2000-08-18: Common Ground
“This is going to be the one. I can feel it!”
Drid drove his shovel into the hard ground and tossed another small pile of earth behind him.
His companion Gelton swung his sword in a complicated practice routine. “You don’t even know if the map you bought was real. Much less accurate. Either way I can’t believe you dragged me out into the middle of the woods at this time of night for another one of your fortune hunts.” He leapt across the grass, bringing his sword down in an arc, and smoothly sliced the branch from a tree.
“Just in case something has a bark worse than its bite.” Drid grinned, continuing to scoop away the ground.
“Very funny. Have you ever thought about becoming a jester? I hear Lord British could use a good laugh these days. I could use a good laugh. You know I could be at the pub right now. Instead I get to watch you play with your dirt. I should go and let the orcs have you.” His sword flashed torchlight about the clearing as patches of grass met a quick, painless end.
“You’re good with the blade, friend, I need you to guard me.” Drid stopped digging and leaned against his shovel. “Besides, do you have any idea how much wealth we are standing upon right now?”
“Yes, I expect the nobles have pockets full of soil these days.”
“This spot...” , Drid said, continuing to shovel more dirt from the hole, “has a buried chest in it that is going to make us both very comfortable. Unless you’d like to go to the pub and leave me undefended. I’ll have my servant inform you of how things went, after I’m wealthy. Please, just keep an eye out for trouble and in a few moments you’ll have enough gold to buy your own pub!”
“You’ve been saying things like that since we were children. You should pick an honest trade, learn a skill, go adventuring. Leave all this fortune hunting behind. It’s only going to get you a sore back from digging your whole life.”
“This takes skill, Gelton. It’s not easy finding the right spot. And it’s going to make me rich. As my partner it will make you rich as well, you shouldn’t complain so much.”
“Well who could ask for more after our last treasure hunt?” Gelton swung at a sapling, sending the top half into the darkness. “I still feel spoiled by all the riches you dug up last time. Three gold coins, a dead wand and half a set of mongbat bones.”
“This one is going to be better.”
“Expecting a full set of bones this time?”
“No I’m expecting…” The sound of metal striking metal made them both stop and stare into the dark hole. “Gold!”
Gelton sheathed his sword and quickly grabbed a second shovel to help Drid lift the chest from the earth. After a few tries they managed to heft the container onto the grass.
“I told you!” Drid said grinning. “Our fortune, Gelton!” He kneeled before the chest and brushed some of the dirt away.
“Hide and put that torch out! Something is coming!” Gelton hissed, drawing his sword and standing ready in the clearing.
Drid doused his torch and ran behind a group of trees. From between the branches he watched his companion, still as a stone, blade ready, waiting for the moment to strike whatever emanated from the woods. The sounds of running footsteps grew closer. Gelton crouched, raising his blade.
Three orcs exploded from a grove of trees, sprinting on their stocky legs towards the swordsman. Drid could hear their grunts from his hiding place and silently he willed good luck to his friend in battle. Shrieking a warrior's cry, Gelton faced the lead monster and to his surprise watched all three run past him, deeper into the darkness of the woods, never slowing down. He stared after them in shock until they faded into the darkness. A few moments had passed before he noticed Drid standing beside him, also staring.
“If you had told me it was that easy I would have been a swordsman myself.”
The rustling of branches made the both of them spin around just in time to see a man in purple robes burst from the trees and scream from a face full of hair, “GET DOWN!” as he knocked the both of them into the bushes.
“What in Sosaria do you think you’re…” the sound of Drid’s voice was completely overpowered by the deafening sound of a fireball screaming from the night sky and exploding the treasure chest into splinters of wood and metal about the clearing.
“Stay down both of you! An Lor Xen, An Lor Xen, An Lor Xen…” said the voice of the stranger.
The cracking of tree trunks echoed around them and the leaves shook free from their places on the branches as a huge red dragon brushed away the woods in its path. The three invisible men sat in silence as the beast lumbered before them, almost stepping on the hiding place, and continued in the direction the orcs had run.
Gelton looked at where his hands should be and stood. The air shimmered and he reappeared. “Mage, if you don’t explain why you’re casting spells on me my sword is going to become very, very visible.”
“Gelton, you always were the one to go charging after dragons.” the stranger stated as he also began to come into focus. “I never thought you’d get Drid’s nose out of his cartography books to follow you, though.”
“Mordemus?!”, Gelton cried. “We haven’t seen you since you left the village! What are you doing out here?”
“Good to see you my friend! Studying magery I take it?” Drid said.
“Yes, I’ve been the apprentice to Haland the Blue ever since I left the village. He was on the mage council at one time. He’s a good teacher. I had to move to Moonglow to study under him but I am learning quite a bit. What are the two of you doing out here at this time of night?”
“Treasure hunting.” Drid frowned, pointing at the chest that now more closely resembled a campfire. “What are you doing in Yew running from dragons? I would think you could learn magery easier from reading books.”
“Actually I was here visiting Graff on business” said Mordemus as he brushed the dirt off of his robes.
“Graff? ‘Thumbs’ Graff? Ha! How is the clumsiest boy we grew up with? Did he ever become a tamer like he said he would or did his own dog never stop biting him?” said Gelton.
“He was a tamer, yes, until a few minutes ago. And I guess you could say his nickname is now ‘Thumb’. That’s all his dragon left of him. Swallowed him up in one bite except for his hand after the orcs angered it and it stopped listening to him.”
