Chapter Five: The Grotto

"Now I would like to know what you did to that mine!" Arokh said while flying through the quiet canyon.
"Nothing special" Rynn answered quickly.
"Demolition is now nothing special to you, huh?" Arokh replied with a faint grin.
"In case you won't hurry enough to Grotto, you'll know what am I like when I'm the Lady of Demolition!" Rynn murmured loudly. Arokh could only wonder what was this haste was good for... he didn't like this. He was hungry, he wanted to rest a little and was waiting for some explanation anyway. Yet, there was nothing to do with a command he got - besides completing it.

A few moments after Arokh had a strange feeling... like if he was being watched by some beings. Looking around he realised how right the feeling was - three crow dragons were heading towards him.
"Here comes trouble! Hold tight Rynn" the red dragon shouted, and dived in a sharp angle, shooting fire at his attackers meanwhile.
The first crow dragon could hardly evade the shots with rising his altitude, but the second was caught in the deadly flames, and soon fall down with a deafening scream. The third had a little more tactical sense, and decided to attack his foe from where he was the most defenceless - from behind. He quickly began to fly a bit further from Arokh, while he made a half circle in the air.
Arokh was occupied finishing the first crow dragon so he didn't notice the trick. He only noticed the dragon behind him when a poison ball hit his back.
"I hate when this happens" Rynn coughed, while she was trying to not breathe in the poisonous air.
"She tells me" Arokh grunted, and decided to quickly end the combat, which was becoming painful to him.
The crow dragon in front of him breathed poison at him, so Arokh took a deep breath and flew at the dragon. A good timed slash with his front arms, and the now headless crow dragon was lying on the bloody snow under them. Arokh wasn't fast enough though, since the crow dragon behind him could spit another poison ball at him, which hit Arokh's left wing.
Arokh suddenly lost stability due to the hit, and nearly flew into a tree while he was trying to regain his lost stability in the air.
"He is still on us!" Rynn shouted looking back.
"Shoot him down then! Must I do everything?!" Arokh roared.
"Do you think I can aim while you are doing such aggressive movements?!" Rynn shouted back. Arokh wondered what did he do to deserve such a rider as punishment, but he could not wonder too long, as another ball of poison nearly hit his head. He quickly halted, and turned back. The crow dragon was surprised by the movement, and nearly ran into Arokh, who was waiting for this. The red dragon took a deep breath, and breathed a long stream of fire at the unlucky crow dragon, which quickly became no more than a big pile of ash.
"I think you should do something about my wounds" Arokh said as he realised the fight was over "I feel quite bad."
"Need the delicate touch of a woman, huh?" Rynn made a faint smile "It seems you do need me sometimes!"
Arokh looked back with killer eyes, and said "Less talk and more action if I can ask... I'm feeling bad and I don't like this!"
"I know how you feel and I neither like it!" Rynn said, and took a healing potion from her backpack, then drank it.
"Better" Arokh said, then asked "Where now?"

"Anywhere just through this thing" Rynn replied.
"Rushy, aren't we?" Arokh murmured again. He was becoming less and less satisfied as Rynn was becoming pushy.
"My brother is here!" Rynn cried out.
"Your brother? Here?!" Arokh laughed "Well, something original. And who told you this foolishness?"
"The Hider" Rynn replied "And speak with more respect about my brother!"
"If your brother would be here, he would have probably frozen to death now. Since I don't think the wartocks would give the prisoners nice, warm clothes." Arokh replied. "I thought your common sense would be better than your fighting skills..."
For a moment Rynn was thinking what the dragon said, but in the next moment her face became red with anger, realising what Arokh said.
"Now listen you big fat reptile" she shouted "it was I who got YOU out from that stone and not YOU who got ME out! So be so nice and do what I say in silence or I will wrap your mouth with the first rope I find!"
Arokh gave her a toothy grin, and flew on, while thought "I am NOT fat!"

He was only flying for a short while, when he noticed something green membrane looking thing blocking the way.
"What is that thing... and what does it do?" Rynn asked.
"Looks like some sort of shielding to me... I'm sorry but I can't get through it" Arokh said shaking his head.
"There has to be a way to disable or deactivate it" Rynn suggested, not wanting to give up easily.
"Yes, there should be. But I wouldn't be surprised if it would be on the other side of it" Arokh said. Rynn sighed with despair. Would this be a dead-end? If so, they wasted much time... and they would have to find another path to follow, which would mean much more time wasted. And if they waste too much time, Delon will be killed or enslaved... or something much worse.
While chasing her dark thoughts, Rynn suddenly noticed a passage in the wall of the hill. Small for a dragon, but big enough for a human.
"Arokh, land there. That passage looks interesting to me... maybe it will lead to the deactivator" Rynn said. Arokh quickly looked around searching for the door, then nodded.
"Alright, be careful" the red dragon said after Rynn dismounted him on the ground.
"You stay here and try not to get yourself killed, right?" Rynn said and ran inwards.

