The husk that was six hundred pounds of charging fury then lay ruined and gutted at the bottom of Amo Valley. The Goristo Demon was face down in the thin stream and trailed a column of smok from the hollow of its crushed chest.
“I have at least three broken ribs.” Zarconus murmured to his friends as his spit a tooth into his hand. Tim looked up to the cold full moon as a shadow passed over.
“Zee. Avari. Get that cellar door open. Let’s get what we came for and get outta this hole, man.”
The Ranger jogged through the puddles of demon blood holding his nose from the terrible reek and pulled his ten arrows from the destroyed thing.
Walder leaned over the horizontal marble doors as he wiped the last of the demon gore from his black cape. Then kneeling began to pull his thin beard in consternation. “This sigil is Angelic alright, I saw something like it in Dimnir…Khepathian. That is you Avari.”
“No.” Avari softly whispered, leaning over the Thief King. “This isn’t me yet…Rengray and Amanir are to open another seal which is probably a secondary lock to this one.”
“Ah man, don’t be talking about that sword so much man, I’ll throw it in the damn river once again.” Tim tossed Avari a smirk that belied his very real threat.
Whispering holy words to himself and his god, Zarconus surrounded himself in a silver glow that beat, accompanied by a sound akin to the beat of a dragon’s wing and a distant rumbled of thunder resounded down the narrow river chasm. Standing, Zarconus pulled his hood over his head, sheathed his sword and now fully healed, strode over to the massive entrance to the ancient and sacred Raelfaen site of Amo.
“Here come the storm clouds again.” Walder muttered while standing and letting the half-elf knight inspect the doors as the moon disappeared behind the rolling tempest.
Avari looked at Zarconus as his eyes turned silver and followed Walder’s thought. “I just hope he will be able to control his continued growing power.”
With a crack of light followed by a snap of thunder, the seal of Amo was broken in an instant and the doors opened. Then revealed was a second set of doors, this one with a small small slot of strange shape that only an alien key might fit. Avari danced over to the lock and pulled the sword Rengray from inside the extradimensional space of book in her hand. The Sword transformed in her knowledgeable as if it were a puzzle box, collapsing into itself to form the wood and metal key that had been designed to open just this door. As she slid the key into the lock she addressed Zarconus “So it turns out paladin that we both needed to be here to get this door open.”
“Once again we find the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Zarconus put his hand on Avari’s shoulder as she turned the key, reconciling for the previous transgression in their friendship. “Be careful little wizard, I sense powerful dragon magic down there.”
“I just can’t believe there is a door you couldn’t open.” Tim tapped Walder on the shoulder and the two smirked at each other.
“Hey, I didn’t get a chance yet.” The thief laughed back.
Zarconus was the first to descend the stairs into the old place. With Stickarus held aloft, the silver glow of the sword illuminated a vast chamber at the base of a wide staircase. Centuries of dust were disturbed only by one set of small footprints that lead to an awkwardly placed, tiny chest near the middle of the room. As Zarconus stepped from the stairs toward the chest, a huge blue light flooded the space and the paladin yelled in sudden and agonizing pain and was lifted by an arc of lightning that fanned from two over -head light sources like he was picked up by four massive fingers.
Avari was right behind Zarconus, as Walder and Tim had yet to enter past the doors. The two sets of doors shut behind the paladin and the wizard with a deafening slam at a seemingly impossible speed.
Walder instinctively jumped behind a nearby boulder and transformed into a rat while Tim was attack by a terrible shock of black energy. Bolting waves of shadow cut all oxygen from the ranger and his consciousness was quickly stolen. Lifted on a bed of writhing and angry spirits wailing in terror and agony nearly obscured Tim from Walder’s sight.
With a massive crash of stone and dust, the dragon known as the Hundune appeared at the bottom of the ravine where the four adventurers had stood not a moment before. Opening his gaping throat in a deafening roar he pinned Tim to the ground under a massive claw, triumphant in his capture. Walder could only hide in the mud and witness the dragonfear like a sheet of fire of his mind, enveloping his ability to react with paralysis.
A few heartbeats followed when Walder was not sure if his friend was dead or not when a voluminous shout came from further down the valley. “Hundrune, you idiot! You attacked too late!”
