To Catch a Dragon (Part 4)
They followed the shoreline not sure what they were looking for. Perhaps another footprint. A scale. Or even a dragon bathing in the lake.
Instead, they found a handful of deer, a couple of moose, and even a flock of sheep. All which should have been tasty morsels for a dragon, but no such creature was tempted from the sky.
“Any people missing?” Ndrek asked as he glanced over his shoulder at the sheep.
“No. Livestock seem to be accounted for as well.”
“What I felt may not have been a dragon, but whatever it was, it was far more powerful than the lich Sir Marcus destroyed.”
Knight Kailis frowned. “Maybe you just drank too much ale.”
“It takes far more than Tamarian ale to make me fall down drunk.”
“Maybe it was spiked with something.”
“Let’s say it wasn’t spiked ale that knocked him out,” Vaiya said. “And, for the sake of argument, let’s assume it wasn’t a long dead dragon or elven arch mage. What does that leave?”
Ndrek thought for several long moments, then ticked each off his fingers. “A supremely powerful but untrained and undiscovered sorcerer. A magical relic of immense power. A dragon. An elven arch mage.”
“An untrained sorcerer would be hard to hide,” Vaiya said. “They tend to set themselves and those they love on fire while still in the cradle.”
“That leaves a relic.” Kailis frowned. “I suppose it’s possible.”
“And if true, very dangerous,” Ndrek said.
“We’ll spend the next couple of days searching for any additional clues and following any leads the locals can give us. If you sense that kind of magic again, I’ll send an urgent request for back-up to the Dragon Church.”
“And if not?” Ndrek said.
“Then I make a full report and let the Dragon Church decide. Not sure how much manpower they want to spend on this when they’ve got undead walking the streets in the eastern provinces.”
“I would not wish to return to the eastern provinces. Hard to believe, but the food is better here. So is the smell,” Ndrek said.
Knight Kailis shook her head and led them back to town.
Curiosity burned. Ndrek knew something was out there, something of immense power, but not necessarily hostile. If it were, Kelleran would already be dust.
Church protocol bound Knight Kailis, but it didn’t bind him.
He watched the Knight of Valor conduct the investigation with by-the-book precision, but they knew nothing more when they retired for the day than they had at the beginning.
Ndrek lay in bed and studied the whitewashed ceiling. There was something out there. He could almost feel a whisper of its power. Almost.
Perhaps it was his desire to find the source of the magic that he felt rather than anything else, but he had to know.
His companions were asleep when he slipped out of the inn. He didn’t bother with the invisibility or silence spells. If he did find the presence, such magic would be of no consequence to it.
A sliver of a moon lit his path, and Ndrek augmented it with a faint light spell. No point tripping over a rock, and if this was a dragon, it already knew he was coming.
The familiar patter of his heart fueled him, and Ndrek felt himself come alive. His hearing was sharper, his eyes keener, even his sense of smell heightened.
A dragon. An elven arch mage. Something was out there. Waiting for him.
It would’ve been wiser to wake Kailis or Vaiya, but he didn’t want to endanger them. He had to find the truth, but he wouldn’t let anyone but himself die for it.
Ndrek crested the last hill and saw Lake Meade sparkling in the faint light. A man stood shirtless beside the water. His skin was pale as new fallen snow, and his hair shimmered as it reflected the faint moonlight.
“I knew you would come.”
Ndrek’s magelight spell evaporated as the words rumbled over his flesh. The wizard swallowed back the metallic taste of fear as his entire body trembled.
“You are not the one I seek.” The pale man continued to stare across the lake.
“I don’t know. I thought I felt her, but I no longer do.”
Ndrek said nothing as the water lapped the shore. He could feel whispers of the same magic pressing against him, but this time, the magic was contained. Wrapped in strong wards that even now were weaving ever tighter and locking away the power.
The man turned to look at him, and Ndrek felt the weight of a thousand mountains in those violet eyes. Millennia of loneliness, isolation, and longing seared Ndrek’s mind in the time it took a firefly to blink. In the same moment, Ndrek’s soul was laid bare, exposing everything he was and all he wasn’t.
The man turned back to the lake, breaking the link.
Managing to stay on his feet, Ndrek forced himself to breathe.
“Go. You will find no dragon here.”
Ndrek nodded and fled to the inn, never looking back.
Ndrek accompanied Knight Kailis and Priestess Vaiya as they spent seven more suns following leads and looking for signs of a dragon, mage, or relic. They found none.
When Kailis asked him over and over about what he’d felt the night they’d found him on the road, Ndrek deflected, saying that perhaps the innkeeper had given him a stronger drink. Or perhaps he’d reacted poorly to something in the rocks or soil.
Kailis didn’t believe him, but she eventually stopped asking.
Three days after they returned home, Ndrek swore under his breath as Sir Leopold tromped into his bar and dropped payment onto the counter.
The Knight pinned him with his faded blue stare that always saw more than Ndrek wanted. “Knight Kailis thinks you found something but won’t tell her.”
Ndrek collected his payment and dropped it into the folds of his cloak. “You will not find a dragon in Kelleran.”
“Not what I asked.”
Ndrek closed his eyes as the memories flooded him, and even in the quiet warmth of his bar, he shivered.
“You look like you saw a ghost.”
“Those are easy to deal with.”
“What did you find?” Leopold folded his arms and waited.
“Doesn’t matter. It didn’t find what it’s looking for.”
“And what was it looking for?”
Ndrek paused a moment. “I think its mate.”
“Then it’s gone for good?”
“I hope so.” But the prickle down Ndrek’s back warned it was an empty hope.