The Rise of Tiamat
Interlude - Heathrow
The lapping waves crash against the stone wall in an explosion of color. The sun shines brilliantly in Heathrow, even while the ocean swallows it at dusk. Behind the wall lies Larkwood, a well-crafted manor that attracts many courtiers seeking a retreat from the pressure of political life.
A white-blue gas wafts out of a third-story window. A soft hissing follows suit, like air being let out of a balloon. Inside, two men are stooped over a smoking bowl. “Everything is ready, my lord. Just let it know what you want to see.”
“Show me my daughter. Show me my Annie.”
The milky liquid begins to swirl and crackle. It sounds at first like a cheery fire, then grows into a deafening backdraft. The father looks up at his robed companion in concern. “That’s not part of the spell, Lord Barbury. That’s coming from the other side.”
The liquid stilled, and John Barbury does not see the studious, clerical, well-to-do Annie he envisions in his mind’s eye. Annie stands before him in a full suit of armor, face streaked with soot. She draws a greatsword from its sheath as a swarm of hooded figures wearing masks and black armor surround her.
“WHAT? This can’t be right. What is going on? Where is the cathedral?”
The liquid shimmers and twists, and the ruined church comes into view. A priest’s rotting corpse lies upon the altar, encircled by a pentagram and surrounded by goblets filled with crumbling black flakes.
“What unholy magic is this, wizard? If you think this is funny, I hope you think life in jail will be hilarious!”
“My lord, I don’t know! I swear to you; this spell only shows the truth!”
“You chose a poor time to play games with me. All I wanted to do was see my daughter!”
The bowl shimmers again. Clanging steel echoes off the walls. The father ceases his tirade and gives the image his full attention. One of the black-armored combatants is not wearing a mask. The father has this face seared into his memory – a long ponytail; insolent eyes; a man too poorly educated to shave the scruff off his face each morning. The father’s hands shake with rage. A mighty yell rocks the harbor, sending a flock of gulls flying. “UNKLEMPTBEEEEEEB!!!”
A flurry of invitations is sent out across the island and to nearby land. The next week, John welcomes a group of adventurers to his banquet hall. It doesn’t take long to trade introductions, and he gets right to business:
“Bold warriors, although I have lured you here with the promise of gold, the man I am about to describe to you is so vile that you may choose to complete your task just so you can sleep well at night. Your mission is to defeat and slay the menace Ian Unklemptbeb. He slaughtered devoted clerics of Pelor, leads a group of unholy dragon worshipers, and kidnapped my daughter! I know Ian to be a duplicitous man. In the past, he wooed my daughter with lies and false promises. I worry that he may do so again, to her and any he draws to his side. Do not trust him, lest you be destroyed and desecrated in his blasphemous rituals. Let me know the moment he is destroyed – I wish to recover my daughter and help her heal as soon as possible. I’m told you are professionals in these sorts of matters. I trust your compensation will be adequate?”
“Of course, my lord. We will depart immediately.”
“Excellent! May Pelor light your path.”
The adventurers stride out of the manor. They whisper amongst themselves, careful not to be overheard by the guards.
“Mary, check it out! I nicked all the silver forks – they just leave that lying around!”
“Ray, they’re paying us more than enough. Leave this terrified father some dignity.”
“Alright, alright.” Ray dumps a sack next to the door. The rest of the silverware had already been tucked up his sleeves anyway.
Marigold mounts her horse. Her eyes light up with the excitement of a new quest. “The time has come, friends: Adventure, ho!”