Steel Dragon's "Tales of Orea"


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steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Fen slammed his fists against the gates and let out a pained roar that turned into a sob as he slumped to his knees.

“Why did we do that?! I had him! I want the behir dead!” Fen said in pained frustration.

“We all do, my friend.” Braddok said putting a soft gloved hand on the druid’s shoulder. “But we need to regroup.”

Alaria leaned against the great stone gates as well. She was tired, obviously so.

“We all want revenge, Fen. But the battle could not be sustained. I fear now, we are trapped here. My spell will hold the gates for the night...unless, perhaps Desaarthal herself tries to break them. But, for now, we can rest. We must check the chamber for other portals and seal them.

“Braddok, assist me...please” Alaria held out her arm for the warrior’s strong support and moved to the other side of the chamber where they presumed at least one other entrance to the hall was near the dais.

Haelan finished administering healing to the satyr minstrel who snapped back to consciousness, weak but alive. He moved to attend Duor and saw that Braddok, too, needed his care as the warrior helped Alaria move back into the hall.

“We have the Ihs Repahl..." Braddok said with a weak smile as he helped Alaria through the hall. “But Desaarthal took Haelan’s food bowl. Why on earth would that be of any use to her?" the warrior asked as he pondered. He knew he could not hope to parse out the ways of sorcery on his own.

“Why, indeed?" Alaria said before stopping dead in her tracks. Braddok looked at her in concern as if she might have sustained some damage that was not apparent.

“Why...on...Earth!" Alaria said as if that meant something.

Braddok didn’t get it.

The magess fumbled into one of her pouches and withdrew the emerald teardrop that allowed telepathic communication with Rhea...or so she hoped from so deep within the dragon’s lair.

*Rhea...Rhea! Are you there?....Can you hear me?...* Alaria focused all of her mental energies, which at the time was not much, to try to reach the seeress.

*I hear you.* came a low rumbling echo of a voice. It was definitely not Rhea.

Alaria’s mind backed away for a moment but then, seeking knowledge was never always easy or safe. *Who are you?*

*I am Gorathhhhhhriallllll* the low soft voice echoed again, its last word trailing off into untold planes of mental awareness. With it came an near overwhelming tide of telepathic impressions.

Defeat. Despair. Sadness. Melancholy. Pain! Hopelessness. Remorse.
So much remorse it threatened to drown her mind.

Alaria looked in shock up into the recesses of the arched hall lost in shadow.

*Will you harm us?* Alaria thought.

*Thhhh....rooooooone.*

*Lord Gorathriel, we are sorry about your losses, but we are striving to aid your remaining daughters and save them and our own world.*

*Thrrrrrrooooooonnnnnne.*

Alaria shook off Braddok’s concerned grasp and made her way to the dais. The great crystal throne sat there. Beautiful. Elegant. Powerful. Even without her arcane sight, Alaria could feel the waves of arcane energies waving off of it. In her weakened state she had no faculties to ward them off.

“Alaria what are you doing?" Braddok asked, unaware of the mental exchange and full of concern for the magess.

She walked up the steps...turned...and stood for a moment staring out over the great hall. Her eyes went to the shadows above. Then...she sat.

The crystalline head of the swan moved of its own accord, bending down until the tip of the beak of the swan's head almost touched the wizardess' forehead.

*This is best. Easiest.<Remorse.>* the low bass voice rang clearly in her mind.

*Will you share your knowledge with me? We want to help! We want to restore hope. What other ways are there into this hall?*

*I will try. <Sadness>With her gone, I have not more than a few moments. Her power is almost absolute when she is present.

*There is a hole in the roof. <Anger> It is large enough for Rach’sha to get through.
*

“FEN!” Alaria shouted down the hall to the druid. “There’s a hole in the ceiling. Seal it!” Almost unbidden, the thought of the opening’s location entered Alaria’s mind and near-instantaneously transmitted to Fen’s.

The druid began to move immediately.

*Do you know why Desaarthal wants Haelan’s food-making bowl?* Alaria posed.

*It is the last known...remaining...piece of the Iht Repahl...<Sadness>*

“Oh no!” Alaria cried. The companions all turned in the alarm.

