The night was sticky. Sweat covered the man from head to toe. His heavy bag hung loose from his waist. Fearful of loosing it, he strapped it tighter to his waist. His sword, a curved sword of Oriental make, almost unknown in the Western Lands, hung across his back. A dagger, which was sheathed in his boot, dug uncomfortably into his shin and ankle.
He began to climb. The steep mountain side loomed before him as some ancient foreboding guardian to lost secrets best left hidden. The man, tall, muscular, with wavy blond hair, cast his blue eyes skyward searching for the first outcropping on which to rest once his assent began. With a sigh and a silent prayer to Oghma, the Lord of All Knowledge, he grasped the rock face in his powerful hands and began the long climb to the summit.
For long hours he climbed. His resolution clear to any observer, should there be any. The man, who’s name was Loreseeker, was a bard. One entrusted with the task of gathering all knowledge of the world to himself. His goal on this climb was to see if the legends of dragons living in this mountain were true.
For many days he climbed, taking rest when and where he could. It was exhausting work, and it would have broken most men. However, Loreseeker was not most men. He had within himself a reserve of power not known to the average inhabitant of Arra. And this power was stronger than anything mortal man could bring to bear.
He was close now, almost to the summit of the ancient hill known only as the Dragon-mount. Legend said that many dragons, great and small, made their homes here, and he had come to see if the legend was true or not.
His fingers were nearly raw as he clung to the sides of the mountain. The arching winds, nearly gale force, were pulling at him with such power that he nearly gave in to their clawing. The sweat from his exertions was freezing him solid there on the mountain. He pulled himself up, achingly forward despite the pain, to rise ever higher into the high mountain. If dragons were here, he would find them.
At last a small ledge! Nearly past the point of exhaustion, he managed to pull himself onto the outcropping. Luck was with the crafty bard, for there was a shallow cave here. Just large enough to shelter him from the worst of the winds. A small tree, spindly in its nature, clung desperately to life like some unnatural finger of the earth on the ledge as well.
A few quick chops of his sword, and the sapling was taken to be used as fuel for a warming fire. He just hoped that fire would burn here. The legends said otherwise, but Loreseeker was a stubborn man. He would make it burn.
The shallow cave proved to be longer than it appeared. For it twisted to the right and fled deep into the earth. Perhaps the entrance to a dragon’s lair, thought Loreseeker. He paused, stilled his rapid breath and listened for noises. Hearing none, he continued further into the cave, moving as silently as he could; as silently as he had been trained to by the Master of Stealth in the Thieves Guild of Shadowhold, where Loreseeker was born.
Soon, he came upon a small lighted grotto. The area was of rough hewn rock, thirty feet in diameter, and inhabited by small blue skinned humanoids. The humanoids were wearing what appeared to be burlap sacks with holes for heads and arms. None of the strange creatures wore weapons, that Loreseeker could see, though each had a pick that could be turned into a weapon when needed. These picks were being used to dig into the earth. The light seemed to come from the very rocks themselves, for they were covered with a luminescent fungus which gave off enough light to see by.
He settled in to observe the creatures as they went about whatever strange rituals they had. The creatures stood no more than three feet in height, were completely devoid of hair, and possessed a shrill language that sounded rather like a cat being tortured.
One of the larger humanoids soon came along and bullied the others into working faster. This one had a whip on its belt and at times, was seen to pull it from its resting place and use it on his smaller charges. A master, then. Herding slaves. For itself, or another?, wondered Loreseeker.
Soon, a larger being appeared. Human-sized, wearing a black robe with red piping, this one came into the chamber suddenly. Materializing as from the very air itself. A small pop of in rushing air was heard with a burst of light. The slaves, and even the master, were surprised by the appearance of the black robed figure.
The master-thrall quickly prostrated itself before the figure and chattered in its strange language. The robed figure, listened intently, as if understanding, and then gave instructions in the same tongue! So! The true master.
The master-thrall drug one of the slaves before the black-robed wizard, for they alone had the power to move with such sudden quickness. Despite its sequels of protest, the robed figure pointed a finger at the creature and fifteen small, red globes darted from the masters outstretched hand. The pathetic creature tried to run, but the darting missiles were too fast for it. They slammed into the creature one after the other. Like burrowing moles, eager to be in the warmth of the earth.
