The first series of Dragon Stories will be posted here in regards to the Withermoon 2019 Season! Read on below to learn more about the world, characters, and Dragons of the game.
Gaze of the Withermoon
Hi everyone. To kick off the new season we'd like to showcase the first of more stories which will explore the world, people, and dragons of our game. We hope you enjoy!
Reginald was but a child during the last Withermoon. He did not remember much of those cursed months aside from the tales he heard later in life, but he did have one firm memory: peeking out from behind his mother's silken skirts as his father's ship cast off under the greenish gaze of the Withermoon, on a short trading voyage to a nearby isle. A grim, dread premonition gripped him that night and he was sure he’d never see his father again. At dawn three days later, with tendrils of daylight starting to creep up from the horizon, his mother had woken him for breakfast and his father was at the table eating quail eggs and joking with Reginald's sister Alayne, just like any other morning. The premonition faded and the remainder of that Withermoon season had blurred into the rest of his early childhood memories.
Now, decades later, he looked up at the Withermoon again. Its skittering light played across his stern, lined face as he stared up into the night sky from the window of his inn. The Dreaming Sailor was an imposing stone structure, like most of its neighbors; there was no real point to wooden buildings where dragons roamed. And it was those mysterious creatures that Reginald studied: he had sold his late father’s merchant fleet and shifted the family business over time to focus entirely on the research of dragons. He had come to this lonely island and its dreary, grey-washed buildings following hints and rumors of unknown dragons that awoke only during a Withermoon. He had not been prepared for this journey, as the next Withermoon wasn’t supposed to start for years yet; it rankled him to put aside more promising leads in the Twilight Woodlands on the off chance he missed something important in the few months that a Withermoon lasted.
With a sigh he moved away from the window, extinguished his second-favorite pipe and set it on his trunk, and left his room. With the sound of each tap of his cane echoing around him on the misty street, he proceeded to his next lead: some apothecary named Vivian peddling medicinal herbs and dragon rumors alike. The streets were empty as the townsfolk sagely told each other not to go out at night during the Withermoon. The shadows were darker and fuller then, or so they said. Reginald snorted at the thought of it, though he also increased his pace.
Vivian’s shop had a low-slung roof and patched, peeling green paint on its shutters. Reginald raised his fist to knock at the splintery door, but before he could he heard a woman’s voice call from inside, in a voice like warm honey: “Come in and be welcome.” He dropped his hand and opened the door.
The interior was like any other healer’s abode and he spared it little attention. His focus was entirely on the striking figure seated at an ebonwood table in the center of the cramped room. She wore a polished metal blindfold of some sort, small bones were threaded into her brown, flowing robes, and he could make out what appeared to be the tops of skulls either laying in her lap or secured to her belt. She smiled up at him and he expected further strangeness, but saw only little white teeth gleaming in the smoky candlelight.
If the people of this town were happy to purchase healing supplies from this ominous woman then they were quite the trusting sorts. Reginald squared his shoulders and stepped inside. He wasn’t sure if he’d ever met anyone more bizarre than this person, but all sorts of unusual things were bound to happen in the pursuit of knowledge.
“Vivian, I presume?” he said, a trifle unsteadily, as he shut the door.
“No other. Forgive me but I must skip past small talk, your lordship. Every second of the Withermoon is precious, you see.”
Reginald shrugged and waved away the apology, somehow sure she could see the movement through her mask, “Time is always valuable. Please, do tell about these Withermoon dragons you wrote to me about.”
With a rustle of bones she rose. “I will show you. Come.”
She took him past the hanging herbs and the bottled ointments that lined the walls, and down a small staircase into a network of cellars connected with low archways. The stonework down here was even rougher than the town above and it smelled like earth and mildew. Vivian strode forward into the dark but Reginald paused to light a match in the gloom. His cane tapped into the darkness as he followed the masked woman.
