The Scroll of New Beginnings

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Chapter 7

Zookji hurried through the streets of Dushuan as he made his way toward the airship port. It had taken him awhile to catch back up with Lord Orin’s group after the attack. He shook his head as he thought about him firing the crossbow and saving the priest’s life. Why did I do that? I gave myself away and not to mention that the fiends could have finished them off. He sighed, it would have been easier to steal the scroll from a bunch of mangy orcs and goblins than these guys.

Why had he done it indeed? The gnome slipped through the crowds as he moved closer to the port. He needed to reach it before the next ship left for Abydos or he would lose several days on the group and may lose the group altogether in the big city. As Zookji hurried along the main street, he finally came to Dushuan’s marketplace. It wasn’t much different from any of the other ones dotting the cities throughout Anoria, but it had a good variety of wares with the airship port bringing in all manner of people. He slipped around and under the humans and the occasional elf as he trekked past the shops. Aromas of spices, food, and exotic wares overwhelmed his senses but he pushed on, determined to make it in time.

The port towered over the other buildings on the western fringes of the city. Towers wrapped in giant staircases and draped with rope and pulley elevators shadowed the rooftops and streets in the waning light. As Zookji made his way to the offices below to find out which ship was leaving, he heard a groaning noise high above him. Looking up he saw that an airship was pulling slowly away from aerial docks, the crew tossing the mooring ropes to the dockhands as the ship gained speed. The gnome’s heart sank for fear it was the ship he needed. He quickly looked around the ticket premises until he found an official. “Excuse me,” Zookji ran up to the towering human dressed in blue leathers, “Excuse me, sir.”

The man looked up from a scroll he was pouring over, no doubt a schedule of today’s ships. He raised an eyebrow as he looked down at the gnome before him. “What can I do for you, master gnome?” he bent down a little so he could better here Zookji over the cacophony of the crowds.

Zookji pointed to the quickly disappearing ship, “What is the destination of that airship?”

The man, his auburn hair sweeping over his eyes as he looked up, scratched his head for a moment in thought. He looked at the scroll in his hands and then turned back to the gnome, “That would be the Rhemus, sir. It’s on its way to Abydos in the southwest.” He stood up then and watched Zookji kick the cobbled street. Guessing the gnome’s dilemma he looked back at the schedule before him. “If it be Abydos you seek sir, there is another airship leaving tomorrow for Abydos, though it makes a stop in Aldcross to the west before finishing its journey to the big city.” Zookji jumped up and down in frustration, cursing in the native language of the gnomes as he watched the airship disappear into the clouds.

I am doomed, he thought, if they have moved on by the time I reach Abydos…

He winced at the idea of what would happen. If Camaru didn’t slit his throat he dreaded the idea of what the Shadowlords would do if they got there hands on him. He closed his eyes and took several deep breathes. He opened them and looked down at his outfit, noting it wrinkled and out of place from his tantrum. He quickly and efficiently smoothed it out and fixed his belongings on him once more. Turning back to the official he controlled his demeanor once more, “Thank you for the information sir,” he placed his hands together to calm himself, “good day to you sir.”

With that Zookji marched into the port office with the official scratching his head as he looked on. After a moment he went back to checking his scroll once more, glancing at the other airships every so often.

The hall itself was circular in design with seating encompassing the whole room. There was seating for more than a hundred and right now it was almost full of officers both human and dwarf alike. To the left of the doors sat 5 soldiers, adorned with medals of every shape and size. 3 of the men wore red capes, and one of the men had a gold sash across his chest. Tristan figured that he was the general, the lord of this fortress. He was strong in stature but smaller than Larsa. He had long brown hair and donned a chiseled goatee. A scar whipped around the left side of his neck from chest to chin. He watched Tristan and Kerak walk into the room. One of the other officers was whispering to him something that Tristan couldn’t make out.

The officers around the room all whispered amongst themselves until they walked in and Tristan made his way to the central platform. A railing looped around two thirds of the platform as stairs led up to the opening. Tristan felt a little sick in his stomach over what he was about to do. He knew that if he told this council the truth of who he was and what mission he was on, it may cause serious problems and a big delay in getting to Abydos. But he knew now in his heart that the truth must be told, they must know what is really going on in the shadows.

