Blog, The Fantasy Realm

A Fantasy Realm Tale: A Coin for a Rumor

Fantasy Realm_S2_4

*The following is a transcript of a WHUS Radio FM broadcast aired on Tuesday, August 27, 2019 from 7-8 PM along with the music used to accompany the story.*

A Coin for a Rumor

{Legends of Azeroth (Main Title) – Tracy Bush – World of Warcraft}

Hello again, traveler! Oh, it’s been some time, has it not? Last we saw each other, you saved my realm by defeating Nocna Mora, and though wonderful as that was, it led to the closing of the portal. I truly did think I’d never be in your company again, but, between you and I, good traveler, I could not bear it any longer. The realm thrives, but not the way it did when we had your human imagination adding to the magic. 

So, with a flick of my wrist and a private rude gesture to the Council of the Sage Ones, I sought out a way to open the portal once again. There are so many lands and stories you’ve yet to be a part of. It’d be a dream of mine to travel the lands with you again, if you’ll join me…

Now, of course, as happy as I am to have you here, I kindly ask that you keep this between us. The council knows not of what I do, and if Brielle finds out… well… let’s just say I may have to put up my Sage cloak for good. I’ve arranged for the portal to open on a different day and at a different time, far from The Arcane City where the council resides. This should keep us safe.

Enough of all this, now! It’s time you step through the portal. Meet me in the City of Aaucan, where we last met and where you became a hero of The Fantasy Realm.

{Temple of the Moon – David Arkenstone – World of Warcraft: Taverns of Azeroth (Original Game Soundtrack)}

As you walk through the wild flora of the city of Aaucan, the moon greets you. She is gentle with her moonlight tonight, only a waning moon hovering in the sky. The stars twinkle in greeting. Golden fireflies mimic the twinkling of the evening sky as they fly around you almost as if they were dancing. Crickets chirp a lullaby as your feet trudge across the mossy, wet cobblestones. You can hear the crashing of lazy waves in the distance of this seaside city. Lanterns shaped like budding tulips hide underneath the massic, jungle-like leaves that coat the barked, mushroom cottages. However hidden, the lanterns light the path toward the city’s center.

Flowers of unimaginable colors tower over you, and the strong vines that keep the ancient city together have a bold emerald color that snatches your breath. You cannot help your wandering eyes as they land on a new plant, a new flower, a new petal, a new seed waiting to grow. The smell of this quiet night is cleansing you, as if eucalyptus leaves were bathing you in waters only used for royalty.

Looking down, you see the remnants of the city that was, before it took on its new name of Aaucan. Golden specks dust the paths. These must have been the gold coins the greedy king who once ruled Aaucan showered his kingdom with. The dull specks remind you of the greedy king’s wrath when he lost all that he owned and loved, causing him to burn the city to the ground, him along with it. From the ashes, the flora grew, and the city became so breath-takingly beautiful, none dared claim it for their own. It became a waypoint for weary travelers to rest. However, as you approach the city’s square, where a statue is basked in the gentle moonlight, you realize this may no longer be the case.

Entering the square, your head turns to a building with candlelight and silhouettes of drunken, happy folk. Muffled sounds of laughter manage to escape the acorn-like tavern, which was not there when you came here last. It seems one person did reside in Aaucan after all.

Before being pulled in by the crowd, however, you turn your head to The Noble Hall of Aaucan just to the north. Its vine pillars frame the tree-trunk entrance. Memories return of meeting Elven Queen Arcaena Faewynn and Dwarven King Vobrik Noblestone in that hall to prepare for a war with a dark sorcerer named Nocna Mora. Your mind flashes forward to the battle in which you defeated Nocna Mora and brought magic and peace back to the realm.

Your eyes glide to the statue in the center of the square. A statue of yourself looks back at you…. a hero chiseled in stone… the hero a traveler in the city of travelers. You think to yourself they didn’t get your nose quite right, but anyone who’s far away enough won’t notice the difference.

It has been many months since you’ve last visited this realm. It feels almost a bit odd to be here once again. After all, last we spoke, we spoke words of farewell. Still, farewells are only finicky when they realize they weren’t actually final. 

I thought it fitting we returned to the city of your legacy here in the realm. As you can see, it has changed, and perhaps, with a coin or two, you may have a quest waiting for you in this new establishment.

