The Council of Twelve was meeting and as both Storgar and Brenlena were not just members, but Speakers, Durrak was in attendance. He wore the formal grey tabard with the thread of gold embroidered sigils of his lineage marching up the breast, mother’s family on the left and father’s family on the right. They were both proud and ancient; the tabard was heavy with the weight of his family history. Each of the other Twelve Clans had their own representatives who would speak here, but this time his mother had the honor of being the first heard.
She was standing at The Stone and addressing the assembled dignitaries, so Durrak was required to stand close, holding a tankard of ale in case she needed to wet her throat. It was silly, neither of his parents had ever taken the offered drink, yet here he had to stand. He hoped Brenlena was almost finished, he was exhausted.
“Krrakathanak is dangerous and needs to be stopped!” She was saying, “He has already laid waste to nearly one hundred square miles of mountain range and he is moving this way. Rumor has it that he is searching for a mate, and a breeding pair of black dragons is not something we want to have within a hundred leagues of here.”
Brenlena stood back from the podium two steps to signal she was finished and ready for any questions and reached out her hand. Startled, he thrust the tankard into it so quickly he almost slopped some over the side. She was resplendent in her Mithril chain and Adamantine breastplate. He was proud to see that she also wore the Fullblade he had forged for her slanting across her back.
“A rousing speech as always Speaker, but who is it that will lead this mission?” Durrak couldn’t see the questioner and didn’t recognize his voice, “Your duties are with the Kings Own Guardians and they must not leave the fortress.”
“I will lead it.” Storgar’s voice boomed out into the cavern. “Any who has the fortitude to follow me is welcome to prove themselves regardless of rank or station.”
Stunned silence greeted this pronouncement. None had expected a volunteer and even fewer had thought it would be a Dwarf with a long lineage and no need to prove himself with deeds of daring and valor. Storgar was a well-established battle general, having led many raids against goblin and orc in addition to having a noble family history.
A great shout rang out from outside the council chamber. More than a hundred voices raised in a war chant. Durrak shuddered, wondering how many of them would die, wondering if any of them would return.
“I call for the runes!” The voice of Cairnara, Head Speaker cut through the noise and everyone fell silent as a door opened and the bent shape of the Moragainnag shuffled out. The raven on her shoulder seemed to stare directly at Durrak, although he knew it was just his imagination.
She reached the edge of the Stone where a crystal pedestal with an iron bowl resting on top stood. Reaching into the bowl, she picked up the handful of stone, bone and carved gem runes that rested there. The raven ruffled its feathers and croaked as she threw them into the air.
“Death.” The Moragainnag said, “Triumph. Annihilation. Fate. The runes have spoken.” This was the first time the results had been so unclear. Silence reigned completely now, everyone waiting to hear what would happen.
“I call for a reading if we do not go.” Storgar said. Although he didn’t raise his voice it was clearly heard throughout the entire chamber.
The raven croaked again and pecked The Moragainnag on the cheek before she reached into the bowl and picked up the stones again. She tossed them again and stared into the bowl. Shaking her head, she picked them up and threw them again, but this time most of them jumped out of the bowl, landing face down on the floor.
She turned an ashen face to look at the assembly. “Death. Destruction. Doom. Chaos. Annihilation. Damnation.” Breaking all protocol, she turned to Storgar and pointed her gnarled finger at him, “I charge you Storgar son of Glardin to go forth with any who dare to join you and bring this dragon to his final rest. If you do not, all is lost.”
She hobbled out of the cavern, leaving the runes sitting on the floor. The raven on her shoulder caught Durrak’s eye and held it until they passed out of the chamber. He swore he could still feel the bird’s eye on him even after it was gone.
A low thrumming sound that seemed to permeate through her whole body greeted Callindra when she awakened. Her entire body felt like she had been beaten with a burning stick. She tried to open her eyes but it felt like a labor of years.
“What happened? Tryst? Are you there?” She whispered through dry lips, as anxious fingers felt around for her sword. No answer was immediately forthcoming and she struggled to rise, only to find that she had been strapped to the bed.
“Hey!” She croaked, forcing her eyes open. The room was tiny, with barely room for the bed and a small table. Relief washed over her when she saw Brightfang sheathed and resting on the table, his pommel stone glittering in the light that streamed through the porthole on the wall.
With a determined effort, she wiggled an arm free and unbuckled the restraint across her chest and then the one across her hips. They weren’t tight she realized, more just tight enough to keep her from sliding out of the narrow bed. The room lurched and Callindra remembered that she was on a ship. A flying ship.
Before she could get out of bed, she had to brush out the yards long tangle of her hair and carefully braid it. Callindra had learned the hard way that if she didn’t, it would quickly get impossibly tangled and while at first she had found its length to be an annoyance she had gradually become accustomed to it. It even seemed to be a bit of a badge of honor to her now, although she wished it would stop growing.
Her pack was at the foot of the bed and she rummaged for fresh clothes since all she had on were smallclothes. A line of neat stitches ran down her thigh where her wayward sword had dug into her during her tumble across the deck, but the magic of Jorda’s gift had healed her, likely with some help from Tryst. Only a thin scar remained where the deep slash had been.
“All the trouble I go through for you.” She grumbled, giving the leather wrapped hilt of her slender blade a dark look. His pommel stone glittered, but it was probably a trick of the light. A sound outside the door made her react instinctively, taking a smooth step to the table, stripping the blade from his sheath and poising by the side of the door ready to strike.