War of the Scaled Horde


Felos stood at the edge of the plateau, overlooking the lush jungle spread before him. Among the last of the Ancients to emerge in the realm, he was also among the first to appreciate the joys of watching life develop in the realm. His greatest fascination was with the jungle and mountain cats that developed in this region of the realm. The lush jungle and expansive plains of this area, bordered on the south and west by a majestic mountain range, was the perfect place to observe these and other wondrous creatures.

Ever the impatient one, however, he had sought to speed up the development process of the large cats in this region. The end result was a race of highly intelligent cat-people, which he affectionately called Felosians. Though the other Ancients had initially frowned upon this, the Council concluded that his intentions were innocent, a result of "youthful exploration". Realizing the need to teach him responsibility, they decided to allow him to care for his creations, but held him accountable for anything the Felosians did.

So here he stood, watching in wonder the progress the Felosians had made since their development so many millennia ago. His concentration was suddenly interrupted by a strange sensation that swept over him. A psychic tremor passed through him, a kind he had felt only once before. Its source was unmistakable, and this recognition affected him far more than the tremor ever could. The last time he had felt this kind of tremor was when Jhuntara had fallen at the hands of Dramar and his allies.

He had thought her dead, but this new sensation revealed to him the truth of her fate. She had returned, that much he was now certain, but what caused this new tremor he could only guess. He was sure the others had felt it, too. If Jhuntara had indeed returned to them, then the war between her and Dramar would no doubt start up again. The Council had managed an uneasy peace in the last few years with Dramar and those Ancients who allied with him, partly to remain neutral in the ongoing conflict between the dragons and mortals, but mostly out of fear of Dramar's power.

In the years since Jhuntara's disappearance, Dramar and his minions had laid waste to most of the realm in their war against the Elder dragons and the mortals they protected, leaving only the lands protected by the Council's decree untouched. Felos knew it was only a matter of time before Dramar would turn his attention toward these few remaining natural resources. Already, there were rumors of a few Ancients secretly gathering support to confront Dramar and stop this madness. Felos more sensed than heard it, but one could never be sure.

He looked down at the natural beauty of the temples and villages his precious Felosians had built, and he began to wonder just how long it would be before they were gone forever. He couldn't let that happen. Perhaps it was time to take a stand against Dramar, before it was too late. Perhaps with Jhuntara's return, the others might be more receptive to taking action, and ultimately defeat Dramar. Or perhaps, it would only herald their doom as Dramar's fury consumed all that remained...

Ronan stood at the edge of the clearing, looking back at the lake of clear water and the congregation before it, making plans for their new open-air temple. His eyes gazed one last time at his beautiful wife in the center of the group, a newfound radiance surrounding her from her recent experience. She looked up at him, a look at once uplifting and sad. He hefted his pack, and turned toward the woods, heading for the ridge just beyond the tree line that marked the only way in or out of the fertile valley.

By late afternoon, he had entered the narrow path between two of the ridges, emerging on the other side just as dusk approached. Just then, a large shadow passed over him, the shadow of a dragon. During the war, such a shadow was always a prelude to a vicious attack, followed by a fatal battle. He drew his sword instinctively, preparing for the attack that was sure to come.

Looking up to see his would-be attacker, he spied the largest dragon his eyes had ever seen. It circled in a wide arc, the beating of its wings clearly audible even from the great distance between them. With a quick motion defying its great size, it swooped down the side of the ridge straight for him. Ronan's first instinct was to find cover, but the sheer majesty of the beast in flight held him spellbound for a few, strangely glorious seconds.

The dragon came up short, its wings creating small whirlwinds while halting its forward momentum as easily as it had initiated it. The dragon landed as softly as it knew how, the ground rumbling slightly as it touched down. Ronan stared in awe at the powerful creature towering before him, as recognition finally set in. The dragon lowered his head toward Ronan, scrutinizing every inch of the warrior that stood before him.

Ronan slowly lowered his sword, never taking his eyes off the legendary dragon he had seen only one other time. Only one dragon could evoke such a strange mix of fear and exhilaration, power and grace...the dragon Granimyre. A creature of living energy, second only to the Ancients in its power and wisdom, Granimyre stared at him silently for a moment, then began to speak.

"You have the aura of The Lady Jhuntara about you," its low voice rumbled. "State your name, that I may know the one who has restored what once was lost..."

Dramar slumbered away in his volcano lair, his strength almost gone from his recent ventures. It was strange, but it seemed each time he drew upon the power of the realm he had discovered during his long exile, the power lasted only for short periods of time. Afterward, he would become weaker, and had to regain his strength within his lair. Soon, it would not matter. Once he controlled all the lands of this realm, he would be able to draw upon the power of this realm as well. With that kind of power at his command, other realms would fall before him, and the mortals that infested this realm would be only a distant memory.

A psychic tremor penetrated his sleep, and he was awake an instant later. "NO! It can't be!" he thought to himself. The tremor's signature was unmistakable. Jhuntara was alive, and if she had indeed come back from what should have been her death, Dramar's plans would now be in jeopardy. He had no doubts she would somehow rally the other Ancients together against him. The final pieces to his plan were almost in place, and he would tolerate no interruptions. He would have to act sooner than expected, and it irritated him to no end.

He summoned his best wizard, Voluroff, who instantly appeared in the air before him. Voluroff was one of the few wizards that had learned how to shift between the mortal and spiritual realms, and could do so almost at will. He was also extremely tolerant of the heat and flames within Dramar's lair.

"Good morrow, master Dramar," Voluroff gestured methodically. "How may I be of service to you?"

"I have no time for pleasantries, wizard," Dramar scowled. "Go to Jhuntara's sanctuary, and find out all you can of what has happened there. Leave no witnesses to your presence, and report your findings directly to me. You know what happens if you fail. Now, go!"

"Of course, master. I live to serve."

"NOW!" Dramar raged.

A momentary look of dread crossed Voluroff's face, and he was gone as quickly as he had come. Such a simple task, thought Voluroff as he silently arrived in the woods surrounding the sanctuary. But then again, things are rarely simple when one deals in matters of the Ancients...