“Alright Tuku. Today you’re going to teach me about water spirits!” Ija turned toward her companion and gave a fierce grin.
“Water elementals, you mean?” Tuku replied. The pink dragon’s wings fluttered as he glided from one tree limb perch to another. “I see the stretch of shore we’re looking for. It’s just ahead. When we pass the tree line, they’ll see us.”
“Elementals, spirits; what’s the difference? They’re relatives of yours, right?” Ija asked. She knew they weren’t, but it was fun to tease Tuku a little.
“They most certainly are not. I am a dragon!” he bristled slightly, though not truly annoyed.
Ija’s eyes lit up. “I heard elementals can take any shape. They could be dogs, or bats, or dragons…”
“So you did read the books from the Magaambya before we headed out here?” Tuku asked, surprised at her studiousness.
“Well, I... definitely looked at the pictures,” she admitted, though, yes, she had read many of the words, too—eventually.
“Water elementals are embodiments of the essence of matter, from the Plane of Water. They’re basically pure water. I am pure dragon.” Ija threw her eidolon a sidelong glance, and he sighed, repeating the fact she never let him forget: “Though, yes, without you to give me a body, I’m just formless mental essence from the Astral Plane. Thank you for giving me this glorious manifestation.”
Ija snorted and rolled her eyes. “If they have no mind, does that mean we can outthink them? Like I always outthink you?” This was how they worked out their strategies, and ultimately how Tuku guided her to better use her power—teasing insults and playful banter.
Tuku continued. “Oh, these aren’t just mindless puddles. These things are powerful in the water and they know it. They’ll try to drag us underwater.” He wasn’t kidding now, and Ija took the warning with the seriousness it deserved.
“But they’re causing trouble for the fishers, so they’re coming out of the water for that,” Ija mused, “So let’s bait them into attacking us on land, too. I can’t swim after them if they retreat back to the water, but you can, and—I know! D’you want gills?” The eidolon matched her hopeful grin with as straight and nonplussed an expression as his draconic face could muster. “Don’t worry! If they catch you in a trap, I’ll call you back, or let the bond snap if I have to. But c’mon, let’s see how well you can breathe underwater!”
Ija held the rune medallion she wore around her neck in one hand and held the other out in Tuku’s direction. The medallion, the matching rune on Ija’s headband, and the one emblazoned on her eidolon’s forehead all pulsed as their magical connection surged. Tuku felt an itch on both sides of his neck, just below his ears, and knew that he’d grown gills—at least temporarily. It wasn’t the plan he’d have suggested, but what was the harm?
“Is that it? Gills? Anything else we should be prepared for, or am I just going to swim the water to death?”
“Oh, I’m not done yet!” Ija’s excitement was palpable. She often had trouble focusing, but when she found something that captured her attention, her enthusiasm was contagious. “So! Water conducts electricity, right? I mean, yeah, it’s not actually the water, but the salts and stuff in the water. So as long as these aren’t made of pure water and are made of ocean water, then I should have just the thing.”
Before Tuku could respond, Ija dashed toward the edge of the trees, leaving her dragon companion nodding approvingly to himself.
“Hold on, short-stuff! Not so eager, or you might tip them off that something’s happening. Let’s either sneak up, or if we’re going to use your plan and bait them out, then pretend you don’t know they’re there,” Tuku suggested.
“So... I’m not sure we can convince them we’re just normal fishers they can terrorize. Do you think they’re going to be, I don’t know, put off by the whole you-being-a-dragon thing?”
“I’ll have you know that dragons are excellent at fishing. But you do have a point. Call me to your side when the time comes?” Tuku wondered aloud.
“Too slow. You sneak, I bait,” Ija decided, “There’s not a lot of cover, so try to use the seaweed. And your new gills!”
Tuku nodded his assent and disappeared into the water, though Ija knew exactly where he had gone. She wandered along the shore toward a rocky outcropping where the fishers had reported the most recent elemental attacks, seemingly lost in thought. It wasn’t hard to appear distracted, after all, because she did have an awful lot of things on her mind right then, but mostly she was thinking about shocking some water elementals.
She avoided glancing toward the water so as not to give herself away, but instead connected her senses to Tuku’s, so every so often she could peer through his eyes. That’s how she noticed the elementals slowly rising from the water to ambush her. Five huge, indistinct humanoid forms, almost the same color as the water itself. Two coming in close, one circling around, and another backing them up. The last one lurked in the distance to her left.
