January 11 2022

The Stone Dragon Series – Book 1, Chapter 7


Read by Chatull Aventari

Chapter Seven. Of Nine.


Near the tunnel that led to Kobold Quarters and the Mining Office was a crate of soaked torches.  Zyrina lit one by striking her flint with steel, then passed it to Phlebus and lit another for Lucy to carry. She notched her bow and saw Torgin unlatch his war axe and take it in hand. From this point Phlebus led into the darkness of the shaft before them. Torgin followed Phlebus with his axe at the ready and Zyrina covered the back of the group, following Lucy.


After some time Phlebus whispered, “The Kobold quarters should be somewhere along here and to the left at the first fork we find, if the bulletin board is to be believed.”


He sounded unsure as he peered into the dark past the flickering of Phlebus’s torch.


“Why are you whispering?” Lucy whispered.


Torgin shushed her, “Shh. No talking.”


Lucy shrugged her shoulders and peered past the flickering light of her own torch and into the glow of light that Phlebus’s torch threw onto the walls of the passage ahead. Whatever the torches had been dipped in before the wax wafted by now and then, and it was not pleasant but preferable to the stench of kobolds. It was hard to miss. It took her much of her willpower not to wretch from the smell of them.


To distract herself, she began to search the tunnel for something interesting. It had been dug tall enough to walk upright; even Torgin ahead of her didn’t have to crouch and there was plenty of room above her head. She was relieved not to have to worry about hitting her head. She saw Torgin duck a few times but not as many times as she would expect in a tunnel dug by kobolds.


Lucy asked herself why the kobold had dug such tall tunnels for themselves then remembered not to ask anyone out loud just in time. Kobolds are not much different size than humans. There must be a reason the tunnels were tall and even thought she could not work out why they were, Lucy was thankful that she didn’t have to watch for things to bump into her head.


There were small rocks loose underfoot, too, and she stumbled once or twice on them before getting her footing.


“You alright?” Zryina whispered into Lucy’s ear while touching her arm.


Lucy nodded her head and gave a grateful smile over her shoulder. It was a matte black in the tunnel and she was thankful for her new friend’s presence here in the dark, guarding the rear. Feeling her touch made Lucy feel less alone in the dark. Even so, her torch lit the way well enough for her to make out spiders on the walls and ceiling who silently scurried out of sight. The tunnel was free from webbing and even though the sight of spiders did alarm Lucy, she knew they were far from being the biggest danger. The thought of liches wandering in the tunnels turned Lucy’s blood cold and she shivered. She could feel bumps forming on her arms and her hair stiffen on the back of her neck.


Those ancestors of the Dougan family who had risen in the form of liches were not to be taken lightly. They had already killed. As Phlebus had told them all earlier at the inn after he read aloud from one of the books borrowed from the Hall of Enquiry “The original Dougan in that family became a Dread Lord from the earliest records of the family line.” Dread Lords who decided to become liches were more powerful than anything Lucy ever wanted to face. They were the monsters in tales for children to frighten them out of dangerous places. “Beware the lich” was a common warning from mothers to their children where Lucy grew up. She shuddered a little as she walked on in silence.


After an eternity walking into the dark, they halted just outside of what looked like an entrance to a room, a round one. The dirt tunnel connected to a small rectangular doorway into the room, and it looked like the circular chamber inside was considerably older than the tunnel that led to it. It must have been built before The Fall in order for it to have been buried so deep underground. The marble room was empty except for four thrones at the opposite side, set facing the doorway.


“This is the kobold quarters,” Phlebus sounded relieved. “We should find some answers here.”


And with that he strode into the room confident the answers were just ahead. Farther back in the line Lucy heard muffled shouts as she waited her turn to get through the door after Torgin. The attack began without warning.


“Look out Lucy!” Torgin’s shouted warning came in the nick of time too.


Lucy didn’t see the several kobolds in the room until she ducked through the door. Upon hearing Torgin’s warning she quickly sidestepped behind one of the pillars that made a circle around the room and pressed herself against the smooth carved stone. There was a circle of pillars just inside the room supporting an open gallery circling the room.  Kobolds were everywhere. These were not miners who attacked, at least not miners that Lucy had ever encountered before. One of the kobolds cast a spell that attempted to drain her reserves of focus. She could feel the tug on her energy reserves straining to leave her breast, but before the kobold spell found its mark, she countered with a shield of air thrown haphazardly around herself in a bright bubble. At the same time arrows started raining down from the gallery above.


The archers could not reach her behind the pillar and all the warriors were concerned with Torgin’s swinging axe. With a few moments to herself she began casting a spell that would help heal her friends using the moisture she could gather from the room. Soon a small shower blew through the room and fresh healing rain fell on each of their heads as they defended themselves from the kobold’s onslaught. As soon as that was established, she began gathering her focus again and to chant slowly. She started with Torgin and sent him a healing grace that would continue to heal him for almost half a minute then began recasting it to target each of her friends with the boost.


