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02 - The Day of the Tempest - Jean Rabe

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02 - The Day of the Tempest - Jean Rabe

DRAGONLANCE? FIFTH AGE?

    The Day of the Tempest

    Ol 997 TSR, Inc. All Rig)Wi Reserved.

    All characters in this book are fictitious. Any rettmbiance to actual penons. Bring or dead, is purriy coincident*!.

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    Diltributed to the book trade in the United Slate* by Random Home, toe. and in Canada by Random Home of Canada Ltd.

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    Putribatcd worldwide by Wnanbof the Coast. Inc. and repon*t distribMon. Cover art by Jeff Eadey. Interior art by Jacen Bunowx.

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    For Harold Johnson, Tasslehoff Burrfoot, and the Winter of 87 and for the FIFTH AGE* design teamSteven Brown, Sue Weinlein Cook,

    William W. Connors, Steve Miller, Ed Stark and Skip WilliamsKrynn's

    true champions.

    prologue

    Ked Sfyade of Creed

    lay on a plateau on Kx W0*K6t moun-taintop amidst an arid wasteland. From this lofty position in what once had been called the Goodlund Plainsshe could survey a large portion of her domain. Smoke curled upward from her cavernous nostrils, douding her huge, dark eyes. Twin

    horns curved gently away from the sides of her skull and tapered to sharp points. Her scales were as large as a knight's shield, and they glowed like hot coals in the late afternoon sun.

    Those rare individuals who accepted invitations here, to her favorite lairlike the Knights of Takhisis standing before herbraved much.

    Streams of lava from the volcanoes that

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    DRAGOllLAnCE FirtH AGE

    ringed her plateau ran perilously close to the steep paths that led to her lair. Unnatural creatures prowled the bleak slopes, and the visitors had to endure the intense heat once they climbed to the topor

    perish.

    The ninety men were here at the command of their governor-general. They were selected for their bravery, cunning, and loyalty. Malys thought little of humans, but she considered these far better specimens than the ones she had slaughtered in the many villages she had trampled since taking over this part of Ansalon.

    "You are mine," Malys hissed to the knights. Her words were drawn out, sounding like an ominous wind. Flames licked out around her massive jowls and crackled loudly.

    "Command us as you will," the senior knight said as he stepped forward and bowed his head. He was a young man who had distinguished himself in numerous battles under the governor-general's watchful eye. He acted confident and poised in the presence of the great dragon, though he was actually in awe of her and terrified.

    He wore the black armor of the knights, with the death lily displayed prominently on his breastplate. A curl of red edged up from one petala

    rising flame that signified that his compgroup had sworn fealty to Malys. The young knight stood at attention, his shoulders painfully square and his arms at his sides, straight as arrows. His eyes met the smoldering orbs of the dragon without blinking. Malys opened her mouth a bit, just enough for her furnacelike breath to escape and wash over him. The knight did not flinch, though beads of sweat rolled down his face. "You are called..." Malys began.

    "Subcommander Rurak Gistere," he answered.

    "Rurak," the dragon repeated, "Gistere." The words sounded eerie when uttered in her sonorous, inhuman voice. She tilted her head slightly and looked him up and down. She'd already studied him carefully as he led the procession of

    THE DAY OF THE

    knights up the path to her plateau, but she wanted to make him uncomfortable, wanted to see if he would squirm beneath her intense scrutiny.

    Malys growJed softly as her eyes met the knight's. He did not falter,

    and she noticed with satisfaction that his lips did not tremble, his hands did not shake. The knight was trained very well and was indeed brave. Or he was terribly foolish. In either event, Malys decided he would do.

    "Rurak Gistere," she said again, this time holding onto each syllable and letting the deep tones echo off the volcanoes.

    "Yes, great Mah/stryx?"

    "Take off your armor."

    The other knights1 eyes widened, but not those of Rurak Gistere. The dragon was amused. To her, the other knights' faces asked dozens of silent questions. Was Rurak to be eaten? Tortured? Who was to be next? Still, she was mildly pleased that they held their positions and watched attentively, though fearfully.

    Rurak maintained his stoic composure. He took off his gauntlets and laid them at his feet. Next came his helmet and his flowing black cloak, which he carefully folded and set upon the gauntlets. Then he removed the epaulets, brassards, and elbow pieces that covered his arms. Undoing the breastplate took more work, but he eventually stood it up next to the other pieces. Then he took off the scale chest piece. The tunic beneath it was dark with sweat, and he tugged it off to reveal a gleaming, muscular chest.