She turned her body away from them to further the deception, all the while glaring at them from Tuku’s position nearly completely submerged among the thick kelp nearby.
She waited... waited... That one on the left was still too far. Waiting... OK—now!
Ija’s senses rushed back into her own body, and she spun on her heel, already starting to cast her spell. Only from this perspective could she see that she’d misjudged their distance from Tuku’s vantage point; she had let them get too close! Ija might have fooled them, but it the nearest elemental was still close enough to slam its watery fist in her direction as she dropped her guard. Her concentration faltered—
“Look out!” While she’d been focusing on her own part in the ambush, Tuku was singularly occupied with keeping her safe. Realizing the threat, the dragon rose from the water and bolted toward her. Arriving just in time, Tuku spread his wings to shield his summoner, taking the brunt of the force as the warm, brackish water of the elemental’s slam fell clear of Ija.
Grinning mischievously and winking at her protector, Ija spread her hands, and unleashed a chain of lightning toward her attackers. Forks of electricity arced from figure to figure, jolting the elementals and causing their forms to lose cohesion. Wherever the lightning touched, water leaked from their bodies like the contents of a bucket seeping from uncaulked seams. Either the water had picked up sediments, or everything she and Tuku had been thinking had been wrong; maybe both. It didn’t matter either way.
Illustration by Rubén Pomares from Pathfinder Secrets of Magic
One of the elementals created a vortex of water just onto the shore. The moving eddy surged forward and back like a rushing tide, threatening to batter Ija and Tuku onto the rocks and deliver them into the depths. Ija tried to dodge, but her foot slipped on the wet sand. The incoming vortex was unavoidable.
But again, Tuku was vigilant; the dragon eidolon had been in a perfect position to notice and dodge the vortex. This time it was he who called upon their protective bond, swooping in to grab Ija, fluttering slightly off the ground for an instant, and setting her back down when the danger had passed.
This unlikely maneuver gave Ija room to dodge more oncoming blows from the nearest elementals. She backed up to a safer distance as Tuku went into a draconic frenzy, tearing apart the elemental that took the brunt of her lightning spell. The elementals responded in kind, surrounding the dragon and pummeling him with waves. Due to their bond, Ija felt every impact like a hit to her own body, but she knew they could last a little while longer.
“Ija, again!” Tuku shouted over the sound of crashing waves.
Ija called the lightning once more, and the sharp scent of ozone manifested as the magic sprang from her hands and arced into the elementals’ bodies. One of the remaining elementals was slain outright, or perhaps banished back to the Plane of Water—she honestly wasn’t sure what happened to these things when you destroyed them. Tuku noticed another that was leaking its essence from several places, and he used his jaws and claws to tear the holes wider, ripping the towering figure apart until it too collapsed into a splash of mundane water. Ija didn’t see any shining or shimmering like when a summoning spell ended; probably dead then.
The remaining two elementals began to flee in terror, finally realizing how dangerous Ija and Tuku were as a team. The dragon snapped at the nearest of them and looked back toward Ija, awaiting her approval. She quickly raised one eyebrow, as if to say, “go on,” and as quickly as that, Tuku was off beneath the waves.
A few minutes later, the dragon emerged from the water with a wide, goofy smile filling his toothy muzzle. “I told you dragons were good fishers,” Tuku said. Ija squeezed her hair to rid it of at least some of the water that now weighed heavily on her head. Her eyes widened, expectantly.
“And yeah,” Tuku continued begrudgingly, “I guess the gills didn’t hurt.”
About The Author
Mark Seifter is Paizo's Design Manager and one of the four designers on the creation of Pathfinder Second Edition. You can find him on twitter, @markseifter and check out Arcane Mark, his twitch stream with Linda Zayas-Palmer, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7PM Pacific, and Saturdays at 10 AM Pacific at https://www.twitch.tv/arcanemark.
About Iconic Encounters
Iconic Encounters is a series of web-based flash fiction set in the worlds of Pathfinder and Starfinder. Each short story provides a glimpse into the life and personality of one of the games’ iconic characters, showing the myriad stories of adventure and excitement players can tell with the Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games.