“Thia, wait here,” Jinnaari said as he looked down the hall they’d just walked through. He could hear Moon and Gnat arguing over…something.
“I just want to look at it! It’s shiny!” Moon practically screamed.
“No! Mine!” the goblin shot back.
“Hey, both of you, calm down. What’s going on?” Jinnaari took a deep breath after he spoke. Moon hung from the ceiling, her paws were, well, pawing at the air trying to reach a crystal orb that Gnat was holding.
Bahamut give me strength!
“Forkke is mine! Mine! He’s my oldestest friend ever!” the goblin asserted.
“Jinnaari!” Moon whined, “Tell him to give it to me! I just want to look at it!”
“Will you give it back?”
The Tabaxi bit her lip and didn’t answer him.
“Moon, go check on Thia. Scout ahead. The orb–”
“Forkke!” Gnat screamed.
The dragonborn let out a long sigh, “Forkke belongs to Gnat. He found it. He doesn’t have to share it if he doesn’t want to.” He watched Moon as she stormed across the ceiling. Steam practically came out of her ears. He’d have to check his bag, see if any of the catnip mice were left.
At least she was easy to distract.
“Gnat, can you put Forkke someplace safe? If you keep it out, Moon will bother you until you let her hold it.”
The goblin’s face lit up. “Paladin is wise!” He pulled the waistband of his pants out and shoved the orb down them. “Forkke safe there!”
As the goblin waddled past him, Jinnaari sighed. I’m a paladin, damn it. Not a babysitter! The way Gnat walked, though, made him wonder if diaper duty was going to be required of him. Maybe that’s something I can assign to Helix, as penance for wandering off.
“Hey,” Thia looked at him as they got closer. “Everything okay?”
“Just a playground spat.”
Gnat stopped in front of them. Pointing to the huge bulge in his pants, he smiled at her and said, “Forkke says hello!” before waddling away.
Jinnaari shook his head. “I’m not sure I can explain it, but he didn’t mean what you think he did.”
“Jinnaari!” Moon screamed his name. He looked toward the sound. She pointed to an opening. “There’s stairs going down. And lots of dust.”
Walking to her, he looked into the tunnel. “I don’t see any dust.”
“It’s here,” she held out her cloak. “I caught some. It fell from the ceiling.”
“Moon, there’s nothing there.”
The Tabaxi pouted. “It was there! I’m not lying!”
He held up a hand to reassure her. “I didn’t say you were. Let’s go down and find it.”
Thia touched his arm. “What about Helix?”
“Either he’s with us already, or he’ll catch up. I’m never sure where he’s at any more. But stay close, just in case. Gnat,” he looked past Thia, “can you watch our back?”
He nodded, a grin on his face, “Forkke and me keep paladin safe!”
Ten steps down, the dust Moon talked about began to fall. It could be nothing more than dirt from the rocks above. It didn’t hurt at all. The Tabaxi’s petulant cries started as the stairs ended. What now? “Moon?”
“My bell!” She held out her paw to him. A small scrap of leather rested in it, barely visible over the infestation of fleas. “They ate it and now they’re making me itch!”
The back of his neck grew warm. Within seconds, it was unbearable. Finding the clasp to his amulet, he sucked in his breath as pain seared through his fingers. Tossing it free, it landed on the ground. The metal was white hot. As he watched, it melted and the liquid ran through small cracks on the floor.
Turning around quickly, he held up his hands, “Thia, stop!” But she didn’t freeze. As soon as her body crossed the threshold, the staff she carried disintegrated into ash.
She stared at him, “What happened?”
“I think the dust was magical. It destroyed something both of us were wearing, too.”
Just then, Gnat moved past Thia. “What’s magical?” The bulge in his pants shrank and sand pooled on the ground near his foot. “Forkke! No!” Dropping to his knees, the goblin began to frantically try and shove the sand into his pockets. “I fix you, Forkke! Don’t die!”
Jinnaari let out a sigh, looking at Thia for help. All she did was shake her head. “Gnat, it’s going to be okay. We’ll find a way to bring Forkke back.”
“What about my bell?” Moon sobbed. “It was the only part of my past that I had!”
He tuned to her, “Moon, I promise you, when we get done down here, we’ll find your homeland. I’ll take you there myself. And we’ll try and find someone who knows you.”
She sniffed, “You promise?”
“Have I ever lied to you?”
She shook her head. That’s one down, he thought as he turned his attention back to the sobbing goblin.
Suddenly, Moon knelt next to the despondent creature. “Here, it’s one of Forkke’s friends,” and she handed him a crystal shard.
Gnat’s face instantly brightened. He grabbed the crystal, holding it close to his chest, and said, “Spoone! My bestestest friend ever! I missed you so much!”
Thia walked past him, grinning. “Not bad for a babysitter,” she whispered.