Originally published at: https://gemsofwar.com/lorekeeper-i-chapter-5-common-ground/
It’s exciting when you see a part of yourself in somebody else.
Unless they’re a cannibal.
--Terrinath the Explorer
General Luther eyed Amira warily, then sat down at the opposite end of the ship’s mess hall. Things had been like this between them for most of the voyage, and their silence had rubbed off on everybody around them, except Brian, who was probably still up on deck, inventing deities, so he could toast them and drink all the rum. In fact it was his latest toast to “Albatrossius, the God of Majestic Sea Birds” that had sent Luther down here in the first place.
After the group fled the Sin of Maraj, Luther bundled up most of his surviving troops onto one ship and sent them back to Sword’s Edge, reserving only a skeleton crew for his second, smaller vessel, the Saber.
He’d offered Amira passage out of there on that first ship, and she’d agreed, but one day after setting out, she’d turned up on the Saber instead, There had been a fierce argument that evening - if looks could have thrown somebody overboard, Amira would have splashed down in an adjacent ocean - but at least no swords were drawn. There seemed to have been some sort of tacit agreement to let things be, as long as they kept out of each other’s way. That agreement had lasted pretty well, right up until about…. now.
Amira stood up and walked over towards Luther. The General glowered at her as she approached.
“General,” she greeted him conversationally, even politely.
Those who had known Luther for any amount of time knew he was a man of many grunts. He not only grunted quite often, but he could convey a vast range of emotions with a single grunt. It was all about reading the exhalation, the rumble, the duration and intonation of the grunt, mixed with the associated body language. People often had trouble with this, though dogs seemed to understand him perfectly. Sadly, Wargare weren’t related to dogs closely enough.
This was a grunt of disapproval, with a little anger, and just a dash of warning. It didn’t stop Amira though.
“General,” she continued again, meeting his gaze. “Why won’t you tell me where we’re going?”
“Because you weren’t invited,” he grumbled.
“Indeed. But as I’m here now, I’ll find out when we get there. Telling me poses no risk to you, and you may even find that I can be of some help.”
Luther eyed her suspiciously.
“Is it in that note you found?” she asked.
“The note was for me, girl. You’d best forget about it.”
“What if I told you I had one too?” Amira pressed.
Luther grunted. Disbelief, annoyance, and dismissal.
Amira produced the note she’d taken from little Daemon in Leothasa. It was marked “To the Dragon That Will Be”, and was still sealed.
“See?” she said. “Like this.”
“Where did you get that?” Luther asked.
“Like you, General,” she answered. “A little Daemon visited me. I’m trying to get it to Emperor Khorvash. It’s why I was following you.”
“Damn fool, girl,” Luther grumbled. “Why not just tell me?”
“The last person I told tried to kill me,” Amira admitted. “I thought I’d… get a feel for things first.”
“And what made you decide it’s safe now?”
Amira smiled. “People who try to kill me generally pretend to be my friend first. Unless I’m mistaken, I’m not sensing any friendship here.”
“Well at least you’re not stupid,” Luther shrugged then leaned forward to peer at her letter. “Why does it say “To the Dragon That Will Be”? Is that the Emper- late Emperor - or whatever we call him now?”
“I guessed as much,” Amira replied. “He has a lot of titles. I think ‘Dragon of the Desert’ is one of them. And I figured whoever sent the note knew I’d helped spare his life and was using me to contact him.”
“Or flush him out,” Luther added.
“That occurred to me too - until I saw yours. After that I thought I’d just follow along and hope you led me to him.”
Luther grunted again. Resignation, and acceptance.
“We’re going to the Broken Spire,” he said, at last.” If we get make it there by tomorrow nightfall, we’ll have made it in the time we were given - 2 weeks.”--------- o ---------
The Broken Spire loomed large and deadly on the horizon, It’s jagged tip glowed a hot red-orange in the evening sky. If a two hundred foot tall giant had left a massive sign saying “Keep Away from this Island”, it couldn’t have been much clearer.
For the third time in his life, Luther ignored the warning and sailed straight towards it.
The Broken Spire wasn’t exactly a homely place. It was mostly just a single big volcanic mountain jutting up from the Sea of Fire. It hadn’t been broken at all until a few centuries ago when a gaggle of over-enthusiastic Dwarves mined some rubies belonging to an Ancient Fire Elemental, named Infernus. When they took the rubies, Infernus blew the top off his home, emerged, followed the Dwarves, and turned them into toasty Dwarven snacks (after reclaiming his rubies, of course).
Technically that meant a two hundred foot tall Giant did in fact leave a large sign saying “Keep Away from this Island”. It mostly worked too. But it seemed to be lost on Luther.
All that was left here today though was a large broken mountain, a few remnants of the docks built by the Dwarven miners, and an assortment of nasty Ogres and Elementals, who found the sulfurous air kept their sinuses nice and clear.
As the ship closed on the docks, everybody aboard could see a massive figure standing there, like some heroic statue. It seemed to be awaiting their arrival.
As details became clear, through the volcanic mists, “statue” would have been a good guess, This creature was made of stone, and was three times the height of a man. It was definitely not a man though, not even a giant one; its arms and legs were formed of rough-hewn rock, and its stony face was surrounded by a collar of flame.
“Welcome, Dragons,” It said slowly, deliberately, in a voice that sounded like gravel being ground between two boulders. “Medea bid me wait for you.”
