They left the pocket paradise the next morning. Ahnold still had three hours left on his bull’s strength.
“All right Fred, do the cubehop,” Groth said. “We’ll keep an eye out … man. No, give Fred the helmet. Because he’s going to appear somewhere else on this cube potentially and if he needs to teleport right away …”
“How about I just go with Fred then?” Turk said.
Everyone looked at him.
“What does that help to have you go with Fred?” Groth said. “Oh, to hang onto the helm?”
“Yeah,” Turk said.
“Ugh,” Groth said.
“The whole point of Fred going was to avoid your conflict of having to do a deal with the devil,” Alexiah said. “Literally having to do a deal with the devil to get back here.”
“Um … I mean is there a reason the helmet can’t leave your possession, Turk?” Groth said.
“Yeah?” Alexiah said.
“I … I just think it needs to stay with me,” Turk said.
“I don’t think that’s a wise choice at this juncture,” Alexiah said.
“Well, it’s not going to leave my possession.”
“Why didn’t you talk about this last night, when we were making these plans!?!”
“I didn’t think I needed to.”
“Yeah, it just occurred to me when he cubehops back … I mean, he has been showing up close to us,” Groth said. “How many times can you cast teleport, Fred?”
“Once,” Fred said.
“Oof,” Groth said. “I guess … okay.”
“What’s going on?” Ahnold said.
“Turk’s going to have to go with him,” Groth said.
“Why is the plan changing!?!” Ahnold said. “I know plan! I memorized it! It took two hours! Why would you change it now!?!”
“Technically, I teleport to the portal and I get there and I should show up next to you,” Fred said. “In most cases.”
“Why you want to keep helmet?” Ahnold said to Turk.
The paladin ignored him.
“The other thing we can do is give you enough gold to get a sending scroll and you could at least communicate with us and let us know where you’re at,” Groth said. “If you don’t show up next to us.”
“I could have prepared sending last night,” Fred said.
“But it still doesn’t allow us to … to teleport at the same time, into the pit, which is the big thing,” Groth said.
He went to Turk and pulled his brother aside out of earshot of the others. The two dwarves conversed quietly. Fred wandered away.
“Anybody else concerned that Turk is unwilling to give up something that, as far as I know, was always considered party treasure?” Himo said.
“I could dominate him,” Max said.
“Do that!” Ahnold said. “That always works! I want to see that!”
“I’m also very concerned because it seems counterintuitive to his …” Alexiah said.
“Religion?” Max said.
“… role within our party,” Alexiah said.
“Wait,” Ahnold said. “Ahnold does not understand.”
“Because he is a priest and a holy man, he is not somebody who … is a hoarder or … concerned with things.”
“Oh. What is helmet? The helmet is the teleport helmet?”
“But it belongs to everybody?”
“Yes. It’s something that anybody in our party should be able to use for the greater good of the party.”
“Do you want me to take it from him?”
“No. Thank you Ahnold.”
“That would cause a fight, and …” Himo said.
“Not a long one,” Ahnold said. “It would be very short.”
“Max, what were you trying to say?” Alexiah said.
“I mean, if it’s against his nature, do you think he’s cursed?” Max said.
“We’ve used that helmet in the past,” Himo said.
“Well, usually Falstaff used it,” Alexiah said. “But it was always used for the benefit of the party.”
“To our knowledge. So …”
“I mean … just …”
“Fred, did you do anything that would make Turk not trust you at this point?” Alexiah said.
“I have no idea,” Fred said. “If I did, I don’t know what it is.”
“Okay,” Fred said.
“He’s wizard man,” Ahnold said.
“I mean, I’ve heard tales of dwarves being greedy, but I didn’t think that would be Turk,” Himo said.
“We could always ask him what the purpose is for that,” Max said.
“Is it possible that the helmet is cursed somehow?” Fred said. “That it can’t leave his possession?”
“That’s what Max mentioned earlier and … we don’t know,” Alexiah said.
“But we’ve been … I mean … we’ve used that helmet many times,” Himo said again.