After a few empty rooms they entered into what was clearly their destination. Cobwebs lined the old walls, and from gashes in the earthen floor spilled an unearthly green light. It was as if the light of the Withermoon was shining up from the depths of the world. At the center of the room stood a mirror, chased in gleaming silver and with unadorned masks wrought along the frame, but with inky blackness in the center instead of a proper reflection. As he stepped into the room, trepidation surging through his veins, the scent of something dead hit his nostrils and Reginald sneezed loudly, disturbing the funereal silence. Vivian offered him a smile and he returned it, his fear receding with his tinge of embarrassment.
She spoke, still smiling: “Bless you. Behold the Voided Mirror, sir. I will not speak the name of its creator nor can I gaze into it, but I believe it holds secrets of dragons within. There is a chance it will reveal its knowledge to you.”
Reginald paced around the mirror, peering at it intently, though he did not yet step fully in front of it. “You found this, did you? It certainly seems connected to the Withermoon, though I see not what dragons have to do with it. And what are these masks along here?” he mumbled half to himself as he continued his examination.
He turned to Vivian, “I mean no offense, ma’am, but frankly I am not looking into this ‘Voided Mirror’ in the stinking cellar below the shop of a woman with human skulls on her belt during a cursed celestial event. Believe me, I’ve read enough to know bet–” With what he could have sworn was a roll of her eyes beneath her bronze blindfold, Vivian cut him off by bodily pushing him in front of the mirror.
He threw his hand up to cover his eyes but stopped halfway through. There was something in the pulsing blackness of the mirror, looking out at him. If it was anything else he would have covered his eyes regardless, but what stayed his hand was the promised thing he sought: a dragon he had never seen before was within the mirror. Its jaw was wrong and opened sideways like a pincer, masks lined its face instead of eyes, and growths of bright green lit up its silhouette in the darkness of the mirror, but it was still unmistakingly a dragon–and a powerful-looking one at that.
Reginald opened his mouth to say something but he was cut off yet again. An entirely different masked woman, wearing fine clothing and a tricorn hat, burst into the room, though judging from her raised rapiers she was no friend of Vivian’s. “Run, outlander!” she shouted in a steely voice.
Despite his curiosity, Reginald wasted no time making an undignified exit as fast as his cane and bad knee allowed him to. At first he heard the clash of weapons behind him, and then at the stairs he heard hurried footsteps approaching. He turned to defend himself but was oddly relieved to see the stranger dashing out of the dark. “She’s wounded. So let’s be gone,” she said, breathing hard as she pushed past him and darted up the stairs.
She waited for him outside in the mists, fiddling with the handles of her rapiers, but set off as soon as he emerged from Vivian’s now-threatening shop. He breathed in the fresh night air and set off after the stranger, who slowed down imperceptibly and spoke to him over her shoulder, her strong voice only slightly muffled by her bandana: “My name is Jen. As you may have gathered I hunt cultists of the Void, like that ‘friend’ of yours down there. Doubtless you have questions, but let’s keep moving.”
Reginald simply gave Jen a bemused smile in reply and did his best to keep up with her punishing pace.
She continued, “Alright, well, from the smell of bodies in that vile room I saved you from a bad end. Don’t know what that mirror does but I didn’t want to kill anyone next to it, cultist or not. You didn’t look it into it, did you?”
“Of course not,” Reginald lied. He was not sure why.
“Good then. I’ve a ship to catch and I recommend the same to you, outlander. The Withermoon has just begun and the skein of reality is thin for the next few months, so I’ll be busy. And the cults of the Void will be looking for you. So I wouldn’t linger.”
She gave him a final encouraging nod then took an abrupt turn down a street to the right, towards the harbor.
Reginald walked back to his inn, slowly now and thoughtful. In the back of his mind he was planning how to quickly leave as Jen had suggested, before anything else downright untoward happened. But at the forefront of his mind a word was forming, unfurling like the petals of a blackened orchid. No, not a word, a name: Narlyth. He was sure then, as the tapping of his cane echoed off into the night, that he somehow knew the name of the dragon he had glimpsed in the dark mirror, and moreover that it was no longer in whatever mysterious realm he had seen it in. The Void, as Jen had called it, he supposed. He looked up at the Withermoon in the expansive, starry sky above, and wondered exactly what he had let free.
