Pathfinder #7 kicks off a new story arc that gets our heroes off to a very different start than the previous tale. Instead of outsiders thrust into a dangerous adventure, they are now heroes of Sandpoint.
“He and his army come and go as they please in the valley, but they never get too greedy. He sends his troops on missions, and they keep to their task. Even the more stubborn beast-men know that they can’t just kill and plunder as the wish. If they did, the folk of the valley would finally join together and raise an army of their own. Even the greatest warlord in the land can’t afford to fight everybody.”
“Why don’t they raise the army anyway?” Sarah stepped carefully through the streets, avoiding sharp rocks that could cut into her bare feet. “These people can’t enjoy having an entire army tromping through their village at the drop of a hat.”
“What land do you come from?”
“And does everyone get along in this America of yours?”
“Of course!” Sarah immediately felt foolish for blurting out the poorly thought-out answer. “Well…not really. It’s complicated.”
“It’s complicated here, too. The valley hasn’t had a king in over fifty years. It’s mostly just tiny villages like this one. Each town has its own way of doing things, and none of them likes having someone else telling them what to do. When people can’t even agree on what side of bread to butter in the morning, how are they supposed to cooperate on something more important?”
Greystone Valley is no stranger to conflict, but it rarely has full-scale wars. Even the greediest of warlords tends to realize that the land is too small and isolated to make a true conquest worthwhile. That doesn’t mean that war never comes to Greystone Valley. History tells of the three great wars and the effects they have left upon the land.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began. His voice came out as a squeak, so he cleared his throat and started over again. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he repeated, louder this time, “I am sorry to say that we have a slight problem with today’s performance. As it happens, Dramadia the dragon has…well, she’s escaped into the mountains.”
An angry murmur ran through the crowd. Sarah’s own face fell in dismay. Dax, however, didn’t look surprised at all. If anything, his nod of understanding meant that things now made a little more sense to him.
“Please, please, please,” said Noron the beast tamer, patting the air in front of him in a desperate attempt to calm everybody down. “We know the show must go on, so we have found a suitable replacement. She isn’t quite the same as the great black-scaled dragon, but she is a dragon nonetheless. And it’s without any further ado that I present to you all, Keeley, the dragon of the Northwood Caves!”
Greystone Valley is a world where the myths and legends of our world run wild. That means that magic is abundant in this world, with different people wielding different kinds of sorcery. Some people in the valley have even tried studying magic like it’s math or science, gathering together in schools to discuss theories on different spells. These studies tend to be frustrating because magic is an ever-changing art form. While there are many different ways for a person to learn this art in Greystone Valley, these are the three most common forms of magic.
Keeley hopped and turned around on Sarah’s shoulder. Her tiny claws dug into Sarah’s pajamas a little bit, but they were too small to really hurt – though they did itch slightly. “And who is this one?” asked the dragon as she peered at Kay. “He looks quite handsome, even if he does wear funny-looking robes.”
“This one’s name is Kay,” he said. “I’m a wizard. Or at least, I’m working on becoming one.”
“And he does have a point,” added Sarah. “You do seem rather, um, shorter than one would expect of a dragon.”
“Well that’s easy to explain,” said Keeley, bobbing her head from side to side. “Keeley’s only ten years old. She’s still a growing girl. Someday, she’ll be bigger even than Dax. She just needs to start eating more.”
“Even if she does get that big, that’s still pretty small for a dragon,” whispered Kay. “And for some reason, I don’t think it’s her diet that made her so small.”
If Keeley heard those comments, she gave them no heed. She had already hopped off of Sarah’s shoulder again. Now she flew in circles around Dax’s head. The old warrior was marching the group back toward the site where they had lost track of Kay’s book. He didn’t look like he wanted to talk all that much, but that hardly seemed to stop Keeley.
“Where are we going, Dax? What are we going to do? Will there be good food there? How have you been? Is your mother feeling well? Does Keeley look like she’s put on weight since last time?”
If there are any dragons smaller than Keeley in Greystone Valley, they are probably too tiny for most people to see. This mouse-sized dragon is only about six inches long from the tip of her nose to the end of her tail, but she has a big heart and a few surprises that will help Sarah through her journey back to her own world.
