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Dragon Hunt – Chapter 2, Part 2 – The Chapel of Heironeous

When Trevan finished eating, he decided to walk around a bit, to see the town. The sun was shining brightly and the snow was beginning to melt. It seamed to Trevan that a person would be able to buy anything here. He saw shops selling everything from weapons and armor, to magic items. He saw sellers of cloth that looked like it was made of gold and silver. There was fruit of sorts he had never seen. There were people selling jewelry and gems. There were money changers and traders in furs. There were spice dealers. He walked past windows where the smell of exotic foods spread into the street.

At the far side of town were the docks. There were several ships there and the whole area was busy with sailors and workers going here and there. There were ships being loaded with boxes of supplies and ships where trade items and passengers were getting off. He had to step over and around ropes, sails, boxes, barrels and crates. He passed the warehouse with the sign of Heironeous painted on its side. The warehouse doors were closed and bolted.

He walked past the city governor’s residence. It was a large building with landscaped grounds all around. Around the grounds was a six foot tall iron fence with guards posted at the gate.

He walked down the part of town where there were gambling halls and drinking establishments. There were drunks passed out and sleeping in the streets. There were prostitutes waving from the doorways. A man in rags asked him for money. Another asked Trevan to buy him a drink. There was a man in front of a gambling house trying to persuade passers-by to come in. “Five will get you ten,” he called out as Trevan passed by. “Everyone is a winner.”

Everywhere in town there were men and women dressed in many different ways. Most were bundled against the cold, but some were wearing the finest furs while others were in cotton and rags. Some were in black cloaks and pointed hats. Some were wearing banded or metal armor and carrying shields. Many were dressed as you would expect farmers or laborers to be dressed. Some were young. Some were old. Most were human, but there were several other races here as well. There were Dwarves and Halflings and Gnomes and Elves as well as Half-Elves and Half-Orcs.

As he walked down a street in the chapel district he saw oddly shaped and decorated buildings dedicated to several different gods. It was quiet on this street. Most of the buildings appeared empty. Many of the chapels had an attendant or two sweeping, reading or meditating near the doorway. As he walked on he came to one heavily fortified building where there were several people inside. As he walked up he saw the silver symbol of a hand holding a lightning bolt above the door. There were two priests in white and pale blue robes standing at the door. Each had smaller versions of the holy symbol hanging on chains around their necks. Chain mail armor and swords could be seen beneath their robes. “Welcome to the chapel of Heironeous,” they said as he approached.

Trevan was never religious and didn’t worship any god, but he was curious about the church that was funding the dragon hunt so he cautiously entered the chapel.

The large room was bright from the flames of a hundred candles burning in small holders along every wall. Between the candles were metal shields painted with the symbol of Heironeous. A large sword was hung beside each shield. These all appeared to be loosely mounted for quick removal. There were about twenty worshipers there. Most of them appeared to be soldiers or city guards. They were all sitting on benches facing the front. Many had their sword in their lap, or resting against the bench beside them. They appeared to be waiting for someone to step up to the podium on the dais. Trevan slipped onto the bench at the back of the room. The walls and floor were white marble. The ceiling seemed to be a polished pale blue marble. The podium was draped in white and pale blue. A priest that had been standing to one side walked up to the podium and all the quiet murmurings stopped. This priest was dressed in full plate armor with a white and blue tunic and a large silver hand holding a lightning bolt hanging around his neck. When all was quiet, the priest removed his helmet and spoke, “Welcome my friends to the chapel of Heironeous.” He looked around at those in attendance while he removed his gauntlets. Trevan felt out of place and he was sure that the priest was staring straight at him as he continued, “As I am sure all of you know, the church of Heironeous is conducting an expedition to rid the land of the evil that lives in the Black Mountains and goes by the name Abraxas.” Everyone cheered. The priest continued, “I am pleased to announce that preparations will be finished tomorrow and the expedition will leave the following morning.” The room erupted in cheers and applause.

The priest motioned for everyone to sit back down and be quiet. “My friends, I normally talk to you about Heironeous’s continuing battle against evil and his evil half-brother Hextor. Because of the upcoming battle against the great red dragon Abraxas, I thought that this would be a good time to review the fight of good versus evil that is represented in the tale of Heironeous and Tiamat.”

“For those who may not know,” at this point he looked directly at Trevan, “Heironeous the Invincible is a god of chivalry, justice, war, daring, and valor. In his corporal form, he appears as a human man. He wears a full robe of chainmail that is so fine it appears to be cloth and moves as he moves. He is tall for a human. His hair is auburn and his skin is the color of burnished copper.  Heironeous is impervious to all but the mightiest weapons due to a solution known only as meersalm. He wields his magical longsword Justicebringer.” He pauses. He had given many sermons on each of these aspects of their God. Most of those in attendance knew them well.

Now addressing the entire congregation he continued, “Tiamat, the god of evil dragons, was larger than any dragon that ever lived. She had five heads, one for each color of evil dragon. She could produce, from each head, a blast of elemental energy. Her black head had deep set eyes and broad nasal openings, bone colored horns and the general appearance of a skull. This head continually drooled acid and from it she could produce a line of acid. She had dramatic frilled ears and a single, massive horn atop her short, blunt blue head. From it she could produce electricity to slay her foes. Her green head had no external ears. It was a narrow head with a long forked tongue. The odor of chlorine surrounded this head and with it she could blow a cone of acid. The head that was red had two massive horns that swept back and small horns on its cheeks and lower jaw. It smelled of sulfur. Flames and smoke came from its nostrils. She produced a cone of fire from this mouth. The white head was sleek with a pointed chin and small pointed beak at its nose. From this head she could lay down a cone of cold. Each of these heads functioned independently and was attached to her thick, multicolored body with a long neck. In addition to all of this and of course her great spell casting ability, she also had a long thick tail tipped with a poisonous stinger.”

“In the time before time – Tiamat lived on the Earth. She seeded the Earth with evil dragons and dark magic. To counter her spreading of evil, her brother – the good dragon god Bahamut – created the good metallic dragons. Heironeous fought Tiamat for many years, until finally, with the aid of Bahamut, she was defeated. The details of this final battle are lost to us, but I can envision the brave Heironeous, with Justicebringer in hand, standing over her slain body as Bahamut cast the final spell that forever banished her to the Nine Hells where she still reigns to this day.”

The priest then proceeded to tell how Heironeous must have felt as he defeated each head in tern. He spoke of how he was prepared to sacrifice himself if necessary. He compared his god’s battle against Tiamat with every man’s battle against the evil forces in this world and against the evil tendencies that exist in every man’s heart. He then went on to talk about the upcoming battle against the red dragon Abraxas. “For centuries uncounted he has watched us from the mountains. We live in fear of his next un-provoked attack. Our parents tell of a time when he was only known from tales passed down through the generations. Many came to believe that our dragon was nothing more than a legend. Some fifty years ago he began a series of attacks, cumulating in the burning of Rockport. After that he became quiet. Then, a few years ago, something caused him to become active again. Our greatest clerics, using powerful divination spells, have determined that his current activity was caused by a theft. Someone took a single item from his great hoard. We weren’t able to determine exactly what was taken, or who took it. All we know is that he has been searching for a gem of some type. Evidently this gem has some magical protection against detection. What other magical abilities it possesses can only be guessed at. The church sent emissaries to the far corners of the world searching for this gem. Needless to say, we never found it. If it had been found, we would have returned it to the dragon in exchange for his good will. Being unsuccessful in that, the church decided to fund an expedition to rid us from Abraxas for good.”

“The church is quiet fortunate that Heironeous has provided us with a paladin of the caliber of Sir Gleamheart to lead this great expedition,” he said. “We can rest easy with the knowledge that Sir Gleamheart, the greatest paladin in the land, will return to us victorious. He has given his life in just and honorable battle no less than three times! Each time a cleric of the church has guided his soul back from the underworld to reunite with his body so that he could continue his service to Heironeous. He, along with our own cleric Pitchlight, has spent the last several weeks assembling a group of adventurers and equipping them for the task. They will march under the banner of Heironeous into the Black Mountains. There they will locate Abraxas’s lair and kill him. They will then bring his treasure back for the glory of Heironeous.”

He continued for some time praising Heironeous and asking for him to watch over his servants as they entered glorious combat in his name. He finished with a reminder of the churches need for funds that will allow it to participate in activities such as the upcoming expedition as well as the churches support of the ever needy orphans and widows. He reminded everyone that the offering box was located near the door on their way out.

It was getting dark when Trevan left the chapel. He made sure the priests at the door could hear his coins fall into the offering box as he passed.

The lampposts on every corner provided dim illumination on the streets below. Lights were lit on the top of each of the towers. When he got to his room, his roommate was still not there. He climbed into bed, placed his dagger under his pillow and was soon asleep.

Dragon Hunt – Chapter 2, Part 1 – City of Rockport

The man walking along the forest path had his dark cloak pulled tight around neck with his hood pulled over his head. He had been walking this path for several days now and the snow was just beginning to let up. The path was getting broader and more heavily traveled the closer he got to Rockport. He passed several men on horseback, some going to and some leaving the city. Most had passed without noticing him. He stayed to the side of the trail and blended into the shadows. He topped a hill just at the edge of the pine forest and got his first look at the city some called the ‘City at the End of the World’. The city wall was half a mile away and fresh snow caused it to sparkle as the sun broke through the clouds. As he knelt down on one knee to take in the view, a hawk appeared over the trees. It circled and landed softly on his shoulder.

“Well, Rep, ol’ buddy,” he said, as he shared a small piece of dried venison, “It looks like we will be leaving the forest for a while.” The hawk shook his piece of meat, tossed it up, grabbed it and gulped it down. He adjusted his grip and turned his head to the side as he closely watched the man eat the other piece. The leather armor under the cloak kept the raptor’s sharp talons from sinking into his skin. The hawk had been his companion for several months now. One day he just showed up. Trevan named him Rep and they had been together ever since.

It had been five years since he left his cabin. Trevan had grown a lot during this time. He was six inches taller and forty pounds heaver. He had become a hansom young man, a masterful woodsman, excellent tracker, talented hunter and skillful fighter. He had grown to love the forest and understand its creatures. He had fought owlbears, displacer beasts, ogers, orcs and other forest monsters. He was even learning to harness the magic of nature to talk to animals and walk without leaving any trace. Like his father before him, he had become what many call a ranger.

About four weeks ago, in a little village named Comesh, he had met a man who told him of an expedition that was being organized in Rockport. They were going on a great dragon hunt. A dragon that had been quiet for centuries was again causing trouble. From the description that the stranger had given him, Trevan was convinced that it was Abraxas. It took him a while to get here but he was determined to join them. He was hoping that he would not be too late, that they would wait until after the last snowfall before starting. It was early spring now, this snow should be the last and his destination was in sight.

