By Monomolecular Dragon


I wrote this story originally in the summer of 1993, simply to honor my dragon friends by including them in a story. As such, I didn't really do very much preparation work before starting. I didn't really even have a plot until almost a third of the way through it. Also, since I was writing this pretty much "on-the- fly" in installments (hence the uniform length of many of the segments) on the Prodigy (dis)Service, I wasn't able to revise or correct spelling or any of the other perfectionistic but necessary things I would normally do. It was all in fun. It was not written with any sort of permission from Origin, or anything of the sort, so I could be in biiiig trouble already. :)

However, as I wrote, I began creating and fleshing out Dragon society and history, to the point that when I was done, I had a fairly detailed past history. I recognized the need (and many of the Dragons wanted me to do this) to write a more involved, more coherent sequel. I gave a few attempts, but didn't really have any ideas. So, as the Prodigy Dragons tore themselves apart (myself included), I basically didn't do anything with it.

Then, I started feeling guilty. I had promised a story. Even if there was only a scant few left to read it, I would write a story worthy of a Dragon story. I would cover nearly two hundred years of history, both Britannian and Dragon, and in doing so, tie up together a lot of the ideas both contained in and derived from my first story. So I'm writing that. Perhaps, by Spring 1995, I shall be done.

Until then, I promised Ethereal Dragon that I would contribute the original story for inclusion in the Ultima Dragons Internet Chapter FTP site ( /pub/sbrindle/ud/) as a piece of Dragon memorabilia for all Dragons to read and enjoy. Before sending it, I have attempted to edit and patch it together as best as possible, but since it was mostly just "something that seemed a good idea at the time," no attempt is made to really fix up major plot loopholes and obscurities (in fact, a lot of this story is directly contradicted by the sequel-in-progress), or to explain many of the Dragon inside jokes. If you want details on those, feel free to ask me personally.

Oh, and BTW -- I wholeheartedly apologize for the scroll bit towards the end of the was such a cliche, but then, what isn't?

So, without further ado, I present to all of you the original...

Monomolecular Dragon
Barry Ramirez, 10-25-1994 [Ed's note: current address is 26 Jun '96]




by Barry Ramirez


Britannia. Ten months after the Avatar's triumph in the mystery of the Fellowship Murders, and the defeat of the Guardian on the Isle of the Avatar.

The midmorning sun shone on the mountains; large, grey, capped with white. Halfway up the side of the range a large window, hewn of grey stone, looked out on the valley below.

Inside the chamber, the dragon stirred and rolled out of his pallet. Sleepily shuffling over to the window, he opened his large eyes and looked out. Far away, across woods and farms, lay the great man-city of Britain; the sea could be seen on the horizon. There was not a cloud in the sky.

Nameless Dragon yawned and scanned the sky again, his gaze fixing on moving black dot. Swiftly, the dot took on wings, and the large, shiny black dragon soared past the window with a ululating cry of arrival.

Hastily tripping and half-gliding down the wide stone angleshaft to the central cavern, Nameless echoed the other dragon's cry. Scaly heads, more curious than annoyed, poked out of doors.

"Brethren returns to the weyr," Nameless screamed as he flopped to a stop in the cavern.

"Who?" asked a particularly graceful female dragon as she half-flew out of another passage.


"Oh, he's back," yawned another dragon, still half-dozing. "'Bout time."

Nameless flicked Pooglian's snout with a wingtip, waking the sleepy dragon with a cry of surprise. "He is kin," Nameless grated. "He has been gone for a week. We must greet him."

The light streaming through the great shaft cut into the east face of the cavern was partially blocked by a dark, winged shape. Monomolecular Dragon glided down the angled passage that was the weyr's main entrance. With a furious backflapping of blue wings the dragon came to a stop on the sandy floor. "Yes, greet me!" he said as many snouts prodded him in welcome; loud, hot dragon kisses. His nostrils flared slightly as he detected the markscent of one dragon in particular he needed to speak to.

"Tell us of thy journey," said the Lady Dragon.

Monomolecular waved her off with a listless flap of a wing. "In due time, Lady. I have an urgent matter I need to discuss with Karma now." With a monstrous downstroke Mono jumped over the dragons and landed next to Karma, who shuffled off to a corner of the cavern. "Yes, Mono?"

Mono licked his lips nervously. "A discovery. Not far to the west of here." He paused. "A cave in the hills. Ringstones. I found a black moongate."


They were seated around the great stone table in the ancient part of the cavern. Spectacle Dragon grimaced at the parchment before speaking. "Art thou sure there is a moongate at this location?" He tapped the map with one long claw.

"By the breath of Rikkh'et, I swear," said Mono. Spec looked down at the paper again, then flicked it to the dragon next to him. Umbrae read it in silence, then passed it to Karma. After a few moments of silence, Karma spoke up. "Please leave the chambers, Monomolecular. We shall decide what action to take, if any."

Mono stood, squawked briefly in respect, and ducked out of the chamber. He walked down the hallway, then fell out of the mouth into the main weyr, wings unfolding in midfall.

The main weyr was roughly a thousand feet across; shaped like an inverted cone, capped with rock. Every few lengths along the walls was another such hole; a few led into other passages but most led into the private weyrs of other dragons. The shaft continued down for almost twice it's width, ending at the aquifer level and the natural spring.

"Mono?" It was Pooglian.

"Hello," replied Mono as he continued a circular slowglide down to his porch. "Come inside."

"Honored," he replied. Couching himself on a small pallet of heather, Pooglian ruffled his wings before speaking. "Is it true? Is there a black moongate?"

"I saw it with mine own eyes," Mono replied. "A black slab, larger than a man but smaller than a dragon. Ringstones of a very strange rock, carved with runes."

"Where? On the other side of the Serpent's Spine?"

Mono shook his head, black scales glinting in the torchlight. "I am under oath not to reveal the location, friend. The Council is voting as we speak."


"I know what thou dost mean," Mono brayed back. "I hate votes. The results are announced, someone gets miffed, and suddenly everybody is quarreling and leaving the weyr." He sighed. "Maybe I'll go away for a while. Hide." He smiled up at his friend. "Maybe I'll go visit Whisper and Grignard."

"Very brave. Eat well before thou dost go," Pooglian smirked.


Aiel Dragon folded his wings on Grignard's porch, stepping out of the cavernous shaft into the cozy chambers of Grignard's weyr. A few personal effects scattered the shelves.

"Grig? Whisper?" he called. There was a momentary silence, then a giggle and whispers from the next room.

"Am I disturbing thee?"

"Nay," replied Whisper. "We were just comparing who loves each other more." She turned to her new husband. "And dear, I love thee."

"I love thee more."

"I love thee more than thee."

"I love thee more than that."

"Thou art a frog."

"Nay, I am a toad," Grignard laughed. "A Grigtoad."

Aiel sat down and looked at the two lovers. He shuddered when he realized he had come in time for dinner.


"Am I interrupting the two of thee?" crackled Aiel as he shifted his weight.

"Greetings, friend Aiel," said Whisper as she scooped scum out of a pot. "Sit, and enjoy my presence."

Aiel looked at Grignard, who only shrugged. "Why aren't thou cooking," he asked. Grignard blinked his eyes slowly, smiling. "My love wanted to. I'm on a break."

Aiel made a quick, mocking choking sound. "Ack. 'My love?' I'm leaving."

"Why?" replied Grignard, equally deadpan. "There are no balls of cotton here." He had trouble keeping a straight face, and a thin tendril of smoke curled out of his smile.

'Not funny," growled Aiel as Whisper plunked a stone bowl down in front of him. "Apologies," she said. "Have some stew?"

Aiel looked quickly from Whisper to Grignard and back again. Grignard quickly shook his head; Whisper didn't notice. "Why?" Aiel drawled. He gulped. "Art thou cooking it?"

"Yes, I am!" replied Whisper, somewhat proudly. Aiel made a soft gagging noise and backed away from the table. "I, uh, I ate already."

"Liar," Whisper spat into the stew -- making Aiel retreat even further toward the door. "Thou art afraid it will poison thee. Admit it."

Aiel blinked rapidly and kept shuffling backwards into the outer room. ", have pressing engagements elsewhere. Ur...toodaloo," Aiel grumbled. He smiled pleasantly, then walked toward the porch, then ran, then leapt off the edge and out of sight. Whisper thunked the spoon into the pot and shot a cold look at Grignard.

"What?" he whined.

"Thou art my mate," she hissed. "I must provide for thee." She paused. "Thou WILT eat my stew. All of it." She smiled and poked Grignard's forearm with one beautifully curved claw. "I want no leftovers," she smiled.



The Grand Council of Dragons met in an isolated set of chambers near the top of the main weyr. The chambers resembled a human hand, with the large central meeting chamber in the center and five small chambers radiating outward from it. The central chamber was connected to the main weyr by a short, curving passage that opened out onto a large landing-porch on the inside face of the main weyr. Pausing somewhat excitedly on the porch, Mono spread his wings and dove off, letting gravity increase his speed, then pulled up to land on a porch almost directly opposite. It was the door to <G>remlin Dragon's weyr. Folding his wings he walked inside and explained the result of the meeting.

<G>remlin listened and agreed to come. He followed Mono out as he flew over to Mithril Dragon's house. Soon, Rift Dragon, Singular Dragon, and Dark Vengeance Dragon all followed. They arced through the air, up to the very top of the weyr, and glided into the entrance chamber. All landed and folded their wings. Mono cleared his throat.

"The Grand Council has ordered me to investigate the moongate. They gave me freedom to choose my companions. So I picked all of thee."


"Why me?" coughed Vengeance as he carefully examined his dragonsword in the waning light (the shafts into the cavern only faced east and south, so the amount of sunlight that streamed in depended on the time of day).

"We might need someone with thy fighting skill," replied Monomolecular, matter of factly.

Vengeance seemed to ponder this as he continued to stare at the large blade. "Why?"

Mono licked his lips, allowing a small puff of flame to escape in annoyance. "Why what?", he asked, simply to give himself more time to think of a good reason. Truthfully, Dark Vengeance was an old dragon, whose life stretched back to when Rikkh'et the Gold led his group of exiles over the mountains of Cove and into the Serpent's Spine, hundreds of years ago. Monomolecular wanted to give him another taste of adventure, before he might turn skeletal and take the vow to live alone.

"Why mightest thou need my combat expertise?" he restated, boastfully.

"'Tis a black moongate, spanning planes. The last black moongate that existed would have allowed the Guardian to conquer Britannia. We need all the fighting strength we can have." It was a logical explanation, but even a group of dragons probably wouldn't last long under a direct attack from the Guardian.

"Hmmm." the older dragon replied. "If there is a chance of combat, I shall join thee."

"Good." He looked to cover all the dragons. "We shall remeet here in thirty minutes. Bring whatever gear thou dost feel thy might need, but do not overburden thyselves too much. We sill be spending time awing; there are rogues travelling the forest, and I do not want to waste flame."

With a chorus of flapping wings, the dragons departed.


