In the basement of a grocers in the city of Trademeet, Rundrig warily circled his opponent, the burly shaven headed man grinned as he stared back at him, from around came the cheers of the spectators; Jack smiled as he moved through the crowd, none of them knew his friend the dwarf fighter and so the odds on him has been long, if Rundrig won (and the poison that Jack had slipped the other combatant said his chances were good) then the young thief would clean up, minus his partners percentage of course, not that Rundrig knew anything about the poison, dwarven honour and all that.
Across town Xeno and Priscilla were exploring the bizarres and markets, accompanied by Sistranalle the elven bard who stared with delighted eyes at the bustle and general hubbub around him, whilst to the wizard Xeno this place represented a potential gold mine of arcane ingredients and ritual foci that he could use; his associate Jack had sloped off somewhere with the dwarf Rudrig, no doubt off to another prize fight, and so it looked as though he would have to resort to actually purchasing something for once. The sound of commotion drew them to where a bedraggled looking human figure was emptying various bric-a-brac out of a torn rucksack and attempting to sell it to passersby; Xeno was about to move on when, amidst the rubbish, he spotted a small pyramid like sculpture forged of blue/purple metal and inscribed with strange runes. Immediately recognising the script of his homeland and the arcane metal found thereon (although the language appeared to be in some kind of code), but trying to conceal his eagerness, Xeno offered the rough looking trader two healing potions for the sculpture; unfortunately something about the look in his eyes betrayed him and the shrewd seller claimed that it had been given to him as a gift and he could not think of selling it for such a paltry price.
Priscilla pointed out that the sellers story about receiving it as a gift contradicted what he had been telling another person as they had approached; backed up by her threats, and Xenos offer of a third potion, the old man agreed to sell it and passed it into the waiting arms of the human wizard. A few short streets away Durga, priest of the Dwarf Father had been attempting to preach his creed of honour and glory in battle to any who would listen, unfortunately this was a city of traders and merchants, not of glorious warriors although he did manage to attract a small gathering; as Xeno and Priscilla headed to a nearby tavern ‘The Cockatrice in Cider’, Sistranalle said that he would go and meet Rudrig. Spotting Sistranalle as he left the others, he finished his speech and ran to join them.
Arriving outside the grocers where Rudrig and Jack had told them to meet, Sistranalles elven hearing picked up the sounds of cheering and celebration from somewhere below the shop; walking in they were met by a kindly old woman called Doris who chatted merrily to them about her shop having the finest turnips in the Known World. Distracting the old woman by saying that his companion would like to try her famous turnip gumbo, Sistranalle located a hidden trapdoor down to a cellar and slipped down the stairway; charmed by Durga calling her a young woman, Doris mentioned that she was sure a strong, strapped dwarf like him could make a good living in the city, and asked if he’d ever considered fighting for money? Feigning interest, Durga allowed the woman to lead him down the trapdoor where he was in time to witness Rudrig deliver the finishing blow to his slightly dazed opponent as Jack rubbed his hands in glee and collected his prize money.
Doris escorted Durga over to an armoured human with a stern face who introduced himself as Captain Morgan of the Trademeet city guard and said that he’d willingly introduce Durga to some of his contacts if that was his wish; the Captain had been impressed by the fortitude of the dwarf Rudrig and, as he talked, it became obvious that the city guard were well aware of these “underground” fighting areas and actively encouraged it because it made it far easier for them to monitor and control violence in the city by giving it an outlet. Clapping his hands on the shoulders of his fellows Rudrig said that they should probably get going, after all Jack had volunteered to buy them all a drink from his winnings.
Pushing open the door of the ‘Cockatrice in Cider’ they were greeted by the sight of Priscilla gleefully challenging all and sundry to unarmed combat and arm wrestling for drinks (although the list of potential challengers was becoming shorter with every victory), Xeno was sat in a shaded alcove as he studied intently the sculpture that he had purchased; he could sense some sort of energy emanating from it and occasionally the writing seemed to glint with a warm golden sheen, but he could only make out the word dragon of the writing. Jack ordered some drinks and was soon scoping out a patron who seemed far too well dressed for such a low-class establishment, Rudrig is accompanied by Gregor, one of the others fighters, and the two of them commence getting extremely drunk.
Jack is about to follow his mark outside when suddenly there is a scream from outside, the door flies open and the man staggers inside on fire, falling to the floor; outside panicked crowds of people are running in a huge mob away from a large shadow that falls across the city, peering over Jack’s shoulder Sistranalle looks up and sees the shadow of a huge beast flying over the city, fire gouting from its lizard-like face. Shuddering the elf recognises one of the legendary fire-drakes from the ancient myths of his people, creatures who were deemed little more than fables even in the younger days of his people, long before they left to the west. Shrugging off his drunken haze Rudrig grasps his ancestral weapon and dashes up the stairs to the second floor of the building whilst Durga and Priscilla join Jack and Sistranalle at the door; the barbarian woman shoves the elven bard out of the way as a blast of white hot fire engulfs her, leaping into the air as her hair, flesh and clothes catch fire the warrior woman swings her weapon at the snarling beast.
Realising that the appearance of this beast cannot be coincidental, Xeno realises that he needs an opposing energy or a blood sacrifice to cancel out the energy beacon that his sculpture is broadcasting; refusing to fall back on the bloody religion of his people he eventually is joined by Sistranelle who channels tendrils of icey magic into the mage, who then sheds his own blood, falling as frozen crimson crystals onto the sculpture.
Outside the beast roars as Rudrig leaps from the second floor onto its back and sinks his axe into its flesh, gasping as the creature burning blood sears his skin, the dwarf fighter none-the-less holds on as it tries to shake him off and scrape him against nearby buildings. Xeno continues to shed his frozen blood over the sculpture and gradually the energy emanating from it stutters, slows and stops; with a bewildered roar the fire-drake suddenly loses interest in its rampage of destruction and with great beats of its wings begins to head westwards, Rudrig manages to leap from its back onto a nearby building before it soars too high and is lost in the clouds. Jack meanwhile has been tending to the delirious burned man and attempting to con the man out of his life savings into the bargain.
Days later the adventurers are rewarded for their saving of the city and many local buildings by the Master of the Brewers Guild, Marlow Tombé and each of them is gifted with 100 coins in recognition of their valiant defence of both the city and its citizens, but some questions remain unanswered, how did the sculpture get to the known world? Who was the strange merchant? And more unsettlingly, over the next couple of days, rumours begin to filter in from the dwarves of the western mountains that other drakes have been sighted, if this true what is bringing these creatures to the Known World?