The fog had been cleared from the town square but quickly returned. Trevan left the square and headed back towards the docks. He noticed damage caused by Abraxas at several locations. He would later learn that two towers, four buildings and two ships had been attacked. Not one ballista had been fired. The city maintained tanks full of water on each street for fire protection. The citizens had formed bucket brigades and put out all of the fires. Half a dozen citizens had been killed, twice that number seriously harmed. One city guard was missing.
He reached the warehouse. The side doors were closed so he entered through the large double doors at the end. The activity he had witnessed earlier was gone. The horses and mules were all in their stables. Their packs rested beside the stable doors. The wagons were lined up facing the open doors with their boxes and crates all tied down securely. They had barrels tied to their sides and they had harnesses and rigging arranged to allow the teams of horses to be hooked up quickly in the morning. The wagon in front was filled with ropes, tents, camping and climbing gear of all sorts. Next was the ballista wagon stacked with bolts and extra bow strings. After that was the food wagon, filled with boxes and crates of salted meats, grain, pickles, fruit, lard, other foods and cooking gear. Last of all there were three small, one-horse carts filled with hay for the horses. A fresh layer of straw was covering the floor. A few guards were walking around. Two guards were at a grinding wheel, sharpening their swords. Trevan spotted Gimble attaching light blue and white ribbons to everything.
Trevan asked Gimble if he had heard about the dragon attack. Gimble looked around to make sure no one was listening and said, “Of course. Someone ran in and told everybody what was happening. Mast of the people that were left ran out to help fight the fires. Just about everybody was already gone. They all got everything finished here a little earlier.” He looked around again and said, “I checked my gem and the silver dragon was gone.”
“Yes, I know. I’ll tell you all about that later. Where is Abraxas now?”
“I watched the gem as the red star moved around, got brighter and dimmer and then it finally went dark. They said that they couldn’t see him through the fog, so they couldn’t shoot him. A single hit from a ballista bolt might kill a dragon; two or three hits will kill it for sure. But they didn’t have time to aim. The one we are taking is slow to aim, but if the dragon lands and will stay still for a minute … Well, the ballista team has been practicing and has gotten pretty good.”
“Let’s check the gem again, just to make sure it’s not coming back.”
“Okay, but he must have been at least two miles away and traveling fast towards the mountains when it went dark.”
They went to the inside corner beside the open door and Gimble took the gem out of its leather pouch. It was glowing with a red light shining as bright as a torch! Gimble almost dropped it. Trevan readied his crossbow as they heard someone scream in the courtyard and the sound of leather wings followed by the sound of a heavy ancient dragon landing on cobblestone. Trevan thought of the potion bottle that the Starling had given him. He decided not to drink it and moved this arm to hold Gimble back into the corner. This was not necessary. Gimble was not going anywhere. They closed their eyes to a sudden blinding light as a cone of fire engulfed the line of wagons. A moment later Trevan ran out of the doorway and saw above him, a large red scaled tail disappearing into the swirling fog. He fired into the air but hit nothing. Looking down, he could make out the distinct outline of a red dragon footprint.
The wagons were all in flames. The dry straw on the floor was burning. The fire was spreading fast. The ropes, the canvas, the hay, the bow strings, the lard, the grain was all burning. The wagons themselves were beginning to burn. Two of the guards came running out followed by two that were on fire. They dropped and rolled and, with the help of others in the courtyard, quickly had their burning clothes extinguished. They suffered severe burns over much of their bodies. Another guard fell while trying to leave the fire. Trevan ran in and pulled him to safety. Two others were caught in the blast and died in the flame.
Trevan and Gimble went to the far side of the courtyard. In a secluded area between buildings, they checked the gem. The red light was growing dimmer as it pointed west, towards the Black Mountains. They continued to watch as it grew dimmer and dimmer. The fog was beginning to lift. After a full two minutes, the light was gone.
A man ran up to the warehouse, shouting orders. The people had already started a bucket brigade to put out the fire. This new arrival stood out from the rest. He was about six feet tall. He was wearing shiny plate mail armor with a blue and white tunic. A large silver holy symbol of Heironeous was hanging around his neck. His shoulder length, golden blond hair had a natural wave and appeared to be always blowing in the wind. He had an exquisitely handsome face with deep blue eyes and a large dimple in the center of his large square jaw.
