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Remnants of The Six & The Copper Dragon Part 1

{Excerpted From the DragonPort weekly (and perhaps world's only) Newspaper, The Tattler}

The following is a translation from Old Dwarfish into the common tongue, from the Original Source Material provided to the Weekly Tattler, and this reporter.

The following report,  be it truth or fiction, was found to be a scroll on a kind of vellum not seen since the time the old Lands were young; a scroll that washed ashore inside a rather large wine bottle, magically corked.

Your Reporter of Tales Tall & Small: El-Ray P. Dodds Presents:

The Last Dwarf In the Old Lands
A Memoir by Rusilka Muntansdottir,
Last of The Old Dwarves.
Part II
Remnants of The Six & The Copper Dragon

This is the second of my “scroll in a bottle histories” of my band of companions and our trek from the headland of the Old Lands across the ruined cities, and the desert, swamps, jungles and ultimately the Sea, and beyond the so called New Lands to the north and further on to the pole and the land of the Frost Giants, living as they do it is told, in a humongous domed Crystalline City, carved and polished out of the Arctic Glacier itself. 

I shall finally, if I make it that far see for myself if these tales of Giants with Icicle Beards who live in a strange technologically evolved Domed City or if like most things, (even the Dragons were exciting but not as awe inspiring as I’d hoped, They seem like such “normal” beings.) The tales are a likely quite a bit exaggerated. One can never say for certain until you lay eyes on a legend, whether or wither their fame may come, or be realized. 

At least that’s what I thought before we entered another snow white part of the world, The Desert of Faralinka, where the orcs once had their mighty if small kingdom. Too caught up in their clannish regionalism, by half though. they couldn’t withstand the Dragons, as they moved northward a thousand years ago, nor could any of the small warlords of recent history ever muster more than a few memorable battles with whatever other small tribes the dragons had left in their wake when they mysterious vanished a hundred years to the day that they swept over the whole continent. 

Once they ruled us all with an iron fist; for one hundred years after decimating a very diverse old land that was said to, in Pre-Draconic times be home to at least 100 separate sentient species, many of whom co-mingled, living together and or separately with seeming ease. Wars were small petty things usually more about the ego of various old families from various different cultures. The Bugbear-Human wars for example happened very three or four decades, and usually lasted only a year or two. Other races never fought at all seemingly, though there was enmity or a natural dislike if you will between not just the humans and the bugbears, but also the Elves and Dwarves. 

The Halflings and Gnomes fought a 300 year long magic war that saw the last of the old Halflings die when the dragons came, killing all indiscriminately as far as history tells us, there weren’t enough Halflings left alive for them to make it these thousand years. Myself? I say it’s a big continent as my friends and I ares discovering. There could be anybody anywhere, It’s hard to be certain about things like that. 

But enough history, that if you can read this, you probably already know. Lets get back to our time in the desert, where I had bee before, though at the other side of where we were headed. I had never been this far north in the desert. The sand as you moved north was bleached whiter than white, we all took to wearing floppy hats that the Witch Widow seems almost happy to be making and decorating for the band. She’s made about three for everyone. 

Lucky for us that we brought a lot of water, as we haven’t seen except as a heat induced mirage any ponds, lakes, rivers, stream, or even puddles. No trees, no cactus, not even a lizard slithering past, despite our good stores, I was getting nervous about finding some shade. I am a dwarf after all, my homes have all been damp caves. Oh spiders, and moss how I miss you.

That’s when I saw the city. I figured it must be a mirage until Cronus spied it as well and began hooting and hollering about “Land Ho”... too addled the usually silver tongued Sorcerer was making nautical references. I forgave him, as I definitely felt and feel as I write this, lost at sea. A sea of the unknown, as every step that each of us took was for us, an undiscovered country, we walked in the lands of history, story and myth, the old north desert, more recently called “Faralinka.”

Legend had it that Faralinka was home to two sprawling Desert Elf Metropolises that sat at either edge of the growing desert during their pinnacles, maybe a thousand years even before the Dragons. I had seen the remnants of the city at the other side, called now only “the Ruins” it was a typical Elven ruin, warded and protected by creatures from other planes. When I was there, such runes, or beasts had long since been dispatched, or maybe just un-needed, retired to whatever elemental hell they came. 

