DRAGON'S FIRE (The Story So Far)

The following chapter list is the story so far in the Dragon's Fire play-by-post adventure.


A dwarf child with a shock of red hair runs to its mother giggling in high tones. Shæòra wipes her brow as she breaks from the wash, then scoops the rowdy young Ryð up with a smile. Her hair hangs down in two reddish-brown braids down her back and wears a long blue tunic over a white shirt. Behind them is a handsome house with a hay-thatched roof and a large barn attached, its tall double doors standing open. She takes the young child inside with her as they talk of his adventures, and then lets the child down, saying “Go wash up, I’m about to serve lunch.” The scamp runs off to his duty. Shæòra goes toward the kitchen entrance leading to the barn and calls out to the dwarf therein, “Lunch is ready. Wash up, dear.”

“Yes, Mother.” The handsome older dwarf wipes his hands and turns to his giant dragon. “All right, now. It’s time to eat. I’ll bring you a fat sheep when we’re done.”

The dragon is a large one, about 36’ feet long, of the mundane variety, but with beautiful golden orange eyes. It lays upon its legs on the stubble, purring a deep rumble as it is being groomed by by the brush of Seraphina Dawriel, a young elven beauty with flowing platinum hair and gold-flecked green eyes. She wears a half-sleeved studded leather jerkin over a white shirt and brown trousers. Corbin Dragonclimber has been Seraphina’s mentor since he found her unconscious in the woods next to the pallid cadaver of a long dead woodsman who had met a gruesome end at the sharp end of a shortsword.

Just as the dwarf is turning to Seraphina to speak, a young half-elf male comes running in through the barn’s tall double doors with a huge grin on his face and looking about as he removes his fire gloves. Under the dragon’s wing, Seraphina sees the boy who has been working hard to get her attention for some time. It is Orðrómur, the apprentice of Öchrich Führ. His shoulders are broad, with a slender waist and a mop of sandy blonde hair. She has been friends with him for over a year now. He makes her laugh. He’s the only one she’ll let her guard down around. But something’s different this time. He’s wearing the trademark fire suit of the dragon riders. The same kind aged and worn by Corbin. He asks the dwarf where Seraphina is.

Seraphina drops the brush to her side and gently pats the dragon's flank as she regards Orðrómur from beneath the dragon's wing. Ever the forthright elf, she steps forward, not waiting for Corbin to point her out. She stands nearby Orðrómur and Corbin, wearing a somewhat thoughtful look upon her face before she says, "What is this, Orðrómur? You seem completely out of sorts! Something seems different..." Her voice trails off as she regards the youth, the slightest bit of mirth beginning to play about her eyes. Then, snapping her fingers and proclaiming loudly, "Oh yes, of course! How could it have escaped me so long? You've lost weight!" The hint of a playful chuckle cannot help but escape her lips as she is obviously toying with the lad.

In an amazing feat that she was not aware possible, Orðrómur grins wider.

"Come see!" He shouts gleefully and grabs Seraphina by the hand, leading her out of the barn, like a child with its favorite toy in tow, to show it his new painted wagon, but lo, there stands Himinblóm, the dragon he hatched six months ago. As if to demonstrate its happy feat, the young dragon spreads its wings and shakes them as it does a circle and then sits majestic, hamming it up for the world that should bow before it.

A youthful metallic sheen still infects some of her scaling and the pads of her feet are still pinkish, along with a hint of it on the fleshy parts around the dragon's throat and arms. It's eyes, not as pretty or large as Corbin's mount, are deep blue and intelligent. He had been training on his dragon for weeks, and now he was finally able to take it outside the dragon keep walls, which means only one thing.

Orðrómur stands there with his hand in the air to showcase the dragon to Seraphina with an unbearable grin on his face. "We did it! We passed the trials! We...I'm a dragon rider! Öchrich is taking me on my first watch today!" He does his own circle as he shows off his new fire suit. The dragon huffs.

Seraphina nods sagely as she watches the display, finally, with a grave look of concern she proclaims, "Alas! I fear the world is no longer safe!", She eyes Corbin with an amused wink before continuing, "Ah well, I suppose that congratulations are in order just the same!" She then gives Orðrómur a friendly hug before moving past him to inspect Himinblóm a bit more closely. She smiles back at him over her shoulder and says, "Come Orðrómur, tell us of your post and your new duties and take care to leave nothing out!"

Corbin, who has been holding back Ryð, speaks, "We can answer those questions over lunch. And we'll get a sheep for your dragon. Come, let us eat." He turns to see Shæòra standing in the doorway, and stops, realizing his mistake and wondering what to say without losing face.

She glowers at him, then sighs and rolls her eyes. "Alright. I'll fix another place." She smiles. "Come in and lets celebrate your good fortune, Orðrómur."

They file in for a lively and spirited lunch as Orðrómur tells of the trials and Himinblóm's excellent performance.

* * *

Later, while Orðrómur is on shift just before sunset, Seraphina sits looking out of the upstairs window. She can see the castle. There appears to be a few more dragons about the place. She tries to pick out Himinblóm, but is unable to distinguish her. So she sees if she can find Öchrich's Gerarétt. She can always find him because of his immense size. He's half again the size of any of the other dragons because its a great flying dragon rather than the common mundane flying dragon like Corbin's or Orðrómur's. Within seconds, she finds him and quickly finds the dragon half his size following in his wake. That must be Himinblóm. She finds herself filled with an unusual excitement and checks herself, afraid of its meaning.

Just then, one of the dragons, a big one, shoots out a long flame. Something she knows to be forbidden while on patrol. She clears her eyes uncertain of what she just saw. She's certain she just saw the flame hit another dragon.

