A Kobold's Crossing

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Jack was scared – very scared.

The two kobolds holding his arms appeared to be ignoring him, but they were tough and strong. The fact that they were carrying him over 500 feet above the ground wasn’t lost on him either, of course. Ahead of him, the Rift drew nearer, bringing with it the feelings of fear, excitement, and general wrongness that were always associated with the giant chasm.

Jack shivered in the clutches of his captors, his eyes widening to take in the sight before him. It wasn’t just the look of the place, though. The very air was charged – the ground trembled – strange dreams and visions assaulted the mind of those who strayed too near or stayed too long. The Rift had once been the site of a great cataclysm in the Tana’Rii wars millennia earlier, and the land still hadn’t returned to normal. Widening at to as large as 2 thousand feet at it’s widest, the Rift was large, but it was far, far more more than just the size of the Rift that made him wary of passing over it.

“Quickly now, Nach – quickly! We must cross in the dark of the moon, and that won’t last long!” one kobold mutter.

“I know Shad – We’ll make it, we’d better, by the Emperor, or we’ll never see Ordilus again.”

Jack started to speak up, but the kobolds on either side of them quicky loosened their grips. He got the message and kept silent.

The two Kobold Dragoons sped up, their charge dangling between them. Jack kept silent, but he knew they were in for a difficult passage. The Empire had done all it could to make this a safe flight – they waited till the dark of the moon, they had picked the day of least planar activity – they were even getting ready to fly above the cloud line, just to avoid detection by anything in the rift – or so they hoped. And still, the odds weren’t good. Very few of the kind crossed the Rift and lived.

All at once, the Dragoons sped up and angled their flight upward, and within a matter of seconds they were in the clouds. They were almost straight over the Rift now, only a few minutes more. Jack began to hear buzzing sounds in his ears. The air felt … strange, almost heavy, as it rushed past his face. There was a powerful smell in the air, like rich moist earth or a split tree right after a lightning strike. Jack shivered. Everything about this place felt wrong, and he wanted to be anywhere else.

“Surely, friends … we can talk about this? I don’t think Maugor wants – “

“Silence fool! They’ll hear!” one of the dragoons hissed.

Jack fell silent again, glancing down at the charm … and gasped. It was glowing! The piece of the statue he’d taken … was blazing a brilliant red! Jack hastily covered it up under his fine linen tunic – it wouldn’t do for anyone to see it — but he could feel it beginning to grow warm against his skin. It was almost as if it were … warning him of something. The buzzing sound grew louder in his ears, and then … suddenly, all was silent. The winged reptiles carrying him looked at each other in the mist and gulped.

They were over the rift.

Almost immediately the kobolds felt an immense presence right in front of them, though they could see nothing in the mist. A sense of horrid awareness permeated the air, as if something had become aware of their presence and now focused its thought on them.

The dragoons, unable to completely stop their forward momentum in an instant, immediately swerved left, chittering to themselves in fear. There was a whooshing sound and the kobolds felt the wind of something immense passing just behind them with terrible speed. The kobolds felt an overwhelming sense of rage and frustration emanating from somewhere behind them, but thankfully it was receding quickly as they sped onward.

All three kobolds sighed with relief.

Jack stared around him, trying to grasp his location, trying to make some sort of sense of what was going on around him in this awful silence. All he could see was an impenetrable wall of mist on all sides. He stared harder, willing his eyes to catch a glimpse beyond the clouds. Suddenly, without him registering any change, he found himself back in the treasure room in the great temple to Kurtulmak… the statue stood in front of him, the strange ore from which it was crafted seeming to glow with a harsh inner light. Jack reached out to touch it in fascination…

-Then in a flash, Jack stood in the throne room, on his knees, head forcibly bowed by two snarling dragoons while the Emperor looked on, rage playing across his silvered features.

- Again a flash, and he was being escorted out of Ordilus in chains, never to return, he feared, the crowds all around him hissing and pointing and laughing their vicious croaking laughs. Anger welled up inside Jack – he would show them!

- Another flash, and Jack was back in the present, gliding over the rift, blinking dimly in the mist.

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