THE LEGEND OF THE DRAGON'S GRAVEYARD
By Ian Nathaniel Cohen
(Featuring dance choreography by Solana)
AUTHOR'S NOTES & ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
"The Legend of the Dragon's Graveyard" is primarily based on "Silver Star Story" game continuity, with a couple of references and scenes from "Lunar Legend" tossed in and a couple of spells from the original Sega CD version. The names I use for the Four Dragons that Alex met on his adventure, with the exception of Quark, come from my "Comrades in Arms" trilogy, which was completed before "Lunar Legend" was released.
A link to this story will be posted on The Shrine to Ghaleon's message board, along with exclusive content, including story notes, a list of alternate and deleted scenes, and other special features.
Also, a very special "thank you" to K'arthur and Solana for proofreading, editing, and moral support. I couldn't have done it without you!
"Lunar" and all canonical characters are copyrighted by GameArts, Working Designs, and UbiSoft.
And now, on with the show!
Seven years ago...
It was another rowdy night in Reza. In the Thieves' Guild headquarters, its members were celebrating their latest successful caper with wine, women, and song. Some of them were gambling away their booty while others were downstairs in the Thieves' Bazaar selling some of their more exquisite prizes. Whenever the Guild threw a celebration, the entire town was invited (since nobody would be able to sleep through the noise anyway), leaving the rest of the city pretty much deserted.
Several buildings away, although still in earshot of the ruckus from the guild, was a small warehouse that had apparently been converted into a makeshift living quarters. The room was occupied by two men. One of them was a short and wiry middle-aged man, with a shock of gingery-hair and several days' worth of stubble. He was well-dressed, but his purple silk tunic was badly stained with sweat. His expression was nervous, and the slightest sound startled him.
The other, about the same age as the first, was about six and a half feet tall, broad-shouldered, and powerfully built. He had long coal-black hair that reached down to his shoulders and an unruly beard covering a weather-beaten face. He was wearing a hauberk of leather armor that left his arms bare, revealing an ornate purple tattoo on his left arm. He sat comfortably in a chair idly shuffling a deck of cards as his dark eyes discreetly darted across the room. A massive sword and a crossbow lay on a nearby table within easy reach.
"Sounds like they're having quite a time over at the Guild," the first man said morosely as he continued to pace. "Wish I could be there with them."
"Too many people around," said the second in a matter-of-fact tone. "You're safer here until this whole thing blows over. So calm down and stop that damned pacing of yours. It's driving me nuts."
"Easy for you to say, Gryffin," the other man snapped back. "You're not the one marked for death."
"No, I'm the guy you hired to keep you alive," Gryffin said. "A lot of people have hired me for this kind of job before, and I've never lost one on my watch. So relax. Pull up a chair and let's play some cards."
"I'm not in the mood, thank you," Durgan huffed. As the recently-appointed boss of the Thieves' Guild, Durgan was usually able to keep his head during an emergency. You had to be in order to even be considered for leadership of the Guild. But being marked for death by a disgruntled merchant from Meribia who had been robbed by members of the Guild wasn't something he'd anticipated when he'd campaigned for the position. Durgan still couldn't understand why the guy was so angry. It was just business, after all, and he'd even offered to return the merchant's stolen property, including his wife's prized jewelry. But the merchant wanted more than his money back. He wanted revenge.
"I still don't see why you couldn't have just whacked the guy," Durgan complained. "If Korland was dead, the contract on me would be canceled and none of this would be necessary."
"I'm not an assassin, Durgan," Gryffin said tersely. "And I'm getting a little tired of people thinking that I am." Only a week before, Korland himself had tried to hire Gryffin to kill Durgan. Gryffin might be a mercenary, but he never took a job where killing in cold blood was required, no matter how much a client paid, and Korland had instead recruited a group of professional killers to do the job. Gryffin had gotten word of the plot and offered his services to Durgan as a bodyguard.
Durgan didn't look happy with the answer. "Yeah, but I'm paying you to protect me, and icing the guy who wants me dead sounds like a good way to do it."
"Maybe," Gryffin said with a shrug, although he was glaring at Durgan indignantly. "But it's not my way. If you ain't happy with that, you can find someone else willing to watch over you."
"No, no, you're right," Durgan said putting up his hands. "I'm just tense, that's all."
Gryffin nodded understandingly. "Just don't get so tense that you distract me from doing my job, okay? I already told you, you're in good hands."
Durgan smiled weakly, trying to allow himself to be encouraged by that. It was true that Gryffin Jor-dan of Nanza, the Katarina Zone's most infamous mercenary, had an impressive track record. Since Dragonmaster Dyne's disappearance and presumed death nine years ago, and "Hell" Mel de Alkirk's retirement from adventuring the year before that, Gryffin was widely considered to be the toughest fighter and best swordsman still active on Lunar. Although already in his forties, there had been no signs of Gryffin slowing down with age.
Suddenly there was a thumping sound on the roof, a steady rhythmic knocking. Gryffin tensed and grabbed his sword and crossbow. "Who's that?" Durgan whispered.
Gryffin smiled grimly as his eyes darted across the room. "My partner, letting us know we have company...five of 'em. You might wanna...GET DOWN!"