But just then, on the wind, she can hear the klaxons spreading out, and then a second later, the local klaxon sounds.


Less than a second later she hears Corbin shouting.

"Seraphina! Prepare Kvöld-Losta! Waste not a second!"

Seraphina runs down the wooden staircase, no choice but to be in her bed clothes, and makes her way to the stable, where Kvöld-Losta sits crouched, her tail flailing, anxious to join the battle. Outside, she sees a dragon's shadow pass in front of the house.

Seraphina does as she has been drilled, grabbing Corbin's saddle from the sawhorse and tossing it over the dragon. With deft skill, she has the saddle belted and battle-ready in a moment. As she finishes, Corbin marches in with determined gait. Seraphina crouches fetally on all fours where Corbin steps on her back, pulling himself up into the saddle by the climbing strap. Then Seraphina gets up and helps belt him in within a matter of seconds and backs up.

As if anticipating him, Kvöld-Losta begins moving just as Corbin commands, "Undan!". With a rush, the dragon swishes out of the stable and prepares to jump into flight.

Two gel packs burst on Corbin and his mount. He shouts, "NO! Not yet! Curse you, you..." Before he can finish his complaint, he and his dragon are engulfed in flames. He screams, but it lasts only a second as the air is ripped from his lungs by the intense conflagration. He flails and falls from the burning dragon that squeals in fear, the straps burned free. Shæòra screams from the doorway of the house.

Seraphina, no stranger to grief, recognizes immediately that there is nothing she can do to aid Corbin as she has no way to extinguish the flames nor is she wearing any protection against such terrible heat. She knows the dire impact of such injuries. Instead, she takes a moment to glance at the enemy that has just attacked in an effort to remember what that rider and mount look like - for future reference.

Then, trusting that Corbin's protective suit will keep him alive she turns her attention to Shæòra. Knowing full well that she at least has a chance to tend to Shæòra and keep her safe, Seraphina jumps into action. Sprinting toward the doorway to the house, she fully intends to grab Shæòra and drag her, if need be, back into the relative safety of the structure.

Seraphina looks up, but the first rider has already flown too high, and she sees nothing but the back of the second rider, only noting a scar on the dragon's rump lit by the last light of the setting sun. She stands back from the intense heat of the blaze and looks back at Shæòra who can do nothing but scream, and remembers the panic spot beneath the floor boards. Then Seraphina catches sight of Ryð behind his screaming mother, staring in bewilderment at his father. Just then, she see the little red-head, ignorant of danger, dash toward the well, his little arms swinging for toddler balance in the fading light.

The neighborhood round about is in chaos. Fires burn all over the place. Seraphina makes a mental note of that scarred dragon before dashing forward and scooping up the toddler on her way to Shæòra. She shouts above the din of the crackling flames, "Shæòra! Get to the cellar! NOW!" She leaves no room for discussion as she passes off Ryð, quite intent upon physically moving both Ryð and Shæòra if she does not comply.

Even while commanding Shæòra to take shelter both through word and sheer force of will, Seraphina mentally pictures where her gear is kept with the intention of collecting it as soon as Shæòra and Ryð have taken refuge.

As well, Seraphina does not recall seeing any flames upon this structure but she makes a mental note to double check as soon as Corbin's family is safe - or at least as safe as the situation currently allows.

Seraphina remembers her fire training and remembers that the hotter the fire and less the wind, the safer the surrounding structures, and so deems the fire far enough away and the situation under control enough to ensure Shæòra and Ryð are hidden beneath the floor in a fire-safe hole in the ground. Shæòra, remembering the safety of her son, complies with Seraphina and takes Ryð from her.

Inside, Shæòra sets to task to pull up the floorboards as Seraphina runs upstairs.

While upstairs, Seraphina quickly sheds the bed gown and throws on her shirt and breeches without tucking and then dawns the studded leather jerkin given to her by Corbin without lacing it. She then puts the shortsword belt over her head and right arm to hang cross-ways from her left shoulder, then grabs her quiver belt and puts it cross-ways the other way and rests her bow over her right shoulder. She grabs her camping satchel on the way out of her room per habit in preparing to ride her horse undoubtedly panicking this moment in the stable, also given to her by Corbin.

As she runs back down the stairs, Shæòra calls out to her, waist deep in the hole, "Seraphina! Come, join us. Hide with us. Be safe."

Seraphina tosses a backward glance at Shæòra and says, "Get down and keep Ryð safe - there's work for me to do outside.". She then heads back out into the chaos.

She quickly surveys the house where Shæòra and Ryð are hidden until she is satisfied that it is safe enough for now. Once she determines that all is safe - at least for the moment, she turns her attention to freeing any livestock and horses from the stable figuring that they are safer free than if they were left penned up. She hastily equips her horse, Ithilbara - Moonfire as Corbin had named the pale mare - with ridding tack and then leads her away from the flames to a safer area where she tethers the mare to a bush.

Then she scans the skies for danger, her bow ready in case she has a target of opportunity.

The light has become too dim to see anything, but just as Seraphina is thinking this, a bright light flashes into being and rises up above the castle. A high level dragon mage has lit the scene. Suddenly night becomes day, dark skies turn blue around the castle , and she can see all the dragons in flight. None are nearby.

For an hour she watches the melee. The only one she knows for sure is Öchrich, as well as the largest of the enemy who seems to be the leader of the invaders. The contrasts are simply too high to note any peculiar characteristics. Occasionally one of the mundane dragons would fall. But then she starts to see a peculiar dynamic. The invasion leader was riding tandem with other dragons for brief moments, circling around to new ones after each one. He does this about 5 or 6 times and then she sees him go out long. Several of the dragons seem to form a bubble around Öchrich, dive-bombing him, and flying in tandem with him. Suddenly Gerarétt, Öchrich's mount, seems to be reacting to something erratically, then looks to try to bolt for it. A second later, the invasion leader flies straight in toward Öchrich, and the mount fires a flame in a strafing run on Öchrich. Gerarétt rolls to protect its master, but it doesn't help.

