We now take up the tale two days hence. The Companions
had fared further down the rapidly dwindling river, at times having
to carry their rafts over the shallows, and were now approaching
As the rafts were poled into a particularly narrow
defile a mass of small furry beings appeared on the crests and stared
down at them. One jet-black baboon came forth and pumped his spear
in the air and spoke to them in Praxian. Burgua Two-Scar, the leader
of the surviving Praxian guides translated for Argrath and told
how the baboon called it self Kettul Black-Fur and he was seeking
“I am Agrath Small-hand, so named by the King
of the Monkeys,” spake Argrath. “Me have vision, to see Argrath”
replied Kettul. He produced a dried monkey’s paw and gave it to
Argrath, “Find this in camp. For you from King Monkey. Sign of greeaaat
favour. When finger close King send help. When thumb close he come
Argrath thanked Kettul for his words and his valuable
gift. He gifted the baboon with a fine helm and two sturdy swords
and earned great honour among the Baboon tribe for his generosity
and favour with the King of the Monkeys.
Argrath asked Kettul what he knew about Dead Bottom.
“Full of Little-Eating People,” was the response. “Tabooooo land,
no one go there. Ten tribe of Prax fall in and they make dead.”
“This is a test of courage and honour for us,”
spake Argrath. “We are brave people.” “You very stuuupid people!”
replied a vexed Kettul. “It stuuupid to break taboo. That why they
taboo!” “We are men of honour and bravery,” Argrath replied. “I
tell your family you die like all taboo-breaking idiots.”
Argrath asked Kettul to lead them to Dead Bottom,
“No lead. Go there,” he pointed. “You know you there because there
none of us around.”
With this the Companions continued down the river
and reached the top of the falls the next day. There was barely
a trickle of water over the rocks and they could see down the length
of the canyon. Lots of greenery, some trees. A large raven sat on
a desiccated stump laughing at the Companions. “Who’s laughing now
Orlanth?” echoed in their heads.
Burgua drew Argrath aside and told him that none
of his men were going to break the taboo against entering Dead Bottom.
The Companions left the guides with food and water, the Praxians
agreed to await their return for seven days. The Friends then climbed
and flew down the 300 ell cliff to the bottom of the canyon.
Kamoar, first down prowled the area seeking any
sign of inhabitation. He felt gentle tugs on the great pelt he wore
and noticed a dozen small arrows sprouting from it; none more than
a hands-span in length. A strange smell rose from them suggesting
a poison of some sort. As he pushed on into the undergrowth to investigate
a horde of small humanoids rushed from the bushes, not a one of
them reaching higher than Kamoar’s knee. They challenged his ankles
with their small spears and then struck in a comical surge of ineffectiveness.
Several tried to bite him when their spears broke on his hounds-pelt.
When Kamoar shook them off they fled into a tunnel in the bushes.
Kamoar lay snares along several trails he identified
as hunting paths of this small creatures, identified with the Giant-Eaters
out of the EWF Journal, and caught one that Argrath tried to interrogate.
None of them could speak with it and they let it go before pushing
on into the canyon.
Moving down a large game trail the Companions
came to a strange sight. A small brook meandered – artistically
– through a well-manicured clearing. Many types of flowering plants
were in evidence all arrange into pleasing patterns. A man-sized
statue stood in the middle of the clearing, it was man-shaped but
had no face. As they watched, it moved. It reached down and picked
up a small boulder. The boulder dissolved into the hand of the statue,
which then took a stride and pushed its hand into the earth. Around
the statue plants burst into life. Doryl Safe-Path, Gudny’s Issaries
follower picked his way gingerly through the clearing and called
on the guidance of Issaries the Talking-God to speak with the statue.
When he returned he told how the statue was “gardening” and had
asked if we had seen any Jagged Ones or Genert.
The Companions gave this garden a wide space to
avoid arousing the wrath of the Faceless One, as that is what it
must have been, and continued down the valley.
In the distance they espied a mesa jutting into
the canyon. Glinting in the sun on the side of the mesa was a great
dragon sigil. They headed directly for it. Glittering in the underbrush
beside the trail the Friends found a pile of golden nuggets. They
were shaped strangely like animal dung. The Friends collected the
small bounty and fared on.
They heard a great crashing and clangour in the
trees ahead. Resounding crunches filled the air and they could see
trees toppling. They courageously made their way to a clearing where
they saw a wondrous sight. Two ten-foot humanoids were engaged in
a mighty battle. They were the deepest black with wicked spikes
jutting from every part of their bodies and smashed at each other
with massive spiked clubs.
The Companions elected to pass around the clearing
but the creatures spotted them and ceased their fight. They grabbed
a massive tree and flung it at the Friends before charging them
with a murderous cry.
Argrath called his lord Mastakos to shrug the
trunk aside. Gudny summoned the Vadrudi spirits to cast trees into
the path of the giants as their friends retreated to find better
Sigmund stood his ground like Hedkoranth when
faced with Jorgulti the Giant. He hurled Little Weighty at the behemoth.
The giant paused and swiped Little Weighty with his club. The club
shattered and Little Weighty returned to Sigmund’s hand burning
in outrage and hatred.
