(Copyright 1996, Ed T. Toton III, All Rights Reserved)
"T'was a dark and stormy night. Well, not really, but I always wanted to say that," Brinn started. "Actually, it was mid-day, and unusually warm for early spring." Brinn was a middle-aged dragon, strong and muscular. When the cause arose, we was one of the finest dragon warriors around, and would often tell stories to the younger dragons.
"I thought thou didst say it was late spring?" Interrupted Helkis, glaring at Brinn with his deep blue dragon eyes, squinting slightly from the glare on Brinn's red-brown scales. "Canst thou even keep a story consistent?"
"Shut thine maw, Helkis!" shouted Fargnon, the youngest of the two youthful listeners. "I want to hear the story!" Fargnon's high voice echoed loudly off the walls of the weyrmount, despite his attempt to keep his voice confined to the commonsweyr.
Before Brinn could even attempt to calm the two youngsters, Targil swooped in, and made a soft landing just inside the entrance, hardly ruffling his glossy red scales. "I'm sorry Brinn, but thou art needed outside." Targil was an explorer, and a courrier. His thin frame and strong wings made him ideally suited for travelling long distances at high speeds. His magical senses were also well suited for life outdoors, as he could sense the presence of other creatures, great and small.
"Outside? What's outside?"
"I know not, Brinn. Findral simply asked me to get thee."
"Findral? He's back? Very well. Sorry me drakes, but thou shalt have to wait until later. Duty calls. Ahh, the life of a dragon of the weyr." And with that, Brinn wobbled his large, lumbering, dark green body through the doorway as Targil softly pressed his thin frame against the wall to make room for him. Once into the main weyr chamber, they both took to flight, leaving only a stir of dust in their wake, and headed towards the glowing crevasse known simply as the weyr entrance.
Outside they landed upon the rocky crags just short of the grassy clearing of the forest, and were greeted by a friendly sight. "I'm glad that thou couldst come so quickly, my friends," stated the noble and dignified purple dragon known as Findral.
"It's good to see thee, Findral!" exclaimed Brinn. "I see that thou hast not become any leaner for thy travels."
"Aye, as portly as ever!" added Targil.
"Yes, yes, fine," continued Findral. "Unfortunately, I fear that we have not the time for such idle chit-chat. I have something to show thee." The three proud dragons began to claw their way around an outcropping of the mountain, with Findral in the lead. "What I have to show thee is not pleasant, so prepare thyselves."
"What is it, Findral?"
"There, behind those trees."
Brinn and Targil approached cautiously, and brushed the branches aside with their massive claws, and were instantly greeted by a sight that proved Findral's words true.
"Is that... is it...?"
"By the spirit of the mountain... It is Slissia, and she's..."
"Dead?" interjected Findral, who followed closely behind. "Quite dead I'm afraid. And by the looks of it she hath been slain by mankind. See thee the wounds made by spears and halberds."
"But Findral! Wasn't she thine mate!? How art thou remaining so calm!?"
"I don't have time for grief, my friend. I'll mourn after I hath exacted revenge!"
"Look thee here! Whilst some of the wounds are indeed made by human weapons, these upon the neck clearly could have only been made by the claws of a dragon." Brinn continued his examination, while Targil remained focused upon Findral's state of being.
Findral sat pensively for a few moments, and then simply stated in a tone of disgust, "Never. No dragon of the weyrmount has killed one of its own in centuries, least of all such an innocent one as Slissia. Not even those of the Keh'shansharasha would have reason to strike her down. And for our own, tis the only rule for which we still have capital punishment. I'm not ready to believe a dragon could have done this."
"Please Findral, take leave and get thee some rest. Thou art of no use to us fatigued, and with thy judgement blurred by anger."
"I suppose that thou art correct, Targil. I am quite in shock, in fact I keep expecting her to arise, and greet me with her usual grin and affectionate words. I... I think I'll go now. Please, find who did this to my lovely Slissia, and then come get me so that I may slice his head into small bite-sized pieces. Bite-sized to a human that is! Yes, tiny small insignificant bits of gooey brain and crunchy skull bits that I can mash between my claws and throw to the squirrels, and watch as they spread the evil perpetrator to the vastness of the..."
