Axio said quietly.
“And we’re in full Paladin armor. That’s not weird at all, here?” the devil asked, scanning the room.
Axio gestured with his empty hand. “This place is packed with adventurers who want to tackle Undermountain. There’s more now, even after that whole Tarrasque business. There’s men and women in here with six, seven times our experience. No, we fit in just fine.”
He sat up as a new face walked in. A human in worn clothes but clear eyes, both the color of steel, strode up and sat down beside the till. A human girl behind the bar slung him a honey mead without even being looked at, and he caught it with such practiced ease that Cavria felt the urge to applaud.
“Your friend?” she asked.
“Indeed!” Axio beamed and moved to sit beside the old man. “Amsha, my man,” he said cheerfully.
The human looked up, and his grey eyes went wide. “Axiopistos, you’re gigantic. It’s not fair at all!”
The two embraced. “How have you been, Amsha?” Axio asked happily.
“Still skinning the things that get in my way,” Amsha said airily. Cavria stared.
Axio turned to indicate his new partner. “Amsha, this is Cavria, a friend and fellow Paladin. She and I are tasked with stopping the plague of child abductions in the city of late.”
Amsha looked her up and down. “Mmm. Well, if that’s your aim, then good on you, and Tymora’s blessings follow you.”
“Thank you, my friend. We found evidence of magic beasts at a previous abduction locale,” Axio explained. He leaned forward and tapped his mug on the table, and the barmaid fetched him another. Cavria sat down on the other side of Amsha, and Axio nodded at her. “Cavria and I suspect that it’s a magic beast, not a person, abducting the children, or at least one is helping a person do it. Amsha, here, is a gifted trapper and tracker,” he explained for Cavria’s benefit. “He catches the beasts that escape from the rifts in Undermountain into the ocean or the hills on the far side of Mount Waterdeep.”
“And I own this bar,” he said proudly.
The barmaid reached over and slapped his hand. “No, you don’t, you old horsethief,” she chided. “My great-grandfather Durnan built the Yawning Portal, and my father owns it now.”
“He was my great-uncle, I should at least get a discount,” Amsha sniffed, though he sounded like he was just having fun needling the girl. “Anyway. You think a beast is about in town, eh?”
“Either slaved to the will of the Baneites or acting on its own to cover its tracks by aping them.” Cavria polished off her whiskey, taking a moment to appreciate the warmth as it worked its way down her gullet. Of course, as a devil, she didn’t really need to eat, but it still felt nice to relax after a day’s walking about the city. “So far, what we know is that it can jump great heights silently, it can pick locks in the dark, and it has strength and stealth enough to take a child out of its bed without waking the parents downstairs.”
Amsha rubbed his chin. “Flying or walking?”
“We don’t know enough to rule either out.”
The old trapper thought about that. “Magic, though, you say.”
“Well, I suppose it could be a non-magical creature, but it would have to be able to fit between two cramped buildings, on a narrow ledge, in the middle of the night, without raising suspicion.” Cavria raised her hands. “We suspect magic.”
“And it needs to be under the control of a person, or at least working for it?” Amsha asked.
He nodded. “Sounds like a gargoyle, to me.”
Axio had seen gargoyles in battle before. “They’re controllable?” he asked.
“They can be controlled remotely, by a mage, if he knows what to do,” Amsha said. He downed a gulp of his drink and stared into it. “Yeah, that’s what I’d say. They haunt the rooftops, they can manipulate tools… I’d say gargoyle.”
The two Paladins exchanged a look. “Got it. Anyplace around here have a gargoyle problem lately?” Cavria asked.
Amsha belched. “A few. One of the buildings that led into Undermountain, you know, the ones that got exposed during the whole Tarrasque thing,” he said, waving his hand in a vague circle. “Some store. Lodhart’s, I think it was.”
“We’ll check it out.” Axio rose to his feet and dropped some money on the bar for the drinks. “First ones are on me,” he said, passing Amsha the change to cover his own meads. “Thanks for your help, my friend.”
Amsha tipped his glass and pocketed the coins. “My pleasure. You go put the critters to right, now.”
Outside, Cavria rolled her shoulders and looked around. Busy night. There were people on the roads, even after sundown, shopping and drinking and having a good time. This was a packed district, even now, with hundreds of soldiers making off to the campaign and families rent asunder. “How did you know Amsha?” she asked, just to have something to say.
“My parents hired him a lot, when I was younger,” Axio explained. “The Ward where I grew up had a problem with Halaster Blackcloak’s experiments escaping when his portals went haywire, when the Spellplague ended.”
“Oh, wow.” Cavria shook her head. “I don’t envy you that, that must have been terrifying.”
