The Grieving Tree: The Dragon Below Book II

BOOK: The Grieving Tree: The Dragon Below Book II
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The Hall of the Revered lies below the Spires of the Forge.

Enter the door above the tangled valley.

Look neither left nor right. The riches there are not for you.

Hold to the path that leads to the Hall and find what waits in the shade of …

T
HE
G
RIEVING
T
REE

T
HE
DRAGON BELOW

Book One
T
HE
B
INDING
S
TONE

Book Two
T
HE
G
RIEVING
T
REE

Book Three
T
HE
K
ILLING
S
ONG

With thanks to Mark for encouragement
and to Ole for patience above and
beyond the call of duty
.

T
he events of
The Binding Stone

On the western edge of the Eldeen Reaches, Geth and Adolan rescued Dandra, and brought her to the tiny hamlet of Bull Hollow at the same time as Toller d’Deneith and Singe arrived in the lonely community. Singe and Geth had served together during the Last War in a Blademarks company called the Frostbrand, a company destroyed nine years before, during an infamous massacre at the Karrnathi town of Narath. Once friends, they were now bitter enemies—Geth had been hiding from his past in Bull Hollow while Singe had been hunting for him at every opportunity.

They were forced to put aside their differences, however, when Bull Hollow was attacked by Dandra’s pursuers: savage hunters of the Bonetree Clan, followers of the Cult of the Dragon Below, accompanied by four-armed aberrations called dolgrims. In the attack, Bull Hollow was devastated. Toller was slain by Hruucan, a vile dolgaunt who almost killed Singe as well before the wizard drove him off with a blast of magical flame. Adolan was cut down by a Bonetree hunter as he defended Dandra.

Geth, Singe, and Dandra made a break for the wilderness, using Dandra as a lure to draw the Bonetree hunters and the dolgrims away from Bull Hollow so the survivors might have a chance to flee.

In the aftermath of their escape, Dandra revealed why the hunters and the dolgrims pursued her. Although she appeared to be a kalashtar, she was in fact, the spirit of a psicrystal—an intelligent
tool created by kalashtar psionic powers—inhabiting her creator’s body. The true kalashtar, Tetkashtai, was now trapped in the psicrystal, their spirits exchanged as part of a terrible experiment by Dah’mir, a charismatic priest of the Dragon Below and the leader of the Bonetree clan. The only survivors of a group of three kalashtar trapped by Dah’mir, Dandra and Tetkashtai had survived because Dandra had found the strength to claim Tetkashtai’s crystal during an unguarded moment. Working together to use their psionic powers, Dandra and Tetkashtai had been able to escape and flee.

Knowing that the Bonetree hunters would not give up their pursuit and determined to avenge the deaths of Adolan and Toller, Geth, Singe, and Dandra decided to confront Dah’mir. Pushing hard, they reached the ancient port town of Yrlag in search of passage for the long trip around the coast to Zarash’ak in the Shadow Marches. An elemental galleon of House Lyrandar,
Lightning on Water
, provided speedy transport, but a few days into the voyage, they discovered that Ashi, one of the Bonetree hunters, had managed to catch up to them and board the galleon as well. They captured her, but found that she was in contact with Dah’mir and that the priest now knew their plans. Dandra, however, determined that the crystal headband Ashi had used to contact Dah’mir actually belonged to Medalashana, one of the other kalashtar who had been abducted along with Tetkashtai.

Upon reaching Zarash’ak, the captain of
Lightning on Water
, Vennet d’Lyrandar, revealed himself to be a follower of the Dragon Below as well. Seeking power, he betrayed them and freed Ashi. Geth, Singe, and Dandra were able to escape, but Vennet used another passenger, a half-orc merchant named Natrac, to bait a trap. Unwilling to abandon Natrac, the three attempted to rescue him. Thanks to the unexpected aid of an orc druid, they were almost successful—until Dah’mir arrived, mesmerizing Dandra with his very presence and apparently killing Geth with a spell of disease. Captured by Ashi and wracked by the mental powers of Medalashana—now mad and renamed Medala by Dah’mir—Singe could only watch helplessly as Dah’mir rewarded Vennet and promised to call upon his services again, then commanded his other servants to make preparations for a return to Bonetree territory.

