Z’alden had to smile as he stepped out of the Kengi shrine to Bahamut. A young dragonborn tugged at his leg. Dragons teeth but that itched. The cleric shook his head to pay attention. “Please Brother Zenithar, tell us the story of the Rift, again!” A small crowd of other youngsters nodded vigorously, “Yes, yes!” The Half-Elf just grinned. These youths had seen the ravages that the Fire Elemental army had wrought upon the warriors of the dragonborn Kengi. Thousands had perished before Z’alden’s friends had vanquished the primordial force that compelled the elementals forward. Z’alden shuddered at the memory of the behemoth Ryolith. 6 staff lengths of molten lava rising into the sky. A stomp of the monster’s feet could open cracks of lava-filled ground below one’s own. His new scale armor had been singed when he had fallen into one of Riolith’s staff-deep crevices.
He suppressed the shudder and turned to the leader of the young group. “Now, Laren-Tioth, surely your father has told you this story ten times already.”“Yes, but want to hear it from you! My father was fighting the elementals with Ilkhan Felsmon and General Barrick." All fell silent at mention of the great dwarf. Laren-Tioth was too riled about to think about mourning, "But, he wasn’t there to face the snakeman or the evil fire elf, much less the mass of lava Ryolith!” All the dragonborn children hissed at that name. The Kengi had come to understand what danger the molten monster represented. The massive scar in the land, a chasm of unknown depths, 10 staff lengths across and an hours walk long, still smoldering days after the battle. The scar served as a reminder of just how close the Kengi had come to the brink.
The Cleric sat down, his leg itching. The Kengi healers had miraculously restored Z’alden’s severed limb. He still couldn’t believe how they had managed to obtain the necessary component, a half-elven leg bone, but he was lucky that they had. The leg had healed well and was actually much stronger then before. But, oh, how it itched. The skin was surprisingly hard, too. The healers assured him that the itch would stop eventually, but Z’alden couldn’t help noticing the worried looks they would give each other after answering his questions. Still, this was not the time to reflect. Just scratch and talk, the children were waiting.
The little circle of dragonborn surrounded the cleric. Each child held one or two small swords, and some waved them as though in battle while they waited quietly for him to start speaking. One burst out, “Take that Staghelm! I am the daring Ranger Erik and slash you with my twin swords.” Laren-Tioth growled, “No, shellhead, Erik slew Staghelm with his magical Moonbow. He slashed Ryolith. Brother Zenithar, would you tell Dandiflan that he’s telling it wrong?”
Again, Z’alden couldn’t help but smile at these youngsters. Brother Zenithar, yes that is the formal name he hardly ever uses. The stiff dragonborn clerics and warriors always call him by his proper name. Not even his mother calls him Zenithar, preferring her nickname for Zenithar al Denithar, her little Z’alden. Oh, if his elven father Denithar could see him now! With the safe return of his friends from their quest to seek out and understand the Dark Cloud in the south, and now the defeat of Ryolith, he had all that he could possibly need – good food, friends, and many young ears eager to hear him recount the recent battles. Well, almost everything. He had already mourned long and hard. Now, it was time to turn to tomorrow, and maybe he could work in a little sermon or two.
The cleric’s voice was practiced at story telling, a key skill for a preacher. And, how he loved to preach for the causes of the great Dragon – Hope, Justice, and Law. “Yes, good Kengi children, the story you shall have. First, there are the dragonfriends, Felsmon your noble Ilkhan.” The children cheered at the naming of their dragonborn hero. “Next, the great dwarven figher General Barrick who freed your great Dragon Aurumendor from the Yuan-ti and then came to Kengistan himself and led so many Kengi to victory despite the apparent hopelessness of the battle – the enemy was two to one against them!” The children and a few kobolds who had gathered bowed quietly at the memory of the fallen warlord fighter, the dwarf who commanded dragonborn. Z’alden heard sniffles. “Next is the quiet warrior of swift blade and sure arrow, Erik the Ranger.” The youngster with the two swords waved them in the air as everyone cheered. “And, the Sorceress exemplar Tira Duskmoon,” Z’alden made the very beginnings of his healing light illuminate his hands with a purple fire,” whose many colored chaos shredded the minds and bodies of the Kengi enemies.” The children jumped to their feet and slapped swords. They waved their swords like Tira’s powerful magic dagger, slaying unseen foes. It took several minutes before they quieted. Z’alden waited patiently. “Finally, the Eladrin wizard Rift whose magic rooted our foes to the place, rendering them fodder for my friends’ greatest powers!” Clawed hands extended as a gaggle of wizards surrounded the cleric, “You will bow to my powers!” the children shouted in one melodramatic voice.
