Find part one here.
Ari sat in a crowded tavern in the small southern village of Umbleton considering his options. The clatter of dishes and roar of voices washed over him. Umbleton was about a day’s walk from Everness and the locals had definitely noticed the smoke that had been rising in the distance for several days as the city burned. Gossip was rampant but apparently no one had been brave enough to go investigate. Ari heaved a sigh as he regarded the tankard of ale in front of him and shook his head at the cowardice and selfishness of most people. Maybe the residents of this tiny coastal village weren’t concerned, but he was. He was very concerned.
In another life Ari would have been a king. His family had traces of dragon blood in their veins. That was the story anyway. He knew he could sense things that others could not. He could track a dragon with those extra senses. And track dragons he did.
Dragons had fled the boundaries of his homeland long ago. They had flow over mountain ranges and across oceans, they had flown over forests thick and impassable, they had flown across continents. They had settled in some of those places. Mountain tops too high for people to scale, remote islands too far for people to sail to, in caves and treetops in forests too thick for people to push into. For the most part, they had left people alone. And so the legends faded into fairy tales, children’s fantasies, and stories. No one actually believed in them.
Except the Dragon Hunters Guild. The guild was small and secretive. Secretive for good reason. The secrecy wasn’t so much to protect the dragon hunters from scorn and derision as much as it was to protect stupid humans that might actually believe and go looking for one and get themselves killed.
But now people were getting killed anyway. Three villages in three months, Northern Greys in southern regions, something was very, very wrong.
He had stood facing the Ridgeback Mountains, watching the Grey until it flew out of sight and then he had used his other sight to survey that mountain range. What he found was terrifying.
Dragons, and lots of them. Many of them far from their natural habitats. What were they doing there? Why were they gathering? How were there so many? Of course, when dragons had left it was to go and grow and replenish in secret. It would seem they had been successful.
His musings were interrupted by the arrival of an older man, ancient by some measures. Poradel arrived cloaked and hooded as was his wont. Without a word he pulled the chair opposite of Ari and lowered his creaking body into it. Ari watched as the old man twisted and shifted and settled himself into the seat. Only then did he turn to acknowledge Ari, lower his hood and glance around in annoyance.
“This better be important,” he practically snarled as he glanced around the room, “I hate people. But since we are here, where’s my pint then?”
Ari motioned to the serving girl, he held his tankard up, pointed to it then to Poradel. She nodded and headed back to the bar.
Ari knew better than to try to speak to the mage until the tankard was in front of him. Tipping the girl, he motioned with a jerk of his head for her to leave. He needed privacy for this conversation.
After a long quaff, the tankard clattered to the table and the old man sighed in satisfaction while wiping away the wetness from his white and grey streaked beard.
“Now boy, what do you want?”
“Nice to see you too Uncle Del.”
“Bah! You want something.”
Ari sighed. Poradel had no patience for the niceties of polite society. He wasn’t his really his uncle as much as he was his great-great uncle. Not that family ties mattered to Del. He was a hermit, a grouch, an anti-social asshole truth be told. But he was also a brilliant magic user, and Ari needed his help. Plus, he didn’t know anyone else in this part of the country.
“I need to contact the guild-“ he started.
“Send a letter!”
“Quickly.” He finished.
“Rent a carrier pigeon, they fly between here and all the major cities.”
“I need to contact everyone at once and I need to do it tonight.”
“Because the Ridgeback Mountains are full of dragons.”
Del regarded him for a bare moment, then nodded curtly.
“Ok then. My cottage, two hours, I’ll have the spell ready.”