(Unfertige ansammlung an notizen ^^)
Rissai knew not what had struck him. He swollowed hard, looking up the tall building. He felt observed, and he could only guess why that was so. Oh Vinnel, didn't he swear to never have any dealings with these people anymore? Didn't he promise to never, never come near a Red Mage ever again? And now he stood before their Academy, a temple to their goddess, the home of all the Red Mages upon this world.
What now? He did not know. Step inside? The idea rang in his mind like certain death. Wait out here? But then the burning sun would end his life sooner or later as well. But what could he do? “Oh Vinnel.” he uttered, moving one more step closer to the tall gate of iron. The inlaid runes shone a metallic red, something he had never seen before. And he decided something else that was stupid. If that failed, he would think of something else. Or leave this acursed wasteland.
“Red Mages!” he shouted up at the gate, at the building. He hoped his voice was firm. “I have something for you!” he continued, and rose his arm, his hand, holding up a small, fine ring. “I found this, and I wish to know what it is!”
There was silence, long silence. The sun's heat became unberable. And as he lowered his arm again, just moving to turn away, he heard a loud crack from the gate. And as he spun back to stare at it, he saw it open, slowly. And as it was open, it was like a beast's mouth inviting him to be swollowed. “Eaten alive.” he uttered. He hesitated still. “Oh Vinnel.” he spoke, hoping his goddess would protect him. “Why did I come here?” he sighed, in doubt. But now, since the Red Mages had heard him, he had little choice but to step inside. He would not anger them. He feared too much for his life. So he gathered the little courage he had left, and set one foot before the other, heading inside the large halls of the Order of Flame.
“You have something for us.” the red-haired woman spoke, taking a seat opposite of Rissai. “Show me.” she bid.
Rissai eyed her, then the other mages about. All of them were clad in red robes, each adorned with different symbols of fire, some more colorful in different tones of red, others plain and dark, sending chills down his spine. Chills. It was irony.
“The ring.” the woman bid. Rissai looked to her again, nodding. “Y-yes.” he answered, and opened his palm, showing the ring he had found. “I want to know what this is.”
The woman took it, and looked at it closely. She called another mage – or so Rissai thought, when the man approached her; the language was unknown to him, strange – and showed him the ring as well. They spoke in their strange language for a bit, making Rissai more nervous. And then they looked at him again.
“Where did you find this?” the woman asked. Rissai took a deep breath.
“Near Elvram in Quesire, I was on my way to a friend in the city of Katann and decided to take the road through the forest. I suppose I got lost after I left Elvram, and I stumbled upon a burnt down house. Curious, I took a closer look. No one seemed to have died in the building, and it seemed that it had been destroyed a long time ago. I found the ring in a scorched chest, beneath some rubble, and I know not what it did to me. But I turned away, and I took the mountain pass back to the East, crossed the Great Wood of Khorim and am now here. It took me three months to get here. And I was only a week or two away from Katann.”
The mages, all of them, seemed somewhat surprised, making Rissai feel very uncomfortable. “You came here directly?” another mage asked. Rissai nodded.
“Yes. I had to bring it here. I know not why, and that is the reason why I wish to know what this ring is. What is it? And why did it draw me here?” He was clearly frustrated. Just thinking of all the troubles he had gone through while on his journey here, the dangers he only barely escaped. And now, here, in midst of danger again, surrounded by group of Red Mages. And he could not be sure to receive any answers from them.
The red-haired woman set down the ring on the table, eyeing it, pondering. The silence that followed was only broken by a hissing fire in the room, and it pained, it seemed to burn Rissai's mind, or his soul, or both of them. His throughts repeated over and over: Why did I come here? Why did I break my oath?
Finally the woman moved, looking directly in to Rissai's eyes. “You shall remain here as guest. We will examine the ring. Lokas will bring you to a free room.” All that Rissai could do was nod in reply. He had no choice. He had to obey, and her words, how they were spoken, how she looked at him, it all made it only more clear. He stood. And a young mage with dark hair and a fiery-colorful robe gave him a gentle smile as he approached Rissai, bidding the bard the follow.