Torgin didn’t hesitate and within the blink of an eye had swung his axe around in a circle knocking down the nearest of the kobold warriors. The kobolds all turned to attack this massive whirling slicing danger. They began circling Torgin and concentrating their attack on him. Or what soon became their defence from him. Their superior numbers may have been more effective on a less experienced warrior but this time Torgin beat them back one by one, pounding the ground around him with his foot to send a ripple of force that damaged all the enemies around him. He could feel his sister’s healing spells strengthening him even as he dodged the blows from his attackers. Behind him lay a swath of mangled bodies as he moved around the room swinging, stomping, and shouting. A few escaped to the tunnels before anyone realized they were fleeing but most of the attackers were cut down by the fury of Torgin’s attack.


 Moving silently and gracefully following Torgin around the room, Zyrina had concentrated on picking off the archers above whose arrows pestered Torgin as he fought. She shot with precise strikes as she darted out from behind the pillars to release her arrows then just as quick, she would dash back to safety behind the marble columns as she circled the room. Her aim was exact and soon the gallery above no longer sent arrows down toward Torgin. Phlebus caught a glimpse of Zyrina as she sprinted up the staircase with her bow at the ready. He assumed she was going to check for lurkers above.


Phlebus still stood just inside the entry behind another of the pillars near Lucy. He continued mouthing the words of power for various spells using the air around him to both weaken the attackers and strike them down, even when the ground trembled from Torgin’s pounding.


Though he was within range, Phlebus only swayed a little with the wave of energy that passed through him. He was not stunned nor frozen. His lightning could be seen, smelled, and heard as it rippled between attackers chaining them together for a blast of damage over and over. Electricity’s familiar sweet, pungent aroma wafted by, but did not unsettle him. He concentrated on attacking and disrupting the mages who were healing and protecting the others, and his spells did just that. With Torgin and Zyrina’s physical attacks and Phlebus’s psychic attacks the entire fight took barely a quarter of an hour.


Catching his breath once the skirmish finished, Torgin took a moment to look around the room as he came out of his battle trance. Roaring loudly with his head thrown back, he stood in the center of the room surrounded by dead Kobolds. Lucy and Phlebus were near the entry looking as if they had both been drained of some of their life force. Meanwhile Zyrina was still silently creeping around the gallery to see if any kobolds were hidden and after a thorough search, she flushed out just one other archer, who she dispatched without delay.


“What the Titans was that about?” Torgin wiped his face and spat out then began to clean some of the blood from his axe by wiping in on the clothing of one of the fallen. “What kind of miners are these anyway?”


“Is everyone alright?” Lucy interrupted Torgin to ask anxiously as soon as the fighting stopped.


There were nods all around the group. She could see a few cuts and scrapes, but no one had an arrow to remove or any gashes that required her immediate attention. Breathing a sigh of relief, she took a closer look at the fallen.


“What was that?” Phlebus wanted to know, too. “Did they think we were liches?”


“I don’t think so,” Lucy answered him as she inspected the bodies closest to her. “These aren’t miners. Look at their clothing, their weapons. These are warriors, mages, archers. This isn’t just a few, what are they doing here?”


Zyrina stood at the top of the staircase, “Better come up here, I found the mining office.” She called down to the others.


There were two sets of stairs that each circled the outside wall on opposite sides of the room and led up to the gallery. Up the stairs and inside the Dougan Family Silver Mining Office, which had a small arched entrance, everyone followed Zyrina in. She went to the farthest end of the room and began going through the cupboard. Phlebus went straight for the large wooden desk. In among the papers and debris there he spotted a note that had meaning. It had been left with other papers and things in the mess on the desktop.


“Listen,” he called out then read out loud to the others;


 Dis note is for yer eyes only Jon.

            We found something. Was deep down under. We tunnel deep. Deeper than before.

            You go see. You find out. Go left and left to get to the place. Go down. You see.

                Others know I been passing info to you. I do not think we meet again, Jon.

They coming to kill us all.  They come from below. In deep tunnel. Go left, you will see.

                                [Here there is a large splatter of fresh blood                                                                                                   and the rest of the note is illegible.]

                        You been good friend,



While Phlebus had been searching the desk, Torgin had been looking around the office. There were large samples of different kinds of stone blocks in one part; some of them were stones he had never seen before. It almost seemed like the stone was aware of him. It spooked him enough to move away to another area. He found the supply depot in another corner, and looked instead at supplies for mining; shovels, axes, and pails. But the most chilling thing in the room was a stone statue of a kobold with an expression of terror on its face.  Torgin could not ignore it for long and found himself facing the statue for a long time before he spoke.


“Looks like he didn’t make it out.” Torgin patted the shoulder of the statue. “No wonder they attacked us without warning. They were already under attack from something else, all right.”


“Where’s Jon?” Lucy asked looking around.


“Not here,” Phlebus confirmed. “I wonder if he made it to his meeting before these kobolds were attacked or if he even saw this message.”


“Do you think Jon might have gone to find the something the kobolds found?”


“Yes, I do.” Phlebus spoke quietly. “And even if he didn’t, we are going to go find it ourselves. There is something down there that we need to see. We better be ready, there are probably more kobolds around, I saw several run out of the room while we were fighting.”


“And whatever attacked them is probably still around as well.” Zyrina added.


