The Tale Of Hunter Dragon

by Hunter Dragon, a.k.a. Derek R. Huff

(Note: The original form of this had music which can be found here courtesy of Fenyx Dragon.

Chapter 1

The warm breeze rippled Hunter's shirt as he stood on the dock, staring out over the slightly waving waters. The waves lapped peacefully on the sandy shore and some seagulls cried out as they passed overhead. The southern shore of the largest of the Valorian Islands had never seemed so peaceful.

Hunter closed his eyes and forced himself to remember the cold gray cliffs of the Serpent's Spine and the Weyrmount. He had long ago left the caverns of his home and migrated south to the islands in the southwest of Britannia. He smiled as the breeze stirred his hair satisfyingly. He maintained his human form now as he had for a long time. On the inside, the ferocity of a dragon still roared out, but today was quietly still. The kind of stillness that usually preceded a storm. As he opened his eyes, he could see the distant outline of a ship on the horizon. "Company's coming." He said out loud to no one in particular.

With a quick turn, he strode off the dock and headed back to Jhelom.

Hunter's place was a hangout for rugged adventurous types. Lately, however, most of the clientele had been the retired of washed up adventurers who lived in town. Hunter entered and made his way toward the back. His adopted daughter, Kristin had been running the shop that afternoon and had not expected Hunter back so soon.

Hunter smiled at Kristin when he entered. The air was full of smoke from the many dark tables scattered around the common room. Hushed voices seemed to give the smoke a life of its own sometimes. Hunter didn't mind that somewhat disreputable types used his Place for unusual transactions occasionally, but with the arrival of visitors to the islands, the town guards liked to frequent the local gathering places to ensure that no one got out of hand.

Hunter's Place wasn't truly an inn, more of a social gathering place for adventurers to take refuge in for a time. There was a truce in effect here. The building was out of the true jurisdiction of the town guards, this making it an ideal place for people to meet and buy or sell otherwise items ranging form treasured items form various adventures to extremely contraband items and information.

Kristin looked around the room and shrugged at Hunter. She went back to keeping an eye on things. Most of the time things went well here, but every once in a while ... well, things got a bit out of control. That's why she kept a Great Dagger at her side carefully hidden within the folds of her skirt. One can't be too careful in these dark times.

Indeed the times were dark. The lands were overrun by fools following the Fellowship's way of thinking and hearing an "Inner Voice" that kept telling them ridiculous things. That and the return of the Avatar from his world for ...Hunter thought for a minute...Having been alive and "in the Game" since way back when Mondain had tried to rule the land with that dang Immortality Gem, let's see. Hmmmmmmm.

Hunter shrugged. It didn't matter how many times the Avatar had been to this world. Every time the Avatar showed up, there was trouble. Now he had come to Jhelom to visit with his companions Iolo and Shamino and dragging some kid named Spark, who, Hunter noticed, had a tendency to be hungry all the time and hide behind trees and bushes when the Avatar tried to board his that carpet. Anyway, when the Avatar had left, he had taken Sir Dupre with him. That was the first sign of trouble. Now the land itself told Hunter's dragon senses that something very wrong was afoot in Britannia.

He crossed the room and hung up his cloak on the rack behind the counter. Kristin came to stand beside him and he told her of the ship he had seen. She nodded and disappeared into the back. Good girl, thought Hunter. She knows when to check the provisions.

Ships coming to the Valorian Islands usually meany either people coming to visit the Shrine of Valor or adventurers seeking information or training from the best adventurers in all Britannia. Either way, they would be coming to Hunter's Place. One way or another, everyone wound up coming to Hunter's Place eventually.

Kristin returned after a short while from the back. She had dust on her skirt and a smile on her face. "We have all the supplies we need for now." Her sweet voice sung in Hunter's ears. Some of the patrons even turned her way when she spoke. She just seemed to have that effect on people usually all the time. Hunter just nodded and returned to his musings.

Every time he saw Kristin he remembered when they first met. She was only about five at the time. Her mother and father had been pilgrims to the Shrine and had meditated at four of the great Shrines all over Britannia. They were followers of the old ways, those of the Avatar. Their ship had crashed on the rocky shores of the small Island which held the Shrine and Kristin had held on to a small section of the ship and had washed up on the shore of the main island. Hunter had been on a flight in his Dragon body that morning, enjoying the beautiful sunrise following the night's storm and had spotted the child with his sharp Dragon eyes. He swooped down and changed back into his Human form and had taken the girl back to town. With the deaths of her parents, Hunter was named the girl's caretaker. He accepted the role with more curiosity than anything else. That had been fifteen years before and the young girl had grown into the most beautiful woman on the Island. Waist length red hair and a fair complexion marked her as being not native to the region. However, Kristin was no frolicking maiden like those of some other towns. She was solidly build, well formed and trained by the best fighters on the Island. They had all volunteered to train her just to get a chance to be close to her. Hunter smiled. Kristin was also a reason that people came to Hunter's Place. With a body like that, some people murmured that she should go to work at the Baths on Bucaneer's Den, but the didn't say it too loudly. She was more than likely to beat the stuffing out of them over such slanderous remarks. She was indeed a true resident of Jhelom. Tough. Cunning. Deadly. Some said that if she were a man, she would be the most feared in all Britannia for her fighting abilities. Those were the ones who had never seen her fight. Hunter guessed that her skills made her one of the best in the world. Why she wanted to stay on the island, he never could guess.

Kristin's parents were probably from the mid to northern regions of Britannia. Hunter often mused over where Kristin's parents were from. Perhaps Cove? It would seem appropriate for the most beautiful woman in all the Valorian Islands to be from the town dedicated to beauty, love, and romance. Empath Abbey could be the only other place that Hunter knew about that could be the girl's original home. All Hunter knew for certain was that she had made this her home now. And here she would stay.

The sun had set and the common room had grown more crowded. Evening and night time were usually when the Place got the most crowded. It was an unusually large crown tonight. The new ships had docked a few hours before and dispatched perhaps fifty or more adventurers into Jhelom. Most had heard of Hunter's Place and had decided to try it out. Ale was made available to most, while some just sat and played a game of stones on a board. A local boy strummed the lute in the corner. Steven was his name. He had been kicked out of the local inn and had come to Hunter in poverty. Hunter had given him an evening job providing quiet music for the patrons.

Kristin had her hands full taking and filling orders for provisions. She had been correct that the storerooms were stocked. Hunter watched and assisted when necessary as money exchanged hands for lockpicks, bedrolls and the such. Every now and then, she would refer someone to Hunter for a trade in jewels or gold nuggets. Such things were unusual but accepted. He would simply have to fly them to Britain City and trade with the Mint and the Jeweler. Good money could be made there.

One particularly nasty-looking man caught Hunter's attention, however. He had been standing near the exit in a shadow with the hood of his cloak pulled over his head. If Hunter had been a normal human, he would have missed the scar on the man's face which stretched from the man's left ear to his right jaw. He scowled as he found someone looking at him and turned away into the shadows.

Hunter shrugged. A lot of disreputable types hung around in the common room tonight. He kept scanning the room for the scarred man, however.

Time passed quickly and the hour grew late. Kristin had gone to bed after a long day and Hunter, with his usual abundance of Dragon energy, kept the Place open until closing time. After the last patron left for the night, Hunter's Place not being an inn, Hunter carefully closed and locked the doors. He blew out the last light source and, in complete darkness, walked up to the upper level where he and Kristin slept, albeit in separate rooms.

Upon reaching the Kristin's door, however, Hunter felt a slight breeze as he passed her door. He paused and knocked quietly.

"Kristin..." Hunter whispered into the wood. With no response, he gently opened the door so that if she were asleep, he wouldn't awaken her. If there was one thing Hunter had learned about humans in his years, it was that they did not like to be awakened in the middle of the night.

He pushed the door open and was shocked to find that she was not in attendance. He threw the door open and halted at the sight before him.

Kristin's room had been ransacked. Her clothes had been thrown around the room as if someone had been searching for something. Her window had been forced open and her bedsheets ripped. Using his Dragon senses, Hunter searched the room for familiar scents. At once he knew there had been foul play at hand. Kristin's scent told him the remainder of what had happened. She had been taken by force. There had no sign of a fight, so Hunter presumed that she had been taken unconscious. Kristin's fighting ability was not one to be taken lightly.

Hunter searched the room and caught another scent. One that had been masked. The scar faced man had such a scent. He hadn't paid much attention to it earlier, but the man had a very light scent ... almost as if he had been trying to hide it.

With a howl, Hunter spun around. A glint of metal caught his eye. He raced to Kristin's bed and pulled back the sheets.

There, lying just under the sheets was a Fellowship medallion. They were common enough in Britannia, but this particular medallion had the scent of the scar-faced man. Hunter lifted it up and examined it. Could Kristin have pulled it off the man in a struggle? The medallion showed no sign of abuse. Hunter turned it over and stood shocked. There, etched on the back of the medallion quite clearly was a circle with a star in it. A pentagram. The symbol of the ancient evil. An ancient evil that threatens the land. Perhaps this was the reason the Avatar was sent for. Perhaps...

Hunter's thoughts returned to Kristin. His adopted daughter had been taken by the Fellowship. Perhaps even by the Evil One. At the least by this scar-faced man. A man who had intentionally tried to mask his scent. But why would...

His thoughts halted abruptly. The scar-faced man knew that someone or something could find him by scent. And he had taken much effort to prevent that from happening. Only dogs, and some other animals could track by scent. Dogs, and wolves, and...Dragons.

Dragons. The scar-faced man knew that Hunter was a Dragon. He spun around and raced to the window. The stars shone dimly from the heavens. Trammel was rising in the east. The scent was a little stronger outside.

Hunter leaped out of the second story window and changed form in mid-air. He landed with a great thump on the ground and scanned the night sky for any sign of the man's trail. Nothing. Hunter looked down at his forepaw and saw that he still clutched the medallion in it. "Kristin!" He called out into the night. There was no response.

With considerable effort Hunter opened his mighty wings and spread them out gently. There had been a price to be paid for remaining in human form for too long at a time. His wings were sore and stiff from disuse. It was several minutes before he could leap into the air and begin his search for his missing daughter. In time, he was consumed by the darkness of the night sky.

With the morning light ebbing on the horizon, Hunter sat on the beach to the southeast of Jhelom. The black and gray scales of his Dragon body began to gleam dully in the morning twilight. After a night of endless searching, he had determined that his daughter had been taken through the moongate and away from the island. Her scent trail had been lost at the site of the gate. She could be anywhere now.

It was with a sigh of resignation that Hunter Dragon lifted into the air once again and turned toward the north. He needed help now. He needed friends he could trust to aid him in his quest. Hunter sped along as fast as the rising thermals could take him. Toward the Serpent's Spine. Toward the Weyrmount. Toward home.

Chapter 2

The Weyrmount appeared to Hunter as only a speck in the distance at first. He would have known it anywhere, though. The tallest mountain in the range of Serpent's Spine. It had been along flight back to his ancestral home. Now Hunter's aching wings needed to rest. He scanned the plains below him. If he crossed the southernmost section of the Spine now, he could find a spot on the west, perhaps a field near the forest surrounding Yew. Well, southern Yew at least. It wasn't wise for a dragon to get too near any human settlements.

With a swoop, Hunter turned toward the west. The sun glared in his eyes for a moment before he sought refuge in the lower altitudes. He caught a thermal and rose up out of the lower altitudes, skimming the mountain range with the finesse of apracticed master. Hunter smiled and chuckled to himself. It had been a long time since he had traveled so far in his Dragon body.He needed a rest and he needed it badly.

It was with a loud thump that Hunter set down on the ground to the west of the Serpent's Spine. He dropped to his knees and made the change back to his Human form. The stress of the change was a bit too much for Hunter in his weakened condition. As his Human body dropped to the ground, he lost consciousness with his last thoughts of his beloved daughter.

Hunter awoke with the morning light. With the mountains between himself and the rising sun, there was merely a twilight effect which made the clearing a bit brighter and a bit warmer.

He stirred and slowly pushed himself from the ground. The air seemed to be a bit warmer than he had anticipated for morning. With a slow turn, Hunter turned over to stare into the eyes of an enormous dragon.


Hunter instinctively rolled and changed back into Dragon form.The shock of a sudden change took the wind out of him and he fell face first onto the ground.

"Sooth, I did not mean to..." The other dragon began, "Here, let me help thee." He reached out a paw to assist Hunter back to his hindpaws. "There. Hmmmm. I do not believe that I know thee."

"I've been away for a while." Hunter scratched the back of his massive head with his forepaw.

"Just how long, praytell?"

Hunter added the years up in his head. "Perhaps one hundred years, give or take a decade."

"One hundred years!?" The dragon shook his head. "How were you able to survive... How did you remain in that puny form for..." The dragon stared into Hunter's eyes. "It matters not. I welcome thee home, er..."

"Hunter. Hunter Dragon"

"Then welcome home, Hunter Dragon. I am called Bones."

Hunter and Bones gained altitude as they crossed the Serpent's Spine and headed toward the Weyrmount. Hunter examined Bones carefully. He had left the Mount so long ago, he didn't know this dragon, but he seemed to be a noble one, even if he did talk funny. Bones Dragon was of wiry build, not too small, but not overly large either. His scales were of a dullish silver and they glistened somewhat in the morning sunlight. Bones was a member of the scouts of the Weyrmount. Due to the number of dragon-hunters in Britannia, the Dragons were forced to send out scouts to ensure the safety of the Mount.

Hunter's mind raced through these thoughts as well as memories of the Weyrmount itself. He remembered the friends he had left behind and wondered if any had survived the century or more that he had been gone. His thoughts drifted to his mate. His beloved Marian, she who had been his life before her demise. She had vanished one day while out searching for a missing island. Hunter had been too busy that day to join her and had been assisting afriend dragon in an experiment involving, well... It was a painful memory, that day was. He remembered being called before the Grand Council and being told that Marian was missing. A patrol had seen her fly a mysterious cloud and vanish. No trace of her had been seen again. Hunter had left to search for her at once. He never found her. Her trail simply ended. The Council had...The Council! Surely they would punish him for abandoning the Weyrmount.

"Bones!" Hunter hissed. The other dragon turned his head to listen. "Will the Council know of my return, or can I simply conduct my business in the Weyrmount and leave?"

This comment seemed to bring out a roar of laughter from the other dragon. "The council? The COUNCIL!? HA! The Grand Council was abolished some time ago. You have been away for a while, haven't you!"

Hunter let his thoughts drift for a while. With the Council gone, there would be no one to punish him for his long absence from the Mount. He was safe to return. Still, he needed assistance from the other Dragons in finding Kristin. There was also thematter of the mysterious Fellowship medallion and the return of the Evil One.

As the two dragons approached the Weyrmount, Hunter followed Bones toward the main entrance. Hunter felt as though he were being watched and probably was as he and Bones flew easily through the main entrance and through the large cavern which was home tothe many residents of the Weyrmount.

The two dragons came to rest near a small group of dragons who were engrossed in conversation. Hunter turned briefly in their direction as Bones left him to report in to his captain.

"...and so Lord British's anger was directed at Sir Geoffrey for touching his fork. And lo, did the mighty lord zot the knightfor his offense..."

"He zotted him? Who did he think he was, the Usenet Oracle?"

"What's a Usenet?"

"I think it's something the humans use to catch fish with."

"What's this about an Oracle?"

"Does it taste good?"

The elder dragon cleared his throat and the younger dragons quieted down. "Lord British used an An Flam spell and fried Sir Geoffrey for his offense. Allright?"


"Anyway, he realized what he had done and resurrected him and..."

Hunter stopped listening at that point. He had left the Mount because of all the inane chatter that went on. Such tales of humans and their adventures had once upon a time enticed him out into the world of men to live among them and see for himself after the death of his mate. Now, such things seemed commonplace.

This in itself brought a curl to Hunter's lips. The young dragons would not be allowed out of the Mount for at least ten years after hatching. They would not be able to see all the wonders that the world had to offer for quite some time yet. In away, Hunter envied them. Such stories did seem enticing.

"Come on." Bones urged him forward. "We'll want to talk toone of the elder dragons." Hunter followed along behind Bones for quite some distance into the Weyrmount. Through many caverns and caves the pair traveled. Bones wasn't much of a conversationalist.

Eventually the pair entered a cavern of modest size and filed with crystals of all shapes and sizes. Along the walls, gems glittered in the dim light coming from the center of the room. It was the center of the room which Hunter noticed next. It was occupied by a throw rug and a table which held scrolls and books ofall shapes and sizes. Behind that table sat an elderly dragon. His once gleaming green scales sat upon him as armor on a skeleton of a dragon. His ribs protruded from his belly and a pair of spectacles like those worn by older humans sat balanced on his snout.

"Greetings Ancient One." Bones bowed before the elder dragon.

"Eh? Who are you calling Ancient. Ancient One indeed. My name happens to be Vere'ol. Vere'ol Dragon. Ancient indeed. Pah." The dragon spat in Bones direction.

Bones turned to his companion. "He's in a feisty mood today."He whispered.

"I heard that."

"Sorry. I have brought someone to see thee. He says his name is Hunter. Hunter Dragon."

The old dragon looked up from the scroll he was studying fora moment. He studied Hunter briefly and a look of recognition crossed his face for a moment. "Oh yes. The one whose mate went off and disappeared without a trace. What was that, a few years ago?"

