Shadow of the Dragon

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Shadow of the Dragon

Post by _grindael »

Hello folks,

As many of you know, I like to study and write about Mormon History. But I also have another interest, and that is Science Fiction/Fantasy. To make a long story short, I began creating my own fantasy world in the late 1980's. I drew maps, and worked out all the history of this world. I began writing a series of novels about it. I had three rough manuscripts completed, when my life took a wrong turn. Needless to say, all of that material got lost. Twenty years of work. The only thing that survived was a briefcase with some materials in it, some maps, some outlines, a few scattered chapters, etc. I was devastated for a long time. I couldn't go back and recreate it all. I couldn't remember whole portions of it. So, what I decided to do was to start a new series of novels from a different part of my world. The prequels to the Star Wars movies of the seventies and eighties so to speak. But I'm kind of nervous about it, and thought that I'd ask some of you here to give me an opinion as to if I should continue to pursue this, or just let it go. So, I'd like to present a few chapters of one of the novels that I've been creating from this world, (this would be the second) in "The Promise of Azoth" series, titled "Shadow of the Dragon". First though, is a Prologue.

Let me know what you think, if this kind of thing interests you... As a side note, this is where I took my online moniker "grindael" from. Grindael is a dragon ....


It was cold up here, and the man wrapped his cloak more closely about him as he searched the rock face before him. He was caught in a particularly horrible storm for this time of year, and he grimaced in frustration as he waited for another lightning blast to illuminate the way. The downpour had been so great that all hopes of lighting a torch had been abandoned, along with any chance of waiting it out on the exposed face of the mountainside.

It didn’t help that he had not been up here for years uncounted, and that he did not want to be here now. But something had happened, and that had changed everything. Events had made this visit necessary, and he had purposely chosen to come up here under the cover of darkness when it would be less likely for any prying eyes to see him.

He always dreaded the climb, but the lower passages had been sealed up long ago to make it virtually impossible to find the place that he was going to and magik would not work here. He had never counted the stairs and he had not bothered to do so this time. That they were named endless was not by chance, but it was not true. They had an end, and he had reached it. The winds had almost blown him off of the slick stairs a few times, but he had held on, gritting his teeth as he took them one at a time to reach his destination here at the top of the mountain.

As the lightning flashed once again he finally saw the markings. Moving towards the rock face, he reached beneath his shirt and pulled out a large intricately carved iron key, which was threaded to a leather thong around his neck. The door was here (as indicated by the markings), the keyhole hidden under a small rock cleverly attached to the cliff face. He reached out and turned the rock, revealing the slot that would open the door upon insertion of the key.

There was a click as he turned the key and a section of the rock face slid up to reveal a metal door with a small numeric keypad attached to its center. He keyed in a sequence of numbers and waited. There was a buzzing sound and then the door opened a few inches. Wrinkling his nose at the stale air coming out of the opening, he pushed on the door enough to squeeze in, and found himself in a dimly lit passage which stretched out deep into the mountain. At least the generators still worked. He shut the massive metal door behind him, and went over to a video display built into the wall a few steps from the entrance. The power to this unit was linked to the door, and he breathed a sigh of relief as the scanner acknowledged his handprint and the screen displayed: awaiting command…

“Run program alpha one-two-eight-six” he said quietly, and was rewarded with the sounds of the air recycling unit humming to life. He shivered slightly as he made his way down the passageway, passing through jets of warm air now circulating from the vents built into the ceiling alongside the light panels. He could have made the passage much brighter, but the dimmer setting was adequate and by the time he reached the first crossing he was much warmer and drier. This complex was enormous, with many corridors crossing the one he now walked at regular intervals, but he ignored them and kept on his westward track to the very end where another door awaited him.

Behind this door was an elevator, accessible only by another video unit mounted in the wall next to it. The screen was dark but lit up when he placed his hand upon it. Another scan ensued, but the door did not open. This was expected, and he waited patiently for the screen to come to life with the next procedure. “Stand by for retinal scan,” spoke a tinny voice from the video unit. As the window opened he moved his head closer to the unit, allowing a beam of light to compare the image of his right eye with the digital copy stored in the data base.

“Retinal scan confirmed,” replied the artificial voice once more as the doors to the elevator slid open. He stepped into the featureless compartment and the doors closed automatically behind him. “Destination,” called out a cold voice from inside the elevator.

“Level B1,” replied the man in a firm voice. “Acknowledged,” stated the elevator dispassionately as it hummed to life and began a rapid descent into the bowels of the mountain. It was a long drop at freefall speed, and while he waited he contemplated the purpose of this visit. He was not nervous, exactly, but he did have concerns about how she would respond to being awakened after all these years. She could be unpredictable, but he would not allow that to dissuade him from what he intended to do. An age of men had passed since he last had visited this place and with it had come the laws forbidding men to pursue the knowledge that would enable them to build structures like this and use the technology hidden away here. But ages come and go and what had once brought destruction to all would bring salvation. To set this course in motion troubled the man not at all.

After what seemed a long time, the elevator stopped moving and the doors slid open. As the man stepped out of the elevator the lights automatically brightened, and he blinked as his eyes adjusted to the bright glare of the light that was being reflected off the banks of many machines that crowded every inch of the immense room.

Threading his way through the rows of machines to the center of the room, he sat in one of many chairs that circled a small dais illuminated by a shaft of light from above. The chair adjusted itself to his body and a helmet-like device descended to cover his head.

The headpiece was made of a plastic alloy and when it had positioned itself an inch or so above his head, it hummed to life. A visor lowered itself to eye level, where displays lit up with command prompts. “Run Alexa reboot code two-one-one-two,” he said in a low voice, as the display blinked the word working… at him. He waited for what seemed a long time, as he watched the dark monitor that was built into the computer sta-tion in front of him. He jumped slightly when machine after machine in the room finally came to life and video displays began to turn on one by one. The visor then displayed give verbal command…, and he smiled. “Guardian,” was all he said, but it was enough. The helmet then slid up, and the man stood and looked at the center of the dais.

A holographic image flickered and came into focus. Before him stood the graceful image of a woman robed in white. She had striking green eyes, and dark hair. She was still for a moment, as if collecting her thoughts; then her eyes locked on his and she smiled.

“Taylor,” she said simply.

“Alexa,” he replied.

“You are strangely garbed Taylor,” she commented, eyeing him up and down with what he thought might be a touch of amusement in her eyes.

“Yes, you would think so,” he responded. “Many things have changed since we last spoke,” he added.

“It has been one-thousand-two-hundred-eighty-six years, fifty-four days, twenty-one hours, and forty-five seconds since we last spoke, Taylor.”

He scratched his head and looked down as he tried to hide the look of discomfort her statement had produced. “Well, there were reasons for that,” he mumbled with a little hesitation in his voice.

“It is all right Taylor,” she answered in a soothing voice. “I had many dreams while I was asleep,” she added. He raised his eyebrows at this but did not pursue it.

“There is something different about you Taylor,” said Alexa with a quizzical note in her voice. “There is a strange vibration that emanates from under your clothes,” she added thoughtfully.

Taylor shook his head and with a rueful smile reached be-neath his shirt and pulled out a small blood-red stone that was attached to a silver chain around his neck. He removed the chain and held the stone up before him, and it sparkled and flashed in the light as Alexa inspected it.

Taylor then walked over to one of the computer stations, and pressed a button on the keyboard. This caused a tray to eject itself from a small tower that stood next to the monitor. He placed the stone on the tray, pressed the button and watched as it disappeared back into the slot.

He waited a moment for the tray to re-appear and when it did he retrieved the stone and re-attached it to the chain which he then replaced around his neck. Turning once again to face the dais, he eyed the figure standing silently on the platform in front of him.

“I have analyzed the object that you placed in the scanner, Taylor. The stone has unusual properties. Is it a created object?”

He nodded.

“I thought so. The strange vibration is some kind of sentience. The stone has communicated with me, and I have now guessed the purpose of your visit.”