You make your way to the acorn-shaped tavern. Next to a budding tulip lantern, you see a sign that reads, “Arabella’s Acorn.” As you approach the door, you hear the crowd begin to hush.

The door creaks as you carefully swing it open. A few candles have been snuffed out to dim the room. As you take a seat at the bar, you order a drink and turn your eyes to a wonky stage where a band of bards set up their instruments to play a song.

{Rocky Road to Dublin / Down the River – Orthodox Celts  – Green Roses}

{Pig and Whistle – David Arkenstone – World of Warcraft: Taverns of Azeroth (Original Game Soundtrack)}

“Care for another?” You turn around to see a woman with beaver-like front teeth, a bird’s nest of auburn hair, and a birthmark shaped like an acorn on her cheek.

“Oi, don’t I know you from somewhere?” She puts one hand on her hip and another to her chin as she ponders. Then, with a snap of the fingers, she says, “Ah! I know that face! You’re the hero of the realm, aren’t ya? The human traveler from another realm? The one they made a statue of in my city? Well, it’s you I need to thank for all the sudden company my sister and I have had to endure, but Aaucan’s too pretty to ignore, I suppose, especially for wanderers. Me name’s Arabella. Pleasure to meet the face behind the stone. My sister, Nami, and I decided, with all these people coming to the legendary city of the human traveler, we best make this a city worth living in. My sister, Nami, likes poisonous plants more than people, so she set up an apothecary just across the square. Suits her, but I say no village, city, or kingdom is worth its name without a tavern. So, here I am, treating those who stop by with my special drinks, made from the herbs of Aaucan’s best.” 

She hands you a drink in a hollowed-out, fist-sized acorn. “This one’s on the house, dear, though, a coin for a drink gets you a rumor for free.”

You hand her a coin, curious of what she may have to say.

“What are your ears yearning for? An adventure or an embarrassing tale of a lord or lady?”

You answer that you’d like to hear a tale of adventure, if possible.

“Care for a story then? Well, I can’t help you much there. My rumors are short and sweet. But, a writer’s taken quite a liking to that back table near the window. He’s called The Scribe. Don’t know much else, but I’m sure he’ll have a story ready just for you. But, hey, since you paid the coin, I’ll give you a fun rumor: the firefly king is in love with another firefly, but the firefly queen is also in love with another as well. Perhaps the day will come where they’ll grow up and learn to seek their own happiness. If you’d like another drink, just ask!”

Taking your drink with you, you leave the bar and head to the back window. Sitting alone at a table is a man wearing a navy blue cloak who furiously scribbles into a leather-bound tome. He has a white beard with black ink blotches and glasses that sit at the edge of his nose. Even as you sit across from him, he does not lose his focus, his hand scribbling away.

{Chronicler – Mark Haas – The Name of the Wind: The Unofficial Soundtrack}

You try to catch the Scribe’s attention, but he simply waves his hand at you.

“No time for chit chat. Mustn’t wait, waste or wander with me thoughts. Must write, wonder, and ween with me words.”

You explain to him how you’re interested in hearing a story of adventure, and that Arabella recommended you visit him for one, perhaps even a story that may lead to a quest for a traveler such as yourself. 

His eyes jump up, silver irises meeting yours. 

“A story, a ballad, a poem you ask?” With a quick lick of his finger, he thumbs through his tome. “I’ve many a page with many a sketch of fairies, kelpies, and trolls as well as maps of deserts, mountains, and roads.” 

He gasps as a lightbulb goes off in his head. “But if it is an adventure you seek, then it’s the tale of Keisarinna, the Dragon Empress, you will meet. Give me a moment, a second, a minute, to finish my letters, my writing, my words…”

His nose dives back into his tome and away he scribbles. You patiently wait until he puts down his quill with a satisfied look and diverts his full attention on you.

{The Night King – Ramin Djawadi – Game of Thrones: Season 8 (Music from the HBO Series)}

Travelers begin to leave the tavern. Some are ready to hit the road again. Others are so used to sleeping outside from their travels, they prefer to sleep underneath the natural sky.

Save for a few stragglers, you are left alone in the quiet tavern with the Scribe who begins his tale.

