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Posted by
Mar 15, 2006

The dwindling daylight of the outside world crept into the quaint pub as the old door creaked open. A pair of shadows intruded on the last rays of dusk as the two made their entrance. The door once more came to a screeching close, returning the room to darkness. It always seemed like this was the kind of place their adventures and troubles began; it certainly was where they all ended.

The man pulled back his hood, revealing a mess of dark hair that fell over his face. Unbeknownst to the patrons, his hidden eyes searched over the filthy establishment.

"Remind me again why we are here?" muttered his short companion, certain to ensure that none could hear him. "It's like you're just askin' for someone to collect on that bounty on our heads."

"Because," the man in the drab, blue tunic told, "if you want something done right..." At a distant corner table, the conjurer saw the one they came to meet. Geirrek motioned for his draconic familiar to follow. "You gotta do it yourself."

The informant sat uneasily, his eyes darting nervously about the bar. He only became more startled when Geirrek made his sudden and silent appearance.

"You the guy?" the unkempt man asked, but the hooded one made no reply. He only pulled out a chair and rested his weapon on it before doing the same himself. "'Cause I see the spear and gauntlet and all, but how do I know you ain't no imposter?" The summoner slowly brought up his unarmored arm and brushed his greasy locks aside, fixing a cold stare on the man sitting opposite him. The informant no longer shook but froze; solid cerulean eyes gave off a dull glow, and in them, he saw something. "The cursed runes," he whispered.

"Well, it's good to know you saw 'em," Entropy spoke up from his keeper's side.

"What else would I see?" posed the informant, who desperately tried to regain his composure.

"Prophecy," Geirrek said in a flat tone, shaking his head slightly to conceal the eyes once more, "of how we're going to kill you."

"What'd make me see that?" the confused rogue spat out. The Nidhogg returned an uncomfortable stare from the floor. "Oh, right... if you were going to kill me," he realized, quite relieved now.

Wishing to end the transaction as soon as possible, the informant produced a scroll and slid it to the waiting conjurer. It was unrolled for a brief moment before the rogue reached over and snatched it away.

"That's enough," he snapped at the summoner. "Pay up, and you can read it all you want," bargained the informant, waving the map toyingly. Geirrek did nothing, emotionless as usual, until he reached into a pouch and removed a small vial, which he set before the scoundrel. "Is... is this the payment we agreed on?"

"This," the summoner explained with a smug air, "is the potion that will make the writing on the map to the Key of Ages visible." The ruffian immediately broke into a nervous sweat; his fake had been found out. "Now, you could still be of use to me. Just tell us who sent you, and you can walk away," Geirrek offered. "Otherwise..." It was not just fear on the rogue's face now; it was horror. He had heard tales of what the Terrible Summoner could do, ghastly things, many of which he found difficult to believe.

Fear makes people do foolish things, though. The rogue kicked over the table and unfastened a flintlock he had hidden there before firing a few rounds. Geirrek spun out of and around his seat, grabbing his war spear with one hand, and with his other, called up a magical barrier from his brazen, banded gauntlet. The enchanted bullets shattered through the heavy, wooden table but fizzled away in the invisible wall. Entropy coiled around behind his master's defense, growing into its full, awesome size. By now, most of the patrons and even the barkeep had fled.

"So what do you think?" the drake growled in a guttural, almost unintelligible voice. "Was he sent after us, or is he just some local scum?"

"Even if he is," the summoner pointed out while focusing all of his might into the magical shield which continued to come under fire, "he's scum that's shooting at us."

[A standard Battling Dragons story, medieval fantasy (yes, guns did exist back then!), and no, the Key of Ages is not from any myth; it is made up for this story.

