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by Gaby
Rated: 13+ · Campfire Creative · Appendix · Other · #1989601
G.o.T. Campfire - House Targaryen
[Introduction]
Born out of darkness into the light


It is you who decides fate.

What is the world you live in? Where is your future? Who are your friends and allies and which of those might be foes?

Do you turn your back and leave the darkness behind you in order to face the light or do you avoid the light and dedicate yourself to the dark side of your life?

The choice is yours.

This is your campfire! Do what you must.
Matt Bird MSci (Hons) AMRSC & L. Stephen O'Neill
Make your own decisions and lead the story in the direction you and your members decide on.

We will not stand in your way. We shall not reveal your words until the last day.


You have until May 25th to add what you need.
One suggestion...
On this last day, May 25th, try to make the closing post, as in finish the story - tie up loose ends - get it done!

But, keep in mind, the rating is set at 13+! *Smirk*


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Good luck, my Warriors! *Shield1*
Crushing blackness.
Alone in the darkness, the dragon blinked; two enormous amber eyes blotting out the inky black of the cave. He flicked his tail, catching the cavern wall as he did so. Tiny diamonds of light flared as the stone sparked with each passing of his tail.
He hunkered down, trying to inch his way forward. The cavern roof felt uncomfortably close to his shoulder blades; sucking in his breath, the dragon tucked his wings tighter to his body and continued creeping into the darkness.
His nostrils flared. He could smell that hateful scent; the one which angered him more than any hardships destiny threw at him. He moved forward cautiously, trying to reach the far end of the cave, where he knew the chasm started, with the running waters at its bottom. The faint scent lingered in the air. The slight wind coming up from the chasm brought it to him and caressed his face... tantalizing... challenging.
A Non-Existent User
Ha'avok pulled himself free of the rushing water, one hand at a time. His blood spilled as the sharp rocks sliced into his flesh. In the dim light his eyes were like polished obsidian. His hulking form found his footing on the slick stones that formed the base of the shear wall. The river led deep underground, flanked on both sides by unclimbable walls formed of the most precious stones known to the kingdom of man. The air, even here, was ripe with the smell of brimstone and decay--better known as dragon's breath. He smiled a grim smile. Strapped to his back, Ha'avok wore his shield and broadsword. The ruins of his ship was barely visible in the yawning mouth of the cave.

"Into darkness go," he recited the witch's words embedded in his mind. "There you will find a treasure unfathomed, to be won only by death's hand. Go and make a deal with the lords of the underworld, if it is glory you seek." He laughed. "Crazy spawn of a banshee."

He was close, he could taste it. He licked his lips, only tasting his own blood tricking from a dozen flesh wounds. Tracing a gem with he finger he looked up into the darkness above. The real treasure was near. So very near.
A stone fell into the water, sending ripples towards him. Ha'aovk glanced upwards, where it had fallen from. The sheer wall rose into impossible blackness, its smooth surface not showing any signs on weakness nor a possible way to scale it. For a split second, Ha'avok thought he heard something. A sound of movement. Something else with him. His treasure? The vastness of the space meant he had no way of locating the source, the flat walls echoing even the faintest of sounds half a hundred times.

He placed his hand on the hilt of his dagger tucked into his belt. There was likely more than just his treasure in this imposing place.
A fool the interloper was, the dragon thought. The meat was loud, not secretive, arrogant like its kind. It, too, must seek the treasure. He could smell the blood on the meat, the sounds of its haughty laughter placing it below, at the base of the chasm. Not many had scaled the wall, but some had.

The dragon reared back and spread wide his leathery wings. The updraft would carry him below; no sense waiting for the meat to climb. Fresh was the best way to eat. The dragon crouched, then leaned forward into the chasm. The updraft was warm and not strong, but more than enough to glide down, ever down toward the meat.

Yes, the smell grew stronger. The hateful thing! The arrogant meat would soon know that seeking what doesn't belong to it was a mistake.

The dragon circled as it descended, the chasm still and quiet, save for the faint trickle of water.
Ha'aok felt a change in the air; a sudden coolness and a rush of downdraft. Gripping the chasm wall, body pressed in tight, bare feet dipping into every possible foothold, he looked up. Logic told him the chasm couldn't rise much further - demons the river ran back to the surface long before the mountain started. Even if he was currently under the foothills, there wouldn't be much more to climb.
So why did it look so ominous?
He felt a chilly downdraft again. A tunnel or blowhole perhaps? He swallowed, taking the next reach slowly. Perhaps something else? Suddenly his broadsword seemed very heavy on his back - inaccessible and useless.
Crazy witch. Why couldn't she have sent me somewhere nice for a change?
One foot after another, one handhold after another, Ha'aok continued climbing.
* * *

The woodcutter's daughter leaned against the iron post, and by the shackles that bound her wrists above her head. There had been fear and resignation at first for the designated virginal sacrifice to Nalgar the Black. And disgust, she had to admit that she had been disgusted with the process, the fraud was so transparent. The townies had changed the rules both to include girls who had not yet flowered and those who lived outside the mud and stone wall, but who's fathers traded within. "It could be," thought Shannon, "that they had indeed run out of virgins."

Last year, covering the chubby baker's daughter in gold, even the cheap gold plate that hung uncomfortably around Shannon's neck and arms, had cost a fortune. And speaking of the odd turns of chance, the mayor had drawn out the skinny twelve-year-old woodcutter's daughter's chit. She had thought her father a strong man, even working with him in the woods, but to see him turn his face away as they paraded her out the gate to the sacrifice would have made her retch if she'd eat'n the "feast" they'd put before her. Her last meal.

Now Shannon wished she'd eaten it all. Her stomach growled in protest. "When would the damned lizard come for her?" Shannon had hidden a big chef's knife in the waist of her knickers when she hadn't known she'd be trussed up like a pig. "Come on you slimy newt, I'm not getting any tastier," Shannon shouted to the cave entrance sending echoes to be drowned in the whispering woods.

Now the blasted knife was poking her in her rear. "If only her hands were free she'd make sure, when the dragon came, she'd not go down his gullet without a fight," she thought. Shannon heaved her body against the bonds in frustrated rage. Her right arm slipped free and the shackle twisted pinching the other painfully.
Shannon flexed her arm, squeezing her hand to get blood flowing through it. She reached behind her, gripping the hilt of the knife and pulling it out. It didn’t look so big anymore, the blade dull and covered in smudges. She gingerly bit down on the wooden handle to hold the knife with her mouth. With her free hand, she pushed against the remaining shackle, pulling with her left and twisting. The crude metal bit into her palm and wrist. A thin line of red mixed with sweat and she felt her hand slip a little inside the iron brace.

“I’ve changed my mind”, she muttered as she worked herself free, “I’d rather not be eaten this day”. With a final tug and rapid twisting, her left hand pulled free of its bond. The sudden release unbalanced her and she tumbled onto her backside. The knife fell from her mouth and slid several feet away.

“Ouch!” She turned onto all fours and pushed up into a standing position. Dusting herself off, she looked around for the knife. Spotting it she stepped over and picked it up not realizing she’d gotten closer to the cave entrance.

Something hissed in the darkness before her. She stood rigid, the knife shaking in her hands. A shape moved towards her. Two wide spaced eyes gleamed from fading light. It was about the size of a dog but the comparison stopped there. It was scaled and leathery. Its snout was short with a gaping mouth filled with double rows of small sharp teeth. A line of bony ridges started at the top of its head and travelled the length of its body to the tip of it long whip-like tail. It moved on all fours but lifted itself onto its hind legs when it came to a stop at the cave’s entrance.

