Seven: The Ruins of Alwarren
They were flying for what seemed like hours but only a good forty minutes had passed since they had left the Goblin lair. The evening sun was still warm and it lit the golden sand below with a warm, pleasant glow.
"This place is beautiful," Rynn said as Arokh landed by a stone ruin killing a couple of Grull as he did so.
"Beautiful but deadly" the dragon answered in a cold tone.
"It’s strange. I could have sworn Alwarren was here, even the ruins should still be standing" he continued thoughtfully looking around the bleak landscape.
"Maybe your long sleep has made you forget" Rynn suggested.
Arokh grunted "No, I am not mistaken, lets see what's down there" he said pointing to where a waterfall ran down a steep cliff to a small circular area of land below.
Without leaving Rynn to answer, Arokh glided down the cliff landing beside the river, which flowed, from the waterfall into a small hole in the rocks. "Arokh. Look behind" Rynn said noticing a large opening in the rocks blocked by ancient looking iron gates.
Arokh turned round to see what his bonded was looking at, the dragon's jaws parted as he instantly recognised what he saw.
"That's it! Its not quite as I remember but its the entrance to Alwarren alright!"
Arokh walked up to the gates with Rynn upon his back. He nudged at the gate with his nose and they slowly creaked open, Arokh then forcing his way though. They walked down the short tunnel and into a large underground cavern lit by strange glowing vegetation and the odd torch or two by the river that flowed through the middle. The sound of crickets and goblin voices could be heard echoing in the distance.
"What happened here!?" Arokh said in surprise "Half of the city is gone."
He cleared his throat and flew into the large cavern hovering for a moment to get aquatinted with his new surroundings. Several torches could be seen at various intervals stuck on spikes in the ground, Grull could just be made out in their vicinity.
Arokh looked to his right and landed by a large iron gate, the words "Alwarren, the city of..." carved into the rock around its perimeter, the last words corroded away with age. Arokh tried the gate but it was locked. Suddenly something startled him. A human, semi transparent like a ghost hovered in the air to his left. A yellow glow spread from around her as she glided down to the sandy floor.
"A soul shadow!" Arokh remarked in surprise.
"Is that what I will turn into if you are killed?" Rynn whispered, herself unsure whether the being was friendly or not.
"Yes" Arokh whispered back, eyeing the soul shadow with concern.
"Welcome, I am what was known as Turi" the shadow introduced herself.
"What happened here?" Arokh asked, wanting some explanation of why the city seemed to be under the ground rather on top of it.
Answering the dragon's question, Turi began to speak. "It was the final days of the Order, I was assigned to protect the city with my bonded whilst the warriors went to fend off the advancing Dark Union forces. Unfortunately, they were all slain and the city was shortly overrun with Grull and Wartocks."
"I see your bonded was killed then" Arokh noted.
Turi continued to explain. "Yes, the war giant, Tutol came with the others to attack the city. In a last ditch attempt, I left my dragon to try and kill Tutol whilst I concentrated on placing barrier seal around the city.” Her eyes looked down at the ground as if she was ashamed. “It was a powerful spell that needed a lot of concentration. The spell went wrong and it resulted in the city being sunk into the ground and sealing my dragon inside the city with Tutol. As you can see, Tutol killed my bonded."
Arokh laughed and said scornfully "Are you stupid? Do you not know the implications of casting such a powerful spell?" He craned his neck closer, his jaws curved into a slight sneer.
Turi was taken aback at Arokh's comment and spoke on a quieter voice. "Yes, I was aware, but... Ah, it does not matter. What is done is done."
Arokh shook his head and fixed her with a scornful gaze. “You were very foolish,” he said quietly.
Turi looked into his eyes and quickly looked away, it was very difficult to outstare the imposing beast. "So, who are you and why are you here?" she eventually said trying not to make eye contact with the dragon.
Rynn tried to say something about Delon but Arokh interrupted.
"It would seem the Dark Union has raised its head once more. I am Arokh, once bonded of the warrior Heron. Together, we managed to banish Navaros to the rift ending the Dark Wars."
Turi glanced up at Arokh’s piercing red eyes, but did not flinch this time. "So, you are the one. I heard the Order was planning a last stand but after my dragon's death, I heard no more of it." The soul shadow said, remembering her last days six centuries ago.
"We need the bellhammer, Turi" Arokh said sternly. "Can you tell me where it is?"
