The Prosperos Quest It is known in every nation that the first book read by Princess Pandora was a tale of dragon-slaying. The damsel in the tower; the beast on guard; the knight approaching - these were standard fare in the literature of the old world. And the lessons in these stories were simple for a princess: remain where you are told and prepare yourself for wedlock. Yet to a shrewder girl there are darker inferences, and Pandora was the shrewdest of all. From the tale of the damsel she learned two devastating truths... that there are things as wondrous as dragons in the world beyond your prison... and that one must fight to win true love. So it was that the Cataclysm destroyed Elysia. We know this part too well. The princess ran away with her stable-boy and in this fugitive romance drew gods and nations into conflict. And all that we had known was lost as titans did battle and nature recoiled. We were destroyed... because of a fairy tale. And so it is little wonder that our story should begin, as her's did, with the slaying of a dragon... The city of Barval was free once more. Cheers rang through ice-carved halls, and banners unfurled across the cliffs. From the plains the victors could barely see the waving people, so tormented was the air above. The pale skies swirled with the wind of dissipating magics and death-scream smoke. It was the music of aftermath, and it was glorious. Across the plain, stretching from the mountain city, weapons and armour lay scattered and speckled with blood. Whole war machines and infantry squads had been trampled into ice, and now the snow was heaping hard on their remains. Yet this was nothing to the giant swathes of sickly green that crisscrossed all the field. It were as if a great painter had slashed his brush upon a canvas. Yet it was not alone the artistry of death that held this day. For on a foothill a mile from the city cliffs, where spoiling meats had been dropped as bait, a great white dragon lay slaughtered on the ice. And around it, like ants, the survivors of the battle clustered. Galain Medwick sat slumped against the dragon's claw, its chitinous surface the perfect rest for his back. His falchion lay at his side and his left hand was bloody around the five rings he wore. So much magic had been used that his skin had split. It gleamed in crimson like his officer's sash as he caught his breath. "Brilliant. Truly brilliant!" He was yelling at someone a short distance away. "No really. I shall recommend you immediately for an officer's commission. Such tactics! Such stratagem! Never since the days of Elysia have we been graced with such genius. A dragon the size of a village and you decide to grab its wing. Not even its tail, like a normal idiot-hero. But its wing! The part that flaps up and down! The least stable point of physical motion on the entire anatomy of a lethal cattle-swallowing monstrosity! And that's before we mention that a band of mages, led by YOURS TRULY, were in the process of shooting searing-hot mana at the damn thing during the precise moment you decided to do this!" He scowled and kicked off one of his boots, sending it flying towards Shardis, the current target of his sarcasm. "You know, I take it all back. Your parents never cared for me. I see now that they despised me, covertly, for all the years I served with them, and in secret devised a most terrible revenge. TO LUMBER ME WITH YOU! An assistant who can't take three steps without provoking the murderous concoctions of nature! A non-felicitous feline intent on the bumbling destruction of all Pegulis!" He kicked off his other boot then grimaced and clutched his leg. His old injury ached with a savage urgency, made sharper by the cold and his recent exertions. The pain was enough to pause his tirade and, slumping back on the dragon's claw, the mage rested his head and tried to calm himself. Behind him were all manner of scenes. Spearmen and archers were reclaiming ammunition from between the silver scales of the beast, while others stood atop its back to cheer. Another more subtle party were at the creature's belly and cutting it open to drag out the eggs it carried. There had been arguments over the last hour, and even scuffles. Some wanted to take the eggs back to Barval; others wanted to destroy them. But happily most within the President's army were too tired to contend the issue. Mages stood to one side and guzzled jugs of water, stemming the dehydration their spells had invoked, while clerics whispered prayers over the dead, reclaimed weapons, and painted warding sigils on the dragon's limbs. On every side of the fallen beast the post-battle dramas were playing out. There was a flutter of black wings as Medwick's aenigma dipped from the blizzard clouds. The crow flexed its claws and deposited a waterskin between its master's legs, before swooping to perch on the dragon's claw. From there it watched, with silent and unnerving stare, as Medwick snatched up the waterskin and chugged it down with relish. Icy water sloshed out across the mage's face and mixed with his blood and sweat. Yet still he guzzled, quenching the thirst that only magical exhaustion could engender. "Next time..." he shouted upon finishing the vessel, "You stay at the dig site. I'd rather fight with a blind wombat who has sworn a vow of pacifism!" He hurled the waterskin at Shardis then collapsed once more against his backrest. His rant was lost to the arctic wind, which sent snowflakes swirling around the dragon's corpse. And within the freezing mist few could see the one who had brought them victory this day. By the dragon's snout, now half-buried in the ice, the Blue President, Pahkné, stood with her advisors and discussed a matter most urgent. ... a matter that would end, a few minutes from now, in a call to adventure.