In a bright flash, the entire dragon and its rider ignite almost as bright as the mage's light. In a an arc of brilliant light and a flaming trail of black smoke, Öchrich and Gerarétt fall to the ground. From Seraphina's vantage point, she sees the crash as flames explode and several thatched roofs are caught on fire. There's only a little movement, then it stops.

Not long after, other dragons begin falling from the sky, often on fire. Occasionally a dragon rider falls from its mount and the dragon flies out of the midst of battle. One such flies in Seraphina's direction. It flies over and then crashes lightly about 25-30 spaces away. She can hear its cries.

Seraphina first turns her attention to Shæòra and Ryð, letting them know that it is alright to come out and see to Corbin. "All is quiet for the time being Shæòra. Come out and see to Corbin but keep a wary eye on the skies as I sense an ill breeze bringing bad tidings to us. I have briefly watched some of the battle unfold and it does not seem to have gone well for us from what little I could discern." She sighs heavily with obvious concern and sadness before she continues, "Be prepared to leave this area with haste if need be. I suspect that your safety could well be in question if you remain here." She looks back over her shoulder toward the doorway and adds, "A wounded dragon has landed nearby - I can hear it's mewling even now. I will go to see to it."

Seraphina then stands, situates her gear so that it is properly worn and proceeds out the door to check on that wounded dragon. Being uncertain about the disposition of the dragon however, she is sure to approach with caution and with her bow ready just in case.

Seraphina takes a torch and moves carefully in the direction of the dragon, quickly at first, then slowly as she approaches.

The dragon writhes on the ground through the trees, mewing and groaning. It's a juvenile.

While on approach to the area, Seraphina will attempt to determine whether this dragon is familiar to her. Having learned her lesson all those years prior, she will do her best to determine whether the target is a friend or foe before targeting it.

Seraphina approaches stealthily, but sees that she's going to have to get in closer to see clearly. She adjusts her approach so that she can gain a better vantage from which to view the dragon and continues her attempt at sneaking through the shrubbery.

What with the recent horrific events, Seraphina continues to be over-cautious and keeps her bow ready. She still hasn't confirmed her fear that Corbin is, in fact, dead; choosing instead to push that unpleasant reality to the back of her mind and focus on the crisis' at hand.

As she comes around to get a better view of the dragon, Seraphina notices blood on its back but can't discern any injury. She finally gets a good look at the young dragon...

It has blue eyes, not as pretty or large as Corbin’s mount, Eldurauga. Seraphina does not fear this dragon. For it knows her. She understands fully now that the dragon is not injured, except in heart. For the blood does not belong to it, but to its young rider that perished upon their maiden watch.

The resignation in the dragon's plaintive cry sets deep the reality — Orðrómur is gone.

Serphina's rage simmers as she contemplates the events of the last few hours - far too much loss to comprehend right now. Being not but a lowly stable hand she has nowhere to go and seemingly no way of doing anything more than looking after her general chores as she would have done on any other day. Indeed, that is a place to start and there is much that needs to be done - Corbin must still be addressed no matter how much she wants to push that fact to the back of her mind.

She tucks away her bow, for she does not need it here, and approaches Himinblóm slowly while making soft, clucking noises with her tongue and calling out the dragon's name, "Himinblóm?" soothingly as she draws near.

The dragon must be calmed and tended too so that it does not go into a fit and lash out at those around it. Fires must be extinguished, the wounded tended and the dead seen to.

Himinblóm regards her absently and quietly groans its loss. As Seraphina pats and caresses its scales, she recalls the words of her mentor.

On a day so much like this one had been, not long after Corbin found Seraphina, he told her, "One day, you will receive a dragon egg. Do not take that gift lightly. For when that egg hatches, the hatchling dragon will regard you and you will imprint upon it forever. Never will it take another rider. Never will it love another. You alone will be the one it looks to. And if you die, it dies."

This had made her love dragons all the more, but now she sees not a dragon with hope, but a youngling that will soon die of a heart rent in twain, riderless and alone.

Seraphina does what she can to soothe the beast by making clucking noises and whistling softly while she checks the tack. She sets about the task of removing the gear, pausing periodically to pat the dragon's flanks.

She briefly considers fetching some food for the creature, but chooses instead to sit with it for a bit, continuing her soothing tones all the while.

Kafli Einn

“Slow down!”

“I saw it come down this way!”

Seraphina hears the voices of two young human males approaching in the distance. Light from a swinging lamp betrays their position. They're obviously not concerned with stealth.

She lowers her bow from her shoulder, allowing it to rest easily in her hand as she crouches beside Himinblóm. She eyes the approaching youths in an attempt to ascertain who they are. She intends to call out to them and advise them to approach slowly once they reach the edge of the clearing.

"Look. I don't think we should be sneaking up on a dragon." The youth following says. Seraphina can just see his head bobbing in the distance.

The young man in the lead continues to advance unconcerned.

"Stop moaning, Mús."

Seraphina rolls her eyes. It's Boðberi and Mús. Is there anything they don't bumble into? Between Boðberi's misadventures and Mús's clumsiness, she's surprised they don't fall down a hole and die. She distrusts them as much as anyone else, but they always seem to be around, even though they live in the next quad. Whether she's walking along the caves to be alone, or trotting through the woods on Ithilbara, or shooting at game, there they are, passing through her field of fire, emerging from holes caked in mud or, yes, hanging from a tree in a woodsman's net. It's like they completely disregard all their training. Either that or their mentors are the worst dragon riders ever. No, that's not it. Boðberi's father is Hægri Handlegg, second to Öchrich Führ.

