“Ok, so if you were big, tail-less and not the brightest scale on the dragon’s back, where would you hide yourself on this island?”
Frank stood in the hallway of the abandoned and ruined building. He rested a forearm against a stone from the part of the wall that was still standing. The others were next to him staring out, dressed in the black robes as he was. Radagar, their guide, lay huddled in the corner. The air had caused him to cough, until Frank had helped with a spell. Nevertheless, some other ailment seemed to be troubling him. Frank sensed it was fear. Whatever it was, he hadn’t been much help. He hoped that would change.
They couldn’t see much, but they could smell the sulfur and feel the earth below their feet trembling. They had rode the last of the remaining griffons to the position Genoran told them he had sent Thrak. Guessing where Thrak had gone from there, they had mimicked the other Sasser comings and goings and found their way towards the center of the ruined city. So far, they had found no trace of any slaves that weren’t already a part of The Host. Even worse, they hadn’t seen anything resembling a big stupid lizard without his tail.
“We’ll have to keep looking,” said the monk, “He’s got to be here somehow. Wherever Thrak is, we’re sure to find the others as well.”
“I don’t think this island is going to stay put together much longer,” said Iricah. “It’s got a bellyache.”
“That’ll do it to ya when you swallow up a Thrak,” said Zy’an. He peered through a crack in the stone work, trying to see what the others could not out into the darkness. He was used to seeing well even in little to no light, but this felt different. Still, he could make out the constant motion of the Sasser slaves. It was as if they moved as one. He spoke back to the others as he watched with his customary intense scrutiny. “We must choose our actions wisely. These creatures are not of their own anymore. At any point, despite our disguise, we could have The Host looking in our direction. So long as we act as they do, we are secret, and must remain so.”
“What’s wrong with this fellow, anyway?” Frank looked over at Radagar, huddled in his robe. “Hey, buddy! You’re our guide remember! We need your input. Didn’t you say you had been here before? There’s a lot of people counting on us. Where do we go from here?”
“I…I’m….sorry Lords! I…am….sorry….you just, you just don’t understand. The Host is all consuming. Everywhere. She will find us. She will find us!!!!” The figure pulled his robes even closer. Iricah walked over and put a hand on his head, soothing his fear with the words of her magic.
“Why bother?” Said Zy’an. As someone who had mastered his fear, he didn’t understand one like this so called scout. “The man is clearly now of no use to us. Prince Genoran’s choice of company has not always impressed me.”
Iricah was about to verbally agree, but she simply shushed the man’s cries away. She looked back at the others. “None of us know what has made him the way he is. We shouldn’t judge.”
“Speak for yourself,” said Zy’an. “He and I are kin. I too was once a Sasser, remember? This man, Radagar, is to be judged. And he is to be found lacking. Now, we need to figure out without his help, what to do.”
Iricah turned her attention out into the dark as well, but all she knew was that it was hot out there. And it smelled like a furnace. “We must search deeper into the island’s interior. There must be a place we haven’t seen yet.”
“There is,” answered Zy’an. “The center of the island, where the other robed figures are going.”
Frank whistled, “Straight into the Sasser’s hole huh? Do you know how many tavern jokes this is going to give me back in Slimmy’s?”
“Well, we haven’t found another way in,” said Iricah ignoring the humor for now. She had been waiting for this. Somehow she knew it would come to the worst possible scenario imaginable. “And most of these figures seem to be walking down what’s left of that street.” She looked to Zy’an. “What’s the plan?”
“Follow me,” he said. “And act like you don’t have a brain of your own.” One of his gem like eyes blinked.
“Well now I know how Thrak got this far,” said Frank sarcastically. He looked to Iricah who was practicing different states of letting her tongue hang to the side of her mouth. He couldn’t tell if she had found her sense of humor again, or if she were really attempting to hide her mental acuity with a limp mouth. He guessed the latter.
With each attempt she seemed to reconsider the idea. Frank chuckled as he got his gear ready, packaged as hidden as he could make it under his robe. “You need more practice, at being stupid, madame archaeologist.”
“Actually Frank,” she quipped. “I’ve had loads of it. Just ask the prince.”
They crept through the rubble strewn streets. With a prayer from Frank, and a lift at the nape of the neck by Zy’an, Radagar found his feet and followed their lead. Whatever look was upon the man’s face, they hoped it would stay hidden behind the darkness of the robes. Together, they passed the once important shops of a Celn outpost, built atop a ruined Kasillian fortress thousands of years old. Now, huge cracks in the cobbles glared orange and bright red. Magma oozed in other places. Frank’s armor was getting warm. Very warm. Iricah drew her bags, filled with maps and treasures tightly to her under the robe.
Zy’an led them until they entered what could only have been the center of the isle. Here, a great chasm opened in the center of the area. A huge ramp, made from the earth twisted down into it. Zy’an, who had been carrying a large stone in the same manner as he had observed others doing, walked towards it nonchalantly. Frank stooped over and picked one up too. Iricah picked up a smaller one, and winced at it’s weight. In a line, they walked towards the ramp. Blasts of hot air sprang from the opening.
Iricah’s breath caught in her throat for a moment, and Zy’an turned an eye towards her as casually as he dared. She was about to lose it. The air, not a problem for Frank or Zy’an was about to give them away. But Frank, who had also seen her struggling, reached into her robes, and laid a hand on hers. With a small prayer, the Flame’s energy surrounded her and cleansed the air going into her chest. Thank the Light, Frank prayed.
Just then, a massive thump, followed by several others came from behind a huge pile of rubble. A hand, the size of a horsecart appeared around the side of it and moved a massive stone aside as if it were a toy. Then, a deformed head, with a mangled mouth large enough to swallow a man for a snack came around as well. It rose higher and higher into the air, until it was nearly 2 large trees tall. The head and hand belonged to the body of a giant. It stood on legs like giant fleshy pillars. The creature’s skin was bright red, and as it opened it’s mouth to speak, it’s black eyes flashed red as though there was a fire inside them. “Mistress, do you have need of me now?” It thundered.