Hunter stared at Vere'ol. "It was over a hundred years ago."

The elder looked puzzled and shrugged, as far as a dragon can shrug. "A few years, a hundred years, at my age, who can tell the difference."

Bones interrupted. "Ancien... er, Vere'ol, Hunter has a problem that needs the attention of an, er, scholar such as yourself." He nudged Hunter forward.

Hunter presented the Fellowship medallion to the elder dragon and proceeded to tell him the tale of the kidnapping of his adopted daughter and the strange medallion left in her place. He showed him the pentagram on the reverse side and Vere'ol's eyes lit up.

"Sooth. This is something." Vere'ol examined the medallion more closely. "This metal reeks with the mark of evil. It reminds me of something... Oh yes, the ancient Evil One. Yes, now where did I put that scroll." He turned and commenced a search through an old chest of scrolls and papers. "Here it is. Yes, this is it indeed." The dragon held up a weathered scroll almost dark brown from age. "This is the story of an Evil from ancient times."

Hunter and Bones sat down and listened as the old man began his tale.

"It was many centuries ago. Long before Lord British came to our land. Long before Mondain ever wielded the Gem of immortality. Long before the race of men ever sought refuge in these lands. There were dragons. The dragons of old were protectors of our land. Protectors of the four continents of the world. They were sworn to defend this world from the evils which threatened it. The evils which came from other worlds.

"These evils sought to dominate the land using magicks unknown to the dragons of the day. The Evil Ones used pentagrams such as this," he held up the medallion, " to wield their foul magicks against our ancestors. They found a way of using, let me see..." He studied the manuscript again. "Some kind of obelisk of rock, black in color to cross over. Only one made it and it was enough. It took all the dragons of the day to force it into leaving the four lands. Even then, the number of dragons who fell in the battle were staggering. The obelisk was destroyed by the intervention of a mysterious being known as the Time Lord, a mystical being who appeared from out of nowhere in his wondrous blue obelisk and destroyed the gate. He gave the dragons the mission to hold the lands until others could come to join in the sacred trust. The chronicle strangely states little about the TimeLord. Only that he had a passion for justice and a strange delicacy called a jelly baby."

Vere'ol closed the scroll and returned it to the chest. He turned and faced his visitors. "This trust has been kept for centuries, aye, millennia. As long as can be remembered. And now it passes to you both."



"Yes, you. Both of you. I charge you both with stopping this Evil from entering the land. This time, the Evil One fights not only the Dragons of Britannia, but the humans as well. And the Avatar."

Hunter raised his head. "I didn't know that you knew the Avatar was in Britannia."

Vere'ol smiled and smoke curled from his nostrils. "I am not as senile as you might think."

Hunter and Bones made their way back to the main cavern of the Weyrmount. Neither was in a mood to talk. Hunter merely held the medallion in his paw and considered the charge given to them by Vere'ol. To stop the Evil One from entering Britannia. He thought about the last thing Vere'ol had said to him. He had taken Hunter aside briefly and told him that the Ether had been corrupted, but that it had told him one thing. That the quest to find Kristin and to stop the Evil One were one and the same. This seemed to darken Hunter's mood even more.

The light of the exit tunnel grew brighter as Hunter and Bones walked toward the exit into Britannia. Hunter briefly turned toward the group of dragons still talking in a group in the corner of the cavern.

"And I say that the fork holds some sort of religious significance in the story."

"Then thou art a fool."

"Who art thou calling a fool?"

"Pah, I should zot thee!"

"Zot away."

Hunter turned away and found Bones staring at the group as well. He turned to Hunter and shrugged that dragon shrug once again. "Let us go. It is a silly place."

Hunter followed Bones out. "That is why I didn't want to come back."

As the sun sank behind the mountains of the Serpent's Spine, two dragons could be seen winging their way east toward Britain.

Chapter 3

Hunter and Bones flew through the night toward the city of Britain. Britain was the only town in Britannia large enough to be called a city. It had survived in some form since the days when Mondain the wizard tried to take over the world. The four continents were all accessible back then. The Dragons flew where they chose and did as they wished. That was before the age of man came fully about. When mankind began to spread to all the places in the world, the Time Lord managed to cut off the other continents from man. Hunter was still not certain how the Time Lord had done this, only that he had been able to stop man's expansion into the other lands.

Hunter's mind wandered for a moment. Marian had been trying to find a way to get to the other continents. It had been her dream to leave the others far behind and for Hunter and herself to fly away to a place where they could live in peace and raise a family. A family... Hunter's thoughts of Marian were always fond memories, but now he had another in his mind. Kristin. He pictured her for a moment, strong, courageous, standing on the shore of the largest Valorian Island, her waist-length red hair blowing in the wind and her small hand resting on the hilt of her favorite sword. Hunter smiled. He was proud of his daughter, even if she wasn't a dragon. For a human, she was truly one of a kind.

Bones broke Hunter's concentration. "We're almost there, my comrade." He smiled and motioned toward the tiny lamp lights of Britain ahead.

Hunter nodded and returned his mind to the present. There was the matter of the ancient evil which threatened Britannia. Lord British had to be informed. The Dragons had been fiercely loyal to their Lord even after the fiasco's of the past. Dragons and humans had never been the closest of friends, but the Dragons recognized British as the undisputed ruler of Britannia. He was also protected from the ravages of time somehow. He had been the ruler of a small territory during the time of Mondain. It was he who had summoned the hero of legend who would become the Avatar in time. British protected the lands and wielded his great authority and power wisely. Some of the Dragons didn't want a ruler. The Dragon Liberation Front was under the impression that the land would be better off with British deposed. The Protectors of Virtue and Lord British were fierce defenders of their human monarch. The newest faction of the Dragons, the Dragons Front of Britannia accepted British and really didn't are one way or the other who ruled. Bones was the head of that particular faction and had lectured Hunter on the DFB's policies of acceptance throughout the night.

It passed the time, but now, the light of the pre-dawn twilight began to brighten the land up a bit and the two dragons decided it would be time to land and rest before seeking an audience with Lord British.

Carefully and with precision, the two massive bodies glided down to the ground and landed with two gentle thumps in a field west of Britain city. Bones turned his head and checked for signs of life but found none.

"Indeed, the coast is clear, my friend." He shape-shifted to his human form, that of a young man in his early twenties clad in the blue robes of a magic user. His jet black hair hung half waydown his back and he touched his head in mild pain. "Sooth! The ether is very bad this morning. Me thinks the magick is slowly being polluted by something." He turned to the changing Hunter. "For months now the ether has shown signs of wearing thin, but this morning it seems quite bad. As if something is poisoning it intentionally."

Hunter finished the change to his human form. His wavy medium long brown hair hung shoulder length and his black clothes offset the sword he strapped around his waist.

Bones eyed the blade questioningly. "Surely you are not thinking of using THAT in combat." Hunter nodded. Bones shook his head and sat down in the dew covered grass. "Been 'round 'umans too long 'e has." Bones muttered and stretched out for a nap.

Hunter lay down in the grass. Thoughts of the journey passes momentarily through his mind before he passed gently into the embrace of sleep.

By mid-morning, the pair had entered the city and made their way among the common people of the city. Loud noises hurt their sensitive dragon hearing and the multitude of smells hurt their dragon noses. And such horrible scents. The presence of storm drains in the city didn't help to alleviate the odor of the dung laden streets or the filthy peasants who occupied lower Britain.

As they walked north, the city cleaned up a bit. The streets got cleaner and the stench of smelly peasants diminished, but didn't fade completely.

Their trip to the castle gates was long and by mid-day, they had finally arrived at the portcullis, where they were met by a burly guard.

Hunter stepped forward.

"Name." The guard called out.

Hunter paused. "Er, Hunter."

"Not job, I said NAME"

"Hunter is my name."

"Oh. Job then."

"Job? I'm a provisioner from Jhelom" Hunter began to grow impatient. The man was beginning to sound like the Avatar.

"Ok, Bye."

Hunter rolled his eyes. They walked into the courtyard of the castle. "That sounded like the Avatar is beginning to rub off on people." Bones laughed a hearty laugh and Hunter joined in.

People in the courtyard gave the pair strange looks before going about their business. One in particular stared openly at them and them came bounding over.

"Hi. I'm Chuck. Want to play the Game?"

"Er, no."

"You know it then?"

Bones interjected. "Go away, silly fool."

Chuckles giggled. "Tsk, tsk, thou hast not done well."

Hunter grabbed the jester by the collar and stared into his eyes. "I have no time for you now, fool. Go away and go away NOW!" Hunter emitted a dragon growl from the depths of his being.

Chuckles eyes widened in a surge of recognition. "A drago...An, er, a drag... er," The last come out as a whisper.

Hunter released the fool and Chuckles took off for the nearest door. The two dragon-humans looked at each other and shrugged.

After only an hour they were granted an audience with Lord British. Some farmer was having a problem with his orchard and needed assistance from Lord British. Apparently something had landed in his field and had been found by the farmer. The rider of the object had been found babbling something about killing some creature called a Rathi, or something and the farmer had taken it upon himself to eat it. Apparently he had brought the fur to Lord British in the form of a new cloak as a token of his affection for his monarch. Lord British had accepted the cloak and had listened to the farmer tell his tale for several hours while Hunter and Bones waited patiently.

When the farmer finally departed, the pair entered the King's audience chamber and approached the King.

"I greet thee, my loyal subjects. What May I do for thee?"

Hunter knelt and responded. "My liege, there has been aterrible occurrence in Jhelom."

Lord British sat and stared at Hunter. "What was a Dragon doing in Jhelom? I thought you stayed around the Weyrmount."

Hunter paused. He explained to Lord British the circumstances surrounding his departure form the Weyrmount and the loss of his mate. Lord British rubbed a tear from his eye before Hunter finished. "That was a touching story, but what of this terrible occurrence?" He interjected.

Hunter took a deep breath and related the tale of his adopted daughter's abduction and the tale of the strangely marked Fellowship medallion left behind. He then told the King of the tale told to him by Vere'ol Dragon.

Lord British rested his chin on his hand, stroking his beard gently. He seemed to be in deep thought. After contemplating the situation, he spoke at last. "I never suspected... Well, I shall at once send for Batlin, the leader of the Fellowship. He has some explaining to do. As for the missing girl, I would send the Avatar to search for her, but he just left a few days ago bound for a strange new island which rose from the ocean south of Vesper a weekpast." He stroked his beard again. "My dragon subjects, you have come a long way for help and I cannot give you any now. I shall inform my guards to be on the look out for this scar faced man and your daughter, but until the Avatar's return, I cannot truly do anything outside of Britain. I shall send word to the farthest reaches of the realm, but it will take weeks to hear back from them. By that time, she might be anywhere.

"I can however, give you the authority to find her by whatever means necessary." Here the king paused. "There is also the matter of the Evil which you described." He lowered his voice considerably so that only the dragons could hear him. "It seems that your quest and that of the Avatar are headed toward the same conclusion. I have not told anyone in order not to scare them, buta new threat has come to Britannia. A being is trying to enter our land. He challenged the Avatar in the Avatar's own world and brought him to Britannia unbeknownst to me. He may very well be the being described to you by your elder dragon."

With this, Lord British rose to his feet and stared the two dragon-humans in the eye. "I sympathize with your plight to find your missing daughter, but for now, the land needs you both. Seek out the Avatar. He shall know what to do. Failing that, you must do what you can to stop this evil."

Bones considered the charge for a moment. "My liege, how are we to accomplish such a feat?"

Lord British shrugged. "I know not, but 'tis my worst fear. A powerful foe that may have the power to take Britannia over completely. Even I have not the power to stop a being such as you describe. Perhaps not even the Avatar."

Hunter and Bones bowed and were dismissed. "Walk in Virtue, my loyal subjects." He shouted as they left.

The hour was growing late. The local inn seemed to be a refuge for Hunter, but Bones wanted to leave the city as soon as possible. They compromised by stopping at the Blue Boar for a drink.

Hunter hoisted a tankard of ale and downed the entire thing in a matter of moments. He let out a loud belch. Bones eyed him in disgust. He still felt edgy about being in Human form. A dragon's pride was in being a dragon. A powerful creature of might and magick. Dragons were not known for their humility, yet Hunter was being exceptionally humble as a Human.

"Didst thou hear about Batlin..."

Bones caught the conversation at the next table as Hunter's eyes widened. They began to eavesdrop on the couple sitting at the table.

"Indeed. He left so abruptly."

"Perhaps he went to the Island on a pilgrimage to contemplate his inner voice."

"Mayhap he did."

"What about our meeting tonight?"

"I suppose it is called off until his return."

Hunter turned back to Bones. "I think we should be leaving."

Bones shrugged. "Sooth, but why?"

Hunter nodded in the direction of the door. Several burly looking men had entered the room wearing their Fellowship medallions over their tunics. The first grabbed a barmaid and demanded drink for his friends. She squirmed in his clutches and tried to get away. The man simply laughed and pulled her close. His friends laughed.

The man never saw the bottle knocked at his head by the second barmaid. His friends immediately grabbed the second barmaid and began pushing her between them.

Hunter saw this and considered the consequences of interfering. He rose and drew his sword.

"Sooth! What art thou doing?"

Hunter looked at a shocked Bones. "I'm about to uphold Honor."

Bones rolled his eyes. "Tis the affairs of humans. Tis not our business."

Hunter ignored his companion. He turned his attention to the five men at the door.

"Worthiness precedes reward, you know." The first one said to his friends loud enough so that the entire common room could hear him. "And I think that we have been VERY worthy of late. Eh?"

The man laughed in a raucous laughter. They didn't notice Hunter until he was standing before them. "Excuse me."

The first man looked down at Hunter. "Shades, what do YOU want little man?" He laughed in Hunter's face. "Perhaps you think you are more worthy than I?"

Hunter considered the man's words. "I don't know what you're babbling about, but let the girl go."

The first man stopped laughing. He pushed the barmaid to his friends. "Thou dost not know... Hey boys, it wouldst seem that we have a nonbeliever among us." His friends stopped laughing. "Perhaps we should teach him a lesson in Fellowship manners."

Apparently the consensus was to thrash Hunter. Hunter stepped back and raised his blade. The man drew steel and shoved the barmaids behind them. Hunter braced himself for a fight.

"ENOUGH!" The amplified shout came from Bones. He stood with arms raised and the air shimmering with magick. "Unless thou art prepared to accept a Vas Flam up where the sun dost not shine, then let the females go and depart from this place, NOW!"

The men muttered to each other.

"I thought the mages were all mad."

"Nobody said anything about magick."

"Uh, name, no...job, no....Oh. BYE"

The burly men fled in terror. They were apparently brightenough not to challenge a prepared mage. Bones waited until theywere out the door and probably down the street a bit before releasing the magick. He sat down and ordered a drink.

Three more hours, the pair sat drinking fine Britannian ale free of charge until the common room was closed down. Hunter scanned the grandfather clock in the corner and decided that he had enough ale for the time being and both he and Bones nodded to each other and left the establishment.

After a brisk walk to the east, they passed the end of the paved roads and trudged through a farmer's field. At one end, a large silver object hovered a foot above the ground. The duo let it be and continued west.

Eventually they came across the moongate circle. The gate was not active and they turned north. When they thought they were far enough from human inhabited lands, they made the change to Dragonform and launched themselves into the sky.

Chapter 4

Hunter and Bones soared eastward toward the desert region of Britannia. The air was frigid in the northern altitude at this time of year. The northern part of the desert was covered by a sandstorm which faded from sight as the desert stretched south.

The two dragons spiraled down to a lower altitude and turned southward toward Vesper. Lord British had mentioned that the Avatar was headed toward an isle that had risen from the sea a week before. The dragons had hoped to catch the Avatar before he set sail aboard Lord British's Golden Ankh.

Unbeknownst to the dragons, they were observed from the ground, near the Shrine in the desert. A small group of figures huddled for protection against the raging sands inside the peaceful oasis of the Shrine.

One man in particular eyed the dragons with a snarl. He raised a lightning wand to the passing dragons. Hesitating, he merely observed as the pair flew slowly out of sight range. He motioned to the black robed mage in the party and fire sprung from the mage's fingers, "Vas Flam". The campfire sparked to life once again. The figures huddled around the fire once more.

The man put aside his lightning wand and turned to check on his precious cargo. The firelight flickered off of the scar on his face.

The mage examined the cargo carefully. "The In Zu spell has not worn off yet. I shall recharge it before it does...Not that it will matter much. There's nobody to hear her scream out here."

The scar-faced man nodded and checked the girl's gag and ropes to ensure that she was securely bound. Hook would be pleased. If they could make it to the Fellowship hideout without being caught. "Get some rest. We'll leave in the morning." He chuckled to himself as he fell asleep.

Outside the protection of the Shrine, the winds howled on.

It was almost daybreak when Hunter and Bones finally neared the town of Vesper. The two landed and changed form for the brisk walk south into town.

Bones had been strangely quiet since crossing the mountains into the desert. No dragon seriously enjoyed being in the wasteland of heat and sand, but it was necessary. Hunter noticed the look of apprehension in Bones' Human face as they walked. As for Hunter, during his long self-imposed exile from the Weyrmount, he had wandered across Britannia. He had been to seek the wisdom of the Shrines and found no sign of his lost love nor any accumulated wisdom to help him accept his situation. The Shrines of Britannia were no more help to him than a common rock was.