Seraphina stands and hails the youths in a calm, somewhat quiet tone saying, "Boðberi! Mús! Advance no further. The dragon you saw is Himinblóm, Orðrómur's charge. She is riderless and her spirit is wounded. I fear that your intrusion could incite her to uncharacteristic anger at your expense. If you wish to help, then return to your masters and tell them of the situation, they will know best how to handle it."

Boðberi's disposition changes. He looks toward the castle in a quiet rage. His yellow locks keep his eyes out of view. Seraphina can see only two dragons over the castle now, circling in a patrol pattern. It is clear that they are not riders from Vörn. The battle is over.

Mús has tucked his head. He looks up through his hurt eyebrows and edges in on the silence with a quiet explanation. "There are no riders left."

Boðberi looks at Seraphina again. "We thought we might be able to save one of the riders. So what makes you so special that you can tell us not to come close to the dragon? It's as good as dead anyway. It's not like it cares anymore."

Seraphina registers Mús' news with grim acceptance. Nodding she says, "It is as I feared then?"

But Boðberi's callus remark jolts her back to the here-and-now. Her eyes narrow as she locks her gaze with that of the brash youth and she says in a hushed tone through clenched teeth, "Bite back your rash words boy lest I take you over my knee and thrash you like the child you have just proven yourself to be! This dragon has just fought for your benefit while you, no doubt, whimpered with fear at your mother's apron hem! This dragon has just lost its rider, my friend Orðrómur, while it was out defending you and here you have the audacity to open your mouth to display your idiocy?"

She fumes for a moment before taking a breath and continuing, "You have a choice to make here boy. You can continue whimpering like an infant, in which case no one will ever have use for you. Or you can choose to show some quality and aid me as I have asked. Perhaps if enough of us work together we can yet turn our fortunes this day. Choose now, for I have no patience or time to deal with you further as there is much to do and little time in which to do it!"

Boðberi's eyebrows shoot up at Seraphina's capricious boldness. Then he laughs.

"Haha! You heard the queen, Mús," He slaps a hand on Mús's shoulder, "We've been conscripted! Your word shall be our guiding light. Right, Mús?"

Mús chuckles quietly and nods his head.

Boðberi stands back with his arms spread, "Boðberi Handlegg," he says, and bows large with lantern in hand, "at your service!" He stands again, tall and full of himself.

He turns on his heel with a spin and begins walking back. "Come, Mús! We have apprentices to find!" Mús follows. Then Boðberi spins back around and continues to walk in the same direction backward, saying: "Meet us at the temple ruins at day break!" Spinning again, he concludes, "We'll have recruits!"

As they walk away, she can just hear him mutter, "Did you bring my binky, Mús?...What a god-awful witch."

Inwardly, Seraphina continues to fume about the boy's lack of decency toward Himinblóm. Chalking it up to the impetuous nature of youth, she brushes it aside and returns her attention to Himinblóm. For now, she tends to the dragon as if they were back at the stable during a peaceful day. Once the dragon calms enough for her to tend to other duties it is her intention to head back to Shæòra and check in on her.

* * *

For an hour, the giant beast writhes as if in pain. Multiple times it tucks its head, but then shifts and moans plaintively again. Eventually, though, it passes out in exhaustion. The overcast moon's glow outlines the beast's form and highlights its handsome features. It's breathing becomes steady. But its feet twitch, and it grumbles quietly in its sleep. A light smattering of snowflakes begin to fall. Not enough to stick for even a second, and it won't last long. They're too few and it's too warm.

Seraphina takes this time to slip away and head back to the house where she intends to look in on Shæòra and Ryð. Though she is anticipating much distress as soon as she rejoins Shæòra and Ryð she knows it must be confronted. She puts one foot in front of the other and eventually finds herself back at the house where she finds Shæòra loading the ox cart with large and small items wrapped in thatch not far from where the fire, once burning hot as the sun, now smolders with little sign of the dragon or its rider.

A lamp hangs from a lamp pole in the cart and an ax leans against the back of the cart's left wheel. Shæòra hefts a particularly large and heavy thatched package onto her shoulder, where it sags until she flops it into the cart. A body, no doubt inside. Then she kneels, fatigued. She lets out a guttural groan of heart and cries.

Ryð must be inside the house.

Seraphina approaches solemnly, she clears her throat softly and says, "Himinblóm has returned without her rider; she rests in the glade nearby." She pauses and then continues as if giving a report to a general. "Mús and Boðberi came calling earlier. I sent them away to rally whomever is left so a plan of action can be devised. There are strange dragons soaring over the keep."

Again she pauses for but a moment before adding, "It would be wise to depart this place for a safer haven Shæòra. Is this your plan...can I do anything to lend assistance?"

Shæòra stands up, wiping her face and hands with her dress.

"Just look at me. I'm a mess." After a brief moment, she responds, "No, dear. They want rulership. Let them have it. I need to help the injured. There is already an exodus occurring, but I don't think the invaders will stand for it. What is a kingdom without subjects? They own the air which rules over the ground. I'll help those who need assistance. If it is not their place to rule, the gods will overthrow them with warriors such as yourself. But now, dear, you must run. They will be looking for any trained in combat to either conscript them or kill them. Go with Boðberi and Mús. We will look after Himinblóm. Grab some bread from the cupboard and dried lintels. Then leave. Go. There's nothing you can do here but fall."

