Mreelana’s weary body slumped to the ground, her form barely visible in the darkness of the Plane of Shadow. Battered, bruised, grimy and exhausted, she planted her everburning torch firmly into the earth beside her. It illuminated the area immediately around her but offered little comfort. She briefly examined the chain that hung from her wrist. Though she wondered why, she could not bear the thought of being without it.
It was the end of the third day since their audience with Lictor Ferrous Bane. The deal was simple: become de facto paymasters by hauling gold to the city of Balefire to compensate Bane’s minions. Should they arrive before Paralictor Rourk, their sentences would be converted to banishment and, more importantly, freedom, be it in a strange new world. Though Rourke was mounted, she and her ragtag band received a twelve-hour head start.
Of course, Mreelana knew better and maintained a healthy suspicion of Bane’s motives. Her suspicion was confirmed when she overheard two of her fellow prisoners discussing that the gold bars were not what they seemed. It did not bother Mreelana, as she was at least outside of the prison mines. She had no doubt that Bane’s treachery would rear its ugly head. She merely needed to be prepared to meet it.
Suddenly, Mrleena heard a crash in the dilapidated house behind her. The work of her new companions, no doubt. The ragtag band of prisoners had just defeated a throng of skeletons, and “the boys” were looting the dwelling, apparently known as the “Jawbone Creek Ranch“. Seconds later, she heard shouts and the crackle of burning wood.
“Maybe the prison wasn’t quite so bad,” Mreelana mused. Her companions had at least refrained from beating her senseless or molesting her.
Well, they had almost refrained from doing so. Kalib, the demonic tiefling sorcerer, had smacked her across the face and seemed to enjoy dragging her wherever he pleased. He was brash, violent and mean . . . qualities that Mreelana begrudgingly respected and fiercely hated. Regardless of his interpersonal skills, if he could be relied upon, his combat prowess and surging power could prove to be a tremendous asset.
Unfortunately, Mreelana had spent the first few days of their journey chained to Kalib. Only the skill of Plek Starlington, the bird-like Tengu, led to Mreelana’s freedom from Kalib. Ironically, the strangest looking of her new companions was seemingly the most normal. Plek kept to himself, though he obsessively horded shiny objects. Obsessive compulsive or no, he had proven himself valuable, and perhaps more importantly, stable.
Just as valuable and stable, and equally as quiet and reserved as the Tengu, was the tiefling ranger Cayden Shadowstep. Inexperienced but capable, he successfully guided the band through the harsh, unyielding landscape. His keen senses – and a potion of Spiderclimb – had saved Mreelana’s life.
The tieflings seemingly stuck together, though, as they advocated against strict adherence to Bane’s itinerary. Mreelana, conversely, had a compelling feeling that reaching Balefire posthaste was the prudent course.
An abrupt smack to the head broke Mreelena’s reverie. The devious little gnome, Dafter Milligan, thought it amusing to assault her with a disembodied arm. His tiny silhouette then raced back towards the now burning house.
The perpetually goofy yet good-spirited gnome was the most out of place in their dysfunctional family. Again, she saw value in his abilities, as he had deftly managed to relieve one of the prison guards of a magic wand at great risk of detection. She wondered if his recent death would exacerbate his eccentricity.
“Eccentricity,” laughed Mreelena. That should be Lazarus Macabre’s name. The psychotic half-elf thespian exuded chaos and insanity. Forever altering his appearance in bizarre ways, he was unstable and dangerous with a touch of genius bubbling just beneath the surface. Mreelana admired those qualities, but wondered if his eccentricity would be just as effective as rushing canyon water in leading to his death.
Kalib appeared out of the darkness and urged her sharply to get moving. Her male companions wanted to press on before camping for the night, and she agreed. Mreelana plucked the everburning torch from the ground, grasped a handful of earth for comfort and rose to her feet. She heard the ring of chain link on chain link, as well as the rushing water of the creek in the distance. If fate allowed, she would bathe in the creek tomorrow morning.
“My kingdom for the ability to bathe daily, “ she signed, following her companions off into the shadows.