“Long ago, before the Council of the Sage Ones governed the Arcane City, before the greedy king owned the city now known as Aaucan, before even the dwarves claimed the south, and the elves the north, there lived a young princess by the name of Keisarinna. White of hair and gold of eye, Keisarinna was a beloved princess of the Ember Kingdom. All adored her, so much so, people of the realm would travel all across the lands just to see her smile. She was set to marry a prince of a different kingdom. 

“His name was Prince Revannsi, and she loved him. It’s always a beautiful thing when an arranged marriage for peace blossoms into a marriage for love. But it was the princess and the prince who loved each other, not their fathers. 

“The kings of the two kingdoms, despite the efforts for peace, waged war with each other with whispers in the halls of their palaces, rumors spread between their subjects, failed attempts at assassination and murder. Soon, the war of words became a war of swords. A prince loyal to his family name, Prince Revannsi took his horse and rode off for war, but before leaving, with a kiss to the hand of Princess Keisarinna, he swore he would love her forever, no matter the war. He truly believed that peace could be achieved. After all, he fell in love with the princess. 

“So, off he went for war. War is a dreadful thing, for commoner and royalty alike. But this war was particularly cruel for the prince. His entire family was killed in the war, and with the loss of his family, he hardened with want of revenge. It was Princess Keisarinna’s family who killed his, and now, his love for her turned to hate. One eager for revenge can be quick about it, but with the cruelty of the war, Prince Revannsi wished to be just as cruel. 

“So, he returned to the Ember Kingdom with a smile for his princess. She was so delighted to see him again, for she missed him dearly. Though she noticed he was a bit off, she understood war can change a man. 

“After a few years of a deceptive man and a kind woman, Prince Revanssi and Princess Keisarinna married, joining the two kingdoms together. As happy as the princess was, she did not realize this was the mere precipice for his plans of revenge. Her father, the king, loved the fact that he now ruled both kingdoms, but this only angered Prince Revanssi more. So, in the dead of night, he poisoned the king’s wine. The crown of Ember Kingdom had fallen ill, and one night, under the hidden smirk of the prince, he died. 

“Under a full moon, the princess became the queen, and the prince a king. Now, Revanssi had both kingdoms under his hand, all the while, pretending to care for Keisarinna who mourned her father. 

“Years pass, and the king and queen are blessed with a child… a child Keisarinna loved more than anything in the world, but this child only brew more rage in Revanssi’s heart. All the child reminded him of was the death of his family all those years ago. How Keisarinna’s family waged war with his, leading to the life where he was forever surrounded by the murderers of his family, and now, he must pass that family name to a child who had the blood of those slayers. Oh, how his blood boiled at the sight of the sleeping babe.

“This anger turned his hand to kill the child, but just in that moment Queen Keisarinna found him, a dagger over the heart of their child. After a brawl with her king, she managed to grab her baby, and she ran away from the palace for a simple life in the woods. She put away her heels, her gown, and her crown to dedicate a safe life for her child. Her love for her child mattered more to her than the Ember Kingdom, though it pained her each day that her subjects were left to a man fueled with enough hate to kill his own child. As the child slept, she’d pray to gain control of her kingdom again, so a benevolent ruler would sit on the throne, not her monster of a husband. 

“As if her prayers were answered, a knock came to the door of their cottage. At the door was King Revanssi full of remorse. He bent the knee to her, saying he regretted all that he did. Keisarinna wanted nothing more than to continue the simple life she had with her child, but the loyalty to her realm ran strong in her blood. Her kind heart told her she had to return, not for the king, but for her people. 

“It was an amicable relationship between the king and the queen in the palace walls. Though never amorous or loving towards one another, they managed to rule side by side. Keisarinna slowly learned to trust him again, and Revanssi slowly learned to be the man he was before his days of revenge.
“After a few more years, Keisarinna found a letter hidden away in a book of their library. It is there she learned the truth that he was the one who poisoned her father. Mad with rage, she decided to seek her own revenge. In the dead of night, she wandered into the woods again in search of a witch. Selling one of her finest jewels, she acquired a potion that turned one into a dragon. Pleased with her cleverness, she poured the potion in his soup one day. All the while, she imagined herself slaying Revanssi the dragon and mounting its head on her wall. However, in passing by, he saw her pour this potion before supper, and so, he switched the soups on the tray, making her the one to drink the poisoned one. 

