In his extradimensional observatory, the mad mage Mordenkainen watches with bemusement as the corridors of space and time fold around Bannor, removing him temporarily from the Forgotten Realms. Nobody else notices the seam in reality appear or disappear, leaving no trace of the vanished monk's immediate presence in the minds of his former companions. They all remember him battling the chimera with them, but assume he must have wandered off at some point thereafter, without knowing or caring exactly where and when.
Ashur, Annaliese, Dumos and Robyn are left standing around in the forge of Ninuel Hartley, as he insists that his magical collar could not have failed in containing the chimera forever. "I'll be happy to show you the old papers that I used to perform my calculations, assuming any of you is sufficiently grounded in transmutational abjurantics to understand the symbology. Qwynneth predicted that she would subdue the creature, but first I had to prove that I could build a harness that would hold it in place for 'as long as necessary, no matter how long that might be', those were her exact words. And that's what I did, I crafted an enchantment into the steel which made it adapt instantaneously to the monster's own strength, so that nothing it could do would allow it to escape. Someone else must have deliberately freed it, but who on Toril would ever do such a thing?"
"I'm sorry we did not bring the collar with us," Ana says. "But the creature was missing its goat head and the neck of the lion head was snapped. The creature was flying free and there was no small game in the area. Did someone come along and free it? We don't know. And the creature is now dead. So I'm not sure it matters now."
"Sounds like a wise step to take. Perhaps I can also help find these others you seek. Sadly my skills do not extend to teleportation, but if you wish to hire horses from the town stable, you needn't provide one for me." The magewright turns to his first apprentice, a powerfully built young man with a shock of wild black hair, who is currently laboring upon a helmet adorned with bull horns (much of the work being done in the shop is likewise fanciful; this isn't your basic function-over-form rural blacksmithy, but a specialty store famous throughout the region). "Gantry! You're in charge until I show up and say otherwise." The young man looks startled for a second, then grateful, and finally nods without speaking.
"Perhaps the chimera was deliberately freed. It may seem the work of insanity, but there has been plenty of that about lately. We just came from Westwater where they recently witnessed a fight between dragons that exposed a dragon cult operating within the town leadership. We may be seeing strange days ahead and that probably means strange deeds," Robyn suggests. "I am curious to see this beast and the magical collar used to restrain it. Do you mind if I join you?"
The party soon reconvenes at the stables outside of town, Hartleigh having said he'd catch up with them shortly. They mention his involvement and the groom agrees to defray payment for the horses and tack; he seems to think that being fondly remembered by adventurers, and clients of a businessman who makes more than the entire rest of the town put together, will put their village on the map and get him far more new custom than he could possibly ask you for anyway.
You've completely finished selecting your mounts, getting them properly tacked and harnessed, and are ready to ride out when Hartleigh shows up, aback a creature that is the right size and shape to be a horse, but seems to be made entirely of interlocking plates of metal over a frame of black wood, with tiny jets of steam shooting out of one or another of its joints every so often. The mage has traded his forge-cladding for a tough traveler's jerkin and a utility belt full of potions and wands and scrolls; you also recognize a few tools of the thief's trade which seem a trifle incongruous, but then you know that the forgemaster has come quite a long way from whatever his origins were. "Well, as Qwyn always used to say, destiny never waits on our pleasure; shall we follow its call?"
Dumos looks at the mount chosen for him with a look you've likely never seen before: care. He slowly and gently walks up to the beast and begins stroking the horse and whispering lightly to it to ensure that the horse knows him, knows his smell, and knows that he will not hurt the animal. "Fate and Destiny are words used when people try to face what they feel they cannot control. They use these words to try to tame the world, as they do its' creatures. I do not know this animals' name. So, I shall call it Destiny and I shall ride it where I choose." With that, Dumos leads the horse out into the yard and deftly hoist himself atop it. "Lead on, Smith."
Lowkey! If the fact that your posts are now showing you as a Guest means that you've reconsidered your departure, I would very much welcome you coming back. At least long enough to drop me a PM with some contact info for you, so we can speak elswhere.
Ashur looks at the mount with suspicion and a little fear, the others had mounted so confidently that it seemed silly to hang on to his childhood fear. He looks the creature in the eye, noting it's malevolent, baleful glare. Its teeth chomp down with anticipation and the deadly hooves paw at the ground.
Bile rises to the back of his throat and his stomach clenches. Turning to the others, "I will proceed on foot, horses can't run all day where as I can. I'll scout ahead."
With that he whispers some phrases as he picks up a handful of dirt from the ground. His hand flicks out and the dirt seems to hang in the air a moment before settling to the ground at his feet. As it does he sets off at a blistering pace, unerringly travelling to the site of the chains.
Casting Longstrider spell to boost speed and using wanderer background feature to navigate to site.
Longstrider only lasts an hour so let me know how many I need to cast to keep pace with the horses.
When the horses need to rest, he'll keep going, leaving a trail for the others to follow.
Was Ashur's fear of horses mentioned in his backstory at all? If so, I missed it. it's not like this is a half-green-dragon horse or anything...no, that was going to show up in a MUCH later chapter....