Argrath attempted to levitate a giant but found
it too heavy to lift. Gudny hurled his tornadoes into their faces
but they ignored them. Bronwyn struck one giant with Orlanth’s javelin
but left no mark on that black flesh.
Argrath gallantly leapt behind the giants and
taunted them. They turned and pursued him through the trees. Sigmund
called on Hedkoranth to lend him strength, poured his spirit and
soul into Little Weighty and hurled it at the giant backs. The boom
of the rock’s passage echoed down the length and breadth of the
valley. Bushes and trees close to his path burst into flame at his
passing and he struck the first giant with a great flash and deafening
explosion. When the smoke and debris settled the first giant was
no more. The other giant stopped chasing Argrath and tore into the
other corpse with its teeth crunching happily at the iron bones
of his companion. Sigmund dispatched the last giant and the Companions
pushed on through the trees towards the mesa.
Bronwyn and Agrath flew towards the dragon sigil.
It appeared to be carved of painted on to the cliff face. As they
approached, they both blinked and were headed back towards the rest
of the Companions. They tried it several times and the same thing
happened each time.
Monkun, the EWF survivor whom they had pulled
from the swamp, explained what they were seeing. This was called
the Oroboros Layer. It was a great feat known to the masters with
his expedition. It turns ones’ reality back upon itself and prevents
you from entering the area. To pass, they would need to impose their
reality upon the Layer and overpower it.
Bronwyn gathered the Companions and led them in
a ritual to focus their power on the Layer. He called on his ancient
training as an EWF battle-mage to gather the communal magic and
passed the group through the layer.
Several startled people fled into the distance
at their appearance. They could see cropland where there had been
nothing before and atop the mesa they espied a small village. They
had found those EWF survivors mentioned in the Journal.
From the golden sigil a small dragon, 30 ells
in length, stretched and flowed forth to meet the intruders. Bronwyn
smiled and his eyes flashed green. His tongue split and tasted the
air. Wings burst from his back and scales glistened on his muscled
arms. His face elongated into a draconic snout and he flew up to
greet the dragon. Monkun named this a Consciousness Dragon. Similar
to a Dream Dragon but formed from the consciousness of the people
in the valley.
Bronwyn hailed the dragon in wyrmish. We have
come following your ancient path he told it. We are pleased to see
you and you are most welcome the dragon replied. You are much awaited.
Welcome to our humble, humble home. The dragon turned and vanished
back into the sigil.
The Companions spied a procession, come from the
mesa, winding its way down a set of steps carved into the cliff.
The leader wore several layers of ornate robes, Bronwyn saw the
robes of six different offices and could tell that the wearer knew
not how to use them. Ten men wearing mis-matched armour accompanied
him and gripped unfamiliar weapons in their hands.
The leader named himself Iurn First-Wise and welcomed
the Friends as brothers. “You spoke to our dragon and he greeted
you. If he greets you we greet you.” Bronwyn frowned at this and
remarked to the Friends that they did not know that the Consciousness
dragon was of them. They thought it was a separate entity. They
must have lost much knowledge in their exile here.
Monkun remarked on the sceptre that Iurn bore.
He called the Cosmotic Sceptre and spake how it must be the source
of the Oroboros Layer. The sceptre had the power to warp reality
Iurn waved the Friends into the village. “You
are from the Empire? You will want to review our records and stores
that we have collected as instructed. You will find them up to Imperial
He led them into a deep store-room and the Companions
stared in awe at the fabulous sight presented. Suits of EWF dragon-scale
mail lined the walls. Nye 200 books left behind by the expedition
were still preserved. Mighty Dragon-Gut bows rested ready. Chests
of gold, silver and diamonds, enough to buy the entire Border March,
glittered in the feeble light. Emerald torques sat in silk bags
glowing with magical power. Sets of weapons, clearly identifiable
as belonging to the 3rd, Blood Wyvren ‘s Army stood in racks near
the door .
Iurn now led the Quest to his hut and bade them
enter in there. Iurn asked whom the ranking EWF officer was so he
could show him to the high seat of honour. Bronwyn spake then of
the Dragonkill War and the fall of the Empire. The listeners could
not, and would not believe Bronwyn. Argrath spoke of his quest to
recover the draconic knowledge and to recreate the Empire. Iurn
then spake thusly, “Argrath named Friend-of-Dragon, you are a heretic
and a blasphemer. Leave this place. You are not welcome here."
When Argrath addressed the room Iurn struck him
with a stream of dragon-power from the sceptre and screamed “Kill
the Unbelievers!” Argrath’s armour shrugged the blow off and the
Friends leapt to the attack.
Dragon-thews heaved and Bronwyn made a grab for
the sceptre but was forced back by another blast of power. Gudny
set a whirlwind on the other villagers. The golden dragon’s head
reached through the roof of the room and peered around. Argrath
reached out with the power of Mastakos and plucked the sceptre from
Iurn’s hands. The dragon immediately dissolved and the villagers
shrieked. They ran around in panicked circles before falling to
the ground whereupon their turned to dust settled into history.
 The 3rd Army of the EWF bore the EWF war-banner
that the Friends sought.
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