The walk was long and boring, and the town was awakening as the pair strode into it. They had already passed scores of miners, mostly human, but a few Gargoyles as well, headed off to mine the precious minerals needed by Britannia. Those that were not found in the Vesper mines were usually gotten in the few working mines elsewhere, but these particular mines were the source of the best steel for swords and amour in the land. The miners were a proud bunch. They didn't care much for anything but hard work and the rewards that came from it.

Vesper itself was an interesting town. When Hunter had first come across it almost a hundred years ago, the Gargoyle population had just begun to move in. That had sparked off the continued hate and violence between the two races living in Vesper.

Vesper had been thought lost following the nasty affair with Blackthorne over two hundred years previous.

(Editor's sheepish grin!)
The lands had seemingly swallowed it up and it was abandoned. With the shift in climate which followed the grasslands which formed the eastern most section of continental Britannia were wiped out by a lack of proper rainfall. In the years that followed, the town and Shrine were consumed by a desert which kept the townsfolk out until the Gargoyle underworld was lost. After this event, an expedition discovered a series of caves which became the property of the Britannian Mining Company. A new source of steel and precious minerals was found and the town slowly became repopulated. Soon thereafter, the Gargoyles arrived, homeless and in need of work. The B.M.C. were happy to put them to work in the mines and thereafter, the tensions between human and gargoyle ignited.

Bones and Hunter approached the docks on the south side of town when they realized their fears. The Golden Ankh was missing. The Avatar had already departed for the island Lord British had mentioned. The pair stood on the dock feeling dejected and between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

"Sooth." Bones cursed. "As if the flamin' heat wasn't enough. Now what're we going to do, eh?"

Hunter knelt on the dock. He could hear the waves lapping up on the wooden posts holding it up. It reminded him of Jhelom. He stood and shrugged to his companion. "I don't know. I just don't know."

In the recesses of a cave to the north of the Fellowship compound on a small island east of Serpent's Hold, Batlin kneels before a large black device which has punctured a hole in the ground in the center of the large cavern.

"My lord, there have been many strange things afoot. The Avatar has departed for an island that has risen from the ocean. The Dragons of Weyrmount have been sighted meeting with Lord British. I fear that things are unraveling as we speak. Help me!" Batlin dropped his face to the dust covered floor of the cavern. All he could hear was the hum of the device in the center of the room.

As he knelt, he pondered his situation. With the Avatar's departure he thought himself to be safe. However, the arrival of Hook's men in the night at the Fellowship house in Britain city with the girl had changed things. He had sent them to the old pirate encampment near Dagger Isle until things cooled off. Then, he fled only a few days before the Dragons had come searching for the missing girl. It had been a risk, but the Red Master had told him to bring her to the Black Gate at the appropriate time. Batlin wished he knew why.


The voice seemed to come from everywhere. Batlin was bowled over onto his rear in surprise. He quickly rolled his plump form over and pressed his well-trimmed goatee into the dusty floor once again. "Here, Lord."

The image of the Guardian seemed to waver in the air above the black object. Batlin sneaked a peek and instantly turned white with fear. He both feared his new found lord and coveted his powers as well. The Guardian eyed Batlin suspiciously. "Fear not the Avatar. He can do nothing to alter what is to come. Follow my commands and worry not about him." The Guardian stared down at his cowering disciple. "Fear not the Dragons of the Weyrmount. They know not what is to come. Once Britannia is mine to do with as I please, they will fall before my might and be destroyed." As Batlin cowered helplessly, the Guardian's laughter echoed throughout the caves and across the island.

Lord British sat uneasily upon the throne of Britannia. His thoughts raced through his mind concerning the Avatar's quest. He had depended greatly upon his champion in years' past. Now the Avatar's greatest challenge yet had been presented to him. Should he tell the Avatar of the strange nightmares he had been having? The giant red face staring down upon the land and reaching out with a great hand to crush all of Britannia into pieces. The rivers of lava and the great earthquakes. Lord British knew that it would mark the end of the world as he knew it.

He momentarily reflected upon his arrival into this strange land so many years ago. How long had it been since he had stepped into the portal in the circle of stones? How long had it been since he had been in the land of his birth? Britain. Not the city, but the country, on Earth. Far too long. He had sought a way back at first, but with Shamino's help and the assistance of a few loyal friends and companions he had set up a good, stable kingdom here in these lands. He sighed heavily. The crown extracted a heavy price from those who wore it.

From the hall, there came a crash of dishes. He turned to see what the matter was. He smiled as he saw his beloved Nell, still heavy with child, berating the servants for pushing themselves too hard. They merely wanted to please their lord, but Nell would hear nothing of it. Nell. The nights had indeed been a bit warmer with her at his side. But still, that situation needed to be tended to eventually. For now, though, things seemed to be pulling themselves together.

With a clap of his hands, Lord British dismissed the servants for the day and he retired to his private chambers. The decor of the King's chambers was as sparse as possible. British had never desired to have elaborate decorations in his quarters. Images of King Loius XIV palace at Versailles popped into his head for amoment. Another reminder of Earth, he mused. He would never want to be THAT outrageously elaborate. The simple hand-woven rugs on the floor and tapestries on the walls kept the chill of the night air out of the castle. The were enough for him.

Upon closing his door, Nell was there. He gently pulled her to him and embraced her in his arms. The moments had indeed been too long since he held her like this. She broke from him and lay down upon British's poster bed. He smiled at his lover. She had been the candle of light in his mundane life. Most of the people he had known when he arrived were centuries dead and gone now. Those few Companions who had been granted longevity such as himself were his only true friends now, and they were off with the Avatar now. British silently hoped that the Avatar would not get them killed too much.

He removed his robe and reached for his beloved when the candles in the room suddenly dimmed as though a gust of wind had entered the room through a nonexistent window.

In the dim lit room, the visage of a large red face appeared. British reached for a decorative sword from the wall. Better a decorative sword than no sword at all, he mused.

"So, British, Lord of Britannia. You have sent your Avatar to defeat me, have you? Whahahahaha..." The red faced being laughed hideously at British. Nell held his right arm as he tried to hold up the sword in his left in a defensive posture. "You are pathetic, human! The Avatar has no chance of stopping me now. You are weakened by the loss of the magick to stop me yourself, and those who would support you fall away to join the ranks of the Fellowship. Your days are numbered, play-king. When next you see me, you will be groveling at my feet! Whahahahahaha..." The face wavered and faded from sight. The candles lit up the room and burned more brightly.

The image had disappeared, leaving a frightened Nell holding tightly to British's sleeve. She whimpered quietly. British lowered his sword and sighed. The face from the dream was real. From the Avatar's description, this was the entity that lured him here. The situation did not look good to Britain. He turned to Nell to console her. This Guardian was more of a threat than he had thought. The magick WAS fading and there was nothing he could do about it. If the Guardian had attacked, British would have been powerless to stop him...powerless to protect Nell and her, THEIR unborn child. The heir to the throne would be dead before he or she would have a chance to be born. The loss of British and his heir would be the loss of hope for Britannia.

As Nell cried into his arms, he wept in silence.

Chapter 5

The trip had been particularly difficult on Kristin. After the effects of the sleeping spell had worn off, she was forced to walk the remainder of the way across the desert to a pirate encampment. She supposed that she would be in physical jeopardy in the company she was in, but her kidnappers seemed to keep to themselves. They would allow her enough food to stay alive, but not enough freedom to escape. She wished she knew why they had taken her.

She thought for a moment about her father. She knew that Hunter wasn't her real father, but he had raised her when no one else would. She knew that he would search for her and that he would never give up.

She also knew that he was a dragon.

The last bit of information she had discovered by following him one evening after the crowd had dispersed and she had finished cleaning up. The crowd had been light and it took less time than usual to finish the chores. Kristin had gone for a walk and had spied her father standing alone on the shore. When she was about to call out to him, he shifted shape and became a large black dragon. She almost screamed out in surprise, but kept quiet. Her warrior instincts held her surprise in check well. The dragon stayed briefly and she thought she saw a single tear drop from its eye before it leaped into the air and vanished into the night.

The memory of what her father truly was overwhelmed by the love that he had shown to her over the years. He had raised her and taught her well. He had loved her like a human father would have. And after that incident on the shore, she knew that he would always be there to protect her no matter the cost.

It was the last thought that kept her going. Hunter would never give up on her. He would hunt down her kidnappers and save her. She was certain of it.

The sun had begun to set on the town of Vesper. The miners were returning from the mines north of the town and the Gargoyles began to fill the streets of the western half of the town. Bones had gone outside of the town to relieve himself when he caught some peasant climbing out of a window. He watched the man examine some object and smile to himself as he ran away. Bones merely shrugged and returned to the tavern.

Hunter sat inside at a table with a candle burning in the canter of it. He stared into the depths of his ale and contemplated his situation once again.

The Avatar was gone. Sailed off to some island Hunter had never heard of before and possibly beyond the reach of anyone. Lord British was doing what he could, but even that was too little too late. Hunter had to accept the possibility that the search for his missing daughter and the threat of this new menace to Britannia were simply beyond him. Well, the threat at least. His daughter he would never stop searching for.

Bones entered the tavern and sat down. Hunter looked up from his ale and sighed. Bones smiled grimly and nodded toward the door. Wearily, the pair rose and left the establishment.

They walked for what seemed like miles to the north, past themines and leaving the town far behind. Neither spoke and both seemed moody. Bones watched his companion dragon carefully. Hunter seemed very depressed. He didn't know what to say to him. "Thou shouldn't put thyself down like this, Hunter." He spoke, choosing his words carefully. "Perhaps we should think it through once again." Not waiting for the acknowledgement that he knew wasn't coming, Bones continued. "The Avatar is gone. Griping about it won't do either of us any good. Perhaps... Wait!" Bones stopped.

Hunter stopped and stared at his companion the sort of stare reserved for someone who had just told him that he had two heads. "What now."

"Perhaps there is a place that we could go to find more information."


"Buccaneer's Den."

"Hmmmm." Hunter considered the possibility once again. The Isle of Buccaneer's Den might have the information they sought about Kristin's kidnappers. Information was at a price on Buccaneer's Den like everything else. Hunter dismissed the idea with a wave. "It's too long of a shot to try. We need to think of something else."

"Oh, please?"


"Well, where would'st thou go then?" Bones interjected. He thought Buccaneer's Den was a great idea. Hunter didn't seem too thrilled about anything right now, and Bones could sympathize with the Dragon on the loss of the only chance known to save his human daughter. "Well?"

Hunter thought for a moment. The trip couldn't hurt. And possibly, he might even find out something about the scar faced man that he had seen at his Place. Dragons never forget a face and this one was very memorable. "Perhaps..."

"It's settled then. Off we go." Bones raced ahead and changed form into his silvery sleek Dragon body and with a burst of flame he launched himself into the evening sky.

Hunter had no true choice but to follow. He shifted form to his Dragon body and with a push of his powerful hind paws, he launched himself after Bones, black leathery wings catching a rising thermal and sending him off into the twilight sky.

Aboard the Golden Ankh, Iolo sat plucking at his lute and humming the lyrics to "Stones". Dupre was manning the sails and the Avatar held the wheel firmly. That pestering kid, Spark watched everything with fascinated interest. As the sky grew dark, he asked the Avatar when they were going to eat. After a grumbling, the Avatar passed around some dried meat and cheese. Dupre took a break long enough to drown himself in an entire bottle of wine before belching and returning to the sails. Trying to lift everyone's spirits, the Avatar turned to his youngest Companion, Spark, and offered him some food. "Here kid, have a grape."Everyone laughed except Spark, who obviously didn't get the joke. A slap on the back and some more meat and cheese appeased Spark and everyone settled in for the trip.

As the Avatar once again checked the crystal gem he had gotten from Lord British, he adjusted the ship's course and stood first watch while manning the ship's wheel. Far in the distance, the rumblings continued. As a sudden gust of wind caught the sails of the ship, the Golden Ankh glided across the waters and into the night.

From his citadel beyond the Ether, the Time Lord stood, encased within a temporal loop and watching the events unfolding before him in Britannia. He watched the kidnapping of the young woman, Kristin, and the flight of the Dragons in pursuit of her. He watched the Avatar's quest and Lord British's meeting with the Guardian. It was only barely within his powers to observe at this point. Perhaps if a message could be sent to the Avatar...

He pondered this for a moment and examined the end of his scarf absently. Possibly the Wisps could help. The Avatar would have to reach them somehow. The Emps could aid the Avatar in that. But the Avatar would require more help. If only there were a way to contact the Dragons of the Weyrmount. The ether was still unstable, but an unstable mind might be able to be reached through it. Perhaps the mad mage Nicodemus of Empath Abbey...

Abraham and Elizabeth sat atop their wagon on the road to Minoc. They carried with them valuable information to be delivered to the local Fellowship branch there. The Inner Voice had told them what to write and where to take it and they had willingly obeyed.

Abraham peered through the folds of his capelet at his companion. Elizabeth sat as silent as ever. They had both been sent to the town of Trinsic at the same time. Now that they had assisted Hook in making an example of the blacksmith, they had been told that there was work to be done elsewhere. They had been on the road to Britain when the Voice had told them to continue on to Minoc and not to stop in Britain City.

Abraham shuddered. The Voice had been telling him to do strange things that did not sound much like the principles on which the Fellowship had been founded, but he obeyed nonetheless. Not many members of the Fellowship heard the Inner Voice, and those that did were strongly urged to follow its guidance as they once followed the Virtues.

Abraham had been raised in Paws as a caretaker of the sick and injured. He had driven this very same cart for many years, attending to fallen knights and warriors, helping them to get back on their feet. Now, his duty was to deliver Fellowship information and tend to the injured as he came across them.

Elizabeth's story was unknown to him. She had been paired with him by Batlin himself a few years prior. She spoke little and was frighteningly efficient with a knife. She never spoke of her life before she joined the Fellowship, but was a faithful companion nonetheless.

A whinny from one of the donkeys pulling the cart brought him back to the present. He cracked the reigns and the cart moved a little faster for a few seconds before returning to its slow pace northward through the mountain passes toward Minoc.

Lord British stood in the southeast tower of Castle British scanning the night sky. He had heard nothing from his men out searching for the dragon's daughter, Kristin. Still, there was a chance that they might root out the villain who had kidnapped her.

He shook his head to clear it. Ten years ago, nay, five years ago such a thing would have been unthinkable. After the majority of the pirates of Buccaneer's Den had gone commercial, there was truly no more real piracy to be found on the seas. The Royal Navy had aided tremendously in the pirates' decision, British surmised, but now...

The news the Avatar had brought of the ritualistic murders first in Trinsic, then in Minoc had changed British's mind about the seriousness of the threat to Britannia.

The red moongate which had brought the Avatar to Britannia was still a mystery to Lord British. Who had the power to send moongates without an Orb of the Moons? Certainly not this "Guardian". If he could do that, then why not enter Britannia himself? If not the enemy, then whom?

Lord British pondered his thoughts into the night and was still resting with his elbows on the windowsill of the tower's high window when the sun began to rise in the east over the distant mountains near Cove.

Chapter 6

Travels through the Great Desert of Britannia had always been difficult at best. Under the wrong circumstances a freak sandstorm could have disastrous results on the party traveling through. Many travelers to this area of Britannia had been lost en route to the shrine at the desert's center. The small oasis held back the ever shifting sands deftly, but beyond the shrine's influence, the desert obeyed no one. The trip to the encampment on the northeastern edge of the continent was particularly difficult on Kristin. She had been kicked, dragged, drugged with spells, and finally thrown on the back of a horse, bound at the ankles and wrists to finish out the remainder of the ride. The hot desert sun showed no mercy on anyone, not even her. With the sweat dripping off of her forehead and onto her long red hair, now dragging on the desert sand, leaving a streak next to the hoof prints of her ride, Kristin's vision began to blur once again and she began to hallucinate.

As she began to lose consciousness, the images in her mind solidified and took form. She imagined times spent with her father, fishing off the dock at Jhelom, learning to ride a horse and use the sword. She imagined better times in general.

She was interrupted by the hoarse sound of the scar-faced man's voice ordering a halt. Kristin's mount was stopped and she was unceremoniously dumped onto what startled her as sandy soil. When her vision cleared, she discovered that they had finally arrived at their destination... a camp of pirates. She watched as several men worked on a seagoing vessel in the distance, while other men and women wearing shackles on their wrists and bands on their necks scurried around the camp obviously on errands for their captors.

Kristin attempted to sit upright, but days of being slumped over a horse's back made her limbs as wobbly as those of a neophyte seaman. The best she could manage was a roll to her side. She shook her head and her red hair was thrown to her back, where it stuck there from the sweat and sand in it.

The scar faced man and one of his men stood talking a distance of about twenty paces from her. She could only make out bits and pieces of what they were saying.

"...not enough time to finish the job. Send word to Batlin that we need..."

"Aye, and if we can keep those dragons at bay just a few weeks more..."

The scar-faced man paused and Kristin caught his eye. "Put 'er in with the rest of 'em. And clean 'er up a bit. Might make 'er a bit more presentable. Batlin's expectin' 'er."

Someone lifted Kristin up and she began to struggle. In the distance she heard someone recite magickal words of power and a sleepy feeling washed over her. Her eyes clamped down before she could stop them. A deep sleep overcame her and the world went dark.

