Okay, I finally caved and decided to make a thread for my fiction here. And, since my dA won;t let you see it without membership, here is my first post (and I apologise for the number of posts; this went a little longer than my usual story segments, and I couldn't quite break it into two posts): Chapter 1: The Dragon-Lady A cool mountain breeze eddied around the robes and hooded figure as he climbed slowly higher up the rocky face, his staff seeking out the flatter places in the floor. He paused and wiped one hand across his brow, looking up at the last stretch of his journey towards the cavern opening that was his destination for the night. The sun cast its multitude of oranges and pinks across the sky as it set on the other side of the peak, giving it a nimbus of pure golden light as the traveller journeyed upwards towards it. After a few moments, the figure reached out with his staff to continue his trek up the mountain. The last vestiges of the sunset were fading by the time the traveller reached his night's destination and began to inspect it to ensure it was a suitable place to camp. There were several signs that the cavern had been used before - large footprints, not shaped to be human, could be seen dotted around in the layers of dust towards the back of the cave, and several markings had been made on the walls. Primitive settlers and bears, no doubt, the man thought, shrugging slightly and pulling a large bag from a pocket on his belt. Still, it seems empty enough. He bent forwards to open the bag and removed a few things from it – a bedroll and lamp, a small tin cup and a parcel of meat and fruits – before placing it back in the pouch on his pocket. “And I suppose I’d better see if I can find some water, and some wood for a fire, then,” he muttered, with an obvious tone of resignation – that of a man too long alone in the wilderness. Kindling proved to be an easy task – dead branches from a stand of trees higher up the mountain had been blown back down the rocky trail by the increasingly strong wind. Water, on the other hand, would prove to be more troublesome – there was a small pool of fresh water nearby, but it seemed to be no more than rainwater gathered into a crevice in the rock. Nevertheless, he scooped it up in his tin cup and walked slowly back to the cave, hunched forwards and leaning heavily on his staff, the cup in his other hand and the firewood tied in a bundle over his shoulder. “If this storm gets any heavier, I’ll have to see if this cave has a spring in it,” he murmured, stirring up a fire to cook his meagre rations, and glancing outside, where the first flakes of snow had begun to fall. “Now that is strange...there was no sign of a blizzard on the way up here.” He shrugged. “Well, no help for it, I guess. I’ll have to stay here until it blows over.” After his slight meal, he began to move around the cave, collecting all the loose rocks and boulders he could find, heaving on them to roll them into position at the cave mouth, leaving a small opening through which he could fit when it came time to leave. Finally, he laid his staff aside and removed his robe, revealing the face and body of a man at least 40 years younger than any who saw him on his journeys would be able to guess. He sighed and hung his robe over the opening, pinning it in place with some smaller rocks, and returned to his bedroll. The traveller’s sleep was troubled that night. Strange visions and images flitted across his unconscious mind – scenes depicting legions of demons and undead ravaging the land, destroying cities and laying waste to the countryside. In the middle of them all was one figure – a beautiful young maiden, her face full of love and speaking of unutterable peace and happiness – seemed to beckon to him to come to her, but he found himself unable to move, paralyzed by her radiant demeanour. Even as he watched, she seemed to recede back, fading once more into the shadows of his sleeping mind. He was awakened suddenly by something cold and wet slapping into his face. During the night, something had shaken the rocks holding his robe in place loose and an errant breeze blew the snow-sodden garment through the cave and into his bed. Grimacing, he rose and hung the robe on his cooking frame over the remains of his fire from the previous night, before pulling on his boots and resolving to explore the rest of the cave behind his camp. He reached into his belt pouch for his bag, and pulled out his small tinderbox to relight his lamp, which had blown out during the night, and a medium-sized but fairly hefty-seeming warhammer. He put the bag back into its pouch and, lamp in one hand, hammer grasped loosely in the other, moved back around the rock pile at the back of the cave and into the small tunnel behind it. The tunnel was dark and narrow, twisting this way and that in a fashion reminiscent of a river meandering sluggishly through plains. The traveller pulled the hood of his lantern back slightly to allow a little more light to escape and continued, heading towards the moister-seeming air further through the tunnel. After about a half an hour, the tunnel suddenly widened out into a small chamber, a spring bubbling out of a crack in one wall and trickling across the floor to cascade in an almost musical shower down into the depths of the mountain. Forgetting stealth, the traveller rushed across the intervening space to the brook, discarding his weapon to pull a water flask from his belt, stooping and filling it, grateful for the fresh water. He then replaced the flask and filled his tin travelling cup, drinking deeply from the water and letting it refresh him. It was when he stopped that he heard it: a heavy, rhythmic breathing, some monstrous creature asleep in a cavern he could now see stretching from the back of this one. He silently cursed his inattentiveness and returned to pick up his hammer, slipping through to the adjoining chamber. A sharp gust of wind blew in through an almost invisible crack in the roof and snuffed out his lantern, leaving him in the dark, the pounding of his heart and the breathing of the creature the only sounds. He paused, adjusting to the conditions, and moved forwards, rounding a small out-jutting of the wall. As he did so, the still-functioning subconscious part of his rational mind noted, with some suspicion, the sudden lack of the heavy breathing, and noting also that it had been replaced by his own. Before him, her lustrous hair framing her perfect face, was the lady from his dreams the previous night. She rose from her seat on a rock with a fluid grace and smiled. “I have been waiting for you, Gravis Warhammer. I knew you would come to me.” Gravis’ mind reeled as she spoke his name – a name he thought the world no longer knew. “You – you know me?” he stammered. The lady smiled again, the sight of it erasing the cares and burdens from Gravis’ mind. “I know you, and in your heart you know me. We were made for each other.” She reached out to him, beckoning him to join her. Gravis paused, stunned, then sighed and shook his head. “Nothing would make me happier than to come with you, but I have many tasks still to do in the world. And I fear that my tasks may not be completed in your lifetime.” The lady nodded. “Yes...the time is not yet right. But we shall meet again, Gravis Warhammer, and when the time of our next meeting shall come to pass, this world shall tire thee and you shall fade into its memory and come with me.” She stepped back, seeming to fade once more, even as she had in Gravis’ dreams, and left him alone – alone in the dark. When he awoke, he was in his camp at the entrance to the caverns. He sat, groggily, and shook his head, trying to shake the dreams that had plagued his sleep for the last night. Finally, he gave up and rose to collect his equipment. His rational subconscious – ever alert to his surroundings – noted the oddities he could see around; the equipment he had dropped at the brook, still moist with the clear spring water, was laid neatly beside the rest of his equipment in the corner, and the weight of his flask told him it was now full. It also noted the face of his hammer – a dragon on flight had been embossed onto it – and that rhythmic breathing of a friendly and watchful creature eased his fears for the journey ahead. Gravis left the mountains some few days later, cresting a final peak to gaze down across the plains of Kar Eite towards the capital, sitting astride the Mondol ta Eite – the River of the World – at the head of a sparkling bay. All his dreams of the radiant lady of the mountains would be lost as his duties took him once more into the drab and mundane world he was life-bound to protect from the spirit of Roth and all his forces of evil.