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Ejder, the great white dragon of the center-north segment of Azotou, finally shook off the remnants of his decade long nap. He raised his long, serpentine neck, and scented the air. Two long streams of steam and cold vapor emerged from his nostrils. It seemed his pets had prepared his favorite meal.

Belinda was built in Ejder’s territory during one of his longer naps. The only reason he didn’t destroy the flimsy little settlement of wood and stone once he realized what had happened was because they’d known their place and made sure to offer tribute in the form of gold, magical treasures, and good food. From then onwards, Ejder had claimed the city as his own, jealousy protecting it as he’d protect all his other possessions.

The ritualistic, post-nap, meal of five thousand humans, soaked in a nice wine and herb broth was a nice bonus that reminded Ejder of why he tolerated the ants that dwelt within his territory.

Ejder’s nest was in a cave near the peak of the Belinda territory’s tallest mountain. He peered over the edge of the cave and saw that the humans had indeed prepared a meal for him. After some thought, Ejder decided he might as well fly down and eat his first meal in ten years.

While the humans they fed him weren’t the most nutritious thing he’d ever eaten, they were often quite tasty thanks to the broth they were soaked in.

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Eloise gazed up at the sky, her sluggish mind, sensing that something was terribly awry. The clouds were stirred by a pair of wings so wide they blotted the light of Alma’s three moons. A great wind buffeted her and everyone else who happened to be standing in the wine pit.

Eventually, her bloodshot eyes adjusted to the low light and she recognized what she was seeing. A being of ancient power. A brutal, primordial presence bearing magic, scales, and fangs.

Dragons...True Dragons...Weren’t just flying reptiles. True Dragons were forces of nature. They were calamity made into flesh. They were overwhelmingly powerful creatures that embodied the elements.

A red dragon wasn’t merely just a red lizard, a red dragon was a burning world. It was a volcanic eruption, and extinction causing meteorite rolled into reptilian package. Blue dragons were the crashing waves, and the endless tides.

Brown dragons were the rumbling stones, and the shaking earth. Black dragons were death and endless night. While green dragons were the boundless verdance and virulence of mother nature at her best and worst. Finally, White dragons were living storms and eternally tumultuous skies.

That was the kind of creature a dragon was.

Now Eloise watched as one of these legendary beasts dropped down from the heavens. A part of her knew that she should be afraid. A part of Eloise knew that she should be running, but between the slave collar and the drugs, all she could do was gape at the massive beast that was descending towards her and her fellow sacrifices.

The creature landed with a surprising grace, yet the world still seemed to shake beneath the dragon’s weight.

The creature roared, and Eloise looked around to see that every person that wasn’t wearing a slave collar had dropped to their knees. Falling prostrate till the deafening bellow had stopped and they were allowed to back away from the scaled lord’s presence.

The white dragon began to feed. Swallowing hundreds of people with each mouthful. Their bodies disappearing within its maw, their blood, and few stray limbs, dribbling back into the pit as the dragon began to chew.

The creature proceeded with its meal, and as it did a change fell over the crowd. A few people, like Eloise, who hadn’t been completely overtaken by the narcotics they’d forcefed slowly began to stir as their minds slowly caught up to the horror of their situation.

As that small number realized what was happening, and they realized the sheer amount of danger that they were in, they began to panic. Humanity and its sibling races were largely made up of social creatures, able to communicate in big and small ways. Once a few people began to panic that panic spread through the entire crowd.

Unfortunately, everyone was still stoned to the point of helplessness. Even if they were now aware of the danger they were in, the most they could do was scream...softly...and futilely flail in the broth they were soaking in.

Eloise watched as more and more people were eaten. Their bones and flesh ground to nothing in the white dragon’s maw. Eventually, half of the five thousand souls that the slavers had captured disappeared down the dragon’s gullet and it came Eloise’s turn to face the beast.

Cold dread filled her as she watched the remains of the swordsman, and his lover, get pulped and swallowed by the scaled fiend. The dragon swallowed and then lowered its head once more. She felt someone push her, she looked behind her and saw that it was the mage. The young noble was feebly and futilely trying to extend his own life by pushing forwards.

Funnily enough his actions gave her inspiration. She flailed, gathering a short lived spurt of strength, and pushing someone as well. In Eloise’ case, she wasn’t pushing those people towards the beast, she was pushing them away. Trying to play the part of a protector of the people, a final time.

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Delara Shirazi felt someone push her. She and several others who’d been drugged senseless and left in the pit of herbs and wine were pushed by an inexplicable force.

The push had enough strength behind it to send her and them flying out of the bowl. Delara was knocked clear of the scaled lord’s range, mercifully and perhaps predictably, the dragon paid the people that flew out of its pit, no mind.

In much the same way an ordinary king would pay no mind to a morsel of food that had fallen off his table, the great beast simply ignored her. Lowering it maw towards the people that were still within its feeding pit.

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Eloise fell after exhausting what little strength she’d managed to gather. It was only after the fact that she realized that had she been a little more selfish and little more smart she might have been able to save herself instead of wasting her efforts with the handful of others that she’d sent flying out of the dragon’s feeding bowl.

Eloise lay in the pool of wine and herbs. Floating on her back. Watching as the dragon lowered its maw towards her and several others. It seemed the scaled lord was less than pleased with the feisty morsel that had sent so many others morsel’s flying from the bowl.

Eloise closed her eyes. Waiting to die. Then she heard, or rather she felt, a familiar something. A soft low hum that was followed by the appearance of a swirling black and red aperture in the sky.

The dragon heard it too, raising its head. It looked up and saw the swirling portal and roared out an ear shattering challenge at the interloper in its territory. Instead of an answering cry, or a retreat, like the beast was used to, the humming got louder and the portal grew wider.

Out from the swirling aperture appeared a hand, then an arm, then a head, then another arm. Soon a new monster appeared. Both familiar and unfamiliar.

Eloise gasped as she realized what she was looking at. It had finally made its way to Belinda. The barghest. The baskerville lord.



It was bigger than Eloise remembered it being. Now standing at forty or so feet, instead of its prior thirty. The creature was more robust as well.The hounds fur was now a lush, more vibrant, dark red. Its physique more full and hale, while also keeping its elongated and spindly proportions.

The most interesting change was the number of eyes. Before the hound had only had six of them, but now it was positively covered in them. Three sets of small eyes accompanied its two glowing main eyes. A ninth eye lay vertically, lying in the center of hound’s brow.

There were eyes on its chest and eyes on its hand, limbs, and tail. The monster’s entire body covered in eyes making the beast look like some horrific cross between a wolfman and peacock. Eloise wasn’t sure why she knew this, but she got the sense that even the tendrils that made up its long, and luxurious black-red coat had eyes on them.

The dragon forgot its meal as it saw the invader boldly stride onto the peak of the dragon’s mountain. The enraged scaled lord flew up to cast down and likely dismember the presumptious newcomer. Elosie watched as the two beasts prepared to engage each other. Then she passed out. Wondering listly if she'd be waking up again.

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IndigoSharpe

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