“Oh, great.” Lucy was packing up her herbs after having tended the last of the injuries while the others searched the room. “What now?”


Phlebus looked up again from the note he was rereading.


Zyrina grinned, “I think we go see what the kobolds found and dug up. Let’s see what spooked them so bad that they attacked us on sight.”


Phlebus nodded. “Yes. Exactly.”


Now rested, they each gathered their packs and bags which they had dropped at the entrance to the mining office. They filed out of the office and down the staircases, through the rotunda stepping over and around the bodies there. Zyrina bent and collected as many of her arrows as she could gather as they moved through the bodies and into the tunnel once again.


Lucy gathered the torches that had been flung when the fighting started and relit them from a torch on the wall. She handed Plebus one and kept one. Phlebus once again led the way with Torgin close behind. Lucy followed and Zyrina again guarded the rear as they moved quietly through the long passage. They found themselves far more alert than they had been while traipsing into the kobold quarter.


This time the slow walk through the dark tunnel felt even longer than the last eternity. When they found the juncture where a tunnel on the left went down, there was also an opening on the opposite side of the tunnel into a large cavern. Lucy had a peek inside.


“Um. You better come in here,” she called out to the others.


Inside the large cavern among the effects of miners who had abandoned their gear, axes, picks, pails, and a wagon to haul out the large stones that lay cut and ready to haul, Lucy had spied a corpse. He was quite old and wrinkled. She knew it hadn’t been long since he died because his lantern was still lit and the ink by the tipped over inkpot beside him was not dried out.


“Do you think this is Jon?” she asked, pointing to the corpse.


“Dunno yet, Lucy.” Zyrina knelt down to see if there was anything to identify the dead man. She found a scrap of paper tucked under his arm. “He’s still warm.”


“Not dead long then.” Phlebus clarified.


“Yes, it is him,” she smoothed the paper and brought it closer to Lucy’s torch to read out loud to the others who gathered around the fallen man, “I think this is his writing, listen.”




Last statement of Me, Jon The Caretaker

It was a trap!!

The Mining Foreman told me they dug deep an’ found some kinda treasure but it was a lie!! What they found were TROLLS!!…there was something else down there too. A little room I din’t have time to explore in when I was running from them trolls.

I ‘scaped back to this ol’ hotspring but a small pack of kobolds came running at me an’ injured me something fierce. They have went on full revolt now.

 I leave anything I gots to Owain Byrd, my ol’ drinkin’ buddy.

they are coming….. I am too beaten and broken to continue…



“Well, I suspect he hasn’t been here all that long. It looks like he was just ahead of us.” Phlebus’s voice sounded sad and disappointed. “I wish we had gotten here in time to help him. I sure would have liked to know what he knew.”


“Phlebus, that’s callous.” Lucy scolded him.


“Ah, my apology Lucy. I wasn’t thinking of his family or friends, only my need. You are right.”


Torgin knelt a moment then spoke, “We are going down the tunnel, aren’t we?”


Phlebus nodded in the gloom but they all knew the answer.


“I wonder what’s in that room that Jon didn’t get to explore. Maybe that’s where the treasure is?” Zyrina speculated.


“I don’t know if it is treasure, Rina. It might be something else completely. The kobolds didn’t seem to know.”


Zyrina nodded and turned to leave.


“Hang on a minute,” Phlebus called out. He got himself ready to face yet another battle. “Trolls take some time to prepare for, don’t you think?”


Zyrina grinned, “Na, we have faced worse than a troll or two,” and she laughed. “Torgin’s digestion, for one.”


Laughing, Lucy clapped Torgin on the back, “There have been a few surprises already, like that sketchy meal at that inn just south of Midland. Remember? But trolls aren’t the worst thing in the world, especially with Torgin along.”


Torgin and Zyrina joined in the laughter and Phlebus broke down and joined in as well. It felt good to release some of the tension of the last few hours.


Lucy of course, had spread out a blanket and had a picnic set upon it by the time they finished laughing. “We aren’t going to battle trolls on an empty stomach.” She was firm and directed them all to the small wash basin she had set up for them, as well.


“How do you do that Lucy?” Zyrina wanted to know, choosing a sandwich.


“Practice.” Was all Lucy would say about that. “Eat. Eat! Eat!!”


Lucy was right, of course. They had no idea how much time had passed, and their hunger had built up. The sandwiches and fruit were a welcome break. It didn’t take long. Within moments of the last bit of remains of their picnic cleaned up and the basin packed again, Phlebus and the others were ready to carry on down the tunnel that they now knew ended in a battle with trolls, and possibly more kobolds if any had survived.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

January 3 2022

The Stone Dragon Series – Book 1, Chapter 6


Chapter Six. Dear Jon.

Read by Asclepius


Early in the morning after packing their bags for the day, three of the companions sat around dainty maple tables in their inn sipping hot beverages and enjoying their breakfasts. Crisp blue skies in the early autumn light bolstered Lucy, Zyrina, and Phlebus who had spent much the night tossing and turning. Torgin slept like a log. The cook had outdone himself this morning. Phlebus was nowhere to be seen.


The chef delivered yet another platter (this time cut fruit) to the table, smiling at Zyrina as he did so.


