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20.3 Ash

# 2051 10 - 14 mins. 7

"You don't understand," I said. "We have to tell the others about this."

"I don't think you understand," said Kesq. "This is very powerful magic. It has the potential to change the world. We can't just go around telling anybody about it. That's why it took me so long to even tell you about it."

"But if there was ever a time to change the world, now is it. A murder dragon is running around destroying the world, city by city. We need to change the world and get rid of it."

"But it is dangerous information in the wrong hands," said Kesq. She was looking more and more concerned the more we spoke.

"Come on guys. Don't you agree? We could use this," I said, looking at Tigala and Lolan where we stood outside of the abandoned Gnome house that we had been calling home.

"It does sound risky. We could be creating another monster to deal with after the doom drake is defeated," said Tigala.

"But, what does it matter if we never get that far?" asked Lolan. "I think we need to use every trick we've got. And if it is something that we can use, then we can do more damage if more people know about it. We'll deal with the problems later."

"Right," I said.

"I still think it's too dangerous. I've spent half my life protecting this information. I know people who are looking to take advantage of it."

I was frustrated. Why wouldn't we use all of the tools we had to take down the doom drake? So far it was looking like there was no hope. And now the world threw us a bone. Even if people would take advantage of it, there would be just as many people to push back against those people. But she didn't want to hear it.

"What if we only tell it to a select group that we trust. The representatives have mostly shown that they are looking to protect their people. The ones that are still around are trying to find ways to stop the monster and work together. So we can tell them and go from there. Maybe we can tell them ahead of time not to share this information. Then we at least have a little more firepower the next time we attack it if it is near a beacon.

Kesq stood there silently looking back at me. She wasn't happy. I could tell despite my trouble understanding Saurian facial expressions. Then she said, "Fine. But only a few that we can trust to keep the information to themselves."

"Deal."

🌱

"So we can use these beacons that you mention just by focusing on the magic of those that created it?" asked Amara.

"It's not that simple," said Kesq. "It's still a skill that requires practice. It's not intuitive, but the more you try it, the easier it is to use. The problem is, when you first start out, it's more difficult and the results are often explosive. Once you're able to control it well, you can be a lot more precise with it."

"Explosive is good," said Rodrigo. "Even if we don't know what we're doing, we could still use the messy results against the monster."

"Yes, but there could be a lot of collateral damage as well," said Tallesia. "Our people will be out there. An explosion of fire is good against the doom drake, but not against our soldiers."

"We could try and position ourselves separately from the army," said Cairn. "That way there is less potential for collateral damage."

"Yeah, the problem with that is that the person using the magic would still be in danger," I said. "I know from experience. When I first tried using a beacon, I would have died if it weren't for my group saving me."

"Also, none of this is relevant if we can't get the doom drake close to a beacon," said Klaus. "Is that correct?"

"Yes," said Kesq. "I have only been able to use a beacon within a five-minute walk of one. So we need to first lure the monster toward us somehow."

"But can't you make more beacons? We can bring one with us," said Sillius.

"I can, but it takes time, and we don't exactly have a lot of time," said Kesq.

There was silence. It was good information, potentially world-changing if we could find a way to use it. But it was never that simple.

We all stood in the dirt-covered living room of our abandoned Gnome house staring at the ground, thinking of a possible use.

"Well, if we can't use it immediately to fight the doom drake, why don't we focus on things we can do with it?" said Palem. He was still a little less talkative in big group situations like this. I wasn't sure if he was shy, or if it was because he was a Treek, or if he just likes to listen before he speaks. "We need more people to fight against it, correct? Can we use the beacons to talk to more people at once?"

It was a great idea. Could we spread the word fast enough that we could get more people in time for our next attack on the monster?

"The illusion beacon," said Lolan. "It was on the map, wasn't it?"

"Yeah," I said, pulling the map out of my bag. I unfurled it in front of me, and others gathered around. Not too far beyond the valley of the dead was a drawing of a house. Above it was the word 'illusion'. "Would that work?" I asked, switching my gaze between Sillius and Kesq.

They exchanged a glance. Sillius shrugged while Kesq said, "It's worth a try."

"I can try sending an illusion far away," said Sillius, "but I've never been able to do it very far."

"That's okay," I said. "We need any advantages we can get. If there is a chance that this works, I think we should try."

"I would be interested in coming as well, for the sake of understanding these beacons you speak of," said Klaus. The feathers on the back of his crane-like head bobbed while he spoke.

"Would you come?" I asked Sillius.

He looked around, not finding another Gnome in the room. "Sure. But I don't want to be out there long. I have preparations to make."

"That's fine. I don't expect it will take a long time. Kesq, can you join us too? It would be helpful to get pointers from you. Hopefully, it will save us from another magical explosion."