I fought a battle alongside my husband here against the Bugbear Warlord “Black Heart The third”. He was a puffed up ineffectual fighter who happened to have deep pockets and the most expensive mercenary Army the sparsely populated Old Lands could provide. A rag tag band, he raided every village, town, or remnant of a city that remained active and trading in the Old Lands where the Dragons again sit.

Einar, myself, and the rest of that version of “The Six” gathered 500 farmers, tradesmen, homemakers, and a few magical creatures, we routed them soundly, but it was a long battle, lasting the better part of two days, before the paid for troops decided they had already earned any pay they might have coming, and surrendered, just as  Blackheart was giving some kind of “rallying speech” that quickly faded into a grown Bugbear Warlord blubbering in tears, something about fairness. We left him with naught but the clothes on his back, and a short sword, exiled him into the desert. 

But that was 30 years ago, and now we are all running towards what looks like an actual city with actual people, in the distance, we all kept running, it never seemed to get any closer. I felt strangely compelled though to keep running. I felt desperate to be amongst a throng of people, sitting on the edge of a fountain. Odd thoughts for a cave dweller.

The witch stopped running after a minute and bade us to stop. She made a strange face, tossed some seeds in the air, hissed like a cat, and the city vanished before our eyes. Desert, more blinding white desert. Where had the city gone? I asked unsure if I was saying it aloud. 

“It was an illusion, Russy, (she called me “Russy” much to my chagrin, everyone else did now too.) a powerful illusion that dug into all our minds, compelling us see and want our destination, just a little too much though. My deep seeded paranoia, and cynicism caught up with me slightly ahead of you all. So I dispelled the magicks with a little thing I cooked up last night.”

“The caster is either nearby, or we set off a ward somehow, I haven’t sussed that out,” she continued, as she dug into her bag of herbs and such for some more witchy potions or unguents. 

The Sorcerer was casting some thoughtful spell, and the Bugbear Ranger sniffed around using his crazy tracking skills and motioned us all to be quiet, as he started sneaking to the East, like there was someone there. No one could see anything east except our footprints and more desert. He stuck his sword into the air, suddenly, and the air started to bleed at the end of his sword, quickly we saw a half orc sorcerer become visible, struggling to free himself from the sword that Alphonse was actively grinding and twisting through his robes and into his flesh, until I grabbed his shoulder and said firmly, but loud, 

“Alphonse, I think you got him, let’s maybe ask him a few questions before running him through, hmmm?”

Alphonse responded slowly, 

“Yes, Captain, you’re right,” he  grabbed a healing potion from his pouch and forced it down the bleeding out Half-Orc’s mouth. 

The fellow sputtered, magically stopped bleeding, looked down at himself, then up at Alphonse, then over to me, then back to his blood soaked robes.

He sputtered out some Orcish cuss words, that most of us ignored, Again I held back Alphonse, and spoke to him in Orcish, asking him to have a care with his language, our Witch is a High born Widow, and is sensitive to profanity. The widow laughed out loud, then hid her face behind that Elven fan that we were all envious of her of in our desert walk. 

He stiffened a bit, then looked thoughtful for a minute before he spoke, I thought, arranging his words a bit more carefully.

“You shouldn’t be looking for the City, it is forbidden,” he glowered ineffectually, then grimaced a bit more successfully, as Alphonse put his hand back on the hilt of his now holstered sword.

I asked him if it was forbidden to go to the city, why was that the illusion of the city thrust unbidden into our minds?

He said that we only saw what we all wanted to see, and that likely if we compared the cities we saw, they’d all be different, that was how the spell worked. And it turned out that he actually hadn’t cast the spell, but was the person who set the wards and sigils in place.

He said most people who set them off (it happens once or twice a year) just run around in the desert for a while, until the spell wears off, and usually the person forgets where they are and where they were going. Many mummified wanderers have been found over the years.

He worked part time for a wizard in the city; a Human Necromancer named Handrell who had recently randomly been transformed into a halfling who strangely had the word “terror” written across his forehead. This led the necromancer to believe his body has been swapped with that of a Halfling who lost some sort of bet.