Kerak moved over to a bench at the bottom of the seating closest to the door. Tristan looked around the room and found Larsa sitting in the back of the room to his right. It seemed like he sat alone in the crowd that surrounded him. No one was closer than two seats from him. Larsa just stared at Tristan with a blank smile.

Where do I know him from? Was it when I was with my brother? Or in a town I passed through after I had left the elves?

Someone cleared their throat behind him and he quickly turned around to see the officer who had been whispering to the general stand up and look around the room. “I am First Sergeant, Rhamas of the Eastern Wall Battalion. This council has been called by Kerak, 1st Lieutenant of the South Wall Battalion. Kerak if you would please introduce the guest before us,” Rhamas announced as he stretched out his hand toward Tristan and then sat down. He straightened out his cape a little and then sat upright and waited for Kerak to proceed.

Kerak slid off the bench and came down to a spot on the main floor in front of Tristan. He cleared his throat before continuing with the announcement, “Before you is Tristan Taurel of Instillende Sol, now hailing from the Sanctuary of Nemalia.” At the first part many of the officers whispered amongst them. No one has heard of a human calling the Elven capital their home before.

Kerak cleared his throat once more and continued, “He was sent on a quest of great importance and secrecy by Father Alban. He also has news of the army marching this way out of the Mozob Wastelands. Remember to leave any questions until the end. No interruptions.” He turned around then to Tristan and bowed, “You have the floor Tristan, please give the information you have and answer the questions directed to you truthfully or we will not take heed to your claims. Is that understood?”

Tristan looked around for a moment. First he looked upon the general, and then stared at Larsa. His eyes felt like daggers through the heart as he stared back at Tristan. Tristan turned back to Kerak, “I understand, Kerak. Thank you for the introduction.” Kerak turned and went back to the bench where he had been sitting earlier.

Tristan breathed in deeply and tried to think where to start, the army or his quest and his brother. He supposed the army would best be reported first, since they may need to send out orders to the soldiers during this proceeding. “Officers of the Feyraven tower Fortress I want to first thank you for allowing me to speak before you. I suppose it would be wise to report on the army I saw first, in case you have orders that must be sent out to your troops.” Some officers nodded while others whispered to each other again. “As I was flying my mount over the plains close to the borders of the wastelands I saw, at first what I thought was a massive shadow. But I quickly realized that it was an army marching through the waters of the River of Sorrows. They were moving fast and in an organized fashion. This confused me at first because I realized that the army was made of goblins, orcs, and trolls. Which in years past I have never seen an army of these creatures do either one, this troubled me greatly.” More people nodded in agreement and the whispers continued.

“I soared a little closer to figure out what was leading them in such a fashion. As I came closer I saw that there were human soldiers, both walking amongst the monsters and a few were riding nightmares. I suppose the riders are officers of sorts. At the shock of seeing this I pulled back a little and circled around the group to get an idea of where they were going and what they comprised of. Toward the back of the army there were multiple catapults, ballista, and siege towers.” Some people murmured a little too loudly at the idea of human officers over goblins and orcs.

One officer stood up shaking his head, “You expect us to believe you when you say there are human soldiers in this army. No human has ever partnered with such creatures before. Whether criminal or not none of the free races would dare stand side by side with these monsters. You must have been mistaken…”

He turned quickly toward Kerak, who cut him off, “Shut your trap Nathan, he hasn’t finished yet. You know the rules now sit down and keep your questions for the end.” Kerak stared hard into his eyes, as Nathan’s mouth dropped open and he sat down a little red in the face.

“It just doesn’t make sense, Kerak. Why would a human do that?” He shook his head once more.

Kerak turned to Tristan, “You may continue lad.”

Tristan nodded and turned back to the main part of the group. “You must understand that this is no average army. They were ALL donned in armor and carried a great many weapons. They marched in troops and legions side by side with one another. All the races did. As I flew around an arrow shot towards me but fell short and I knew it was time to go. Officers of the court you must understand two things. One is that this army is over 100,000 strong,” many gasped while a few sent messengers to their second’s in command, “and it is headed here. I calculated that by tomorrow morning they should be at your doorstep. If you don’t believe me then send your scouts toward the River of Sorrows and tell us what they see. That is all.” With that Tristan sighed and took a step back and leaned his back against the rail for support.

At that point the murmurs and whispers became like a loud buzzing sound. Tristan looked into the eyes of many of the officers and knew that most didn’t believe him. As he looked around the room, he noticed two things at that moment. One was that Larsa was smiling and not talking to any one while the other was that the general was staring at Tristan. It seemed to Tristan that he was sizing him up or seeking the truth of his words in his eyes.

