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02 - The Day of the Tempest - Jean Rabe

By Jacob Ramos,2014-06-10 22:50
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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*!.

    Tte book is protected under the copyright lawi of the United States of America. Any reproduction or other unauthorized me of the material Or artwork cootainat herein is ptvtAitei without the evpreis written pcrTOHWo of TSR, Inc.

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

    pistrftuted to the hobby, toy. and comk bade in the United Strfei and Canada by regional diMribu-ton.

    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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    AH TSR characters, cbancter names, and the dtfbnctire likeneuej thereof are trademark* owned by TS? Jnc. TSR, Toe. it a naMdwy of Whanb of Ac Coa?, lot.

    Pint Printing: Augu? 1997

    Printed in the United Statei of Amrhca.

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    9S765432I 8J81XXXISOI ISBN:o-7?6?-0668-5

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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