Almendra, a Beautiful Psionic Wasteland

Seventy-Seventh Day on the Surface

DAY SEVENTY SEVEN

These past couple of days my leg has undergone quite an improvement. I can actually walk now, although it hurts to walk or stand for too long. That and I stumble around like some glower. The War Chef told me that although my limp will improve, my leg was too badly broken to fix it completely. I’m going to have a limp for the rest of my life.

Ishitari was in an out of consciousness the first day, but she’s since stabilized. Like me she can hobble across the room on her own. Thank the Queen none of the claw marks got infected…They were pretty nasty to begin with. Somehow we’ve healed up in the matter of days instead of weeks, thanks to the mostly human and maenad local healers. Many have come and gone during my stay so I don’t really remember any of their names. All except the War Chef and Cinna, who’ve both been here taking care of us since we arrived. Just yesterday the human man who owns the local healing pond, and the first surface dweller I’d met at the start of my banishment, stopped by to drop off some of his healing water. By the Queen, it’s not even been three months, but my first meeting with him felt like an eternity ago.

Thraenor stuck around for a few days keeping Ishitari and I company along with Socks, but I haven’t seen or heard from him since early yesterday morning. So far everyone I’ve asked doesn’t know where he is either.

“That dog cost me a door just the other day. As it turns out he actually didn’t fit through the window.” Cogline told me when he and the others came by to visit around mid afternoon. He sat down on the infirmary bed next to mine, scratching Socks behind the ear. "Anyways, it looks like there’s a war squad of dromites coming up to Aimi right now. There’s a pretty good sized band of duergar coming up behind them. The maenads have offered to help out, and of course the elans are coming too. The half giants are coming down from up North, the Mukra are headed over here…We’re pretty much going to have a huge army over here but we’re not going to be able to use all the armies that they’re sending.”

“Yeah, not everyone would fit.” I laughed to myself.

“The issue here is I’ve never actually been down there, so I don’t know much of anything about it.” Cogline looked at me expectantly. I nodded and ripped out a page from this journal. After sketching a quick map of Nefir and handed it to him.

He pulled up a small table between the two beds and placed the map down. “You all have any ideas for some good tactics?”

“Well, I assume where they have this hive mind casing is probably beneath the city in the mines themselves.” I began. “In particular, the life crystal mine by the portals. That’s the most likely place it would be.”

“It’s the most defendable?”

“Yes. It’s below the Queen’s Court, and there’s no way we can go inside the normal way because all the gates are sealed with psionics.” I tapped where I’d drawn the front gate into the Queen’s Court. “Only those inside the building can open them. But there are back ways into the Queen’s Court because both my parents and my sibling go into the Queen’s Court by other means.”

Cogline stroked his chin, contemplating. “Which way does the door on the surface come into the city?”

“The one we’re going through leads to here, in between the Market and Power districts.” I said, pointing to the Western entrance. “I believe most of these secret entrances are hidden in plain sight. Most likely the entrance Lika takes to get to the life crystal mine is by the normal entrances into the other sections of the mine, which is located in the Power District.”

“So, we enter in here, go North, and search up there?” Sandstorm asked, tracing a pathway from the Western entrance to the Power District. I nodded. “How many buildings are in the Power District?”

A lot. It was a city built to house ten thousand dromites.”

Cogline shook his head. “That door is gonna be a kill zone.”

“Yeah,” I sighed, “That’s going to be a huge problem.”

“We need lots of people in the area or some shit.” Sandstorm offered.

“What, you think they don’t have that themselves?” Cogline laughed bitterly. “They have a portal. They’re sending in drow and illithids en masse.”

Sandstorm’s eyebrows furrowed.“From our continent?”

Cogline gave him a look like he should already know. “From Osdon, to the North.”

“So, where’s the portal located?” Sandstorm asked, looking at the map again.

“I’ve already said that. It’s in the life crystal mine beneath the Queen’s Court.” I replied in frustration, furiously pointing to the Queen’s Court a few times.

