June 21, 2001
The Big and the Small of it: The Curse that was and is Zeksagmak - By Leetah
Or so I thought. We were not due to go after the dragon for a while. I
should have studied harder and earned the right to learn shockwave.
There hadn't been enough time.
The time to meet was at half past. Later than what had been agreed
upon. Yet there were already so many others here. Anxiety filled the air.
People were already finding hunting groups. Each leader in turn asked
for others to follow until their hunting party was full. Joining one
often resulted in being kicked out before even leaving the clan town. Some
of the strongest needed to be sent out to clear out the smaller
creatures within the beast's lair. Others beckoned for the remnants to follow
Finally, I found a group.
Somebody said, "Does anybody here know how to lead us into a dragon
After telling myself to remain calm I managed to blurt out, "Just phase
and follow when the main hunting parties move."
Somebody else spoke up. "I'll lead."
"You know what to do?"
"Sort of. Just follow the food. Not too difficult."
Hrm. I've tagged along in the towns. The groups weren't much different
than this one. I don't remember food. This guy has studied longer than
I if he was that close to learning how to resurrect people. He might
know. I hope they know. Charging into battle against one of the little
dragons is one thing. Then I've got thirty other people in front of me.
But in this case, it's pretty much everybody for himself against the
largest and fiercest dragon Medievia has ever known.
At last the appointed hour arrived. A shout rang throughout the area to
phase Urikat. It took but a few moments to bring all members of the
hunting party to the entrance of the dragon's lair. Once there, the brave
hunters descended into the cave. There was very little light and few
markings to distinguish one bend in the rock from the next. But there
were pieces of clams, meat, and other rations strewn about the cave floor.
They were there so that others could follow the first-comers to the
nook where the dragon, Zeksagmak, was lurking.
Very clever of them. I hoped nobody was hungry.
Walking through the lair was one of the most difficult parts of the
hunt. If people weren't getting stuck in the narrow passages, then they
were getting singed in some of the scalding rooms that had to be passed
through to reach the dragon. And if the rooms weren't singeing them,
then they were trying to locate comrades who'd been lost due to
exhaustion or inattentiveness. Upon reaching the end of the trail of food, the
weary hunters found more bodies with every step they took.
"Where are we?" I wondered, highly agitated and perplexed. "Shoot.
Thank goodness for the food, or we wouldn't be able to find our way back
out. If we are in any state to go back out the way we came. We haven't
reached the dragon yet, so why are all these bodies here?"
Sounds of roaring and screams echoed through the tunnel. The dragon was
near. Hesitant, the party edged forward, hoping to catch a glimpse of
the beast before it spotted them. Fumes pervaded the air as a gust
carried the stench down the passage, past the hunters. The group took a
moment to pause and prepare for battle.
So that's what fear smells like. Hehe, we're all gonna die. Well, let's
go out in a blaze of glory then. I cried out, "CHAR..."
"...RED!" A voice in the dark snickered.
"Oh my word," I exclaimed and was suddenly hit with a craving for my
own intestines. "Am I undead already? Did I even have time to make a hit?
Did I forget how to cast? AND WHO SAID THAT??? Eeep. Did I just say all
of that out loud?"
"Yes. Yes. No. Zeksagmak, at your service; or disservice as it were.
"Zeksagmak? How?" The necromancer must have given up his midday mead
if he managed to move THAT fast.
"You came in blasting spells at me. I blew a little smoke your way.
What did you expect? Should I have been offering a comfortable chair and
some hot cocoa?"
"I'm starting to wish you had. Maybe next time?"
The dragon chuckled and flopped down beside me, effectively blocking my way
out and crushing hundreds of rotting bodies. We have met the enemy, and
he is big.
"We are very amused. I was a little cranky. I was lounging around the
lair snacking on a few leftovers from a food delivery that came by a
couple weeks ago. That food can be a bit foul-smelling after even a few
days, so I got in the shower to wash off the smell. It never fails. Just
as the water was warming up, a bunch of heroes showed up. I didn't
even have time to throw on a towel! Do you have any idea how embarrassing
that is? Especially for a well respected dragon of my stature."
"I can only guess," I replied as I backed up towards the wall and
started searching for a way around the dragon. Zeksagmak's form practically
filled the entire cavern. "I'm not exactly well known in my circles.
Haven't earned much in terms of stature either."
"Oh, so they pulled you off their HIT list?"
"Hit list? Somebody's been out to kill me?" I asked aloud, but under my
breath I whispered, "Besides you?"
"Nonono. H I T list. List of Heroes In Training." Zeksagmak looked up a
little, his eyes glazing over, and licked his lips ever so slightly as
if recalling some distant memory. Then the dragon started eyeing me
like some curiosity in Castle Medievia's Museum. "It's been a while since
I've run into one of those."
"Um. After you'd reached three lairs, I think only heroes dared come
"What are you? A Journeyman?"
"You can call me that. That's about right." He could have called me
anything else he wanted, too, just as long as he didn't call me lunch.
"I thought so. I can tell, even after all this time."
I laughed nervously. If he ate me I'd hardly be in any condition to get
to an altar. Zeksagmak had begun circling one of his giant claws on the
floor, making a spiral in the sea of blood. If he was getting bored,
then I was in trouble.