Drid started shoveling dirt onto the remains of the flaming chest, dousing the fire. “You had business with Graff? Never thought I’d see the day when he would be helping out a mage.”
“Nor did I, but he stumbled across some information my master was looking for. Haland quit the council to study rare magic items and Graff had some old manuscripts from his grandfather that pointed to the location of one buried here in Yew. Some wand a wizard named Trandfel the Remarkable hid about a century ago.”
Drid finished extinguishing the flames and sat on the edge of the ruined chest. He relit his torch on a nearby bit of flaming weeds and stomped them out. “That’s right, Graff’s grandfather dabbled in magery didn’t he? I remember when we were children he would sometimes entertain us with those tricks of his. Where did poor Graff keep the manuscripts?”
“Unfortunately he had them all in his pack when his dragon got hungry.” Mordemus threw his hands into the air. “Haland is going to be furious! It’s lost forever now! A rare magical item that could help unlock the mysteries of the ether and it’s going to stay buried somewhere… under... you!”
“I’m sorry, Mord, I wish we could help you but Yew is a big place and digging the whole… what? What Mord? What are you pointing at?” Drid slowly turned around and looked into the crater that was the treasure chest. A small wand glistened in the torch light, untouched by the black scorching. Drid reached down and lifted it from its resting place. It was cool to the touch and felt slightly lighter than it should be.
“That’s it!”, cried Mordemus. “You found it, Drid! You’re a genius! That’s been lost for centuries and you found it! Look it even has his name on it! Trandfel!”
Gelton stared at the artifact. “It certainly looks magical.”
“A mug of ale looks magical to you.” Drid snorted.
“A mug of ale is magical!” Gelton grinned. “So what does the little stick do, Mord?”
At that moment the corpse of half an orc fell seemingly from the sky and smashed into the burnt chest behind Drid, followed by the earth shaking thud of the red dragon diving from the sky and landing on all fours. The trio stood unmoving in terror as the dragon’s long neck bent down to stare at them and it bared its rows of flesh-tearing teeth. Its hot breath whipped at their hair. It spit was what left of the other half of the orc in front of them.
“Mord!” Drid wheezed through clenched teeth. “What does this thing do?”
“Just point it at him and hope!” he wheezed back, not looking away from the red maw before them.
Drid slowly raised his arm and pointed the wand at the dragon. The creature blinked and with a look of rage raised its head, inhaling, and Drid closed his eyes knowing he was about to die in the beasts flames. And then nothing. The three looked at each other as the dragon, still as a quiet pond, sat with its neck arched ready to cover them in fire, yet did not move.
“I… I did it!” Drid breathed.
“Nonsense, lad. I did that.” Haland the Blue stated as he stepped the rest of the way from his moongate, keeping his tall, bluish white staff pointed at the dragon. “Now you lads may wish to consider stepping out of the way.” For a moment the frightened men gazed in wonder at the old wizard’s staff glowing, ice blue in the night and chilling the area with its magical aura. Drid thought he could hear a slight hum from the magical relic. Haland’s azure robes and white mane of hair flowed around him as he turned the staff and shouted, arcane magical words that surely hurt the mages tongue more the Drid’s ears. Gelton, Drid, and Mordemus leapt out of the way of the dragon just as a sound like thunder cracked over the forest and the dragon fell, shaking the ground for the last time.
Haland the Blue walked the length of the creatures neck, stopping at its head which had landed just in front of the three men and sat on it. “Vermin. I can’t abide dragons. Boy, bring me the wand!”
Mordemus picked the wand up from the ground and gave it to his master who looked as if the spell he had just cast had taxed him heavily. The hum from the staff seemed less audible. He focused on the wand for a moment. “Ah yes, this is indeed one of Trandfel’s wands. Excellent.” And with that he tossed the wand over his shoulder into the shadows.
“Master?!” Mordemus cried. “Wh… why, that was… we’ve been looking for that… wasn’t that important?”
“Nystul ’s knickers, calm down lad! The wand, as I thought it would be, is worthless, that’s why I came here to fetch you from retrieving it. A few moments ago I finally finished translating the last bits of Trandfel’s records. He was insane. Nuttier than a squirrel’s stomach. Every wand he ever used he buried in the woods around here. When one ran out of magical energy, he would bury it as if it was dead. That one was once a wand of identification, but its power is gone now. It seems you lads have disturbed a wand grave.” He chuckled. “Take the gate home, Mordemus, and we’ll start on new research in the morning. I think you’ve had enough excitement tonight.”
“Master,” Mordemus said “These men, I know them. They found the wand, master.”
Gelton and Drid approached the old wizard who smiled at them warmly. “Then I suppose it is you who I will pay for this service, instead of that fool Graff.” he said, handing Drid a sack of gold. “It’s not mongbat bones, but I suspect it will do.” He winked.
Hefting his glowing blue staff and standing, Haland motioned Mordemus towards the gate and walked through.
“Nice seeing the two of you again. Next time, let’s meet in town though, shall we?” Mordemus clasped hands with his old friends and followed his master though the moongate which sank back into the ground and was gone.
The night was again dark save for the light of Drid’s torch as he and Gelton stood in silence. Finally Drid lifted the sack of gold and turned to his companion. They both looked at the dead dragon.
“I don’t know about you, but I could use a laugh.” said Drid. “Let’s go to the pub.”