Chapter 18: Hsagra's Wrath

Ice as hard as stone cracked open as the claw of the mighty dragon tore into the ground. The huge creature thundered across the icy planes as her pursuers closed in. Hsagra, sorceress of Veeshan and first brood of the dragons of Norrath, whirled around and unleashed a wide column of fire. Ice turned into steam burning those around it, but the Kromzek soldier who caught the blast was instantly vaporized. Hsagra's wings beat at the air as she once again fled from the small army of giants that chased her through the ice. While she had killed dozens of them upon their initial attack, with wings torn, and scales pierced she knew the peril of frontal combat. She stormed up a small hill and dug her claws into a large rock that jutted out of the ice. Whirling she began chanting her mightiest incantation and another flaming column disintegrated one of her perusers, this time a Kromzek captain. The small victory gave her hope that she could reach the Temple and gain the assistance of Sontalak, the guardian. She began her descent down the opposite side of the hill when Porlos' trap sprung. Her claw sunk into the snow and the wood and steel jaws of an enormous trap crushed her leg. Howling with pain, Hsagra fell to her side and saw the line of giants flanking her. In the middle of them was the sorcerer-king, Porlos, his red flowing cape billowing in the icy winds against his golden armor. The spearmen that accompanied him rushed in and stabbed at Hsagra's underbelly. Porlos' began chanting and a whirlwind of frost colder than any known in nature burned and cracked her scales wide open. Hsagra shrieked and fell back, gasping for one last breath. Instead of air, her lungs only felt the stab of Leutenant Derakor's blade as he stabbed through her into the ice below.

Deep under the ground of the dragon city of Skyshrine, Yelinak wailed as he watched the giants behead his wingmate through his murky scrying pool. He felt his sanity slipping further as they stripped the scales from her carcass and King Porlos broke free one of her large teeth. Yelinak and Hsagra had known a love for each other that had lasted longer than many empires of Norrath. They had grown up over centuries within the comfort of eachother. Now he was alone, with only the icy cavern around him to protect him from the world. He begged Veeshan to wake him from this horrible nightmare and when no dawn came he silently prayed for the Sleeper to be unleashed and finish his misery. Knowing that his oath to the Claws of Veeshan forbade any such action, he hung onto the only thing he could. Revenge.

Loral's finger slid across the gash in the rock that Hsagra's giant claw had torn into it over five thousand years past. Though the winds had softened the gash, it was still very pronounced against the smooth stone. Loral turned to his party and followed their eyes to the line of giants below. A captain of the Kromzek force was bellowing orders to the troop, preparing them for the scouting mission against the dragon nursery. The excitement of the troop gave Loral the idea that they would do more than gather information should they come across a younger, weaker wyrm. The ranger to Loral's right whispered a prayer to the Mother and vanished. His steps could be seen in the thin powdered snow that covered the ice below as he approached the line of giants.

Seconds later, both the ranger and Loral fled to the caverns nearby, hoping to lose the giants that fast approached. While they had succeeded in dulling the minds of many of the troop, Loral's friend, Coelin, had been killed by the captain when he noticed the wood elf whispering soothing sounds to his men. Now the captain and one of his guard were almost upon the two remaining adventurers when they disappeared into a small cave. The captain stormed up to the cave but instead of finding the two elves within, he found the glowing blade of Ggan, the shadowknight. With one mighty cut, the Captain was hobbled to the ground. Spells and weapons of the mightiest adventurers quickly dispatched the captain and his guard.

An hour later, Loral had given the scout Charisa, an agent of the Claws, the broken artifact he found on the captain. She smiled and handed Loral a talisman of the Claws, a globe with a tiny flame inside enclosed in a golden cage. Loral took the talisman and tied it to his belt. He and his friends bowed to Charisa and left for the warm beds of Thurgadin.

After weeks spent in the libraries of Skyshrine and consulting with the wurm spellcasters of Yelinak's guard, Azile the Sorceress learned much of the ancient spells of the Claws of Veeshan. She listened to the tale of Hsagra's doom and of Yelinak's seclusion. She learned that once, another great dragon spellcaster, Relnar had constructed the lost spells of Hsagra. After days of travel through the icy winds of Western Wastes, far from the warm climate of Odus, Azile traveled to the great scar of Velious that acted as the doorway to the temple of Veeshan. Outside stood seven great wyrms, each with the power to destroy an entire city. Four of these were of Relnar's brood and having heard of her interests in the dragon's favor, they nodded their great heads as she confronted them. Great clouds of vapor left their nostrils as she recited what she had learned. They spoke with her of the powerful spells of Hsagra and gave her four runes, artifacts of Relnar's teachings in return for her vow to assist them in their war with the giants. A week later she was back in Skyshrine, meeting with Lawla, the scribe of Skyshrine to put together the lore she had gathered.

Loral was having a friendly chat with the barkeep in the Coldain miner's bar of Thurgadin when Azile drifted silently through the door. Loral stood and embraced the Erudite who looked pale compared with her normal ebony complexion. They picked out a small table for two and Loral poured Azile a small glass of Winterfalls Wine, a specialty of the establishment, and a drink Loral fancied when he couldn't drink a glass of Tunare's Finest from his home town of Felwithe. She pushed the glass away and stared coldly at Loral.

"I have it, my friend. The magic of the dragon sorcerers is mine. Soon, the giants of Kael will feel Hsagra's wrath."

Loral shivered a bit at this thought. While they had discussed their plans in the war with the Kromrif and Kromzek of Kael Drakkal, a small voice in the back of Loral's mind wailed softly. Loral quickly shook the voice away and stared across at his old friend and protector.

"Than feel it they shall."

For a thousand years it had stood and guarded. It had lived through three different kings and hundreds of political disputes that ended in blood. Five hundred of the mightiest warriors of Kael had died in the arena under his reign as the sole guardian of Zek. He was the only surviver of the reign of Porlos the Sorcerer-king. While King Tormax knew his legacy and his power, he never made a move against the guardian, knowing that to do so was to risk the wrath of Zek and possibly his own death. Derakor the Vindicator cared not for politics or squabbling. It did not care of the war with the Coldain, a topic though hundreds of years old felt like a drop in the bucket to the veneral Vindicator. Derakor felt no fear or pain or love. He felt only duty. He had but one job, protect the Temple of Zek. He and the guardians that served him had the simplest of orders. Defend or die. Recently, however, the voice of Rallos Zek gave him new orders. He was to once again serve in battle for the God of War. He must lead an assault against the Plane of Growth and defeat Tunare, herself.