The passage was a bit dark, but she could see enough. There were some crates inside, and a Wartock guard standing a few steps far from him. The passage went on in a left turn, but Rynn hoped there wouldn’t be more guards inside. She took her mace into her hands, and crept up behind the lone guard. A quick hit at the neck, a loud crack, and the guard collapsed with a broken neck. A harsh roar told Rynn that there were more guards inside the passage, so she should still be wary of enemies.

The Wartock saw his companion collapsing, and realised there was an intruder inside. He took his weapon into hands, made a loud battle cry and ran towards the outsider. He was quite surprised to find a little human girl here, deep within the borders of the Union 's land. It did not really matter to him though - he raised his weapon, and slashed at the human. To his astonishment, the human was faster than he was, faster enough to dodge the weapon and now run backwards, out from the passage. The Wartock laughed as he saw Rynn run away but he followed hoping for an easy kill. But he soon dropped his weapon when he reached outside. The girl was standing next to a big red dragon.
Before the Wartock could do anything, the flames covered him, and for him the war was already over.

"Fried Wartock. Even though I'm now hungry, I'd never eat such a thing,” Arokh said with disgust.
"Perhaps you are not hungry enough" Rynn laughed and ran back into the passage, saying "Thanks!" meanwhile.
"I don't need thanks, rather food now" Arokh murmured as he lied down into the snow. Even though he could not risk falling asleep, it was nice to rest his feet and wings for a little while.

Rynn was now becoming more aware of the temperature - she was starting to shiver. The surrounding rocks were as cold as the snow on them, and she had no warm clothes on. She quickly looted the passage, and went on. She found a bridge on the other side, but when she was just passing through, an Orc screaming in terror flew by. Then a second. Then a third.
I never knew orcs can fly" Rynn mumbled. Suddenly an exploding barrel crashed to the side of the hill, not far from her. Looking down she noticed why the orcs were flying: a huge beast looking like the giant encountered earlier was throwing them. Not really fancying the thought of standing bombarded in the middle of a bridge, Rynn quickly ran back into the passage. There she began to wonder: what to do now? If she wanted to go on from this godforsaken place, she had to go through the bridge, find the switch to deactivate the shield. But there was that big creature... how did Arokh call it? Giant. "I will solve it somehow... I'll have to" Rynn encouraged herself, and ran through the bridge with full haste. She made it without damage, even though a barrel nearly hit her. On the other side she had another unpleasant surprise: Wartock guards with already drawn weapons, waiting for her.
"Come, I show you what's fighting is about!" Rynn shouted, and took her mace into her hands.


The mace proved to me a much more useful weapon than the flame sword Rynn found as she sliced a Wartock’s arm off with one hit. His companion was just as easily defeated; the Mithril mace head piercing the armour like it was made of paper. Rynn was certainly glad she picked it up as she ran out of the mine, it would have been a grave mistake if she passed it by.
Another Wartock came sailing through the air thrown by the giant below missing Rynn by inches. She readied her bow and filled the thing with arrows, hiding behind a nearby tree to avoid the flying rocks and Wartocks. At least it made things easier for her.

The last arrow left Rynn's bow and she jumped down the slope, sliding in the snow and running between two trees. The Giant came closer but the trees protected her from harm. When the creature's back was turned, she ran out from her hiding place and hit the Giant's legs with the mace. One hit was enough to kill the already weakened creature. It crashed to the ground making Rynn stumble and fall flat on her face in the snow.
"Ugh!" she said to herself as he picked herself up and brushed the snow from her armour realising that the creature had almost fallen on her. She hadn’t thought of that and made a mental note to remember that should she face another.

Looking round for more enemies, Rynn continued through the short valley glad that nothing came for a fight. At the end of the valley another giant stood on the hill to the left but there was no way Rynn could reach it yet. She turned to the right and ran down the path as quickly as she could towards the grimstone forcefield. She began to panic when there was no switch to be found but as she dodged an exploding barrel, to her surprise stepped on a hidden floor switch and the barrier dissolved.

"Arokh, come quickly!" she shouted in desperation.
"I hear you" came a distant reply. She could still see the dragon sitting where she had left him. He slowly flew over and through the gate and landed to let Rynn onto his back but he stopped dead when he saw the giant. He turned and flew back through the gate.
"Where are you going" Rynn asked. "We have been this way, I thought we were finding this gateway to the southeastern continent!"
"I know of a place back there. I want to stop for a moment and it would be beneficial for us to explore a bit" The dragon snapped.

"How are you for weapons?" Arokh continued his voice sounding a little hoarse.
Rynn laughed and showed the dragon the mace she had found. His great head turned round so he could see the weapon held in her hands. "I have this..." she said.
The dragon gave a toothy smile "That looks lethal, Rynn. Lets find something to try it out on" he suggested whilst flying towards a rocky tunnel.
"By the way, what on Drakan did you do back there in the mine?" Arokh asked sharply suddenly remembering the miniature earthquake and explosion Rynn had caused.
"I destroyed a grimstone generator, we needed to do it to be able to bring down the forcefields" she shouted, the icy wind blowing on her face making it harder for the dragon to hear her.
Arokh did not reply but shook his head slowly and smiled to himself.