He had been to many cities and towns but had never seen one this big. He could see where the path joined a major road just before it came to a stone bridge over a river. The Blood River it was called because of the color of the water. The road went straight to a large entrance gate in the wall. The wall was made of dark stone and was about 15 feet tall. Looking down on it from the hill, he could see that it was about ten feet thick with a walkway on the top. He could see armored guards milling around at the gate and on the wall. Watchtowers were placed along the wall. These rose ten feet above the wall and were pierced with arrow slits. The top of each watchtower had a huge ballista. These looked very much like Trevan’s crossbows, but were huge weapons fixed to the floor in a way that permitted them to swivel. They were tended by two or three armored guards each. These guards on the towers were all watching the sky, as if a dragon might appear at any moment. Beyond the wall he could see the snow covered roofs of countless buildings and smoke rising from a hundred chimneys. He could see the streets that sliced the city into many irregular pieces. There were towers, like the ones on the walls, at many locations within the city, and they all had ballista mounted on their roofs. These towers were close enough to each other that if a dragon were to land on one, it could be shot by at least two others. Beyond the city he could see water extending to the horizon. This was the Great Inland Sea. It extended back to his left as far as he could see. To his right, where the city wall curved back to the sea, there was another entrance gate and a road that went up to a gap in the mountains. These were called the Black Mountains and somewhere within them was Abraxas.

Trevan walked down to the road. Just before he crossed the bridge Rep flew up, circled twice and headed back towards the forest. Rep often flew away for days at a time, but always managed to find Trevan wherever he might be.

There was very little traffic in and out of the city at the moment. Rockport was an open city. Anyone who behaved himself was permitted entrance. The heavy wooden gate stood open. The guards at the gate appeared to be bored and only gave Trevan a passing glance as he passed through the gate and under the portcullis. This was made from heavy iron bars, and was currently in its raised position. There was an identical raised portcullis at the inner side of the wall. Between them, in the ceiling above, were murder holes. Any unfortunate invader that managed to get caught between the portcullises could expect to get a boiling oil bath. Outside the gateway was a large open courtyard with streets going off in several directions. The courtyard and most of the streets were paved with cobblestones. There were several merchants with their carts parked haphazardly about. Most were just trying to stay warm. They had very few customers. All of the buildings surrounding the courtyard were two stories tall and made of stone, the same black stone as the city wall. Against the wall to the right was a stable and a blacksmith. He could see a couple of inns, a furrier and candlestick maker shop. Most of the shops had a wooden sign suspended above the door proclaiming with a drawing and sometimes in words the name of the establishment. Most of these signs could not be read because they were still wearing a coat of snow. As the sun was growing warmer, many of the shops shutters were beginning to open. Most of the tracks in the snow led to the door of the largest inn facing the courtyard. This seamed a good spot to inquire about the dragon hunt. He went in, dusted the snow from his cloak and lowered his hood.

The door opened into a large room filled with tables. There was a wooden stairway at the far side of the room that went up to a balcony that wrapped around the room. Under the balcony and all along the wall to the right was a bar. In the far left corner was a large fireplace. There were several wooden tables and benches. The place was filled with patrons. Most were sitting at the tables in small groups of two or four. Some were eating, many were drinking. There was a group of five dwarves sitting around the fireplace. They had obviously been there for a while, drinking and being loud. It was much darker in here than it had been outside. The shutters were still closed against the weather. The only light came from the fireplace and three oil lamp chandeliers that were suspended by ropes from the high ceiling. A young dark haired woman carrying a tray filed with drinks was moving between the tables. There were several men standing at the bar, each with a drink on the bar or in his hand. On the other side of the bar was a seven foot tall half-orc engaged in some kind of contest with a man at the far end involving a dagger and stabbing the top of the bar between their fingers. Trevan walked up to an empty space along the bar and waited.

Behind the bar, between shelves of bottles, was a large painting. It was a view from the water of what must have been Rockport with the mountains rising behind it. The city was in flames as a huge red dragon was breathing fire down on the ships at sea. The half-orc noticed Trevan and walked over. He had small tuffs of stiff red hair at random spots all over his body except for his hairless head. His nose was definitely pig-like in appearance and he had a pair of 3 inch tusks protruding from his lower lip. His muscular arms were bare and were covered with many old scars. Trevan jumped when the half-orc slammed his ham-sized fist down on the bar in front of him and snarled loudly, “What?”

The inn became silent for a few seconds before everyone returned to their plates and their conversations. Trevan replied, “I’ve just arrived in town. I am here to join in the dragon hunt if it hasn’t left yet. Do you know anything about it?”

“Food, drink or room?” the half-orc said with a stare.

The barmaid hurried over, placed her tray on the bar and said to the half-orc, “I’ll handle this, Buxter.” The half-orc turned with a grunt and returned to the other end of the bar. “He’s not much of a talker,” she said. “My name is Heather. I heard you asking about the dragon hunt. You may be too late I’m afraid. I heard that Sir Gleamheart finished signing up everyone yesterday. They will be leaving in a couple of days.” She was thin, about 5’-7” and had silver-grey eyes. She looked up at Trevan and gave him her friendliest smile.

Trevan asked, “Who is Sir Gleamheart?”

“You have never heard of Sir Gleamheart? I thought everyone knew him. It seams like I’ve been listening to stories about him all my life. He is a paladin of Heironeous, the god of valor. He’s leading the expedition.” Heather continued, “The church of Heironeous is funding it. They say that this entire hunt was the church’s idea. They say Sir Gleamheart told some cleric that he was planning to take a small party into the mountains to find and kill the dragon. He has been causing a lot trouble you know. And the church convinced him to take a large party to be sure of success but I think it was to be sure he returned with Abraxas’s hoard.”

At the dragon’s name, Trevan interrupted her and said, “So it is Abraxas!”

“Yea, that’s the one all right. You’re lucky you aren’t going,” said Heather. “That’s him there,” she said as she pointed to the painting. “Everyone in the expedition will probably be killed.”

Looking at the painting Trevan asked, “What city is that?”

“That is Rockport. They say that Abraxas has burned it to the ground three times. This is a picture of the last time. It was about 50 years ago. He can’t burn it again. All of our buildings are fire proof now. They are all made of stone with clay or slate roofs. And we have the dragon towers.” Trevan looked like he didn’t know what she was talking about so she continued, “I’m sure you saw them. None of the buildings can be over two stories tall and the towers throughout the city are taller than that. If a dragon lands he will be killed by the ballista on the towers. But that hasn’t kept him from burning nearly every other town or village. He has been attacking everybody and everything he sees. He seems to be very upset about something. They say someone stole something from him. I hear a lot of stories here. I heard that it was magic gem called the Dragon’s Eye. No one knows what it does, but it must be very powerful for it to have upset him so much. No one has been able to use their magic to find it. The church has tried several times.”

“Where can I find Sir Gleamheart?”

“I just told you, they are all going to get themselves killed. If you insist on taking to them, they are using an old warehouse on the waterfront. It’s easy to find because they painted a huge symbol of Heironeous on the side. You know, a silver hand holding a silver lighting bolt. But it won’t do you any good to go there today. This is Sun’s Day, a holy day for them. They won’t talk business until tomorrow. Why don’t you get a room for the night, have a drink, a warm meal and get a good night’s sleep. That way you will be fresh for tomorrow.”

Trevan got the impression that she had made that same pitch to sell room, drink and food many times before. He pulled a gold coin from his money pouch and tossed it on the counter. “How much will this get?”

Heather smiled broadly as she quickly grabbed the coin. “This will get you our best room. Wait here just a minute.” She took the coin to the other end of the bar. She quickly returned after a brief conversation with Buxter. “I am afraid the only room we have available is a communal room with two beds and one of the beds is already rented. If you don’t mind sharing a room, I’ll vouch for him. He won’t be any problem. The good news is that you will get the room for two nights and that includes food and drink today and tomorrow,” she said with a smile.

Trevan replied, “Throw in a hot bath and you have a deal.”

She handed him a key and said, “It is the first room at the top of the stairs. When will you want your bath?”

He took the key and told her that he would take his bath right away, before eating. He went straight to his room. His roommate wasn’t there. The room was small and cold. The small window was shuttered. There were two small beds and a chest at the foot of each. They were both open and empty. There was a small table with a water picture and bowl. There was a single candle on the table. In a few minutes, a couple of elderly halflings carried a bathing tub half full of warm water into the room along with soap and towels. After cleaning up, Trevan left his backpack in one of the chests and left his weapons, except for one dagger, on the bed most distant from the window.

Dragon Hunt – Chapter 1, Part 9 – Winter in the cabin

The cabin was finished before the first snowfall.

Trevan was convinced that the red dragon Abraxas not only killed his father, but was also the dragon that killed his mother years ago. He spent his time learning as much about dragons as he could from his Kabold servant, Yeark.

Yeark continued to be a faithful servant. He did the cleaning and cooking and everything else Trevan asked. He also continued to make traps and got great pleasure in doing everything he could to torment their gnome house guest, Gimble.

Gimble used his magic to keep his clothing clean and in good repair. He seamed to have an unlimited number of brightly colored shirts and paints in his bag. From time to time he would pull something they needed out of his carpet bag. Once he pulled out a sauce pan and a full set of dinnerware. Another time he pulled out a chopping cleaver and he once pulled out two hard leather shields for them to use while practicing with their swords. Trevan never asked, but he suspected that Gimble’s bag was a magical bag of holding.

Gimble would secretly check the magical gem in his pendent two or three times a day. One morning it began to glow and change its color to black, meaning that it detected a black dragon. Gimble went outside, but never saw it. The gem indicated that the dragon flew from the southwest to the southeast and then the gem’s dim light went out. Gimble went inside and asked Trevan if they had ever had any black dragons here. Trevan said, “No, but you should ask Yeark. He would know if any ever came this way.” Gimble refused to talk to Yeark, so Trevan waited until that evening, and then asked Yeark what he knew about black dragons.

Yeark said, “What you call black dragons we call skull dragons. As they get older the skin draws tight around their face giving them a very skull like appearance. They get really big, almost a big as red dragons. They are notoriously bad tempered and cruel. They normally live in warm watery areas like swamps. The nearest ones to here is a pair that lives in the salt marsh south of Morningside, about a 20 day trip from here.”

“Do they breathe fire and cast magic spells like red dragons?” Trevan asked.

“No,” said Yeark. “Their breath weapon is a line of acid. But they do cast spells.”

Gimble had to ask, “Do black dragons ever come around here?”

“I have never heard of any coming this far north, but I would sure like to meet one,” answered Yeark. “There is an elder of our tribe that tells stories of a trip he took when he was young. He spent some time with another tribe that had the honor of providing a defensive guard for a skull dragon’s lair.”

“Do all dragons have kobolds guarding their lairs?” asked Trevan.

“No. Many don’t have any guards at all. Some have other races of guards, such as hobgoblins or ogers. But any kobold tribe would gladly defend a dragon’s lair.”

Gimble said, “I may have seen a black dragon near the horizon this morning.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” said Trevan.

“I didn’t want to upset you. It wasn’t flying in this direction. I was wondering if it might have something to do with the orc raids.”

“Skull dragons have been known to use tribes of orcs to do their dirty work,” said Yeark. “Orcs are not very smart and a clever dragon could easily convince them to do almost anything with promises of great rewards and the backing of a powerful dragon. Perhaps the pair in Saltmarsh is expanding their domain. They may have a new hatchling! If I were back with my tribe, they might have heard if there was any news of that type. Oh, what wonderful news, if it is true!”

