Talice peeked down the cliff where her attackers were.
So her sister had outsourced. She’d never seen the half vampire before, and that wasn’t one of the gargoyles from the Alabasterclaw clan. He was too gray. Unfortunate that they had to find her. She had to take care of them. She wasn’t done with her experiment yet, and like hell they’d take them away from her now, not without a fight.
All it would take would be a well aimed eldritch blast to give her enough time to escape.. There was the gargoyle, the half vampire, the wizard…
Wait. Where was the goblin?
Talice huffed as Odra pressed her dagger against her neck. “Lemme guess- big sis is ending my fun?” she asked, already knowing the answer.
The goblin grinned. “Yup,” she said, popping her lips on the p.
“Boo. Any chance I can talk you out of it?”
“Nah. We gotta put a gargoyle back where it died, and Garl’s gonna get it on with your sister.”
“Ew. Too much information. But kudos to sis for managing to drag one of those rock hard boys into her bedroom.”
“He comes pebbles, you know.”
“Again, too much information. Fine, I’ll call the zombies off.”
The drow snapped her fingers and every corpse dropped at once. Odra smiled as she pulled her knife back and tied Talice’s hands together. “You’re not so bad! Lots of other peeps get mad when they’re under arrest!” The goblin said with a cackle.
Talice rolled her eyes. “Please. That won’t last. Ten years, max, you’ll all be here to ‘arrest’ me again,” she said.
“Woman, I’m a goblin. In ten years, I better be fucking retiring in a pile of gold with a beautiful lady by my side. You might see Garl again though!”
Talice was dealt with. Now to get the job done.
Garl grabbed the cart’s handles and nodded at Sylvia and Dullahan. “You two can handle taking her back, yeah?” he said.
Dullahan waved the gargoyle forward. “No problem. Besides, I want to compare research notes with Talice,” he said.
Talice rolled her eyes. “What possibly could you have to offer me in return for my knowledge?”
“The pleasure of my company. It’s either that, or we walk in silence all the way back to the city. Besides, I might surprise you with my own… discoveries.”
Garl shook his head as the party split. He glanced down at Odra. “You don’t have to come with,” he grumbled. “This could be like my nest. They won’t like outsiders. Even I might have trouble getting in.”
Odra responded by clambering up onto Garl’s shoulders. “We started this together, we’re finishing it. Besides, I don’t wanna know what Dullahan’s gonna chat about with Talice. What doesn’t go over my head will definitely be gross.”
The path the nest wound and turned, narrowing as they went along. Soon it was just wide enough for a single file line. Odra even had to hop off of Garl’s shoulder when the ceiling was too low to allow it anymore.
Odra glanced back at the cart. “I hope the cart will fit-”
The goblin proceeded to smack right into what felt like a stone wall. She landed on her ass with a yelp, rubbing her nose as she blinked stars from her eyes. “Owwww…” she finally refocused her eyes and stared in front of her.
At first, it did just look like a wall. Then it opened its glowing yellow eyes and spread its demonic wings.
Another gargoyle. Holy balls.
Odra swallowed and felt nervous as the stranger gargoyle stared down at her. “H… hey theere…” she laughed awkwardly and glanced up at Garl. “Help me out here, bud?”
Garl sighed and cleared his throat. When he spoke again, he spoke in a different cadence. “Hail. Speech of choice, common of under, primordial?” he asked.
Now the stranger gargoyle responded, blinking a few times before smiling. “Common of under is my choice! Hail! Family?”
“Carver, Blackstone. Garl is the personal name.” Garl gestured back to the cart. “The Old One, we come to return. Found, sold by a limestone.”
The gargoyle glanced behind Garl and gasped. “Father!” they blurted out. “The Old One! Bring him, follow along! Come, come!” the gargoyle gestured frantically before running on ahead.
Odra looked up at Garl. “The fuck? Why were you talking like that?” she asked.
“It’s Undercommon. Same words, different order. We’re fine, let’s get this old one home.”
Garl pulled the cart along, and although for a few feet the sides of the cart scraped the walls, it managed to fit. The path expanded before opening up, and then they were in the Nest.