The bonded pair followed the tunnel taking out a couple more blackwings as they went until they reached the bottom of a steep cliff reaching almost to the top of the mountain. Rynn looked up and saw nothing but ice covered rocks surrounded by cloud. She shivered with the cold hoping that they would find warmer lands soon; perhaps the weather would be much warmer in the Southeast she wondered.

"I remember an old temple at the top of this mountain ridge. I used to visit it from time to time when I needed to be closer to the gods" Arokh remarked as he began the climb to the top. Suddenly a shriek sounded from behind and Arokh was hit in the legs with a blast of poisonous acidic blackwing breath slowly etching away at his scales and skin. He roared in anger and turned round to face his adversary unleashing a steady stream of flame in into the creature’s face burning its eyes. The now blind creature began breathing its acidic fumes wildly hoping to hit its foe but Arokh was too quick for it and sent it crashing to the valley floor, its wings aflame unable to keep it airborne.

Rynn barely had the chance to drink a health potion when a rock hit Arokh squarely in the chest knocking the breath out of him. He let out a stifled bellow and looked in the direction the rock came from. Up above was a giant hurling rocks and balls of ice in their direction. Rynn quickly downed a potion of life healing their wounds and Arokh flew sharply up into the air diving down onto the giant with a scream of fury, his claws outstretched. He sunk his claws into the creature’s neck as easily as a knife through butter and slashed wildly withdrawing as blood gushed from the giant's wounds. He landed behind as the giant fell to the floor dead, the snow around it rapidly changing from bright white into a crimson red.

"A giant. It seems you were telling the truth after all" Arokh commented with a smile as he watched the blood trickle into a nearby dip in the snow forming a large puddle before disappearing into a rock fissure.
"What!" Rynn exclaimed. "You think I'm a liar?" she said furiously, taken aback by the dragon's comment.
Arokh gave a stern look at his bonded "No Rynn. I was only joking."
"Oh" Rynn said, her voice now distinctly quieter. She did not apologise. "You have a strange sense of humour Arokh. Sometimes its difficult to tell whether you are being nasty and sarcastic or trying to be humorous" she continued.
"You will know when I intend to be nasty" the dragon grumbled.
"Oh yes. I certainly do. I won't forget what you said to me when we first met" Rynn answered, remembering her first encounter with the dragon a few hours ago.
"Well, that's because I thought you were a pathetic little girl who wanted to find her brother and you took advantage of me. However, I was wrong, it turns out that this seems to be much more than a simple kidnapping. You are a capable fighter Rynn but sometimes you want to watch your mouth yourself; you show little respect for me" Arokh explained, trying to keep his temper.

Rynn was now slightly more irate. "What? You made me kneel before you and kiss your feet! Isn't that enough?" she snapped.
Arokh shook his head. "I only asked you to kneel. Anyway, you only kissed my foot because you were terrified and you thought it would please me more.” His head turned to look at her directly. “You were afraid I’d kill you and were begging for my help." He continued.
"No, I wasn’t Arokh. Look, I'm a little worried about my brother and I can be a bit offhand sometimes. Surely you understand that" she said angrily.
Arokh did not bother to argue with her further but deep inside he knew the human was correct and understood her predicament. He thought it was best to leave it at that and quickly changed the subject. “Anyway, what about looking in there,” he said nodding in the direction of the giant’s cave.

Rynn jumped off Arokh's back and walked into the Giant's lair. Bones of unfortunate victims lay scattered on the floor. As Rynn was about to leave, she noticed the back wall had a hole in it blocked by ice.
"Hey, Arokh. Come in here a minute" she shouted back at her companion who followed, his claws clicking on the solid ice. "See that?" Rynn asked pointing to the ice blocking the hole. Arokh did not need to ask again, he knew what his bonded was thinking. He exhaled a small jet of flame instantly melting the blockage. Rynn grinned at him and disappeared into the newly exposed cave only to be confronted by a large family of scavengers.

Rynn stepped back uneasily running back to the safety of her dragon. The scavengers followed but were unable to squeeze through the small opening.
"Get out of the way!" Arokh shouted from behind. There was nowhere for Rynn to go; Arokh was blocking the exit so she ducked and rolled underneath him wedging herself in between his rear legs. Arokh poked his head through the hole as far as he dared and let loose a cloud of flame burning the majority of the scavengers. "There's only a couple left. You should be able to handle them... Where are you?" Arokh asked sharply.
"I'm here" a voice came from underneath him. "Just don't sit down."
"There you are!" Arokh exclaimed as Rynn rolled out from underneath him.
"No problem" she said as she wandered into the cave, stepping over the corpses of the scavengers. The two remaining ones came leaping over and she sliced through them with the flamesword. The blade however broke, the corrosive scavenger blood finally taking its toll on the ancient blade. Rynn suddenly felt disappointed, she had lost one of her best weapons.