Rissai stared at the candles in his room whilst sitting on his bed. Wait here. Wait here, in the heart of the Order of Flame. In this place where there is no cold, where fires burned everywhere. Where the people were unpredictable and dangerous as a wild fire. As he was brought here, he saw many people, many that were curious of him. He saw how some of them were horribly burnt, saw others playing with fires without being harmed. He saw flames dancing and he thought it was magic. And most of all, he felt the heat of the place. Some corridors had been nigh unbearable. Others were a mere nuisance. And this room, it felt like a hot summer's day. Bearable, but only just.
He tried to distract his mind. Tried to think of the ring. How he had found it and what it did to him. He remembered stepping through the forest, losing the trail that led safely through it. He remembered his light steps, as the elves had taught him, as he moved through the thick forest. And a glimmer had caught his sight, somewhere in the distance. He had approached it, and there he had found the building, somewhere in the middle of the forest.
His mind wandered through the place again, remembering how he touched the burnt wood and blackened stone. How he wandered round it, stepped inside it and looked around. It was all cold, and there was little remaining ash. Some stone looked damaged as with a weapon, a sword or something heavier. Or perhaps it was merely time that gnawed upon it. But he remembered finding a knife or a dagger, rusted and damaged. And an arrowhead, somewhere in the rubble. And he had then looked closer, partially in curiosity, partially in greed, hoping to find something of worth. And he thought he did as he spotted the small, blackened chest. And as he had opened the chest and found the silver ring, he wondered how much it was worth, and he tried to think of whom he might sell it to.
He remembered how he took the ring from the chest, how he examined it in the sunlight. He remembered the fine engraving, reminding him of a dragon. Dragon, he had thought. Whose ring might this have been? But he could not think of anyone, save for the king of Ellire, named Osven Dragonbane. But he doubted that he would find a king's ring out here. So the ring was placed in his pocket, and he had continued his path to his friend in Katann.
But his path had not led him west. His steps moved east, back to where he had come from. And whenever he attempted to turn back on his path, he would find himself somewhere else than where he had intended. The memories were frustrating. His mood was not bright. And by the time he reached the High Pass to Evenspring, he had given up all chances to visit his friend. And all attempts to sell this ring he had found failed miserably. He remembered speaking to many people about the ring, but none knew a thing about it. Then, in the Great Wood in a small town, someone did tell him: “Perhaps a mage would know.” And all of a sudden frustration had become dread. He knew where the Red Mages were, and he knew that he was not far from them. And when he chose to find them, his steps did not lead him away. And then he came to the heart of the Order of Flame, ending up here, in this room, frustrated and afraid.
He sighed, lying down upon his bed. Perhaps sleep would ease his mind.
“Records in our books lead to a kingdom named Kallas, in the heart of the continent Nelos in the West.” the red-haired woman named Eskara spoke. “We know little of the place. The Order of Flame and the reach of Her do not go so far. But the books speak of dragons, a kingdom of dragons. This ring does not belong to us, and shall not be in our hands. We know not what magics lie upon the ring. But they are no spells that the Flame wishes to have near. So we shall bring this back to where it belongs – to this kingdom upon Nelos.”
Rissai listened, unsure what to think. Dragons, an entire kingdom! All he knew of dragons was that they showed up every now and then, wreaking terror upon the realms. The last known dragon was slain some fifty years ago by King Osven and his armies after half of his kingdom was destroyed. So thinking of dragons, it made Rissai very uneasy. And thinking that the Red Mages wanted to bring the ring to dragons, an entire kingdom of them, he wanted nothing to do with it. The thought was far worse than being here, now, amongst the Redrobes.
“We want you, Rissai, to bring the ring to Kallas. You found the ring. And the ring led you here. It will lead you back, so the Archmages assume.”
Rissai choked. “What?” He was in disbelief. The bad feeling that he had merely thinking of dragons became terror. He, alone, against not only one dragon, but rather hundreds, if not thousands? No. No, he would not, he could not.
The mage Eskara frowned at the bard's reaction. “You brought this ring to us. You wanted to know what it is. But it remains your responsibility. I care not if all of Jalon burns because a dragon is missing his treasure, but I do care if the Order is assaulted because we have something that is clearly not supposed to be in our hands. We will not protect you. But you might wish to protect others.”