Just then a boy came quietly into the room and marched straight to the general. He quickly looked away and took the scroll from the boy who was practically dropping it into his lap. The whole room quieted at that moment and looked toward the general. The general unraveled the scroll and seemed to read it over a couple of times before looking up at Tristan. Without saying a word, he handed it to Rhamas whose eyes went wide as he read through it. The general said nothing, he showed no emotion. He just stood up and walked back and forth in front of his seat for a few minutes as if lost in thought.

After a minute or two he looked up at Tristan, he turned and stood at attention with his hands behind his back. His eyes searched Tristan’s for a moment or two before he spoke. “Tristan, I first and foremost want to thank you for stopping here on your way to Abydos to give us this intelligence.” He turned around to his officers at that moment, “And he is telling the truth people, there is a massive army, marching in numbers around 100,000 troops. Our griffin scouts have also found that indeed there are humans marching and leading in some sections, the creatures. Roughly 20 siege towers, 15 catapults, 20 ballista, and 3 battering rams are among the numbers.” The general started to pace again, “Indeed, as Tristan has implied, this army is headed our way and is intent on taking this stronghold.” He paced back and forth for another minute while it all sank in for everyone and a few began to whisper to one another. Nathan stood up finally, waiting for his general to give him permission to speak. The general turned toward Nathan at that moment and nodded for him to speak.

“General Pyrhus, what is your orders sir?” Everyone quieted and waited for their general’s reply.

“All wall battalion officers, I want you to ready all your troops, double the guards at each gate, and have the full supply armaments for the ballista on hand at each station. The same goes for the tower officers and their catapults.” As soon as General Pyrhus had mentioned the wall leaders, they stood at attention and nodded at hearing the orders. “Also I want every archer in this complex to have two soldiers for protection. Our archers will be crucial to whittling away their numbers once they are within range.” A number of young boys entered the room at that moment, each running to a different officer of the wall battalions and took their orders to their second in commands on the walls below.

“1st Lieutenant Argos,” the general called out to a man of slender build and sandy brown hair who rose to attention from the back opposite Larsa. Tristan noticed he was tanned from head to toe, and wondered why he was when everyone else wasn’t. “I want a message sent to Khardazaun and Uruk immediately requesting reinforcements. If they mobilize immediately they should get here by tomorrow evening. Also send a message to Ishme Dagan to double their guard and close the gates until a battalion can be sent to their aid. I have a feeling that if we are taken their treasury will be attacked next. It could pay for a very long war campaign if this enemy is indeed as organized as I fear they are.” Argos nodded and quickly left the council hall silently.

General Pyrhus turned back to the wall officers and nodded to them, “That will be all for now. More orders will come later on tonight. Remember to concentrate everyone on the defensive positions and keep the morale high. The men are restricted to only two drinks tonight instead of the usual four. I want everyone sober and have their wits about them.” General Pyrhus stood to attention and saluted, “Dismissed!” The officers did the same and started to file out of the room. Kerak and Rhamas remained behind waiting for further instructions after they sent Jonathan out with orders to their men. All that remained were the officers of the tower, security, and cavalry besides these two.

Pyrhus turned back to Tristan now and looked him up and down, before settling on the medallion around his neck. “Tristan that is no mere trinket you wear around your neck. If memory serves me right that has been in the keeping of Father Alban for more than 100 years and that must mean you are on a very important mission. Is that a correct assumption?” Pyrhus put his hands behind his back once more while waiting for Tristan to answer him. The other officers stopped whispering and seemed confused about what the general was talking about.

Tristan looked around the room, and saw Kerak to the side encouraging him silently to continue. Tristan sighed and knew it was time to tell the truth, “You are right General Pyrhus; I am indeed on an important mission for Father Alban. I am on my way to Abydos to meet up with a group of travelers who are in search of some very valuable artifacts; Artifacts that if in the wrong hands, could spell the end for the Free Races.” Murmurs filled the room immediately; everyone stared at Tristan as they whispered guesses as to what he was talking about. Tristan noticed that Larsa was now leaning forward as if very interested in this part of the conversation.

