Anok immediately brandished his axe as Firent, Leiman, and Durgo stared perplexed while hurriedly attempting to keep their lighter goods from taking flight in the mighty gusts.
Anok quickly pulled them towards the cover of a set of larger boulders and brush, mouthing a gesture of silence as he pointed to the skies.
Overhead, the group could faintly see her, the object of their shared obsession, the goal that had driven them on this mad journey across the north, the Wyvern.
Firent had never seen the beast, in his heart he had somewhat expected a disappointing outcome to this adventure, wherein it was revealed that the Wyvern they sought was a conflated myth.
But this myth lived, and Firent stated awestruck at its majesty as it soared above them, every flap of its mighty wings causing the winds to roar back to life.
At last, once the beast left the group’s view as it appeared to crest the summit of the mountain, Anok quickly pulled the group from their place of shelter, axe gripped so tightly in his hand it seemed as though the sturdy oaken shaft might crack in half.
Lieman and Durgo spoke up, advising a cautious approach, knowing full well the danger the beast posed, and wanting to utilize the map the stranger had gifted them.
But with his mad fixation of so many years finally revealed, Anok could only begin the climb towards it.
The group scrambled to match his feverous pace up the steep slopes of the mountain, but eventually they lost sight of Anok as he continued to scurry upward like a mad beast possessed with bloodlust.
Soon enough, they knew he had reached his prey, as a sharp bellowing roar erupted from the summit of the rock, the Dragon's Call.
The party quickened their already hurried pace, but soon enough something stopped them, just before they had reached the very peak of the mountain.
Despite the fact that they could now readily hear the ongoing scuffle between Anok and the Wyvern, they were forced to take pause when they noticed another group apparently in hot pursuit of them as they climbed the mountain.
They had noticed no trace of another encampment, and no sign of life for miles around from the vantage of their cliffside tent, who were these strange climbers?
Soon enough their intentions were made abundantly clear, as an arrow was loosed that struck Durgo in the shoulder, sending him recoiling in pain.
Not hesitating even for a moment, Lieman retaliated by conjuring a hailstorm of ethereal ice shards down upon the assailants, piercing several of them.
Firent and Lieman then helped Durgo to his feet, and with gritted teeth removed the barbed point of the arrow lodged between his shoulder blade as he cried in agony.
Just as they did though, another arrow nearly drove its way into Firent, missing its mark by only the smallest of margins and cracking against the solid stone of the cliffside.
As these phantom archers began to approach the level the party was on, they began to draw swords and brandish clubs.
They were now close enough to see why Liemans ice spikes had been so ineffective, these horrid creatures we’re undead, exposed bits of bone and rotted flesh denoting them.
Undead had been utilized by the great terror Daros Lychin in the 8th Age to wage war against humanity, but they had been wiped out, what were some doing here in the far unexplored north?
There was no time to contemplate curiosities, as some of the horrid creatures began to march towards the group menacingly, with ice shards still protruding from their husklike bodies.
“We have no time! you must get to Anok!”
Durgo fought the stormwinds raging all around them now to belt out his words, fighting the gale with his voice.
With a pained grimace Durgo gripped his polearm tightly, pushing Lieman and Firent off of him as he began to slowly march towards the band of undead attackers.
“Go! Just tell Anok to save some of the scales for me!”
Firent and Lieman could do little but watch as Durgo charged into the line of skeletal warriors, he was right, they had to push on and aid Anok, or else this was all for nothing.
As they continued towards the summit, nearly exhausted, Lieman attempted to invoke more ethereal spells to clear away some of the undead, but soon enough they had engulfed Durgo, and with teary eyes Lieman said a silent prayer for his bodyguard, hoping Allunas would honor his sacrifice.
At last Lieman and Firent reached the snow dusted craggy peak of the mountain of Drakespire, in a shared shock they saw that Anok was still standing against his terrible foe, the Wyvern.
He was bruised and bloodied, his left arm seemed to hang limply, bent in some awkward and unnatural direction, but in his right was his woodsman axe, fleshly wet with Dragon Blood.
He had managed to inflict some impressive wounds on his tremendous opponent, it was covered in small gashes and some of the webbing of its wings had been torn, but it still towered over Anok, looking ready to finnish him off.
Lieman immediately began working on a new invocation as Firent drew his sword and ran to aid his friend, letting out a meek shaky warcry that caused the beast to break its gaze on Anok if but for a moment.
Anok took this opportunity, and with a much more guttural and primal scream charged the beast, using his one good arm for momentum to send his axe deep into the Dragon's abdomen.
Another great cry rang out from the beast, as it writhed in pain, only this time it's reaction was instant, a quick muscle twitch from the dragon had it turn nearly completely around, taking Anok with it.
Anok gripped his axe tight, and was not flung from the beast until his axe was brought loose from its belly.
As he struggled to get up in the snow and dust however, the Dragons tail whirled around, catching Anok in the ribs and sending him flying into a rocky outcropping with a horrendous crunch of broken bones.
Firent looked on in terror, Anok had stopped moving, and lay there lifeless, he could not help but stop in his tracks as the Dragon now focused its gaze back onto him, and revealed its true size as it spread its wings before him.
It let out another terrible roar of anger that shook to the core, and he collapsed to his knees before the creature, letting his sword fall to his side.
Accepting his fate, silently regretting everything that had brought him to this point where he would die alone on some mountainside far from home.
As the Dragon began to charge however, and as Firent closed his eyes preparing to be snapped up in its jaws, he felt a warm blast of heat pass overhead, like a baker's furnace had been opened just behind his neck.
Opening his eyes, he found his visage illuminated by a great stream of fire that engulfed the Dragon as it quickly cried out and turned away from its source.
Firent quickly saw that source to be Lieman, it had taken him some time to attune, but he now stood firm channeling a steady blast of ethereal flames from his joined palms.
Firent quickly felt the adrenalin kick back in, perhaps they would slay this creature yet, but as he began to frantically search for the sword he had dropped in his cowardly spell of fear, he found it nowhere in sight.
And just as the great and terrible beast seemed to be succumbing to the steady onslaught of fire from Lieman, it was suddenly halted, and the stream of fire ran dry.
Turning back to Lieman, Firent was shocked to see that one of the undead assailants had managed to close in behind him, and now had its blade buried cleanly through Liemans chest.
Crying out in a much more robust and agonized scream, Firent unsheathed his small side dagger and charged towards Lieaman, quickly burying his dagger through the exposed skull of his assailant and catching Liemans body as he fell.
“Heh, Durgo did well, only one of the bastards got through.”
Lieman coughed up a spat of blood as he tried to speak, his lungs cleary struggling to take in breath, Firent attempted to console and comfort his dying friend, but as he searched for the words he simply could find none that fit as the life slowly left Liemans eyes.
Firent struggled not to break into a sob as he cradled his companions corpse, cursing himself for his cowardice, cursing himself for not being able to bring catharsis to his allies' final moments.
One last curse was reserved for when he heard the Dragon, now charred, bleeding, and exhausted, but very much alive, as it began to regain its footing.