Hello to anyone [un]lucky enough to stumble across this post.
Last month, I entered the Forums Art Contest with a short story set during the Withermoon season called “Star of Hope”. I didn’t win, but I did receive a few requests [both in and out of the game] to write a continuation, so because I’m super impressionable and just kind of do whatever people ask me to do, I’m doing just that. It takes me a while to write stuff, so this is definitely going to outlast the actual Withermoon season, but I expect it will be done in a few months or so. There’s not really a set schedule for when new installments will come out, but a safe guess is probably approximately every couple of weeks.
While this story is set in the War Dragons universe and I do take plenty of cues from official War Dragons lore [especially the Withermoon stories that have been posted over the last couple of months], none of this should be considered official. I intend it as an homage to a game I’ve enjoyed and it should be read as such. So, required disclaimers, all the characters, dragons etc. belong to Pocket Gems, this is a work of fan fiction, yadda yadda yadda and so forth.
The plot focuses around a small band of characters you may recognize trying to survive the horrors of the Withermoon while looking for the solution to a mystery that seems to have rendered the season even more perilous than usual. Along the way, they face both the frightful dangers associated with unleashed Void dragons and unexpected aid in the form of a mysterious dragon named Hyaku, who seems to be in this world for a purpose they do not yet fully understand…
This first post will include “Star of Hope” for anyone who may not have been following the Forums contest. Assuming I can get the formatting to work, the next post will have the second episode, “The Dragon in the Mirror”. [I was going to post it here, but the thread doesn’t seem to like the format of my Word document and I may need to wrestle with it for a bit]. Everything else from here on out will be posted in this thread as it is finished.
For anyone who’s still with me after all that, thanks for reading this far and I sincerely hope you enjoy this little project!
Episode #1: "Star of Hope"
rattle rattle rattle
At the sound, the lord sat up abruptly in his bed, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and trying to shake the uneasy dreams of an insecure leader out of his head. The noise came again, and he groaned as he recognized it. He knew it well—the sound of Ash beating her staff against his door. This had been a rough year for this kingdom, and he’d had to hear this sound far too often in recent days. It always meant the same thing: if she was waking him up herself, things must have gone sideways extremely suddenly.
“My lord!” Ash’s voice came from outside. “Incoming attack!”
“Who is it this time?” the lord asked wearily, tumbling out of bed and struggling to strap his armor on over his pajamas. “The clans to the north again?”
“We’re not sure yet. Whoever it is, they haven’t sent a banner. We just know one of our sentries reported an unidentified dragon flying around.”
“None—all he could make out was moving wings. The sentry said it felt like there was some kind of shadow between it and him. He was quite shaken.”
The lord strapped his sword to his side and opened the door. Ash stepped aside to let him out—a tall, slender woman with long brown hair, wielding an ornate bronze staff crafted with the head of a dragon clutching a crystalline orb between its jaws. “Did he see anything else?”
“Nothing else he would say.”
The lord turned on her with a puzzled expression. “What do you mean?”
Ash shrugged, and the links in her chain-mail shirt jingled. “He was… clearly terrified,” she said, stiffly. “Kept whimpering and repeating something about the Withermoon’s curse. I’ll have him sent back home to rest if we make it through the night alive.”
“Oh, bother the Withermoon!” Annoyance crept into the lord’s voice. “I don’t suppose this fine sentry happened to mention anything about foreseeing our kingdom being swallowed up by the Void or drowning in a river of blood? How am I supposed to keep this kingdom safe if half our defenders fall flat on their faces the moment the moon comes out?”
“We in Old Atlaua did not fear the Withermoon,” said Ash, evenly. “I don’t fear it now. If the people cannot fight, we must.”
The lord was still irritated. “Superstitions, superstitions… please tell me the other Riders are standing at the ready and not cowering in their chambers.”
Ash hesitated. “Er… well, yes and no. Malus and Astrid just came back from the den, and they report that they can’t get any of the dragons to come out of their stalls. They dig in their claws and refuse to budge. They’re clearly afraid of something, but we can’t tell what.”
“The dragons are afraid, too?” The lord shook his head. “Well, we’d best get out there and see what we can see. Let’s make for the outer wall. If the defenders can’t repel the enemy, I’ll see if I can buy them off. Food and lumber usually seem to work.”
“Malus is already on the wall. Astrid is still trying to get the dragons to move.”