Z’alden couldn’t help but wish that his dwarven friend was here to hear his re-telling of the tale. Barrick, General Barrick the Kengi called him, had gone into battle with Felsmon, leading thousands of dragonborn warriors. At the front line of the Kengi army massed against thousands of Fire Elementals, Z’alden’s two friends had held the elementals rooted in place while the cleric and the others were teleported behind enemy lines to break the power of the Fire Generals who controlled the elementals. If only he could have been there to save Barrick.
The children settled down and the cleric began to weave the tale.
“The Rift of Fire formed in the sky and on the ground. Just as in the dreams the Great Dragon had granted me. My friends and I would not stand idly by as thousands of Fire Elementals poured into the homeland of Clan Kengi. Your Tarkhan called to us and we answered!” The dragonborn children cheered wildly! A Kengi cleric brought Z’alden a tankard of ale, and a few other brothers stood by smiling as the half-elf continued.
“The Kengi mages penetrated the magic shield that guarded one of the Elemental’s Generals: Fenderal Staghelm, an elf turned by some primordial force into a fire elemental himself but with cunning and power, armed with twin swords full of evil to spread chaos and destruction across the Earth. This is just what I was called to stop, my little ones. This is the evil that I was given my powers to fight. We are all called to stand against evil in all its forms – this is just one of the most tangible.” He lost the youngsters at that point; too much sermon. Back to story.
“Using a magical potion, my friends and I disguised ourselves as Fire Elementals, and the mages teleported us into General Staghelm’s presence. The elf was surprised and paid the price. I called on Bahamut’s justice to send this elemental sprite back to the chaos that spawned him! By Dragon’s Claw, By Dragon’s Might, Prince of Darkness now beware, today you feel the Dragon’s Light! Claw daggers of blue light erupted from my fingers in answer to my prayer. The sapphire claws tore into Staghelm, ravaging his body, and more importantly his mind – leaving him stunned in place before he could even swing one of his twin swords against us. Tira the Sorceress beguiled his mind with a dazzling ray and stole one of his burning hot swords out of Staghelm’s hands. Then, Rift the wizard created a giant icy hand, a spell learned from the master wizard Bigsby! The Hand of Ice grasped the fire elf. Flames shot out of the icy fingers as the spell squeezed the fallen son of air. Rift grabbed our foe’s other sword. I called upon Bahamut and divine light washed over my friends, empowering them with the Dragon’s ferocity, even as the light seared the evil Staghelm. Then, with his own twin swords flashing as though some huge Wolf’s jaw had opened and closed on our foe, Erik slashed and tore into the flaming elf. It was as though slashes from a mouth full of razor sharp teeth engulfed our foe. The battle was in our favor and Staghelm was reeling. But, always remember, the battle isn’t over until the enemy is felled. Staghelm was far from defeated.”
The children’s eyes went wide as the cleric sipped his ale for effect. The gathered kobolds rocked on their heels. “Extending his hand, the flaming black sword of the elf flew from the wizard back to Staghelm, and the silver sword from the Sorceress. In a few short strokes, the powerful figher had penetrated the defenses of the Ranger with a quick backhand slash and a punch to the head. Erik was on fire and reeling, unable to think straight. Dragon’s claws! but I evened the tide by sending brilliant blue light into the eyes of that elf, blinding him. Violent winds erupted from Tira as a tempest battered our foe. The elf lashed out at me, and even my dragonborn scale armor couldn’t stop those sharp weapons. Emboldened, the elf looked to close on me for a kill. Little did he realize that my friend the Ranger’s staff had turned into a radiant Moonbow. Dazzling arrows flew at our foe, a volley of biting shafts wounding the elemental general. Tira’s lightning scored the elf further even as the great Hand of Bigsby’s magic squeezed him. Lightning and arrows rained down on the elf, but he wasn’t finished, slicing his swords into me and into our wizard. But, our flaming foe hadn’t reckoned on the Ranger’s arrows striking true, through his helm, and into his burning brain, felling the elf with a powerful enchanted arrow.”
Laren-Tioth stuck his forked tongue out at Dendiflan, “See, I told you the amazing Erik slew Staghelm with the Moonbow.” Dendiflan stomped his foot.
“But, good children, Staghelm wasn’t quite finished, yet. Even as he perished, he uttered a curse. The flaming elf shouted, as sizzling blood poured from his lips, ‘You shall fall before Ryolith’". The dragonborn children hushed at that name.
“We did not realize just what a curse that was. A name I had heard in the visions the Dragon had granted to me, giving us warning of our foes.”
