The Stone Dragon Series – Interlude – Old Pete
Interlude: Old Pete
Read by Asclepius
Nearly a decade later at the Dragon’s Breath Inn in River’s Cross close to but across the river from Jade Valley.
Sitting in the old Dragon’s Breath Inn several years after his adventures in the area, Phlebus was enjoying the peace of the quiet afternoon after his leisurely walk down to the valley. He took another sip from the half full pint in front of him on the table. His ship had docked in Port Phoenix nearby and he had walked to the valley from there. It was time. He had been waiting for the right moment to ask the brewer about a rumour he had heard in his travels.
When Phlebus finally asked the question, Old Pete was thrilled to tell the story to another passerby. It wasn’t often that anyone asked him for a story anymore. It wasn’t often that anyone travelled this way into the valley anymore either.
“River’s Cross was a quiet little hamlet once. Before those strange elves usin’ magic showed up out of nowhere. They became the darlin’s of the village. There was even dances out in the square once in a while and me ol’ Uncle Clarence used to play his accordion for them. That was before. Before the residents all started disappearing like, one by one. No one really noticed till there was only me left tending the bar. I don’t mind, really. But it gets kinda lonely all by meself.”
“I gets travelers now and then. People like yourself travellin’ into or out of Jade Valley sometimes stop here to catch their breath before the long hike out of the valley. There’s not much to see now, but River’s Cross was once a right gem of a hamlet.” Old Pete took another sip from his whiskey.
“Seems you are interested in hearing more about my little pub. It’s called the Dragon’s Breath Inn ‘cause o’ what happened the night the elves left town. Well, I’ll tell ya, but I warn ya now…. it’s not a pretty story. And it doesn’t end well.”
He stopped to sip again from his drink then went on, “It all started about a decade ago when those elves showed up. They sauntered into town like they knew where they were going and had the money to pay for it, ya know what I mean? It was the stink of magic that gave em away, an’ I don’t hold truck with no magic. I din’t pay em no mind long as they paid for their drink in gold and din’t get too uppity. Soon they had some of the other residents building a sort of temple for em. Somewhere they did their whispering and magicking. It used to be over down the lane, but it ain’t there now a days. Least ways I ain’t seen no one around there for a while now. Not since that night they all got drinking that special ale they had been promising that they were making for everyone in the Hamlet.” Old Pete tipped his glass to Phlebus again before swallowing. “They built themselves a brewery an set up doin little magic spells for folks to speed healing, or add a pox to an enemy, you know, regular stuff like that. Well then, after awhiles they were in here one night whispering. Always whispering. But that night they was purty excitable. Giddy almost, for that lot.”
“They was discussin’ the finished product they had made. An Ale. And not just any ale. Somethin’ special that never been thunk up befores. Ale of Essence they bin callin’ it. Ale of Essence? Now them is some fancy words for that swill. There was no reason for them to be so dang excitable about it. It didn’t taste right to me at all an’ I spit it right out, but them mages told me that it would give me everlastin’ life if I drank some. I don’t see no difference. Though I rightly am still alive so it must be workin’, eh?” He stopped to cackle a bit to himself over his joke before going on.
“Anyhoo’ it was a mostly dark and stormy night. We was all huddled around the bar and tryin’ to stay warm. You know the kind o night I’s talkin’ bout? An after a few pulls from their special cask, them elves started arguin’ who was the better magic user. You can imagine that it ain’t my place to get in the middle of angry drunk mages so’s I just stayed back here and sorta hid behind the hutch over there. They was castin’ spells and drawin’ funny shapes in the air with their wands, and soon enough they got serious. That’s when I got scared. Real scared. They wasn’t foolin’ round anymore. One o ‘em decided to try to do a spell big and the others were shouting at the caster to stop cause an I quote “we didn’t get it right even with the whole group of mages in the temple”. It didn’t convince the mage to stop, and they just kept chanting an’ tossed some ol bone on the ground out front of the inn. T’other one, that one that was with all them elves but was human but still a magic user ya know? The quiet one. Well, he started a different chant, and I could feel the hairs on my arms rise up and let me know there was trouble. Big trouble. The quiet one’s chant put a shimmer around the pub. I ain’t never seen nuthin’ like it afore. Then the shrieking started. And the fires and the roaring and the fires. Them fires was sumthin’ alright.” He paused again lost in thought. He sipped awhile at the cup he nursed in the crook of his arm while he spoke.
“I looked outta that window over there and saw the shadow of the creature fly over us. It was huge, scaly, orange and spewin’ fire outta its maw every which way. Somebody tol’ me it was a dragon, I ain’t never seen one o those before. Don’t wanna see another one either. That shimmer from the quiet mage protected the pub from the dragon’s breath that night. We was the only building left standin’ the next day. Them mages mostly perished tryin’ to control that dragon thing in the night and lucky for them when the warriors from Jade Valley saw the dragon flyin’ round the valley they came and battled it to death. I don’t know what finally happened, but it got kilt some which way. You can see the bones scattered over there behind the inn in the woods still. The few mages that were still living the next day wandered off quick as a wink muttering something about everyone would know where they were now, and they needed to find some mage who had run off with their special book. It’s been pretty quiet these days, but you can sometimes see the smoke and feel the shadow of that dragon flyin overhead. I reckin that shadow thin’ is looking for them mages even still. Now iffin you want some o’ that Ale of Essence you is gonna hafta go find one o’ ‘em what makes it. I ain’t going alookin’. More Ale?” He finished with a flourish.
“Do you know where they went?” Phlebus asked quickly, covering his pint with his hand.
“Nope, but I heard tell that someone called Nestor was the leader even iffin he weren’t herebouts. Maybe you’s can ask ‘im. Come back on in for a visit sometime won’tcha?” Old Pete waved as Phlebus downed the rest of his drink and rose to leave.