“Faf’nyr!” The rumbling voice of a dwarf echoed out in the pitch black cave. In response was the ringing of metal as thousands of coins shifted and tinkled away in the darkness.
“Faf’nyr, there you are. Glad to see me?” the dwarf asked as he finally entered the main cavern from a low tunnel, guttering torch in hand. An imposing dragon awaited him, perched cozily on an ocean of treasure that glittered tantalizingly in the sudden light.
Mackenzie smiled up at the dragon, who hissed irritably. Not so glad then.
Mackenzie was a striking dwarf in chased gold armor and spiky, busy hair to match, and he stepped carelessly on the slippery coins, only bothering to step over some blackened ribs that he was pretty sure were dwarven.
“That time again, you old, greedy dragon. Don’t think I forgot you, just because it’s been a decade. There are oaths to uphold,” he said as he found a nearby stalagmite to lean comfortably against.
“Well, oath. Just the one. The most important one. Only reason I’d bother you,” he continued as he tossed his torch down amidst the gold coins, baubles, and bones, prompting another draconic hiss.
Mackenzie unhooked a simple metal flask from his belt and took a sip. “Been a rumor, from the humans up top. This last Withermoon’s spat something up. Something new.” He shuffled his booted feet slightly.
Faf’nyr brought his sinuous neck and narrow head down to Mackenzie’s level and sniffed loudly. Mackenzie rolled his eyes and pointedly put the flask away. “Fine. Anyway. The Stygians up top say a portal got opened. Or found. At a place where we’d fought the Void way back. Humans ended up calling it Wraithfire Keep.”
“You might have fought there, along with my ancestors. Now that I think about it,” Mackenzie mused, then shook his head. Faf’nyr continued to stare at him from a few yards away with a single, unblinking eye.
“So. You know our oath. The first oath sworn by dwarves. In the depths below and the mountains above…” Faf’nyr reared up and made a big show of a contemptuous yawn, which Mackenzie did his best to ignore, “…we stand against the Void.”
Mackenzie took a single heavy gold coin out from his belt and set it down with care amongst all the others. “Leaving soon with the other riders and their dragons. Can’t let the humans stand alone. Especially during Frostwreath. Nasty time to wage a war.”
A pause. “I’d prefer if you came. We’ve fought well together, before.”
The dragon prowled forward, the dunes of coins shifting under its weight, and with cold precision Faf’nyr plucked the single new coin in front of Mackenzie and tossed it off into the darkness.
Mackenzie shrugged, “Didn’t have the proper payment this time. I understand.” He turned to go, but stopped as he felt a careful talon tap once against the flask on his belt. The metal made a high-pitched ringing noise that faded off into the darkness of the cave.
Mackenzie looked up at the dragon with wide eyes. “I know you don’t like the habit. Yet this flask was my great-grandfather’s! I couldn’t possibly…” he trailed off as the talon tapped twice now on the unadorned metal.
With a tightening of his eyes, Mackenzie unhooked the flask and tossed it off into the endless pile of treasure.
Above him Faf’nyr hissed in what Mackenzie gauged to finally be a friendly manner. After a heartbeat the dragon stretched forth its black wings then leapt up into the air with an effort and gust that sent coins spilling and nearly sent Mackenzie sprawling.
“So, you’re coming, but you leave me to make my own way up. Fine. Fine,” he grumbled to himself as he picked up his smoldering torch and began the trek up the chilly tunnels.