“He’s sweet on ya,” Lucy mumbled between mouthfuls of the most delicious egg dish she had ever tasted.


“I think you exaggerate, Lucy.” Zyrina sipped at her mug of hot spiced tea and nibbled the fresh morning roll she had slathered with local honey.


“Would splain the personal delivery of our meals by the chef.” Torgin reasoned as he chewed his third round of sausage with fried sweet onions. He winked at Zyrina.


“Perhaps it’s Torgin who the cook prefers.” Zyrina argued.


Torgin’s booming laugh nearly drowned out Plebus who had heard the last bit of banter and he walked in the front door of the inn.


“Leave Rina alone, you both know he’s a happily married man. Don’t start rumours.” Phlebus was not smiling. “We’ve got to think about repercussions to the chef.”


“What’s got your goat, Phle?” Torgin wanted to know, not in the least circumspect.


“I met with Jon earlier this morning down by the dock where he was booking the transport into one of the ships of several stone statues that had been removed from the mine. The statues are being sent to the schools of learning around New Brittania to try and find an antidote to the magic used.”


Phlebus stopped to thank the server and take a sip of the tea he had just been given. “Jon is just as elusive as Ivan has been, but he has agreed to talk with all of us this afternoon at the Raven the Dragon and the Stewpot about what he knows and saw that night.”


He added, “After he went back to work, I wanted to get some more information about the history of the valley. I just came from the Hall of Enquiry and Learning. The librarian didn’t have many records. Her collection methods are sporadic and not very well organized but what she has was helpful. She’s an Outlander too. Her memory is long but has gaps and she only has things that she has collected in her own travels. Certainly not a full history of the valley, even. She has no recollection of when that dragon was slain as it was before she came to the valley, but she had a record of most of the keepers of the dragon bones, back over a hundred years. Jenny was listed as the very last one.”


“Why did they stop having a keeper of the bones?” Lucy asked perplexed then added, “Why did they have a keeper of the bones?”


Phlebus set his empty teacup down and helped himself to a plate with a large colourful omelet and some toasted bread. He tucked into the plate with gusto while Torgin filled his teacup from the pot.


Between bites he explained “Let’s see, at first it was to make sure no one took the dragon bones. People being people, they wanted souvenirs of the battle. After the dragon meat was divvied up between the people of Jade Valley, the keeper kept the bones from being taken from where they fell. That way, everyone could come see the size of it and remember how much damage it did before it was finally killed. The dragon skeleton was mentioned in one of the first records as a trophy from one of the many valiant deeds of Calan Caitlin. He slew the dragon all by himself a hundred years ago or so. Dragons have been seen flying over the valley ever since. Sometimes they attack, and that is why the valley has lookout towers surrounding it. I’m sure you’ve noticed them.”


Zyrina acknowledged, “I had wondered when I saw the towers.”


Lucy and Torgin nodded in respect for the warrior who killed the dragon.


Then, Lucy asked, “Do you think the stone dragon in the middle of the markets has anything to do with what is happening here?”


“I don’t think so, Lucy.” Phlebus shook his head then considered it for a moment before going on, “I don’t know. Maybe, but we have no information on that statue, it could be just a statue. Next time I’m at the Hall of Learning I will ask about it, too.”


“Sometimes a statue is just a statue.” Torgin added but he too started thinking about the massive stone dragon in the middle of the markets.


“And sometimes a stone is a dragon.” Lucy was not willing to give up so easily and stuck her tongue out at her brother.


Before the pair broke into a more serious argument Phlebus went on, “The keeper of the bones was tasked with preserving the skeleton so that everyone could see it, and also so thieves didn’t run off with bits of it. Shortly after it was killed rumours about it coming alive in the dark started circulating. So, the keeper was tasked with watching the bones for any strange behaviour. By the time Ivan’s granny Jenny was keeper, hardly no one remembered the story of the dragon fight and several bones had been dragged away over the decades.”


Phlebus looked over at Lucy to add, “Maybe the missing bones affect the spell and that might be why it didn’t finish forming last night. Anyway, the council decided that when Jenny died, they would not reassign the Keeper of the Bones. So, she was the last official with that title. However, her family kept up the tradition informally, and Ivan is the current Keeper of the Bones. They stop thieves. Mostly the rumours of attacks at night do the job for them and no bones have gone missing from the skeleton for at least a couple decades.”


Seeing Zyrina’s eyebrows go up, Phlebus turned to her and addressed the question he was sure she was going to ask. “She had no record of when bones went missing.” Plebus stated, “None of the Keepers have tried dispelling those rumours; they help to keep thieves at bay.”


Zyrina grunted acknowledgement to the answer for her unspoken question.


“Did you find anything out about whether or not dragon bones have come alive before?” Lucy asked.


Nodding, Phlebus answered “Lily Byrd said there were rumours, but no one would admit to going to the graveyard after dark and that’s supposed to be the only time it has occurred. Though some folks talk if they think no one will know who they are so she had a list of some of those dates when people were rumoured to have turned to stone in the past. It’s in her draft notes for a book she’s compiling called the folk tales of the valley series. Compelling work. She has noticed the stone statues have been appearing in the area for nearly 3 decades. This is not new here, but it has never been this frequent in the past, that anyone can remember.”