“I don’t know what … where the ‘we’ is coming from,” Alexiah said. “Did you ever put it on, Himo?”
“I’ve used it in the past, as well.”
“Okay, I’ve never officially donned the helmet myself.”
“Maybe there’s a chance, every time you use it, there’s more of a chance that you can get affected,” Fred said.
“But when has Turk used it?” Alexiah said. “When has he actually put it on?”
“Maybe it’s not just the helmet,” Max said. “Maybe there’s another item.”
“Maybe he as abandonment issues,” Himo said.
“I don’t know,” Alexiah said.
“Who has good ears?” Ahnold said. “Who has good ears?”
“He and his brother are discussing it and we can discuss it as a party but I think we have something of higher consequence that needs to be resolved,” Alexiah said.
“Yeah,” Himo said.
“We have to stay focused on that,” Alexiah said. “We can always‒”
“The plan!” Ahnold said. “The plan!”
“Yes,” Alexiah said.
“We could always recommend that he let Groth use it and, if he’s not even willing to let his brother use it, that’s kind of a red flag,” Himo said.
“Well, it sounded like he was willing to let Fred use it, he just didn’t want him to not be with him when he used it,” Alexiah said.
“One possible solution is … and when they get back we can talk about this is … he gets me to the portal, he doesn’t go through the portal,” Fred said. “I just go through the portal. Go get the stuff from the city and then I have to make the deal coming back, meet him, and then we can go back.
“I mean, that’s an option, if he’s being that stubborn about it, but‒”
“I mean, because we’re on a time crunch here, and we don’t really have time to argue, and we can deal with this after the fact.”
“Yes, thank you for coming up with a solution.”
Ahnold pointed to the edge of the cube.
“Ahnold going to go keep lookout at edge of cube,” he said.
“For what?” Alexiah said.
“For things from … the … tower,” Ahnold said.
He looked at her with raised eyebrows, seeking her approval of that, just as the dwarves returned.
“We have a solution that will work,” Fred said.
“Turk is okay, as long as he gets the helmet back after you’re done with it,” Groth said. “After you’re back. It’s fine.”
“I mean, that was the plan …” Alexiah said.
“If it will make him feel better, he can go with me, he just stays on this side of the portal without going through,” Fred said. “I go through to the city. I make the deal to go back through it and then he and I come back. That way the helmet does not leave his possession.”
“Okay,” Groth said.
“Are you okay with that, Turk?” Fred said.
“If I get to hold onto the helmet, yeah,” Turk said. “I’m okay with that.”
“I don’t know that we should let him hold onto the helmet all the time,” Alexiah said. “It might be good for him to be away from it.”
“Turk, Fred: go and do the plan,” Groth said. “Just wait at the portal, Turk. Fred, go do your shopping list. Let’s do this quick and let’s get in there.”
“Yep,” Alexiah said.
“Okay,” Turk said.
“So we can focus on the agenda,” Alexiah said.
“Yeah,” Groth said.
“Okay,” Fred said.
They moved away from the rest and Fred read from a scroll. They disappeared.
Ahnold turned to Groth.
“So, is this dwarf helmet?” he said. “Is that why it’s so important you your brother? What is wrong with him?”
“I don’t know,” Groth confessed. “It’s very strange. I haven’t seen my brother really act this way. He’s got some … strange … obsession with this helmet. He feels like it has to be in his possession.”
“Is he wearing it?”
“He just has to have it in his possession.”
“But is it the helmet he’s wearing?”
“No, not the one he has.”
“Why does he need two helmets?”
“Has he been wearing the transportation helmet outside of when he’s with the party?” Alexiah said.
“I don’t know that Turk’s ever used the teleportation helmet,” Groth said.
“Yeah, I don’t think he has. Unless he’s used it in his tent or overnight or something outside‒”
“I know that Falstaff used it.”
“So I don’t know. It’s something, obviously, we’re going to have to keep an eye on and we’re going to have to look into.”
“How am I going to use helmet to teleport like you said if he won’t let me touch it?” Ahnold said.
