“No point lookin’ for that rider. He ain’t comin’. An’ starin’ d’wn that pass won’t make ‘im.”

It’s been three weeks since the last rider. None of us care about the rations so much, there’s plenty of game up here. It’s the connection – the letters, the cakes, the feeling there is a home, somewhere.

“They haven’t forgotten us.”

“They have f’rgotten us. An’ starin’ d’wn that pass won’t make ‘em ‘member.”

We’re to find our way into this forgotten D’orf city. The mystic sits and looks at the door all day while the rest of us work. There’s no magic in those runes. There’s no riddle. We all know what it says, ‘cause he tells us every damn day. Sometimes twice. “Grand Thane Blowhard slays these armies. Bigger-Grand Thane Blowharder slays those armies.” If those D’orfs were so tough, why aren’t they still here to welcome us?

There’s just them doors. Two massive blocks of stone. Might as well try and move the mountain itself as move them doors. No one figures any D’orf could push them open, so there’s another way. We’re counting on that.

Still, no one figures them D’orfs for stupid either, so it won’t be easy.

“Maybe he was ambushed.”

“By what? Kob’lds? Gian’ Drag’n Leechs? Oh, mehbe D’orfs!”

“Not funny”

“Mehbe them D’orfs is all inside laughin’ attus out ‘ere knockin’ on the doo’!”

Something bad is about to happen. That’s the real reason we’re here. War is coming, and we can’t possibly win. If our people are going to survive, we need a place to go. Question is, what we find behind this door – will it be worse than certain destruction?

That doesn’t seem likely.

Another week, still no rider.

The red moon is waxing. The elders said the next time the moon is full, every place it sheds its red light will be stained by blood for a hundred years. Old fools. Our people have repelled invasions since the beginning of time. Always been this way, always will.

Still, the council all agreed we are doomed, so here we are. And the doors still stay closed, silently mocking us with unseen ageless eyes.

Three days ago a scouting party left to encircle the mountain, looking for another opening. Every night we see bats. They must sleep somewhere. Maybe they will show us another way in. It seems ironic, the blind spirits of the night air shedding light on the secrets of the proud, ancient D’orfs. ‘Nature always wins’ – an amusing thought, but only that. There are many mountains, with many caves.

Fevered Dreams

I ran through these paths as a child. Now I run through them as a great warrior of my people. Each step I take is a great bound that seems to go on forever. But then I land, and the next step is another great bound. I turn in mid-air and look at the trees around me. This is my home.

We are in danger, and I have to be somewhere, but I know not why.

Now I am in the city, the trees have turned to stone and brick. This is not the place I need to be, but somehow I need to go this way. I’m standing in front of a tavern. I knew people here. But now it’s smoking and ruined, everyone is gone. Everything, every place in this city I knew, is ruined. The smoke, cinders and ash are starting to fill my lungs. Still, I breathe.

They are after me, but I can’t see them. I am keeping one step ahead of them, always one step ahead. But I must keep running or they will catch me, and they will kill me. At every corner I turn to look, but I still can’t see them. They are still just beyond the last corner, knowing I am here just as I know they are there. Maybe this will be the corner I finally lose them.

I am where I am supposed to be now. It took many days, but I am here and everything will be okay. The great general Qumar is here. He’s speaking to me. To me. How does he know me? When we met I was but a child, and he already a legend among our people. Qumar says to me, “Darkness is light”.

There is an army here, an army of my people. A host like I’ve never seen before. This is the final battle. Qumar is speaking to them. They look upon him with fear of what is to come. He gives them his strength, he even laughs. He tells them to hold the pass, and that we are the rock that the tides of the Red Moon will break themselves on.

There is fighting now. It has all begun. I am merely an observer, unable to assist my falling countrymen. They fight valiantly, each one a hero, each one ultimately overwhelmed. The battle rages. Qumar says to me, “My mind holds the key”.

The sky darkens. I look up to see the dragon. It is like a flying citadel, with wings that stretch for miles. Its form blots out the sun over our entire land. With one snap of its jaw it swallows the sun, then circles and lands. It is much smaller now, only as tall as the tallest tree in the jungle. It rears up and back, and for a moment wears the red moon as a halo, then it beathes. Qumar says to me, “Set my body free”.

The dragon’s fire is a cleansing inferno, vaporizing pools of blood and burning the flesh off of the bone. Our army falls, leaving only charred bones littering the field. The enemy, to my horror, now freed of the flesh, keeps marching forward. Qumar stands alone in defiance. A thousand flaming skeletons surround him, hissing and cackling. Once again the dragon rears back, this time to pour flame directly in the face of Qumar.

But Qumar is gone, and the flames char nothing but the ground he stood on. Suddenly the night is quiet. The skeletons are gone, and the dragon is left alone to ponder the disappearance of his prey. The blood moon fills the sky, silhouetting the dragon’s confused form. He seems so small now. I feel a slight gust of wind brush across me ruffling my clothes and hair and chilling the skin on my arms. Qumar whispers to me, “Set my spirit free”.

Now I wander through the jungle. No more great bounding. It’s all burning, and everyone is dead. I played here as a child. This was my home. These were my people. The smoke, cinders and ash are starting to fill my lungs. And still, I breathe.

All is lost.

Light in the Dark

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