Shannon raised the knife in front of her as if to ward the thing back. A thin line of greasy black smoke rose gently into the air from its right nostril. They stood there, staring at each other, waiting…
Ha'aok started moving towards the deep end of the cave, following the direction from which he felt the draft coming. He was sure there was an opening, a chute of sorts, a waterfall or a tunnel leading outside.

He used his hands to feel the rock wall on his right, careful not to fall into the chasm on the opposite side. The draft of air became stronger and carried an awful stench. It was a heavy odor, laced with something he had never smelt before. It was not intoxicating, but it made his heart beat faster and his eyes began to water.

What the hell is happening? He thought. As the draft became a fully blown wind, Ha'aok removed his shirt and wrapped it around his face, trying to breathe through the fabric.
A Non-Existent User
Then he smelt it. The rank stench of charred flesh, decay and the pungent sulfurous stench that has proceeded every dragon he'd ever encountered, engulfed him in a massive updraft. As these beasts moved in ways no creature should, the world around them, namely the air forced under their massive wings created hurricane force winds.

With a powerful hand Ha'avok clung to the face of the wall. His powerful legs braced awkwardly as he drew his massive broadsword strapped to his back. In this light he could see nothing.

The air around him was now drawing away from him. Pulling back as if preparing to burn him alive which was exactly what was about to happen. It meant one thing. It was behind him. If he was going to live, he would have to act fast. He took a deep breath and thrust his body from the wall, spinning, and taking hold of his blade with both hands...

The dragon, an enormous beast, as large as he'd ever seen, came into sight as his blade swung in a deadly arc towards the soft underside of its neck.

The creature belched out a massive stream of scorching flames. The intensity alone blinded Ha'avok who screamed out in pain...
The immense roar of the dragons flames subdued to a muffled rumble. The scorching heat became a warm tingle. He felt the water rushing past him, but he wasn't washed away. He should have been sent under the water by the raging torrents. His eyes adjusted to the bright light of the flames still roaring down from the dragon. He reached a hand forward. The flames didn't touch him. The orange-yellow flames avoided him. They darted in different direction a few inches from him. As he moved his hands, the flames quickly changed course to avoid touching his skin.

The flames stopped. A hundred metres in the air he could make out the silhouette of the great dragon retreating. Dark liquid fell in streams, dying the water below a murky black-red. It should be dead. He had been told by the townsfolk that one dragon, Nalgar the Black, lived in the cave and that it was the size of a dog. The size of a dog, Ha'avok thought with a laugh. When they'd told him that he jumped at the chance to slay it, and they sent him to witch for more information. Of course everything the witch sent was either a riddle, or the answer to riddle he didn't know. just before he had left on his trip, the witch had said, "Remember that which shall die is less a threat that which cometh."

The water continued to rush past him yet he still didn't move. Like the flames, the larger currents of water avoided him. Something was protecting him, but for some reason that didn't comfort him.
***
Run and die. Fight and die. The choice was terrible, and Shannon knew she would most likely die regardless. The dragon, small and fierce, a legend far larger than its size, had not yet attacked.

She was not a warrior. What chance did she have against Nalgar the Black?

She stepped back, brandishing the pitiful knife in front of her as if it mattered. The dragon dropped back down to four legs and advanced. The smoke from its flaring nostrils darkened, partially obscuring its scaled face. She could not recall whether the stories of Nalgar said if it was a smoker or a flamer, although little chance that info would help. Still, with a smoker she had a minuscule chance.

As if in answer to her fleeting desperate question, the dragon belched a small lance of flame that scorched the ground in front of her. Figures.

Nalgar moved to the left, slinking low, hissing and smoking. Well, if she was going to die, she wouldn't die fleeing like a prissy city girl. No, her sacrifice would save the town, at least for a year. Despite her father's unwillingness to protest her sacrifice, he still deserved to be proud of her. Nalgar the Black would kill her and then eat her, hoarding her offering like all its kind, but she'd make damn sure that the dragon would remember her.

She raised the knife and advanced toward Nalgar. It stopped and cocked its head quizzically. Yes, be confused, she thought. Stay confused. She prepared to charge.

Suddenly, behind her she heard a bellow, a loud cry of fury.
Dizzy, and more than a little sick, from the dragon flames, Ha'aok pushed himself back to his feet.
Right back where I started, he thought in disgust. He peered through the darkness, looking for his wrecked ship. He hadn't bothered salvaging much earlier - what was the point when he had a sheer cliff to climb? But perhaps now it worth having another look. At least it would provide more shelter than lying on the shoreline of a subterranean river.
Because that's really smart, he criticised. How the village morons had confused a dog-sized dragon with that soaring great monster was just baffling. Time for a change of plan.
He trudged out of the water, thankful that his shield had inverted and - miraculously - stopped his sword from sinking into the inky water. Well, him and his sword. Good workmanship that shield.
He shook some of the water off and wrung out his tunic as best he could. Now where was that damn ship? He couldn't have fallen too far from it, surely?

Following the river, Ha'aok made his way upstream - he had fallen downstream, hadn't he? In all fairness, the dragon had been rather distracting at that precise moment.
At one point, he thought he heard a voice shouting. Female; probably the sacrifice being eaten, he decided. He continued, fumbling in the darkness. His matches were dry, safe in their waxed leather pouch, but of course everything else was soaked. So darkness it was until he either dried out enough or found something (like my ship) to use as a makeshift torch.

A pinprick suddenly glowed in the distance and Ha'aok got another whiff of brimstone. Fainter this time. From a smaller dragon.
This is Nalgar the Black. He gave a bellowing howl and charged.





"Idiot!" Howled a little man from the dark, "You'll frighted it off. You imbecile!"

A small figure in a long coat stepped from the shadows and brandishing an odd contraption that reminded Ha'avok of the hurdy gurdy he had seen a minstrel play in a market. "The man had a monkey for a partner who would pass the cup and do acrobatic tricks without spilling the coins he'd gathered, Ha'avok mused, "The monkey seemed the more talented of the two." Ha'avok considered who to kill first. Dragon or little man. He charged past the little man toward the light where Nalgar the black likely was.

The same strange feeling came over him as when he had attacked the larger dragon and not been burned. That had been fortunate, but now he found that he could not run, or rather, though he ran he made no progress. "First kill the little man, then the dragon" He thought as he turned to cut the head off the annoying little man.

"Dolt, I will not be cheated again!" screamed the silly little man, "You spoiled my shot at the big dragon and now that the little one is going to be occupied eating yon girl. You'd spoil my chance to capture it too. Inbred, sub human, filth!"

Ha'avok swung his sword with strength enough to cut the man in twain at the waist, but it was as if his sword was stuck in a tree for all it moved.

"HAH! Now you see the power of my energy transfer dampening field. You stand in the presense of true genius but are too thick to know it. I am Martine'e the Magnificent!" Ha'avok howled his rage as the little man tittered in amusement. "You blocked my shot before, saving your miserable life, and ruining my chance to catch the bigger prize. you will not thwart. . ."

"Release me sorcerer," yelled Ha'avok.

"I am no mere sorcerer, no party trick dabbler," Martine'e lectured, "I am a, no, I am THE greatest elementalist the world has ever seen."

High above in the infinite darkness, Verath'al waited. His great talons dug into the cliff wall holding his massive form tight against the rock. His wings were spread to their fullest, the slightest updraft catching in the leathery membranes and helping him distribute his weight.

He listened to the faint voices that rose from beyond his sight; down beyond where the water flowed. His prey had eluded him, some magic carrying him safely past his fire. There was more to this meat than he realized. Something familiar.