Seraphina sighs and nods, "That is the truth of the matter. There is not else I can do here to be sure but I am uncertain if that will change anywhere I go hereabouts." shrugging she adds, "I shall go and see if anything is being planned. If I've a chance to return and bring you word I shall." She pats Shæòra on the shoulder then heads into the house to gather her traveling supplies before heading along the trail after Boðberi and Mús.

Before she can get far, Shæòra calls, "Seraphina. Wait." She turns to the cart and pulls out a long item wrapped in a soot-smeared cloth. She uncovers the tip. It is Corbin's javelin. It appears that it has had the fire scorching crudely buffed off. "Please, take it. May Corbin guide you on your journey." She hands it to Seraphina and then kisses her on the cheek. Holding Seraphina's cheeks in her hands, she smiles. Her eyes once full of life, now appear worn out and weary, puffy and red from crying. Her cheeks, however, still show some rosiness under the soot. "May the gods keep you safe." She steps back to watch Seraphina leave.

Seraphina smiles sadly as she puts her hand on Shæòra's shoulder. "Be well. I'll look in on you if I'm able." she then turns and heads off after Boðberi and Mús, keeping her bow close at hand as these are dangerous times.

[In progress. Edits forthcoming.]

Kafli Tveir

Boðberi and Mús walk along the promenade of shoppes in the áður quarter of the city, midway to Höggormurinn keep, where the invaders have taken up residence. Their eyes dart this way and that on the look-out for able-bodied men and women, particularly dragon rider apprentices, as well as for the invaders. They have already met with a couple of young men they knew, friends. Friends were their first stops.

But just as they found a couple looking to join, they found one that wanted no part of it. The loss had been too great for him.

But now Mús spots a young high elf, well lit in the darkness by still-burning timbers, he knows to be the apprentice of Richard Meistari, Magnus Stormur, rifling through the smoldering remains of a shoppe at the center of several badly burned shoppes. He taps Boðberi's arm.

Magnus is tall, like Boðberi, girded and strapped in a sleeveless leather jerkin and leather shoulder plates with breeches and leather bracers over a white shirt now dinged by the night's activities. His gray wool cloak sweeps over debris, blackening the bottom. Over the cloak is a rare dragonhide shield. He moves with enthusiasm tempered by anger.

A wicked smile plays upon Boðberi's lips and his eye gleems as if a whole new world just opened up. "Magnus."

They walk up to the start of the debris field that was once the magic shoppe belonging to his father, Augu, once a wizard to the crown. They called him "The Storm Warden". He's looking for something.

"It looks like you've lost something. Can we help you, friend?" Boðberi's smile is infectious, but Magnus hardly regards him. In fact, the pair seem little more than a disruption to his search.

"Help is not what I seek. Help is what I wish to render, but I'm useless! I need fire, lightning, something to put an end to this invasion!" Magnus's self-loathing seems palpable.

"Magnus, my friend! Surely you can cast your fire upon them." Boðberi attempts to reassure him, but Magnus strikes back with a fearsome look.

"With candle fire? A mere parlor trick? Should I light a fuse? Warm their seats for them? Kindle a blaze by lighting hay on fire with a match light?" Magnus fumes and takes a breath to calm himself. "My father could call forth the heavens and burst the innards of his enemies, but I'm stuck with entanglements and charms. With any luck, I could scratch the enemy's flesh with a thorn!" He turns back to hide his rage and continues to rummage through the charred remains of his father's shoppe.

"Magnus," Mús begins, "We all want to fight back, but we can't do this without a team. You may not be able to fight back directly, but right now, we're not ready to fight back. You will have plenty of opportunity to learn the spells you need before we find more dragon eggs. It's going to take time. We have 3 recruits who are off finding other recruits to rebuild the dragon riders. With you, that's four. We can use all the help we can get. You have powers that we need, regardless of damage. Whatever you can do, we'll figure it out — together."

Boðberi sits stunned. He hasn't heard Mús speak so much since they ate a patch of the wrong type of mushrooms. He looks at Magnus and jerks a thumb at Mús. "What he said."

Just then, a small shadow appears beyond Magnus. Boðberi looks over, which catches Magnus's attention. He turns around, letting the light hit the figure. It looks to be a skinny young girl about seven years old in a red dress. Even in the pale firelight, he can see her tears glistening. He kneels down. She runs to him, slamming her wet face into his shoulder and throwing her arms around him.

"Boðberi!" She cries.

Boðberi sits stunned a moment, letting her cry. Then he pulls her back. It's no little girl at all. It's Brunhazel Hjartasang, a halfling who entertains at the Gullna Ljón inn with song and dance.

He saw her just before the attack. She sang an epic and danced on the tables. She had the whole inn singing. Well, until some drunken out-of-towner with a scarred bald head and beard tried manhandling her. They don't lay hands on her. She's pure. So a fight broke out. She went laughing away and rolled over the top of the counter where she watched the fight for a moment from behind it. Then when things started to get serious, she started to play her kinor in a sweet melody. Within a moment, those involved settled down. Everyone was mesmerized. But then the song was interrupted by the sounds of the klaxons. It was jarring. They all made their way out of the inn and ran towards their homes.

And here she was, the spinster's daughter, and daughter of Humboldt, the dragonrider, crying.

"Sweet Brunhazel. Why do you cry? Has something happened to your family?"

At that, the flood comes and she raises her voice in agony. "They're dead! Mama and papa. They burned the house!" She moans aloud, then continues. "Papa took to flight and got one of them when he went down with Trakasseraren," she chokes on that, "but the whole neighborhood is ruined and the house fell on mama." She sobs. "We have to do something!"

"We will." Boðberi promises. "By Eldur's fire, we will take back the city...right, Magnus?"

Magnus walks over to them and kneels down to Brunhazel. He cups his comparatively massive right hand to her little cheek and wipes a tear. "I promise you, by all that is holy, your parents will be avenged and we will bring back the glory of Vörn."