General Pyrhus raised his hands for silence once more and waited until all was quiet. He looked back to Tristan with a look of sorrow in his eyes. Tristan wondered at this for a moment before the General spoke, “You seek the Scrolls don’t you?” Tristan stunned, took a step back at the question. He felt like he had just been slapped, how could he know about the scrolls? Kerak’s mouth dropped open and Tristan noticed that Rhamas seemed a bit nervous. Larsa’s emotions didn’t change, however it seemed he had leaned even closer now.

Tristan regained his posture and looked back at the general, “Yes I am seeking the Lost Scrolls; it is time to finish it once and for all.”

With that, General Pyrhus turned back to the officers. “I want everyone here to ready their defenses and get their men into position. 3 hour patrols start immediately. Now go to your men. Larsa,” he looked over to the man who was now sitting straight back again. The officers filed out of the room as quietly as possible, while Pyrhus waited for them to leave. When the last person left the room and the door closed only Kerak, Rhamas, and Larsa remained with Tristan and the General. While looking at Tristan he called out to Larsa, “Larsa I want you to hurry up to the mages and let them know that they are to meet us in my chambers. Make sure they bring the orb with them.” Pyrhus stared into Tristan’s eyes as he spoke, searching for any sign of his character. Pyrhus, his whole life, could tell the stature of a man just by staring into the eyes. His father once said that the eyes were the windows into the soul. No matter how well some presented themselves, or how well they lied, he could always tell from their eyes who they really were.

Spoken lowly, barely above a whisper, “Tristan you are indeed the right man for this quest. Father Alban has chosen well for this journey. I know you may not understand my actions at the moment but you will soon enough.” He smiled and turned back to Larsa. In a stern voice he spoke, “Larsa, why have you not left yet?”

At that question, Tristan turned to see Larsa standing at the base of the seats, staring at him. Again Pyrhus spoke, “Larsa, why have you not left? Did you not hear the orders correctly? Or is there something else on your mind?”

Larsa turned to the general and bowed, “No my Lord, I will do as you ask immediately.” With that Larsa marched past Tristan and out of the council hall.

Tristan watched Larsa leave with an uneasy feeling,

Something is not right about him. I better keep a watchful eye while I am here. He was staring at me and then at the talisman, this is not good at all.

He turned to look back at General Pyrhus for a moment,

Do I tell the general my feelings or wait to see what happens?

General Pyrhus smiled at Tristan as he walked up to him, putting his hands on Tristan’s shoulders, he spoke, “I suppose you could do with some freshening up and some food perhaps?”

Tristan’s shoulders relaxed, perhaps I will wait to tell the general, after all I am very tired from flying.

“Yes I could do with some food and a place to change clothes. Never been flying before and my body doesn’t seem to appreciate the experience.” He chuckled as he looked from the general to Kerak, who also chuckled.

“I don’t think too many people would be a natural at flying eagles either,” the general turned to Kerak, “Show our guest to a room and then off to the bath houses. They will make our friend feel better.” Turning back to Tristan he continued, “An hour from now, meet me in my quarters we have much to discuss over dinner.” With that he straightened up his body like a board and then bowed before Tristan.

Kerak and Rhamas both bowed as the General left the room. Rhamas looked at Kerak and then to Tristan, “This is a bit much to take in for one day.” His hands were shaking a little and his eyes darted around before he continued, “A war at our doorstep and the quest for the scrolls has begun. This is not good, not good at all.” He turned to Kerak who leaned against the railing of the central dais, “Are we ready for this Kerak? Do you think the men are?”

Kerak smirked at Rhamas, “You humans are all the same. Worrying about every little thing.” Both Tristan and Rhamas were taken aback by his comment.

Tristan looked from Rhamas to Kerak, “This is no simple matter, Kerak. The fate of the Races are about to be decided, and you act as if it’s another day in Anoria. How can this be? Don’t you care that many of the people of Anoria could and will die in the near future, Human and Dwarf alike.”

Kerak straightened up and pointed a finger at Tristan a little frustrated by the last comment. “Now see here boy, I have been around a lot longer than most of your family. I have seen time pass by these last few centuries. And if there is anything that I have learned through battles and major events, is that life will go on.” He pulled a string tied to a pouch on his belt buckle and the pouch opened to reveal some sort of plant cut up into little pieces inside. Kerak reached in and pulled out a small handful.

