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   Chapter 8 The Dragon

Maldene - Volume One By Mark Anthony Tierno Characters: 61354

Updated: 2018-04-10 12:02


Fear grinding within them like salt in a fresh wound, adrenaline surging through their bodies, they walked into the last room. Opposite them within the small room was a single large door. Large enough to allow both Gorath's height and Blag-ak's bulk to pass through, it was made of solid platinum. Emblazoned on its center was a large inverted pentagram, engraved in gold, and shining of its own bright light. They entered cautiously.

"Miro's treasure chamber, " Kilinir said in the quiet stillness.

"More like but one of his old ones, " Sindar corrected her.

"Well Starke, " Bronto said, "you're the tactician here."

"Right, " Starke said, the gold light shining off of his yellow-brown skin. "Sabu, check it for any protective magic about it, Bronto and Shong on either side of the door, the others hang back. We should go in quickly because it probably already knows that we're here."

Sabu just shook his head, "There is no protective magic on that door, nor is any needed."

Sabu looked over at Sindar. Sindar concentrated briefly, eyes staring at some far distant point, and then nodded back to Sabu.

"This is the start of it, " Sindar said. "Beyond that door lies the start of our destiny. . . or the end of it. There is no turning back."

"I was wondering when you were going to say something like that, " Eldar said, forcing a smile to his face. "Let's do it then; I don't like suspense."

Kilgar twisted the clasp on his cloak and immediately faded out into invisibility, in preparation of what was to come.

Bronto on one side of the door, Shong on the other, Bronto took hold and opened up the large door. It slid quietly open as Bronto and Shong dashed in to flank the inside of the door. They were followed by Starke and Filmar, and then the rest, the ogre and giant bringing up the rear.

Inside lay a cavern of immense proportions, ceiling going into dim mist, walls all roughly-hewn but smoothed by extreme heat to a dull shine. Heat and mist were everywhere in the large cavern, with hot water dripping down from the unseen ceiling. At one end of the cavern they saw a large hole or immense cave going up to the surface; at its bottom lay the scorched remains of a large broken Roc's egg.

Opposite them, at the far end of the cavern, shining golden and beautiful in everyone's eyes, lay a small mountain of gold, brightly-colored gems, the occasional sword or mystical staff, magic radiating from that pile like a palpable force for all to feel, gold and valuables piled higher than Blag-ak's ten feet of height.

But on top of this large pile lay a wall or mound of red-colored rock. Like a large scale-covered hill, winding back into the deep recesses of the cavern.

"It's a Son of Traugh, all right, " Sabu whispered. "One of his lesser ones, I should think."

"Where?" Shong whispered back. "All I see is that large hill over there."

"The hill, " Sabu said quietly, "is the dragon."

He nodded over to the near end of the hill. All eyes looked along its length until they came up to where he'd indicated; the "hill" ended with a large roughly triangularly-shaped head, teeth the size of Bronto gleaming in the harsh reflected light.

"That thing's got to be three hundred feet long if it's an inch!" Lindel exclaimed in a loud whisper. "In the name of all that's holy, what have we gotten into."

"It's five times longer than any dragon I've ever even heard of before, " Starke whispered to himself as he advanced cautiously.

Candol clutched tightly at his sigil.

"I hope that you're up to this one, Indra, " he whispered to himself.

They advanced slowly, footsteps echoing lightly with the sound of their metal armor rustling slightly to and fro with each step they took. All were finally in the large cavern and still the hill didn't move or give any sign of awareness.

SLAM!

Heads turned as the large door suddenly closed behind them. The crashing sound echoed and reechoed throughout the immense cave. A large pair of eyes suddenly opened on either side of the large triangular head, staring straight at them, twin pools of evil.

Bronto, Shong, Starke, and Filmar were immediately in front of the rest, swords ready. Gorath stepped over, off to one side and a little to the front, as Blag-ak took to the other side of the group. Off to one wall tiny child-sized foot steps appeared at occasional intervals, their maker unseen.

The whole length of the hill rippled as it stretched forth its neck, raising up its head almost to the unseen height of the ceiling. A loud yawn escaped its toothy mouth, filling the chamber with a low roar. Wings spread out in a slow stretch, feet each larger than the ogre lifting its body up off the pile of treasure. A crash sounded in the rear of the cave as its tail swished once to either side. Fear was felt by everyone, and more than a few needed to change their undergarments.

Then, the dragon spoke, its voice carrying like the deep echo of a slow avalanche.