Rissai's mouth opened several times to argue against it, but he had no reason. It shocked him, somewhat, that the woman had clearly said that she cared not of this continent's fate. Yet he could not deny that he found the ring, and of all the tales of dragons he heard, he could truly doom countless people if he did not act. He did not want to leave. He did not want to risk his life. But he felt there was no choice.
“I-” he paused, trying to think of words. Upon failing, he merely sighed. “I'll go.”
Rissai stood upon the ship's deck, realizing that he never had been on sea before. He had always walked to his destination, even if it was on the other side of the continent, even if it meant travelling through war-torn regions or over dangerous passes. Even if it took far more time. He looked out to the sea, and all of a sudden, he did wonder. What was east and west of Jalon? What lie north and south of it? What would he find across the sea if he travelled it? He was curious. And suddenly he could barely wait to set sail.
“You all right, lad?” A soft pat on his back followed the voice.
“No.” Rissai said. “No. I think my food was rotten.” he uttered.
The sailor shook his head. “No, it is only the sea. You are not meant for the sea. It makes some people ill. They say that not everyone is made for the sea, and the sea does not accept everyone as its own.”
“So I am just disliked by the sea?” Rissai asked, looking at the sailor with his pale face.
“Just not meant for it, lad. We'll reach an island in a few days, until then I recommend you sleep much if you can. Or look at the horizon, a spot in the horizon, and focus on it.”
The bard turned away again. “Oh Vinnel, did you suffer this too?” he uttered, then looked at the horizon and attempted to focus.
Joy filled Rissai as he stepped upon land again. “How long will we stay?” he asked a sailor. The answer was disappointing. “Two days, only to drop some wares and gather more supplies.” Two days. Two days would need to do, he figured. And so he decided to talk to the people of the island, learn new things, and marvel at this place that was so very strange to him.
As he was curious of the people, so the people were curious of him. He had little time to tell grand stories, and so he had to say every time when someone bade him to tell more of the things of Jalon. He learned that this place was a colony founded a very long time ago, too long for anyone to remember, but belonged to no one anymore. The island was rather small, the sea rough, but the land was fertile and the forest generous and the people lived rather peacefully. Their only worries were greater storms, but these were rare, and now and then a ship of raiders came, but this did not happen often either. The people did well on their own, having only little trade with the mainland, though it was always exciting whenever a ship came.
When the storied became less grand and exciting, telling of children's pranks (which reminded Rissai of his childhood, amusing him) and of scandalous weddings, he bid to sleep, and he slept well for once, not in constant motion but still and peaceful. The following day he told a few more stories and took a walk through the nearby forest, marvelling at the many birds and other animals before returning back to town at dusk. He bade a sailor to ensure to wake him before they left, and then told more stories and having good food and drink before resting another night in peace.
Then he was again upon that dreadful ship. And this time, the journey took more than a few days.
The storm was terrible. The thunder roared too close several times, close enough that Rissai thought the ship had been struck and that something broke. But the ship did not sink. It only was thrown about the sea like a plaything, the violent jolting only making things worse. And the creaking of the ship's planks and the shouts of the sailors, and the heavy rain that dripped down from deck. Rissai felt terribly ill, he shivered in fear and was cold. He had been surprised by the rain and was drenched, even though there was not a single cloud to be seen in the morning. When the rain began, a sailor had told him to go below deck and wait there. And then the storm broke.
He had been in many storms before. Storms so strong that he witnessed trees being torn down by wind and rain. And thunder and lightning so loud and bright that he might have become deaf and blind. But this storm, upon this ship, it was far more terrible than anything he had lived through before. A faint feeling told him that he would die.
There was a gentle pat on his back, but it did not make him feel any better. “That was not the worst storm we've been through, lad.” the captain said. It did not make Rissai feel any better. “Now the other ship we've found had a far worse time. Maybe you tell them a story of yours. Might make them feel better.”
But he was not in the mood to tell a story. Seeing the other wrecked ship, he could not get out of his mind what might have happened if the same fate had come upon this ship. Of course, there was a faint curiosity about the people that were saved, but-
“Come on. You're headed for Nelos, yes? They are from there.” the captain spoke, giving him another pat on the back. “Maybe they can help you out.”
“Sorchent?” Rissai asked, just to be sure again. It took him a moment to get used to the accent. “Yes.” the woman answered. “That is where we're from. I'm Kara, I was captain of that ship.”
