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The Firedrake Dragon
Snagin looked around wearily. His current predicament was quite disturbing. It wasn't every day that a halfling sneaked into a dragon's lair by himself. This particular lair was deep in the Firedrake Mountains. He had already had to negotiate his way past several raiding parties of mountain giants in the night. The Firedrake Mountains were no place to travel in alone, especially at night. Going into the lair of the dragon which the giants worshipped as a god was an even more insane thing to do. Snagin just couldn't help it. He'd been a thief his entire life, and the thought of all that gold and other treasures that awaited him were just too much temptation.
The cave around him was cut out of volcanic rock. Much of the walls and floor were made of obsidian. In several places, large razor-sharp stalagmites stuck up from the floor. They somehow looked to be unnatural, as if someone or something constructed them, as their locations seemed more calculated then the randomness of Mother Nature would normally allow. Looking closer, Snagin's suspicion was correct. On a slight slope going up, he could see a minute crack in the ground where part of the obsidian floor was loose. If someone who wasn't paying attention walked on that spot, the floor would give way, causing them to slide down the slope straight into a group of five stalagmites. This would no doubt impale them to their deaths. If that didn't do it, then the rockslide that resulted from the broken floor would surely finish the job. This was quite interesting. He'd heard that dragons sometimes set traps in their lairs, but he never believed it until now. This particular dragon was of the red variety. Red dragons were some of the most sinister creatures in all of Derlith. This dragon, luckily, was not very old, as it had yet to be given a name. If a dragon were very old or even ancient, they would usually have infamous names known throughout the land. Apparently this dragon had just recently migrated here, killed a few mountain giants, and gotten itself named a red-winged god of sorts. Unfortunately, this meant that the dragon wouldn't have a huge horde like some dragons of legend. Snagin didn't care anyway. If it was a huge horde, he couldn't carry the treasure out with him and would have to get help. Then he'd have to split the prize, and that just wouldn't do.
Snagin decided to try and bypass the slope leading up to the next chamber of the cavern. He could see a slight glowing there and could smell smoke. Looking up along the cavern's ceiling, he noticed that there were two or three small holes high up on the wall. The cavern wall was very rough, allowing him to find several handholds leading up to the top. Even so, Snagin wanted to be sure he didn't fall. Falling wouldn't be a good thing for him. This was not because of the harm it might cause him from broken bones and such but because of the noise it would cause. A few broken bones would be a light price to pay next to being devoured by an angry red dragon. Reaching into his pack, he got out some clawed gloves used for climbing rock. He'd made them himself some time back and was quite proud of them. In addition, he got out a small grappling hook attached to a long hemp rope. Before he decided to continue, he determined he needed a snack. Raiding dragon's lairs was hard work, and what better a place then a red dragon's lair would there be to have lunch? Sometimes Snagin amazed even himself as he laughed and got out some beef jerky and started to eat it.
The mouth of the cave was a rather disturbing sight to see. All around it were half-eaten charred carcasses and mountain giant skulls. It smelled terrible. Sid watched as two ugly mountain giants tied a giantess to a large metal pole that had been put there. Before they left, each of the filthy creatures had their way with her in turn. Obviously she was to be sacrificed to the dragon, but Sid was oblivious to all of this. He had heard that a dragon had moved into the area - a young dragon. Young dragons were the best since they didn't have much gold. Sid despised gold. Everyone thought that copper was the most worthless metal in all of Derlith. Why wouldn't they listen to him when he told them it was the richest substance ever made? The thought disgusted him. Indeed young dragons didn't have gold. What they did have was copper, and a lot of it. Sid decided that dragons were stupid creatures, since the older they got, the more gold they seemed to collect. A silly notion, he thought. Never mind all of the damn fools in the world. All the copper would be his, and one day he would show them all.
"Heh!" laughed Sid aloud at the notion of his future glory.
As the two giants moved away, Sid emerged from the underbrush he was hiding in. He had no fear of the giants detecting him, as he knew how afraid they were of the dragon, and he knew they would be running as fast as possible back to their village. Moving in a slight crouch, he made his way up to the cave entrance. The giantess was startled to see him there, and he knew she would have screamed out had the giants not gagged her and beaten her almost to her death. Sid found it amusing that his head was even with her mid-thigh. He cackled as he stood there, looking at her at all possible angles. Then with an insane look in his eyes, he drew out an obsidian dagger. The giantess gave a small start at the sight of the weapon.