“What is it?” Pyrnion called to the two adventurers hidden somewhere among the many columns.

“Not sure yet.” Braddok called in response.

*Does she have the others?*

*There is only one she needs. <Remorse> The Ihs is present. The Voht is captured. <PAAAAAINNNN!!!>. She now has the Ihnt. The Fehs is guarded by a power to match her own. <PAAAAINNNN followed by Satisfaction>It will be difficult unless she can claim the Kahl.*

*So, she has the Water Repahl already?* Alaria felt panic building up within her. Tidemaster Kama’s pearl? The village of Shoal? Had they already fallen to her? *What is the Kahl?*

*I see the information in your mind...you call it the Eye of Arinane? What a curious name.<Curiosity>* said the low deep voice of Gorathgraard’s original lord.

*How do I know this is not a trick?* Alaria thought, suddenly filled with doubts.

*You do...not, I suppose. <Sadness> While the Dark One is within the tower, there is little I am capable of of mine own will. I take, of course, great pleasure in disciplining <ANGERRRR!!!!>...harshly...her minions. But I am unable to break from her yoke.<Weakness. Remorse>*

*So, she is no longer in the mountain?* Alaria questioned immediately, full of hope.

*She has gone. <Satisfaction> To the isle, no doubt...to place her newest treasure. Gods forgive me my hubris. <REMORSSSSSE!!!!!>* the voice said to Alaria’s mind.

*She has what she needs. She needs the when. <hope>* the low voice faded.

*WHEN?! When can she conduct the ritual?!* Alaria mentally implored.

*Whenever she has the necessary ingredients...the best time for the ritual is at the Dawning of the Spring.* Gorathial stated plainly...without the overwhelming emotional overtones.

*Do you mean at the Spring’s Equinox?” Alaria said frantically. She knew the date was barely more than a month away.

*The...Vernal...yes. yes, to your understanding...that is true. <Sadness>* the voice replied, sounding defeated.

*She can not be stopped. I have cursed my land <Remorse> and my children <REMORSE!!!!>...I have sealed the fate of the world, all of these ages later...I am the TRUE Dark One. <overwhelming Sadness/Anger/Self-pity>*

*My lord...ENOUGH! PLEASE [?]....I can...not deal with these feelings!* Alaria cried out in anguish at the waves of emotions flooding her psyche.

*How do we defeat Desaarthal?!* Alaria’s concentrated thoughts became concrete with this singular purpose.

*Rach’sha is here...* Gorathial’s thoughts replied without a hint of emotion.

“OoooooHOOHOO! Piiiiiink Fleshhhhh. Nice trick on the doo-hoo-hoor! Oo! What’s this?!” the behir’s lilting tones came down from the ceiling.

Fen had, immediately following Alaria’s warning had invoked his power to SpiderClimb and risen up the steep walls of the chamber, found the large opening in the ceiling, and sat there, waiting, wrapped in the blending enchantments of his sacred cloak.

Upon seeing the behir stick its head and first ten feet through, in an instant, the druid smacked his bare hand against the arched roof and shouted his incantation of shaping stone.

Fen sealed the opening around the behir.

“NoooHOOHOO fair! Get this...OOHOOHOO...That’s tiiiHIIIHIIIGHT!” Rach’sha objected.

Fen, braced against the wall by this spider-sticking feet, thrust his green-glowing sacred leaftip spear, with all of his might, into the side of the dragon-snake.

Rach’sha roared out in an attempted retort. He ungulated to the side, pulling the druid’s spear from his grasp, and clawed at the presumptuous half-elf.

Fen took two strides up and above the behir trapped in the stone ceiling, withdrew his cudgel with the head shaped like a butting ram’s and struck.

Thunder filled the great hall. Before the rumble had subsided, a second duller “boom” filled the room.

Pyrnion and Duor raced over to the side where the altercation far above them, though visible to their enhanced vision, occurred.

Duor stopped and Pyrnion alit beside him, both with wide opened mouths.

The head and ten feet of the black behir Rach’sha, with only 4 of its limbs, lay upon the floor of the hall. Black and purple ichor streamed from the severed end. A look of utter surprise and whimsy upon its draconic face.