He felt rude staring at the woman, but he wasn't sure about her. It seemed unusual, the long, wavy black hair, the soft blue in her eyes, but he simply had to ask. “Are you an elf?”
She blinked, staring right back at him for a moment, before laughing. “Not quite.” she then answered. “My grandfather was an elf. You see, Sorchent is made of the human realm and the elven realm, united under one king.”
That was interesting. And Rissai's curiosity only grew. “So there are many elves where you live?” The woman Kara only shook her head. “I live at the coast, in Thekeg's City to be precise. Not many elves come there. The harbor in the south, though, there are elves. Most live in the towns in the forests, under rule of the Elflords.”
Rissai pondered, wondering of this country of elves and humans. He felt like he would need to wander this land, hear many tales of the people. And he had so many questions! “Thekeg's City... Can you tell me more of it? It has an interesting name. Is it large? And is your king an elf?” He wished to ask more, but he managed to hold himself back for the moment. The lady captain was clearly amused.
“Thekeg's City was founded more than a hundred years ago, so it is not very old. The story of Thekeg is a long one, but I will tell it in brief.” she replied, and wanted to speak on, but Rissai interrupted. “No! Tell me the tale.”
The woman smiled. “Well, they say a bit more than a hundred years ago, the sea was angry at Sorchent, because elves and humans were killing one another. But both are the children of the sea, as both are drawn to it by the will of Lakai and Svin Merren, the sea-gods. So the angered sea swept high and deep in to the land, touching the very forests, and dwellers of the deepest sea rose and destroyed the land and the people. Fear united elves and humans again, but the sea did not calm.
“The smith Thekeg prayed to the gods to aid him end this war the sea waged against them, and he made an armor to protect him and many gifts to give the sea. He travelled from his home where he called the gods to a deep lake, and he leapt in to that lake laden with armor and gifts and was never seen again. But the sea calmed and there was peace again. His home was a little house at the sea, and is now Thekeg's City, since many people came there. The lake he leapt in to is now known as Thekeg's Death. I fear I do not know more of the tale than this.”
Rissai was delighted in hearing the story of another hero from far away. Not a saint of Asatorr or Kjervon, no noble and heroic martyr, but rather a plain man that rose to courage. He liked the tale, but was disappointed that the lady captain knew no more.
“The war between elves and humans stoppe then?” he asked on.
“To some extent. There always are problems between the two.”
Rissai frowned. Though the country, this Sorchent, seemed interesting, it appeared to be dangerous as well. “What of the King?” he wondered.
“King Garan, a human. I know not quite much about the rumours about him, and he has not long been king yet. Before Lord Elthantan was King, but they say he and his wife disappeared. He was an elf, and the Elflords think he was murdered. I know nothing of it all, though.” Kara shrugged.
“Politics!” Rissai complained. The lady Captain was amused at the outburst, said nothing though. The bard shook his head, giving an apology. “But please, tell me more things. How is it that you became a captain? I mean not to be rude, but I do not recall ever heading a woman being captain of a ship.”
“Ah!” she said, laughing. “Yes. Whenever I meet a sailor from Jalon I hear that question, usually with a doom-saying glance to go with it. But Sorchent, everyone living within it, belongs to the sea. My mother was a sailor, and a very good one at that, and my grandfather, too, would take me out to the sea when I was younger. When he died, I inherited his ship, and though my mother would repeatedly say that it was dangerous, I could not withstand the sea's call. I suppose I was too bold, and challenged the sea too much. My ship is gone now.”
Rissai wanted to ask more, but he dared not, seeing a faint sorrow in the woman's eyes. He pondered for a moment, trying to think of another subject. And he had no questions anymore he dared to ask, so he told of himself and his journeys, and many tales.
Rissai marvelled at the harbor, at the people that walked about busily. Two more large ships were at dock, and many smaller boats he could see too, belonging to fishermen as he guessed. He turned back to the sea one more time, thinking of the long travel he had, and he smiled, happy to have lived through it and not needing to enter any ship any time soon again. He thanked the gods and turned back to the city, or rather to wall and gate that separated the harbor from the city. With careful steps, looking around curiously at crates and boxes and bags and buildings and several people in between, he approached the gate. A single guard stood there, armed with spear and helm, and watched him curiously.
