A Magnificent Seven Tale set in the universe of Dungeons and Dragons

Vin silently made his way through the forest. He stopped when he heard a sound and tilted his head to listen. He secured his long sandy colored hair behind a delicately pointed ear and waited A rustling could be heard further ahead and Vin moved in that direction with bow in hand. The half-elf's patience was rewarded when he found the deer grazing in a meadow. Vin sighted down the arrow and took aim. He was about to shoot when he saw the long grass by the doe move. A fawn with its blanket of spots stood and wobbled towards the doe for its dinner. Vin lowered the bow and sighed.

"Go in peace little sister." Vin said as he turned his back to the meadow and made his way back to his horse.

Vin walked through the forest savoring his time alone. His companions were expecting him in town this afternoon. Vin didn't mind the small town of Four Corners. The humans were friendly and treated him fairly. Vin smiled as he remembered the way the town used to be twenty years before. The town was known as Winds of the Four Corners but as different people settled there and others moved on the name was shortened. The town was nestled close to the mountains and surrounded by the great forest. The mighty city of Palanthas was a four-day journey to the south. The town was isolated but it was close to the trade roads. The town fell on hard times when the mines closed and many people moved away. Roving bandits as well as orcs and ogres that came down on raids from the mountains constantly preyed upon the habitants that remained. Vin was passing through town four years ago when they were trying to hang a young cleric from southern Ergoth. The half-elven ranger suspected the townsfolk were suspicious of the clerics black skin and dark eyes. Since he was dark they decided he was a follower of Takhisis the Dark Queen. Vin smiled as he remembered thinking he should do something. That's when he caught the eye of the blonde mercenary across the street. He nodded at Vin and gestured down the street. Vin nodded and they followed the hanging party up the street. When they got to the hanging tree a human female was trying to get them to stop when she was pushed aside. The fighter punched the man who shoved her. Vin cast an entangle spell and the plants wrapped themselves around the townsfolk. The young cleric was released and the rest, as the scribes say, was history.

The cleric was called Nathan and he became a respected member of the town. Chris was an ex-mercenary looking for a place where he could hang up his sword. They both settled in the town and became its guardians. Others joined until they were now seven. Josiah was a disillusioned Magic user searching for inner peace. Buck ex-mercenary and friend of Chris's. A ladies man with a heart of gold. Ezra the Bard, he could sweet-talk a noble woman into parting with her jewels. Then there was the kid, Jaydee. Ex-thief that idolized Chris and Buck and decided to become a mercenary like them. All the protectors, as the town called them, were human except Vin. The half-elven ranger was an accepted member of the group but they understood his fey need for solitude.

While he was reminiscing about the past he'd been walking towards his horse. The black gelding pricked up his ears when he heard his master approach. The horses tack was elven make. Soft leather hackmore and small saddle were the only tools needed to control the horse. Usually he would ride without any tack but it made the others nervous. As Vin got closer there was a shimmering over the saddle and a small dragon appeared. It wasn't a true dragon but one known as a Pseudo-dragon and Vin's familiar. She was the size of a small cat and her natural color was reddish brown. One of her abilities was she could change color to blend in with any background. Her main weapon was her scorpion like tail that if stung could put a human into a paralyzing sleep.

"Mystra, ready to head back to town?" Vin asked as he vaulted into the saddle behind her.

She scrambled up his arm to sit on his shoulder. Mystra wrapped he tail around his neck and got comfortable. Vin taped his heels to his horse's side and they made their way back to town.

+ + + + + + +

Jaydee was bored. The town was quiet. No Orcs, ogres or goblins had attacked in weeks. They only exciting thing that happened was Luaranna's pigs had gotten lose and ran wild trough the town. Jaydee walked over to the tavern hoping to find Buck. He was disappointed when all he found was Ezra. The Bard was fleecing some travelers out of their money playing a card game called Swords. Jaydee sat at one of the tables and sighed. He wished he could have gone with Vin this morning but Chris wouldn't let him. Chris recognized the signs in the half-elf that indicated he needed time alone. Jaydee was disappointed when Chris forbade his going. He liked going into the forest with Vin. The ranger could track anything anywhere and was teaching Jaydee. He knew it took years of devotion to become a ranger but it was fun to learn. Inez brought Jaydee an ale and asked if he wanted to eat. The town gave the seven room and board to protect them. Jaydee gave her his order and hoped one of the others would come in. When Inez delivered his food a large crow flew through the window and landed on a chair.

