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Clash on the Beach

          Waves crashed upon the shoreline with a deafening explosion of sea spray that all but blocked out the angry roar of the two-headed dragon that had emerged from its cave to prey upon the skiff which had been washed into the cliffside bay. Far above the scene, the tower of Azagar, the Defiled loomed over the events which played out below. Its forlorn towers stared out cold and unconcerned with the affairs of the intruders which had violated the Wizard King’s domain. The salty sea-breeze came in mighty gusts that served to remind all in its wake of the deadly storm which pursued them and had driven them here into this unavoidable dilemma. With an ear-shattering scream, the dragon snatched up one of the sailors, who fought desperately with his sword to keep the massive beast at bay, but to no avail as the creature sank its spear-like teeth into the man’s unarmored flesh, ending the sailor’s attempts to escape in a sickening spray of crimson. The beast devoured the unfortunate sailor, and then advanced upon the remaining crew. With a sweep of its mighty tail, the dragon sent a shower of heavy stones at the rest of the crew which had survived the stormy night, and recent shipwreck, forcing them to take cover and scattering them out as to be easier prey for the ravenous dragon.

          Roldan Evrik used the momentary distraction to dive behind a wall of boulders which served to get him out of the dragon’s view. He drew his enchanted blade, Solvalg, and began sorting out a plan to get around the vile draconian. The sailors wouldn’t stand a chance against this creature if they didn’t find some way to keep it at bay. Most of those who might have been capable warriors had lost their weaponry in the previous night’s storm. With his thoughts on the storm, Roldan glanced back to the northwest. To his dismay, he saw that the jet-black clouds had grown closer in short time. Lightning streaked through the dark clouds as if they pulsed with a life of their own. Below them he saw something that troubled him even more. The swell of a storm surge which precluded most sea storms was on the horizon. He had to act fast, or they were all doomed. The dragon roared against the intense rush of the tide snapping him back to the present. A scream of utter helplessness ripped through the cacophony, which forced Roldan to wince as he knew another sailor had fallen victim to the beast. Without warning, a blast of heat washed over the boulder where he hid, and he saw the jet of flame course overhead. The dragon did not only have two heads but was also a fire-breather and had just cast its infernal breath over the battlefield. This boulder alone had been what had kept him from being caught in the deadly blast. He whispered a prayer to his god that he might find a way around this to defeat this deadly foe. As if to answer, his eyes fell upon a trail that led up the cliffside and was shielded from the dragon by a curtain of basalt rock. His feet sprung into action and before he realized what he was doing. With no other plan in mind, he sprinted to and up the natural staircase. It occurred to him as he ran up the path that this passage was quite possibly what the dragon had been guarding. But then, if the dragon was guarding this, was this seen as a weakness to the isle, a back door of sorts? If so, then, Azagar knew of this route, which also bade him to wonder if the path was guarded by other sentinels as well, or did the Wizard King have enough faith in the formidable dragon that he did not feel the need for anything more?  He had hope for the latter.

         The thought of the dragon brought him back to focus on the matter at hand. Just as he rounded a corner, the basalt curtain wall lowered enough for him to see that he was about twenty feet above the dreaded beast. It had another sailor in its vile clutches, Salmiron, a sailor and warrior with whom Roldan had become friends with along the way. Salmir fought gallantly, using his cutlass to slash and stab the dragon’s hand which kept it from gaining too tight a grip on the warrior. A reptilian head snapped down to bite at the sailor, and Roldan thought it was over, but to his surprise, the creature’s head retracted just as quickly, tossing its head back and forth as a stream of blood ran from its maw. Salmiron’s blade was covered in gore, revealing to Roldan the truth of what had happened. He applauded his friend who had successfully fended off being bitten in half.