Zyrina raised her eyebrows, “The librarian is a fount of information, I see. I’ll have to take time to chat with her again myself before we leave Jade Valley.”


“First, it’s time to go find Jon again and hear what he has to say on the subject.” Torgin grunted, then he argued, “If those dragon bones have something to do with turning people to stone and it’s getting more frequent, we are going to have to find the cause.”


            “Right. Meet back here in an hour and we will head over, alright?” Phlebus made the decision they were all waiting for.


            Zyrina hurried over to the vendors to fetch the few things Lucy asked her to find, and a few things she wanted for her own pack. Jade Valley market was bustling that morning and the cries of dock workers, vendors, seabirds, and children playing gave a sense of contentment and safety to the morning that none of the companions shared. Looking around, Zyrina was heartened to see the signs of humanity carrying on even with such a burden of sadness and loss in the community. She had noted this morning that more stone statues had been found and were moved to the side of the docks, for future transport after the bustle of the markets slowed. Zyrina had watched the process the morning before as well. The sounds of commerce and village life lay like a thin protection for the peace of mind of these villagers. She knew that like her, they could smell the fires still dotted the countryside and could just faintly catch a whiff of the carcasses burning in pits just outside the town itself. She stopped to ask at the guild house for directions to the Raven the Dragon and the Stewpot before returning to the River Rider Inn.


“Follow the road north, then round the bend, you’ll come to it soon ‘nuff.” Jeeves confirmed, pointed past the inn where she was staying. “Frojenta Lane.”


“Thank you, Jeeves.” Zyrina left for her inn to meet the others.


After gathering outside their accommodation to organize their bags, the companions shouldered their packs and headed north along the road. It was only a short walk after all and as the fresh sea air picked up speed it soon blew away the burning smells from the morning pits. Then at midday, as they rounded a bend in the dirt path, something delicious spiced the air. They followed the scent all the way to the Raven the Dragon and the Stewpot at the next corner. The restaurant was on the main floor of what looked like a four-story wooden inn with a lovely front porch just meant for resting on.


“Hallo!! Anybody here?” Torgin’s voice boomed out in the silence inside the Stewpot.


There was a piano in one corner and what looked to be a pipe organ along another wall.  The bar looked sort of clean, mostly well-stocked, and there was a distinct odor of dragon stew simmering somewhere in a kitchen that made their mouths water. There were tables and long benches for travellers to use scattered throughout the room as well as a few small wood round tables with chairs, and stools at the bar.


“I smell the dragon and the stewpot, but I don’t see a raven,” Torgin spoke tongue in cheek.


Lucy giggled at her brothers attempt at a joke. “Tis too early for that, brother. Ravens don’t show themselves to strangers.”


Finally, the back door opened, and a lovely young woman came through carrying a keg over her shoulder as if it were a feather pillow. In her other hand she held a pamphlet called the Sticky Beak Flyer and was engrossed in her reading as she walked. She didn’t look strong enough to pick up a heavy cloak let alone a keg but there she was doing it right in front of them, one armed with a full keg. After setting it nonchalantly on the counter she continued to read, her nose nearly touching the page.


“Is your name Raven?” Torgin asked while dodging the elbow to his ribs from his giggling sister.


            The sound of Torgins’s voice cut through her reading and gave the barmaid a start. She dropped her pamphlet, then became flustered.


“I did not see you zere,” she stammered. “H H Hello zere an’ welcome to ze Raven ze Dragon and ze Stewpot. I am called Liz, Henry’s daughter.” She indicated over her shoulder at the figure sweeping the back door stoop, “What can I bring you?”


“Ale, stew and bread, with thanks.” Torgin took a step toward her as she started pulling the ale they requested from a spout on the open keg behind the counter into a large pewter jug and asked, “Is Ivan’s Uncle Jon around somewhere?”


“Jon? Old Jon?” She asked while keeping a careful eye on the stream of ale. “Zee caretaker down ze mine?”


“Yes.” Torgin nodded. “He was going to meet us.”


“Well, ee’s usually around the Stewpot every day ‘bout this time, but I’ve not seen ‘im since early zis mornin’ talking with your frien’ zere.” She indicated Phlebus with a nod of her head. “I bet trouble down the mine, has caused thees delay. Zis is usually ze delay zat keeps ‘im from comin’ for ‘is soup.” She bustled around them setting down two jugs of ale and a basket of sliced bread. “If you ask me zere’s somezing amiss zere. Ee told me zee kobolds were on zee verge of rioting over somezing zey dug up. Ee had a meetin’ with zee minin’ boss zis mornin’.”


“What do you think it is?” Lucy asked while setting her pile of bags on the floor near the table. When she finished, she started filling mugs from the fresh pitcher of ale Liz had set on the table.


As she walked to their chosen table with the large pitcher of ale and several mugs she shrugged, “I dunno. Eet has been a long while since zee tours shut down so I doubt it’s more killing or disappearing. An’ zen Merrik Dougan went missing a couple months ago, too. Zere ’as been search crews looking for ‘im in ze tunnels.”


