“Joelle, this is madness. You’re arbitrarily changing our course based on a ‘feeling’ you have?”
The tiefling shrugged. “I didn’t say we came here as a direct route to somewhere else. We came here to find them, and now the spirits say our paths move in unison.”
“You have to be kidding me. Okay stop me if you’ve heard this one: a priest, a lizard, and a dead girl walk into a bar.”
“Haw haw.” She glanced him over. “We agreed to meet them at sunrise. Be sure you’re ready. I’m going to wash up.”
“I beg you to reconsider this folly.”
The tiefling paused. “I detected no malice in that,” she paused, “that. Girl. The Marshal speaks truth, guarded though it is, and the oracle of Kord is likewise guileless. It’s my job to judge minds,” she replied curtly, “and I judge they are as they seem. And the stones never lie. So our paths converge and we will see this through. You were enlisted for your muscle, not your council.”
The young warrior winced, causing the tiefling to purse her lips. “I apologize, Kettil. I value your input, but you can’t let your superstitions overrule the obvious truth. Whether it is for us to aid them, or for them to aid us, we met here for a reason. And at the end of this waits Douven.”
“Or what’s left of him,” replied Kettil glumly. The tiefling pretended not to hear him and turned toward the communal washrooms.
- – -
The lumbering fighter marched at the point of the line, his forearms resting easily over a massive longspear perched across his wide shoulders. His eyes were lively, however, darting unceasingly across the unfolding landscape. The tiefling and the priestess spoke at length of countless subjects, from the mystical to the mundane. The priestess was at occasion reminded of proper prudence with a coarse throat-clearing by the dragonborn captain, but was otherwise at her leisure to compare notes with their companions.
Through the trees and bramble darted their shadowy companion. Long since had the novelty of her quicker-than-the-eye nimbleness worn off, the young girl flitting from trunk to trunk and brush to brush, always just out of sight, at the corner of one’s vision. The warrior had uneasily come to rely on her rapid scouting as they progressed. As they reached yet another clearing, the warrior paused, interrupting the conversation behind him.
“Say I haven’t seen uh. Talion, in a while.” They glanced at each other, and then around.
“That is strange.” The tiefling closed her eyes in concentration, reaching out. Her eyes snapped open as her finger rose to point toward an outcropping.
“‘Kobolds,’ she says.” Where she pointed, small reptilian creatures scurried over the rockface, clearly arguing with each other.
“Now she tells us.” The fighter heaved a sigh, whipping his spear into a guard stance. The kobolds, realizing they had lost the advantage of surprise, charged toward them. A kobold at the top of the rock edifice began winding up his sling, but before he could properly aim his projectile, a large blade arced across his hips, cleaving his legs from his torso. Talion stepped out from behind him.
The priestess Plura’s eyes closed as she began to chant in an ancient tongue. As the kobolds edged toward her, huge arcs of lightning burst forth from her staff. The heavy stench of ozone and charred flesh hung in the air as the bolts crackled between kobolds along the pathway, their bodies collapsing. One slinger managed to loose his payload, the heavy ceramic crock arcing toward the dragonborn warlord. Captain Q’pla sneered and made to bat it aside with his shield, but as the vessel ruptured, gluey tendrils splashed over his hip and legs. He spat in irritation as he struggled against his bonds.
More kobolds erupted from the treeline, heavily armed and angry. The tiefling reached out with her mind, sowing images of annihilation into the kobolds’ consciousness. Some fell immediately, their minds turned upon themselves. The clear captains of the group mustered what courage their squad had left in order to engage the party.
With an agitated roar, Q’pla tore free of the strands of drying glue and charged forward, brusquely knocking a kobold from his feet and lancing him to the ground with his longsword.
The fighter hew a wide arc between two remaining kobolds, cleaving their shields into splinters and rending wide their ringed armor.
Seeing the fight lost, the last slinger turned to flee, only to have a slender dagger grow out of his back. Talion flickered into solidity above him, deftly retrieving her knife.
The clearing was suddenly still, the slain kobolds having no other allies at hand.