Five days had passed since Hunter and Bones had set out for Buccaneer's Den. The island lay many miles east of the town of Paws and out beyond the harbor of Britain. From Vesper, the trip to Buccaneer's Den had taken longer than normal due to a weather front which had rolled in midway through their trip, forcing them to land and wait out the storm in Cove. While there, they had inquired about the Avatar's former Companion, Jaana, who had taken up residency in Cove as a healer. Jaana was nowhere to be found and the dragons presumed that the Avatar had need of her services as a Companion once again. This fact was unfortunately verified by her lover, a man named Lord Heather, the Mayor of Cove. It was with a sigh of resignation that the two dragons made their way back to the local inn, a one level building with a simple sign carved out in red and green bearing the name, The Emerald.

Within, the dragons waited out the thunderstorm with mugs of Britannian ale and fresh baked bread. Zinnaida, the innkeeper, kept them company while the storm raged outside, and a local bard named, De Moria, sung songs of passion for the inns visitors that evening.

When the storm had lifted, the two took flight once again and used the thermals from the western winds to lift to a great altitude and glide most of the way to Buccaneer's Den. The trip was long, and the constant peacefulness of the sea was enough to drive anyone insane.

It was with great thankfulness that Hunter and Bones landed on the northeastern shore of Buccaneer's Den. Both the island and the town on the island held the same name.

The day had been growing dark for quite some time now and due to the island's mountainous western side, the sun had already set and the evening was upon them. Bones changed to Human form and brushed off the blue robes he had conjured up. Hunter's human form slid into the clothes he had packed for just this purpose. Somehow, the dragon part of himself was less dominant than it used to be. He felt more human than dragon as of late. Perhaps he had remained too long among these mortals.

Bones whistled and jerked his head in the direction of the lamp lit town in the distance. "We've a long way to go now. Sooth, but 'tis going to be a long walk." He waited for Hunter to catch up again. Hunter's sword again caught his eye. "Say, why dost thou carry a weapon anyway?"

Hunter had been lost in thought, but Bones' question pulled him out of it. "Eh? The sword? Well..." Hunter thought for a moment. "Well, perhaps I have been in the human world too long. I guess that I've adopted a few of these mortal's habits."

"Mayhap a few too many."

"What does that mean?"

Bones cleared his throat. "Thou hast changed and become more than merely a dragon."

Hunter paused and tilted his head in thought at the words Bones had spoken. Bones turned and began walking at a medium pace toward the distant lights of Buccaneer's Den.

It was with some reluctance that Hunter shrugged his shoulders and, checking his sword to ensure it hung well against his side, he began the long walk toward the town.

In Britain city, the stars shone softly down upon Castle British. The guards on the wall and in the towers marched silently in anticipation of anything out of the ordinary.

The musty smell of the town sometimes rose up from beyond the moat and irritated one's sense of smell, however, tonight there was a stillness in the air which caused the guards to be even more tense than usual. Silence filled the air and only the footsteps of the guards themselves could be heard.

Deep within the castle's keep, the mage, Nicodemus stirred in his eerie meditative sleep. His poor dessheveled mind had been torn apart when the magickal ether had been disrupted months earlier. Now, his dreams were disturbed by voices and visions of destruction.


Nicodemus bolted upright in his bed. He had heard the voice before, but only in his dreams. He pinched himself to ensure he was awake.


He was not certain that the voice was real. Voices screamed out in his mind all day long since the ether was disrupted, but now his mind was silent. The voice was definately not his imagination.


He took a deep breath and replied to the voice. "I am Nicodemus."

Silence ruled the night. Nicodemus held his breath and waited. Through his mind ran thoughts of just how silly it was to answer a voice without the presence of a body to talk to. He waited a little longer. The voice was definately male, he thought. What mage could project a voice into his room? Surely not the mage, Mariah. She was one of the Avatar's companions, but she had long since gone mad on Verity Isle. He paused. Come to think of it, he was supposed to have gone mad as well.


The voice was stronger than before. And definitely belonged to a male. Perhaps if he cast a spell or two to aid the speaker of this voice he might be able to determine who it was.

"No, Nicodemus. Your spells are tainted with the Guardian's meddling. The magick will no longer work for you."

Nicodemus' face turned sheet white. The voice had addressed his thoughts.

"Indeed." The voice continued in a more formal tone. "Nicodemus, Magician of Yew, listen well to what I have to say. There is a being of great power attempting to enter Britannia. He calls himself the Guardian. You have been affected by the disturbance in the magickal ether due to his meddling. This is known to the Avatar as well as Lord British, however, neither knows how powerful the Guardian actually is. He will conquer this land if not stopped. And not even the land's protector can stop him. The Avatar is not powerful enough to do this alone."

Nicodemus' words choked him in the throat. "If the Avatar cannot stop him, then Britannia is doomed."

"No." The voice went on. "The Avatar may stop him from entering Britannia, but only briefly, I fear. The nightmarish visions I have sent you are of a future ruled by the Guardian. He will destroy Britannia should the Avatar leave."

Nicodemus' mind raced through his nightmares of uncontrolled lava flows rolling across the beautiful hills and valleys of the land. Of the mountains leveled and the great Weyrmount of the dragons left as a crater. And upon the largest remaining mountain, the carved face of a monster. The red devil from his dreams.

"Yes, the Guardian will destroy the land if he is able to enter the land. He must be stopped. Go ye to the Dragons of the Weyrmount. There you will speak with the eldest Dragon and tell him what I have told you. He shall assist you. Seek him out, Nicodemus."

Nicodemus stared into the darkness of his room. "Who shall I say sent me to them?"

The response came after a long pause. "Tell them that the Time Lord has sent you to collect an old debt. A VERY old debt."

Chapter 7

For many days the skies over Bucaneer's Den had cast down rain and lightning ove the town and its inhabitants. The usually green and inviting fields surrounding the town were soaked with water and flooded. The many streams flowing down from the mountains to the surrounding the town on three sides were rushing rivers trying to reach the ocean.

For two days the town had been sealed up in itself, its citizens almost neve showing their faces outside their own homes, except to scurry over to the shops to buy food and supplies to wait out the storm. In the evenings they would almost all make their own way over to the House of Games in the southern section of town. There they would gamble and carouse and have a good time during the stormy darkness.

In a corner of the House of Games, the two dragons found a place to rest their weary bodies. Rain never agreed much with dragons.

Hunter sat over his drink and sighed. Nobody seemed too forthcoming with information in Bucaneer's Den. After two days of implying and prying information out of the town's residents, all he had come up with was that the scar-faced man he had seen back in Jhelom was named Eregos, and that he was definately not the kind of person that one would want to mess in his affairs. Therefore, nobody had wanted to get involved.

Bones had only slightly better luck. He had discovered quite by accident that there was apparently a connection between Eregos and a man named Hook. There was also some amount of evidence that both men were standing members of the Fellowship. More specifically, their names were on the roster here at Bucaneer's Den.

With only this bit of information to go on, Bones and Hunter had retired to a corner of the room to contemplate their next move, which is where they were now.

"Well?" Hunter's glance at Bones was irritated and to the point.

"Well what?!" Bones had been getting a bit irritated with Hunter recently. Hunter's obsession with his daughter's safety was understandable, but his edginess with Bones had been getting on his nerves. "I don't know what to do."

"Then I guess we'll just have to..."

Hunter was cut off by the entrance of another person into the safety of the House of Games. The man was dressed in all black and had a hood covering his face. A great sword was strung across his back and a quiver was visible under his cloak. His scent warned Hunter and Bones of immediate danger and the muscles in their bodies tensed instantly.

The stranger took no notice of the dragon/humans in the corner and instead ordered a drink and sat down at the bar. He tossed a few coins on the counter and drank his drink.

Bones eyed the stranger warily and rose from the table. Hunter stood and watched Bones carefully.

The stranger got to his feet and slipped back into the back room, where the sounds of gaming were going on. Bones eyed the closed curtains of the back room momentarily and donned his cloak. Within moments he had departed the establishment leaving Hunter alone.

The stranger did not return.

After a few hours, the evening had turned past midnight and Hunter began to long for sleep. He rose and fumbled in his pockets for coins to pay for his meal and drink. As he dropped the appropriate coins on the table, he turned and was face to face with the stranger, his face revealed.


Hunter stood startled. "Er, greetings stranger."

"Tell me sir, what is a dragon doing this far from the Mount at this time of year?"

Hunter completely lost his composure. The scent he had detected earlier was that of a dragon masked. The stranger had placed himself between Hunter and the door precisely. He stood his ground as the stranger's eyes burned into him. "Who are you?"

"I am merely one in search of the Great Pasture."

Hunter's mind raced. The Great Pasture was the dragon belief in an afterlife. Where all dragons go someday should they die and pass from this plane of existence. A mystical place where all dragon warriors find valiant battles forever and thrill to the call of sweet combat. A place of rest for those in need of such. A place all must go eventually. A place Hunter believed he would someday be reunited with his beloved Maerion.

"Then you should not be in such a hurry, young one." Bones remarked.

The other dragon turned to find himself staring at a dagger to his throat. The stranger's eyes bulged in suprise before he regained his composure. "Well met, good dragon-wizard. Well met."

Bones laughed. "Well met indeed. If you would follow me and my associate outside please."

The three exited the House and stood out in the darkened night. The rain had stopped but threatened to start at a moment's notice. Bones put away the dagger and eyed the stranger.

Hunter had drawn his sword and stood ready and embarassed that he had been taken by suprise so easily.

"Who are you?" Hunter inquired.

The stranger sighed and stood straight. "My name is Midnight Wolf, Ranger and archer at your service, fellow dragons."

"Who sent you?"

"I sent myself. I have lived throughout Britannia for amny decades. I learned the human arts of tracking and weapons skills. Indeed I learned of your plight and decided to extend my skills to your cause." Wolf crossed his arms and stood imposingly before the dragons. "Of course, should you not desire my company..."

Hunter had been examining Wolf's composure and scent for lies and trickery. Now that he knew what Wolf was, Hunter had no problem discerning the scents the new dragon gave off. Only eagerness, pride, and determination exuded from the ranger.

Bones remained silent. As the Captain of the scouts he knew of Rangers and the skills they possessed. A genuine Ranger would be a great aid to the cause that Hunter and he had accepted. A dragon/Ranger would be even more helpful.

Hunter made his decision easily. "Midnight Wolf, before you join us you might want the whole truth."

"As you wish, Hunter Dragon."

Hunter's story lasted long into the night.

Through the thick forest surrounding Yew, Nicodemus drove his donkey-driven cart. The dirt path wasn't as well used as he remembered it being. Most things Nicodemus had a hard time with nowadays. The magickal ether had been messed up for months now and it was becoming harder and harder to concentrate. WHen the Avatar had come by to see him, Nicodemus had magickally locked the door and refused to open it until he had won a game of Knight's Bridge in the field north of the house. The Avatar had been patient, but eventually left with his Companions in tow. Nicodemus for some reason had remembered finding it all very funny.

This day was an off day. The irritating ether was lessened for some reason and Nicodemus' mind actually could reason. He reasoned that if the donkey didn't get moving he would wring its neck. "Confounded animal!" He shouted.

The donkey simply looked up at him and stopped to gnaw at some weeds on the side of the road.

Nicodemus buried his face in anguish.

Far off among the northern mountains, the caves of the snow dragons grew hot with battle. For years the clan that lived here had desired isolation from the other Dragons of the Weyrmount. In the north they prospered without the interference of the dragon society. Only through occasional visits to the mount did they keep in contack with their distant cousins. Those trips south had become fewer and fewer in the recent decades. The last trip had been over thirty years ago.

The fight today was over the decision to once again send an envoy to the south. Among the younger dragons a decision to once again restore contact with the Weyrmount dragons was building to an emotional climax.

Among these young dragons was one female dragon whose naming day was yet to come. She had merely been known as Shard for a very long time. For eighteen years she had anxiously waited for her naming day when she would choose a name for herself and be acknowledged as a dragon. She had not chosen a name yet but had been deciding on one for years now.

Shard had another problem as well. In the past few days, she had been visited in her dreams by a bodiless voice telling her of a great danger to the world. She had told her elders of these dreams, but they decided that they were merely the ravings of an imaginative dragon. "Young dragons should be seen and not heard" they would say. "You should be thinking of raising hatchlings instead of imagining wild adventures" others would retort and return to more important activities. Shard had decided even before the gathering of dragons this night to do something about the messages she had been getting.

As Shard sneaked past the main hall of Dragons under the snow capped northern mountains, she heard the final decision not to send an envoy this year to the south. It was then that she made up her mind what to do.

As the fires of the great hall burned out and the light of the caves dwindled, a single, small figure swooped out of a low cave and vanished into the night sky.

The night sky was fading rapidly in full view of Kristin. She had been left out in the night air to cool her down from her ravings of the past day. The attentions of the pirate crew at the camp had been a bit much and the scar-faced man kept the others at a distance. Kristin had finally been gagged after hours of screaming and swearing at her captors.

Now as the false dawn slowly brightened the eastern sky, Kristin felt the first of her ropes snap free. She had been rubbing her hands raw against a semi-sharp stone for hours now and the satisfaction of one rope gone was overwhelming. Her enthusiasm exploded and she gained more strength knowing that soon she would regain her freedom.

With a turn of her head she considered how to survive the treacherous terrain.

From a short distance away, the dragon watched her prey. The girl had been trying to cut herself free for quite some time now. A smile crept across the dragon's face. Perhaps to wait until she was almost free and then slash away her hopes of escape. Another stab into the side of Hunter Dragon. Soon perhaps one to the heart.

As the human female continued to free herself slowly, the dragon continued to watch and silently laugh.

Chapter 8

After nearly a week, Nicodemus' cart finally pulled up to the dirt pathway which led ominously to the great Weyrmount - home of the Dragons of Britannia. The trip had been long and punishing, especially for a mage in his frame of mind, but Nicodemus breathed a sigh of relief to be so close to his destination.

It was with a reluctance that he had undertaken this particular quest, but it was somewhat necessary. An urging by the legendary Time Lord was not something granted to anyone everyday. He knew only that his message was for the ears of a particular dragon and that the Lord of Time had attempted to reach several beings at once with his call for assistance.

Nicodemus scratched his head. The ether had been growing more dense lately and it was truly becoming difficult to even make sense of anything sometimes. His mission was his only clear purpose. The message. Yes, he must reveal the message to the old dragon.

With a snap of the reins he urged his mule forward.

There was a sudden spike in the pain he felt from the ether. Nicodemus grabbed his head and fell off the seat of the cart and onto the grass beside the road. The world began spinning and he started to black out.

His final moments of consciousness were overwhelmed by sinister laughter and an image of a red faced being taunting him.

The world became fuzzy and then turned black.

Kristin lay on her side inside the tent reserved for prisoners. At least her captors had the decency to finally bring her inside and out of the heat. The warm winds blowing off the desert had dehydrated her almost to the point of death. Still, her captors brought her back from the brink of death. Why?

She shook her head. She didn't know why they kept her alive. After she had successfully escaped from her bonds and tried to run for her life, she was overtaken by a golden dragon with fierce red eyes and knocked flat on her face. The dragon had kept her there, taunting her with threats of slicing her body to ribbons piece by piece until the mercenaries came and dragged her off to be mended and punished. Kristin winced as she put her hand to her side where they had whipped her. It was a simple matter to heal her with a spell cast by the wizard they had with them. Wizard. It was strange that this wizard was not feeling the madness that had taken over the other mages throughout the realm.

She rolled to her feet. The other prisoners in the room were in fair condition. One was a young man in his early teens. Joseph was his name - from Minoc. He was a gypsy, but his people had been staying in Minoc when he was taken. By the Fellowship, he claimed.

It just didn't make sense. The Fellowship was somehow involved in this and Kristin didn't know how.

She stood and stretched out the stiff muscles of her body. Of all the prisoners at the camp, she was in the best condition of them all. Why, she wondered. Why was she set apart from the others for so long. And why did these people desire to keep her healthy for so long. Perhaps they meant to take advantage of her. She sniffed in disgust. They had tried that and she had, ahem, injured two of them when they had attempted that feat. They left her alone after that. Kristin smiled slightly. She could thank her father for teaching her how to fight. Now if only she could get her hands on a sword...

Her thought were interrupted by the cries of a young girl in the corner. Matilda was her name. Matilda had been the sole survivor of her family. Her father and mother were set apart because they had been people of importance in Vesper. They had met an untimely demise which was whispered about by the other prisoners. The dragon had been hungry. Kristin knelt down to the girl and held her in her arms for a time. As the new day dawned on the world, the two cried to themselves amidst a tent full of people.

The thermal drafts kept the three dragons in the air for days after the storms stopped. Buccaneer's Den had been left far behind and now Hunter, Bones, and Wolf flew in an uneasy formation, each taking point for a while in the search for the Avatar and in the continued hunt for Kristin.

The search had taken them from Buccaneer's Den eastward toward the Isle of the Avatar. Wolf kept silent during this flight. Hunter and Bones had revealed to him the extent of what they knew from Lord British and Vere'ol Dragon.

Bones kept telling old tales of flights and combat in old Sosaria to the three as they flew. He told the story of the fall of Exodus and the disappearance of the non-human races from Britannia. Hunter listened and kept silent through the long flight. If Wolf listened he kept his own counsel during the tale.