Gimble said, “That is Sir Gleamheart. I asked around and found out quite a bit about him and his three companions. They say that he grew up here in Rockport. He studied with the priests of Heironeous until he was 16. Then he joined the kings army where he distinguished himself in battle and was knighted. He returned here 6 years ago, swore allegiance to the church, and became the first paladin of Rockport. He made a name for himself by clearing the area of orcs and other monsters. Then he and his group left on a ship two years ago where they fought sea monsters, pirates, and many other terrors, if you can believe any of the stories. They returned to fight Abraxas.”
Everyone jumped to obey his every order. He sent armored guards to each corner of the warehouse to watch the sky for the dragons return. He had men break open the side doors and directed the formation of three separate lines of buckets to fight the fire. He led others to the outside walls of the stables to save the horses and mules.
Pitchlight arrived shortly after Sir Gleamheart. He knelt beside each of the burn victims, presented his holly symbol and enchanted spells that completely healed their wounds. They tore away the burned portion of their clothing and joined in the fire fight. Gimble said, “The cleric, Pitchlight, has been traveling with Sir Gleamheart since he became a paladin. Sir Gleamheart always leads the group, but he leaves the details up to Pitchlight. He is a good fighter in his own right, but his primary function is to heal them after the fights. He handles all of the financing for the group and Sir Gleamheart relies on him for planning their trips.”
After a few minutes, it appeared that the wagons were a complete loss and the building was in danger of burning. The flames were reaching the rafters and the walls were beginning to burn. Trevan and Gimble were still keeping an eye on the gem while they watched the activity around the warehouse. The fog was almost completely gone. Gimble pointed to a woman that was approaching the fire. “That’s Maylock,” he said. “The wizard of the group.” She was a short half-elf. She stood five foot two inches tall and appeared to glide as she walked. Her smooth skin was of a dark brown hue and her slanted eyes were blue-grey. It’s hard to judge the age of a half-elf, but if she had been a human one would have judged her to be about thirty two years old. “She is not friendly. Nobody likes her,” Gimble said. She was wearing a red and gold quilted silk robe with a hem that just touched the ground. Her dark hair was tied back into one long braid in the back. She had a small square hat made of the same material as her gown. Her grim expression never changed as she raised her hands to cast a spell. A large black rat peeked out from under her collar. “That rat is her familiar,” explained Gimble. “His name is Fred.” With some well practiced magical words and nimble motions of her hands she called forth a magical spell that caused the entire inside of the warehouse to experience a rapid drop in temperature. The flames were extinguished instantly. She then cast another spell that cleared the building of all of the smoke. “No one seams to know where she came from. Some say she came on a ship from some land fare to the west. She keeps to herself and spends most of her time studying her magic books, making potions and doing other mysterious things. They say the only reason she goes on their adventures is to find old magics and forgotten spell books.”
With the fire out, Sir Gleamheart and Pitchlight rushed in to check on the guards that had died. Sir Gleamheart said that he would petition the church to resurrect them, that they had been fearless defenders of the faith. Pitchlight cast spells to prevent further deterioration of their bodies. He instructed some volunteers to take them to the temple of Heironeous. Sir Gleamheart began directing the cleanup. Pitchlight began assessing the damage and taking inventory of what could be salvaged. Maylock cast some sweeping and cleaning spells that soon had the floor cleaned down to the dirt and the ashes swept into a neat pile.
“Here comes the last member of their group,” said Gimble as he pointed towards a man running up to the warehouse. This man was thin, about five foot six, and running as fast as he could with his sword drawn and his green cape flowing behind him. “His name is Shaster Carter. He and Sir Gleamheart are life-long friends. He has a short temper and is always quick to join any fight. He likes to drink and gamble and always flirts with the ladies. He makes no secret of the fact that his reason for adventuring is to find treasure. I am sure that Sir Gleamheart finds him useful in a fight, but he probably just wants to keep him close so he can keep him out of trouble.”
“Where is the dragon?” yelled Shaster as he spun around looking at the destruction.
“He is long gone,” said Sir Gleamheart. “Put away your sword.”
“Again? Why doesn’t he stand and fight? I don’t understand why we aren’t going after him. Taking a caravan to go after a dragon is like fishing with a club. The fish gets away and you get laughed at!”
Sir Gleamheart said, “We are taking the larger group and wagons because the church asked us to. They said they would finance this quest and I said that I would lead it.” Then to everyone that was standing around he said, “Tell everyone that is going on this quest to meet here at daybreak as planned. We will take stock of the damage this evening and announce our next steps at that time.”