His prey's scent filled the air around him, so easy to track. But something else caught his attention. A new smell, a familiar smell. A remembered human...the light inside a thunderstorm. The smell triggered a deep rage. A remembered hatred. It bellowed from deep within its chest. The air vibrated its menace. It released its hold upon the cliff face and sped downwards with a single thought flashing in its cold black mind...Trickster!
Shannon heard the voice again. It came from behind her. The knife held firmly in front of her, she turned, ignoring the dragon. Out of nowhere, a figure came running towards her. It was a woman, dressed in a white gown. She yelled and flailed her arms. Shannon had to step aside, for the woman didn't stop her amok run. Her voice echoed in Shannon's ears and when she turned to look where she'd gone, what she saw stopped her heart. A baby dragon sat at the entrance to the cave. The woman in white kneeled beside him, talking in a soft voice and feeding him something from her hand. The dragon was completely relaxed and there were no more smoke or flames coming out of his nostrils.

Shannon walked cautiously to them, thinking the woman must have been the young dragon's care-taker. When she was close enough to the woman, she heard her mentioning her name. "Don't harm Shannon, do you hear me? She means you no harm. She'll help you get away from here. I can't fight your battles for you. It's you and her together."

Shannon watched the woman walk away, back into the nothingness from whence she came. The dragon snorted and looked at her with puppy eyes. He was kind of cute, although very large for a pet... And her pet he became.

Shannon giggled at the sight of the little dragon. Where were its parents? She decided that she didn't want to find out. She heard voices somewhere from within the cavern. They were males and seemed to be arguing over something. She rolled her eyes: if they didn't stop, they would attract something much bigger and much fiercer than a baby dragon.

She decided that she needed to take the dragon and hide it from whoever these men were. If she didn't know better, they were here to kill it. She tiptoed to her fallen knife, scooped it up, and sheathed it into her boot.

The little dragon blinked at her. It wouldn't be long before its parents discovered that it was missing. Why did that woman want her to take it? Was it because it was in danger?

Shannon shrugged and scooped the creature into the crook of her arm. It was lighter than she imagined. That was when she heard the roar and that was when she decided to run. The cliff loomed before her and just below the cliff was the ocean. Its waves slapping against the caverns rock base.
A Non-Existent User
Ha'avok felt the little man's power closing in around him, constricting his every movement, tightening over his chest and around his neck like the tendril of Kracken.

The man was laughing. Nobody laughed at him and lived. Nobody.

His arms felt like lead. His sword had been ripped from his hands. He had but one weapon left thanks to the witch who had not sent him out unarmed. The thick leather armbands were no ordinary adornment. The inside was full of wards designed by the witch herself. He just hoped they were enough to shut up this elementist, whatever that was.

He struggled to touch his wrist's together, "Fyn ala koz norsah" Again he recited the words the which had told him would save his life.

Martine the Magnificent felt his power losen its hold on the warrior, and then with a great force, he felt it returning to him. It struck him like a battering ram, sending him airborn into the darkness of the tunnel.

From the darkness Ha'avok heard the little man cursing. He picked up his sword and began moving towards the pin point of light ahead.

"I should have know, you are protected." Martine, thrust his hand towards Ha'avok. "I will make you pay."
Shannon stood frozen, feeling trapped. The baby dragon moved in her arms, then leaped to the ground. "Come back, little one! you'll fall into the ocean! She ran after him, her feet barely holding to the narrow path. Yes. There was a path which she hadn't seen. The dragon probably knew about it and offered her the way out. It was a natural decline in the rock wall and led them down to the beach.

Away from the cave and the roaring sounds of adult dragons, Shannon picked up the dragon. "You need a name," she said to him. A name befitting a great Dragon of peace. Yes. You are going to be the Dragon of Peace and I'll name thee Pax.

The dragon looked at her, then snorted, in a failed attempt to breathe out fire. Tiny tendrils of smoke came out of his nostrils and Shannon smiled at him.
A Non-Existent User
Something in the water below caught the small dragon's attention. Even as the waves rolled in, crashing violently against the rocks, Shannon could see Pax focusing hard. Its apparently small wings unfurled to an astounding span, doubling her body length.

"No!" Shannon shouted but it was too late. The dragon dove from the narrow path. Its body like an arrow aimed at a spot only it could see. It sliced through the water with barely a splash, disappearing from sight.

Shannon searched the water but the tiny dragon was gone. No where to be seen. Then with an explosion, Pax surged from the water like a cresting whale as it opened its wings wide. In its jaw was a small shark almost as large as Pax was. Its wings beat against the air as it fought to lift herself and its prey clear of the water.

A moment later Pax, the Dragon of Peace, landed and dropped the shark onto the grass. Shannon just stared in amazement.

"You're a little hunter," Shannon said. "You may not be able to breath fire yet, but you can sure take care of yourself."

Pax started by ripping the fins off, much like a cat plucking the feathers from a bird.

In the distance, she could hear the townsfolk. They had apparently noticed her absence and the lack of blood on their sacrificial altar. They were coming for her.

Ha'avok growled. As the self-proclaimed elementalist struggled to his feet, blood-grazed hands flailing at the cavern wall, Ha'avok lunged for his sword. Martine'e gave a howl and threw out his hands, no doubt readying a spell or some-such Ha'avok thought.
With one deft strike, Ha'avok brought both his fist and the hilt of his sword down onto the elementalist's temple. Martine'e moaned and crumpled to the floor.
"You'll find it hard to teach me anything right now, sorcerer," he remarked in a conversational tone. He permitted himself a quick, satisfied smirk before frisking the unconscious man.
Finding nothing of immediate value or interest, he settled for relieving Martine'e of his cloak and the hurdygurdy-like spellbox that turned air to treacle. The barbarian had no idea how to use it nor the patience to try and figure it out, but he reasoned it was safer in his possession than that of the little man at his feet. Besides, if he left Martine'e alive, he could always come back and shake the information out of him.
The thought cheered Ha'avok up a little as he set off down the tunnel towards the dragon.
As Ha'avok turned, his senses bristled. Oppressive pressure and the weight of a malevolent presense smote like a blow and he dropped, falling into water as the roaring of the flames spewing from the great dragon's maw.

The little bit of water would not have saved him had he been the dragon's target, nor would he have survived the crushing blow that the dragon striking the gravel if he'd been but a few feet closer to the sorcerer. The impact drove Ha'avok down the watercourse toward his ruined ship on a wave of gravel and water. Ha'avok heard a shreik of terror or pain cut off, but then he had naught to worry about but surviving.

As soon as he could find his footing, Ha'avok fought to get himself free of the torrent. The bank was all solid stone and rolling gravel. He caught a handhold but was torn free. Ha'avok stumbled, slipping into a rapid channel, he heard a roaring of falling water and he knew he would live or die based solely on the chance of what lay below. He surrendered himself to fate and a fall through inky blackness into what he could not tell.

There was a helpless feeling of weightlessness as Ha'avok fell over the precipice, and then light, as the dragon sprayed the ledge that he plummeted over with dragon-fire. The dragon, Verath'al, screamed his rage at the man thing's escape.
Verath'al emerged from the cave, angry at losing his prey a second time. The trickster had also managed to escape, though not without pain. The thieving little man had squeezed through a split in the rock and made haste before Verath’al could bring his attention back to him.

His mind whirled with hatred for all life. Never before had so many opportunities eluded him. Rag was his companion and death was his desire. A lopsided pole caught his attention. Memories of similar objects flashed between the red. He inhaled the scent of virgin, its smell blanketing the wrath enveloping his thoughts. There was also a strong scent of youngling; a pretender to the throne.