"You know what? I'm going to kill the dragon and steal all his copper, and you can't have any," he said with a laugh.
Sid slowly circled around behind the iron pole and stood on his tiptoes in order to reach the rope that was tying the giantess's hands behind her back. With a single slice, he cut the bonds. The giantess collapsed to her knees, being very weak from her ordeal. She looked at Sid and spoke something to him in the language of mountain giants. Sid looked at her incredulously.
"NO. You can't have any. It's all mine. I don't care if you do know the dragon personally and were waiting here for him, " he said.
Of course, Sid had had no idea at all what the giantess had said. But that didn't matter. He knew what she wanted. She wanted his money. As Sid was musing as to what to do about her, a loud roar erupted from the cave entrance. The giantess, hearing the roar, suddenly seemed to gain all of her strength back from fear. Standing up, she ran from the cave entrance as fast as she could into the night. Sid looked at her run and wondered why, scratching his head. Everyone knew dragons roared?!
Snagin almost choked on the bit of cheese he was eating. That was the loudest thing he had ever heard! The roar had shaken the entire room he was in. He had a sudden urge to run for his life in any direction possible away from that roar. Taking a deep breath, he let that pass. The thought of all that gold was too much for him to run away from. Suddenly, he heard a noise at the entrance to the next chamber. Snagin quickly darted into the shadows behind a large stalagmite. Looking across the chamber at the entrance, he saw a very large reptilian head at the end of a long neck appear. The dragon's eyes were yellow and had an erie glow about them. In its mouth were several very long and pointy teeth, most of them almost as big as Snagin's arm. The dragon stuck its head into the chamber, turning its head left and right slowly, sniffing. Just then Snagin looked in horror as he saw that he must have dropped some dried meat where he had just recently eaten. His heart jumped. If that dragon realized he was here, he would shortly be burned alive. The dragon inched forward, bringing itself through the entrance with first one taloned arm and then the other. Despite its huge size, the reptile moved with the grace and quickness of a cat and easily bypassed the rockslide trap it had set up. The dragon moved slowly toward the entrance of the cave out of the chamber, apparently not noticing Snagin's presence. Breathing a sigh of relief, the halfling waited until the dragon was safely around the corner. Then, moving quickly and silently, he made his way to the entrance to the other chamber. The dragon wasn't the only creature that could move like a cat. When he got to the rockslide trap, Snagin completely passed it, using part of the wall next to the trap to get by. To anyone that saw it, it would have looked like he had run sideways along the wall. Snagin decided that since the dragon's attention was obviously outside, making a break and risking the trap was best for him. He didn't want to be caught in the middle of climbing to the ceiling should the dragon return. Snagin determined that would be very soon, as whatever morsel was left by the giants would be devoured rather quickly. The halfling rapidly got into the next chamber and went about trying to find a place to hide.
Sid heard a thundering noise coming from within the cave. Deciding it wouldn't be prudent to be here when the charging dragon emerged, he quickly climbed up to a ledge above the cave entrance. Looking down, he saw the dragon's head appear. The huge creature grunted and hissed as it scrutinized the empty iron pole. Finally, with a bellow of rage, it grabbed the iron pole in its jaws and ripped it out of the ground, snapping it in half. Just then, Sid saw the giantess emerge from the underbrush where he was earlier. The dragon, busy chewing up the iron pole even more and bellowing, suddenly stopped, his eyes and head tracked silently on the giantess. Its eyes squinted as it moved slowly out of the cave in a crouch, prowling toward the underbrush. The giantess, seeing the huge reptile, seemed to slump over in terror, not being able to move. Seeing this, the dragon broke into a run toward the giantess, emerging completely out of the cave, its wings folded behind its back. The ground thundered as it ran. Upon reaching the giantess, it reared up on its hind legs and struck downward with its jaws, ripping the giantess in half and tearing at her while holding her carcass down with one of its razor sharp talons. Blood flew everywhere and covered the dragon's teeth, head, and neck.
"Ha ha!" laughed Sid as he saw the carnage from his vantage point.
The dragon suddenly stopped moving and was deadly silent.
"Oops," said Sid wearily.