Hi everyone. We hope you enjoy this latest story and happy Friday the 13th!
The tavern was loud and lit a cheery red from the roaring fire stoked high with logs. At the scarred wooden table closest to the bar, a spirited discussion was occurring.
The loudest was a young woman named Dorthe. On a windswept battlefield her countenance would be fierce and her voice rough, but with ale in front of her and surrounded by companions she had a constant smile.
She gestured expansively around the table with a half-full mug as she declared in a rich Frigid Narrows accent, “I had no clue the Withermoon was seen across the world! Truly it’s a cursed time.”
Dorthe then gestured with the mug, sloshing its contents dangerously, at a quiet, withdrawn man sitting to her right and asked him, “How about you, friend? How do the people of the Sacred Ridge ward off ill-luck and bad harvests?”
Ishiro leaned in closer to the table and his voice cut effortlessly across the noise of the raucous tavern, though each word was rounded by the slur of ale: “At the start of a Withermoon we spread a circle of ashes around each house. Ash from dragonfire is best, but simple wood or coal ash is acceptable too. Hides the home from evil.” He lapsed back into silence and folded his arms, his lean face full of certainty.
Dorthe nodded in what she thought was a sagely manner, not noticing her braid had fallen into an mostly-empty mug.
The being to her left spoke up. Its voice was like a sparkling ray of light piercing through a cloud: “You must not cower from the rain when in the Spinal Peaks. It is blessed and you must turn your face to it.” Dorthe tried to surreptitiously squeeze ale out from the end of her braid as the being continued: “And if you wish to confess your feelings to a beloved, you must first kiss a dragon’s scale for luck.”
The people sitting at the table stared in mute surprise at the glowing angelic being. The Celestial had sat down abruptly at their table more than an hour ago and this was the first time he had spoken. The rest of the tavern had spared him and his floating halo no shortage of glances and there were two separate running bets at nearby tables on whether he would drink any ale or not.
Dorthe broke the silence at the table with a boom of laughter and reached past the Celestial’s right wing to pat him on the shoulder. “Kiss a dragon’s scale! I’ll remember that!” she said happily, her face ruddy and with a thin sheen of sweat.
She went on: "Well, my folk touch cold iron to protect from bad luck. Simple and easy, I say!" She illustrated the point by reaching behind her to press a few fingers against the reinforced iron frame of the large shield leaning against her chair. “Also, if you leave an oar lying face up on the deck of a ship, it’ll snow the very next day!”
There was another silence then, but more companionable this time. Across the table from Dorthe sat a tall man named Pietro swathed in a felt coat, a ruffled shirt that reminded Dorthe of the froth of the sea, and white silk gloves, and he shifted nervously. Anyone could tell he was from the great city of Sudene and it was also clear he had something to say. Finally he leaned forward, bringing his sallow face into the firelight, and spoke melodiously: “Forgive me, but I do find this topic terribly amusing. Where I’m from we have none of these backwards superstitions. Even the most cautious cat-burglar of Sudene would not hesitate for a moment to rob from her betters during a Withermoon!”
Dorthe shrugged, unimpressed and not even sure what a burglar was. Then she looked to her right. There, Ishiro’s lean face was tilted sideways in either doubt or confusion and he was looking with great intensity at Pietro.
"Did you not remove your glove and tap a bare finger against the lintel of the doorway when you entered this tavern earlier?" Ishiro asked lightly. “Looked like a superstition to me.”
There was a shuffling of rich cloth, a pulling of a tight collar, and even the Celestial smiled at the sheepish look on Pietro’s face as the rest of the table erupted in laughter.