"You might as well have the small youth make himself visible; I can see him perfectly by the wall."

As if to indicate his point, he gave a casual flap of his wings in the direction of the small footprints appearing in the dust, sending forth a short but stout wind, picking up dust and rocks in its wake. A tumble and a crash were heard, as if from the wind picking up and throwing some invisible toy, followed by Kilgar appearing, visible again, and getting to his feet beside Candol.

"You all are, I take it, the latest fools to disrupt my sleep, " came the dragon's low rumbling voice again.

"Your time is at an end, beast, " Filmar said, "your service to Miro shall end now."

"Brave words, small human, " came the response, "but you shall serve only to be my food. And of my master, you don't know in what you involve yourselves."

A loud chuckling came from deep within the dragon's throat, as thick steam escaped from his hot nostrils. Louder came the laughter as the immense cavern was suddenly choked with clouds of thick steam.

"This worries me, " Sindar said.

"Enough!" Starke shouted. "Charge!"

Battle cries sang out as they charged out into the thick smoke. Heedlessly they charged, knowing that with this enormously powerful beast caution and tactics would matter very little. The smoke obstructed their view completely, forcing them to rely on their other senses to tell them where they were.

"Hey, " Starke shouted into the mist, "where'd it go? I should have at least bumped into the gold by now."

"I don't know, " came Shong's voice. "The air feels wrong. It seems fresher than before."

"I got a better one for you guys, " came Lindel's voice, "I can feel grass under my feet."

A breeze seemed to pick up, shifting the thick smoke around a bit. Then they heard a great flapping noise followed by a sudden gust of strong wind. The smoke quickly dispersed, to make clear what it'd been hiding.

"Outside!" Kilinir shouted. "But that's impossible."

Around them was the wide outdoors. No underground valley this time, they were at the rear of the hillside on which lay the back entrance through which they'd entered the structure originally. To one side of the group was the large hole into which Blag-ak had hurled the Roc's egg, now seeming so long ago.

"How'd we get here?!" Starke looked around.

"Bad magic, " Blag-ak rumbled.

"It would appear that we've been teleported by the beast, " Sabu answered.

"Heck, " Kilinir rolled her eyes, "the ogre just told us that!"

"I like it out here a lot better than down there anyhow, " Lindel said.

"That's okay by me, " Bronto hefted his large sword, "it just gives me more room to fight in."

"The problem is, " Sindar said, pointing upwards, "is that it gives him a lot more room as well."

All eyes looked upwards.

Far overhead the great dragon circled, casting its immense shadow across the entire hill. Its flapping wings stirred forth a fierce wake behind it as it began to make a large slow circle.

"It's coming around for a pass at us, " Starke said. "Take cover!"

"We're sitting ducks down here, " Shong said as the dragon swooped around closer, "we can't fly the way it can."

Eldar's eyes brightened, "There's an idea; Sabu, can you do anything about that?"

While everyone else was running to find cover, Sabu stood calmly and briefly thought about it. As Quickfoot was diving behind a large rock, Sabu, still out in the open, looked up and answered.

"I believe that I just might be able to, " he said, holding out his arms. "Now hold still."

"If you could hurry it up a bit, " Eldar said as the dragon drew closer.

"Ligit, Aro, Kant, Flueer!" he incanted.

Eldar suddenly found himself floating a few feet above the ground.

"Hey, this is great, " he said as he pushed himself off into the air.

Eldar's joy was interrupted, however, by the oncoming presence of the dragon. He quickly flew far to the side of the dragon's path. Sabu, oblivious to the oncoming destruction, was looking up admiring his own handiwork.

"Hmm, " he said thoughtfully, "maybe next time if I try it with just a bit more-"

"MOVE IT!" Bronto cried as ran over towards Sabu, leaping through the air to push him out of the way with a body tackle.

"Wizards!" Kor-Lebear shook his head.

Gorath stepped forward, directly in the path of the dragon.

"YOU SHALL PAY FOR MY BROTHER, BEAST!" he shouted, hands outstretched as if ready to catch and wrestle the creature.

Swiftly the dragon dived, mouth opening as wide as any cavern through which they'd trekked. Gorath screamed forth his anger, reaching up for the creature's neck as it came upon him. Sharp teeth, each the size of small trees, dripped saliva as the beast gave but a single roar and then plunged down at the twenty-foot tall giant.

