These past few days Sandstorm and the others gathered supplies for the upcoming battle. Mostly smoke sticks, psionic tattoos and healing items. Yesterday the army from Veseeld arrived shortly before noon. Their ranks seem comprised of mostly maenads, but there were humans too. I even recognized a couple low ranking Diamond Knights interspersed with them.
The half giants of Aradi showed up a few hours later, Sandstorm’s father leading them. The two armies joined the dromites and set up camp a mile or two outside Aimi. Later that night we discussed our battle plans with Sandstorm’s father and a some high ranking maenads, who all seemed to agree with the idea.
Thraenor returned from wherever he’d gone off to not long after the half giant’s arrival. When I asked where in the Abyss he’d been, he only said that he was away helping a friend.
Today, a couple hours after sunrise, over three thousand duergar rolled in. Amanmal was with them, who cheerfully greeted us on his arrival. Just as Cogline said, his axe-hand was no longer. Instead an intricate metal hand glistened in the sunlight. Sandstorm was the first to shake his new hand. “So, where are all your spiders?”
The Druid smirked. “They’re underground.”
At the very back they had their portal placed upon a wooden cart. About a hundred weary and sweat covered duergar worked together as one to move it along. They were still dragging it into town when the portal suddenly sprang to life. Some of the towns people began to panic, but the two Druids were upon it in an instant. Amanmal held up his new hand and before our eyes it morphed into an axe bigger than me. The two Druids held their ground, and waited for whoever or whatever was on the other side to pass through.
A lone unarmed gold dwarf stepped out with palms forward. One by one, more gold dwarves followed the first until nearly an army of them stood amongst their dark skinned brethren. Even more surprising, dozens of life elementals were among them. Unlike the one we’d encountered in the past, all of them were clothed in drab clothing. Probably as not to make the other surface dwellers feel uncomfortable. (Even now I still don’t understand these surface dweller’s need for clothes. Well, I do, but it’s silly. It’s been warm enough up here not to need any!) There were even some earth elementals.
“So we figured how to make some of them mobile.” One of the gold dwarves said to Amanmal.
The Druid furrowed his brow. “The gold dwarves?”
“Yeah, I mean your buddy here really helped us out.” The dwarf replied, gesturing to someone behind him. There stood Malazhar, smirking as he passed through the portal. Sandstorm sprinted up to his friend and hugged him tight. It was like he hadn’t seen him in ages, the way the half giant picked him up off the ground and almost embraced him like a mother mole would do with her baby. “So, you went back in time?”
“Back in time?” Malazhar replied, incredulous. “No, I just went over to where they’re at now. Over in the Great Rift. I’ve done it before, but I didn’t mean to go there this time. Kind of. I mean, Thorumak wanted me to go there.”
“I’m going to say this to you again,” Thomytix asked Sandstorm as he approached him and the yanki. “Who the fuck is Malazhar?”
“This asshole right here.” Sandstorm smirked, slapping his friend upside the head. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Cehos lean over and whisper something in Cinna’s ear. Whatever he said must’ve been funny because it made her laugh into her hand.
While Sandstorm and Malazhar got reunited, Pe Ell and his group of drow unassumingly walked up to some of the life elementals. As they approached the life elementals’ usually happy demeanor became melancholy. He held out his hand and shook some of theirs. “Good to see you, brothers.”
My jaw dropped and I could only watch as Pe Ell, his drow, and the life elementals walked off into the forest to talk.
Later tonight, a few hours after the sun had set, Aldoraen burst open the doors to the inn, nearly ripping them off their hinges. He took a seat at an empty table near the back and barked at Cinna to get him a mug of ale.
“Someone’s angry.” Sandstorm mocked in a sing-song voice after the maenad finished downing his drink in a single gulp.
“Fuck you.” Aldoraen hissed, glaring daggers at the half giant.
Sandstorm smirked. “Fuck you too.”
Before anyone could stop him Aldoraen rose to his feet and chucked his table at Sandstorm. But the half giant dodged getting hit with ease. In the blink of an eye he summoned his mind blade and sliced it clear in half before it even reached him. The whole inn fell silent, gawking at the two men.
“The fuck is going on here?” Cehos demanded. He cautiously grabbed an arrow from his quiver and cocked it in his bow just in case things got ugly.
“Don’t make me throw another one at you.” Aldoraen warned, dragging over the nearest vacant table to him.
“I’m used to this. I could do this all day.” Sandstorm chuckled, swinging his mind blade around a couple times before dismissing it. He pulled up a chair and leaned in towards the maenad. “I’m guessing you learned a bad secret?”
“No, I’m really pissed off that the other guy isn’t comin’.”
Aldoraen shook his head. “He doesn’t wanna come.”
“Because he doesn’t want to help fight?”
“No. It’s cause he’s an asshole, that’s why.”
“Well clearly.” The half giant rolled his eyes. He got up from his chair to grab another drink at the bar.
Thomytix whispered in the half giant’s ear. “Does this dude need a hug or something?”
“Don’t hug ‘em. He’ll snap your head off.”
“Just give him some space, guys.” I chastised over my shoulder. I’m sure the poor guy had been through enough these past couple weeks.
Cinna emerged from the kitchen, hands full with piping hot food. She shot the two of them an odd look as she passed by. “People get killed over hugs now?”
“Well, he’s very angry and is trying really hard to contain it.”
After he’d calmed down somewhat (which still wasn’t all that much, considering) we told Aldoraen our plan. How we’re going to sneak into the Queen’s Court via a secret paseagway. How we’re going to get him out of our dimension. “Well I guess it’s the only thing we got.” He sighed after some time. “Hope it works. At least I can keep trudging on even if you guys don’t get me there.”
“Can’t be that hard. We have this thing now that prevents us from being mind controlled.”
“They can’t do it to me now anyways, so whatever.” Aldoraen mumbled.
“You want a cookie or something?” Cinna offered, reaching out to touch him on the shoulder. At the last minute she had second thoughts and lowered her hand. “We have some fresh ones in the back.”
“No.” Aldoraen glared at her. Cinna nodded sadly and hid behind the bar counter.
“How about a beer?” Sandstorm suggested.
Aldoraen raised his now empty mug and shook it. “I already drank one.”
“Well, what about a cigar?” The half giant took one of the cigars Amanmal had given him back at the Forge and held it out to Aldoraen. “This one’s a special kind of pipe weed. It’ll help calm you down.”
“No thanks. I’d rather just sit here for a while.”
“Alright.” Sandstorm shrugged, tucking the pipe into his pocket. “Your loss.”
The rest of the night before I returned to my room, thank the Queen, went with out incident. No more outbursts from Aldoraen for the time being. But I really must get to bed. The battle to reclaim Nefir and save this dimension draws ever closer.
The thri-kreen and xeph that had fled from the North weeks ago awoke all of Aimi sometime near midnight. I imagine there was about five thousand of them, and all looked positively terrified but relieved to be here.
“What happened?” Ishitari demanded of one of her kin, panic in her voice. “There were fifteen thousand of you when I left!”
“The Virathians have been covering our ass.” The other thri-kreen replied. “Right now the illithids are marching down from the sands.”
Sandstorm took one look at his dad, who stood beside him. “We’ve got to get our people down here, now.” The half giant didn’t think twice. He tapped the missive tattoo on his shoulder and after a few moments of tense silence relayed from his mother that the rest of the half giants were already fleeing Aradi with the help of the Virathians.
Queen preserve us all, we’re really heading into a war aren’t we?