The Dragon's Cry

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There's no time for argument; you feel in your gut that the silver woman is trustworthy and she can keep you safe. Three steps put you next to her.

"All right, I trust you," you say.

She immediately draws a figure in the air. Rallarlil, she mutters, and puts out both arms to her sides, palms outward. Thin white lines stretch from her fingertips, curling and twisting and weaving tightly around both of you, making you duck your long snakelike neck. In a matter of moments, the two of you are encased in a finely woven net of white light. The soldiers outside are unable to penetrate her barrier; even their angry shouts can't get through. Then the silver woman makes a firm dismissive gesture, as if commanding the soldiers to step aside and make way. You are not surprised to see that they do, as the white web pops, bubble-like, and the soldiers are thrown against the low walls of the parapet. You are surprised, however, to see that the silver woman begins to run along the parapet. Somehow she has the ability to turn something as ungraceful as running into a display of elegance. You follow her as soon as you see that the soldiers have only been stunned and are already struggling to their knees.

You reach the guard tower at almost the same time and nearly rip the door off its hinges. Once the door is closed and barred against the recovering army outside, the tiny windows let in so little dawnlight it's nearly black. Three angry guards await you, intending to ambush, but you're not as dark-blinded as they think you are, and it appears that neither is the silver woman. She quickly dispatches two of them with a couple of lighting-flashes, rendering them unconscious. You duck the third one's pike and, with a quick turn, catch his chest with your tail and slam him against the wall.

"He is not here," the woman says. She sounds upset.


"The king." She's breathing hard. "They have taken him prisoner."

"What- 'they'?"

"We have lost enough time. We must find the king!" The silver woman picks up one of the soldiers by the collar of his uniform, gives him a little shake, and demands, "Where is the king?"

"Aaahhh!" the soldier answers. "I'm sorry I'm sorry please don't hurt me I'll do anything you say!"

"Tell, me, where, the king, is." The silver woman's nose is a centimeter from the soldier's. Those icy eyes of hers are staring straight into his, and they are as furious as her voice.

"He-- he-- he--" The soldier's head lolls back. He has fainted. She drops him, disgusted, and demands, "What are you doing?"

You have been peering out of the arrow slits around the tower, and now you turn back to her and say, "I, ah, found the king."

She's beside you in a moment, looking out across the courtyard into the window of a room on the same level. The window shows the king's chamber, turned upside down and inside out, and the king himself, who has been tied to a chair and shoved out of the way, against the window. His head is bowed, but shapes moving before him elicit no reaction. He must be unconscious.

The silver woman recoils in horror and indignation. "Follow me," she commands in a voice of thunder, and slams out the other tower door, in the direction of the castle proper. This parapet is empty for now, but once the soldiers break down the door they'll be all over you.

"Would you mind telling me what's going on?"

She glances at you. "Have you not figured it out?" she answers in a slightly exasperated tone. That and a shake of her head is all the response she gives you. Although she makes the answer seem obvious, you suspect there's more to it than she's letting on. What you've figured out is that someone has taken over the castle from the inside, made the king a prisoner, and somehow managed to turn most of the soldiers to his service. It seems to be a campaign of conquest, which is apparently what she wants you to think.

It leaves you with the same question you began with. What's going on?

The two guards on either side of the door to the king's chamber trot away unexpectedly, but then you see the silver woman dusting something off her hands. You listen for a moment, listening to an unidentifiable noise coming from inside the royal chamber. It sounds like... laughter?

With the subtlety of a ten-ton boulder, the silver woman flings open the door and gasps. "Beyno, you obtuse slug!" For some reason she seems more exasperated than angry.

Standing in front of the king, who is indeed unconscious, is a tiny man dressed completely in midnight blue and surrounded by a group of ugly-looking toughs. He turns to face her, a sickeningly sugary grin stretching his thin lips. His razor face makes his nose look too big on his head, and his voice sounds like crushed glass being stirred.

"Why, Silvera!" he says pleasantly. "You have the most atrocious sense of timing. The celebration hasn't even begun." Then his smile falls away and his expression suddenly turns irate. "It's all your fault!" he screams, pointing an accusing finger straight at you. "But!" he continues, in a businesslike tone, "I have a proposition for you. Interested?"

You are completely confused. The guy makes no sense. "You're crazy," is the first thing out of your mouth.

The little man stalks up to you. You brace for an attack, lifting your head high on your meter-long dragon's neck, but all you feel is his index finger poking your chest. "Don't call me crazy," he says pointedly. "Now. I have something to ask of you. Do it for me, and I'll forgive you everything. What do you say?"

Silvera is shaking her head, warning you not to listen. But you fear your life might be in danger if you refuse.

What do you say?

Contributed by Jason Lomeli
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Last modified March 3, 2003