Aiel shuddered as he looked at his soup. Lady, his mate, was a great cook, but after the day's earlier events, he didn't feel hungry. It was a perfect day, to be true: the sun was out, and there were clouds in the sky. Big, puffy white clouds. Clouds that looked oddly like cottonballs. He suppressed another shudder.

"What is the matter, dear? Art thou not hungry?"

"No, not really...I visited Grignard's weyr today. Whisper was there."

Lady paused, bowl halfway to her mouth. "She was cooking?"


Lady looked at the bowl, grimaced, and put it down, pushing it away from her and accidentally dumping the contents into the fire. "Oops," she muttered. "Uh, Aiel, I too am not very hungry, for some reason." She seemed to stare off into space, until a thought struck her. "Let us go over to the game cavern. I believe there is a game of wingetball ongoing."

"Still?" laughed Aiel. "Yes, let's." Tail in tail, they exited their weyr and made a short flight, across and up to the entrance cavern. Monomolecular, black scales glinting now with a good oiling, walked past with the rest of his party in tow.


"Aiel," he nodded. Aiel and Lady nodded back as they continued into the depths of the earth. Stretching his wings, he gave a short chirrup back to the other five dragons. Unfolding his wings and giving a sharp downstroke while pushing off hard with his hind legs, he leapt into the air and flew up the slanting entrance shaft. They burst into the late afternoon skies over the Serpent's Spine and wheeled around until they had joined in a formation. Turning to the west and slightly south, and with a great rushing of wings, they flew off. It was another few hours before they reached the narrow pass through the mountains, and a few more minutes before they agreed on a landing site. Vengeance landed first, still-keen eyes scanning the undergrowth for hazards. Mono was next in, sniffing the air in long breaths. Nothing was nearby (save for the spicy, hot scents of his companions) but a few deer and a bird. Vengeance waved the large sword, and the rest of the dragons descended out of their circle to land on the ground. To the northeast rose the mountains, grey and snowcapped. To the southeast were more mountains, but these were all low save for a large caldera which had become a crater lake over the centuries. Near there, buried under the rock in the twisting web of passages that was Dungeon Despise, the Guardian had placed one of the three magical "generators" that hampered the Avatar in his travels of almost a year ago. The generators had all been destroyed, but the destruction of the Sphere of Despise took the blue moongates that had been the prime means of long-distance travel with it. Legend had it that several more moongates had been spotted by the Avatar since, on the Isle of Fire. And since, no other moongate had appeared. But now...

"Where is it, Mono?"

Monomolecular looked over his wing at Mithril. "We are not quite there yet, Mithril. I'll find it again, even if I have to strip the mountains bare."

"That is just Avatar Legend, Monomolecular. Dost thou wish me to believe that thou dost believe the tale of the Code of the Alternate 255?"

"The Avatar is powerful," said Singular, who was along because he was the resident expert in planar travel. "He comes from the world known as Earth."

"Myth," scoffed <G>remlin as he tossed the bones of his latest meal at a rock. "Lore," he added.

"To each his own, <G>rem. I have found it to my advantage to believe whatever is believable. Knowledge bears fruit, and I am the Loremaster." Mono sighed, thinking of his huge collection of scrolls, books, and tablets. He was the keeper of the Weyr Library, which contained writings dating back to the times even before Rikkh'et.

"Fruit," rumbled <G>remlin. "I could use some."

"Ssh. I have a bad feeling," whispered Mithril.

"Nothing can attack thee, Mith. Vengie's behind thee."

"I could have sworn I heard something. Let me fly up and take a look," Rift pleaded.

"No, Rift. I'm responsible for all of us, and I don't want thee to -- AAAH!"

Vengeance sprang over his fellows' heads, drawing his dragonsword.


There was a flash of rope, and Vengeance flopped back onto the ground, wings bound with a well-thrown hunting bolo from <G>remlin. Vengie turned to flame him, but <G>rem shouted "It's only Skyblade!"

"Mono," she said, folding her azure wings. "Looking for thy moongate?"

"How didst thou know?" Mono replied, eyes narrowing.

"I followed thee. 'Tis not hard to track six dragons by their scents alone. I have seen no moongate in this pass."

"Told thee."

Mono glared at Mithril. "The moongate is not IN the pass, it is UNDER it. Or, shall I say, inside the mountains."

Skyblade blinked, and frowned. "I apologize. I suppose thou dost mean the chamber with the standing stones? There is no moongate there, either."


"A ring of black standing stones, in a cave. Blackrock, if I am correct."

"But the conjunction hath been over for the past five months! Blackrock cannot become permeable now!" objected Singular.

"My blades would not cut it, and my claws are chipped. They are most definitely blackrock."

True to her word, the moongate was gone. But the carved standing stones still stood. Singular shrugged at the runes -- they were too archaic to read.

"Let me try," said Dark Vengeance and, before he could be stopped, he was reading the stones. "Old magic, like that my ancestors practiced. The magic of Rikkh'et. The magic of A'ron. The first magic. Primordial magic." He looked up. "Ritualistic magic -- magic the Guardian would practice."

"Magic that would make blackrock permeable, alignment or no," hissed Singular.

"But where doth it lead? Pagan? Hath the Guardian already entered our plane?" <G>remlin dropped his latest catch out of pure fear.

"If that were true, surely the Avatar would have returned by now," put in Skyblade.

"If that were true -- but he has not. Therefore we are in no immediate danger," concluded Mono.

"Why did he leave?" Rift blinked. He had been ill at the time.

"He wanted to return to Earth badly, after he stranded himself. He succeeded a scant month ago," said Singular.

"Mono -- look." Skyblade pointed with a trembling claw at the moongate. It had begun to pulsate, throb; yet looked the same as before.

"We wanted to know where it went," Vengeance coughed. "Looks like we're about to find out."

There was a sharp, high pitched keening, and a figure stepped out. He glanced around swiftly, whimpered, and fell, face drained of color.

"'Tis a man?!" <G>rem muttered.

"Aye...but he is not Britannian. His mode of dress is strange."

"He is sick, or weak," said Skyblade. "Shouldn't we aid him?"

Mono looked at the strange face. "One thing is almost for certain...he is from Earth."


"He is waking. Bring me water."

The drake nodded and handed the small bowl to Imbrium, who held it to the man's lips. He automatically sipped the water, swallowed, and sipped again. When she felt he had had enough, Imbrium removed the bowl and set it on a small table next to the bed. The man frowned, and his eyes fluttered open. "Where -- " he couched and licked his lips. "Where am I?"

Imbrium looked at Karma, who crouched in a darker corner, observing the man. Karma shrugged. "Tell him -- carefully," he whispered.

Imbrium paused. "Thou art safe. Thou hast had a slight shock. Thou art under my care, and have recovered."

"You're a doctor?" the man asked. "Why is it so dark in here?"

Imbrium blinked, remembering that dragons could see better in the dimness. Thinking fast, she said, "'Tis night, and the lights have been capped. Tell me: what is thy name?"

"Spence. Patrick Spence. Who are you?"

"My name is Imbrium."

In the darkness, the man frowned. "Imbrium? What kind of name is that for a doctor?"

"A fine one, Patrick Spence," rumbled Karma. "She revived thee after thy arrival."

The man's eyes widened. "Where am I?" he demanded, starting to panic. Imbrium looked up, alarmed, and decided to throw caution to the wind. "Thou art in our weyr, in the heart of the mountains. I am going to light the lantern now. Do not be afraid. No harm shall come to thee."

Before the man could reply, she lit the flamebox with a short puff from her mouth. The man yelped, both in surprise and at the blast of heat. He screamed when he saw Imbrium, and tried to slide away, off the bed, but hit the wall. He screamed again, and Imbrium noticed a spreading wet stain on the rushbags.

"Do dod dodod don't -- no no no don't eat me..." he gibbered.

Imbrium frowned. "I shant eat thee," she began, but the man continued to babble. "Dragon dragon nonono no eat no eat nice dragon nice dragon EEYAAAAAAH!" he screamed as Karma nearly scorched the ceiling in laughter.

He stopped babbling long enough to notice the bass rumbling chuckle. He frowned. "What are you laughing at?!" he yelled.

"Thou," Karma chortled. "I'll say it: WE SHALL NOT EAT THEE. WE HATH NO INTENTION OF EATING THEE." He smiled, laughing at the man's confused look, and wandered out of the sickweyr. Imbrium looked at him go, then turned back. For the first time, Spence noticed that she was a pale cloudy color, with clear blue eyes open wide in both bemusement and concern. "I shall not eat thee. Thou art my patient, for the time being, and I never eat my patients." She paused. Spence seemed more curious than scared now. She continued. "Thou art in our weyr. Thou hast come to our land through a black moongate, from the world called Earth." She stopped when she noticed his confused expression.

"Moongate?" The man blinked rapidly. "Black moongate?" He frowned, thinking. "Not -- it couldn't be --" He frowned again, and paled. "Is this -- is this...Britannia?"


"Insane," muttered Monomolecular. "Impossible."

"What art thou talking about?" asked Grignard, preening himself.

Monomolecular looked up from the scrolls. "There is nothing in the prophecies that foretell of this other Earth human. Nothing at all, in the scrolls AND the slabs."

"Didst thou expect the prophets to foretell everything?"

Mono opened his mouth, then snapped it shut. "Yes. No...I don't know." He sighed, putting the scroll away and reaching for another. "Well, they're usually right. They predicted the Guardian -- sort of -- and most of the events of the Song of A'ron have happened." He coughed. "But perhaps thou art right." He rolled up the scroll and tossed it onto the table, stretching his wings.

"'Tis a pity," Grignard muttered.

"What's a pity?"

Grignard jabbed a claw in the general direction of the scrolls. "Thou thyself hast said it. Most of the prophecies usually do come true, in one form or another. But we all know these writings are but a small fraction of the original works."

"Yes. 'Tis sad, to be sure. Most of them -- destroyed, without a trace, during the Flight."

"Saddening. I wonder what Rikkh'et would have said about this."

Mono muttered something and the light extinguished itself. "I'm going to eat. Join me?"

"I'm eating with Whisper."

Mono looked up, grimacing. Grignard shook his head. "Oh, no, don't worry." He smiled, sharp teeth glinting in the torchlight. "*I* do all the cooking now."


"We must notify Lord British. Immediately."

"I agree," assented a black wolf sitting in the corner. "But how?"

"We could send a messenger," Karma suggested.

"Who?" asked Umbrae. "We cannot go near the human cities -- they'd surely attack."

Karma looked at Umbrae, then at Spectacle. "Magic?"

Spec grumbled, shaking his head. "Nystul. He may be a doddering old coot --" there was a short burst of laughter from all around, "-- but he hangs around Lord British's castle all day and is quite powerful."

Black Wolf frowned, thinking. "Buran?"

"Who?" asked Umbrae and Spec simultaneously.

"Buran. The Silver Dragon. Lives in a weyr to the southwest." He stood and walked over to the table, pointing at a spot on the large cloth map with one grey paw. "Here."

"Why him?"

Karma figured it out before anyone else did. "Because of his ability to change forms. Disguised as a human, he can deliver the message. Deliver the message, Black Wolf. Bid him to come here, no later than one day from now."

"Of course."

