The Stone Dragon Series – Interlude – The Mages of the Red Branch
Interlude: The Mages of the Red Branch
Read by Alleine Dragonfyre
The evening of celebration had quickly soured in the small hamlet of River’s Cross near the second entrance to the valley past the old, covered bridge that led to Jade Valley town. The quiet mage completed the shimmery air spell that would continue to shield the pub for the rest of the night at least. He had been enjoying his drink before all the trouble broke out and old Pete didn’t deserve what was going to happen to his establishment. The buffer would at least protect the inn, and the innkeeper if he was smart enough to stay inside it.
When several of the others started arguing about why the dragon summoning spell had not worked when they were at the old location in Jade Valley itself, why it would certainly work now, and they started calling on each other to make another attempt, then the mage knew they no longer deserved to be in charge of that magic book.
It had been a subject he had been contemplating for months now. After discovering that the room of casting they built in Jade Valley was made from blocks made from stone bodies of people, he found himself questioning everything he knew about the Southern Red Branch. And when they built the brewery in River’s Cross using the stone bodies of villagers who weren’t sweet enough to become part of their Ale of Essence, he knew they had not learned anything at all from their experiences.
There was something missing in the teachings he had grown up with and no one was willing to answer his questions about virtue and vice anymore. The elf mages who raised him didn’t have much time for his questions before, but now they had become surly about even considering his questions at all.
He wanted to know where the book came from and how they happened to have it. He wanted to know the face of the person who created this magic. From what he experienced, this book had brought only pain and suffering to everyone who they encountered, and their own group was splintered and decimated. This was no way to build a new society of order and calm.
He thought the book might be cursed or worse, have come from before the fall when magic worked differently. No one would answer any questions about The Fall either. Cataclysmic. Devastating. That’s the description he was given, and it was expected to do. They swore that he could not squeeze knowledge from them that they didn’t have.
He knew something was wrong with their logic and their thinking, but he had no way of determining what it was and no one in his cabal would help him search for the answers. The elven mages wanted power but had no plan how to become powerful nor what to do with that power if they were able to attain it. He was sure there was more to success than simply attaining power to do what you wanted to do.
He watched them get more and more angry as they huffed and puffed and chanted. The rest of his group was single minded in their pursuit of success. He waited until the other mages had looked up the spell again, put the book aside, and were focused on the summoning spell itself. Finally, he was ready to act.
Quickly slipping the magic book under his garment into a small pocket he had stitched there for this very use, he made his way to the Obsidian dias on the roof of the pub to get a better view of what the drunk remnants of the Southern Red Branch mages would summon. He kept a travel scroll in his hand, ready to leave with the book.
The dragon they eventually summoned was not part human this time. It was massive and glowed a shimmery orange colour. It wanted nothing to do with any of them. It was bent on destroying those who summoned it and anyone else who came into its path. Its struggles against the drunk mages’ control did not waiver. It turned and attacked the hamlet time and time again. Fire rained down and the buildings in the hamlet soon smoked and flamed. The billowing smoke attracted attention as it became obvious that fire was spreading.
Within a short time, folks all the way from Jade Valley started arriving to fight the fire. Someone quickly dispatched back to Jade Valley to beg for assistance from the few outlanders and townsfolk who could battle a dragon, too. After the dust and fire and rain of the battle subsided, everyone left gathered to find out just what had happened.
Jade Valley townsfolk found the remnants of the mages’ brewery and potion shop. They learned that the essence in the ale the mages had been experimenting with in their basement brewery was made from the remains of the townsfolk who had disappeared from River’s Cross hamlet. Whether it actually gave eternal life was difficult to tell without testing. No one was going to test the brew. It was destroyed. They tore the brewery down and obliterated any trace of the evil the elven mages had done. The few elves who remained alive were shackled and taken to the Jade Valley Jail to await trial. The dead were buried, and the fires raked over until they were cold.
The mage watched all this while hidden in plain sight on the rooftop of the inn. He took another long pull from his now warm ale before muttering a spell to use his last travel scroll. He vanished with the magic book in his pocket and a keg of Ale’s Essence tucked under his arm.