The Lost Seas

WE F@!#?ING SAW THE DRAGON

Paying the Levy 10

As remembered by Birel Windchaser

From our vantage point in the hills we could see the pit beyond the gate, an enormous bowl of obsidian with steep, smooth walls. The perimeter was lined with debris which appeared to primarily be a mixture of rags and bones, and the whole area was covered with a thin layer of ash.

When the expedition reached the gates, Galad stepped forward, produced an iron key, and unlocked the gates. I was astonished to see the guards move barrels of water to the center of the pit, but the reason was soon evident—the bulk of the slaves eagerly poured into the pit on their own accord, eager for a long draught of water, possibly the last moment of relief they would ever know. Those who lingered behind were driven into the pit by the guards. When this was done Galad locked the gate and those outside it left.

It seemed the Altar Skulkers were the only ones to have been in this situation before, so we asked the leader, “What now?”

Not wanting to be eating by the Dragon, they typically fled into caves at this point, but Bost, Vilsis, and (bewilderingly) Dazeel all felt their work was not yet done. Bost and Vilsis went to lower ropes into the pit so that some of the slaves might escape, while Dazeel went to try to pick the lock of the great iron gate.

Zuri and I, believing that discretion was the better part of valor, fled to caves (though I first gave my rope to Bost) and we chose a cave from which we could see them during their efforts. While watching them lift slaves out of the pit one by one, a feeling of inexplicable foreboding overcame me, and I looked up and saw the Dragon.

It has wings. It flew swiftly towards us and descended towards the center of the pit. By the time it occurred to me to look at my companions Bost was already running towards the cave, and Vilsis helped one last slave to the surface and turned to run as well. The center of the pit was empty by the time the Dragon landed, the slaves having fled to the edges of the pit, futilely trying to climb over each other to escape. Then the Dragon consumed them.

It was not with its maw. The Dragon raised its hand in a motion similar to what I had seen Zuri do countless times, but this was different somehow, behemoth, horrendous, and an aura of defilement clearly spread from the Dragon outwards, to the edge of the pit and beyond, so that I could see Bost and Zuri fall ill even as they raced towards the sanctuary of the cave. My stomach turned, but seeing them still live I raced out to help them back, stretching my will to heal them however I could so that they might survive to remember the day. I fell into a fissure, but no sooner had I regained my balance than I saw Bost’s hand reaching down to help me out, and all three of us made it to safety. The Dragon, having depleted its tribute, lept into the sky and flew away.

I have to admit I was in a daze for while after. I had seen the Dragon and survived. It was not the first time for the Altar Skulkers, however, and they seemed to take it as a given at this point that we would stay with them indefinitely, and were surprised when we expressed our intention to rejoin the rest of the world. Fortunately their surprise did not escalate to animosity, and they let us (after a much-needed night of deep but… memorable… sleep) go on our way, even reluctantly letting us take with us Dirk, a battered soul of their rank who wished to come with us.

At Altaruk, Dirk left us to seek his home village, and we left him with a few remaining provisions and a purse of dragons to help him on his way. We returned to Tyr, and after our ordeal in the mountains crossing the desert seemed almost comfortable. We cautiously had our House Shom chit replaced and went to the Crimson Legion headquarters.

Rikus was still away, but we were able to meet with Sekh, the ranking officer in Tyr at the time. However our meeting was interrupted by Tyrian guards, who seemed have been ordered to arrest Sekh in fact if not in name. He implied that we were his personal guard, and none of us contradicted this assertion as we rose to accompany him to whatever his fate may be.

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