While patting it together into a small ball, Tristan shook his head, “Things are different than past wars and past events. This time it could mean the end of all things; everything that we know and hold dear could be wiped away unless we stand up and do something about it.” Tristan waved his hands around in frustration as he spoke, he couldn’t believe the words that were coming from Kerak.

Who could be that cold about the world around him and the good people of these lands? Or is he too thick headed to understand just what is going on?

Kerak walked right up to Tristan and stared hard into his eyes, “Now see here ‘Boy’, I know what I am talking about, because I have been there before. The Dark Lord, ‘May he rot in the Abyss’, has tried before to take over this world and he failed. And he will fail this time and every other time that he tries. Nothing changes it is a never ending cycle.” Kerak moved his hands in a circular motion, “We live and we die, we love and we hate, and it is the same with good versus evil; evil will rise up and good will persevere.” He rubbed his hands, satisfied with his little speech before he took the wadded up plants and stuck it in his mouth and began to chew on it. “Man that tastes good, like this plant that tastes so good, things do not change.”

Tristan stared at the dwarf for a moment, all though his words rang some truth in them his heart fought against his words. “No! Things do change over time; the poor can become rich, the rich can become poor, the weak can be strong, and the strongest hero can still lose heart.” His determination and faith took over. “I believe that good conquers evil, yes you are right on that part, but this time things are very different, for you do not know the evil that is at your doorstep. The Dark Lord has learned from his mistakes and he will not make them again. Do not become complacent, master Dwarf, for you do not know what it is that plagues these lands now. Not like I know, and if you were right about your beliefs of these events, then why Father Alban, a great follower of the Almighty, is scared. Even a man such as him fears for what is to come, because for one thing the Eschrehim are not here to help us, or have you forgotten that. They were sent back to the Realm of Light like the fallen ones that follow Delnok’s ways. Things have most certainly changed Kerak, and you need to see that before you walk out onto the battlefield when the time comes otherwise you will be swept away like everyone else who doesn’t get it.” With that Tristan was done, he had said what he wanted to and he vowed not to argue with the dwarf anymore. He took a deep breath as he held onto his chest, for he was beginning to feel a little tired.

Hearing that Father Alban was worried and after seeing the conviction in Tristan’s eyes, Kerak decided not to argue anymore. “Perhaps there is truth in some of your words as well, for now Tristan, let us show you to your room.” He had lowered not only his voice now but also his gaze, for he felt something tugging at his heart after Tristan had made his speech.

Rhamas stepped toward both of them, after having listened to them argue he didn’t know what to feel right then. He just knew he had orders to carry out and that was the one thing that was still constant. “Yes Tristan, we don’t have much time before you meet with the mages and General Pyrhus in his quarters for dinner. You must be exhausted from your trip and I agree, a dip in the bath house will take away all your stress and worries.” He tried to smile as he spoke but found he could only get a pathetic grin to show on his solemn face.

Tristan turned to Rhamas, still breathing heavily, “Yes I think you are right, it has been a long day indeed. Lead the way Rhamas and Kerak, and thank you for your hospitality.” With that they headed toward the heavy doors and then made their way to the nearby staircases.

To the west of Feyraven, a great shadow crossed the River of Sorrows. The dark mass moved swiftly and with precision as it made its way across the plains. Wicked were the individual minds of the collective darkness; greed, power, hatred, and bloodlust ran rampant amongst the army that comprised of this great mass. They moved swiftly, silently, and with the greatest of fervor. They had marched endlessly through the desolate wastelands of Mozob, stopping only once 100 miles into their journey. They had camped on the edge of a great canyon, the last landmark before they reached the great river that divided the lush plains and the hellish lands.

Now their scouts had found a suitable spot to set up camp within 10 miles of the great fortress. Orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears made up most of the army. They grunted, growled, and gurgled as they made their way through the thick grasslands. Giants and trolls pulled massive siege weapons and great wagons full of supplies. The thunderous sound of each footstep was the first thing one heard before anyone ever laid eyes on the army. That sound alone kept most animals away, and the few farms along the way were already picked clean before the army arrived by the scouts.

One particular goblin, Bzag, sat quietly on his moorhound. Its heavy breathing caused small clouds of dust to rise from the bluff they were standing atop.