"I suppose your master would like dinner too?" Inez asked with hands on her hips.

"Yes he would," came a deep baritone from the open door.

Josiah walked in and pulled the chair out the crow was perched on. It scolded Josiah and flew over to land on Jaydee's shoulder. Jaydee fed the crow some bread and it took its prize and flew over to the windowsill.

"Keep feeding Shadow and he won't be able to fly," Buck said as he walked in the door.

"It would appear the crow takes after its master when it comes to eating habits," Ezra said as he joined them at the table.

"Ezra are you implying I have terrible taste in food?" Josiah asked.

"If you like everything covered in grease then no," Ezra smiled as he sat down.

"Who's covering everything in grease?" Nathan asked as he came in also. " I told you that was no good."

They were all arguing when Chris walked into the Tavern and made his way to the bar. He saw that Vin wasn't with them but wasn't too worried. It wasn't unusual for the Ranger to disappear for a few days. Chris knew Vin could take care of himself but being the unofficial leader of the group gave him the right to worry. Inez brought Chris ale and he thanked her. He picked it up and made his way over to the table.

"Hey Chris," Jaydee said. "When's Vin coming back?"

"Don't know," Chris answered.

"Shouldn't we go looking for him?" Jaydee asked worriedly. "It's getting dark."

"The Half-elf has been taking care of himself long before you were even born my friend," Ezra pointed out.

"He's still young for an elf," Buck pointed out. "Besides that boy seems to attract trouble."

Chris was about to comment when Josiah's familiar gave a loud caw and flew off the windowsill. Josiah got a far away look in his eyes and they knew he was looking through the bird's eyes.

"No need to worry," Josiah said blinking. "Vin's on his way back."

"He catch anything?" Chris asked out of curiosity.

"Oh damn!" Josiah cursed and closed his eyes.

"What is it?" Chris demanded thinking the worst.

"It's alright," Josiah said. "Shadow just swooped down on Mystra and they started chasing each other. He knows I hate that. Makes me dizzy."

Chris just shook his head. Sometimes the familiars were more trouble than they were worth. Ezra pulled out a deck of cards and they began to play Swords. The game was interrupted when the crow came flying through the window screeching. He was followed by Mystra. They chased each other around the tavern knocking over drinks and dishes. Josiah tried to get them to stop but they weren't listening. No one noticed Vin standing in the doorway until he whistled. They all watched as Mystra flew to him and landed on his shoulder. Vin held out his left hand and Shadow perched there. In his right hand he was carrying three snow geese.

"Problems?" Vin asked with an elegantly raised eyebrow,

"Damn Vin does she have to do that? Buck asked.

"What?" Vin looked at Buck in confusion as he handed the geese to Inez.

"I hate when she wraps that tail of hers around your neck," Buck explained as Vin took a seat between him and Chris.

"You know she won't hurt me," Vin said.

Mystra jumped on the table when she saw the silver coins piled in the middle. Ezra pulled the coins towards him and she hissed. Ezra knew she liked shinny objects and gave her a small looking glass to distract her from the coins. Chris laughed as she walked over to Buck and curled in his lap with her new prize.

"Must be that animal magnetism," Chris remarked and the others laughed.

The rest of the evening was spent playing cards and enjoying each other's company. Around midnight they all called it quits and went to their rooms. Chris watched as Vin walked into the forest and to his small house perched in the boughs of one of the trees. He knew Vin was more comfortable surrounded with the sounds of the forest but he still worried. Chris went across the street to the cottage he shared with the other protectors.

+ + + + + + +

Vin was up early sitting in front of the tavern. Mystra was sunning herself on the roof. Vin enjoyed the mornings before the villagers woke. Everything was quiet and Vin savored it while he could. Chris joined him a short time latter. No words were exchanged between them but a whole conversation was conveyed in a look or gesture.

