– Dragon’s arse! – The wizard cursed, interrupting his meditation. The dragon hunters, who had already gotten used to such quirks of his character, turned to look at each other and then continued on with their work. The dwarf Karcin was stirring the stew in the cauldron and Kamidar the wolfen was sharpening his falchion.
– This watch is driving me mad! I may as well be watching an anthill aimlessly, it would have been all the same!
Karcin drew up some stew with his spoon, tried it and frowned. The wizard sat down with a sour look on his face close by, removed his wineskin from the belt and made a big gulp. For a few seconds he simply watched the firepit, before turning to the wolfen sitting next to him.
– I once had the opportunity to observe elves, just not cursed ones. The regular kind. On Talanis.
– Where? – asked Kamidar, without any apparent interest, still continuing to sharpen his falchion.
– In Etebrin, a trade port in Talanis. Speaking of which, the elves themselves call Talanis – Kaendyr. –The wizard’s spirits seemed to lift, thinking he had actually found a listener for his stories.
– Oh, Etebrin. Yeah. Been there. City doesn’t even look elven, there are more drunken sailors there and traders getting a taste of the local brothels. – lazily replied the wolfen with apparent boredom. The old wizard choked at that. Finally, getting his breath back, and not being able to find the words to express his indignity at the fool who dared to argue with the mentor, he settled on glaring silently at the wolfen. The wolfen set his grindstone aside and unambiguously looked back at the wizard, indicating that it would indeed be a good idea for wizard to remain silent. Baldassar, now visibly upset, stood up and walked away from the fire pit. Truly, he was most unfortunate with his traveling companions, but it was far too late to seek others, not to mention – expensive.
The old man walked to the edge of a reef. Far-far below to the right from the mage stretched out the cursed bogs and swamps of the spider elves. On the other side was a landbridge leading to a peninsula from which Talanis was practically a stone’s throw. Behind the reef – waves peacefully crushed upon it. Baldassar took a closer look at the landbridge and couldn’t believe his eyes.
– Oy!! Which of you has better sight? Over here! Quick! – The mercenaries glanced at each other and headed over to the old man. – Are you seeing what I’m seeing?
– An army? – A spark of interest fired up in his voice.
– Yes, but whose?
– From this far, not even an eagle will tell you. – Karcin shrugged his shoulders indifferently. – Mayhaps the elves are heading to beat up their old relatives.
– Bah! – Baldassar waved them off and practically jumped to his travel chest. He shakily dug through his old scrolls, trying to find those connected to the watcher seals on the landbridge. Finding the right one, he raise his staff with a dragon-figure tip, rose up in all his height and read the spell. This wasn’t the first month that the mercenaries had watched the scene unravel, and they had grown considerably bored of it. Karcin went back to cooking, while Kadimar continued watching the now approaching army from the edge of the reef. Elven magic made the scene, which the wizard conjured up, shake slightly. Immense magical power could be felt from the army. The old man gazed through all his astral eyes, recognizing some emblems and identification marks of elven clans. The wolfen from Talanis were marching side by side with wolfen from the continent, elven archers, animal charmers, others, whose signs the wizard did not recognize, supply wagons, wagons with constructs, wagons with dragon knows what else. It seemed that every single manner of elven troops united for one single purpose. One elven seer stopped next to the watcher seal, for a second Baldassar felt as if she looked straight into his soul. Apparently concluding that he was not a threat, the seer turned and walked on, and then the wizard saw something that completely stunned him. Above the elven army flew a flower dragon, a creature that had gone extinct so long ago, that even the most ancient tomes, which the old man held in his hands, questioned the fact that they ever existed to begin with.
The mage ceased his meditation and with a wave of his hand broke the spell connecting the scroll with the seal.
Karcin looked at him closely, trying to guess which curse the old wizard will spout out this time.The Cauldron with the now ready stew stood nearby, cooling. Kadimar turned from the edge of the reef and in too long jumps joined the others. His hand lay on the falchion’s hilt, now resting at his belt.
– Something is flying above that army. I can’t see from here.
– We’re leaving. I’ve seen enough. – Returned the mage, now quickly gathering his things.
The wolfen watched the old man in disbelief. The dwarf watched the cauldron with sorrow.The gathering of the chapter of the Phoenix lodge took place in an expansive, dimly lit room. The majority of those present wore hoods, covering most of their faces, the remainder being covered with magically-enhanced shadows.
– If what Baldassar had reported is true we must obtain its blood for research purposes. – The first voice, old and creaky resembled a hissing snake. – The flower dragon – Amaryllis.
– I do not think it would be of use to us. – The second voice, melodic, as if elven. – The second voice, melodic, as if elven. – Within the potion created by the original human mages was the blood of the original dragon Vortirius, and seeking his blood within the blood of ordinary dragons would be logical. But if we were to believe the ancient scriptures, although all dragons are indeed his children, some of them rebelled against him, which started the “Dragon War”. He slaughtered them all, including the flower dragons, which drew power not from the primordial chaos, but from nature magic.
– But when the mages banished him to the world-between-worlds, were they not helped by the surviving rebel dragons? – The third voice, hoarse, human, belonging to that of an old man.
– There are no historical records. – The fourth voice, soulless, twisted by magic beyond recognition.
For a few seconds the hall was filled with silent contemplation. An unintelligible whisper filled it several times before the first voice ceased it.
– If Vortirius did indeed fail to slaughter them all, then they must possess a power of unimaginable magnitude. We must take possession of this dragon.
– Or at least study it. – A new, fifth voice, old and female.
– Friends! – The owner of the fourth, unrecognizable voice, stood up from his seat, summoning all attention towards him. – I sanction this hunt.
Several of those present likewise stood up.
– I sanction this hunt. – They all repeated in a similar fashion with equally empty voices.