The sound of mountains cracking, of the earth giving way under sudden pressure. These are the same sounds heard when an immense mouth clamps down upon a giant's large stone-hard body, instantly reducing everything from the waist on up to a fine soup of blood spraying forth from the dragon's mouth, leaving only the legs to stand there, entrails hanging loosely. Claws, sharper than any steel, slashing at the remains, to send it instantly splintering into a fine shower of bone fragments and a spray of blood. Swooping up goes the great dragon, leaving behind nothing to show for the large giant.

"It didn't even look like it was trying, " Lindel said quietly to himself.

Meanwhile Bronto was getting up off of Sabu, lightly scolding the wizard for his foolishness.

"You're vital to us my friend, " the big man said, "now stay out of the way and think of something while I protect you."

"Huh? Oh, sorry, " he said, now brought back full to reality.

"Gorath is no more, " Shong said as he came over to Bronto, "and it's coming back for another pass."

"Let's give the wizards time to do something then, " Bronto said as he went back out into the open.

Filmar came out, sword ready, as Starke came out a small distance away.

"Let's not bunch up, " Starke said, "else he might get us all at once."

Kilinir and Kor-Lebear were both crouching down at the other side of the hole, Kilinir clinging to Kor-Lebear as the latter looked down into the hole.

"They're all going to just get killed, you know, " she said.

"Yeah, " he responded, "which is why we might as well get back down this hole while that dragon's occupied."

From one of the many hidden folds of his cloak, he produced a small roll of very fine silvery twine. From another pocket he brought forth a small spike and began tying one end of the twine to it.

"Pure elven twine, it'll hold both our weights, " he smiled, "although the elf I got it from won't ever be needing it again."

She smiled back as he shoved the spike into the ground. He let the twine fall down into the deep pit and together they began to scurry nimbly down the slim rope.

Eldar was hovering over by the edge of the forest, having cut off a long branch and just finished pruning it into a spear. He then took out a small pouch, opened it up, and sprinkled some silvery dust along its length. As he did so, it straightened and hardened into a steel-hard spear.

"Let's hope that this does something to him, " he said as he began to fly back.

Blag-ak was off to one side, Quickfoot hiding behind him, the boy Kilgar off to one side. Kilgar was taking out some sort of device from a pocket in his suit and loading a wicked-looking dart into it.

"What's that?" Quickfoot asked.

"It's called a Kuru'ta, " the boy replied, "it's the only thing I have that I can hurl at that thing."

He held a sort of a mechanical sling, a release lever in the palm area and the other end of the stick having a sort of a metal clamp on a rotating spindle. Into the clamp he loaded the dart and then began spinning the stick in tight circles above his head. The dart whirled around in place about the spindle, gaining momentum.

"Do you really expect that little thing to do anything?" Quickfoot asked.

"Not really, but it's all I've got. I'm going to try and aim for an eye, though. It might slow it down."

"Little boy brave, " Blag-ak said, looking down at him. "Me help too."

With one hand, the ogre grabbed and uprooted a nearby sapling and began to whirl it around overhead in preparation to throwing it.

Candol had his own ideas for handling the dragon, now circling back for another dive. He spread his arms up towards the heavens, his voice carrying far upon the winds.

"Oh mighty Indra, let this be my greatest deed for your name!"

Thunder began to rumble in the sky.

"Let me call forth death upon this foul beast!"

The sky overhead turned a sudden scarlet red.

"Bring this beast DOWN!"

A loud crack of thunder sounded as a large bolt of flame shot out from up in the sky. Ten feet wide, this pillar of flame lanced down towards the dragon, searing the air in its wake. It struck down full upon the back of the diving dragon, flame billowing outwards in a large explosion of obscuring fire. A loud scream sounded from inside the ball of fire.

Candol collapsed to the ground, completely spent.

Lindel came rushing over to his side, bow at the ready.

"Hey, that was great, Candol, " he said. "I think that you got it."

"The effort has exhausted me, " the priest replied, "I tried to channel as much of Indra's power as I could manage."

"Well, you can rest now, " the golden-haired elf said, as he looked cautiously up into the sky, "you've earned it."

As Candol lay panting, Lindel looked up at the dispersing fireball. A large shape streamed quickly out from its center, shadow swooping quickly closer. Lindel looked up at it incredulously.

"It barely even looks scratched!"

Other eyes looked upwards in disbelief. Starke quickly brought everyone back by shouting out an order.

"Throw everything you've got at it!"

Lindel brought up his bow and fired, while Kilgar pressed the release lever in his palm, sending his dart out flying. Blag-ak threw out his sapling, while Eldar's new wood-turned-metal spear sliced its way through the air. Filmar readied his sword, knowing that his bow would do him no good, while Bronto and Shong stood ready together.

