Authors: Brae Wyckoff
aina stood before a basin filled with water atop a pedestal, formed from the Moonstone itself. She was thankful to have the privacy of her brother’s home nestled into the rock cave away from the hustle of El’Korr’s troops, outside building barricades and exercising their military skills. A library of ancient tomes surrounded her. After the fall of Manasseh, she had taken it upon herself to investigate all that had transpired in Ruauck-El since her centuries-long captivity in the curse of the Burning Forest. With knowledge, she would increase her power to protect the realm and its citizens, until they could be brought into the Holy City.
People from all over the nearby realms had come in with reports of tyrant leaders—formerly Manasseh’s troops, attempting to establish power holds over communities and regions, aiming to fill the gap the evil king left behind. They needed a plan, and she sought to understand the happenings in the other three horns, to determine the best course.
She leaned low, the tip of her nose almost touching the calm water, and whispered, “Show me what I need to see.”
The water rippled and images began to replace her reflected face, revealing four colored stones, no bigger than the size of a man’s fist. The first was as white as snow, with dimpled glints of scales. Next, was an emerald green that seemed illuminated from deep within. Another was red which glowed like a metal ore in a blacksmith’s fire, and finally a black stone. It was dark as night, but soft like a raven’s wing. The ripples churned and flashed
to another scene; a mystic in dark robes with gold stitching, bearing the emblem of the West Horn King. He was standing before a monstrous black dragon Raina recognized; it was the same one who had captured Bridazak and delivered him to King Manasseh on top of his tower. Her thoughts churned like the water in the basin as she held tightly to the rim.
“What are you up to?” she whispered.
She refocused when two green scaled dragoons dragged King Manasseh’s lifeless body into the scene, laying him before the black monster. The vision then ended.
“Very interesting,” she contemplated. “Four stones and a fallen king. What do they mean?”
For the next several hours she scoured through the books and parchments strewn about the room. Xan had kept a grand collection over the centuries and there was much information to be gathered.
“What do we have here?” she said aloud. She read the passage in the book entitled
Tales of the Ancients
, “The ancient dragons searched for ways to prolong their spirits and worked with a human wizard of unknown origin. The wizard promised the old wyrms of the five colors that their spirits could be harnessed into younger bodies and they could live through eternity. However, he betrayed them and harnessed each of their powers into his own spirit. The wizard was known as the Dragon God, but was destroyed. Magical items pulling from the power of the natural elements of water, earth, air, and fire were created. When the age-old races banded together, bringing the antiquated heirlooms and combining the energy contained within them, the artifacts activated and opened a powerful portal, summoning the Dragon God against his will and casting him into it, to bring an end to the calamitous uprising.” Raina suddenly stopped as the next sentence spoke volumes. “The evil power of the wizard and the dragons were then separated and scattered throughout Ruauck-El in the form of the five colored stones.”
“Five colored stones,” she whispered. “They have four. They are looking for the fifth stone, but what does Manasseh have to do with this?” A flash of realization hit her.
Xan suddenly entered the room. The door was partially blocked with stacks of books and a couple of rows fell over with his sudden intrusion.
“What did you do to my library?” he exclaimed.
“You won’t care once I tell you what I have found, my brother. Come, we need to speak with King El’Korr.”
She whisked past him as he stood in the entryway looking around the disheveled room; his cherished collection of manuscripts tossed feverishly. Shaking his head, he closed the door and said under his breath, “Raina, this better be good.”
“Get your boys over that ridge and secure that location!” El’Korr demanded, pointing to an area on the wooden table, covered with maps.
“Yes sir!” the dwarf warrior responded as he back-peddled out of the room.
Raina and El’Korr, along with several of his generals, had spent time strategizing the best recourse for handling their growing numbers—thousands of remaining dwarves, elves, ordakians, and humans had come to them, seeking to serve the ones who had brought down Manasseh. The Moonstone Mountains were fine for training, but it would soon be unable to contain their masses or allow for a defensible position.
Geetock, a wild dwarf and longtime general under King El’Korr, stroked his knotted graying beard, and asked, “I know you are keeping the ranks busy here, so what is the real plan?”
El’Korr’s left eyebrow rose, “Very perceptive, Geetock. I’m planning on moving everyone to a place called the Shield, northwest of here. I need you and Rondee to coordinate with the others to get ready for the march, within days.”
“That is a lot to do in a short period of time.”
“Once the other Horn Kings verify Manasseh’s fall, they will begin strategizing their takeover into the North region. We can’t stay here. Moving to the Shield can give us a better defense and give us more time to gather strength.”
Geetock nodded his approval and said, “We will make it happen, my Malehk.”
“I know you will, my friend. Find Rondee and get him in here. I need to get him updated.”
“Yes sir.” Geetock exited just as Raina arrived.
“Raina! Where have you been?” El’Korr was surprised to see her in such a flustered state.
“What information did you find?” El’Korr noticed Raina’s uneasiness. “You are troubled, and that makes me nervous.”
“I wish I carried happier news,” she responded.
“Clear the room!” El’Korr waved his arm in a sweeping motion.
Several wild dwarf sentries moved out of the room. Xan closed the door behind them and then turned to join Raina and El’Korr.
“What is it? I’m trying to secure the north ridge from those moonstone rock creatures.”
“They are the least of our worries,” she responded.
El’Korr glanced over to Xan, who shrugged. El’Korr was now concerned, as Raina did not get frazzled easily.
“A mystic of the West Horn is working with the black dragon, the same one who captured Bridazak and Xan,” she started her tale.
Xan shifted uncomfortably as he remembered being held hostage in the mouth of the beast.
She continued, “They are gathering the powerful dragon stones.”
Silence engulfed the room. El’Korr’s bushy orange eyebrow shot up on one side and he examined the tense posture of the mystic, noting her anxiousness. “So? I’m not following what that means exactly.”
“There are five colored rocks, each representing the dark dragon colors. Five ancient wyrms are held captive inside each of them. Once combined, under the right conditions someone could harness their powers and bring them back.” She stared at them to get some reaction, but the room remained silent.
“I’m still not following you. How do some crazy stones give me any reason to jump?”
“Where were these items placed, Raina?” Xan interjected.
“They were scattered across the realm and no one knew their location.”
“Well, there you have it. It appears it will take the mystic and the dragon quite a long time to gather their precious stones.” El’Korr shifted to the maps on his table, “Now in the meantime, it will take us a few more days to finish our training here before we march.” El’Korr looked up with excitement on his face, “Our new base will—,” he stopped short as he glanced back to Raina, her scowl communicating clearly. He cleared his throat, scrunching his brows as they wrinkled. “I guess I missed something.”
scattered. They have gathered four of the five stones.” She let this information hang in the air.
“Well, do they know where the fifth is located? If they don’t, then it could take quite some—”
Raina cut him off, “They also have the body of King Manasseh.”
“Now why would they need that foul corpse?” El’Korr blurted in disgust.
“I asked the same question, and I have surmised that Manasseh knew the location of the fifth stone.”
“But he is dead, and that knowledge died with him. There should be nothing to worry about, right?” El’Korr asked.
Xan, realizing what his sister had discovered, interjected, “The power of a black dragon combined with the dark magic of a mystic might possibly be able to bring back the dead.”
El’Korr paused. “That changes things. What do you suggest, Raina?”
“We need to find the elements originally created to destroy them.”
“Great, now it’s a mad search for things we know nothing about,” El’Korr responded.
“On the contrary, someone does know about the elements and their locations.”
“Who?” Xan quickly asked.
“I read of a Captain Yasooma. His life was dedicated to finding these elements in hopes of protecting the realm against anyone seeking the power of the five dragons.”
“Wonderful. Where is he?”
“He is dead, but I am certain he would have left behind some clues. The information we need from a long-dead man will be much harder to gather, when compared to what our enemies may already have, if they were successful. We are running out of time and we must go now.”
“Where do we start this search then?” El’Korr questioned.
“The great city of Tuskabar on the west coast, where he is buried,” she replied.
“Very well then, I will arrange for my men to hold the fort while we investigate. Rondee will accompany us.”
“My apologies King El’Korr,” Raina stated cryptically.
“Why do you apologize?”
The female mystic began her spell.
“Raina! No!” Xan countered, but it was too late.
Rondee burst through the door to see the swirling vortex of shimmering silver and gold energy. “My Malehk, de mosh teph me!” The wild dwarf dove into the dissipating remnants and was swallowed up just in time. The warped window of brilliant colors closed behind him and the crackling power sealed in an instant, leaving behind a low rumble of thunder in the distance.
Raina, Xan, and El’Korr found themselves standing inside an old wine cellar. Wooden aged barrels were lined up and stacked on either side of them. A musty smell of fermented alcohol assaulted their nostrils.
“Where are we?” El’Korr growled at Raina.
Suddenly, Rondee materialized and fell from above, landing on top of El’Korr. A clattering of armor sounded from the impact.
“What in dwarven hell!?”
“Malehk El’Korr rocks sembe float?” Rondee said in his bizarre verbiage.
“Du-maerde! Your rocks are going to be floating if you don’t get off of me.” El’Korr yelled angrily as Rondee helped him up, but then controlled his emotions and spoke calmly. “Raina, I understand you mean well, but I prefer to be asked to go somewhere and not forced.”
Xan stepped between them and tried to calm the situation, “She knows you better than any of us, and I suspect she teleported us now instead of waiting for you to plan out your departure. Apparently, this couldn’t wait.”
“My brother speaks the truth. I’m afraid we are called once again to protect the realm, but not with an army in tow.”
“What am I to do with you? Do you realize I was in the middle of planning a march to the Shield?”
“Yes, and last of my discoveries, that I hadn’t yet mentioned, is the location of the banishment portal for the Dragon God, which is at the very same place you named.”
El’Korr paused and then sighed, “Rondee, contact Geetock with your telepathy power and have him move the army to the Shield. Let him know that we are apparently on a side mission, and we will meet them there.”
laming torches atop long poles lit the trail for the unit of approaching dragoons. These creatures with the lizard-like heads spoke in a slithery language of their own—a race born from a mysterious lineage of dragon kin. Two of the dragoons dragged a human corpse by the arms. The sound of the cadaver’s black leather boots sliding along the cold stone floor echoed off the tunnel walls. They soon entered a large chamber where a monstrous black dragon, perched in the shadows atop an immense, worn stalagmite, awaited them. Attending the dragon was a human mystic adorned in black robes, clutching a jade staff topped with a ruby inset. The hooded wizard nodded as the dragoons plopped the body face down at his feet. They flanked their master, the dragon, and stood at attention.