The lord smiled wryly at that. He was always half-amused, half-annoyed at Astrid’s heavyhanded approach to dragon training. When he’d hired her, she’d pitched herself as a Valkyrie and swore up and down that she was the Daughter of Odin… so far, he wasn’t quite convinced that she hadn’t just spent too much time out in the cold of the Frigid Narrows, but they were shorthanded, and it was hard to turn down a qualified Rider who could swing a battle axe in times like these. Besides, she wasn’t a bad Rider when she didn’t manage to make the dragons hate her guts. Hopefully, she wasn’t being too rough on them.
“Any further orders?” Ash’s voice broke in on his thoughts. “We probably don’t have very much time before they make their first strike on the wall.”
“Let’s just see what’s going on out there and then decide.” The lord sighed. “If even the dragons are afraid, there may be nothing we can do, but I’m not going to hide in here while our kingdom burns.”
“All things burn, my lord,” said Ash, grimly. “But perhaps we can keep this place from burning for a little while longer.”
A hulking man clad in blue-green armor with elaborate gold trim met Ash and the lord as they hurried along the wall—Malus, a mercenary from the distant city of Suddene. Astrid was there too, looking out over the parapet as the white wings on her helmet and back fluttered in the brisk night breeze.
“Any further sign of them?” the lord asked Malus.
“Nothing.” The man’s voice was deep and rough. “Even if I could get the defenders to their positions, there’s nothing to shoot at.”
The lord joined Astrid at the rail and shaded his eyes to look over the islands that stretched out below them. The defense towers, usually turning to and fro and scanning the sky for threats, were all still. Above the ocean, the Withermoon glowed with a sickly green light that left a poisonous gleam on the waves.
“So the other defenders are just as afraid as the sentries…” the lord mused. “What of you, can you feel it?”
“I fear nothing,” said Malus, bluntly. “Not now.”
“And I’ve never feared anything!” Astrid cut in. “I was raised a Valkyrie! The power of Odin is in me! Even if Nidhogg himself were to rise from the roots of the World Tree, I would laugh in his face and raise my axe to defy him!”
“Erm… yes, thank you,” said the lord, trying to think of a tactful way to steer this conversation back on topic. “Ash said the dragons couldn’t be budged either… you had no success?”
Astrid’s face fell. “It’s no good. Sakura just hid her head under her wings… Equestor snorted at me… Skoll and Hati almost bit me, and they’ve known me since I trained them in Asgard! None of them will move!”
“No defenders, no dragons… I guess that leaves us.” The lord shifted his sword in its sheath—it was his habit never to draw it until it was time to use it, but he suspected that that was not a long time coming. “We watch from the wall. If anything appears, we challenge it to land and fight. Did any of you bring your bows?”
Astrid leaned her axe against the parapet and unslung a war bow from her back. “If Heimdall gives me clear sight, I shall shoot the riders from their backs before they’ve come within a hundred paces of the wall.”
“Quiet!” snapped Ash. “I think I hear something.”
The four fell silent. For several minutes, none of them could hear anything except the wind blowing around the towers of the castle. There was not a sound from any of the defending towers, nor from the little town that clustered around the castle walls. Like as not, the people were huddled in their homes, praying that the curse of the Withermoon would pass over them. In this ominous silence, even the skeptical lord was uneasy. If there was any time that he had ever seriously wondered if there was truly any supernatural danger during this season of the year, it was now.
Withermoon… he faintly remembered his mother telling tales of it before his exile from Old Atlaua. Every year, near the end of the tenth month, the people fretted and feared, looking up at the sky in wide-eyed terror whenever the moon’s light shone upon them. Whenever anything went wrong, it was automatically because of the Withermoon’s curse. If a pot fell off its shelf and broke into pieces, it was because a Withermoon spirit had pushed it. If you felt a cold chill on the back of your neck, it was the fetid breath of the dragons of the Withermoon. If someone went missing—an unfortunately common occurrence in a land so filled with dragons—it was because the Void had opened up beneath them and swallowed them. Every time his mother told him such stories, his father would snort and tell her to stop filling his boy’s mind with nonsense.
All at once, the lord leaned forward, hand on the hilt of his sword… was that the distant flapping of leathery wings? As he listened harder, he heard a faint rustling sound, a noise like silk and sackcloth rubbing together. An indistinct whisper accompanied it… words… or was it some kind of eerie melody? Perhaps someone was talking or singing in the village below… but no, every light was extinguished, the town was dark and silent. Whatever it was, he had the distinct feeling that something in the darkness was trying to speak to him.
