Chapter Six: The Eastern Archipelago

Rynn gasped at the beautiful landscape that was revealed ahead, never had she seen lands like these. Crystal clear cobalt waters lapped at golden sandy beaches surrounding the small islands and the setting evening sun cast a warm orange light across the landscape. Palm trees dotted with coconuts grew up from the grass covered islands and odd ruins lay scattered on the ground, once proud buildings destroyed long ago by war or fallen into ruin through centuries of neglect.

"That's better. Warmth." Arokh said quietly, landing besides a waterfall which fell from the vast inland lake above them. The stream, which it fed flowed for a few tens of meters then disappeared abruptly where it sank into the ground filling the underground caverns and rivers beneath them. The lake that made up the Archipelago was above sea level and the rivers in the surrounding lands mostly flowed from the lake to the sea many miles away.
"Evening already. Does time pass quickly whilst we went through the gate?" Rynn asked.
The irritated dragon snorted "You ask stupid questions sometimes. We have just travelled halfway around the world in an instant. Did you think that it would be midday in all parts of the world at the same time?"
Rynn realised her stupidity "I never thought of it,” she said blushing with embarrassment.

Arokh flew up to a large tower like structure that grew like a claw out of the ground and landed on a grassy patch in front of what looked like a window of some sort. As he was about to speak, he was startled by two winged humanoids descending from the ‘window’ and landing in front of them.

Arokh looked at them with surprise and Rynn jumped off and readied her sword should the strange winged half humans attack.
"My, My what brings you to our wonderful land?" one of them asked in a soft friendly voice. The other stepped a few steps closer and said "My, what a handsome dragon… and the woman is so.. Lovely"
Rynn and Arokh looked at each other briefly, Rynn immediately putting her sword away, for once they had met strangers who didn't want to kill her, strange that they may be.

"Ahem, thanks” she said in bewilderment scratching the side of her head. “ I'm looking for my brother. A small child who may have been brought through the gateway over there" she continued pointing to where she and Arokh had just come from.
The creature’s expression changed as if she recognised something. "It seems you are in luck. We can help you; you see, there is a wizard to the North." It said. "He is evil" the other added. The first one interrupted her companion. "He has the rift crystal and plans to use it for his wicked tricks. He has the boy you are looking for."
Rynn's face lit up with joy; her journey seemingly was almost at an end. She faced Arokh to say something about Delon but he roughly pushed her aside and craned his neck closer to the winged creatures.
"The rift crystal!?" he boomed.
The creatures backed away in fear and one replied "Yes, surely you have heard of the legends."
"Of course. Every dragon has." He said thoughtfully. "We must stop this Wizard before we do anything."

The two creatures bowed and began to fly away. "Good luck" they shouted from above then they were gone.
"What were those things?" Rynn asked her scaly companion picking herself up off the ground and rubbing her arm where he had hit her.
Arokh, still highly irritated gave a scowl and answered her question. "Succubi. Such strange creatures." he said flatly.
"Well, I don't trust them, they seemed a little too friendly if you know what I mean" Rynn suggested. "What is this rift crystal thing anyway?"
Arokh gave a long sigh. "The rift crystal was part of Heron's sword, the Runeblade. It was separated into two halves when Navaros was banished to the rift, the blade itself and the crystal. No-one knows what happened to the blade but Rimril; the fourth archmage of the Order took the crystal to his fortress. It now seems to be in the wrong hands."
"You know a lot of history. I'm impressed" Rynn said hopping onto his back.
"Yeah. Well, I've lived a lot of history" the dragon remarked as he flew into the air.

Queen Shilla sat on her throne; her red bat like wings folded at the sides of her fat hideous body. She was very different to the rest of the Succubi – they were beautiful but the queen simply hideously ugly.

