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"Are ye calling me a liar? Why, I'll punch ye right in the kneecap!"
Anturan sighed as he walked beside his excitable friend. "No, I'm not calling you a liar. I just haven't seen it myself is all."
The dwarf grumbled. "Well, I'm tellin' ye that I seen 'em. Tall, lanky Erudites hovering around the ol' spire ruins. Seen 'em in many places I have, like here in Antonica and in the Commonlands. Never trust finger wigglers, 'cause they's always up to somethin'!"
"What would Erudites want with those broken Combine spires? They haven't worked in ages, Tulfor. It just seems silly to me." The sun was sinking slowly over the hillside as they walked.
"Are ye daft? Them ruins was ne'er the Combine spires. I know an ol' elf name of Eledran who was born before the cataclysms. An' he says that them new spires started showin' up during the dark times, as Norrath was tearin' herself apart. Just as quick as they appeared, they got broke. An' they been broke e'er since."
Anturan shrugged. "I was never one for history. We Ayr'Dal don't have a lot to look back on, you know. But in any case, I have to share your distrust for the Erudites. I mean, they used to be much more... human looking, right?"
Tulfor snorted. "Aye, some vile magic back on Odus musta been unleashed what changed 'em. Someday if the seas are calm enough to go that far, I might jus' get to the bottom of that mystery. After I sail back to me homeland, o' course."
"I suppose you dwarves would like to see Faydwer again. But for me, the Faydark holds no interest. This place will always be my home, such as it is." Anturan paused for a moment. "Say, instead of heading back to the city, you want to make a slight diversion?"
"This ol' dwarf has hunted enough gnolls fer today. There's a tall mug o' ale waitin' fer me back in Qeynos. If ye plan on keepin' me from it, ye'd better have a good reason!" Tulfor smirked.
"You aren't the only one who hears rumors, you know. I have a mysterious story of my own."
The gruff little dwarf was never one to turn away from an adventurous tale. "Well, don't be wastin' me time! What rumors be ye talkin' 'bout?"
Anturan rubbed his chin slowly and narrowed his eyes. "Well, as I was shopping in the harbor market yesterday, I overheard two rangers whispering to one another. One was telling the other of her travels near the Claymore monument and mentioned some dark figure lurking about. She said it was like nothing she'd seen before."
"Hrmph! This lil' dwarf has seen it all. What did the ranger say this dark figure looked like?"
"Well, apparently she was watching from a distance, and by the time she got close the figure had vanished. She said it seemed to have dragon features, but it walked on two feet."
"A sarnak! Them beasties what infested Kunark is part dragon. Maybe they found some way to get here from that lost isle."
The half elf shook his head. "That's what the other ranger suggested, but the one who saw it said this was no sarnak. It was bulkier, more menacing, and it might even have had wings."
Tulfor scratched his head. "Wings, eh? Well I ain't ne'er heard of such a thing. But I suppose ye be wantin' to take a stroll o'er to the Claymore an' have a look, eh?"
Anturan smiled at his friend. "Well, that's what adventurers do, isn't it?"
They changed direction and headed eastward, across the rolling hills away from the city and south past the guard towers. The sun was below the horizon and only the faint glow of twilight remained as they finally caught a distant glimpse of the Claymore monument outlined against the thick trees of Archer's Wood.
Each felt a twinge of apprehension as they drew closer, though neither would reveal it to the other. Anturan allowed himself a soft sigh of relief as they approached the giant stone sword atop the hill and saw nothing visibly amiss.
"Well, I guess we won't be seeing any mysterious figures lurking about tonight," he told his friend.
"Hrmph, I guess not," the dwarf answered. "But ain't there usually some folk millin' 'round this place? Seems awful quiet."
"Now that you mention it, there is usually some kind of guard posted here. I wonder where they--"
Just then they heard a sudden swooping sound over to the right, as a large figure landed near the monument. They spun to face it; Tulfor drew his axe and Anturan began a shamanistic chant.
It was broad-chested, with a dark breastplate over its reptilian hide and an obviously draconian face. Horns curled around from the back of its head, and its leathery wings flexed as it breathed. It was staring right at them.
They stood and watched each other for a moment in silence. Anturan thought that perhaps they were being too hasty in assuming a threat. He let his posture relax a bit. "Hello friend," he tried. "You must have traveled a long way to get here. What brings you to this place?"
It watched them for a while longer, each moment slowly unfolding in tense silence. Finally it spoke.
"Filthy creatures," it hissed with open contempt, "you are not worthy to address one of my kind, let alone question my motives."
"Whoa there, fella," Tulfor warned. "We mean ye no disrespect, but if ye be lookin' fer trouble, there be plenty o' it here." He turned the head of his axe slightly so it glinted in the remains of the light.
"Easy now," Anturan said. "No reason to start trouble. We can let you be on your way."
The creature seemed to smile slightly. "My way is beyond you, beyond your petty lives and your petty dreams. When the Awakened have what we seek, your kind will vanish from the pages of history. The last age shall belong to him, and your kingdoms will be a distant memory."
"I'll give ye somethin' to remember!" the dwarf cried out, raising his axe and advancing toward the creature.
Anturan knew it was a mistake. "Tulfor, no! We need to get help!" But it was too late. The little dwarf had begun his charge. The half elf warded his friend as best he could and prepared for the visitor's response.
The draconic creature made a sound almost like laughter as it swung its clawed arm into the air. All Anturan could see was his friend charging toward the beast as its wings flared out, showing how massive it truly was.
Suddenly the half elf realized that the light was gone, and there was nothing left but darkness. Darkness, all around.
-- Source:[Official Website]