Spec looked around at the generally satisfied faces. He rapped a fist-sized, scarred, chipped stone and rapped it sharply, once, against the table. "Meeting adjourned."



Ephemeral looked up at the sound of his name and smiled. "Hello, Lupa. Join me for a drink?"

"Gladly," she replied. "Wine?"

"Aiel gave me a bottle. Told me to drink it in good health, he did." Ephemeral reached for a glass as Lupa couched herself next to him, unusually close. "I, er, thought I might share it with thee."

"Thou art quite considerate, Eph," said Lupa with a small smile. "Thank thee." She looked into his eyes for a long time, not saying a word. Hand trembling, Ephemeral sat the glass down and leaned forward.

"Hiyall!" bellowed Pooglian as he bounded through the door. "You guys wanna go play winget --". He paused, noticing the scene before him. "Oh, uh, er...Sorry, Eph. I did not mean to intrude." He backed away, bumped into the door frame, and smiled. "I shall, uh, be going now." He jerked over his wing with a thumb, backed away, and ran out as fast as he could, nearly toppling Monomolecular.

"Fair morning, Pooglian. What, might I ask, is thy rush?"

Poog smiled, embarrassed but laughing out of control. He pointed back down the passage, to the door that was just around the corner. "Lupa and Ephemeral, sitting in the candlelight, with a bottle of wine and two glasses." He smiled, checked to make sure they were out of earshot, and whispered, "Efema kass'a ariathia!" [Ed. "Ephemeral wants some!"]

Mono blinked rapidly. A smile cracked his face, and he nearly doubled over in laughter. Poog joined him on the floor, repeating the tease. Mono laughed and replied, "Luh'paa arithianai Efema, ensshkkyh'i...DRAKES!" [Ed. "If Lupa does Ephemeral, there'll be drakes."]

Poog rolled on the floor again, wiping hot tears from his eyes. Mono laughed some more, too, then an idea struck him. "Wait here, Poog. I'll be back in a moment."

"Why? Where art thou going?"

"Well...Grig still in the refectory?"


"Good." Mono half-flew down the hall, out of sight. He returned a moment later, carrying two round fruit-filled confections. He pressed one into Poog's hand, and Pooglian seemed to get the idea immediately. "Lupa's mine!" he hissed.

"Good." They crept back up the passage. "On three," Mono whispered.

"Aye. One...two...THREE!"

They charged into the room and tossed the confections. There were two soft splutting sounds, and a creel of surprise from Lupa. Ephemeral hissed angrily as he wiped the pie off of his face, noticing as he cleared his eyes two dragons, in hysterics, sprinting down the corridor.

"Pooglian!" he screamed. "MONOMOLECULAR!"


Buran nearly fainted when Black Wolf came for him, but packed travel belongings and winged north at first light. He arrived at the weyr near noon the same day, gliding down the entrance shaft to land neatly on the sands of the entrance chamber.

"Bu'hraan! Welcome!"

Buran tossed his pack off of his back and clasped Ephemeral's hand. "Efema! How art thou?"

"Not ill. Fawning over another, I am," he smiled.

"Shall I guess?" Buran screwed his face up in mock thought. "Luh'paa?" he smiled.

"Black Wolf told thee, did he not? I had not thought myself to be so... so..."

"Transparent?" Buran supplied.

"Aye," he sniffed. Black Wolf edged his way into the reunion, and steered Buran away with his snout. "Sorry, but thou dost have urgent business that thou dost need to attend to. Please follow me." The wolf turned and trotted toward a side passage. Buran shrugged, flapping his wings, and turned to follow.

"Is he thy relative?"

"Hello, Aiel. Very distantly. We were both hatched in Destard."

"I thought he lived in Despise."

"He moved some years ago, to be nearer to the warm underground waters. He loves not far from Trinsic now."

There was a wild, unrestrained scream from down a corridor. Aiel looked at Ephemeral, and they both half-flew in the direction of the scream, which was shortly followed by another. Together they rounded the corner into the archives.

"Ayiee! Yehaa! Hahaha!" Mono looked up at his sudden visitors, silver eyes twinkling excitedly. "Aiel! Eph! Come quickly!"

"Art thou injured? Dost thou require medical aid?"

Monomolecular waved his hands, flapped his wings, lashed his tail, and shook his head vigorously. Eph blinked at his animatedness. "No, no! I found it!" he unsuccessfully clarified.

"Found what?" said another voice.

"Lady! I found it!"

"FOUND WHAT?!" roared Aiel.

Mono danced around the chamber, spurting puffs of flame at random, and nearly incinerating several scrolls. He thrust an old, mildewed scroll at them. "This!" he cried triumphantly. He unrolled it and flashed the written sides, covered in dragonish glyphs, at them. "It's the right prophecy! Clawed by Kass'ekkh the Incredibly Profound right before the Sundering!"

"Oh," yawned Ephemeral. "Another one? For a profound dragon, he certainly was obnoxiously copious in his writings."

Mono looked pained. "No! Thou dost not understand!" He snapped around. "Lady! Read this aloud!" Lady flinched back at her friend's unusual excitation. She took the scroll, glancing over it quickly. Her eyes widened in astonishment, and her tail began lashing around wildly.

"It says there can be more than one Avatar!" she screamed.


"I'm the Avatar?" gasped Patrick Spence.

"Thou art an avatar," corrected Lady.

The human sat there, on the couch they had set up for him just off the sickweyr, dead to the fact that he was talking to dragons. He no longer seemed to care. Perspiration beaded up on his forehead, and his eyes stared fixedly at a point on the far wall. "I'm the Avatar?" he repeated.

"Thou art AN Avatar," repeated Lady.

"There can be TWO Avatars?!" cried Spence.

Mono shrugged, black and grey scales clinking, "It most certainly doth appear so..."

"We must notify the Grand Council," stated Ephemeral.

"Thou meanst thou hast not already?" queried Mono.

"Nay -- my mate is on his way," said Lady.

"Thou dost sound like Nameless," muttered Eph.


"My liege," said the man as he jogged into the room.


"I bear a message for thee from Lord Draxinusom." The man extended it to the figure in the throne, bowed deeply, and sprinted off.

"Ah, 'tis time," muttered the man as he broke the wax and unrolled the scroll.

An older man, grey hair flopping listlessly out of his brown robe, smiled and turned to the robed man in the throne. "Careful, friend. The people might have...negative opinions of thee if they dost find out what the bulk of thy messages to Draxinusom were."

The man in the throne grinned sheepishly over his blond beard. "Thou art probably correct, friend Nystul," he smiled. "Exchanging Knight's Bridge moves by official messenger would not do my reputation well."

"Thou art still riding high upon the wave of the success in the matter with the Fellowship," Nystul sighed.

"I know, I know." Lord British sighed and rested his cheek in his hand. "If only it weren't for that fiasco with the moat..."

"Oh, desist!" barked Nystul. "That was many, many years ago. Stop complai --"

There was a clatter of metal from the courtyard. Lord British shot to his feet as the heavy wood doors to the throne room were throne open. Geoffrey half-tumbled through the opening, pushed forward by a group of guards restraining someone wearing plain clothes. "My liege," he panted. "We caught this man outside the gatehouse, trying to sneak through the portcullis. He now demands an audience with thee."

"Lord British, 'tis an urgent message!" wailed the man.

Lord British; looked from the man, to Nystul, to Geoffrey, then back to the man. "Release him."

"But sire, he could be danger --"

"I said, RELEASE HIM!"

"Sir," Geoffrey muttered, and they let go of the man, who dusted himself off with a sideways scowl at one of them. The guards tightened their grips on their halberds but otherwise said nothing.

"Approach the throne," said Lord British, and the man complied.

"Milord," he began. "I deliver an urgent message to thee."

"Waste not my time! Speak thy words!"

There was a flash of light, and the man transformed into a dragon.


"Guards!" roared Lord British, but the guards had already sprung, halberds raised. Shrieking, Buran lifted himself up to the ceiling, out of reach. An arrow whizzed by.

"Lord British! We need thy help! Britannia is in grave danger!"

"Waste not my breath, fiend!" screamed Lord British back, raising his own sword, forged of a shard of the legendary Quicksword Enilno. He drew his arm back, threw the sword. It flew point first, homing for Buran's heart, and struck something invisible, falling to the floor. There was a sudden roar, a boom-rush of sound, and a large red face materialized feet off the floor.

"Lord British! The time draws near again! And there's nothing you can do to stop me!"

Buran pointed at the face. "Lord British, here's thy proof!"

The Guardian turned to face Buran. " my plot has drawn the attention of _these_ weaklings as well. No matter. Not even the most powerful magics in all Britannia can stop me. The die is cast..." He laughed, a hideous booming, and his face disappeared.

Lord British exhaled sharply, looking up at Buran. "Land, dragon. Tell me thy message."

Buran fell gracefully out of his hover, landing on the floor of the throne hall. "Lord British, I come to thee as an emissary of the Alliance of the Grand Council of Dragons. I bear this message from the Grand Council." He produced a scroll, unrolled it, and read. "Dragons Spectacle, Umbrae, and Karma, and also the Black Wolf; to Lord British of Britain, Ruler of Britannia and the Cape Isles, also Moonglow, Dagger Isle, New Magincia, and Serpent's Hold; Greetings. We wish to confer with thee on a grave matter. Several days ago one of our number discovered a black moongate in a cave in the Serpent's Spine range. Since then, a Human from Earth has arrived in Britannia. He is known as Patrick Spence." Buran paused, glancing at Lord British's face before continuing. "We wish to meet with thee, as a guest of the Grand Council in our weyr, in time for our Solstice Festival; there to discuss the man known as Patrick Spence and the matter of the Moongate. Please travel here with all due haste. We await thy reply. Signed, the Grand Council." Buran rolled up the scroll, and stood there, waiting.

Lord British sat there, staring unfocusedly off into space. He sat there for so long the dragon started to worry. Then, abruptly, he looked up. "Please convey this message back to thy Grand Council." He snapped his fingers and the court scribe stepped up, quill already moist with ink. "Lord British, ruler of Britannia et cetera, to the rulers of the Alliance of the Grand Council of Dragons. Thy news is indeed grave. I shall make ready to travel to thy weyr in two days. I am sure thou will have no qualms with allowing me to bring my entourage. Signed, Lord British." The scribe handed the message to Buran, who bowed deeply, turned, and ducked out the large doors into the courtyard, where he took to the skies in a mighty leap.

"Lord British, is that wise?"

Lord British looked up at Nystul, visibly paled.


The weyr was a bustle of activity. Dragons hovered midair, hanging gold and green and blue bunting on the walls. Far below, on the weyr floor, a dais had been constructed with dragon-size chairs. Long tables had been erected along the sides of the chamber, running from the dais to the cookpits at the other end. The rock was scrubbed and polished until it shown with an almost ethereal glow.

"Do the cookpits meet thy inspection?" asked Grignard, who was to oversee the cooking. Suspended Dragon ran his hands over the firebrick lining of a firepit, then looked up to the ventilation shaft hundreds of feet off the floor. "There does not seem to be any fire hazard here. As long as none of the straw gets too close to the pits, there should be no problem."

