Campaign of the Month: April 2013
Myyth Realm: Legacy
The Last Flight of Cerberus
I have traveled a long way without rest. My joints swell and then ache with every movement. My golden body was once perfect. Now I am missing many scales. I am covered in scars from countless battles. The peaks of the distant High Hearth Mountains are finally starting to come into view. When I was young I would have detected them hours ago but time has worn my eyes just as much as it has the rest of me. I should arrive at the Valley of Bones before midnight tonight… and there I shall stay forever.
The sun was out, and the sky was clear the day of my changrök – a ceremony held for all metallic dragons at the end of their life. Mine was only ten days ago. The entire Council of Wyrm’s was in attendance…
Today is a solemn occasion.” The deep booming voice of a massive bronze dragon bellows out across an open field filled with dragons from all of the metallic species. Bronze, silver, gold, and copper all standing together, gathered to bid farewell to an elder. “But it is also a time to rejoice,” the bronze continues. “Cerberus will become one with the Dragonbone Totem, as we all one day will.” The dragon frowns and looks away for a moment then lifts his head once again. “This world is but one step in the journey of our existence. In joining with the Totem, he will continue to exist within all of us, all dragons. Our kind will grow stronger, wiser with his ascension.” Turning his gaze toward a group of juvenile dragons he says, “Cerberus leaves to empower the Dragon Spirit. It will grow to support a new generation of dragons, dragons that will lead us into a new age!”
A great roar wells up from the crowd causing a gentle tremor in the ground. Cerberus, by far the biggest and oldest dragon present, leans against a boulder with a proud and serene look on his golden face. He stands and walks into the center of the gathering. Each step of his massive limbs shakes the ground even more profoundly than the now fading cheers. The sun glints off of his hide, highlighting the many cracked and missing scales, but does nothing to subdue his grandeur. He begins speaking through ancient vocal cords that provide an uneven but commanding tone.
“It wasn’t so long ago that I was one of you, sending off an old dragon to the Valley of Bones who probably should have gone ages ago.” A slight smile is barley detectable at the corners of the wyrm’s mouth as he pauses in silent reflection, “I am sad to leave you but I feel lucky. Not all of us have the privilege of making the final journey to the Valley of Bones. I have succeeded in this life and now go with honor to be one with the Spirit.” The great wyrm again pauses. “If you remember nothing else of my life or of my teachings, remember this: We dragons are the stewards of this world. It is our charge to seek out injustice at every corner of the realm, to spread kindness and good will, and to eradicate evil. When the darkness gains footing, when its roots grow deep into the ground, the end of the world will be at hand.”
Cerberus reaches up and gently strokes his golden whiskers as is his habit and says, “I leave my hoard to the Council of Wyrms to be divided equally as is our tradition. I shall fly with each of you again, one day, in the Spirit Land… I promise you.”
With that the great golden wyrm extends his wings in preparation for flight as he has countless times before during his fifteen-hundred-year life. The other dragons crowding the clearing move to open a path through the middle. As Cerberus begins trotting forward to take flight his brethren simultaneously release their breath weapons into the air resulting in a long arch of acid, fire, and frost. He erupts from the end of the tunnel in a burst of gold scales, quickly gaining altitude. He can hear the farewell roars from the clearing behind him and looks back one last time before banking sharply towards the north.
I grow ever nearer to the Dragonbone Totem. I can feel rather than see it. It feels as though my life force is being drawn from me, pulled towards the Totem faster than I am physically able to fly. As I grow weaker, injuries from the past harass me. I struggle to stay aloft. My right shoulder is the worst. It burns and emits waves of pain, an old injury from my toughest battle. It reminds me that my body’s betrayal is not my only torment. An evil dragon pursues me, growing closer with every hour. She is hunting me, trying to deny me ascension to the Spirit Land. She does not seek to take my hoard; that is already gone. She does not seek fame; there is no glory in killing a dragon during his last flight, even among the chromatics. Her name is Uk’kusiksalik, and she seeks retribution. Retribution from me for killing her mate hundreds of years ago…
Cerberus bellows in pain as the huge white dragon sinks his icy teeth through golden scales and into warm flesh. The sound of bones cracking and tendons snapping coming from Cerberus’s shoulder are akin to the falling of a large tree. Blood sprays across the white’s snout and outlines the scales down his neck in a glistening crimson. His golden eyes swimming with pain, Cerberus extends his wings to slow their descent and at the same time rakes at the white’s underbelly. With a terrible crash they hit the ground jarring loose their grapple. In an instant, both are on their feet again. They begin circling each other, creating a ring in the snow with their tracks.
The white smiles an evil grin bearing rows of sharp, bloodied teeth, “You’re hurt, Cerberus. I can see your limp and smell your fear. The flame within you has died out. My frigid homeland is too much for your feeble gullet. ”
“You have killed without cause, Katharicsalik. You have brought terror and darkness to this land. It stops today. I will set your spirit free so that your body can no longer bring harm.” Cerberus snarls in response.
“Those are bold words for a dragon bathed in his own blood.”
Kicking up a cloud of snow behind him, the huge white dragon leaps across the clearing with his teeth and claws poised to strike. At the midpoint of his jump, Cerberus suddenly raises his head and breaths a cone of golden fire from his throat. The flame impacts the left side of the white dragon blasting half of the scales from his body. Katharicsalik, blinded in one eye and one wing rendered useless, falls from the air and into the snow before the wounded gold dragon.