"The hammer is inside the city seal and you will have to break the great spell of protection to enter. I can tell you how to do it but I need a favour first." Turi said flatly, refusing to tell the dragon how to break the seal.
Arokh's eyes showed signs of impatience as he saw that Turi was staring to one side again. "Look at me when I'm talking to you. Don't you have any manners?" The dragon paused for a moment and continued. "I know what you want. You want me to get your dragon's soul crystal so you can earn your rest."
Turi smiled slightly. "Yes, bring me the crystal and I will tell you. My dragon's lair is around these underground caverns somewhere. Its not far."
"Okay, I will do it, trust me" Arokh replied.
"Very well" Turi answered and disappeared in a flash of yellow light.
"Don't you mean WE will get it?" Rynn objected noticing that Arokh did not include her in the conversation.
"I suppose so" Arokh snorted and lifted into the air.
"Pity you couldn't persuade Turi to help us first, we are in a hurry after all,” Rynn said bitterly.
Arokh didn't reply and continued to fly down the canyon firing balls of flame at the Grull below as he went.
Eventually, they came to a fork in the cavern; one path led ahead, over a waterfall and back into daylight, the other went through a large opening to the left. Arokh landed beside the river and bent his neck to take a sip of the water.
"Thirsty?" Rynn asked with a smile.
"Ahh, that's good" the dragon remarked tilting his head back so the cool water could run down his throat. He growled with content as he stretched his wings and plunged his head underwater for a few moments shaking it violently, droplets of water flying off in all directions.
"Feel better?" Rynn asked, "You seemed to be enjoying that."
Arokh let out a long, slow contented growl. "Yeah. Better than sex. There's nothing like a cool drink when you really need one, I was almost drying up."
Rynn placed one hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. Suddenly, Arokh gave a roar of pain and Rynn felt a sharp stabbing pain in her back.
"What was that?!" She yelled.
Arokh whirled round to face a brave Grull who had just embedded his shortsword in the dragon's tail. It cowered in fear when it realised what it had done, the dragon's head coming closer.
"You shouldn't have done that" Arokh snarled and picked up the terrified creature in his mouth sinking his teeth into its un-armoured flesh. Blood ran from either side of his jaws as he opened them again and let the gory mess fall onto the floor. A look of disgust crossed his razor toothed mouth as he turned around again to rinse in the river.
"Bastards!" Arokh snarled examining the wound on his tail. "No matter, we will continue. Which way?" He asked his friend.
"Whatever you think is best Arokh" she replied.
"This way then" the dragon replied turning to walk through the hole in the cavern wall.
hole in the cavern wall led through to another underground part of the area
around the sunken city. Ruins of former buildings that once stood on the
outskirts of the ancient city lay scattered throughout the underground network
of caves and caverns. Some even still had the thick wooden floors intact despite
the length of time they had been there.
Rynn wiped her brow and looked around seeing that the sandy path led slowly upwards to where smoke from a campfire rose from an area above.
"Phew, it’s warm here. Are you warm as well Arokh?" she asked the dragon who was still picking the bits of Grull from his teeth with his tongue.
The dragon swallowed and gave a look of disgust. "Yeah, but I'm not too bad at the moment. My blood temperature has more or less adjusted to the new environment now."
"What? You can adjust your blood temperature!" Rynn exclaimed.
Arokh coughed, his face distorted into a look of discomfort and began to explain. "Well, to some extent. Unlike other reptiles, Dragons have warm blood like humans but we don't sweat quite like you do. To keep cool, dragons simply drop their blood temperature a little to suit the environment but of course there are limits. Also, I can make my scales stand more upright to let out more heat and I will sweat through the soles of my feet to reduce body temperature quickly."
"Oh. Kind of useful huh? Well, remind me to keep away from them in the summer. I don't wish to know what your sweaty feet smell like" Rynn laughed.
Arokh laughed slightly in response noting her humour and walked up the path suddenly stopping when he noticed something.
"Shh, quiet Rynn. Look up there, you can just make out a catapult gun; you know like the ones fired at us in those canyons leading to the mines. It seems they haven't seen us yet."
"Well do something about it then" Rynn hissed.
"Nothing I can't take care of" Arokh grunted and let loose a lethal ball of flame at the catapult which erupted in flames, the Grull operator running for his life.