New Magincia would be the first landing stop, Hunter surmised from his memory of old maps of the world. Still, the world had changed much. Perhaps new land masses had arisen and old ones sank. Who knows, perhaps after the liberation of the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom from this reality to the void, the Isle they sought might have sank into the sea. It wouldn't have been the first time that something like that had happened.

The day dragged on for hours. The morning light had revealed little more than the endless stretch of sea and waves lapping up and down. No ships sailed on the Britannian waters today. It was the eve before the High Feast Day in Britannia. All the humans in Britannia would be fasting this day and spend the evening meditating on the Virtues. Hunter's thoughts drifted to Jhelom. His adopted home. People would be contemplating Valor and Courage and preparing for the festivities which would surround the following day. No work was to be done on High Feast Day. Lord British had decreed that the Feast was to take precedence over all working activities. Even the Royal Staff would be excused from normal activities, except for the cooks. Someone had to prepare the food, after all.

A smile crossed Hunter's lips as he remembered the previous year's Feast. He had danced with the ladies until sundown and had eaten enough to fill his dragon body. Kristin had even danced with the son of one of the trainers and...Kristin. The name snapped him back to the present again. Where was she? His smile faded quickly and the glint of happiness died away as he faced the truth. He had to find her.

Three dragons were spotted briefly landing on the northern tip of New Magincia by the apprentice of Alagner, Anton. Anton raced away from them with fear for his life. Dragons on New Magincia? These times had shown many new things, but this was incredible.

He raced into the dimming light of the evening to inform his master that something far stranger then normal was afoot. Alagner would know what to do.

After days of travel with many stops for rest, the young dragon Shard approached the Weyrmount. Her thoughts raced along considering how she would be received. After all the northern dragons had not been heard from in many years.

The outer sentries had allowed her passage through, but the Weyrmount was strangely quiet, she thought. Unlike the northern caves, where the dragons spent much time among the slopes and hot springs, these dragons seemed to not show themselves outside of their mountain home.

Shard spiraled down and landed outside of the cave entrance. She eyed the great stone carving on the outside of the cave which read "-==(UDIC)==-". She puzzle dover what the sign might mean and shrugged a dragon shrug by rolling her shoulders and craning her long neck. With a push forward, Shard entered the Weyrmount.

Her white body showing up obviously against the darkness of the cave's walls, Shard trudged along the floor of the great cave and tried to gain the attention of anyone she could. Most of the older dragons simply looked down at her with a sense of impudence and continued on their own way. Some of the younger dragons eyed her like a side of fresh meat and a few even tried to ask her to mate. All in all, Shard felt a bit out of place, yet even around the roughest of them, when she asked where she could find Vere'ol Dragon, they all seemed to melt away into the darkness.

Eventually Shard found a dragon willing to speak to her. Young, but not too young, Athos Dragon showed her the right direction to go and wished her his best. She felt his eyes staring at her until he was out of sight around a corner. With a sigh of relief, Shard made her way down to the lair of the ancient dragon.

Vere'ol Dragon eyed his guest curiously. Nicodemus the mage sat on an oversized chair near the fireplace sipping out of a cup far too large for his human hands and enjoying the tea he had been given. Vere'ol smiled and shifted form to his human body for the mage. He pulled up a chair across from the mage and began sipping from his own teacup.

The old mage had been found outside of the Weyrmount by a sentry. His cart had been broken by its mule trying to escape from something. The old man was unconscious for nearly a day before regaining consciousness. His description of a red-faced being sounded ominously familiar. Something in the old tomes surely...

"So mage, this is an interesting story you bring to the Weyrmount. Do you really expect me to believe you?" Vere'ol eyed his guest with a curious gaze.

"I have told the truth. The Time Lord has informed me of a great threat to Britannia. This Guardian must be stopped. If he gains possession of this particular artifact, then he may not be able to be stopped by anyone from entering our realm."

Vere'ol considered this. The lines of his human face showed visibly and his bushy white eyebrows descended on his face in deep thought.

"Minax left this artifact hidden from all Sosaria in the hopes that Exodus might be able to eventually use it to expand his influence over all the worlds. She didn't expect his downfall at the hands of the Avatar. Okay, he wasn't the Avatar at that point, but he became so later on." Nicodemus stood and stared down at the dragon. "I was told that you could assist me. The time Lord mentioned a very old debt..."

Vere'ol stood to face his guest. "I know of the debt. It the debt owed to the Time Lord by every dragon. To watch over the Land and be its defender in times of peril. Despite what the others believe, I still believe that the Dragons still have that purpose."

"Excuse me sirs..."

Both Nicodemus and Vere'ol turned suddenly at the entrance of a young dragon with snowy white scales. Shard suddenly felt very embarrassed at having overheard part of the conversation. There was simply no opportunity to interrupt the two.

"Who are you." Vere'ol demanded, but was interrupted by Nicodemus.

"I've been expecting you young dragon." The tone of Nicodemus' voice was compelling. "The Time Lord told me that a young dragon from the north would be coming to aid me as well." He smiled. "From your coloration I would surmise that you are she."

Vere'ol stared at the two speaking with a sense of confusion. "Now see here," he began, "what do you mean expecting her?"

Nicodemus sat down and sipped his tea. Vere'ol waved the young dragon in and Shard lay down behind the two chairs in front of the fireplace.

When Shard was down, Nicodemus began speaking once again. "The Time Lord told me that I would require the services of a young dragon from the north and that I must go to the keep of Stone Gate to meet up with three more dragons and a hero from legend. There we would follow the symbol of the elven folk to the artifact we seek. That is all."

Vere'ol blinked at the mage in surprise. He wanted to shout that this was preposterous, yet something in the mage's tone of voice told him that it was the truth. Vere'ol sighed. "I believe you. And that is the confirmation that you sought. A debt is indeed owed the Time Lord and it shall be paid in full. The dragons of the Weyrmount shall come when we are needed. Do not worry." Vere'ol picked himself up. "Now, you and the young lady, er, what is your name?"

Shard blushed visibly. "I, er, haven't picked a name yet, sir." Vere'ol raised an eyebrow. "I'm called Shard by the others in the north mountains." She bit her lower lip in nervousness. A dragon whose naming day had not yet been reached was never allowed out of the caves of his or her home. Period. That rule was never violated. The world was simply deemed too dangerous for young dragons to be out wandering.

Vere'ol shrugged. "That does not matter now. If indeed there is a threat to the land, then the dragons must summon their full strength to fight it. If it is the ancient foe come again, then we must act now. And the Time Lord seems to have called you two to join in the fight against it." Vere'ol stroked his long white beard. "Go and find this artifact before those who serve the evil one find it first. All the resources of the Weyrmount are at your disposal."

Nicodemus and Shard stared at each other. After a brief introduction, the two were on their way up the long tunnel and Vere'ol began to dig through his old volumes for insight on how to combat an ancient foe.

Chapter 9

Kristin sat in the tent holding little Matilda in her arms. The girl had stopped crying tears the night before. She simply had no more tears to cry. The rations of water given to the prisoners was becoming smaller and smaller as the days went by. And the number of prisoners had dwindled as well. A hungry dragon needed a lot of food.

Kristin pondered for a moment why one of her foster father's kind would do such a thing as feast on human flesh, but she simply shook her head. Who knew what a dragon would do if one turned to evil. Kristin visibly shivered at the thought. Only five left in the tent now. Three young men and the two girls. And evening was quickly approaching. The dragon's usual evening meal.

Of course the dragon was probably out on patrol for the pirates and mercenaries at this point, but shortly there would be the flapping of leathery wings and a loud thump signalling the dragon's return. Then the men would be coming for another two of the prisoners. The same as it had been the night before and the night before that. Matilda was resting in Kristin's arms, trying to be comfortable. Kristin closed her eyes and waited.

After the sun had begin it's set, there was a loud thump in the area outside the tent. Kristin held Matilda tight and waited for the men to come and loosen the shackles on one of the prisoners. They were kept shackled to a post in the center of the tent until they were taken away.

The footsteps moved toward the tent opening and then stopped.

Kristin heard a loud twang. A crossbow? She stared at the opening of the tent in anticipation.

Barreling through the tent opening came one of her tormenters. Except this time he was visibly thrown through the opening with a crossbow bolt through his heart. Kristin gasped and Matilda gave a shriek of alarm. The area outside the tent erupted with explosions and then the scrambling of troops. A fight. Here in the camp. Kristin vainly tried to reach the guard's keys, but they were out of reach.

Suddenly the tent flap was thrown back and a man in his middle years appeared. His dark mustache and hair slicked back with sweat. He held a sword of fire in his hand and a glowing shield in the other. As he raised the visor of his helm and peered at the prisoners, Kristin gave a gasp of recognition. The man did the same.


"Sir Dupre!" Kristin jumped and raced to his side. The restraint allowed her to move close before catching her. She fell into his arms and he caught her with the skill of a gentleman.

"Now now. See here, sweet Kristin. Nobody is going to hurt you now." With his free hand, he sliced through the chain with the fire sword.

After freeing the prisoners, Dupre led them out into the evening. The makeshift village was in ruins. Kristin scanned the area and finally her eyes came to rest on one man in the center of the destruction. He wore magic armour and had a glowing shield strapped to his back over his backpack. He held in his hands a sword with a black blade and a gem in the handle. He seemed to speak to the sword as if holding a conversation with it. From his composure and his striking features, she deduced that this must be the Avatar.

The Avatar held the sword up and shouted something about destroying his enemies. The sword pulsed and emitted an eerie glow before streaks of energy flashed from the gem and completely devastated the remains of the pirate encampment.

The Avatar grinned at the devastation and lowered the sword, seeming to thank it for its service. He sheathed it and walked to the small group.

"Well done Avatar." Dupre began. "I found the prisoners. They say that a dragon was here and devoured many of their comrades. This is most disturbing, Avatar."

The Companions were all there. The bard Iolo was retrieving a few crossbow bolts from dead pirates. The trainer Sentri was wiping the blood from his two-handed sword. The healer Jaana was tending the wounds of a ranger Kristin didn't recognize. Shamino the ranger was there as well, with his boyish looks and handsome features. Kristin pulled her eyes away from him reluctantly and they came to rest on the Avatar himself.

The Avatar examined the former prisoners and opened his spell book. Uttering a few words of magick, the former prisoners were cured of their ills and healed to full health. He closed his book and returned it to his pouch. "I am glad that you five have survived this ordeal. I only wish I could have gotten here sooner." The obvious crease in the Avatar's forehead showed his true feelings.

For the first time in Kristin's life she realized how human the Avatar truly was. He had been moved by his failure to protect those who died at the hands of the evil dragon. She saw in her eyes the humanity of the Hero that she had grown up listening to the bards deify. For the first time, she saw the Avatar as a man, trying his best to win a battle against evil...and failing. Heroes weren't supposed to lose this type of battle. The Avatar and his Companions were legends who could right any wrong. They were supposed to be able to defeat any foe, yet before her eyes, Kristin saw a single tear roll down the cheek of the mightiest warrior in Britannia. The Avatar turned away from the group and motioned for them to move toward the coast.

Dupre took Matilda in his arms and led Kristin and the others away from the camp, following the Avatar. "We have a magick carpet waiting at the beach. Spark should be there holding down the fort for us." Sir Dupre tried to reassure the small group of refugees with one of his charming smiles, but Kristin saw in his eyes that it was strained at best. She followed quietly, leaving behind the burning camp.

For Kristin the days seemed to pass endlessly. After leaving the pirate encampment, she traveled with the Avatar and his Companions eastward. The Avatar seemed a man possessed by his mission. By night and by day the group flew westward with some hidden goal in mind.

Kristin could not get any straight answers out of her god friend Sir Dupre.

Dupre and Kristin had met while the two were living on the Valorian Islands. The knight had frequented Hunter's Place often to hoist a tankard with many of the patrons and other visitors. Those were happier times. No kidnapping, no ritual murders, no quests to save Britannia from evil invaders. Kristin sighed.

She had tried to talk the Avatar into letting her leave with the remainder of the former hostages at Vesper, but the Avatar had spun a tale of talking with a being in one of the shrines who had told him that she was needed elsewhere and to keep her nearby until the time she would be needed. Kristin simply shook her head and let the subject drop.

A part of her was quite excited by the proposition of traveling with the most famous hero of Britannia and his Companions. Hmmm, I suppose that this makes me a Companion as well, Kristin thought to herself.

As the party neared the Serpent's Spine, Kristin watched with interest as the fabled mountain range grew larger and larger. The Avatar himself guided the magick carpet through the narrow peaks of the mountains. The dark gray peaks rose up to sharp points, as if to poke holes into the sky.

The carpet moved smoothly through the maze of mountain peaks until a small lake amidst the mountains appeared suddenly. As if an oasis in the desert, the lake boasted sunshine and a bubbling spring nearby. The carpet settled down on the northern shore of the lake and next to a dark opening into the mountains.

Kristin watched in earnest as the Avatar and his Companions geared up and armed them selves for a spelunking expedition. The Avatar moved off to one side and drew his mysterious black sword again and seemed to talk to it as if it were alive. Kristin shuddered.

Dupre walked up to her and sat down for a moment. "I'm afraid that this is as far as you go for now." He smiled his most winning smile.

Kristin wondered how Sir Dupre could possibly be comfortable wearing plate mail and full armaments. She returned his smile. "I will wait here for you to return, Sir Dupre."

Dupre rose to his feet and turned to go. He hesitated and drew a sword from the chest in the center of the carpet. He handed it to her and smiled once again. "I have been told that you can use one of these rather well." He winked at her. "Feel free to gear up in armor from the other chest and wait for us here. We need someone competent to guard our means of transportation."

"You can count on me, Sir Dupre."

"I know. Be well, Kristin."

With a small salute, Dupre joined the other Companions at the entrance to the cave. The Avatar spoke aloud some words of power and a glow surrounded him, illuminating the area now that the sun had begun to set. Before entering the cave, the Avatar turned to Kristin and smiled. He pointed to a small group of stones on the shore arranged in a circle and spoke more words of power. A campfire burst to life. Kristin jumped momentarily and caught a sly smile in the Avatar's eye as he winked at her amused. She blushed and thanked him.

With a quick turn, the Avatar and his Companions entered the Dungeon Despise.

As a last note, Kristin wondered why the Avatar had taken an hourglass with him.

As the hour grew late and the sky grew dark in the night, Kristin sat huddled with her back to the carpet and watching the fire burn with an eerie magickal glow. The stars came out and twinkled in the sky above the lake, leaving a reflection of their light on the water below. The magickal fire burned without need of wood and its light kept the entire north shore of the lake lit enough to see by.

Kristin looked up and did not see either of the twin moons in the sky yet. She sighed and stood to stretch her legs.

At that moment the ground beneath her began to shake. The world seemed to move with a life of its own. The rocks above her began to slip and fall in loose pebbles. She darted for the cover of the cave entrance only to find it glowing with a bright blue glow which in turn became a blinding white for but a moment.

The Avatar and his Companions came upon Kristin's unconscious body as they exited the dungeon. Dupre scooped her up in his arms and Spark took the sword from her hand. They moved to the carpet and sat down. The Avatar touched the carpet's control and the carpet rose into the night. As the carpet moved silently to the northeast, the Avatar turned to Dupre.

"How is she?"

Dupre looked up at his friend. "She'll be all right, Avatar. Just the blinding of the light that we all felt. Except we had the hourglass' magick to protect us. She did not."

The Avatar nodded and turned around to face forward. "At least the Sphere generator has been destroyed. Now to destroy the others as well."

The Companions nodded to each other and with grim faces they held their seats as the carpet sped through the night and out of the mountains.

On the southern shores of Loch Lake, Hunter Dragon and his company of Dragons lay resting. They hardly felt the mild shaking of the ground below them as the sphere generator was destroyed in the dungeon Despise.

Hunter Dragon's eyes fluttered for a moment as he dreamed.

Within the dream, Hunter saw a bright flash of light and then a figure emerging from the light walking toward him.

The figure stopped. The bright light shadowed his face so that Hunter could not make out any features. "Hunter Dragon, I bring you greetings. I am called the Time Lord."

Hunter tried to speak only to find he could not.

"Do not try to speak. We are between the moments now. Between now and what will be. You must go north. There is a great danger to Britannia. You must travel to Stone Gate. There you will be joined by the others I have sent and they shall tell you of your quest. I cannot stay here long so listen well. The object you must find you also must destroy. It is from another age. An object from the Age of Darkness. The silver moongate will guide you to the place where the object lies waiting along with a great secret which you must swear to keep. This is payment on your part for the great debt which the Dragons of the Weyr have sworn to keep."

Hunter stared at the figure as it turned and disappeared into the light.

Chapter 10

Hunter felt the wind course through his hair as the carpet soared through the air. His companions flew along assign him in formation with Midnight Wolf in the lead. The swamp known as the Bog of Desolation lay to their West and because of the lack of hot air over it, the Dragons had to go around the swamp.

For Hunter the trip was extremely long with the words of the Time Lord echoing in his mind over and over again. The warning had been quite clear and the Dragons had been en route since early that morning. He allowed his mind to wander as he soared far above the landscape below. Loch Lake had come underneath them on their path around the swamp and Hunter let an eye stray toward it and the town of Cove at its southern part.