The peace of the morning was shattered when a horse came thundering into the town square. Vin jumped up and raced after the horse. It always took Chris by surprise how agile and quick the half-elf was. Chris could a rider was clinging to the animals back. Vin was able to stop the horse and Chris went over to help him. The young man fell into Vin's arms as soon as the horse stopped. He gently laid him on the ground and Chris leaned over feeling for a pulse.

"He's alive," Chris said. "Let's get him over to Nathan."

Some villagers came out when they heard the commotion. They moved aside as Chris and Vin carried their burden to the cleric's temple. One of the stable boys for the tavern took the horse and cared for it

"Chris I didn't want to say anything with everyone around," Vin said as they carried the young man. "He was attacked by Trolls."

"Yeah I noticed the claw marks," Chris said.

"They don't usually come down from the mountains this time of year," Vin said. "There's enough food this time of year they don't need to be raiding."

"Unless something forced them down," Chris commented.

They met Nathan coming out the door of the small temple. He took one look at the injured young man and quickly ushered them in side and into his room at the back. They placed him on the cot and back away. Vin knew Nathan wasn't going to be able to heal all the wounds with his magic. He moved over to Nathan's work table and gathered bandages and anything else he thought Nathan might need.

Chris watched as Nathan placed his hands on the worst of the claw marks. The dark skinned cleric began to chant and the wound began to close. Nathan was able to heal the two serious wounds before the magic was exhausted.

"The rest I'll have to take care of the old fashioned way," Nathan said.

"You might wanna cast a remove poison," Vin suggested. "Troll bites are known to be foul."

"You're probably right," Nathan agreed.

While he was casting his spell Josiah and the others arrived. They waited patiently for Nathan to finish. Josiah grabbed a bowl of water and some rags then began to wash the young man. Josiah was started when he cleaned the blood off the man's face.

"Why it's Jay's son," Josiah said.

"His folks place is close to the mountains," Jaydee said.

When Nathan was finished the got the young man cleaned up and bandaged. As Nathan was bandaging the smaller bite marks Jayson started to wake.

"Where?" He asked in confusion.

"You're in town," Josiah said soothingly.

"My folks!" Jayson said trying to sit up and groaned. "You got to help them."

"We will son," Chris said. "Tell us what happened."

"I was out feeding the horse," Jayson began. "My parents were close to the house doing chores. The Trolls came out of no where. We didn't even have to grab our swords. My mother grabbed a pitchfork and my dad a scythe but there were too many of them. I tried to help!"

"We know," Josiah said.

"How many were there?" Vin asked quietly.

"Eight or so," Jayson said. "I lost count."

"That's fine son," Josiah said.

"NO!" Jayson yelled. "I have to go back and help them."

Jayson struggled in Josiah's grip and suddenly fell back asleep. Nathan smiled at Josiah for putting the boy to sleep with a spell. It would help keep him calm. Once Jayson was settled they all turned to Chris.

"We ride," he announced and none of them were surprised.

A half-hour later the seven were armed and ready to ride. Chris and Buck were in their chain mail and had their long swords belt at their waist. Jaydee had on ring mail and carried a short sword. Buck was still teaching him how to wield the long sword but he wasn't proficient enough to use it in battle. Ezra was also wearing chain mail under his velvets. Around his waist was his long sword and strapped to his back was his mandolin. Nathan had on leather armor but Josiah had none. Vin's chain mail was elven make and very light. He carried a long bow and a long sword. The villagers gathered to see them off.

"Now remember, if the Trolls come to town the only way to kill them is to burn them," Nathan told them.

"We'll be ready," Mary assured him. "Be careful."

Them mounted and Vin led them out of the town and into the forest. The farm was about an hour away from the town. They rode in silence through the forest. They were almost to the farm when Vin started getting a bad feeling and began to look around.

"What do you hear?" Chris asked knowing the half-elf's hearing was better than humans.

"Nothing," Vin said quietly. "But I feel something is wrong."

They traveled a short distance when Vin suddenly pulled up his horse. Buck wasn't quick enough to stop his and they ran into the back of Vin's mount.

"Warn a guy next time," Buck complained.

