It sniffed the misty air, picking up the sent of . . . two . . . no, three approaching. The first two humans were followed by another, by someone trying not to be discovered. Jhunn recognized the scent of the first man. It was his priest; a power greedy human named Zeth. And Zeth was bringing a sacrifice, yes, another virgin was in tow, half carried, half dragged to her doom. Zeth was hungry for more secrets, and what did the great Jhunn care if a few trivial black arts were dropped into the skull of the one who brought such excellent sacrifices? Jhunn believed that it was his due that he should be worshiped as a god, after all, Jhunn had been hounded by the Walkers and other Servants of the Light for centuries uncounted, because he was one of the gods of darkness.
But that brought his mind back to the second man, the sneak-thief that followed Zeth -- what was this one doing skulking before the lair of the great Jhunn? Did he also seek some secret word of power? Some token in exchange for worship or service to the god? Jhunn could sense nothing from the second man, no fear, no hate, and no desire -- and that caused him the greatest concern, for it reminded him of the hounds that once hunted him in the long ago.
Frostworld was the home of a Neanderthal race of pale men. Only half-human, these brutes of the cold wastes were well equipped for their icy world; short stocky arms, thick bodies, short, oak-solid thews, these snow-dwellers had destroyed most of the other races of Frostworld, all except a few scattered tribes of the darker nomads of the southwest. It was to those tribes that Kormand had come seeking knowledge about an ancient deadly foe. The tribes had a few Gormag -- their name for the Neanderthal peoples -- prisoners in their deep caves. Kormand had questioned them without success, that is until a new captive had arrived three weeks ago, and then Kormand had literally struck gold, finally locating the hoarding Dragon. But it was not gold that Kormand sought, rather he sought the end of one of the most dangerous Dragons of the 20 inner worlds, and had traced it across time to find it in this frosty corner of the universe.
He had no elaborate plan. Extensive plans were useless when it came to Dragons, rather it came instead to sinew and bone, blood and muscle, and even the will, one pitted against the other. He had his power blade, and that would sear through the Dragon hide, and might even strike to the heart, but a hand must wield it, and a will must drive it home. But only a fool began a fight with a Dragon in close, within reach of tooth, claw, and worst of all -- dragonfire. Kormand was a lot of things, but not a fool. Along with his mighty sword he carried a charmed Scythian Bow, layered in bone, and strung of the strongest sinew -- it would find the heart of the Dragon, or pierce its brain, one way or another Kormand would drive the beast back into its home in Hell.
sense determination in you stranger, and boldness," said Jhunn the Dragon, picking at his razor sharp teeth with one dagger-like claw. "If you wish my favor, you should come closer, and offer your gift, your obeisance."
"I do indeed bring you a gift, Dragon. An end to your evil deeds and despicable actions across the many worlds."
Jhunn chilled at those words. "What are you? Or need I ask? I perceive you are one of those meddlers that travel the worlds, making mischief and trouble for the gods."
Kormand let out bitter laugh, "One of the gods of Hell perhaps, or rather a demon, as we label you. But enough talk devil, your time is up, and my task is to bring that about."
"Not so hasty human, your kind are bold in words, but soon die beneath my fiery breath. I would know what drives you to such folly, and what motivates you toward this absurd quest that can only end in your own sure death."
"Dragon, I serve the One you know not, though you know His Name. I am just one of many of His servants, but we all have the same cause, to destroy those who oppose the Light, and who spread chaos and destruction across the worlds." Now Kormand had been addressing the Dragon directly, eyes fixed on the beast, but behind his shield he put arrow to string, and prepared to launch himself into battle.
Jhunn the Dragon was also not merely bantering words, he was seeking to catch his foe off guard so that he might launch his fiery breath and destroy the deadly Walker. But the man was just out of the reach of a direct blow, the flames would merely dance off of the warrior's shield, still, Jhunn wished to get in the first strike, it just might unbalance this poised warrior, and enable Jhunn to find an advantage.
In the blink of an eye, Jhunn let out a stream of red and green flame, and also rushed toward the warrior. But Kormand had expected as much, and he leaped and rolled out of the way of the flames, and further from the reach of the Dragon, yet even so the heat blistered his right arm and lower legs. He fought to ignore the pain and focus upon his foe. Ending up on one knee, Kormand rapidly drew and loosed a feathered arrow at the head of Jhunn. The arrow struck home, piercing the left eye of the devil. A terrible scream sliced the air, nearly bursting the warrior's eardrums.