By his side, Malus lifted up his heavy cleaver, and the lord drew his longsword from its sheath. In the silence, the shhiiii of metal sliding against metal seemed loud and startling. With a quick motion, Astrid put an arrow to her bow, and Ash lifted up her staff, glaring around her as if looking for a head to smash in.
The lord peered out into the gloom once more… was it just him, or was the Withermoon’s light fading somewhat? It was almost like a cloud was passing over the moon, but there didn’t seem to be a cloud in the sky tonight. An involuntary shiver passed through him, and he looked around uncertainly—had it been this cold when he’d stepped out of the castle? The weather was often a bit peculiar around here, but it certainly wasn’t time for winter to arrive just yet. That strange whisper tickled his ears again, and he tightened his grip on his sword. What was it saying? He had no idea what it might be.
Unwillingly, his eyes were drawn back up to the Withermoon, shining its unnatural light down on them. If he had to hazard a guess as to where all these superstitions had come from, this would be it. Every year at this time, the moon was slowly engulfed in a greenish tint that grew stronger for a few weeks, then faded away. This natural phenomenon had to have inspired some of the strange tales that the peasants bandied back and forth around their tables…
Wait a moment…
The lord squinted, trying to focus more carefully on the moon above. He wasn’t sure if he could really trust his eyes after staring so hard into the night, but he was almost sure he had seen something moving on its surface. For several moments, he struggled to see, but a sudden fogginess seemed to blur his vision. Through the blur, he thought he could see the many craters and dark spots of the moon seeming to slide back and forth over its surface like bugs crawling on a lantern.
Come on, focus…
Yes, the spots were definitely moving, and with a little effort, he managed to clear his vision enough to see them well. They were jumping here and there with little jerky motions, going nowhere and yet seeming to have a specific direction in mind. Slowly, bit by bit, they were moving towards the center of the moon’s disk, gathering along its central axis like the slitted pupil of a dragon’s eye.
And then the moon WAS an eye, and a hideous shriek rent the hush of the Withermoon night.
In a moment, the lord’s view of the sky was eclipsed by darkness… darkness that moved and breathed. Here and there in the shadows, little yellow eyes opened and shut, surrounded by writing coils of blackness that wove themselves into the shape of a serpent with wings.
A great horror fell on all of them, and they stepped back involuntarily, raising their weapons as this monstrosity reared up over the wall. Its body was nearly sixty feet long, blacker than the night from which it had come, made up entirely of dark, oily tendrils. Its wings were like webs woven from criss-crossing strands of loathsome, obscene growth. Its face—such as it had one—sprouted dark tendrils like some kind of abominable hair, and as it opened its mouth to roar, black slime stretched between its jaws. No eyes could be seen in its face, only crooked yellow fangs and a filthy maw. Along its neck and down as far as its belly, the dark tendrils opened up like a second mouth, lined with row upon row of long, spinelike teeth. On either side of this unnatural orifice, yellow eyes appeared and disappeared within the folds of the creature’s filthy tendrils.
Astrid was the first to regain her composure. In an instant, she had drawn her bow and, true to her word, she put an arrow directly in one of the creature’s eyes. The eye seemed to close and vanish as the arrow went through it, passing through the horror’s body as though it were nothing more than a mist. The next moment, the eye simply reappeared slightly to the side.
“What gives?!” the Valkyrie growled, stringing up another arrow. “Does this creature even have a solid form?”
Malus smiled wryly. “Who knows at this time of year? Shoot it again.”
One arrow after another whistled from Astrid’s bow, but not one of them seemed to have any effect on the beast. Its dark tendrils rippled like water as the arrows passed through it, and it made no sound except a slimy gurgle in its throat.
“If arrows can’t touch it, our swords will do no good,” said the lord. His heart was down in his boots, but his voice was still steady.
“What do we have except our swords?” said Malus, reasonably. “If this monstrosity means to destroy us, I for one will stand and fight to the end.”
“Much good that will do if we can’t even touch it!” Ash muttered. Aloud, she said, “My lord, you have shown time and again that you are the only one left in this kingdom who can still speak to dragons… can you tell it to back off?”
“If I thought that would work, I would have done it BEFORE Astrid tried to make a pincushion out of it,” said the lord. “But as it stands…” He cleared his throat and tried to meet the eyes of this eldritch horror without wavering… or, at least, one or two of its eyes. “Dragon, from where do you come? What is it that you want with us?”