“Can you re-create it?” he asked.

“Not exactly,” she answered, flickering and looking slightly distracted. “The matrix is too complex to recreate, and I cannot duplicate” (she paused as if searching for the right word) “the personality within it. I use this term loosely, for it is hard to describe exactly the sentience within it. I can, however duplicate portions of the matrix and apply them in a different manner to other stones. After a time, they may gain their own personalities, but I can’t be positive that this will transpire. Will this be sufficient?”

“Yes,” answered Taylor. “Can you use the matrix to complete Deuce?”

“I have already begun that process,” she replied with what Taylor could only equate with smugness. “Would you like me to activate Deuce when the process is complete?”

“No. What I would like you to do is unseal the lower passages and extend yourself into the new pathways I have had built for you. All current passwords and security measures will stay in effect, even at the new points of entry. There is one exception I would like you to take note of, and you are to give unrestricted access to this person, should he ever try to pass the threshold.”

“Would this be the creator of the stone?” she asked.

“That is correct. His name is Galaen Brandis.”
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Re: Shadow of the Dragon

Post by _grindael »


Chapter One

The Guska Road

Galaen Brandis had crossed the Waters of Life twice in his life. The first time was when he was just a lad of fifteen. More than ten summers would pass in his life before he crossed that river again. The Waters of Life had always seemed to divide his life, and he never felt this more than he did now. In the shadow of the dragon all things had become clear. He was desperate and alone, beyond all help and hope and yet he knew that he had to cross that river once again. He had to get himself out of the predicament he now found himself in, and it brought only one question to his mind that he kept asking himself again and again. How do you steal your wife back from a dragon?

The answer to that question was complicated and lay back on the other side of the great river where Galaen was now headed. To go back and cross it now went against everything he was feeling inside, but he knew that any delay could be perilous to the one he cared more about than even his own life. On the other side of the river there was someone he needed to see, someone who had the knowledge and the motivation to help him as no other could.

The attack had been unexpected. It had been a fine spring day, even if Tasia had complained about the chill winds that were blowing from the east off the waters of lake Tiperath. They had been married in Kaladon on Valen-Tine, and the great city had never looked finer. After a month of seclusion in the Kimaani Palace they had undertaken the journey south to Tasia’s childhood home: the southern province of the empire called Amorlek.

They had taken the Guska Road south, and this part of it was wide and beaten down by many generations of travel from merchant trains of well guarded wagons; and by the many farmers who were willing to take the long journey north to sell their goods in the great city of Kaladon and beyond. Farther south the Guska Road was less traveled for it bordered Lorn, a wild mountainous region inhabited by dragons.

For this reason many merchants used the Zammim Way (away to the west), and it had been Galaen’s plan to turn west on the North Vineyard Road and stop in Jermine so Tasia could do some shopping before heading to her father’s villa.

Their first stop had been at Tralfar, a port city built on the banks of the Merika River (also known as the Waters of Life), where the river began its westward journey from Lake Tiperath to the shores of the Westeron Sea. After spending the night at a fine hotel, they had ferried across the Merika with their horses, for the great river was more than two miles wide at this point. To the south of Tralfar the lands were forested, with trees growing close to the road on either side. The day had been pleasant, and Galaen remembered talking about small things like the occasional songbird they heard, the colors of new growth on the trees, and the patches of wildflowers scattered in the greening grass that grew at the edges of the road.

It was late afternoon on the third day of their journey when they stopped to make camp in one of the small clearings becoming more frequent among the now thinning forest. It was about eight miles or so to the next Station, one of a series of small guard posts built along all the major roads in the Province and throughout the Empire. Each Station housed a pair of soldiers under the command of the General Alenzia Malka who was appointed by the Provincial Governor of Amorlek, Lord Justa Valencia who in turn was given authority to rule the Province by the Emperor himself.

These Stations were manned by seasoned soldiers who kept watch over all the roads in the Empire, which helped to limit violence and banditry. This (along with a small road tax) en-couraged folk to bring more than enough wealth and trade to the province to well afford the cost. It was still a long way to Jermine, but Galaen had brought plenty of supplies with them, and though the nights were still quite cold, they had each other to keep them warm.

“I’m so cooold,” moaned Tasia as they dismounted and began setting up their camp for the night.

“I’ll have a fire going in a bit,” replied Galaen, already scouting for suitable branches at the edge of the clearing. “Why don’t you start setting up the tent,” he added.

Stopping for a moment to observe his wife, he saw that she was standing by her horse Bejezuz in the nearly foot high grass of the clearing, arms clasped over her breasts as she shifted back and forth from foot to foot, as if this would ward off the growing chill of the afternoon. The weather had turned, and the dark clouds on the horizon told of the coming rain.

He had to smile at the antics of his wife because she was actually dressed quite warmly as usual. She wore a pale blue cloak of soft leather, well oiled and trimmed in white fox fur with matching gloves. The hood of her cloak was pulled up over her head, leaving little of her face exposed. In addition to cloak and gloves she also wore knee high boots of soft calf skin (also fur lined), and her heavy woolen dress was long sleeved with a high neck line. Cold indeed! But he hurriedly gathered up the firewood for the night and soon was listening to his wife’s contented sighs as she sat on the edge of a log and warmed her hands over the crackling flames.

With her hood pulled back, Galaen found himself once again admiring Tasia’s startling beauty. Having seen only eighteen summers, she had burst into womanhood with such a vengeance that it still took his breath away to look at her. He loved every curve of her figure and the piercing gaze of her sky blue eyes. Her hair shone like golden fire in the dance of the campfire’s flames, and it reminded him of the pure living gold the Alkims called the azoth.

They had just finished a well prepared dinner and were sipping on tea as twilight lengthened the shadows of the nearby trees and the crickets began to sing in earnest. It was a little early in the season for the more aggressive flying insects, and so they were spared that bother as they enjoyed each other’s company in the light of the fire.

“Something is bothering you husband, for you are distant this night as you have been all day,” spoke Tasia quietly as she nudged his foot with hers.

Startled out of his thoughts, Galaen smiled sheepishly and acknowledged his wife’s observations by reaching for her hand and nodding his head. “I have been thinking of Tralfar,” he answered slowly. “The docks” he added, at her questioning look.

She nodded as the light of understanding touched her eyes. “You are speaking of that company of dwarves I take it? I thought them an ill-looking band all dressed in black as they were, and I was glad they were taking the boat to Eriny and we would not have to share the road with them. I gather you have had dealings with them before?”

“Not exactly, but I know who they are. There was one among them that should not have been there. He should not be alive at all, and it is an ill-omen to see him walking alive under the sun.”

“Well they have gone their way and we have gone ours,” replied Tasia in a dismissive tone. She then smiled mischievously and added, “this is supposed to be a time of happiness for us and I won’t let it be spoiled by unpleasant encounters. And I know just the thing to cheer you up.”

Galaen looked up expectantly at that, all thoughts about the dwarves momentarily forgotten. His look brought color to his wife’s cheeks.

“No, not that,” she said hastily as she shook her head, though the look in her eyes spoke of promises to come. She then rose quickly and went in to their tent, returning momentarily with her guitar.

Sitting once more next to her husband, she began tuning the strings and at the sound Galaen’s thoughts turned to happier things. His wife’s talent for music was legendary in their home city of Kaladon, and he always felt a special thrill when he had her all to himself. Crystasia Leah Dornay had the voice of an angel, not to mention the skill to play many instruments. They called her the Fair Harper of Kaladon, and she was much sought after to perform.