“Queen Keisarinna turned into a glorious, white-scaled dragon with golden eyes and a powerful flame in her belly. Enraged at the turn of events, she attacked the castle. Her flames burned all who stood before her. However, one is easily blinded when ill-tempered. Without realizing, she set her own child aflame, killing the one person she loved most. Seeing her child’s death darkened her heart. She wandered away, sad and confused. Alone in the woods, she waited day after day for something or someone to reverse the curse, wanting only to live a simple life again.

“After a few years, the king, now old, found her with a troop. He planned to kill her. She managed to escape the small troop, but it gave her something to live for. She now could only think of how her life in the Ember Kingdom was a tragic one. Despising this very thought, she set out to travel the realm in search of an army of dragons to burn the wretched kingdom once and for all. So many dragons joined her cause, she became known as Keisarinna the Dragon Empress. 

“Now, a rumor spreads that she is finished with her search and is preparing for war against this ancient kingdom. It is said that on the eve of midsummer, she will strike. If she strikes, with an army full of dragons, it is not just the Ember Kingdom that will fall. All the eastern lands will burn under their flames.”

Traveler, there are many villages that lie in the east. It has been centuries since this feud. King Revannsi is surely dead. Whoever sits on the Ember Throne now will die for Revannsi’s actions. Midsummer’s eve is a week away in this realm, and it’s a few days travel from here. They need a hero before this day of reckoning befalls them.

Will you be that hero?

{Journey’s End – Jeremy Soule – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Original Game Sountrack)}

Knowing it’s a long journey to the Ember Kingdom, you thank the Scribe for his tale.

“Worry not, bother not, stress not. Bring peace to the Dragon Empress. Even princesses turned beasts deserve happy endings.” He puts his quill to paper once again and scribbles as you walk away. 

Now, traveler, before we head to the Ember Kingdom, there’s a few things we have to get in order. Perhaps you’d like to gather some supplies? A pack with some travel necessities? Food and drink from Arabella for the road? I’m sure another traveler around these parts is happy to trade with you if you’d like something a bit different. 

And what of transportation? Will you be walking all the way there? It’s a four-day walk, but with a steed or a caravan, you may get there a day or two earlier. There are a few merchants just outside the tavern with carts that are ready to head east. Or, maybe you’ll head to the stables to see if there’s a horse for purchase.

Go on, then, traveler. We’ll set off for the east at dawn. What will you do to get your affairs in order?

Birds chirp as the morning sun arises, and you are off for the Ember Kingdom. 

The ocean is your companion for quite some time as you follow the path of this southern city up toward the east. Eventually, gawking seagulls turn to grunting wild boars. The salty air is replaced by the subtle scent of lavender and dandelions. 

Traveling is usually not without its occasional adventure, but luckily, you made it through these few days unharmed. 

The peaceful journey came to an end when in the distance, you saw the red banners of the Ember Kingdom. 

The kingdom’s palace is a beacon of crimson bricks among the gray-stoned buildings surrounding it. It has a glass dome that even from afar, you can see depicts a grand bonfire sitting atop the castle. Gargoyles decorate the alcoves embedded on the palace outer walls.

As you head up the path, a strong waft of burning meat welcomes you. Through the trees, you can see the great outer wall that protects the whole kingdom. Thinking it may be best to head straight for the king about the Dragon Empress, you head for the kingdom’s gate. You raise your hand to show your friendly approach, but you halt when you see all the guards on top the outer walls aim their fiery arrows right at you. 

The gate opens, and a man riding a black stallion, followed by other armed guards, approaches you. 

{Heroes’ Valor – Midnight Syndicate – Dungeons & Dragons: Official Roleplaying Soundtrack}

The head of the guard looms over you on top his steed. He glares down at you as the gate behind him closes. His armor is textured, as if lava flowed through the metal itself, blazing gold mixing with burning black stone. His breath is heavy, as if he wants you to hear the breath he is wasting on you.

“State your business,” he says in a gruff, impatient voice.

What will you say to the head of the guard, traveler, so you can get through that gate and into the kingdom?

Oh, dear. I’m afraid diplomacy has failed here. 

He pulls out his sword and signals to his guard to stay back. As he dismounts his horse, you prepare your own weapon. 