    *"That will do," Marys said.

    Rurak snapped to attention and again met the dragon's gaze. She raised a daw and crooked a talon at him, as if he were a dog she was beckoning. "Closer, Rurak Gistere" she hissed. He stepped around the pile of armor and moved nearer to the dragon's snout "No. Much closer."

    DRAGOFILAnCE FlFtH ACE

    The knight stood a mere foot from the dragon's claw now, and for the first time in her presence, he showed a sign of weakness. His bottom lip trembled ever so slightly, but she decided she would forgive him this fault Malys had to concede that he was the most suitable subject of the lot

    The dragon rose to sit back on her haunches. Her shadow fell across him, cooling him somewhat, and it occurred to him that this was an unfortunate way to gain some respite from the heat. Malys flicked her tail up in front of her snout and appeared to study it for a moment Then she tugged free one of the tiniest scales she saw near its tip and held the specimen gingerly before her smoldering eyes. "Kneel," Malys hissed. The young knight was quick to comply. Then the Red uttered words so exotic and strange that none on the plateau could discern them. There was a melodic resonance to them, and as her inhuman voice droned on and then quickened, the heat on the plateau intensified. Flames darted out of her nostrils and teased the edges of the small

scale.

    Rurak felt lightheaded and feverish, felt warmer than he ever remembered being in his life. His head pounded, and he gritted his teeth to keep from crying out as waves of heat rolled up and down his limbs. He imagined that his blood was boiling and his skin was starting to melt. The young knight stared at the flames licking around the scale and flickering about the dragon's nostrils. He saw shapesorange and red winged

    creatures, miniature versions of Malys flying ail around her. The vision was at once mesmerizing and terrifying, and he continued to stare as the tiny dragons of flame darted toward him.

    The dragon moved the scale closer to the knight, then suddenly thrust it against his chest. His skin sizzled and popped, anddespite all his

    training and resolvethe young knight screamed. The tiny dragons of fire swarmed into the scale as it seared his flesh and melded with his body, becoming one

    THE DAY OF tHE

    with the muscles of his chest. The scale now resembled a small breastplate. It glowed white along the edges from the heat of the dragon's flame.

    Rurak pitched forward and clawed at the ground. The pain was excruciating and it consumed him. His throat was dry and he gasped for breath, but was unable to suck enough air into his parched lungs. Tears rolled from his eyes. He thrashed about in front of Malystryx and prayed to his departed goddess Takhisis for death to claim him. But death didn't come. Eventually the pounding in his head lessened, it became easier to breathe, and he was able to push himself to his knees. He was still warm, uncomfortably so, but no longer felt as if he were rolling in a bonfire. He struggled to his feet, and after a few moments stood shakily at attention.

    / have honored you, Rurak Gistere, as I have honored only a few other humans on this world. Rurak's eyes widened slightly. The dragon's lips were not moving, but he could hear her inside his head. A part of

    me is with you, knight, enhancing you, making you better than human. Rarely will you require sleep now. You will discover that you are stronger, more alert, your senses keener and your mind sharper. Vie are joined, Rurak Gistere, and through our link I can see what you see, hear what you hear. You are truly mine.

    "Yours to command," Rurak said aloud.

    "You will lead these knights beyond my lands, to the place men call Solamnia." This time the words were audible, for the benefit of the knights waiting behind Rurak. MI will know what is transpiring there, and I will gain that knowledge through you. You and your men will travel from village to village and mingle with those in authority. You will discover where Ansalon's refugees are flocking to, learn who is inciting

    the populace to oppose the dragon overlords and the Knights of Takhisis, and you will ferret out those who might become my allies." "As you wish," he replied.

    DRAGOnLAnCE FiFtH AGE

    "Seek people who are healthy and clever, with darkness in their spirits. I might be able to put them to good use. Humans only. I will direct you where to deliver them."

    "I understand, Malystryx." Rurak risked a glance down at the scale. It was blood-red and shiny, but no longer glowing. He felt around the edges, his fingers slipping between the small gap between skin and scale. "Am I to always wear this?" he braved asking.

    "You can never take it offnot without dying in the process."

    Rurak Gistere nodded to the dragon and set about donning his armor again. He took a last look into her huge eyes, saw his reflection in them, then pivoted and directed his men down the mountain.

