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  • She has gone below but we cannot seal the realm without the statue!

    The continents have moved, and the lands from which Elara has scared the dragons off to the depths have changed in aspect and nature. You know the myth, but maybe it was wrong. Maybe the black beasts were never asleep, but voluntarily withdrawing in a realm below ours, to plan another attack, to stay away with fear (of what?!). No, you realise that the surface is disputed ground. It will always be. Even the darkest dragon seeks the direct light of the moon.

    That way lies death. The Black are less forgiving than even my kind.

    Forgiveness, you ask. What was there to forgive between the kinds? Centuries of mutual aggression? The Black Plague? The forging of a ring that would control the beasts? Forgiveness was well past the point. If anything, it was time for mutual acceptance of the past. Was that even a possibility? Would any of the kinds even be interested in truce?

    We will have to recover the statue.

    The cave was open. Unlike the Rift in the sky, it was accessible. A faint chance to seal it again. The deadly curiosity of not wanting it sealed before knowing. Knowing what lied beyond the surface. Knowing the lair of the darkest dragons. Knowing the layers of magma over the layers of stone, counting them one by one, until the deepest chamber where the Black had lived for so long. Your double mind, the one that wanted to seal it, to forget, to make sure things stay closed; the other that knows it is a matter of time before the worst comes out, and that in that little time the adventurers can learn.

    Some of the humans will enter... It is not just the black flight we must worry about.

    Some of the humans will enter "Be careful!" you shall cry, but you too will go, you too will be seduced by the unknown. You will find the excuses. That you must find out what our enemies might want from there, that you should surprise the dragons before they realise the cave is open, that you will know better. You know how it feels when it is just pure and uncontrollable curiosity. You want to see their eyes in the night, their scales flashing against the lava. You want to see, no matter how it costs. You too will go.

    They will be deeper. Deep in the earth, beyond the pools of magma.

    You are brave and fool. You know the price. You have seen the poor ghost of the last adventurer. "Joy of joys," were his words when he fled his tomb. You heard his whispered voice, you saw him rushing in the air before vanishing forever. That could be you, very soon. Yet, you do not hesitate.

    If you enter humans, take nothing you do not wish to lose.

    You do the opposite, you take them all. The closest friends, the most trusted companions, you seek them, you share your enthusiasm, your eyes shining bright. You convince them to go with you, you tell them the dangers, with an emphasis on the wonders. You don't need to spend too many words, they can feel your pulse, they soon are infected by your eagerness to go down the narrow entrance. The fools, the friends, you bring them all, precisely those you do not wish to lose.

    I fear any human who passed beyond the first chamber would be entombed below the ground.

    The first time goes well, you escape. As a shadow, you climb your way up to the arms of the healers in your town. You escaped. The rays of sun welcome you again in the word of the living. You have seen some of it. You went far. You did not see enough. Reckless, as any other of your species, you start planning your next descent. Encouraged by the path you managed to fight the first time, you get ready for the second. And the third, and how many it will take until you see them. Until you see the black dragons.

    For those are what you came for.


    Portals
     

  • "Will you come?"

    Just that. A simple note left on the top of a chest. No time, no place he would know.

    She was feeling feverish, obsessed with the descent. While the population would argue the name to give to such place, for her there were no doubts left: It's was Crausaar's the enormous head that turned to her in her dreams. It was his eyes flashing in her imagination, urging her to act. It was his strong body who, in the same way as it had done years before, in the pictures she had seen as a child, was now seducing her, claiming her passion. No, none of his children would ever have the same effect on her. That was his doing, beyond any doubt. The best of dragons in all his majesty.

    The trip, however, would require a cold head and colder planning. Fortunately, there were others more apt for the world of practical things. The ranger had re-opened his trade at once, in order to raise money for equipment. The cleric had started sewing stronger robes for the group. Herself, she had managed to start enchanting delicate magical rings, between the moments of daydreaming.