“Who is Merrik Dougan?” Zyrina asked after thanking Lucy for her mugful.


“That would be Elaine’s son. I believe she has daughters too. Jenny’s friend married into the Dougan family of Frojenta Lane.” Phlebus answered the question before the barmaid could.


“That’s right.” Liz nodded. “Ee’s usually around the place causing trouble with ‘is friends and making stew with ‘is sister.” She went on sadly, “Today we had to do it without ‘im again. ‘ee is not zee same since returning to us.”


Phlebus grinned at her and turned to ask, “If Old Jon is down in the mine how do we find him?”


“Well, you may go into zee mine and find ‘im yourself. Zere’s only one way into ze mine after ze fire and cave in.” The barmaid indicated the small door at the back of the Inn, “Through zat way around ze back, an’ you will see a crypt for Charlotte tucked in by ze greenhouses there. Remember to watch your step in ze dark. We don’t want anyone else dying down zere. It’s too sad.”


“What fire?” Zyrina asked quickly.


“Is that Charlotte the spider?” Lucy asked before Liz could answer Zyrina’s question.


“Else?” Torgin inquired at the same time as Zyrina.


Liz stood with her hands on her hips at the side of the table and tried to answer all their questions, “Well, yes Jon can tell you all zis, but after ze cave in, there was a passageway that opened up between the crypt and the mine. The miners ‘ave been using zis entrance in ze crypt ever since zen. I don’t know when eet might be fixed.” She looked around conspiratorially, “I ‘eard zere are family spirits ‘ere in ze mines and zey have been attacking anyone zey come across. You aren’t goin’ to see me goin’ down ze crypt, no way, even eef Jon has sworn some sections are completely free of danger, like zee fishing grottos.”


“Fishing grottos in a family tomb?” Torgin was more and more confused but willing to believe almost anything about the area at this point. He chuckled.


“Well yes, ze mine has mostly dried up some time ago, an’ ze Dougans started givin’ mine tours and fishing tours in some of ze back damp caves where zeey didn’t find ore to mine. It kept the business going when zere was no more silver. Zat’s when zey built ze food court.” She started wiped the table next to them with a rag while continuing, “It was after all zat when ze cave in happened, it opened a passage to ze family crypt an’ some of ze ghosts killed many tourists.”


Liz stopped speaking when Lucy gasped, then nodded her head emphatically, she continued to explain, “Yes zis is true. That’s when ze family hired ze Kobolds to dig a new entrance to ze mine further away, and to fill in ze gap zat opens zee family crypt to ze mine itself. Zey are not finished yet.” She stopped scrubbing at the table to say, “Zat old mine entrance iz covered over by ee green’ouses now. You would never know zere had been a mine here if you didn’t ask me.” She paused before adding, “Zis hardly seems right, ze spirits wandering around a mine like zat.” Liz shuddered then shook her head and sighed with real loss. She added, “Inside, to find your way around, zere is an information booth just inside ze entrance wiz map on ze bulletin board to ze left. Eet will give you some guidance to find zee Food Court and the other areas of ze mine. Stay out of the ones marked danger and you will be fine.” She smiled unconvincingly, “Zat is where Jon usually does ‘is business, I believe, at ze food court counter.”


Both Zyrina and Lucy followed Liz into the kitchen and asked more questions about the history of the mine and the barmaid answered as she dished up their bowls of dragon stew. Torgin was sitting at the bar with the bowl that Liz had handed him before filling the rest of the bowls. Kitty was at his feet eating a bowl of dragon kibble that Liz had placed on the ground for her. Torgin and Kitty were both shovelling food as fast as they could and weren’t paying any attention to the talk around them.


Still at the long table, Phlebus took out a parchment and ink from one of his packs. With quill in hand, he swiftly scrawled a couple of letters:


Damieth Nara, Lycaeum Center of Learning, Brittany, Novia

Sir, stopping whoever is controlling the dragon bones from continuing with their plan to use magic of the ancient Obsidians in this manner is moving forward. I believe we have a solid lead to follow here finally.

            You have my full report sent earlier today.

            We have not discovered the source of the magic yet but have decided to question a witness of one of the times that this magic was used.

            We go to interview him today inside a mine that people have been disappearing from regularly and also getting killed in as well. I know we are getting close to finding an answer, I can feel the magic afterglow strongly here. I will write again when I have some more concrete knowledge and not just rumours.

             This dragon, whether or not under the control of mages using Obsidian magic, will destroy the whole valley (not just the farm animals) if we can’t stop it from fully forming. I have not yet found the shard that you suspect is involved.                                                                                                                                             

With respect, Phlebus

And one other:


Trida Moonwalker, Lycaeum Center of Learning, Brittany, Novia

Ma’am, my group have discovered that there may be some Obsidian shard magic in use here in Jade Valley.  I spoke privately with the caretaker of a local mine who is quite concerned with the Kobold miners who are skittish at best working near humans but seem to be holding some secret back from him, also with unprovoked attacks by liches, and with the disappearance of residents and the subsequent reappearance as stone statues of themselves.