          “Bravo,” Roldan said under his breath as he took in the situation. Roldan knew he had to act fast as he didn’t know how much longer Salimir would be able to hold out. Then he saw it, an opening that would allow him to mortally wound the beast if not slay it, or at least he hoped anyway. He prepared his blade, Solvalg, and positioned himself upon the rock wall. With careful study of the beast’s movements, he gauged both the distance and his trajectory; then with a word of prayer to his god for victory, he leapt. The fall was at once swift and painfully slow as he plummeted toward the dragon’s exposed neck. He waited until the last possible second and then with the force of his thrust and the momentum of his descent behind him, Roldan drove the blade home, deep into the back of the dragon’s neck where the skull met the spine. Roldan’s wrist took the brunt of the shock sending a wave of numbness up his arm that told him there would be consequences for this desperate act. The dragon emitted a painful shriek as the explosion of white-hot pain erupted through its body. Salmiron was thrown to the ground where he bounced off one of the seaside boulders and lay limp on the ground. Roldan didn’t have but a second to register the immediate events, for merely a second after he had plunged the b lade into its desired target, the dragon’s wounded neck began to thrash carrying him along for the ride. He held on to his enchanted sword with everything he had, and even felt the blade dig into his hand as fought to hold on. His wrist sent sickening waves of pain through his form, announcing the severe sprain which had resulted from the attack and was being made worse with the death throes of the smitten head. The violent thrashing only lasted for a moment though it seemed to Roldan as though it would go on forever. The last thrash had worked the sword loose, and none too soon, for as Roldan withdrew the blade the other head lunged in to bite at him. With an action that was more reflex and good fortune rather than of skill, he drove the blade up and into the lower jaw of the dragon, using it’s momentum as it smashed into him to send the blade into the roof of the beast’s mouth, pinning it shut indefinitely. Another sickening wave of pain wracked his sword arm and nearly nauseated him, though he fought against the pain that threatened to make him swoon in its grasp. The dragon reared back trying to roar but was not able to open its mouth. Thinking to rid itself of the enchanted blade’s wicked bite, it inhaled taking air into the bellows that fueled its internal furnace. And with a great blast, the remaining head burst into a fiery ball of smoking and stinking flesh.

          Aside from his sprained wrist, as well as being bruised and battered, Roldan fell to the ground no worse for wear. He rolled to the side and scrambled to get to Salmiron. He kept his eyes on the beast, but as he saw it slump and begin to lean to one side, he knew it was defeated. The dragon toppled like a great tree which had been felled by a woodsman’s mighty axe. Solvalg clattered over the basalt curtain which hid the steps, letting Roldan know that he needed to arm himself with another weapon until he could reclaim his blade. His wrist protested the idea as it had already begun to swell from the recent trauma. He had considered the possibility that there might be other monsters on guard of that hidden stairway, so he didn’t want to be caught unaware should his calculation prove right. With that, he rushed to See if Salimir was alive. To his relief, the sailor was just unconscious, though like Roldan, he too was battered and bruised from the otherwise deadly encounter.

          Roldan looked around, the encounter had indeed been deadly, for of the near dozen sailors, including himself, that had washed ashore in the skiff, it seemed that only the two of them had survived the encounter. A gust of wind caught his attention. The wind was edged with an icy touch, that spoke of a more imminent matter, the approaching storm. He looked up for the first time since falling from the dragon’s last attack and realized that the dark clouds had nearly halved their distance, and even more so, the storm surge that he had witnessed from the stone stairs, was quickly approaching. He had to act now, for it would be upon them with devastating effect before they knew it. He shook Salimir with a sense of urgency that forced a groan of pain to escape the sailor’s lips. A small vial fell out of the man’s pouch, in it a glowing red liquid that had a pulse akin to that of a heartbeat. Roldan had heard of such tinctures as he picked it up. There wasn’t enough for a full dose for the both of them, but even a little could help them more than none, if the contents of the vial were what he thought it to be. Without hesitation he pooped the cork and poured half of the fluid into Salimir’s mouth, forcing him to swallow the liquid. At first there was nothing, then after a few heartbeats, the color began to return to his friend’s face. His breathing become more controlled. A moment later, the sailor stirred.

          Roldan used this cue to empty the remaining contents of the vial into his own mouth. Within a moment the bruises and soreness subsided. More importantly, the swelling in his ruined wrist went down to a manageable level. It was still injured and tender to the touch, but he could manage it for now. Even as the tincture worked its magic on his wounds, Roldan coaxed Salimir to get up,  gather what they could carry, and make for the basalt stairs as quickly as possible. It was clear that they had to get to higher ground before the storm surge reached them and possibly even find shelter before the storm arrived. Salimir halted their urgency just long enough to make a splint for Roldan’s wrist from bits of the skiff. Once they had all they could comfortably carry, they made for the basalt passage. The storm was approaching quickly and it was clear that they needed to get to higher ground.

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