Chris shushed Buck with a wave of his hand as he watched Vin. They were close to the farm and Vin was being cautious. He dismounted and the others followed his lead. The familiars were no where in sight. Chris knew Vin and Josiah would send them away when the fighting started. If the familiar was injured their masters would be hurt also. It was the price they paid for having them. Vin walked towards the farm on foot and the others followed.

"Josiah light the torches," Chris said quietly.

Josiah nodded and handed out the torches he took from his saddle. He cast a spell and they flared to life. The all carried one except for Vin who needed both hands to draw his bow. Buck, Chris, Jaydee and Ezra drew their swords in anticipation. Josiah and Nathan weren't permitted to use edged weapons because of their magic. Nathan hefted his war hammer, while Josiah preferred a heavy staff. They all remained on guard as the entered the clearing for the farmyard. Everything was a shambles. The fences were destroyed as was the lean to barn and chicken coop. Nothing was left alive. Vin walked over towards the barn and knelt down. He traced his fingers along the prints in the mud.

"How many?" Chris asked as he joined him.

"Eight to ten," Vin answered. "It's tough to tell with so many prints."

"Ten!" Jaydee exclaimed and Buck hushed him.

"There coming," Vin said calmly as he stood up. "From behind the house."

"Form a circle!" Chris yelled as eight Trolls came screaming from behind the house.

Vin quickly shot two arrows into the eyes of the ones in front. They fell to the ground but he knew they would regenerate and join the fight in a short time. Once the arrows were fired he dropped his bow and drew his sword. Josiah threw a fireball destroying one instantly. Ezra began to recite rousing poetry and Vin smiled as he felt Ezra's magic invigorate him to fight. The remaining five Trolls surrounded them. They were hulking brutes stood nine feet tall and fought with their vicious claws on their hands as well as their teeth. One took a swipe at Jaydee and he sliced off its hand. Jaydee watched in horror as the hand began to crawl towards him.

"Burn it!" Buck yelled as he defended himself.

Jaydee obeyed and torched the offending hand. It immediately began to burn. The others had their hands full as well. Ezra dispatched the one fighting him and immediately set it on fire. Vin chopped the leg off another and it crawled away dragging its severed leg. The two he shot with arrows were getting to their feet. They screamed in rage and attacked the half-elf. Chris was busy with his own Troll when he saw the two attacking Vin. Nathan hit a troll in the chest and heard the ribs shattered since his war hammer was magical and caused double damage. The Troll was stunned and in the split second Nathan set it on fire. Josiah was able to dispatch another one with a fireball spell. Jaydee and Buck finished the one the Kid had cut the arm off. Once it was down they burned it. Ezra ran over to help Vin as he heard the elf scream in pain. Chris finished killing and burning the one Vin had chopped the leg off when he heard Vin scream. He looked up to see a severed arm gripping the back of Vin's left calf. The claws were sunk deeply into Vin's muscle and he began to fall. The Trolls yelled in triumph and were about to attack Vin when Ezra, Buck and Jaydee attacked them from behind. The fight was quickly over and the last of the Trolls were burned. Nathan ran over to Vin as he struggled to remove the severed arm. He knew the hand would keep fighting until it was burnt.

"Josiah help me!" Nathan yelled.

They both grabbed the clawed hand and tried to pull the fingers out of Vin's calf. The hand only gripped tighter and Vin screamed in agony.

"Easy Vin," Chris said as he held the elf against his chest.

"Damn stupid of me," Vin said through gritted teeth. "Should have kept and eye on the damned thing."

"Everyone grab a claw," Nathan instructed

The others did as Nathan said and on his signal they all pulled, The hand reluctantly released Vin's calf and he slumped back against Chris. They threw the hand a few feet away and it immediately began to crawl back towards them.

"Why, Vin, I do believe it likes you," Ezra said dryly as he lit it on fire.

"How is he Nate?" Chris asked as he held Vin.

"I'm alright," Vin protested.

"Yeah you're alright," Nathan mocked. "You're leg is almost severed and your think you're fine."

"Would you like to have the honor of healing our pointed eared friend or shall I?" Ezra asked.

"I'll have to do it since it's pretty bad." Nathan said.