*Rach’sha is dead. <Satisfaction! Hope!>* the voice of Gorathiel informed Alaria. An image of the front portion of the beast, with Pyrnion and Duor staring at it filled her head. Then an image of Fen, impossibly “standing” upon the wall with a club in his hand, breathing heavily.

*Good.* Alaria and Gorathiel’s mind said at the same time.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
“Where’s the treasure? Ask him where the vault is!” Duor insisted, as all of the companions were now crowding around Alaria seated in the throne in telepathic conference with Gorathgraard’s long lost and cursed lord.

*My lord, we must defeat Desaarthal. How is that possible? What other powers does she possess within this fortress?* Alaria asked, ignoring the dwarf’s crass short-sighted cares.

*She is a Child of Zho...born when the world, as you know it, was young. Her might is great. Her magics all but lost to those not of her kind. Still, she can be defeated by force of might and magic...as any of them can be. It is simply a matter of if you have enough. I certainly could not say if you do.* the low voice of Gorathiel echoed through Alaria’s mind.

*You said the Fehs Repahl is held by a power equal to her own? Where is it, exactly? Does another dragon hold it?* Alaria said with concern. She had an inkling, from Stenthil’s research, that the Fire Staff of Nator held the Fire Repahlentim. But where, exactly, that was...the Fire Staff had been lost from R’Hath’s record for centuries.

*Indeed.* Gorathiel replied, apparently reading Alaria’s musings as easily as her directed surface thoughts. *The Witch-Queen of Dunsmoor holds the staff which holds the Fehs. She is no Child of Zho...nor any descendant thereof...*

Alaria rose an eyebrow at the fact that these two things were worthy of differentiation. A dragon was a dragon, as far as she had ever known.

*She is of your own kind. But her sorcery is potent, even without the staff...and she holds many more powers, whether of material items, spells, innate ability...as well as legions of minions who worship her as a goddess...She is much akin to how we once were...which makes her as capable and formidable an opponent as the Dark One.*

Note to self, Alaria thought. Don’t go messing with the Witch-Queen of Dunsmoor...or?... Maybe...?

*She will not be pleased that Rach’sha is dead. He is one of her last progeny to remain here. It would be best for you to leave before her return. Take the Ihs out of her reach, lest she reclaim it in a single day.*

*Our thanks, Lord Gorthiel. I know your daughters remember you fondly and if there were some way for us to undo the curse that keeps you in such a state, I would surely know it and do what we could to end your suffering and servitude.*

*I see in your heart, you speak the truth...and I thank you. Alas, this weave is far beyond your capacity to untangle. Dragon magic of the Dawning Age. All I can hope for is the Dark One’s defeat and the final fall of my house. Only then shall I be freed of my suffering.*

“What’d he say!?” Duor was growing increasingly impatient...and annoying.

*My lord, if I may...impose one more question...Where might...*Alaria began to ask.

*As a boon...and hurtful insult to her...you will find what you seek two floors below...behind the old casks of wine is a gate hidden in the wall. There will be magical and mundane traps to bypass upon the portal. There are also summoned guardians, unhappily bound to its protection. But you will find the she-devil’s riches there. Take what you will. They are of no further use or value to me and mine.*

*Our most humble thanks, my lord. We will bring your suffering...and the Dark One to an end.* Alaria thought and, as gently as she could, severred the telepathic exchange and stood up from the throne.

“Well?!” Duor said. His eyes were nearly mad with anticipation. He wrung his hands together and practically hopped up and down.

“Two levels down. There will be a wine cellar and a hidden gate.” Alaria replied calmly.

“LET’S GO!” Duor roared and began to take off before stopping three strides later, realizing he had no idea which direction to go.

“There will be traps and guardians...and magic to be overcome. Plus, it is likely Desaaarthal will be returning shortly. I am not certain, Duor, if we possess the needed strength to undertake the descent.” Alaria admitted, unhappy in the public admission of her own limited power.

“Well, yeh’ve got yer 'Unmakin’ whozzits, right? N’ Fen’s got his! Plus the orb? We’ll be fine!” Duor said dismissively.

“Do you think you can, Alaria?” Braddok said in full concern. “We can gather what we can and return here or use the orb to escape?”