"Didst thou check the ventilation shaft already?" asked Karma.

"Not so much as a bird's nest," Suspended reported. "The cookpits have my seal of approval."

"Good." Karma looked up to see a reddish-green dragon in a lazy spiral from the heights, who settled to land a few lengths away and discharge a passenger, who stepped over to Karma.

"Patrick Spence," Karma said. "I see thou art recovered. What dost thou think of dragons now?"

The man looked up at Karma. "I do not know how I could have thought the way I thought. You guys are all wonderful."

Karma nodded, smiling. "Thou art to attend the Solstice Festival, tomorrow morning, and sit by our sides. Lord British arrives here tonight. He wishes to speak with thee."

"Lord British?" the man gasped.

"Aye...after all, thou art another Avatar. Now, if thou wilt excuse me..." Karma launched off, and was soon lost in the cloud of dragons above.


"Welcome, Lord British, to our weyr."

"Well met, Umbrae Dragon. I am pleased to be thy guest."

"As we are pleased to be thy hosts," replied Spectacle. "If thou wilt follow us, we shall show thee to thy suite. Tomorrow is out Solstice Festival; I sincerely hope thou wilt sit with us. Our meeting will begin immediately after. Equitable?"

"Very." Lord British gasped as he came to the porch and looked out at the decorated weyr. He was coaxed onto Karma's back, and let out a whoop as they glided across to be delivered on another landing. "Thou shalt rest in comfort here; we have tried to provide thee with human appliances. Thy guards may sleep in the adjoining chamber." Karma turned to go. "One of our number shall be along in the morning, around the eighth hour, to take you down to the festival. Sleep well, Lord British."

"Until the morning, Karma Dragon." Karma took off and Lord British turned to look at the bed. Giggling quietly, he got up on it and jumped up and down, until Nystul arrived and forced him to go to sleep.


The Festival began shortly after the ninth hour. Lord British was delivered by a very honored Imbrium Dragon to the dais, where he boldly took his seat between Karma and Spectacle. Another human, whom he assumed to be Patrick Spence, sat next to Karma. Umbrae stood and let out a soft, ululating cry, and the assembled dragons landed and quieted. Umbrae delivered a few opening lines, and introduced Lord British with such reverence that Lord British blushed. Next, Monomolecular stood and read a portion of the epic poem "The Flight of Rikkh'et," ending with a plea for the dragons to always remember their roots and always stick together in brethrenhood. Then, the Grand Council rose and formed a line at the side of the dais. Twelve dragons were awarded various medals that day. Then, Umbrae took the floor.

"Dragons, it is time to welcome another of us into the ranks of the Grand Council. Thou hast elected this dragon with thy voices, and we have agreed. He has, in the past, entertained us with humor and song, and his leadership was true. I present to thee, the newest of the Grand Council...Rendell Dragon!"

Rendell stepped forward, stunned, and walked up to the dais. Umbrae handed him a stone pendant, etched with the spiral symbol of office, and clapped him on the shoulder. Rendell smiled weakly. "I accept," he hissed, and the chamber was filled with thunderous applause and cheers. Even Lord British applauded.

"Now that the formalities are over," Umbrae continued, "I now declare this Solstice Festival to have begun."


"...must be taken." Spec looked up from the scroll, eyes glinting green in the firelight. "Thy opinion?"

"Hmm? Oh, sorry." Lord British looked sheepishly at Spec. "I am still in awe at thy culture. So rich and varied. To think I thought all dragons are bloodthirsty beasts," he sniffed.

"Some are," said Karma, who coiled in the corner with half- lidded eyes. "It's those dragons that give us all a bad name."

Lord British nodded sagely. "I must remember this in the future." He looked at Spec. "Back to what thou wert saying, Spectacle Dragon. Yes, I do believe thou art correct. We must send a scouting party to examine this moongate. Thou didst mention runes on the pillars?"

"That is what Monomolecular said," affirmed Umbrae. "He is the dragon who found it. Several dragons who accompanied him on another foray confirmed him."

"Mmm," muttered Lord British. "Yes, fine. So then, we send a party?"

"Six dragons and six men," suggested Black Wolf.

"And one wolf, of course," replied Spec, deadpan.

"Of course," smiled the wolf.

"As long as myself and Nystul are two of the men. And the dragons?" asked Lord British.

"Monomolecular should go, as should Singular. Immortal should also go, being our resident mage. Hmm. Rendell? Would'st thou like to go?" asked Umbrae.

"I'd be delighted," replied Rendell. "Spec and..." he trailed off. "Rikkh'et's fire, it looks like the whole GC goes." He grinned, and Black Wolf chuckled.

"Very well then. I shall make the necessary announcement."


The six dragons landed in the pass and the six men plus one wolf, still in awe and shock at their swift flight, climbed off. Monomolecular led them back to the small cave, which was barely big enough to fit them all.

"This is it," he said.

"Yes, yes," wheezed Nystul as he bent to examine the runes. "Very archaic. I can recognize the standard twenty-six runes, but one for EA? And ST?" He moved to the next pillar.

"This place does not suit me," muttered Singular, and Rendell chuckled. "Suits thou better than Mono," he said. Mono was standing stock-still at the cave entrance, silver eyes glistening with anxiety, his body a black silhouette against the light.

"Lord British, I cannot read this," Nystul said, somewhat angered and frustrated. Immortal arched his neck around the mage and looked. "Strange. They are dragon glyphs."

Umbrae frowned and stuck his head in, too. "Old ones, at that. Can'st thou read them, Immortal?"

"I'll give it a try," he replied. "Let's see...IN LOR, um...KAL TYM LOR. STEL AN EANA. VAS STEL. REL QUAS LOR. REL LOR. REL QUAS QUAS YLEM." A hot drop of sweat splashed onto the floor, as he realized that he might have just cast whatever spell it was. His fears were confirmed by a sudden flash of light.


The light faded, but the cave was brighter than before. In the middle of the chamber, in front of the moongate, stood a low stone platform. There was a sound akin to a thousand wind chimes in a hurricane, and an image formed on the pedestal.

"So, you have figured out how to activate my message." The Guardian paused, yellow eyes staring at nothing in particular. "I see my moongate has taken a human from Earth and placed him in Britannia. How unfortunate. It is not yet his turn to die."

"What dost thou want?" cried Lord British.

"This moongate was placed for the purpose you are witnessing," said the Guardian image, and it was plain that this was a simple message, that the Guardian couldn't hear them. "I am letting you all know that, in ten days, I will send my minions to Britannia. Five days after that, I will arrive and make my conquest complete. There is nothing you can do to stop me." The image faded out with a cackle of laughter, and the pedestal, moongate, and ringstones vanished.

"Well," grimaced Singular. "There goes the neighborhood."


The weyr floor, although packed with dragons, was deathly silent. Spec put down the scroll and stepped off the platform. Lord British stepped up, behind the podium, and onto the crate which had been provided by a thoughtful Umbrae, realizing that the podium was rather large.

"Dragons in attendance, this is a perilous situation," he began, but before he could continue a crossbow bolt whistled past him, inches from his left ear. There was a cry of shock from the crowd, and the sounds of a scuffle. Umbrae pushed Lord British aside and roared, belching hot fire and steam. "I DEMAND TO KNOW WHO LOOSED THAT BOLT! SHOW THYSELF!"

"I loosed it, Umbrae Dragon," spat a hovering Ephemeral, crossbow still in hand. "I know you saw my warning. Take this as a second notice: there is no hope." Ephemeral smiled, and the Guardian continued to speak. "Last time the Avatar --" the Guardian (speaking through Ephemeral) sneered "-- actually defeated me. Naturally, I was mad. But this time -- this time, I have found that which shall make me victorious! And you shall witness --" The crossbow clattered to the floor, and Ephemeral hung there, slack-jawed. "NOOO!" the Guardian screamed. "I SENT HIM BACK TO EARTH! NOOO! I WILL NOT BE STOPPED AGAIN!"

Unconscious, Ephemeral tumbled to the ground, where he was caught by at least ten other dragons.

Shaken, both by the attempted assassination and the message, Lord British turned to face the GC.

"Friend Dragons, in light of this event, I'm sure thou'l have no qualms about moving our conference to a more neutral place."


"I agree," said Spectacle. "And I know just the place."


"Ten days," Spec muttered. "'Tis cutting it close."

"He had to sail to Jhelom. The unrest there is growing," noted Umbrae.

"Four days from New Dawn to Jhelom -- assuming the winds are right -- and a day there to reaffirm the charter. Four days to sail back, because winter is fast approaching and it is definite the winds will not be right," said Karma as he traced a claw on the cloth map. "One day to mobilize forces." He looked up. "How to get troops from Serpent's Hold, and New Magincia? Both of those islands are twelve days away by sail."

"He has already sent messengers, on dragonback." Karma looked up at Umbrae, surprised, at that. Umbrae nodded. "There will be a problem. We can transport six men and their gear to each dragon. A dragon can cover that distance in only a few days. We should be able to produce a sizable contingent, assuming our allies at Destard and Dagger Isle assist. Which they will.

"That could bring the bulk of Britannia's guard to Britain in only six days. The rest, aboard ship, should arrive a few days later -- around day 12 -- but there should be enough here by then to fight off the first wave."

"I certainly hope so," coughed Umbrae. He jabbed at a parchment. "How are the plans proceeding for the talks?"

"I travel to New Dawn in a few hours. I'm sure the owners of the Wolf's Paw Inn will have no problems with us using their conference facilities," replied Rendell.

"Fortunate Dragons are tolerated there," said Black Wolf.

"Agreed. We are rich," Rendell grinned, "and the New Dawn merchants are greedy!"


"There's his ship now," shouted Monomolecular. Skyblade nodded, flapping her azure wings languorously to sustain her soar. "We should land and notify Rendell," she shouted back over the rushing air. Mono agreed, and they wheeled around, gliding in a spiral to land on the knoll just outside of New Dawn where the GC had camped.

"Rendell! Lord British's ship sighted on the flight horizon, five hundred lengths up! Winds gusting out of the south," Mono reported.

Rendell nodded. "He'll enter the harbor in twenty minutes. Spec! Karma! Black Wolf! Umbrae! We must enter town! Lord British arrives!" He turned back to the black dragon. "Well done, Mono."

Within seconds, the GC and a gross of dragons had headed down the hill and up the dirt road, through the town wall, and down the street to the docks. Above, other dragons wheeled in the sky, chirruping with excitement.

The ship tacked neatly into the harbor and sidled up to the pier. Young men rushed up to catch thrown ropes and tie them securely to the posts. The gangplank was swung across, draped on one side with dragon bunting in blue, gold, and green; with Britannian bunting in white and gold on the other. Three banners flew side by side at the foot of the ramp: the gold ankh on a white field of Britannia; the gold dragon with wings spread to encompass green ground and blue sky; and the gold half-circle on a purple and green field of New Dawn Township.

Lord British's advisors and guards descended the ramp first, followed by Nystul, and then Lord British himself.

