Alrond looked out over the plains at Nakta-Karnka. A gentle wind sent ripples through the grass yet untouched by the armies’ footsteps. The city itself seemed far too still. Strangely undisturbed by the masses now surrounding it.
Squinting against the bright afternoon sun, Alrond could see figures moving along the towering, brown stone walls. They patrolled the battlements without urgency. Within, a city stood, some of its buildings higher than even the lookout towers that surrounded them. They seemed to shimmer in the sun, as though made of more than just ordinary stone.
The sight unnerved Alrond. Who was he to challenge the rule of Dragons? They were immortal, he was not. He had no magic, no god’s blessing, no powerful artifacts. The Dragons were powerful, they were masters of magic, and descendants of gods. For a moment, fear took over, and Alrond found himself unable to break his gaze on the expansive city that made even the plains around it appear small and insignificant.
The clink of armor behind him broke him out of his stupor. Still somewhat shaken, he turned to find his squadleader, Rorand, approaching. Rorand’s armor was emblazoned with the burning red that marked him as a warrior of the desert. His old, sagging face betrayed his powerful and stocky build.
“Orders have come down from Immari, brother. We have convened with the leaders of the other armies here. There will be a joint attack just before first light on the morrow.”
“Very well sir. What are your orders for now?” asked Alrond.
“Help the rest of the squad finish making camp. Our squad will be part of the initial charge on the front gate. We’ll be paving the way for Immari herself to bring in her mages and destroy the gate.” said Rorand. “It will be a great honor. We will be the ones who set the stage for the rest of the battle.”
So they’d be charging first. That meant Alrond would likely die in the first wave of arrow fire. But despite that, he felt a glimmer of hope among hopelessness. He recalled Immari, set upon her dark umber stallion. She was Genasi, blessed by fire. If anyone could defeat Karn and his dragons, it would be her and those like her. Alrond would die, but the nomads of the desert and the citizens of the Oasis would no longer have to live in constant fear of the Dragons, coming to take their sacrifices whenever they please. Alrond would die a hero of his people. He would be a liberator.
As he mused, the sound of thunder shook the air. Thunder? That can’t be right. The sky is cloudless. Just then, he heard the sound of rushing wind, and the breeze seemed to intensify slightly for a brief moment. Alrond turned about to scan the horizon, and once again found himself frozen in fear.
There, gliding over the armies to the north of Nakta-Karnka, an enormous winged beast moved toward the city. The flare of the sun revealed glimmering, crimson scales and a horned head that reminded him of a demon. It opened its maw, and the sound of thunder shook the ground once more.
Alrond felt something warm run down is leg. The dragon flew past the city and turned sharply, landing atop a small bluff behind the elven armies to the east. It looked about, sizing up its meal with curiosity. Wide-eyed, and paralyzed with terror, Alrond forced himself to speak.
“Karn?” He sputtered out weakly.
Rorand stood beside him, staring at the beast. Without breaking his gaze, he responded to Alrond’s request. “No. That be his grandson.”
The dragon did not attack the armies. It seemed content to merely watch for now, casting a shadow of fear and doubt across the plains.
Alrond did not sleep that night.