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Dragon Hunt – Chapter 1, Part 9 – Winter in the cabin

The cabin was finished before the first snowfall.

Trevan was convinced that the red dragon Abraxas not only killed his father, but was also the dragon that killed his mother years ago. He spent his time learning as much about dragons as he could from his Kabold servant, Yeark.

Yeark continued to be a faithful servant. He did the cleaning and cooking and everything else Trevan asked. He also continued to make traps and got great pleasure in doing everything he could to torment their gnome house guest, Gimble.

Gimble used his magic to keep his clothing clean and in good repair. He seamed to have an unlimited number of brightly colored shirts and paints in his bag. From time to time he would pull something they needed out of his carpet bag. Once he pulled out a sauce pan and a full set of dinnerware. Another time he pulled out a chopping cleaver and he once pulled out two hard leather shields for them to use while practicing with their swords. Trevan never asked, but he suspected that Gimble’s bag was a magical bag of holding.

Gimble would secretly check the magical gem in his pendent two or three times a day. One morning it began to glow and change its color to black, meaning that it detected a black dragon. Gimble went outside, but never saw it. The gem indicated that the dragon flew from the southwest to the southeast and then the gem’s dim light went out. Gimble went inside and asked Trevan if they had ever had any black dragons here. Trevan said, “No, but you should ask Yeark. He would know if any ever came this way.” Gimble refused to talk to Yeark, so Trevan waited until that evening, and then asked Yeark what he knew about black dragons.

Yeark said, “What you call black dragons we call skull dragons. As they get older the skin draws tight around their face giving them a very skull like appearance. They get really big, almost a big as red dragons. They are notoriously bad tempered and cruel. They normally live in warm watery areas like swamps. The nearest ones to here is a pair that lives in the salt marsh south of Morningside, about a 20 day trip from here.”

“Do they breathe fire and cast magic spells like red dragons?” Trevan asked.

“No,” said Yeark. “Their breath weapon is a line of acid. But they do cast spells.”

Gimble had to ask, “Do black dragons ever come around here?”

“I have never heard of any coming this far north, but I would sure like to meet one,” answered Yeark. “There is an elder of our tribe that tells stories of a trip he took when he was young. He spent some time with another tribe that had the honor of providing a defensive guard for a skull dragon’s lair.”

“Do all dragons have kobolds guarding their lairs?” asked Trevan.

“No. Many don’t have any guards at all. Some have other races of guards, such as hobgoblins or ogers. But any kobold tribe would gladly defend a dragon’s lair.”

Gimble said, “I may have seen a black dragon near the horizon this morning.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” said Trevan.

“I didn’t want to upset you. It wasn’t flying in this direction. I was wondering if it might have something to do with the orc raids.”

“Skull dragons have been known to use tribes of orcs to do their dirty work,” said Yeark. “Orcs are not very smart and a clever dragon could easily convince them to do almost anything with promises of great rewards and the backing of a powerful dragon. Perhaps the pair in Saltmarsh is expanding their domain. They may have a new hatchling! If I were back with my tribe, they might have heard if there was any news of that type. Oh, what wonderful news, if it is true!”

“Do you here that?” yelled Gimble to Trevan. “He loves dragons! He wants to serve and protect them! He can’t wait until he gets back to his cave so he can plot with dragons to kill us all!”

“That’s not true!” snapped Yeark. “There are many dragons that I have no respect for at all. I have no desire to kill all humans. Gnomes, yes!” as he stared at Gimble. “And it’s not a cave, it’s a mine.”

Gimble started to say something to Yeark, but Trevan held his hand up in front of Gimble and turned to Yeark, “You have never had anything but good to say about dragons. What dragons do you not respect?”

Yeark thought for a minute before speaking, “We don’t speak of them often, but there are dragons that prefer weakness to strength. They would protect the weak from the strong, rather than allowing the strong to prevail as is their natural right. Instead of dictating to the weaker races they prefer to ‘negotiate’ with them. Rather than killing a foe in battle, they will try to block or only wound and much prefer to avoid any conflict at all. Some actually seek to associate with humans, elves and other lesser races. These dragons typically have the luster of metal to their scales and are called metallic dragons. Fortunately, there are very few of them.”

Trevan said, “I never heard of good dragons. Gimble, what do you know about these metallic dragons?”

Gimble said, “There was a story I heard once about a gold dragon that was good. I also heard many times about a silver dragon that likes to change into human form and live among humans. I never really believed any of those stories, though.”

Trevan said, “Why can’t we find a metallic dragon and get it to help us find and kill Abraxas?”

Yeark said, “No. It is not possible.”

“Why not?” said Trevan.

“First of all, the only metallic dragon that would be powerful enough to defeat an ancient red dragon such as  Abraxas would be an ancient gold dragon, and I don’t think that there are any of them left. Even if there were and you could find him, he wouldn’t fight Abraxas.”