"Ah, a bit of fun, lets give chase and hunt him down!" Arokh snarled and flew up into the air chasing after the small creature who hid inside a small alcove. Arokh landed outside and reached in pulling the frightened creature out and pinning him to the ground.
"Little Grull thinks he can hurt me" Arokh laughed scornfully as he scratched its face with a claw, the creature letting out a faint cry of pain. Arokh let go and kicked the Grull hard and again pinned him to the stony ground, the creature now letting out a more prominent bellow of pain.
"That's right, scream in pain little Grull, I'm enjoying the sound of it" Arokh laughed continuing to toy with the terrified beast.
"Leave him alone you big bully. Just kill it and lets go" the exasperated Rynn suggested beginning to walk away in the hope that Arokh would give up and follow her.
"I'm only having a bit of fun" Arokh growled.
sighed and began to walk back to him when she realised she was wasting her time
"You can be quite cruel sometimes Arokh" she said seeing what he had done.
"It’s only a Grull, Rynn. You hate them as well don't you?" The dragon asked surprised at what Rynn had said.
"Well, yeah but... Oh never mind,” she said, realising that it was not worth starting another argument. She was beginning to like the great red dragon and deep down she knew he had similar feelings for her too. She also knew that Arokh could be a real nasty piece of work if angered too much and his wild tempers were unpredictable.
"I suppose we should start looking for this lair. It may be difficult to spot due to the recent rock falls so keep your eyes open" Arokh continued as he stamped on the Grull’s head ending its life.
"I will" Rynn answered wearily beginning to walk away again leaving Arokh to follow.
eventually found the lair of Turi's dragon about half an hour later. It lay just
outside the city gates and the soul bound pair met little resistance in the form
of Grull and a few goblins. As Arokh thought, the path leading to the lair was
blocked by a rock fall leaving only a small gap big enough for Rynn to crawl
"Ill have to go alone,” Rynn said, hopping off from the dragon's back.
"Okay, be careful, there still might be loose rocks so try not to disturb anything. With a bit of luck the soul crystal will be intact" Arokh answered from behind, the dragon concerned for her life and in turn his through the bond. It would have been devastating for the world if they failed to obtain the rift crystal.
Rynn nodded and crawled through the small hole dropping into a dark cave lit only by the green glowing plants found throughout the caverns. She could see that the hole in the top of the lair was blocked as well, several rocks lay strewn around the pedestal in the centre of the circular room.
Carefully, Rynn crept up to the structure used for bonding of a human and a dragon. It was made of blue coloured crystal unlike the golden brown colour of the one found in Arokh's lair. In the centre of the pedestal, the soul crystal sat no longer glowing with the dragon's soul and powers. It was dark and covered with dust; it only contained Turi's soul now, the dragon part long gone never to return.
Rynn hastily grabbed the soul crystal and put it into her pocket. Without warning, a flaming spear shot past her making a clink and a clattering sound as it hit the rocks behind. "That sounded familiar" she thought.
Fearfully, she looked up to find two flame knights facing her, the same kind as the one who almost killed her back in the Grimstone mines!
"How am I going to get out if this one?" She thought as she ran behind the pedestal to take cover. She quickly took the speed bow into her hands and loaded it with magic arrows, noting that there was only one quiver left which held ten arrows. The magical projectiles found their targets with deadly precision, not a single one failed. However the knight's strong armour served its purpose and both knights were only partially wounded and still capable of turning Rynn into bloody strips of flesh in seconds.
Rynn grabbed the mace of the hand and ran at one of the knights at a right angle to try and draw him away from his companion. She now had a better weapon than the flamesword but this time there were two knights and it would be suicidal to take both of them on at once. Rynn knew what she was doing; she could use the pedestal and the surrounding rocks to her advantage to get the upper hand of her opponents. Of course, there was the option of running away if fortune were to turn against her, the knights probably would not bother to follow through the small hole.
loud metallic clang sounded as the mace connected with the knight's armour
punching a hole in the metal plates. The knight growled in pain but no blood
seeped from the wound; Rynn could just see that there was no flesh underneath,
just a swirling mass of what seemed like multi coloured fog.
"Arokh was right, they are nothing more than suits of armour possessed by a spirit" she thought as she rolled to avoid one of the knight’s flaming swords. A flaming spear thrown from the other knight missed her leg by a few feet, clattering to the floor harmlessly. The spears continued to rain down albeit more slowly, the knight did not want to hit his companion by accident.
