Lord Padraig had indicated that the kobold lair was south of Winterhaven, so the party geared up and headed in that direction. They spread out in standard formation and scouted ahead as they explored the area.
Before long the party found a small clearing with a small ruined building to one side. As they approached, a band of kobolds got the drop on the party, getting off several shots before the party had a chance to react.
After they managed to defeat the ambushers, Rho’Shel trod methodically from corpse to corpse. The kobolds were no more heirs to the noble race of dragons than were dragonflies, but that did not reduce his anger. At each dying opponent’s body he would pause, shouting at it in draconic, a language consisting of growls and roaring. One word rang true each time, however. “Tomb”. No word for tomb existed in the draconic language, as internment was a true rarity among their kind. Unsatisfied with any responses, Rho’Shel dispatched each with a thrust and twist of his longsword.
“Hrash Fal’Shallah,” he growled, shaking his head. He reflected on his failures during this battle, knowing them to be great. Duncan Stovall, his first commander after coming of age, would have shamed him for his behavior. It was true that he indeed fought honorably, but he let down those who were fighting at his side.
Duncan would never have allowed Rho’Shel to take something as trivial as an attack from a kobold as a breach of honor, but Rho’Shel ran off like a fool. Only a coward would act in such a way. After all, strategy 67 of the 88 strategies demanded that he remain in place, swallow the pain, and protect those around him. Nothing in the strategies allowed him to scamper off to avenge his honor over a trivial slight.
It was true, Rho’Shoel reflected, that the people he was campaigning with had not been trained in the 88 strategies, nor in Sh’on Tizu’s “Artistry in Warfare”, nor even in “Lessons From the Wall of Stone”. Even without these lessons, and even without a formal swearing of an oath, he owed these companions a debt of honor.
If he were to truly honor Duncan Stovall and not hang his head in shame upon their next meeting, Rho’Shel would have to bind this new squadron together. He would begin simply, teaching them the tactics of the Wolf Pack, and guiding them through battle.
Battle. Hah, if he allowed these vermin pretenders to the the Draconic line to actually challenge this group ever again, he did not deserve the respect of even the lowest peasant. He would not fail again.
- – -
Krag kneeled next to Enna, working to revive her before it was too late. He directed Drac to apply pressure to the most serious wound while he bandaged her adeptly.
Nearby, Light-touch toyed with the necklace he’d found on the wyrmpriest. The obsidian figurine dangling from it was that of a dragon. He noticed with some curiosity that there was an etching on the rough-hewn underbelly of the dragon. Something about it looked familiar… and not in a good way.
When Enna’s eyes fluttered open, Light-touch was at her shoulder, holding the necklace in front of her. “Hey there. Are you okay? Good! Tell me what this is!”
Enna, too groggy to respond, looked up at the insistent rogue, then closed her eyes again and lay back.
Krag snorted. “Pushy, aren’t you? Let her be.”
Light-touch ignored him. He took Enna’s hand and folded the necklace into it. “I got a bad feeling about this. I think—” He paused.
Krag’s eyes narrowed. “What?”
Light-touch pointed at Enna’s bloody hand. As they watched, the sticky ichor seeped into the stone. Enna gasped and convulsed. She lay on her back, rigid. Her eyes flew open, staring into the sky. Stiff-armed, she brought the figurine up to her line of sight.
Light-touch and Krag could see between her fingers the etching a sharp, glowing symbol. Krag glared at Light-touch. “What have you done? That’s the symbol of —”
“Orcus.” Drac had walked up behind them just in time to finish the sentence. “The Raven Queen’s most hated enemy. Nice going, Light-touch. You probably just killed our healer.”
Thunder rolled overhead.
Enna spoke, in a voice quite unlike her normal lighthearted tones. “So Orcus yet again plays to usurp me? I think not. He did not expect you, and so he does not expect me. You will be his undoing. Rise, daughter. Foil his plans. Turn his defenses against him, as I turn his trinket to my talisman. Foil his plans, I say, and destroy his cultists, or perish in the attempt.”
The obsidian jewels burst into white radiance. For a moment, the open glade was washed in stark black and white. When the light faded, everyone was prone.
Light-touch jumped up first, feeling his bones, prodding himself. “Hey, I’m fine. Enna’s fine. In fact, I feel better. Enna, do you feel better?”
Enna stood up, very matter of fact. “Never felt better.” She tied the figurine around her neck.
Drac said, “I don’t think that’s a dragon symbol any more, is it?”
Enna said, “No, it’s not.” But she said no more about it. She picked up her pack. “Well? Let’s quit standing around. We have a job to do.”
As she marched past Drac, he could clearly see that the figurine no longer resembled a dragon. The contours were more angular, and they were clearly those of a stylized raven.
He smiled a most unpleasant smile.