Chris held Vin against his chest as Nathan closed his eyes and placed his hands on Vin's leg. Vin hissed at the contact but didn't cry out. Chris knew the magic would take a few minutes to work and he could feel Vin breathing quickly trying to ride out the pain. Chris felt Vin begin to relax and knew the healing spell was starting to work. Buck, Ezra and JD were checking the buildings for any signs of Jayson's parents. They knew the parents wouldn't be alive but they checked any way. Josiah made sure the Trolls were completely burned so they couldn't regenerate and fight again.

Chris watched as the wound on Vin's calf began to close. Nathan chant ended and he opened his eyes. He grabbed a cloth out of his satchel and wiped the blood from Vin's calf.

"You're gonna have to take it easy for awhile," Nathan said, "You lost a good amount of blood."

"I'm fine," Vin protested. He stood up quickly and almost fell flat on his face.

"Stubborn fool," Chris said grabbing his arm. "Can't you listen for once?"

"We don't have time to coddle me," Vin said moving slowly away from Chris. "Need to find out why those Trolls were raiding this far down the mountain."

Vin headed in the direction the Trolls attacked from and was followed closely by Chris. Buck whistled for the horses and waited as they came trotting into the farmyard. He tied them to the fence, with Jaydee's help, then joined the others. The Trolls left an easy trail to follow. Vin was in front when Chris noticed Vin's long hair moving even though there was no breeze. He went to draw his sword when he felt a hand on his shoulder

"It's alright Chris, its only Mystra," Josiah said. Chris noticed Shadow perched on his shoulder and sheathed his sword.

"Why is she staying invisible?" JD asked.

"She's afraid," Vin answered. "But I can't figure out why."

The trail ended amongst some rocks. Vin could easily follow it but Mystra shrieked when he tried.

"What is it?" Vin asked her, as she became visible. "I don't understand."

"It's getting dark," Chris said. "Why don't we start again tomorrow."

"That would be most agreeable," Ezra said. "I don't relish the idea of stumbling around out here in the dark."

They all agreed to head back to town. None of them wanted to stay at the farmhouse. Vin took one more look around and noticed something red amongst the rocks. He picked it up and thought it seemed familiar. It was soft like leather but very strong. When he couldn't immediately place it he put it in his pouch and followed the others. When they got back to the farm they mounted and headed the horses back to Four Corners. They were half way back to the village when Chris noticed Vin starting to slide off his horse. Mystra hissed and flew off his shoulder.

"Damn!" Chris cursed and caught Vin before he could fall.

"Pig headed elf," Nathan grumbled as he moved up to check Vin. "He lost more blood than he's willing to admit."

"Is he OK?" Jaydee asked in concern.

"Yeah," Nathan said. "Just passed out."

Chris pulled Vin in front of him and positioned the slight half-elf against his chest. He took a tight hold on Vin and they moved out. Jaydee grabbed Vin's horses reins and followed behind the others. Mystra settled in front of Ezra playing with the gold buttons on his velvet doublet. They made it back to town and Chris handed Vin down to Josiah. The Magic User carried him inside the cottage with Nathan and Chris close behind. It was late and the villagers had three large bonfires burning in the town square. Jaydee and Buck took care of the horses. Ezra went into the cottage never noticing he was missing one of his buttons. They got Vin settled in one of the rooms and Mysta flew in and curled at his side. Chris saw her playing with the button and smiled. He made sure the window was open in case she wanted to go out then closed the door. They all met in the common area of the house.

"I want a guard set up for the night," Chris said.

"I'll take first watch," Ezra said. "It's much too early to sleep yet."

The rest of the night was divided between them. When that was all settled the others headed to their rooms to get some sleep. Since Vin was in Chris's room he slept on the bear rug in front of the fire. He just hoped they could figure out what was driving the Trolls down from the mountains.

+ + + + + + +

Vin woke startled. He looked around the room trying to figure out what happened. When he realized where he was he remembered and cursed. Chris was gonna kill him for not listening to Nathan. Vin was more worried about that piece of red leather he found yesterday. Vin climbed out of the bed and realized he was naked. He smiled and shook his head. If the humans thought that would keep him inside they were mistaken. He saw his pouches on the dresser next to the window and walked over to them. Vin opened the larger one and pulled out the leather. As he was looking at it Mystra flew in the window and landed on his shoulder. When she saw what he was holding she hissed and furled her wings.