"Clever you are, filthy human, but you will pay, oh yesss . . . you will certainly pay for this!" The Dragon pinched two talons together and painfully withdrew the shaft from its blinded eye. Hatred so strong that it could be felt miles away washed from the hardened shell of the Dragon's soul. Kormand felt it, and it made him want to retch, but he kept down his bile, and loosed another shaft.
The Dragon quickly threw up a leathery wing that caught the deadly missile. But Kormand was not yet out of ideas. From within his cloak he drew out a green crystal orb, not much larger than a child's glass marble. This was a gift from his friend Laertes, a mighty Power Walker, one of those imbued with gifts of miracles and other supernatural powers. Kormand let fly the tiny orb and prepared his next action -- this must be a swift maneuver if it were to succeed.
The Dragon saw the tiny green orb and threw a flame of fire upon it. This was exactly what Kormand hoped for. There came a powerfully bright flash of white light that temporarily blinded the Dragon. The warrior charged the beast, and let loose an arrow that blinded Jhunn in the right eye, leaving it completely blind. But that did not keep the Dragon from being dangerous. It sent jets of red and green flame all around, screaming and rending the ground all the while, hoping to strike the dangerous warrior. But by now Kormand had closed in, and drawing his sword, dodging the deadly talons, and trying to correctly judge the fire-spray -- he plunged the ancient blade into Jhunn's heart, striking home, but receiving a large gash across his chain mail covered chest. Kormand then ran for all he was worth to avoid the death throws of the demon, he could afford no other such wound from the Dragon.
ow our story of the hero would end at this point except for a watching wizard. Zeth was still at hand, at first expecting to see this puny human warrior turned into a pile of ash, then shocked to see the warrior actually slay the deadly Dragon. Zeth's first impulse was to flee, but a greedy thought blinded his reason as was frequent with the wizard. In the workings of his devious mind he considered that if he could slay the slayer of the Dragon -- then it would be Zeth that was the god, a mighty wizard of the greatest talents. Fools often thought in such ways, and his folly soon became apparent.
But we must not completely underestimate the deviousness of Zeth. He approached the warrior, dragging the dark-haired, half-naked female that he had brought as a sacrifice to the Dragon, with him.
"Noble and grand warrior!" exclaimed Zeth. "Let me offer you this young virgin as a reward for ridding us of such a terrible menace. Jhunn the Dragon has tormented us for far too long, and we are well rid of him." Just then the air about the trio shimmered with blue balefire. Kormand thought it a trick of the wizard, but the wizard stood perplexed for a moment, then shrugged away the strange occurrence.
"I am no dealer in slaves, and suggest that you free the terrified woman rather than drag her about as a rag doll," commanded Kormand.
"As you wish," said the simpering Zeth, loosing the would-be-offering.
Kormand motioned for her to leave. She looked on the warrior with the faint hope of the doomed. Then Kormand said, "What are you doing in this foul place, wizard, as I perceive you to be a practitioner of the dark arts." Kormand shook his head at the coming denial of Zeth, "I have met too many of your kind, and can smell them from afar -- your stink is near unbearable."
"A minor magician Lord, a simple purveyor of parlor tricks," said Zeth.
Kormand grunted and prepared to leave the foul place, he had fulfilled his quest, and did not wish to banter words with a sorcerer. He retrieved his two arrows, and cleaned the muck off his sword on a roll of blue silk lying on the Dragon hoard. Behind Kormand, the wizard Zeth began chanting in a foul tongue, calling on the curses the Dragon had taught him, hoping to strike down the warrior with a death-spell. But Zeth had not considered that learning the Craft from a Dragon had consequences. Using Dragon-magic tied one to the Dragon, and the blue balefire appeared once more, this time shaped as a Dragon, and with a voice.
"So, Zeth, you say I was a menace, and that you were well rid of me?"
"No Lord, it was merely for show . . . yes . . . so that I might avenge you Lord Jhunn," said Zeth, staring in terror at the balefire form of Jhunn the Dragon.
"To call upon my power is to call upon me, Fool! And though I hate the warrior, I despise the toad even more that would speak against his Master," thus spoke the balefire-Jhunn. The Dragon-magic then encompassed Zeth, swallowing the wizard. Zeth screamed an unearthly scream, dying in terror and agony.
Afterward, Zeth was gone, no trace of the wizard remained. A dead silence filled the air. Kormand took a few moments to digest the occurrence, and then filed it away in the back of his mind for a later report. He was glad to be leaving, anxious to return to the Bridge, and leave Frostworld for good.