Sighing with annoyance Krakust pulled the piton from the rock and shoved it and the rope in his pack. “What was that human thinking, Evryn? He could’ve gotten rid of me. He’s not like other humans I’ve encountered. The tribal ones would’ve left me to die, and the ‘civilized’ ones would’ve watched.”
Krakust kicked a rock down into the magma. “There’s no way for us to get across. Let’s go back and follow the compass to them. Maybe we’ll catch up. I can’t return without either them or proof of their deaths anyway.”
With an agreeing snort Evryn started walking through the tunnel they had followed to the cavern. There were no other exits on their side of the chasm.
By the time they made it to the surface, it was night. The snow was deep, but not so deep they couldn’t get out of the cave. Looking around Krakust realized that he had no firewood and he didn’t see any.
“Looks like we’re going to be cold tonight, Evryn.”
– – –
“Look, we’re almost to the surface. I promise.”
“Lukren, you said that four hours ago. Let’s just camp here and continue later. It’s past midnight on the surface.” Helena stopped jogging and sat down.
Shrugging, Sorley also halted. “She’s right. We need to rest.” He pulled his pack off his shoulders and rummaged through it. “I’m almost out of heaven’s bread, but it looks like this cook’s pack has some stuff I can work with.”
“No, I’ll be doing the cooking if we need it, get that heaven’s bread out and let me see the pack.” Helena held her hand out to take the pack.
Lourek stopped jogging and looked back. “Hey, Lukren. I kinda agree. Let’s sleep in this passageway. We’ll get above ground tomorrow.”
“Fine. I don’t know why, but I feel like we need to get out of here now.” Lukren stopped jogging and turned to walk back to Helena and Sorley. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Here you are, the last of the heaven’s bread.” Sorley handed the small bites out.
Lukren sat down and ate the bread. “So, are you going to tell us about where you came from and how you got here?”
“Ok. Fine.” Sorley pulled Ember onto his lap. “Do you want to try to explain it, Ember?”
“Sure. So, we are from a place called Earth.” Ember began.
Sorley looked at her with an inquisitive face. “Well…”
“So, you really don’t remember? Does the name Aliziyah ring any bells?”
“No, who’s that?” Ember cocked her head to the side and turned to look at Sorley’s face.
Sorley shook his head. “It’s Gormaliev’s familiar. Your mother.”
Ember cocked her head the other direction. “No, I-I don’t remember her.”
“Here.” Sorley sent his memory of Aliziyah to Ember. “I’ll talk about Earth now.” Sorley looked at his companions. “I’m from Earth. Europe to be specific. My family is a line of warlockes and we were being hunted by a church that wants to wipe out all warlockes from Earth.”
Helena prodded with the question she knew the dwarves were wondering about. “Where is Earth? Is it far to the north?”
Sorley smiled slightly. “No, it’s a different realm. The orc was right, I’m not from…Domhan was it?”
“Yes, this is the realm of Domhan.” Lukren affirmed.
“Well, my parents opened a portal and sent me through. I think it was open for three days. It felt like three days, anyway. It closed when I arrived, so nobody followed…I think.” Sorley paused, collecting his knowledge of portals. “Yeah, nobody should’ve been able to follow at that point.”
Helena looked concerned. “You seem unsure of that.”
“We don’t know that much about portals.” Ember spoke up. “Dad…I mean Sorley’s dad. He never taught us much about them. Probably didn’t think we’d need to know.”
“Right. Realm portals anyway. Regular portals we learned about. Those are instantaneous and last an hour. Not the same thing, though. Portal requires a high-quality gem. Realm portals require that and more. Dad never said what, though.” Sorley glanced at his grimoire. “Though, I can probably find out. I am the rightful owner of the book now. It won’t hide things from me.”
The dwarves glanced at each other and Lukren spoke up. “What do you mean by now?”
“Well, this belonged to my father.” Sorley picked up his grimoire. “Now that he’s gifted it to me the things he wanted hidden from me are unlocked. That’s how he said it worked. Normally, I would’ve gotten my grandmother’s because she was the warlocke in his family, but her grimoire was burned before I was born.”
“By the group that’s trying to kill all warlockes?” Helena seemed interested in the grimoire.