In truth, after the third missile hit, the creature was already dead. This did not stop the others, however, they continued to pound into the lifeless husk as if obeying some preprogrammed script that could not be ignored.
Loreseeker knew that he had witnessed nothing short of an execution for the figure then roared with laughter at the sight of the merciless pounding the hapless creature took at the hands of his spell. The wizards laughter peeled throughout the cavern, forcing the slaves to redouble their efforts at mining the area, though what they could be digging for was not known to Loreseeker.
The wizard left as suddenly as he arrived, though Loreseeker noticed that he twisted some ring on his finger. A spell touched ring then, an item. Something that can be taken away. Loreseeker filed this away for future reference.
Quietly he backed out of the cavern the way he came in. He set up a campsite in the small passage way, and built a fire. He knew that they smoke and the smell would reach the strange creatures, and that, perhaps, they would come and investigate. He vowed that he would be ready, should that happen.
After a thankfully brief meal of dried beef strips and nuts, Loreseeker settled in with his blanket wrapped tightly around himself for a nights rest. He patted his dagger, now tied to his belt for easier access, reassuringly. Comforted in the thought that he could draw and use it quickly enough, if he needed to. Even if the weapon was taken from him, he was still quite formidable. That wizard was not the only one with magic at his command.
He did not have long to wait. As he rested his head on an outcropping of rock, seven of the blue skinned humanoids burst from the cavern, wicked curved daggers gleaming in the embers of the dying firelight. Loreseeker was ready, however, and he leapt from his bedroll, and in one fluid motion pulled his dagger from his belt and drove it home into the eye of the nearest humanoid. The pitiful creatures shrill screech was silenced forever.
The second creature was faster, though, and while his blade was still entrenched in the soft flesh of the eye, the humanoid slashed the wicked dagger across Loreseeker’s ribs, drawing blood and a startled cry from the bard.
Almost without thinking, the muscular arm cascaded down onto the head of the hapless creature and, with the force of a giant, caved in the small, squishy head of his attacker. Loreseeker had downed two of the squat humanoids, while earning a minor cut along his ribs. Not bad, he thought. But still five to go.
Two of them rushed him then, leading with their daggers. Loreseeker quickly danced out of the way and smoothly reversed his swing catching the nearest humanoid at the base of the skull. The dagger point protruded from the throat of the now dead creature, as Loreseeker followed through with a vicious roundhouse kick to the back of the second onrushing humanoid. Both creatures fell as if poleaxed and lay still.
The spinning kick, however, had placed him within easy reach of the daggers of the last three. Loreseeker felt the blades bite deeply into this muscular back and, indeed, only his almost perfect physique kept the blades from digging deeper still. Stifling a cry of pain and rage, Loreseeker turned and slashed with his dagger. One of the creatures fell from a mortal wound to the throat, while the other two danced away from his deadly blade.
Warily, the three combatants circled each other looking for an opening. Loreseeker readjusted his grip on his blade, slick with humanoid blood. He felt his back, stained with his own life blood, clinging to his shirt.
He risked a quick glance behind him to judge where the ledge was. In that instant, the crafty humanoids struck. Both rushed him together and Loreseeker was hard pressed to fend off the vicious knives of the brutish pair. The sound of steel-on-steel reverberated into the night. Quickly sidestepping another lethal thrust, Loreseeker grabbed the nearest humanoids burlap covering and heaved the hapless creature off the side of the cliff into the fresh mountain air. Its scream was lost amongst the howling winds of the mountains.
The last of the blue humanoids, fearing its own end was near, turned and fled only to catch Loreseeker’s dagger in the base of its neck. The force of the dagger strike pushed the small, brutal, humanoid into the rock face, their to lie still for all time.
As Loreseeker surveyed the scene, he heard a distinct groaning to his right. Turning, he saw on the humanoids, the one he had kicked. So! It was not dead, he thought as he reclaimed his dagger from the corpse of the slain. Perhaps it will answer a few questions, then.
Loreseeker cracked his knuckles, intoned a spell of understanding in order to speak to the small humanoid, and shook the creature awake.