Wave Echo Cave felt more hospitable without the threat of undead or psychopathic Drow lurking around every corner, and the party was relaxing comfortably at their guard position at the cave entrance. The clamor of Gundrin’s team of miners echoed through the cave, punctuated by the rhythmic boom of the giant wave. Miz’ry scowled every time the wave crashed, though she hid her expression behind her massive book of spells. She hated any reminder of Drozz, because it made her reflect on her failure in letting him escape. The rest of the party seemed content, however, as the mine was now fully in their control.
“And now, to slay the dragon!” Guntor exclaimed. Owly hooted in agreement.
Miz’ry raised an eyebrow at Charlatan, and they exchanged an exasperated look.
Hammer grunted. “Uh, what dragon?”
Kaeg was resting against a rock with his legs propped up on one of the broken crates. He exhaled a stream of masterful smoke rings and waved his pipe vaguely. “There’s this dragon that Guntor is all excited about fighting for some reason. Probably because it killed his family and destroyed his whole town.” Miz’ry couldn’t help smirking at Kaeg. His dry bluntness was a perfect antithesis to Guntor’s enthusiasm.
Guntor frowned. “Well, technically, that was a volcan-”
“Regardless,” Miz’ry interrupted, rolling her eyes. She wasn’t about to let Guntor start on another tangent and bore them all with his ridiculousness. “It’s a massive beast with an entire army of cultists assisting it, and the town itself is a worthless wreck infested with ash zombies. Unless the beast starts threatening the other towns in the area, it’s clearly wisest to leave it be. We couldn’t even take care of a single moronic, weak, unintelligent Drow. In my opinion, it’s utterly imbecilic to risk our lives fighting a beast with strength unlike anything we have encountered thus far. Even if we do have an owl on our side.”
Guntor look wounded as he covered Owly’s ears. “She didn’t mean it like that,” he whispered to the creature.
Mizry stared at him for a moment, then sighed and shook her head. “Regardless, the point still stands.” She turned back to the transcription she was making in her spell tome, ignoring the rest of the party once more.
Myrrdin raised a finger. “Technically, we don’t have kill the dragon. The Emerald Enclave is content as long as the threat to civilization is managed to acceptable levels.”
“While the idea of scaring a dragon away from its hoard does sound lovely
and lucrative it’s hard for dead men to spend gold,” Charlatan pointed out as he lay on his back, tossing Flitterswitch into the air and attempting to catch it.
“You’ll cut your fingers off doing that,” Miz’ry said without looking up from her book.
Her comment made Charlatan miss the next catch, and the dagger clattered to the ground next to his head before he quickly summoned it back to his had. The tips of his ears turned a darker purple. He looked at his sister, and flicked his fingers towards her. “Rude,” he said, and the letters appeared in mid-air between them, glittering lavender for a moment before fading away.
“Charlie, what’s ‘rudd-ee’ mean?” asked the Hammer, brow wrinkled in confusion as he stared at the spot the words had been.
“It means reddish, why?” replied Charlatan, now equally confused. He sat up and stared at Hammer.
“I still don’t know what we’re going to do about the dragon!” said Guntor, and the party turned to look at him, focusing on their task again.
Myrrdin nodded sagely. “Yes, the dragon is not a threat now but it is only a matter of time before its proximity becomes a problem.”
“I still think the Joneses are right, that it’s not worth the risk of fighting,” said Kaeg. “I’m the only one that’s seen it, remember? And believe me, it’s not worth it. Besides, I have more important things to worry about. A deserted town is one thing,” he nodded at Guntor, “but my nephew has been kidnapped and my aunt robbed and beaten. I’m going after the bastards who did it.” Kaeg’s tone brooked no argument.
A moment of silence fell over the party as they all reflected on the tiny halfling woman who had assisted them and sacrificed for them, for so little in return.
“Agreed. Quelline has been a dear aunt to us all, and I certainly feel a debt,” said Charlatan. The rest of the party nodded.
“I guess that’s a good point,” Guntor said, “but there’s a lot of good we could be doing out there in the world! Like, uh, finding lost artefacts! Or defeating evil lords! Or maybe killing a dragon! Hey- I bet I could even tame it!” His face radiated youthful exuberance.
Charlatan and Miz’ry glanced at each other again. The idea was preposterous. Guntor’s excitement could have been endearing, but Miz’ry wouldn’t condone his passion for heroic nonsense, especially when it was completely illogical.
“I’m fairly sure I’m allergic to fighting dragons,” said Charlatan.
“Deathly allergic, in fact. We both are. It’s a half-Drow thing. You wouldn’t understand,” said Miz’ry.
“Curse these brittle bones,” Charlatan wailed dramatically.
“I wonder if I have that allergy too,” said Hammer, and proceeded to sniff at his chainmail.
“You don’t,” said Miz’ry quickly, rolling her eyes at Hammer, “You are correct in one thing, Guntor. There is a lot of good you could be doing out in the wide world. I believe Kaeg’s quest is a noble one, and you would be well served in assisting him with it.”
“I notice you didn’t say ‘we’,” mused Myrrdin, gazing at the Jones twins with an obnoxiously Elvish sense of superiority. “You two have better plans for yourselves, then?”
“Well….” began Charlatan, looking a little abashed, “I did speak briefly to Gundrin- having a mine open is all well and good, but we’re going to need somebody to help deliver the trading goods that come out of here. And as you all know, the Pendragon Trading Company is uniquely equipped to assist Mr Rockseeker with the goings on of the mine. It’s a business opportunity the likes of which I am unlikely to find traipsing about the wilderness on a noble and necessary, but ultimately financially fruitless rescue mission.”
