Ava’s golden eyes fluttered open to Caeldrim standing over her shaking her violently. She was sprawled out on the hard cavern floor. Groggily, she sat up and wiped a thin tendril of drool from the corner of her mouth with the back of her hand. “What happened?”
“It’s escaped, Ava,” said Caeldrim hoisting his mace and shield.
Ava shot a sudden, frantic look around the chamber and was filled with a surge of relief when she found her spell book laying only a short way off. The ring of charcoal runes was smudged and distorted near where she had been laying as though a careless hand had wiped it away. The wizard climbed to her feet groaning, snatching up her spell book and shoulder bag from the ground as she did.
“I can see that. But why was I asleep?” she asked with a growl.
“Right after you completed the summoning, the creature exhaled a plume of glittering dust at us. You went down and, when I tried to catch you, it flew off,” said Caeldrim. “Hurry up! It’s heading deeper into the cave.”
The pair set off at a jog and slipped in the deep gloom of the cavern beyond. In the ponderous dark, their conversation faltered and fell into a silence broken only by the sounds of dripping water echoing from somewhere deeper in the caverns.
“Why didn’t you fall asleep too,” asked Ava after some minutes. Her whisper sounded sharp, almost violent, as it punctured the heavy silence.
Caeldrim turned his head to look at her over his shoulder. “A gift from my mother,” said the half-elf cryptically. He struggled in vain to hide the smile spreading across his lips.
Ava opened her mouth to reply but was stifled by a finger from Caeldrim who was pointing towards the far end where the tunnel forked into two paths. A small cloud of dust hung in the air there. A pair of wings stuck out from the dust. They were bat-like, long, and slender. As it turned, seemingly unsure which way to go, a cruel angular face emerged from the cloud. Its eyes hung in shadows, but a sharp, blade-like noise jutted out from above a pointed chin and wicked grin. Coming to a decision, the elemental turned and, with a sound like sailcloth snapping in a strong wind, it flew off down the right-hand passage.
With as much speed as they could afford, the pair crept forward towards the fork pausing only briefly before following to the right. Peering around the next bend they could see the tunnel ahead had collapsed into a pile of rubble blocking off the mephit’s escape. The sinister looking creature flapped around the stones muttering to itself in a guttural tongue as it searched the fallen rocks for some crevice large enough to slip through.
Caeldrim visibly tightened as he coiled to spring forward, but he was stopped by Ava’s hand on his shoulder. The tiefling shook her head, her loose auburn bun swaying as she did. With two fingers, she made a creeping motion to which Caeldrim shook his head violently. He made a quick, jabbing gesture with his gloved fist towards the creature. Resolutely, Ava shook her head again and once more made the creeping gesture with her fingers. This time she followed it by joining her thumbs and spreading her fingers out into a wide fan. She tilted her head slightly and looked directly at Caeldrim imploringly. The half-drow mulled for a moment and then gave a short, blunt nod.
With painstaking steps, the pair inched forward. The damp cave sand shifted under foot. When they were nearly a dozen feet away, Ava and Caeldrim paused and crouched.
“Now!” They burst forward. Ava lifted her hands joining them at the thumbs with fingers spread toward the grinning elemental. The pulsing magical energy pooling in her fingertips built into a tingling sensation as the incantation formed on her lips. But before she could speak the words, the creature dragged its boney fingers across a patch of yellow mold and a blast of jaundice spores erupted engulfing both Ava and Caeldrim. The two darted back out of the cloud and fell to their hands and knees hacking and coughing up the poisonous mold.
The mephit flew over them, through the cloud, and back the way they came with a gleeful squeal.
Ava hawked and spat an amber globule onto the rocky earth. “How did the runes get smudged?” she asked between deep gasping breaths.
“What are you talking about?” asked Caeldrim wiping vomit from his lips with the back of his hand.
“The rune circle,” said Ava. “The one meant to hold the mephit. How did it get smudged?” She was sitting up now, breathing hard and propping herself against the cool wall of the cavern tunnel. With effort she turned to look at Caeldrim. She would have seen he was decidedly green in complexion if she had been able to discern such a color in the gloom. However, in the shades of gray that her darkvision revealed, she only saw him looking tired and hollow as he tried to avoid getting the former contents of his stomach on his boots.
“I don’t know maybe I smudged it when I tried to keep you from hitting your head when you passed out. Maybe you brushed it when you got up. Why does it matter?” replied Caeldrim gulping down breaths of cavern air. He wasn’t looking at Ava, but not out of guilt. His stomach was knotted and tight and did not permit much motion in its present condition. Despite the coolness of the cave, he felt flushed and queasy. His gut somersaulted once more indicating it would tolerate no more delays. He staggered over to a convenient bulge in the wall and, steadying himself with one hand and using the other to hold back his chainmail and amulet, he leaned far forward. Forcefully, he emptied the contents of his stomach onto the rocks.
“The runes create a summoning circle which contains the summoned creature and protects the caster so long as they are intact,” said Ava politely looking anywhere other than at the heaving cleric. “It shouldn’t have been able to harm us so long as the runes were intact. So, when they were smudged that must have allowed the mephit to escape. That’s why I want to know. How did they get smudged?”
“I have no idea,” said Caeldrim with a cough. He spat the acrid taste of bile from his mouth.
“Maybe someone smudged them by accident when they were putting the incense around,” said Ava looking up at the ceiling with a contrived air of innocence. Her fingers delicately swirled a lock of auburn hair that had fallen down from behind one of her curled, ram-like horns.
Caeldrim slowly rotated his head toward Ava with a look that practically growled. “You think this is my fault?”
“I’m just saying that if you did mess up the runes on accident, I won’t be mad.”
“Mad? At me?” Caeldrim scoffed, pulling himself upright with a hand on the wall. “I should be furious with you! You’re the one who talked me into going along with this stupid plan to try out a shady spell from some random street vendor. And you think the problem is me? No, Avarice, I did not smudge your precious runes.”
Ava exhaled visibly and then pulled her knees to her chin. “I guess it really was a pretty shitty spell, wasn’t it?”
Caeldrim sighed and shuffled over to her. He eased himself to the ground next to her and she tilted her head to rest on his shoulder. They sat quietly for a while listening to the sounds of dripping water as their innards began to settle. Finally, Caeldrim broke the silence.
“Honestly, what did you think was going to happen when you cast that spell?” He said.
“I was hoping for a fire kitten,” said Ava with a naive seriousness.
“You’re an idiot,” said Caeldrim trying not to chuckle.
“Yeah, but you’re an idiot’s best friend,” said Ava. She shoved her shoulder into him playfully. “So, what does that make you?”
“You’re right; I am the worst,” said Caeldrim with a laugh and he wrapped an arm around her.
Tomb and Tome is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.