Rynn did a sideways flip and swung the mace round in a wide arc hitting the knight in the leg causing him to buckle a little. He snarled and unleashed his ring of fire attack in a desperate attempt to win the battle.
Rynn saw the oncoming wall of flame and rolled backwards to avoid it then jumping to her feet, leaping over the now diminishing flames landing out of harm's way. The knight who was throwing spears was not so lucky; he was caught right in the middle of the searing flames, which took away a large portion of his life essence.
To Rynn's surprise, the knight turned on his companion and swiftly killed him; he was obviously not best pleased of his companion's stupidity. Taking advantage of the situation, Rynn ran past the knight and up the path leading back to the rock fall. She desperately climbed the few rocks and slid through the hole emerging above Arokh's head.
"Could you help me down?" she said to the dragon who looked up upon hearing her voice.
"Yes, of course. Here, jump onto my back" he replied as he got as close as he could to the fallen rocks. Rynn leapt and landed on the lower part of the dragon's neck and promptly fell off as Arokh lowered his head with the impact.
"Oooff! Could you be more careful!" he said sharply.
"Sorry" Rynn mumbled and dusted herself down. "I have the crystal by the way."
"Ah, good. I'm glad it was still intact. Come on, we should get back to Turi or whatever her name is, we should not delay. Hopefully she should then let us into the city" Arokh continued, pleased that his bonded had not let him down.
"I agree, this place gives me the creeps" Rynn answered climbing onto Arokh's scaly back settling comfortably. She could feel the dragon's powerful muscles moving as he walked to the gateway, the movement of his body offering some comfort; she had nothing to fear whilst sat upon the dragon.
As they neared the gate, it suddenly slammed shut and a resounding click, clunk sound followed as the gate was locked. A lone Grull was seen running away.
"Great. Now what?" Rynn said disappointed. Arokh frowned, he wasn’t so sure, there had to be another way out. He looked around and almost immediately saw the answer.
"There is another way, Rynn. See that gate there?" Arokh pointed out.
"Yeah but that's locked as well" she answered.
"Look more carefully Rynn. Its not that hard to figure out is it?" Arokh laughed.
"I see what you mean now,” Rynn said after a short silence jumping off for a closer look. "The gate is unlocked by that lever at the other side. I could reach through and pull it if I had something long and thin" she continued.
Arokh shook his head and smiled. He placed one foot on her head and forced her round to face a small opening at the side of the gate used for smaller beings such as humans. Back in the city’s heydays, the main gates were typically only used for vehicles and dragons to get through and were normally closed.
"Look" he said bluntly.
Rynn blushed with embarrassment. "I must be blind. I'm not quite myself; I'm tired and worried about my brother."
"Well, you don't seem tired enough to fight. You excel at that” the dragon quickly answered.
Rynn paused for a moment and eventually replied. "Yeah, you are right."
The dragon's foot slid down her head so part of her face was covered obscuring her view. "Arokh, I'd be grateful if you would get your foot out of my face" she objected.
"Oh. Sorry" he replied and placed it back on the dusty floor smiling to himself.
"Wait here, Ill go and open the gate" Rynn said and made her way for the opening in the rocks which brought her out at the other side of the gate.
Quickly looking around for enemies, she pulled the lever and the gates swung open, Arokh walking through to greet her. He made a swipe at the lever with his tail closing the gates and pushed a nearby boulder over the hole in the rocks.
"We don't want anyone following us" he said when he saw Rynn's puzzled expression. Rynn shrugged and mounted him and they continued down the damp moss covered tunnel killing goblins as they went; Arokh belching clouds of flame incinerating anything before them.
A short while later, they came to a small underground lake. It was deathly quiet in the cavern bar the distant noises of Grull and Wartocks; out of harm's way for now. Even the sounds of the toads and other wildlife were silent.
"Rynn, it looks like there is something over there at the other side" Arokh commented noticing something metallic glinting in the faint light.
"Ill go over and have a look" she said jumping off and wading into the cool water bringing some thermal relief; she wasn't used to the warm and humid climate of the Southeast.
Rynn grabbed the object noting the nearby skeleton that was probably the previous owner and returned to Arokh.
"It’s a key,” she said holding it up to show the dragon.
"Oh. Really. Is that what it is?" Arokh said sarcastically. Rynn looked up in anger at the dragon's sarcasm but her expression changed when she realised he wasn't being nasty, rather trying to be amusing.