“If you’ve come to save us from a dragon, then I should just be a pup in your way.” He chuckles under his breath as he weighs his sword in his hand.

Quickly, traveler. You must defend yourself. How will you outwit the head of the guard in battle?

Gifted with your weapon, you gain the upper hand in the battle. With a strong swing and a blunt hit, you bring the guard to his knees. You are breathing heavily from this duel, but you drop your weapon to prove you have finished it victoriously.

Using his sword, the head of the guard heaves his way back up to his feet. He’s chuckling again to himself. He removes his helmet, revealing a long, thin scar on his cheek. The scar curves as he gives you a smirk.

“Impressive. You are worthy of seeing King Varyell of the Ember Kingdom. Come.”

The guards lead you through the great kingdom and straight to the palace. Merchants selling kebabs call out to you to try some, while others show you their wares. Some women dressed in long, plain dresses walk through the paths with children buzzing around as eager as bees. Clothing hang off the lines above your head, dragon-shaped mailboxes are scattered across the streets, and strange symbols are painted onto the walls of the kingdom.

It is the palace, however, that steals your attention, particularly when the tower-like iron doors open, and you walk inside.

{Secret Chamber – Midnight Syndicate – Dungeons & Dragons: Official Roleplaying Soundtrack}

You enter the throne room and are welcomed by a thick haze of smoke. It is dark inside, and uncomfortably warm. Past the central fire, you see King Varyell.

He is a young man with ash-colored hair. He sits shirtless on the throne with only brown trousers, a necklace of dragon bones, and a blade at his hip. 

The head of the guard explains your arrival.

King Varyell says, “So, you’ve come to rescue us. How… heroic of you,” he scoffs, “The Ember Kingdom you see before you is not the kingdom Keisarinna grew up in. We are a flame that cannot be snuffed out, and we will be the fire that ends all fires when we defeat the Dragon Empress and her army.”

His eyes widen. “Actually, you may be able to pursue this heroic endeavor of yours after all. It’s said the Dragon Empress and her army are preparing for battle at the Dozing Mountain. It’s a volcano that has been dormant for centuries, but with so many dragons there, the grounds have been rumbling again. The mountain is waking up, and we have to stop this dragon army before there’s a chance winning the war comes in vain. Even the Ember Kingdom can’t survive an eruption of a volcano. So, what do you say, traveler? Will you be my scout?”

You accept his quest.

 “Excellent!” The king pulls out a glass bottle filled with yellow liquid and walks over to you.

“If you’re the hero you think you are, then taking a dragon hostage shouldn’t be too difficult. This potion will allow you to speak with a dragon. No better resource in war than information from the mouth of the enemy.” 

He hands you the potion, then saunters over to his throne, waving his hand. “Look forward to your intel, hero,” he says in an indifferent tone, almost as if there’s a chuckle in his throat that he won’t let escape in your presence.

You leave the castle, the air of the outside cooling your skin. You then leave through the gates of the kingdom and head toward the Dozing Mountain.

{Moving Mountains – Two Steps From Hell – Invincible}

The path toward the Dozing Mountain is a treacherous one. Your thighs burn as you hike the uphill climb, avoiding the debris of ragged rocks. Black, textured stone builds this massive volcano, and at the very top, there is a subtle gleam of blazing gold at the rim.

Your throat becomes scratchy as the dry air forces its way down into your lungs. You’ve used up the last of your water, and yet, you’ve still got a long way to go to the top. The scent of the ocean manages to break through the heavy air, for the coast is very close to where you currently are. 

As you climb, you notice a variety of bones scattered across the grounds, as if they were chucked by a giant from his supper table. These bones range from tiny little pointy things to massive drumstick bones picked clean. It is a graveyard of nameless dead, and it gives off an ambience that makes your skin crawl.

From your basic scientific knowledge, you can tell some are certainly from wild animals ranging from wolves to boars to birds. Others alarm you, for you recognize them as human and humanoid remains. 

Looking up, you hear the whoosh of a freshly-picked bone flying at you. You duck out of the way just in time. It bounces away, cracking into tiny pieces from the collision.

You adjust yourself on the ground, ready to take this moment for a quick rest when the ground begins to tremble beneath your feet. It feels almost like the rumbling of a giant’s belly before an unapologetic burp. 

