Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 5a

Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 5a

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Part 5) Loden


Loden looked at the monster’s body, it was partially sprawled across the spillway at the edge of the pool. Its hind quarters were charred. When it had crashed into the edge of the village it had broken a wing, the other was extended, drooping across one of the buildings and part of a shattered tower. He noted tears in the membrane of the wing. Its long neck and head were close to the stairs leading up the mountain. Its tail hung over the spillway, floating in the pool. As best he could tell, the main body was twelve or more paces long, the tail perhaps twice that while the neck and head were half the length of the body.

He was still shaking, sweating despite feeling chilled to his core, his right hand still tightly gripped the dwarven repeater. His ears rang and the sounds around him were muted. Asta had just ran off, into the village, shouting something about the Eldra fellow still being alive.

As the dragon had approached them, Loden was sure it was going to fly into the causeway above the falls. If it had, he and Asta would be dead. The creature had roared its fury, chasing the comparatively tiny Eldra through the sky. Loden had taken a two handed grip on the black powder weapon he had found; he fired in quick succession, thumbing the lever back after each shot. The first had been at a fair distance, with a moment to sight in on the creature. His second shot, just a moment later had been at its head as it soared towards them, seeming about to crash into the falls. The drake had roared loudly and swooped above them, Loden had turned, working the mechanism and fired his last round into its hind quarters.

During those harrowing moments Asta had screamed at it, calling on her goddess to smite their foe. Then it had splashed into the reservoir and came to rest in its present position. Loden was not even sure if it was dead, he had been too stunned by the situation to stop Asta from running off. He glanced down at the dwarven repeater he clutched so tightly and remembered that he had just emptied the weapon.

He took some deep breaths and managed to holster the shooter on his second attempt. Cautiously he moved to observe the creature, making his way towards the things head. Loden drew his second repeater, not daring to get too close. He saw no indication that he had hit the thing, though he did see that it had been viciously clawed by something across its belly. When he could clearly see the head he was surprised to find that the left, back part of its jaw and the upper part of its neck had blown outwards. Massive amounts of thick, black coloured blood pooled at the base of the stairs.

Loden sat down on a piece of stone and put his weapon away. Numbly he pulled out his pipe and pouch, then thumbed some tobacco into the bowl. He found his quick-strikes, lit one and after a few deep hauls had the pipe burning evenly. His stomach still hurt, but it seemed like the least of his concerns. He smoked until the tobacco had been consumed and then sat there looking at the slain drake. Eventually Asta came to him.

She put a hand on his shoulder and asked, “Are you alright?”


“Okay, good. Make some room?”

He slid over to one edge of the stone, she sat down, putting an arm around him. They sat in silence for many long moments.

Eventually he asked, “Did you find the Eldra?”

“Yes. He’s in pretty rough shape, but I tended to him and used the goddess’ gift to heal him. He is unconscious, hard to say for sure, but I think he’ll be alright.”

“Fortunate we are that he was able to send a message to you and give us some warning. Though I don’t think I did much to it.”

“I think you hit its eye, just before it roared. The second time.”

Loden though she was just trying to make him feel better, but his curiosity forced him to his feet. He wandered right up to the head. The thing’s teeth were very long, the smaller ones nearly as long as his hand while the longer ones, on either side of the front of its long mouth, were over twice as big. Careful to avoid stepping into the pool of blood he looked at the things right eye. Sure enough he found that one of his lead balls had blown through the outer eyelid, ichory fluid seeped from the wound.

“Well. I guess that’s not too bad.” He spat to one side.

Asta had followed him. She placed a hand on the creature’s foreleg, after a moment she said, “It is dead.”

“Thank the goddess.”

“I don’t think we’d be here otherwise. Thank you, Goddess of Mercy for delivering us from our foe.”

“The scales are beautiful.”

“They sure are.” She pulled at a few of the golden-red scales but none came loose.

“Look at that. Feathers?” He indicated the ridges along its skull, each came to a horny nub from which a small cluster of feather-like protrusions seemed to have grown.