Smiling, Rynn began to follow the path around the lake towards a stone doorway.
"There must be a lock it works in around here,” she said quietly to herself.
"Ill wait here" Arokh shouted back from where he was standing "If you get into trouble, give me a shout."
Rynn cautiously entered the doorway and quickly stepped back when she noticed the deep pit in front of her. It was difficult to see in the poor light and would have resulted in a messy end if she fell in. A water fountain and a basin were fixed to one wall fed by a channel cut into the rocks leading to the lake above. She was standing in the ruins of a building of some sort, now occupied by Grull and Wartocks going by the sounds nearby.
Creeping round the room, she crept into a stone tunnel as silently as possible, the voices of Wartocks getting louder and a strong artificial light shone from the room ahead. Hoping to go unnoticed, Rynn peered round the doorway into the brightly-lit room in which several Grull and two Wartocks sat on wooden benches talking and laughing. Several chests and boxes were set against the walls. Noticing a small gate blocking a small alcove set into the wall, it seemed obvious that the key she held unlocked it, which would reveal the chest behind.
Carefully, she thought of her best tactic, she had found a fire crystal with three charges, which was found earlier near the Dragon's Lair and it seemed the logical weapon to use. The mace would finish them off. She drew a sharp breath and grabbed the fire crystal in one hand and the mace in the other and ran into the room.
battle was short lived but Rynn was seriously injured in the fight and drank one
of her limited supply of health potions. Panting, she placed the key in the lock
and as she guessed, the gate retracted into the ceiling and the top of the chest
opened revealing its contents. Rynn reached in and pulled out a worn axe and
examined it closely; it was a magical weapon of some sort given away by the
crystal embedded in the handle.
"This has been locked away for a reason, I wonder what it does" she wondered adding it to her collection throwing away a shortsword to make room.
Rynn turned and made her way to where she came into the ancient building but stopped dead when she heard footsteps of something large coming her way. Whatever it was, had stopped outside; too big to fit through the doorway.
Rynn's heart was now racing, he hoped it was not another giant, she feared them the most. Carefully, she edged around the room trying not to attract attention to herself, wiping her brow as a mild panic set in.
Rynn gulped and walked out of the doorway to come face to face with her bonded companion.
"Oh, its you" she said as she breathed a sigh of relief.
The majestic beast looked her over and smiled. "I thought I'd see what you were up to."
Rynn swallowed and leant against a rock. "I thought you were a giant!"
"Do I really make that much noise?" Arokh laughed.
Rynn didn't answer and climbed onto his back. "Ugh you are all wet" she exclaimed as she settled in-between his shoulders.
"Well, I thought I'd take a bath while you were gone. I was starting to smell a bit and that blood was a mild irritation to my scales. I found it was very refreshing" he answered.
"Oh right. Something I'm looking forward to when this is all over; a bath" Rynn grunted as the dragon began to walk back up the path, this time following the other fork in the path ahead.
The path eventually brought them out in an open clearing and as they emerged from the tunnel, they were immediately attacked by a War Giant and two catapults. Arokh made short work of the catapults but the giant was somewhat more of a challenge, hurling razor sharp axes at frightening speed.
The dragon circled the beast avoiding its projectiles getting his own attacks in whenever he could. He chose ice as his breath weapon as it was certainly the most powerful he had at that moment.
Soon, the war giant froze solid and Arokh stopped to hover in front.
"Do you want the pleasure?" he asked his rider.
"Aye." Rynn answered firing an arrow into the frozen beast shattering it into hundreds of pieces.
"What the hell was that?" She asked. It looked to her like the giant she encountered earlier but it had tough, grey rhino like skin instead of brown fur and wore orange coloured armour on its arms and legs. As always, Arokh knew the answer.
"A War Giant. Basically a more powerful variant of the standard Giant but these have been genetically modified to be stronger. Tutol is a War Giant as well, you know the one which Turi spoke of?" The dragon explained.
"Yeah" Rynn replied. "Talking of which, I think this waterfall leads back down to the city entrance."
it was only a matter of minutes before they arrived back at the city gates, Turi suddenly appearing before them like before.
"Ah, you have found it! I never thought I would see that again" the soul shadow exclaimed.
"Well, now what?" Rynn snapped impatiently.