"On behalf of the citizens of New Dawn Township, we welcome thee to our fair city," said Carinim, mayor of New Dawn, as he kneeled. Lord British nodded, the mayor rose, and the Lord moved on down the receiving line. As one, all the dragons began creeling; a soft, strong note that echoed off the houses and trees, surging across the crowd like one of the tidal waves that were all too frequent in the area. As one, the four dragons and the wolf of the GC kneeled, then rose. "Greetings, Lord British," said Spectacle. "I hope we can proceed with the meetings as soon as possible."

"We shall, Spectacle soon as this shindig is over." He smiled wickedly and waved at the public, who cheered immensely. Umbrae shrugged at Spec's bewildered expression, and fell in line with the rest of the parade.


"More water, please," said Karma to the attendant. The boy nodded and left the room quickly. "Now," Karma continued, "we must amass our troops quickly. Strange creatures have already appeared out of the northern forest and are terrorizing Yew. Our scouts spotted a few in the mountains near our weyr."

"We have traced their origin back to that same cave in the mountains," said Umbrae. "Our guess is that there is another moongate there now. We have already posted more scouts in that pass."

"Very prudent," agreed Lord British. "I shall command my men to camp near the south end of the pass -- a farming village named Highlock should do nicely."

"Dark Vengeance is rounding up mercenaries to camp out at the northern end of the pass. 'Tis dense forest there, though, and they are having trouble setting up," said Karma.


"Attacks by animals?" asked Lord British. "Ruffians?"

Spec shook his head. "Terrain, mostly. They have found a suitable site -- 'tis elevated, with a clear view of the pass -- but 'tis very rocky and offers little concealment."

"How long until thou can'st mobilize the rest of thy troops?" asked Karma as the attendant refilled his bowl.

"Two, maybe three days. I have commandeered the swiftest vessels in Britannia to carry my troops. Fortunately, the winds and currents are now favorable across the Britannian sea. The troops from Jhelom are no more than four days away now." Lord British looked pointedly at Rendell. "May I ask thy status?"

"So far, Destard has committed fifty wings and Deceit twenty- five," said Rendell.

"How many dragons to a wing?" Lord British wanted to know.

"Five to a wing is traditional," Rendell replied.

Lord British whistled softly. "'Tis a lot of Dragons."

"Deceit and Destard are, of course, obligated to send another twenty wings each. It only takes the decision of the Council to activate them," continued Rendell.

"Shall we?" asked Karma.

The Dragons extended their hands, palms up in a sign of agreement. "Duly noted. Scribe?" Black Wolf gestured to a drake holding parchment and quill -- his claws were still too soft. "Three copies, please. 'By decision of the Grand Council, in afternoon session at New Dawn; the remaining Wings are to be activated. This decision is immediate and final.' Stamp it with our marks, and send them. One each to Destard and Deceit, and the third to the Archives." The drake carefully copied the message twice, then left.


"First hour: three entered the pass, two left. Second hour: four entered, two left. Third hour: four entered, four left. Fourth hour: three entered, nobody left. Then I went off duty," the man said.

Dark Vengeance stroked his beard. "And in the two hours since, not one of those foul creatures have been seen." He penned something on a parchment with his claw. "Note that more entered the pass than left," he added.

There was a rustle of wings nearby and another Dragon landed in the dim morning light. "Dark Vengeance. Message from Marton at South Camp." Vengie grunted with interest, cracked the wax on the scroll, and read it.

"Interesting. South Camp has the same trend. Take this back to Marton," he handed the parchment to the messenger dragon, then turned to the other dragon who had just awoken. "Those creatures are amassing. Kilts, thou art in command until I return," he said.

"Where art thou going," asked Kilts as he rubbed sleep from his eyes and stretched his wings luxuriously.

"The weyr, to deliver my findings. I shall overfly the goblin camp on the way," replied Dark Vengeance.

"Good luck. I am in command," Kilts confirmed.


A figure shuffled in the darkness, carrying a large metallic object. It moved slowly up behind Grignard and raised the object. Hearing a noise, Grignard turned around, saw what made the noise, and screamed.


Grignard continued screaming until he noticed the hurt look in Whisper's eyes. She sadly lowered the tray to the table and started to cry. Grignard blinked, sorry. "I'm sorry, my love," he murmured. "Is there anything I can do to make it up to thee?" he added, and was almost sorry he did, for Whisper stopped crying, her face perked up and she smiled. "Yes. Eat this!"

"MMF!" Grignard said as Whisper shoved the cake into Grignard's mouth. Grignard chewed slowly, swallowing. His eyes snapped open and a look of surprise and shock shot across his face. He looked up at Whisper.

"Whisper!" he cried, incredulous. "These are GOOD!"


Dark Vengeance quickly scanned the scene far below as he flew over the pass. A team of goblins had hewn rock from the mountains and were building a raised stone platform, four columns at each end. Ringstones were being erected within. A short causeway of shiny red stone connected the structure to a low platform with a round table on it. Nearby, log barracks were being built. Vengeance shifted his course to overfly the round table -- and nearly had his wings burned through as a fireball rocketed up from the camp, singing his left wingclaw. He went into a powerdive, picking up momentum with his wings half folded, then snapped them full open, sending him skimming rapidly over the trees so close the leaves tickled his belly. With the stone structure etched in his mind, he banked and headed for the weyr.


"These tomes are pretty old, Mono. I do not see what use thou could'st have for them."

Mono took one of the scroll bundles, blowing dust off of it.

"The older the better." He unrolled a set and blinked at the archaic glyphs.

"This script is almost as bad as Gargish," he muttered.

"As old, too. Common roots," noted Immortal.

"Whatever. Ah, here it is."


"Days," muttered Spectacle. "Mere days. A day."

"Cheer up," rasped Rendell, thumping him on the back. "Want me to sing thee a song?"

"No time," the other dragon muttered. "Five hundred Britannian crowns that the Guardian destroys us."

"Were that true, how could I collect, eh?" Dell grinned, and Spec couldn't help but smile, even a little.

"There, that's better. See?"

"Still, I wish the Avatar hadn't left."

Rendell sighed, himself suddenly in a darker mood. "I agree, but there isn't really anything we can do about that, is there?"

"There might be. Hast thou an Orb of the Moons?"

Rendell blinked, then shook his head. "Of course not."

"I had to try. Maybe Immortal has one."

"Maybe. Where is he, anyway?"


"It will be a vicious battle," Lord British was concluding. "The fate of Britannia hangs in the balance. Go in Virtue."

The troops broke up to receive their details.


The longboats ground ashore; warriors clad in new armor and wielding razor-sharp swords formed up on the beachhead.

"We have one day for the march, friends," said Syria. "We must be in position at the north end of the pass by tomorrow morning. Thou know'st thy mission. Valor!"

"Valor!" chanted the assembled men and women of Jhelom, and the column began to march over the road from Yew, into the mountains.


Across the continent, boats lay in wait in the great harbor of Britain, while others disgorged men and gargoyles from Serpent's Hold and Terfin. Overhead, similarly laden wings of dragons from Dagger Isle and the Verity Isles appeared, landed momentarily to catch a quick bite of food, and were airborne and heading north toward the white-capped peaks of the Serpent's Spine.


The moongate flickered out of existence, and the Avatar smiled, collapsing into the brown pile carpeting of his house. He had made it. He was HOME.

He ran into the next room and hugged his refrigerator. He hugged his television, and his CD player. He gave a sidelong scowl at his computer, and hugged his microwave.

Penumbra and Rudyom, with the somewhat unwilling aid of the Britannia Mining Corporation, had managed to make a temporary moongate. When it had fully formed and stabilized, the Avatar had jumped at the chance to go home. Literally. He knew that the magics holding the moongate together were temporary at best now, and had had only a second to decide.

He tossed his faded, torn red cape onto a chair. He removed his armor and stowed it in a secret closet. He ordered a pizza from Domino's and watched the news, waiting for it to arrive. He ate it while listening to Pink Floyd and playing an interesting RPG by some company in Austin on his Gameboy. He called Prodigy, and wrote notes to his friends in the Fantasy Games boards. He drank some Crystal Pepsi, stayed up through Arsenio, and stared out his window at the patch of trees between his house and the Garden State. On an impulse, he went outside, down the barely visible stone path to the circle of stones. No moongate. Satisfied, he went back home, collapsing into a heap on his bed, falling asleep wearing only his underwear, a sock, and a gold ankh. When he woke up the next morning, the first thing he noticed was a strange humming sound. The second thing he noticed was the large red moongate wedged between a desk and the TV. He sighed, groaning, then cursing. He looked at the watch. 6:30. He pounded his head against the desk and looked up. The moongate was still there. He cursed again, very loudly, and was glad that Lord British couldn't hear what he just said. But his sense of duty, his Honor, demanded him to go. With a world-weary sigh, he collected his armor and his map of Britannia. With one last longing glance around his New Jersey house, he stepped through the gate.

He emerged on a brightly lit stone platform, surrounded with several rings of pillars. Stars shone in the void all around him.

"Thou hast come, Avatar," said a voice very close by. The Avatar turned to look at the young/old form of the Time Lord. "Britannia is in grave peril," he continued.

"Again?" sighed the Avatar. "Fine, fine. Send me there."

"The passage will be perilous. I must open a crack in reality to send thee through. I do not know where in Britannia thou wilt turn up. Take this," he gave the Avatar a scroll. "Read this only in thy time of need, for it will fail thee not. Any other time and the advice it gives will be useless. Prepare for the journey."

With the sense of blind idiocy and hope, the Avatar stood there, waiting. There was a blinding flash of light and a nauseous flipping sensation. He saw a thunderclap of pure smell, and the sound blinded his tongue. Then, it was all over, and he was standing on a grassy hill in a glacial valley.


The Avatar knelt before the Shrine, silent on this hallowed ground. The spot had been sacred for far longer than the Shrine had existed, whether by sheer coincidence or the power of the ever-pervasive ether.

He rose, running a hand through his blond locks. Years ago in his own personal history he had meditated at this very shrine; of course, it was much further into the past of Britannia's history that Denis Garriot Ladyman became the Avatar, the embodiment of the principles of the Virtues and savior of Britannia. This spot was sacred to him for an altogether different reason.

He saw her coming down the path that wound through the topiary and trellises long before she noticed him. He took time to duck behind a shrub before she rounded the last curve up to the Shrine of Compassion proper. Without a word, he watched as she began picking litter off of the site, and scrubbing the stone with the bucket of water from the now-clean Lock Lake. Silently, he walked up behind her. She continued her scrubbing for a long while, oblivious to the man behind her.

It rapidly became apparent to the Avatar that Nastassia was not really scrubbing, but weeping silently. It pained him to see her like that. With a burst of decision, he knelt down beside her. She half looked up, past her long bangs matted with grief, not recognizing the man at first. Suddenly, her head snapped up. "Avatar! But how?"

The Avatar shook his head and pulled Nastassia close. "Why didst thou leave me, Avatar?" she cried. "Why?"

"I had an opportunity to go home, my love," he said.

"Am I less precious to thee than thy homeworld?" she asked, trying to control her tears. The Avatar frowned, and could say nothing. They both knew the truth.

"I love thee more than the world," he replied, but, despite how true it was, he knew it sounded hollow in his own ears.


