There were two humans swooning before him. Not in and of itself unheard of. What was unusual, perhaps even alarming, was that there were two humans in his family’s house. Also, someone had wrecked his room. He reached out with a common key of communications, blended with a seeking key; oddly none of his kin were anywhere nearby.

A quick read of the two humans revealed that they were barely conscious. He reached out to the woman who was closest and placed his hand over the front of her head. He read her body then brushed the surface of her thoughts. While she was young and fit, she had recently been under repeated stresses and was greatly lacking for sustenance. She held no ill will towards him, nor was she responsible for any assault on his person nor his people. In fact, she had just brought him back from the edge of death. He realized that his true nature was not concealed.

The male, on his knees just behind the woman, supporting her, muttered something and tried to brush Tanfardi’s hand away from her head. He put them both to sleep. Now that he knew they were not a threat he had other priorities.

Rising from the bed he walked to the door of his domicile and flew up into the air. He had noticed that his sister lay dead in the doorway. Long dead. Their village showed sign of having been attacked by powerful forces. The drake, he assumed. He found a large number of his people around the ruins, also long dead. None other than he had survived. How was that possible?

Surely, after such a devastating attack his people would have come to provide aid? Though no such aid had been manifested and to all appearances the attack had taken place many years ago. Likely centuries, perhaps longer, judging by the state of the village. Most of the keys that were maintained by his kin had failed or expired, some of the permanent enchantments had been destroyed and many of the buildings were badly damaged.

To his shame, grief overwhelmed him. He went to the precipice above the falls then fell to his knees. He could see across the valley, now overgrown, that the citadel had been largely destroyed. Only one of its lesser towers were intact. He reached out with a key of communications, hoping some of his people were still alive in the valley, even a remnant, but no one responded. The tragedy consumed him, after everything they had struggled to survive through, for his people to have come to this end seemed irreconcilable. He wept over the death of his civilization.

After he had spent his grief, Tanfardi roused himself with effort and looked around. While he remained dispirited that all his people had been slain by the drake and that his civilization lay blasted and ruined, he held a glimmer of hope. On the planet below, his people had set up colonies and had begun to work with some of the races there, goblins, elves, and humans. Maybe he would find some of his people down there. However, before going to the planet, he had some things that he needed to check on first.

He returned home, ignored the sleeping humans and searched through the ruins of his room. He collected his mana stones and power crystals, circlet, rings and necklace. While his favourite staff had been destroyed, he still had two that had come through the disaster unscathed. He placed one in a dimensional pouch and set the other aside on the broken bed with his swords and bow. His quiver and the arrows within had been wrecked, as had the shelf and the majority of the figurines that had been kept there, he was able to find three figurines still intact. He changed out of the leisurewear he had awoken in, choosing protective garments and good boots, he placed a few changes of clothing, gloves, extra footwear and his helmet all within the pouch.

The rest of his armour had been at the armoury, as had the majority of his weapons. Though, from what he had seen, the armoury appeared to have been crushed by a piece of falling tower. He hoped that the building had not been completely compromised; within the sub-levels were the rooms where most of his kin’s weapons and armour had been stored.

He then went to the pantry and gathered a few travel pouches and canteens, he left two of each on the bed and left a message for the humans that they would hear upon awakening. He took the time to lay a healing key on each of them, it would help them recover from their exertions and help to stabilize their minds. The male was in bad shape, his body was infected with a parasite and his mind was on the verge of breaking. Still, he marvelled that they had been his rescuers; humans were not well known for their resilience nor their power. Yet, there they were, wandering through the ruins of his civilization, hale enough and with the power to have saved him. The obligation he felt was immeasurable.

Tanfardi then went to the armoury. He was able to access the lower levels through a secondary entrance. The place was still intact, though some of the rooms showed signs that they had been hastily ransacked, hopefully indicative that some of his people had survived. Not knowing what he might face on the planet below or if any of the fiendish drake still lurked on his home world, he took plenty of weapons and armour then gathered a few artifacts the humans might be able to use.

After a short return to his dwelling, he left the artifacts he had gathered for his rescuers, then activated the enchanted keys of his cloak and flew into the sky. It would have been a quicker trip if he had just teleported, however, the citadel had obviously been badly damaged and he was unsure what he might find there. He did not know if it was safe to transport himself in such a fashion.

The land below him had changed considerably, the smaller enclaves were lost below the unfamiliar vegetation and even many of the birds were new to him. From his elevated position he was unable to see what other sorts of creatures were within the new jungle. Even the shape of the land and the lay of the river was different in some places. Considerable time had passed. When he tried to calculate the passage of time by the position of the stars he had initially though he had miscalculated. Surely he had not lain suspended for over ten thousand years? Yet, numerous recalculations yielded the same result. Eventually he arrived above the valley of Ermundi. what had once been the greatest city of his people.

He settled on the jagged edge of the remaining broken tower, nearly everything else in the valley had been destroyed. He found many sorts of drake-spawn within the area. He gathered a key of concealment around his position; he did not sense a living drake, though he discovered that numerous drake had died, their bones were littered around the valley floor. Still, the loss of the Great Tower, Gaberithium, was in and of itself an apocalyptic blow that would have crippled his people. There was no sign of it, whatever had been done had left no part of it intact.

He accumulated power and drew from the reserves within the stones and crystals, briefly he held enough power that a visible aura rose around his body. When he activated the key, time slid aside, he saw what had once been, back to the fall of the tower. Dragons swooped through smoky air, raw elemental power flickered through the sky. His people fought desperately against overwhelming odds. Scores of spawn died and many drake, but his people died as well, a dozen or so of the mightiest Ellodran fell during the brief moments of his vision. Then Gaberithium had shattered under a massively powerful key of unmaking. A million shattered fragments had brought the mighty city to its end.

When the vision ended Tanfardi slumped down against the wall and wept. How had the drake gained such numbers and power? How had his people been caught so unaware by the attack? With the shattering of the Great Tower his people had lost eons of history, libraries worth of lore and the power that the tower had provided. He wondered if any of his people had survived the despair, as it overwhelmed him he wondered what point there was in continuing.

He mourned for nearly a day, gave serious consideration to ending his own life and remained mired in dark thoughts. What if he was the last of his people?

He then succumbed to rage and in his anger he blasted the valley with such power as he had. His target was the drake-spawn but his method was undiscriminating. He rampaged up and down the valley, razed the forest and scorched all life below from existence. Great fires spread, mighty columns of smoke filled the sky with a haze that dimmed the light of the stars.

His efforts left him drained and still grief wracked his being. He settled to the blasted ground, nearly spent. So weakened by his tantrum that he was defenceless when the drake slipped into his mind.

“Where have you been hiding?”