Bzag was a scout and skilled ranger for the Dark Legions. His clan, the Ironclaws, hailed from the Frost Bogs of the north. He and his moorhound had answered the call of the “Master” 5 years ago. Ever since then he had been on scouting missions and various small raids across the western continent. Bzag was proud of his position, not only could he participate in raiding parties while most of the army was left behind, he could also go on missions alone. The scouting missions meant time alone with his moorhound, which he preferred, most of the soldiers he thought were buffoons. They weren’t as skilled as Bzag; he could sneak up on anyone and take them out before they knew what hit them. And if that didn’t work, his moorhound Seros was around the corner to aid in any battle. They made quite a team; they knew each other’s moves and could almost read each other’s minds in battle. Seros was loyal to Bzag and Bzag to Seros.

The goblin’s black, scraggly hair whipped around in the evening breeze as he sat atop Seros looking down at a small campfire. Two scouts from Feyraven relaxed under the stars. He had already killed 3 other scouts from the wretched fortress. These were the last two of the scouts that were reported to be in charge of this region. All others were on griffon back or east of Feyraven; at least that is what their informant had said.

He picked at his teeth with a bone from an earlier meal. His orders were to clear the area of the scouts on foot. The griffons would be dealt with by the drake riders. They wanted to ensure no one would report back to the fortress of the whereabouts of the camp until after they were set up. Bzag snickered as he listened to the two humans as they sat by the fire talking of battles with goblins and orcs in years past.

They may have beaten off small bands of us in the past, but not this time. We have a grand army, an army that makes the “Master” proud. It is an army that will sweep across the land from many locations and take over this world in the name of the “Master”.

“Well, Seros its time to get to work,” Bzag snapped his reins to get the beast’s attention. Its biceps rippled as it rose from the ground. The white, thick fur barely moved in the wake of the breeze that had been coming in from the east. They were down wind, and that is how Bzag liked it. “You hungry boy?” he patted its side as it gave a low growl. “Let’s enjoy a little more feasting before heading back to the others,” he continued. Seros scrapped the ground a couple of times before galloping toward the left side of the bluff where there were large boulders it could jump on down to the bottom of the gully.

The two scouts sat unknowingly of their doom enjoying a late meal. The scrawny one on the left bit into a piece of bread he had brought from Feyraven. Munching on it as he listened to his friend tell of a recent battle he never even knew what hit him. He flopped like a rag doll into the air as an iron spear skewered him in the back. His arms flailed as he was lifted into the air. The other scout tried to reach for his sword but Bzag flung his friend and caused the both of them to sprawl out in the grass.

He turned Seros to face the two of them as they lay on the ground; one gasped for air as his lung collapsed and the other one slowly got to his knees. “You may kill us, you filthy beast, but we are already prepared for your arrival,” he began to drag himself away from the moorhound and its rider. “No one has ever taken Feyraven, let alone a group of mangy goblins and orcs,” he continued as he looked around for his sword. It lay beyond the beast and he knew then he was done for. His leg injured from the collision looked helplessly up at the goblin rider.

Bzag licked his lips as he looked down at the soldier and cackled, “I am from no simple raiding party, human. We fight for the Dark Lord, and his armies have been gathered together like in the days of old,” He waved his hand about as he spoke, “Only this time, there are no Eschrehim to stand in our way.” Bzag urged Seros forward and he stopped before the other scout that now lay barely alive. His ragged breathing slowed with each passing second.

“The Age of Darkness has come at last and you two won’t see it come about…” Seros slammed its left front paw, claws extended, into the chest of the dying soldier. The crushing blow snuffed the life out of him. The moorhound gave a low growl as it looked toward the other soldier who tried to slide away again.

“As for you, scout, your precious “Almighty” can’t save you this time. But don’t worry, you will see him soon enough,” and with that Bzag snapped Seros’ reins and they leapt onto the scout. The human soldier cried out as two rows of razor sharp teeth closed down on his leg. Seros lifted the man up into the air by his leg and whipped him back and forth before flinging him into the rock wall of the bluff. “Tsk, tsk, when will they learn?” He scratched behind Seros’ right ear before leaning forward and looking into its eyes. “Enjoy my friend, but make sure to save me a leg.”

Howls and hideous laughing bounced and echoed through the gully and the nearby stand of trees. Tonight, the feasting would end for now; Bzag didn’t want to be late for his report to the general. General Kurznak didn’t like to be kept waiting on his reports, and those who tried his patience were dealt with by becoming the drakes’ next meal.

He shuddered at the idea; he didn’t want to be late indeed.

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