    They would have to prepare well. It could take moons. A trip to Aborek, a few hunts around Marali, perhaps some training sessions in the volcano during the following Bleeding Cycle. The rest of the world seemed so tame now, and to be there only to fulfil one mission: to provide the necessary objects and experience for the descent.

    She had only felt this way one time. The day she learned the dangers of Black Magic, and how easily it would be to fall in temptation. In this case, though, the fall was even more personal, more intimate, less guided by an ultimate goal other than contemplation. It was in search for knowledge and prompted by curiosity and by aesthetic pleasure, not so much for power. But that was probably the same excuse any dark mage would use as their first impulse too.

    "I do not want them to think I am staging an invasion," one of the dragons had said. No, they did not even know what to expect, apart from death. But at least they would see the creatures of myth, eventually, if things were properly done.

    On the other hand, the authorities in each town seemed to be still caught up in their mundane things to notice the immense threat nearby. A Senator is kidnapped, a King loses his sceptre. What could those things be compared to the Black Dragons? Had they forgotten? Did they deeply believe that the beasts were nothing but legends of old?

    For once, that lack of official attention would work in favour of those seeking beauty. Quietly, outside the main streets of town, they could prepare the trip of their dreams, the one they would give their lives for.

    "Will you come?" she repeated to herself. There was not only the mesmerising view of the dragons that she wanted to share. Deep down, in her all too human ways, she did not want to die alone.
     

  • The way of the ghosts is one, and one only. After the fall, a flimsy chance of returning to the land of the living is given to each of us. We can, if we are lucky, walk our way to the source of line once again. As long as we don't look back.

    I heard of Cadwallader's decision from others. I was too concentrated on making my own way back to light. So much so that it was only later that I realised that my path and Anton's had been the same. But even though the time and the physical landmarks may coincide, the journey is individual. It always is.

    I heard from others how do they know is a mystery that Cad decided to stay. The he voluntarily entombed his vagrant ghost in the Crausaar's Descent, preferring to live as a shadow in the underworld, than returning to his own realm. I can understand his decision. Crausaar's Descent is a place of sacrifice, and each will know how much one want to lose. Until the day when the entrance will be sealed again, burying the last adventurers.

    I will miss his silly hat, but I understand his choice. I would have not done the same. I, for one, as much as I am ready to die there, will not remain behind by my own choice. I will not explore a world of vitality as a ghost, forgetting the wizard I am. Given the chance, I will do the climb upwards, and get stronger to face the Descent anew. I might see Cad again, one day. I might be able, by then, to tell him the words I could no address him today. I might convince him to return. If we all still have that option.

    * * * *

    Sacrifice. That is what we forgot this time. A very big expedition, over-confident, scattered, with each element on its own rather than working as an organism. Sacrifice and unity. Those will have to be the key words next time. When sacrificing a few is better than sacrificing the whole, as long as we all know how the dance goes. I have a few ideas for the next attempt. I should note them down somewhere, before the picture is no longer fresh in my mind.

    It will probably take a long time to convince the others to go again this was not the most encouraging experience. But they are all stubborn and brave, and the smells of the full Bleeding Moon will bring back their strength. And then, then we can try. Sooner or later, I am now more convinced than ever, we will see the Black Dragons.
     

  • *eyes flash in the dark somewhere*

    The sooner one knows escape, the sooner one seeks it. All they have to do is make sure they don't get stuck at the door....
     

  • The hall looked empty and desolate at that early hour. The wizard's bare feet were cold against the stone of the floor, as she crossed the main room. The guards on duty greeted her quietly, avoiding questions. They knew better than that by now.

    She wore the simple robe offered by the temple priests to those in convalescence. The colour, a pale shade of grey, was not so different from her former uniform in Marali. She could not help but smile, every time she would remember how the MaV had seemed to her an army of temple invalids the first time she saw the troops.

    Marali, however, was far from her thoughts this time. She was exhausted and lightheaded, stumbling towards the bed in the opposite end of the silent building. With difficulty, she lit a candle before falling heavily on the mattress. Then, too tired to sleep, she laid motionless contemplating the shadows cast by the golden light.