Cove had once been known as the Town of Love. Unfortunately, the town had fallen into disrepair since the Avatar's last appearance two hundred years prior. Hunter Sighed. The area around the town itself was littered with trash and refuse. Instead of a town devoted to love, it seemed a town devoted to garbage. The town itself was fairly clean, but the surrounding area was a mess. The lake wasn't any better. Its shores were strewn with trash, dead fish and refuse of all kinds. The dead fish were from the lake's inability to keep anything alive within it....Except for perhaps, a monster or two living in the lake's bottom...or so it was according to local myth.

The myth began during the dark time that Lord Blackthorne ruled the land in lieu of the missing Lord British and the Shadowlords walked the land. It stated that two young lovers named Jesa and Mauro had said their vows at the shrine near Cove. However, upon returning to town, the parents of the couple confronted them and were against what they had done. The townsfolk rioted over what was to be done with the lovers. They were on the edge of breaking them up and destroying their new relationship by force. Nobody knew why they should be separated though. The miasma of the Shadowlord of Hate possessed the town and the people weren’t thinking clearly. The couple had fallen in love and the Shadowlord had twisted the town’s perception of love into an evil thing. Jesa’s parents forbid her to ever see her beloved Mauro ever again and Mauro’s parents refused to allow him to ever see his Jesa. The couple, faced with the prospect of never being together again met late one night and waded deep into the lake’s murky waters and there, they met their deaths hand in hand. Their grief consumed them, and they transformed them into the creatures which now dwell within the lake, waiting to devour the foolhardy traveler who tries to shun true love.

Hunter shook his head. What wonderfully stupid myths the humans can come up with! He let out a quiet laugh. The poor creatures in the lake had probably been trapped there after the first breaking of the world when Exodus was destroyed. Hunter had been alive back then. He remembered the chaos after Exodus' death. He shivered at the thought of the many dragons and humans who perished during the transformation of the world into the continents which existed today.

Bones switched places in the point of the formation with Wolf and glided gracefully in the middle place. Hunter kept his thoughts to himself as they drifted back to the fate of his daughter, Kristin. She was only a mere 19 years old. A dragon of 19 years would NEVER be allowed out of the Weyrmount! Yet, this human child was considered a grown woman by her people. Hunter's lips curled into a smile. Humans lived very short lives. And he had allowed his adopted daughter to live out her life to its fullest. Now he was going to pay the price for not keeping a better reign on his daughter is he lost her. A frown pulled itself onto Hunter's face. Kristin had better be all right or else....

Bones dared a look at Hunter and left him alone to his thoughts after seeing the look on his face.

The trio continued their flight north after a brief landing on the north side of the shores of Loch Lake.

The Avatar and his Companions continued their flight over the great swamp called The Bog of Desolation. And desolate it was, thought Dupre. The flight had been pretty smooth since destroying the second evil generator, or so the Avatar had named it. Most of Dupre's time had been spent keeping young Spark's hands off of Kristin while she was sleeping. The girl had been thorough enough with being kidnapped and all, and her tales of a scar-faced man working with a Dragon? Very strange. The Avatar seemed to not be terribly worried about there being dragons amidst everything else.

Dupre frowned. Of course, with all that had happened since the Avatar's return, why would dragons make it any stranger? A red-faced giant plauging their dreams, the Fellowship, once thought to be the pinnacle replacement of the Virtues, now behind the troubles in Britannia, and finally, this quest, which the Avatar had told his own Companions very little about, to meet someone at the site of the ancient keep, Stone Gate. Very strange times indeed. Dupre wished for a moment that he were enjoying a fine mug of ale in his favorite tavern somewhere far from here.

Kristin woke from her rest only to see the setting sun to the west and to feel the magic carpet continuing its flight north over the smelly swamp. She sighed and sat up on one of the remaining padded seats on the carpet and strapped on her sword and armor.

"AAARGHHHHH!!!!!!!!" Nicodemus screamed as he held tightly to the rope harness that secured him to Shard's back. She went into a dive and the mage screamed again in terror.

"Enjoying your ride, wee little mage?" Shard chuckled under her breath.

"Nooooooooo!" Came the reply. "Put me down!"

Shard rolled her eyes and searched for a place along the northern shore of Loch Lake to set down. She spotted a small patch of grassy land only a short walk from the sandy path into the Bog of Desolation where Stone Keep lay waiting for them.

A few minutes later, Nicodemus was on the ground again and kissing the grassy earth beneath him. Shard thought he was kissing it at least. He kept convulsing and pushing his head into the tall grass over and over. And what a peculiar smell. Hmmm, she thought, humans ARE strange creatures.

After properly cleaning himself up and regaining his composure, Nicodemus joined Shard near an oak tree. Shard had shifted back into human form and Nicodemus' eyes nearly popped out when he got his first look at her.

Shard sat with her back against the tree. Her slender form was stretched out with her long legs crossed. She wore her white-blonde hair tied into a ponytail that would have come down to her waist if she were standing. She currently had it draped over her shoulder and resting on her black leather vest. She wore black boots and white trousers, like a warrior, with a silvery-white shirt covered by a supple, yet thick black leather vest. Next to her lay a long, slender sword, in a sheath and on a belt with a silver buckle. She turned and greeted him as he approached.

"Are you finished, little mage?"

"Uhhhmmm..." Nicodemus' heart caught in his throat. He had never before seen such a beautiful woman before. And to know that this particular woman was in fact a dragon as well... The possibilities were staggerring. Nicodemus collected his wits. "I'm fine. Shall we go?"

Shard stood and tossed her hair back. She strapped on the sword and tucked a dagger into her tall boots and picked up a backpack. She tossed the other one to Nicodemus, who caught it with a loud "Umph!" Shard grinned and began walking toward the entrance to Stone Gate. Nicodemus eyed the girl for a moment, then shook his head and reminded himself that he was on a mission. He jogged quickly to catch up with the beautiful woman in front of him.

Chapter 11

The company of Dragons landed at the path leading into the Bog of Desolation. Bones fanned himself briefly and bit at an itch on his right wing. Midnight Wolf simply landed with a thud and shifted back into human form. He drew his claymore from his back and immediately vanished into the foliage to scout for trouble.

Hunter landed and looked around, scanning the terrain with his dragon eyes. There were those who said that the eyes of a dragon could see as far as a man could walk in a day or straight into your soul. Most men wouldn't even stay around long enough to check.

Hunter shook his dragon head and sighed a gust of wind which caused the nearby tall grass to sway back and forth in the breezeless day. The sun had run its course and now the evening was upon them. In the west, the sun began its setting course and Hunter watched the golden orb sink slowly into the sky. From where he stood, the mountain tops of the Serpent's Spine barely stood out from the horizon. He gazed at the falling sun and a tear ran from his eye. All the memories of watching the sun set over the Great Ocean to the west of the Valorian Isles with his daughter flooded over him. The times of joy and times of anguish welled up inside him as he never thought possible. He had a tendency to allow the anger and sorrow to build up within him until it reached the breaking point. The breaking point had been reached. First one tear, then another rolled off his dragon's nose from his big dragon's eyes. As the drops of rain patter upon the ground when the storm begins, Hunter's tears began to flow from deep within.

Bones turned his head to find the tears pouring out and he wisely walked away to leave the dragon in peace with his sorrow.

Shard and Nicodemus neared the entrance to the thin stretch of land connecting the mainland to the ruins of Stone Keep. Shard kept up a breakneck pace which left Nicodemus out of breath constantly. His robes became a problem after five minutes and his heavy backpack must have weighed around 50 stones from where it was perched on his shoulders.

Shard paused to let the human catch up with her. She had shifted her sword to her back and strapped it under her pack. Her bedroll hung our from below the pack and gave the scabbard some amount of cover. She rolled her eyes playfully as the mage neared.

"Are you still with me, little mage?" She playfully taunted.

Nicodemus panted in the evening's chilly air. He wondered how the girl had kept up the pace without her dragon body's endurance. Perhaps some amount of the dragon stamina had been hers to keep in human form. His thoughts cleared when she turned and began walking again, though at a slower pace.

Nicodemus shook his head in despair and continued after her.

The magic carpet soared over the keep of Stone Gate and followed the dirt path which led from it's hallowed halls to the shore of the bog at it's north end. Dupre munched on a strip of dried meat the Avatar had procured at the Farmer's Market the last time they had been in Britain City. Iolo strummed on his lute and hummed a soft tune. Spark kept nodding off in his seat. His adolescent manner being as it was, he had lost interest in trying to peek under Kristin's blouse. Kristin had put on more adventurous clothing than she had been kidnapped in. The dirty and torn dress had been replaced by hard, black leather boots, some dark brown leather trousers, a soft tan muslin shirt and topped off with dull steel armor and a sword, dagger and a bow. A quiver filled with arrows from Iolo's quiver and sleeping arrows from Tseramed's personal supply hung from her back.

Tseramed tried to lecture the Companions about the bog and it's history since the Avatar had last been in Britannia. The Avatar steered the magic carpet and nodded at Tseramed's tale very once in a while. Shamino's thoughts seemed to be elsewhere as he longingly gazed toward the horizon where Britain City rested. Jaana merely mixed some reagents with a mortar and pestle while taking notes in a small book on her lap. Lastly, Iolo seemed to stare out into space while whispering something about his beloved Gwenno and a Serpent Isle.

Kristin eyed the path below and watched as mighty alligators walked out of the bog and over it to reach the other side. She gripped her new sword handle tightly as they soared high above the land and waters. After so many weeks in captivity, she was determined to remain free and never allow anyone to put her in such a vulnerable position again. The waters remained still except for the occasional disturbance of the mighty lizards who vanished quickly.

The Avatar called out when he saw the water's edge and the north shore. He turned the carpet into a curve and began to land on the grass just above the shoreline.

Shard approached the mighty black dragon weeping in the cool evening's air. He caught her scent as the wind changed and swiveled around on a hind paw with his wings outstretched and a fire in his breath.

"We...we're gonna die!" Nicodemus fell to his knees and tried his best to remember spells that seemed to vanish from his memory.

Shard set her jaw firmly and approached the dragon. She cleared her throat and opened her mouth as if to say something. No words came. Only a penetrating stare came forth from her eyes.

Hunter returned her stare and relinquished his fire. A young dragon stood before him, clothed in human form. That much he knew. What she was doing here, he did not know. And the mage Nicodemus, he recognized from a painting he had seen long ago. But the young dragon he knew not.

Shard took a deep breath but Nicodemus spoke first. "Mighty dragon. We are travelers sent from the Weyrmount. Vere'ol Dragon sent us to aid you. And the Time Lord sent us to this place to find you. This " he gestured toward Shard, "is Shard. A young Dragon from the northern regions. She was sent by the Time Lord to join you on your quest." Nicodemus turned his head and looked around nervously. "There was supposed to be another dragon accompanying you, but I don't see..."

Nicodemus's words were lost as Midnight Wolf and Bones emerged battle ready in Human form from the bushes. Midnight Wolf had both Shard and Nicodemus in his sights and covered with a longbow. Bones held a burning Firedoom Staff in his hands and was ready to fry the visitors with a fireball. They both eyed Hunter for a sign. Hunter shifted form into his Human form before all their eyes. He strapped his katana sword on, but left his black armor and pack on the ground. He stretched out a hand to Shard and his grey eyes penetrated her green-grey eyes. She shivered for a moment and then calmed herself. Taking her hand, she felt a shiver down to her warm dragon heart. She found herself almost blushing as Hunter spoke.

"Then I welcome you, Shard of the northern Dragons. And thee as well, Mighty Nicodemus. Your exploits are known as far south as Jhelom." He smiled at the newcomers and the other dragons lowered their weapons.

Nicodemus sighed and felt relieved. Shard chewed on her lower lip and began to speak but was overpowered by the whooshing sensatoin of a magic carpet floating in for a landing only a few meters away. Bones eyed the carpet carefully and smiled as he recognized the Avatar and his Companions. Midnight Wolf backed up and vanished into the brush.

When the carpet came to a complete rest, The Avatar rose and greeted the company waiting at the shore. He introduced his Companions one by one and Hunter and the others welcomed them in return.

Finally, when only one person remained in the shadows behind everyone else, the Avatar stepped aside and introduced his newest traveling companion. Kristin stepped forward and tossed back her cloak hood.

Hunter's world came to a grinding halt. His eyes widened and a sense of joy welled up in his throat. "Hello dad. Sorry I'm late." Kristin bit her lip and tried to hold back the tears but failed as they streaked down her rosy cheeks. She jumped into her father's arms and he wrapped them around her.

"I thought I would never see you again." Hunter choked the words through his own tears of joy.

"And I thought I would never live to be held by you again." Kristin replied.

Bones smiled and nodded approvingly. He watched as Shard and Nicodemus simply stood and watched the sequence of events. Shard dropped her pack and stared at the two holding each other. A small streak of jealousy fired within her then dwindled away. Nicodemus simply grinned and clapped his hands together in joy.

From the brush, Midnight Wolf nodded and a narrow smile crossed his lips. As happy as he was for Hunter, he was a solitary dragon. His thoughts drifted back to the dragon he had left behind. But Lady Darkchild was her own person and though she was to be his mate someday, they lived apart most of the time, being together only for short times as their paths crossed. Still, he sniffed back a stray tear, he did miss her. Perhaps after all this...adventure was over he would find her and make amends for being gone so long. Perhaps indeed.

Kristin and Hunter began to converse about what had happened to them both and soon Shard and Nicodemus joined in with their tales of how they came to travel together. The question of the powerful artifact came up again. The Avatar frowned at its mention. Anything to do with the Triad of Evil made him curious. The Dark Core of Exodus had been dangerous enough and had to be disposed of. The Avatar and the Companions had destroyed it in the Islands of Fire. The Gem of Immortality that Mondain had possessed had been dangerous to everyone. When it shattered many centuries before, the resonance had shattered more than the power, but this the Avatar remained silent about. He had seen the splintering of worlds within worlds and the creation of many more worlds that would become parallel dimensions someday...other Britannias possibly. At least he remembered that much from the schools of his Earth. Furthermore, Mondain's skull had been a dangerous artifact in itself. It had the power to kill anyone, even Lord British, but it's use came with a price. And the loss of ALL virtue was too costly for anyone. Now an artifact had been discovered from the only member of the Triad who had not left a legacy behind. Minax had attempted to gain vengance against the Avatar himself on his own world or Earth. She had twisted time to become a weapon against him. Only his skills gained from the lands which would become Britannia kept him alive and gave him a chance to destroy Minax. If the device that Minax used to twist time to her favor survived the breaking of the world, then it was the Avatar's responsibility to destroy it as well. And from the reports that he had heard from the Time Lord and other sources as well gave his an all too familiar description of the object in question. Destroying the object was important, but he couldn't be sidetracked from the larger problem. This Guardian who threatened Britannia took precedence over everything else.

The Avatar looked up at the company gathered under the light of the two full moons by the shore of the Bog of Desolation and spoke to them. "Friends," he began, "I cannot go with you on this quest." He raised his hands to stop their speaking. "I know of this device of which you speak. It is a terrible thing indeed. Minax used it to twist time itself and almost destroyed my home world in the process of gaining revenge against me. There is a new evil lose in Britannia and I must stop it now. I can only wish you Godspeed on your way." He paused for a moment as if to condsider his words carefully. "We have our own quests now. You must retrieve this device before anyone else gets their hands on it." He stopped.

Hunter stepped forward. "What exactly is this device Avatar?"

The Avatar thought for a moment. "It is an amulet as I recall. A golden amulet in the shape of the sun with a giant ruby in its center the size of a man's eye. Minax called it the Eye of Kronos. It is a powerful artifact and I would search for it myself if I could, but with this new...Guardian threatening Britannia I must not allow myself to be distracted from thwarting him or else all is lost in Britannia. I can only hope that you all can retrieve the amulet before anyone else can get their hands on it. It is a threat almost as great as this Guardian. He who holds the amulet controls time. And THAT is very dangerous indeed." His last words echoed in the minds of the company gathered at the shore.

The company nodded and the Avatar broke into a smile. "But enough of that for now. Let us rejoice that this father and his daughter have been reunited." He smiled and the company broke into a cheer. Bottles of wine were opened and a small celebration began.

As the reunion of Hunter and Kristin continued, the Avatar decided to bow out and leave the happy family to themselves. After leaving a small amount of supplies, enough for the adventurers to continue their quest , the Companions loaded the magic carpet and the Avatar bid farewell to the company.

Hunter and Kristin waved farewell to the Avatar and his brave Companions. He was happy that his adopted daughter had been returned to him safely, but was also concerned with the information that Nicodemus and Shard had brought from the Weyrmount with them.

Bones and Midnight Wolf stood apart from the rest and checked the supplies. Bones had overheard Shard's description of the situation and Nicodemus' detailed description of the visit by the Time Lord. He knew the surroundings of Stone Gate well, since he had flown reconnaissance during the reign of Lord Blackthorne over the fortress, as well as, entered it in secret, only to find the ancient fortress overrun with the three Shadowlords. He wrinkled his nose at the mere thought of those evil minions.

The trip to the fortress took a short amount of time indeed. The path was strewn with snakes and alligators, but for the company of warriors they were not a problem. Hunter noticed that the vermin kept their distance from the cursed fortress.

The fortress itself was in ruin, but still somewhat sturdy. The ancient towers had fallen and the main hall was only partially intact, but the underground portion was still fully intact. Midnight Wolf stood and began scouting for the entrance to the bowels of the ruined fortress and was somewhat disturbed to find that the entrance had been used recently. After exploring a short distance he turned and headed back to the surface.

