Tales of the Dragons
Tale the first – In which our Hero is introduced
The Dragon stirred inside its egg.
Miles down & Away from the egg Lieutenant Gael Goldpine faced the mountain and sighed.
Climbing up the mountain with his squad and kidnapping an abandoned dragon's egg from a presumably empty lair was far from the plum assignment he'd been hoping for after his recent tour of duty & promotion.
Still, orders were orders even if they came from the army Mage assigned to this area.
He looked at his squad of 15 men, fine, good men all-
"Ready for the climb soldiers?!" he shouted.
"Sir, yes sir!" came the reply
"At ease" he laughed "Save your energies for the climb and any unpleasant surprises on the way.
Has everyone made sure their elemental abjurative protective spells from Aret the squad mage are working? We don't want any casualties if the damn thing has hatched and tries to belch us to death, eh?"
The men laughed, put at ease by the crackling aura of magic around them, eager at the prospect of dragon's gold (Unlikely as it was, to the point where they had been allowed partial scavenging rights as a potential perk), and the men also believed in the skill & competence of their lieutenant Gael Goldpine and the army trapster Geytor Murengis.
"Lets go get that egg!" bawled a young private (One Fithel Peanslip) as he scampered off to begin climbing up the mountainside towards the small path mapped out for them by Aret.
Inside the egg the dragon twisted around, sucking in more & more of the life providing fluids surrounding it, heat rushing through its cold blooded form as its heart beat increased & muscles began to spasm, expanding & contracting to accommodate the Dragon's evolving metabolism.
As the squad of Elves, humans & Half-elves ascended they began to slow down, the summer's heat tiring & draining.
Although they didn't feel the heat themselves due to the abjurations the air was still hot & dry, their water heated & unpleasant, not to mention the the sheer physical difficulty of climbing a mountain in full gear & armour.
Each soldier was equipped with: Chainmail ringlet armour over their whole body, a steel plate on their chest, back and fore-arms, iron lined marching boots, a full helm helmet, bronze lined round shields and a longsword.
Typical gear for a squad from their division entering a potentially high risk assignment.
"Quit that muttering and hold formation" shouted Gael (Who was equipped in lighter but more effective & high quality gear due to his origins and inheritance).
Onwards they marched, upwards towards the distant cave.
The Dragon was "conscious" now, still inside its egg. It slowly rolled around, savoring the warmth and food.
It still had many more days to go until it would grow even more before hatching and emerging into an environment far less sympathetic than its current womb like haven.
Geytor Murengis paused, holding out his arm in the sign for "Pause, potential passive danger", his palm thumb down with a horizontal wave (Fortunately this had been a signal designed for those lacking digits, as was the price of Murengis's craft).
He examined the ever so faint "wrongness" in the air and acrid smell of "something", his tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth.
He pulled out of his pack a complicated device resembling a barometer with too many ends.
He then pointed it at a random rock then at the patch of air.
"300 Millithaums, either someone had one heck of a weave ripping fight or there's a field or magic trap. And I ain't seeing no scorch marks or gouged out marks (From a fight)"
"Why does he always have to speak out loud to himself" muttered on of the infantrymen to his "neighbor".
Geytor either didn't hear or didn't care.
He took out a wooden box which contained a smaller heavily padded strong box, within which, wrapped in velvet lay a dozen black marbles & 2 white marbles side by side in small sockets.
He carefully extracted a single Black marble & closed the boxes.
"Get everyone back" he warned. After taking a few steps back himself, he threw the marble at the innocuous seemingly empty patch of air.
The marble sailed through the air until it passed through the "patch", whereupon 'something' swallowed it in a blur of teeth, scales, fang & jaw.
The 'thing' (A Landwyrm they would later discover) stampeded towards the squad.
However in the 2 seconds it took to cover the distance was also all the time it took its own throat acids to dissolve a crack in the marble and to jar it, triggering the spell within.
The invisible explosion ripped the beast's neck apart and sent its head flying like a
Cross-bolt towards the soldiers, knocking one man down & 3 feet back.
As for the Landwyrm's headless body, it continued moving for another few paces on sheer momentum and motor reflexes alone before collapsing.
Gael was flat on his ass, jaw gaping open.
"Remind me to recommend you for another promotion when we get back" he said.
Geytor just smiled, as he held out a hand & pulled Gael up from the ground.
They continued their hike, the soldiers marveling as one by one they popped out of sight as they passed through the invisibility field that had concealed the beast.
Finally, after 4 hours, 1 avalanche, a chimera, & 3 additional expended black pearls later (2 pears to clear a way through the avalanche and another to open a path by blasting a fallen boulder blocking their route, sending it tumbling down off the mountainside).
Finally they reached the entrance to the abandoned cave.
They re-organized into a "forward-box" formation:
. Murengis .
. Gael .
They then ventured into the cave, walking slowly & cautiously relying on their eyes adapting to the dark rather than torches, noting the utter lack of smell beyond dust.