The two Succubi who spoke to Rynn and Arokh descended and respectfully bowed before their queen.
"Is everything going to plan?" Shilla asked in her sharp piercing voice which was enough to make anyone cringe; the sound of her voice was akin to someone scraping their fingernails down a blackboard.
"Yes, my Queen. The dragon and his little bitch are heading for Rimril's tower, as we wanted them to. Soon the rift crystal will be in our hands."
Shilla scowled at her messengers hoping they were correct. "It had better be or our lord will be most displeased. See that the girl manages to gain access to the tower and then make sure the dragon is no longer a problem. Our lord has a use for him so make sure no harm comes to him or his woman. They must not suspect foul play or our plan may be rumbled."
"Yes, my queen" they simultaneously said and flew away.

Meanwhile, Arokh and Rynn were making their way across the islands towards Rimril's tower fending off more bat dragons as they went. Nothing much was of interest on the ground, an area to be explored if and when they had more time. Rynn's primary concern now was her brother and a few Wartocks and Grull heaving crates of raw unprocessed Grimstone about were hardly a concern for her.

"Our wizard I presume" Arokh proclaimed seeing a hooded figure stood outside a stone tower carved into the northernmost point mountain side; a faint memory suggested he visited the tower many centuries ago but he wasn't sure. Rynn didn't reply and Arokh descended down to land in front of the hooded man who seemingly had no face. All that could be seen were two glowing red eyes within his cowl.

"Arokh. It is you!" The man said, remembering the long lost dragon. Arokh in response blinked and frowned.
"Forgive me for being rude, but do I know you?" He asked craning his neck closer. "I don't think I have had the pleasure" he continued, his voice now distinctly softer and more polite.
"I am what was once known as Rimril. Surely you remember me" the hooded figure introduced gesturing briefly with one arm at the tower behind him.
"Yes of course" Arokh remarked softly. "But it cannot be, even a wizard will be long dead by now. It’s been nearly six centuries." He had doubts in his mind and was ready to attack should the being prove to be hostile.
"The person you know is dead, Arokh. I have come back in spirit form to look over the rift crystal forever, until the sun goes dark if need be" Rimril explained seeing that the dragon seemed restless and uneasy.
“My Bro…” Rynn interrupted before Arokh could speak again. He turned his head round to look at her upon his back and scowled barring his teeth as a way of showing that he wanted her to be quiet. Undeterred by Arokh’s attitude; she continued raising her voice wanting to get her questions answered whilst she had the chance. "We met some Succubi, they said you were evil and were holding my brother captive."

Rimril laughed "Don't believe them Rynn. They want the rift crystal but they cannot get it themselves. Agents of the Dark Union cannot enter the tower; they want you to get it and then they will take it from you."

Arokh nodded to show that he agreed with Rimril but Rynn wasn’t interested in what they were talking about. She quickly dismounted and walked closer to the hooded figure.
"How do you know my name?" she demanded.
Rimril continued, his powers probing her mind. "I know a lot of things and why you are here. You seek your brother; he is not here. The Succubi have taken him hostage along with other young boys; god only knows what for. Even I cannot tell."
"Arokh, we have to go back,” she cried tapping him on his neck. Arokh's great head turned round again to fix her with a scornful gaze. The look in his eyes was enough to say that he was sick of her talking about Delon.

"No!" he snarled. "It seems the Dark Union has been reborn, led by an unknown mage or necromancer. This is more important now. If we go back for your brother, we will surely be outnumbered and killed. But if we were to get the rift crystal... Yes. Rynn, you must get the crystal, its the only way" he said thoughtfully.
"But what about the Succubi?" she asked.
"You are a good fighter, Rynn. Use your imagination and see that they don't get it" the dragon snorted.
"Tell me Rimril. How do we get the crystal?" he asked in a softer, kinder voice.
Rimril coughed and began to explain. "First Rynn must pass the test of the tower, a series of tests that test mental and physical abilities. Once she has passed, she will be able to gain access to the crystal but will not be able to pick it up until she has survived the elemental tests; fire, earth, air and lightning. You will have to get the elemental amulet to unlock the inner tower gates. You will need the bellhammer of Alwarren to gain access to the elemental tests."