    Her first clouded thoughts went to Sumac. She muttered his name, trying to force herself to follow a line of thought. Again, the notion of unity. They could not allow tensions to grow between them, were they going to pursue these expeditions. It had been good to see the ranger again, everything made much more sense with him around.

    One by one, she tried to list to herself the companions of the earlier adventure. Redman's clear instructions, Angelica's determination, Anton and Garion healing incessantly And then the rogues, Laricen and Pirro, quiet as always and yet deadly. And the tin warriors, and the clank of their steps. Crom, Lenne, Bronte, Russin Russin Why was there always someone too proud to accept defeat? In the end that was what it boiled down to. Still standing as the others fell, he had been the second hiding under a rock with the vain hope to make it out again, unscratched.

    Fool! Soon enough his bodiless form would be meeting the same fate as Cadwallader's. Why hadn't he accepted to follow the common effort to clim out? The Descent was not a place for single-handedness. She could still hear his voice. His obstinate refusal to follow a train of ghosts as they passed by, reaching their unearthly hands out for him.

    Would he be expecting them to go back for him? Would he even dream of surviving there for longer than a few hours? She had no way to know, and the thought worried her. Alas, the sun was already stating to raise, and her tired muscles becoming less tense. Surrendering, she closed her eyes and hoped she would not sleep for too long.
     

  • The old virtues
    A lose piece of parchment. Nothing too important, and easily forgotten amidst more complete archives from the past. A drawing, a pictorial record of an important moment in someone's life. She found it in the afternoon of her fourth day back to the library. The wizard's face, usually all too serious for the total count of her years, lit up with a smile. Dusting the surface, she could recognise the outlines of Legsalot and Seth, as well as the three young dragons standing next to them. And this one must be Arjun. She had heard of the ranger by the time she enlisted the Vanguard of Marali. One of those brave people from the past, whose legend lived still, but that she had never had the chance to meet in person.

    YoungDragons

    It was her fourth day in the library. The Fighting Moon had started to wane, and with it the urge for battle in everyone's bodies was slowing down. Her usual companions, who had been restlessly roaming the woods, were starting to gather again at the bank steps. Only that foolish Brigand Mage was crazy enough to decide to try to take over the Castle when we are all back here. She examined a recent scar made from the bite of a black draco a few days before. The clear marks of its teeth were somehow reassuring. They had survived an attack of a black magician with relative ease. That meant that the ways of fighting were still in their hearts, as well as the vigour and coordination necessary to win a battle. It was her fourth day in the library. Maybe it was also the time to attempt a fourth visit to Crausaar's Descent, the place that had been so present in her dreams for such a long time.

    BrigMageCastle

    Fortitude
    She reached the bank with a strange feeling of certainty. No matter the final result, they would be able to go further down this time. If only she could convince the right people A flash of green caught her attention. Satoshi, one of her most trusted fighters, was quietly tailoring in the corner close to her. This one will be easy to convince, she told herself. The idea of enlisting him to the adventure made her feel safer.

    "But I still have to finish this order of boots, or Rodrick will want my head for it!" The wizard laughed at the fighter's concerns. It was not every day that one would find such a strong man busy with leather hides and needles. "Take your time. I will come back for you once I have gathered a party." That would still take some time, but she had just won a fundamental trump to her designs.

    Fortitude

    Justice
    She would have to pick her words carefully, before approaching each new person. Every single warrior in Oberin had different motivations, and she knew them all too well. Without rushing, she directed her steps towards the two friends chatting near one of the pillars.

    "Redman, Sumac, how are you today?" As they returned her greeting, she took the time to consider her next line. She would appeal to their sense of necessity, and to their duty to learn more about a place out of which many unforeseen dangers could still pour forth. Given their status as experienced adventurers, and their renowned reason and clear mind, they would certainly be willing to put aside their own comfort and make the time for a quest for knowledge that would safeguard the peace of the lands.

    Justice

    Prudence
    Her strategy gathered the expected fruits. Adding two more names to her list, the wizard turned around in search for the next necessary component to her party. They could use the masters of discretion, those that are able to walk in the front unseen and report the trouble lying ahead. But where to find them?

