Part Six: Caves Of Flame
CAVES OF FLAME
‘Caves’, muttered Harresta. ‘I hate caves’.
The travelers had come to the mouth of a cave, in the side of a mountain. In fact, it was fifty feet up the side of a mountain. They had had to climb fifty feet of sheer rock. That was easy for Selebriar and Harresta, but Reynold was incredibly heavy and kept slipping, and don’t get me started on Telcrow’s robes.
They did eventually make it to the mouth of the cave. Cavern, rather. It was massive. The ceiling was thirty feet high. The light was dim, and it was hard to see very far inside.
‘Okay’, said Berthond, ‘There’s supposed to be a dragon in this cave, and he’s got the Lestine. It’s a rather ancient dragon, and isn’t the sort to bargain with anyone. Worth a try, though.’ Telcrow gave a polite little cough. ‘Excuse me’, he said, ‘but if no-one has ever returned from this quest alive, I think it’s safe to assume that this dragon isn’t the bargaining sort. In my opinion, he’ll be the sort to roast you alive.’
All the same, Berthond led the group into the cavern, with Harresta and Telcrow following some way behind. The spell-caster lit a fiery ball of magic, and it flew up to the roof of the cavern. All the adventurers could now see inside, and what they saw came as a shock.
A massive dragon sat in the middle of the floor of the cavern. Its scales were a sickly yellow-black, its neck long and its head slender. The worst part wasn’t that its eyes were a fiery red. It was that it was looking straight at the travelers with those eyes. Not only was it terrifying, it was also incredibly creepy to only have just noticed someone who has been in front of you and watching you ever since you entered the room.
‘Look at its tail’, whispered Harresta suddenly. All eyes turned to the tip of the dragons’ tail. Attached to it was a crystal-clear orb, twice the size of Berthond’s head. ‘The Lestine of Flame’, he breathed.
The dragon realized what they were looking at, and suddenly roared. The roar translated itself inside their heads: You can’t have it! Without it I die! It’s mine! You can’t have it! Now you will perish!
It stretched out its great arms, and tried to swipe at the adventurers. They rolled out of the way quickly enough, but not before Reynold caught a cut across his right arm. The heroes then ran in different directions, trying to get past the bulk of the dragon. Berthond felt his head spinning as he charged across the floor. He couldn’t think straight. An attack of this proportion was too much for him…
He shut his eyes, and tried to remember the singing he had heard two days before. His head cleared, and he looked around him. To his left, he saw Selebriar and Telcrow pelting the dragons’ right side with arrows and fireballs. To his right, Harresta was hacking into the dragons’ left leg with her short swords. Okay, he thought, so that puts me…
…Right in front of the dragon, as it turned out. It spotted him and raised a hand, then brought it down on top of Berthond with surprising speed, and all he could think was ClawsOhshitohshitI’mgoingtodiiiie…
But instead of the impact caused by three tons of dragon claw, he felt the impact of being shoved out of the way by half a ton of Reynold. He felt a hand grab his collar and drag him into a dark alcove in the wall of the cavern. He could just see the limp figure of Reynold being flung against the opposite wall by a clawed hand before his vision filled with Wall. He heard someone scream ‘Reynold! Noooo!’ He thought it was probably him.
He felt his vision begin to fog up with tears. The hand that had been holding his collar let go and slapped him hard. Berthond blinked as his vision cleared, and looked up into Selebriar’s face. ‘Meap’, he squeaked. The Elf let go of his shoulders. ‘He’s fine’, he told the two other heroes behind him.
Berthond shoved Selebriar away and leaped to the entrance of the alcove. He stared out at the dragon. It was looking for them. It would only be a matter of time before it saw them.
He couldn’t see Reynold anywhere.
Berthond turned to the other three, his face contorted into a mad look of fury. ‘Selebriar, shoot out its eyes. Telcrow and I will go for its legs. We should be able to cripple it. Harresta, look for the right moment, when it falters, when it buckles, anything, to get behind it and hack off that bloody rock. Let’s do it. Now.’
The team rushed out of the alcove. Selebriar rolled out of the way of a claw, and two well-aimed arrows blinded the beast. It howled, and thrashed about. Telcrow was blasting its knees from a safe distance, but Berthond was nearly crushed by a randomly-placed foot. He scrambled out of the way just in time, right as the creature stumbled, and was about to call out to Harresta when a noise rang out in the caves.
It sounded like schtak. It wasn’t all that loud, but it seemed that all other noises stopped happening out of horrified fascination. Four pairs of eyes turned to the dragons’ tail. A hulking, slouched, blood-soaked figure had just swung a massive axe. And chopped off the tip of the dragon’s tail. You can’t have it! Without it I die! The dragon had said. And now, it slowly collapsed, and fell over backwards, onto the blood-stained figure of Reynold.
Berthond stood still and stared for a few minutes. Then, having got over the shock, ran towards the dragons’ corpse screaming ‘Reynold!’ He pulled madly at some of the dragons’ limbs, until Selebriar had to come and pull him off. ‘He could still be under there!’ Berthond gabbled. ‘Let me go!’ ‘Berthond. Berthond.’ Selebrian gripped Berthonds’ head in his hands. ‘Berthond. Reynold just had fifty tons of dead dragon fall on him. No-one could have survived that.’ Berthond stared, unseeing, at the wall of the cave. This is a quest. This is legend. Nobody is supposed to die. The heroes never die in the great stories. I know I’m the hero to succeed. My companions can’t just DIE.
Harresta came up to Berthond, holding the orb. As he watched, a small spark of fire lit in the heart of the orb. It grew, a flaming golden-red ball, until it filled the entire sphere.
‘You’ve got the Lestine of Flame. That’s further than anyone’s ever gotten before’, remarked Selebriar. ‘You’re showing promise. You might make it far before you all die.’
Berthond stood up silently. He looked up at the Elf, and punched him hard in his pale, fair face. ‘No-one else will die. We will make it’, he said. Then he turned his back and marched towards the cave exit.