The Dragons slid silently down to the side of the mountain opposite the pass. Quickly, fifty archers dismounted and began to circle the mountain into the sparse woodland on the northeastern edge of the pass. Without a word, the Dragons took off, winging eastward back to the weyr.


"The Lord Heather and the Lady Jaana have travelled to Britain, under order of Lord British," Nastassia was saying.

"Why?" he asked. "If, as thou dost say, I have been gone for a few months, I'm sure I am missing something."

Nastassia frowned. "There is a rumor that something has been discovered in the Serpent's Spine that poses a great danger to our land. Lord British is calling men from all over Britannia -- even from as far as Serpent's Hold -- to aid. There is even rumor that an alliance has been made with the Dragons."

"Surely not!" the Avatar replied.

"It's their land as much as it is ours," Nastassia replied. She had been looking at the sky; her eyes widened as she saw something. The Avatar followed her gaze, and saw it too: five dark dragon-shaped forms flying in a rough pentagon, moving from the general direction of the east toward Britain. The Avatar blinked, danger sense pricking his spine.


The caravan from Vesper and Minoc passed through Cove later that day. The men, mostly miners armed with pickaxe and shovel, knew that they might be too late to aid in the mountains, but they would die trying. Bidding farewell to Nastassia (and knowing that he might not see her for a long time thereafter) he joined the caravan.

As luck would have it, one of the Minoc merchants recognized him for who he was, though none of the other travellers would believe it. With a generously donated steed, some provisions, and high hopes, he rode off ahead, through the pass west of Cove and south of the Bog of Desolation, and on to Britain.


The archers had moved into position on the northeast end of the pass, unnoticed, with a clear view of the proceedings below. They saw that the pedestal had a fine tracery of gold and other precious metals; marble shot through with streaks of brilliance. The structure enclosing the circle of stones was complete. By all reckoning, there was another twenty hours to go before the Guardian's attack.


The Avatar, by luck or good fate, had a fast horse; and, therefore, arrived in Britain the very day the last of the troops were to be sent to the pass. Word was sent by dragon to Lord British, camped in the farming town, and presently a dragon came to retrieve him. There would be time for celebrating later...if there was a later.

"I do not like dragons," he muttered as he climbed onto the black dragon's back. The dragon chuckled, silver eyes glinting, and took off.


Kilts stood on the edge of the rock, tense. The sky to the east was starting to brighten, drawing the long night to an end. An end, he thought. How ironic.

Dark Vengeance came to stand next to him, quietly hoping that whatever wrath the Guardian inflicted, it would be over quickly.


Syria and her forces set up along the southwest wall of the northern end of the pass. To her southwest, the first dragons were already waiting, listening for the signal to attack. She clenched her sword, ready for whatever might come.


Bane Dragon, Geo Dragon, Peates Dragon, Morbius Dragon, and Astral Dragon formed up in mid-flight upon departing the farming village. The lush fields and croplands of the Greater Britain basin fell swiftly away behind them; within moments, they were winging over low hills covered with trees. In the distance, yet drawing near, towered the impressive peaks of the Serpent's Spine. Twenty minutes later, they were gliding out of the sky to the pre-selected landing site, in a hollow out of sight of the pass.

"Bane Wing from Highlock," Bane said to the dragon on duty. The dragon saluted them, acknowledging their technical higher rank, made a mark on a page and told them to report to a hidden cave nearby. Inside, on a floor shaped strangely like an ampitheater, wings and wings of dragons clustered. Down on the floor, some thirty feet below, Rendell and Karma were pacing.

"Dragons, we will now begin the briefing."


The Avatar hunched behind the rock, staring at the goblin camp below. In the past three hours he had been greeted, briefed, armed, and delivered to the pass like a common soldier. It was an experience completely alien to him, made all the more shocking by the presence of dragons who not only carried an air of civility but seemed to idolize him. Especially the black one, with the silver eyes, he thought.

Further down the line, Patrick Spence squatted with Codex and Grignard. He was oblivious to the red-caped figure only yards southeast of him; he was scared spitless as it was.

"Avatar!" Grignard hissed. Spence ignored him, not realizing that it wasn't a plea for help from the beyond. He saw a flash of red out of the corner of his eye.

"Yes...Grignard?" the Avatar said, and Spence's eyes went wide.

"Avatar, this is the man. Patrick Spence of Earth."

The Avatar looked at Spence's dark hair and wiry frame. "Never saw a more different Avatar than you," he smiled. Spence sat there and gibbered quietly in silent awe, composing himself in time for Karma, Kilts, Aiel, and Umbrae.

"Ah, I see that the two of thee hast met," whispered Karma. The Avatar smiled. "I have faith in you, Spence. You know your stuff, otherwise you wouldn't be here, right?"

Spence smiled, weakly. "Sorry, Avatar. I'm just still stunned by all of this. How do YOU handle it all?"

The Avatar smiled. "I don't. I get the job done first, then I panic. Saves time."

"Look!" whispered Kilts. Far below, in the pass, the mass of goblins had parted around the circular pedestal. Atop it -- the top of the pedestal simply looked wrong, as if something were trying to push through the fabric of reality.

There was a flash of light, and the object was everywhere and nowhere at once. Suddenly, it came to rest on the pedestal, a perfect fit. It was a cylinder, black as night, two meters high by one round. The Avatar gasped, recognizing it. Spence thought he had seen it somewhere else, too. Karma and the other dragons did not recognize it. With a shock of realization, the Avatar realized what the Guardian was planning. Spence came to the same conclusion moments later.

Codex frowned. "Something wrong, Avatar?"

"You bet there is," he sighed. "That's the Dark Core of Exodus."


"What dost thou think?" asked Karma.

"We can't get to the Core," stated Grignard. "Too many goblins."

"Could we fly in and...pick it up?" asked Codex, making an illustrative gesture with her hand. The waning sunlight (odd, thought Spence; it was 10:00 in the morning) glinted strangely off the Core's black surface.

"No good," replied the Avatar. "I touched it, once, on the Isle of Fire. I was unconscious for hours afterwards. The images; the senses... can't thou believe I actually knew it all for at least a split-second? Everything there was to know about Britannia?"

Spence snapped his fingers. "That's it. The Dark Core is a product of Britannia, right?"

"Yesss," replied the Avatar, unsure of Spence's point.

"What if the Guardian had to bring it here before he used it? What if it is somehow tied to the land?"

The Avatar considered this. "I see thy point. If he whatever he plans on doing elsewhere, Britannia would have been destroyed long ago. I somehow feel that it's all my fault," he sighed.


"When I sent the Core into the Void, on the Isle of Fire...I left it for anyone with the power to retrieve it. Like the Guardian."

"Yeah, but if you'd left it in Britannia, Exodus would have reformed. I've played Forge of Virtue, Avatar," replied Spence. Karma looked at Aiel in bewilderment. Neither had any idea what the two humans were talking about.

"I've seen Exodus face to face -- I've fought him, with aid from the Time Lord. I've even seen the Guardian, actually coming through the Black Gate. Believe me, Patrick Spence. I'd rather face a hundred Exodus's than one Guardian."

"Yeah, but could'st thou beat Exodus again?" asked Karma. The question rained on them like a dark pall. It was almost a challenge.

From afar, there was the piercing cry of a horn, and a cloud of shapes briefly blotted out what was left of the sun. "Wild Dragons," hissed Kilts, subconsciously reaching for his dragonsword.

One of the Wild Dragons, wearing shimmering mail like that used by all Dragons in true combat alighted nearby. He strode boldly, arrogantly up to the group. "I am Thrakkhrar, Emperor of the Keh'shansharasha. Who amongst thee is in charge here?"

"I am," replied Umbrae, none too pleasantly, remembering the past.

Thrakkhrar smiled, cruelly sharp teeth glinting in the rapidly decreasing light. "I have come to fight for fair Britannia."

"Dost thou wish an alliance with the Dragons of the Grand Council?"

Thrakkhrar spat on the ground before Umbrae and laughed. "We do not wish an 'alliance' with thee...we do not ally with those that have forsaken their claim as a Dragon. A shame, to think, that thee...Umbrae," he smiled, "one of the only Keh'shansharasha to openly reject their birth...and my cousin, to boot...that thou would'st DARE ask for alliance." He drew his sword and gestured at the goblins below. "We will fight, but not ally. Stay our of our way," he warned, "and we'll stay out of thine." Cackling, he sheathed his sword and took off.


They watched as Thrakkhrar winged off into the dark sky. In the dim, shifting light of massive, improvised bonfires below in the pass, the Avatar smiled, wryly. "Well, their help is better than no help, I suppose."

Kilts hissed, and glared off at the forms of the Wild Dragons circling at the base of the low clouds. "They're fighting the Guardian, but only because they want Britannia for themselves."

Grignard held up a hand, sharp claws glowing dimly in the firelight. "Ssh," he hissed, a sound that fulfilled its intent of quieting the party and then some. "I hear more horns."

The horns sounded once, far off. Minutes later, they sounded again, much clearer. The sky above was by now almost pitch black with roiling cloud. Codex looked up momentarily, worried.

The horns sounded again, very close, and Spence thought he could see, further south in the pass, a large number of men; their swords glinted dimly like a smattering of oblong stars in a sea of pale grey. Almost as if in answer, a monsoon of arrows rained down from Tseramed's archers, along the northeast wall down onto the goblins below.

The Battle for Britannia had begun.

The host of Lord British was clearly defined now, and wonder of wonders, the Avatar thought, was Lord British himself leading the column. The last amount of sunlight in the air glinted off a large golden ankh briefly; afterward, the only light in the pass was from torches and the fires.

Suddenly, with an echoing cry, a tidal wave of Dragons, knights, bandits, warriors, and anybody who could wield a weapon competently appeared, under the banners of Yew, Empath Abbey, and Jhelom. With a flash of his sword, Lord British signalled the charge.

All was mayhem in a mere five seconds. The men and soldiers of Britain, Cove, Vesper and Serpent's Hold rushed north, up the pass, and fell upon the edges of the goblins. Behind them, visible only now, were a host of reddish winged creatures: Gargoyles from Vesper and Terfin.

From the north, Syria's host led their charge, followed closely behind by Dark Vengeance and Skyblade, who had rounded up anybody and everybody in New Dawn; most were drunk witless, but angry enough at the gall of the DARE he threaten to destroy Britannia and all the liquor within...

From the northeast, and elsewhere, came the flame and steel of the Wild Dragons; as did the bolts, flame, and arrows of the Dragons of the Grand Council. In seconds, the air was filled with cries, smoke, arrows, and the beating wings of dragons. Again, in seconds, the offensive was over, and the defensive had begun. Although the Brittanians and the Dragons had pushed the goblins almost all the way back to the pedestal and ringstones, the goblins had retreated rather than resisted and, as such, were now able to launch a clustered attack for a few moments before Skyblade managed to cross around the edge of the goblins and had managed to pen in the goblins. It didn't matter; a minute later, there was a blinding nova of light and a blast of wind from the ringstones.


"I belong with my Dragons!" yelled Black Wolf, trying to push his way past Immortal and Monomolecular.