“Do you here that?” yelled Gimble to Trevan. “He loves dragons! He wants to serve and protect them! He can’t wait until he gets back to his cave so he can plot with dragons to kill us all!”

“That’s not true!” snapped Yeark. “There are many dragons that I have no respect for at all. I have no desire to kill all humans. Gnomes, yes!” as he stared at Gimble. “And it’s not a cave, it’s a mine.”

Gimble started to say something to Yeark, but Trevan held his hand up in front of Gimble and turned to Yeark, “You have never had anything but good to say about dragons. What dragons do you not respect?”

Yeark thought for a minute before speaking, “We don’t speak of them often, but there are dragons that prefer weakness to strength. They would protect the weak from the strong, rather than allowing the strong to prevail as is their natural right. Instead of dictating to the weaker races they prefer to ‘negotiate’ with them. Rather than killing a foe in battle, they will try to block or only wound and much prefer to avoid any conflict at all. Some actually seek to associate with humans, elves and other lesser races. These dragons typically have the luster of metal to their scales and are called metallic dragons. Fortunately, there are very few of them.”

Trevan said, “I never heard of good dragons. Gimble, what do you know about these metallic dragons?”

Gimble said, “There was a story I heard once about a gold dragon that was good. I also heard many times about a silver dragon that likes to change into human form and live among humans. I never really believed any of those stories, though.”

Trevan said, “Why can’t we find a metallic dragon and get it to help us find and kill Abraxas?”

Yeark said, “No. It is not possible.”

“Why not?” said Trevan.

“First of all, the only metallic dragon that would be powerful enough to defeat an ancient red dragon such as  Abraxas would be an ancient gold dragon, and I don’t think that there are any of them left. Even if there were and you could find him, he wouldn’t fight Abraxas.”

“I understand that he wouldn’t want to fight, but we could let him know of all of the terrible things Abraxas had done, he would have to help us,” said Trevan.

“It’s not just that,” said Yeark. “Long ago there was a great battle between the metallic dragons and the chromatic dragons. It lasted for centuries. When it was over, the few remaining dragons all swore never to kill, or cause to be killed, another true dragon. And this was to be honored by them and their descendents forever. I think this was foolish and the metallic dragons should all have been killed. But dragons are much smarter than kobolds so I guess they had a good reason.”

The winter passed quietly. Trevan and Gimble practiced fighting with sword and crossbow. They learned all they could about the draconian language and dragon behavior. Trevan got better at spotting and disarming Yeark’s traps. When winter turned to spring, Trevan would hunt for small game while Gimble would gather all kinds of edible roots, leaves, berries, fruit, and vegetables. Gimble was an excellent cook and enjoyed making dishes Trevan had never tried before. At Trevan’s instance, Yeark was always invited to share in these meals, but he seldom cared for the soups and breads. He much preferred meat to vegetables and liked it cooked very lightly without seasoning.

Just before summer, as they were sitting down to eat late in the evening on one cool spring day, one of Yeark’s warning alarms sounded. Something at the foot of the hill broke a thread which released a small weight attached to a string that was concealed along the ground up to the cabin which then pulled a pin that was holding up a spoon. The spoon fell down and hit the bottom of an overturned metal pan. This alerted everyone in the cabin of the approach of uninvited guests.

When they peaked out they saw a band of eight orcs sneaking quietly towards the cabin. Trevan was gathering up his crossbow and quiver of bolts and Gimble was putting on his chain shirt when Yeark said, “We don’t stand a chance against them. We will all be killed if we try to fight.”

Trevan paused and said, “Yea, I know. If you want to run away you can. I’m going to stay and fight. Gimble, you can go too if you want to.”

Gimble said, “We couldn’t run away if we wanted to. They’d catch us before we reached the tree line. We could try to talk them into letting us live, assuming one of them speaks common. I don’t think any of us can speak orc.”

Trevan said, “I don’t think these orcs came here to talk. You two run, I’ll try to hold them long enough for you to get away.”

Yeark said, “We can’t win if we fight, but there is another option.” Trevan and Gimble stopped their preparations for battle and stared at the Kobold. “I have an escape tunnel. It’s down here.” He lifted the section of wood flooring that covered the pit that he used as his sleeping area. Trevan and Gimble peaked in and saw that Yeark had enlarged his room and it now contained a Kobold sized chair, table, sleeping mat and had straw mats covering the walls. Trevan held the floorboards up while Yeark jumped down and pulled aside one of the wall mats to reveal a tunnel entrance. It was large enough for the kabold to walk in upright. The gnome would have to bend over a little and Trevan would have to bend over as far as he could unless he wanted to crawl. “It goes to a concealed exit about fifty yards into the woods. Quickly grab what you need and we can be gone before they get here.”

Trevan and Gimble both threw everything they didn’t want the orcs to get into Gimble’s carpet bag and started towards the tunnel. They just got the floorboards back in place before the orcs rushed in. They could hear the orcs tearing up the place as they started quickly, but quietly, running down the tunnel. Yeark was the last one into the tunnel and just before he lowered the wall mat he pulled a leaver that he had concealed in the wall of the tunnel. The three heard a loud crash behind them as they ran. The rock that was covering the exit of the tunnel had been hollowed out and was surprisingly light. They were indeed just inside the forest. Instead of running further into the forest and hiding, they moved cautiously back to the edge of the trees and looked back at the cabin.

Dust was still settling where the cabin had stood. All that was there now was the brick chimney and a pile of logs. The orcs were nowhere to be seen. They must have been under the rubble which was starting to burn. All three of them sat down on a log and just watched it burn.

Gimble retrieved their meal which he had placed into his bag in a covered pot. It was still hot. They ate in silence. After a couple of hours; it was dark, the fire that was once Trevan’s cabin was dying, and the three of them were still sitting on the log at the edge of the forest. Trevan finally broke the silence when he said, “Yeark, I’m releasing you from your vow. You can go back to your tribe. All of your obligations to me have been fulfilled.” He looked over at Gimble and continued, “I’m not going to try to rebuild it this time. I’m going on my own, into the woods to live off the land.”

Gimble said, “So you’re going to become a Ranger like your father.”

Trevan said, “Yes. I still plan on killing Abraxas, but I realize that I am not ready. I still have a lot to learn, and I can’t learn it here.”

Gimble asked, “Would you like me to come with you?”

“No. This is something I must do alone.”

Yeark left immediately. Trevan and Gimble spent the rest of the night where they were and in the morning, after dividing up their belongings, said their goodbyes and went their separate ways.

Dragon Hunt – Chapter 1, Part 8 – Orcs

As Summer passed into Fall, the three came near to finishing the cabin. The walls were up, the roof was almost complete. Trevan and Gimble would only see Yeark after the sun went down each day. And when they woke up each morning they would find that Yeark had cleaned the cabin and neatly organized their work areas, put their tools away and swept. On days when the weather kept them from working on the cabin, Trevan would work on building crossbows, like his father taught him. He found that Yeark quickly learned to help him with this work too and became quite proficient as a crossbow craftsman. Yeark made a small, kabold sized, crossbow for himself. Gimble didn’t like the idea of the Kabold being allowed to have any weapons, but Trevan seamed to trust him. The only real problem Trevan or Gimble ever had with Yeark was his annoying tendency to build traps everywhere. Some of them were useful, like the small traps he set that kept their cabin free from rats and insect traps that killed wasps, flies and spiders. But traps like the one Treven set off when he walked out through the door one day were a real pain. That one caused the shelf that held the pans to fall and created such a loud noise that Trevan thought he was going to have a heart attack. Trevan tried to get Yeark to stop making traps, but the best he could do was get a promise that the traps he made would cause no harm. Trevan eventually got better at spotting the traps, but Gimble really had a knack for finding and disarming them.

One evening, just after sundown, a marauding band of orcs was sneaking up behind the cabin when they stumbled upon one of Yeark’s warning traps. When they stepped on a concealed pressure plate a whistling thistle was shot into the air. The whistling thistle was a local plant that produced seed pods that make a loud whistling noise when thrown. This alerted the three in the cabin and startled the orcs. There were four of them and they stood about six feet tall. They walked hunched over and each carried a large war ax. They had dirty black hair and were very pig-like in appearance with low foreheads, and large canines protruding from their lower jaws. They were dressed in ragged leather armor and were moving very quietly before setting off the alarm. It took them a few seconds to realize what had happened. Once they regained their composure, they gave up any pretence of stealth, let out a loud war cry, and ran up the hill at full speed.

Inside the cabin, it took only a second for them to realize what had happened. Gimble quickly looked outside while Trevan and Yeark each grabbed up their crossbows and a handful of quivers. Gimble yelled “Orcs!,” dove for his carpet bag and pulled out three short swords. He tossed one to Trevan, hesitated a second, then tossed one to Yeark. “We might need these,” he said. Trevan and Yeark ran outside, around to the back of the cabin, and quickly fired at the approaching orcs. Gimble took a second to pull a chain shirt from the bag and slip it on.

The bolts from the two crossbows sang as they flew through the air at the same time and both hit the lead orc. He fell face forward and the other three continued up the hill without a pause. Trevan quickly loaded another bolt and fired while Yeark was still fumbling with his, trying to get his small bolt seated and the mechanism cocked. Trevan’s bolt landed where it was aimed, but the orc it hit never slowed down. Gimble ran around the side of the cabin wearing his chain shirt and swinging his sword. Yeark gave up on his crossbow, threw it down and picked up his sword. Trevan managed to fire once more, but in his haste, completely missed his target. He grabbed his sword just as the orcs were upon them. The orc in front reached Trevan first. Trevan felt the air fanned by the ax blade as it swished past his ear while he struck the orc with his sword. His orc screamed and grabbed his wounded side with one hand while preparing to strike again. The kabold took his short sword in both hands and charged the second orc. His sword pierced the orc’s armor and poked a hole in his stomach. This orc swung wildly at Yeark but only managed to hit the ground as he passed. Gimble ran to the third orc and was nearly knocked off of his feet when the orc’s ax glanced off his chain shirt with a shower of sparks. Gimble staggered and hit as hard as he could with his sword, but it only cut a new gash in his orc’s already badly cut-up leather armor. Yeark took another stab at his bleeding orc but was unable to connect while his orc, swinging his ax back-handed, hit the small kabold with the flat side of the ax which sent him flying through the air. He landed some distance away, unconscious. Trevan stabbed at his orc again but missed. His orc, while holding his wounded side with one hand, swang at Trevan. Trevan jumped back but the ax cut a long streak across his chest. Fortunately, the cut was only superficial. The orc that had dispatched Yeark, now turned on Trevan. He swang his ax and Trevan ducked at the last second, just avoiding loosing his head. Gimble hit his orc again and this time drew blood, but Gimble was hit by a solid ax blow. If he hadn’t been wearing his chain shirt this blow would have proven fatal to the gnome. It cut through the chain links and cut deeply into Gimble’s side. He fell and was wounded to badly to get up. This left Trevan alone facing three angry orcs. The orcs looked at each other and grunted something in their guttural language. They all laughed at what they thought was a good joke and turned to attack the lone human boy with their axes held high. Trevan took a couple of steps back and then stood firm, determined to die before he would run. Bracing for their attack, he noticed that the fourth orc had now recovered from the crossbow bolts enough to get to his feet and was coming to join in the fight.