"Great. More relic hunting" Rynn said bitterly.
"Where are these two items?" Arokh asked sharply.
"The bellhammer can be found in the town square of Alwarren, now sunk into the ground. As for the Amulet, some Goblins stole it and took it to their lair to the east." He explained.
"Okay, Easy enough. Rynn, lets get going" Arokh demanded, in a tone of voice that would brook no argument.
Rimril spoke once more before they left. "Return here when you have both items NOT before." There was a blinding flash of light and Rimril disappeared.

Rynn walked round the great red beast to stand before him so it was easier for them to talk.
"Are you sure we should waste time?" she asked. Arokh growled furiously in response. "We are not wasting time. Trust me, do you want to die a hideous death at the hands of the Succubi because of your impatience? If the rift crystal falls into the wrong hands, your brother and the rest of humanity will be in even more danger."
"Wouldn't it be safer where it is?" She suggested.
"No. How many more times. We could use it to our advantage, now please be quiet!" Arokh snarled as his temper begun to rise. “Really Rynn, if we were not bonded, I’d love to give you a damn good beating right here and now. I don’t want to hear a word from you unless I speak to you first.”

“Why are you so cruel?” she cried putting her hands over her face fighting back the tears. Arokh looked back at her and frowned but did not say anything. He knew that moment he should apologise but remained silent. He eventually let out an exasperated sigh and nudged her gently with the side of his head swallowing in shame at his outburst but yet still could not bring himself to apologise.

Realising that the dragon had far more knowledge of the world and intelligence than she had, Rynn unexpectedly apologised first. "I'm sorry Arokh" she said quietly "Please don't be angry with me, as you can tell, I'm worried about my brother."
Arokh sighed again understanding his companion's worry and turned his head to look at her.
"Nasty and short tempered I may be but the recent events have taken their toll and your impatience is annoying. Remember, I'm a dragon and I do have a fearsome nature." He shuffled about, absently pressing a small stone into the mud and smiled. "I think we can be friends Rynn, but you can be awkward sometimes. I cannot apologise enough for my attitude in the last hour, it was uncalled for but I guess you can see my predicament. I won't be cruel towards you like I was earlier; I promise. Okay? No hard feelings?"

Rynn nodded and hugged his neck for a few moments pressing her face up against his scales, their touch offering some comfort. "Yeah. I know you can be quite thoughtful and kind when you want to be." She paused to take a breath "I must be a real pain in the ass. Its okay, I understand." She said stepping back a little, realising how handsome the dragon looked in the evening sun. He wasn’t that bad; arrogant and bad tempered but deep down she liked him. She looked into his eyes and leant forward to kiss his neck and then climbed onto his back. Arokh's muscles tensed as a sudden feeling of friendship between him and his bonded seemingly came over him. “Ill never hurt you” he whispered, again apologising, wanting the recent bad feeling to be out of his mind.
Rynn wiped away a tear and mounted him. "Lets try the Goblin Lair first, we will explore the islands as we pass over them" she continued as Arokh took off and began to head east.


Arokh roared in pain as an arrow tore through his right wing punching a hole through the leathery membrane. Another quickly followed and hit him just below the stomach, the sharp arrowhead piercing where his scales were the thinnest.
"Argh, right in the crotch!" he yelled looking down and quickly ducking behind a rock to avoid another oncoming onslaught.
"Goblins" he hissed in pain.
"Where?" Rynn said, "I couldn't see anything."
"They are well disguised against the grass, its difficult to make them out from the air. They carry dart or arrow guns typically tipped with poison or flames" the dragon noted strafing to one side so that the goblin came into view. He hurled a couple of fireballs turning it into ash in seconds.
"They are easily dealt with but in numbers they can be dangerous" he commented looking around and landing on the soft grass intermingled with the golden sand.
"Here, pull this arrow out of me" He groaned lying down and rolling over onto his side, his wing outstretched on the sand. Rynn squatted down and crawled under one of his rear legs so she could sit between them; she could see the arrow firmly embedded in him.

"That looks painful, I'm sure that hurts you more than it hurts me" she laughed, trying to add a little humour to the situation.
"I don't think its funny" Arokh growled.
"I can't see it, move your leg a bit. Oh, its broken off!" she exclaimed as she pulled out the arrow noticing the missing head.
"Well, its in there, I can feel it, you will have to reach into the wound and pull it out. The arrowhead must have come off inside me" Arokh groaned again.