Then at last: "By the Gods…" Whispered one of the men, awe on his face.
In front of them was a massive egg the size of a farmer's hut. The egg was almost translucent; the dark stain of what was doubtless the beast inside just barely visible.
Even more impressive was the veritable sea of gold & treasures in which the egg lay:
Thousands of coins stacked into rows, rubies arranged by the number of edges, diamonds placed into intricate crystalline formations, artwork arranged by size & style, silks of all colours & patterns (Arranged by pattern), rows of weapons ranging from Adamantium battleaxes, unpractical lead daggers (covered in runes of poison), mithril armour, Weapons of pure glass of obsidian of diamond or even pure light, and what appeared to be a massive stack of criss-crossed Adamantium shields lying in an even pile.
At a salvage fee of 2 for the infantry (as a whole) the privates knew their retirement nest egg had turned from a boiled egg into a 3 course feast.
Geytor Murengis with his 2.5 fee (For himself alone) basked in the thought that he would now be able to retire to live with his wife & his new born son, who would never know starvation, cold or a blade slicing his fingers off.
Gael Goldpine was simply drooling at the thought of his assured promotion (As well as the wealth promised by a 5 officer's rate).
He all but laughed at how his superiors had been so sure that the lair had been emptied after seeing that nothing had come in or out for years, either by the leaving dragon or whatever had killed the dragon.
He (As well as all others present) ignored the small voice of suspicion within, that pointed out that no Dragon would leave its horde behind. That anything potent & cunning enough to kill a grown dragon (No matter its breed) would try to track down the lair. That an egg and horde left behind untouched was far too great a coincidence.
Enough "Shiny!" would drown the minds of "lesser" creatures, unused as they were to gold and ornaments (Unlike the prudent & inured Draconic race).
So it was that none, not even the sharp eyed & keen nosed Geytor noted the pile of Adamantium shields shifting slightly in place.
However, They did notice when the Dragon suddenly appeared (the shields attached to its underside).
"Hello meat" Said the drake, licking its chops.
"Try not to soil yourselves excessively; I wouldn't want my child to suffer any indigestion when he comes out.
I only want 2 of you anyway, so save yourselves the unnecessary bother of fighting, getting slaughtered and causing unneeded deaths and stains on my cave's floor".
During this one sided parley Geytor Murengis had finally managed to stop shaking in helpless terror and was slowly drawing the small wooded box from his heavily padded side pocket.
The Dragon continued "I'll give you a few minutes to confer, but if you decide to be annoying feel free to, I'll risk the indigestion of metallic excrement".
Geytor listened with half a mind, as his other right side half concentrated on fiddling with a clasp, then a lock then a smaller box.
He extracted 4 of the black marbles & closed the boxes.
Gael hand signaled to his men: 'we aren't offering anyone up as dinner to that monster, but we can't fight that beast, I'll need a free space to summon in the squad mage for an evac', now Murengis will…Murengis?'
Murengis threw the marbles, straight at the shadowed Dragon.
The three opaque black balls sailed through the air, arcing towards the dragon.
All eyes snapped to the tiny orbs as they fell in their parabolic arc towards the drake – Before colliding with an invisible wall, exploding soundlessly & invisibly in midair.
The invisible blast threw the soldiers back like chaff in a thresher, shook the cave and resulted in a wave of rubble & dust to erupt from the caves entrance.
It also caused a massive stalactite to fall from the cave's "ceiling" above the egg (Which had remained immobile despite its proximity to the shockwave).
The young private Fithel Peanslip ran to push the massive egg aside before colliding with another invisible wall of force, this one surrounding the egg, knocking him out cold.
(The falling stalactite also shattered into tiny shards against the hemispherical energy field).
The Dragon who had not been incommoded in the least by the blast "smiled".
"A Very admirable effort, I'll definitely not eat him (For trying to save my egg) as for the rest of you please finish your deliberations & my thanks for cleaning my cave, I'm sure the dusty environs might have been unhealthy for a wyrmling" and it settled back into a bed of platinum coins.
Gael crawled up, his head "ringing" –
"Got any more bright ideas Murengis?" He muttered out of the corner of his mouth.
The latter replied back in sign language "Yes. I'm using the white ordnance, get everyone braced & get ready to summon Aret once the wave clears".
As Gael started a charade of drawing straws with his men (For "Who will be eaten first!") excluding only the hapless, unconscious Fithel (Towards whom the other men directed murderous glances).
Again Murengis surreptitiously opened the marble's box, but this time not only did he take out All 6 of the remaining black pearls, but he also extracted the twin white pearly white marbles.
He arranged them in his hands for optimum co-ordination.
He tried to calm his pounding heart wiping the sweat off his brow. Geytor Murengis thought of his 8 month old son bouncing on his knee.
Then he threw all of the marbles, one after the other (With the whites leading.
The Dragon didn't even bother to react, no doubt confident in the ability of its wall of force to resist any amount explosive force.
However what the white pearl released was no explosion of kinetic energy, heat, negative energy, acid, electricity, sound waves or any conventional energy.
