The Avian's eyes flickered white, and then back to normal.
"How do you know Zef?" I asked, more angrily than I had intended.
The crane looked at me. "He's an old friend." His eyes flickered white again as he looked at me. Then, after a pause, he said, "I'm so sorry. I didn't know."
My head dropped. "He's buried over there." I pointed a hand at the tree without looking at it.
"You need to start explaining things," said Tigala. She had some anger in her voice too.
Klaus raised his winged hands in a show of peace. "Sparr," he said. "It's okay. Stand down."
Sparr, the brown Avian, relaxed and stepped back next to Klaus.
"I am here to help," said Klaus, "but I need to know you aren't going to kill me for saying some of the things I'm about to say." He looked back at me again. "You were close to Zef?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. "Why do you have to keep bringing him up?"
"Right. I'm sorry. Truly, I am. He was a good person," said Klaus. He looked around at the crowd that had gathered around him. "You see, we were part of an organization. We studied things that some might consider taboo, and we believe things that many would consider very dangerous."
"Like what?" asked Rodrigo. He was standing on the opposite end of the group from me. He was scraped up but otherwise looked okay.
Klaus let out a nervous chuckle. "We believe that all of the races used to live together, to begin with."
"What?" I asked.
"Look, just hear me out, okay?" he raised his wings again. "You have all heard of the book The Dangers of Magic, correct?"
Several people nodded their heads.
"Well, that book isn't entirely true. There are secrets hidden in it. The original copies for each race had mistakes in the text. The mistakes were all different, but they all occurred in the same location of each copy. There are more that we haven't deciphered yet. The ones that we did gave us the coordinates for right here, where the doom drake slept."
"Doom drake?" said Lolan.
"Yes," said Klaus. "That monster that crawled out of here, it is the dragon that Shayde Mortem tried to control. That's what we're calling it, for lack of a better term."
"From the book?" asked Rodrigo.
"Yes, the very same," said Klaus. "It is the reason for this island. It is the reason this island was underwater until recently. That monster was put to sleep a long time ago because Shayde had corrupted it so much that the races couldn't defeat it. The best they could do was put it into a very long sleep, and bury it under the ocean."
"How?" I asked. "I've never heard of sleep magic."
"Not sleep magic," said Klaus. "Mind magic mainly. But given how strong and corrupted the creature was, they needed each type of magic to cage it in. Several people sacrificed their lives to put that monster into an eternal slumber in the center of this island."
"And now it's awake," I said, half to myself.
Klaus breathed out. "Yes. You've all read the book right? That monster was imbued with magic from infancy. Magic is part of its being now. It can use any form of magic and it is may be impossible to kill. It's a problem we can't ignore either. The magic corrupted, consuming the drake's mind and filling it with rage instead. If we let it go, it's going to be a very big problem. Bigger than the war, bigger than our differences. That creature could destroy us all."
He let the words hang in the air, and so did the rest of us. There was silence as we considered the thought.
"I don't get it," said Lolan. "Why are you telling us this? Why do you care?"
"Because the races lived in harmony once before. I believe it is what we need to do again. Zef believed the same. And if there is going to be any kind of future, I need help stopping the monster from starting its rampage."
I looked at Tigala, at Lolan. I was pretty certain I knew what their answers would be to the implied question. Would we help? They would. Would I? I had walked away from the Treeks, but how did I know this wouldn't just end in more loss? How did I know that we would even be able to stop it? They barely managed before, how were we, a bunch of rejects, supposed to do the same?
I looked around the group to see who was still there. Rodrigo watched with his forehead creased. Geralt was looking noble as ever, holding up a Saurian with an injured leg. These people would help. One way or another, they had come around to this cause.
Then I saw Marv. He was a bit behind the group, still stooped over an unconscious Abigail. I remembered the hardships Abigail had gone through, the loss of her mother, the current injuries. I couldn't let that kind of thing happen. I couldn't spend my whole life mourning the loss of my own parents and then do nothing while it happened to thousands of other children. Treek or no, I was not that kind of heartless.
"I'll help," I said.
"Me too," said Tigala, taking a step forward to stand next to me.
"Let's do this," said Lolan.
"I assume you have some sort of plan?" asked Rodrigo. He would help too, but he had to be skeptical. It was his nature.
"Uh, yes. The beginnings of one," said Klaus.
"I will help you slay the dragon," said Geralt. "You'll have to beat me to taking the kill for myself though." He looked at me and gave a smile. I had to admit, Geralt was starting to grow on me.
"I do have one stipulation," I said. "Before we do this, we're going to need more. What do you know?"
Klaus was finally able to breathe. Touching down in the midst of a group of unknowns was nerve-wracking. Having to talk to a large group of people didn't seem to be one of his fortes. It looked like he preferred books and study.
"What do you want to know?" Klaus asked.
"Everything. Start as far back as you can. If we're going up against this thing, we need to know what we're getting into and why."