"I hope you don't want me to suck the poison out,” Rynn said with a smile, again trying to lighten the atmosphere. She knew full well that the healing potions would cure any poisoning that the arrow may have been laden with.
"Hmm, I think you had better in case it was poisoned. In fact I might even enjoy it." The dragon laughed slightly understanding Rynn's humour. "No. Don't worry, I don't think its poisoned" he laughed again, his attitude towards her now much more pleasant knowing that his life depended on her succeeding in removing the offending object.

Arokh winced as Rynn poked her fingers in, and groped about, she could feel nothing but flesh. Suddenly something metal touched her fingers. She pulled on the short shaft still stuck to the arrowhead as hard as she could so it wouldn't hurt as much and threw it onto the floor. She reached into her backpack and drank a potion of life, Arokh's wound healing before her very eyes.
"Thanks" Arokh mumbled. "I appreciate it, you make a good medic."
"Not a problem" Rynn answered holding on to his leg to help her stand. She walked over to the water's edge to wash his blood from her arm.
"Ill see if there are any more goblins around" Rynn suggested as Arokh rolled over and stood up "Be careful" he said gently.

Rynn walked around the sandy beach and under rocky overhangs looking to see if the goblin had any companions. She found a couple of cases containing a speed bow and some flaming arrows, a couple more health vials were found in nearby barrels.
She swivelled round on the heel of her foot upon hearing footsteps behind her. There, a goblin came leaping up to attack, its green frog like skin gleaming in the still strong evening sun. It held a dart gun in both hands and gave a strange crying noise as it ran up to her. She could see a bayonet attached to the end of its gun.

"Oh no you don't!" she said swinging for the creature with the mace tearing off its left arm. It shrieked and dropped its gun running away with blood gushing from the stump. Rynn did not bother to give chase and returned to Arokh.

"Arokh, look out!" she shouted as a bat dragon came up from behind but it started to attack her, not Arokh!
"Arokh help me,” she shouted as she ran for cover avoiding the icy projectiles from the bat and dragon crossbreed.
"On my way" he assured leaping into the air killing the unsuspecting creature from behind hovering in the air for a few seconds to see if there were any more. He landed beside Rynn who was leaning against a rock to catch her breath. She was a little hurt but didn't bother to heal as she wanted to conserve her dwindling supply of potions.
"Ready?" Arokh said.
"As always" she replied climbing onto his back, the dragon once again heading into the air.

Eventually as they travelled east across the bay, a small cave opening could just be made out under a overhang, slightly obscured by trailing weeds that had grown above and trailed down to the floor covering the entrance. A large stone patio was outside the entrance and damaged stone columns rose up from the patio; obviously a building or temple once stood there further evidence given by the stone blocks strewn around the surrounding area.

As Rynn guessed, the entire place was crawling with goblins and a few bat dragons circled the area. Arokh landed on a clifftop out of sight and Rynn jumped off to stand by his side.
"That must be the lair" Rynn suggested holding a hand to her forehead shielding her eyes from the sun.
"It would seem so, this is as far east we can go, there are nothing but mountains behind. Beyond them is where Drakan city once stood" the dragon remarked remembering a previous journey long ago.

"It seems strange why we are being attacked. Surely if the Succubi wanted me to get the rift crystal, they wouldn't want us to be harmed" Rynn commented remembering the attack on them a few minutes ago.
Arokh nodded "I would have thought so too, but perhaps the Succubi haven't told the Goblins yet; the Succubi's plan must have been thought of in an instant. We were met by them shortly after we came to these lands." Arokh answered in a softer, more gentle voice.
Rynn cleared her throat. "Unless somebody told them we were coming. Did you see anyone or anything manage to get through the gateway whilst you were, ahem, punishing that Wartock? You know after you killed Werokh?" Rynn questioned again.