"Fine, fine! It’s to ensure there’s good drinks to be had, and speaking of which I’ll get the next round!" declared Pietro with feeling. More mugs of ale were brought to the table and the Celestial took a few polite sips, leading to an argument at another table about a bet.
And outside the warm, loud tavern, the Withermoon continued to shine its unwholesome light on the world of Atlas and its people.
From the Darkness
By Christopher Colton
Hey, Dragon Lords! This next Withermoon-themed story comes from Christopher Colton and features some new faces to the Season. Enjoy!
Vivian walked briskly through the Twilight Woodlands, a heavy traveling cloak wrapped tightly around her. She carried a gnarled staff in her right hand, which served more to ease the journey than out of any real need for support.
Though the path was well-trod and usually ignored by the druids and fey folk, she had made enough trips through the woods not to let her guard down. She could sense the presence of the Void in the distance growing steadily closer as she traveled. Though she could not see it - not even in the way she saw the rest of the world through her metal blindfold - she knew with certainty that it was there, far to the east beyond the boundary of the Twilight Woodlands; somewhere in the Sacred Ridge, perhaps. She was not looking forward to the inevitable boat ride that would bring her the rest of the way.
As she crested a hill, the path descended into a wide clearing around a small pond. The way the trees at the edge leaned outward and the number of shattered stumps within suggested that the clearing was a result of a great battle between dragons from which the forest had not yet recovered. A two-story building had been constructed along the path, with a sign over the door proclaiming it to be an inn. A stable - sized for horses, rather than dragons - sat to its side.
As Vivian approached the inn, a shirtless young man looked up from the stump he was hacking apart and stared at her, his mouth agape. She had closed her traveling cloak to cover the bones that adorned her dress, but the metal blindfold still unsettled people. Vivian gave a friendly wave, then called in a warm voice, “Young man, are there rooms here? I wish to spend my night in a bed instead of a tree for once.”
The man seemed to relax a bit on hearing her voice, and smirked in a decidedly off-putting manner. “I could make some room in my bed tonight,” he said, flexing his arms.
Vivian simply walked past him. “Manners, boy,” she said cooly. He frowned at the emphasis she placed on the last word. “I assume your father is the innkeeper? I hope he knows how to show courtesy towards his guests.”
The young man resumed his chopping as she continued up to the door. As she raised her hand to open it, though, she heard the sound of sobbing from around the corner. Lowering her hand, she walked around the side of the inn and found a young girl slumped against the side of the stable. She was perhaps twelve years old, and dressed in a heavy white and blue coat that marked her as hailing from the Stygian Glaze. Her left arm was cradled against her chest, and tears streamed down her face as she sobbed in pain.
Vivian leaned her staff against the wall and knelt down beside the girl. “What ever is the matter, child?” she asked. The girl looked at Vivian and gasped in fright. “It’s alright,” Vivian replied consolingly. “My name is Vivian. I am a healer. What happened?”
The girl sniffled, then finally seemed to decide that her pain was greater than her fear. “I wanted to see the horses… We don’t really have many in the Glaze. But I fell, and my arm…” She tried moving her left arm towards Vivian but gave a sharp cry of pain and clutched it tighter.
Vivian smiled comfortingly. “I can help you, child. May I…?” The girl slowly nodded, and Vivian reached out and, slowly, pulled back the girl’s sleeve. It was obvious the arm was broken. “That looks very painful. But as I said, I am a healer. Would you like me to mend it?” The girl nodded vigorously, and Vivian gently took her arm in her hands. The girl winced. “This will hurt at first.” Vivian lifted the girl’s arm until it was straight in front of her, trying to focus past her cries of pain. Holding the girl’s arm with one hand, she passed the other slowly over the broken arm, whispering words of power as she did so. Wisps of dark magic danced across the girl’s arm for a moment, then vanished.