Cogline leaned over to examine the map a bit closer. “It’s also a good place for a retreat if they have to do it.”

“I’m assuming they’ve found all the secret entrances?” Thomytix pondered.

“They might not have found all the secret entrances, but that’s where the portal is.” Cogline replied.

“And my parents would know of another location to get into there since they take a different route from Lika to go help take care of the hatchlings.”

“Are they coming down with the war party or I can missive them?” Sandstorm wondered, ghosting his hand over one of his tattoos.

I shot him a horrified look. “They’re hatchling caretakers, not warriors!”

“Well the chief war officer of the dromites, if I remember correctly, is the Consort.” Cogline reminded him. “So he probably would know everything.”

“Yeah, the Queen and the Consort know of all the locations into there.” I nodded.

Sandstorm moved his hand away from the missive tattoo. “So maybe we should wait for him to formulate a plan. Gotta keep the group small though, if it’s a one-person door way.”

“The doorway is probably four hundred feet wide,” Cogline reasoned, dragging his finger over the width of the Western entrance. “But even that can still be a kill zone if we’re all concentrated in one area.”

“Depends on how many casters we have to create our own kill zone,” Sandstorm smirked, “Cause they’re just sitting there waiting for us to come in and then beat the crap out of us. But we have to sneak past, which isn’t likely.”

Thomytix tried taking a closer peek at the map. “Is there a way to draw them out?”

“One of the things I was thinking of is that we could send in an assault. It’ll still be a kill zone, and we can have quite a bit of our forces in the front, but the duergar have a portal. And I can use it.” Cogline’s hand wrapped around the pendant hanging from his neck. Some of the purple light it emanated trickled through the spaces between his fingers.

“With out a cost?” Sandstorm asked, bewildered.

Cogline held up his strange necklace. “This is the cost.”

“What is that thing anyway?”

“A friend.” Cogline said, after a pause.

“Another Druid?” Sandstorm prodded.

Cogline shook his head. “Not exactly.”

Sandstorm put up his hands. “Alright, be mysterious.”

“It’s kind of my own business but…” Cogline’s voice trailed off. I saw a twinge of sadness in his eyes. For a moment I wondered if the person inside that necklace was Goru, but somehow from the look on his face I already knew.

“Well if it’s your own business I’m not gonna pry.” Sandstorm assured him, watching the older man slip the necklace back underneath his shirt. “So, uh, you’re gonna use the portal and drop them from behind?”

“Yes. Flank them from behind. It should divert some attention from the main door.”

“Good, some shock troops. Is it the shock troops you’re gonna drop us in with or…?”

“Well, it’s probably you guys who will be trying to sneak around.” Cogline stood up. “We have to get in Aldoraen, but I haven’t seen him in a long while.”

“I’m sure he’ll be on time, just like Malazhar. He’s coming back, dammit.”

“Who the fuck is Malazhar?” Thomytix blurted.

“Shut up! Apparently he’s my imaginary friend…” Sandstorm half-smiled. The rest of us couldn’t help but laugh along.

Thomytix clapped him on the shoulder. “And that’s what he’ll be until he shows up.”

“Damn right he’s going to show up and help.” Sandstorm grumbled.

“Amanmal. He’ll be helpful too.” Cogline added.

Yes!” The half giant exclaimed gleefully. “I want to see his axe again.”

Cogline raised an eyebrow. “His axe hand?”

“Yeah. Lost his hand closing the Shadow Vault and he crafted himself an axe hand.”

“At this point I don’t think that there’s going to be one anymore. I’m pretty sure he’s crafted his own new hand.”

“He’s quite the forge master. I’m sure he can help equip our army too.”

“Well, I guess we’ll plan out some more when more people get here.” Cogline sighed and rolled up the map, tucking it under his armpit. He left with out another word. The others stayed awhile longer to chat with Ishitari and I, until a healer came by and shooed them away so poor Ishitari could get some sleep.

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