Shadows over Appalachia

Sleepy time for dragons.

So, there we were, with a giant helicopter overhead and CIA guys (or I guess it’s called Majestic, whatever) in the bushes, and we’re all stuffed in Alan’s poor wounded car. So do we surrender? Of course not! (I mean, they probably would have wanted to put Alan and me in the werewolf box next.) Of course, there wasn’t anything I could do about the situation without getting out of the car, and that didn’t seem like the best idea, so I just hunkered down. Cid started yelling about grenades, and Annabelle pulled off some neat spell that made all the leaves from the forest floor start swirling around. Alan took off, but then bullets started coming in through the roof, and Cid fell over, and there was blood everywhere, and for a few minutes I didn’t think we were going to make it. Good thing Cid is tough. He wasn’t dead. We managed to get to this tunnel, Annabelle veiled us (yay!) and IronKnife put up a shield for the bullets that they were sending in after us. I think Rookie was doing some magicky stuff too. Uh oh, I’m going to forget his real name if Cid keeps calling him that. I bandaged Cid’s head up with a never-ending handkerchief, which looked very festive, but I wasn’t sure it was doing any good. Synthetic fabric like that is just too flimsy… We grabbed the winter box and Cid and took off. Poor Alan, we got his car killed.

We managed to get to a ranger station, and who should we meet there. Sam, naturally, why wouldn’t she be there? She’s actually very nice, drove everyone to the hospital and everything. They got fixed up surprisingly quickly, even though who knows what damage the antibiotics will do to their systems, and the hospital didn’t say one word about probiotics or arnica or anything. We got a rental van and some food, and some clothes, while we were at it. People give you very strange looks when you go into a clothes store with your current clothes all ripped to shreds. Well, why do you think I’m here, people?

We didn’t feel like we had much time left after all that, but IronKnife managed to pull off a tracking spell with that spear head. Very useful – but it turned out things weren’t happening in the park at all, like we thought. We ended up reaching the Lost Sea, an underground cavern system. We tried to go in the back entrance, but there was a guard. We took him out pretty quickly, though. I grabbed his gun (it’s a nice tactic, disarming someone without hurting them, but it doesn’t work so well when they just pull a knife or something), and we took him down, tied him up, and stashed him in the parking lot. Then we headed into the caves. Luckily they weren’t off in some obscure cave offshoot somewhere, even IronKnife’s tracking spell might have had a hard time getting us to them. We found them and heard a guy on his phone, saying that all he had to do was to put the blood on the bowl at midnight.

Then a guard heard us. Alan and I managed to hide, but he saw everyone else and started shooting. I bit him… I feel kind of bad for hurting him, and some of the other guys, during that fight, but it didn’t seem like we were going to make it through if we held back, and we had to stop the dragon from getting woken up. I don’t think I did any permanent damage, at least. Next thing I knew, he grabbed his belt and turned into a huge, funny-looking wolf. Not a natural wolf at all – Hexenwulves (wulfs? I don’t know German) are much meaner-looking, with these giant bat ears, and smelling all wrong. And did I mention big? I didn’t much want to tangle with him, so I went straight for his belt. I found it in his fur still, with my teeth, but he started thrashing, pulling me around so I couldn’t get my weight under me to yank the belt off. It must have been IronKnife who did something to the floor – it started clinging to the Wulf’s feet like it was mud, but didn’t affect me. I braced myself and gave a really good chew, and off came the belt. When he turned back to human, he just collapsed. I ran for the cavern.

When I got there, things were pretty bad. Two other Hexenwulves were in there, though it looked like maybe IronKnife and Annabelle had them handled, and I just had time to see Alan collapse off a pedestal in the middle of a silver circle. He hit the floor and didn’t move, and this big golden bowl went rolling across the room. Cid was on the ground too, like he’d been crawling along, with a blood trail behind him, and the only human guy in the room was standing there pointing a gun at his head. I skidded up to him, but I didn’t dare try anything. That was pretty scary, we couldn’t let Cid get shot again, but if they woke up the dragon, who knows how many people would get killed, not to mention the damage to the forest… But then IronKnife came through again, with a stone wall between the gun and Cid. Yay! I ripped up the guy’s arm – and he still tried to shoot Cid! Really, there’s a wolf with her teeth in your arm, and you shoot somebody else? So I bit him again. But then Cid did something. For some reason he had the spear head… and I guess he had a plan… but he stabbed it into the bowl, and I guess the energy passed through him and into the guy in charge. They both fell over. Both Hexenwulves were down around that time, and the new kid was talking crazy. Not sure exactly what happened, things were really confusing, and I think my wolf side had taken over a bit more than usual. Anyway, we won the fight. But.