Story Splinter: The plot diverges at this point. You can continue down the current path or read one of the alternate storylines.
Jan 6, 2009: 1 Post
Posted by
Mar 16, 2006

The rounds continued to fly as the wyrm and master stayed safe behind the enchanted barrier. There was no point in either risking harm, so they opted to just wait for the fraud's ammunition to run low. The false informant was less patient to meet his end, however, and switched to a more powerful shot. Never stopping pace, he recovered a small, gilded gem and tapped his firearm with it. Dissolving into the weapon, the barrel erupted with a crimson blast that ricocheted from the clear wall, betraying its invisibility as it rippled from the force. Pulling a hand full of the jewels out from a pouch, Geirrek was bombarded by a violent assault from the liar.

"How much more of this can you take?" hissed the dragon.

"I'll be fine, hopefully," grunted the spearman. The two endured, waiting for the gunslinger to slip up as bullets continued to bounce off and wreck the deserted bar, smashing chairs, rafters, and even a mug. Curious if any of this destruction could be advantageous, the summoner made a quick dart of his cursed eyes about the surroundings but happened upon something else. Aside from a few passed out drunks, one of the tavern's patrons remained behind. Hunched over, the very brave, or very stupid, drunkard was draped in a long, dark purple coat and topped in a coned hat of the same color. He leaned over a puddle of ale as he held the handle of a mug, the rest shattered, within a bandaged hand. With a very rigid turning of his neck, he faced the two engaged in combat, staring them down through goggled eyes with a low grumble building deep in his throat.

"That was a good draft, bud," croaked the sickly figure. Pivoting the rest of his body, his short legs stuck out from the top of his stool. With a mad shriek, the odd, little freak leaped at the dueling pair. Alarmed, the rogue immediately opened fire on the new arrival, careless to his identity. Blocking the shot with a gnarled buckler with an eerie glow strapped to his arm, the twisted oddity was thrown hard against a back wall. Springing quickly back to his feet, his shield emerged unscathed, although the same could not be said about him. Still angry, the short one charged again, once more being knocked back by the heavy shots. The gunman's attention was not divided, alternating fire between the one he deceived and the one he offended, unable to determine which one wanted to hurt him more. While Geirrek and his partner remained still and well protected by the veil of force, the madman was catching the shots and bouncing off the walls, in many cases literally. It seemed as though he had forgotten what he was trying to do on several occasions. Amidst his frantic craze, the gaunt lunatic slipped on an abandoned dinner plate, sending him tumbling and crashing against the bar. Shaking his head to get his thoughts back in order, the freak found himself on the wrong end of the flintlock. With a clear shot aimed at him, his demeanor soured.

"Tur-Tur Trebuchet!" called out the queer individual. Confounded to the point of inaction, the gunner could not even bring himself to simply pull a trigger. Even the spearman was frozen by the statement as he stood poised to bash in the rogue's head with the broad side of his weapon. The words were truthfully a command for his revealed accomplices. Bounding out from behind the counter, a yellow, horned hare touched down on the buckler on the maniac's outstretched arm just as a head emerged from it. The shield was actually a Strong Toad, an invincible creature, clutching to his wrist. Quickly springing off the shelled back, the Mi'raj's leap was further boosted as the Toad used the power within its eyes to drive him faster. With astounding force propelling the bunny through the air, one thing was learned: rabbits do not make good projectiles. Spiraling wildly, the cuddly coney became impaled upon the ceiling.

"Ah, Flop-Hop, c'mon!" whined the lunatic. With a smug grin, the rogue rose his gun before collapsing after a clank. Falling away, behind him stood the summoner with a smugger grin. "Well, ain't ya lucky I was here to save ya?" boasted the twisted figure. Geirrek maintained a cold, harsh stare.

"Do you know who I am?" he questioned.

"Do ya know who I am?" retaliated the sickly one.

"The realm's greatest fool," the spearman sarcastically answered.

"So, ya have heard o' me!" gleefully cheered the coated one. "What about Raph? I've been tryin' to get him in the tales, too," he added, pointing to the Strong Toad.