"Right," said Klaus. "Well, The Dangers of Magic is a relatively true story, although it was written in a way to dissuade races from using magic that wasn't assigned to them."
"Assigned? We were born with our magic," said the Tigala.
"Ah, yes. You were, but that's just because it's what your parents and ancestors practiced. We have reason to believe that roughly 500 years ago, races used whichever magic they liked. There was no distinction between races and magic. A Beastfolk could be strong in Nature and Storm magic, while a Treek might be especially good at shapeshifting. The world was a very different place then. We lived alongside each other. Sure, there was war. There were confrontations, and there was evil, but nothing like there is today."
It made so much sense. So that's why there was a Beastfolk at the center of the nature magic veins.
"But that all changed when Shayde came into the picture. He was a Human, an orphan. He never knew his parents or what became of them. Before he could talk, he was taken in by a magic-focused military, the Meceles Accord. They created soldiers so skilled with their magic that they were near impossible to defeat. But they were not a kind group. He was treated as a slave, with harsh punishments for failing to meet the goals set out for him in training. He spent his entire upbringing being controlled by others.
"But being among such powerful mages for so long wore off on him. Or maybe he was especially gifted in his own right. It's hard to say. Regardless, he learned quickly and outpaced his peers. He kept his resentment hidden, all the while suspecting that the Meceles Accord were responsible for the death of his parents. When he was ready, he attacked them from within.
"He took down figureheads of the organization in secret. Lower soldiers caught on to the attack and came after him. He was too weak to take all of them, but before he made his escape, he found an ornate egg hidden in one of the leader's rooms. He grabbed it and teleported out of danger. Shayde later discovered that it was a dragon egg. Still wanting revenge, he began to work with the egg. He imbued it with all of the magic he knew, with the intent of controlling it and increasing his power. But it failed. When the creature hatched, it was far stronger than even Shayde. He couldn't control it and he was its first victim."
"And it went on a rampage?" I asked.
"Yes. It destroyed many cities and left a trail of destruction. Whole swaths of land were leveled. They tried to stop it, but it was too powerful, too versatile. Everything they tried was countered in one way or another by the creature. So they devised a plan to trap it on this island. To do that, they positioned powerful magic users across the island. They simultaneously cast a spell so strong that it could knock the creature out indefinitely, but it also consumed the casters in the process."
"Around the island," I said, "Zef said something about powerful magic. Does that meant those people who sacrificed themselves created the magical veins?"
"I don't know what veins you're referring to, but yes, I assume they would leave behind aftermath along those lines."
"And all of the structures," said Rodrigo. "Those are from the villages where people lived in harmony? Why don't they exist in other places?"
"Well, yes," said Klaus. "The ones still on Daegal were here from the previous people groups living here. After they stopped the monster, they sunk the island without taking the time to wipe the land clean of them.
"After the monster was defeated and the island sunk, the different leaders around the world gathered together. They looked at the destruction caused by mixing magics. They decided that free reign of magic was not safe for the world. Together, they decided that segregation was for the better. I don't agree with the choice myself, but they made the choice in an attempt to protect us, from that monster, and from future possibilities of things like that happening again."
"How do you make the whole world forget their magic?" asked Tigala.
"Mind magic," said Klaus. "The leaders agreed it was necessary and combined their power to rewrite history. They knew things that we still don't know to this day about magic. They chose to eliminate certain types like mind and death magic, maybe others, and they had each race choose a desired type of magic.
"It was a massive effort to do it, and although they were thorough, some things did slip through the cracks. The structures on this island and the books that I used to discover this information are among them. There must have been holdouts that knew the plan and didn't agree with it. They planted seeds of what was going on for people like me to find."
"Did Zef know all of this stuff? Why didn't he tell us," I asked.
"Zef knew some of it. Much of it was made more clear once the island showed up. I was able to use my magic with some of the artifacts found to discern what was going on. I didn't have the chance to relay many of my findings to Zef."
Klaus looked about the crowd. They looked overwhelmed, as they should be. It was a lot of information. And hearing that the world already went through a mass brainwashing was mind-boggling enough.
"So, how did the island come back then?" asked a hooded Elf.
"Well, the doom drake's slumber wasn't permanent. It wasn't infallible. It desires destruction, almost as much as Shayde desired revenge. And with the increasing conflict around the world, I believe it was enough for the creature to sense it. It was enough magical warfare to rouse the magic within the drake, enough to break the spell that held it beneath the ocean."
"How is that Human that woke it up connected to all of this?" asked a female Saurian with her arm in a makeshift sling.
"I don't know. But I was hoping to come here to stop him before this happened. Clearly, I was too late. I am skilled in looking at peoples' pasts though. If you have anything of his, I can see what I can find."
The group was silent. Did we have anything? I had the map. Maybe that would work. I reached into my bag to pull it out but felt something small and round—the pendant. I pulled it out. "I don't know if this was his, but it's worth a shot." I handed it to Klaus, and his eyes went white.