The Trail of Molten Gold

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Book Text

They smuggled Laethys out of Charmer’s Caldera in pieces – as treasure fit for sale – then shipped her to Ember Isle. All this time, right under everyone’s noses. Everyone’s but mine!

The pieces first appeared in Fortune’s Shore: coins, goblets, arms, and armor, all of gold so pure it shamed the sun, and all stamped with “This is of the Goddess” in old Eth. No one knew who the seller was, but I can follow wealth like a shark follows blood. I tracked her down – the merchant queen Akala.

The Ascended tracked her down, as well. They swarmed her like the pests they are. But she had played her part, putting Laethys into… circulation. The brigands robbed the buyers, and the professionals robbed the brigands. The Golden Dragon flowed from pocket to purse, but always in one direction: toward the Pirate Queen Rusila Dreadblade.

When I heard Rusila was bringing golden riches to Ember Isle, I demanded my juicy bite of the treasure. “No,” she told me. “You won’t touch her.”

Who was this Bahmi wench to deny me? I led my ogres out to sea, to make her pay. We took prize after prize, but none of them Rusila’s. It was as if the Queen of Greed herself distracted us with fat-bellied galleys while Dreadblade landed her cargo on the shoals and dragged it up to Caduceus Rise.

The timing made no sense at first. Akala’s operation was slow, subtle. And Rusila’s only a bit faster. Our Wanton allies insisted Maelforge would soon rise, but at this rate, Laethys would not join him.

It all came together when the travel stones opened. The cult of Maelforge joined our rampage, as agreed. I can respect good slaughter, but these Wanton are not known to pillage. Yet when I broke off my piracy to lead our reavers of fire and stone, I noticed sometimes when a goblin or Dragonian or Kobold would stoop to tear some golden bauble from corpse.

“There she is,” I told myself. “But wait. You will have your due.”

When the Wanton hordes burst through the Travel Stones, I watched as those wearing gold split off from the main force, charging toward Caduceus Rise. One troop of Dragonians didn’t make it, though. I met them on the road, laughed at their flames, and crushed their skulls in my fists. I took the golden armor they carried for my own.

My ogres wanted it for themselves, so I broke their spines and threw them into the surf until I was alone with my prize. I dreamed of running up to the Rise – throwing myself into a forge where my flesh would burn away, leaving only pure gold and jewels for Caduceus to shape into our mistress.

“Become a dragon, become a dragon,” says the voice of Caduceus in my head. The armor wants to rejoin the rest of the gold, the rest of her. But I won’t let it. I’ll chain myself to the rocks and wait.

I am the Golden Queen’s mightiest servant! I, Ochrin, whose blades cut like diamonds, whose tread is heavier than gold! She meant for me to have it, why else size it for an ogre? When Maelforge has spent his fire, won’t our goddess need a suitable mate?

“Become a dragon.”

Don’t mind if I do.

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