“Not that I'm doubting the words of the Heavenly Hedgehog, but you're sure it said the Dead Plains' kruthik nests?” Gorma panted, wiping the bug juice from her tulwar with obvious distaste.
I glanced over at the half-Orc from where I stood holding open the entrance to the lair. “I personally find this place rather dismal,” I lied, wedging the kruthik queen's corpse into the oddly organic door and stepping back. “It has been most disappointing altogether.”
“Shut up, Glitch,” Poppi snarled. She was probably just jealous of my new helm. I hadn't been sure that the queen's hollowed out skull would work, but once Isaru had rinsed it clean with acid it fit quite nicely. “I'm never getting this stuff out of my fur,” the shifter continued, looking down at her hands in dismay.
“It says right here,” Pip insisted from her perch atop a pile of rocks, the small book of prophecy open in one hand as an army of tiny bots cleaned her dress. “Let's see... yes, here it is: 'So sayeth the Heavenly Hedgehog, defender of the fuzzy belly and keeper of the pointy quills. In the deep places beneath the blighted ruins of a long forgotten kingdom, the swarming darkness shall serve as the first messenger of the nameless god.' Honestly,” she rolled her golden eyes, snapping the book closed and tucking it into a pocket. “Do you really think I would have picked a place like this if there had been any other way?”
“Maybe you owed Glitch a good turn or something,” Gorma growled, picking through the remains of the kruthik nest, scowling ferociously. “You'd think that we would have at least-”
“I found it!” Isaru cried out from the far end of the hall, near some kind of twisted statue that seemed to have grown from the wall itself. “Oh my, this is simply fascinating.”
“What have you discovered?” I queried the Genasi swordmage, picking up the fallen lantern and reactivating it from my power core. Its wings fluttered once, then it zipped into the air, spreading a soft light throughout the dark lair as we converged on the odd shrine.
“It looks like they may have been worshiping something here,” Isaru's eyes gleamed in delight. “There's never been any record of kruttekks having any kind of higher level society at all, this could well be the discovery of the-”
“Shiny!” Pip exclaimed, snatching up a softly glowing orb and eying it in delight.
“Don't touch that!” the swordmage cried, pulling it from the Tiefling's grasp.
“I concur, mistress Pip,” I said solemnly. “It may be completely harmless.”
“Not one of your better ones, Glitch,” Gorma chuckled. “Unless you're going for comedy, in which case it's probably-”
The orb flashed suddenly, causing my optical shielding to engage as everyone else stumbled back. “Who dares summon the avatar of the nameless god?!” A deep and commanding voice boomed from the orb. “Speak, fools!”
“It was us,” I lied, grinning.
“Wait... you aren't the kruthik queen,” the voice said. “Then, she's finally dead? Ha! Oh, great shall be your reward when He Who Has No Name walks again!”
“Who is the Nameless God?” Gorma demanded, then caught herself. “Uh, so that we may, um... worship him properly.”
“You may refer to him as the Nameless One, He Who Hath Been and Shall Once Again Be, the Great Bringer of the-”
“Is that his name, then?” Poppi asked. “It seems rather long.” I nodded as Pip frantically paged through the book of prophesies, her already white skin somehow going even more pale.
“Well, I...” the voice began. “I mean, it's not really a name so much as a... it doesn't matter. Come to me in Dargoon, brave adventurers, and together we shall bring about a new age! AHAHAHAH!!!”
The orb went dim.
“Ah,” Pip said quietly, clearing her throat. “I, um, may have made a slight mistranslation there...”
Isaru scowled at her. “What did we just do, Pip Estrelle?”
“Well...” The tiny Tiefling blushed, shifting from foot to foot. “Ancient Der'Ghani hasn't been spoken in so long. I mean it's a wonder that I was able to-”
“Mistress Pip, we are all very impressed with you already,” I patted her gently on the shoulder. She winced, sighing.
“It seems that the word I thought was messenger may have actually been warden. So, um... we may have just killed another servant of the Heavenly Hedgehog who was keeping the Nameless God at bay...”
Gorma grumbled something about hell spawns under her breath. To be fair, Pip was actually part demon. “Well, at least we may have a more solid lead now.” She pulled up her sleeve, revealing the Dragonmark of Finding on her upper arm. Pip glanced away nervously as a shimmering map of the region snapped into being, a bright spot lighting up in one of the cities. “Dargoon, in Breland,” she spat. “Quill it all, it's Goblin country.”
I held up the kruthik queen helm. "All speed to the fuzzy belly, sister." Carefully, I slid it over my metallic head. "We shall bear the quills in your stead."
All artwork is (c) Michelle Corbelli. Do not copy or reproduce.