"Sorry, Black Wolf," said Monomolecular, reaching for reagents and chanting a few words: BET AN POR. Black Wolf's legs went slack, and he howled in fury. "LET ME PASS!" he shrieked. Immortal grabbed him and tossed him over his shoulder.

"Where art thou taking me?!" the wolf continued to cry. Mono grinned back, a grin that made Black Wolf's blood run cold, yet there was no hint of malice or ill intent behind that grin. "Black Wolf, tell me about thy parents."

"My parents? Ulp!" the wolf squealed as Immortal leapt off the porch and spiraled down to Mono's weyr.

"Yes, thy parents," replied Mono. Seeing no other path of action, the wolf replied, "Two very fine wolves. Ma was a bit odd, though..."

"Yes," muttered Mono. "And her parents?"

"Two outstanding wolves," he replied, somewhat confused.

They touched down on Mono's ledge.

"And one of them was also rather...odd?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact."

Immortal laid Black Wolf down on a mattress and lit six candles around it; Mono began chanting something. Black Wolf's eyes widened, and he passed out. Immortal shrugged and started chanting, tossing reagents on the limp wolf.


Hundreds of years earlier, all Dragons lived in the valleys above what would eventually be known as Cove. They worshipped at a site later occupied by the Shrine of Compassion; a very holy spot.

For ages the three races of Dragonkind lived in an uneasy peace, until one race, the Keh'shansharasha, claimed superiority by virtue of Strength.

A bloody war over that holy spot was fought for a hundred years; a good lifetime for most Dragons. At the end of it all, the temple had been destroyed. The Keh'shansharasha blamed the oldest of the three races, whose name has been lost forever to the mists of time, on the temple's destruction. What followed was possibly the bloodiest holocaust in all of Britannia's pre- history.

The youngest of the three races, who preferred to live in caverns instead of the forests (as had their ancestors), tried to mediate the war between the Elder Race and the Keh'shansharasha. The appointed leader of the cavern-dwellers, a dragon by the name of Rikkh'et, was openly attacked by both of the two races; with the numbers of his followers decimated, he had no choice but to flee west over the mountains and, eventually, to the Serpent's Spine and the Weyr. This was the event known as the Sundering, or Rikkh'et's Flight, and the Dragons of the Grand Council start their years with this event.

Shortly before the Keh'shansharasha exterminated the last of the Elder race, one of the great Elder scholar/mages cast a spell upon his firstborn son, so that the ancient magic might survive the holocaust. His son he gave the form of a wolf, and, as such, he was the only to survive the massacre. The Keh'shansharasha continued to live in Cove until the fall of Mondain, when the earth was reshaped, and they were forced to flee.


Meanwhile, the wolf went out among the world. Over the years, his descendants carried the blood of the Elder Dragons in their veins, each successive generation losing the memory of their distinct past. Until, one day, hundreds of years later, two dragons discovered a line in Kassekkh's writings...


Black Wolf twisted and writhed on the rushbag, the blood pounding in his veins. Immortal waved his hands, and chanted five sharp words. Mono continued in suit, ending with VAS FLAM UUS...the rushbag exploded in blue flame, and Black Wolf screamed.

The scream, and the magic, awakened whatever latent power left in his blood after all those generations. With a wrenching, increasingly dragon-like howl, Black Wolf...changed -- his dark, matted fur sloughed off in waves, revealing bare, pink skin underneath. But under the skin the muscles were reknitting themselves on the back, and on the shoulders. Two knobby projections appeared above his forearms as his neck elongated, his muzzle grew into a long, tapering snout, and his ears flattened and arched back into a fan of flesh. Glistening grey scales appeared on his spine, curling down his flanks to his feet; which had grown a hindclaw each. The twin swellings on his back burst open with a spray of fluid and two diminutive wings, silver and still glistening, spread forth. The proto-dragon howled and creeled as a fire began rumbling in his belly; he released first flame in an explosive gout of fire. The wings continued to grow, as did the torso. The tail lengthened to a length proportional to the rest of the body -- exactly the length of the wings from root to tip. The new dragon blinked twice, still whimpering. Mono looked amusedly at the transformed creature as several tufts of grey fur appeared at odd locations.

"What happened," Black Wolf croaked, too weak to move.

Mono licked his lips, unsure of where to begin.


Ten minutes later, Black Wolf Dragon spread his silvery wings in first flight, soaring off for the first time on his own. Mono and Immortal followed close behind, and after the flight across peaks and vales, came upon the pass just as something bright flashed from the center of the ringstones.


The Avatar loosed another Swordstrike at the nearest goblins, cutting four to bloody rags and cleanly decapitating a fifth. He wondered how much longer he could keep it up; his mana was draining, a sensation strangely akin to being incredibly tired after an extended time awake. Suddenly, in a blast of wind and a sheet of lightning, he realized that the battle for Britannia had only just begun...


Down in the pass, centered in the covered ringstones, a featureless black slab had suddenly sprung into existence. The goblins moved back, and even the Britannians stopped fighting in sudden shock.

In the dead center of the moongate a blue ripple appeared. There was a strobing flash of light, and a red hand pressed out of the inky void, followed by a foot. The arms followed next, and the legs, and a well-muscled chest. The head looked slowly from side to side above, yellow eyes glowing with maniacal delight.

The Guardian had come.


Time seemed to stop as he looked up and down the pass, almost as if he was looking for something, or someone...

"You," he said, smiled, and pointed, voice full of annoyance.

He was looking at the Avatar.

"Long have I awaited this," the Guardian roared. A man, probably from New Dawn due to his seeming state of intoxication, made a suicide charge at the red beast on the dais; the Guardian simply brushed him aside like an insect, impaling him, twitching, on a twisted rock spire.

"Jux'a ylemi orta," Monomolecular was chanting, but nothing was happening. A bead of sweat ran off his brow ridge, splashed to the ground.

"This land, and all within, is MINE!" the Guardian roared, blasting a boulder into flying slivers of rock with a wave of his hand as a punctuation mark. He smiled cruelly up at the Avatar, perched on his hilltop half a mile away. "You yourself have provided me with the final link in my plan," he cackled, gesturing to the Dark Core sitting, almost innocently, on it's pedestal.

The Avatar felt a hot flush of fury flash across his cheeks. He shot a fireball into the air; it rocketed upward with a thunderclap of displaced, ionized air. "I shall defeat you again!" he shouted.

The Guardian laughed and shot a fireball at a nearby group of Dragons. Most of them managed to dodge; Vengeance, though, was unlucky enough to catch the blast full on. The brief cry of pain echoed throughout the pass, and Monomolecular roared in anger. "Jux'a ylemi ort'a!" he tried again, but the ancient spell would not work.

"We will not be held in thy thrall!" Lord British yelled, raising his fist defiantly. The Guardian laughed again, walking down the walkway to the Core. "You, old friend Lord British, have no place to resist! ALL will fall under my control!" With a joy in his eyes, he sat down upon a stone bench and pointed at the goblins. "Let it begin!" he ordered, impatient.

"Jux'a ylema ort'a juxa!" Mono tried, beginning to quake in frustration. "Isanct sanct'a ylem lor...sanct lor!"


The Goblins had moved two large lenses around, focusing light from two huge bonfires onto a large flat panel. The gold tracery on the pedestal began to shimmer, then glow.

A blue haze appeared between two short pillars mounted before the bench. There was a roaring of wind, and a ghostly cry echoed up and down the pass.

"Pain, dejection, disappointment..." it wailed.

"Exodus!" the Guardian cried. "I have come for you!"

A white sheet washed across the Avatar's face, remembering Erethian's words to him a few months ago on the Isle of Fire. Words about Exodus's psyche regenerating...

"Failure. Useless knowledge," the voice continued.

"If we join our powers, we shall take Britannia for ourselves!" the Guardian screamed.

"Hope?" the voice asked.

"Yes! Join with me!"


"Join with me!"

"Seek...power...and knowledge --"

"-- to destroy! Britannia --"

"-- will fall! --"


There was a blinding flash of light.


The Avatar looked up, into the raging wind, and felt another sudden surge of horror in the pit of his stomach.

The Core and the Guardian were glowing, connected by faint tendrils of energy. The Guardian twisted and convulsed in the interface, and the Core vibrated, producing a wailing, earsplitting hum. The Guardian's skin was suddenly shot through with a sliver of color, bright gold against red. He seemed to double in size, although the Avatar somehow knew that was an illusion caused by the scorching wind. A bolt of lightning shot out of the frantic clouds, striking the Guardian several times. And, amid all this, the Guardian seemed to take on a new light of his own...

Monomolecular cried as a pebble, seared hot by the wind, slapped his right earflap and scored it. He looked at the parchment and yelled the spell again, to no avail. He simply could not muster the magic.

Bane Wing was trying to circle high overhead, but was caught in the increasing whirlwind. Astral was tossed around, and knocked out of formation.

There was a sudden BOOM-WOOSH, and a fireball erupted from the dais. Astral, caught at the edge, felt a searing flash of pain as a tendril of flame burnt his wing. He fell to the earth in a short arc, howling.

Further in, Morbius caught the fireball full on. He only felt a momentary flash of heat before the world went dark.

Bane wheeled around at the sight of Astral falling to the earth, and Peates tried to follow, but the expanding fireball caught up to him. He felt the fire scorch his tail, then his legs. In an angry rage he tossed a white object to the ground; it landed next to the Core just as his wings were seared. In a final scream of fury felt the skin on his face sizzle before his world too went dark.

Bane and Geo managed to catch Astral in mid fall as the fireball burned itself out. They lowered the injured dragon behind their own lines, whispering words of encouragement, but they knew that, even with magical aid, Astral would never fly again.

The pass was as silent as if life had never existed there. Bodies of goblins and dragons and humans alike, burned to ashes, lined the floor of the pass. A stench of roasted meat wafted past the Avatar, and he did what any sane man in his position would do, and did it all over the rocks below.

Far below, on the blackened dais, a golden creature shifted and stood. He looked around at the destruction and cackled. He raised a hand and blasted apart a distant mountain peak, then grinned.

"We are one!" it yelled in a cascading duet of voices. "We have the power, and the knowledge! We are Exodus!" the golden beast screamed.

"He's still as ugly as ever," coughed Immortal as he reproportioned reagents.

With a stroke of Exodus's hands, eighty men fell, victims of a Mindblast spell, brains strewn around at random. Another stroke, and a ball of rock caught Geo in the back of the head. He fell, never knowing what hit him. Another ball hit Bane, crushing one wing.


Monomolecular was beyond rage now, at the sight of his friends' injuries. He roared a silent curse to the Great Fate Spirit, then shoved a bewildered Immortal out of the way and headed for Black Wolf, who was reloading his triple crossbow.

"What now?" he yelled over the din of Exodus's attacks.

"Thou hast the blood of the Ancient Dragons," Mono yelled back. "There is something thou must do!"

"Anything!" Black Wolf replied.


Astral cried and shrieked as Imbrium tended to his wing, finally smearing it with a weed that killed pain. She next turned to the maimed form of Bane, shuddering at the sight of the bleeding stump of a left wing. She did all she could to stabilize him, then had several other dragons carry them back to Highlock, a twenty minute flight.