“Hail stranger.” the man said. “Where do you fare from?”
“Jalon.” Rissai answered, and the guard's eyes widened.
“But you are not a sailor.”
“No,” Rissai said. “I am a storyteller, and-” he paused, remembering why he took this journey. He quickly checked his bags, hoping to find the ring, and then he searched more, hoping to not find it, hoping that it had been stolen or lost. His heart sank as he found the ring. Disappointed he turned to the guard. “I will need a place to stay for the night. I fear I've things to do, but need a good night's sleep before I go anywhere.”
Though confused at the bard's odd behaviour, the guard nodded and gave directions to an inn, though also recommening a visit to the Warrior's Tavern. Rissai spoke his thanks before heading through the gate, looking for the inn and renting a room for the night before heading to the tavern. Drinking sounded like a very, very good idea.
He stared at the terribly ugly man that was staring right back at him, cleaning a cup with a rag that appeared to be everything but clean. He wasn't quite sure if this man was a human or something terribly ugly crossbreed. The many scars were no help of identification, nor were the missing teeth or the tattered ears, and those eyes were all but comforting.
“You ordering something or not?” the man-thing asked in a terrible accent, getting impatient. Rissai still was not sure if it was wise or not. But a drink really sounded like a good idea...
“What do you serve?” Rissai asked, just to be safe. The man eyed him, gave him what appeared to be a critical glance, or something of disgust, before answering.
“Local ales, several wines, imported things from Jalon, whatever it is, I probably have it. Even got special wine from Evratha and some nasty stuff from Taroth.”
Rissai frowned. “I guess I could risk a local ale. Something not too strong to start off.” he figured, not wanting that this man-thing would kill him with some wicked drink.
The cup that was in the man's hand was slammed on the counter, making Rissai jump. He was about to complain, but seeing the keeper's glance, he chose to remain silent and simply wait for his drink. A small keg was pulled from beneath the counter, lifted as if it weighed nothing, and some of its contents poured in to the cup. It looked like ale, it smelled like ale, and all that was left was to figure if it also tasted like ale.
Gathering his courage, Rissai lifted the cup. “Do I have to pay it if I don't like it?” he asked. The man-thing nodded. Rissai gulped and tried it.
And he was pleasantly surprised.
It tasted good, the best ale he had in months, and his fears faded away.
“Jalon, that's why you talk to funny!” Karag said, laughing his deep, disturbing laugh. Rissai frowned. “It's you that talks funny to my ears.” he answered. “And you really did frighten me when I came in here.”
“I always do.” the half-orc said. “It's my way to say hello and figure if I like the people that come in or not. I remember all them faces and I know what to serve them, and if I give them a clean cup or not. I like you. You're brave.”
Brave! That made Rissai proud. “I suppose it does take courage to drink an unknown drink in an unknown tavern, served in a cup that might not be clean.”
“But you still were willing to pay, even if you had spit it out.”
Rissai frowned. “I might have fled this damned place, but yes. My days of stealing are over.”
“Oh-ho! A thief are you?” Karag laughed. “Fleeing from your home?”
“No!” Rissai replied rather hefty. “I said those days are past! For the love of Vinnel, I am here because-” he paused, moaning at being reminded again why he went through the trouble of coming here. “Well, I need to go to this place, Kallas.”
“Kallas!” the Keep exclaimed. “What do you want from Kallas?”
“There are dragons there, right?” Rissai felt at unease.
“So they say. Never been there, but there's much rumour about it. Not as much rumour as about Nellasno, but still much rumour.”
“What do the rumours say?”
“Well,“ Karag picked up a cup, and started cleaning it out with his rag, seeming to think for a moment. “They do say that there's a kingdom there, ruled by humans and dragons. And that there's a Queen ruling, and with her a silver dragon. They say the dragons chose some people and live with them together, and fly with them. Dragonriders they call that. But I only hear that from the caravans, and I wouldn't know why them merchants would lie. I only look at them fine works that the merchants bring down from Kallas, knives and jewelry and oddities. Of course, I've heard other things, too. Dragons being gods and all, and the people living in terror needing to sacrifice to the dragons or be eaten.” the half-orc shrugged, setting down his cup again. “How about another drink?”