Brunhazel sniffs. "Take me with you. Let me help. I can inspire you all with song." Her eyes glisten in the flame and moonlight, seemingly large for her face.

"I'm sorry, Brun, we cannot. We must..." She stomps on Magnus's foot. He wondered if she had lead in her sandal.

"I don't care what you say! I'm going! And that's that! You can't stop me! You all are going to need every ounce of the strength I can give you. Even you, you jätte prick!"

"Fine!" Magnus yells. "But don't blame me when you get roasted in your pretty dress!" They continue.

Boðberi looks at Mús sideways, who shrugs resignedly. Then Boðberi picks up Brunhazel and throws her over his shoulder as she continues her tirade toward Magnus.

Magnus turns to look at the debris one last time and spots something blue and shining in the moonlight. He picks it up and wonders why he didn't see it before. It's an amulet. He puts it over his head and turns to walk after the disaster twins and their demon cargo.

* * *

Seraphina spots the outline of Boðberi and Mús with a little girl and someone else as tall as Boðberi walking through the thoroughfare.

Seraphina picks up the pace to catch up with the group calling out just loudly enough to catch their attention, "Hail!" she waves her right hand in their direction as her bow is still clutched and ready in her left.

Once she catches up she said quietly, "I met with Hälsan on the road here. He has gone in search of others. Do we know of anyone else?"

"Seraphina! Glad to see you." Boðberi's enthusiasm wanes as he recalls their last encounter. "And good to hear. We have struck upon several recruits, including Vilja Meira and Fallameð Stæl. Einskis Virði turned us down. You know Magnus and Brunhazel?"

Brunhazel demurs.

Seraphina has seen Magnus around, but her people tend to distrust the high elves from the south for their associations.

It has been a long time since she saw Brunhazel. She remembers when Corbin brought Brunhazel and her family to dinner a couple of times shortly after finding her in the woods. While Seraphina was stand-offish, Brunhazel didn't fail to have a smile for her and try hard to carry on a one-sided conversation in her eastlander accent and demonstrate her love of music. She seemed only a little taller now, but unchanged as far as she could tell in the faint light.

Seraphina nods to Boðberi and then looks over Magnus and Brunhazel saying, "Only in passing I fear - but seems that is about to change."

Then, redirecting her comments to Magnus and Brunhazel she continues, "Well met! Though I wish the circumstances were better..." her voice trails off a moment before she clears her throat and adds, "May I walk with you?"

"Of course." Boðberi says with an invitational gesture. "The sun will be up soon. We should make our way to the ruins." He looks around and rethinks his statement. "Uh, the temple ruins, that is."

Perhaps because Seraphina's presence brings back good memories of her mother and father when they were happy, Brunhazel runs up and tosses her arms around Seraphina's chest and looks up with a teary smile. Brunhazel indeed looks older. She would look Seraphina's age if she were an elf. "I'm glad to see you, Seraph. Mama and papa would be happy to know I'm with you... Corbin? Shæòra?" She inquires. She seems unaware of Ryð's existence. A conversation ensues, mostly involving Brunhazel asking questions and telling stories as they walk, as well as mixed excitement and sadness at Corbin's fatherhood. She makes the occasional jibe about not being wanted or being a maiden in need of being protected from “the big bad world” that seems aimed at Magnus, who rolls his eyes.

* * *

The group of you struggle up the layered rocks as the pale blue of morning begins to break into the sky. The blue morning-tinted temple ruins are indeed ruins, with a few standing archways, partial walls and pillars upon a crumbling cliff overlooking the city.

In the sacrificial pit, a fire burns low. Several young men and women are gathered round. Even a few older ones are there. None of them appear to be dragon riders. More can be seen milling about in the still dark shadows. Voices mingle quietly. The word seems to have spread quickly.

Boðberi smiles and walks up to an older man and they grab each other's right forearms and slap each other’s shoulders in greeting. Magnus also walks up to some and does something similar in his restrained way. All are strangers to Seraphina, yet familiar. She has seen most of them before. At least the ones facing her.

Boðberi looks over at Seraphina with his left arm extended toward her. Mús and the older man look at her expectantly.

“Seraphina. Come.” As she draws in, he continues. “This is Faðiraf Mannsins. He is the leatherworker who makes the firesuits.”

“Greetings, Seraphina!” Faðiraf extends a hand in greeting. “That is some exceptional studding you’re wearing.” He says with a broad smile. He is dressed in furs over leather armor girdle. His clothing seems quite stuffed and he himself a somewhat burly man, though little taller than a male of Seraphina's tribe. Hair outlines his face like a mane. His thick brown beard flows freely and curls in places.

Seraphina accepts Faðiraf's hand, shaking it once and inclining her head solemnly saying, "Well met". She sighs and looks at her ash-stained jerkin as she lets her hand slip back to her side saying, "It was given me by Corbin." She absently looks at Corbin's javelin. "And this," she indicates the javelin with a tip of her head, "is Corbin's javelin, given me by Shæòra, Corbin's wife. I would very much like it to see service again soon."

"Aye." Faðiraf sighs. "Corbin was a good dwarf. I shall miss his patronage and his stories."

Boðberi's smile wanes in respect, so he calls out Faðiraf's joke. "Faðiraf made your coat. That's his brand." He points to the lapel corners of her studded jerkin. Seraphina fondled the depressions many times after she received it. She marveled at the beauty of the marks depicting a dragon's head, and the coat's stiching seemed to disappear into the creases. It was almost elfin in design.

