They slunk through the ruins of the village quietly, trying to draw as little attention to themselves as possible. Whatever safety that this place might have given was destroyed by the Dragon’s fire. By the looks of it, it had been picked through a couple of times already, but they had not had any other leads to go by in weeks.
Once they felt there was no immediate danger, Tialda gave a sharp whistle, signalling the rest of the group to start searching. “Kelstan, keep an eye out while we do this.”
The dark haired man nodded, bow out and ready as he kept alert to any unfamiliar noises. They were nothing special, just your run of the mill band of scavengers looking for a big break. He gave the place a quick look over. It had not been a big place from the looks of it. Everything left was a mess of charred wood and blackened stone.
Thrayten was its name according to the locals. It used to be a mining village that was just starting to grow when the beast had come, and only a handful of survivors made it out to alert the region of the threat. They had come with armies, lured the monster out and slaughtered it. They lost two thirds of the men in the battle.
Kelstan wandered over to the edge and looked down to the field below. He couldn’t see much detail from this height, but there were mounds covered in grass and flowers that marked the mass graves they had made to bury the dead.
Turning his eyes back to his comrades, he noticed odd gray fragments littering some of the area. He wouldn’t have noticed them except for the glint they gave when the light hit them just right. Cautiously, he approached it and felt a bit of a start when he realized what he was looking at.
Dragon is what they had named the large scaled beast. It flew and breathed death upon anything and everything. They had said it claimed this area to ‘nest’ in, and after the battle, the few who were able to made their way up to the ruins and destroyed the eggs it had laid.
Most thought that part was an embellishment but as he looked at this find he knew it wasn’t. Shuddering at the thought of facing such a creature, Kelstan turned to go back to his watch when another larger glint caught his eye.
He felt the air rush out of his lungs; nestled by the rock and half buried was what appeared to be a whole egg. He would have dismissed it as another rock if the light had not hit it just right. Once he managed to breathe again, he called to the others. “I found something.”
It was only a moment before three bodies popped out of the ruins and came towards him. Tialda looked a mix between intrigued and annoyed. “You were supposed to be keeping watch, not leaving us vulnerable. What did you find?”
Kelstan just pointed to the egg. The others looked to where he was pointing in puzzlement.
“A rock?” Arvor asked, looking to his friend with slight worry. “Did you knock your brains loose?”
“No. Just watch you idiots. Wait until the sun breaks from the clouds again.” There was a sigh from one of them, but Kelstan kept his eyes on the egg and so the others indulged him for a moment. When it glinted again, they looked startled.
“What is it? Silver?” Lerine approached it greedily, “Some sort of precious metal?”
That gave everyone pause and Tialda gave a slightly nervous laugh. “Dragon egg? Kel, you have been listening to too many of those stories.”
Arvor nodded, “She’s right. We have no reason to think that is a dragon’s egg. Besides, they broke them all in the story, remember?”
With great care, Lerine dug the egg out from the dirt and lifted it up to get a better look. “It’s definitely an egg of some sort.”
“Dragon egg.” Kelsten repeated, “What else could it be? Just look!” He pointed to the remnants of one of the broken eggs he had found. “It’s the exact same color and by the looks of some of the bigger pieces, the same size.”
There was still some doubt in the eyes of his companions, but as they looked at the egg, it slowly drained away, greed and excitement taking its place.
“A dragon egg. Just think of what we could sell it for!”
“Sell it?” Tialda cut Lerine off, “We should hatch it and raise it as our own weapon!”
“Do you think that would work?” Arvor asked the two women, stopping the argument between them. “We would be the most feared people in TerVarus if we had a Dragon to use.”
“We could have anything we wanted.” Kelstan added. They all looked at each other and smiled, decision made.
“This is your fault!” Tialda’s shrill voice accused, finger pointed at Kelstan in fury. “If you had just kept your mouth shut about the egg, we wouldn’t be in this mess!”
“What did you expect me to do? Just let him treat us like shit? He should fear us. We could turn his shop into a pile of ash once we have our dragon!”
They glanced at the egg Lerine was carefully cradling in her lap, wrapped in a cloak. Arvor sighed and rubbed his face gently, “Will you two be quiet already?”
The two ignored him, going back to arguing. “Why,” Tialda snapped at him. “would they fear us when we only have an egg? It’s a tiny egg to boot! We don’t even know if it’s still alive in there or how long it takes to hatch anyway. I doubt a monster is going to crawl out of that tiny thing.”
Kelstan paused a bit at that logic before plowing on. “He wouldn’t have known all that if Lerine hadn’t shown him the egg. For all he knew, we could have had a full grown dragon.”
“You’re an idiot if you think he would have believed that. He’s the one who supplied us for the trip and we didn’t have a dragon then.” Lerine cut in, glaring at her companions.
Arvor stood up from his seat near the campfire, “All of you shut up! We are being hunted and you are making enough racket that a blind man could find us.”
They all snapped their mouths shut and glared into the fire. Satisfied with the silence, Arvor went to sit back down when he saw a man standing near a tree, watching them. He swore and unsheathed his daggers, looking around the small campsite to try and discern how many were out there.
“No need to be so defensive.” The man said, no weapons drawn, just politely standing at the edge of the light. “I won’t kill you if you just hand over the egg.”
Tialda had her sword drawn, Kelstan was stringing his bow and Lerine was stuffing the egg into a pack. Arvor turned his gaze back towards the enemy he could see, not finding anything out in the woods.
“How many of you are there and who do you hunt for?”“None of that should be a concern for you. Give me the egg and everyone will walk away from this place alive.” He made no threatening movements toward the group, just stayed there and spoke calmly. “This mess of a war has brought enough death down upon us all. We do not need a monster on top of it.”
“You just want it for yourself.” Tialda spat, getting ready to charge. Kelstan and Lerine had arrows trained upon him now and Arvor was circling around, just past the light of the campfire.
“You truly will not negotiate with me?” The stranger looked sincerely disappointed by that, “I have much to offer in exchange.”
“Nothing that would equal this. Leave now and save your own skin.” Tialda shot back, glancing around the woods once more. “You were foolish to come alone.”
The man let out a sigh and winked out of existence as Arvor slammed his daggers into the man’s back. It threw him off balance enough to hit the ground. The four of them erupted into a jumble of alarmed questions, cursing and orders. They didn’t notice the campfire they had built rising into the air and growing larger until it split into four different globes.
“What is—” Kelstan started to question and then started screaming as the balls of fire slammed into each of them. It only took a moment for the fire to engulf them completely, anguished screams of terror and pain tearing through the woods and alerting the others that were hunting them where they were.
The man waited a moment before stepping out from behind the camp, opposite to where his illusion had been. He gingerly made his way over to the pack he had seen Lerine carefully placing the egg into and transferred it into his own. He took control of the fire before it could spread too much and carefully spread it out, burning the ground and up some of the trees. When he was pleased that it looked like a blast of dragon fire had torn through the area, he snuffed most of it out and went on his way before anyone else arrived.