Thursday, September 9, 2021

Fanaxia: Fellow Travelers

"I'm not talking to them." Ruin's voice was firm. "I brought you back up here, you go talk to them." 

"By the terms of the geas, I suppose I must." Tavros sighed. He should probably be grateful that the True Elf was willing to transport him around... and he was grateful, really. It's just that he would have appreciated a bit of moral support when he approached the band of adventurers that had followed them up to the titan's cave. 

In truth, he was a bit surprised that they hadn't already approached him. Ruin had brought them out on the mountaintop clearing, less than a hundred yards back from the mouth of the cave; and while Ruin was fading back into the concealment of the snowdrifts, Tavros had never in his life been anything other than a large and obvious target. 

Apparently, however, the adventurers were too busy arguing to take note of any changes in their surroundings. It's a wonder they're still alive, thought Tavros, then dismissed the thought as hypocritical; he himself had never been particularly alert to the approach of anything but the most obvious dangers. On the other hand, I wear a very great deal more armor than any of these five do. No... charity, Tavros. Charity. Benefit of the doubt and all that.

He sighed again and strode off towards the group. They were arguing about food... no, about whether there had been a titan here, and if so where it might have gone... no, about going back to the boat... or... no, maybe they were arguing over the existence of giant beastmen? He wasn't sure. They seemed to be having five arguments all at once. 

"I say, worthy adventurers!" he called, when he close enough to raise his voice without actually shouting at them. 

The tall, blond man and the two women whipped around in surprise; the skinny man and the sentient hound yelped and fled a few steps before realizing that there was a cliff in their way and coming to an abrupt stop. 

The broad-shouldered blond man looked Tavros over and then said, "Aha! Maybe now we'll get to the bottom of this." The dark-haired beauty beside him rolled her eyes, but the redhead with the high-collared robe was studying Tavros carefully. 

"My name is Tavros," he called, slowing to keep his approach as casual as possible. He didn't think they'd randomly attack him -- and Ruin would likely come to his aid if they did -- but he didn't want to panic them, either. 

"Are you the one behind all this?" asked the blond. 

Tavros slowed further and looked around, confused. "I suppose I might be? My friends and I slew the giants and freed the last of the titans, whom they were using to raise their human followers into the form of giants as well." 

"See?" said the blond. "I knew there wasn't really a-- wait, there was a titan up here?" 

"Oh yes," said Tavros. "Lovely chap. A bit worn down after years of magical imprisonment, but a fine and noble example of the people of Amun."

"I don't suppose you know where he went?" asked the redhead. "I was so hoping to get to ask him some questions." 

"I fear not," said Tavros, stopping a couple of paces away from them. This conversation was not going at all the way he had hoped. "I don't mean to be rude, but could I at least know your names?" 

"Dephna," said the dark-haired one. She gestured at the blond: "This is our fearless leader, Ferd." 

"Valme," said the redhead. She gestured behind her. "Those are Shiggae and Scouty." 

"I see," said Tavros. "May I ask, then, what brings you to this remote island and its high peak?"

"We're trying to solve a mystery," said Ferd. 

"The mystery of whether or not there was truly a titan up here?" asked Tavros, who was pretty sure that was the case but felt obliged to humor them. 

For a moment, Ferd looked uncertain. "Well, originally, yes. After that, we were trying to solve the mystery of what happened to all these cloud giants. Did you and your friends really kill all of them?"

Tavros thought about it. "I believe there were two still unaccounted for," he admitted. "One would have been a true giant; the other would have reverted to a human body when he died, or when the titan was freed."

Dephna nodded. "So that's why they had the oversized weapons," she said. "It wasn't just a poor fashion choice." 

Valme added, "They're accounted for now, but not by us; your titan must have done it." 

Tavros chuckled. "He was hardly my titan, but that does seem likely. Good to know, in any case." 

Ferd opened his mouth, but Valme cut him off: "Right, then. So why are you back up here?" 

"Well," said Tavros, "this is where it gets awkward. I was given a quest, by the titan, at the behest of Amun himself."

From behind the rest of the group, Shiggae said, "Um... who's Amun?"

Tavros sighed. "That is precisely the issue. Amun is a god: the Titan King, the Lawgiver, the Keeper of Records. And here, in this place, Amun is... forgotten. I seek someone worthy to found His church anew in Fanaxia."

There was a momentary pause. Then Shiggae turned to Scouty and asked, "Are you worthy?"

The hound shook his head. "Nuh-uh."

"Me neither," muttered Shiggae.

"Come now," said Tavros. "You are seekers after truth. Surely the truth of Amun would be worth learning."

Ferd frowned. "I can't found a church. We have mysteries to solve!" 

Tavros nodded, and looked at the redhead. "What of you?" 

A small grin quirked her mouth. "Can't help with that, I'm afraid." She made a sign with her hand. "Already committed to the great serpent, Artem." 

Tavros said, "Ah," and mentally took a long step back. He turned to look at Dephna. 

"I mean..." she searched his face, and seemed to come up blank. Tavros wasn't surprised; being a half-dragon gave him very different facial features from most people, and it took some practice to recognize his expressions. "I couldn't abandon the gang here, and also I'm really more of a sorceress than anything else. I wouldn't know how to be a priest." 

"Fairly stated," admitted Tavros. "Very well. I shall continue my search, and I bid you all good day and good luck in your investigations." 

"Um, okay," said Shiggae. "You're really not going to chase us around and try to kill us?" 

"I hadn't planned on it," Tavros told him. "I'm a paladin. My hobbies extend more to saving villages and patching old clothes." 

"Yes, of course," said Ferd. "Well, then, I suppose we'll see you around." 

"That does seem likely," answered Tavros. Unfortunately. "Until then." He nodded and turned away, heading for the path out of the valley and hoping that Ruin was waiting to take him back down to the cave of the giant beastmen.

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