Those two will make for a deadly fighting team should we ever survive this, Filmar thought to himself.

Mauklo began muttering more strange words under his breath, concentrating on his incantation.

Like sticks and pebbles they hit; a small kuru'ta dart bouncing harmlessly off of an outer eye-plate, a sapling smashing against its hide, a deadly accurate arrow hitting straight between the eyes but just shattering. Eldar's steel-hard spear lanced into its leg, drawing a little blood before a flex of muscle smashed it away, but even that didn't slow it down. It dived down, mouth open, great lungs inhaling deep.

Out from Mauklo's pointed hands came a sparkling sheet of ice. Swiftly through the air it went, directly into the face of the oncoming dragon. Hitting it, it surrounded the dragon with a thick coating of ice, covering him from head to tail, wings momentarily frozen in mid flight.

But, only momentarily. A single downbeat of its wings sent the coating of ice shattering into far-flung splinters, as it came strafing down across the hill, expelling out its deadly breath.

Great gouts of flame, engulfing the hill entire, washing over building, melting through rock, and vaporizing all in its path. No time to scream in agony when one is turned into a sudden pile of ash, sword melted or turned into vapor on the spot, armor a pool of hot liquid.

Everyone dived out of the way when the entire sky seemed to suddenly explode into flame, diving behind rocks or behind trees. But little protection could be had from the hot flame.

Candol lay weakly on his side, Lindel beside him, sword ready. Flame washed through them, turning them into instant statues of ash before either had realized what had happened.

Starke was swinging his sword up into the air, trying to hit any part of the passing dragon. The force of the flame blew him apart, into scattered bits of charcoal dropping upon the ground.

Sindar, muttering a quick incantation, sent a beam of sizzling light out at the oncoming beast, but only to have it bounce harmlessly off its hide. But before the young wizard could say anything fire washed through him, leaving him as naught but a pile of cinders.

Mauklo was hiding behind a rock when the breath of flame came. The flame went straight through the rock, transforming it into a raging molten plasma to fly back through the wizard. Before he could even scream, Mauklo was frozen as a statue of rock, the molten lava cooling around his blackened form.

Quickfoot and Kilgar had taken cover behind Blag-ak. The mighty ogre had been on the edge of the area so he hadn't received the full blast, but still, he was badly scorched, nary a hair or piece of clothing on him remaining untouched, even his small string of heads having been blasted to cinders.

The ogre looked angry, "Bad beast burn Blag-ak's heads!"

Quick foot and Kilgar looked out from behind the ogre. His large body had shielded them from the effects of the fire.

"This is bad, " Quickfoot said.

Kilgar looked around and answered matter of factly.

"Y

then going back to normal, except that now the open top of it seemed much wider.

"I knew I could duplicate the spell on those magic sacks, " Sabu said smiling. "The sheath is now wide enough for the blade to go in through its center without touching anything. It shall then rest there by the hilt, the blade suspended inside of the sheath, which I've now made to be about three times wider on the inside than it normally would be. You shouldn't have any problems with it."

Starke carefully sheathed his sword, being careful not to touch the sides of the sheath, until its hilt rested on the outside. The sheath stayed intact. He smiled at his success.

"It works!" he said. "Thanks friend wizard."

Eldar turned to Sindar and spoke.

"Now, what's this about a vision?" he asked.

Sindar closed his eyes and concentrated. He swayed back and forth a bit, as if the vision would threaten to topple him over. Candol made ready to catch him just in case. Then he stopped swaying and looked straight ahead. He spoke in an almost monotone voice.

"I see two possible futures. In both of them there is a great war; gods fighting gods, magic greater than any we can now comprehend, forces that would topple creation. It is a war against Miro, and all that he can muster, against the side that we shall be on. A battle for the future of more than just our planet, but of all existence. The greatest battle known, the greatest battle that can be."

"In one future, I see us winning, and throwing back Miro's dark forces, a mystic ring he bears upon his finger destroyed. In this future I see Mauklo siding with us, throwing the balance in our favor as we triumph over Miro."

"In the other future, I see Mauklo on the side of Miro. I see us losing and Miro's darkness spreading all throughout the entire multiverse. All existences will be doomed to his rule."

Sindar seemed to come out of his trance, and then looked over at Mauklo.

"You shall be a pivotal player in the fabric of the future. You shall be the one feather on the scales that tips it one way or the other. Yours shall be the important decision."