Unknown to both Singe and Dah’mir, though, Geth had
survived. After several days of fevered delirium, he woke in the village of the Fat Tusk orc tribe, rescued along with Natrac by Orshok, the druid who had aided them in the fight against Vennet. To his amazement, Geth discovered that Orshok and his aged teacher Batul were Gatekeepers, the same sect of druids, enemies of the Dragon Below, to which Adolan had belonged. Geth begged for their help to rescue Singe and Dandra, but Batul was reluctant to place the Fat Tusk tribe in conflict with Dah’mir and the dangerous Bonetree clan. To secure the orcs’ aid, Geth and Natrac faced the task of proving themselves by passing through Jhegesh Dol, a ghostly fortress from the long-ago Daelkyr War. They survived and emerged from Jhegesh Dol carrying two long-lost artifacts: a Gatekeeper amulet and a sword forged by hobgoblins of the Dhakaani Empire during the ancient War.

With a raiding party of orcs, including Batul and Orshok at his back, Geth raced to intercept Dah’mir, but the priest and his captives reached the heart of Bonetree territory, a great earthen mound, ahead of them. During the journey, Singe discovered that Dah’mir was much older than he appeared and that his experiments with kalashtar were intended to create a new line of servants for the powers of the Dragon Below. Upon reaching the Bonetree mound, he was also confronted by Hruucan, the dolgaunt he had injured in Bull Hollow. Hruucan demanded the chance for a rematch duel with Singe, and Dah’mir granted his request. Singe had, however, struck up a friendship with Ashi, discovering that she actually carried the blood of House Deneith and that she had a deep sense of honor that was unsettled by Dah’mir’s activities and the worship of the Dragon Below. As he prepared to fight Hruucan, he appealed to her honor, begging her to use the distraction of the duel to try to rescue Dandra.

Dandra, meanwhile, had been taken into the Bonetree mound and woken by Dah’mir. In the shadow of the device that had exchanged her and Tetkashtai—a construction of brass and crystal with a huge Khyber dragonshard at its heart—Dah’mir’s illithid servants and Medala used telepathy to lay bare Dandra’s secrets. Dandra learned Medala’s secrets as well, though. She had escaped from her crystal prison by using her strength of will to return to her body and murder the spirit of her psicrystal, an act
that drove her mad and put her in Dah’mir’s power. The third kalashtar, Virikhad, had not had that strength of will and had remained trapped in his psicrystal as his body died.

Dah’mir wanted to conduct further experiments on both Dandra and Tetkashtai, but was furious to find that Tetkashtai’s crystal was actually in Geth’s possession. Dandra’s connection to the crystal showed that Geth wasn’t actually dead, however. Already alerted to the orc raiding party by strange black herons that served him, Dah’mir reasoned that Geth was making an attempt to rescue his friends. Leaving Dandra trapped, he and Medala departed to prepare an ambush.

While Singe dueled Hruucan—and was given a severe beating by the dolgaunt’s speed and skill—Geth and the orcs attacked the mound, falling into Dah’mir’s ambush. The confusion gave Singe the chance he needed to launch a last attack against Hruucan, however. Grappling the dolgaunt so he could not flee and protected by his own magic ring, the wizard cast a fiery spell that immolated Hruucan. Geth and his allies fought clear of their attackers and rallied around Singe, only to find themselves surrounded once more. Dah’mir used the full weight of his dominating presence against Geth, demanding that the shifter give him Tetkashtai’s crystal, but Geth resisted with the aid of a collar of black stones, a Gatekeeper artifact that had once belonged to Adolan. Enraged by Geth’s resistance and by magical attacks from Batul and Singe, Dah’mir transformed, revealing his true identity as a dragon!

As orc raiders and Bonetree hunters fled, dolgrims turned on enemies and allies alike with new ferocity. Dah’mir took to the air, attacking fleeing raiders with gouts of acidic spit. Knowing they had no individual weapons or spells capable of harming a dragon, Batul proposed a desperate plan to Geth. The Daelkyr War had been won by the combined might of Gatekeeper magic and Dhakaani weapons like the sword Geth had claimed from Jhegesh Dol. The two of them might be able to sacrifice themselves to beat back Dah’mir long enough for the others to escape. Geth agreed, but before they could put the plan into action, Medala attacked them all with her formidable psionic powers.

BOOK: The Grieving Tree: The Dragon Below Book II
2.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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