Verath’al spread his great wings and lifted into the sky. He ascended above the cliffs, the ocean spreading forever before him, the slice of white beach cutting the bright blue water from the land. Two small figures moved along the sands; the virgin and the deceiver. He tucked his wings and dove.

The ground rushed towards him, his prey unaware of his approach. Verath’al grew excited and allowed a low rumble to escape his throat. It was enough to warn quarry. Pax spun around and pushed into the air. His take off impacted with Shannon knocking her to the ground. The monstrous dragon’s talons raked the air above her head and slammed into the small dragon sending it spinning. Pax skipped across the sand digging a large rut from the force. Screaming, Shannon got p and ran over to wear the young dragon lay. A large gash ran from his neck down to the middle of his underbelly. Clear fluid and greenish blood ran from the wound and soaked the ground.

“No! Pax, no!”

Verath’al dropped to the ground fifty feet away into the surf. Saliva dripped from his gaping maw, the liquid fire hissing and snapping as it made contact with the water. He no longer thought of the prey that had slipped away just minutes earlier. All thoughts were on the conquest at hand. Now was his time of victory. With a roar, Verath’al advanced.

Shannon pressed her hands against the gaping wound. She watched helplessly as the massive dragon came towards them to finish the job. Sudden the lady in white appeared from behind her and moved to stand before them, shielding them from the dragon.

“I know thee serpent! I know you true, Verath’al the despised. You will not win this day. I will deny you your victory!”

Verath’al reared up, his wings spreading out to their fullest. Then as suddenly he slammed down and leaned forward, a geyser of white hot fire erupting from his mouth. He meant to turn everything in his path to ash.
Shannon used the dying Pax to try and shield herself from the mighty flames. But she had no need to. The mysterious woman in white stood between her and the dragon, arms out wide. The woman was muttering words of some ancient language Shannon had never heard. The dragon's flames danced around the woman, becoming one with the flowing white cloths she wore.

Pax whimpered.

"It'll be OK, boy," Shannon said, knowing it a lie. It was weird. One moment she had been put as a sacrifice to dragons, now she was mourning the inevitable death of one. She looked up past Pax, to see the woman in white spinning around, half a foot in the air, still muttering her ancient words. Who is she?

The woman in white shook violently in the air. She moved so fast, her outline was just a blur against the white hot backdrop of the dragon's fire. She shrunk down to the size of a football, then, with a loud pop two women in white emerged from where there had been just one.

In the distance Shannon heard a man's cry. She glanced around for a second, but couldn't locate its source. By the time she faced the dragon again, it was surrounded by sixteen women in white. What?. Looking down at Pax, Shannon couldn't help but laugh at the complete absurdity of her situation. She doubted that even if all the crazed writers in the land gathered around a fire to craft the most improbable story, that they could have come up with something as utterly bizarre as her situation.

No sooner than she had contemplated that thought, something even more unusual happened.
Shannon held Pax in her arms. Although there was a moment when she thought he was dead and used him to shield herself from the dragon, but at that moment, she could see he was getting better. The laceration in his belly was closing in front of her eyes. He was no longer in pain and looked at her thankfully with his puppy eyes.

It must have been the woman in white, she thought. Looking up, there were sixteen of them who held hands in a circle and hovered over the dragon. Their white dresses were suddenly pulled towards the ground, getting longer and longer until they touched it. Their entwined hands worked the fabric of their sleeves , pulling it up to their chins. In no time, the dragon was locked within a white structure and only the women's heads showed on top.

A roar and flames filled that structure. The dragon tried to burn the fabric, but it stood all his attempts. Shannon could see his silhouette inside and stepped back when the dragon tried to rip the white cage with his mighty talons. To no avail. One woman succeeded to trap the brute.

Pax made some noises and jumped down from Shannon's arms. He ran towards the cage, stopped there then tried to blow fire from his nostrils. He did better this time. He's maturing fast, she thought, while in body he's still very small, for a dragon that is. Perhaps he was born a midget dragon and that made him special. Who knows?
Verath'al snorted in fury, his massive wings fanning the air. With another roar, he bellowed flame at the women in white just to watch the fire splash harmlessly away.
The women were chanting, a sing-song litany that hurt his senses. His head rang to the rise and fall of their voices, a pressure building up behind his eyes and roaring in his hearing ducts.
He billowed another plume of flame towards them. And another. And another.
But the women continued to circle the virgin and her pretender youngling, and each column of flame threatened to heal the youngling more as the white women syphoned Verath'al's power away from the fire and into their protective circle.
Furious, the dragon banked away from the beach and back to the cool and quiet of his cave.
Let the virgin have her sunlight and deciever. When the white women left, he would return.
Ha'avok's lungs screamed for air as the fall of the water held him, and occasionally battering him in total darkness. But against what? It could only be the bottom, the very opposite of the surface and air. So, when he crashed again against the hardness of rock, Ha'avok spread himself, halting his spin and with the last of his strength, gathered his legs beneath for one last life saving leap. In darkness and with torrents buffeting him, Ha'avok launched himself.

He broke the surface and sucked in a life giving breath. The cold cave air burned like fire in his lungs, but it was a beautiful pain, and brief. Pain meant life. The falls rumbled nearby, muffled by stone. There was no light to guide him. Ha'avok found an edge where stone rose out of the water. he clambered out still dragging the cloak he'd taken from Martine'e.

He inventoried his assets by feel. Ha'avok's heart sank as he realized that his sword and shield had been ripped off his back in the tumult. Lost in the dark, for a moment, Ha'avok despaired. His fingers felt at his waist where he found his faithful hunting knife. "All is not lost," he murmured to himself. Shivering, Ha'avok drew the cloak over him and collapsed from exhaustion into troubled dreams.
Martine’e stuck his head out from the sheltering crack in the cave wall. At that particular moment he felt anything but Magnificent. His left thigh was a bloody mess and his right arm was covered in burns thanks to the dragon. On top of those, his head throbbed, causing his vision to become unfocused from the blow the barbarian gave him. He felt like Martine’e the Mess suited him far better.

He heard the buffeting of wind and watched as Verath’al landed on the cliff and lumbered into the cave’s opening. His tail swished back and forth, scraping the sides of the rock, sending showers of sparks bouncing around the darkness. Verath’al was seething with rage. He didn’t notice the scent of his enemy had grown stronger. Nothing could break the haze of red that filled his mind.

The ground shook under the elementalist’s feet as the dragon passed and headed deeper into the darkness. “That’s one pissed of beast”, he muttered under his breath.

Martine’e waiting another fifteen minutes before emerging from his hiding spot. He crept over to where the barbarian and he had last exchanged hostilities. He searched the area but couldn’t find any of his missing possessions. “That filthy barbarian”, he spat, “Son of a bitch took my equipment.”

The elementalist swallowed his anger and forced his mind to ease. It was a set back but all was not lost. If he could retrace his steps and get back to camp, there was another dampening field safely tucked away. A smile slowly spread across his face. The bag…How had he forgotten about the bag! Its contents would be more than a match for the barbarian or anyone else for that matter if they dared to interfere with his hunt. This time he would be fully prepared. This time no mercy would be shown to anyone.

He slowly exhaled and looked into the gaping black of the cave. Somewhere down there was his prize. Somewhere down there was the angriest dragon he’d ever seen. And only down there was the way back to camp.
With his back pressed against the wall, he quietly and quickly moved into the cave, the darkness enveloping him.
The Women in White collided together in a flash of the most brilliant white light Shannon had ever seen, leaving just one woman behind. She turned towards Shannon and Pax, coming back to the ground.

Pax coughed and a few sparks flew from his nostrils.