Alaria nodded. She cared not a white for the dwarf’s desires, but she knew how much this meant to the warrior.

“Fen? Haelan?” Alaria looked to the other casters.

The half-elf and daelvar nodded, their faces grim with determination.

“Let’s get to it then.” Alaria said. She moved to the doorway to the side of the throne dais. Another small antechamber housed some tables with platters and other serving ware. Duor and Jovias grabbed a few of the ancient silver wares and stuffed them into Haelan’s holding pack (which, thankfully, the disinterested dragon had left) and their own pouches and packs.

“Are we going for the vault or do you two want to raid the crockery as well?” Haelan said in some annoyance. He was overjoyed at their apparent success against the behir and prayed silently to Faerantha to tell Erevan and Festus’ spirits that they’d been avenged.

But the young Hilltender understood, all too clearly, that they were far from out of danger...and that by his own weakness of spirit had fallen to the dragon’s charms and gotten her one trophy even as they’d stolen another away from her. The daelvar’s face held a stern scowl that the other companions had not before seen.
 
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steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
The companions descended a narrow twisting staircase to come to an open archway that opened into a very long room. From the series of three huge fireplaces, two with massive spits, long tables piles up with bowls and pots and pans hanging from hooks and beams in the ceiling, it was obviously a kitchen once fit for a king. The whole of the place was dusty. Cobwebs clung to just about every corner or anything that had not been moved in gods knew how many years.

Around the stonework of the fireplaces, patterns of various animals were carved. One entirely bulls. The next sheep and goats. The third seemed to be all manner of fowl: chickens, geese, pheasants and other birds that were not immediately recognizable. Another wall contained what appeared a massive oven. The trim here was lined with sheaves of wheat and other grains, long loaves of bread, cakes, pies, and what they guessed to be smaller squared rolls or buns

The party passed through with some trepidation, expecting attack from every webbed or shadowy corner, which were many as the only light sources came from the party’s weapons or the ball of light at the end of Alaria’s staff.

“This is the epitomy of a shame.” Haelan said sadly.

“How do you mean, Hilltender?” Pyrnion said, more to distract himself from the dark closed space than any interest in the daelvar’s musings.

“To have a kitchen like this just sitting...unused. The amazing feasts that must have been made here once upon a time.” Haelan tone was filled with obvious sorrow.

Duor and Jovias poked around the carvings and looked up into the completely black and soot stained chimneys. The crockery was ancient. The multitude of various sized pots, pans and assorted utensils of iron and copper and ancient cracked wood. Nothing of note or value to the dwarf or satyr’s eyes.

Buttercream nosed around, as ferrets were want to do, investigating on, under and around the kitchen. She mentally pointed out a small archway that led to an small side chamber.

*I’m not goin’ in there.* she said with a small sneeze. *Stinks bad. Worse than goblins.*

They examined the pantry that was apparently for perishables. The whole place stank of musty dead vegetation and dried husks of vegetables and fruits that were ages beyond identification. A noticeable chill filled the room. Molds covered and filled most of the ancient wooden boxes and reed baskets that would have housed the castle’s foodstores.

Fen noted the distinct lack of dampness for something laying beneath a swamp.

“Woof. Let’s get out of here.” Alaria said with a shiver. Whether from apprehension or insulation, the chill of the room seemed to be increasing to a bone-biting cold.

“Agreed.” Braddok said, his nose scrunched up at the unpleasant rotting odor.

“LOOK OUT!” Jovias cried and swung his pinecone headed mace very near Alaria’s arm.

The magess, instinctively, shirked away from the halfling’s blow and whirled about to see the mace pass through a...tendril, of sorts, a bulbous nodule of...something...reaching toward to her arm from one of the baskets.The mace passed through it, merely scattering clumps of the stuff to the floor before a second, then third and more reaching shapes began to lift from the boxes and baskets.

It seemed to be the mold, itself! Moving of its own accord toward any of the companions close to it.

“EW! It’s...the mold?” Haelan said in surprise. the breath of his exclamation a visible puff escaping his mouth as the room now felt like the winter air.

“Get out of here!” Braddok commanded, swiping Kandu through two of the reaching, rapidly increasing growths.