“I understand that he wouldn’t want to fight, but we could let him know of all of the terrible things Abraxas had done, he would have to help us,” said Trevan.

“It’s not just that,” said Yeark. “Long ago there was a great battle between the metallic dragons and the chromatic dragons. It lasted for centuries. When it was over, the few remaining dragons all swore never to kill, or cause to be killed, another true dragon. And this was to be honored by them and their descendents forever. I think this was foolish and the metallic dragons should all have been killed. But dragons are much smarter than kobolds so I guess they had a good reason.”

The winter passed quietly. Trevan and Gimble practiced fighting with sword and crossbow. They learned all they could about the draconian language and dragon behavior. Trevan got better at spotting and disarming Yeark’s traps. When winter turned to spring, Trevan would hunt for small game while Gimble would gather all kinds of edible roots, leaves, berries, fruit, and vegetables. Gimble was an excellent cook and enjoyed making dishes Trevan had never tried before. At Trevan’s instance, Yeark was always invited to share in these meals, but he seldom cared for the soups and breads. He much preferred meat to vegetables and liked it cooked very lightly without seasoning.

Just before summer, as they were sitting down to eat late in the evening on one cool spring day, one of Yeark’s warning alarms sounded. Something at the foot of the hill broke a thread which released a small weight attached to a string that was concealed along the ground up to the cabin which then pulled a pin that was holding up a spoon. The spoon fell down and hit the bottom of an overturned metal pan. This alerted everyone in the cabin of the approach of uninvited guests.

When they peaked out they saw a band of eight orcs sneaking quietly towards the cabin. Trevan was gathering up his crossbow and quiver of bolts and Gimble was putting on his chain shirt when Yeark said, “We don’t stand a chance against them. We will all be killed if we try to fight.”

Trevan paused and said, “Yea, I know. If you want to run away you can. I’m going to stay and fight. Gimble, you can go too if you want to.”

Gimble said, “We couldn’t run away if we wanted to. They’d catch us before we reached the tree line. We could try to talk them into letting us live, assuming one of them speaks common. I don’t think any of us can speak orc.”

Trevan said, “I don’t think these orcs came here to talk. You two run, I’ll try to hold them long enough for you to get away.”

Yeark said, “We can’t win if we fight, but there is another option.” Trevan and Gimble stopped their preparations for battle and stared at the Kobold. “I have an escape tunnel. It’s down here.” He lifted the section of wood flooring that covered the pit that he used as his sleeping area. Trevan and Gimble peaked in and saw that Yeark had enlarged his room and it now contained a Kobold sized chair, table, sleeping mat and had straw mats covering the walls. Trevan held the floorboards up while Yeark jumped down and pulled aside one of the wall mats to reveal a tunnel entrance. It was large enough for the kabold to walk in upright. The gnome would have to bend over a little and Trevan would have to bend over as far as he could unless he wanted to crawl. “It goes to a concealed exit about fifty yards into the woods. Quickly grab what you need and we can be gone before they get here.”

Trevan and Gimble both threw everything they didn’t want the orcs to get into Gimble’s carpet bag and started towards the tunnel. They just got the floorboards back in place before the orcs rushed in. They could hear the orcs tearing up the place as they started quickly, but quietly, running down the tunnel. Yeark was the last one into the tunnel and just before he lowered the wall mat he pulled a leaver that he had concealed in the wall of the tunnel. The three heard a loud crash behind them as they ran. The rock that was covering the exit of the tunnel had been hollowed out and was surprisingly light. They were indeed just inside the forest. Instead of running further into the forest and hiding, they moved cautiously back to the edge of the trees and looked back at the cabin.

Dust was still settling where the cabin had stood. All that was there now was the brick chimney and a pile of logs. The orcs were nowhere to be seen. They must have been under the rubble which was starting to burn. All three of them sat down on a log and just watched it burn.

Gimble retrieved their meal which he had placed into his bag in a covered pot. It was still hot. They ate in silence. After a couple of hours; it was dark, the fire that was once Trevan’s cabin was dying, and the three of them were still sitting on the log at the edge of the forest. Trevan finally broke the silence when he said, “Yeark, I’m releasing you from your vow. You can go back to your tribe. All of your obligations to me have been fulfilled.” He looked over at Gimble and continued, “I’m not going to try to rebuild it this time. I’m going on my own, into the woods to live off the land.”

Gimble said, “So you’re going to become a Ranger like your father.”

Trevan said, “Yes. I still plan on killing Abraxas, but I realize that I am not ready. I still have a lot to learn, and I can’t learn it here.”

Gimble asked, “Would you like me to come with you?”

“No. This is something I must do alone.”

Yeark left immediately. Trevan and Gimble spent the rest of the night where they were and in the morning, after dividing up their belongings, said their goodbyes and went their separate ways.

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