Legend of the Fumic Fang
The State of Affairs
Many thousands of years ago, while the Dwarves remained deep in their stony holds and the Elves roamed freely over every terrain, man began to carve himself niches in the living chaos of The World. It was the habit of young men to gather about themselves their untried peers and venture far from the safety of their hearths. Cutting for themselves swaths of land from the untamed wild, Man grew cunning and wise from the lessons his conquering of nature had taught him.
As the dominion of Man grew, the wildest of the creatures (most notably the Fey and the Dragons) began to recede into the dark fringes of The World, though they were still easy enough to stumble upon; especially if one was fool enough to seek them out.
Our story focuses on one particular fool group of swath-cutters. They were like any other successful adventuring group of the day: Quick-witted, hearty and, most importantly, extremely lucky. They differed, however, in the demeanor of their leader. He was patient. Their success, as they were quick to admit, came from the steady hand and unwavering mind of the head of their party, whose name is lost to the waters of history. Some battles they won by cutting off supplies and simply waiting out the enemy. Others they won by letting the fury of nature (hungry fires and constant eroding waters among many more subtle aspects of the land) do the work for them. Then came the day their leader set his sights on a Green Dragon.
This ancient Green held roost above the leafy cliffs of one of the most perfect trade locations in what is now known as the Five Kingdoms. The cliffs made easily defensible any castle built atop it and landing a ship in the natural harbor of the protected bay was a simple thing. Of course, any ship that did land itself in the bay at that time met an ill fate at the hands of a shrieking, plummeting green terror or a great heaving eruption from the waters below (as Greens are one of the only of its kin that can breathe underwater). They are also the least chaotic of their brethren and this was something our hero saw as the dragon’s weakest point. Using the dragon’s lawful nature and its love for its own life, he formulated a plan to subdue the Green.
For years the group’s leader bent all of his considerable will to laying the perfect trap for this rooted Green. Scouts were hired (some returned with information, others warmed the dragon’s belly for a night). Tunnels were dug. Expensive magical ingredients were purchased, bartered or stolen to construct rare ointments, potions and tinctures. When all was prepared, he and his troupe had to do naught but wait.
They were exceptionally good at waiting.
The would-be wyrm breakers did not have to wait long for the perfect opportunity to subdue the dragon. In a miser’s fortnight a new moon gave them the darkness that they needed. There was a slight, but constant breeze coming off of the ocean making it hard for the Green to smell anything other than the sweet salt of the sea. The wind also brought with it a fine mist that clung to the complacent dragon’s body, deadening its senses (which were already considerably dulled by the barrels of ale floating in its massive gut, masterfully “shipwrecked” by the party leader’s design earlier that day). The time to strike had come.
And strike they did.
At first the ancient Green was confused. His usual dreams of warm gold and fat sheep blurred into the beatings and kicks of abusive men. This was new. No man had ever done this to the likes of him certainly. Still, the dream was frightfully real. Maybe he should be worried.
The Green chortled and bit of acid sprayed out of his nose. Ah, but he was a dragon! An ancient Green! He was safe atop his cliff-top roost, camouflaged in plain sight! He made sure to stealth himself before he’d laid to rest… hadn’t he? And even if he had not his emerald scales (Oh, his mighty scales!) protected him from any of man or nature’s abuses, be it the sting of a blade, the bite of flame or (especially) the corrosive drip of acid. He was safe. Of course he was safe. No, he was more than safe, he was a Magnificent Ancient Green! He roared the triumph of his being, celebrating his body and mind, the perfection of all beings in The World.
Except no roar came. No exultant song bellowed forth from his mighty lungs. No robust thunder rang from his deadly maw. Only a silent cough eked out of his mewling, quivering snout.
Now he was worried.
The great Green struggled to shake off the grip of slumber and inebriation while the barbs and blows of the attacking creatures steadily beat him down. He was able to single out his pains now. His impenetrable scales were failing him! Swords and clubs were finding hidden flesh. Impossible! His magnificent wings flailed around like the erratic wings of an injured bat. His sturdy tail thumped weakly against the ground, disturbing only an anthill and causing a single magpie to squawk indignantly at him before falling back into slumber.
His impatient thoughts, once sluggish, came to him in bright red now. Hurry! Kill them quickly! Something is very wrong! Something was indeed very wrong. He reached into his soul and seized control over the root of his guts. He felt the acid-fire gurgle in his cast-iron belly. He stoked the corrosive flame, fermenting it into a white-hot mist and released it, creating a sickly-green miasma of acid that surrounded and protected his body.
Triumph! The barrage of strikes ceased. He could hear the glorious song of his attackers choking, coughing and screaming their last breaths. He was victorious (he always was). Still, they had gotten surprisingly (frighteningly!) close and he would have to be more mindful of his surroundings from now on.
Then the wind blew away his acid-fog. Damn that constant sea-breeze! Again the increasingly familiar tattoo of the torturers’ beat picked up right were it left off, only now with renewed vigor.
He began to panic. Curse the moonless night! Curse the mind-numbing ale in his befouled mind! Curse the traitorous wind, the back-stabbing sea spray and the stifling salt in his sensitive nostrils!