“Ahnold, we’re not going to use it right now,” Alexiah said. “We have a different plan that we need to address.”
“I was supposed to use it to go into the tower, into the basement.”
“You said I would be teleporting you.”
“Ahnold may have to wear the helmet to teleport because since he is bigger than us, it doesn’t count against the three,” Groth said.
“Good job, Ahnold, for remembering that detail,” Alexiah said.
“Yeah,” Groth said.
“What if he won’t let Ahnold use the helmet?” he said.
“I don’t know,” Groth said.
“Ahnold pop him? On the head?”
“Knock him out.”
“No. No, we can’t.”
“Just hold him?”
“I don’t know if something has …”
“Ahnold won’t squeeze.”
“… influenced my brother in some way.”
“Yeah,” Alexiah said.
“I honestly don’t know,” Groth said.
“Is it a girl?” Ahnold said.
“I don’t know.”
“It’s always a girl!”
“But the whole issue here is we wanted Ahnold to wear it because he’s so large a person,” Alexiah said. “So he wouldn’t count. And so …”
“I wish we would have thought of this before Fred left,” Groth said.
“Here’s my hope,” Alexiah said. “Turk was in agreement to let Fred use the helmet as long as he was with Fred, so if we have Ahnold wear the helmet to make this plan work, Turk just needs to be with Ahnold.”
“Right,” Groth said.
“Is that part of plan?” Ahnold said.
“We didn’t decide all the way down to who was going with what party,” Alexiah said. “So, that should work.”
She looked at them.
“Two questions for you Groth,” she said. “Number one: when you and your brother were speaking, did you ask why he didn’t mention any of this while we were making the plans initially, the night before?”
“I can see where he said he didn’t think it’d come into affect because it wasn’t until right after we popped out of the pocket paradise I said ‘Oh, he might not end up on this side of the cube, so we might need to give him the helmet,’” Groth said. “So, before all that, Turk might not even have considered the fact that – he doesn’t know how cubehop works. He’s not … a full-on spell caster like some of us.”
“So, it just was something that didn’t occur to him as being an issue. I brought it up as soon as came out, saying ‘Maybe he should have that in case he ends up on the opposite side of the cube’ and it takes, what? Two days to cross a side.”
“We can teleport easily with the helmet. My only other thought to that is, I had a contingency plan in my head that if we cleared the pit, we would still have uses with the helmet to teleport to … we didn’t get the image out of the giant’s head for that, so we couldn’t do that – wherever the lillend’s at. I think it’s down that hallway somewhere.”
“Did Max get image?” Ahnold said.
Groth told them his plan of Fred and the helmet being used to teleport them all in with Max and Himo going into bags of holding. That only worked if Ahnold wore the helmet.
“So, would you, Groth, feel comfortable, because it’s your brother and he trusts you, approaching him about …” Alexiah said.
“Oh yeah,” Groth said.
“… traveling with Ahnold to have him wear the helmet?”
“Yes. It’s the only way to rescue. I’ll have to play on his sense of justice.”
“Because the only way we can make this work, unless somebody else jumps in a bag of holding. Alexiah, I know you and Turk have bigger bags of holding too. That’s something else we need to figure out with all his stuff.”
They discussed who would go in what bag and Max and Himo started trying to determine their weight. Alexiah told them her weight limit in the bag was 1,000 pounds. Between Himo and Max, they probably weighed about 400 pounds. She had plenty of room in the bag.
Alexiah brought up the shards, which Turk still had. That made her a little nervous. Groth agreed. She thought someone else should hold onto the shards for a while and said she’d be happy to do it.
“I do think we should all wear those shards,” Groth said.
“When we go in?” Alexiah said.
“Yeah. The fire ones we probably don’t need to, they’re not going to do us anything. The aquamarine can cast wall of ice that can be effective against the fire elementals, potentially.”
“I have an ice axe. Should I use that instead of my fire axe?”
“Probably. For those. For sure. The smoky quartz, that’s the air, we can do wind walk. I don’t know if that’ll help or not.”
“I have an ice burst battle axe.”
“Maybe not even a smoky quartz.”