"Alright Findral! Enough!" yelled Targil, with puffs of steamy smoke boiling forth from his nostrils. "Get thee some rest! Go! Now!" And with that, Findral shrugged, turned, and slunked away with his head held low. After a moment, he disappeared into the trees along the route back to the weyr entrance, leaving only a few rustling branches showing his former presence.
"Might I suggest we try to find out who did this?"
"Targil!" Brinn glared at Targil with an expression of obvious dissatisfaction with his response. "Yes, but where do we begin?"
"I'm not sure, perhaps we should ask Lord British. I'm sure he'll grant us an audience."
Brinn thought for a moment, and squinted slightly in a pensive manner. "That might be difficult, seeing as most Britannians still do not trust us. We might be attacked on sight."
"Perhaps thou art correct," Targil said. "Let us seek the Avatar!"
It had been a long day, and Bones, the captain of the scouts, was quite tired after a long flight. The night had fallen, and the caverns of the weyrmount were only dimly lit by sporadically placed lanterns. Despite his intense fatigue, he still managed to navigate the corridors of the weyrmount without scraping the walls. Soon he reached his own private crack in the cavern that he called home.
"Bones! I have a question for thee!" shouted the voice of Brinn from across the cavern.
"Ohhh... not now!" replied the silver-grey dragon. "Canst thou see that I am too drained for thy questions!"
"Very well, what is it!" grumbled Bones, his thin sleek body becoming tense with agitation.
"Hast thou any news of the Avatar?"
"Ok, ok.. stop shouting. Thou and thy questions..." Bones muttered to himself. "Yes, he was last seen by one of my scouts in Trinsic. Yesterday if mine memory serves me, which I doubt considering I am nearly asleep."
"Thank thee!" yelled Brinn as he quickly made for the Library to tell Targil.
Bones simply mumbled under his breath, "Yeah, right, whatever. I thought I told thee to stop yelling..."
A lone man, covered shoulder to toe in chain mail, with but a thin red band upon his head, approached slowly out of a shadow. His face was of a thin stature, but gruffly unshaven. He peered into the darkness before him, and gently leaned his halberd against the rocky wall. "Art thou here?"
"And where else would I be?" responded a deep, raspy voice. All that could be seen of this one was a dark silhouette of a long, snake-like neck, and large folded wings that shifted slowly to aid the beasts poor circulation. "What is it? Or hast thou disturbed my rest for no better reason than to... annoy me? That would be *most* unfortunate."
"It has come to my attention that the Dragons of the Weyrmount have more scouts active than I was previously aware. Art thou not concerned they may discover our lair? We're not yet prepared for a defensive battle..."
"Is this all you have come to me with? Leave me."
"But, the dragons are very cunning, and if the Avatar..."
"Worry not about the Avatar. I have plans for him. He will be quite.. how shall I say, indisposed! Now go!"
"Aye." The man snatched his halberd, and exited through the shadowy door through which he entered.
"Avatar!? Is that virtuous!?" shouted Iolo in a jovial manner from across the market square.
"Ha, ha," the avatar began, pretending not to be amused. "Tis good to see thee Iolo! What brings thee to Trinsic?"
"Just passing through..."
"Passing through? Art thou daft? Tis the end of the continent."
"Ok, I was not passing through, I came to see thee. There was a murder in Jhelom two days ago. The provisioner to be precise. When I received word of thy whereabouts, I immediately set sail to find thee."
"Does everyone know where I am? Seems that way. Still using the Golden Ankh?"
"Aye, tis a fine vessel. Lord British has continued to entrust it to us." Iolo paused, and with a sigh continued, "I have not seen Shamino in quite some time. I believe he returned to the forests of Yew. And tis not the same without Dupre either, though thou canst probably guess his whereabouts. However, if it pleases thee, Thou and thine old friend Iolo can venture back to Jhelom and attempt to sort this mess out. What sayest thou?"
