“Your four are likely to fall soon,” chortled the copper. He seemed to delight when things fell apart, so much a cynic was he. Within the orery were several dragons, all watching a massive shimmering sphere floating in the center of the vast chamber. Within the sphere, an image of a pitched battle between a group of spriggans and four friends. Although the four had done considerable damage, the numbers against them, and lack of immediate means of escape, were beginning to take their toll.
“Perhaps there were errors in interpretation or reading. Possibly in judgment,” muttered the copper, leaving the last word to linger in the air. A cynic, indeed.
Orsha’ra’ak could bear the copper’s taunts no longer. “Refer again to the 5th of the Morgal Tracts, lines 47 through 51 in particular. The wave, the destruction from the sea –‘the Devourer lashes at the clouds’ – it clearly fits what we have beheld. And consider the connection between these and the 72nd line of the 15th Tract,” the cloud dragon stated as she conjured another, smaller sphere near the one in which the srcy was visible. The cloud dragon let the last remark hang in the air, as if to be slowly digested by those present.
A seemingly disparate collection of images of carvings, terrain features, dragonmarks, and script appeared. When taken together, the lot shared a striking similarity: the lines, curves, and symbols of the most ancient draconic script, the language suggested by the marks, and in which was written the Prophecy.
“It is too clear to ignore. There is no more explicit line in all the Prophecy – none have discovered or deciphered anything more clear. It is almost blunt in what it states.” Orsha’ra’ak traced a foggy line in the air, connecting the pieces in his image together to highlight the 72nd line, and in so doing had backed the cantankerous copper into a corner.
It was the copper, years ago, who had first deciphered the stanza that included the shockingly explicit line. It was the copper whose reputation had, in part, grown significantly after he demonstrated the depth of his skill and knowledge in successfully deciphering this complex series of connections.
A pause, and a grunt from beneath was all the others needed to know the copper’s mind; he would not back away from his own accomplishment. The cloud dragon’s connection between what was happening before them and that single line was also impossible to dispute, as it was obviously a result of the copper’s reasoning and interpretation model – the protocol that had made him so revered.
A mighty silver’s eyes met those of Orsha’ra’ak and they shared a momentary glance. The silver disappeared in a muted flash.
Half a world away, the battle raged. Mishka held his own against the spriggans, and did his best to hold back the bleeding from his abdomen. If he was to fall, he would do so in the service of his brothers. Still, it seemed unreal that he was so close to death, here in Droaam. His vision blurred and mouth became dry as he swung again, and tried to think clearly enough to position himself so as to prevent the killing blow. So busy was he trying to survive that he did no notice the large horsefly that appeared suddenly next to him; nor did he notice as it landed on his neck. He stepped to his left, and immediately realized his mistake as the spriggan’s eyes widened with excitement: Mishka had stepped directly into the path of a wide, powerful swing of his halberd. Just as the jagged blade made contact with his armor, he felt a sudden jolt of energy; as it bit through his armor and into his side he felt pain; and as his vision blackened and he felt the sensation of collapsing, he also felt a familiar warmth spread throughout his body. His last thought was that it seemed odd that death felt so much like life.
The fly quickly buzzed away, leaving Mishka in a bloody heap in the dirt. A bloody heap, maybe, and a barely-living one. The words of the 72nd line were now manifest in full. It spiraled over the melee, and headed toward Flet as the leader of the spriggans aimed his powerful crossbow at the changeling. The fly’s eyes glinted silver as it made its way toward the rogue.
The spriggan chieftan moved with unnatural speed, twisting his back and arm with almost serpentine grace. In the trance of battle, he stared blankly as he swung his massive warclub – he would not miss, not this close. The club caught Flet on the right side of the head with a sickening crunch, caving in half his skull and spraying blood, brain, and bone chips in all directions. Without healing magic – significantly powerful healing magic, and now – this wound would be Flet’s last.
The fly buzzed about, ignored by the combatants. No one paid it any attention as it watched the half-orc collapse, and suddenly transform back into its true changeling form.
Fighting continued for a few moments longer, but the spriggan chieftan, fully aware of his surroundings it seemed, recognized that although he had killed one, and his men another, two were still standing. Despite his best efforts he was overcome, and the battle ended in a bitter victory for the team. They had captured the fort, intact. They had access to its sizable stores. The chieftan’s powerful bag of holding was full of the collected loot – magic and mundane – of the town. And Flet was dead, beyond the healing available to the team, stranded in Droaam.
It was Mishka’s idea, within minutes of regaining his consciousness, to use one of the potions of gentle repose on Flet – they had three! – and thus preserve his body. The bag of holding could serve as an easy means to transport him…to Sharn. Overland they would go, swiftly, avoiding all contact possible, to the Breland border, and on from there to Sharn, where virtually anything was available for the right price. Even under the noses of the many dragonmarked operatives there, they would find someone, or some way, to bring back Flet.
By nightfall, they had replaced some of the food from the town with hardier rations taken from the fort, and headed east. The town and its surroundings were still eerily quiet as they departed, as if in an awkward silence, watching them leave. It was important, they decided to start the journey immediately, and put some miles between themselves and the town – every mile, and every hour, counted now.
Some time after midnight, several miles along, they stopped in a defensible position, set out a watch, and collapsed for what rest they could find.