The chastised dragon silenced its long growl and reared back from Tim. Walder could see that he was still breathing and while still cloaked by the void spirits was probably in non-lethal stasis. The newcomer who called to the dragon came striding in front of the dragon and was the size and shape of a man. Accompanied by a large, glowing hound, he continued his chastisement “It is not the Sherriff we need, but entrance to Amo. Now the Dragonforge has the Paladin caught and sealed away forever. The seeds of Everet are lost now for all time thanks to you.”
“Watch your mouth Blendhaven.” The Hundrune leaned in low to stare at the now named Eladrin.
“Although you are aligned with Rydikos and my lord Epheliun does not mean I can not feed on your tiny heart.”
“On the contrary, beast! I have survived dragon stomachs before and now with my Silver Soul I would tear my way out of your throat in a breath. Which perhaps I shall still do since I see know that because of your idiocy I am denied my new kingdom!” Walder’s eyes grew large with the awful revelation of the moment. If Blendhaven was in it with the Dragon, there is now no end to his treachery and betrayal of the once friends. Silver Soul! Blendhaven is a cathoid lord! A Blight Master! And he means to raise Khepathia. That could mean so many things…not the least of which, Walder speculated, was the loss of profits from a potential rival.
Walder looked up to see what could only be described as fear in the face of the Hundrune. With a wave of his hand, the eladrin continued as he turned with his feyhound and began to walk into the darkness. “Nevermind. We have the Sherriff, he is valuable. Let’s see if you can get our prize back to Ragyiel without fouling it.” At that, the dragon lifted the still unconscious ranger in his massive claw and with a crashing beat of his wings headed to the sky.
Meanwhile, under the earthen doors, Avari found herself trying to save her friend from being torn apart by ancient magics. “A dragonforge. An ancient Khepathian machine of both draconic and cathidic energies.” The taking book, AkinAhton reported to Avari. “The device is wripping the dragon mark from Zarconus’ soul in order to feed its own power. Its purpose is war.”
“What can stop it?” Avari cried as she pulled the book from her satchel and began frantically flipping the pages.
“The question is not what can stop it, but who is powering it? All machines need someone to command them to work.” The book’s calm voice resonated against Avari’s shrill.
“Rengray!” Avari tossed the sword, still in key form to the ground and watch it unravel as an uncurling snake to its original form as a thin, silver rapier. “Have you the power to operate this evil machine? Is this by your will?”
“It is my original function my love. Amanir.” The scraping timber of Rengray’s voice reminded Avari of a sword being sharpened against steel.
Zarconus, now disrobed by unseen hands and thrashing in apparent agony so high from the floor, suspended in a web of blue fire and lighting. Blood spilling from eyes, ears and screaming mouth. Avari glanced up, her mind racing a surgeon who had a patient to save and only moments to do it. “The Anethamancer!” Avari again opened her book and found a puzzle cipher embedded in a page she had copied in the chamber of the Anethamancer when they had battled in Gaverdeim at the beginning of her Planes-walking studies. She wasn’t sure how it could be used because she was missing particular translations…gaps in the history of purpose and power. She had no gaps any longer.
AkinAhton reiterated “you could stop the Dragon Forge, but for one catalyst.” A Catalyst? How strange the world works, she thought as she pulled from her pocket a machine only recently found in the Shadowfel. Holding the silver ball to her forehead Avari closed her eyes and whispered “Thank you Festil.” Rolling the ball forward and chanting a durge of Making, the wizard watched the ball grow in but three heartbeats to many times its original size as it scraped across the floor. As the lighting hit the globe Zarconus was blasted to the floor in a tremendous torque of broken energy. The Ball itself cracked open and absorbed all the lightning from the forge and Avari could detect the sound of snapping clockwork from deep inside the ancient machine. Then running over to the tossed knight, Avari cradled his head in her lap as a thin trail of steam leaked from his broken face. Tears welled up in her eyes at the thought of Zarconus passing from this world.
With a small snap followed by the sound of sliding tumblers the massive doors of Amo opened once again to reveal Walder against the night sky. “See, not so tough…Holy crap! Avari, what happened? …”