The dragon slowly turned its head around on its long neck, eyeing Sid with its gaze and squinting evilly. It then bellowed loudly, spinning around and moving back toward the cave. Sid quickly jumped down from above the entrance and ran into the cave. The dragon stopped almost right in front of the entrance and reared on its hind legs, sucking in a long breath. Flames erupted from its mouth, billowing into the cave entrance. Sid felt the blast of heat behind him as he ran down the long tunnel into the cavern. Just barely, he made it around the corner by diving. Flames singed his legs as the fiery breath erupted into the cavern. The dragon roared in triumphant rage seemingly knowing it had burned its prey alive. Realizing he only had a few seconds, Sid looked around and saw the entrance to the next chamber. He wanted to get as deep into the cavern as possible before the dragon made its way back in. The elf ran as fast as he could toward the next chamber. Upon reaching the entrance, the floor seemed to give way beneath him. Sid rapidly began sliding back down the slope. Alarmed, Sid noticed the stalagmites. Just before he would have been impaled on them, he deftly leapt up and flipped over two times, landing back in the entry chamber in front of them. Rocks and rubble crashed onto the floor, blocking the entrance to the chamber beyond the trap entirely. Sid sighed in annoyance. Looking quickly around, he noticed the small holes near the ceiling. Running toward them, he leapt up onto the wall, climbing rapidly upward. Just as he reached the top, the dragon emerged into the chamber. Looking at the collapsed trap, it roared with a rage that shook the entire cavern and even brought some of the ceiling down. Then it turned its head and saw Sid's feet disappear into one of the holes near the ceiling as the elf squeezed himself through.
The chamber Snagin was in had to be the dragon's lair. Unfortunately, it was rather open. Only two or three large rocks and stalagmites offered any cover for the thief should the dragon return. In the center of the room was a huge pile of gold, silver, copper, and gems, along with a few choice weapons which were quite ornately decorated. Looking toward the other end of the chamber, Snagin could see the small holes near the ceiling which led to the other chamber. It was a good thing he didn't try to climb in through them after all, as he would have had no cover from the dragon and would have been burned alive on the wall as he climbed down. The dragon was smart to pick this lair, he thought. As Snagin mused about what might have happened to him, the entrance to the other chamber suddenly collapsed. He knew someone had set off the trap, or that the dragon must have. Quickly, he ran toward the pile of gold and gems, concealing his small body amidst it, covering himself up. All but his head was covered in coins, and that was hidden behind a golden goblet. A humanoid figure appeared in one of the holes briefly, and then he seemed to be shot through the air into the center of the chamber. Fire erupted from all three holes. The humanoid flew through the air and bounced when he hit the ground, rolling to a stop. The elf, Snagin saw, stood up and began to dust himself off, laughing maniacally as he did so. Snagin stared in disbelief. It couldn't be! Sid was dead! The crazy elf hadn't been seen in over ten years, presumed killed somewhere in the deep Darkhold Forest. Snagin stood up out of the coins. Sid whirled around and drew two scimitars into his hands, a look of death in his eyes.
"You don't look like a dragon at all! Ha ha!" declared the crazy elf, letting down his guard a bit.
"Where IS the dragon, Sid?" asked Snagin as he walked down out of the pile of treasure.
"He's in there. I'm gonna have to kill him you know, he's pretty mad," said the elf as he gestured back to the other chamber, "The bastard fried my boots!"
"Well we'd better think of something fast. I imagine he won't remain in that other room for long, " said Snagin grimly.
As if on cue, a huge reptilian claw crashed through the pile of rubble and rock at the entrance, shortly followed by another. Sid didn't waste any time. Running at full speed toward the rubble, he brought both of his blades down into one of the dragon's talons. The adamantium scimitars were so sharp that they severed one of the creature's claws. Bellowing in pain, the dragon yanked its talon back from the rocks and rubble. Sid laughed and picked up the severed claw (which was as long as his scimitar), and licked some of the dragon's blood off it.
"Tastes terrible!" he yelled to Snagin, spitting.