No answer came from the dragon’s mouth, though he thought that the sinister murmuring at the back of his mind had become louder. It was like many voices were whispering at once, together yet separate, over one another yet complementing each other.
“BLAST!” Astrid’s rage drowned out the voices in the lord’s mind. “Die, Odin smite you! Oh, if Skoll and Hati would but heed my call…”
The monster opened its misshapen jaws to shriek again, and an unearthly purple light began pulsating at the back of its throat. The lord tried to step back, anticipating some kind of attack, but his feet seemed to be frozen to the ground and he couldn’t move at all. He wasn’t sure if the intense horror radiating from this monstrosity had finally conquered his will or if he was physically being held in place. It scarcely mattered. The best he could do was raise his sword into a futile blocking position and wait for whatever bolt of death was about to hurtle out of this dragon’s mouth.
All at once, the dragon’s face was lit up with a fiery glow, and it seemed to pause, twisting its head sideways so that some of the eyes on its neck could look upward. The next moment, as if cast down from heaven, a great burning something crashed into the abomination’s body and exploded into liquid fire. Horrendous shrieks echoed over the wall, and whatever force it was that held the lord in place abruptly slacked off and was gone. Instinctively, he leaped back to avoid the splatters of molten rock that splashed around them.
The horror was shaking its head violently, throwing drops of lava in every direction, screeching as it tried to dislodge the fiery substance from its wings. Once again, a fierce glow shone on the wall, and this time the lord looked up in time to see a bright, flaming streak of light hurtling down towards them like a falling star. This one missed the dragon, but it blew an enormous crater in the top of the castle wall. Lava churned and roiled inside it like the interior of a volcano’s vent.
“I think that was a meteor!” Ash yelled.
“Two meteors in the same place at the same time?” Malus yelled back. “Don’t be ridiculous!”
“No, no, I think Ash is right!” said the lord, excitedly. “There’s no way this could have happened unless they were aimed. Something is attacking the enemy!”
“The enemy of our enemy may not be our friend,” Malus growled.
“Maybe not, but really, can things possibly get any worse at this point?”
“Look!” Ash shouted, pointing to the sky. “Here comes another one!”
The lord shaded his eyes and looked up again. Yes, another light was plunging down towards them, this one more dazzling than either of the first two. It almost looked like a blazing orange comet with a long, trailing tail. As it came closer, however, he realized that this wasn’t simply another rock falling from the heavens—this was a dragon. A dragon that was traveling so fast that the very air seemed to ignite around it.
“Back up!” the lord shouted. “It’s landing here!”
Malus and Ash needed no encouragement. Astrid took it one step further and leaped down from the parapet, spreading her feathery wings and gliding away into the darkness. A moment later, the approaching dragon came out of its dive and threw its wings up to slow its fall, stretching out its legs to take the impact as it crashed down in the middle of the fiery crater that had just been created in the middle of the wall.
This dragon… this dragon was as unlike the first as could be. This was a quadruped, with a build that was both sturdy and elegant at the same time. Its scales were cobalt blue, and here and there a space between them opened that showed orange beneath… orange that gleamed with its own light like magma. The membranes of its wings began as the same blue that covered most of its body, but towards the edges, they glowed with fiery light. Blazing radiance shone from inside its mouth, and its reptilian eyes smoldered like a pair of burning coals. Two rows of serrated plates stretched from its head to its tail, seeming to have been cast from solid flame. The light of the crater below played over its belly, and its claws, splayed out in the melted rock, were red-hot. It suddenly struck the lord that he couldn’t tell if the dragon was standing in the lava or standing on top of it. Its tail stretched out easily the length of its body behind it, tipped with a sharp fin that it probably used to steer in-flight. A strong, metallic scent filled the air around it, and so much heat radiated from it that all of them had to step back several more paces.
The first dragon seemed to shrink back before the newcomer, twisting back and forth as though it were looking around uncertainly. The blue dragon stared unflinchingly at it, hissing like an angry snake. Somewhere in the noise, the lord thought he could distinguish the word “Begone.”
After a moment’s hesitation, the horror opened its jaws once more, and the lord again saw the purple glow surround its slimy maw. A bolt of dark energy blasted out from it, trailing strands of blackness that tangled together like the roots of some foul tree. As if in response, a bright light blazed up from the blue dragon, and a shimmering sphere of white energy appeared around it as a shield, white steam curling off of it like boiling water. When the blast struck it, the shield was enveloped in shadowy tendrils that dissipated almost instantly. Just as quickly, the sphere also vanished as though it had evaporated into thin air.