    Malys eased her head over the edge of the plateau and watched the Knights of Takhisis wend their way back down the path. She couldn't see Rurak, but she knew he was in the lead. She knew everything he did because now she could see through his eyes. She could see that no one was walking in front of him. She could see the rocks he stepped around, the streams of lava he effortlessly jumped across.

    Malys purred with satisfaction, closed her eyes, and pictured something cold.

    * * * * *

    There was nothing but sparkling white land in all directionsfrom the

    once scrub-covered plains and grasslands of the coasts to the eastern slope of the imposing range that cut through the length of Southern Ergoth. Icy winds swept across the terrain, stirring the snow into drifts, constantly-shifting patterns, and ever-thickening banks. Other than the far western part of the country, Southern Ergoth had become a veritable iceberg.

    Its foul-tempered masterthe dragon overlord Gellidus,

    THE DAY er tHE TE

    called Frost by mensat at the edge of a small frozen lake. Except for his eyes, pools of pale blue-green, the dragon was as white as everything else in his domain. Occasionally his scales gleamed here and there with silvery-azure streaksa reflection of the sky that sometimes appeared through gaps in the cloud cover.

    The majestic dragon was completely still, his eyes unblinking, his wings tightly tucked into his sides, and his tail curled around his haunches. His crown, a scaly fringe that swept gracefully back from his massive frosty jowls, sparkled as did the five tapering horns tike inverted icicles that grew upward from the fringe.

    Gellidus stared at the lake and filled his lungs with the blessed frigid

    air. He released it all in a single blast, blowing away the snow from the top of the frozen water.

    The newly revealed ice shimmered and sparkled, and seemed to flow for an instant, as if it were melting. Then it brightened, turning a pale pink, as it did when it reflected the dawning sun on days when the clouds weren't so thick. But it was the middle of the day. and the ice was several inches thickhi no danger of melting. The pink blossomed into a radiant orange glow, then became a warm vermillion, the shade of dying embers. Finally it turned an intense blood red, and the visage of Malystryx came into focus.

    Gellidus stared at the magical image of the massive dragon with rapt attention, then lowered his head. The Red stared back at him across the hundreds of miles.

    Your answer? Malystryx prompted.

    Gellidus heard the words inside of his head; it was part of the magic the monstrous dragon used in her communication spell. At roughly five hundred feet long, she was twice his size, and she could squash him without a considerable amount of effort. Her fire could easily melt the ice of his domain. When the steam dissipated, his corpse would be found, twisted and burnt, on the plains.

    DRAGOtlLAnCE FlrfH AGE

    "I will ally myself with you, Malys," Gellidus said His voice was sonorous and haunting like the frigid wind that whistled through his land's valleys. But it was not so commanding as the Red's. "I will work with you. I will not oppose you."

    Malys curled back her lips in the approximation of a smile, and a rumble resonated inside the white's head. The Red sounded pleased. Flames danced amongst teeth that were as white as Gellidus's hide and rose up around her head like a wreath.

    The white dragon continued. "And I would deign to be your consort, Malys."

    The Red nodded. Accepted, GeUidus. Together we wul make Ansalon tremble. My plans are already in motion, and soon I win tell you what magnificent role you will play in all of this.

    "I am honored," the white dragon answered. "We will meet?" Soon, she silkity replied. On the Plains of Dust in the realm called DuntoUik,

    "Neutral territory" he said. "You are most wise." Then he felt her mind slip away from his, and watched the red glow on the frozen lake's surface turn to orange then to a rosy pink. Within moments, the ice was milky white again, and the soothing dull wind was blowing snow across its slick surface.

    GeUidus raged at kowtowing to any dragon. He was an overlord, and he ruled Southern Ergoth unchallenged. The continent of the Kagonesti

    elves was a temperate land when he first came upon it There were vast stretches of ice-covered lands he could have more easily claimed, but only a smattering of ice barbarians lived in those lands, and GeUidus felt a need to rule over a larger population. Since securing Southern Ergoth nearly two decades ago, he had worked to change the climate and much of the terrain to suit his icy, austere tastes. He was quick to take control of Daltigoth, the once-great capital And he was quick to turn it over to the ogres after plundering the city's riches. Foghaven Vale fell too, and

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    THE DAY OF tHE TEMPEST ?^*^

    with it the legendary resting place of Huma, hero of the Third Dragon War.