You glance up to see boulders cascading down this side of the volcano. It is a volcanic waterfall of death heading straight toward you.

How will you save yourself from the sudden avalanche of volcanic rock, traveler?

With a clever mind, you manage to avoid all the volcanic rocks. Your heart pumping with adrenaline, you continue your ascent. 

As you get further to the top, sweat drips down your forehead and into your eyes. It burns slightly, but you manage to find a crack in the rim just wide enough for you to walk through, and when you do, you find yourself in a small cave looking down into the volcano’s opening. Hiding behind a large stone, you peek down only to gasp at what you find.

{Dragon Empress – BrunuhVille – Northwind}

The inside of the Dozing Mountain is a deep caldera with a lazy pool of lava in its center. Masked by the dark smoke, the lava pool shines through like a floating sun. It would be the central focus of this landmark if it weren’t for the white dragon gliding through the air just above it.

You lower your head as the dragon reaches the volcano’s crater. Its pink belly is exposed to you as it does a lazy flip in the air and dives down toward the lava pool again.

The dragon’s scales are like an army of snowflakes battling the ash hanging in the space. Its wings have an impressive span, splattered sparkles coating them. Its flight is awe-inspiring.

In its flight, you manage to get a quick glance at its eyes, and they are as golden as the lava below. This is, in fact, Queen Keisarinna of the Ember Kingdom in dragon form. 

She is calm as she glides through the air the way feathers do in the wind. 

No word or phrase can truly depict the beauty that is watching this dragon fly. For a moment, you forget the Ember Kingdom and King Varyell who awaits you in his palace.You even forget that it is this dragon that you and the people of the Ember Kingdom seek to kill.

This thought creeping in, you suddenly become alert. Nearby, there is an army of dragons waiting to add your bones to their collection at the foot of the volcano. 

You hunch down, and your eyes dart from left to right above your head. You scan the area, but you can’t find anything that could conceivably hide a dragon.

Thinking the army must be somewhere else, it dawns on you Keisarinna is the only dragon around. Meaning, she is the only dragon you can possibly capture and interrogate with the potion given to you by King Varyell. 

Below you, there is a fairly safe path that leads you down to the bottom, where the lava pool is. Though safe, this path does leave you exposed.

You also notice her flight’s taken a pattern, in which there’s a point where she is just close enough that you can jump onto her wings. 

So, traveler, how will you manage to get to Keisarinna and use the potion on her to communicate? 

Keisarinna shrieks as you pour the yellow potion onto her head. Her eyes squeeze shut as she descends onto the floor of the caldera, just a few inches away from the lava pool.

As you approach her, you mentally prepare yourself for the heat that will consume you by standing so close to this lava lake. However, as Keisarinna’s breathing slows, you realize the air is starting to cool. Though the lava is still bright, the air feels as though you are walking through a meadow on an autumn morning, where the fog is only somewhat bothersome.

You kneel down next to Keirsarinna whose breath has returned to normal. 

For the first time, you notice around you the sparkling gems embedded in the volcanic rock. Constellations paint the walls with diamonds and other mystical gems playing the parts of stars. Here, you feel at peace. Though certain death stares at you with the lava pool by your side, you somehow feel this place is a homely one.

Still laying down, she lifts her head and looks to you. You two are silent for a moment. Her eyes are tired, weak even. Then, in a voice that resembles the sound of a flute, Keisarinna says, “I knew this day would come soon enough. Carry on then. Reveal your dagger and claim your prize.”

{Breath of Life – Howard Shore – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers OST}

You ask where the army is, quick to get information before the potion wears off.

She snorts, fire coming out of her nostrils. “Gone. Long gone. I sent them away.”

Confused, and a bit skeptical, you ask why.

“The story you heard does not end where the storyteller ended. My life continued, and when life goes on, you change, even if you desperately don’t want to.” 