The governor was correct, there is some malign of spirit here. I can’t place the source yet, but we are getting closer. You have my report from last night. The dragon bones turning were not the first attempt at this magic. Turning Novians to stone with magic is not something I’ve heard about before. I don’t know the reason for that yet either. I am having several of the stones shipped to you. Please see if the magic that binds the is reversable. Are they truly lost?

I had a restless sleep and I’m sure the others did too. I left them at the inn early today to go search out more history at the Hall of Enquiry and Learning.

            Now we are meeting Jon and I will learn more about what he suspects, then report back. I don’t think Jon is as forthright as he could be about what he knows, but he does know something, and I’ll find out what. We are going to go ahead into the Dougan Family Crypt and Silver Mine where he is the caretaker. 

This magic uses shards. It smells different and feels different in the middle of my body somewhere. Greasy oily, and somehow warped in some way. I have informed Damieth Nara.

See if anyone at the library has heard of old magic being revived anywhere else in Novia using shards, and send what they find to me here, please, care of the inn.

With respect, Phlebus

PS you were right, travelling is harder than I remember from my youth.


“Will you take these to the mail for me?” Phlebus held out the sealed parchments and a few coins to Liz when she brought his stew over to him.


“Yes certainly, sir.” She placed the bowl of stew in front of him, then tucked the money into her apron pocket and took the empty pitchers off the table. “I’ll get zose papers after I’ve had a wash. No need to get gravy on your letters. Would you like more ale?”


“Yes, please.” Phlebus nodded.


Later after they’d eaten, she still seemed adamant about not going into the mine but did take the time to lead them over to the very strange entrance to a mine, the crypt.


Liz kissed each of them once on each cheek before sending them off, “Give Jon an ‘ello from me, an’ tell him ‘is seat is kept warm for ‘im when ee’s back topside.”


            This stone tomb which served as the entrance to the Dougan family Silver Mine on the south side of the Raven the Dragon and the Stewpot Inn was sandwiched between the inn and the inn’s full greenhouses. There were no indications that it was anything other than the resting place of Charlotte the Spider.


“Why on earth would they build a mine near a family crypt.” Torgin was still confused. “The ancestors would be disturbed by this activity, wouldn’t they?”


He was truly perplexed and barely understood the concept of keeping dead bodies in the first place, as the customs he was familiar with involved a pyre and flame for the dead, to help them on their way to the other side. But he was ready. His axe was out. The opening was a tight fit for him, but he wiggled through the lid after Zyrina followed Phlebus inside. Kitty leapt into to the crypt right behind him.


“Maybe they had no choice, maybe the ancestors wanted this.”  Zyrina shrugged while she reasoned while she studied the map on the bulletin board, “and that’s why the silver was discovered.” She had become accustomed to the various ways someone in Novia could fall into an entrance to some other location, and not all of them friendly or safe. Her first experience was looking too deeply into a beautiful old mirror that led to a night of battle she would not ever forget. By now this should seem normal, but it never did.


“Dead ancestors guiding the living to find silver?” Phlebus joined in. “That hardly seems likely. I thought she said digging the tunnels for that spider led to the discovery. That seems far more probable.”


“Where’s Lucy?” Zyrina asked Torgin.


“She was fixing something in her bag, she’ll find us soon enough.” Torgin indicated back over his shoulder to the exit. “Let’s get over to the food court and find Jon the Caretaker.”


Still outside the inn, Lucy had accidently dropped several packages of herbs out of a hole that spilled from one of her bulging small bags. She had been scooping up the small packets and then stuffing them back into a different bag, all the while enjoying peering through the windows of the full greenhouses nearby. When she finally looked up from her perusal of the plants there, she found her friends had gone into the crypt without her.


Fifteen minutes later Lucy was the last to catch up to the group. After a quick glance at the bulletin board to get her bearings, she jogged over to the food court and found the others arranged in comfortable positions around a wooden small table in the middle of a large room. She was a little out of breath when she scooted in.


She lifted a chair from a neighboring table, set it down and plopped into it. Then she looked around the mining cafeteria where they sat, as each of her companions stared quietly into their unknown futures while they waited. There was a story telling corner that had colourful cushions to sit on while listening to stories the miners told. Further along she could see a shop set up with mining souvenirs and clothing for sale, and a long wooden counter dividing the kitchen from the eating areas with many small table and chairs combinations where they sat now.


“Where’s Jon?” She asked looking around the empty room.


Phlebus gave Lucy a moment to compose herself before he began to speak. “He wasn’t here when we arrived, but there was part of a letter left on the bar.”


It began mid-sentence:


‘…the dead got up and started killing the tourists. Ain’t seen nothin like it afore that, Owain. The spirits of the Dougin Family got up outta their caskets and followed some kind of lich or sumptin inta the mines. They killed a bunch o’ people who were down for a tour too. Was carnage and took a long time to clean up and find em all without runnin’ inta one o’ them liches while doin’ it, too.

 They ain’t came back to their restin’ spots yet neither and that’s why the family crypt is still empty. Gotta round em up somehows and get em back into that family crypt. The family decided to close the mine to the public. That’s when Merrik disappeared again, you’ll remember him. Gone for months, he was.  That Kobold miner Or’tuk found him wandering round an old unused tunnel deeper than kobolds usually dig. He was gone for so long that the family was just thinkin’ on settin’ up a memorial.