Suddenly, the dragon stopped roaring and it was deathly quiet. Snagin didn't like it - he didn't like it at all. He decided he'd start gathering as much treasure as he could carry and find a way out of here. Turning around, he saw that Sid was yelling gibes and cursing at the dragon through the rubble. Shaking his head, Snagin got out a round black cloth and unfolded it onto the floor. He then began throwing as much coins, gems, and as much else as possible onto the cloth. Mysteriously, the treasure seemed to disappear into the cloth, as if it were a hole. Just then, a loud rumbling could be heard, shortly followed by a crash which brought most of the ceiling down. Sid was knocked off his feet, a pile of rubble falling down on top of him. The dragon had crashed through the wall. The red reptile glowered toward his treasure, his yellow eyes squinting toward Snagin. In a catlike crouch, he sprang forward toward the halfling. Unfortunately for the dragon, it didn't notice that Sid had recovered and stood. Screaming at the top of his lungs and cursing at the dragon about how it ruined his boots, Sid ran up its back, both scimitars drawn. When he got half way up onto the creature, he slammed one of his blades deep into its back. Black blood gushed out of the garish wound, and the dragon roared in pain. Rearing up in surprise from the sharp sting on its back, the dragon crashed its head into the ceiling, breaking off one of its horns. Quickly, it began bucking around, trying to shake Sid off its back and using one of its talons to reach back and swat at him. Sid's magical adamantium scimitar managed to hold tight, and the elf hanged on to it as he was jostled around in every direction. With his other hand, Sid slashed and slashed at the dragon's body with his other scimitar. The dragon's scales were no match for the razor sharp magical blade, and black blood flowed freely from even more wounds on the reptile's back. Finally, the dragon started leaping up toward the ceiling, and Sid soon realized that he would be crushed if he remained where he was. When the dragon jerked to the side, Sid pulled his scimitar free and was thrown at least sixty feet across the cavern, rolling and bouncing into the far wall. Snagin watched in amazement as Sid flew over him and landed. The Dragon, roaring with anger, sucked in a huge breath. Snagin, knowing what was coming, dove headfirst into his magical cloth. The flames engulfed almost half the cavern, making there way toward Sid at its far side. The elf, though badly battered from his flight, attempted to make his way to one of the few rocks in the open cavern for cover, but he didn't quite make it. Flames engulfed him, and he screamed in pain as he seemed to be burned very badly. The dragon roared in triumph, moving forward to scrutinize its prey. As it moved over the pile of treasure toward Sid, the dragon jerked upward in agony as it felt its belly rip open. Snagin had come out of the magical hole and stabbed and sliced the dragon's stomach as it moved above him. Black blood covered Snagin as it poured out of the wound onto him. Unfortunately, the dragon was far from dead. Backing up abruptly, it swatted out with one of its claws, managing to catch Snagin just barely, sending the halfling head over heals toward the rubbled entrance of the cavern. The dragon then began moving toward the halfling to finish him. Snagin, dazed, tried to stand up. He was too slow. The dragon managed to make it over to where Snagin was and reached out with a talon to grab him. The reptile was surprised when two of its claws were severed off. Sid, part of his armor badly burned, had run over and placed himself between the dragon and the halfling, slashing madly at the creature's talon. The red reptile bellowed and reared up in pain, crashing its neck against a stalactite on the ceiling and impaling itself. Black blood flowed down its body, and the dragon fell on its side, one of its legs collapsing. Sid, not missing the chance, ran up and sliced the dragon's underbelly open even more as it reared, stabbing and slicing into the dragon's heart. The savage attacks sprayed black blood and guts everywhere, and Sid laughed maniacally the entire time. The elf then quickly had to move out of the way as the dragon gave a final bellow of pain and crashed downward, its head and long neck hitting the floor. It then lay there, breathing slowly, its eyes closed, dying. Snagin managed to get himself to stand up finally, and walked around over to the dragon's head. Drawing his razor sharp short sword, he stabbed into the dragon's neck and twisted the blade. The dragon stopped breathing. The thief then looked around to find Sid. The elf was already over at the treasure pile, picking bits and pieces out of it and cursing about any gold he found there.
"Blast! The bastard melted some of the copper! Now I'm really mad!" yelled the elf, cursing and spitting at the huge dead reptile.
Snagin shook his head and walked to the pile and started getting more of the coins that weren't melted and putting them into his hole, being very careful not to get any of the many copper coins he found. Sid suddenly got a strange look in his eye and walked rapidly over toward the dragon. Producing a dagger and reaching into the dragon's partially opened mouth, he began to cut out its long tongue. When he finally got it cut out he wore it around his waste like a belt, smiling with satisfaction. Then he proceeded to start digging out the teeth. Snagin just rolled his eyes in exasperation and continued to fill his hole. Getting past the giants who's god they just killed was going to be interesting.
To be continued......