The large cave was impressive to see. Glowing mushrooms and moss hung from the walls, so the nest wasn’t in complete blackness. Several small caverns and niches were carved into the walls, where gargoyles of all descriptions and sizes slept, worked, and chatted with each other in that strange Undercommon. The cavern went up and up until the dark swallowed it up. Odra couldn’t see a ceiling. On the floor level there was several pools of still water, where more moss was growing and was being groomed. More paths led out of the Nest, and some gargoyles returned from the paths carting along more stone and jewels.
Garl continued to pull along the cart, and slowly other gargoyles took notice of what Garl had with him. Whispers filled the room, until all was silent as Garl stood in the center of the Nest. All eyes were on them. Odra felt a bit of sweat drip down the back of her neck. She didn’t like being seen.
An ear shattering roar echoed throughout the nest, and a gargoyle of impressive size leaped out from one of the niches. They landed in front of Odra and Garl, and when they stood to their full height Garl looked shrimpish, almost toylike compared to them. Odra wasn’t even sure if the giant gargoyle could notice her.
“A Blackstone?” The gargoyle cocked their head to the side, their red eyes burning into the pair. “Inwards, purely inwards, they stay. No one’s ever seen a Blackstone, not here at least. And you bring the old Carver back? My father?”
Garl bowed his head. “I do. The limestone who took him, he’ll never be back. Drop him, if he is.”
The giant gargoyle grinned, before they boomed with laughter.
“All right, I’ll switch my dialect. I think we’re scaring the little one!” The gargoyle knelt down and for once Odra didn’t find it in her to correct them. When they patted her head, their hand was big enough to cover her skull almost entirely. “Greetings, goblin. I speak your version of Common. I am this generation’s carver, Nobal. I am nei’there, not man or woman, and will not respond to being addressed as either. You are?”
“Ummmm…” Odra swallowed before finding her words. “I am Odra Manyboots, I’m… I guess a girl?”
“No need to specify, I just do because it gets that conversation out of the way.” Nobal stood back up. “So. Garl. How intriguing, I didn’t think Blackstones took personal names.”
“Had to when I left. People kept asking, it got annoying.” Garl stepped out of the way of the cart. “Well? Where did he die?”
Nobal’s scarlet gaze went soft as they hurried to the side of the cart. They inhaled sharply as they rested their hands on the dead gargoyle’s face. “… Not far. Right before his time came, he asked to be taken to the other still ones, and we got him there before he passed on. I… I never thought we’d see him again. If you wouldn’t mind, could you carry him there? I will lead the way.”
“I would be honored,” Garl said.
Nobal glanced down at Odra, and with a big smile, scooped the goblin up and placed her on their shoulders. “So you don’t get stepped on. Stop up your ears real quick,” she said.
Odra clapped her hands over her ears, and Nobal threw their head back and roared again. The sound of a hundred wings flapping filled the air, gargoyles landing all around them with incredible crashes and bangs. Garl looked briefly flustered to be surrounded by so many gargoyles and even more so as they lined up behind him, bowing their heads in respect.
“Come along. Let’s see to it that Stanon is put back to rest where he belongs.”
Odra propped her head up on top of Nobal’s as the train of gargoyles walked down to a path that lead deeper into the earth. Odra expected it to be as cold as the rest of the place, but much to her surprise it got hotter. Borderline sweltering. None of the gargoyles seemed to mind though, so Odra kept her mouth shut as Nobal talked about Stanon.
“Stanon was the carver of the Alabasterclaws before I was. He carved me and many of the other elders. I was his first carved. I was treasured by him, and when he passed twenty and three years ago? He named me the next generation’s carver with the few breaths he had left. I… I was always loved by him. And although he knew gargoyles need to rely on themselves and not on the other peoples, he was never opposed to the world outside our Nest. It’s how I knew I was Nei’there, he learned of the halfling term during a pilgrimage, and then he took it home.
“A traveler, a teacher, and a gentle soul. Stanon never resorted to violence when there was another choice. He was over eight centuries old when he finally joined the still ones. I can only try my best to continue his peaceful ways. And here we are, with the Still Ones.”