Vivian let go and the girl hunched over, cradling her arm again and breathing heavily through shuddering sobs. Vivian placed one hand on the girl’s shoulder and waited until her breathing slowed. Slowly, the girl stretched out her arm again, testing its movement. After nearly a minute, she looked up at Vivian and smiled. “It… It doesn’t hurt anymore,” she said, wiping tears from her face. “What did you do?”
“Sorcery,” sneered a gruff voice. The two women turned to see a middle-aged man with a black beard looking hatefully at Vivian. “Go back to your parents, girl,” he spat. The girl looked at Vivian; after several seconds, Vivian nodded at her.
“Thank you, Miss Vivian,” the girl said, getting to her feet. She glared at the man as she walked past, turning around the corner. The sound of a door closing followed soon after.
Vivian slowly stood and took up her staff once more. “The girl was hurt. I healed her.”
“You used dark magic on her, and I will not have such a thing happening at my inn!” he yelled back.
Vivian snorted. “Do you begrudge the druids their healing arts?” She gestured toward the forest.
“The druids wield the forces of nature. I respect what they do and harbor no ill will towards them. But you are no druid!”
Within the span of a heartbeat Vivian was standing so close to the man that his eyes widened and he took a step back. “You know nothing of what I am,” she said. Though her voice was calm and quiet, the ominous undertones were unmistakable.
“You are a witch who uses dark magic and I refuse to let you stay in my inn!” He punctuated his words with a jab of his finger. “I don’t know what foul purpose you have in coming here during a Withermoon, but we are good people and you are not welcome! BEGONE!”
“As you wish,” she replied, her words dripping venom. “Go back into your inn, old man. I no longer desire to even set foot under the same roof as you. I promise you will never see me again.”
The innkeeper stared back at her for several seconds, before harrumphing loudly and going inside. Vivian was no stranger to judgment, and even her father had, on occasion, been met with doubt and fear in practicing his healing arts. He had always counseled her to ignore such stubbornness and let them wallow in their ignorance, but she was not her father.
Sparing a thought for the girl, whose name she had never even gotten a chance to learn, Vivian removed her traveling cloak, revealing the bones draped across her robe, and ran a hand across them. When she found the one she sought, she pulled it off its string and rolled it between her fingers until she cut herself on a sharpened edge. She pressed the bone to the bloodied finger, letting her blood fill all the crevices of the runes carved on it, before dropping it in the dirt next to the stables.
Vivian took one last look at the inn, then strode off up the path and into the trees.
* * *
The inn’s common room was mostly empty that evening. Few people traveled during the Withermoon, not wanting to be caught outside after sunset. The innkeeper didn’t care much for those who did, and had already locked the door. As he stood behind the bar cleaning glasses, he heard a crashing noise from outside. It was followed shortly by a loud, panicked whinnying. “Jeffrey!” the innkeeper called.
His son poked his head out of the kitchen door. “Yes, father?”
“Go check the stables,” he said. “Something’s got the beasts spooked.”
“It’s probably just a dragon flying overhead,” Jeffrey sighed. “Or maybe a dryad wandering past.”
“Well whatever it is, calm them down and get them quiet. Bad luck having spooked horses under a Withermoon.” His voice brooked no arguments.
“Yes, father,” Jeffrey replied, untying his apron and stepping out the back door.
Everything seemed quiet as Jeffrey walked to the stables, though the Withermoon’s light cast an eerie glow over everything. “What a waste of time,” he muttered. “I’m going to get out there and the horses will be fine.” He snorted. “Oh, it’s the Withermoon, it’s bad luck…” he said in a mocking impression of his father. “Superstitious nonsense. This is pointless…”
He snapped to attention at a clattering sound from the stables. His heart pounding in his chest, he forced himself to walk over to the open door of the stables. “Didn’t I lock that…?” He asked aloud, peering inside. The Withermoon’s light crept in through the cracks in the wood, resulting in a dim illumination that was barely sufficient to see anything by. He reached for the lantern that hung by the door, but his hand closed on an empty hook. Looking down, he saw the lantern lying broken on the floor. A strange sound could be heard from the farthest stall, a sort of wet slurping noise that chilled him to the bone. He couldn’t hear the horses at all.