"So why has it been so long?" I asked. Stupid question. But at least
the sparks from his claw rubbing against the cave floor stopped flying as
he paused for a minute. I hugged my lean frame trying to stop myself
from shaking. There was something in the pockets of the tattered rags I
was left with.
"I haven't even been outside my lair in a long time. Until a couple
weeks ago the only visitors I've had in a while are Medievia magazine
salesmen and Vryce's Witnesses. Hence all those bodies in the front rooms."
"Oh, you mean the hundred or so heroes who tried to get you?"
"Exactly! It was pathetic. I finished them off rather quickly. But I
don't think they cared too much. I give their dull lives meaning. Besides
it would take far more people than that to finish me off. I'd expect it
would take no less than half the population of Medievia. Ah well, maybe
I remember now. "Or today."
"Those same heroes are here. There's barely been time for new heroes to
be trained. What makes today special?"
"I'm here. And many others like me."
"Puny mortal. I doubt that will make a difference. You're barely fit to
be a snack. Come here." Zeksagmak reached for me, but I pulled a potion out of
my clothes. The dragon smiled knowingly, snapped his fingers, and pulled his
hand back. "I was wondering when you'd remember that was there. The
necromancer doesn't leave you completely helpless."
"Yeah, well, I'm leaving," I retorted, "But I shall soon return."
"And then?" The dragon asked as he propped his head up on his fist.
"We'll finish you," I said smugly.
But just as I downed the potion that would whisk me to the safety of
the wilderness, Zeksagmak sighed, and once again asked, "And then?"
All the corpses in the room had become undead zombies and the less
forgetful ones instantly disappeared from the lair, having never heard the
conversation between the dragon and the fallen caster. To the northwest
was an altar that usually had very few visitors, but today there were
hundreds of dragon hunters passing through. Staying only long enough for
the gods' mercy to grant them breath again. Hunting parties found each
other again and the quest to kill the powerful dragon continued.
I didn't have to wait to be resurrected once I reached the altar. That
gave me a good laugh. Besides being an honor, this minimal wait almost
made it a pleasure to be killed by that dragon. Almost. Arks was right.
Zek is extremely powerful if he really can kill people from down the
passageway. And the trips through the lair were quickly wearing down our
numbers. A few people in the party didn't even get a chance to hit Zek
the last time we made our way to the end. I didn't know how many more
trips we'd be able to make before they'd give up. What then?
Many mistakes were made in the process. At one point, the person
marking the entrance to the lair disappeared; it took awhile to find it
again. Fortunately that person returned from wherever they were in time to
help others who came after the party. Once, the leader of the hunting
party didn't give warning; nobody was able to hit the dragon because we
didn't come in casting. At long last, during the fourth trip down into
the lair, word spread across the land the Zeksagmak had fled his lair. I
hoped he had found time to throw a hide or something on.
Brave souls were already waiting for Zeksagmak when he began his
assault on a nearby clan town. The others, who had been in the lair,
immediately phased to the first person to spot the dragon land.
So many faces. So many dying. What would we do when there are so many that
we'll barely be able to move through the town?
The dragon was cornered. As many hunters that could be gathered hid in
the adjoining rooms, ready to strike as soon as the command was given.
Several times, the dragon happened in on a massive gathering of these
brave fighters before they could strike, even when they were three
blocks away. The crafty dragon was not quite ready to give up its life. The
hunt within the clan town was certainly easier than the lair, but the
death toll was no lower than before. The difficulty moving around the
bodies all through the town made it nearly impossible for people to flee if
they were in any condition to do so. The altar was so full that nobody
dared look around at the horror that lay on the floor.
This is taking too long. He might actually get away again. I smiled.
In a desperate attempt to subdue the dragon, everybody in the town
charged the dragon at once. Many died within the first round.
And before the eyes of all in the area, after several hours of fighting,
Froto's slash finally killed noble Zeksagmak. The menace of Medievia
had been vanquished.
I swear that I'm going to bore my future children and grandchildren
with this tale for the rest of my existence.
The gods let it be known all across the land that Zeksagmak, the ruby
dragon, had been killed. Cheers were shouted from the rooftops and many
congratulations went out to Froto.
"I hope she wasn't too disgusted with being congratulated by an undead
corpse," I thought, smiling weakly as I made my way to the altar.
Shouts calling for battle trophies spread. Reports of how much damage
individuals had dealt the dragon were broadcast. Those killed in the
last battle returned to the altar to lick their wounds and rejoin the
One shout overheard: "Do I at least get a souvenir? I spilled at least
a thousand gallons of his blood."
Wow. I spilled some of his blood, but not that much. I never thought
I'd miss being a big bad warrior. But I still did well. Somehow, none of
it felt much like success.
Another shout: "Yeah! Souvenirs for everybody except the newbies. They
just got in the way!"
I did not just hear that.
Surveying the altar room full of fallen hunters, a few were just
slinking off, some were still waiting for mercy, and others just lowered
their heads. There was little rejoicing here.
And wherever all the little heroes in training of that day may be, to
all the ones who tried and succeeded in even some small way, and all
those who contributed as only they could, because Zeksagmak could only
have been taken with just about everybody in Medievia nipping at his
heels: Thank you.
But I had been given much to think about that day. He knew. That smug
dragon knew. So to those of you who celebrate the death of Zeksagmak,
the greatest challenge to Medievian heroes and heroes in training
everywhere, I ask you this: What now?
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