"Very well, " the Avatar began, "if thou wilt prepare the ship, I'll buy some food and meet thee there. Then I shall feed thee before we set sail."
"Ah, thou truly knowest the way to a companions heart! Off I go!"
"Fare thee well!" responded the Avatar.
Targil and Brinn had been flying all morning over the Serpent Spine Mountains, and had begun to follow the west coast south. It was a beautiful cool morning. The air was still, and the waves gently rolled up the shore line. The smell of morning dew lingered still, and the sun lended a breathtaking glow to the trees and grass.
"Targil, mine wings need to rest, and I'm hungry. Shall we land?"
"Very well..." Targil replied, as Brinn spiraled downward without awaiting Targil's response. Brinn smacked the sandy beach with a loud thud, while Targil landed silently. Targil had a thin body and strong wings, which made him a natural at flying long distances. Brinn on the other had was larger and bulkier, and needed to rest periodically.
Brinn stared silently at the water for a moment, and eyed a fish just beneath the surface. A rather large one, unusually so for the shallow beaches. Brinn's lips curled showing his array of sharp, pointy teeth, and a moment later, in the blink of an eye, and the splash of sea water, he was withdrawing his head from the water with the fish already half swollowed. He continued to chew on the fish, while mumbling in a barely understandable manner, "Where are we?"
Targil looked around, first to the north, then to the east. "I see a mountain pass to the east. Which means we should be able to see Skara Brae off shore." And sure enough, when he turned his head to the west, the sight of Skara Brae some distance off assured him that they were just short of half-way to Trinsic. Targil, being an experienced traveller in the Britannian world, purposefully chose a slightly indirect route to Trinsic, so as to avoid passing directly over any human cities. Experience has taught him that flying over towns usually scared the humans to the point of firing arrows and crossbows. While it was quite impossible for such attacks to hit a target flying as high as Targil typically did, he still felt it was dangerous, and unwise.
"It'll be getting dark soon..." Targil started. Brinn simply stoped chewing and stared at Targil in total confusion. Targil chuckled and said, "Just seeing if thou art paying attention, Brinn." Brinn glared back with an air of annoyance.
"So Targil," he said, then made a final swollow, "what do thine magical senses tell thee about the murder?"
"Nothing. It doth not work that way."
After feeding, both returned to the skies, and continued south towards Trinsic. The remainder of the journey was uneventful, and the two of them landed quietly a short distance off from the village. They looked at one another, and thought for a moment.
"I suppose that thou dost realize that it will be difficult to get in there and find the Avatar without caused a scene," Brinn pointed out.
"Unfortunately so... I wish there were... Of course! The Avatar is attuned to the ether, and I shall attempt to touch his mind. It should be sufficient to get him to investigate further, and therefore meet us out here." Targil closed his eyes, and bowed his head slightly.
"Well?" Brinn interrupted.
"Shhhh!!!" Targil hissed.
"WELL!?" Brinn stated again, a few moments later.
"Nothing. Nothing at all. The Avatar must have gone somewhere else."
"I have an idea. We will search the nearest islands, and then meet just south of Britain. If neither of us has found the Avatar, then we shall seek audience with Lord British. Thou shalt go to Serpent's Hold, and I shall go to Jhelom. Dost that sound reasonable?"
"Aye, Targil. See thee later."
"Fare thee well!" Targil replied.
The man stepped out of the shadow once again, and rested his halberd against the same wall as before.
"Master, I have news."
"Yes?" said the low, rough voice, once again accompanied by the slow, methodic shifting of the wings in the dark and cavernous room.
"There is a dragon, another dragon snooping around the island. What shall I have the men do?"
"Nothing, unless provoked. Thou shalt answer any questions asked, however thou shalt not be overly hospitible. See that this dragon leaves by sunset. If at all possible, the dragon must leave unharmed. Fail me, and I shall have thy head on a pike. This I command."
The man made an imperceptibly shallow bow of the head, carefully picked up his halberd and said, "It shall be done." He then turned end walked out.
"Soon... Soon I shall not require thy services," the deep voice muttered to itself.