“We should be leaving. Other drake will be here soon.” The Eldra stood beside them, startled, they both shied away from him. Loden was disturbed by how pale he looked. Almost ashen. Age lines had appeared around his eyes and mouth. The two of them were at a loss. He looked at them, his expression alien, unidentifiable. He made a gesture, “We must hurry. The others will gather soon, a dirge will take place. If we are still here they will kill us. Gather what you can, we will be leaving shortly.”

Asta nodded, “Alright.” She took Loden’s arm, gave a gentle pull and they headed back to the building where they had first found the ancient being.

The two of them gathered their gear and the items that they had recovered from the village; weapons, jewellery, the food pouches and canteens that had been left for them. Loden pulled his stinking coat on, it was heavy with the valuables stuffed into its pockets. For good measure he pulled out Ander’s battered hat and put it on.

Just to be sure he asked Asta, “He did said we could take anything we wanted?”

“Yes Loden. As I said, there was a delayed message when I first woke up. He said that he’d be back soon and that the pouches and canteen would sustain us. Which was true, though it all tasted a bit odd. He also said we could clothe and outfit ourselves with anything we found in the village.”

“Too bad he had not warned us he was going drake hunting ahead of time.”

“Well, that was the second message. Though we had little time to prepare ourselves, it turned out alright in the end.” She pulled a bundle of tied up items over her shoulder, including swords, staves and other oddities she had been drawn to. They had each obtained a satchel and had gathered clothing. Though she had changed into some of clothes, Loden had not. Something about the way they cleaned and re-sized themselves put him on his guard. To be fair, Asta had been wearing her new ensemble for the better part of a day by this point. She had not been turned into a toad, nor been scrubbed away by self-cleaning magic. He was likely just being paranoid.

“Is that everything?”

“I could hardly carry much more. Let’s go.”

They returned to where they had left the Eldra, it was a gory scene that awaited them. He had cut the dragon open, split its skull and extracted parts of organs, scales, bones and some teeth. He held out two of the dragon’s teeth to them, “A prize from your first drake kill.”

Loden took the tooth, “I’m not planing on making a habit of doing stuff like this.” Asta took her tooth and thanked him politely. The Eldra gathered together the corners of the cloak he had placed all the innards and bone on and slung his squishy prizes over one shoulder.

They followed him up the mountainside stairs to the nearer of the carved doors. He said something that Loden did not understand and the engraved doors became functional, swinging silently open at his command. The passage beyond was slowly illuminated by a soft light. The odd fellow strode ahead of them, they nearly had to jog to keep pace. Loden was struck by the similarities to the ruins at Towwit Falls, hopefully there was no death trap at the end of this ascent.

At the top of the stairs they came to a large room with a half dozen alcoves, each contained a shelf carved from the natural stone. In the centre of the room was a large arch on a raised platform. It was a half circle, a bit over twice his height at its highest point. The soft light illuminating the room seemed to have no source. The Eldra quickly went to one of the alcoves and collected something, Loden could not see what it was.

Asta looked around, shifting the heavy bundle she carried from one shoulder to the other. She seemed calm, curious even. She went to the nearest alcove where a number of boxes and small chests were stored.

Loden followed, “What’d you find?”

She opened a second box and glanced in, “Powders of some sort. At least that’s what is in these two.”


She sniffed at one of the boxes, rubbed her nose and shook her head, “No, I don’t think so.”

“Come here, please.” The Eldra stood on one side of the arch and gestured for them to join him.

“What’s the plan?” Loden asked.

“I will activate the gate and we will step through together. You will likely experience some nausea and disorientation. After we have gone to the other side take a moment to recover yourself.”

“Where are we going?” Asta asked.

“Esher-arradda. On the planet below?”

“Never heard of it.” Loden commented.

“Regardless, we will find our peoples there.”

The ancient being waved a hand and said some more words that Loden did not understand. Under the arch a shimmering dark blue hummed with crackling energy, the Eldra and Asta stepped forward together, vanishing through the energy field. Loden paused for a heartbeat, but ultimately did not want to be left alone on this planet. He followed and immediately regretted it.


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