Hunter held Kristin closely, but also noticed the young dragon, Shard, shuffling her feet. Shard felt out of place at such a Human-Type reunion. She was not as familiar with the customs of these Humans as the other dragons.

Kristin told her father the tales of how she had been captured. She spoke of the dragon who had taken her from her home and the scar-faced man. She went into long details about the ordeal she was put through and her rescue by the Avatar and Sir Dupre.

Hunter listened with anticipation. His expression grew darker with each passing moment. Kristin stopped at the end of her tale and smiled at her father. Her hand stayed noticeably on the hilt of her new sword during the storytelling, Hunter noticed. He sighed and thought only for a moment of what she had been put through. His thoughts also considered the implications that one of the Dragons had betrayed the light and had strayed into the darkness. He frowned for a moment until his thoughts were interrupted by Midnight Wolf.

"Over here. There's an entrance that leads down!" His shouts brought the entire company to the foliage-covered entrance. What was once a medium sized stairway going down into the bowels of the ancient fortress had been partially blocked off and covered with vines to hide the entrance. Wolf brushed the vines out of the way, uncovering the King's Stairway of the old castle.

Bones produced a magickal orb for light and peered into the corridor. The stairs led down far into the darkness. Hunter moved to lead the company down into the darkness and Wolf shook his head. Hunter sighed. "We must go now. If they have descended into the depths of this ruin to find the amulet we must go there as well. They cannot be allowed to gain control over time. No one should possess that kind of power." Wolf thought for a moment and drew his sword. Hunter nodded and drew his blade as well. The light of Bones' orb reflected off of the silver in the blade of Hunter's Katana sword. With Bones right behind him, Hunter descended into the darkness and the company followed.

Lord British looked over his knights as they arrived at Castle British. The call had gone forth to all the nobles to assemble battle-ready in Britain after the verbal attack by the Guardian on the King. The Nobles of all the families in Britannia had started arriving the previous day. The families of Ironhawk, Rasmutan, Pleides, Magadon and Verberum were present and assembling their Men-at-Arms along with their knights and archers. Lord British watched all this from the high tower of the castle. He nodded sternly as he watched.

"My Lord?"

The King turned to see a page waiting with a message for him. He took the scroll and broke the seal. The nobles already present wished to know why they had been summoned on such short notice. They had every right to wonder. Geoffrey had walked in on the Guardian's last threat against the King and had seen with his own eyes the red-faced creature threaten the King. As a former Companion, he stood in the shadows weighing the choice to interfere or not. When the creature vanished suddenly, he had waited for a moment to regain his composure before announcing himself to the King. British pondered what would have happened if the creature would have advanced on the King. More likely than not, Geoffrey would have rushed to defend his king and may have been slain by the monster.

"What shall I tell them, my Lord?" The page shifted his feet nervously.

British glanced at him for a moment and did not recognize him. He must be new to the position. British nodded absently. He himself had encouraged the young people to get more involved in the politics of the land; something he had brought with him from his old world of Earth. Sometimes he wondered how the Avatar kept his sanity by constantly moving from the world of Earth to Britannia. Another question for another time, British supposed. "Tell the nobles that I shall meet with them this night for dinner here at the castle. There I shall tell them of the threat that includes all of Britannia."

The page nodded and left the King to his own thoughts. With a final glance toward the horizon, he watched another group of nobles arrive in the city from the south. The banner of House Genovice flew over the force of men and horses arriving. British smiled wryly and turned to prepare for dinner.

Chapter 12

Within the dark halls of the ancient keep known as Stone Gate, the intrepid company of Hunter Dragon, Kristin, Midnight Wolf Dragon, Bones Dragon, Nicodemus the Mage, and Shard Dragon moved silently but swiftly. Their way lit only by Bones' In Lor spell, but their naked steel glimmering in the dim light, the company crossed room after room and hall after hall, following the trail left in the centuries of dust by those they tracked. Midnight Wolf scouted ahead and Hunter led the rest as they wound through the ancient labyrinth of corridors and rooms.

Nicodemus muttered to himself the entire way as if talking to another being completely. He told Hunter which ways were dead ends and which were traps. His insight was valuable as the company never backtracked on themselves once.

Shard held her sword in front of her warily. She had considerable practice using the human weapon, though she had always depended on her Dragon strength to defend herself before. Now she realized how fragile the humans were in the little bodies they wore. She chuckled quietly to herself at the thought of staying human. A dragon was a mighty creature indeed and was proud of that.

Hunter noticed the smile on Shard's face and sighed. As beautiful as Shard was, she was not ready for an ordeal such as this. When the blood began to spill and the action began, Hunter hoped that Shard would prove to be as reliable as the grin she now wore. He shook his head as he crept along.

At a corner, Hunter held his hand up to stop the party. He motioned for Bones to dim the light source. Bones complied and the company waited in the very dim light for a moment. Hunter gave a sigh of relief to see Midnight Wolf appear from he darkness. "What news?" Hunter whispered in anticipation.

Midnight Wolf nodded. "The tracks lead to a locked door. It is iron bound wood. Oak, I believe. The door is locked and I have no lockpicks." He scowled. "I should have picked some up at Buccaneer's Den."

Kristin pushed her way up to the front. "Here, will these do?" She handed Midnight Wolf three blue lockpicks.

Midnight Wolf smiled as he replied. "Very well indeed. Where did you get them from?"

Kristin smiled slyly and replied. "From a chest on the Avatar's magic carpet." She shrugged. "He told me that I could take anything I needed or could use. And we both need and could use them." She turned and returned to her position between Nicodemus and Shard, watching the old mage's back.

Midnight Wolf grinned at Hunter. "Well trained daughter you've got there." He winked and Hunter scowled in response.

After picking the lock on the iron bound door, it opened with a loud thud, hitting against the wall inside the room. The company entered to discover a circle of stones arranged on the ground. The footprints continued on into the circle and stopped as if their creators were simply plucked from the air. The company crowded around the circle and speculated.


"I do not understand."

"Hmmmm..." Bones thought for a moment and opened his mouth as if to speak, then closed it and simply shrugged.

"Perhaps a moongate?" Nicodemus spoke aloud. The others turned to him with questioning looks in their eyes. "I mean why not a moongate of some sort?"

"Moongates are always above ground. How else can the phases of the moon be calculated? Besides, all the moongates in Britannia have been catalogued and aren't even working right now." Bones stopped and stared at Nicodemus. "The only moongate which even remotely moves is the red moongate which brings the Avatar to Britannia."

Nicodemus sat on the ground before the stone circle. "I AM aware of that, Mr. Bones. I am simply stating the obvious. A circle of stones such as this surrounds every moongate in Britannia. Only this circle," Nicodemus attempted to pick up a stone from the circle. "This circle is fused to the stone floor." He shrugged. "We know of all the blue moongates which provided transportation for the people of Britannia and we know of the red moongate which brings the Avatar to this world and brought Lord British long ago, but..." Here, Nicodemus seemed to falter. "In recent times at the Lycaeum, the Mages there have uncovered ancient texts dating back to the time of the Triad of Evil and before which tell of two other types of gates. One, a Black Gate can only be used during certain astronomical junctions. The other is a Silver Gate which opens to some other world completely. "

Bones stared openly. "A Black Gate?" He laughed. "Such a thing couldn't even be used by Britannians. So how could they even know about it?" Here, Bones paused. "I have heard of the theory behind the Silver Gate. It assumes that there would be someone to open it and keep it open on BOTH sides of the gate for it to work." He looked from side to side and gestured around the room. "I don't see anyone here to keep the gate open and the tracks only lead into the circle not out of it."

At that moment, Midnight Wolf entered the room from the dark corridor. "You mean like this?" He held up the bloodied robe of a mage. Hunter recognized it as an apprentice's robes.

Kristin gasped. Everyone turned to her. She shivered for a moment before calming herself. "Those robes were worn by one of my kidnappers. The Mage they had kept two apprentices. Both wore robes like that one."

Hunter turned to Midnight Wolf. Wolf shrugged. "I only found the one. And the remains which looked pretty chewed up." He turned to Bones and handed him a leather bound book and a leather pouch. "Might these come in handy?"

Bones took them and examined than. "A spell book which only covers up to the third circle and a bag of reagents." He tossed the book aside and stuffed the pouch into his own robes.

Nicodemus nodded and raised his hands. "Why don't we test that theory about the Silver Gate then..." 

Lord British sat himself down at the head table in the Great Hall of Castle British. He scanned the group of nobles sitting with him and at the lesser tables for any signs of weakness. One of the first rules he had learned as ruler was never to show weakness and to look for any sigh of weakness in those you ruled over. He saw none in those around him. Pushing himself into a standing position, he began to speak in a loud and commanding voice.

"My loyal noble subjects. You have come on short notice and I thank you. You have brought with you a great army and I thank you again." He took a deep breath. "A terrible evil has threatened the land once again. And once again the Avatar is among us. His presence alerts us all to a threat which encompasses all of Britannia." Another pause. He was met with silence. The nobles were told to expect a fight and they were ready for one. "Lord Ironhawk, Lord Guiessepe, Lord Varnoth, and Lord Griswal, I thank you for joining me with such a large number of men at arms and knights. Those nobles who brought lesser forces are welcome as well and just as welcomed to the fields of battle.

"For two hundred years, the land has been at relative peace. The Avatar has been away because we didn't need him. He has been summoned, no, Challenged by a powerful being from another world. This 'Guardian' as he calls himself shows great power and no mercy. And now we have proof that the Fellowship has been aiding him in his quest to conquer Britannia."

The nobles began to murmur amongst themselves. Lord Ironhawk addressed the king. "Sire, we are all with you. Those of us who supported the Fellowship have abandoned us already and now we know why. Tell us where to fight them and their 'Guardian' and we shall be victorious over them!" The nobles all cheered at Ironhawk's speech.

Lord British raised his hands. "We do not know yet where they are hiding or where the 'Guardian' will try to enter Britannia. We only know that the Avatar has been tracking a man called 'Hook', a pirate of some fame and note, in the hopes that he might lead us to the secret location of the Fellowship forces and the entry point of this evil being." The nobles quieted down somewhat after British stopped speaking. "The Avatar is due back here in a few days time with a report of the situation."

Lord British motioned to the side where a robed man stood clutching a leather bound spell book. "My Mage Nystul brings a report of the situation concerning the magickal ether."

The old mage slowly made his way to the center floor on the Great Hall. "Friends, I am happy to report that the ether has been cleansed by the Avatar." A cheer went up from the nobles. Obviously they had brought their own Mages with them in case the ether was cleansed. " Also the problem of the moongates has been solved. Once again the Avatar has rescued the land in its time of need."

Lord British quieted the nobles once again and motioned for Nystul to leave. He stood once again. "We shall meet again in three days when the Avatar returns with his progress report. Until then, my home is yours. Your men and beasts may be fed and watered from my own storeroom." He paused. "In three days we shall know more of what the enemy is up to, and...." He waited for a moment, "where to find them." 

The Avatar held his sword tightly as he crept through the caves in the mountains surrounding the town of Buccaneer's Den. His Companions were there as well, each armed with weapons of magick and steel. Sir Dupre flanked the Avatar and the bard, Iolo watched both their backs with his trusty crossbow.

After opening a locked door, they found themselves in a residential apartment deep within the caves. Spark took out a lockpick and began tinkering with a chest while the others searched the rooms. They found nothing. However, upon returning to the outer room where Spark was, they discovered him waiting for them holding a gold key in one hand and a scroll in the other. The Avatar read the scroll and took the key from Spark. He shouted in triumph and motioned for the Companions to follow him out of the caves. Finally, the Avatar thought to himself, the location we have sought for so long is ours. "Thank you Hook." The Avatar spoke aloud. "You've given me exactly what I needed." He turned to his Companions. "Now to Castle British. The King must see this immediately." 

From outside the realm of Britannia, the Time Lord watched as the Avatar discovered the key and scroll. He smiled. All was going as he had foreseen it. After all, he mused, what was the point of being the lord of time if you didn't know how everything was going to turn out?

He chuckled to himself. Of course the Guardian was another matter. This world of Britannia was one thing. The Guardian was from beyond this world. The Time Lord had no domain over other worlds. Only Britannia was under his protection. And the magicks of the Guardian were beyond his ability to control. The Time Lord shivered at the ease by which the Guardian had trapped him at the Shrine which he called home. A single mystical generator was all the Guardian had needed to trap the Time Lord. "Fortunately," the Time Lord spoke aloud, "I have faith in my Champion. The Avatar will defeat this threat as he has always done."

The Wisp that hovered near the Time Lord's shoulder pulsed with a blue glow. "Perhaps." It's voice echoed within the shrine's chamber. "But he cannot do it alone. If the Guardian gains possession of the Eye of Kronos, then your powers keeping him at bay currently will be neutralized completely."

The Time Lord glared at the Wisp. "I have already dispatched a group of adventurers to destroy that cursed amulet that Minax created. They will not fail. They owe me a.....debt. And I am collecting that debt now."

The Wisp pulsed through several shades of blue. "Perhaps. But they will discover your greatest secret in the process as well. What will you do about that, O wise Time Lord?" The sarcasm in the Wisp's voice was obvious.

The Time Lord turned away from the Wisp. "I have already thought of that, but it cannot be helped. Those guarding the amulet will be discovered in time anyway. The gate cannot remain closed forever. It was always a matter of time." He allowed his voice to fade as he spoke. "I can only hope they will be prepared for what is to come from this." With a final sigh of weariness, he turned his attention to the Dragons and Humans in the ancient keep of Stone Gate.

Chapter 13

The magic carpet began to lose altitude as the Avatar and his party moved in for a landing on the roof of Lord British's castle in Britain City. The King himself was not waiting for his champion as he usually did. With a final gust of air, the carpet settled down on the stone rooftop near the stairs leading down into the central keep. The avatar waved his hand and the invisible barriers, which kept people from falling off the sides of the carpet disappeared.

As usual, Spark was the first one off the carpet. He set himself at guard mode even in the relative safety of the castle. His new magic armor glinted with a silvery-blue as the sunlight reflected off of it. At night the armor would glow dimly to aid the warrior in the darkness. Spark was personally fond of the armor, as he had won it at great personal risk in the dungeons of Britannia while fighting beasts he had only heard about during his young life. Iolo frowned at the boy. He hesitated once more from giving the usual comment about how adventuring could ruin a young man's childhood. He held his tongue and began checking his crossbow string once again to ensure it would be ready in an instant.

The Avatar himself was making sure the carpet was secure and powered down from the spell that allowed it flight. When he was certain it was stable, he stood and strode over to one of the chests he had secured on the carpet's midsection. Upon opening the chest, he withdrew the large gold key that Spark had found as well as a scroll containing the names of the victims that had been killed in Britannia. Hook had kept both items safely hidden away on Buccaneer's Den in his hideout. The chest was sealed and magickally locked against looters.

The party gathered around and the Avatar gave instructions for his Companions to secure the necessary supplies for a journey to the Isle of the Avatar as well as re-arming their weapon equipment. Tseramed and Shamino decided to check in on the mages to ensure that the magick weapons were charged and powered to maximum. Iolo, Dupre, Spark, and the others went shopping for supplies and food.

Alone once more, the Avatar descended the stone stairs into the King's castle.

His footsteps echoed on the paving stones as he strode calmly through the dimly lit corridor, pausing only once at the King's Great Hall before entering. 

Lord British, the Defender of the Virtues, Monarch of all Britannia, sat at the head table of the Great Hall with the various nobles of the land. His head hurt, for the nobles had been arguing for hours over the coming battle against the Guardian.

"You cannot expect us to go blindly into battle." Lord Igloos slammed his fist against the table, rattling the mugs of wine and splashing his own across the tabletop. "If this being is so all-powerful that the Avatar got dragged back here by him, then what can WE possibly do against him?"

Lord British ignored the glare from the other nobles, but understood the anger behind Iglest's voice. The Guardian had dared to appear in the castle proper. And the castle was designed to be impenetrable to that sort of thing. "My good nobles," Lord British began, then allowed his voice to trail off as he caught a flicker of movement from across the room.

The Avatar strode up tot he head table and ignored the minor nobles who all stared and murmured softly in the background. He gave a short bow to Lord British and then spoke clearly so that all could hear. "My Lord, I have returned with the information that we have sought after." He pulled off his worn leather backpack and opened it. From deep within he pulled out the gold key and the scroll. " These items were found hidden away on the Isle of Buccaneer's Den. They were in a hideout of the criminal Hook, the man responsible for the ritual murders plaguing Britannia of late." He held the Key up for all to see. "This key was created a long time ago by the Gargoyles to lock away a chamber on Avatar Isle. The purpose of the chamber is unknown to men though." He held up the scroll. "This scroll, however is another matter entirely. It contains the names of every person killed ritualistically of late. Each name is scratched off but two. Those names are...Lord British's, and my own."

With the declaration, the Hall exploded into shouts of rage and anger by all the nobles. The Avatar turned and watched the chaos ensue for a moment then raised his hand to quiet them. After about a minute the Hall was silent once again. "Lastly there is this." He reached into the backpack one final time and brought forth a parchment. "This, my good nobles and King, is a message from Batlin himself. A challenge to me if I found it, which I did. He has apparently gathered together an army of creatures the Guardian has given him control over. Undead zombies, Gazers, foul creatures from the deepest dungeons. They await me and my Companions at Avatar Isle. He expects more than a final conflict. Batlin and Hook have stacked the deck, so to speak." The murmurs began again. "I asked Lord British to assemble an army of our greatest warriors throughout the land. We need you all to aid us in this endeavor to stop the entrance of this 'Guardian' into Britannia. Will you aid me? Will you aid your homeland?"