Gimble was able to lift himself up enough to cast a spell on the weeds and vines that covered the ground just in front of the orc that was running up the hill. The orc failed to notice the vines rising up about two feet off the ground just in front of him and fell again as his feet became tangled in them.

Just then Trevan heard something behind him. Coming around the cabin was another large creature, yelling some sort of war cry and swinging a great sword. Trevan thought, “great, more orcs.” The orcs in front of him stopped and stared at the newcomer. This was no orc. This was a human, albeit a large one. He was dressed in animal hides and pushed Trevan aside as he rushed past and attacked all three orcs with a vengeance. With one great swing of his large sword he felled one orc and wounded another. Then he spun around and buried his sword into the third. As he pulled his sword from the body, the orc he had only wounded hit this stranger in his shoulder with his ax. His animal hide coat absorbed most of the ax blow. With a loud cry the human jumped into the air. With hilt in both hands, he came down sword first and sliced the third orc nearly in two. This wild man quickly jumped up with a fiery look in his eyes and a snarl on his lips and spun around looking for another foe, Ignoring Trevan and Gimble as if they weren’t there.

Trevan suddenly recognized this man as Ozur, the barbarian that had passed this way with a wagon full of children. In his current state he bore very little resemblance to the mild mannered man he had met then.

Ozur spotted the last orc, who had untangled his feet from the vines and was coming up the hill to join the fight. When he saw this wild man running towards him with his bloody sword and the dead orcs behind him, he turned and ran away as fast as he could. Ozur chased him to the bottom of the hill where he disappeared into the woods. With one last warning scream at the fleeing orc, Ozur turned and returned to the top of the hill.

Gimble managed to stand. Trevan picked up the still unconscious Yeark. The four of them went into the cabin and barred the newly finished door. Ozur sat on the floor and leaned back against the wall, exhausted. Trevan checked Yeark for wounds before tending to his own. Yeark would be out for a while. Trevan helped Gimble bandaged his wounds and offered to tend to Ozur’s shoulder. At first, Ozur wasn’t even aware that he had been wounded. He thanked Trevan, but said that he would take care of it himself. He took some herbs from his pouch, spit on them to make a paste and applied it to the cut on his shoulder.

Once they had recovered from the excitement and tended to their wounds, Trevan turned to Ozur and said “Boy am I glad that you came by when you did. You saved our lives! I’ve never seen anyone fight like that. I almost didn’t recognize you. How did you learn to fight like that?”

“No one taught me,” said Ozur. “Something just comes over me when I get mad and I go into an almost uncontrollable rage.” Looking over at Yeark, he continued, “Why are you saving the kobold?”

Trevan thought for a second, and said, “He is my servant. . . It’s a long storey.”

“Do you have a lot of orc raids here?”

“No. This is the first time they ever tried to attack us here,” said Trevan. “We have seen orcs in the woods, but they have always just been traveling through. We never had any problems with them before.”

Ozur said, “The folks down in Morningside said that orc raids were increasing down there. They say that they are moving up from the south for some reason.”

Ozur removed his leather over coat, his leather under coat and his two shirts. Then he tore off a strip of cloth from the bottom of his long shirt and tied it around his shoulder wound. “How are you going to kill a dragon when you can’t even handle a couple of orcs? Or have you taken my advice and given up on that idea?”

“I don’t know how,” said Trevan. “All I know is that someday I will kill that dragon that killed my parents.”

“You certainly have the courage,” sad Ozur. “I know very few men that would face off against three full grown orcs like you did.”

“Except for you!” said Gimble. “You just charged in and whipped them all! It was great!”

“I wouldn’t have,” said Ozur, “if I had thought about it. I just saw Trevan was in trouble and, well, you saw.”

Gimble said, “I’m with you, Ozur. I don’t even think that a dragon can be killed. I saw Abraxas shot with an arrow that would have killed a large bear and he didn’t even act like he noticed.”

“Oh, they can be killed all right,” said Ozur. “Where I come from we kill them all of the time. Of course, they are white dragons, which are small compared to red dragons.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a large knife with a 6 inch dragon tooth handle. “This tooth is from one that I killed.”

Trevan’s eyes got big. He set up straight, inched closer to Ozur and asked, “You killed a dragon? How did you do it? Tell me about white dragons.”

“Well,” said Ozur, “like I said, white dragons are only about half the size of red dragons and they are not nearly as smart. They only live where it’s cold most of the time. They like ice and cold. As a mater of fact, their breath weapon isn’t fire, like the red dragon but a cone of cold that freezes everything it touches. You are right about a single arrow not being enough to bring down a dragon. That is why it is so hard to kill one while it is flying. But, if you can get it to land, sometimes you can hit it with enough swords, spears and the like to kill it. Sometimes we would find one in its lair, where it couldn’t fly, and kill it there. That’s how I killed this one,” holding up the dragon tooth. “But a red dragon is an entirely different matter. First of all, they are really big and really smart. Abraxas is probably the biggest and the smartest of all. He won’t just land and fight a fair fight. The next thing about red dragons is their magic. White dragons, if they are old enough, can do things like control the weather and create magical walls of ice, but red dragons can cast all kinds of magical spells.”

“What if we catch it in his lair so he can’t fly?” asked Trevan. “Like you said you did with the white dragon?”

“Well,” said Ozur, “you have to find it first. Like I said, white dragons aren’t all that smart and their ice caves aren’t that hard to find if you know what to look for.”

Trevan said, “I heard that Abraxas has his lair in a mountain under a volcano.”

Ozur said, “A dragon like Abraxas hasn’t lived as long as he has by making his lair easy to find. You can be sure he has it in a well hidden spot. He may have even used magic to hide the entrance. You might walk right by it and never see it. If you could find it, it may have other monsters guarding it and warning Abraxas of intruders, and he has probably placed traps to kill unwelcome guests. If you did manage to get past all of that there is one more thing have to remember about red dragons.”

“What’s that?” said Trevan and Gimble at the same time.

“He breaths fire.”

After a few minutes, Trevan asked, “What happened to all of those kids you were carting around?”

Ozur pulled out a large leather cloth and began to clean his sword. He said, “When I got them to Morningside I was almost arrested. They thought that I had stolen the children and was trying to sell them. They call my kind ‘barbarians’ and look down on us. If it wasn’t for Drizzle, you remember her?”

“Yes, I remember Drizzle,” Trevan said.

“I remember her too,” chimed in Gimble, “Cute kid.”

Ozur continued, “Well if Drizzle hadn’t told them what had happened I would have had to fight my way out of there. Some nice families took in all of the kids. Drizzle, against my advice, was adopted by a family of mages. They said that they would train her on the use of magic. They said that she had a knack for it. I’m still not sure if I did the right thing in leaving her with them. I don’t generally trust magic users.” As he said this he glared at Gimble. “I was on my way back north to my homeland. I was just stopping here to say hello when I heard the fight.”

Yeark regained consciousness the next morning. Everyone’s wounds healed quickly. Ozur stayed for a few days, just to make sure that more orcs didn’t show up. He gave Trevan and Gimble some tips on fighting with swords. After Ozur left, they practiced with their swords a little every day. They made themselves practice swords out of wood. They found that Yeark was quite good with a properly sized sword. He had been trained in sword play from a very young age. Yeark practiced with his crossbow. They all kept an eye out for orcs.

Dragon Hunt – Chapter 1, Part 7 – Visitors

One day, while Trevan and Gimble were working on a log that was to become one of the side posts for the door, they heard a wagon on the road coming from the direction of Hetsdale. There had been no traffic on the road in either direction in the three weeks that had passed since the dragon attack. As the wagon came into view they could see it was driven by a large muscular man with long blond hair. He was dressed in animal hides and had a very large sword propped up on the seat beside him. Trevan had seen northern barbarians before but never one driving a wagon, and this wagon was like none he had ever seen. It appeared to be assembled from a variety of miss-matched parts and barely hanging together. What was really surprising though was that it was filled with half a dozen human children of various ages. It was being pulled by an old work horse and had all manner of pots, pans, boxes and bags tied to the sides. Yeark, the kobold, hid himself behind the partially completed cabin walls. Trevan called out to the stranger and offered them fresh water from his well. Then he and Gimble walked down to the road to greet them.

The man appeared to be a little un-easy at the sight of the gnome. He said that his name was Ozur and that it was his habit to walk down from the north every few years. He stumbled into Hetsdale about a week ago. All he found was the burned-out shell of a village and these 6 children who were living in the streets.  He found the half-starved horse wandering nearby and he was able to build the wagon from the remains of three different wagons. He understood that there was a town called Morningside some distance south and he was hoping to find homes for them there.

Trevan made a large pot of stew and fed them all. They accepted an invitation to camp in the clearing there for the night.

Gimble was handing a cup of water to one of the smaller boys who appeared to be very sad. He took the cup and, using some gnomish magic, chilled it to the point that it was sloshing with ice crystals. Then he colored it a bright red. The boy’s expression changed to one of wonderment. When Ozur saw this he yelled to the boy, “Don’t drink that!” But it was too late, when he tasted it and found that it tasted like sweet strawberries, he broke into a wide smile. Ozur turned to Gimble and said, “Nothing good ever came from magic. I don’t want you to magic up anything around these children.”

“It’s just a sweet drink,” Gimble said. “It couldn’t hurt anyone.”

The other children gathered around and pleaded with Ozur to let the gnome make a red drink for them too. He finally succumbed to their sad, wide eyed faces and backed away. Gimble then made one for each of the children. While they were enjoying their cool treats, he entertained them by making some ashes from the fire dance with him as he sang a familiar tune.

It wasn’t until later that evening, while they were all sitting around the campfire enjoying some fresh mint tea and exchanging stories, that the oldest child, a ten year old black haired girl named Drizzle, asked Gimble, “Aren’t you that funny gnome that works for the blacksmith?”

Ozur looked up with a start, held his big hand out to gently push Drizzle back away from the gnome and asked, “You’re from Hetsdale? How is it that you survived the dragon attack?”

“I ran away,” explained Gimble. “I was hiding behind a tree at the edge of the forest when the dragon arrived. I watched until he started burning the village. Then I ran into the forest and never returned. I could see the fire from a distance. I had no idea that there were any survivors.”

Ozur wasn’t sure that he completely believed Gimble’s story. He was always suspicious of anything he ever heard from a gnome but he could think of no reason for him to be lying about this. Gimble had freely admitted to being a coward. Still, he felt that he was hiding something. At the very least he should have returned to look for survivors.

Gimble asked Drizzle, “Could you tell me what happened after the dragon started to burn the town?”

“No!” thundered Ozur as he rose to frighten Gimble away. “These children have been through enough.”

“It’s okay,” said Drizzle. “I want to tell somebody, but let’s wait until the younger kids are asleep.” She looked around and the two youngest were already asleep. She busied herself making pallets for the children by spreading blankets on the warm grass.

