Everyone in the Inferno-Squad was prepared to take to the skies to end this once and for all. Not all of them were avid flyers, but all of them put their trust in the Griffin-Riders or their own ability to use magic to fly.
All with one notable exception.
Elamore the Manipulator remained resolute in her unwillingness to become airborne.
This was a bigger problem than just one less pyromancer. Elamore was also a pyro-shaper. She could manipulate fire like a true artist. Without her, the chances of creating the proper glyph to seal the overlap were nil.
Assurances, cajoling, and threats proved ineffective in persuading Elamore. They even called Sir Tullmut, the Sanguine Knight, a noted orator. He had, using only his words, turned many a foe into an ally. Sadly, it failed to sway her. She was on the verge of a severe panic attack when she felt a gentle touch on her shoulders.
“A moment please,” said Panthia, Elven lady of the Starlit Lands.
Elves have a way of asking a question that somehow sounds like an order and by the time you’ve realized that, they’re already doing whatever they want. In this case, Panthia led Elamore to her tent.
The inside of an Elven Lady’s tent can look like anything, in this case, it was a glade at night, illuminated by countless stars. A gentle breeze moves Panthia’s tresses, making them even more lovely if you can believe that. She gestured to a chair made of soft and inviting moss. Elamore sat, shoulders slumped.
“Would you care for a drink?” asked the Eleven Lady.
“Gods yes!” said Elamore.
Panthia handed her a crystal goblet filled with a sparkling, light blue liquor. Elamore drank it in one gulp, it tasted like floating on a calm lake in high summer. She held it out more and it was refilled.
“Do you feel any better?” asked Panthia.
“Yes, yes, thank you. What is this?” she asked as she gazed at her drink.
“It is a rare Elven cordial, fermented in the trees of the forest of the Starlit Lands.”
“You make this in actual trees?”
“Yes, it is a symbiotic relationship between my people and the wood. We have a pact with all that dwell around us.”
“That sounds… lovely.”
They took a moment without speaking, letting the calm wash over them both.
“So, I’m guessing you want to know why I don’t want to fly?”
“That would be helpful.”
Elamore sighed, took a slug, and said, “When I was little, my big brother Vynak liked to sneak up and teleport me above the lake next to our home.”
“How very cruel!”
“He did it three times a day for a year. You might’ve heard of him, he’s called Vynak the Vile.”
“Sadly, I have.”
“Not a lot of emotional growth for old Vynak. I’ve had a paralyzing fear of heights even since then. I had to go to boarding school just to get away from him.”
“I do not wish to minimize your trauma, but there are multiple ways to keep you safe while in the air. Flying spells, belts of levitation, and so on. Will none of those suffice?”
“I don’t even like stairs! My home is ranch-style because the idea of a second story makes my skin crawl. I can’t visit anyone who lives in a tower and all my friends live in towers! Very awkward around the holidays!”
“And I can’t shape the fire from the ground! I need to see the whole thing. Did you see the glyph? It’s crazy baroque! But if I’m up in the air I’ll faint and vomit all at once!”
“That sound extremely unpleasant.”
“It’s no party. Now I’m under all this pressure to make this happen and that’s not helping. Also, when you’re having a panic attack, someone telling you to ‘calm down’ doesn’t work!”
Elamore then drank the rest of the Elven cordial and made a mental note that if this all somehow worked out, she would get a case of the stuff.
Panthia regarded the pyro-shaper as she sipped her drink.
“I may have a solution to our mutual problem.”
“Can you bring everything down to ground level?”
The Elven Lady said nothing.
“Gods! Can you really do that?” sputtered Elamore.
“No, that is not my area of expertise.”
“Ohh…” replied Elamore who was a bit disappointed.
“However, I can offer you this,” said Panthia as she removed a silver torc from her slender neck.
“I don’t think some enchanted jewelry will make a difference.”
“This is no commonplace magic item. I offer you the Torc of Bal-Farnath. Worn by the legendary warrior-wizard of the first Elven Kingdom from when the Land was new. He knew no defeat in his long life and this will protect you from all harm and draw your fear as poison from a wound. It has long been an heirloom of my house and in this hour of need, I gift it to you. Wear it, so we may all live to see the dawn once more and I will consider it a fair price, though the value is beyond ken. Will you wear it and save us all?”
Panthia knelt before Elamore and presented it to her with a bowed head. She took it in her hands. It looked to be woven from countless strands of silver wire and was simultaneously delicate and strong. Holding it was like holding history.
“Wow! I mean… Wow. What can I say?”
“Please say yes,” whispered the Lady of the Starlit Lands.
Elamore took a deep breath and replied, “Okay then. Yes.”
Panthia stood and held back Elamore’s hair so she could put on the Torc of Bal-Farnath. It fit perfectly.
“I feel different,” said Elamore, “Good different.”
“The ancient magics are at work.”
“Yeah they are!”
“Let us proceed to the staging area, where you will ride Desimatix to shape the flames and bring an end to this terror.”
Elamore bounced on her feet. She felt good. No, not good, great! This Torc was some serious magic. If someone had told her at the start of the day that she’d be not only willing to ride a Dragon into the sky, but she’d be excited to do so, she’d have written it off as a tasteless joke. Who knew?
“Alrighty! That fire glyph isn’t going to form itself, let’s ride!”
Panthia didn’t feel terrible about slipping a potion of ultimate confidence into Elamore’s drink. It had to be done, there was no time for soul-searching and epiphanies. However, she did somewhat regret giving away that torc. While it wasn’t an ancestral artifact, it was a gift from a lover who had crafted it to prevent makeup from smearing. Even in the harshest of weather or if she cried.
No victory without sacrifices.