What it did do however was disrupt the structure of the Weave (of magic), the very foundation of magic, producing the magical equivalent of a whirlpool – A vortex killing all ongoing effects and sucking away new ones.
The Force wall "vanished" from existence, the difference noticeable only due to the fact that the second white orb continued unhindered to hit the dragon on the snout, killing any possible defensive magic's that might have been in place on the beast.
Then all the black pearls collided with the Dragon, an astonished expression still on its "face".
The explosion blasted the horde outwards in a shockwave, propelled by the Force from the blast.
The priceless treasures becoming high speed projectiles, battering the unfortunate soldiers despite the distance in a painful & priceless hail that hit like sling shots.
But inside the circle of the horde blasted clear by the blast the Dragon lay as if it had been in a waterfall of sparkling mana rather than a Baatorian explosion & bombardment of treasure & flung weapons.
This time it spoke to the stunned Soldiers in a different tone than before:
"I see that it's useless to give food a chance to save itself any unnecessary damage.
After all, you certainly don't allow a Cow or sheep parlay before utilizing it, and the intellectual difference between Me and the likes of you is more than thrice that.
And now, it's Supper Time!"
The dragon let loose a deceptively small "Puff" at the men (Their elemental defences still intact).
The dragon's breath went through their defenses as if they didn't exist, bypassing them entirely. It blasted them back, warping their armour and leaving on the parts of their bodies affected a hideous network of burst blood vessels, disrupted skin and organ deep bruising.
A gesture of the Dragon's claws & Geytor Murengis found himself yanked by invisible hands into its massive "hand".
"It will take me months to re-organize & catalog my horde's contents by age, colour, style, size, shape, angle, density, taste, value & alphabetical order again" Said the Dragon in a peeved tone.
"Ill to try to calm myself down by snacking on you, irritating little thief"
Geytor had a fraction of a second to begin a scream and to think of his wife & child
Before the Dragon's teeth ripped him into tiny shreds, his death mercifully quick.
The remaining soldiers had been rallied by 2d Lieutenant Gael and were attempting a "Strategic retreat" cum escape.
The Dragon spat out Murengis's pack onto the Cave's floor (Where it exploded leaving a green scorch mark) then made an additional gesture with its claw.
The next thing the soldiers knew they were blasted backwards by what felt like a ram charging into their midriff, the force of it sending them flying backwards to the cliff edge outside the cave.
The Cliff edge was unstable, already cracking under the stress of an (invisible) multi tin Dragon taking off it every few weeks on average for centuries, and this weight was not supported by racially specific binding & strengthening spells nor was it on it for a split second.
The net result was that the very tip of the precipice crumbled, sending the soldiers along with Gael Goldpine tumbling, cursing & screaming down the mountain.
The scene was almost comical for an outside viewer, but for the participants it was a nightmarish whirlwind of skin ripping, flesh tearing, bones cracking, necks snapping & heads cracking.
The Dragon listened to the chaos and sighed.
"What an unfortunate even pitiful waste, they could have saved themselves by simply being reasonable and volunteering for practice or sending up convicts or some such.
I see that giving small-folk the right to palaver and choose truly does do them more harm than "good". I'll have to remember that in future, soft minded fool that I am".
Then the Dragon lifted its mighty wing which it had not moved through this episode of chaos to reveal what had been kept underneath the wing, hidden & protected, revealing:
"Mummy, can I come out now?"
A baby dragon.
The gargantuan She-Wyrm licked the small specks of dust off of her spawn's head & tiny stubby wings, then nudged him forward with Her snout.
"Its been a long day for you my little one, its time for you to sleep in your little egg-nest.
I'll teach you how to strip the possessions off of a humanoid some other day I'm afraid".
The tiny dragon waddled out from his mother then piped out
"But Mummy, there's a smally by my egg!"
She sighed "Oh yes, the well meaning dolt of an elf. Well, we can't hardly eat him, noblesse oblige & so on.
Still we can have a go at practicing valuables stripping without melting the body, even if it is a bit advanced for you my sweet.
We'll let him run off afterwards; the story of being spared due to trying to save a Dragon's egg is excellent Public relations for sabotaging other wretched egg hunters"
Again he piped up "All that for saving my old egg?"
She smiled at him indulgently "Well he didn't know that, did he?" The small Dragon's mouth opened in an O of understanding.
She continued "At least this happened after you hatched early all those weeks ago"
"Like a Cork!"
She nuzzled the impudent youngster "That's right, like a cork popping out you came out of your egg a whole 5 weeks early, still I suppose that should be expected considering who your Great-grandfather was.
Now stop trying to distract me and let's get to work, and remember, no nibbling!"
So mother & child began their playful "Work" practicing the looting of a hostile invader without even harming it (Or the haul).
At the bottom of the mountain a man looked at the small ring that had encased him in a field of magic "armour".
Then he looked at the mountainside around him, covered with the dead bodies of his men.
Gael Goldpine screamed.