There was silence from the vessel, as it slid closer to the dock, then suddenly…
“I’d like to raise a toast to Rocky-”, followed by a dull thud, a small scuffle, a “shhhh”, and then silence again.
When the boat was almost at the dock, Luther stood forward on the prow. “My name is General Luther of Sword’s Edge, “ he announced.
“We know you are, Luther Giantslayer,” the huge creature said carefully. “Wyrmkiller and Heart-Thief.”
“I received a message to come here,” Luther answered. “I intend no harm.”
“If I thought otherwise,” the Giant intoned. “I would have called down a meteor to smash your tiny wooden boat in the harbor. I am Igneus. This Island is mine. But you are welcome for now, as you will see.”--------- o ---------
Only Luther and Amira disembarked.
Brian wanted to come too, but Amira quickly dissuaded him with a bottle of rum and a toast to “Ropeface, the Goddess of tying yourself to the mast”. It was a trick that probably wouldn’t work twice, but Amira had a few variations up her sleeve that would probably do in a pinch.
Igneus led them away from the docks. It was growing dark, but the lava-glow from his body lit their way.
“You mentioned someone called Medea,” Amira asked. “Who is that?”
“You will see soon enough,” Igneus answered in his slow gravelly tone. “She wishes a meeting.”
“Is she your queen?” the Wargare pressed.
“My Queen?” Igneus made a deep rumbling noise. Amira thought it might have been laughter. “No. Not my Queen. A sorceress. I owe her a debt. You are that debt.”
“I don’t like this,” Luther whispered suspiciously.
“Do not fear, little man,” Igneus replied. Obviously sound carried well through rock. “She asked that no harm come to you, and in return, she has shown me a spell to defeat the Daemons who plague us here.”
They pressed on in silence, until they came to a stone circle. Igneus left them there, and moved into the night, his lava-glow gradually becoming dimmer, until Luther and Amira were left in near darkness. All they could see was an odd shape beyond the circle, lit by a faint red glow in the mists, but neither of them felt inclined to investigate it.
Suddenly a blue light flared in the stone circle, silent, but blinding. A ghostly figure of a woman in a robe stood there staring at them. She wore a long flowing gown, and her hair fell over it, resplendent in its own opalescent glow.
“Medea?” Luther asked.
“General Luther,” the figure answered back, bowing gracefully. Her voice sounded real, though she looked like a spirit. “Thank you for coming. I am honored you made it here in time, and in good health.”
Then she turned and looked at Amira, lips pursed.
“Ummm… Hello?” Amira offered.
“Yes…” the spirit nodded. “Hello indeed. I do not know what has happened here, but magic is as magic does, I suppose.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Amira asked, a little insulted.
“That divination is not an exact science, dear,” Medea replied. “I sent for three dragons. I received two… and a Sister of Shadows. I sense the Mother’s hand in this.”
“Two Dragons?” Luther interrupted.
“Yes,” Medea looked back to Luther. “You are a Knight of the Dragon. The other one is resting. You will meet with her later.”
“Meet for what though?” Luther asked. “What’s this all about?”
Medea sighed. “I wish I had all the answers for you, General Luther, but I only know two things. The world is in dire peril from another Blight, and only you, and the other two dragons are able to stop it. I see the future, but I seldom see all of it.”
“How do we know you’re telling the truth,” Amira asked. “This is… strange.”
“You cannot know, Sister, but you’ve felt it, I’m sure. You’ve felt the world changing.”
Amira shuddered, but didn’t answer.
“I thought so,” Medea continued. “I would urge you to travel to Shentang and consult with the Diviners there. They may have seen more signs. We need to know where the Blight will occur if we wish to stop it.”
“Shentang?” Luther groaned. “I was almost there! Why did you call us all the way out to the Broken Spire?”
“I had no notion of who would be called until the Quasit reached you. But either way, Broken Spire is as far as I can send my spirit, unaided. It was also a useful way to bring you all together. Also I’d appreciate it if you left the heads of my quasits on in future. They function better that way.”
“I see,” said Luther, though he still sounded skeptical.
“Follow me then”, said Medea, “And meet the second Dragon.”
She glided off towards the faintly-lit shape they had seen earlier. There, in a small hollow, lay a large red dragon surrounded by small fiery grubs.
“Dimetraxia?” Luther asked.
“You’ve met her then,” Medea said. She made it here, but she was grievously wounded by a Daemon blade. The Pyggra are keeping her warm while she rests and recovers. She has a long road ahead of her, as do you.”
“Pyggra?” Amira asked.
“Fire grubs,” Medea added. “General Luther slew their mother and took her heart, but Igneus has been raising a new batch. He offered these ones to help the Dragon heal.”
Amira raised an eyebrow at Luther, but said nothing. Luther scowled back.
“She will join you when she’s ready,” Medea finished. “To that end, I have a final gift for you,” She gestured, and an ornate red bow appeared at Luther’s feet. “It’s called Flammifer. Fire an arrow from it, and Dimetraxia will find you. It was freely made from her scales and horn many years ago, as a gift to a man who once helped her.”
“Now farewell, and good luck.”
With that, Medea disappeared.--------- o ---------
Luther grumbled all the way back to the Saber. Fortunately, he now had the light of Flammifer by which to guide them.
As it was dark, they waited until morning tide, then set out from the docks.
As they sailed away from the Broken Spire, a large fin, the size of a draft horse, rose from the water, then plunged back down and followed after them.