Arokh scratched the underside of his jaw with one of his front feet and groaned. "I didn't notice, I was too angry. It is possible; they must have thought up the plan there and then but they didn't take into account Rimril's powers."
There was a short silence and eventually Arokh said "Come, Rynn. It would be of benefit to obtain the Amulet and the Bellhammer before nightfall

On the way to the Gobin Lair (Order of the Flame screenshot) click to enlarge

They reached the lair a short while later, Arokh dealing with a couple of aerial threats with practised ease; the bat dragons were almost no challenge to him now that he had the same devastating breath they had. Arokh dodged another arrow and quickly dove down to the ground breathing a cloud of flame as he did so burning several goblins, Rynn hopping off to kill one coming from the side.

"Rynn, make a run for the entrance, Ill deal with the goblins from the air. If I get into trouble, you know what to do" he mumbled talking fast as time was of the essence.
"What? I didn't hear the last part" Rynn shouted as Arokh unleashed another cloud of flame, his tail simultaneously swaying wildly from side to side hitting some goblins coming up from behind and smashing them into the rocks.
"I said, Ill deal with these outside, you go on into the lair. Heal me if I get into trouble" Arokh said this time distinctly louder.
"How will I know you are in trouble...?" Rynn asked but Arokh was already airborne hurling balls of flame at the unfortunate victims below, their cries of pain heard over the boom of Arokh's attacks.

Rynn soon found out as a sudden pain went through her; Arokh had been hit but the arrow simply bounced off his scales, however the flaming arrowhead causing some injury. She healed and disappeared into the goblin's lair.
"That dragon had better be careful, these potions do not grow on trees" she thought to herself.

"It smells like something died in here" she remarked as she entered the cooler interior of the natural cave lit only by torches set into the walls at various intervals. She could hear Wartocks and Grull nearby but couldn't see them. Rynn quickly examined her stash of weapons and potions; she had a feeling it would not be easy. Rynn found that she had two invisibility potions and two invulnerability potions, one health potion and one potion of life. As for weapons, she had the sword of ice, the mace of the hand, a speed bow loaded with flaming arrows and a battle axe, all in reasonable condition.

"I don't need this" She said to herself in the semi-darkness. "I'm tired and I need a bath. I just wish this was all a dream."
She gave a sigh, feeling that she should be more careful due to the lack of health potions and the help
of her dragon companion and began to climb down the ladder leading into the lair.

As Rynn descended into the darkness, a searing pain went through her legs and something hot hit the side of her face burning through the skin in seconds. Rynn quickly wiped the molten substance away with one hand holding on to the ladder with the other. A couple of Goblin archers were sniping at her from alcoves at opposite sides of the cavern the ladder led into.
"Goddam it!" she cursed as an ice arrow embedded itself into her arm freezing the surface skin making her let go falling to the floor and twisting her ankle. The four snipers were continuing to fire, she was a sitting duck.

"I have to get out of here now!" she said pulling herself up. She ignored the pain and tried to run across the stone bridge leading to an entrance to a tunnel a good twenty feet ahead.
"Ahhhhgh!" she screamed as the pain in her ankle set in. An explosive tipped arrow missed her by a few feet but the smouldering debris showered her again subjecting her to small burns on her exposed arms.

Gritting her teeth, she hobbled across the bridge as fast as she could and threw herself into the tunnel entrance pressing herself against the wall to avoid the goblin's line of sight.
Breathing heavily, she reached into her backpack to grab a health elixir only to her horror, find that a couple of potions had been smashed by the fall; the only potions she had now where the invisibility and invulnerability potions. Neither was of any use to her yet as you had to be in perfect health to use them.

"Great, just great. I suppose I will have to keep out of trouble and Arokh had better not hurt himself or I'm dead."
She eased further into the tunnel and a clanging noise sounded; horrified, she saw a large set of swinging blades heading up the tunnel towards her. It would seem that things were going to get a lot harder...