“Cover your mouths and noses! Don't breathe it in!" Duor shouted out as he quickly wrapped his own cape around his face.

*Hilltender! The door! The door!*
Buttercream's voice came to Haelan's ears. The daelvar turned to see the ferret, moving back and forth before the doorway, slowly being sealed by expanding mold.

The party turned to see, with a good deal of alarm, that the mold also coated the walls and was quickly building up around the doorway, closing it off.

Fen’s leaftip spear head blazed with green fire and swiped at the opening. This, apparently, was the wrong thing to do as the mold growth doubled in size in an instant. The cold became more intense and the doorway was nearly entirely closed by the mold, expanding in a visible burst nodules.

“Behind you!” Jovias shouted in alarm, pointing behind Duor with his short sword but completely at a loss as to what to do with it. Weapons, it seemed, did nothing against this stuff!

The dwarf rogue swung around with his green etheral energy to strike into a very solid, very hard, lumbering form. The size and shape was vaguely hobgoblinish, though what few bits of the desiccated skin could be seen were nearly blue. The bulk of the form, however, was covered in the brownish mold.

“Hobzombie!” Duor shouted.

The creature swung, clumsily, at Duor and missed completely. Another strike from Duor and additional swipe from Pyrnion’s magical axe laid the creature low, though the mold still undulated around it on the floor, reaching for the feet and legs of the dwarf and zephari.

Mold was growing before their eyes. Pressing in from the walls, spreading out from the baskets, lowering from the ceiling.

“I must...We can’t...I have to get out...out of here...LET ME OUT!” Pyrnion said in obvious panic and dove through the doorway back out to the kitchen. His great muscled form and golden feathered wings brushed through the closing mold and clung to him. He disappeared from the others’ view behind the curtain of brown mold with a cry, whether pain or panic, none could tell.

“Th-th-that d-d-didn’t s-s-s-sound goo-ood." Jovias shivered through chattering teeth. “B’may b-b-be the right-t-t idea."

Haelan invoked a prayer of his goddess and the cold which was now severely inhibiting the party’s movement and actions was alleviated...still noticable, but no longer freezing.

“Fen, can’t you control it!” Haelan suggested.

“Do what now?!” the half-elf replied, incredulous, as he backed away, pressing now, back to back with the rest of the companions.

“It’s mold! It’s a plant, isn’t it?” Haelan explained.

“I’m not sure. But whether it is or no, I can not today.” Fen said.

“I say we dive.” Braddok said. The cold blue flames of Kandu seemed to be their best defense against the stuff. The reaching clumps of mold were the least interested in the swordsman and noticeably backed away from his sword swipes.

The hobgoblin corpse seemed to be reanimating. Braddok, again, cut it into multiple pieces. The mold set to bringing the parts back together.

“Alaria can you get us out of here?” Braddok asked.

”Fire would seem to be ineffective. I have no ice or cold incantations.” she replied, swiping at a clump of mold with her staff. The sparking electricity at the end of the staff did burn away a bit, and it did not grow after. “Lightning seems effective, but I dare not risk electrifying all of us in so small a space.”

“Fried or frozen seem to be our options.” Fen said in dry seriousness.

“Use the damnable orb! We have it and nearly die. We don’t have it and nearly die. We have it again. Bloody thing’s a curse and a half. Blow this stuff...somewhere!” Duor shouted in frustration as he burned away bits of mold that had begun wrapping themselves around his forearm.

Alaria knew the dwarf was right, but she’d expended so much energy in the battle with Rach’sha. Manifesting the orb’s powers again might be more than she could handle. They needed a rest...yet, again, the dwarf’s need for greed seemed to have landed them at the doorstep of the Grey Lands. What choice did she really have?

“Make ready to race for the door.” Alaria said calmly as she withdrew the mystic orb from her pouch. A moment of concentration and, thankfully, very little effort later, the orb’s blue and white light swirled within the crystal. She let loose a single short burst of wind, directly at the doorway. It was strong enough ( or perhaps cool enough?) to brush aside a small opening.

All of the party made a made dash for the kitchen.