Mauklo smiled, looking slightly pleased with himself. Filmar just glowered disapprovingly at him.

"You'd better treat me nice, " Mauklo smiled pleasantly at Filmar, "or I may make a wrong decision."

Filmar kept silent, but still looked angrily at Mauklo.

Everyone was silent as they each thought over the import of Sindar's vision. Finally, Bronto broke the silence with his jolly voice.

"Come on, " he said. "Let's finish packing all this stuff and get back up out of this hole. I for one am sick of this pit and would rather be out of here by morning."

Lindel picked up on Bronto's suggestion, "I second that motion. I haven't seen a decent green plant since we came to this depressing island."

"Climbing back up is going to be a bit of trouble, " Shong said, looking up the large hole to the surface.

"Hey, " Eldar said, "you forget who you're with. Sabu?"

Sabu smiled as he answered.

"I won't even need my new staff for this one, " he said, "I can just fly us all out of here the same way I did Eldar earlier. I think I'm getting better at it."

The bright purple of the morning sky shone down upon them, with occasional narlu flashes streaking through across the upper parts of the sky, as an eagle swooped by far overhead. They encountered little on their early-morning trek back through the forbidding woods. It was as if the vile creatures within its branches had heard of the dragon's death and feared any action against them. Their trip had been quiet and peaceful, but for Bronto's hearty singing of various tavern songs that he knew. After a while, Eldar had even joined in on the singing.

Of course, after Blag-ak had started singing, it was Kor-Lebear's theory that that was the real reason why nothing had attacked them. Quickfoot, on his usual shoulder perch on Blag-ak, tried covering his ears during the ogre's display of his complete lack of vocal talent.

They came out of the forest and began to approach the edge of the town, their singing carrying through the morning noises of the small port town. As they came up the road, a group of three men walked up to them, the center one putting up his hand to signal them to halt. They stopped their singing as Eldar went forward to speak for them all.

"And who might you be, my fine fellow, " Eldar inquired, "or is singing against the law around here?"

The center man looked more bookish than anything else. The two on either side of him appeared to be guards, dressed in splint mail and with their swords out. The center one spoke.

"I am the Mayor of this town. In the absence of the Keeper of the dragon I have full authority."

"I see this one coming, " Kor-Lebear said, readying his dagger.

"So?" Eldar said, as passing townsfolk began to gather a discrete distance away.

"And, in my official capacity, " the Mayor continued, "for the death of the Keeper and the destruction of the dragon-"

"Oh, really, " Eldar said, "we don't need any thanks or anything like that."

"-I must charge you all with murder and the destruction of the Master's property, " the mayor finished, "and furthermore, I must charge you a sixty percent tax on all that you found within the structure."

Eldar smiled and laughed. Candol walked into view of the three as he spoke.

"Bless you my son, " the priest said, as Sabu, Sindar, and Mauklo gathered around in front, "because you're going to need it."

"Why?" the Mayor asked.

Flesh smells like roasted meat when it's suddenly burned to a crisp by three wizards at once.

When they got over their shock, the surrounding townspeople cheered at the char mark that was what was left of the mayor and his two guards. Grog came running up to the group as they walked on down towards the docks.

"Grog's friends safe!" the lovable imbecile yelled. "You do impossible thing!"

Grog ran up to them, smiling broadly, as he gave Bronto a rib-crushing bear-hug. Rib-crushing, that is, for anyone but Bronto, who just returned it in kind, heartily.

"Grog happy, " he said, when they'd finally released each other.

"Grog need vocabulary, " Mauklo said to himself.

"You kill dragon, Keeper, and Mayor, " Grog continued, "and you alive!"

"Yeah, well, " Sabu began, "sorry about the Mayor but, he was getting rather. . ."

"Ungrateful?" Sindar offered.

"Annoying, " Eldar finished for them both.

"Friends stay here with Grog?" Grog asked. "Maybe rule island like good people? Then Grog serve friends."

"No, " Bronto shook his head, "I'm afraid that we've got other things to do. Besides, none of us knows much about running a town."

Grog looked downcast.

"But, you know, " Bronto said, gleam in his eye, "this town could use a new mayor."

"Yeah, " Lindel said, picking up on it, "and as the conquering heroes it is our right to appoint a successor."

"And he'd have to be strong and not afraid, " Shong put in.

Grog just looked puzzled.

"Grog, " Bronto said, slapping the other man on the shoulder, "I appoint you as the new Mayor."

Grog looked stunned.