Silence reigned in the room and even Lord British held his breath as the nobles looked at one another.

Lord Ironhawk of Hawksnest, looked at his fellow nobles. He realized that this fight would be the most important fight in history. He also realized that the probability of anyone coming back was slim to none. The Undead had not been raised to the surface in a long time. The Undead War 170 years before had nearly destroyed Britannia. The forces of darkness had risen up, driven by a force still unknown to man and had wiped out army after army until they were finally pushed back after horribly high losses by mankind. People wondered where the Avatar was then.

Ironhawk drummed his fingers on the table. None of the other nobles had spoken as of yet. None wanted to commit to fighting another war with the undead. And fighting across the sea on the Isle of the Avatar was unthinkable. There would be nowhere to run to. There would be a tactical disadvantage to fighting there. He knew that the other nobles would probably vote to wait until the threat was to the mainland of Britannia. However, if the Avatar was willing to fight this new foe, even backed by the undead....

"I shall go."

The other nobles turned suddenly to see who had spoken. Lord British smiled as Lord Ironhawk stood, his hand on his sword pommel. "I shall bring my finest warriors with me to do battle with thee, Avatar."

The Avatar brought his fist against his heart in a salute to Ironhawk. Lord British stood and spoke softly. "And who shall join us now?"

The sound of chairs scraping the stone floor echoed throughout the room. Every noble followed Ironhawk's move and joined their forces together. After a minute of oath swearing shouts, not a single noble in the Great Hall was seated. And every sword was raised in salute to the Avatar and Lord British.

"Then we sail for the Isle of the Avatar in 2 days. Send word across the land, by pigeon, by horseback, and by whatever means you can that we need to raise a fleet of ships to take us to the Isle. Let us begin now to fight the last battle against this 'Guardian'." The shouts grew louder and the people all began to chant "God save Lord British. God save the Avatar."

Quietly so that none could hear, Lord British sighed and muttered, " God preserve us all." 

The undead forces began to multiply as they came upon the island of the Avatar. Liches drove their undead followers from the waters, from the caves, and from the graves to assemble at the entrance of the Chamber Gate. The shrine at the north end of the Island had been taken and secured. Skeletons of fallen warriors clanked in suits of armor rusted and cracked as they moved in to position alongside Daemons and Trolls. A group of floating eyeballs with teeth bumped into each other as they patrolled the waters.

From inside his newly claimed fortress, Batlin watched the army he had assembled. The power the Guardian had given him over the Undead was less now than when he was given it, but it still held their loyalty. They were bound to him in some way for now. He cast a final glance on the Gazers patrolling the small bay in the center of the Island before turning to head for the Chamber. The Blackrock gate was almost finished. Before the day was out it would be powering up to open a gateway for the Great Lord to come through. Batlin shivered for a moment. He wanted to be First among the Guardian's followers in appearance. Yet, to be the one who controlled the power wielded by the demigod. At last. At long last to have the power to shape Britannia.

Hook joined Batlin as they walked toward the chamber, ignoring the zombies carrying blackrock in woven baskets. They were servants, nothing more, yet even Batlin felt uneasy with the Undead all around him.

"What news from our friends at Stone Gate?" Batlin inquired.

"Nothing yet." Hook replied. "They send word that they would try to summon the gate and cross over to claim the Eye, but that was nearly a week ago." Hook seemed nervous. Batlin studied his partner a moment longer.

Batlin shrugged. "We cannot wait any longer. Send word that the Dragon is to return with or without the party seeking the Eye. We cannot spare the time or beastpower on that endeavor anymore. We shall simply have to hope that we can control the Guardian once he arrives in Britannia. His power will be suppressed by the spell cast upon him as he enters. We shall be the ones who wield that power." Batlin grinned for a moment.

Hook slowed a bit in thought. "Of course, if the Guardian DOES find out what we have planned..." The thought was best left unspoken. He glanced nervously at Batlin.

"The plan WILL work. It MUST." Batlin increased his pace as he approached the Chamber.

Two skeletons wielding rusted Halberds opened the doors to the Chamber for the humans. Their bony hands creaked as they pulled the mighty iron bound wood doors open. Inside the room, five liches sat at points of a pentagram casting the spells that molded the blackrock into a 20 foot tall obelisk of blackrock.

Despite himself, Batlin smiled. Soon, he thought to himself. Very soon Britannia will be mine.

Chapter 14

Nicodemus positioned himself on the floor in front of the stone circle. He glanced at the group of adventurers awaiting his magickal expertise. Hunter nodded to him and he began reciting the words of power. With a hand in his reagent bag, he grasped a few reagents necessary to cast the spell. His voice grew in volume until he shouted the final word and threw the reagent at the circle.

An explosion of silvery light erupted from the circle as the gate appeared. Hunter stared at the silver gate. The light seemed to shimmer for a moment, then solidified. He turned to Nicodemus. The old mage waved him on. With a nod, he threw himself into the gate, followed closely by Bones.

The sensation of traveling through a moongate is not unlike passing through water. It is simply there, yet it is contained. A moongate usually felt as though one's body was no longer attached to one's mind for the brief time one was within the gate. This time it felt just a bit different. Hunter screamed, yet he had no voice. The gate shredded his body into a thousand pieces and put them back together again only to shred them once more. For a moment he thought he heard Bones screams, but then realized that he had no ears with which to hear.

The sensation of pain and travel were obvious, yet after a moment, they passed and there was a feeling of rejuvenation. Finally, there was a fluid feeling as he felt himself being thrown back into his body and then...

Hunter fell to the ground in front of the gate. He looked up wearily into the eyes of a man in white robes. The man gave a start and reached for his staff. Hunter rolled out of the way, which was fortunate for Bones came through the gate a moment later, falling to his face on the ground.

One fluid motion sent Hunter's dagger from its sheath into the man's throat. He sagged and fell to his knees before dying in a gurgle of blood on the ground. Hunter got to his feet to find Bones sitting cross legged in front of the Gate.


"I have established contact with Nicodemus. The Gate is stable. Go and do what you must." Bones' reply was in a monotone. He was obviously in a trance.

Hunter glanced around the room for the first time. The walls were rough stone, as though hewn from the earth itself. The path leading from the Gate into the darkness was well-trod as of late. The footprints of men in the dust was obvious. He used his Dragon Eyes to examine farther into the darkness than any human would be able to do. The Gate began to hum and Hunter turned to see what was going on.

The Gate shimmered and Kristin fell through. Hunter Caught her. Then it shimmered again. Shard fell through. Finally, Midnight Wolf fell through, only to roll onto his feet with sword drawn.

"Where in...", Wolf began. Hunter held up a hand.

"We're not in Britannia anymore. I can't feel the ether. Well, except from there." Hunter gestured at the Gate. "Kristin, stay with Bones. He's helpless as he is."

Kristin glanced at Bones and then drew her sword. "Nobody will harm him while I live." She said as though she were commenting on the weather. Though an icy stare from her eyes spoke otherwise.

Hunter nodded and gave a quick smile. He drew his sword and led Wolf and Shard into the cave.

As it turned out, the cave was narrow and shorter than normal human height. Hunter felt boxed in at times as the trio made their way upward toward the surface. Wolf had moved ahead of Hunter and was scouting ahead while Shard watched behind them as the silvery light vanished into darkness. She held her sword with a firmer grip and tried to relax as they neared the surface.

Wolf returned only a few minutes after he had left. "Well?" Hunter whispered. Wolf smiled and motioned for them to follow. The trio ascended for about a minute more before the cave leveled out and the ceiling height rose to at least twice the height of a man. After the cave twisted for about 50 paces more, it opened into a world they had never seen before.

The sun shone dimly with a reddish tint, yet it hung very large in the sky. The countryside was charred with black streaks and dried up lakebeds. The grass at their feet gave a crunching sound as they walked upon it.

Hunter looked at his companions as they stared in dismay. Wolf pointed his finger at the mountains in the distance. Hunter followed his finger to the specific mountain in the distance. The recognition sunk in immediately. The Weyrmount. Yet, it wasn't. For Upon the Weyrmount was carved the face of a bearded man. The recognition was instant for Hunter. "A dwarf?" Shard looked shaken by the revelation.

"Indeed." Wolf spoke quietly.

Hunter's mind raced to the last time he had seen a dwarf in Britannia. It was just after the fall of Exodus during the last of the Age of Darkness. Sosaria was rocked by earthquakes and the races of the world flocked together. The Humans fled to Lord British's lands, where he was able to shield them somewhat from the worst of it. The Dragons had risen to the air to wait out the breaking of the land. But the Dwarves, elves, and other fairy-folk were not so fortunate. Half-elves, half orcs, dwarves, elves, bobbits and other creatures disliked Man and stayed away from Lord British's lands. As such they were lost in the Breaking. None had been seen since.

Hunter was only vaguely aware when a dart struck him in the neck. He turned and saw the others lying on the ground with feathered darts sticking out of their necks. He made a motion to move his sword into play when his legs gave out.

As darkness closed in on him, he could barely make out the shape of a very short man with hairy feet walking up to him and kicking him in his side. 

The Dragon came alone across the waves of the Great Sea. Stone Gate had been a waste of time. She had waited at the northern end of the swamp for her "companions" until the summons was sent. A Daemon came from the sky and told her to come. It lifted off in a gust of sulfur and was gone.

"Dirty stinking..." The comment was best left unsaid. Daemons were a nasty breed of creature. Evil to the core and created by the Triad of Evil a long time ago,, they were never used as messengers. Their pride wouldn't allow such a thing. If they were under the control of the Guardian already, well, perhaps she allied herself with the winning side after all.

She allowed herself a moment of pride. Hunter Dragon would be facing the worst odds of all when an army of Daemons tore him apart. It was no more than he deserved. She had loved him for 300 years before she began to hear the "Inner Voice" calling her. It told her that Hunter had been unfaithful to her. That he had taken up with a Human woman when she was not around. The voice wouldn't lie to her, she thought. Besides, she had sworn to serve the Great Lord once she learned of the Guardian's coming. With a final thought of Hunter she smiled cruelly. She just hoped that she would have the pleasure of tearing his living heart from his chest before he died.

Maerion smiled at the thought. Lord British had a favorite saying from his world, Earth that she adapted for this situation "Hell hath no fury like a Female Dragon scorned." Revenge had been a long time coming. But she had the patience to wait.

Chapter 15

Consciousness was a long time on coming to the dragon called Shard. Her throat felt dry and her head hurt. Hurt? She was a dragon. Dragons have thick heads and they aren't supposed to... The thought trailed off. She sat up in a room covered with mosaics on the walls. The floor under her felt like marble. She rose to her knees and shook her head to clear it, sending her white-blonde hair swirling around her.

Hunter lay a few feet away, groaning as though in pain. Wolf lay on his back with bruises to his face and his armor removed. She felt her own body and discovered she was wearing only a shirt, breeches, and boots. Their weapons and armor were nowhere to be seen.

She stood and examined the room around her. The room was large. At least 30 times her own height. And the floor WAS marble, tiled in huge blocks of reddish-black marble. The room was circular and the sides were raised to form benches slanting upward from the floor. She stretched her muscles and moved toward the nearest bench. Five paces from the seat she ran headfirst into an invisible barrier. The barrier was smooth and crackled with energy. Magick? She pondered.

Hunter rolled himself to his feet and saw Wolf beginning to stir. He felt bruised he didn't know were there before he woke and winced with pain. "What in British's Name..." He was cut off by the sound of a large bell struck in the distance. He stood and walked to Shard.

"What is going on?" Hunter Began and then stopped. A gust of air whisked through the room and suddenly the benches around the circular room were filled. Shard jumped and Hunter braced himself. Wolf simply ignored them and sat up with a moan.

"You see. They condemn themselves with their own words." A shrill voice spoke to all in the room.

Hunter squinted to see who had spoken. The speaker stood on a small platform at what he guessed to be the head of the room. She was short for a human, yet slender and graceful. She wore a robe of white, draped with a red-black shawl. "They name the Evil One and thus condemn themselves."

Shard opened her mouth to speak. "The Evi..."

Hunter cut her off. "Hear me please. For what I am about to say may sound odd."

Wolf looked at Hunter. Shard glared at him. The speaker hesitated a moment, then nodded.

"I know who you are, I think. And it has been a very long time since you lived in our world." Hunter began.

A murmur passed through the crowd. Hunter went on. "Sosaria that once was is now no more. The land has risen and sunk, changing the face of the world. Lord British rules the world in peace, not with malice. All people live without fear of evil." The crowd began to grow restless. "We have been long without your people in the land. And perhaps we have lacked because of it. But Lord British has ruled wisely over all races. Even we, the proudest of all races have given ourselves over to be ruled by him. " The crowd quieted down and the speaker gave Hunter a puzzled look.

Wolf stood by Shard behind Hunter. He smiled at the thought of what Hunter was about to do.

"Your race is human. You are non benign. You are not peaceful. And you will be destroyed."

"NO!" The roar went through every inch of the room, echoing and reverberating off the walls. The crowd went dead silent. Hunter straightened himself up. "I am a...." Hunter's shape began to shift. His face elongated, his tail grew, his body enlarged, and his skin grew scaly. "...A DRAGON!"

At the word, dragon, the others changed as well. What had been three prisoners awaiting execution became three dragons, taking up much of the floor of the room. A large black dragon with yellow eyes stood in front. A midnight blue/black dragon with red eyes stared down from the left of him, and a pure white dragon with blue eyes stared down from next to the second.

The crowd panicked. No seat was being sat upon and every small person was running for the exit. The speaker alone stood, frozen in place by fear, at the sight of the three dragons.

"Peace friends." Hunter began in his booming voice. "We came in peace and we mean thee no harm." The crowd dispersed except for a few people on the platform. "We only came in search of men who meant you harm."

The speaker had gained her wits once more and stepped up to the edge of the platform. Hunter approached. She drew herself up to her full height, no more than a span in height, and spoke. "I am Gwennyth of the First Sept. I am the voice of the people. Forgive us noble Dragons. " She gave a deep curtsy to the startled dragons. "I did not mean to offend. We were confused by your forms. We have long since abandoned the world of our ancestors and have embraced this shard as our own."

Hunter gave a confused look at the speaker. She continued. "Long ago when the Breaking began. Sosaria was falling apart. Humans fled to the cities where Lord British held sway. Our people were trampled and forgotten. Dwarves, Bobbits, Elves, Half Orcs, and so forth fled to the town of Dawn which had appeared on its cycle. Those of us who made it feared for our lives, for the town was empty of life. The guards had left, the humans were gone, and the land shook as if to destroy us all. Then came the Time Lord. He had aided the Stranger in conquering the Evil One, Exodus. He offered for us to be taken from Sosaria and be given somewhere else to live.

We were frightened of him at first. Yet we had no choice but to trust him. He told us of the fall of Mondain and the destruction of the Gem of Immortality. How each shard of the Gem was still tied to the world. And how each shard was now a world of its own. "

Hunter stared in awe at what she was saying. Shattered worlds? A multitude of Britannia/Sosaria's? Incredible.

Gwennyth continued. "We were taken through the Silver Gate to this world. A world where subtle differences were changed from our own." She motioned up. "The sun of this world is dimmer than our old one so we are told. " She motioned around her. "The land is more barren. A great war had happened. In this time, Minax had been more victorious. And Exodus had been completely victorious." She gave the Dragons a sad look. "We came to a barren world. Exodus destroyed itself, breaking this world into what it is. Why it did that we still do not know. Perhaps out of weariness of being alone. We know not." She gestured to the Dragons. How is it that you are here now? And Why?"

Hunter stepped forward. "We came after a man. A man with a scar. He seeks a powerful artifact. One that will give aid to a great foe that wishes to take over our world."

Gwennyth gasped. "The Eye of Kronos." She whispered.

Hunter cocked his head. "The same. Do you know of it?"

She seemed to recover from her shock. "It was given to us by the Time Lord. He told us to guard it from all. It is said to give great power. Power to control Time. Power to slay the Time Lord himself."

It was Hunters turn to be awed. Slay Time. No wonder The Fellowship wanted it. To control time itself. If the Guardian got his hands on it....

Gwennyth motioned for them to follow. "Quickly noble Dragons, we must see to the safety of the Eye."

Hunter shifted back to Human form, followed by the other dragons. He rushed after the Elf Girl followed closely by Shard and Wolf. 

Down the corridors of polished stone the four ran. Gwennyth never stopped to see if they followed or not. Hunter and his companions came regardless. Dwarf and Half-Orc guards kept watch over the quiet corridors. They gave the group of runners startled looks and saluted them as they ran past.

Room after room they passed through in search of their goal. Gwennyth led the three deeper into the fortress toward a goal unknown to the dragons. Finally, she slowed down before what was once a heavily guarded room. Gwennyth gasped and Hunter ran on by.

In the center of the room was an altar made of gold. It had been covered with the finest of velvet cushions and warded with the strongest spells. Now it lay empty. The spells guarding the altar had been broken and the cushions were ripped apart..

Hunter's face slipped from astonishment to one of fear. "We're too late."

Gwennyth whispered quietly. "The Eye is gone."

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