A Change of Plans...Terror in the Sky

Ruldan returned to the wizard’s tower, eager to speak with him about everything that had happened along the border mountains. It was a long flight for the “crow” but he knew his master wanted to hear important news right away. He squeezed his way through the iron bars of the arched window, flapping his tired wings, before gliding toward the wizard, and gently landing on his shoulder.

“Well look who’s back,” said a female voice. Ruldan turned his beak to the right, and noticed Samantha sitting on the other window sill, stretching out her paws and yawning. “How was your trip little birdie?”

“None of your business,” said Ruldan. “I’m here to talk to the master.”

“Then speak already!” Oranthuz knocked him off his shoulder, and the poor crow hit his head on the corner of the wizard’s bookshelf.

“Well, my liege,” said Ruldan, after regaining his composure, “our mission was a success...though we had some complications. That annoying Knight of the Faithful and his furry companion made it difficult for us, but the orcs managed to capture the one you wanted. They’re escorting him here as we speak, and should arrive within a week if we’re lucky. Possibly longer.”

The wizard gave him a sidelong glance. “The others got away?”

“Y-y-yes...my liege,” stuttered Ruldan, “but we captured the one you wanted. And if I remember correctly, you said you weren’t concerned about the Knight or the bear and that--”

“Fool!” the wizard slammed his fist on the desk. “Of course I’m not concerned about them...as long as they’re both dead. But now you tell me they escaped?”

“Forgive me, oh great one, but what seems to be the problem?” Ruldan backed off a bit just to be safe. “It’s just a knight...and a silly bear.’’

“Yeah, just a knight and a silly bear that’ll spend all their time tracking down the portal traveler,” chimed in Samantha, her sarcastic tone getting under Ruldan’s feathers. “You really are a fool you brainless beak.”

“I wasn’t talking to you!” snapped Ruldan. “Go hunt some rats already and leave us be.”

“She’s right you worthless creature!” Oranthuz grabbed him, and pulled him closer, Ruldan now trembling in fear. “He’s a Knight of the Faithful, a master swordsman and tracker, and that’s no ordinary bear he’s travelling with. They’ll track down this portal traveler in no time, and those stupid orcs won’t know what hit them.” He let out an angry sigh. “Once again, my “master” spy and servant botches up a simple operation.” He tossed Ruldan back to the window he entered from. “Go now...just leave. I can’t stand the sight of you anymore.”

***
It had been a few days since the orc attack, and their plans had changed dramatically when Cipher was taken captive. Initially, Arthandus wanted to take Cipher to Castle Hope for questioning. But now, instead of heading east, they were heading west, toward King Aldruck’s castle in Loneldrin, one of the evil wizard’s many secret headquarters.

And to make matters worse, Arthandus' horse, the great white steed, had run off somewhere during the orc attack. He felt it strange that his faithful companion would leave in the midst of a battle, being a trained warhorse and all, but the horse was nowhere in sight.

On the third day, they travelled long and hard through the mountain pass, hoping to find Cipher before he ended up in Loneldrin. No telling what the wizard might do to him! And just before nightfall, they settled along a roaring river, gushing down from the higher reaches of the mountain, and Bronfus proved to be very useful, catching large trout with ease. But Arthandus wouldn’t dare eat raw fish, nor would their new companion, Tyrone Phillips. So using his survival skills, the knight managed to start a fire with stick and stone, and soon enough, they were eating cooked trout. Bronfus, however, preferred it raw.

After supper, the three of them began to talk and tell stories. Tyrone was still fascinated by the whole situation, as well as the nifty orc blade he managed to score during the scuffle. But he realized this was no video game, and that real danger lurked ahead. Nonetheless, he couldn’t stop observing the sword, and couldn’t wait to show it to his friends back home.

“Man, I didn’t know orcs were so good at crafting swords,” he said. “It’s got all these fancy style letters that I can’t read, engraved right into the blade. Cool stuff.” Tyrone smiled at the knight who didn't seem amused. "But your sword's cool too, sir... and you're one heck of a fighter!"

“Orcs don’t craft blades,” said Arthandus, boldly. “They steal them.” He leaned forward to get a better look at it. “That's an ancient sword, looks like a northern style sword.” He glanced at the bear who was trying to take a nap. “What do you think, Bronfus, northern sword or no?”

Bronfus shook his head. “Don’t know, don’t care. I’m tired and I need to rest if you don’t mind. But if I were to guess, it looks like an old Lireon blade...maybe even an Aukrish blade.”

They discussed the blade for a little while longer, until Bronfus turned away, plopping himself down on a large, cozy boulder, while Arthandus and Tyrone kept watch. And just before the sun went down, they heard something coming from above, and then they saw it…

A bolt of light suddenly lit up the sky, and the roar of an angry beast echoed through the mountains. It’s massive form shadowed over them, and the ground below began to shake as it flapped its gigantic wings, causing trees to sway back and forth from the gusty winds it created.

The trio quickly huddled together, gazing upward at the frightening spectacle. Its wingspan seemed to spread across the entire mountain range, and its tail was as big as a sea.

It had been centuries since any of those ancient creatures existed, perhaps even longer, and even though he was frightened out of his skull, Arthandus couldn’t help but to shout something out, an ancient word that rolled off his tongue: “Brodha!”

Within a matter of seconds, the dragon was gone...

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