Geo was unconscious, with fractures to the neck and skull. Morbius and Peates had both burned to death in the fireball; their bodies were lying side by side, scorched, still smoking, died having known that they had fulfilled an ancient prophecy. Imbrium, though, didn't know; with a cry of anger and loss, she hurled a stone at an old goblin that had somehow strayed too far from his camp. The stone smashed the goblin's skull, sending his twitching form to oblivion.


"Jux'ai orta a'ylemi," Black Wolf was chanting. Nearby, a sphere of light was forming. "Isanct lor'a'a, sanct lor..."


The Avatar crouched low behind the stone, as if a few feet of rock would offer any protection from Exodus's lethal assault. Already he had witnessed an entire mountain crumble under the attack; he had watched, helpless, as the forces of beloved Britannia were swiftly decimated...


Immortal and Black Wolf were chanting to themselves, Mono noted. He shuffled quickly along the wall of the pass, avoiding Exodus's gaze with every step. Here...this spot would be perfect. He waited for Black Wolf's spell to take effect.


"Vax ani an jux'a yelor," Black Wolf shouted. "Anix anima sancti, dox nul iskar cra gaas. IN REL SANCTA YLOR YLEM!"

Up and down the pass, each and every dragon began to glow, faintly at first, then with an increasing silver radiance. Exodus paused, briefly, then continued his attack with renewed strength.


Monomolecular felt a strange tingling spread across his body. He looked and noticed that his hands were glowing bright silver.

The spell was working. A'ron's prophecy had been fulfilled after all; Black Wolf had the blood and the feel of the Ether as the Dragon ancients did.

With a mighty heave of effort, he jumped almost horizontally into a crazed dive.


Something had been nagging the Avatar recently. It was only until he remembered the scroll that he realized what it was. Swiftly unrolling it (surely THIS counted as 'dire need') he read the one word written on it aloud: DUCK


The Avatar puzzled over the word for a second. Duck? Of all the times for the Time Lord to show a sense of humor. Then, suddenly, it hit him.

Or rather, it DIDN'T hit him; it just rocketed over his head with inches to spare as he hurled himself to the ground: a large, silvery-black thing with wings.

He watched in astonishment as Monomolecular hurled himself down the pass, then ripple from one point to another in the hallmark shimmer of a Blink spell.


Black Wolf pointed at Monomolecular as he teleported at high speed. Immortal could do nothing but gape.


Monomolecular saw a human, red-clad, flatten himself out of the way as he soared down the hill. Closing his eyes, he willed the power to work, and a thing was in his hands. A second later, he felt the familiar rushing-wind sensation of teleportation. He opened his eyes and grinned against the wind, shrieking wildly. The golden thing flashed close, then he felt a bone-jarring impact.


Exodus watched, amused, as a man's intestines exploded at his feet. Just then, there was a flash of light nearby. He turned and was hit, hard...


Lord British and Spence cried as one, down on the floor of the pass, at what they had just seen. It was impossible. They barely noticed the Avatar scrambling up to them; what had just occurred up on the dais was too stunning to accept as true.

One of the dragons had hurled himself down the hill, then teleported to a location a few feet from Exodus. He had hit the golden beast at what was nearly eighty miles an hour, striking him broadside with a white object...

Lord British, Spence, and the Avatar watched Exodus and Monomolecular grapple on the ground, a full six hundred feet from where Exodus had been standing prior to the impact. They saw their chance, and took it. Hands high, they began chanting...


"FOOL!" Exodus roared, not noticing a splinter of something stuck in his ribs, and Mono felt his hot breath on his neck. "YOU CANNOT BEST ME!" the golden beast screamed, and with a mighty punch Mono felt, dimly, himself being hurled across the pass.

But his strengths were not depleted.

In one last move before unconsciousness took him, Monomolecular willed a large stone to smash the glowing Core on the pedestal. Then, all went black.


"NOOOOOOOOOOO!" Exodus shrieked as the Dark Core exploded into a hundred tiny slivers. He felt as if he was on fire; felt a raging hurricane in his mind, didn't feel his strength draining through a small point in his ribs.

With a shocking suddenness, he fell to the ground, screaming, as all the knowledge of Exodus, shattered, left him. He stood, weakly...the Guardian once more.


Denis Garriot Ladyman, Lord British, and Patrick Edgar Spence stood at the vertices of an invisible triangle. They had called upon a powerful magic to defeat the Guardian; one so powerful that only one of Earth could cast it.


The Guardian staggered back up onto the dais, studying the shattered remains of the Dark Core with detached curiosity. He reeled back under a sudden blast from the Avatar; a blow which snapped him back to his senses.

"I'm shattered," he mocked, launching a ball of rock at the Avatar. Other than making him wince slightly under the impact, it had no harmful effect. The Guardian frowned at the unexpected failure and tried a different tactic. "You haven't seen the last of me! Even WITHOUT Exodus I'm still stronger than you realize!"

"How strong?" challenged Spence.

"I can blast mountains apart with a gaze!" he boasted.

"Yes, yes," replied Lord British, attempting to seem singularly unimpressed. "We saw that. What ELSE can you do?"

"I CAN DO ANYTHING!" he yelled.

"You can?" spat the Avatar.


The Avatar looked at Spence and Lord British for a short moment, and when he turned a streamer of energy shot from his fingertips. "Then GO TO HELL!" the Avatar screamed.

The energy connected with the Guardian's body, and the red beast was lifted off the dais. There was, for a fleeting moment, spectral letters in midair, much to Spence's amusement: HACK MOVER...Y.

"STOOOOP!" the Guardian screamed.

"Had enough?" Spence taunted.


"I grow tired with you, Guardian," spat the Avatar. With a shriek of fury, the Guardian was thrown through the air, down into the moongate. With a flash and a wrenching howl of twisted space, the Moongate, and all the evil creatures in the pass, were gone.


Monomolecular awoke a moment later, to eerie quiet. Was this the afterlife? he wondered. Am I in the Mountain? What of those dreams? Something had happened...

"Mono?" said a voice, very near. He turned his head and looked up at a familiar face.


"He's alive!" Imbrium called, helping Monomolecular to his feet. Mono redressed his armor (it had somehow slipped during the impact).

"Is it over?" he asked, still slightly dazed.

"It's over," said the Avatar. "We won."

"Good." Mono looked up, and said. "The sun is out. I am weary. I am going home."


"Spectacle. Dark Vengeance. Morbius. Peates. Dead..."

Slowly, without inflection, Rendell read off the names of the dragons that had perished in the battle. Monomolecular cried profusely during the service; many of the dragons named had been good friends of his.

"These Dragons died while protecting their land. They died with honor. We shall remember them always."

"Flames," ordered Umbrae, and the fifteen dragons lit off, one by one, setting the funeral pyres for the deceased.

"Great Spirit Under the Mountain, take these souls in Honor. Be as good to them in death as they were to us in life. Let them rest with the knowledge that their lives were not wasted. En'ai."

"En'ai," the dragons said.


Monomolecular stood on the weyr floor, looking at the burnt spots where only a few hours earlier the pyres had burned.

"Art thou all right?" asked Karma.

"They shouldn't have died, Kah'rmaa. They died too soon."

"Thou didst all that thou could'st. 'Twas very brave of thee, what thou didst."

"'TWAS MY FAULT!" Monomolecular roared. "If I had asked Black Wolf to cast the spell earlier, Morbius and the rest would have survived!"

"Ono'mekkhlyr," said Karma. Mono looked up; Karma had never called him by his birthname before. "Mono, look. They fulfilled the Great Prophecy. They died to protect what they loved. That is the biggest sacrifice of all."

"Leave me," said Mono. "I want to be alone."


He was rather unable to sleep that night. His dreams were filled with visions: Geo, lying wounded on the ground. Vengeance, roasted to a cinder in the Guardian's first assault. Peates, being slowly consumed by the fireball, his death-knell echoing through the air...

He awoke in a cold sweat. It was still dark out, but the room seemed unnaturally bright.

"There still is hope," said a voice.

Mono turned slowly to look at a shifting blue cloud, with a human face.

"There is a future for your race now, Mono, and you can give it to them."

"Who art thou?" Mono asked the vision.

"I am many," replied the face. "Some know me as the Time Lord. You know me as the Spirit of Fate. To still others I represent Balance."

"What can I do?"

"What you must, to finish the prophecy of A'ron for once and for all," the voice replied, and Mono was alone.


The fragments of the Core had been painstakingly gathered and the Core reassembled on the weyr floor. Monomolecular watched, uninterested, as the Gargoyle lens and the Britannian lenses were erected to each side.

The dragons and Britannians had been puzzled; they had managed to rebuild the Core, but one fragment was still missing. None knew its whereabouts, and none cared. As long as the Core was not whole, it was worthless.

The fires were lit, and the Core vanished into the Void.


The stabbing pain in his leg awoke Mono later that night. He groped around until his fingers encountered a hard, solid object imbedded deeply in his flesh. With a grunt of pain, he pulled it out.

He laughed. Of course. It was the missing fragment. It had imbedded itself in his leg when the Core exploded, and he had covered it up when he had adjusted his armor.

He screamed detachedly at the sight of the blood gushing from his thigh, a scream which brought dragons running. Swiftly, he hid the Last Shard in his bed, and was smiling as the dragons carried him off to the sickwey.


In ancient times there was a Dragon known as Monomolecular. He had fought in the great War of Union, many years ago.

The war left many of his friends dead. Monomolecular grieved, for he had loved them dearly, and had not wanted to see them go.

Then, in a vision, he saw the Great Spirit of Fate, and he knew what needed to be done.

He took the Last Shard of Exodus and left the weyr. For a sen'night he walked, bathed in the tears of his own sorrow, until he came to the Holiest Mountain at Cove. And there, on the floor of the Temple of Compassion, he made a plea to the Spirit of Those Under the Mountain.

And he said, Spirit, take my soul so that my friends may live once again! With this Shard, I show my dedication until thee!" And he took the Last Shard and pierced his own throat, and bled his life-blood upon the sacred soil.

The Spirits took pity, for in the ultimate act of Compassion on the ground his Kin had destroyed in combat, he too had performed the ultimate sacrifice: just as his friends had given their lives to protect what they loved, so had Monomolecular given his life for love of his friends.

But the Spirit would not take him, for he was so generous with his life and his love that it would not allow him to depart from his destiny so soon.

And the Spirit of Fate took him, and said 'Thou didst prove thy love for thy friends. Thou shalt be returned to the Weyr, to guide the new lives of thy Kin.'

And so it was done.

For once and for all.

-==O THE END O==-

[Note made upon the completion of the editing: As I think about it, perhaps the Tale of Monomolecular is more prophetic in itself...considering everything I felt for the old club.]

Monomolecular would like to thank all the Dragons that inspired him to write this story, especially Gold Dragon (Doug Ricket) for creating the Dragons in the first place. He would also like to thank his close friends for simply being that. Most of all, he would like to thank Richard Garriot, creator of the Ultima series, for giving him something to write about. 

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