“There was no time to ponder, as the mages returned us from behind the lines of the Fire Elementals before those monsters could realize we were there and as vulnerable as a plucked chicken. We barely had time to breathe, as the mages teleported us to the area of the other Fire General, the flaming man-serpent called Executus – a Yuan-ti turned into an elemental by the same great primordial power that had transformed Staghelm. Staghelm’s superior in every way. This was no foe to sneer at. Underestimate your foes and come home dead, General Barrick always told me, Respect them and have a tankard the next day.” The children nodded at the wisdom of the great fallen dwarf. Z’alden found it hard to speak for a moment as he remembered his friend. He took a deep draught from his own tankard and thanked the Dragon for it. He looked around. A crowd of Kengi had gathered. Most had tankards, many large, just the way Barrick would have wanted it. They raised theirs to the cleric. He continued.
“The shields protecting the huge man-snake were more powerful than those of Staghelms. The mages did their best but we were not as close nor as well placed. I was more than 10 staff lengths away and found myself with a fire elemental in my face rather than the flaming scales of Executus that I longed to extinguish. My children, those scales have haunted my dreams for the past moontide and here they were, so close but barred by an elemental. Such creatures are not to be ignored. Tira and Rift each had one in front of them as well. Singed we were but more annoyed than harmed. The Sorceress sent a wave of thunder all around, sending the elemental back to the chaos that spawned it. The wizard had no such patience, she sent a vortex of wind around Executus, battering him and tossing him into the air, leaving him dazed and wounded. Erik was not about to let such an opportunity pass. Quickly, arrows of light flew from the enchanted bow, ripping into the flaming scales. Dragon’s claws but I was not going to let these evil creatures bar my way to victory. Silver flames erupted from me in all directions, destroying the elemental in front of me and reaching all the way to Executus. Oh, that former Yuan-ti began to wish he’d never left his shell as the Dragon’s power froze him to the spot even as the wizard’s whirlwind bound him in the air!”
“But, the wizard’s power is not infinite, and as he arrived back on terra firma, waves of flames erupted from the snake, burning Tira, Rift, and Erik. The Ranger was on fire. Then, in an instant, the leather armor protecting Erik glowed and the fire was out. The Ranger’s eyes went like steel, arrows flew, destroying more fire elementals that Executus had summoned. If the Ranger was steel, the magic of the wizard was like titanium. The Eladrin called upon great powers, icy cold and warmth enveloped Executus. The snakeman’s eyes grew heavy. At first, he was simply moving slowing. We punished him for this weakness with spells and arrows, blinding light that seared his eyes. But, he had not yet seen the power that my friends could wield, nor would he, as he dropped unconscious from the wizard’s magical might.”
“Two perfect arrows flew from the Ranger’s bow. Never have I seen shots that were more perfectly placed to extract a price from an enemy. Two more flew, equally well placed. From the flaming snake, something akin to flaming pus flowed freely from each penetrating shaft. By the claw, this creature would fall! Bahamut’s brilliance erupted as white radiance engulfed the flaming Yuan-ti. What little breath the Ranger had left in him, by the Great Dragon, this Executus was no more!”
Cheers erupted from the crowd of Kengi and kobolds that had surrounded the circle of dragonborn children and clerics. Tankards chimed together like victory bells. Heads nodded and mugs foamed. The half-elf took a deep draught, even as he gathered as thoughts, “But, what about Ryolith?” young Larn-Tioth asked. Everyone hissed again at the name of the molten giant. Z’alden’s eyes narrowed as thought of the monstrosity, the exarch and general of the primordial Ragnaross.
Deep below the surface, not far from where the cleric spoke, a dwarf marveled at the filigree ring on his finger. Magic. I think it might have its uses. Told Felsmon I just might need this when Erik found it in that Devil’s muck. His beard singed, his armor blackened, the tough dwarf stowed his shield and axe. He looked to his left and right. Hundreds upon hundreds of Kengi dragonborn and kobolds lay dead around him. Most unrecognizable from the impact. He looked up and far in the distance; he could just see the faint outline of light. How many miles above? Who knew. But no flaming little cookies and their overgrown campfire were keeping this dwarf down. He pulled out his climbing rope, swung the climbing hook, and started to ascend. Barrick was getting out of this hole, no matter how long it took.
As the crowd quieted from the mention of the molten monster, Z’alden nodded, “Yes Laren-Tioth, the Exarch of Ragnaross put a sour end to our victory. Even as Executus fell, the elementals were strengthened by the arrival of the living Lava mound. The mages got us closer to our foe this time. A little too close. I was next to the giant. A full 5 staff lengths across, he was, in a crater that his heat was generating. We were all too close to the flaming arms and molten body. And we knew it. Strategic repositioning was in order. Little did this Exarch know that an Arch of Magic was coming his way, courtesy of the mighty Eladrin. Even as Tira flew on a dragon’s vestige, the Ranger was surrounded by lava as Ryolith melted the ground under him. What sort of monster was this that even the very ground became our enemy? Flaming cracks extended further, dropping me into another pit of fire. Rift also fell into the cracks but she would not despair."