"If I made it once in Arokh's lair, I'll make it here also" she murmured, and tried to choose the best moment to run. She noticed a small room into the wall meanwhile, and decided to take cover there while the spinning blade went by. Just when the blades passed by, she began to run like mad towards the small room. She was nearly there, when spikes from the room wall popped out. It was a deadly trap, but the timing mechanism weak with age – weak enough give Rynn a chance. She could hardly stop, and nearly ran into the spikes. But the clanging reminded her it was a bad idea to stand still there - so she could do nothing else but run, hoping she'll be fast enough to survive. Suddenly she heard the clanging noise of the blades just behind her. Panicking, she jumped. That saved her life - when she landed, the blades stopped and turned back.
"I sometime envy that dragon for not being able to come into such places" she said to herself, and stood back on her feet.


The sound of claws on a dusty surface sounded nearby. Rynn looked in the direction of the sound drawing the ice blade in defence just in time to see a yellow and gold spider like creature creep round a rock inquisitive of the noise she had made.
"A tick" Rynn whispered to herself, as it ran up to her, its claws clicking on the dust covered rocky floor. Rynn lashed out killing the creature in a couple of blows but it managed to embed one of its claws in her leg. She was really in a bad way now.

Slowly, Rynn edged against the wall and made her way around the cave she was now in hoping to keep out of sight of the goblins she could hear nearby. Two barrels sat against one wall, thankfully out of sight but not of earshot of any nearby enemies.
"I hope there is a health potion in there or I'm dead" she thought. She swallowed hard realising she couldn't stand there all day and smashed open the barrels spilling their contents over the floor with an alarming clatter. There, amongst the supplies lay a vial of red liquid.

Rynn drank is contents fumbling about desperately. Some of her wounds were healed but she was still in pretty bad shape and not strong enough to use her invulnerability potions. There was only one way out of this mess and that was forwards; she couldn't face Arokh and tell him it was too difficult to get the amulet nor was she willing to take the risk of going back through the blade trap. She shrugged her shoulders and turned to walk down the only other tunnel leading out of the cave.

Several goblin voices sounded ahead as Rynn came up to a four way junction, ahead was a room full of goblins that suddenly came from a doorway off to the left. A mild panic began in her throat and she turned to run away but paused when an iron gate came crashing down preventing the goblins from reaching her. Somewhat relieved, Rynn looked around to see what her options were, two remaining paths lay open to her and a key could only reopen the now closed gate.

After a short while, Rynn decided to take the left hand path leading into a room full of wine caskets and a flight of stairs leading upwards. There was one goblin on the room who fired an arrow at her missing as she rolled to one side to avoid it. With an angry cry, Rynn ran at the green skinned creature, her ice sword outstretched.

The creature made a stab at her with its bayonet but Rynn blocked the attack with lightning response, her senses were still in good order. With a sideways swipe, she caught the goblin in the arm and quickly ran around to get behind it. However, the goblin proved to have more intelligence than she had anticipated and it quickly spun its gun around and stabbed her in the chest. Angry and now even weaker, Rynn summoned all her remaining strength jumping into the air and landing a downward chop on the goblin's head, spitting it in two.
She wiped the sweat from her brow and collected a nearby health potion drinking it restoring some of her wounds but still not fully reviving her.

"I'd better be careful. Perhaps a stealth approach would be best till I get more health.” She thought to herself as she began to climb the short stone staircase leading out of the room.

The staircase led to a short corridor from which two flights of stairs led one going down and one going up. Rynn carefully stood at the top of the stairs and peered round the corner. Two goblins talking to each other were stood about ten feet from her with their backs turned. Rynn could not understand what they were saying but she decided to listen for a while to see what they would do. She was sure one of them said the word 'Navaros' - a word which she was sure she read in the book found under the village temple earlier that day.

She moved her foot slightly and a small pebble rolled onto the stair below. One of the goblins turned round and Rynn quickly ducked out of sight, luckily the goblin turned away saying something to his companion and both began to walk down the stairs at the opposite end of the corridor.
Rynn breathed a sigh of relief and carefully stepped into the well lit corridor; there were no shadows to hide in. Glancing to her right, she quickly ran up the stairs upon hearing the goblin's return stopping again to look for enemies.