"It's alright girl," Vin said scratching her chin. "I know what it is and we're in big trouble."

Vin put the leather on top of the dresser and opened the drawers. Mystra flew to the dresser picked up the piece of leather and began to chew on it. She was trying to shred it with her sharp teeth but Vin knew she wouldn't be able to damage it. He found leggins and a shirt in the drawer and got dressed. The outfit was a little big and Vin figured the clothes must be Chris's. They weren't fancy enough for Ezra's and they were too tall for JD's. After he was dressed he looked around the room for his boots. They were no where in sight so Vin decided to go bare foot. He tried to take the piece of leather from Mystra but she hissed at him and wouldn't give it up.

"I know you don't like them but I need that," Vin said trying to reason with her.

She just gave him another hiss and was about to fly out the window when Vin held up one of Ezra's silver buttons. He found it in his pouch when he was looking for the piece of leather. The little dragon was always putting her "treasures" in Vin's pouches. He showed her the button and she willingly gave up the piece of leather then flew out the window. Vin left the room and headed for the kitchen.

"What are you doing up?" Nathan asked when Vin entered the kitchen.

"I'm hungry," Vin said. "Besides I'm fine."

"Uh huh," Chris said as he came in. "And that wasn't you who almost fell off his horse yesterday was it?"

"We've got bigger problems," Vin said throwing the red piece of leather on the table.

"What is it?" Nathan said picking it up.

"It's what drove the Trolls down from the mountain," Vin explained. "A red Dragon."

"What!" Chris exclaimed. "Are you sure?"

"Yup," Vin said sitting down at the table. "Found that on the trail yesterday. It's a piece of shed skin from the wing."

"Damn!" Chris cursed. "What the hell do we do now?"

"Better get the others," Vin suggested.

"I'll go," Nathan said as he got up. "Ezra might still be asleep."

"Wake him," Chris ordered.

Nathan nodded and went out the door. He smiled as he heard Vin ask about his clothes and weapons.

Twenty minutes later the seven were sitting in the common room in the cottage. The day ended up being overcast and cool. A fire was burning in the fireplace warming the room. Vin was sharpening his sword with a whet stone as they waited for Chris to tell them what was going on.

"Vin knows what drove the Trolls down," Chris announced.

"What?" Jaydee asked.

"A Red Dragon," Chris said.

"WHAT!" Buck cried. "Are you sure?"

"Yup," Vin said quietly continuing with his sword.

"Pray tell what evidence do you have to substantiate your claim?" Ezra asked irritably.

"Someone get up on the wrong side of the bed?" Buck teased.

"Bards weren't meant to awaken at this gods awful hour," Ezra complained.

"It's almost noon," Josiah pointed out.

"Exactly," Ezra said and they laughed. "Now about this evidence."

"Vin found this on the trail yesterday," Chris said handing around the skin.

"It's a piece of red leather," Jaydee said in confusion.

Let me see that," Ezra said in awe. Jaydee handed it to him. "The half-elf is absolutely correct. This is from a red dragon's wing."

"How can you be so sure?" Buck asked.

"Watch," Ezra said as he got up and threw it in the fire.

"What are you doing," Chris yelled.

"It's alright, Chris, watch," Vin said knowing what Ezra was doing.

"Observe," Ezra said as he used the poker to retrieve the skin. "It can't be burned. Red dragon's element is fire as they can't be harmed by it."

"Damn," Buck said. "But they sure can do some damage when they breathe."

"That's not all," Nathan said. "If it's an older dragon it will be very intelligent and able to use spells."

"How do we defeat it?" Jaydee asked a little afraid.

"Cold," Vin said.

"You feeling alright?" Nathan asked in concern. "Josiah stoke up the fire."

"I'm fine!" Vin yelled annoyed.

"I believe Vin was informing us how to defeat the dragon," Ezra said laughing.

"Have you ever fought one before?" Jaydee asked.

"Not a red," Vin said looking up at Jaydee. "I've fought a blue. We didn't kill it. It ended up being subdued and we made it leave. The red will be much harder to fight. Blues can at least be reasoned with."