"I want you to do one more final thing" Turi continued. Rynn's shoulders sank in exasperation at the thought of traipsing through more overgrown, dark and dangerous ruins when she had better things to do.
"Place my soul crystal onto my remains and I will open the gate. I will then be able to earn my rest" Turi pleaded.
"No problem" Rynn said jumping off Arokh and walking over to where a human skeleton lay on the ground surrounded by a blue aurora. Carefully she placed the crystal onto the bones and the blue glow was absorbed into the crystal then it shattered and dissolved.
"You have freed me!" Turi shouted as the city gate swung wide open. "The gates are now open. Now, before I leave this world, I must warn you of the perils inside. Tutol has only had hunger and madness as companions and he will be very dangerous. His masters gave him powers to be able to live for centuries without food or water. Be careful."
"Okay, I will" Rynn answered flatly. “And good luck” she added in a kinder voice as she suddenly felt that she had been rude and unforgiving of Turi’s situation.
"Very well, farewell Rynn, Arokh. You know what to do. Collect the six barrier seal runes and place them in the city seal. You will see it when you get there, you can't miss it."
Rynn nodded and uttered a quiet "goodbye" as Turi faded never again to return.
and Arokh entered the city, noticing almost immediately that the first rune was
straight in front, on a pedestal, surrounded by fire spouts emitting searing
flames that would kill in a matter of seconds. However, some were blocked by
pieces of rock that could have fallen from the ceiling. Rynn glanced at her
bonded. "This one seems easy. Hold here a bit while I go get it."
"Watch out." Arokh replied "It may appear to be simple, but looks can be deceiving."
"Well, that's why you're here; to cover my back." Rynn commented with a smile, as the red dragon murmured something and watched the young girl while she walked through to the pedestal.
She approached it with caution, trying to figure what kind of traps could be waiting for her, until she almost could touch the blue stone with her hands. Remembering that she could not waste much time in working on techniques to take a stone of a pedestal, while her brother could be suffering the worst of luck, she grabbed the rune with both hands and quickly dodged aside, in an effort to avoid any trap... that didn't occur. Just when she was beginning to place the rune on her backpack, she heard Arokh shout "Rynn! Behind you!” and a flaming spear grazed her left leg, burning through leather and burning her skin. Rynn screamed in pain, dropped her backpack, grabbed her mace of the hand and turned around to face a flame knight that had already readied his two swords. She began walking in his direction, but Arokh advised her to get out of the way, and shot a couple of fireballs that reduced the knight to nothing.
"Thanks, Arokh" Rynn said when the dragon arrived near her.
"You're welcome. How's your leg?" the dragon asked.
"Not bad, but it could be better" she replied, grimacing in pain when she touched the wound.
"Well, what now?" Arokh said.
Rynn looked around, and noticed that the only way out, besides a opening on the far wall closed by the blue barrier, was a downward slope that let to a man made stone corridor.
"I'll have to go alone from here. I don't think that that tunnel is wide enough for you..."
"Are you calling me fat again?" Arokh raised a eyebrow.
"No, no, it's not that, just the ceiling is too low for you to walk through this tunnel."
"Hmm, alright then." The tone of his voice lowered and when he saw Rynn heading to the opening shouted after her "Aren't you gonna leave some stuff behind, to make space for the runes and the Bellhammer?"
"That's a good idea, Arokh" Rynn nodded and walked back to him dropping all but her mace of the hand and healing potions at his feet. “Look after them for me” she said as she ran back towards the path leading down into the ruins.
will” Arokh said but Rynn was already out of earshot.
The tunnel's inclinations were a bit high, so the young woman just slid down into the corridor, standing up where the ceiling was higher. As soon as she stepped on in, she felt the rocks under her feet beginning to fall and stepped back quickly. She noticed a scavenger in front of her, hissing and already threatening her with his blood-covered claws. Sighing, she ran as fast as she could with the mace in her hand avoiding the loose stones, immediately delivering a hit on the creature as soon as it was within her reach. The abomination didn't last long, and when it collapsed, she cleaned the sweat on her forehead and rested for a minute or so.
Rynn continued her trek through the derelict ruins of Alwarren, the Succubi
queen was getting impatient.
"Why are they taking so long?" Queen Shilla snapped as she sat down on her throne, her bat like wings folded at her side. A long silence followed, only the distant echoes of tortured human screams could be heard in the distance.
The silence was eventually broken as a Ebon knight stepped forward and bowed, a large red sword hung from his belt which gave off a barely audible moaning sound.