Fortunately, the room the stairs led to was goblin free and appeared to be some sort of armoury. A potion of life was sat atop a wooden box, which she promptly collected an item to be used when she was really low on health. She could manage if she kept out of sight.
The weapons rack provided her with a good choice of weapons to slay her enemies with but she couldn't carry them all. After looking them over for a while, she chose a great sword and a battle hammer, both heavy and slow weapons. She really wanted a lighter, faster sword as heavier weapons slowed her down. Nevertheless, A great sword was not to be sneezed at; it would be more than adequate for slaying goblins whilst staying out of reach of their bayonets.

As she was about to leave the room, she knocked over the weapons rack. Horrified, Rynn stood there a moment to listen. Her clumsiness had attracted the attention of the goblins that were now advancing quickly up the stairs.

Rynn fumbled about in her backpack and reached for an invisibility potion; she knew it wouldn't be as effective if she was injured as lost blood will be still visible. Making a split decision, she drank one of her potions just as the goblins came into the room.

"I could have sworn I heard something,” one said in their local language.
His companion eyed the room suspiciously and eventually said "weapon rack has been knocked over and some weapons are missing, whoever was here has now gone."
Agreeing, the first one replied "Keep your eyes open, we are not alone here."

Meanwhile, Rynn had silently crept past, luckily for her, she was not bleeding and did not leave a trail for her enemies to follow and managed to make it back to the locked gate undetected. The gate was still locked leaving only one path remaining. Smashing a nearby barrel and gaining another fire crystal, she climbed the stairs and entered a small room containing a couple of Grull. One of them was carrying a small key, which had to be the one for the gate downstairs. Easy she thought.

A Grull was no match for Rynn now and she strode into the room, her sword held firmly in her hands. The Grull rose to the challenge but as he walked across the middle of the room, the ceiling above came down and crushed him them slowly retracted! Rynn, stood with her back to the wall was unharmed, so too was the other Grull carrying the key. "That was close. I'd better not rush into things, I almost got myself killed" she thought. The Grull growled and swiped at her with his club but it did not connect as the agile human quickly got out of the way retaliating taking him out with a single blow of the sword. Rynn took the key and carefully crept around the edge of the room, her back to the wall and returned downstairs to the gate.

The room was, as before, still full of goblins. Rynn fully healed herself using the only potion of life she had and grasped the fire crystal in one hand. With the other, she placed the key into the lock and turned it.

The nearest goblin turned round startled upon hearing the noise of the gate opening. He could not believe what he saw. A human! Surely no one would be stupid enough to venture into their lair on their own?

His eyes followed the human as she somersaulted through the air landing right in the middle of the crowd. She took a couple of hits from the dart guns but her heavy armour absorbed most of the damage, then, without warning, a wall of fire began to rush towards him. Aghast, the goblin made a run for the gate but it was too late as he was engulfed in deadly flames, the immense heat causing severe burns to his skin. Clawing desperately at the now closing gate trying to get through, another wall of flame engulfed him and then everything went black.

Rynn stood in the centre of the room admiring her handiwork and searched a couple of nearby chests for the amulet but nothing was to be found. A large wooden door leading to the main part of the lair was at one side of the room but she could find no way of opening it. It looked to her that the goblins had made the ancient ruins their entrance to the lair itself which presumably was underground. The amulet had to be within the ruins somewhere. She walked over to the opposite side of the room walking through another gate which closed with a crash behind her preventing her return.

"Seems I'm not going that way" she mumbled to herself climbing the steep stone steps into the room above. She placed her hand on the damp fungus covered wall and carefully leaned round the corner to watch for enemies. The room was empty bar a single pedestal in the centre with a cage suspended above. On the pedestal was what looked like a small amulet.

"Ah-ha" Rynn commented and crept into the room. Noting the cage above, she walked around the pedestal noticing four vents in the floor from which a strange odour emanated that made her feel slightly dizzy. Several glowing plants lit up the room with a green-yellow light, there were no artificial lights in the room. No-one had been here for centuries.

"Hmm, maybe the Goblins didn't steal the amulet for after all. It was here all the time and it looks like its guarded by a trap of some sort, I wonder how I can disable it?" she wondered.