She finished her tuning and began to strum chords that Galaen was not familiar with. He leaned back in anticipation, for he knew that this would be a new song. The chords were somber though, but the thought of her playing surely cheered him up just as she had foretold. As the music began to fill the little clearing, Tasia began to sing:

“Wise men walk in weariness
from the weight in their hearts,
while good men strive in desperateness
to find their way in the dark.
Time is life, and time is love
or the chance to believe,
and if by chance that is not enough
then we still have our dreams.
Men rise up and then they fall
and here we are once again,
though misfortune assail us and sadness part us
still I’m glad we were friends.
Wise men wait on prophecy
while the minstrels sing songs,
wizards weave spells like tapestries
and their magik is strong.
Time is life, and time is love
or the chance to believe,
and if by chance that is not enough
we will still have our dreams.
What will become of …”

At that moment she stopped, for there was a sound from above them like the rushing of wind and what sounded like the flapping of wings. Galaen stood up and looked about, muttering something about getting his sword. Something was nagging at him: it was quiet in the clearing, too quiet.

“Be still husband,” chided his wife. “It is but a large bat, or perhaps a bird startled out of the forest. It’s late but something could have disturbed it. Come, let me finish my song for you, I’ve been working on it for months now.”

Taking one more look around, Galaen put aside his misgiv-ings and sat down again as Tasia began once more to strum her guitar. Suddenly her eyes went wide and she snapped a string. Slowly, with a look of horror on her face Tasia stood as her guitar fell to the ground in a jangle of sound. At that moment the horses broke free and bolted into the woods with much neighing and snorting.

“Turn around, but turn slowly,” said Tasia in a strangled whisper.

Galaen turned around and what he saw filled him with des-pair. He knew now why the clearing had gone so quiet and he cursed himself for not following his instincts. Any chance of getting to his sword that was in the tent was gone now. Two daggers appeared suddenly in his hands, even though he knew they would be next to useless.

Not far from them stood a dragon, a very large dragon. From its head to the end of its tail Galaen estimated this one was over forty feet long. It sat on its haunches on the far side of the clearing nibbling on one of its front claws and eyeing them with a curious look. Galaen wasn’t sure if it meant to attack them, for it seemed to be acting strangely. Feeling Tasia trembling violently behind him, he slowly began taking small steps backwards, forcing his wife to move with him.

“I would not do that if I were you,” spoke the dragon in a musical, lilting voice. “I only have a limited range if you know what I mean, and if you move any further away I might be forced to do something nasty.”

Before Galaen could take another step backwards, the dragon had gone down on all fours and in a flash closed the distance between them until they were no more than a few horse lengths apart. From this close up Galaen could clearly see the dragon’s colors. Its scales were a sparkling contrast of light and dark blue with shades of red and orange around its eyes and mouth, while its eyes were bright yellow, perhaps reflecting the light of the fire. It had long wicked-looking claws on its front and hind legs, and a twin set of horns above each eye that stood out prominently because of their bleached white hue. The dragon’s teeth were also very white, many, and large.

If we cannot move out of your range Sir Dragon, what would you have us do?” asked Galaen, trying to keep his voice calm.

“If it is dinner you want, then take me, but please spare my wife, she is little more than a hatchling and would be no more than just a mouthful to such as you.”

The dragon showed its teeth at Galaen’s remarks and he thought it looked like a smile; but its eyes has also turned bright red, and that did not bode well with him.

“Do not call me that again, little man, or I will become very angry,” said the dragon, its voice changing now to a deep rumble. It then thrust its head forward until it was no more than arm’s length from Galaen. It snorted loudly, and two tendrils of smoke rose from its nostrils. Tasia moaned with fear and took an involuntary step backwards.

Galaen held his ground, even though the acrid smell of the dragon’s breath made his eyes water. He felt the urge to let go of his dinner, for such was the terror that overcame him at the menacing closeness of the creature who now appeared to be eyeing them over with a hungry look. Mostly though, he feared for his wife, and that he would be helpless to stop whatever this dragon had planned for them.

The dragon then moved its head back and tilted it a bit, and Galaen thought that maybe he had surprised it by holding his ground.

“I would strike a bargain with you, brave little man,” spoke the dragon suddenly as it sat up and clasped its front claws together. “I will take your woman with me while you do … nothing.” Again the dragon flashed its teeth.

That “smile” reminded Galaen of something, but the memory slid away from him as the thought of what the dragon had just said sunk in. If there was a way out of this he did not know it, but he began to be very afraid of this creature’s coy smugness. He was about to do something very foolish when he felt his wife’s hand on his shoulder.

“A large bat indeed,” she muttered for him alone to hear. Then she stepped forward and looked the dragon in the eyes. There were tales about men doing this, of how they could become enthralled to the dragon or some such thing, but Galaen did not put much stock in the tales. Dragons were magikal all right and had powers both subtle and obvious, else how could they talk as this one did? It was also said that certain magikal spells did not work on them and a thousand other things. But one thing stood out above all others: that dragons were dangerous creatures and Galaen wasn’t sure he liked what he thought his wife was about to do.

“My but you are a beautiful dragon,” gushed his wife sud-denly, and Galaen had a hard time keeping his mouth from drop-ping open. Being so close to the creature had to be terrifying her, but you wouldn’t know it from the look she was giving it. The fact that he had half expected this did nothing to help him hide the astonishment on his face, but the dragon was not watching him, it had all its attention focused on his wife.

“Ah, perceptive as well as talented,” spoke the dragon once again in that lilting voice. Galaen noticed that its eyes had turned bright yellow once more, and hoped that his wife was on the right track after all.

“Oh, you must have heard my song,” breathed his wife in that same throaty voice. “Is that what caught your attention? Well, there is no need to take me anywhere, I will be glad to sing it again just for you. Would that please you?”

The dragon pulled up its head sharply and if Galaen was any judge, he would bet that it did so in astonishment. He almost began to hope that his wife had gotten them out of a nasty predicament when the dragon began to laugh. It actually sounded more like the chuckling he had heard on occasion in taverns where men were on a streak with dice, or about to lay down a winning hand in cards and take the jackpot. It was an arrogant sound and Galaen knew his wife had made a serious mistake.

“Wait Tasia…” he began, but she cut him off with a motion of her hand and a shushing sound. “Please husband let us ladies talk for a moment.” She then took two steps towards the dragon, and with hands planted on hips addressed her again.

“If I sing for you, will you let us go?”

This seemed more than the dragon could take, and she began another fierce round of chuckling, and to Galaen’s mortification even went so far as to roll her eyes back. Getting control of herself the dragon turned her gaze back to Galaen.

“She knows, but she doesn’t know, does she?” and began to chuckle again.

Tasia turned around to face her husband with her eyebrows raised, and he met her look with quiet desperation as he began shaking his head back and forth. Realization dawned on her face and then he saw it harden with resolve. Then it was done.

As Galaen rushed at the dragon with his drawn daggers, his wife was already way ahead of him.

“Then take me, Bitch!” screamed his wife as the dragon leaped skyward and scooped up his wife in her front claws as Galaen desperately watched in helpless frustration. As he locked gazes with his beloved struggling but held tight in the dragon’s claws, the last thing he heard was his wife screaming his name, and then they were gone.

Galaen stood in the empty clearing holding his useless daggers looking up at the empty sky, and as the realization of what had happened fully washed over him he fell to his knees, and with a strangled cry drove both daggers into the ground as tears of fear and rage began to flow. He did not move from that spot for a very long time.
Riding on a speeding train; trapped inside a revolving door;
Lost in the riddle of a quatrain; Stuck in an elevator between floors.
One focal point in a random world can change your direction:
One step where events converge may alter your perception.
_Dr. Shades
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Re: Shadow of the Dragon

Post by _Dr. Shades »

Have you ever played Dungeons & Dragons? You could set it in your world and have a great time with it.
"Finally, for your rather strange idea that miracles are somehow linked to the amount of gay sexual gratification that is taking place would require that primitive Christianity was launched by gay sex, would it not?"