She lowered her head to her claws, then continued. “I searched all of the realm for many years to build my army. I had recruited every kind of dragon you could think of, and even every kind you don’t know exists. They forged a crown for my head, though as dragon, the horns make wearing a crown a bit uncomfortable. I was ready for my revenge. The army was so large, we spanned the entire northern coast. It would have worked too. No humans would dare go against an army of dragons, and the idiots that do would be the easiest to get rid of first… but life gave me a second chance. I fell in love with a dragon named Rhaego. He was to be the emperor, until I had my first egg, our first child. That is when my plans of revenge shattered. I told Rhaego I no longer wanted to destroy the Ember Kingdom. I just wanted a life with him and our baby. He couldn’t agree more. So, we sent all the dragons on their way, thankful for their loyalty. We then made a home here, by the sea where I grew up as a human. Rhaego is out now searching for a new place to call home. We learned about the Ember Kingdom’s plans to hunt us down, so we’re hoping to leave before it happens.”

Curious, you ask about the baby dragon.

She lifts her head and whistles a strange tune. To your right, in the darkness, comes out a small, gray baby dragon with bold white eyes. Excited, he flaps his wings and hovers over to Keisarinna, landing on her back. She giggles as she nuzzles her nose against his.

“This is our son, Edrim, though I like to call him Little Worm.” She motions her head toward you. “Go on, Edrim. Say hello to our guest.”

He lands, his wings still too weak to keep him in the air for a long time. With a cautious step, he stumbles his way over to you. You feel his breath on your ankles as he sniffs. He then brushes his head against your leg, his baby horns soft on your skin.

Edrim yawns, his little tongue stretching past his teeth as his mouth opens wide in exhaustion. He then waddles over to his mother and climbs his way up to her head. He then curls up against his mother’s horn and drifts into a quick sleep.

She sighs, closing her eyes. “If you’re to kill me, tell me, so I can send him away before you do.”

The words of the Scribe start to echo in your head: “Bring peace to the Dragon Empress. Even princesses turned beasts deserve happy endings.”

After years of being bogged down by revenge, Keisarinna has found her peace. The simple life she had with her first child can be a reality again with her new life. You can see her eyes brimming with tears. This is all she wants. 

Yet down the coast, there is a king raising his own army mad enough to go against an infantry of fire-breathing, scaled beasts. And he is waiting for you.

Thinking of the Scribe’s request, of Keisarinna’s story, of the young dragon who may be left without a mother too soon, you start to think about the many ways you can lead King Varyell away from her, just long enough until Rhaego returned.

It could be done with a lie when you return to the kingdom, sending his troops the complete opposite way. Though having met King Varyell, you have a feeling he is good at catching a lie. 

It could be done with your absence. Leaving the coast entirely with never a return to the Ember Kingdom. However, that could leave the possibility of Varyell sending another scout, one not so sympathetic to a dragon’s cause.

It could be done with convincing Keisarinna to leave this place now, though she would not leave without Rhaego’s return. It could be days, weeks, months even, until his return. More time for Varyell to strike if he confirms her whereabouts.

It seems no matter what can be done, King Varyell has a route to the war he’s waiting for.

Then, it dawns on you who this King Varyell really is, or more importantly, what he is capable of.

Just as this thought turns you cold, Keisarinna lifts her head up in alarm. “The ground shakes…” she whispers in distress.

Your stomach falls as your suspicions grow. You look to the dragon and her sleeping baby. You tell her to remain still and quiet. Then, you run up the path back to the little cave at the top of the volcano.

A field of red banners, gleaming spears, and armored men awaits you at the foot of the Dozing Mountain, with King Varyell at the front line. He never sent you to confirm what he already knew. He sent you to be the distraction, the chew toy before the execution.

{Trust Each Other – Ramin Djawadi – Game of Thrones: Season 6 (Music from the HBO Series)}

The troops surround the volcano with weapons at the ready. There is an unsettling silence that not even the ocean waves in the distance can soothe.

King Varyell, in shining armor, sits on top of a black stallion as he waves his sword over his head. The wind carries his laugh of bloodlust to your ears.

“Yoo-hoo! Traveler! Are ya dead yet?” He jumps off his horse and kicks at a skull near his feet. “Was that your skull, traveler? Whoops!” 

He laughs at bit more, genuinely amused with himself. He then says, “All right, that’s enough of me.” He whistles, lazily giving a hand signal to the head of his guard. 

The guard lifts up a flag. All the way in the back of the army, archers nock their arrows aimed high, the tips blazing. 

You look down to see the dragon shielding her baby under her wing, cowering in the shadows.

As you turn your head back to the Ember Kingdom army, you see the head of the guard about to lift his hand again. Before you have time to even think, you jump out of the cave and yell, alerting them of your presence.