Some minor swipes and scrapes to remove the few bits of mold that had struck and clung to a few of them was all that was required. The concern immediately became Pyrnion, on his hands and knees, nearly in the middle of the huge kitchen. His axe lay on the ground just beside his hand, yet he had not the strength to grasp it. His bronzed tan skin was nearly grey and he shook visibly. Frost seemed to be forming along the tips of his wings and the feathers that mixed with the hair on his head.

Buttercream circled, hair bristled, around the zephari but did not dare or know how, for that matter, to remove it without touching it. *The bird-man does not look good.* she chitted to Haelan when the Hilltender appeared.

Haelan rushed for the bird man and again invoked the prayer of resistance from cold.

“G-g-get-t-it-t-t-t off...” Pyrnion said weakly.

The Braddok and Duor careful began clearing the zephari of the clumps of mold that covered much of his back. When that was finished, Alaria threw her protective cloak over him. Whether its enchantments of protection from the elements would help or the cloak itself simply lending a layer of warmth, didn’t matter. His lips were blue, he needed to be warmed.

“Set a fire, quickly.” Alaria said. Directing Jovias to the task in the bread oven where a dust and cobweb covered stack old wood was still piled...and happened to be the furthest from the mold-filled pantry.

Haelan’s hushed tones had already produced a honey-colored glow around his hands which he was applying and seemed to be “spreading” the healing light around Pyrnion’s near-frozen form.

“It’ll be alright, Pyrnion. you’ll be ok now. Is that better?” the care-filled Hilltender asked quietly.

Braddok and Duor looked to the pantry in concern but the mold seemed unable to “reah” more than a few inches from the doorway and eventually all sign of movement ceased and the spore-tendrils receded back into the side-room. With the dwarf’s help, the Grinlian warrior moved one of the large wooden tables over to the doorway and flipped it up on end to cover the opening.

The satyr seemed quite adept and had a fire burning in a few moments. Haelan and the satyr helped the still shivering winged man over toward it.

“This feels better.” Pyrnion admitted as the last of the chills were leaving him. “Thank you, my friends. I am ashamed for my...panic. My kind are not accustomed to being in so closed a space...I am also not accustomed to experiencing such a bitter cold. How do you people endure that?”

“We are not zephari.” Duor replied with a jabbing smirk.

“Can you continue?” Alaria said seriously. “I will not be able to use the orb again in battle. I must conserve my strength in case we need it to escape.”

Pyrnion shook his head and took the axe, handed to him gently by Haelan.

“Maybe is wasn’t a 'hobzombie'...maybe it was a 'Zomblin'?” Jovias said to no one in particular.

The rest of the party looked at the satyr minstrel with assorted faces of disapproval.

“What?!” Jovias exclaimed.
 


steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
So what happened next?!? :)

Lol. It is positively uncanny how you have a knack for posting on the very day that I was just looking at the thread and thinking, "I really need to get back on this..." This is like the third time...Are you watching me? Where are you?

By all gods, don't STOP! lol.

But yes, summer is over. Two months of whirlwind traveling have concluded and I've returned to the mountain retreats of Andorra. It is time to return to our friends, the Stormriders, and explore the further story [and other stories] Orea has to tell.

Look for a post in the coming days.
 

SolitonMan

Explorer
Lol. It is positively uncanny how you have a knack for posting on the very day that I was just looking at the thread and thinking, "I really need to get back on this..." This is like the third time...Are you watching me? Where are you?

Still haven't detected my scrying sensor, eh? Good, good, nice to know some things work as expected! ;)

It's really just lucky chance that that's happened but it sure is funny. And I would LIKE to have a scrying sensor...

Oh well, I'll just keep an eye on the forums per my usual practice and enjoy what I read when I see it. Thanks SD, keep up the good work!
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Desaarthal placed the grey bespeckled stone bowl upon the stone ledge at the south of the great chamber within the large hill on Dragonbone Isle. She looked at the cistern on the western wall and grinned at the large black pearl sitting upon the shelf above it.

The dragon-in-female-form stretched and twisted her neck as far as this frail form was capable.

She wandered out of the hill’s large cave entrance and wound the pathway down to where the largest of the islet’s bubbling hot springs. With a thought and a stretch her neck rose up into the air, her legs bent and grew, a tail saked out behind her as great swathes of stretching blackness sprung from her back, like great pavillion tents. Her wings blotted out the afternoon sun as she let herself slink into the hot water.