"How's it goin'?" croaked the glowing reptile. With an annoyed grunt, the summoner scooped up the unconscious rogue and began to bind him to a chair for an in depth interrogation. Meanwhile, the other had leapt upon the bar top to lap up what he could of the lost mead and glass shards

Posted by
Mar 18, 2006

The rogue soon awoke, attempting to look around the bar, but finding that his blurred vision could only stare directly ahead. As his vision cleared, he felt his throat tighten and his heart begin to pump hard.

He was staring at Geirrek.

The Terrible Summoner's eyes, bearing their accursed burden, bore deep into the rogue's mind...

..."Awww, y'mean you're not gonna kill 'im?" The freak complained, "I was lookin' forward t' seein' that..."

"His death would be useless." The summoner stated coldly.

"But wasn't he out afta ya?"

"Yes. If he had known more, maybe he would have died. But, as he only knew little, I had nothing more of consequence to take from him. Anyway, he'll probably suffer more like this."

The coated one grinned freakishly

"True, true, I'll give ya that one"


With that, the summoner turned his back on the freak and began to walk towards the door...

But someone was standing in it, cloaked and leaning on a bamboo staff. As his eyes, seemingly glowing with an inner current, darted around the room, he apparently came into an understanding of what had taken place. He simply looked at Geirrek, waved his long black hair away from his scarred face, and stated: "So, he was a fake as well...

Posted by
Mar 19, 2006

Confusion crept beneath the coned cap of the freak, but Geirrek remained unstartled by the stranger's appearance.

"I did not expect you to get here so quickly, Zedd," the spearman plainly stated, "but then, you do have your ways." He buried his head within his hood and continued his procession to the door. "Do you know who set us up?"

"Nay," responded the cloaked man, "the local innkeeper identified my contact as a local low life, no connections or allegiances. How do you know this one is of no use? Your own ways?" he assumed, noticing the devastated bar and the unfortunate, mutilated victim. "What on earth did you do to him?"

"Up yours, bub," the grey fiend burped. "He didn't do nuthin' to me."

"Yet," Entropy was quick to mutter.

"That poor bloke, on the other hand," the greyskin cackled, thrusting back his head toward the bound scoundrel, "he messed 'im up good." The traveler's scarred eyebrow piqued in a cooled intrigue, observing the obviously broken man, babbling quietly to himself. "With his eyes," finished the freak, pointing to his own with his gnarled fingers.

"He's still alive, so what did he see?"

"The runes!" shouted the captive wildly. "Those evil runes..." he wept, "in my head..."

"You have no such power," Zedd noted to the summoner drawing nearer to the door.

"True, but he didn't know that," Geirrek grinned a slight but sadistic smirk. Only his victims could see his affliction for more than the scars they were. The conjurer's grotesque gaze nonetheless chilled all who met it, whether it is their own end they see or by less supernatural means. "He gave up everything he knew, which was not much."

Zedd stood firm as the spearman approached, preventing his comrade's departure with his staff. "Two meetings in two cities at the same time," the scarred one began. "You do realize what this means," Zedd added.

Geirrek let out a frustrated growl and narrowed his blue, burning eyes. "Someone is trying to separate us," he concluded, "to make us easier targets."

"And to prevent us from tracing them, they are using grunts who have nothing else to gain than money."

"And some heavy arms," the magician informed. "You should see the flint..." he trailed off, looking to produce the flintlock he could not find.

"Lookin' for somethin'?" toyed the demented drunk, dangling the stolen firearm freely with his back still facing the two from the bar. The displeased conjurer contorted his face in rage, immediately took up his spear, and began a charge, but the scarred one held back the weapon's tapered shaft. "Seems that ya like this li'l thin'," laughed the coat-clad crazy. "Tell ya what, ya can get it back if ya let me in on some o' that treasure yer after."

"Treasure?" repeated Zedd.