Time stills as King Varyell turns to see you in the flesh. As you walk down to meet him, he starts cackling.

“Alive?! And with legs?! That potion seems to have backfired a bit for me, ain’t it? No matter. Just another thing we can put our steel to.”

You plant your feet in front of him. There’s a great distance between you two, but you can speak to each other without trouble. Then, you explain to him that you will not allow him to kill Keisarinna.

“A dragon with a bodyguard, now that’s a first. Tell me, traveler, why shouldn’t I let my troops just trample over you and get to the Dragon Empress?”

What will you tell King Varyell, traveler? Will you tell him the truth and risk putting Edrim, the baby dragon, in danger, or will you lie, risking him catching you in the deception?

“You sure are heroic standing up to me. Whether your bravery is actually stupidity or not, we’ll find out. Tell you what. How’s about a good old fashion resolve by combat? One-on-one. Since I’m a fair king, I won’t lie to you. Whether you win or not, my army will be marching up that mountain before the sun sets today, and that dragon will perish no matter what. But, I’m willing to entertain you, if you’re up to it.”

He glares at you with an arched eyebrow, his fingers tapping his sword as he waits.

Even if you win, you don’t, traveler, but this may be the only way you can distract King Varyell just a little longer until you can think of another plan, or until Rhaego returns, if luck is on your side.

Will you face this man in one-on-one combat, traveler?

{Here Comes the King – X-Ray Dog – Canis Rex, Vol. 2}

You squeeze your hand tightly around your weapon as you puff out your chest, your eyes never leaving his.

King Varyell reaches for his sword. The steel sings as it is yanked from its sheath. Behind him, the army watches the scene unfold with a held breath.

It feels like an eternity before King Varyell heaves his sword and swings it at your throat, but you are quick with your response. You whip your weapon, blocking his attack, and so, the battle begins.

King Varyell seems to dance as he fights. His movements are coordinated, practiced, and memorized. He has no flow to his movements, and so you begin to create a pattern of your own, so as to trap him in his undoing.

Knowing his pattern, you change your direction, using the element of surprise to your advantage.

But King Varyell is no fool. As fast as a snake’s bite, he switches his rhythm, and in the blink of an eye, you are now on the ground, and his sword now digs into your belly.

The steel pressing into your skin demands your surrender.

{Lacrimosa Dominae – Immediate Music – Trailerhead}

King Varyell stumbles backwards with a gasp stuck in his throat. The men of his army now have masks of trembling fear as they look up.

You turn your head to see an army of dragons at the top of the Dozing Mountain. A dragon of obsidian black scales is at the army’s center. Rhaego roars into the sky, shaking the very earth beneath your hands. 

“This feud ends today, humans.” Rhaego has the voice of stones falling down a rocky wall in the middle of the night.

“Couldn’t agree more,” King Varyell says though his teeth. He snatches his sword away from you and starts ascending the mountain.

Rhaego growls again and spews his deadly fire from his mouth, sending the king to the ground in fright.

With the lowering of his wings, Rhaego says, “I will not steal this warrior’s honor. If they wish to fight for us, I will let them. Just remember, human, what will be waiting for you, no matter the outcome.”

Rhaego looks at you, his glowing red eyes instilling a great deal of courage in you. With newfound determination, you push yourself to your feet and face King Varyell to finish the one-on-one combat. 

How do you defeat the king of the Ember Kingdom?

{Dragonborn – Jeremy Soule – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Original Game Soundtrack)}

The crown of the Ember Kingdom falls. Humiliated, King Varyell returns to his kingdom, vowing to the Dragon Emperor he will never seek to maim or kill a dragon again, nor will any who holds the crown after him.

Rhaego and Keisarinna are thankful for your bravery, and they reward you with a longsword imbued with the magical properties of lava. 

Before you leave them to their home of the Dozing Mountain, Edrim the baby dragon gives you a loving head bump goodbye.

In the night again, you begin a new journey, for there are so many adventures out there just waiting for you, traveler.

That is the end of our tale for today. Thank you for joining me, but it’s now time for you to step back through the portal to WHUS Storrs. I hope you join me next week for another adventure. Until then, fairfarren, traveler.

Fairfarren, Friends


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