As she looked around the room, the solution presented itself; one of the stone columns supporting the ceiling had partially collapsed and it could reach the pedestal. If the cage were to fall, she would have a gap to crawl through and escape. She pushed with all her strength on the ancient pillar sending it crashing to the floor, exploding on impact, the cement holding the stones together brittle and useless.

Rynn exhaled deeply in relief when one of the circular stones rolled beside the pedestal and stopped. Taking a deep breath to avoid the fumes from the vents, she ran grabbing the amulet as she went. As expected, the cage came crashing down and the vents began to pour green suffocating gas. Rynn spluttered and covered her mouth with one hand and rolled under the cage, lifted up at one side by the stone.

Coughing violently, Rynn ran out of the room into another corridor, again leading to an empty room bar a fountain by one wall. Rynn was very thirsty and stopped to drink from the wonderfully built stone structure. As she stepped into the water to drink from the central column, she was surprised to find her wounds healing! She drank a couple of handfuls of water revitalising her, making her ready for anything. She stepped out from the water feeling great, no longer tired from the fighting during the night and that morning.

"Now to get back to Arokh. The exit must be around here somewhere" she thought.

Exiting the fountain room, she stopped at the doorway. There, in front of her, were several skeletons scattered on the floor, some human, some Wartock. She could just see several holes in the wall at the opposite end of the corridor. "Another trap! Oh, Arokh, I wish I was you right now" she whispered.
Rynn checked her armour; it was in good condition but she needed protection for her face. Two barrels were to one side; Rynn carefully removed the lid from one making a makeshift shield. She held it up to her face and ran down the corridor as arrows shot from the holes, some hitting home with incredible pain.

Making it through the trap, Rynn healed and came to a lift, large blood covered spikes came up from the floor making it impossible to climb onto the lift without injury. "Bah" Rynn snorted but decided to pull the lever bringing down the lift anyway. It had to be safe; the lift looked recently built, probably used by the goblins themselves.
With a hiss, the spiked retracted as the lift platform came to rest on the muddy floor; rainwater had obviously come down the shaft turning the soil into a slippery mess. Relieved, Rynn climbed onto the lift and it began to take her upwards, towards daylight.

"Arokh!" she yelled as she ran from the lift and out of the small cave into the evening sun. Two goblins came to attack but several balls of flame came hurtling from the sky turning them to ash before they could fire their dart guns. The great red dragon landed nearby and beckoned to his companion.
"Come Rynn, its safe" he said scratching at his neck where a rather nasty wound trickled blood pattering onto the rocks at his feet.

"I'd better get that seen to, but I have no healing potions left" Rynn remarked as she stood by Arokh's side. His great red head turned and fixed her with a glaring eye.
"Did you succeed?" he asked sharply.
"Of course" Rynn said pulling the amulet from her pocket. "Here look."
Arokh smiled and his expression changed into a somewhat more pleasing one.
"Excellent work, Rynn. Now, we must find Alwarren before the Dark Union gets their hands on that bellhammer. I suspect they already know what we plan to do and it will not be easy."

"Maybe, but surely they would want us to succeed. They want the rift crystal but only I can get it" Rynn pointed out.
Arokh blew out a short gust of flame and turned his head to face her again. "The Dark Union has many tricks up its sleeves and its quite possible that they would get somebody else to obtain the rift crystal. Maybe they have changed their minds; I don't know. At the moment though, I guess they have underestimated us and would rather have us killed. The Succubi have a strange way of thinking that beggars belief sometimes."

Rynn nodded. "Lets get going, we should be careful."
"I have something for you" Arokh said with a smile revealing a couple of health vials in his left foreclaw. “What?” Rynn asked wondering what the dragon could possibly give her as a present. "Here" he said as he handed them to her.
"Oh, right I see. Anyway, let’s get that wound healed before you bleed to death" Rynn suggested.
"It’s nothing. Come on, the way to Alwarren should be relatively clear, we can enjoy the scenery" the dragon smiled crouching slightly to let Rynn onto his back.

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