According to Destel, the dragon’s crash site was a little under two hours march away. The mercenaries managed almost an hour and a half of that before running into trouble.
Greil’s hand shot up signalling the others to stop; he could sense something on the wind, an arcane energy strong enough to be tasted. His companions stood silent and still, flanking him from nearby copses and sections of undergrowth, their senses alert. In unison, they all realised that the pleasant bird song which had accompanied them on the journey had suddenly died down. Nothing stirred in the trees around them.
An explosion of fast-moving energy suddenly tore over the ground mere metres ahead of Greil. He readied his staff, hand still raised in the air signalling the group to hold their positions, as two patches of dirt and gravel began to lift from the earth, whipped into the forms of small, spiralling tornados. The pair darted back and forth ahead of the wizard, seemingly getting the measure of the situation and in doing so, displaying a sentience which could mean only one thing: these were some of the sunspeaker’s constructs.
Greil brought his hand down into a decisive point aimed at the twisters. His comrades leapt into action.
The battle was won, and with relative ease, the group were unscathed save from a few cuts and bruises. But something nagged at the back of their minds, surely this could not be all that they were to face, the creatures they had just defeated were nowhere near powerful enough to wipe out entire squads of goliaths. The mercenaries reformed into their travelling positions and continued on, with a new air of caution hanging over them.
It was close to half an hour’s walk after the former conflict when the group, Greil once again leading the way, crested a hill and spotted the dragon, lying at the bottom of a small, natural basin. The creature, though still impressive in it’s size, was nothing but dried bones, a literal skeleton of it’s former majesty.
Greil’s hand flew up as it had earlier, once again signalling a stop. All but Grimlock complied – the dragonborn, having now also spotted the bones, continued on in a slow, determined plod, straight past the wizard, who made no attempt to stop him. Greil made several other gestures with his raised hand, signalling the others to move up with him whilst still in their flanking positions, so as to have a decent spread of vantage points from which to spot any attackers. The scene was not all it appeared to be, they were sure of it.
Grimlock reached the dragon as the others moved up behind him. He crouched down, a solemn expression on his face and laid a clawed hand on one of the huge ribs in a tentative, and almost caring manner. The ribcage exploded.
Sharp shards of bones showered down over the dragonborn, who managed to fling an arm up in time to protect his head. He opened his eye and his gaze was met with a sight which sent vague shivers of terror even down The General’s spine: a huge, stone construct, humanoid in shape, was rising from the ground, clawing itself from the earth beneath the dragon and coming to a stand still in the nest of bones, looming over Grimlock and seemingly glaring at him, though it had no head nor face to glare with. The digits on it’s cattle-sized hands, curled together to form solid fists, essentially becoming large boulders on the ends of it’s arms.
From his hidden position, Gregg thought back to the wound he had seen on the goliath scout: crushed ribs, black bruising. The scout had been thrown clear by the force of some colossal strike.
“This could be bad” the invoker muttered.
The sound of heavy breathing was all that could be heard in the small, natural basin, at the centre of which laid the lifeless bones of a once mighty lizard. Greil and Gregg, whose part in the battle had taken them away from the others, limped over the basin’s lip, picking up their pace as they saw that all was not well – Euven was crouched over the crumpled form of Tarkus as Grimlock looked on.
“He’s not breathing” the elf exclaimed as they hurried towards him, “He took a strike to the head from that stone beast.”
Greil’s breathe caught in his throat as he reached the scene, the goliath’s face was a confused sea of dark red gore, though the blood-flow, emanating from a deep gash across the scalp, seemed to have halted.
Euven, his hands clasped together one over the other, pumped feverishly at Tarkus’ chest, with enough force to rock the goliath’s body in rhythm with the movement. Gregg stepped forward wanting to lend a hand, but the elf ignored him. Now in an upright position on his knees so as to throw his entire weight behind each depression, Euven soldiered on, but to seemingly no avail.
In frustration he released one hand and, laying the other flat across Tarkus’ ribcage, brought it down as if drunkenly slamming his fist onto the bar at a grungey inn. Over and over again he repeated this action as the others watched on, unable to do anything, the grim certainty of the situation blossoming outwards from within, having decided to become more than a skulking suspicion at the corners of their minds. Tarkus was dead.