Katharicsalik looks up from the ground to see Cerberus limp closer, all around him white scales fall from the sky like snow, “You could have used your skill, your power to bring good to our world, but you brought evil. Now I bring you death. In the name of the Council of Wyrms, I pass sentence on you, Katharicsalik.”
She knew. She knew it the moment it happened even though she was over a thousand miles away. All this time she has been waiting for her chance, waiting for me to make my last flight. She is cunning; she is patient; and she is an enemy I didn’t even know I had until one hour ago…
Heading to the southeast, the white wyrm, Uk’kusiksalik, gains speed quickly moving much faster than a creature of her size appears to be capable. Soon she detects a golden speck on the horizon, and her blood begins to surge with anticipation. As she grows closer her hopes are confirmed; Cerberus makes his last flight. He turns his head and watches her close in on him. She takes up pursuit behind him and creeps ever closer with each passing minute.
In the sharp language of the dragons she yells out to him, “Cerberus! I am Uk’kusiksalik, mate of Katharicsalik! I have come to take vengeance upon you for taking him from me! In your last hours you will feel pain like you have never felt! I deny you your ascension, ancient one!”
Now within the range of her breath weapon she unleashes it on the elder dragon. A stream of ultra-cold energy flows from her throat and impacts Cerberus’s hindquarters. The already pained gold dragon howls as the cold penetrates his worn-out hide. He quickly casts a spell. Moments later a blast of fire encompasses Uk’kusiksalik forcing her to drop hundreds of feet and giving Cerberus a chance to disengage from combat.
“You will not escape me Cerberus!” the white wyrm yells as she drops away.
It is over an hour before the dragons are again within shouting range. The red glow from the Bone Totem is stronger now, and the border of the Valley of Bones is almost within reach. Cerberus wears an expression of intense pain as he struggles to stay aloft despite his age, injuries, and the drain of his life force by the Bone Totem.
“Almost there…” Cerberus mutters to himself.
Uk’kusiksalik forgoes the use of her breath weapon and with a burst of energy covers the last distance between them in an instant and latches onto the back of the failing gold.
“Your fate is with me, Cerberus!” she roars as the two dragons plummet toward the ground, smashing into a snow-covered ridge less than fifty feet from the border of the Valley.
“To deny me ascension you harm all of dragonkind, Uk’kusiksalik.”
“What of the ascension of my mate, wise one?”
“It was a decision of the council. It was just.”
“I recognize no council, worm!”
Uk’kusiksalik rakes with her claws again and again at the neck and chest of Cerberus. Red blood sprays from exposed muscle as the wounds become deeper and deeper. Cerberus is soon unable to block any of the white dragon’s blows and goes limp, his eyes of molten gold slowly rolling back into his skull. Uk’kusiksalik stops her assault, and brings her head close to that of her prey and whispers, “Now, old one, I send you into nothing. Your spirit exists no longer.” She opens her jaws to make a killing blow to the throat when Cerberus’s eyes suddenly sharpen, and he turns his head and releases a fiery breath weapon directly into the mouth of the great white wyrm. Uk’kusiksalik is blown back and knocked unconscious as nearly is Cerberus from the strain of expelling the attack. With his precious last bit of energy, he slowly begins to crawl towards the border of the Valley of Bones. Uk’kusiksalik quickly regains consciousness and slowly returns to her feet. She limps towards the gold dragon, unable to speak with the terrible damage done to her mouth. Catching up to him quickly, she steps on his back leg stopping his advance. She raises her claws to make the killing blow when suddenly she is knocked back by a skeletal tail. A massive undead dragon now stands above them. He is easily as large as the two of them combined and is tethered to the bone totem by a thin ray of red energy. They both know him for he is the guardian of the totem and valley.
Mar’zacomatl’s eyes blaze with an unholy fire as he speaks in a hollow and otherworldly voice, “Be gone, Uk’kusiksalik. Cerberus has crossed into the Valley of the Bones and will ascend through the Bone Totem to be one with the Dragon Spirit.”
“No! You will not take my prize from me!” she yells through singed vocal cords as she leaps forward in a desperate attack on the guardian. He easily knocks the injured white wyrm back and steps toward her menacingly, the energy-tether the only thing holding him within the confines of the Valley’s borders.
Uk’kusiksalik rolls to her feet, slamming her clenched claws into the icy ground, and then roars into the air, disappearing into the clouds.
Mar’zacomatl turns and walks back towards the bone totem as if unaware of Cerberus’s presence. Cerberus pulls himself to his feet. Slowly, painfully, he walks through the Valley of Bones. All around him, a forest of dragon bones surround the sacred totem. He steps into a clearing devoid of any remains and lies down beside the pulsating structure. As Cerberus closes his eyes, the red light from the totem grows to an impossible intensity, bathing the bones in a brilliant light. Wind blows into the Valley from all directions. A golden nimbus slowly forms around the unmoving dragon and then breaks apart, flowing with the wind and into the totem. With a ground-shaking thump, the totem flashes a radiant gold and then slowly fades back. All that remains of Cerberus are a collection of massive bones devoid of any flesh and a single, golden scale…