An exhale of acidic spittle and caustic fume escaped her fang-filled reptilean snout and Desaarthal, the dragon, in all of her ancient and fearsome glory, lounged her horned head upon the soft plant covered edge of the spring. It seemed a long time since she’d worn her true form...and for a dragon to consider any amount of time “long” must have been a long time, indeed.

After a few moments of complete relaxation, Dessarthal tilted her head to the side, slightly. She traced, with a great curved gleaming black claw, a circle in the water’s surface beside her. Around and around and around the claw drew. An image formed in the water’s surface as the dragon watched.

The fleas were in the old kitchens. Whatever could they want there? The hobgoblins didn’t even use those facilities for their own cooking. As she watched, they took up their arms again from a seeming respite and went to the decayed door that led to the cellars.

Huh. The cellar...could they be trying to find the vault? Desaarthal thought to herself. She snorted a chuckle through her pointed reptilian snout. They couldn’t possibly find it. And even if they did...

“Athrizzzzz!” the dragon hissed.

In a shimmer of air not far from the dragon, the sultry succubus came into sight, arms crossed. She’d manifested behind the dragon’s head, so as not to appear directly in her view.

“Mistress?” Athrizz answered through clenched teeth.

The demoness’ disdain for her servitude to the dragon was ever-increasing. Her missions to cause confusion and chaos were all well and good, but the seemingly endless waiting for her release from service was becoming tiresome. She relaxed her stance, however, to see the dragon in actual draconic form. A truly impressive, even slightly unnerving, form, Athrizz had to admit.

“Your true form, mighty Desaarthal? I must say, are truly an awe-inspiring visage of wickedness, Child of Zho.” Athrizz grinned alluringly.

“Save yer silvered tongue for those on whom it will sway, seductress.” Desaarthal replied, unimpressed, with a bored tone. “I have a job for you.”

“Anything to further the glorious evil that is you, o’ mighty Desaarthal.” Athrizz bowed in an appearance of loyal service.

“Return to Gorathgraard. Those damnable mortals are searching for the vault. Rouse Nishkibuul and see that a single coin of platinum does not leave my horde. Slay them and bring me the Repahl. I tire of their interference.” the dragon instructed, somewhat lazily, as it again lowered its head to rest upon the bed of decaying vegetation where she had laid her head upon the green plants moments before.

“Mistress?” Athrizz dared to question. “Is not defense of your horde something you would care to undertake yourself? These champions seem, to all appearances, they might present some... entertainment.”

“I am not interested, Athrizz. As you note, I have retaken my own form for the first time and while and I would enjoy it, unhindered, while I can.” Desaarthal replied from behind closed eyelids. “If you do think you are capable...” she began.

“Not at all, mistress. I am more than happy to carry out your desires...and then?” Athrizz pressed, hoping this trivial chore might be her final errand before being released.

“And then, what, demon? You are in my service until Sharzaak’s return or I deem otherwise. That was your bargain.” Desaarthal opened both eyes and lifted her head to peer down at the bat-winged demoness. Acid began to bubble and sizzle at the corners of her mouth. The huge scaled ridge that formed the dragon’s brow lifted up to one side. “Is another few turns of the moon beyond your capabilities?”

With this question, Desaarthal lifted a massive clawed forelimb and placed in, heavily, on the ground beside the succubus.

Athrizz bowed low, “Not at all, mistress. I am only too happy to indulge your wishes. I’d only thought, perhaps, Nishkibuul might be sufficient for this task and I might...go...to seduce and induce the spread of evil that is more in line with my...talents...whilst we wait for the undeniable success of your endeavors, the most glorious rebirth of the ancient evil which, as you know, is our own most fervent wish...”

“Enough! Begone and see my will done.” Desaarthal hemmed with a wave of her clawed hand and sunk back into the soothing hot water even as Athrizz disappeared in a cloud of yellow sulphurous smoke.

All of these ages, Desaarthal thought lazily to herself, and still good minions were hard to find...even when conjured specifically for such purpose.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Long overdue peek at an old sketch of our troupe.

stormriders_sml.jpg
 

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