“And additionally, of course,” added Miz’ry, “the full extent of the powers of the Forge of Spells must be examined by a qualified and invested individual, such as myself. I am afraid that the intricacies of such an enchantment would be lost on the lot of you, and of course, not to slander the owner of this mine, him as well.”
“And truly, we must be checking up on that awful brother of ours. If only to see how awful he’s become in our absence,” said Charlatan.
“And whatever his shortcomings may be, Charles and I have discussed the possibility of requesting his assistance in the propagation of the general knowledge of this mine, and of course, the deeds of the noble heros- that’s all of us, naturally- who risked their lives and their wealth to bring about the most notable recovery of a magical artefact for the last age. I think you will all agree that we could use a bit of fame and glory,” said Miz’ry, speaking far too quickly for most of the party to follow her logic.
“And the little bastard is a bit of an advertisement specialist. Bards can be useful, I guess, especially when you include their friends and family discount,” finished Charlatan, sighing deeply.
The party stared at the Jones twins.
“Does that mean you’re staying here?” asked the Hammer, who looked a bit dazed from trying to follow the twin’s diatribe. His skill in juggling hammers did not translate well to juggling conversation.
“Of course not!” Charlatan said quickly. “While our corporeal forms may remain here, we’ll be with you! In spirit!”
“It’s nothing against the lot of you, naturally,” added Miz’ry. “It’s just that our desires lie in the more material aspect of adventuring.”
“Cash, she means,” clarified Charlatan.
“Not necessarily,” argued Miz’ry, “but the examination of the lucrative properties of our newest find is a life calling that I find myself unable to ignore.”
“Truly, it grieves us to see all of you go so very far from us ,” lamented Charlatan. “But rest assured, my sister and I will strive endlessly to maximize the profits generated by the mine. Upon your return, I am certain you will find that your shares have increased exponentially. Just imagine, Guntor, the fine furs and trappings you could purchase for you dear mother. Kaeg, think of dear Aunt Quelline, sitting happily by her roaring fire, the talk of the town with her new farmhouse and fine gowns.”
Kaeg puffed on his pipe, then shook his head. “That all sounds nice, but I think what Quelline really wants is her son returned to her.”
“And when he is, she’ll have plenty of gold to shower him with presents,” assured Charlatan. “Gentlemen, you must therefore see why my sister and I must stay and tend to some of the business administration of this fine establishment.”
“And don’t worry about the rough start of the Pendragon Trading Company,” drawled Miz’ry. “I believe that Charlatan has realized that at least one of the persons with whom he surrounds himself has a decent head for numbers. Honestly, dear brother, you’re a fool for not bringing me into this ridiculous endeavor earlier. Peabody. Honestly.”
“Guntor gets a pet, why can’t I have one?” said Charlatan. “Don’t be jealous just because yours ran away.”
Miz’ry glared at Charlatan, her eyes flashing redder for a moment. Charlatan knew exactly where to direct his barbed comments, and she summoned a look of utter contempt to hide the embarrassment and frustration she felt at his words. “At least Guntor has enough sense not to entrust his idiotic owl with significant financial decisions. How much gold was it that you lost, again? I’m sure father would be so proud.”
Charlatan looked hurt, but quickly hid his expression with a roguish grin.“Touche.” He tipped his feathered hat at Miz’ry.
“But what about the glory?” asked Guntor, “Aren’t we supposed to be heros? Heroes don’t sit in a mine all day worrying about gold!”
“No, we sit outside worrying about it,” snapped Charlatan. “Half the time, without tents! Forgive me for enjoying some of life’s small comforts.”
“Be calm, Guntor,” soothed Miz’ry, “this is merely a temporary solution. Once the mine is operating smoothly and churning out profit and magical knowledge and items, I am certain Charlatan and I will be on the road again, being… heroic and all that.”
“Without us, then,” said Kaeg. It wasn’t a question, and he sat up a bit straighter to frown at Charlatan and Miz’ry.
“It’s just a matter of unfortunate timing, my friend. Think of this as an opportunity to start a secondary branch of the Winterstorm Troopers. Just think! Tales of the Trooper’s deeds can only spread further! Imagine them singing tales of our heroism and lauding our bravery in the exotic taverns of Rubinia!” said Charlatan. His words were accompanied by a flurry of hand motions and whirling colors. The effect was quite flashy, but Kaeg seemed unconvinced.
“If you don’t want to come, that’s fine,” Kaeg said. “But there’s no point in pretending we’ll become folk heroes overnight. I don’t care about the glory, only about getting my nephew returned in one piece and… dealing with my cousins.”
“I, of course, fully support your desire for vengeance,” said Miz’ry, “but as a scholar, I feel I cannot leave such an important font of magic without a full academic study. If Charles and I felt your quest would be impossible without us, we would surely be accompanying you. However, as it is, I feel that all of you are perfectly capable of bringing the rogues to justice and finding your poor young cousin. Our presence,” she indicated Charlatan with a wave of her hand, “is unnecessary, and therefore we will remain here. I’m sure you understand.”
Kaeg nodded, shrugging. Guntor still looked upset, but before he could interrupt, Gunrin Rockseeker heaved himself over the ledge and into the entrance.
“You. Drow. We have business to discuss.”
Charlatan heaved a sigh, and sprang to his feet. “Come, sister. We must be off to assist our dear friend.” He held out a hand, and Miz’ry grabbed it to jump to her feet as well. “Don’t worry about waiting around for us,” he told the gathered companions as the twins started after Gundrin. “This surely isn’t a permanent farewell. Friends such as we cannot be separated by mere distance.”
Miz’ry rolled her eyes again at Charlatan’s sentimentalism, but she secretly agreed with his statement. She raised a hand in salute, then turned away from the rest of the party and jumped down over the ledge and into the depths of Wave Echo Cave.