“Rise And Shine. It Is Now Eight O Clock.”
I groaned and managed to roll onto my side. I’d barely squeezed in five hours of sleep, and my head was killing me. It was days like these that I wished Tank had an off switch.
“Taaaaank shut uppppp!” Xavien moaned from the other side of the room. I heard the muffled whumph of his pillow bouncing off the automaton. “I don’t care what we’re doing today, let me freaking sleep!”
“Master Xavien, Mistress Brie Has Specifically Requested That I Not Let You Sleep Through Your Alarm,” Tank droned. “In Accordance To Her Orders, I Will Now Remove You From Bed.”
“Nooooooo, buzz offfffff!” Xavien whined uselessly as the towering automaton dragged him out of bed. In a last-ditch effort to keep sleeping, the tiefling hopelessly clung to his bedsheets until they too were peeled off the mattress with him.
“Morning all,” Brie deadpanned from her bunk. “Today’s the day we plan our heist. I trust you’re all feeling well-rested enough?” I think she knew damn well the answer from both of us was no.
How exactly Brie worked was a mystery to me. She seemed to always be simultaneously wide awake and dead tired. Her short hair was kept in a constant state of bedhead, and she often dragged her blankets around with her during the day. Now that we were about the same height, the dark circles around her eyes were far more noticeable to me, and I was starting to worry about how much coffee she drank. Coffee is a popular beverage where she came from, but even for a halfling she clearly had a problem.
“Murp,” I murped as I crawled out of bed. I licked my eyes and yawned, my mouth stretching open and snapping closed like a bear trap. “Breakfast first, plan later. I’m not awake enough to think yet.”
“I hate literally all of you,” cursed Xavien from over Tank’s shoulder.
“Love you too, Xavien,” Brie responded. “Tank, take Xavien to the mess hall with us.”
Thankfully, I managed to avoid turning too many heads on our way to breakfast. Despite the fact that I was still wearing my old cloak as a sort of improvised robe, I don’t think any of the people who saw me even considered the possibility that I could be Kaelen. After all, who could look at a puny kobold and immediately make the connection that she was once a lanky high elf? I relished this feeling of anonymity while I could. Surely it wouldn’t be long before my friends and I got that goddess to turn me back into my boring old self.
As we filed through the line for food, a few of the servers gave me funny looks. None of them voiced any concerns, so unfortunately I was left wondering what they were all so concerned about. Before long, we were all seated at a table with trays full of fresh eggs and toast.
Brie took a swig from her canteen of coffee before slamming it back down on the table. “Alright, wimps,” she began. “Planning time.”
“Let’s just all run at her at once,” Xavien grumbled, taking a bite out of his toast. “I’d rather be dead than awake right now, so who even gives a darn? And it’s not like she can get all of us.”
“Yeah, no thanks,” Brie responded. “You might enjoy getting turned into a catgirl, but I’m not exactly partial to the idea.”
Xavien blushed bright purple and went back to eating his eggs in silence.
“I mean Tank’s probably immune, right?” I chimed in. “Maybe we could hide behind its tower shield long enough to get close, then one of us can strike!”
“Which one of us?” Brie interjected. “You? Kaelen, you’re the only person here who relies on getting within stabbing range, and you’re not exactly in any position to fight a goddess right now. I think for this fight, you’re just our emotional support kobold.”
“Um, if we’re all hiding behind Tank, I can still cast spells,” Xavien added. “I could pop out to sling fireballs then jump back behind cover.”
“That… could work!” Brie said, grinning. “And thanks to area-of-effect spellcasting, I can buff all of us at once without putting myself in harm’s way. Now, Kaelen, this is where you come in. You’re the only one of us who’s actually been inside this temple, so you know the layout. We’re gonna rely on you to get us in without getting caught. Do you think we can do that?”
“Well, yeah,” I answered. “Of course. I might be tiny, but I’m still a master thief. If we attack at night, everyone in the temple will be asleep. I only got caught last time because I tripped a hex.”
“Then it’s decided,” Brie declared, standing up on her chair for effect. “We strike tonight at midnight!”
This was punctuated by five awkward minutes of us finishing our meal in complete silence.
It was one hour to midnight.
We each spent the day prepping for the coming raid in our own way. I worked out a way for my oversized cloak to stay put without hindering my movement. Brie tuned her lyre and practiced her musical spells. Tank tapped into our guild’s arcane battery and went dormant all day. Xavien did some party tricks with his pyromancy, took a nap, then tried on outfits for two hours. We were ready for anything.
The four of us split up as we left the guildhall, then reconvened in a quiet alley behind the temple to make sure we weren’t conspicuous. I took the same route as last time, ducking in an out of alleys to avoid being intercepted or followed. It probably wasn’t necessary, but old habits die hard. I arrived first, followed soon after by Brie, then Tank, and finally Xavien.
“Everyone get ready,” Brie whispered. “I’m gonna ghostform all of us, then we can phase through this wall and into the courtyard. You’re sure this is the right wall, right Kaelen?”
“Beyond a shadow of a doubt,” I answered. “Let’s move.”
Brie cupped her hands over her mouth and began to whistle a short melody. We all looked each other over, seeing our forms become translucent before our eyes, then wasted no time darting through the wall and into the temple. Once Brie stopped whistling, we all returned to normal.
Now that we were inside, I took advantage of my small stature to scout ahead. As I predicted, the courtyard was empty. Even the dragoness from before was gone this time, luckily for us. I looked back at my party and gave the signal, and we all converged on the entrance to the cellar.
“No worries, I’ll get the lock,” Xavien said, cracking his knuckles. He murmured something in Demonic, and his hands began to glow bright white. His finger burned through the poor door like butter, and he pulled it open with a flourish. I didn’t have the heart to tell him the door was already unlocked. “After you, ladies.”
Tank deliberately ignored Xavien’s request and went in first, and the rest of us followed. This way, even in the worst case scenario where the goddess was waiting for us, we would at least be protected behind its tower shield. Brie had the foresight to outfit Tank with a noiseproofing enchantment, so we all descended the dark stairwell in complete silence.
“Remember what I said about the hex,” I whispered. “Everyone but Tank, take your boots off. We’re in the home stretch; is everyone ready to fight?”
“Ready to what?” came an all-too-familiar voice from the other room. All of our heads turned in surprise to the worship room before us, and there stood the goddess of cuteness. “Oh, you’re back! And you brought friends!”