    A quick run to the sewer solved half of her problem. "Nasrith? Are you here, my beautiful Commander?" She knew how necessary the adjective would be to lure the rogue out of the shadows. As she knew that another string of compliments would be enough to convince him to follow her anywhere.

    The other rogue would be easier to reach through Lenne. If only she could find her anywhere. That will be fine. She will probably come and find me first, begging for an adventure

    Prudence

    Temperance
    Someone to heal. No one can convince a bunch of men in plate without the assurance that their wounds would be taken care of. I need someone who will stay sober, even if giving all her heart to this. A slip of ego might send us all to a premature defeat. The choice was obvious, and she would probably meet her next victim at the potion shop.

    She pulled the heavy door without knocking. The owner of the shop was so used to her visits, that started immediately preparing a bag full of eels and coal. "No worries, Taubert, I came here for this lady today," she said, pointing at the yellow robed figure near the counter. "Meredith, you are coming with me!" The cleric smiled and grabbed her freshly made potions without a word.

    Temperance

    Faith
    Once she had filled the list of rational virtues she could rely on to persuade her friends, the wizard turned to the ones of emotion. Heading back to the bank, she was happy to see that both Antoninus and Lenne were sitting near each other.

    "You have been in this from the start," she opened. "I think we have the conditions to try again tonight." The slightly hallucinatory gaze of conviction coming from the cleric's eyes reassured her that the strategy would work. Lenne's reply was ready. "I have the necessary weapons to kill at least fifty dragons. We can handle this!"

    The wizard grinned, waiting for the cue to place her additional request. "Can I invite Laricen? Oh, I am sure you did already," asked Lenne, as she examined the state of her armour. "I have not found him yet, but would be immensely grateful if you could tell him to come." Another problem solved.

    Faith

    Hope
    However satisfied she could be with the general shape of the group, she knew that everyone would be happier with the addition of yet another healer. Unfortunately, Angelica was ill, and Ikabi too tired for her to dare to drag them along. The image of a friend in a light blue attire came to her mind. But what if she is busy in Andris? Can I really ask her to come all this way?

    She could at least try. Rosina's eternal optimism would be useful in a doomed adventure. She would send her a note through Mirith's fastest courier. He should be available now that the city was relatively quiet, after the attack of the Brigand Mage.

    My dear Rosina,

    Your help is needed to attempt to explore the cave known as Crausaar's Descent. Forgive me in advance if this letter disturbs you from your duties in the South, but let me know if you can come come. We need your jokes and good humour for this trip to go well.

    Yours,
    C.


    Hope

    Charity
    The memory of heros from the past has survived in the tales by keeping their brightest and bravest features. It is known, however, that some of them have had to be convinced to leave their homes and join a battle. The wizard could recall the story of the man who tried to disguise himself as a woman, and hide in the gynoecium in order to be spared from the calling. Good thing that we are equal in this society. This one will have to make use of some other ruse if he plans to go unnoticed.

    "I will not join." Russin's determination felt unmovable. Standing in front of her covered in the darkest plate, he listed the reasons why their party was condemned to failure. He must have a weak point. If he was not going out of any other reason, she could at least convince him to do it for the sake of others. "We need you. Please, don't abandon these people to their lot without having at least tried to help them doing their best."

    She had found it. The fighter's notion of solidarity, and his readiness to help his friends proved sufficient to change his mind. "I will join, but I might have to abandon you half of the way." The idea of leaving him behind in the cold chambers of the cave did not please her. But half of the way was better than nothing, and perhaps they would all need to escape at the same time. If he was willing to take the risk, so was she.

    Thanking the fighter, she started walking to the Hall in order to make her final preparations. She looked at the list with some apprehension. We could use yet another fighter. This is the time when I wish a knight in shining armour would fall from that stupid Rift in the sky.