The blue Saurian nodded. "I have nowhere else to be. I want to make sure you're using it correctly anyway."

"Good. Anyone else?"

I looked around the room. No one else spoke up. So that was our group.

"Alright, get whatever you need and meet back here as soon as possible. We'll head out immediately."

Rodrigo hung back while the rest of the group dispersed. He walked over to me, Lolan, and Tigala. "Are you sure you're up for this? What if you get into another situation like the one in the forest?"

"I think we'll be okay. It's just illusion magic, right?" I said.

"Illusion magic can do a lot of damage," said Tigala. "The more powerful Gnomes can mess with your head in ways that traumatize you. If that beacon explodes, we could all go crazy."

"Oh," I said. "Well, that's a scary thought."

"Let's just be as careful as possible," said Lolan. "We have a couple of days to do this, so we'll take our time."

I nodded.

"Good luck," said Rodrigo. "I'd come myself, but I have matters to attend to with the Human leaders. They're hard to convince even if we can reach more of them with the beacons."

"Thanks," I said. "You too."

Rodrigo nodded and walked out, leaving us alone to get ready for the journey.

"Are you okay to leave Brendell?" I asked Lolan while I grabbed a few things for the trip.

He nodded. "Wouldn't miss it. Brendell is resting a lot to make sure he is healed up for the battle. He's still working out how he feels about me anyway. I think he could use the space."

"Okay," I said, getting the last of my things in my bag.

Once we were all packed up, we waited in the street in front of our house for the others to arrive. Kesq was the first. I wasn't sure she had gone anywhere. I couldn't imagine she had a lot of stuff to bring since she was a runaway in the first place. Klaus and Sparr were next to arrive. They didn't carry anything on them besides what was strapped to them and a single book carried by Klaus. Then came Sillius with his usual scowl buried beneath his wiry mustache.

"Okay, let's head out then," I said.

"Are we walking the whole way there?" asked Sillius.

"Yeah, I don't know what else we would do," I said.

"I can take wyvern form and carry two of you," said Tigala.

"Wyvern? Like the ones from the cliffs?" asked Kesq, pointing to the towering mountains.

"Yeah, that's where I learned the form," said Tigala.

"Let's fly the wyverns there then," said Kesq.

"What?" said Tigala. "They're wild animals."

"Yes, but they are tamable," said Kesq. "My people have been doing it for as long as history goes back. You just need the right motivations. And since you can turn into one, that should help."

"I'm not sure I'm okay with this," said Sillius.

"Didn't you say you had things to do?" I asked. "If we take wyverns there and back, then we can get back quicker."

"Yeah, I guess," said Sillius, still making a face.

"We're willing," said Klaus, referring to himself and his brown-feathered companion, Sparr.

"You're sure about this?" Tigala asked Kesq. "They have poisonous stingers on their tails. They're not something you want to mess with."

"Yes, of course. I learned how to tame animals like them when I was a kid.

"Let's do it then," I said.

🌱

We hiked out of Birdsbane and into the towering cliffs where the wyverns circled high above us, like vultures waiting for their meal. It was a hot, sunny day, with clear skies as the backdrop behind the flying lizards.

"So what do we do now?" asked Tigala.

"Can you get us up there? We have to get close to tame them," asked Kesq.

"I can get the two of us up there if you want to ride on my back," said Tigala.

"Okay, let's do that then," said Kesq. "But before we go, Kaia, can you grow us a couple of juicy fruits?"

"Uh, yeah," I said. "Like what kind? You want watermelon?"

"No," said Kesq. "Something tropical, like what you'd find in a lizard's environment. Bananas, mangos, papayas. Something like that."

"I can do bananas pretty quick," I said.

"Sure," she said. "That should work."

I focused on the ground and the water-filled trunk of the banana tree. It wasn't as quick as the vegetables I usually grew for meals, but it did come up quickly. I focused on the hope of this mission to move it even faster, and the tree sprung up in no time. Soon, clusters of bananas were hanging down from the branches and turning from green to yellow. Kesq grabbed a bunch once it was ready and climbed onto the back of the now transformed Tigala.

"We'll need three wyverns including Tigala, correct?" asked Kesq.

I looked around and nodded. There were seven of us, and Tigala was a wyvern herself. So two more would put two people on each wyvern.

"Does anyone want to volunteer to ride the other wyvern back down?" she said.

I thought of volunteering, but my promise to Tigala came to mind. Would this count as one of those moments when I was putting my life in danger?

Before I could finish the thought, Sparr stepped forward. "I will ride the wyvern down," he said. Then he hopped on Tigala's back behind Kesq.

"Good luck," I said.

Tigala nodded her wyvern head, snorted, and then flapped her giant leathery wings. Dust sprayed as she took to the sky.

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