The ‘Still Ones’ were other gargoyles that had long passed away. Some had been dead for so long their faces had worn away, but there wasn’t any moss growing on their bodies. They were well taken care of. Even the ones that had likely been dead before Nobal or even Stanon were born had flowers sat in front of them.
There was a spot empty, too clean to be anything but the previous site of Stanon’s grave.
“I’ll help you put him back.” Nobal set Odra down next to another still gargoyle before they turned to help Garl hoist Stanon out of the cart. They placed him down in that empty space with the utmost care, like handling a fragile artifact. Nobal rested both of their hands on their carver’s face, and although Odra would deny it to the grave, her heart twinged as Nobal rested their forehead on Stanon’s.
“I missed you so much,” they whispered quietly before they stood straight. They spread their arms out and faced their people. “Home! Home, Stanon comes home!”
The gargoyles cheered, their voices no doubt echoing for miles in the Underdark. Odra’s ears wouldn’t stop ringing for literal hours.
After they returned to the Nest, Nobal escorted Garl and Odra to their niche. It was no more majestic than any other one, just enough space for a stone cot and a carving bench. “I cannot thank you both enough,” they said. “No matter what you need, the Alabasterclaw Nest will be with you. You’ve returned Stanon to his resting place.”
Odra shrugged. “No big deal, the big guy insisted on it- well, the little guy to you,” she said.
Nobal laughed and took a seat at their workbench. “Stanon was ambitious with me. He found a truly massive piece of perfect stone and became inspired. He didn’t sleep for days while he carved me. He didn’t want to waste a single pebble, so I turned out quite large. And although it may not be a big deal to you, being one who burns their dead and eats the ashes, it’s important to us, the gargoyles, that we remain to watch over those we leave behind once we still.”
“Not all goblins eat the ashes,” Odra pointed out.
“My apologies,” Nobal bowed their head. “The goblins I met did. A small tribe, but a kind one on the Eubura continent. I learned much about their ways. They’ve influenced my new one.”
Odra looked up at the workbench and gasped quietly. The piece of stone was marble, but even though it had the beginnings of horns and wings, Odra could roughly make out the large ears, and there were two fist sized rubies sitting next to it. “A gargoyle goblin?” she asked.
“Something like that. Gargoyles are inspired by flesh races. For instance, Garl is a human appearing gargoyle,” she gestured to Garl, “and I am inspired by the Goliaths. I’ve never seen a goblin appearing gargoyle though. But in your honor, may I call this one Lodra?”
Odra gaped. She couldn’t even find the right words to say. She only managed to get a squeak out. Garl laughed and translated, “She’s all right with it.”
“I sure fucking am!” Odra laughed, grinning from ear to ear. “Holy shit, that’s sweet! I’m like a real hero if people are naming their kids after me!”
Nobal laughed again. “I won’t be done with Lodra for another year or so, but when I am done, I’ll be sure to send an invitation so you and Garl can be here for their awakening day. Would you like to stay here tonight?”
Odra opened her mouth to say yes when Garl cleared his throat. “Sadly, we have to report back to the Drow Queen.”
“What a pity,” Nobal sighed. “Go forth then. But in this Nest, you’ll always be welcome, all right?”
Garl looked flustered again. “… You figured I’m not welcome back in mine, huh?” he grumbled.
“I know the Blackstone nest well enough to make some assumptions. You had to have been very brave to leave them,” Nobal said.
Garl snorted before he shook his head. “No, carver, I was just fucking bored.”
This time when Nobal laughed, the whole nest could hear it.
A new magical focus for Sylvia, a garnet amulet in the shape of a tear drop.
A book full of strange and macabre spells given to Dullahan, courtesy of Talice’s research notes.
A rapier made of starsteel for Odra.
And for Garl…
“How fucking strong are these things?”
Garl had barely left the celebration that was being held in the party’s honor before his vision went black and he woke up in a strange bed, his arms tied above his head and red silk obscuring his vision.
He heard a quiet chuckle before the blindfold was removed. There was Queen Rillana. And that corset she was wearing… oh boy.
“The game began the moment you returned, darling,” Rillana said with a smirk. “If you want to end the game, simply say so.”
Garl smirked back. Well. This was definitely a worthy reward.
“I’m not a quitter. Show me what you got.”