--Louis Midgley
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Re: Shadow of the Dragon

Post by _grindael »

A long time ago, Shades. I'm a child of the Sixties and Seventies. That's really all we had back then. That and books like the Lord of the Rings, The Shanarra Chronicles, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and lots of others that I could mention. I got this whole idea in 1986, and when I did the backstory I actually had a period of time in my world that I called the Tec Wars. Imagine my chagrin when William Shatner came out with a series of comics and books and even movies about that. These books were never to be targeted at adults like Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), that kind of writing is beyond me, I think, I wanted these to be read by kids. (I was 10 years old when I picked up Lord of the Rings). I loved the Hobbit and so that is the model (sort of) for my dragons, except I have friendly ones in my world. Not sure if Tolkein ever had any friendly dragons. Don't think so. But Grindael is not one of those. She is more like Smaug.
Riding on a speeding train; trapped inside a revolving door;
Lost in the riddle of a quatrain; Stuck in an elevator between floors.
One focal point in a random world can change your direction:
One step where events converge may alter your perception.
Posts: 6791
Joined: Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:15 am

Re: Shadow of the Dragon

Post by _grindael »

Chapter Two

Tarna’s Ferry

Galaen had been riding hard down the North Vineyard Road for most of the day. It was his second day of rain soaked apprehension, but today the weather had eased up slightly, although the change in the weather did little to lighten his mood. The rain had been heavy at times which had slowed him down, and with each delay it brought home the painful reminder of what it could mean if he did not reach Eriny in time.

Not bothering to camp for the night in the little clearing had been his first decision. After a time of madness he had hurriedly gathered up what he intended to take with him, and as he did so, it became harder and harder for him to keep his growing anger in check and think clearly as he packed up his wife’s belongings while imagining her in the clutches of that vile creature. Their tent was waterproof, so he had wrapped up what he could not take with him and had buried the package where he could find it later.

His big bay Mischief had not gone far, for he was well trained. But her horse Bejezuz had run off, or he would have been able to tie up their belongings to his wife’s horse. He had found the feisty mare on the road some miles from the clearing, played out from running hard and fast from the close proximity of the dragon. Bejezuz was just heading home, for the Dornay lands were vast and bordered the North Vineyard Road where he had found the skittish horse.

A mile or so along the road after he found Bejezuz he had come upon a Station, where a watchful soldier had identified himself as one Corporal Endin Dagget, and his sleeping companion as Private Marco Harrow. A sympathetic Dagget had taken Bejezuz off his hands, promising to see the horse safely returned to the Dornay Villa.

It had occurred to Galaen to take both horses with him, and switch up, perhaps making better time, but he had chosen to take only Mischief. His stallion was pure bred and a trained war horse, and he felt confident that Mischief could get him where he needed to go in good time. Pressing on, he had pushed the stallion as fast as he dared through the rainy night and he felt good about their progress in spite of the weather.

The next morning was gray and overcast with periods of drizzle that kept him wet and miserable for most of the day. Then the rains had let up and late afternoon found him passing another Station and taking a northwest turn onto a smaller road that the soldiers informed him would lead to Tarna’s Ferry. He had come over fifty miles since the night of the attack, and breathed a sigh of relief when at last he came within sight of the ferry that would take him across the Merika River.

Coming out of the trees and into a clearing, he caught sight of a swath of the great river before him. Close to the water now, he spied a small brick building built on rocky ground near its bank, where he also spied a large dock that gave easy access to the ferry itself.

Inside that little structure sat the ferryman, who rose at his approach and was waiting outside as Galaen approached.

Dismounting, Galaen thrust forth his hand and said, “Galaen Brandis. I need passage across the river.”

“Merime Tarna,” replied the ferryman as he took Galaen’s outstretched hand. “The fare is a silver” he added, eyeing Galaen and his horse.

Merime Tarna was a squat man, with bushy black hair, powerful arms and a “no nonsense” attitude that at once made you feel comfortable in the knowledge that he would get you to where you wanted safely and in good speed.

“The river is slow here and relatively easy to cross,” said the ferryman as he noticed Galaen eyeing the far shore. “It’s only about a quarter mile wide, so it won’t take long to get to the other side.”

Galaen handed the ferryman a silver, who smiled widely and quickly stowed it safely in a pouch tied to his belt. Tarna then nodded in gratitude at his passenger and said with a softer voice,

“You look as though you have travelled far and could use a little nourishment. It is almost time for dinner and my house is just a short ride from here. I’m sure the wife would not mind adding another plate to the dinner table.”

Galaen shook his head but smiled at the generosity of the offer. “I appreciate the hospitality, but I have some urgent business in Eriny.”

Tarna nodded and said, “Well, if you’ll follow me down to the dock, then we can get on board and get started.”

Galaen nodded at the ferryman and followed him down to the dock. As they boarded the ferry Galaen noticed that the afternoon sun had lengthened the shadows of the trees on the other side of the river, and even with his sharp eyes he could not see the far shore, which was obscured by a slight fog that drifted just above the waterline.

“How far to Eriny,” asked Galaen.

“About a mile and a half from the river,” grunted Tarna as he pushed off with a long pole.

“The last ship from Tralfar, when did it pass this way?”

Tarna scratched his head. “They make runs twice a week, and the last ship passed oh, two days ago. There’s another due to come through tomorrow.”

Galaen expected this answer, but his stomach still clenched in frustration. “Do they stop in Eriny, before heading up to Nargoth?”

“As far as I know.”

Galaen nodded but said nothing more. On the far bank he thanked Tarna for his services and left the ferryman. Eriny was not far off, and he was now full of hope that he would find what he was looking for there. Maybe they hadn’t moved on yet. Maybe.
Last edited by Guest on Mon Jul 25, 2016 11:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Shadow of the Dragon

Post by _grindael »

Chapter Three


Kyle Dobannion had a headache, and normally that did not bother him. At times the stress from his chosen profession took its toll on him. Usually he would drink a concoction his lovely wife made for him (he thought it only spiced Amorlek Red and willow bark but never thought to ask) and he would be in fine shape. But this was not a normal day.

He had come to Eriny almost twenty years ago, after spending most of his younger years in the Goth, the great canyons to the west carved out of the rock by the Merika River. There was gold to be found there, and Kyle and his partner had been a couple of the lucky ones. Finding a rich vein, they both had cashed in and gotten out. Beeman had gone back to Argos, and started an export business that had made him a filthy rich man. He was now the head of some Trade Guild and an adviser to Ulrik himself. But Kyle Dobannion was no advisor to Emperors, oh no. Kyle Dobannion had come here. And he couldn’t be happier. On most days.

He had actually been only passing through, and had chosen this very inn to stay for the night. He had walked in the door and set eyes upon a comely serving girl named Dorissa, and as soon at that happened it was all over for Kyle Dobannion. Making the former proprietor an offer he couldn’t refuse, he had bought the inn and married Dorissa.

They had renamed it the Peach Tree Inn which had quickly gotten the reputation of having the best wines, the best food and ale, and the cleanest rooms in the city. His wife’s specialty was peach cobbler, but they also sold ale, wines and ciders.

But days like today were enough to try any man’s patience and as Beeman used to say ‘It is a happy man who can weave his days with no trouble upon the loom.’ And the Guardians only knew how much Kyle Dobannion tried to live by those words. Wise words they were and easy for a man to fulfill in his life when not dealing with a dwarf. Even that would not be so bad, but here he was with twenty on his hands. Hence, the headache. He would love to sit down and drink down one of his wife’s tonics, but he didn’t have time for that right now. Maybe later. He’d been telling himself that since their company had arrived yesterday morning.

Luckily the inn was not at capacity, and he was able to shift some of his guests around to accommodate the dwarves. Of course they wanted adjoining rooms, and of course they wanted certain wines and ale and certain foods, and of course they wanted service, service, and more service. Still, they had paid in advance with Empire gold which made all the trouble a touch easier to bear. But Maylynda wouldn’t be in until later today, and Makeeba was his slowest serving girl. That left his wife in the kitchen alone, and Kyle on the floor with Makeeba.

With the noontime meal behind them, it gave Kyle a little more time to contemplate his strange group of guests. Gold pays for almost any quirks folks may have, but these dwarves were in a class all their own.

