They looked up from the bottom of the great pit where they lay,
and standing up, they cursed the game it seemed they had to play.
Limping together, they progressed to where the oak still reared
so far above them: its thick roots snaked down, twisted and weird.
Slowly they climbed, but when they reached what should have been clear air,
the barrier returned again, trapping them both down there.
Soft laughter stirred the air around them, hissing in
“I’ll go out first,” Moruna said, “for if by chance I fall,
you will still live to fight the beast… if that gives hope at all.”
Shaedast did not reply to this, but took his comrade’s hand,
and aided her (for she still limped) across the marshy land.
A hundred paces in, they came upon a dead, white tree:
they rested there awhile, and gazed on what there was to see.
At once a voice rang out to them, its echoes loud and deep:
“Who dares wake
Three islands lay like gleaming gemstones deep in Elif’s sea:
D’nim, Areth and Ulos, dwelling in fair harmony.
But discord once began to brew in caverns 'neath D’nim—
a fearsome creature came awake, with will and powers grim.
He scoured the islands with his claws and teeth, and flaming breath,
but two bold heroes rose in might, and fought him to the death.
The fortress of Eptory on the island of Areth
lay on the western borders, near the ocean’s