"Bravery comes in many guises, my girl." The Woman in White placed a cold hand on her cheek. "There is a not one power in this world that cannot be overcome, remember that. Remember that and you harm shall not find a way to you."

Shannon placed her own hand on top of the Woman's. A fuzzing sensation ran down her fingers. "Thank you," she said.

"Thanks should go to the brave, not to the guise of such." The Woman took a step backwards and faded away.
Shannon was hungry and tired. The last events had drained her both physically and emotionally. From Being chosen as the 'Sacrifice Virgin', to being freed and protected by an angel lay a world of fears, hopes and despair.

"Come here, Pax. Let's go find shelter and something to eat. Aren't you hungry?"

Pax made some unidentified noises and when she started walking along the beach, he followed her, his little tail dragged behind him, leaving a nice pattern on the sand.

After a few minutes walk, Shannon left the beach, cutting her way through a tall corn field. She meant to reach the Hunter's Shack where she knew a large underground storeroom could provide her and Pax with food and goat's milk.

Quietly, she walked through the cornfield, making as little noise as she could. She picked up Pax, for he didn't like the rustle of the dry stalks against his skin and stopped often for rest.

When she neared the edge of the field, she heard voices coming from the dirt road that lead to the shack. She stopped and crouched, holding Pax tightly. She recognized one of the voices. The Mayor was talking to an unknown woman. The woman's voice was cultured and bore a foreign accent which Shannon didn't recognize. I wonder who she is, thought Shanon. Why would the Mayor meet with a strange woman in a deserted cornfield, away from the village?
A Non-Existent User
Ha'avok ran through the forest. Trees passed by in a blur. The only thing that mattered was the light. A spectral sphere dancing on the air. No matter how fast he ran, it was always just beyond his reach. The closer he got to it, he heard music. A low hum.

Was it of an evil deity, leading him astray or was it a more benevolent force, leading him to his destiny. It was too late now. As his feet carried him into a clearing he saw the ruins of a past civilization, worn by the years. In the center of the clearing a great white dragon rose up, towing over him. He drew his blade with both hands, ready to fight. The beast let out a magnificent roar that shook the landscape for miles before it turned its attention towards him.

It spoke. "Ha'avok, son of Ja'gall the Mighty."

"What do you want with me," Ha'avok yelled back.

"Death is a reward of which many a warrior receives. You are no different Ha'avok. You'r reward lays on the shore line where the dragon Varietal is awaiting. Protect the girl with your steel. The dragon with her is precious. This realms future depends upon their survival."

"But how?"

"Fail me not, great warrior."

Ha'avok jerked awake. A dream. He reached for his sword and remember. It was gone. How was he suppose to protect anything if he could barely protect himself?
Left to his own devices, Ha'avok would have little, if any, truck with dreams. Mind you, he admitted ruefully, the same went for witches too under normal circumstances. But ever since meeting that crazy old hag, nothing seemed normal anymore. Maybe prophetic dreams were part of the deal too?
Ha'avok sighed. I'm a warrior, not a damn priest, he thought. He stretched, feeling every aching muscle moan. Gathering the sorcerer's, elementalist's, whatever the runty little man had called himself, cloak and safety thrusting his knife back into his belt, Ha'avok set off.
If the witch wanted the sacrifice girl kept safe, her and that scrawny little lizard, then safe is what Ha'avok would keep them.
"Huh, babysitting duty. Great."
Martine'e had forgotten how dark the cave was. In truth he'd never been far from light. He had carried in his cloak a container filled with some sea creature's goo that glowed when shaken.

It was one of his many discoveries, a fellow who had strayed from the search for a method of changing lead into gold, and instead spent his time looking for useful items drawn from sea creatures. Martine'e had been bored to tears hearing about the medicinal properties of this or that, or how invigorative this substance was interacting with that. It had been a stop almost totally without any benefit save for the large vial of glowing goo. Sadly, that was gone with his cloak.

So Martine'e was forced to shuffle along the rock wall hoping to find the side passage that led him into the cavern and the bag of tricks including another field projector stolen from Galvanar of Garth.

Galvanar thought himself so clever, buiding the field projectors and using them in his laboratory. Pish posh, what a waste, fortunately Martine'e had realized their usefulness outside of the laboratory and liberated them, along with Kendeth's gravitic oscilizing power receptor to some worthwhile effect.

That's why they are all fools and I am the genius. Martine'e could see the use of a thing, learn enough to use what others squandered, liberate those items, and utilize what would otherwise sit on dusty shelves. Usually nobody came to harm either, it was unfortunate that he'd been forced to crush Galvanar with his own field projector, especially so since one of them was now lost.

He'd have to take more care with the remaining one. It had been a difficult task to trap a dragon. Now he had the barbarian to worry about, at least to plan for, perhaps he was working his way through the great wyrm's intestines, one could hope. Planning had always been Martine'e's halmark, planning and disception, vision. That's what others who named themselves Elementalist lacked, vision.

Sadly, he too...

With a crash he tripped and fell. At first he was disoriented and fearful that the noise would rouse his quarry before he was ready. Then he remembered. This is where I came into the main passage, and my need of light will be supplied by the very beast I intend to harness. He cackled delightedly as he heard the roar of the dragon and he dragged driftwood into the side passage dropping a stick of it now and again.

"Come on you old lizard," Martine'e yelled, "Light my way!" He only just ducked around a bend as the dragon fire roared farther up the passage.
The passage Ha’avok followed ended in thick rock. To his left the cavern wall rose far beyond his sight while to his right, the water lapped and gurgled. The roar of surf caught his attention. The outside world waited for him on the other side of this rock. He thumped his fist against the cold stone. At every turn he had been thwarted. Taking on this job was really beginning to feel like a bad decision. He heard a sucking noise and looked over his shoulder at the water. Shallow waves pushed from the wall and carried down into the darkness. As each wave rolled off the wall, a small gap was exposed where water met stone and air forced its way through, causing the noise. Ha’avok smiled wide. The gods were still on his side this day.

He lowered himself into the water and felt for the opening. It was large, more than enough to fit him and several others through all together. Taking a deep breath he submerged and kicked against the current. A dim light played throughout the water, casting shadows all around. The push was strong, the current trying hard to keep him inside. But the barbarian’s will was stronger and within a few minutes he was free of the tunnel and out into the open ocean. His head burst out of the water and for the second time in one day he gulped lifesaving air into his burning lungs. “I am about over water”.

He let the tide carry him ashore. The sun was low over the water but he guessed there were still a few hours of daylight left. Not knowing what else to do, he started walking away from the cliffs and his failure. After several minutes something large and shining caught his eye from up ahead. He stopped and pondered. He couldn’t for the life of him figure out what it was. It sparkled in the sunlight and stretched the length of the beach from the shoreline to where the vegetation started. He noted that some areas of growth were charred and smoldering. Not good. Cautiously he moved forward.

As he neared he pulled up short, his mouth going slack in awe and wonder. Before him mixed with the sand were piles and sheets of glass. He bent down and ran his hand over the surface of one. It was hot to the touch but bearable. It flexed under the pressure of his fingertips but did not break. He lifted his hand to his nose and sniffed. Sulfur and brimstone; dragon’s breath. A battle with the big beast had taken place here not long ago. It had to have been violent for the creature to use such force. Looking around he spotted blood soaked sand. Footprints led away from the scene, both human and dragon.

“What is going on here? What have I been drawn into?”