The first thing he had noticed about them when they came into the inn was that they were all dressed in black. Most of the dwarves Kyle had known were colorful folk, but this was as strange a thing as he had ever seen.

They had walked in and split into two groups - a small group of five who approached the innkeeper - while the remainder had gone into the common room to find tables.

“I am Malok Ironfist,” said the oldest looking one of the five gruffly. He had hard looking, piercing blue eyes that peered out at the innkeeper from beneath a hooded tunic, and a long forked silver beard tucked into the tooled belt around his waist, which completed the picture. “And these are my cousins” he continued, pointing at the rest of the dwarves one by one.

“This is Isganur,” he said nodding at a very young-looking, easy going dwarf who bowed and smiled at the innkeeper. What made him so young-looking was that this dwarf had no beard, just a bit of fuzz on his upper lips and along his jaw line.

“At your service,” quipped the youthful looking dwarf with a happy smile. Malok gave him a stern glance which looked like it fazed the young dwarf not at all.

“And this is Algrin and Bastur,” he finished, pointing at two dwarves that looked more like brothers than cousins, both with green eyes and rich dark brown beards.
“My pleasure,” said the innkeeper with a nod of his head.

The last dwarf of the group Malok did not introduce, and Kyle suspected that this was the real leader, for he carried himself in a watchful way, keeping an eye on not only the door behind them, but on the innkeeper as well. It was an old tactic, and spoke volumes about him. But he looked like a leader. His hair was dark, dark black as were his eyes, which took in the innkeeper in one quick glance and just as easily dismissed him.

He wore a leather armband from the wrist to almost the elbow of his left arm, along with a black glove. He wore no glove on the right hand. As curious as this was, his very presence made the innkeeper feel uneasy. He had a look about him that Kyle knew well from having dealt with many types of folk over the years: things happened around characters like him. Folk like this dwarf wove events around themselves, and usually left behind in their wake trouble and calamity. Kyle knew it as sure as he knew his own name. The strangest thing of all was that this dwarf carried not a weapon that Kyle could see. That didn’t mean he might not have a knife or two hidden about his person. But this seemed a bit peculiar, especially since the rest of the dwarves in this company were fairly bristling with weapons of all sorts.

And all he did was just stand there, fingering something underneath his tunic hanging from a golden chain around his neck. It was all very odd, but then gold had changed hands (and with it went most of the innkeeper’s misgivings) and the task of making his guests comfortable began.

As the common room began to swell with numbers, so did the questions about the strange company of dwarves. About half their number had gone to their rooms after the noontime meal, but the others had chosen to stay in the common room and keep Maykeeba hopping as they downed copious amounts of ale and sang their songs.

Then Maylynda had come in and Kyle was able to tend bar and field questions about his guests as best he could. As his wife and Maylynda prepared for dinner, he had thought again about that tonic for his headache, but in the rush of getting the company of dwarves settled in for the night, had put it off again.

The next morning, as the innkeeper had just made himself comfortable behind the bar, up walks the young dwarf Isganur. He had deep green eyes, and Kyle had always heard the expression ‘twinkling’ eyes, but until today he had not seen it. And then there was the beard, or lack of one that really made him unique. He was dressed in black like the others but with one exception: he wore a heavy gold chain around his neck, with what looked to be a little crystal chair attached to it which sparkled brightly when he moved. Funny he had not noticed it yesterday.

“Mr. Isganur,” asked the innkeeper just as soon at the young-looking dwarf arrived at the bar, “what can I do for you my lad?”

“Call me Izzy,” replied the young dwarf with that ‘twinkle’ in his eye. “Isganur is so stuffy, don’t you think?”

“Sure Izzy,” answered the innkeeper.

“See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” asked the dwarf with a smile. “But what you can do for me is just help with a little information.”

“Sure, I can do that,” said the innkeeper in an easy manner.

“Wonderful!” exclaimed the dwarf with a small clap of his hands. “And since we will be talking for a little while, how about a couple of beers for the both of us?” he added with equal enthusiasm, while sliding a piece of gold across the bar.

Now there were two things dear to Kyle’s heart. One was being tipped generously, and the other was someone buying him a drink. But this tip was far too generous, and alarm bells started going off in his head. It was one thing to accept a generous tip, but Kyle would not be bought by any man - or dwarf as it were. What troubled him was that this was probably the smoothest slide he had ever seen.

His misgivings beginning to return, Kyle put his hand over the gold piece to slide it back and offer a gracious excuse for not taking it, (for after all, they really had paid him quite generously already) but to his surprise Izzy put his hand over the innkeepers. There was not a trace of a smile on his face as the dwarf looked him in the eyes.

“Don’t misunderstand me, Kyle Dobannion. If you could be bought for a piece of gold so easily, we would not be staying here at this inn. I only want a fair trade of information as I said before, at your discretion. And of course, the beers. I believe you’ve earned the tip today; it’s not many could house this rabble in such a smooth, professional manner no matter how much is paid.”

Kyle poured the beer and took the gold, all the while thinking that he had greatly underestimated this young dwarf. Damn but he was personable. Probably could talk the fleas off of a dog.

“I have heard,” spoke the dwarf in a low voice, “that you spent some time in the Goth.”

“Yes,” answered the innkeeper, knowing that it was common knowledge. “It’s how I made my fortune, but that was more than twenty years ago.”

“Fair enough,” said the dwarf. “What I want to know is if you saw any evidence of dragon holes there?”

“Dragons? You are looking for dragons in the Goth?”

“Exactly,” agreed the dwarf with a smile and a nod of his head.

And he thought these dwarves were strange before. “Well, we heard rumors that dragons were sighted in the mountains west of the Goth, but they were old stories. But I personally never saw any evidence or heard anyone actually say that they saw one.”

Izzy frowned slightly, and looked disappointed.

“But there are lots of dragons to the east, in Lorn,” added the innkeeper. “If hunting dragons is really what you want to do,” he added.

Izzy smiled again, and Kyle did not like this smile. There was a hard edge to it and it did not reach his eyes. Then the dwarf reached beneath his shirt and pulled out a leather cord which made Kyle’s’ eyes go wide in surprise when he saw what was attached to it. Neatly threaded to the cord were four large dragon teeth (they couldn’t be anything else). They still looked sharp.

“You see, we have already been to Lorn,” replied the dwarf as he deposited the teeth beneath his shirt once more. “We have reason to believe that the dragon we seek may be in the Goth someplace. Has any word come to you about recent sightings in that area?”

“To be honest, Mr. Izzy, I was in the Goth long ago, and though I do have some friends that go prospecting up that way once in a while, none have relayed any stories about dragons in that area. Like I said, the stuff I heard was old, even when I heard it.”

Izzy looked even more disappointed. “I told him it was a long shot …” he murmured under his breath.

“I’m sorry Mr. Izzy, what did you say?”

“I said, just call me Izzy.” And with that the young dwarf drained his glass and with a small salute mouthed the word ‘later’ to the innkeeper and walked casually back to his friends.

After the dwarf left, Kyle Dobannion, owner of the Peach Tree Inn, drained his glass and poured himself another. His headache was gone. He had forgotten all about it.
Riding on a speeding train; trapped inside a revolving door;
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Re: Shadow of the Dragon

Post by _grindael »

Chapter Four


As Isganur of the Ironfist clan, (formerly of the grand city of Grondimmon), accomplished physician and advisor to his royal cousin Eluria strolled back to his friends, he looked calm and almost care free to any who observed him but on the inside he was seething.

Izzy was troubled, and was wondering how best to put it to Malok that he was wrong about this little expedition he had planned. Even though he had objected to it from the start, Izzy had still been overruled. What he had learned from the innkeeper today had just confirmed that they were wasting their time here. They had been hunting her in Lorn for over a year now and Izzy knew most of their company had been itching to get away. For the break he was grateful (a bed and a little ale went a long way) but he intended on returning to Lorn, for he was sure it would just be a matter of time until they tracked her down.