Faðiraf's eyes seem to gloss over. "When Corbin asked me to make that for his charge, and told me that you were an elf, I set out to study elf design work. I wanted you to feel as comfortable as possible. You seemed to be really special to him. He had you running errands that day, so I was able to glimpse you passing by, wondering at the suits on display. It was a little over a year ago."

Seraphina recalls a day like that, about a month before she received the jerkin.

"There's a destiny about you, young one." He says. "And I hope to see what comes of it."

Seraphina seems about to interject something into the conversation, but is stopped.

"Indeed!" The aged cry comes from several yards away. An ancient bearded one approaches in robes and a gnarled staff. Seraphina is not sure of his race. He groans in a satisfied agreement as he comes to a stand before the group of them. "Each of you young ones has a destiny." The old one points toward Seraphina and her party. "And you." His finger stops upon Seraphina. "Your name shall become a rallying cry."

She listens respectfully as she remembers her childhood when elders were always respected regardless. His words make no sense to her however; she furrows her brow in thought. But her considerations are broken by Boðberi.

Boðberi scoffs and rolls his eyes. "Okay, old man. That's all nice, but we have a meeting to begin."

"And you." The ancient one's attention turns to Boðberi. "You shall be called 'Great', and you shall stand for generations."

The old one leans down a little, for he is short himself, and puts his hand upon Brunhazel's shoulder, who seems mesmerized. "You, the spinster's daughter, will soar higher than your partners. 'The Angel of Vörn' they will call you. And also 'The bird of prey.'"

He points to Magnus. "You are enshrouded by fear and you will fall. But you will shed it and place it upon your enemies. For you will be known as 'The Magnus who stands amidst darkness.'"

"There are others who will join themselves to you all. And they shall not be forgotten. And each of you shall receive a burden and a gift, for you will be tested. And in a book will your names be written."

Boðberi blinks as if to clear his head of the old man's spell. "All right, old man. It's time to take your fancy speech elsewhere. We don't need you filling our heads with strange notions and grandiose ideas. The heads here are big enough."

Seraphina thinks she saw him glance out the side of his eye at her with that last statement but lets it pass, focusing instead on whether she recognizes the wizened man or not.

Boðberi ushers the man toward the entrance to the ruins.

The old one stops. Boðberi practically trips over him and is unable to budge him. The ancient speaks one more time.

"Mús! Son of Eldingar, the Verkfall of Skýmassa. The gem of Skýmassa will be yours. And the children of Vörn will call to you and you will save them." Boðberi continues to try to budge the old one, even visibly straining, but he is as stone. "Your friends will fall, but you will not fall. And from the pit you will raise them!"

Finally the ancient one turns and walks away. Then turns back once more and regards a young blonde apprentice girl over towards the outer wall. With an expression of concern, he says, "Muna. You will be remembered."

The man turns away for the last time.

Boðberi catches his breath and dusts his hands. "Right! On with the meet."

He walks up onto the dais at the center of the ruins overlooking the sacrificial pit. "May I have everyone's attention, please. I would like to thank everyone for coming. These events..."

"Who made you our leader?" A gruff older man speaks. Several other voices join in.

"Yeah. You didn't call us! Hveiti called me. He should be up there!"

Boðberi puzzles. "Uh..."

In the background, music begins to rise through the voices, and one voice begins to pierce the throng. Seraphina looks over and sees Brunhazel playing her Kiner. Her voice is enchanting.

Seraphina hangs back, content to listen to the goings-on for now as she cares not for leadership and has no ambition toward that end. It seems to her that it is better to let those vain enough to take up that mantle to do so. If the people are willing to accept their leadership then there must be something in them that inspires that loyalty. If not, then they will be cast aside for someone better.

Boðberi looks around and sees the crowd calming. He lets out a breath of relief.

"None of us asked for these circumstances," He begins, "but we need to take decisive steps to move forward. It's important not to abandon our kingdom, but to rescue it from the hands of brigands!"

He goes on to explain the struggles that led up to these events. How Vitlaus, once a dragon rider and trusted adviser to the crown, was cast out of the king's court for trying to manipulate the king into going to war with the kingdom of Saltaður Jörð before they attempt to expand their territory into Vörn under false pretexts. When Lord Stiga, the King, ignored his advice, he got insistent and disrespected the king, so the king banished him from the kingdom. Now he has returned with brigands from Saltaður Jörð and taken the kingdom by force.

"Nothing is known of what has become of our King, but let us not wait to find out!"

* * *

Fires burn in braziers on either side of the king's dais. The king and queen's thrones stand empty. In the fire light, a man is held upon his knees before the dais, facing toward the doors. Beaten and bruised, his clothes stripped form his body, he is barely able to keep his head up. Two dirty men in dark partial plate over black wool fire suits hold him up. His similarly dressed torturer stands before him with his fists wrapped and bloody, but not likely his own.

A loud thump and the sound of sliding wood suddenly echo through the room as two more dragon riders pull back the doors. As they open, the morning light floods into the massive stone room. The torturer stands aside. The broken man adjusts to the light. In walks a dark figure. The bent spikes and horns of his armor give a demonic appearance to his countenance. A long cloak flows proudly behind him as he walks toward the man, dragging a sword sparking along the stone tile, click-click-clicking over the seems. He comes to a stop before the tortured soul.

The bruised man's good eye beholds the man in the light. He knows him.

"I w-will s-see you hanged...upon a stake." The bloodied man sputters searingly. "Your n-name will be l-huh-lost and your legacy...will become...a proverb." He hangs his head in exhaustion for shortness of breath.

The man with the sword rages. "You have already been forgotten! You have no power! Your rule has ended. I am your king now! Here you are kneeling before me! Give him to the stocks and let him know the extent of my mercy."

