The Gopher King: Chapter 28

The fight to subdue Druuna was every bit as messy as any fight with a dragon could aspire to be. Before the first lightning bolt was called and before Jandle fired his first crossbow bolt the Viceroy had cast his own magic and turned Druuna into a drowsy, half-blinded monster who felt as though she was fighting a hangover. Druuna knew that something was amiss almost immediately and had breathed a massive cloud of chlorine gas out before anyone had gotten close enough to be affected. It was then that the group struck.

The druid had called down lightning and the blast was something to be in awe of. Even the Viceroy shuttered with delight at the power of the bolt that seared down from the cloudy heavens and struck Druuna right between her wings. The dragon shook with a frenzy, and while smoldering scales suggested a direct hit she acted as though nothing had happened. Jandle had climbed up a tree and was firing bolts into the side of the dragon. Joss the thief was using the bolts as hand holds, having darted out to stab the dragon repeatedly in the side as she climbed up it’s back. The bard cast what magic she had, and it seemed to do nothing but annoy the enormous beast. The dragon whirled around and slammed into the trees around her, sending bark and shrapnel flying in all directions. It was the bard that took the most damage among the adventurers what with being smacked about by the dragon tail and clobbered with Druuna’s flailing claws. The druid again called down lightning and Druuna shuddered as the powerful electrical charged hummed through her body. Thrashing about the horrible lizard wrecked the flora all around her in a mad attempt to lash out at the unknown assailants.

Druuna’s mind was hazy and she staggered under the pain of the attacks and the influence of the magic that coursed through her and kept her off-balance. More crossbow bolts found their mark and they were followed by well-placed stiletto stabs and then another lightning strike. The dragon began to falter, and her thrashing became less frenzied. The Viceroy placed one last spell upon her, and she collapsed in a heap with all of the appearance of having died.

The adventurers gathered and took stock of the situation. Before they could make much of a move, the Viceroy made his. A circle of green flames ran around them all, and the body of the dragon. Stepping through it the lich approached them, cackling in his customary manner when he had a foe placed right where he wanted them.

The Viceroy didn’t even bother casting a spell so that his voice would be understood. It was his intention to drive his point home through the mere force of his presence that they would not be taking home any souvenirs from this fight. “I see that for pawns you are well suited for all manner of tasks.” He said with a dreadful laugh.

Much to his surprise the kobold among them stepped forward holding a small book. Despite the kobold’s high-pitched voice and naturally excited tone it was clear to the lich that this little fellow wasn’t going to let a passing insult to his new comrades go unchallenged. In perfectly good Sikilian the small reptilian creature replied in a noticeably rather irritated voice, “Have some respect, dead king! These are nobody’s pawns!”

For the first time in his memory the Viceroy was taken aback by such an insignificant creature. While the flames of his magical fire crackled with sinister strength the lich stopped laughing and gazed down at the kobold. “Who are you to dare and interrupt me?” he asked, his voice equal parts incredulity and rising fury.

“I am Jandle.” Answered the kobold simply. He stood his ground and glared at the lich. There wasn’t even the faintest hint of fear in the face of the lizard-like humanoid as he pointed back to the women behind him. “You will treat these people with the respect they are owed. Pawns do not take down a dragon as powerful as this. These are knights, bishops, and rooks. You’d be wise to parley as such.”

The Viceroy just stood there staring in astonishment at the kobold. The lich wasn’t exactly sure what to do. He had always gotten a predetermined range of reactions from people; panic, horror, cowering, fleeing, and rarely the occasional fighting stance. He had never gotten this. The lich ran through his options and couldn’t bring himself to settle on any immediate course of action before the kobold continued talking.

“If you want me to translate for you, I shall. But you will be respectful.” Said Jandle.

An outside viewer would have been amused to witness the indecisiveness of the Viceroy as he stood there trying to make sense of what was happening. Finally he was able to gather himself enough to say, “Tell them they are finished here. None of this dragon’s loot is to be theirs, and they will have to…” but before the lich could continue the kobold held up his index finger and waggled it at the undead sorcerer.

“Not so fast!” said the kobold impatiently. “I do not know their language fully yet. You wait until I find the words.” Jandle flipped through the little book in his hand and tried to articulate the meaning of the Viceroy’s warning to the ladies. It was probably mangled, and the Viceroy was getting more and more impatient. Finally the kobold looked back at him and nodded that he could proceed.

“I’ve forgotten what I was going to say!” bellowed the lich, his anger punctuated by the rising flames of the fires all around the group. Jandle turned to the ladies and began to translate this when the Viceroy roared, “Don’t tell them that!”

Jandle shrugged and returned his attention to the lich. Furious beyond measure the lich howled, “Just tell them to go away! Get out! I tire of this lunacy!”

Jandle turned to the ladies and after several moments of flipping through the pages of his book managed to articulate something similar to what the Viceroy was saying. The ladies looked annoyed, but the fight with Druuna had been exhausting, and they were in no way fit for a fresh battle with the Viceroy. Mumbling their displeasure they exited the ring of fire through an opening the Viceroy permitted the flames to make. The kobold followed them out and for a moment the Viceroy was certain that the little lizard had turned and stuck out his tongue at him.

Alone with the near deceased dragon the Viceroy took a few minutes to get his wits about him. Using a dark incantation he bound the waning spirit of the wicked reptilian terror to its mortal form and using another spell he gave the creature just enough strength to awaken slightly in order to interact with the lich. Using the power of his sorcery in the blood-sharing he had undergone with Druuna the Viceroy communicated to the nearly unconscious dragon through telepathy.

“Near to death, oh great Druuna. Do you now surrender to me and pledge thy immortal form to me service in exchange for life beyond the darkness of the shroud that even now encompasses you?”

Wearily the dragon nodded its great head and via mental impulse said, “I do, my lord.”

Uncorking the great bottle that he had brought with him the Viceroy magically tipped the head of the dragon back to allow its priceless and accursed contents to flow down the beast’s throat. “Drink it all, queen of all the forest. Allow yourself to cross without effort to the next phase of your indomitable reign.” With that the lich poured the bottle into the dragon’s mouth and watched the fuming elixir course its way into her. Almost immediately the potion began to take effect and the Viceroy hastened to cast even more powerful spells to further cement his new creation to success. So powerful were the spells cast that the life was drawn out of the nearby trees and unsuspecting wildlife to fuel the incantations. The bullywugs that lived throughout Druuna’s forest felt the effects immediately and began to collapse as their own lives were sacrificed to give greater life to their now undead queen. The dragon took one last breath and then exhaled a powerful plume of noxious chlorine gas mixed with the terrifying stench of death itself as she slipped from life to undeath.

The gas was no less than the spirit of the dragon herself, and the cloud moved quickly to the tourmaline on the end of the Viceroy’s staff. Once the fog had been absorbed in the stone, the tourmaline glowed and pulsed with a sickly pale green light. Continuing his chant the Viceroy held the staff in his right hand and placed his left hand on the corpse of the dragon. Energy passed from the stone to the staff and through the lich into the dead body of the dragon. The lich was still chanting when the dragon opened its eyes again, the reptilian eyeballs replaced with pinpoints of hateful and blazing green light.

“Welcome to eternity, my queen.” Chuckled the lich. “I will gather an army for you soon. In the meantime enjoy your new reality. No hunger, no need for sleep. You are now the most powerful dragon in Partum. Prepare to expand your horizons and your domain.”

Druuna looked about with her new vision and a fearful joy welled up within her. She understood only vaguely what she had given up for this newfound power. What she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt was that she served the Viceroy and would do whatever he asked of her.

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