But Malok had been frustrated by the hunt and by losing Triel and Baruk; and Eluria deferred to him too often to suit Izzy. But Malok had Eluria’s ear, and had talked him into abandoning their search in Lorn.

As he made his way back to the company in the common room, he was still trying to think of how best to put it to Malok that he had been wrong. Not that Izzy didn’t relish doing so, it was just that Malok wouldn’t take it well. He was always so grumpy.

“Well lads,” said Izzy as he sat down at one of the two long tables the dwarves had pushed together in a corner of the common room, “It looks as if I was right after all.”

“About what,” replied Bayloc, a big dwarf with bright red hair and a bushy beard that still had a froth of beer around his mouth.

“What do you think it’s about?” piped in Algrin, who was sitting next to Bayloc. They were cousins and fiercely competitive. He ribbed Baloc in the side and then answered his own question. “About the Goth, of course.”

“I told you we wouldn’t be going there,” said Moralee. He was an unusually quiet dwarf, and so Izzy raised his eyebrows at his comment and smiled. He wasn’t the only one who found Malok a little hard to endure.

“So what are you planning on telling old Ironhead,” Moralee asked in a low tone.

“Nothing but the truth, nothing but the truth,” replied Izzy, smiling once again.

As Izzy took a sip of the beer Bayloc had just poured him, Moralee caught his eye and nodded towards the bar.

Turning around, Izzy immediately saw what Moralee had signaled him about. Standing at the bar and talking to Dobannion was a very young man, in a travel stained gray cloak with wavy brown hair that just brushed his shoulders. The right side of his cloak was thrown back and his hand was resting on the pommel of a long sword, the hilt of which looked to be made of gold. Izzy also noticed a large round red stone which sparkled from the pommel of the sword when the man moved his hand to take the beer that Dobannion had just poured for him. Even from this distance Izzy was impressed with the workmanship of the hilt, and though he didn’t know if he would be foolish enough to walk around with a gold-hilted sword; he thought that the man must know how to use it.

The young man had a few words with the innkeeper and turned towards the dwarves. With a determined stride, he made his way over to their corner of the common room.

As the man approached, Izzy noted that he had pale blue eyes, and when he looked at him they added years to that young-looking face. What he also noted about those eyes was that they looked troubled. Without a preamble the man put down his glass and simply said, “I’m looking for a dwarf.”

Izzy couldn’t resist. Giving a tug at his chin he replied, “Well, I guess you’re in luck my man, here sit nine to choose from.”

The man smiled, and that changed Izzy’s opinion about him a little.

“I need you to listen carefully,” said the man earnestly. “I’m pressed for time, and even though I would like to speak to all of you at length, I have little of it to bandy words, so I will come to the point.”

“Which is?” growled Bayloc, slamming his glass on the table and spraying ale every which way while glaring at the man standing in front of them.

The man actually smiled again, and Izzy’s opinion of him went up another notch.

“Grindael,” replied the man quietly.

There was a moment of silence at the table and then everyone except Izzy and Moralee began to talk at once. The young man just stood there with his arms crossed in front of him watching the byplay with a slight smile on his face.

Finally Bayloc slammed his mug down on the table again, which shattered and sent ale and shards of glass flying. “Silence,” he roared so loudly that heads turned at his outburst. But when they saw the look on the feisty dwarf’s face all hurriedly looked away. Even Dobannion looked as if here were ready to come over and see what all the commotion was about.

Izzy stood up and looked at the man, smiling easily. “I’ll say this my man, you do have a flair for the dramatic.” He bowed politely, and added, “I am Isganur of the Ironfist Clan.” The young man looked at him closely and Izzy could have sworn he saw recognition in the man’s eyes. I must be mistaken, thought the dwarf.

Izzy then nodded and with a sweep of his arm quickly named his companions around the table. “This loud excuse for a dwarf is Bayloc, and next to him is Algrin both of the Battleaxe Clan. Then we have Alvardo and Jerrica of the Stonehands, and this is Moralee and Wyrgon also of the Battleaxes. These last two are brothers from the Hammer Clan: Winglo and Finglo.”

Izzy then took a look around, and when his gaze fell on Dobannion, gave him a smile of reassurance, for he was still eyeing them all with some concern.

“Before we call any more attention to ourselves, why don’t you have a seat, and we can chat,” said the dwarf as he brushed glass shards off an empty chair and motioned for the man to sit down.

The young man took the proffered seat and quickly downed a couple of large swallows of ale. Setting down his mug carefully he said, “My name is Galaen Brandis, and I think you all know who I want to talk to.”

Izzy quickly nodded at Moralee, who rose and left the common room.

“What makes you think he will even see you, Galaen?” he asked.

“He’ll see me,” shot back Galaen, a little annoyed at the dwarf’s easy going manner. “If he ever wants to find that dragon,” he added frowning slightly.

“Perhaps,” replied the dwarf. As he studied the man before him, Izzy noticed he had obviously been riding hard through the recent rains to get here. Some need was pressing this Galaen Brandis, else why would he speak of being out of time? The man looked troubled though, and something itched at the back of Izzy’s brain, something about him. Could it be that flicker of recognition he thought he had seen in his eyes? Try as he might, he just couldn’t pin it down. It would come to him though, it always did.

In the meantime, he hoped Moralee would be able to convince Eluria to see Galaen. There was definitely something about him that warranted further investigation. He seemed to carry about him some undercurrent of power, and perhaps it had something to do with the sword the man so nonchalantly carried with him. The workmanship was exquisite, and it looked to be of dwarven make. But Izzy only knew of one golden sword ever carried by a dwarf, and that sword was not made by any dwarf. The last time he had seen that particular sword was more than five years ago, and … it just couldn’t be, this man was surely too young to be the one who made that sword. But maybe he was kin to the one who made it, and if that were true, then maybe this man really did know something about that accursed dragon. At any rate it was worth looking into, for all their efforts at finding Grindael had turned up nothing, and …

Izzy’s thoughts were interrupted by the return of Moralee, who approached with a quick step and whispered something into Izzy’s ear.

The young dwarf smiled and looked at the man sitting next to him. “He will see you upstairs. If you will follow me?”

They quickly made their way up to the second floor of the inn, with Galaen following Izzy and Moralee trailing behind them. Izzy rapped twice on a door with ‘Suite Two’ carved into it. Then Izzy turned around and put up his hand, almost touching Galaen’s chest.

“The sword please,” was all he said. “And if you don’t mind, Moralee will have to search you for any weapons.”

Galaen unbuckled the sword and held it out to Izzy. The dwarf made to take it, but Galaen stepped back, and Moralee’s hand went to the short sword belted around his waist. Izzy locked gazes with his fellow dwarf, and Moralee relaxed.

“I will give you the sword if you answer a question and make a promise,” said Galaen.

Intrigued, the dwarf nodded his head.

“Are you of honorable intentions?” asked the man, “because if you are not the sword will know it, and I would not want anything nasty to happen to you.”

Startled, the dwarf could only nod his head. Then regaining his composure asked, “and the promise?”

“That only you handle this sword.”

“Agreed,” said the dwarf with some reluctance. The only folk he knew who asked such questions were sorcerers, and he was beginning to have a bad feeling about this. But the look in the man’s eyes belied any malice, and Izzy reached forth his hands and took the sword.

As he grasped the sword in his hands he was expecting something, but it felt only like any other sword. He relaxed, and smiled at the man, thinking it was all a good joke.

Then Galaen began to remove other weapons from about his person, and Izzy was once more intrigued. When he rapped three times on the door to the suite again, Moralee held four daggers, a miniature crossbow, and five small quarrels in his hands. Even after that he still felt the man was honorable, but it did not comfort the disquiet he felt about him for he still sensed some kind of power within the man. But if he were any judge of character at all, he had little doubt that Galaen would act fairly in the meeting to come.

The door finally opened and Malok peeked his head out. Izzy gave him the sign, and he opened the door to admit the trio.

Izzy pushed his way inside the room, followed by Galaen and Moralee. The room was spacious, with a large canopied bed and all the accoutrements that empire gold could buy. At a large table in the corner of the room sat Eluria, with Bastur on left and Amok on his right. To the right of the table was a door that Izzy knew opened to the room adjoining this one, which housed more of their company. As he stepped into the room, Eluria motioned for him to have a seat at the table, and Izzy gestured to an empty chair to the right of Amok for Galaen to sit in. Izzy leaned the man’s sword against the wall by the door and sat down next to Galaen, while Malok who had been standing by the door, took the chair to the right of Izzy. Izzy signaled to Moralee who piled Galaen’s weapons on a small table near the sword then stood by the door with a hand on his short sword.

As Izzy watched in curious silence, Galaen and Eluria eyed each other across the table. Eluria’s dark eyes were full of suspicion while Galaen’s eyes looked as if they held old memories, and most surprising to Izzy: loathing. Looking at Galaen, Izzy could have sworn that he had met Eluria before. It was that spark of recognition in his eyes, that same recognition he saw when Galaen first looked at him.

“I am told that you have information about a certain worm that may be useful to me,” said Eluria in his deep throaty voice.

“I have more than that,” answered Galaen. “Much more than that. I can find Grindael for you, and give you the means to get back what once was taken from you.”

“Let us for the sake of argument accept the fact that you can find this worm. What I wish to know is what motivates you to do so.”

As Izzy watched Galaen, he knew everyone in the room was waiting for the answer to that question. Why was Galaen here? And as he observed him, what Izzy saw was sadness and despera-tion, and he was not expecting either of those emotions. It sobered him and he found himself waiting with bated breath for the answer to Eluria’s question.

“Just like you Eluria, Grindael has taken something from me that I wish returned,” answered Galaen.

“And what might that be?” asked Malok roughly.

“Grindael has taken my wife,” answered Galaen through clenched teeth. “And I shall have her back,” he added softly.

It then came to Izzy where he had seen Galaen before, and he derided himself for not remembering. The docks at Tralfar! That was where he had seen him. They were taking the ferry across the Merika as the dwarves waited for the ship to Eriny. With him was the young blonde haired woman who must be his wife. But why would Grindael take his wife, and how could this man find the dragon? What would compel him to come here and seek out Eluria? He was about to ask this question but Eluria spoke first.

“Compelling as your story is about this worm taking your wife; it still leaves many questions unanswered as to why you would seek me out to help you.”

“You know why!” shouted Galaen in anger, “although you mock me with innuendos and feigned ignorance.”

Malok then stood up and slammed his fist down hard upon the table. “Enough of this!” he shouted back at Galaen. “I have heard too much insolence from the lips of this man. This meeting is over! If you will permit me Lord, I shall remove him from your sight and …”

Eluria raised his hand, cutting off Malok with his gesture. “I am not finished Malok, although I thank you for your concern. And I do not mock you Galaen; I wish only to have a reasonable explanation as to why you are here.”

“Fair enough,” replied Galaen as he regained his self control. “I am here because I have an affinity for stones. Yes Eluria, for stones. You see, I know what Grindael once upon a time took from you and I know how to find it. I am here because I wish to strike a bargain.”

Izzy closed his eyes and took measured breaths. If what Galaen said was true, then they had the means to put an end to this endless quest. But how could Galaen find what even Eluria had not the power to discover? How could he even know? That flash of recognition went deeper than Tralfar, and … the sword! Yes! The sword! He must have been there, he must have seen…

“You were there!” shouted Izzy. “At Grondimmon! You had to be there! It is the only explanation. That sword, it is so much like the one made for Alon, but how could … it be you? You are so young … I don’t understand.”

Galaen smiled and Eluria frowned. “But you were there, how could you not understand?” asked Galaen.

“But you have an affinity for stones, you said?” repeated the young dwarf. “What … how do you know …”

“I felt the power in that stone when Eluria held it up over his butchered brother’s body” answered Galaen, his voice tight.

“You felt, you felt!” muttered Eluria, looking at Galaen closely now.

“I was dressed in dwarven mail and disguised and so you may not have noticed me; but you” said Galaen pointing at Izzy, “carried him off after she ripped off his arm.”

There was a startled murmur that went through the table of dwarves at Galaen’s remarks.

“So what if you were there,” asked Eluria in an even tone that conveyed nothing of the emotion running high at the table. “And so what if you saw this thing and what happened after?”

“The dreamstone is magical.” It does something, has some power you covet. And I would venture a guess it is some kind of peep stone.”

At Galaen’s remarks and his mention of the dreamstone, Eluria’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head. Then a sly look came over his face. “Many of my people know of the … stone. You could have learned about it from my brother. No telling what he imparted to that rabble at Kaladon. Too bad he did not just stay there. Then Grondimmon would have come into the glory it truly deserved.”

“Under you?” asked Galaen sarcastically.

“And those who believed in me,” snapped Eluria, ignoring Galaen’s sarcasm.

“And what exactly do they believe now?” asked Galaen.

“Enough to follow me,” growled Eluria. “Enough to know who I really am and just what I can do,” he added in a menacing voice.

“Even without the dreamstone, even without what you covet?” asked Galaen softly.

“They will follow where I lead,” snarled Eluria with self assurance, “and the dreamstone is not the extent of my powers although I will have it back.”

Izzy was stunned. He turned to look at Moralee who had that same baffled look on his face as the rest of the dwarves around the table. It was inconceivable that any man could know or have more power over the dreamstone than Eluria did, who had found the stone. If Izzy had heard him right, this man actually said that he could sense the stone. If he could then why couldn’t Eluria, who had found it? How could this man find what they had been looking for, for so long?

But Izzy knew (as did the rest of those seated at that table) that Eluria’s boast of power was no idle threat and as he watched, Eluria removed the glove from his right hand along with the armband that covered his right forearm.

“Are you then a wizard’s pupil, Galaen Brandis?” asked Eluria, suddenly nonchalant. “For if you are, and you made that accursed crystal sword for my brother, than you know what this is.”

Eluria then held up his right arm in front of the man, and as Galaen’s eyes widened at what was revealed to him; Izzy was just as stuck by the wonder of it now as he was the first time he saw it.

“It is gir, girghash” stuttered Galaen somewhat thickly, as if mesmerized by what he saw. “Your arm is made of fire crystal but that is …”

“Impossible?” interjected Malok in a mocking voice. He was smiling now, having an idea (as the rest of the dwarves in the room did) of what Eluria was about to do.

And as Izzy watched the disbelief play across Galaen’s face, he too was struck again by what plainly seemed impossible: a living arm made of fire crystal attached somehow to the living flesh and bone of Eluria’s severed arm.

But the crystal arm that Eluria held before Galaen was like no fire crystal ever seen before. For fire crystal (or girghash as the dwarves called it), was neither rock nor metal but had the properties of both. It was mined in veins running deep in the earth, and could be beaten like metal but had the nature of the finest diamonds when worked by those who had the skill and craftsmanship to do so. But girshash normally reflected the light, and when cut and beaten properly shined in brilliant colors of blue and red and white as diamonds did. Still, girghash was harder than diamonds.

What made them all stare in awe was that Eluria’s arm was black and seemed to draw in the light and reflect it in a way that bewildered the eyes; but there was no doubt of the skill or beauty of the craftsmanship of that crystal arm, or that it was a living part of the dwarf.

Then quick as a snake, Eluria grasped Galaen’s right wrist with his crystal hand as he looked coldly into the man’s eyes.

After that it seemed to Izzy as if a great contest of wills took place, and that slowly Galaen began to succumb to some power held by the black dwarf. Galaen then closed his eyes and grimaced as his left hand splayed open and then slowly closed into a tight fist.

For what seemed a long time to those seated around the table this contest of wills took place. Sweat beaded around Galaen’s brows and dripped down upon the table, as Eluria sat nonplussed eyeing the man across the table from him with something in his eyes Izzy had never seen before: doubt.