As he passed the first stall, he stepped in something warm and wet. He desperately hoped it was water, despite the slightly sticky feeling as he lifted his boot to keep walking. Stealing a glance into the next stall, he saw only that it was not occupied by a horse. He quickly turned his head to face forward again to avoid staring too hard at the sickeningly familiar shapes in the dark corners, and did not peer into any more stalls until he reached the end. As the slurping noise heightened into a crunching sound, he finally forced himself to look into the stall from which it came. His courage suddenly fled all at once, and his eyes widened in terror at the scene he beheld in the Withermoon’s light.
Blood was splattered over everything. Crouched in the middle of it all was the most horrific-looking dragon he had ever seen. It had a long, gray, segmented body, covered with sharp needles that curved towards its back. Its legs were unnaturally long, and their scales transitioned from the disgusting gray of its body into the blood red of its wicked-looking claws. Its wings were folded loosely across its back, and a number of curved, bony protrusions jutted downward from its chest like an exposed ribcage. It didn’t so much have a head as just a more tapered segment with several beady black eyes, the front of which split open into a mouth surrounded by barbed tentacles currently wrapped around a horse’s skull. Its long tongue was busy slurping the last bits of gore from it. “Fomhar save me…” Jeffrey whispered, and then the beast was upon him.
* * *
Inside the inn, the Stygian girl and her parents had just finished their dinner and were discussing how to pass the evening before they went to sleep. The other guests had already retired. “Damn boy should’ve been back by now,” the innkeeper grumbled. The girl looked up to see him pulling on his coat and lighting a lantern. “Doesn’t he know it’s the Withermoon? Boy’s got no sense at all…” He stomped out the back door, fuming about his son. Absently rubbing her healed arm, she stared at the back door and let her thoughts wander.
Moments later, a blood-curdling scream erupted from outside, and the girl found herself and her parents hurrying upstairs and slamming the door to their room, locking it behind them. As terrible noises replaced the screams, they closed their shutters tight and huddled together in the corner, praying that whatever was happening would spare them.
Suddenly, there was a thunderous explosion from outside and red light blazed into the room. The girl ran to the window over her parents’ protestations and cracked open one of the shutters. The stables were simply gone, engulfed in what almost seemed like liquid fire. A large shape that must have been a dragon could be seen frantically trying to escape from the flames.
A roaring noise from above drew her gaze upwards, towards what appeared to be a flaming rock hurtling through the sky. As she watched, though, it unfurled into a second dragon, its skin resembling solid lava that split open at regular intervals to reveal a fiery glow. A crest of equally fiery spines ran along its length, from head to tail, and its outstretched wings and tail fin were like sheets of molten iron.
The blazing dragon crashed into the inferno, the other dragon squealing in rage; the girl slammed the shutter closed once more, terrified of their destructive magic. She retreated back to her parents, and the family huddled together as the cacophony of the dragons’ battle filled the night.
* * *
The next morning, the guests cautiously made their way outside. The ground outside had been burned so thoroughly that even the rocks had been warped by the heat. Of the stable, nothing remained but a blackened crater. A Suddenian merchant stood nearby, loudly lamenting the loss of his horses. Nobody could find the innkeeper or his son.
The Stygian girl looked around, wondering what kind of powerful dragons these were to have caused such devastation, when her eyes alighted on something of a lighter color than the surrounding char. Bending down, she saw that it was a single gray dragonscale and picked it up with her left hand. A slight tingle ran up through her healed arm, as though the scale were still charged with power, but otherwise it looked and felt rather unremarkable. She took it in her right hand as she turned it around to peer at the back side.
At all once a cold numbness shot up her right arm, her head whirling and her stomach leaping into her throat at the feeling of all-consuming wrongness in the item she held. She practically hurled it to the ground as she staggered backwards, then fled crying back to her parents.