They were all relieved ta ha’ Merrik back, though he’s not said much about wha’ happened to him and don’t seem to have memory of any part of his life before making his way out of the depths of the mine where he’d bin.  He ain’t the same neither. He bin changed by them tunnels doing who knows what to stay alive. We’d give up on seein him agin and then he popped right out of the mine like he were jus’ gone down this mornin’. Stinky though, smelled like an old dragon fart.’


            The page ended and there was no more writing on the back either. She looked up, confused.


            “We think he was partway through writing that” Phlebus explained holding up lemons found near the writings then he shrugged, “or possibly it’s disappearing ink. Can’t tell. Maybe both.” He held up 2 other blank pages that had been found with the partial letter to Owain.


            “There was this., too.” Zyrina handed Lucy the other paper they had found. “Look.”



Dis note for you only.

I gotta talk in your ear.

Come on over to the mining office in the Kobold Quarters.



Captain, Kobold Mining Company


            After reading she handed the letters back to Phlebus. Then Lucy took a moment to think about what she had read and finally asked, “What now? Still find Jon? Think he’s still over at the Kobold quarters mining office?”


“Yes,” Phlebus nodded several times, “whatever is going on down here we need to find Jon. There is far too much coincidence in the lich attacks here on the innocent right when stone statues and dead animals started becoming more common, let alone dragon skeletons coming alive.”


Phlebus found himself searching deeply into the faces of those dear to him around the table. He sought a connection with each of them. After he had their full attention, he smiled. It was time to give a rousing talk to inspire the group. Trida Moonwalker had warned him of this moment in any group’s adventure. They looked ragged and anxious.


He began, “We need to find a way to stop whoever is trying to form a dragon from those bones. You know this. We all know the dangers of a full-grown dragon attack upon a small village like this. Not one of us looked away when the mist dragon formed in the graveyard last night. You were all ready to battle and not one of you tried to flee.”


Wryly grinning he continued, “And I know you are each just as dedicated to finding answers as I am. Thank you, my friends, for that support.”


 “I know the townspeople are all preparing as best they can for whatever is facing them, but they have no way to fight something as overwhelming as magic that makes dragon bones fly or something that can turn villagers to stone.” Phlebus paused for a moment before going on.


He finished carefully, “We can only hope their preparations will keep them safe. Whomever is behind this must be stopped before they manage to succeed. I know none of us are looking for a battle, and I will do my best to avoid any further confrontation, let alone whatever else it is we are getting ourselves into here in this underground lair while we search for Jon the illusive Caretaker. There won’t be reinforcements. Let’s go.”


            No one moved.


Zyrina snorted “that was the WORST pep talk I’ve ever heard. We are alone. We might die. And we might fail. No one is coming to help us. Come on, say something a little more encouraging, won’t you?”


Phlebus looked at Torgin, who looked at Lucy. Phlebus turned to Lucy and raised his eyebrows as if to say, ‘your turn’. Lucy shifted, uncomfortable all of a sudden.


After clearing her throat, the quiet woman gathered her thoughts and then spoke clearly and with passion, “I see before me the smartest, strongest, most caring people that I know. With our combined skills we can manage anything we find. I am absolutely certain of it. There isn’t much reason to wait is there? I mean, we know why we do what we do, we are the best at what we do, and it’s time to go do it! We stand together. We do not flinch. We find the truth of the matter.” She finished with a grimace, “Let’s go stomp these liches!!”


Gracefully she rose from her chair to turn and point her sturdy arm out of the food court and across the mine’s entrance to where she had seen the Kobold Miner’s Quarters on the map earlier, before striding boldly out of the cafeteria.


Torgin muttered, “Get ‘em sis,” as he petted Kitty behind her ear.


“Oh!” Looking up into the silence after Lucy’s speech, Phlebus hastily collected his bags and stepped into the mining entrance behind Lucy. Then quickly out of the way of an empty mining cart that came barreling by on its track. The mining cart was a relic from the Public Tours the Silver Mine. It had been used to give to the locals and occasional outlander tours of the area before ghosts and liches started attacking everyone.


            “See? Now, THAT is a pep talk” Zyrina nodded finding herself raring to go tear into the unknown. She finished by saying to Torgin, “Sometimes action is the best pep talk of all. Let’s go find some answers,” and with that strode out behind Lucy and Phlebus.


Torgin bringing up the rear, hesitated only a short time. “Kitty stay here,” he quietly ordered before gathering his supplies back up and stepping out behind his group of friends. Kitty didn’t hesitate and made her way to the cushions on the floor of the reading corner. Circling once or twice, she had herself curled up in a comfortable napping spot within seconds. Torgin could hear her purring as he walked out of the room.


Directly across from where he stood was an entrance to the Kobold Quarter and mining office located somewhere down a dark tunnel behind a large wooden statue of a Kobold. It had a barrier that said keep out blocking the passage, but Lucy and the others had moved some of it out of the way by the time he caught up.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns