The Killing Song: The Dragon Below Book III

BOOK: The Killing Song: The Dragon Below Book III
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The Dragon Below has won.

Beneath the Shadow Marches, one of the lords of madness stirs and schemes.

In Sharn, a dragon holds the means to turn kalashtar to his master’s side, a new generation of servants for a dark and ancient power.

The Binding Stones have been ripped from the heart of the Grieving Tree.

The heights and depths of the City of Towers shiver to the sound of the Killing Song.

Who will stand? Who will fight?

T
HE
DRAGON BELOW

B
OOK
O
NE
T
HE
B
INDING
S
TONE

B
OOK
T
WO
T
HE
G
RIEVING
T
REE

B
OOK
T
HREE
T
HE
K
ILLING
S
ONG

Thanks to everyone who helped
The Dragon Below into being—and
special thanks to Ole always
.

P
ROLOGUE

  
T
he events of
The Grieving Tree

Although the attack by orc warriors under the leadership of Geth and Batul, the elderly Gatekeeper druid of the Fat Tusk tribe, had succeeded in freeing Dandra and Singe from Dah’mir’s power, victory in the battle at the Bonetree mound came at a price. Revealed as a dragon, Dah’mir was an even more powerful foe than any of them had guessed—and though he had vanished after being wounded by Geth’s sword, a relic of the ancient hobgoblin Empire of Dhakaan, Dah’mir remained alive and almost certainly angry. Dandra felt particularly frightened. With the destruction of the spirit of Tetkashtai’s lover, Virikhad, and her one-time friend, Medala, and the shattering of the great Khyber dragonshard Dah’mir had used to bind the three, Dandra was the last link to Dah’mir’s experiments in his quest to turn kalashtar into mad servants of the dark powers of the Dragon Below.

Ashi—once a Bonetree hunter and now an ally—presented a possibility that would allow them to strike at the dragon rather than wait for his revenge. Bonetree legend spoke of the place where Dah’mir had dwelled before coming to the Shadow Marches, the place from which the enormous binding stone had also come. Perhaps clues to Dah’mir’s plans could be found in the Hall of the Revered, described in the legend as lying “below the Spires of the Forge” somewhere in the eastern Shadow Marches or beyond in Droaam.

In search of information that could lead them to the Spires of the Forge, Singe, Geth, and Dandra, accompanied by Ashi, the half-orc merchant Natrac, and the young orc Gatekeeper Orshok, returned to Zarash’ak, the City of Stilts. Sources consulted by Singe and Dandra insisted, however, that no such place as the Spires of the Forge existed. A chance visit to Zarash’ak’s waterfront yielded an unpleasant surprise when Geth, Ashi, and Orshok stumbled across the treacherous captain Vennet d’Lyrandar—and Dah’mir in his human form! They hid and overheard Vennet and Dah’mir planning to take a boat upriver, likely back to the Bonetree mound. Geth was also able to see that Dah’mir still bore the horrible wound from the blow that had shattered the dragonshard embedded in his chest. They were discovered but escaped and reunited with Singe, Dandra, and Natrac. They found refuge with their final hope for information: Bava, a famous artist who was an old friend of Natrac’s and a collector of antique maps.

With one of Bava’s maps, they were able to identify “the Spires of the Forge” as a location in Droaam once known as Taruuzh Kraat, an ancient underground stronghold of the Dhakaani Empire. Unfortunately, the ruins were now the site of Tzaryan Keep, home to one of the monstrous warlords of Droaam, an ogre mage named Tzaryan Rrac. Singe devised a plan to call on Tzaryan and gain access to the ruins in the guise of a scholar with the others posing as his guards.

Discovering that Dah’mir and Vennet had abandoned the search for them to make their journey up river, Dandra boarded Vennet’s ship,
Lightning on Water
, and freed the crew who had been left behind. They told her and the others how Dah’mir had appeared on the ship in the form of a heron some weeks ago—magically transporting himself there after being wounded at the Bonetree mound by Geth—and enlisted Vennet’s aid in return for promises of wealth and power. In gratitude for freeing them from the nightmare of Dah’mir’s power, the sailors gave Dandra and the others passage to Vralkek in Droaam, the closest port to Tzaryan Keep, before continuing on to the city of Sharn to report Vennet’s corruption to the ministers of House Lyrandar.

While
Lightning on Water
made her way to Vralkek, Vennet and
an increasingly weak Dah’mir reached the Bonetree mound, where they found the fiery spirit of Hruucan, Dah’mir’s dolgaunt minion. Hruucan had been burned to death by Singe, but his desire for vengeance against the wizard had brought him back. The three of them entered the passages beneath the Bonetree mound, eventually reaching a cavern with a tunnel ringed by a seal created millennia before by Gatekeeper druids. Dah’mir’s chants opened a window through the seal, and Vennet found himself staring at the being Dah’mir called master—one of the immortal daelkyr, archenemies of the Gatekeepers. The power of the daelkyr’s voice in Vennet’s head, coupled with the shocking discovery of Dah’mir’s true nature as a dragon, drove Vennet mad. The daelkyr restored Dah’mir’s strength and powers but, as a punishment, rendered him unable to transform into a human shape, leaving him only able to switch between dragon and heron forms and forcing him to rely on Vennet’s aid until Dah’mir was able to provide the daelkyr with the kalashtar servants he had promised.

Furious but strong once more, Dah’mir used magic to transport himself, Vennet, and Hruucan to
Lightning on Water
, still enroute to Sharn. While his former crew was slaughtered, Vennet searched the stolen ship for Geth, Singe, and Dandra, but they weren’t aboard. From the lone survivor of the slaughter, he discovered that they had been put ashore only hours before and learned of their plans to travel to Tzaryan Keep. Dah’mir guessed what Dandra and the others were trying to do and formulated plans of his own …

In Vralkek, meanwhile, Singe and the others sought the services of a guide to take them to Tzaryan Keep, but instead encountered the enigmatic General, a veteran commander of the Last War who had been hired by Tzaryan Rrac to train his ogre troops. Backed up by the ogres, the General insisted on taking them to the keep himself. During the journey they found themselves followed by a strange figure, eventually captured by Geth and revealed to be Ekhaas, a hobgoblin
duur’kala
or dirgesinger, and the self-appointed protector of the ruins of Taruuzh Kraat.

Ekhaas’s capture provided clues that enabled Singe to uncover the General’s true identity: he was Robrand d’Deneith,
once Singe and Geth’s commander in the Blademarks mercenary guild, brutally disgraced after the massacre of Narath. On hearing their story, Robrand agreed to aid them provided they did nothing to compromise his contract with Tzaryan. While Singe fell into easy reunion with the old man, Geth’s shame at his unspoken role in the fall of Narath isolated him from the others.

Robrand’s assistance and the capture of Ekhaas appeared to put them in the favor of Tzaryan Rrac when they reached the keep, and the ogre mage granted them permission to investigate the ruins. In the depths of Taruuzh Kraat, they found a central hall that containing the Grieving Tree—a stylized tree fashioned of stone—as well as a millennia old version of the device used on Tetkashtai and Dandra by Dah’mir, and a strange ancient riddle. Returning to Tzaryan Keep, they questioned Ekhaas, imprisoned in the ogre mage’s dungeon, to see what she knew of the ruins.

In return for promises of her release, Ekhaas spun a tale of ancient history for them, the story of a legendary Dhakaani wizard-smith or
daashor
, Taruuzh, who had allied with a Gatekeeper seeress named Aryd to fight a particularly vile daelkyr known as the Master of Silence. The Master of Silence had assembled an army of psionic creatures, but he and his army were defeated in a conflict called the Battle of Moths in which the minds of the psionic army were trapped within Khyber dragonshards specially crafted by Taruuzh. Shocked, Dandra recognized the shards as many, many binding stones, though much smaller and more powerful than the large stone Dah’mir had used on her.

Ekhaas confirmed it and said that Dhakaani history recorded that Taruuzh’s apprentice attempted to recreate the stones but succeeded only in creating a single large, weak stone, the very stone Dah’mir had rediscovered. Details in the story of the Battle of Moths also enabled Singe to guess that the Bonetree mound was built on the site where the Master of Silence had been imprisoned after his defeat. Dah’mir, they realized, served the Master of Silence—which meant that the daelkyr stirred again and reached beyond his ancient prison!

While they were in the dungeon, the conflict between Singe
and Geth came to a head, and Singe revealed to everyone the reason Geth was ashamed of what had happened at Narath. The town had fallen because a sewer gate that should have been easily guarded was overrun after one of its guards had abandoned his post in cowardice. Geth had been that guard and was directly responsible for the massacre that followed. Singe left the dungeon in a rage, and the others followed him, leaving Geth—angry and ashamed—and Ekhaas behind.

BOOK: The Killing Song: The Dragon Below Book III
9.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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