At about the time that Igar Pusboil was ruminating in his tent about his pathetic lot in life, Faracayn the Dragon was sleeping peacefully in his cavern, deep beneath the Leilighet Plain. For decades now, he had hibernated amidst pleasant dreams of warm flesh and cold hoards of purloined treasure.
Nothing disturbed his sleep for decades, for being more than a mile beneath the surface of the earth, nothing but the occasional bat or cave cricket was aware of his presence there, and these were of no consequence to the mighty Faracayn. Every so often a twinge of loneliness would thread its way into his dreams and cause him to toss restlessly until the feeling passed and his heady reveries returned.
It was, after all, loneliness that had prompted the mighty wyrm to slink off into his cave and wrap himself in a chrysalis of torpor. Faracayne was the very last of his kind in all the earthlands. He had had a mate; a beautiful mate. Her name was Fremlinga and she was opalescent blue from snout to the tip of her tail. The scales of her underbelly were the most attractive shade of salmon which would blush with her moods. But she died of the misery that so often plagued she-dragons over being barren. He missed her so. So many dragons were barren in the twilight of dragon history. They saw their races’ inevitable demise and were powerless to change it. Faracanye and Fremlinga had tried for centuries to have a litter but it was denied them. They’d had friends that had been fortunate enough to have a litter of six healthy dragonlings and it was the cause of great celebration among their kind. But human hunters had discovered their nesting place and wiped them out while the adults were hunting. Great revenge was reaped by the adult dragons. The hunter’s home village and stronghold had been mercilessly razed but, as is always the case with men, their own vengeance had a relentless longevity, until both of Faracayn’s friends were ferreted out and slain
So Faracayn slept.
Then one night he was awakened by the sound of terrible thunder and a frightening shaking of his lair. Dust filled the air and stalactites dislodged and fell from the ceiling of his cave. One landed painfully on his side and he lurched awake with a roar, choking on the dust that filled his cavernous home. Trying desperately to get to fresh air he ran to where the mouth of his cave should have been, only to find it blocked by unimaginable tons of debris. In a panic, he clawed and scrabbled at the clogging earth. He blasted it with his firey breath until sand turned to glass and iron ore became slag. Finally he slept from exhaustion and his terror-filled dreams haunted him. He awoke unrefreshed and sore in his old bones. In sheer desperation he began to dig again and finally after hours he felt the kiss of fresh air and dared to hope, but a large rock barred his way, so he tunneled around it. It took what seemed forever but finally he saw the light of day and he dug with a feverish new energy. At long last he was free. He lay with his hulking form shaded from the sun by the huge rock that blocked the entrance to his cavern home and slept. Before he slept, he vowed that whoever had done this to him would pay.
(A Time for Change)
Of the Svartalfar high council, Terridor was the emissary chosen to be sent to the Blothe, the king of men. He and his party made for Krawnholde at all speed. They kept to the forest for Orming pass was traveled by unsavory types these days, to be sure. The day Terridor and his party set out, a heavy rain poured down. “Not an encouraging omen, I must say,” said Iver. Iver was Terridor’s scribe; a cantankerous old poop, who fancied himself something of a seer.
“Iver,” said Terridor, “I am in no mood this day for your tidings of woe, so if you can’t say something of worth, then put a sock in it.” He turned and led his party forth and left Iver sputtering.
As they neared the borders of Ormwood they witnessed a migration of animals that would never herd together doing so in increasingly larger numbers. Foxes, wolves and bear could be seen traveling amidst elk, deer and moose. Smaller animals such as squirrels, weasels, hare, chipmunks were scurrying everywhere. Terridor called his party to a halt to observe the oddity. “I declare, I have never seen the like,” he said.
In three days they were at the very edge of Ormwood. On a gradually sloping hill overlooking the valley of Heldahl, they were met by a scene of devastation. Several farmsteads that were known to provide such things as corn, wheat , barley, millet and dairy products for Krawnholde and the surrounding communities, were laid waste. The normally verdant fields of grass in the valley were churned, under thousands of trull boots, to a mucky ruin.
Terridor, while still a day into the cover of the forest, had sent out a scout named Arliss to investigate the situation ahead and he could now be seen returning using the edge of the woods as cover. Soon he was striding the last few yards to the group. “What news, Arliss?” Terridor asked.
“Well sir, we won’t be going to Krawnholde anytime soon. The place is besieged. Obviously that’s where the trulls were going.”
Terridor drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “Alerion,” he said to his youngest and strongest runner. “How long will it take for you to return to Craggsdeep?”
“I’m sure I can make it in a day, mabe under if I sprint.”
“Then by all means sprint,” said Terridor. “We need to get word to King Ganzul in all haste. Tell him what has occurred here and inform him we are returning as fast as our legs will carry us. Go!” To Iver he said, “I’m glad the King sent runners to Skerry to find out what’s up with those infernal Dwarves. It will give us time to get back before he leaves. Gods, but I wish he’d leave that task to another, now of all times. Come let us return.”
On the return trip, Iver took a place at the rear of the line and grumbled under his breath “They never listen to old Iver anymore. I told ’em about the omens. ‘Put a sock in it’ indeed. Hrumph! I get so little respect these days. Whippersnappers! Used to be Iver’s word carried some weight…respect…never treated our elderly tha…problems with the world these da…smart arses…” And so on…and so on…and s…
As soon as he arrived back at Craggsdeep, Terridor asked to be announced to the king. He didn’t wait to be granted an audience but followed the guard right into the chamber..
Seated at the great table , Terridor sipped his wine and said, “This is more serious than we’d even expected. If these trulls can tie Krawnholde up in knots, I’d say they’ll have no problem taking us out if they’ve a mind”
“Were you not listening when Wendlyn spoke?” asked Ganzul.
Terridor waved his hand. “Yes, yes, but over the years I’ve learned to take what she says with a grain of salt.”
“Well, maybe you had best take more salt in the future,” gibed the king.
“Hmm yes, Mayhap. Well, I was listening when she spoke of change and I don’t mind telling you, I didn’t like it a whit.” He drained his glass. “It galls me no end to have to admit she’s right. Change has never been our way. Alas, there’s nothing for it now but change or perish, I suppose. Arliss said the trulls are completely choking Dundermann Pass and there’s virtually no sign of resistance from Blothe’s lauded mercenary rabble. We showed up there way too late. If we’d kept the lines of communication open all these years, who know’s?…” His words and thoughts trailed off and he fell silent.
“That being niether here nor there,” said the king, “we need to do the right thing now. For me, that means getting off to the Dwarves, posthaste.”
“In spite of all that I’ve told you you’re still going?” Terridor was aghast.
“Because of it.” Said the king. “Do you not yet understand? We must get off our collective arses and address this threat or die trying. Literally.”
“But you are king,” Terridor protested.
“What are you thinking, Terridor, that I should wait for my subjects to perish handfuls at a time…and what? Sit here idle and quasi safe? Get real, will you? Come on, you’re coming with me. I plan to walk as far as the southern end of Lake Gulbanor and from there we’ll take the River Alfmorgen. I know how much you love boats. Get your things ready.
“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, my king.” said Terridor rising from the table. “Boats, at least this route will spare us the march through Wraithmoor. That place gives me the creeps.”
Several hours later their party was marching southward along the shores of Lake Gulbanor, bound for Skerry and the Dwarve’s stronghold of Dvergarslott.