    Charity

    Obstinacy
    "Hola, Seora." A voice coming from the gate surprised her in her thoughts. She could not help to laugh. Afagddu's armour was probably not as shiny as she would have hopped, and his manners were far from the ones of the knights, but his exotic ways, and his stubbornness against his foes could very well be welcomed in the expedition.

    "Lord Demagu," she greeted, with a theatrical bow. "I have been wishing the gods would send you in my way." Flattery. It always works, doesn't it? It did not take her long to convince the proud fighter to join. "Eres un amor, querida. Are we going now, or can I still have my quality time with my Sea Serpents?" They were going as soon as the day was over and the moon had reached the skies. Agreeing to meet at the entrance at a precise time, she waved at her acquaintance and continued to the Hall. We will do it. No matter how far we go, we will go further.

    Obstinacy



    The new virtues
    It had never been a matter of victory. It was a matter of perseverance. Finding her way through the rocks, a way that her ghost already knew all too well, or as well as a ghost can know anything, she waited for the rest outside. They had succeeded in crossing the portal that had killed them twice before. They had succeeded in crossing the chamber of the Magma Golems without major problems. They had been able to advance into the dwelling place of the Lich, guarded by an army of Poison Beasts, Stone Golems, and infant black dragons. They might have not reached the Dragon's lair, but they had been a step closer to it.

    Trying in vain to lean her ethereal form against a rock, she could only think of the effects the adventure would have had in the others. Would they still be up for it again? Would it be better to just seal the place off, and spare the energies of many?

    NewVirtues

    Humility
    They had not yet reached the necessary skill to fight their way to the bottom. Every single lapse, distraction, or failure to cast the right spell in the right moment still meant their defeat. No wonder people would go insane after the experience. Around them, were only death and desolation to be seen. Hadn't they found the corpse of an element of the Black Hand, ripped apart in one of the chambers? The fool! I wonder if he came here. The rings taken from his corpse had been useful to keep them standing for a while, but not enough to guarantee their protection.

    As the last few of them were falling, desperate attempts to return to life were made. The ghosts tried in vain to distract the golems, as the clerics tried in vain to bring whoever was near back to their world, naked and bare handed. Until the time came to recognise the outcome, and that they would have but little time to make their way to the surface.

    Humility

    Ingenuity
    To her great relief, Cassandra's apprehension was unfounded. The group of people now gathering around the Temple Priest of Mirith was not as disheartened as it had been after the previous attempts. Sure, they were exhausted and shaken, but deep down, every single one of them knew they had been able to surpass themselves.

    "I have an idea for the next time," declared Sumac. The wizard put on clumsily the grey robe given by the priest, and moved closer to the ranger. They had not given up! On the contrary, they were already thinking over the experience and elaborating new strategies for the future. "I have an idea that might sound very crazy, but might as well work to our advantage"

    Ingenuity
     

  • You will have to change, sooner or later. You cannot walk around in that robe forever.

    No.

    Cassandra...

    I want to remember. Russin saw them, you know? He saw the wings of a dragon not very far away from the place where we all fell. They are there. They must know we were too. Next time they will be expecting us.

    We have other people to heal every day. At least do that for them.

    They have all been there. They have seen it. The magma Have you ever felt that the air was so hot it could burn you? Have you ever seen the way it shines in the darkness, brighter than looking directly at the sun?

    All the others have all left by now. They are back to their routine. You must go back too. I understand that you have been through an exhausting experience, but you have to reali...

    I must go back to that cave. We were many. We had the greatest army we could gather, and we went so far So far. We saw their buildings, you know? Have you ever heard of the Black Dragon's dwelling? The dozens of doors and the well paved rooms? More ancient than Elara or Ybarra? We walked all this way on the rocks, and then we reached it. Solid pavement, and strong walls. We were trapped when we got there. We didn't know which way to go, between the golems and the liches. We didn't know. But we can learn. We must learn. We must return to that point where the three ways meet and do not hesitate. Hesitation will kill us.

    You will die many more times if you don't get back to yourself.