As they drag the man out through the side entrance, another dragon rider in black, more impressive than the others, walks into the chamber from the main entrance as if he had always been there. Fur rustles around his shoulder spikes. His wild appearance contrasts with intelligent and cruel eyes that lock onto the new king with a steely gaze.

"Lord," He begins with disdain, unwilling to call him anything more grand, "My riders have heard rumors of a gathering..."

"My riders!" The pretender corrects him, vehemently. "Do not forget our bargain—Captain. For life!"

The captain maintains his gaze.

"What are you waiting for?" The pretender raises his sword toward the door over the wild one's shoulder. "Go! Track them down, and don't come back until you have broken up this little gathering."

The wild man puts a fist to his chest and bows slightly. Then turns and walks toward the door. As he passes through, a dragon rider in black, his lieutenant joins in beside him from where he stood.

"Grab a squad. We have a gathering to put down." The captain says. Then he stops his lieutenant, and in low towns he speaks, his eyes darting to be sure not to be heard, "Are the items in place?"

"Aye." The lieutenant says quietly.

The captain raps him on the chest plate and they continue on their path.

On the platform, a great dragon and a mundane dragon sit, tethered by dragon riders as the two men approach. The captain separates toward the first.

Kafli Þrjú

The sun shines in the morning sky, casting long shadows. Their flight was unseen for its brilliance. A group of dragons move stealthily along the natural white stones. Their attention and the attention of their riders is focused up the cliff before them. The lieutenant gives hand signals, indicating positions around the tower of bedrock. One of the dragons hops up onto some stones to get in launching position. A small stone rolls off, striking sharply upon stones below.

Boðberi continues to speak. He seems to Seraphina to be quite the born leader. She even feels herself getting caught up in his speech. But it doesn't distract her beyond reason.

Seraphina hears the horses in the woods wafting their breath for disturbance. She listens carefully and hears a small stone fall far below, coming from over the precipice. A few others in the gathering seem to notice. a couple cock their heads, a couple more turn toward the precipice. Seraphina realizes something is very wrong.

Seraphina recalls the very recent assault on the area and that realization dawns on her quickly as she comes to comprehend that the sound of a falling stone over a precipice could very likely have been caused by an intruder. Given that the intruders of late have also been accompanied by dragons, she is quick to come to the conclusion that danger is imminent.

She calls out loudly enough to interrupt Boðberi's speech, "Beware! Intruders are about!"; but only just, in an effort to keep any interlopers from hearing the warning if possible. She points in the direction that she heard the stone even as she readies her bow and heads for cover.

But then, almost as an afterthought, she remembers the old man's words; "Muna. You will be remembered." and the proximity of those words to this possible threat looming nearby adds a weight of dire portent to them. She pauses in her search for cover and instead, glances about for Muna with the intention of quickly making her way toward the young apprentice if she is able to locate her.

Many prepare their weapons. Just then, Seraphina spots Muna over near the parapet. Muna turns toward the precipice and looks over. A dragon swoops up, its full length rising swiftly in front of her and lands on the wall just as two more come up on either side to land. Then two more fly over. The crowd begins to disperse with screams and shouts. A few prepare to do battle.

Brunhazel sings a note of power, but her voice falters, unprepared.

As Seraphina steps toward Muna, Boðberi jumps from the dais to both stop her from making a strategic mistake and protect her from attack with his back to the dragon. He pushes her back. Mús joins him. Seraphina struggles and watches over Boðberi's shoulder as they push her backward toward the entrance of the ruins.

Muna backs up from the dragon, blindly seeking purchase with her hands while unable to take her eyes from the dragon. She trips on the dais behind her and begins to drag herself backwards over the dais steps, still quaking in fear.

Brunhazel runs up to Seraphina. "We have to get out of here! We're no match for dragons! Run! Please, run!" She looks around to the dragon. It is already drawing its breath. The other two snap at those who remained to fight. The one to the left gets its maw around the upper body of a young screaming warrior. His terrified pitch becomes muffled. It thrashes its head, sending the unfortunate soul over the parapet.

Understanding that she can not help Muna (or anyone else for that matter) if she is dead, Seraphina gruffly shrugs off Boðberi and Mús then dodges several steps away in an effort to avoid the forthcoming flames before turning and sprinting away from the attackers; seeking cover.

Magnus jumps between the party and the dragon, too far from Muna. He puts his hands up and shouts, "Contra ignem!" A blue glow outlines Magnus and the faintest blue glow envelopes the party in a partial dome facing the dragon. Then a blue flame bursts out from Magnus on all sides out toward the rim of the dome as he suddenly splays his arms and legs. The dome appears to glow brighter even as he seems to lift from the ground, or stands on his toes, Seraphina can't tell. Transparent blue flame emanates violently from him like a furnace, generating no heat, but immense power instead. Seraphina is certain the dragon has not yet breathed in that moment.

The young wizard points the palms of his hands inward and shouts: "Silicem Ligitura!" Stones begin to rumble and collect together on every side of the ruins. Ribbons of stones spaced a foot apart gathers to float around the caster as a whirlwind of dirt and stones wraps around Magnus. He is just visible within the torrent. A violent storm of sound rages within the ruins. They see ribbons of stone circling round and round. Everyone still standing in the ruins gather away from the stones, protecting their heads with fearful expressions.

"Talionis!" Seraphina is not sure if she heard the mage's voice or the sound of rumbling thunder. In an instant, the swirling stones disperse outward in a violent explosion toward the three dragons.

The three dragons screech, pummeled by stone. But the two young ones crouch, avoiding most of the damage. The adult that was preparing its breath is stunned and its action interrupted, but remains on the wall, its own blood streaks from its nose. Dust plumes in the air. All three dragons look at Magnus standing with his legs apart and arms down and roar their displeasure. Their riders unharmed.