Ahead the ice had completely melted where two holes in the ground were slowly giving off steam. Rynn walked over to investigate but they simply turned out to be volcanic vents, the steam had a strong smell of sulphur and offered some warmth. She sat there for a few moments until the stench of the sulphur was too much to bear and continued deeper into the cave. It looked like this part was once an underground lake, now frozen solid. A few human skeletons were encased in the ice; adventurers or warriors who must have fallen into the water and were unable to climb out. Luckily, one of the skeletons just on the surface was accompanied by a backpack typical of what travellers carried. The old leather disintegrated in Rynn's hands as she picked it up but she was pleased to find it contained an invisibility potion. She picked it up and the scale mail the skeleton was wearing and jumped down to meet the waiting Arokh.

"So, where is this temple?" She asked the dragon whilst replacing her armour with the stronger scale mail, this time a better fit; the skeleton belonged to a female.
"The temple of Ice was here, but it looks like its nothing more than a pile of stones now. However, there is a sacred blade of the Order nearby. Its booby trapped but you should be able to obtain it." Arokh mumbled.
"What kind of sword is it?" Rynn asked inquisitively.
"A sword of ice. Capable of freezing enemies solid" Arokh replied.
"Sounds good. Assuming it still exists,” she said bitterly. "If the temple is gone, the sword may be too" she thought.

Arokh walked out of the cave followed by Rynn. He pointed to the left where a small entrance in a block of compressed snow could be seen, big enough for her to crawl through. "There looks like there has been an avalanche at one point. The Sword of Ice is probably through there" he suggested.
"Okay, Ill go and have a look seem as we are here" Rynn said after a slight pause. She walked over to the hole and after getting down on her hands and knees, crawled into a small room cut into the snow itself, empty bar one barrel containing a potion of life. Another exit lay ahead and looking out, Rynn was dismayed to see another giant sitting in front of what looked like some kind of shrine.
"Why does everything seem to be so difficult?" she thought to herself as she crept from the entrance hoping not to be seen.

Rynn tried to walk as quietly as she could but the snow crunched noisily under her feet. The Giant stood up and Rynn froze but luckily it hadn't seen her; it scratched its backside and sat down. Again it stood up and began scratching more forcefully.
"It must have one itchy ass,” Rynn thought to herself. The entrance to the shrine wasn't that far away now.
"To hell with this" Rynn said and ran as fast as she could into the entrance slipping on the icy surface a couple of times. The Giant could not follow her though due to large stone columns around the entrance but a roar from behind confirmed she had been seen as she walked down the short icy tunnel into a large dome shaped room. Arokh was correct; there, on a pedestal was a long blue coloured sword in pristine condition.

However, things proved to be not so simple, as she walked forward, huge rings of ice similar to the ring of fire the flamesword gave out emanated from the pedestal and spread across the room. The blasts continued every three seconds, not enough time to run in and grab the sword. Rynn did have her speed and agility to her advantage and she leapt over the icy wave taking some serious damage but surviving long enough to jump onto the pedestal. She drank a potion of life and grabbed the sword, stopping the icy assault below her feet.
"That wasn't so hard,” she said to herself as she ran back outside. She had forgotten about the giant.

With a roar, the huge beast made a swipe at her with its massive hands but she quickly ducked out of the way. The horrified Rynn quickly ran back to the safety of the shrine to ponder her situation. To her dismay, there were no arrows left but she had one fire crystal with two remaining charges. She crept as close as she could to the beast and let off the two charges incinerating the hairy legs making the giant even more angry. Rynn took her new-found blade into her hands hoping that it would give off the same devastating ring of ice the pedestal it was resting on gave off. She was bitterly disappointed.

Instead, the sword simply surrounded her in a bubble, which, if it touched anything, slowly froze the thing it was in contact with. As she suspected, it did minimal damage to the giant.
"This thing is useless,” she said to herself with disappointment. She hid behind the stones and began to stab at the giant's leg. Eventually, the sword began to show its usefulness; to her amazement, the giant froze solid! Grinning she pulled out the mace and hit the hideous beast shattering it into hundreds of tiny fragments.

"Now to get back to Arokh" she thought as she headed back the way she came. Another disappointment; the snow collapsed as she tried to make it back to the cave. Looking up, she could see another path and realising that it was the only way out of there began to find a way of getting up to it. She walked past where the giant was sitting and followed another small path leading between two towering mountains. The cold was now really beginning to take its toll, Rynn's hands and feet were numb and her exposed skin tingled with the cold. She shivered uncontrollably, hypothermia was beginning to set in and she had to get back to Arokh soon.

