August 7, 2000
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And now back to the main feature.
"Hey - so how did you escape from that dragon then, mister?" Rapscallion turned around to see a young chap looking at him expectantly. Hmm, no description, low level, even looked pleased to see him - genuine newbie by the looks of it.
"Come on, you're an avatar - you're supposed to be a mine of information for us newer adventurers - how did you do it?" A chorus of other voices sprang up, attracted by the questioning.
"Oh do tell us, do, please," they piped, with big adoring eyes.
"I knew I should never have taught clan 50 the emote command," muttered Rapscallion. "Alright," he announced out loud, "We'll have the story but Castle Square is a little too busy for the talking spam. We'll go to the market on the east instead." So off he wandered, dogged at his heels by fresh faced adventurers, all eager to absorb wisdom. They'd learn.
The market was its usual bustling self, but Rapscallion managed to find a few stone benches and cleared the pigeons away with his hands. The newbies sat around expectantly, watching as he took some brown stringy material from his pouch.
"I took a sample of the tobacco from my last trade run from Gdangus," he explained, rolling the stuff into a small wad and stuffing it into the bowl of his pipe. "So, where was I?"
"You were taken by surprise in the dragon lair and were about to be rent limb from limb," replied a curate eagerly. Rapscallion coughed.
"Well, it's not quite that we were taken by surprise," he lied blatantly, "After all we knew the dragon was down there somewhere, so it wasn't really a shock."
"But what about the screaming?" asked one of the trainee thieves. Rapscallion ignored him.
"So - we were up against this really huge Ruby dragon - fangs as long as your arms, talons as long as your body - sharp as well. It was as hot as hell in there - and I know whereof I speak there too. And it smelled as well.
"You know, this storytelling can be thirsty work," he remarked, looking pointedly at a nearby mage who took the hint. The mage returned shortly with a newly created waterskin filled at the fountain just to the north. Rapscallion stared disappointedly at the waterskin and then looked at the mage again. He then stared at the cheese and wine stall past the fountain and the mage grimaced as he ran off.
Suitably refreshed, Rapscallion put the empty bottle down and continued. "The thing to remember with dragons is to show no fear - you have to let them know who's boss. Watch this." He rose and used his powers to call a dragon. A Firelizard popped into existance and headed straight for his money pouch.
A swiftly moving hand intercepted the firelizard's neck and grabbed it tightly with a rather inconvenienced "Glurk" noise. After a second or two of struggling it hung limply in Rapscallion's rather firm grip. Rapscallion hauled it up to eye level and stared at it firmly, then indicated his pipe bowl with his free hand. He released his grip enough to allow the beast to breathe a short burst of flame to ignite the contents, then puffed contentedly for a few seconds. The Firelizard struggled a little more, flapping its stubby wings frantically and Rapscallion released his grip slowly, making sure it was obvious who was in control.
The Firelizard darted away and hovered in mid air, snarling at Rapscallion who sat there unconcerned, blowing smoke happily. Then with an implosion of air, the Firelizard vanished.
"See? That's how you do it," Rapscallion informed his awestruck audience. He puffed a couple of small clouds before resuming his narration, punctuating his words with thrusts and jabs from the pipe stem. "So - there we were, up against this huge Ruby dragon. Eighteen of us, and I was the only one who didn't soil my loincloth, I can tell you. It was laughing at us so I did the only sensible thing - I dispelled its magical protections - just like that! - and used the plague spell. That certainly wiped the smile off its face."
"Oooh!" chorused the newbies, impressed by the teller of tall tales.
"So, anyway, my actions gave the rest of them the chance to stop quivering and to do something. I may be good but even I cannot take on a dragon by myself. They scratched at its talons with their weapons, dying occasionally, while I just blew scales off when I felt like it. Being sensible I managed to keep a couple of ranks of formation members between me and it - after all, I didn't want to cost them the glory of combat against such a massive beast. There's more than a few of them who owed their lives to my magic that day."
"My word," chorused the newbies as one. Oddly enough, the sky seemed to get a bit darker despite the midday sun. Rapscallion frowned at this, there'd been an eclipse only the previous week so it wasn't time for another. Oh well, best to carry on while they're interested, there could be another bottle of wine from this.
"Of course, the dragon was less than happy at his treatment so he ran like the craven he was. Big bullies, they are - he took it out on the nearest clantown. So with that I resurrected the heroes, mostly by myself, and got them ready to take it on again. I cast the magics to get us to the place and we began hunting for it. In the end they let me just point the way as I was finding it all the time. I have a sixth sense when it comes to locating dragons, see?"
"But..." interjected a newbie who was quickly shushed by his fellows.
"By now my spells had taken their toll on the beast and even the weapons of the warriors and thieves were doing some damage. One last shockwave between the eyes, POW!, and it was put out of its misery. I took my share of the hide, it should have been much more from the work I did, and it's now making some rather fetching coasters and placemats in our clanhall. You see, it may have been a huge Ruby dragon, but in the end it was..."
"My cousin," breathed a rather deep voice.
"?" asked Rapscallion looking around. "I was actually going to say 'a total wuss'".
"Really?" inquired the owner of the big voice. Rapscallion eyed the newbies carefully, but none of their lips had moved. They weren't even looking at him so he followed their gazes upwards. Blocking out a sizable portion of the sky was a silhouette of a dragon. A sinuous neck snaked down to leave a massive dragon's head a few feet from Rapscallion's own - from such a distance he could feel his whiskers singing.
"B-B-But you're a S-S-Silver dragon," stammered our hero. "How can you be a cousin to a Ruby?"
"Now it's species-ist remarks as well? I was just coming to have a word with you about my Firelizard, but seeing as you seem to be biased as well..."
"Go on - do the neck thing, show him who's boss," said a rather enthralled newbie. Several of his compatriots were happily urging Rapscallion on as well, though a number around the periphery of the group had made their excuses and left. Sometimes the future is all too clear.
The dragon smiled grimly. "The neck thing? We have a special punishment for you," it stated. Rapscallion gulped.
"So, you didn't tell them how they couldn't hear the Ruby going 'RrrOOaAARRR' over your screams?"
"Nor that when you were looking for an altar you managed to even get lost in the temple?"
"You didn't tell them that you got to the Ruby corpse so late it decomposed as you arrived, then?"
"Shut up." Rapscallion paused a moment and leaned on the sloughed-off scale he was using as a shovel. He found an almost clean section of his smeared robes and mopped at his brow with it. The worst part of this job was not the stuff he was dealing with - you could get used to that in time, even the smell. It wasn't the fact that you occasionally found bits of adventurers, or just their armour, eaten away in parts by acid. It was the company you had to keep.
"Don't you have something else to do? Gold to steal or something?"
"That's payment for services rendered, actually," said the Firelizard indignantly. "Besides, I can only perform light duties until this heals," it added, indicating its neckbrace with a stubby wingtip, "So, I've got to keep an eye on you." It puffed a small smoke-ring casually.
"Well, make sure you don't have any open flames down here for crying out loud," Rapscallion warned.
"I'm fireproof," smirked the Firelizard. "See if I care."
"Look - it's going to take me at least two weeks to finish mucking out this cavern. Your boss eats too much, you know that? And it's the wrong sort of stuff as well. All this magical armour must play hell with his digestion."
"Not just this cavern. There's at least three more in the lair. We thought we'd start you off on the smallest." The Firelizard rested back on its haunches and watched Rapscallion struggle with his latest scale full of prime dragon manure. "So, did you tell them about..."