The Dragon’s corpse lay on the forest floor bleeding darkly into the earth. Syoran walked along its side, trailing his roughened hand lovingly along the green scales, already envisioning the finely-crafted pieces his wife would craft from its hide. I stood morosely in front of it, uncertain how to feel.
The battle had been an unqualified mess. I was still not even sure of the actual sequence of events – what with the Dragon’s taunting of Erelas with the vision of his father, my companions and I running a merry circle around hedges obstructing the battlefield, trying to pin down spider-monsters and chase off birds and cut wood elves out of cocoons, uncertain whether they’d survive the battle or not, I do not trust my recollections. I only remember that the Dragon had come on us from behind, in the middle of the infuriating chaos, and from there on in I had to fight my mounting impatience and anger at being unable to engage my forsworn enemy. Beset upon by flocks of birds controlled by the hulking green wyrm, needing to help ensure my companions’ survival, for those who faced attack by spider monsters, I had to let the Dragon choose who he would fight and where… and that was maddeningly distant and hidden behind the hedges.
I ground my teeth and could have fused the forest floor at my feet to glass with the heat of the anger in my scowl.
We were lucky that Garret and Ellion’s sure shots winged it, else it would surely have launched itself into the air, laughing at our miserable efforts to best it. My hand strayed to the wand snugged in its belt on my ribs, testing its green crystal tip thoughtfully with my thumb. True, the dragon was dead, by whatever means, and surely that was the important part, but by the gods I had wanted to deliver this Dragon’s death to Verenestra. Instead I’m left uncertain I scratched so much as a scale.
Garret, incensed at Ellion’s claim that his arrow and not Garret’s had dealt the final blow, was continuing to protest the exaggerated details of the story the bard was cooking up to tell Sova’s daughter (and anyone else who’d listen).
I hated them both in that moment.
Eventually I collected myself, more or less, and helped my companions clean up. We sat and rested a while, with the others celebrating their first dragon kill, and sharing what food we had left, and me sitting more quietly, trying to not taint their excitement with my mood. Syoran was nearly beside himself with excitement – I suppose even though this dragon was not the one which had killed his father and leveled his home, he would get some measure of vengeance in the killing of it. He had grand plans to skin the wyrm and craft armour for all of us, and seemed not to be able to hear me tell him that I had never worn scale armour and felt that wearing it would jeopardize my ability to cast. I let the matter drop; I would let him have his excitement unmarred.
After a few hours, a feeling of great restlessness came over me, and I think some of our party felt the same (Syoran not being one of them; he was wholly obsessed over the dragon’s body). The dragon was dead, but there could still be captives in the maze, and cultists we should run down. To that end, we readied ourselves, and pulled Syoran away from his prize. The mist had nearly dissipated, and some of the snarled thorn bushes in the hedges seemed to be withdrawing. We marched determinedly through the maze now that the dragon’s magic was not assaulting our minds and energy, putting an end to any foul creatures we encountered, and helping what victims we found alive.
That night, we slept the first night of good rest since before entering the maze. Verenestra came to me in my dreams, and wearing a grim smile, she stood in front of the dragon’s corpse under a waning moon. Her eyes blazed in time with the stars in her hair. She turned and held her hand out to me commandingly. I approached and was surprised to feel, for the first time, no compulsion to kneel. I drew my Blade and handed it to her as I knew this was what she was asking. Catching my eyes, she nodded once, slowly, and then turned to the dragon and sank the Feyblade into its chest.
When I woke in the morning, I found that much of my anger had disappeared.
With every passing day, the hedges dwindled. On the third day, we found the dragon’s lair. Tucked into the wooded slope of a craggy foothill, it appeared as though it had taken over a tunnel initially hewn from the rock by some other creature. We feared Drow, but saw no traces of them other than the body we had come across after killing the dragon.
Entering, we found only traces of the dragon’s hoard. There were elven artifacts, some longbows which were adorned with small emeralds, minor items of jewelry, but it was not a hoard befitting a dragon of the age this one had been, and there was what Syoran was able to tell us was a fresh cave-in, sealing the tunnel and preventing us from further searching. I was somewhat put out at this, since I had hoped for some small wealth to ensure my ability to continue on with my task, but my disappointment was nothing to Garret’s. The halfling nigh glowed with anger, his face terrible to behold. We all knew he had been counting on the dragon’s hoard to fund the enterprise he planned to establish in Ulosa as a base from which to launch the effort to someday regain his family’s place in Underberg [let me know if we actually didn’t know this, Ork]. If the remainder of the dragon’s hoard could not be found, that plan would be delayed.
The others were also less than pleased by this development, although Syoran less than I would have imagined, for a dwarf. He seemed truly obsessed with the excitement of crafting dragon armour – something which had not been done in centuries [tell me if it’s not that long, Andrew]. He could tell us that the cave-in was not something that should be undertaken without a crew of knowledgeable miners. We collected everything that remained on this side of the cave-in and decided it was time to help Syoran load the dragon corpse onto wagons from the cultist camp and return to Valona. This took quite a lot of time, and once the carts were loaded I was of next to no help in pulling them, but I did what I could.
As we exited the maze, we were surprised to find King Sova and princess Aeliona waiting for us along with the King’s guard! This was of great relief to me, since it had taken us three days by elven horse to travel from Valona to this region, and it would have taken considerably longer for us to return on foot pulling wagons laden with the remains of a dragon. The King made speeches (which I could understand much better than the last time I had seen him) extolling our bravery and valour and thanking us for what we had done for his people. We traveled in relative comfort back to Valona.