The sun had just fallen behind the hill where work on the cabin had been abandoned for the day. The sky was turning a dark violet and the first stars were starting to appear. Fireflies were beginning to dance in the trees at the edge of the forest and somewhere a lone cricket began to chirp. It was going to be a warm, still night. All of the other children were fast asleep. Trevan, Gimble and Ozur all set on the ground around Drizzle as she began her story. “First, I wish everyone would stop calling him ‘the dragon’. He said his name was Abraxas. He may be the only dragon I ever saw, but I know that all dragons aren’t evil like he is. They can’t be . . .” She stared at the fireflies for a few seconds, fighting back her tears. Then she continued, “Me and Mama was in the kitchen, hiddin’ under the table. I could hear screamin’ and shoutin’. I could hear the shutters rattlin’ like they do in a wind storm. I heard things hittin’ the side of the house. We were there a long time and I was scared. Then he finally came to our house. There was a very loud noise and large pieces of the wall came flying into the kitchen. Some of them landed on the table. Mama pulled me closer and suddenly there was another, louder sound and there was a bright light. He had ripped the roof off and the sun was shining in. I remember smelling rotten eggs.”

“That would be the smell of sulfur,” interjected Trevan.

“Well, it was very strong,” continued Drizzle. “It made me sick to my stomach. Then the table rose into the air and flew away. Mama fell down on top of me and then his big scaly hand scooped us up and he held us up close to his face. I thought he was going to eat us! His teeth were terrible. They had yellowish stains on them. They were bigger than table legs and sharp like a knife. There was smoke coming out of his nose. He was looking at us. His eyes were bigger than a soup pot and they had slits, you know, up and down, like a cat’s eyes. It hurt my ears when he talked because it was so loud. I wanted to cover my ears with my hands, but I was afraid to let go of Mama. I thought I was going to fall.”

“What did he say?” asked Trevan. He moved in a little closer as did Ozur and Gimble. They were all listening intently to the girl’s story.

“He thought Mama was hiding some magic gem of his. She told him that she didn’t have it but he didn’t believe her. He held her and flicked me off to the side. All of a sudden I was flyin’ through the air. I went up real high. I could see the whole village. It looked like everything was burning. When I started back down, my dress caught on the chimney of the house next door. It ripped nearly in two. I was hangin’ by my dress. Then I was able to grab the stones and hold on to the side of the chimney. The very top of the chimney was broke off. The roof of the house was mostly gone and most of the walls and the stuff inside was on fire. There was a lot of smoke coming up around me, but I could see inside our house next door because the roof was missing. I could see Abraxas holding Mama. He said she was lying about the gem, but she wasn’t. He got mad and threw her down on the floor. I think he broke her because she never moved after that. Then he started searching the house. He dumped out all the drawers and boxes be could find and looked through everything that was in them. He kept a couple of things he found. I couldn’t see what they were. There wasn’t much left. Mama had already taken all of our money and stuff to him earlier. Then he busted up all of the furniture and most of the walls and the floor. I guess he was looking for places where we could hide stuff. When he was through he flapped his wings and flew up over the house and set fire to it by breathing fire down on it. Our house burned up with Mama in it.” Drizzle stopped talking for a minute. She looked up at the stars. The sky was getting darker and more stars were coming out. The light from the campfire reflected off a tear that was forming in the corner of her eye. She wiped her eyes on her sleeve and continued, “I saw Abraxas land in the town square and put all of the stuff he wanted into a big box and then the box just disappeared. I watched him fly away before I climbed down off the chimney. Me and the other kids found each other that night and we helped each other as much as we could. We never did find any grown-ups until Ozur showed up.”

“How did you survive on your own?” asked Trevan.

“We looked through all of the houses and found some food that hadn’t all burned up, and we got some stuff out of a garden we found.”

“That’s enough,” said Ozur. “No more questions. She has been through enough. Come Drizzle, lay down now and get some sleep. We’ll start out early tomorrow.”

Trevan and Gimble wished them all a good night and returned to the cabin where Yeark was still hiding. When they got up the next morning, Yeark told them that the wagon and all of its occupants had left before sunup, “And it’s a good thing too. I wasn’t able to get anything done last night from having to keep an eye on them.”

Dragon Hunt – Chapter 1, Part 6 – Rebuilding the cabin

“What do you think you are doing?” Trevan yelled as he snatched the crossbow out of Yeark’s hands. “Why did you shoot that boy?” Trevan could hardly contain his anger.

“That’s no boy,” Yeark said. “That’s a gnome!”

“I don’t care if he is a gnome. That still doesn’t give you the right to shoot him for no reason! I’m going to see if he is okay. You had better hope that he isn’t dead.”  He ran to him and could see that he had been mistaken. The short individual laying there with an arrow in his soldier was indeed not a boy.  Trevan hadn’t noticed the beard from a distance. He had never seen a gnome before. The wound, though serious, wasn’t fatal. He carried him to the cabin and laid him on the bedroll he had laid out for himself. He dressed the wound and saw to it that the gnome was resting quietly.

“Now tell me why you shot this gnome,” he said.

“Because he is a gnome,” Yeark answered.

“So you just attack every gnome you see?”

Yeark looked surprised at the question. “You don’t know anything about kobolds, do you? Gnomes are our mortal enemies. He probably knew I was here and was coming to kill me. And if you tried to stop him he would kill you too. You should let him die.”

“I am not going to let him die! He wasn’t coming here to kill anybody. He called to us from the road. I’m guessing that he was just a traveler looking for a place to stay the night.” He finished wrapping his shoulder and turned to Yeark. “Now listen to me. This is important. You are not to attack anyone without getting my approval first.”  Yeark rolled his eyes and turned away. “Do you understand me?’

“You sure have a lot of rules,” Yeark said.

“Do you understand?” Trevan repeated.

“Yes,” Yeark said. “No attacking anyone unless you tell me I can.”

“That’s right,” Trevan said. “That is my first and most important rule.”

Trevan was exhausted. He laid down next to the gnome and quickly fell to sleep.

When he woke up the next morning, he saw that his patient was still sleeping and appeared to be comfortable. He looked around at the devastated structure. It was strange to look up and see the sky instead of the familiar exposed beams and underside of the roof he had looked at all of his life. Then he realized the kobold wasn’t there. He walked over and lifted the board Yeark had placed to hide his hole in the floor. He wasn’t there. Trevan thought for a minute that Yeark had run away. He was rather hoping that he had. Then he realized that the kobold must have stayed up all night working on the cabin. All of the loose debris was gone and the floor was reasonably clean.  There was a small fire burning in what was left of the fireplace and a small batch of fresh firewood neatly stacked beside it. To the other side was bucket of fresh water. Somehow the kobold had found a metal drinking cup and set it beside the bucket.

A voice came from what had been the back of the cabin. “Look what I found.” Trevan turned to see the small kobold proudly holding up two arrows in one hand with a bird stuck on each. Following behind him was a goat he was pulling along by a rope in his other hand. “They must have run away when the dragon attacked,” Yeark said. He stepped over the charred baseboard where the back wall of the cabin had been and brought his prize into the center of the room. Now Trevan could see he had shot one of their three chickens and their rooster. He didn’t even bother trying to explain to Yeark what he had done wrong, but he was glad to see that he hadn’t killed the goat.

“We could eat them like this, but I like mine cooked a little,” Yeark said as he stuck them into the fire.

“What are you doing?” Trevan said. “Aren’t you going to clean them first?”

Yeark said “They aren’t dirty. Besides the fire will burn off most of the feathers if that’s what you are worried about.”

“I guess I don’t care how you eat yours,” Trevan said as he removed the hen from the fire. “But I’m going to show you how to clean and properly cook a bird, if you are going to be cooking for me.” He sat on the only whole bench and proceeded to instruct Yeark on the proper procedure for plucking all of the feathers, removing the head and feet and the innards. Then he made a proper roasting stick and placed the chicken over the fire.

“You’re not going to eat this?” Yeark asked, pointing to the parts Trevan discarded. Before he could answer Yeark was eating everything but the feathers.

From the back of the cabin a voice said, “You know, if you put the heart and gizzard in a pot of water with some turnips and onions you could make a nice soup.” It was the gnome. He was awake and sitting up. He cast a quick spell and the tin cup by the bucket rose into the air, dipped itself into the water and floated to him. It delighted him to see the shocked expression on their faces.

With Trevan’s aid, the gnome fully recovered in a few days. Trevan made Yeark pledge not to harm the gnome, or take anything that belonged to him. The gnome said his name was Raerpin Gimble Janker Skor Mikkennis Din Nackle, but most people just called him Gimble. He told them the story of the dragon attack. But he didn’t tell them about his magical gem. That he kept in his pocket. After hearing what the dragon did to Hetsdale, Trevan asked Yeark, “What can you tell me about this dragon named Abraxas?”

“Everyone knows about Abraxas,” said Yeark. “He is one of the oldest and most powerful of the Great Worms. It is said that the place he sleeps is somewhere in the Black Mountains, in a cavern under a volcano, on a bed of treasure accumulated over the centuries. The stories of his greatness are legendary. I only wish we had arrived here earlier so I might have seen him.”

Trevan tried to suppress his anger. “If we had arrived earlier I may have been able to save my father!” he said.

“You would have died as well,” said Yeark. “You heard how the fighters in Hetsdale all died trying to defeat him. You wouldn’t have had a chance. Many adventurers have tried, all have failed, and most have died.”

“Someday I will succeed where they failed. I will find Abraxas and avenge my father,” said Trevan.

Then he asked, “Why would he have destroyed Hetsdale and killed my father?”

“For Abraxas to have come all this way, he must have been looking for something specific.” said Yeark. “He wouldn’t have destroyed Hetsdale if they had given him his due respect and if they had given him what he asked for. Instead, they attacked him! They should have known what would happen to them after that. He must have not found what he was looking for in Hetsdale and was still looking for it when he stopped here. Was your father hiding a gem of some sort, perhaps a magical gem that would be of special interest to a dragon?”

“I already told you that we didn’t have anything of much value,” said Trevan.

Gimble said nothing, but he was sure now that Abraxas was looking for his magical gem. He was also sure that the kobold would slice his throat and give his gem to that evil dragon if he found out about it.

Trevan felt responsible for the gnome’s injury and said that he was welcome to stay here as long as he wanted. Over the next few days he told Gimble his story and how he had acquired a kobold. Although Yeark tended to sleep all day and work all night, he proved to be quite helpful in re-building the cabin. Gimble never quite trusted Yeark, but he liked Trevan and as soon as he was able, he began to help with the rebuilding.

Gimble and Trevan became close friends. Trevan even laughed at his pranks. Gimble had no place to go, so he decided to stay for a while. He didn’t tell Trevan, but one reason he stayed was to protect him from the kobold. He would sleep with a dagger under his pillow, and would wake up at the slightest sound. He was sure that Yeark intended to kill them both at his first opportunity.