"You want Grog as mayor?" he said. "But why Grog?"

"You're the bravest one here, " Bronto said. "Do you know anyone braver?"

Grog straightened himself and stood up proudly, thumping his fist to his chest.

"No!" he said, "Grog bravest man on island."

Then he paused and added in a bit lower voice.

"Next to brave friends, that is, " he amended.

Bronto and several of the others chuckled approvingly.

"Mayor Grog it is then, " Bronto said, and then raised his voice for the other nearby people in town to hear. "Listen up! We, the killers of the dragon back there, declare this place liberated and appoint Grog as your new mayor. He's the bravest one on this island, the only one that would show us the way."

Puzzled townsfolk looked around at each other, muttering.

"So, you listen to him and help him out, " Bronto finished, "or we'll have to come back and settle it."

The puzzled muttering suddenly turned into nods of approval. Grog radiated pride as he turned on heel and strutted slowly over to the small tavern.

"Me Mayor Grog!" he said to a passing old woman, "Me brave Mayor!"

He walked slowly to the tavern's door and then turned around towards the others.

"Grog remember you always, " he shouted.

"And I'm definitely sure that we'll never forget you!" Eldar waved back, as they started on towards the docks.

As they approached the docks, they saw a large ship that had pulled in beside the two that they'd come in on. Larger than any merchant ship, but not as large as a sleem, it stood there proudly, masts raised high, intricate network of sails furled down. Tall and wide, hull thicker than any ship they'd seen, it stood there, with its many ballistas on their swivel mounts, her crew bustling about the top deck.

They came to a halt, looking at the large ship.

"That's a Tirrissian Warship, " Starke exclaimed.

"I've heard of those, " Shong said. "They're not as big as a Sleem, but they're supposed to be the most maneuverable and powerful ship on the seas."

"I wonder whose it is, " Candol mused.

They walked slowly down towards the other ships, looking at the large beast. When they were nearest the big ship, one of the crew walked briskly out towards them. He had the large build and wide eyes of the Thirdocians, his neckerchief having the blue and red strips signifying his rank of fleet captain. He marched up and stopped in front of them, saluting briskly.

"Your ship is ready, sirs, " he stated.

Everyone looked puzzled.

"Our ship?" Eldar asked. "Who sent it?"

"The King of The Great Northern Kingdom would like to see you. He sent me here with this ship to take you to him. If you are ready, we can sail immediately, " the Thirdocian finished.

They looked at each other, puzzled.

"The Great Northern Kingdom?" Shong looked at Bronto. "What would a King want with us?"

"Aside from the fact that he seems to knows we're here to begin with, " Sindar put in.

"I've heard of the Great Northern Kingdom, " Sabu said, "and of its King. From where we are it would lie far to the North and East of here, many thousands of miles away. About fifteen thousand I believe. Anyway, he's supposed to be some great warrior king that's been trying to be a thorn in Miro's side lately."

"Enemy of Miro?" Bronto asked, cheerfully. "That's all you need to say. Let's go!"

"What does he want with us?" Sindar asked.

"I don't know, " the captain said briskly, "I was only told to bring you to him as speedily as possible, and to see to your safety."

Starke looked over at Sindar thoughtfully, as he remembered what Sindar had said the night before about being a General under a king.

Sabu shrugged, "What say, everyone?"

"I don't have any immediate plans, " Lindel said, "why not."

As if by way of deciding, Candol took out a small coin, flipped up in the air, caught it in his hand, and looked at it.

"Indra wills it so, " Candol gave his consent, as he looked at which side of the coin had come up.

"I'm not going to argue with Fate at this point, " Sindar decided, "and it looks like this could be it."

Kilgar looked up at Eldar as he gave response, "This is one of those parts of Fate that gets foretold for you. We'll get to fill in the rest when we get there."

"If you are ready, sirs, " the captain said as he stood to one side, motioning them towards the ship with an outstretched hand.

"Well, " Eldar smiled, "it looks like we get to leave this dump in style!"

For good or for bad, they walked onto the ship, to what awaited them.

Hidden in the shadows off to the side of the tavern stood an old lady with gold skin, her pupil-less eyes also a solid gold. She was dressed as one would expect of a gypsy, with long dresses and several beaded necklaces. Next to her, wings folded in, stood a large eagle, its head coming up to her chest. She stroked the bird's head with her right hand as she stared blindly out at the departing group. Blind though she was, she seemed to look straight at Sabu, Eldar, and Sindar, as she quietly nodded her approval.

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