Gryffin shouted this last part as he knocked Durgan to the ground, out of the way of an incoming crossbow bolt that had come in through the window. Gryffin could faintly make out the black-clad figure of the triggerman, and fired his own crossbow at the assailant. There was a cry from outside the house and a faint thud, indicating that Gryffin's arrow had found its mark. Another crossbow bolt, from the other side of the house, zoomed towards Gryffin, but the mercenary dove out of the way, the bolt slightly grazing him in the side through his leather armor.
Gryffin heard the man curse and fumble about as he reloaded his crossbow. Gryffin stayed low, crawling to where he figured the assailant was. He drove his sword through the wall of the house with all of his might, and heard a scream as he felt the blade pierce a body as well as the thin wood. Gryffin withdrew his sword from the wall, the blade wet with blood. "That's two," Gryffin said quietly to Durgan. "Stay outta sight until the rest are taken care of."
As if on cue, two burly men, one armed with a mace and the other with a curved sword, burst through the doorway. As the mace-wielding assassin swung at Gryffin, Gryffin ducked and followed up with a slash of his own. One stroke of Gryffin's sword split the mace in half, and a follow-up downward stroke finished off the would-be assassin. The other one with the sword hesitated a moment before cutting at Gryffin recklessly. The killer had some skill, and his lighter blade made it difficult for Gryffin to parry, although his attacks lacked power. The two blades locked, and Gryffin's superior strength allowed him to push the assassin off him. With the thug off-balance and wide open, Gryffin slashed with his sword, putting all his might into it. The assassin fell dead to the floor.
Gryffin looked around, panting slightly, counting the men he'd just killed. "Wasn't there supposed to be another one of these guys?"
The pounding on the roof suddenly resumed, heavier than ever, and Gryffin tensed. It sounded as if two people were fighting up there. "I think your partner's in trouble!" Durgan said, alarmed.
For the first time tonight, Gryffin looked worried, and he hesitated, not knowing what to do. Was it a trap designed to lure him away from Durgan, or...?
The thought was never finished. There was the sharp thud of a body falling on the roof and then rolling off, falling to the pavement below accompanied by a ghastly shriek. Gryffin raced outside to find the fifth and final assassin sprawled on the ground, dead from a broken neck.
As Gryffin examined the body, another figure dropped from the roof, this one landing gracefully on his feet. It was a boy, barely into his teens, although his height made him look older. His tousled hair and dark eyes were the same shade as Gryffin's, and the short-sleeved dark red shirt he wore revealed a similar tattoo on his arm. He looked down at the body of the final killer, his smile both triumphant and smug, and then at Gryffin. "Was that the last of 'em?" the boy asked.
"Yep," Gryffin replied, trying to hide the relief in his voice. "Nice job. You okay?"
The boy nodded, beaming with pride as Durgan stared at him incredulously. "Gryffin, this is your partner? A kid?"
The kid folded his arms defiantly, clearly annoyed with being called "a kid," but Gryffin merely smiled. "That's right, you haven't been introduced yet. Son, this is Durgan, the new guy in charge of Reza's Thieves' Guild. Durgan, this is my son, Kyle."
Kyle gave Durgan a nod, his arms still folded. Gryffin knelt down and inspected the assassin's face. "Korland must've spent a small fortune hiring these guys," he mused. "They were seasoned pros."
"Meh, they didn't seem all that tough," Kyle said. "Especially that guy."
"Oh, make no mistake, these guys were good," Gryffin repeated. "You and I just happened to be better."
"Damn straight," Kyle said with a laugh, which faded as he saw the mark on Gryffin's side where the crossbow bolt had grazed him, which was bleeding slightly. "What's that?" he asked in a scolding tone, the way Gryffin would always ask him when he caught Kyle with something he shouldn't have.
Gryffin looked down at his wound. "Oh, that? Just a scratch."
Kyle raised an eyebrow. "Just a scratch?"
"Yeah, just a scratch. That happens sometimes when people try to kill each other," Gryffin said sarcastically.
"Since when do you let yourself get 'just scratched' by losers like this? What'd they do, catch you sleeping or something?"
"Like I said, these guys were good," Gryffin said defensively, his muscles suddenly feeling sore. Another unpleasant reminder he was getting older. "Well, Durgan, I think that concludes our business. I don't think Korland's gonna trouble you anymore after what tonight cost him."
Durgan nodded, walking back into his house and returning with two bags of silver coins. "Two hundred kevesim, as promised," he said. "I should've offered a lot more. I'm grateful for your help."
Gryffin shrugged and smiled. "We agreed on two hundred, so we'll leave it at that. Here," he said to Kyle as he tossed him one of the bags. "Go get something nice for that little lady of yours."
Kyle grinned broadly in gratitude and eagerness as he caught the bag in mid-air and scampered down to the Guild's main headquarters and its underground bazaar. Durgan shook as he watched Kyle run off. "I don't mean to butt in, Gryffin, but you sure it's safe for him to accompany you on your adventures? He's what, thirteen?"
"Twelve," Gryffin said with a wistful smile. "I dunno about safer, but I know for sure it's a hell of a lot easier than trying to get him to stay in Nanza when I'm on a job. He's a scrapper, and you can't keep him away from a fight."
"I know the type," Durgan said. "Think he might follow in your footsteps one day, turn out just like you?"
Gryffin's smile faded as if he was unhappy at the thought. But all he said was, "We'll see."