    The ogres of the land were Gellidus's to command. They offered the dragon their loyalty and service in exchange for their worthless lives and some small amount of power. Groups of thanoigrotesque walrus-menalso

    served him. GeUidus had captured the thanoi from the southern Plains of Dust and brought them here to use as guards and messengers. Most of the Kagonesti, the wild elves who once ranged across the island continent, had fled more than a decade ago. But some remained on the western part of the dragon's realm, beyond the Last Gaard Mountains. Though the climate was harsh and the wind bitter, they were relatively free of the dragon's influence there. It wasn't that GeUidus was too lazy to conquer that part of the continent, though the overlord admittedly led a largely sedentary life. The White simply decided to leave a safe haven for people. It would give him something to watch, to study, and a place to terrorize later when he grew too bored. GeUidus rose on his stubby legs and uncurled his tail. It stretched dozens of feet behind him, ending in a flattened fin-like ridge. He worked the kinks out of his thick neck, then stared at the frozen lake for a moment before thrusting his front daws through the ice and into the freezing water below. The rest of his body quickly followed, embraced by the welcome glacial coldness.

    The White was not Malys's first consort That distinction belonged to KheUendros, the Storm Over Krynn, who was occupying her thoughts now. "Khellendros uses knights," Malys hissed to herself. "Though not so aptly and cleverly as I." The Red's thoughts

    DRAGOHLAnCE FIFTH AGE

    often drifted to the Blue who claimed the Northern Wastes and the city of Palanthas. She considered him the most astute and powerful of those beneath her.

    "What is he up to?" she mused aloud. She extended a talon toward the dirt floor of the plateau and began sketching an odd-looking symbol. Dust rose around the edges of the diagram, and the air shimmered with

cool, blue energy.

    Kheltendros, I would speak with youhere.

    10

    Chapter 1

    Z>eart>6 and Beginnings

    Ct>c increasing pressure of Hx cool blue vater snapped Dhamon awake. He was floating just above the lake's sitty bottom, his long hair fluttering like the fronds around him, his chest burning for air. He ached terribly from his fight with the dragon, but somehow he managed to summon a last bit of strength, kicking hard and struggling toward the surface. As he rose, he felt his limbs grow heavy and numb. Dhamon felt himself slip toward the comforting embrace of darkness. Then his head broke the surface and he gasped, coughing up a lungful of water and greedily gulping in air.

    His hair was plastered over his eyes, but through a gap in the strands he spotted Palin, Peril, and Rig walking up a hill,

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    DRAGOntAnCE FIFTH AGE

    away from the edge of the lake.

    "Peril!" He raised his arm and thrashed about to get the elf's attention. But he wasn't loud enough. She was too far away to hear him, and getting farther with each passing heartbeat.

    "Peril!" he called again; then something brushed against him and dosed around his leg. His cries were silenced as he felt himself being pulled under. Water rushed down his throat and the darkness reached up and swallowed him.

    Just before dawn, Flint's Anvil eased away from the Palan-thas docks. The green-hulled carrack glided as swiftly and silently as a wraith through the maze of fishing boats already dotting the deep bay. Palin Majere moved toward the bow, listening to the soft splash of the fishing nets hitting the water and the nearly imperceptible creaking of the Anvil's deck beneath his sandaled feet.

    The son of famed Heroes of the Lance Caramon and Tika Majere as well as one of the few survivors of the Battle of the Rift, Palm was called the most powerful sorcerer on Krynn. Yet for all his magical skills and arcane knowledge, he felt powerless against the dragons threatening his world. He cursed himself for having been unable to save Shaon of Istar and Dhamon Grimwulf when the blue had attacked yesterday. Palin leaned against the rail and stared at a spot on the horizon where the rose-tinted sky met the waves. His gray-streaked auburn hair whipped about in the wind, and he halfheartedly brushed it away from his eyes and yawned. Sleep had escaped him last night. He had lain awake listening to the sounds of the workers repairing the Anvil's mainmast, which the dragon had snapped in half during its assault. When the work was

completed, he had listened to the water

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    DAY OF THE

    lapping against the hull and had thought about his dead friends. "We're far enough out!" called Rig Mer-Krel, the sea barbarian who captained the Anvil He motioned to GroIIer, the half-ogre standing by the rear mast. Then he raised his arm, pointed to sails, clenched his fist, and brought his hand in quickly toward his chest. The deaf half-ogre nodded in understanding of Rig's hand signals and started lowering the sails, stepping around Fury the red wolf sleeping

    near the base of the mast. The rest of the Anvil's complement stood amidships. The group formed a ring around a human-shaped bundle carefully wrapped in an old sail. Jasper Fireforge, nephew of the legendary Flint Fireforge, knelt next to the bundle and ran his stubby dwarven fingers over the silk cord wrapped around it. He mumbled a few words to the absent gods of the sea, stroked his short brown beard, and choked back a sob.