Axio pulled a face. “Ugh. It really wasn’t, but it was annoying. You had to move around the Ward in groups at night, it got so bad. They’d call in the Guard for the real problems, but individual families were on their own. It could have been worse,” he added as they walked away, back up to the temple. “It could have been undead.”
“Yeah, that’s worse.” Cavria rubbed her hands together idly, thinking their new intelligence over. “So… should we actually pursue this tonight?”
“You mean, go stake out the store?” Axio asked.
“Yes. And maybe give this new idea to the Watch, just to keep them in the loop,” Cavria suggested. “We’re supposed to be working together.”
Axio scoffed. “The Watch barely trusts us to stay out of the way.”
Cavria caught his arm and turned him around, frowning. “Axio.”
He huffed in irritation. “Fine. We’ll drop by a Watch post on our way to the site. Do you need to sleep tonight?”
“Nor do I. Let’s watch the place, then.” He turned and resumed walking. “We must be cautious. We can see in the dark, but so can they.”
“Have you ever killed a gargoyle?” Cavria asked.
“Once. It was attacking a pilgrim convoy. Tore right through the canvas on the covered wagon,” Axio recalled with a shudder. “The driver shot it with his crossbow, and I managed to throw it to the ground long enough for us to jump on it and pin its wings.”
Cavria shrugged. “My weapon is a glaive. I can do reach, but up-close, not so much. My javelin would work, but it only works once.”
“Then we go right in. We find this store, Lodhart’s, and we just walk right in,” Axio said. “If there’s a coven of Baneites there, we’ll know in seconds.”
His new ally looked unhappy. “We should bring backup.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“I dunno, some Guards, maybe? If there’s a Baneite coven in there, or gargoyles, or both, we shouldn’t go right in.”
“True enough.” Axio looked over at the market, trying to place the name to a location, and was unable to do so. “Then… we reconnoiter it tonight, and hit it tomorrow, during the day, when the gargoyles will be more lethargic.”
“Seems good to me.” Cavria followed him back up to the Temple, marveling at the press of people. “Wow. You really grew up in the city like this?”
“I’m not used to all these people,” Cavria admitted. “Not living ones.”
Axio held the door of the temple open for her and flashed her a smile. “You’ll get used to it.”
Inside, the two Paladins retrieved their heavier weapons and prepared to leave. Both slung dark cloaks over their brilliantly polished armor, to keep from showing up in the night. Cavria couldn’t conceal her glaive, so she left it behind, packing only her javelin and her own two fists. Axio awkwardly slid his shield and sword on his back, over his cloak but under his coat. Cavria looked at him sidelong as he did. He must have been sweltering in that getup. Undershirt, tunic, padding, breastplate, cape, cloak, shield, coat. Eight layers, two of them metal. At least he would move quietly with all that fabric padding the metal.
Axio secured his dart under his arm, where he could draw it quickly, and turned to the exit. “All right. Now, let’s see… where’s that map?”
Cavria had been studying it. She set it down on the table and pointed it out. “Here it is. Abandoned silverware store. It’s at the very eastern edge of the Trades Ward.”
“Near where the Wall Roads are?”
“Yes.” Cavria pointed. “Right up by the walls, actually.”
Axio squinted. “They must have already been out of business when I was a kid. I don’t remember them at all.” He loomed over the map, staring it down. “Looks… there’s no real Watch presence in the area. We should be careful.”
“Careful, we can do.” Axio glanced over at Cavria and peaked one platinum eyebrow. “What?” she asked, noting his scrutiny.
“You don’t have a blade.”
Cavria clenched a fist. “Trust me. I can palm strike through solid stone,” she said proudly, cracking her knuckles. “Besides, if we get hit by something tougher than a gargoyle, we should just withdraw entirely. We’re here to reccie the place, not lay siege.”
“I suppose. Which spells do you have prepared today?” Axio asked. “I brought Detect Magic, Lesser Restoration, Divine Favor, and Cure Wounds.”
“I’ve got Cure Wounds and Detect Evil,” Cavria said. “Thanks to my whole thing, neither of the Detect spells will actually show me,” she admitted, “I’m sort of… outside that definition.”
Axio nodded sympathetically. “I understand.” He hefted his sword and slid it into its scabbard. “Let’s go.”
|The tale of the Holy Opposites ||
|Arc 1: | Prologue | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 |
Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10
|Arc 2: | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 |
Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20
Chapter 21 | Chapter 22 | Chapter 23 | Chapter 24 | Chapter 25
|Arc 3: | Chapter 26 | Chapter 27 | Chapter 28 | Chapter 29 | Chapter 30|
|Arc 4: | Chapter 31 | Chapter 32 | Chapter 33 | Chapter 34 | Chapter 35 |
Chapter 36 | Chapter 37 | Chapter 38 | Chapter 39 | Glossary