To her horror, two giants stood in the large open area in front of her. There was no way she could take on both of them especially in the state she was in. Rynn drank the invisibility potion she found earlier and ran quickly past them stopping briefly to take some health potions and another invisibility potion from their cave. She ran up the path, fortunately leading back towards Arokh as fast as she could. A roar and the sound of heavy footsteps sounded behind her as the invisibility potion wore off but it didn't matter; the end of the path was just ahead. With a final leap, she jumped down and rolled back into the snowdrift cave leading to Arokh just as the giant's fist came crashing down.

Rynn stopped inside the little room for a moment to catch her breath but the wall suddenly collapsed as the giant's fist came through. She ran out of the other entrance panicking and fell in the ice neatly landing on her hands and knees at Arokh's feet.
The dragon's ruby red eyes looked down on her with surprise. "Hmm, it seems you enjoy kissing my feet after all” the dragon said as Rynn slipped again falling on her face, her lips briefly making contact with his foot. She grunted to herself at her misfortune and slid backwards sitting down facing him. She muttered something under her breath and picked up the Ice Blade. “I see you got it then" he said when he saw the sword in her hands; it was something he had not seen for a long time.
Rynn looked up into the dragon's eyes and frowned. "Just about. There was three giants back there. I managed to avoid two of them but I managed to kill one" she said wearily, still panting.
"Arokh, I think I have a mild case of hypothermia. We should find warmth soon or Ill freeze to death" she continued wrapping her hands round his front leg to warm them.

"Sounds a good idea, we might come across a Wartock camp soon, there seems to be a lot of them around. We should find a fire and some food for both of us. Health potions will cure frostbite" the dragon agreed holding out one of his front legs to help Rynn to stand. "Here let me help you,” he said. Rynn gratefully accepted and held Arokh's foot in her hand as he pulled her up.
"Thanks" she mumbled as she climbed onto his back.

Rynn was still shivering horribly; even Arokh's scales were cold to the touch but slightly lifting one on his back and placing her hand underneath, warmth could be felt. Arokh flew back towards the barrier, diving down the steep cliff with alarming speed, the cold wind taking Rynn's breath away.
"Watch out for the Giant, Arokh" Rynn warned as they flew through the barrier. He grunted in reply and began to hurl fireballs in the giant's direction, strafing to one side to avoid the exploding barrels. The Giant was no match for the mighty dragon however and it fell over with a groan, its hairy body aflame.

"You make it so easy" Rynn commented.
Arokh smiled slightly and hovered in the air surveying the landscape ahead. A plume of smoke rose up from a campfire in the middle of a clearing surrounded by wartocks and Grull.
"Fancy some lunch?" the dragon asked with a smile.


A Wartock meets a messy end (Order of the Flame screenshot) Click to enlarge

"Definitely" Rynn replied as Arokh shot more flame at the wartocks and Grull below. Arokh flew out of the cover of the trees as another red dragon came towards them, smaller than Arokh and it had large bat like ears instead of horns. Its body was covered in smooth red skin and a black mane went down its back to the base of its tail.
"A bat dragon!" Rynn exclaimed. "We don't often see these. Maybe its friendly?" she continued seeing that the dragon did not attack.

The dragon came closer; its wicked yellow eyes observed Arokh with suspicion. "I don't think its friendly. They are very territorial like blackwings, or crow dragons as you call them" Arokh whispered.
Arokh was correct; the primitive dragon, no more intelligent than a blackwing decided that this larger dragon was not one of its kind; an outsider. With a scream, it backed off slightly and began to shoot shards of ice at Arokh hitting him in his stomach.
He blinked and grunted in pain and returned fire, the dragon was just as easily dealt with as a blackwing but its attack was more powerful.

"Help me out here!" he snarled under his breath evading another icy projectile. "I know" Rynn coughed and drank another healing potion giving Arokh more strength to carry on. He lunged at the dragon and breathed a cloud of flame instead of his usual fireballs right into its back setting its mane alight. The dragon screamed in pain and began to retreat but after a short while, it plunged to the ground, its severe skin burns causing its painful demise.
"That was close,” Arokh said as he landed by the campfire. "You collect anything the wartocks dropped whilst I smash these crates for the fire. Its starting to die down" he continued, dipping to let Rynn off.
Rynn nodded and collected three health potions plus a medium sized war axe and returned to the campfire where Arokh was waiting. He had placed the wood from the crates on the fire and was now devouring an animal carcass that the wartocks were cooking.

"Leave some for me" Rynn objected not wanting the great red beast to eat everything like he did before. Arokh grunted and tore off a chunk of meat in his mouth. "Here" he mumbled. Rynn outstretched her hands and Arokh dropped the saliva covered meat onto her hands.
"Ugh" Rynn exclaimed with disgust. "I don't want it after it’s been in your mouth!"
Arokh blinked and swallowed. "It’s only a bit of saliva. It won't poison you. Get it eaten, its the only food you may find for a while."
Rynn wiped off the meat the best she could and reluctantly ate it. It tasted foul, it wasn't exactly cooked thoroughly and the dragon spittle gave it a slightly salty taste.

