I wanted to protest, really I did. Idiots who can throw lightning bolts should have thicker skins and less fragile egos. Wizards have the highest mortality rate of any adventurer out there. In their fledgling adventures, they die at a higher rate than hirelings, mules and, if you can believe it, goblins. True facts. Every wizard you meet will be the only survivor of a class of thirty to one hundred and fifty, if you count the big wizard schools like the one at Skyfell. Pretty much one out of a one hundred and fifty survive to see the level of prestige and power enjoyed by Timoteus, Rufus or this new arrow catcher — Leviathus. I wanted to hit him a lot, but no, don’t let the cleric break the silly, racist wizard. Let’s let the lizard girl act as bait. What could possibly go wrong?
I’m very upset by the chain of events, I want that out in the open right now. No one asked me if I liked this plan, and no one thought through all the perils as only I could. I’m not trying to be arrogant here, Father, truly. But when I saw Liz come out of the back wearing nothing but a livery and carrying a tray, I flew into a rage that required the others to restrain me. The noise did not go unnoticed, but they just shrugged it off.
Liz stepped around the curtain and began to walk across the room amidst the shocked whispers and outright exclamations. The merchants totally agog at seeing the colorful, lithe, sultry lizard woman wearing nothing more than a hanky and carrying a tray. It was obvious what her role had been in the trysts or whatever delayed the king. I garnered that from Leviathus. He said something lewd about her, and the tastes of kings, while the merchants, feeling braver now that they had a new target for their scorn, made crude remarks about Liz and her availability to service them later.
Seriously. First of all, ew. Those merchants were disgusting. Second, back the hell off my independent and powerful female partner who totally doesn’t need me to rescue her, but is walking among the enemy naked and unarmed.
She paused in front of Leviathus and asked if they would be so kind as to return to their chambers as the king would not be seeing anyone this day.
I mumbled, “or any day,” but Sparkle slapped me on the back of my head as she loaded a crossbow we’d liberated from the more well maintained guards. Each of them had a spear or bow of some ilk and I stood there, ignorant of the plan and angry at the exclusion. Fine, yes, if they had asked me, I would totally have said no. Too dangerous, especially since wizards were involved. Damn it.
Leviathus, not used to having a lowly servant talk to him, drew his shoulders back, indignant to be directly addressed by a one of Liz’s obvious station. I just wanted her to smash that stupid wizard in the head with her tray. No such luck.
The merchants agreed to leave and were halfway across the room when Leviathus turned to Liz and asked if he could see the king, that he usually was given special dispensation, especially in light of who he was here to represent. She played her part well, bowing and apologizing, but saying that her master forbade her from discussing specifics of his schedule. She said he felt confident that the king would see him eventually, just not at this time.
Then, being a wizard, he could smell the lies on her. Okay, I have no way truly of figuring out how he knew, but things happened very fast. First of all, I saw him shake his head and all the alarms in my head went off. Then Leviathus began casting a spell that involved hand gestures and light trails that appeared in his casting. Luckily for me, I’m a mimic, watching and learning from other’s behavior. The spell Leviathus was casting was the same one Tim had cast when he blew up large swaths of frogs with great fiery balls which exploded on impact.
“Run,” I called and did just that, without waiting for anyone else to respond. I was out on the floor knocking Liz off her feet when the ball of fire exploded behind the curtain. Fire and smoke rolled out of the antechamber and people and frogs were screaming. Once I was sure Liz was out of harm’s way I rolled to my feet and swung the mace at Leviathus’s head. I missed, but managed to kill a frog that had run up behind him for some reason. Then pandemonium erupted in the room.
Liz rolled and took out Leviathus’s legs with a tail sweep. It was very well executed, but a half a breath too late. He launched his next spell and lightning arced through the room, catching Liz a glancing blow and she thrashed on the floor as smoke rose from her. One of the frog retinue stepped up with a ceremonial baton and hit Liz in the head with it. A resounding crack echoed through the chaos and I killed that stupid frog before he could draw back for a second strike.
I called my friends to help me, but none of the answered. Liz lay at my feet unconscious and smoking while Leviathus readied a third spell. By the look in his pinched face, I had a strong suspicion that this one would end me.
Where were the others? Surely they had run when I did. They had avoided the fiery explosion. Say they survived it.
Jira, Liz’s sister, and a squad of controlled lizard folk guards ran into the room shoving their way through the frogs that were making a hasty exit away from the spell casting mad man and the crazed mace wielding man who stood over the fallen lizard woman. She saw me and stopped, shock on her face. Then her eyes traveled to the fallen Liz and rage flooded, the scales burning a deep orange around her gills. I had learned to recognize that in the way Liz reacted to me, and it hurt my heart to see her reacting so.
I started to call out to Jira, to elicit her help when Leviathus waved a hand and the lizard folk fell to their knees, heads bowed. All but Jira. She fought him, and he knew it. I could see the sweat trickling down his face as he waved his hand at her once more and she went down to one knee, but did not bow her head.
Of course, watching this spectacle left me vulnerable and I was caught unawares as a club struck me from behind and the world went dark.
Dark long enough for me to find myself sometime later in a cell, alone, with all my gear, which I found peculiar.
Then I recognized where I was, more or less. This was one of the junctions we had discovered in the tunnels beneath the palace. I looked round and realized I was in a cage that swung in the air above an offal pit and that in the muck below me something large and tentacled slithered, waiting for its dinner. Me.
I sat down on the cross bars of the cage and looked around the chamber, wondering what temple this room had once housed.
Not that it mattered in that moment. But it felt pretty important as I began to pray.