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.