Our journey toward the centre of the continent would prove a perplexing one, and only serve to pose more questions.
A week or so into our journey, we encountered a small village that had no draconic overlord, benevolent or otherwise. We decided to rest here at the inn, as the lure of an actual bed and warm meals was too strong to deny. We would not be so lucky, however, as part way through our stay, an alarm was raised by a village scout of a flight of dragons headed in this direction. With images of the destruction in Elathria still somewhat fresh in our minds, we gladly accepted their offer of shelter in a sub-basement bunker, deep under the town. We waited here for several hours, though it felt much longer than this.
When the all-clear was given, I expected to find the town completely leveled and in ruin, but it was fortunately unscathed. Thankful for this bit of good fortune, we thanked the villagers for their hospitality, such as it was, and pressed on.
Later that same day, we encountered some disturbingly large draconic footprints crossing our path; the destruction in the wake of the dragon was evident, as trees were splintered like toothpicks where it walked. We, wisely or not, followed them as far as we could. Over time the prints shrank and eventually all trace of them was lost, but not before we spotted the walls of a great city dead ahead.
This was a place we would not soon forget. Called Northal by its denizens, the city was surrounded by a great wall of spires, and inhabited by perhaps the most beautiful, generous, and wonderfully friendly folk I have ever encountered. Suspiciously so, in fact. They offered us complimentary room and board in a fantastically well-appointed manse in the heart of the city. We accepted, not daring to openly question their generosity for risk of insulting them.
Some later pointed questions aimed at a typically friendly and open lady working the counter at this establishment (if one could call it that), revealed some suspicious answers. I began to suspect that the people living here were all kindly dragons in polymorphed form. This was a feat that, up until then, I was only sure that Lor’s daughter was capable of.
We were later informed while retired to our (opulent and well-appointed) rooms that a great storm was approaching, and that we should stay inside where we would be safe. After this, we all gathered together. The storm was indeed powerful. It rent the sky with lightning and the air cascaded with peals of thunder. It sent MethGr into a panic. Betulah, seemed unperturbed. Dale spent all his time sleeping, completely unbothered by the commotion. I wasn’t sure whether to think him a fool or compliment him for his resilience and cool head under pressure.
Our other companion, the one sent forth by Lor’s gem (did I not mention this previously?), was completely catatonic, having witnessed in a flash of lightning, a great eye watching us through our window. Neither Betulah, nor myself could see it at first, though eventually we did. Still, we could not find it when looking. It was suspicious and unnerving to say the least.
Eventually, the storm came to a blinding and deafening crescendo, and up from the pillars a dome of pure lightning formed, through which the image of a great dragon head descended. Calling himself Sithriel, he called upon all the agents of other dragons to deliver an ulitmatum to their masters; submit to his rule, or be destroyed in what would surely promise to be the greatest calamity this world has seen.
When it was all over, we emerged the next day to discover that all the kind dragonfolk that put us up here were gone without a trace. I was unable to determine if they’d been banished, imprisoned, or murdered. All that remained were the guests of the city. Regardless, we did as Sithriel bade, and set forth for Sathros to deliver the ultimatum to Lor. He did us one better and met us on the road. As it turns out, he can perceive the events that unfold in the vicinity of his gem and its animate.
We were whisked home to Sathros where it was resoundingly decided that, no, our benefactors would not submit to Sithriel. We would find a way to fight it.
The name Sithriel was familiar to me; I dimly recalled from some dusty tome I’d once read, that this threat reared its head before, in an apocalyptic event of similarly world-shaking proportions. I also dimly recalled that it was defeated with the aid of some mythical guardian, the details of which I could either not recall, or were not recorded. Lorkathine recalled that it was called a Guardian Goliath and that legends put its location on the island of Edar.
We had a new focus to our quest…