Trevan began learning the draconian language from Yeark. Gimble decided he would learn it too. Gimble could already speak gnome, common and goblin. Learning draconian seamed to be a little easier for Gimble than it was for Trevan. They learned by asking Yeark questions, usually while working or doing other things. They started by asking for the draconian words for common everyday things like table, sky, sword, fire, etc. Yeark didn’t know the draconian word for some things. For instance, the closest he could come to “Father” was “he who was the last male with the mother before the egg was laid” or “the tribal leader”.  He said that the tribe’s leader has the right to claim all eggs. Yeark believed that he was the reincarnation of the last kobold to die before he was hatched, so it made no difference who the father was. “True dragons are much smarter than kobolds, or humans, or gnomes,” he said. “I am sure they know draconian words for many things for which we have no words.”

Then they started putting sentences together. This was very hard for Trevan. He almost gave up a couple of times, but with Gimble’s help and encouragement he persisted. Yeark was very impatient, and when he spoke in draconian he spoke quite rapidly, often punctuating the end of his sentences with a kind of high pitched “yelp”. They learned that dragons spoke slowly and, according to Yeark, used many more words than necessary. He proudly proclaimed that draconian was the one true language from which all others descend. He said that kobolds, who don’t live as long as dragons, invented writing so they could pass their words down from one generation to the next. They taught writing to the dragons but the dragons have never used it much. Then Trevan and Gimble proceeded to learn to write the dragons language.

When Gimble mentioned how similar the written draconian language was to the writing used in magic, Yeark said that dragons brought magic into the world and taught it to the other races. “Magic is as natural to a dragon as breathing is to other races,” he said. “The magic of dragons is in the blood of kobolds as well. Many of my tribe were born with the ability to harness this power and control it to perform useful tasks, what you would call casting spells.”

“I haven’t seen you casting any spells,” said Gimble.

“For the tribe to prosper,” said Yeark, “each kobold must carry out his required function. I, like most others of my tribe, am more suited to performing mundane tasks. This in no way lessens the magical mature of the dragons blood that flows through my body. Neither does it lessen the importance of the fighter or miner to the success of the tribe.”

“Dragon’s blood, my grandmother’s big red toe!” said Gimble. “Magic is everywhere. You don’t have to have dragons blood to use it. We gnomes get our magic from our closeness with nature. Clerics and shamans of all races obtain their magic from their deities. Wizards learn to directly manipulate the power of magic through their studies.”

“That’s right.” Trevan said to Gimble. “Father said that he could feel the magic of nature. He said that some rangers could cast spell using this magical force. This must be the same power that you use for your magic. I suppose it is the same magical force that Druids use for their spells. But you said that draconian writing looks like magic writing. Do you know how to read magic?”

Gimble said, “I saw magic writing in a book once, about twenty years ago, but I can’t read or write it.”

“You don’t look old enough to have seen anything twenty years ago,” said Trevan.

“I’m forty eight years old,” he said. “Gnomes live a lot longer than humans. I wasn’t old enough to go off on my own until I celebrated my fortieth birthday.”

One day while the three of them were trimming a log for the cabin construction, Trevan asked Yeark what traps are called in draconian. Yeark thought for a minute and then he asked Trevan, “How many different words do you have for trap?”

“Well,” said Trevan, “I can think of several different types of traps. There are rabbit traps and snares and pits.”

Gimble said, “I’d say that they are only two types, mechanical traps and magical traps.”

Yeark said, “There are over 200 draconian words for trap. Each consists of a prefix for the creature that is the target of the trap followed by the intended purpose of the trap and there is an optional suffix describing the type of trap. The target creature can be the creature’s name, if the target is a specific individual, or the race of the target, such as human or gnome for example, or the general creature type. The general types are;” Yeark held up his hands and pointed to his fingers one at a time as he recited, “ flying insect, crawling insect – which includes normal spiders, tiny – like frogs or rats, small – like wolves or kobolds, medium – like human or elf, large – like elk or bear, very large and gigantic. Traps for very large or gigantic creatures are usually built for a particular creature or race. The purpose of the trap is; to discourage, to slow, to capture, to injure, to maim, or to kill. The type suffix, if it is included, is the basic kind of trap – such as pit or snare.”

“So,” said Trevan, “what would the draconian word be for the trap you found me in?”

keir-aia,” said Yeark. “Keir is draconian for medium size creature, like you. Aia means ‘to have’, or in this case it means to capture. You could add misanne, a pit type trap, and it would be keir-aia-misanne.“

Trevan suddenly grew flush with anger, threw down his ax and lunged towards Yeark. Gimble jumped between them and grabbed Trevan’s arm. Trevan stopped and Yeark jumped back. Trevan yelled at Yeark, “Capture!? That trap killed Kaylan! I don’t think it was made for capture!”

Yeark said, “I was answering your question! Are you are going to attack me every time you don’t like the meaning of a word?”

Gimble said, “Nothing would please me more than seeing that dirty kobold beaten into the ground, but he is right about one thing. You are going to have to control your temper.”

“You’re right,” said Trevan, still staring at Yeark. “But why would you lie about the trap name?”

“If you will calm down,” said Yeark, “I’ll explain.” Gimble let go of Trevan’s arm as Trevan took a step back. Yeark relaxed a little and continued, “I’ll tell you how traps are graded. Kobolds always design traps for the minimum required effect. It can then be enhanced for a possible greater effect. A trap intended to scare might wound or maim. A trap intended to harm or capture might kill. As long as the trap performs its intended minimum effect it is considered successful. Its name reflects this minimum desired result. If it also causes additional damage it is better. We often enhance traps after they are made.”

Trevan was determined to finished rebuilding the cabin long before the first snowfall. He and Gimble would find a good tree. Trevan would chop it down. Gimble would top it and remove the limbs. The two of them would drag it back to the cabin site. Yeark would trim and shape it, and would notch and fit the corners. Gimble rigged up a device to help lift the finished logs into place. Each log was squared off and made smooth on three sides and the bark was left on the outside. Yeark cleaned, shaped and finished the interior of the cabin as it went up. They replaced the charred wood floor but left the boards loose in Yeark’s corner to cover his sleeping pit. They rebuilt the fireplace using the bricks from the old one. The roof hadn’t burned, but the rafters were broken in several places. They were able to re-use most of the wood from the old roof and all of the old wood shingles. The new cabin wasn’t going to be as tall as the old one, but the floor was just as big.

Dragon Hunt – Chapter 1, Part 5 – Dragon Attack

On the day Trevan and Kaylan left to track the kobold, just a little before noon in the small village of Hetsdale about 50 miles north of their cabin, a gnome was laying on a small stack of firewood. Beside him was a larger stack of un-cut logs. The ax he had been using was on the ground. He was watching a kitten chasing a leaf.

His appearance was typical for a gnome. He was about three and a half feet tall. He had light tan skin, light grey hair and a short, carefully trimmed beard. His nose looked too big for his face. He was wearing a dark brown leather vest and matching knee-high boots. His shirt was light blue-grey with red and green beads tied to the bottom fringe. His breeches were made of alternating stripes of red and green cloth.

The leaf that the kitten was chasing was staying just out of reach. As the gnome moved his finger, the leaf would make a corresponding move. It landed on a small pile of leaves. The kitten crouched down and got ready to pounce on it. The gnome uttered a couple of well practiced magical words. Just as the kitten jumped, a sound came from under the leaves. It was a “snap” about as loud as someone snapping their fingers. The kitten changed directions in mid-air. Its hair stood straight up and it fell over itself trying to run backwards. It took off down the dusty street as fast as it could. The gnome laughed so hard he fell off the stack of firewood.

He was still laughing when he noticed a faint glow through his shirt. It was coming from a gem mounted on the pendent he wore around his neck. He pulled it out to look at it. He watched as the glow became steadily brighter. Looking closer he could see that the star inside had turned a ruddy color and was pointed to the west. It was still getting brighter.

The trade-stone sized gem, about one quarter of an inch across, was mounted in the center of a 3” diameter silver pendant in such a fashion that it could be seen from either side. It was a dying gift to him from his uncle.

He pulled the chain off his neck and put the pendant and chain into the front pocket of his vest so no one could see the glow. He ran into the blacksmith shop where he worked and yelled, “Enard! We have to get out of town right away, a dragon is coming!”

Enard was a six foot tall human. He was hammering on a white-hot bar of metal “Don’t bother me now, Gimble. Go back to work,” he said without looking up. “I don’t have time for whatever game you are playing.” He kept on hammering.

“But . . . “

“Back to work I said!”

Two years earlier Gimble had been caught leaving Enard’s shop one night with his arms full of new swords and knives. He admitted picking the lock and taking the items, but he insisted that he was only borrowing them for an elaborate prank he was planning. He was sentenced to work for Enard for 3 months. Enard and Gimble become close friends and Gimble continued to work for Enard after his sentence was over. He was the closest thing Gimble had to a family.

Gimble’s uncle had made him promise to keep the gem and its magical abilities a secret. Now a dragon was coming and there was no way to convince anyone without telling them about the gem. Everyone else in the small village was human and, like Enard, would not take Gimble seriously. Perhaps nothing would happen. The dragon might just be passing over. Gimble was much too frightened to stay and find out. He ran to his room in the back and threw his possessions into a carpet bag. He looked at the gem again. It was glowing brightly now. He ran as fast as he could to the trees closest to the town. He hid himself and his bag behind a tree and waited.

When people began to notice the large dragon silhouette in the sky to the west, they called others who called the children to all come out and look. It wasn’t often one saw a dragon fly by and it looked like it was going to pass directly overhead. As it got closer it became obvious that this dragon wasn’t going to just be flying over. It dove and began flying very close to the ground. When it reached the town, it circled once. The wind from his leathery wings blew the laundry from the clothes lines and the chairs from the porches. It blew up a cloud of dust as it landed in the center of the town square.

The women, children and faint of heart all ran inside and bared the doors. The horses in the corral nearest to the center of town all started kicking into the air in panic. They broke down the rail fence and ran off in several directions. Many people, the youngest and weakest in character cowered where they were standing. Only the bravest stayed their ground. Among them was Enard the blacksmith. Gimble watched from his hiding place behind the tree.

What he saw was a huge reptilian creature with red scales. Standing on all 4 feet, it was over 20 feet tall at its shoulders. It gracefully folded its huge wings over its back. The scales that covered its body formed a ridge down its back that continued down the length of its tail and up the back of its long neck to divide at the back of its head becoming two rows of horns, one along each side of its head. It spoke with a deep and thunderous voice, “I am the Abraxas, the Indestructible! I have come to honor your village with my presence. All I require from you is your gems and jewelry. Also all coins, precious metal, works of art, magical items and all other items of value. You will place them here before me so I may examine them.”

Everyone stood frozen in place, frightened and not quite understanding what was going on. The dragon reared his head, filled his mighty lungs with air and blew from his mouth a tremendous cone of fire. The men sanding near felt a wave of heat pass over them from the blast as it struck an unoccupied area between them. They shielded their faces from the heat and bright flash of light from the fire. An instant later it was over. The smell of sulfur hung in the air. A roughly circular area about 40 feet in diameter was blackened and smoke was rising from it into the air.

“You have one hour to fully comply,” the dragon said. “Obey and I will leave you and your village unspoiled. Try to keep any gems or any other treasure for yourself and I will kill all of you and burn your village to the ground. Start bringing me these items now!”