    Behind him stood Peril. The Kagonesti closed her eyes, and tears slid down over the oak leaf tattoo on her cheek. "Shaon," she whispered. "I will miss you, my friend."

    "I'll miss you, too," softly echoed Blister, a middle-aged kender. She grimaced as she fidgeted with the white gloves on her small hands; "You're the only person I ever told about . . . about my *

    "Shaon loved the sea," Rig began, his resonant voice cutting off the kender s reflections. "I often joked that salt water, not blood, ran in her veins. She was more at home on the rolling deck of a ship than on solid ground. She was my first mate, my friend, and my . . ." The mariner's big frame shuddered as he stooped to cradle the bundle. His muscles strained, for the body was weighted with ballast to help it sink. "Today we return her to that which she cherished." He walked toward the railing and paused, picturing Shaon's walnut-brown face beneath the canvas. He would miss the feel of her skin against his and he would never forget

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    DRAGOHLAnCE FIFTH AGE

    her infectious smile. He dropped the first mate's body over the side of the ship and watched it quickly sink out of view. "I will never forget you," he said, so softly that no one else could hear.

    Feril stepped to the rail beside him. The breeze fanned her curly auburn hair around her shoulders and teased the tips of her pointed ears. "Dhamon Grimwulf died, too, though we could not recover his body. He abandoned his life as a Knight of Takhisis to take on a noble cause, and he sacrificed himself to slay the blue dragon who killed Shaon." The Kagonesti held a leather thong in her slender hand. She had found

    it among the scant possessions Dhamon had brought aboard the Anvil. She paused to tie the short strip of leather around an arrowhead. "Dhamon brought us together. Let us honor his memoryand Shaon'sby staying

    together and reclaiming our home from the dragons." The arrowhead and thong slipped from her fingers and plunged into the sea much as Dhamon and the blue dragon named Gale had plunged to their deaths into the nearby lake.

    For a long while the only sound was the faint creaking of the ship's masts. Finally Rig backed away from the rail and nodded to Groller. The half-ogre raised the sails, and the dark-skinned mariner made his way to the wheel.

    Noon, several days later, found Rig, Palin, Blister and Peril drenched with sweat, standing in the desert of the Northern Wastes. Before them sat a foot-long curly-tailed lizard. It flicked its forked tongue and peered with special intent at the Kagonesti, who was communicating with it. The others looked on, but understood none of the unusual conversation.

    "Only for a short time can I share this desert, little one," Peril said aloud in clicks and hisses.

    "Run with me across the sand. Enjoy with me my very, very 16

    THE DAY OF THE TEMPEST<^*--

    beautiful home. Plenty of desert for everyone."

    "It is a most beautiful desert," Peril admitted. "But I need to know**

    "Catch with me insects. Crunchy beetles. Sweet butterflies. Juicy hoppers. Very, very juicy hoppers. Plenty for everyone." "I'm not interested in insects," Feril explained.

    The lizard looked disappointed and turned away.

    "Please don't leave," she hissed, kneeling dose to the lizard. "What are they talking about?" The kender asked, eyeing them with typical wide-eyed curiosity. "Rig, do you know what they're talking about? All I hear are hissing noises. Sounds like a couple of tea kettles." "Shh!" the mariner scolded.

    "I wish I knew how to use magic like that," Blister said huffily. "I'd be able to talk to anything... everything." The kender crossed her arms and glared down at the ground, at least what she could see of it over her thin orange tunic that billowed about her short legs in the hot, dry wind. The tunic was another sore point. That morning, when Blister had come up from below deck wearing the large orange garment along with green gloves and a green belt, Rig had said she looked like a ripe pumpkin. The comment was enough to make her doff her matching orange boots in favor of brown sandals and to leave her green hat behind. "Palin, couldn't you cast a spell or something so we can all understand what the lizard is"

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