Part 58: Flames

3 to Verdant Sun, Inalis

We’re at another resting point, but only for a short moment. The fortress here is strange and boiling hot. I guess it’s in a volcano. What do I really expect? Everything is awful, though. I don’t have much time to write down what happened here, but let’s say our prayers to the Morninglord, to Kiora, and to any other god we’re serving.

It would be best if I wrote this chronologically. Let’s start with Torag and Shadow.

The two of them went a different way after we dispatched the lizardfolk in the water tunnel, having heard some noises down the path they found. They had wanted to be sure that no other Firewalkers would be coming up behind us. Instead, they found an elderly cyclops. This cyclops was blind. Torag and Shadow approached cautiously,  but the man could smell them. Hungry, it offered them a deal: accept his challenge for an arm wrestling contest. If Torag – for it was Torag who accepted the challenge – could defeat him, the cyclops had in his possession some magical relic that he’d give us. If the cyclops won, he’d eat them. Seeing as no oaths were made, Torag agreed and won!

Shadow tells me that they were not surprised to learn that there was no magical relic. The cyclops instead brought up a club and injured them greatly. Shadow attempted to flee run away, but Torag wouldn’t back down. A few blows later and the blind cyclops was left dead. I think their rivalry for counting finishing blows was temporarily put on hold as both of them dizzily caught up to us much later.

Okay, so here’s what happened to the rest of us. We ended up meeting a cyclops, too, but this one was different. His name is Steros and he’s much kinder than the one Shadow described. Actually, Clio tells me he is a Jancan, a rare family of cyclopes that have a few extra digits on their hands and feet. Steros was a prisoner here (as evidenced by the heavy chain around his feet), forced to craft weapons of war for the Firewalkers. Actaeon was the first of us to approach, and he did so gingerly so as to not scare Steros. Steros, happy to find himself not our enemy, offered to help us if we could get him out of here and help find his father, another Jancan that was taken to the island of the Amazons. 

Briar made quick work of his chain with some water magic while we talked, but something was bothering her. She tells us that she sensed something further in the tunnels and it was “beckoning” to her. I’m afraid none of us quite understood what was the matter, but while she went off to find whatever it was that was calling her, some of the Firewalkers in the hallways saw her and called to their tribesmen. Torag and Actaeon ran to her rescue but they got pinned down pretty fast, surrounded by Firewalkers both large and small. 

Clio helped Shadow get into the fight, too, by casting a speed spell on him. Shadow zipped – that’s the only word I can think of to describe it – across the room into the halls and all I heard from the back was arrows shooting, lizardfolk crying or dying, and Shadow talking incredibly fast. Rendu and I brought up the rear, telling Steros to stay out of sight and arm himself just in case any got past us.

Briar scared us all terribly here. She ran off on her own! Rendu called to her but she didn’t answer, so he followed her. She was being attacked by more Firewalkers but had transformed into a snake and leapt across a pool of magma to a small island in the fire lake. Rendu called to Clio and I to help him. After Torag, Shadow, and Actaeon had finished off the Firewalkers in the halls, they joined us too.

We watched helplessly from a distance as Briar was suddenly surrounded by fire elemental monsters, snakes and salamanders. It happened in an instant. Briar was killed, and there was nothing we could do.

This next part happened fast, too. All I really remember vividly was my own crying and Actaeon screaming. But there was a flash of light over Briar’s burned body, and Damon appeared. Damon, my kin, rescued us. He quickly destroyed the elementals as Rendu brought Briar to us. I remember fumbling through my spell components, desperately trying to find that diamond I created, but Damon stopped me. He pulled from his robes a scroll with symbols matching the tattoo on my friend’s back. And he spoke.

As of yet, none of us but Clio had heard his voice. It was guttural and slow, in a language that I don’t understand. But as he read, the tattoo on Briar glowed, and she took a breath just as her wounds healed. Clio and I sprang onto her, holding her close. I still remember crying. Clio was shaking, both angry and terrified. And then, wordless as before, Damon simply nodded and disappeared, his task apparently done.

Why? We sobbed, cried, and shouted at her. Why did she do this? She ran from the party, splitting us up in the middle of a dangerous fight. Rendu had called to her, but she ignored him. What was so important?

It was a dragon egg. It had been buried underneath fire snake eggs on the island in the fire lake, apparently out of sight of all the Firewalkers. They had no idea it was there. And it called to Briar. All she knew was that she had to find it.

We passed the egg to Steros and gave him a charge to keep it safe. We told him where to find our ship and bade him farewell for now. Before he left, he warned us that there are surely more Firewalkers up above, Krog-tor notwithstanding. And from what we’ve learned, it would be a great surprise to not find a dragon with hm.

Now that we’re on the move again, I spoke to Briar, charging her to never go off on her own again. She is insistent on shouting at Torag and Actaeon when they do the same, and we were all terrified to see her to do the same. None of us were mad at her, I should note. No, we were terrified. Our friend was in danger, and we couldn’t help her. But then she told me something that made me understand her. She just knew it. She knew that the dragon would bond to her. The dragon, Zirconis.