The flight had been short by Targil's standards, but Brinn was beginning to feel rather fatigued. Ignoring how tired he was, he circled the islend of the Serpent's Hold, attempting to catch sight of the Avatar. Needless to say, a beast of Brinn's size circling in the sky is hard to miss, and missed he was not. A unit of soldiers started waving and shouting to Brinn, eventually convincing him to land.
"Greetings noble warriors! I am Brinn, a wyrm of the weyr."
Out of the group of warriors, one man stood out the most. He was decked out in full plate armour, while the others had chain mail. He appeared to be the leader of the small band of fighters, and then proved this to be true by stepping forward. "Well met! I am Sir Grath, man at arms of the Serpent's Hold. What canst I do for thee?"
Brinn was rather surprised by this man. Most humans responded to dragons with fear and aggression, or at least caution. But this one behaved as though Brinn were but another person. However the men under Grath's command were reacting in a much more normal manner, eyes wide and hands clenched tighly about their halberds. "I seek the Avatar. Hast thou seen him? Is he here?"
"I'm sorry to say no, noble dragon. He came through a mere week ago, but has not been seen upon this isle since. Thou wouldst do best to go to Trinsic or Britain."
Brinn sighed, and replied, "Aye, 'twas what I feared. Is there...?"
The man interrupted, "Wilt though be going now? 'Tis not good for morale amongst the men to see dragons walking freely about the island. After all, thy kind art viewed as dangerous beasts to be conquered."
"Now look here..." Brinn began.
"Please, I must askest thou to leave."
Brinn looked at the man with intense frustration and distrust. "Very well" he grumbled, and flew off to the north, ignoring the ache that was forming within the bases of his wings.
The Avatar and Iolo had a rather uneventful voyage from Trinsic. The small island of Jhelom seemed to rise from the sea as they approached its shore line. The sun's position indicated high-noon, and there was a gentle breeze blowing in off the water.
Iolo put his hand up to block the sunlight to his eyes, and looked around. "Isn't it a fine land we live in?"
"Aye," responded the Avatar. "Tis definitely a land worth saving, repeatedly."
Iolo continued to look about, then seemed to fixate upon something in the sky.
"What is it my friend?" the Avatar asked.
"I know not, but whatever it is, it is heading this way."
Within moments, the form of Targil became clearly visible, and landed beside the two friends. Iolo jumped back slightly, while the Avatar stood more firmly. The crew of the docked ship which had provided passage merely slunk down and peered off the dock, unsure whether to be frightened or curious. "Hmmmm..." Targil began, whiffing the air. "I love the smell of fresh sea air, dost thou not agree?" He hesitated, then turned and looked the Avatar straight in the eye, "However, I have not come to speak of pleasantries. I must inform thee of a murder."
"I have already been informed." The Avatar responded.
"Thou hast!? Hast thou spoken to Brinn, he was supposed to..."
"Brinn? Who?" The Avatar seemed confused.
"My friend. He was to look for thee at Serpent's Hold, to inform thee of our fallen comrade."
"A dragon?" the Avatar stated in near anger at the thought of increasing treachery. "I came here to Jhelom because the provisioner had met with a less than virtuous demise. And now thou doth tell me of a murdered dragon?"
"Aye, her name was Slissia." Targil sighed, and looked toward the ground. "She was a good friend, and a noble dragon. She was defeated by both man and dragon kind alike, judging by her wounds."
"This does not bode well." the Avatar sneered. He then thought for a moment, realizing the potential danger involved in a conspiracy of both men and dragons. "Lord British must be informed. After we have viewed the murder here, Iolo and I shall return to Britain."
"Very well, I shall meet both of thee there. Brinn will be waiting for me, and he and I shall await thy return. Look for us just west of town."
"See thee later!" Iolo interjected.
"See thee!" Targil responded over his shoulder, as he took to flight. With a powerful burst of air, nearly knocking Iolo and the Avatar off balance, Targil was airborne, and heading north.
"What majestic creatures they are."
"Aye, indeed. That they are..."