    I will die as many times as it takes. As long as our ghosts can remember their way to freedom, and fear does not petrify us inside, we can escape. As long as no one seals the passage back up, we will escape. We have done it five times now. We don't know for how long the passage will be open. We must use it while we can.

    You are taking it for granted, Cassandra. Only a mad person would put themselves at risk that way. Only a mad person would neglect their roles in the surface to engage a lengthy expedition to the world below our ground. You have a duty to this city. You must leave that place behind.

    No duty is bigger than to reach the dragons. They can mean the death of our world, if only they decide to come back. We must go there first. We must know how they live. We must face our own terror and bring ourselves to stare in their eyes. You cannot understand. You will never understand their power. Their sheer presence is the face of death. We could feel it. It is pervasive in the cave. In the smell, in the sounds, in the stones cold to the touch. It fills up all your senses and tries to seduce you, to lure you further down, to keep you there for eternity. We shall make it alive one day, though. We shall reach the bottom and walk it up again. It might take a long time, but we will make it.

    You are out of your mind. I will come back in the evening to see if you are a bit more reasonable.

    If you see anyone around, tell them to stay in Mirith! Tell them we will go there again soon! I am sure they want to go, I am sure.


    Ruins2
     

  • Biting the dust is an addiction just like any other. The wizard stopped to look at Punit Bene reorganising his panoply of reagents. Dear Punit Thanks for helping me gathering the people for this strange adventure. He reminded her of Lou, with his light colours and eternal good humour.

    This time they had brought an even larger army with them. So large, that it had become difficult to see who all was where, as the assaults of the stone golems kept coming, wave after wave. One person, though, had remained under her sight for the whole time. Cassandra had hesitated a lot before inviting her old accomplice. The trip would be frustrating for a druid, in a place where risking the life of another animal companion would prove fruitless. Still, she had felt the need to invite Charonia. If nothing else, to show her the underworld, and to share with her the thrill of approaching such an ancient citadel as the one how inhabited by liches.

    The druid had followed the group silently most of the time, casting her spells as required, mixing potions when needed. What would be in her mind? That I only invite her for excursions doomed from the beginning? Hopefully that it is still better to have seen it with her own eyes than to imagine what lives down this cave from the reports of others. It had been so long since they had used together in Marali. The memory of the first giant brought down by collectively by their magic spells and the faithful hound distracted her for a moment. Good old Kerberos. How scared would he be hearing these golems growl?

    The result of the trip was more or less the expected. They had managed to advance faster, starting to know the corners of the place, and the hidden tricks of the creatures around there. And when they reached the ruins, they fell, overwhelmed by the powers of two liches, their way back blocked by a gigantic golem of magma. Spread out, they could not defend themselves against the powerful magic, nor the strength of the black dracos guarding their elders.

    They would need more attempts. They could not give up yet, having been so close. In the meanwhile, her natural tendency for historical narrative was coming back, in between journeys. Who had build those walls? Would there be any lost report referring to them? They could not have been the first humans stepping on those paved corridors. They knew they were not, and she could still remember the ghost of a man released from the darkness when the children of Crausaar opened the cave. What had that man seen? And which books would the library found inside the walls contain? She had heard from others about that little room, that she had never reached herself. Next time. Next time we have to make sure we can get to those shelves. And to the dragons

    SixthTime
     

  • "You must keep your word. You said we wouldn't give up until we reached the bottom of that cave."

    She eyed the fighter angrily. How she hated to be reminded of her own promises, the few times she was about to forget them. "You shall run across the lands and gather the people. I have other things to do." Mustafaa nodded. The wizard scribbled down a list of names. "You might have to write a note to some of them. The guards at their halls are usually reliable."

    She spent the following days surrounded by books, almost forgetful about the whole agreement. Only during her few pauses, when she would leave the library hoping for some fresh air, she would see the fighter grinning at the bank. "I have talked to this, and to that, and also to that one." She could not even get herself to remember the names right after he had announced them so proudly. Her mind was somewhere else. "Have you asked Redman?" He had. They had a leader, at least.