Vin went back to sharpening his sword as Jaydee jut stared at him with his mouth open. Jaydee sometimes forgot Vin was much older than he looked. He never met anyone who'd fought a dragon before. Buck smiled at the kids thunder struck expression and turned to Chris.

"So what's the plan?" he asked.

"We have to see what it's up to," Chris said. "We can't let it settle so close to the village."

Josiah was about to say something when Mystra flew in the window and straight for Vin. She was making a racket and the images she was projecting into Vin's mind were jumbled. Finally a clear image of the red dragon flying towards the village came through.

"Damn!" Vin shouted. "It headed this way."

Vin raced outside with his sword in hand. Chris cursed the impetuous elf as he grabbed his sword and followed.

"May the gods protect us," Josiah said as he followed.

Vin was standing on the main street watching the sky towards the mountain. The others came out and stood around him. Chris squinted and to see if he saw anything.

"Do you see it?" Chris asked knowing Vin's eyesight was superior.

"Yes, "Vin said. "The red's flying this way."

In no time they could all see the dragon as it got closer. Mary came out to see what was going on. The dragon flew over and they all were frozen with fear. Vin willed himself not to be afraid as the dragon circled once then flew back towards the mountain. When it was gone Vin turned to the others Mary was clinging to Josiah shaking. Chris was breathing fast as if he'd run a long distance but at least he wasn't paralyzed with fear like the others. Vin smiled at that, there wasn't much that could scare Chris. Jaydee was on the ground with his hands over his head. Buck walked over to him and helped him up.

"By the goddess Buck, I've never been so afraid," Jaydee said in a quiet voice.

"I know Kid," Buck said. "I felt the same way."

"It's the dragon fear," Vin explained. "All evil dragons have that magical ability."

"But you weren't afraid," Jaydee said.

"I was, Jaydee, I just knew what to expect," Vin said. "The fear won't be as bad when we go to fight him."

"But it will be a tough fight," Ezra said wiping the sweat from his face. "The dragon is mature."

"But not ancient," Vin said. "Which would be next to impossible to defeat."

"Will it be back?" Mary asked wiping the tears from her eyes.

"I don't think so," Vin said looking towards the mountains. "He flew over to see if we were a threat."

"And obviously he doesn't think we are," Josiah commented.

"He'd be right," Nathan said with a laugh. "I don't feel like much of a threat."

Everyone laughed as they headed back towards the cottage. The escorted Mary to her pottery shop on their way pasted.

"How are we going to beat him?" Jaydee asked as they entered the cottage.

"I honestly don't know," Buck said shaking his head.

The discussion began and each gave their opinions and knowledge of dragons. Vin wandered over to the window and looked out. The mountains hadn't changed that much in twenty years and there was only one place the dragon could be. Vin brought his thoughts back to the discussion.

"Cave," Vin said out loud.

"What was that Vin?" Chris asked. They were all used to Vin's fey answers from out of the blue.

"There's a cave," Vin said staring out the window.

"You think he's hold up there?" Chris asked.

"More than likely," Vin said stepping away from the window and over to the others. "It's at the base of Mount Edoras."

"We can't fight him in the cave," Josiah said.

"No we can't," Ezra agreed. "It would be suicide."

"So what are we going to do?" Jaydee asked.

"Any ideas Vin?" Chris asked. "You're the only one who's fought one before."

"I was young and foolish," Vin said with a smile. "We attacked head on. We were lucky the Blue wasn't really interested in a fight. Even though, he did kill four out of a party of seven."

"Well that's encouraging," Buck said sarcastically but smiled to take the sting from his words.

The discussion continued into the afternoon. Inez brought them dinner as they continued to make plans into the evening. Vin warned them not to look into the eyes of the dragon when they fought or they would be paralyzed with fear. Chris knew it was getting late when he noticed Vin and Jaydee were asleep. Vin looked young and vulnerable when he slept and sometimes Chris forgot the elf was almost as old as he was. They made the best plans they could and Chris called it a night. Buck woke Jaydee to go to the room they shared to sleep. The others also went to their rooms. Chris fetched a blanket and covered Vin. He'd fallen asleep on the bear skin rug in front of the hearth. Chris blew out the lanterns and candles than headed for his room. He just hoped they would survive this next adventure.


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