The girl and the youngling, it had to be. He set of at an easy lope, his quarry somewhere up ahead.
Ha'avok left the beach and after a while reached a corn field. A path had been made, meandering through the field. Every so often a smouldering leaf or burnt ground would confirm he going the right way. It wasn't long until he heard voices. One he easily recognised. The foreign voice of that wretched witch. The second voice took him a few seconds to recognise as the mayor's. He struggled to make out what they were saying, so he slowly creeped forwards, not wanting to alert them.

A squeal. A spark. A puff of smoke.

Ha'avok spun around to see that he had trodden on a small dragon's tail.

"Calm down, Pax," a girl's voice said. He looked through the tall corn, to see a girl hiding within. She shot a glance at Ha'avok. "Watch where you're going, you lumbering idiot!"

"I'm here to protect you," Ha'avok said. "I don't know why, but I am." He looked down at the dragon. "Are you sure a dragon is a suitable pet?"

"He's not a pet." She stroked Pax who rolled his head, seemingly from pleasure.

"He sure looks like a pet."

"He's a companion."

The voices up ahead were clearer now. The witch was speaking her riddles again. "But what I do send, shall not return for the prize is there but the Venus not."

"Damn witch," the Mayor said, "speak clearly and we might fix this problem ... what ever this 'problem' is."

"My rule is clear, yet you seem not. To follow is easy. To fail is not."

The girl tugged on Ha'avok's sleeve. "What are they talking about?"

Ha'avok thought for a moment then looked at the girl. Her eyes were young and eager, she was still naive enough to love a dragon, but behind those eyes was fear. She knew as well as he who they were talking about. "You. They're talking about you."
Shannon hugged Pax, burying her head in his neck. She was crying. Her shoulders shook while she tried to muffle her sobs.

Ha'avok went down on his knees, patted her hair and said:"Why are you crying, girl? You should be mighty happy! You managed to escape the death sentence set on you, you're alive and I'm here to protect you. Hush. There are lots of elements in your favor."

Shannon raised her head and two beautiful tear-filled eyes were locked on his face. "Thank you stranger. I'm more worried for Pax than for myself. He's a special dragon." After a pause, she added, "Who are you? By your looks, you are a warrior, but your attire is foreign. Have you come from far? What is your business in this forsaken part of the land?"

"Hold your horses, girl. So many question shot at me... I am Ha'avok. I'm a Barbarian warrior. I was sent to protect you, and so I shall. Do you know the people who are talking over there at the edge of this field?"

"I know the Mayor is one. I have no idea about the other. Strange accent and words I can't understand."

"Don't worry about her. She's a witch and I can handle her."

"so, what do you want us to do?"

"We'll wait here until they are done talking and then we'll go to ---"

"To the Hunters Shack. Food and drinks and shelter underground. Is it alright with you? We are starved, Pax and me."

"I could use a meal," admitted Ha'avok and crouched next to Shannon, patting the little baby dragon.
She was in tatters. How do you hold your purpose together when life is spent? How do you hold on to the world of matter when spirit is so much more real?

Questions were worse than the attack of the old male. She could focus on the immediate threat, dragon fire, harm to her baby, confine the evil. But what then when the mind numbing power was spent and she went where?

Where? Back to her babies. Her presense hung now in darkness near her clutch, eggs, hope for the future of her tribe, and even little ones. So hard to remember a purpose for these little lives encased in thick dragon shell. She was so very tired.

Suddenly there came to her a threat. Out of the comforting dark came the light of a torch, the steps of man. But some men, some women, some people are allies. She peered at this newcomer with spirit eyes and saw malignancy, evil, danger for her's.

"This isn't right," Martine'e cursed his luck under his breath. "I was sure my bag was this way." Martine'e was lost beneath the earth. He waved his torch into a cavern that looked nothing like he'd seen before. This one seemed to have no ceiling, darkness as high as he could see beyond his torchlight.

"Say, what's this?" There was an odd collection of objects in the center of the cavern. A gravel bed and on it orbs. "This is a dragon's nest!"

With his realization came a moan like the howling of the damned. His torch flared threatening to burn his face and then nearly guttered out. With a curse he dropped his extra torches and dropped the guttering torch among them. "Who is there," he cried in fear though he wasn't sure why. He defended the guttering flame as if it meant his life.

There was someone here and they meant him ill.
Ha’avok shifted the curtain and peered into the gloom. Nothing moved outside, nothing stirred in the tall grass.
“You need to learn to relax”, Shannon said picking cured venison from her teeth. “No one is coming to this place. Hunting season isn’t for another month. Besides, the men haven’t finished sowing their fields. No one begins the hunt before everyone is ready.”

Ha’avok didn’t bother to look her way. Silly girls had no understanding of how the real world worked. “Pretend everything is fine if you like. It’s when you are complacent that things fall apart. Walk this land with blind eyes and death need not creep up on you. She can be standing in your path and you’d never know.”

Shannon reached down and gave Pax a slight squeeze along his ridged back. “I see just fine barbarian. I just don’t see the point in not seizing these moments of respite. None of us knows what is going on; what we are in the middle of. I should be dead by now and you, you would have gladly killed this youngling. Now look at us.” She stretched her length allowing her aches to melt away. “I’m alive and well and you guard the very creature you wanted to kill.”

This time Ha’avok did address her head on. “Don’t be fooled by my acceptance of this task. Give me the opportunity and I’d happily remove that thing’s head from its body. It has something I want and I aim to get it before or after all this unfolds.”

Shannon stood and jabbed a finger at him. “You think Pax is nothing but a monster but you are wrong! You’re the monster! Without thought or understanding you’re willing to kill…no, murder something you refuse to even try and understand. Look at him!” She waved her arm at Pax, now lying on his back, legs splayed in every direction. “Take a good look at your horrible fearsome dragon! Look at the beast that terrorizes the world.”

Ha’avok stepped towards her his face growing red. “Listen to me little girl. I want you to remember that monstrosity that nearly killed the both of you earlier today. THAT,” he spat pointing at Pax, “is what he’s going to be someday; maybe something even bigger. Do you understand? Your dragon of peace will one day take great pleasure in eating someone just like you and burning your family to cinders. Open your eyes girl! It’s a dragon! There are no such things as good dragons. They kill…everything and everyone they can.”

Ha’avok walked over to a cabinet and opened it. Inside were hunks of meat, still raw but slowly curing. He picked a slab up and walked over to the table. He gathered up several pieces of jerky. Quietly he placed the meats on either side of Pax. Seconds later the dragon sniffed, rolled his head and with fast reflexes snapped up the raw meat and swallowed it down.

“Raw meat Shannon, bloody and fresh is how his kind likes it. Remember this.”

Shannon opened her mouth to retort but was silenced when Ha’avok’s hand shot up in a “stop” motion. Outside, the porch creaked as someone moved across it.
"If anyone's in there," an old voice croaked, "come out now and no one need be harmed."

Ha'avok shot a glance and the silly girl. So much for no one coming. She looked away from him towards Pax.

"I'm telling you, come out now and I won't harm you."

Pax trotted to the door and, like a cat, stretched into an attack position.

"Pax," Shannon whispered. "Come back to mummy."

"I'm coming in." The door creaked open to the wooden shack.

Pax screamed. The high pitch shrill shattered the flimsy windows in the shack. In the doorway and old man with a crooked shoulder and wooden leg stood. He didn't move an inch. Too scared, likely.

The scream stopped. There was a sucking sound. Oh no. Pax let out a stream of flames. They licked at the old man, engulfing him, setting his false leg alight. The man screamed for a short while, but he was soon dead enough to stop. The flames flowed along the wooden floor, and stretched up the walls.

"Shannon!" Ha'avok yelled. "Run!" But Shannon didn't move she just stared into the flames and at the charred flesh of the innocent old man. Ha'avok scooped her up as he fled the burning shack.