"Aw, sure, I heard about it. I overhear everythin'. If this doesn't pan out, there's a fun and scary party I heard about on the inn's second floor, but yer after a map, and all maps lead to treasure, and I want in. I'll even put in my fair share to get it." Before Geirrek could order his wyrm to attack in his stead, Zedd accepted the odd little man's offer.

The summoner sneared "I guess we could use another moving target."

"Ah, ya plannin' on some fightin'?"

"No, practicing my aim."

At long last, Geirrek slipped out from the tavern. His familiar had resumed its more tender form to fit through the door. The man continued until he was in a clearing. He thrust his spear into the center ground and, with his newly freed hand, removed another vial from his pouch. This one of the apothecary's goods was a coarsely ground dirt of some kind. The spearman bit off the stopper, as his armored arm was not nearly nimble enough, and readied the firearm pressed between his arm and side.

"What exactly was so important about that flintlock?" posed the cloak-clad one, following after his human companion. "Some sort of memento?"

"Perhaps," the summoner spat out the vial's lid, "but mostly because whoever made it put a lot of effort and magic into it. And magic means..."

"Spirit," the other finished. "Magic is an extension and manipulation of the soul's energy," he regurgitated. "How does that help?"

"This ore," the conjurer explained while loading the gun, "will act as like a sort of magic lodestone." He stood close to his spear, took aim straight up, waited for the winds to subside, and fired. "Direction it lands in is the direction the forger of this flintlock, which is the best clue we have right now."

Eventually, the shot struck soil. The summoner took up his warspear and pointed it toward where his special ammo was drawn. The Nidhogg spread out its wide, swift wings and accepted its passengers to their next destination..

Posted by
Mar 21, 2006

Soaring over the village, nothing caught their searching eyes until the outskirts of the settlement were reached. There, surrounded by a small ring of forest, was a regal looking citadel, but there was something foreboding about its appearance.

"You thinking what I'm thinking?" the spearman asked the mystic.

"Nobility never enlist such a great number of armed guards," Zedd answered, "particularly those of such caliber." His words were in reference to the many great, and generally hellish, guard beasts accompanying the centurions.

"Something tells me that the lord of the manor doesn't conduct regular business. Sounds like he could be our guy." Circling around the vicinity in a wide arc, the Nidhogg touched down in a far off location to not arouse any suspicion.

"So then, how will we go about this deed?" the wanderer questioned as they progressed to the fort.

"Break down the doors, smash up the sentries," replied Geirrek. "What? Is there another way?"

"That would not benefit our cause. We must be careful in our movements lest what we seek will take wings."

"Oh, okay, smart guy, what would you suggest then?" begged the drake.

"I got a plan," chirped in the ignored lunatic.

"Stealth," Zedd answered. "We could enter through the back and follow Dai-Sho's lead."

"Who?" wondered the hooded one. A swift breeze haulted before him, briefly taking the appearance of a weasel. "Ah. Him."

"Yes, him indeed." The cloaked man continued, "He would be able to guide us down the course to avoid all suspicion until we reached the center and, hopefully, what we are searching for."

"Did you see how many guards that place is warming with? We'd never make it by unnoticed, no matter how crafty you think you are," blurted the summoner in a lowering volume as they approached the castle's walls.

"Well, it certainly would not be wise to barge into the place," protested the traveller, adding, "That would be a fool's errand." His word's struck the dragon's keeper.

"Yes, it would be fit for a fool." His gaze slowly turned towards the maniac.

The soldiers stood frozen in their watch, their eyes watching for the slightest of disturbances. Suddenly, from over the wall, an oddly shaped mass came crashing to the ground, tumbling forward.

"Bleedin' 'ell! I dun see how that was a good plan," rambled on the thing as he rose to his very short legs. Recovered from their initial bewilderment, the sentries advanced on the intruder.

"Aw... dang," understated Raph as the freak scooped him up and bounded off in haste, leaving the path clear of eyes for the others to enter undetected

** There is still more to this story. Continue to the next page. **

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