And then Galaen’s eyes flew open and in a loud voice that was almost a scream he cried, “I know you! And I know all your works! But neither you nor those who serve you will ever have me… or mine!” Then he spoke in a strangled whisper words that Izzy would never forget, or what happened after. “Taeli arathos e Thoth umbara l’azoth philosophe.”

Suddenly, the red stone set in the pommel of Galaen’s crystal sword blazed to life and drowned the room in brilliant red then white light as many of the dwarves cried out and shielded their eyes; while at the same time, with what looked to Izzy to be a great effort of will Galaen wrenched his hand from Eluria’s grasp.

Taken aback by the brilliant light from the stone, many of the dwarves in the room eyed the crystal sword in apprehension, and as they recovered from their shock put hands to their weapons as they one by one regarded Galaen with hostile looks. But Izzy remained calm, sensing no danger coming from the man. The only reaction from Eluria was the tightening of his lips, and as the moments passed the tension slowly eased out of the room which had turned so quiet that Izzy could hear the floorboards creak under Moralee as he returned to his post by the door. Whatever struggle had gone on between the dwarf and the young Alkim, it was now Galaen who looked coldly across the table at Eluria.

“I know what you tried to do black prince; but I am no wizard’s pupil, I am an Alkim in his fullness who has walked the Twenty-first Way and looked out from the heights of the Citadel of Thoth. I would have you know Eluria, son of Alon the Wise, that I am not so weak as you believe and that you - and the one who made that arm for you - have no power over me.”

Malok slammed his fists on the table and looked ready to explode, but quieted down as Eluria raised his hand. Then Eluria slowly pulled on his armband and replaced his glove, eyeing Galaen with a mixture of curiosity and impatience. If Eluria was upset by Galaen’s comments he showed it not at all. But Izzy knew him and knew how much self control he could exercise when he wanted to. The two locked gazes and then Galaen did something that changed Isganur the dwarf forever.

He smiled. And Izzy saw in that smile something sad and broken, something far beyond the desperation of the moment they had all just shared. It was a smile of love and compassion that (if you noticed) had the power to change your heart.

Izzy was taken away by that smile, and he knew that this man had more strength within himself than anyone here at this table could even guess. Something stirred in the dwarf then, something grand, and he knew some hard choices were coming. He also knew that his cousin was hopelessly outmatched by this man, and he had a feeling that Eluria knew this also.

As Izzy looked around the room and saw the look on his fellow dwarves faces, it made him look again at the man seated across from his cousin Eluria. Promises had been made, and now what had happened had thrown doubt on all those promises and everything Izzy believed in. What struck him though, was that this was all feelings, and he had never relied much on feelings. Galaen had touched him and pulled at his heart-strings, and he was beginning to understand what Alon had seen in the boy who was now a young man.

He also knew that Galaen wasn’t finished yet, and he was not sure if he wanted to hear the rest of what Galaen had to say. Time had closed in and now it would be a race against time. They were all being called now, but by what he did not know. Only time, and Galaen, could answer that.
Last edited by Guest on Tue Jul 26, 2016 1:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Shadow of the Dragon

Post by _grindael »

Chapter Five

Grindael was vexed. Perched on a high spur of the mountain that housed her lair, she waited impatiently for the coming of the man and the dwarves. It was the woman that had driven her from below. She would just as soon kill her and be done with it, but she was afraid the man would know. The dragon felt some link between the man and the woman, and she knew he had power, that man. It had been touch and go when she landed in the clearing, for Grindael had sensed the power of the sword that the man kept close by. If he had gotten a hold of it things may have gone differently. But he had been enthralled by the singing of the woman as it seemed all men were.

Just as well. That was fine with Grindael. She had enjoyed her little game and the man had run straight to the dwarves as she knew he would. But the woman was weeping again, and would not eat. Grindael had been kind enough to throw her a haunch of sheep, and had even cooked it for her as the humans like to eat their meat. But she was ungrateful as all the humans were. Still, the woman did not look so pretty now, and the chains around her hands and feet had taken that haughty look right off her face.

Grindael had already chased off two of the younger male dragons for being too curious about her captive. Algoron and Grangoroc were little more than yearlings, and had tendencies all too familiar to Grindael. But the males had their useful-ness, and soon she would direct them. She had been curious too once, and when she was young had already flown far outside the dragon-lands. She had approached people and gotten to know all about them. They were all right to eat, but much more fun to play with and then to kill.

In those days she had made the mistake of playing too close to a large city, and had almost been killed by a group of men with bright swords and large crossbows that did not take kindly to her games. But even as young as she was they had not killed her. She had gone off to lick her wounds and had come back stronger and much more cunning than before. She then began to murder discreetly though she had a reputation for being a benign dragon, for those that she allowed to see her never witnessed anything that would cause alarm. Very few knew her true nature, and that suited her just fine. Dead men tell no tales, and those that saw nothing told no tales at all.

What Grindael coveted were the gold and jewels and the precious things that men created and fought for and also desired. She took a certain fancy to armor and shields and mirrors because she loved to look at herself. Her lair was arranged with items that gave her the best view of her awesome self. Surely there was never before created a creature as lovely and beautiful as she was. To see her reflection in the bright mail of slain men, or the mirrors of their women gave her the greatest thrill.

As years went by Grindael amassed a great hoard of stolen gold and jewels and men’s possessions. She roamed the land for years, at last coming to the Minstrel Mountains where she found some of the old tunnels of the dwarves. There she stayed for a long time in secret, eliminating with ease any who stumbled upon her. But there were those who knew something was lurking in the deep places, and in time she was found by Eluria and his band of black dwarves who coveted that accursed fire crystal, and had nothing but violence on their minds.

They thought her callow and she played right along with them. Offering her a fortune in gold and jewels, they thought to buy her services to help them take the city of Grondimmon from their kin. But she felt the power the little black dwarf had at his command and learned by stealth of the dreamstone. Wildly coveting the stone, she bided her time and feigned disinterest in their venture until in frustration Eluria showed it to her. But he was careful, never getting too close; still she drew him in with an easygoing manner and an eagerness to do what he suggested to her. At last he promised her the stone, but only after she did his bidding.

Grindael knew they plotted to kill her for she was much wiser in the ways of the world then they could ever have dreamed. She was beautiful but old, and feigned ignorance about the ways of war, leading the dwarves on with her beguiling charm. But they had power and the motivation to use the spears and crossbow bolts they had tipped with the deadly fire crystal they tunneled in the earth for. It made her afraid too, and she was careful never to let on what she knew or what she had planned.

Burning her way through the great dwarven city had given Grindael great pleasure, and when she at last took the dreamstone from Eluria it had dimmed even the desire for the spoils that that could have been hers had she just reached out and taken them.

In the wake of the destruction of Grondimmon it had been easy to move her hoard back here in the somewhat protected dragon-lands. For years she lay enthralled by the visions of the stone, and it proffered her greatly, giving her the knowledge to protect her new lair. And with that knowledge she had stayed one step ahead of Eluria and all who sought her downfall.

But the last year had taxed her deeply, and she wished to put an end to those who would never give up the hunt for the stone. Probing it for a way out of her predicament, she was finally shown the man in one of her visions: the man and his sniveling wife. Even though there were risks, she had still set in motion the events that had led to the day of her attack on them. Now, let them come. She felt she knew the outcome of all the possible scenarios and was content. The man would come for the woman, and the dwarves would be foolish enough to think they could reclaim the dreamstone. They would underestimate her once again and she would be rid of them all for good.
Riding on a speeding train; trapped inside a revolving door;
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Re: Shadow of the Dragon

Post by _moksha »

I love science fiction and fantasy. Keep them coming!
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Re: Shadow of the Dragon

Post by _canpakes »

I like your story behind the story, but if you tell me that you lost 116 pages worth of work, imma gonna look at you funny.
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