Once far enough away from the shack, Shannon struggled against him. "We need to go back for Pax."

Ha'avok put Shannon on the ground, but held her by the scuff of her neck. "He's a dragon, Shannon. They cannot be trained ... not even by their 'mother'."
The shack caught fire in no time. There was no sign of Pax and Shannon ran around the burning structure, calling to him and crying while pushing away Ha'avok's attempts to remove her from the dangerous site.

"He'll die there," she yelled. "I need to get him out of there! Don't you understand? He's just a baby!"

"A baby who had burned to death an old man without any provocation," said Ha'avok matter-of-factly. He's gone, girl. He couldn't have survived this fire. You're better off without him. He would have harmed you eventually."

Shannon turned her back on the burning shack and started walking back to the corn field. Ha'avok followed her in a hurry, not knowing what she planned to do. It was not a minute too soon, for a group of armed men came via the dirt road, shouting and cursing.
Pax flexed in the flame.
The small dragon cricked his long neck to one side and reared up, arching his wings. He felt a splinter of pain as his wings smashed into the table vacated by the humans. All around him, the shack was an inferno of yellow, red and delicious hot blue - the dragon-flame igniting the dry wood and bursting it into flame. His eyes stung from oily smoke
as the lamps shattered in their wall holdings.
Pax let out a shrill cry, mewling with pleasure as the heat crackled and popped against his scales. Dropping back onto all fours, Pax minced passed the charred, spoiled human-meat laying between him and the door. The blast of heat invigorated him and he felt energised for the first time since the spirit woman had ordered him to find the virgin and the enormous slab of walking meat the shimmering spirit had claimed would be with her.
Ssssssshannon. Haa'aavooook. The names tasted wrong in his mind, but the spirit woman wanted Pax to protect them from all and every danger; be that the elder, Verath'al, or the likes of the still-smouldering charcoal human-meat behind him. Blinking in the sudden sunlight, the burning shack behind him, Pax trotted after his wards.
He would protect the humans with the only means he knew.
With fire and flame.

Their scent entered the annoying forest of leafy sticks. It is frustrating to be so small. He thought. Pax puffed smoke in frustration. It was only momentary though, with a leap he took to the air to find them from above. Soon enough he spied Shannon, with the huge walking meat from above, plodding along slowly. Two legs are soooo slow.

Then to his mind came a call. A call from mother, the white woman, the white dragon, a feeling of fear for his brothers and sisters held inside their calcite wombs. Something was very wrong. With a cry, Pax swooped down to alert the two humans. If it were not so serious he would have laughed to see the big man fall down and Shannon running after as he hoped she would.

"Pax, it's you!" Shannon cried as she ran to follow the little dragon toward the beach, the cliffs, and the dragon's lair. Pax spouted a bit of flame as acknowledgement and then flew on. He glanced back to make sure she followed and then looked for trouble from ahead.

Verath’al was no where to be seen. He is too big to find the egg chamber, thought Pax. It couldn't be him who threatens the egglets. The call from his mother bespoke mystery, Pax loved mystery, and danger, Pax loved that too. He knew he shouldn't, but he let out a fearsome roar. He was surprised to hear it answered.

Oh no! he thought. Did I wake Verath'al? Pax looked inland and to his delight he saw his older brother streaking toward the lair. It had been a very long time since Narlath had been forced to flee for fear of Verath'al. Pax had lost other brothers and sisters to the evil old dragon. Narlath had grown into a brother to be proud of. Pax turned to greet his brother in the air. Greetings brother Narlath, you have grown fat as Verath'al, thought Pax to the bigger dragon.

Narlath blew a flaming kiss toward his little brother, the flames catching the little dragon and tumbling him in midair. Pax squeeled in delight and began looping and wooshing at his big brother. And you are still not even worth a bite to that old menace, thought Narlath to Pax. What do you imagine the trouble might be? Perhaps it is those two legs that are following you brother.

Not them, thought Pax, They're good humans, especially Shannon.

lead them through the tunnels little brother, Narlath commanded his brother, I will enter through the top. I'm too big for those tunnels anymore.

Pax split off and dived toward Shannon and the big man. He hoped he could make the man fall down again. It would only take him a little time to get back up and likely he'd follow faster if he was angry. He had been worried about the trouble in the egg chamber when it had just been him and two two legs, but with Narlath he was brimming with confidence.
Verath’al lifted his head and bellowed. He could still feel the lingering effects of the call move inside. His whole body vibrated from it. Somewhere deep within his home, the vanquished queen had called out and summoned her brood. Wherever her children were, no matter how far, would hear and respond. It was unavoidable. The desire to comply, the need to obey was overwhelming. The bond between child and mother was so strong it was almost euphoric. To a dragon not of her womb, it was something totally different. Her children felt a wave of love and unity; a comfort in belonging and acceptance. Verath’al felt the exact opposite.

He ached inside. Loneliness grew and spread. He felt isolation and despair. Most times other dragons were not within hearing distance of its release. Once in the air, the magic could only be received and realized by blood kin. However, if too close when a mother cried out, the initial sound could drive a dragon insane. For Verath’al, it only managed to enrage him further.

More pretenders would soon arrive and try to take away what he had rightfully won. This was his home now. He snaked his way through the tunnels, a sense of direction pulling him along. Down and then up; long stretches to the left then a quick right. Soon light ahead confirmed his destination.

He emerged into an enormous cavern, the walls rising several hundred feet before ending in open sky. Broken trees grew from the rocky floor and thick green and red vines ran from above to dangle off the stones. Water dripped and dribbled down the leaves and into pools that flowed into darkness elsewhere. Here was his normal launching point. It was from here that he would stretch his long wings and rise into the sky. Here there was more than enough room for his size. And it was here that any large dragons would have to come. And Verath’al knew they would indeed come. He slunk back into the dark and waited. Time meant nothing; not to a dragon. Whether it be hours or days, the outcome would remain the same. Here they would enter…here they would find death.
"Stupid dragon," Ha'avok muttered as he pulled himself from the ground.

Shannon heard. "Pax is not stupid. You're the stupid one." She prodded him. "You said he was dead." She pointed up at Pax flying low overhead. "Does he look dead to you?"

Ha'avok gnarled but didn't give in to the obvious bait. "Just keep going. If we've got to go into that god-damned cave then the quicker we're in, the quicker we'll get out again."

A rumble rolled across the ground shaking the trees and rocks. Pax swooped down and stole Ha'avok's dagger in one swift motion. He sped off across the sky towards the cave.

"Why you little..." Ha'avok gently pushed Shannon to move faster, then started to jog. That dagger was his only protection and that beast was flying off with it.

"You know ... you're silly..." Shannon said between breaths, running to catch up with him. "Pax wanted you to ... move faster ... so ... he... stole it from you."

"He's a dragon, not a human. I doubt he thought about what he was doing." She's probably right though, he thought. But either way, Ha'avok needed his dagger if was to have any chance of surviving in the cave.
Ha'avok walked rapidly towards the cave entrance. Shannon was a few paces behind and Pax flew above them keeping an eye on Shannon.

At the cave, Ha'avok said:"Tell your Pax to return my dagger. He is in danger as much as you are and I can't defend you both with empty hands."

Shannon bit her lower lip, raised her eyes to Pax and said in a small voice, "Fine."

She motioned to Pax to come down and when he landed, she went to him and released the dagger from his clutch. He didn't move, just looked at Ha'avok then jumped into Shannon's arms.

From his pocket, Ha'avok produced a small box decorated in gold and silver. he turned it between his hands, trying to find the opening.