Rissai frowned at the last rumour, but the cheerful thought of another fine drink took away his fright. “Oh. Yes, another special maybe?”
“Something stronger?” Karag asked with a raised brow. Rissai wasn't sure if he had just heard some anticipation in the rough voice or not.
“Why not? I'll take it.” Rissai said with a firm nod. Karag made a grimace, something that seemed like a grin, and all of a sudden Rissai was nervous again. The Keep pulled a fine bottle from beneath the counter, opening it carefully and pouring only a little bit in to the new cup. “Speaking of dragons, this thing's called Dragon's Breath.” The cup was shoved in front of the Bard.
“Dragons's Breath? Why's that?” he asked.
“I this is apparently from Kallas. Bought it some five years ago off the merchants, never seen it since. But its effect honors the name.” Karag answered, seeming rather proud of this drink. Rissai gulped.
Karag laughed while Rissai was catching his breath, still coughing. His insides were burning and he wasn't quite sure if he was suffering pain or not.
“I'll never, NEVER do that again!” he promised, just befor ebreaking out in another series of coughs. The half-orc offered him another cup, still highly amused. “Here, water for you, friend.”
Though not very trusting, Rissai downed the cup, and he was somewhat satisfied as he did figure it being water. Anything else might have killed him.
“Oh Vinnel, never again.” he uttered as his insides calmed a little. “I've had enough for today.” He paid, and under laughter of the tavern's keeper, he left for his room.
He looked through his pack, but something was missing. He had his book, some songs and papers, some letters and a small flute, some clothes and his cloak, but somehow, something was missing. He checked his pockets and his pouches, and then he figured. His heart sank. He paled. His money was gone.
Kallas was north-west, so north-west he'd go. The quicker the things were through, the better, as he had lost enough time hunting pickpockets and thieves and avoiding murdurers. To the south to King's Castle they said he should go, from there to the north over the mountains to the Grand Bridge, and across that, so they had said, was Kallas. From the harbour he could see his destination, small mountains far along the coast. To north across the water was the Kingdom of Antoris, the coast unseen, but to the north-west he could see a faint line that made the mountains of Kallas.
Rissai frowned at the rugged men before him. “I'm a storyteller, not a merchant. Rob someone else.” he bade. But one of the brutes came closer, holding his club threatingly. “You'd best hand your last coppers, and your food, then. We're not picky.”
Countless insults were on Rissai's mind, but seeing that there were five of them and he alone, he thought it better to not say a thing. “I can tell you a story.” he suggested. “You know that nobles pay much money to have a Disciple of Vinnel tell stories? I can tell you for free.”
But the brigands seemed unimpressed. “I'll rather have a copper for a drink and some bread for supper than a story. Now you'd best give me what I want, or I will change my mind about not being picky.”
Rissai moved a small step back. He was unwilling to hand his hard-earned money and his last food to some filthy robbers, especially not when thinking of cold nights in the open whilst being hungry and miserable. Perhaps he could fight. But he was no warrior, and even if Vinnel was the Swordsinger, he was not one to follow the path of the sword. So fighting against so many was all but wise. He moved another small step back. Perhaps he could run. But he was quite burdened with his pack, and he did not know this land, and the rock was hard to climb. And if he tripped, he'd be doomed. Another option was speaking, but the robbers seemed pretty much determined to take what they wanted. He moved another small step back. The brigands approached. He had to decide now.
And he chose to run.
Heart pounding, with heavy breath and his entire body shaking, he sat down, hoping he was safe now. Whenever he heard a sound, he was ready to run on, but there was nothing but pebbles falling or the wind blowing through the leaves of a lonesome tree. That was close, too close, and he had too much luck.
He carefully approached the massive bridge, leading to the other side of the continent. Below he could hear the see, but it was far, far below, perhaps just as far down as the bridge was wide. Or perhaps not quite. He did not dare peek down, fearing that the wind might gain strength and knock him down. So his sight was fixed on the other side, to the large mountains that were now so near. And every step he took upon the bridge, massive and ancient as he guessed, the closer the moutains came. And when the sky darkened, he finally reached the other side, this place, this Kingdom of Kallas.