"I guess they have run into difficulties. The Wartocks we sent to tell the forces in the city of Alwarren that we want the human and the dragon alive have failed. They were killed by the dragon himself" he drawled from within his steel suit.
Shilla gave an impatient sigh. "Stupid Wartocks. I knew I shouldn't have trusted them; I guess we are lucky that the human is still alive. Its too late for us to mount an assault on them now as our forces are severely weakened; we underestimated the human's strength."
The knight nodded. "I will go and warn our troops myself" he said politely, bowing again and began to make his way to the exit.
"No! Wait!" Shilla shouted after him. "I have a better idea. For now, we might as well cut our losses and just hope that the human retrieves the bellhammer. Once she enters Rimril's tower, her dragon and Rimril will have a nasty surprise in store for them."
"What will that be my queen?" the knight asked with a smile.
"Wait and see. Wait and see" Shilla answered with a shrill laugh, which filled the throneroom with the horrible sound.
For them, it seemed that everything was going to plan; Rynn had already collected five of the barrier rune keys and was almost about to reach the sixth.
carefully tread on the loose rocks under her feet, placing her hand on the wall
to steady herself. Ahead, the stone corridor she was in opened out to a large
chamber, with ruins of buildings on either side. She could see the light from
the last rune glowing in the dimly lit cave.
With a final jump, she made it into the chamber and walked over to the sixth rune. Like the others, it was surrounded by spouts that gushed searing flames only this time there was no way to avoid them. The previous one was easy; she only had to smash a nearby sink flooding the floor and putting out the flames, but no such luck this time.
She looked around the chamber; it was obviously a street of the ancient city as the rotten remains of wooden built houses stood on either side, most covered in rocks and mud. Ahead, the 'street' ended where some steps led up to an old temple of only which the front was visible. One of the doors lay to one side and stones and soil blocked the entrance to the interior. A broken statue of a dragon sat atop a stone column at one side of the steps, its counterpart at the other side totally collapsed.
Rynn shuddered as a cold shiver went up her spine, thinking what happened to the inhabitants of the city at that fateful moment when Turi's spell went wrong. Most of the houses would have been inhabited.
The weary woman sat down on the steps for a moment to tighten her bootlaces, watching for enemies but the place was silent apart from the noises of the insects and wild animals that had made Alwarren their home for the last six centuries.
Getting to her feet, Rynn noticed that the remains of a circular stone column rested at the top of the stairs, directly in the path of the pedestal.
"Hmm, I wonder if I can move that" she whispered to herself thinking that the stone might be able to knock the rune from its resting place.
Rynn climbed the stairs and pushed the heavy stone that surprisingly moved easily despite its weight and it crashed down the stairs rolling across the chamber floor and right into the pedestal knocking the rune onto the floor.
"Yes!" Rynn cried with surprise and happiness. She walked over to the rune and pocketed it.
"Now to find the city seal" she remarked as she walked between the remains of two houses towards the blue aurora covering the City Square, which emanated a low humming sound from the energy keeping it in place.
The seal was not hard to find; Turi had placed the runes more or less on a circular path through the ruins and the barrier seal lay at one end of the main street leading into the city square. Rynn scrambled down some fallen rocks to a large marble slab in the floor, the Order's insignia carved into the surface. Six pedestals were on the marble on top of where the jewels would normally be on the Order's symbol.
Rynn suddenly noticed that the locket she wore around her neck bore the same symbol; the locket was given to her by her mother a long time ago and she had said it once belonged to a warrior of the Order but Rynn did not believe her. She suddenly realised her mother was probably telling the truth.
Pondering for a moment, remembering her mother so cruelly murdered by Wartocks, Rynn began to place the runes onto the pedestal and the humming suddenly stopped as the barrier dissolved. Outside, Arokh looked up from where he was sitting and began to make his way into the city. Rynn paused and began to walk up the main street towards the belltower noting the skeleton of a dragon nearby which she assumed was the remains of Turi's.
Rynn could see the dragon coming towards her, his head held high and his majestic body swaying gently from side to side as he walked. It appeared to Rynn that he walked slowly as if he had all the time in the world.
They met each other in the Town Square next to the belltower. Arokh tried to speak but Rynn interrupted him.
"Its about time you showed up!" she said angrily.