"Well, that was, horrible" she said sitting down by the fire, Arokh joining her at her side. He sat down and let out a long, loud groan of content.
There was an awful silence and Rynn felt slightly uneasy, unsure of what to say to the dragon; the only conversation they had had up to now was to do with fighting and wartocks.

Finally Rynn asked "so, what was Heron and the Order like?”

Arokh moved about slightly and turned his head to face his companion.
"I don't like to talk about my past but Heron was a great warrior and a true friend. We served in the Order for 200 years, well, 198 to be more precise before he was... killed." he answered, his voice changing to a deeper note as he said the last few words.
"That's a long time, didn't you ever get bored or get tired of each other's company?" she asked with disbelief.
Arokh stretched his rear legs out and looked at her, his eyes blinking a couple of times. "Sure, we had our bad moments but my service in the Order was the best moments of my life. Heron and I met when I was very young; he was actually older than I by a few years. We became friends after I saved his life and we eventually joined the order and bonded. We were posted to various places around the world and saw and met fascinating places and races. Of course, a large part of my service was spent here, in my homeland."

The dragon paused and continued "The early years of the Order were hard but we managed to gain control of the majority of the world bringing peace and ending petty wars. This lasted for a couple of hundred years then Navaros was born... it all went downhill from there as you know" he said sadly.
Rynn nodded taking this in. "Yes, I know, I read the legends but I didn't really take much notice. There is one thing I wanted to know though; how come you didn't go into eternal sleep upon Heron's death?"

The dragon looked down at the ground and then back up. "A good question. Its because Heron died within the rift whilst I was back in this world. The bond was broken and his death had no effect. A few months after it was all over, I and the other remaining dragons followed the Dragon Mother into the sleep of ages. Now, if you please, I don't want to talk of it any more. It saddens me."
Rynn understood the dragon's haunted past and didn't mention Heron any more.

"Maybe we could visit Drakan City on our travels, you can show me the wonders of the world" she added trying to carry on the conversation but steering it away from Heron.
Arokh emitted a low growl within his throat. "Drakan City does not exist as I know it, if it exists at all. All of the Order's cities were levelled in the Dark Wars along with most of the places and people I knew. The city may have been rebuilt but your guess is as good as mine as to whether it’s there or not." He explained, clearly irritated by Rynn’s questions.

There was another long silence.
"So, what's your story? You are obviously not just a farm girl" he asked Rynn suddenly.
She cleared her throat and answered the dragon's question. "My life is nowhere as interesting as yours but I was one of the village guards. I trained as a warrior after the death of my parents in a Wartock raid. That's it I suppose, I never travelled far from my home."
Another long silence, which Arokh broke first. "I see. Make no mistake, your life will become more interesting from now on once this is over." He paused and took a breath. "I hope you know that you can't just discard me like a used tissue once you find your brother."
"I know, Arokh. You are part of my family now, perhaps more than family" she assured him. "The three of us will be together."
Arokh looked deeper into the flickering flames of the fire and stretched a wing over Rynn to shield her from the snow that had started to fall.

"I hear something" Rynn said, and jumped up. She drew her blade, and looked around carefully. She saw nothing far and near, but something was moving around.
"Arokh, would you be so kind and-" she said, when she noticed Arokh was too still. Poking him she realised the dragon was asleep. "Nice" she thought "he falls asleep when I'd need him. A great help."
She quickly hid behind a crate, just in time. A few wartocks came, and suddenly halted when spotted the sleeping Arokh. They had no idea how the red dragon came here, and what it was doing, and this made them be confused. A few minutes later they decided to get the rid of the problem though, and ran at Arokh shouting a loud battle cry.
The loud voices awoke the dragon, however. Arokh took a sleepy look at them, and breathed a large cloud of fire.
Rynn was just jumping at the first Wartock when the fire arrived. She could barely jump back from the lethal firestorm. The wartocks could not do anything but become ash in seconds.
"Now look what you did! You burnt my hair!" Rynn shouted.
"And saved you" the dragon smiled.
"SAVED ME?!" Rynn was becoming a bit angry "YOU WERE ASLEEP AND I WAS SAVING YOU!"
"You saving me?" Arokh grinned "Interesting idea."
Rynn murmured something, and jumped back onto Arokh.
"Let's get moving... I'm cold" she said.
"I can feel so" the dragon nodded "Hold on. Hopefully it won't take long now."

"Sorry about that Rynn, I'm not fully recovered from my stony sleep." Arokh mumbled back to Rynn as they flew further down the canyon.

"Okay, but try not to fall asleep... oh. Not again!" Rynn said with dismay as another grimstone forcefield blocked their path.
"Seems like you will have to go on alone again" Arokh answered under his breath as he despatched another dragon coming towards them.
"Yeah, I want to be out of this place as quickly as possible before I freeze again" Rynn shivered.
Arokh peered through the grimstone forcefield, the gateway to the Southeastern continent could just be seen through the green semi transparent membrane. "Its not far now" he said hoping to boost her confidence.