The blue dragon’s retaliation was swift. Still glaring across the wall at its now alarmed enemy, it exhaled gently, and a white-hot orb materialized in front of its face, pitted with little orange marks like tiny craters. The next moment, a tail of fire following behind it, this curious projectile was launched across the wall and smashed into the horror’s face, dousing it from head to tail with glowing lava.
Wreathed in flames and shrieking in anguish, the monster turned and leaped down from the wall. Quicker than it takes to say, it had winged away across the islands below, setting a mage tower ablaze as it flew by. Its last echoing screeches made the lord’s hair stand on end.
The blue dragon turned to the three on the wall, staring down at them with brilliant eyes. Ash and Malus uncertainly lifted their weapons, but the lord motioned them back. “Wait a moment. This one hasn’t threatened us yet.”
The lord stepped forward, stretching out his hand in what he hoped the creature would rightly interpret as a greeting. “Thank you for driving away that monster. Welcome to Castle Starhold. Can you understand my words?”
The dragon stared unwaveringly into his eyes, a penetrating gaze that seemed almost as if it could see all the way to the depths of his soul. “Who art thou?” it asked at last. Its voice was feminine, deep and haunting, echoing in his ears like it was speaking across a great distance. “Thou speakest the tongue of mortal wyrms? I had no idea that such still existed in this world.”
“Many of the children of Old Atlaua were born with the ability to hear and understand that speech,” the lord replied. Somehow, even with all the dragons he had spoken to in his life, he felt a need to speak formally before this majestic creature. “Of those born to my generation, I alone remain.”
“What is thy name, child of man?”
“I have no name now. People call me the Unknown Soldier, and these are my companions Ash and Malus. What of you?”
“I am called Hyaku, but that does not concern thee right now. Tell me. Hast thou seen any others like the one I just vanquished within thy borders?”
The lord shook his head. “None. I had never seen anything like it before.”
“Good. Pray that thou mayst never see another.” Hyaku turned and spread her wings as if to fly away.
“Wait!” the lord called. “I’m thankful to you for saving us, but I want to understand. Why did you protect us just now?”
The dragon turned back. “Child of man… I was placed in this world to oppose such as this. I stand against their power where the strength of men would fail.”
“Why?” the lord asked again, sliding his sword back into its sheath. “Who placed you here?”
“I serve a higher authority,” Hyaku replied. “That authority has given me this purpose. Every year, during this time thou callest the Withermoon, I stand against the nameless horrors that come from beyond thy reality, until the day that the Void can truly be closed for eternity.”
Ash didn’t have the gift of speaking to dragons, but she had been born with just enough ability to understand them that she could hear a few of Hyaku’s words as if in a faint whisper. “Void?” she asked. “Did she say ‘Void’?”
The lord’s heart had also skipped a beat at that word, but he kept his composure. “Hyaku, what is this Void you speak of?”
A brief moment of what looked almost like pain passed across the dragon’s face. “Child of man, do not ask me to tell thee things that thou couldst never truly comprehend. Were I to attempt to describe it, thy mind would be broken. Know only that it lies beyond thy mortal understanding, a realm of darkness without light, of suffering without healing, of meaning without any meaning at all.”
“Is that where this… thing you just defeated came from?”
“That was a Sho-groth, one of the formless horrors of the Void,” Hyaku told him. “It was not entirely present upon thy mortal plane, but it was able to manifest sufficiently for thee to visualize it. Every year at this time, the boundaries of reality between thy world and the Void grow thin, and there are some with the power to pass between them. A great and terrible fear surrounds them, and that is why neither thy dragons nor thy defenders could stand against them. How thou hast remained standing I do not know.”
“And that was one of these? A dragon? Was that actually a dragon, or was that simply how it appeared to me?”
“Yes, child of man. Dragons that dwell within the Void are like these… twisted, unnatural mockeries of what exists in thy world. Yet in some ways they are not really so different from one another. Every dragon thou hast ever befriended could become such as this…”
“So the superstitions are true…” the lord muttered to himself, rubbing his face.
A hint of a smile touched the corners of Hyaku’s mouth. “Child of man, I know nothing of superstitions. Yet, if there has been crossing over between thy world and the Void since the dawn of time, some small details must have been passed down to thy day… or perhaps more.”
“What do you mean?” the lord asked.