Gimble remained hidden and watched as all of the people in the village began running into their homes and shops. They quickly gathered their valuables and one by one they ran out to the dragon and dropped them in front of him. The dragon picked up each gem stone and, after careful examination, placed them in a row on the ground. He noted, but paid little attention to, the coins and other valuables.

After only a few minutes, all of the village’s treasure lay at his feet. Everyone who could overcome his or her fear stood back away from the dragon and waited. The dragon looked at them and at the pile of coins and jewelry and the row of gems. There were also a couple of swords, a suit of chainmail armor and a gold-trimmed mirror.

“Someone is holding back,” he said angrily. “There is someone here who has the gem that I am looking for. The one who has it knows what I want. Bring it to me now, or everybody dies!”

Gimble put his hand on his pendant. The dragon must somehow know about his magical gem. This must be what he was looking for. He gathered up all of his courage and decided he would give it to the dragon to save the town. Just as he was about to step out from hiding, he saw Enard climbing onto the roof of the blacksmith shop, out of view from the dragon. He was wearing a suit of light armor and carrying a longbow. He steadied himself on the roof then stood up and fired an arrow at the dragon. At the same time that he released the arrow he yelled, “Now!” and a few other armed and armored villagers stepped out to begin their attack on the dragon, three men with bows in front and two with swords behind. Enard’s arrow pierced the dragon’s side and he quickly readied another. Before the other men could react, the dragon attacked. A cone of fire caught all three of the men in front and the dragon’s tail hit the other two as they ran. Only one of the men that were caught in the fire survived. He dove to one side, tumbled to his feet and fired an arrow that struck a glancing blow off the dragon’s left wing. The two men behind were thrown by the massive tail some 60 feet and crashed into the side of a building. They didn’t move from where they landed. Enard fired another arrow. It hit the dragon’s shoulder, but did little damage. The dragon moved his hands in an odd way and spoke some words directed towards Enard. Gimble recognized this as a magical spell, but it was not one he had heard before. Enard stood motionless. It was as if he were frozen. He couldn’t move a muscle. The remaining archer fired another arrow, but it missed completely. The dragon unfolded his wings, took a wing assisted leap in the direction of the scorched archer and crushed him to death with one huge rear foot. Without pausing, he pushed off into the air and flew over to the roof where Enard was left like a statue with a fresh arrow in his bow.  He dropped his bow and began to scream when the dragon snatched him off the roof and began circling higher and higher above the town square. Grabbing him must have broken the spell for he was thrashing about, trying to get loose from the vice-like grip the dragon had on him.

The dragon dropped him to his death from high above the street. Gimble turned away but heard the scream that ended abruptly with a loud thud. Gimble crept away, as the dragon proceeded to destroy the town. He crawled for some distance before he felt safe enough to get up and began to run. After about an hour, he turned and looked back. Above the forest trees he could see a column of smoke. There was no wind that day and the smoke was rising straight up. Then he saw the unmistakable silhouette circle the smoke before it flew off to the south.

He pulled out his pendant. Its light was dimming. The red star inside was pointing to the south, following the path of the dragon. Gimble decided to follow the dragon. The gem continued to glow dimly for a couple of hours before it went dark. He cut across to meet up with the road and followed it south all the rest of that day and most of the next. Near sundown he came to a clearing with the burned remains of a cabin some distance away from the road. He called to a badger he saw near the edge of the forest.

Gimble was a gnome that could talk to burring animals. Only about half of them can. It always frustrated him to talk to badgers; they are so dumb. It sometimes takes a few minutes just to say hello. This badger was mostly interested in a fresh batch of sweet wild onions he had found. After a few minutes Gimble was finally able to piece a story together. The dragon had landed here and burned down the place. There are two occupants in the cabin now, who came after the dragon left.

Gimble was dragging his carpet bag up the hill toward the cabin and called out to whoever was there. A human came out first and then a kobold. Gimble had always hated kobolds but before he could react, the kobold dashed back into the cabin and returned with a crossbow and fired at him. He felt the sharp pain in his shoulder before he passed out.

Dragon Hunt – Chapter 1, Part 4 – Comming home

The sun rose a few minutes before they reached the clearing where they could see the cabin. Trevan was thinking that it was about the same time of day as it was when they left the clearing yesterday morning. Had it been only one day? It seamed to him that it had been much longer than that. He saw smoke rising from the direction of the cabin. He wondered what his father was burning. Then he saw that the cabin had burned to the ground. He screamed, “Farther!” dropped everything and ran as fast as he could across the two hundred yards that separated him from the cabin.

As he got closer, he saw the charred remains of his father lying in the clearing beside the still smoldering cabin. His body was in the center of a circular area of scorched earth. He still held the burned remains of a crossbow in his black skeletal hands. Trevan knelt beside him. His eyes filled with tears and he cried. The next thing he knew the kobold was standing beside him. He had forgotten all about the kobold. Yeark had pulled Kaylan’s body up the hill and was still holding the litter.

“What happened here?”  Trevan asked out loud, not really speaking to anyone, as he looked around.

“Mountain Fire Dragon attack,” said Yeark. “Humans call them Red Dragons. You are in the middle of a fire blast area, and over here are his tracks.”

Trevan wiped his eyes and walked over to look at what the kobold was pointing at. It took him a minute to realize exactly what he was looking at. It was a footprint in the dirt. A very large foot print. It had three large claws. It looked similar to a kobold print, but it was nearly three feet wide and over four feet long. Looking for more tracks, he found another area where there was both rear and front foot prints. It reminded Trevan of a cat’s tracks, the way his rear foot landed where its front foot had been. The front prints were smaller and more hand-like. He asked Yeark, “How do you know it was a Red Dragon?”

“The fire,” he said. “All dragons breathe some kind of destruction. The red dragon can breathe fire. Also the tracks. Every type of dragon leaves a distinct foot print. Notice the scale pattern along the outside edge or this print? Only the red dragon has such a foot.”

Trevan looked closely at the print. It’s a print he would never forget. “Are there other ways to tell what type of dragon was here?”

Yeark  said, “Take a deep breath and tell me what you smell.”

Trevan said, “I smell the smoke from the fire. I smell burned flesh. And I smell, what is that? Is it sulfur?”

“Yes,” Yeark said. “I didn’t know if a human could smell it, but red dragons always smell of sulfur and the smell lingers for quite some time after they have gone. Especially if they have used their fire breath. Another clue is the dragon’s size. Red dragons are the largest of all dragons. This one was very big, as you can see from his tracks and his belly and tail prints. When dragons sit they leave prints of their belly and tail and at least one hand, which is what they call their front feet. You can see that he was sitting here when he attacked your father with his fire breath.”

Trevan began checking around the area to see what damage the dragon had done. The goat and chickens were gone. The woodshed was burned to the ground. The well was left untouched. Trevan drew a pale of water to drink and wash his face.

He then turned his attention to the cabin. It was a small one room log cabin. The roof was lying on the ground several yards away, broken but unburned. Two walls were still partially standing; the other two had completely burned away. Poking through the debris he asked, “Why would a dragon do this?”

Yeark said, “This isn’t normal behavior for a red dragon, but you can be sure he had a reason. Dragons are smarter than kobolds or humans. Perhaps he was after some treasure. Did you have a lot of gold or other valuables?”

“We only had a few coins that father kept in a leather pouch behind a loose stone in the fireplace,” Trevan said as he walked over to the remains of the fireplace. The fireplace had been knocked down and the bricks scattered. The coin pouch was missing. Then he realized that their clothes chest, food larder and everything else had been broken into and scattered before it had been burned. He noticed the kobold pull something out from the ashes of his father’s bed and slip it into his belt pocket. “Give me that!” Trevan said.

“I didn’t think you saw me take it,” Yeark said as he pulled a small silver chain from where he had poked it. He handed it to Trevan.

“You were going to steel this?” said Trevan.

“You would have thought the dragon took it,” said Yeark.  “But you have it now, so it isn’t stolen.”

“It belonged to my mother,” Said Trevan. “Father was going to get her a locket for it, but never did. It’s the only thing he had left of hers”

“Then it isn’t even yours?” said Yeark. “You can’t steal something from the dead. Anything taken from the dead belongs to the one that finds it.”

“That’s not the way it works here,” said Trevan. “When someone dies, his possessions become the property of his next of kin.” Yeark looked puzzled. “I’ll make it simple for you. Anything that was my father’s or my brother’s . . . make that everything on this entire hilltop, now belongs to me, and if you steal anything from me I will consider it a breach of your promise to be my servant. A servant never steals from his master. Do you understand?”

“I never break a promise,” said Yeark.

“Then we understand each other,” said Trevan. “Let’s go bury my father and brother now.” He found two shovels. One was scorched, but still useable. The handle on the other one had burned about half way down. He gave the short one to the kobold and they took the bodies to where his mother was buried. It was about 500 feet from the cabin, under a large oak tree. Trevan noticed Yeark squinting and shielding his eyes from the sun as it was rising higher into the sky. Trevan said, “Is it true that kobolds can’t see in the daylight?”

“I can see,” said Yeark. “It’s just that in direct sunlight I can’t see so well, and if I am in it too long it hurts my eyes. I prefer to sleep in the day and do my work at night. I can see better at night. Kobolds can see in total darkness, like in the depths of one of our mines. There we can see up to about 60 feet. We can see as far as you can outside and of course we can see colors in the light.”

“You mean you can’t see colors in the dark”

“Of course not.”

Yeark was unfamiliar with this oversized digging tool, but Trevan was surprised at how good he was at using it to dig a rectangular grave with perfectly vertical sides.

They spent the rest of the day trying to clean up and organize what was left as best they could. Trevan made a temporary lean-to in the corner formed by the two remaining sides of the cabin to protect him from the weather. Yeark dug himself a hole in the floor in the opposite corner and covered it with a board.

Just before sundown they heard a faint voice calling from the direction of the road. Trevan ran out and saw what appeared to be a young boy approaching the cabin. He was dragging a large carpet bag behind him. Then the kobold ran up beside Trevan. He had Trevan’s crossbow. He fired it and the bolt struck the boy. He fell to the ground, lifeless.

 

Dragon Hunt – Chapter 1, Part 3 – Catching a Kobold

Yeark was two feet, two and one half inches tall, but, if asked, he always claimed to be two foot three. By extending his double jointed legs, he could increase his height by another 11 inches, but it was painful to do so for more than a few seconds. He would help with work in the mine when needed, but his primary function in the tribe was border security.

A kobold’s day starts at sundown. This day started for Yeark the same as any other. His first job was to check all of the traps outside the north entrance to the mine. He was to clear and re-set them if necessary. He would make sure they were all in good order before returning to the mine. Of course if any intruders were caught or killed he was to return right away. Security would be tightened and the mine put on alert until any potential danger had been dealt with.

He weighed 43 lbs. and his scaly skin was light brown, except for a lighter streak across his left jaw and half-way down his neck. The result of an old sword wound. He was wearing a suit of reddish-brown studded leather armor and a utility belt. He carried a longbow (sized for kobolds) hooked for quick release on his back along with a quiver of arrows. He carried a javelin which he used as a walking stick and to clear brush aside.