The whole cavern was ringing like a bell. I figured it was all going to come down on our heads any minute. I’m no wizard, but the bowl and spear head were just pouring energy. I was pretty sure we weren’t supposed to let those two things come into contact. I was hoping that since the bowl was out of the circle, and it wasn’t midnight, and we didn’t say any words or apply our wills or anything, that the dragon wouldn’t wake up, but it didn’t seem very promising. I pulled the spear head out of the bowl. Owie. I knew it was going to burn me like last time I touched it, so I used my left hand (well, it was a hand and not a paw by the time I grabbed the spear), but owie. It was worse than last time, it was like huge amounts of power were flowing through me, and I wasn’t equipped to handle it. My eyes got all funny – when I had a second to check I found that there was blood on my face. I gave IronKnife the spear, and that’s when I saw his poor hand. It was… chewed. He’d lost parts of his fingers. I nearly cried right there. But he obviously didn’t want to talk about it right then. I gave him the spear – it seemed to weigh more than those rocks IronKnife tosses around – and then HIS eyes started bleeding. I tried picking up the bowl, so we could take it out before the ceiling collapsed, but it froze my hands right to the bone. There was no way I could carry it far, so I dropped it again. No wheelbarrow or anything…

Then IronKnife started getting a brave and noble look, and I could tell what he was planning. He started telling us to run, and I had the feeling that if we did, he wouldn’t be following us out. No good. So, I managed to find a cart, and we piled Cid and Alan on it as best we could, just hoping their spleens wouldn’t fall out, and I helped Annabelle and the Rookie get them to the stairs. But then I snuck back to the cavern. IronKnife was there, sitting in a circle made of his own blood, and still dripping blood everywhere from his poor hand. Thank goodness, he hadn’t sacrificed himself somehow while we were gone. He wanted me to leave, but I was pretty sure he needed help. At the very least, I could carry him out if he needed it after he was done doing his wizard stuff. But things didn’t look good. I couldn’t tell what was happening, really, but he looked like he was fighting something. I hunkered down right outside his circle, and did my very best Reiki energy-sending. I know other people can help wizards power their rituals sometimes… I just don’t know how! I’m not sure if I was any help or not, but after a minute he opened his eyes and said he needed the others to come back.

I ran for them, and it was only when I got back that I realized that he’d managed to get rid of me. But he and the cavern were still there. He’d figured out how the ritual worked. Seems that when the dragon was first put to sleep, there was a willing sacrifice involved. I think people were hurt and upset enough by that time to actually consider using one of the Hexen-guys lying around, but that would have been a terrible idea, of course. Besides the fact that you just can’t go around sacrificing people, it might have damaged the ritual if the guy wasn’t willing, and the Council would probably chop IronKnife’s head off if he did something like that. But I’m sure he wouldn’t have.

So there I am sticking out MY arm. Great planning, Freedom! I had grabbed a big nasty knife off one of the Hexen-guys, but naturally, we had to use the spear head. Ouch, I knew that wasn’t going to go at all well. My skin tried to crawl away as that spear came closer, but I gritted my teeth and managed to keep my arm mostly still… and then I COULDN’T pull away. There wasn’t that much blood, but it was like my life, my soul… everything was getting pulled out through the cut on my arm. I saw IronKnife standing there, looking like the most tragic dark wizard, and then I didn’t have anything left.

I’m pretty sure making IronKnife use us in the ritual was the cruellest thing we could have done to him. He kept on trying to get us out and keep us safe, and we forced him to sacrifice us instead. But it seemed to work. If it takes one person’s life to put a dragon to sleep, looks like it only takes a few days out of three people’s lives to keep one from waking up. :) We all woke up in the hospital. Amazingly! I really figured we’d all wake up in some secret Majestic hideout underground, ready to get trained to eat political dissidents or something. Someone looked out for us. And I’m reeeeally glad we told TwoFeathers and Sam about the poor loup-garou guy down the hole. We’ll have to track him down and get him some more help.

I was fine, of course. As soon as I was conscious again I was good to go, the burns and frostbite on my hands weren’t that bad, and the cut on my arm was nothing at all. The others weren’t so lucky. I visited them… I think things would have gone better if we could have gotten them out of the hospital and off to the commune for some laying on of hands, though. I’m sure they’ll all be okay once they get moving again… and IronKnife’s fingers might grow back with time, he’s a wizard, after all. Haven’t had the chance to really talk with anybody without nurses and people popping in and out, though.

But hey, we saved the world! Or at least this side of the continent! Go us!

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technoir hapersmion

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