A Wartock jeered at them from a cave halfway up the rock face on their left. Arokh angrily sent several balls of flame into the opening roasting it alive in seconds. "No-one laughs at me" he scoffed.
"Wait a minute Arokh before you fly away. There is a lever there, I don't suppose you can hover near enough for me to pull it could you?" she asked thinking that the lever might just be near enough without finding another way into the cave.
"Don't be stupid. My wings will hit the rocks" the dragon snorted scornfully. He couldn't believe Rynn was missing something blatantly obvious.
Noticing something, he spoke before Rynn could answer him back. "There is a path leading up to a small opening up there. Perhaps that may lead to the cave."

Rynn nodded in agreement. "There's only one way of finding out. Land over there and ill take a look."

Arokh landed outside the opening and Rynn jumped off and ran up seeing that it led to a ridge cut into
the mountain. A large boom sounded behind her and the snow lit up with vivid yellow for a second or two. She turned round startled to see Arokh killing a Grull which had crept up behind unnoticed. "Nice one, Arokh" she congratulated and began to walk down the path.
BOOM! An exploding barrel suddenly hit the rocks in front of her. Another giant! Rynn turned and saw one stood on a ledge across a small canyon below but she couldn't reach it. Out of arrows, she readied decided to run, readying her Ice Sword and ran straight into two waiting Wartocks within the cave.

Rynn cried out as the Wartock's axe buried itself into her side almost knocking her to the floor. She quickly got hold of the situation and hit the creature hard with the sword, simultaneously rubbing her hand over the embedded crystal releasing the ice bubble surrounding her. The two Wartocks continued to attack and Rynn dodged them with her unsurpassed agility eventually noticing their attacks slowing as if they were running out of stamina. There was a cracking sound and both of them froze solid, Rynn shattering them both with one final blow.

"That was close" she muttered heading towards the lift just in front of her. Another barrel hit the rocks just outside the entrance signalling the Giant's continued attempts at removing her from existence. Rynn ran onto the lift, descending into another cave below with a creak of the lift mechanism. Stepping off the wooden platform into the dark cave, she was pleased to find she was the only one in there. With a sigh of relief, she ran up to the lever and pulled it dissolving the green barrier allowing them to continue to the gateway. She took the two health potions the dead Wartock was hoarding and returned to Arokh.

"I did it" she said running up to the great red dragon, her feet crunching on the thin ice covered snow.
"Nice work Rynn, shall we go now or do you want to explore a little more?" Arokh congratulated, his deep voice echoing in the rocky grotto.
"There's a small cavern at the other side of the hole but I don't think it’s worth the risk of going down there. There's at least one giant and a few wartocks" Rynn answered tidying her hair again the best she could. "Lets get going."

The pair flew through the now open gate, Wartocks fleeing below them at the sight of the dragon. Something ahead made Arokh stop and slowly fly over towards the gateway; there, hovering in front of the gateway was a dragon who he thought was long dead.
"Could it be, Arokh?" the dragon asked, its body covered in thick grey and white fur.
Arokh blinked and stuttered for a moment "I..I.. Uh. Yes. Werokh, I thought you were dead! Who awakened you?" he asked overjoyed that his life long friend had seemingly come back from the dead. His jaws opened into wide smile revealing his razor sharp teeth.

Werokh shook his head "Who awakened me does not matter Arokh, but let me say I did not bother to bond. I do not wish to be limited by the weaknesses of Humans." The dragon snarled, obviously not pleased to see his friend at all.
Arokh’s smile soon faded. "What? But... I thought I was the only dragon of the Order" the confused dragon stuttered again.
"Oh but you are. You see I serve a new master, one that disagrees with the ways of the Order. Humans are nothing more than insects and soon they will no longer be the dominant species of this pathetic planet." His eyes moved over to Rynn who thought, "You are wrong about that. Wartocks are the main species of this world."
"Speaking of which. Interesting choice Arokh, from Heron to a peasant" he laughed scornfully.

Arokh looked bewildered for a few moments and then he began to fill with rage. "How dare you! How dare you speak of my rider like that! She is quite surprising actually and a worthy rider" he bellowed with fury, his temper now at a peak.
There was a short silence as the two angry dragons stared at each other. Arokh was the first one to break the silence. "I pity you Werokh,” he said shaking his head half with sadness, half with anger.
"No, its you that should be pitied. Just look at you. You’re pathetic." Werokh snorted and an evil smile crossed his face. He gazed at his former friend scornfully and replied "you and the ways of the Order. You are nothing but a nuisance, now its time for you to go to sleep. Forever" He laughed and quickly flew up into the air raining ice shards onto the still standing Arokh.

