“…and from the village of Mua’bri, I bear an earthenware cauldron, banded in lightning and dusted with gold, that the potters of the village bequeath to your majesty so that their work might be remembered forever...”
Kwibha listened to the First Speaker of the Dragon Wardens with one ear, his attention more focused on keeping warm. By tradition, these yearly negotiations were hold on this flat mountaintop just across the valley from the city of Cloudspire, the air so cold that Kwibha’s breath misted forth with every heartbeat. His late sister Jhirabi, who’d been training to be a Dragon Warden, said the location actually had been chosen because there were few other places where one could treat with a half-dozen dragons, but Kwibha would never be so crass as to say so out loud.
“…my rain-child’s third daughter is ready to leave the nest. It is time for her to have a territory of her own, a hoard and home atop a good tree. Do they still have that lightning-struck tree outside of Mua’bri…?”
For a moment, Kwibha envisioned a group of stout dwarven farmers, dour-faced and heavily armed, accompanied by a whimsical fledgling dragon the size of a sheep. The farmers would likely be more dangerous. Still, one had to start somewhere, and it was upon these formalized exchanges of gifts, territories, and protection that the partnership of dwarf and cloud dragon had been built.
Illustration by Maichol Quinto from Pathfinder Lost Omens The Mwangi Expanse
Another hour passed, then a second and third, and Kwibha felt the frost harden on the white scarf around his neck. Snow crunched underfoot as he shifted his weight, and still the dragons and the First Speaker of the Dragon Wardens continued their talks. Kwibha cast a sidelong glance at the First Speaker—Jhirabi had said they were chosen for endurance as well as diplomacy.
And then it was time.
“Noble kings,” the First Speaker said, for all dragons are accorded the title of kings, “I present to you Second Speaker Kwibha of the Bloodmarked.”
That was Kwibha’s cue. The dwarf strode forward, marshalling every scrap of dignity he possessed. To any other dwarf, Kwibha was a person of note, with his gold-embroidered kaftan of cashmere, amber-hilted sword, and the scarlet ribbon tied about his brow. The dragons, Kwibha fervently hoped, would be equally impressed.
“Noble kings of sky and cloud, revered ancestors of the storm, you whose wrath is lightning and whose mercy is the rain after a long drought,” Kwibha’s voice echoed off the mountaintops, finely pitched to carry to the great beings clustered before him, “I come bearing an offer from King Thabsing of K’Lereng, called the Blood-Eye.”
“And what is this offer, Second Speaker?” one of the dragons whispered with a voice like the mist, soft yet inescapable. “We have heard his plans of war before and have little interest in them.”
“Today, he proposes not war, but justice, not battle, but execution,” Kwibha said smoothly. He held out a single hand in the traditional orator’s pose. “Know this, noble kings. On the last day of the dry season, in the pirate city of Bloodcove where they celebrate the Tempest Day, there will be a great auction of treasures taken from the drowned land of Lirgen. Most of the Pirate Council of the Shackles plans to attend, and we’ve heard that the Hurricane Queen herself, Tessa Fairwind, shall be present.”
“And how do you know this thing will happen, Second Speaker?” another cloud dragon asked in a voice that thundered across the mountaintop, causing drifts of snow to become tiny avalanches.
Kwibha hoped they would ask him this. With a great flourish, he swept his arm out and bowed genteelly to the assembled wyrms. “I know this, noble kings, for I shall conduct the auction myself.”
This caught the dragons’ attention—and the attention of the Dragon Wardens, for that matter. Kwibha allowed himself a small smile. It had taken nearly two years to make the proper introductions, to pass himself from one pirate to the next in that stinking city. King Thabsing had provided the Lirgeni artifacts, from where it was not entirely clear, but it was Kwibha’s work that had brought this day about. Bloodcove was a very different place from the orderly, harmonious citadel of Cloudspire, a place of violence, greed, and broken oaths, but dwarves lived there as well. Buyers, mostly, to purchase the pirates’ stolen goods and send them back to the Mbe’ke, but a few disgraced sellers as well, who would trade with the Mbe’ke’s enemies. Kwibha had pretended to be one such, and he didn’t know if he’d ever feel properly clean again.
“The Free Captains are no fools, and they will expect treachery,” Kwibha continued in the ensuing silence. “But they will expect it from each other or myself. Their ships will be moored at harbor, their sailors carousing, their lieutenants and weather-wizards accompanying their captains for protection. The vessels will be virtually defenseless in the face of a sudden storm, honored lords of lightning,” Kwibha paused, before adding the final bait, “and they will be heavily laden with loot from a season’s successful piracy.”
“Your words intrigue, Second Speaker,” said the senior-most dragon in a voice crackling with frost. “We will weigh them and give an answer in three day’s time.”
“A question, Emissary of the Bloodmarked,” a younger dragon said, leaning forward such that Kwibha could see the new scars on their horn, “Your king’s plan will destroy the ships, but what of the pirates themselves?”
“A pirate without a ship, honored king, is like a turtle without a shell,” said Kwibha, his smile colder than the snow of the mountain. “With the Pirate Council trapped in Bloodcove, it will be a simple matter for King Thabsing to march his armies down from the mountains and take the city. And then we will try them, and we will sentence them, and we will hang these corsairs from every tree and doorpost.”
And then, Jhirabi, you will finally be avenged.
About The Author
Mikhail Rekun is a Russian-American historian, educator, and author. Previous works include Lost Omens Mwangi Expanse, Lost Omens Legends, Pathfinder Society Scenario 1–15: Blooming Catastrophe, Pathfinder Society Scenario 2–8: Frosty Mug, and How Russia Lost Bulgaria, 1878-1886: Empire Unguided. One of these things is not like the others. He is also the creative director of the Luminant Age project, a Weird Fantasy Swashbuckler campaign setting for PF2, with vampire anteater dogs and invisible owl-tigers. You can learn more about at https://twitter.com/LuminantA, and keep an eye out for our next Kickstarter.
About Tales of Lost Omens
The Tales of Lost Omens series of web-based flash fiction provides an exciting glimpse into Pathfinder’s Age of Lost Omens setting. Written by some of the most celebrated authors in tie-in gaming fiction, including Paizo’s Pathfinder Tales line of novels and short fiction, the Tales of Lost Omens series promises to explore the characters, deities, history, locations, and organizations of the Pathfinder setting with engaging stories to inspire Game Masters and players alike.