Arokh was taken aback for a moment and at first; he thought his bonded was joking but realised she wasn't when he saw the look on her face.
"What! How did you expect me to get through the seal, hmm? Maybe you should have completed your tasks quicker, there was nothing I could do until you brought down the barrier" he said quietly, he was clearly angered but not furious.
Rynn realised that the dragon was correct but did not reply.
"Well, if you are not too busy, perhaps you should think about getting that bellhammer. We want to avoid Tutol at all possible" Arokh continued, anger still in his voice.
"Don't be stupid Arokh. Turi must have lost track of the time she has spent down here. Nothing could live that long, there is nothing left of Tutol but dust and bones" she snapped.
Just then, a low growl sounded nearby, like a large creature stirring from a heavy sleep.
"Oh yeah? Look" Arokh growled as he nodded his head in the direction of where the sound came from.
leapt into the air with his powerful hind legs just as a large axe hit the
ground where he had been stood. Arokh began to circle round Tutol so he could
attack from behind but the interior of the cavern made it somewhat difficult.
"Two of us would be better, help me out here" Arokh shouted after shooting several bolts of ice into the immense creature's body.
"Now Rynn. Use your arrows, aim for his eyes if you can" Arokh yelled again, his voice showing the strain of sudden manoeuvres to avoid Tutol's projectiles.
"Good idea" Rynn answered and shot an arrow at Tutol's head as Arokh came round to face him. Unfortunately it wasn't good enough; the arrow bounced off the war giant's tough rhino like skin and fell to the floor useless.
"Its no good, they aren't sharp enough" Rynn muttered as another axe sailed past her ear.
Arokh tried fire this time, engulfing the lower half of the creature's body in flames. Tutol roared in pain and anger desperately trying to take cover. Arokh tried again, this time severely weakening his foe but he wasn't quick enough to see Tutol throw another axe; all that Arokh saw was an axe emerging from the firestorm in front of him and hitting him squarely in the face.
A deafening roar filled the cavern as Arokh reeled in pain, hovering in the air for a moment dazed with the impact. Tutol gave scornful laugh like one would when about to kill an inferior being and came ambling over, his face drawn into a hideous grin. Rynn, also dazed by the impact still had just enough strength to fire one last arrow straight into the creature's open mouth penetrating the soft skin tissue and embedding itself into the brain.
Tutol didn't even groan; he simply fell backwards and crashed to the ground, his long life finally at an end.
"Phew, that was close" Rynn coughed.
"What do you mean? He got me" Arokh groaned covering his nose to help stem the blood. He was cut short by the sound of a large rune appearing out of the ground next to Tutol's body, like the one produced upon an elder breed dragon's death.
"Arokh, is that...?" Rynn whispered.
"Yes, Tutol must have indeed been a powerful creature. He must have absorbed Turi's dragon's rune. Usually only magi, wizards and Elder Breed dragons produce such runes." Arokh noted, his voice muffled by the blood collecting in his throat.
"Here, drink a health potion, I don't have the strength to fly up to it" the dragon mumbled.
"Sure, hang on" his bonded replied, drinking a potion after pulling one from her backpack. Rynn wondered how many more of the potions she could drink; she was sure she was hearing things, possibly a side effect. Nobody she knew had drunk as many as she had since the attack on her village and she was sure somebody had told her there were side effects of drinking too many in a short period of time.
With Arokh's strength and stamina partially restored, he flew up to absorb the rune gaining the breath weapon of lightning and fully restoring his health at the same time. He glided down to the floor and looked over to the bellhammer and back to his human friend.
"Lightning. A very powerful breath weapon indeed while it lasts" he growled. "Come on, grab that damn hammer then we can get out of here."
"Nothing would please me more at this moment" Rynn shuddered walking over to the partially submerged tower to take the hammer from its pedestal. She only had to climb a short ladder to reach her goal.
Carefully she examined the ancient long handled hammer. "I'd better be careful with this. It looks like it will break at any moment" she noted as she ran her hand down the rotten wooden handle.
"As long as it holds out just to hit the bell in Rimril's tower that’s all that is needed. Now, let’s go. We can stop off at the various islands on the way to the tower if you wish to explore" Arokh reassured her dipping to let her onto his back.
"Ill see" Rynn nodded and together, the pair of them left the once vibrant city collecting Rynn’s dropped weapons as they went and began to head back the way they came to Rimril's tower where Rynn's abilities would be tested to the full.