Rynn knew what was happening and drank a health potion as Arokh lifted into the air returning fire at
Werokh, hitting him in the chest. "Wait! Don't attack,” he yelled but it was no good. Werokh let loose another ice blast, neatly evading Arokh's flames. "Damn, he's fast" Arokh muttered under his breath taking another hit to his wing.
"Rynn, Ill try and get behind him, help me out if you can; it will be a tough fight" he shouted back at his rider just as another blast went by.

Rynn didn’t answer but she heard him and began to search for a suitable weapon. Arokh began to circle his foe avoiding the icy projectiles the best he could returning fire whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Rynn had no arrows left and was unable to help but as Werokh's head came close, she suddenly had a idea; she pulled one of her swords from her back and hurled it at the dragon but missed as he swiftly dodged out of the way.
"Damn, I missed" she mumbled. Arokh snarled in pain and let loose a blast of poison hoping to blur his adversary's vision so he could take advantage.

"It seems you have no-one to heal you" Arokh laughed as he again got close, hitting Werokh in the back, his fur in flames. Arokh hit again, this time the skin on Werokh's back clearly visible beneath the singed fur. Summoning all of his strength, Arokh flew at the fleeing dragon sinking his claws into his back. "You should have grown scales my friend" he said as Werokh shrieked in pain, blood running freely down his body.
He whipped round and shot one last blast of ice into Arokh's face and fell to the ground but still alive... barely. Rynn healed and Arokh set down beside the fallen dragon, edging closer so he was stood over him.

"Why!?" Arokh roared.
Werokh gave a faint smile. "You are no longer my friend, you see, I turned traitor against the Order like I said. I have a new master now."
"Who?" Arokh demanded. "Tell me!" he snapped furiously.
Werokh stayed silent. Arokh stared at his former friend with disbelief and turned to Rynn watching behind.
"Give me a potion of life" he whispered. Rynn nodded and threw one at the dragon who caught it with an outstretched foreclaw.
"Listen Werokh. I don't really want to kill you but you leave me little choice; join the Order and I will save your life." Arokh rumbled as he showed him the potion he held.
"Go to hell" Werokh grunted as he lashed out with his talons hitting Arokh in the stomach.
"You first" Arokh snarled in anger throwing the potion away and bending down to break the dragon's neck. He paused for a moment, his jaws hovering over his former friend’s neck, then with a growl of anger he bit deep and twisted violently. A loud crack followed as Werokh’s body went limp.

Werokh was an Elder Breed dragon, like his friend and with a heavy rumbling; a rune containing his powers emerged from the canyon floor, lightning jumping from it like snakes touching the rocks around. Arokh gave an angry snarl and flew up to absorb it. A few minutes later it was all over, he now had the temporary power of ice.

Arokh landed next to Rynn, his eyes burning with fury; Rynn saw his anger and didn't even say anything. She tried to mount him but he pushed her away angrily.
"How could he? Of all the things we have been through! How dare he betray me!?" he raged. "Everything I come across that seems like a flicker of hope is dashed in bitter disappointment."
Rynn put a hand on his side to try and comfort him. "Leave me alone!" he snapped. "I'm going to take a dump!"

With that, Arokh stormed off and shortly returned his eyes still glowing with anger. A Wartock bravely crept up hoping to take advantage of the situation. Arokh caught him in the corner of his eye and grabbed him, knocking the war axe from his hands with superior strength.
"You!" he snarled, shaking him. "Tell me who your master is!"
The Wartock did not reply but gave a faint evil smile. He wasn’t going to divulge any information no matter what happened to him and he wasn’t really sure who his master was anyway. His immediate superior was his group commander, another Wartock like him.
Arokh roared with fury at the Wartock’s display of arrogance and dragged the unfortunate creature over to where the large pile of dragon dung lay, still steaming on the ground. He pushed the Wartock's face close to the foul smelling pile and asked again. "Tell me or I will make this very unpleasant for you."
"Please, I don't know" the Wartock pleaded half sobbing with fear, he genuinely couldn’t answer the dragon’s question.
Arokh sighed and submerged the Wartock’s face into the dung for a few seconds and pulled it back out, the Wartock beginning to retch horribly, trying to wipe his face with his one free hand.


“Your last chance to tell me or Ill suffocate you to death. In this" Arokh warned, again pushing the Wartock closer to the dung pile. No reply came as the Wartock was too busy being sick so he again submerged the creature's face but this time held it until the Wartock stopped struggling. Arokh gave a deafening roar and fixed Rynn with glowing red eyes.
"Aww, that was sick Arokh, what did you do that for? Rynn asked with disgust.
"Shut up! Leave me alone for five minutes" he snapped at her.
"With all due respect Arokh, shouldn't we be going?" she asked faintly ducking in case the dragon lashed out at her in fury.
He growled and eventually said "You and your brother. I suppose you are right, we must find this 'master' behind all of this. Come on."
Arokh let her onto his back and was airborne before she could get seated properly. He was furious at his friend turning traitor and attempting to kill him and she decided not to speak any more unless spoken to.

The bonded pair took one last look around the clearing and flew through the gateway into the somewhat warmer tropical lands.

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