"What is this beautiful box for, Ha'avok?"

"I have no idea. I took it from Martine'e the imposter. We need means of light when we enter the cave. I thought this might help, but I don't know how to open it."

"Let me see."

Shannon took the box and looked at all its sides. One side drew her attention - it had a small depression in the middle, decorated by silver vines and flowers. She pushed her finger in the dent and pressed. The box started to quiver in her hands and Ha'avok, who watched her intently, grabbed the box and held it firmly. The lid came loose, revealing strange looking small pipes made of gold, filling the box to the rim.

Pax suddenly started to sniff the air, then jumped down from Shannon's arms and came to face Ha'avok.

"What does he want?" said Ha'avok, not trusting the dragon for a second.

"I think he smelt something. Put the box on the ground."

Pax pushed his head down and sniffed again. Then, to their surprise, he started leaking the box.

"What is he doing? He'll ruin it!"

"No. I know why he's leaking it. I could also smell it, but I thought it was only in my imagination... There are traces of corn syrup in the box. I think I know what this box is. My grandmother once told me of Show people who came to our village and one of them could turn water to treacle. "

"I don't see how this can help us get some light."

Pax nudged at Shannon's leg, sat in front of her and stretched out his front leg. Bewildered, she took it and saw something tucked between his talons. a yellowish substance which smelled awful. Bending to the ground, she picked up a twig and released that stuff from the leg. Pax sat quietly and looked at Ha'avok.

"What is it, Shannon? What did he want?"

"He gave me something which was stuck between his talons. Take a look."

Hanging on the twig, the yellow lump of unknown substance shook lightly and Shannon had to balance it to prevent it from falling.

Ha'avok took the twig and brought it to his nose. He made a face, then said, "This is a piece of lard from some animal. Pax must have been hunting after he got out of the Hunter's Shack."

"I know! I know! He wants us to put the lard into the box and let the box do its magic. Perhaps it will turn it into oil? What do you think?"

"I don't want to think. We're running out of time, girl. Here, lift the box and I'll drop the lard into it."

Ha'avok dropped the lard into the box and closed the lid. The box made a lot of noise then stopped. When they opened it, the golden pipes were gone and a yellow fluid filled it to the rim.

"You were right. This is oil. What I need now is a stick and some cloth. Can you tear the hem off your dress?"

Shannon tore off the hem and Ha'avok dipped it in the oil. Then he looked around and found a crooked stick. He wrapped the cloth around it and said to Shannon, "Can you ask your friend to be so kind and light our torch?"

Pax seemed to understand what was going on. Ha'avok held the torch away from his body and Pax breathed a small flame into it.

"Now we're ready to go into the cave and finish our business there," he said with satisfaction.



Martine'e had fled the egg chamber. It was surprise. I was unprepared, but no spook will keep me from my prize, Martine'e thought. A ghost can frighten, but it is a creature of spirit with no power in the physical world. In the end it had worked for the best. Soon after being chased out of the chamber, Martine'e had found his trove, his bag of tricks.

Armed with the second field generator, Martine'e would be prepared for any eventuality. More importantly he could remove the dragon's eggs to his staging area and then plan how best he might profit from such treasure.

Meanwhile Pax the dragonlet led the two other humans through the serpentine caverns. Shannon held the light box, Ha'avok held his hunting knife, and they both tried to keep pace with the little dragon. Suddenly they rounded a corner to find a pool of water. The light of the box cast weird shadows and light flickered off the surface illuminating the hall with a strange light.

"Here is where I lost my sword," Ha'avok said. "See there. That is the cloak of the trickster, Martine'e. The box was his as well."

"I could use a cloak," said Shannon lifting the cloak off the stony ground and shrugging it over her shoulders, "Say, this thing is full of pockets."

"Elemancer tricks, I'd give it all for my sword," Ha'avok complained.

Pax returned snuffling impatiently. He looked at Shannon, then at the big barbarian. The big walking meat was thinking of his long shiny tooth. If it would make him move faster he would retrieve the thing. Why didn't they understand the urgency, had they not heard the mother's call?

Pax launched off the side and into the pool of water. He could clearly see the man's silver tooth on the bottom, there was magic on it that shined brighter than the box light to Pax. He gathered it in his foretalons and pushed off the bottom. Undulating like a water snake he shot up and out of the pool. He spread his wings, shaking water off his scales then settled before the two surprised humans. Pax dropped the big tooth at the big meat's feet. He growled his impatience and moved off again into the caverns. Didn't they know they were almost to the nest? Foolish humans.

Narlath had his own problems. More accurately he was aware of what would likely be everyone's problem before long. I wanted to dive down into the nest chamber as my mother bid, but fortune won the day and I approached with caution to find Verath'al lurking in a tunnel above. I'd thought he didn't know of this place. Perhaps this was the danger that mother summoned us to face.
Ha’avok swung his sword and it made a melodic hum as it moved through the air. It felt good in his hand, an extension of his arm. His muscles responded to the patterns and dance he performed. It had been part of his practice for years, a combination of sword styles, unique to him and him alone. He stopped when he realized his companions were staring at him; Shannon in amazement, the dragon with distain.

“How did you do that? How can a sword sound so beautiful?”

Ha’avok stared down the blade, admiring its edge. “I don’t know. It called to me and I found it. It’s…it’s a magic I can’t understand.” He rested the blade across his shoulder. “But I don’t need to. It cuts and kills as I demand. That’s all that matters.”

“You have a knack for taking something of beauty and fouling it by opening your mouth.” Shannon started towards Pax who had already begun moving farther down the tunnel.

“I don’t suppose you could convince your pet to go back for my shield eh?” Silence. He sighed and followed. “Yeah, didn’t think so.”



Martine’e patted himself one last time to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything. “Aright”, he muttered, “time to return the favor. He hefted his field projector and started the short backtrack to the nest.

This time he allowed the darkness to envelope him. No need for light now. The nest was just up the tunnel and the elementalist had no intention of announcing his arrival. He paused at the entrance. There was movement inside and a muffled voice. Someone was trying to steal his prize! His fingers danced across the projector and it began vibrating, a low hum now emitting from it. Confident, he advanced. A female was leaning over the eggs. She was very young, scrawny and disheveled. She wore tattered clothing underneath a worn cloak. His cloak.

“Step back girl!” He was pleased at the shock and fear that moved across her face. “Get away from those or I will kill you.”

A hiss was all the warning Martine’e got as Pax flew to defend Shannon. The elementalist was able to react and the youngling felt a great weight slam into him from above and drive him into the floor. He was pinned by nothing yet something was pushing down, crushing the air from his lungs.

Martine’e laughed at his good fortune, a dragon to boot. How justly this day had turned in his favor. Someone coughed behind him. He tried to spin around but something hit his face and the world faded to black.

Ha’avok stood over the unconscious elementalist. “That felt good.”

Shannon ran over to Pax who was slowly trying to get his legs working. “Don’t just stand there gloating, help me!”

Ha’avok rolled his eyes and kicked the hurdy gurdy thing away. It sparked and the faint light coming from it died. “What are we doing here girl? What is our…”

The barbarian was cut off as a loud roar echoed through the chamber followed by a second higher pitched response. A rumbling shook the walls and a heated wind blew across them. “Shit”, Ha’avok swore lifting up his sword, “dragon fire.”
The End
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Or is it?

The End!

© Copyright 2014 ~MM~, Hanna , xx-xx, Matt Bird MSci (Hons) AMRSC, Sir Various, L. Stephen O'Neill, Cupadraig~The Remote Country, Ally (Ashley Barby), (known as GROUP).
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