“Calling upon that amazing Icy Hand of Master Bigsby, she tried to grab the giant. Even when times seem dark, and the enemy more than you bear, stand fast and have faith! By the Claw, I let that molten muddle know that I was a cleric of Bahamut! Silver flames engulfed his own fire, and Ryolith knew the pain of the light of the Great Dragon. The monster was rooted to the spot and his brightness dimmed by the Bahamut’s radiance. In that moment, the Eladrin saw her chance. Her powerful enchantment surround our foe, and he became slow and then, unconscious! The Ranger knew he had not a moment to lose. His brilliant arrows attacked the most vulnerable parts that had become exposed as the monster lagged under the magical lulling of the wizard’s sleeping spell. With 6 arrows in just heartbeats, Ryolith was much less than he had once been. He knew the bite of the Ranger’s volleys! Then, Tira battered the flaming hulk with wind – a tempest to extinguish the flames and send the creature back to his primordial master. Indeed, his flames were dimmed greatly. As I called on the Great Dragon, brilliant radiance from Bahamut stole more of the living flames from the mighty hulking lava mass. Ryolith’s flames were going out!”
“Then, the hulking mass awoke.” The crowd drew in its breath, even as Z’alden continued.
“100 of the Fire Elementals on the front lines of the battle with the Kengi vanished and as one, their flames poured into the molten monster, restoring him. He waved his hand and the ground under Rift turned into lava, searing the wizard. Ryolith moved closer to us to engage in melee with his great arms of flaming lava. The Ranger would have none of it. Arrows flew and huge chunks of lava could no longer bind to the mass. Thunder shattered more off of Ryolith’s flame as the magic of the Sorceress would not be denied. Even so, the beast stomped his feet and huge flaming cracks erupted in the earth, swallowing me. Tira answered with lightning that burst upon the monster. His flames were again dimming. Hope swelled within me. By the Wing, I called forth the image of the Great Dragon and silver flames poured forth over Ryolith. The monster was teetering even as the filled ground burned the wizard and myself. We were winning! But, never rest when the enemy is still above ground,”
“Or you’ll be the one below!” A dwarven voice growled. There from the edge of the crowd, a soot-covered dwarf stood. Z’alden jumped to his feet. “Barrick, by the Wings, you’re alive!”
“Aye, and thirsty.” The dwarf found himself with four of the largest tankards of dragonborn ale, two for each hand. The crowd cheered wildly at the return of the mighty dwarf. “Now finish the tale. I want to know just how that scratch in the ground formed.”
Z’alden just shook his head in wonder and thanked the Dragon for all that he had. “Thousands of the elementals in front of your troops vanished and Ryolith restored himself further.”
The cleric found it hard to speak. He was too full of emotion at the return of his friend, but the crowd called for more.
“Rift’s Icy Hand had just grabbed Ryolith but, newly restored, he escaped. He charged at Erik, but with a deft maneuver, our Ranger was too quick for the hulking creature. Little did Ryolith realize what lay in store for him in return for his trouble. In a blink, the Ranger was no longer holding his moonbow, but instead, his twin blades were in his hands, and he began to carve the beast as though it was soft dirt. Lava chunks fell in all directions. Tira, seeing a weakness in the creature, directed a thunderblast from her dagger straight into his chest. The thunder reverberated and Ryolith’s right arm flew off! The wizard summoned a magical gate to get closer to the beast, and twin arcs of magical missiles tore away at the outer shell of the creature. His lava shell began to fall away revealing an inner core of an iron skeleton that teetered.”
“It roared and shouted, you will never defeat the son of Ragnaross!” All eyes in the crowd went wide. “The earth shook and a wave of fire and a great wind blast flew from the front lines back across the iron skeleton into the rift in the sky. It was as though a raging storm of heat blew to the Rift, sucking up the fire elementals and the remains of Ryolith. Then we heard a massive explosion. Thousands of Kengi fell into a monstrous chasm that formed where the Fire Elementals had once stood. You, Barrick, were at the front of the line and also fell. Dragon’s Teeth, but it is good to see you!”
The dwarf accepted the embrace of his friend. A few seconds before another draught would be alright. “Does anyone have a meal for a hungry dwarf?” Kobolds appeared from all directions bringing food for the hero. Others ran to tell the adventurers of the return of their friend.