The Half Orc apprentice, whose name was, improbably, 'Cecil,' intimated that his master was having a hard time being a halfling, and is consumed with figuring out how to get his actual body back. 

But he’s found no spell to reverse what has happened, he’s sent out his gang of Golems who usually serve as his bodyguards in search of his body. Handrell is offering a 10000 reward to get his own body back, alive preferably, but he is a Necromancer, so...

After giving this story some careful thought, I asked Cecil the question on my mind, "why are these wards and sigils here in the first place, whatever their effect?"

He said no one will tell him, they laugh and say that it’s tradition. Then Cecil did the weirdest thing anyone has ever done to me on one of my adventures, he hugged me, almost too long. 

Then he broke off, and apologized, “Sorry Ma’am, it’s just that this is the only conversation I’ve had with anyone in a few weeks, and I’m afraid it might be the last I have for some time, I work all day and night (indentured by my father the gambler, he’s a “professional”) at the beck and call of a crazy Necromancer. I’m an Illusionist, I make fireworks, and know all the card tricks. I can’t talk to the golems, or zombies he makes, and the Master only really talks to himself, if you know what I mean.”

I patted him on the shoulder, and pushed him in line with us as a group as we started heading North again, “lead us on to your City, Young Cecil, and we will see if we can help your boss ‘find himself’ and see if we can barter your freedom.” The others didn’t react other than with eyes rolling at my making this kind of decision for the group. that’s why they call me ‘Captain’, or at least used to, until The Witch (whose name none of us know) started calling me Russy. 

Cecil smiled just as we all stopped walking again, and saw the really big wagon coming directly at us from the direction of the City. The driver halted right in front of us. The driver took out a pistol seemingly made of brass and obsidian glass, and waved it at Cecil “get in the wagon kid, Your Boss is looking for you.” He spat some tobacco on the sand. The witch curled her lip at that, I could see she had already picked her hex if it came to a fight.

Alphonse walked forward, in front of Cecil, “we’re escorting the boy, as we may have some business with his employer, have you room in your wagon for our coterie as well?” 

The desert gets weirder and weirder as Alphonse tries diplomacy first, which is a first for him. The driver laughed, holstering his weapon (that all of us wanted to see up close, but not from the front) he spat again, “there might be if you can find some space next to the dragon.” 

That dry delivery had the desired effect, almost everyone, including Cecil were mouths agape, “A dragon, you say, may I ask what type of dragon it might be?” I asked him, as I started towards the back regardless, hand on my Waraxe.

He laughed, “oh that’s a young Princeling we caught back there, a right royal Copper Dragon. He’s mostly harmless, can’t take a joke though,” he spat again. Black mouth leavings staining the snow while snow. Muddly clumps now surrounded the front of the wagon. The group of us wandered to the back of the wagon, where indeed there was a copper dragon, a young adult, so over 50 years old, which in Dragon time isn’t so old, but old enough that he shouldn’t be chained up in the back of a wagon with these yokel mercenaries. The dragon seemed to be asleep, through all our parley. We crept up quiet as pilgrims, next to the dragon. I dug out my letters from the Dragons from the south, in case he waked and did not believe that we mean him no harm.

But when he did wake, as we neared the city, he snorted a little charcoal at us under bleary eyes, mostly at the bugbear, but seemed complacent bound as he was. I introduced myself and my troop, and asked him how he came to such an indignity. 

“I am a hostage, it seems,” he replied in a very breathy laboured Draconic. Was he drugged? 

Likely. He told us how he was an official hostage, and supposed to be chained atop the castle at the centre of the City, where he was when he fell asleep. His name was Krakos and he was a minor aristo in the Dragon Court, and official hostage in some negotiation that he was not ‘cleared’ to even know about. He was unworried about the Yokels, (he stole my word for them) and was enjoying getting a bit of air, even if it wasn’t beneath his wings, it was nice to be moving about.

We told him about our own journey and how we were headed for the new lands, and beyond. He claimed jealousy, and intimated that he was getting really hungry, and that driver was looking less human and more like a sheep every minute.

To be continued on Scroll Number 3


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