With a jangle of metal, Dax thrust the key into the locked door and gave it a twist. The barred door flew open, and Dax leapt out of the cell, just in time to face the recovered guard. Shouting an alarm, the guard reached for the sword at his belt, but not quickly enough. Wielding his fists like a pair of dangerous clubs, Dax bludgeoned the guard across the head. Then he kicked the beast-man’s knees, knocking the two short pig legs out from under it. As the guard fell, Dax seized the pig-man’s sword belt, drawing the blade in one deft movement. Then he brought the blade down, hitting the guard with the flat of the sword. The pig-man slumped in the corner, unconscious. He did not get up.
From inside the cell, Sarah and Kay watched in amazement.
“That was incredible!” shouted Sarah.
“Not really,” moaned Dax. He put his hand on the small of his back and gave a loud sigh. “I think I threw my back out.”
Some people are just born lucky. Dax is not one of those people.
It didn’t take long for Sarah to realize that Azal wasn’t listening to her. In fact, she expected he probably couldn’t even hear her small voice, considering how high up his ears were. In another moment, he began calling out in a sound that Sarah first mistook as a roar. It wasn’t quite a roar, though. It was something more intelligent than that, with a purpose that she almost understood but didn’t quite capture. It was a language, ancient and wonderful: the secret language of the dragons themselves.
“What’s he saying?” she asked Keeley, who had finally stopped chatting with her uncle and had landed on Sarah’s shoulder again. The tiny white dragon only shook her head and made a shushing sound.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “it’s good news.”
A growl and then a roar answered Azal’s call. It was soon followed by another one, and another one. In less than a minute, the deep mountain cave had filled with the animal-like but nonetheless melodic calls of the dragons. The ground began shaking with the footfalls of at least a dozen of the great beasts. One by one they appeared in front of the group, studying the companions curiously, as though none of them had ever seen a real live human before.
The dragons didn’t look quite like Sarah had expected. They weren’t all lizards like Keeley and Azal. Like the fey, each one had its own unique features. One of the dragons seemed to be made of stone, with large patches of green moss covering its rocky hide. Another one had feathers, like a giant bird. Others crawled on their bellies like great winged snakes, or trotted along on two large hind legs like ostriches. Most of the dragons were enormous, though few were anywhere near as big as Azal. The smallest ones were about the size of grown horses. Poor Keeley was still little more than a gnat compared to even the tiniest of her cousins.
“What is it, Azal?” asked one of the larger dragons, a green-skinned creature with long, crocodile-like jaws. “Why have you woken me from my slumber?”
“It’s not all about you, cousin Grimjaw,” replied Azal. “In fact, you could have stayed sleeping for all I care. I called everyone here because we have some new visitors. They were having difficulties with the trolls at the top of the world, and so they have found themselves down here with us.” Finishing his speech, Azal waved his claw toward the ground, showcasing the dazed companions. Keeley flew off of Sarah’s shoulder to circle her uncle’s head. If the rest of the dragons noticed one so small, they didn’t show it.
“Well, things are looking up indeed,” grumbled Grimjaw, clacking his sharp teeth. “You’ve brought us a tasty set of humans. But so few…are we going to have to play rocks to decide who gets the first bite?”
Dragons are creatures of legend and grandeur in many different worlds. Although some still lurk in the hidden corners of their original lands, most of them answered the Wizard’s call when he created Greystone Valley. They now serve as protectors of the land, although their tempers are still legendary and there is nothing more dangerous than an angry dragon.
“Oh, these people love their tricks,” said Dax. The old man sat cross-legged, looking at the dirt rather than the small flying creatures around them. “They like to think they’re more clever than everyone else, just because they’re six inches tall and know how to fly.”
“What are they?”
“They’re fey, of course,” answered Kay. When Sarah looked at him with a blank expression, he began to rattle off other names for the creatures. “Fairies, nixies, pixies, sprites, grigs, brownies, elves, redcaps—”
“I get the idea. I just didn’t expect to see them here. I guess I should have, though.” Thinking over the other things that had happened to her today, she realized how foolish it was for her to dismiss anything as impossible right now.
“They’re special creatures—some of the only beings who know all the ways in and out of Greystone Valley,” explained Kay. “They find their way into just about every world, even if people don’t believe in them. When you see something move out of the corner of your eye and you’re not sure what it is, it’s usually them.”
“They like making mischief,” added Dax. “They’ll steal socks from you when you wash your clothes, or move things around when you’re looking for them. I suppose they get their laughs from my misery, just like everyone else does.”
Along with the dragons, the fey are the oldest beings of Greystone Valley. They are also some of the only creatures who know the way out of the ancient valley. For this reason, many suspect that the fey are not bound by the laws of the land at all, and drift between our world and Greystone Valley at will.