“I have… reason to believe that some within thy realms have trespassed upon things that thy kind was never meant to know or do,” Hyaku said, slowly. “It’s almost like the way to the Void has been opened rather than opening itself…”
The dragon’s words were cut off by a shout from above. “Hah! There you are! Surrender or prepare to die, invader! Like the lightning of Thor I descend upon you! SOLAR VOLLEY! HYAAAH!”
The lord’s heart almost stopped as he recognized the voice, and he looked up to see Astrid diving down towards them, crouched atop the white wolf dragon Skoll. “No, Astrid, wait! She’s on our side!”
It was too late. A barrage of flares blasted down from Skoll’s open jaws, and the three humans leaped back to save themselves from being engulfed. Hyaku didn’t even look up as the blazing light surrounded her, and the blasts broke like fiery waves as the white shield appeared around her again. The lord could have sworn that the great dragon was rolling her eyes.
With a careless puff, Hyaku generated another meteor and fired it up towards the approaching dragon and rider. It clearly wasn’t intended to hit them directly, but it did clip a few feathers off Skoll’s wing. Astrid and her dragon spun down past the wall, the Valkyrie hanging onto Skoll’s neck for dear life. There probably wouldn’t be any lasting injury, but they were definitely in for a rough landing.
Ash turned and walked away. “I’ll… go make sure she doesn’t just grab a fresh dragon and try again.”
The lord winced and looked back up at Hyaku. “Please excuse her,” he said, hastily. “She didn’t know… honestly, I think she’s just a little bit crazy anyway. I’m so, so sorry about that…”
Hyaku’s gaze froze the words in his mouth, and he stammered to a stop. “Child of man… have no fear. I am bound to cause no harm to thy kind if it can possibly be averted. Only know this for the future: I am not on thy side. Perhaps thou art on my side. We may see in the coming days. But my mission here goes beyond thy conflicts and interests. I shall do what I was sent to do while the Withermoon lasts and return to the stars from which I have come…”
The dragon’s voice trailed off, and she cocked her head as though listening intently. “My time grows short, child of man. Somewhere else in the land of Atlas, other horrors have emerged from the Void. I must not tarry here.”
The lord nodded. “Do what you need to, Hyaku. I won’t trouble you anymore.”
Hyaku turned away once more, then hesitated and looked back over her shoulder. “Child of man, I wouldst have thee know… the horror that thou hast witnessed today is only one of many. There are dangers in the Void that are even more frightful than this, and some that even I may not hope to stand against. Pray that thou never seest me again, for if thou dost, that will mean that more terror is upon thee… but know also that thou art not alone, and that power watches over thee from beyond the stars. Be thou safe in this time of fear.”
“And you also.”
The dragon leaned out from the wall, spread her great wings—their span was easily as long as her full length—and leaped away into the darkness. The draft from her takeoff slapped him in the face like a scorching wind, and then she was gone.
Malus gave the lord a questioning glance. “Just what was that all about?”
The lord shook himself back to reality. “At least some of the peasant’s folktales are true… there is a Void, and the monster we just saw comes from it. Whoever this Hyaku is, she opposes it. We’ll just have to trust her; there’s nothing we can do against these horrors.”
Malus put his sword away with a grunt. “Blast. So we just huddle here and hope that none of us die before this cursed season is over? Is that it?”
“Basically, yes,” said the lord, distantly. His thoughts were running along a different line, and all at once he snapped his fingers. “No, wait… there’s nothing we can do to fight them. That doesn’t mean we can’t do anything to oppose them. Hyaku seemed to believe that there may have been some mortal agency in the Void’s opening… perhaps if we investigate carefully, we can find information that will help her if we ever meet her again.”
“Perhaps,” said Malus, doubtfully.
The two men remained on the wall for a few minutes longer, each lost in his own thoughts. Before either of them had resolved whatever ideas were running through their minds, they were suddenly hailed by a shout from behind. “My lord!”
The lord turned around as Ash rejoined them. “Oh, there you are. Is Astrid all right?”
Ash waved dismissively. “Nothing a day’s rest and some good strong mead won’t fix, but that’s not what I came to tell you. I ran into one of the porters down in the courtyard, and he said we have a visitor at the front gate. A fellow named Reginald, claims to be a private investigator and told some crazy tale about cultists and a mirror and some kind of bizarre dragon that he thinks is somewhere in Atlas right now… would you like me to throw him out? We have quite enough problems at the moment without adding conspiracy theories.”
The lord looked over at Malus and chuckled for the first time that night. “What did I tell you? I thought we might be of some use here… no, no, don’t throw him out, Ash. This might be exactly the break we need…”