“Yes, they burned it along with her. I never got to meet her.”
A confused look appeared on Helena’s face. “So how would your family have continued with the grimoire tradition?”
“Oh, the same way the younger siblings would get a grimoire. They would copy down anything that was unlocked by their parent. When copying a new grimoire for a firstborn the grimoire unlocks completely for them.” Sorley shrugged. “At least that’s what dad told me when I asked about it.”
“Anyway, we need to get some sleep. I’ll take first watch.” Lourek stood up and sat his pack on the ground. “I’ll start making a perimeter, you guys get to sleep.”
– – –
Krakust and Evryn made their way through the fresh snow. The layers were taller than Evryn so Krakust ended up leading her instead of riding her. “Shouldn’t be too long over land. We might get there before them. It’ll take a few more days for us. Probably several for them.”
“Right. If the snow doesn’t melt some we won’t catch them. Plus, if the tunnel comes out earlier than I thought we’ll be behind.” Krakust waded through some more snow and almost tripped on something. “What was that?”
Evryn sniffed the snow in front of her and pulled a frozen leg up.
“Oh, some unlucky traveler. Leave it. We can’t do anything about it.” Krakust started walking away when the leg twitched. “Or not, it may still be alive.” He sighed loudly. “Fine. Let’s see what we found.”
It took some time to shovel the snow off the body, but by the time he was done Krakust wasn’t sure he could do anything for the creature. He wasn’t even sure what the creature was. It was covered in scales and had a lizard-like face. It reminded him of the tales of dragons he heard when he was little.
After clearing out some more snow Krakust gathered what sticks he had found and made a campfire. “Evryn, lie down next to it. This small fire can only do so much.” He stared at the creature. “Its scales are a strange color. Are they metal of some sort?” The scales were a mottled dark grey that had metallic, reflective spots.
– – –
The lizard-like creature slowly stirred. Its eyes opened slowly revealing cat-like pupils surrounded by light gray irises. It slowly sat upright and Evryn backed away from it. “Where am I?” It asked in a guttural, grating voice. “Who are you?”
“I’m Krakust and that’s my ice wolf Evryn.” Krakust motioned to Evryn. “We found you beneath the snow. What and who are you?”
“I am Donaar Thruuvth and I am a dragonkin. Have you never heard of us?”
“A dragonkin?” Krakust took a few steps back. “But, you have no wings. I thought you had wings.”
Donaar laughed deeply. It sounded like the rattling of two magnetite stones. “Yes, many a creature has said the same to me. My race has not had wings for millennia, but the stories still survive.”
At the sound of the laugh Krakust came to a conclusion. “So, you are a metallic dragonkin, not a colored dragonkin?”
“No.” A fierce look came to Donaar’s eyes. “Have you seen any colored ones?” Donaar reached for his weapon and noticed it was gone. “My great sword, where is it? And my outer armor?”
Krakust motioned at a pack next to the small fire. “This is what I found with you. It may be in there.”
Donaar stood and walked to the pack. “Well, my armor is gone. Leather will have to do for now either way. Not wearing plate in snow like this.” He motioned to the snow drifts around the cleared area. “Ah, here’s my sword at least. Good. Wouldn’t make much of a Defender without something to defend with.”
“Oh no.” Krakust groaned. “I saved a shasting knight, didn’t I?”
“Sir Donaar ‘Shield Biter’ Thruuvth at your service. Knight of the Order of Defenders.” Donaar stood straight then sagged a little. “Last known survivor of the Night of Gore.”
“I’ll tell you later. For now, I’ll follow you wherever you’re going. You saved my life, after all.”
Krakust stamped out the fire. “I probably wouldn’t have if I realized you were a knight.” He sighed. “Fine, I’m trying to find a human boy. He’s an escaped slave and by the tradition of my people I cannot return home without him.”
“Hmm…well, I may just have to talk you out of that tradition.”
“Also, the sky elf that’s with him. She also escaped. They met up with a couple of dwarves. I don’t care about them, and I really don’t care about the tradition either. I let them escape. The intent was to torture information out of them, but that isn’t going to work now.”
Donaar shook his head. “Torture? Well, at least you changed your mind. Tell me, what information you are seeking?”