There was a full moon this night. Yeark preferred moonless nights. Kobolds can see just fine in total darkness. He always thought that a bright night could only favor an intruder. His job was to see to it that intruders were kept away. As he approached one of the pits, he could see that it had been disturbed. The cover had fallen. This usually meant some creature had fallen in. He was hoping that it was another wild pig. He liked eating pig.

He learned long ago that you don’t check a pit trap by looking over the side. There could be an armed enemy inside just waiting for someone to provide them with an easy target. First he quietly approached and just listened for a while to see if he could hear any movement inside. At first he thought he heard some leaves rustle but them he heard nothing at all for several minutes. Perhaps it was just the wind. He then carefully climbed a nearby tree and looked around a limb down into the pit. He was surprised to see a human lying on the debris that had been covering the pit. He was obviously dead, impelled through the heart on one of the spikes in the bottom of the pit.

Yeark quickly scampered down and to the edge of the open pit. He took his bow and fired three arrows into the dead body. He was making sure it was really dead, and besides, it was good target practice. He was eager to search the body for valuables before he reported the intruder. Humans often carried coins or wore jewelry.

He put his bow and quiver down next to his javelin before he got the rope ladder he had hidden near by. Just before reaching the bottom of the pit, he heard movement behind. For an instant he thought that the dead human had jumped up, but before he could turn to see what had made the sound he felt a heavy blow to the back of his head. He must have lost consciousness for a couple of seconds. Before he opened his eyes he felt himself painfully pinned to the ground. He opened his eyes to find an angry human holding him down. Both of Yeark’s legs were under the human’s knees, which was causing him much pain. One of the human’s massive hands was holding both of his arms across his chest, and the other one was holding a large knife. He raised the knife and was about to slash it across Yeark’s throat. Speaking in the common language, Yeark pleaded, “Please don’t kill me!”

This seamed to surprise this giant of a creature (compared to the small kobold) that was holding him down. Yeark was completely unable to move. The young human just froze, still holding the knife in the air, staring into the kobold’s large amber colored eyes.

 

When Trevan and his brother Kaylan fell into the pit, Kaylan had landed directly on a spike in the bottom and had died instantly. Trevan landed on top of him and suffered only minor injuries. He had been saved by his brother, whose body had cushioned his fall. Trevan tried to revive his brother but soon realized that he was beyond any help he could give him.

The sun was going down and he realized that he didn’t have much time before the kobolds would come and find them here. As he looked around he got mad at himself for falling for such a simple trap. It was just a hole dug into the ground and covered with sticks and leaves. It was about ten feet across and ten feet deep. The bottom, which was now littered with the sticks and leaves that had been covering it, had several large spikes. These were just big sticks which had been pounded into the bottom of the pit and then sharpened. He tried to climb out, but the sides were hard packed earth and had been smoothed somehow to prevent climbing. He couldn’t help thinking how stupid he had been. He realized now that the other trap was just a decoy, meant to be found. This was the real trap, set here for dummies like him to fall into while avoiding the obvious trap. Digging through the debris he could only find one of the crossbows and it was broken. He could only assume the other one had been dropped when they fell and must be outside the pit.

He didn’t have time to grieve for his brother. He laid up against the edge of the pit and covered himself with leaves and sticks. He thought that his only chance would be if only one or two kobolds came to check the trap. Perhaps they would see his brother lying there and not realize he was there too. When they climbed down to check on his brother’s body he would try to surprise them. He could use the broken crossbow handle as a club, and he had his brothers hunting knife.

The sun went down. The stars came out. The moon rose. It was a clear night and the moon shining down through the trees was casting strange and scary looking shadows on the sides and then on the bottom of the pit. Trevan moved to the darkest side of the pit and re-covered himself. The waiting was the hardest part. Several times he thought he heard someone coming, but then nothing would happen. He started to wonder if he was wrong. Maybe nobody was going to check the pit.  Maybe he would just be left down here until he died of starvation. He decided that if no one came during the night, he would have to find a way to get out of the pit in the morning. Then he heard a sound he wasn’t expecting. It was the familiar twang of an arrow being fired followed immediately by the thud of it penetrating a target. But no, not a target, Kaylan! Someone shot an arrow into his brother’s body! Trevan had to stop himself from jumping up and screaming. How could anyone do such a thing? Then a second arrow and then another. He was obviously dead. These must be kobolds, he thought, and this just proves that they are far more evil than he had ever thought.

He then saw a kobold. It was the first kobold he had ever seen. It was a small reptilian humanoid. Its short tail struck Trevan as comical, wigging back and forth from under its leather armor as it climbed down into the pit on a small rope ladder. He jumped up and hit the kobold as hard as he could with the handle from the broken crossbow. He jumped on top of it and held it down while he pulled his knife. He quickly glanced around to see if there were any more kobolds. Then, just as he was about to kill this one, it opened its eyes and said, “Please don’t kill me!”

 

Trevan knew that some kobolds could speak common, but this came as a shock. He had killed animals before, but never one that was looking him in the eyes and talking to him. The kobold saw that he was hesitating and said, “I can be much more valuable to you alive than dead.”

Trevan shook his head in disbelief. “What are you talking about?” he said.

Yeark was thinking fast, “If you don’t kill me, I can be your servant. I am a hard worker and can be of great benefit to you.” He had no idea what use a human would have for a kobold servant, but it was the only thing he could think of. “And I promise not to run away or try to kill you for . . . for a year,” he said.

Trevan thought this crazy idea, even if it was all a lie, might buy him enough time to escape, without having to kill this thing. Then he remembered something his brother said about learning as much as he could about kobolds to help in fighting dragons. He said, “Could you teach me to speak draconian? And, why for just a year? I could keep you forever if I wanted to.” He waved the knife in front of his face.

“If you intend to keep me forever, you may as well kill me now. I’ll be of no use to my tribe either way. If you try to keep me by force, I will be of no use to you as a servant. I will be spending all of my time trying to kill you and escape. I thought a year would be long enough.”

Trevan thought that this kobold was pretty smart. He asked, “What about teaching me draconian?”

Yeark said, “Yes, yes, anything you want. As long as it doesn’t pose a threat to my tribe or our mine, I’ll teach you how to speak draconian. I’ll teach you how to make traps. I’ll teach you . . . anything you want. Just don’t kill me.”

“How do I know I can trust you?” Trevan said.

Yeark got very upset by this and started to thrash about. He said, “Maybe humans don’t honor promises, but kobolds do! If you don’t believe me then go ahead and kill me now!”

“Okay, okay . . . ,” Trevan said. “I’m going to let you up now. Don’t try anything.” He slowly released the kobold, stood up and backed away. Still holding the knife out, he said, “First I need you to help me get my brother out of the pit. We are going to take him home. Father will know what to do with you.”

To Trevan’s surprise, the kobold was very energetic and helpful. He quickly made a harness out of a length of rope from Kaylan’s backpack and helped Trevan haul him up out of the pit. Then he lashed together a couple of branches to make a litter and tied the body to it. It was designed to make it easy to drag the dead body over the forest floor. Yeark wasn’t sure why the human wanted to take his dead brother with them. Right now he was just glad that it wasn’t him left lying dead in the pit.

The moon was high in the sky and shining down through the trees, lighting their path. The earth was soft under foot. Trevan thought that if they went quickly, they may be able to reach the cabin by sunrise. The kobold helped drag the litter and showed no sign of trying to run away or alerting other kobolds. After about half an hour Trevan asked, “Do you have a name?”

“Of course I have a name, it’s Yeark. Do humans have names?”

“My name is Trevan. My brother’s name was Kaylan.” He looked back at the body. It was securely tied to the litter and bounced up and down as they dragged it over the uneven forest floor.

Yeark looked at the body and said, “Why are we taking this body with us? We could travel much faster if we left it here.”

Trevan was horrified at the thought. “I couldn’t possibly just leave him to be eaten by wolves. I have to take him home and give him a proper burial. I guess kobolds don’t bury their dead? What do you do with them then, eat them?”

“No, we don’t bury them,” he said. “But we don’t eat them unless we are very hungry, or they are very young.”

They traveled the rest of the way without talking.

 

Dragon Hunt – Chapter 1, Part 2 – Chasing a Kobold

They followed the trail as it went deeper and deeper into the forest. By noon Trevan had gone farther into the forest than he had ever gone before. They would loose the trail from time to time and find it again some distance away. The kobold was going in a fairly straight line towards the northeast. Trevan got better at recognizing the kobold tracks. They were about two inches wide and five inches long with three wide spread claws on the front. On a really good print he could make out a distinct lizard-like scale pattern. He learned to recognize the difference in the look of the tracks when the kobold was walking, running or standing still. He learned that when the kobold stopped to look around, he stood up on his toes and that was also the only time he left a tail track. He used his tail for balance when standing on tiptoe. He also learned to tell where the kobold had disturbed the plants as he pushed past them. There was one place where he stopped to eat berries. Trevan and Kaylan ate some too.
They came upon a place where he had stopped, and then ran off a few yards to the south. There he stopped and then continued back to the northeast. Near this point they found a small broken arrow, some bird tracks and a couple of fresh quail feathers. He must have shot a quail and took it with him. Trevan hadn’t considered that the kobold might be armed.
They crossed several other animal tracks as well. There were even some dear tracks in a couple of places.
As the day continued into evening, they eventually came to a small clearing by a creek where the kobold obviously stayed for a while. There was a small fire pit with cold ashes. Next to the fire he had set on a log and ate his quail. There were a few feathers and a couple of bones. He must have eaten all of the rest. They found the sharpened stick he had cooked it on. It took them a few minutes to examine the area around the camp before they found the trail again. He had crossed the creek and headed southeast, toward the Black Mountains.
This part of the forest was much denser, with taller, older trees and thicker undergrowth. Following the tracks became harder and they had to slow down to keep from losing the trail. As the sun was getting low in the evening they were about to follow the trail where it passed between two large trees when Kaylan shouted, “Freeze!”  Trevan stopped in his tracks, and looked back at Kaylan. “Don’t go any farther,” Kaylan said. “You are about to set off a trap. Look closely at that vine ahead.”
Trevan saw that there was a small vine between the trees about chest high that the kobold had easily passed under. He stood there looking around and then he saw that the limb of one of the trees had been pulled down and tied with a rope stretched down to the ground. There was another rope tied to the same limb that had its other end buried beneath the leaves that were covering the ground between the trees. The ropes had been rubbed down with dirt and tree sap and lightly covered with leaves and thin vines so they were hard to notice.  He couldn’t make out exactly how it worked, but it was now obvious that if he had broken, or pushed aside the vine it would have set off the trap and he would now be hanging by his foot, or perhaps by his neck.
“Yes, I see it now,” Trevan said. “Can I set it off so no one will be caught in it?” He very much would like to set it off to see exactly how it worked.
“No. I don’t want them to know that we were here. This is good. It means we are close to their lair. Or at least on one of the main paths to it’s entrance. Let’s just go around it. I am hoping we can find the entrance to the lair before nightfall.”
“Then what?” said Trevan.
“Then we will go home and tell Father what we have found. He will know what to do. At the very least we can warn people to avoid this area.”
They passed around to the right. Trevan was looking up into the tree, still trying to see how the trap worked when he heard a “snap!”  and the ground fell away beneath his feet.