Wearily, under starlight, he followed the path until he came to a small town. All way dark but a single building, and that he approached. There was noise, so he was rather sure that it was a tavern. Just to be sure, though, he knocked. Some moments later, a surprised face looked at him. “Oh? Who are you?” the elder man asked. Again, Rissai had to bear with a strange accent, this one rough and with an odd rythm.
“A wanderer, needing a place for the night.” Rissai answered. He was tired.
“Well then come in!” the old man said, and let Rissai in. “Not many guests we have here indeed.” And as Rissai stepped in, many other people greeted him, and he was invited for a drink and a bite to eat. And not long after he had filled his stomach, he was offered a bed and went to sleep.
“What in Vinnel's name!” Rissai exclaimed, staring at the black beast before him. He backed off from the fearsome creature, struck with terror. But everyone else around him only laughed.
“Master Akkaz will not harm you, wanderer.” one of the people said. “He is very gentle, even if his appearance may be fearsome.”
Rissai did not trust the words. He was ready to flee, run all the way back to Sorchent and swim across the sea if he would need to. But truly, the winged and scaled and horned creature bowed its head, slowly and carefully. And then it spoke, its voice deep and rumbling.
“I am Akkaz, and I tend and protect the people of this place, and care for the shrine of Mother Starlight, of Korravah the Dragonmother.” the beast said in carefully spoken words. It suddendly dawned upon Rissai that this was a dragon. A true, living, breathing, terrible dragon.
“Korravah is your goddess?”
“Yes, she protects us, and calls us when she needs us. I am devout servant to the Dragonmother.” the dragon spoke.
Rissai shook his head, still not quite comprehending the situation. He was speaking to a dragon. A terrible, fearsome beast. And by its size and appearance, it truly was a terrible beast, able to crush him or tear him apart without any effort. Yet he was in conversation with this creature. And spoke of belief and culture. The dragon had even lied down for him, so it wouldn't appear so terribly large, and that he could somewhat look in to the beasts eyes without staring high up all the time.
“Do all dragons have your belief?” he wondered. He could not imagine it. Not after all the tales he heard in Jalon.
“All know of Korravah that is the Stars. But not all follow her call.” the dragon answered.
“And what of other dragons? Do you live here alone?”
There the dragon laughed. “No. You see up the cliff?” The dragon pointed his nose up the high stone wall. Rissai looked up. “There are nests there, in the caves. A family lives in one complex, and I in another.”
Rissai stared up at the holes, looking small from where he sat. Complex he said. But somehow, Rissai wouldn't quite comprehend. “Many caves connected?”
“Yes. Some caves go very deep in to the mountains. There are many lairs throughout the mountains here.”
Rissai shook his head. He would think about it later. “Why are you black?” he asked, looking again at the dragon.
“Why I am black?” the creature said, amused. “Well, why are you so small and pale?”
Rissai blinked. He had never thought about that before. And somehow, thinking about it did not help him either. The dragon made an odd sound that might have been laughter.
“There are many dragons of different color, just like you have different skin and hair. I am a black dragon, born of black dragons. Some call us ashen dragons, because they say that we once lived in wastelands or destroyed lands.”
“Are there silver dragons?” Rissai wondered, remembering hearing a rumour of a silver dragon. The beast nodded.
“Yes. Silver and gold and red and blue and green and white and black there are. And the silver dragons some call the sky dragons, because they of all enjoy flight most.”
“This ring belongs here I was told.” Rissai said, showing the fine silver ring. “I was afraid dragons would come to Jalon for this ring, and destroy kingdoms like they've done in the past.”
“The engraving seems familiar, but I do not know why. Perhaps in the capital city you will find more help. Do you need directions there?”
Rissai stood at the edge of the large- well, it was like a valley, but not quite. Looking down, there was an almost perfect circle around the place, like a bowl, and it was nothing that he had ever seen before. It was impressive, nevertheless, and within this protected place, upon a large field of green, was a large city. He could see its high walls and an entire palace equal in size of the city, with high towers and circling around it were dragons. Dragons! So many of them. As his glance went around the cliffs, he saw countless caves. Dragons! In Jalon, no one would believe him...
He paused in the middle of the busy street as he caught a curious sight. Two children were playing with a tiny dragon, and all three of them were laughing and giggling and chasing one another. And he laughed as the little dragon weakly flew in to the air, resulting in the children complaining about cheating. What a curious sight.