    Cassandra was tired. She could not say for sure if the feeling of demotivation was coming from herself exclusively, or if it was general to the group that had made so many attempts to explore the cave where the daughter of the great Crausaar had entered, hoping for a reunion with her kind. With the new moon and the new year, the usual high spirits of renewal were nowhere to be seen. Maybe it was all in her head.

    On the appointed day, a troop smaller than usual gathered at the rocky entrance. Mustafaa, who diligently had tried to find as many arms as he could, had not had the time to travel from north to south in search of all.* In a last minute effort, each person present tried to contact their available friends. Eventually, they managed to get an army of a reasonable size. It was worth trying. Mikomi, Alys, Rosina, and Garion on the healing. Yupa, Hayate, Gawr, Mustafaa, Satoshi, and Kookai forming a wall of plate. Legstalot, Laricen, Redman, herself. Probably not enough to go very deep, but at least they could still learn from the trip.

    "Will you lead us one more time, Redman," she asked the elder wizard. He assented, distributing preliminary instructions on which strategies to adopt for the first few chambers. Watching the other wizard's precision brought her some comfort and energy. Step by step, she was feeling her enthusiasm coming back. She was at home with them, and new what to do, under the firm voice of their guide.

    The first two levels held no surprise. One after an other, the heavy Stone Golems were annihilated by the fighters. One after another, the spiders burnt under the lightening bolts of the wizards. They were ready for the portal, the place where they had fallen so many times and only recently had devised a way to overcome.

    As they reached the portal, thought, they noticed something strange. The other side was not being guarded by the usual Golems. Only a couple of black infants, Rust Beasts, and Bone Mages. Had the dragons left off their guard? The crossing seemed easier to plan than ever, and the group did not hesitate to take the chance. Once they had dropped the pieces of volcanic ash, they had no difficulty in making to the entrance of the next chamber. Or so they thought.

    Perhaps they were misguided by the unexpected easiness in which they had made their way, perhaps it was that the dragons had not neglected their own protection, but as the group went by the small opening, four were trapped behind. The head count on the other side gave no margin for doubt. Gawr, Laricen, Hayate, and Garion were missing. And there was only one place where they could be.

    The wait was long. Separated by a wall of rock, those that had crossed exchanged words of concern. After a while, their worst conjecture was confirmed. Their friends had had to abandon their bodies to be preyed by the creatures behind, and were now approaching with the pallor characteristic of ghosts. This could not be a good omen. The dragons had not left their home unprotected.

    Trying not to let themselves be demoralised by the incident, the group did their best to re-equip the fallen companions. They were prepared for it, carrying with them more than it would be necessary for a normal adventure. Except for daggers. "We will have to search the skeletons," suggested Hayate. They were their only means to provide a weapon for Laricen to defend himself. Until then, he would travel with them without a body, in an act of mercy to prevent unnecessary harm. With that in mind, it was time to fight the Magma Golems defending the first hall.

    Alas, they did not go much further. The plans of the dragons were of a different sort than expected. Trapped after the narrow passage, they saw them coming. From every side, pairs of Golems of stone and magma were marching towards them, arms ready to kill, eyes on fire. Caught off guard in a place they thought they knew well enough already, the explorers realised they had lost. Bravely but in vain, they tried to tighten their formation and to fight the guardians of the cave.

    Cassandra's eyes were filled with tears. She could barely see an inch in front of her, such was the cloud of ash and heat. Amidst the cries of her falling companions, she heard Satoshi's voice in the distance. "Follow me, fools!" But his attempt to lure the hostile army away were too late. The party had fallen, and there was nothing a lone wizard and a fighter could do to bring the rest back to life. She left her hiding place behind a rock and threw herself to her fate.

    Seventh


    *((OOC: My apologies to Lou, Erosk, Ange, and Crom. I'm trying to come up with an idea to make sure that everyone gets to know what's happening next time. You were missed. smile))
     

  • Where would the Hand have stolen the egg of the Black Dragon? Would they have succeeded where we failed? And what were those experiments?

    Perhaps it is not a good idea to wait for the Fighting Moon before we try again
     

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