He couldn’t believe these puny creatures had come this close to beating him! He would be more careful in the future. He was a smart Green, after all, and he would not be caught unawares again. He would recover and pay them back for their treachery. For now, though, he must make his escape.
In a single movement, he flipped over his body, tucked in his wings and pushed with his tail. He executed the maneuver with far less style and grace than normal but in the end, it was enough. He went plummeting down towards the safe bosom of the sea, where his tormentors would bother him no more.
On the way down the mighty cliff that hosted his roost, the proud Green dragon carefully plotted the revenge for each slight inflicted upon his body. He actually began to smile a great green toothy grin when something brushed against his wing, then his face. Soon his whole body was covered in a sticky net made of… what? Some foreign, gummy liquid? He struggled to free himself, but he could not. Falling uncontrolled now, he spiraled end over end, faster and faster to the sandy beach below.
He landed with a mighty thump that sent waves of sand flying, dusting the tops of the nearby cliffs. He was still alive, barely, and so he struggled to free himself from his bonds, spitting liquid acid at the webbing. It rolled right off without even a hint of smoke. He collapsed, exhausted and barely breathing to the earth, his fear-riddled eyes rolling in his head. He heard a loud report and smelled hot sulfur on the wind and knew his end had come. He closed his eyes as the last of his energy slaked from his body and the ancient Green dragon cursed himself for being the prideful, foolish beast that fated him to this stupid, empty death.
The Great Taking
With grim satisfaction he watched as the ancient wyrm slipped over the sheer edge of the cliff, down into the final trap of his assault. The thing was nearly done. Only when a dragon was on the brink of death would they retreat, as they were proud creatures and would fight to the end… almost. The one thing they loved more than any other, more than even their impressive pride, was their own lives.
When he imagined this moment, he always thought he’d be elated. He was triumphant over a magnificent wyrm, after all! He had expected losses to be sure, but he hadn’t expected to lose all of his comrades; those hardened few who had been with him through all his scheming and planning. Now he was one, marked only by a splash of acid. His boots hissed and smoked from standing in puddle of the foul stuff and he could smell burnt skin and hair as well. Reciting arcane words at his silvery boots, he released their final spell and was snapped down to the beach-head where the Green would be neatly entangled.
With a deafening bang he was down. There, right in front of him, already giving up the struggle against its bonds, was his dragon. His dragon! He saw the dragon close its eyes, overcome completely by the onslaught.
“Great wyrm,” the man called in the common tongue of the time, “you are defeated. I have utterly and completely destroyed you, oh noblest of creatures. You know how thorough is your defeat. You no longer belong to your life.”
The deflated wyrm lay silent, panting and covered in grit.
“I do not ask that you acknowledge it for my sake. We both know it to be true and that is enough.
“You may feel that the thrashing was thorough. I tell you now that you were spared. My late comrades and I had no wish to do you lasting harm. If we did, you would be dispatched even now.”
The dragon lay still, neither acknowledging the words nor ignoring them.
“So I say to you that you are mine. I have spared your life and it is mine to do with what I please. I have learned the ways of your kind and you now owe me a Blood-Claim.”
“Do not presume to preach me my fate, reckless mortal! I know well enough on what path my doom lies!” the ancient Green spat. “True, I would be dead had you not stayed your hand so I yield to your Blood Claim. My great all is yours to do with as your puny mind wills. I will lie still as you strip my scales for your armor, and strip my bones of meat to fatten your children.”
The man’s lips parted, revealing a grim smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Oh, no. I’ll not diminish your majesty in the slightest. It will be enhanced, buffed to a shine, for my plans for you are much grander!”
Widening slightly, the dragon’s eyes shone with unforeseen fear. Then they lost focus and, giving in to its wounds, the Green finally passed out.
The man’s heavy-lidded eyes stared at the great beast and then turned on the man himself. Acid was still eating its way towards his skin and muscle so he stripped to his flesh and walked into the ocean, numbly mourning his friends, but already burning with the fire of things to come.
The Final Battle
And so it was that Fume (as the ancient Green was named by his new master) and Breaker (as the man was named by his dragon) made their mark on the land. They began by clearing the wild countryside around Fume’s roost. The smarter creatures of the area ran before the unstoppable pair, those who opposed them perished.
Fume and his rider ventured farther and farther out, taming the lands and its people alike. Soon they had built a small kingdom about themselves that prospered under the quick wit and slow wisdom of Breaker and his dragon.
From this shared experience, as well as a shared sense of loss, dragon and rider grew an unlikely bond that went far beyond the Blood Claim. Something happened that neither of them intended or imagined; a love, as close as any brother’s-by-blood, was forged between them.
During the following years, the kingdom bloomed. King Breaker and his dragon had a mighty castle erected at the site of Fume’s roost. Trade bustled with the other four human kingdoms of the land. His people loved him, for they were protected from all manner of harm under the wing of their king and his faithful dragon. King Breaker grew content. Having no struggles, his vast patience and intelligence sat idle. Soon, fat and bored, he turned his ambition to the other kingdoms.
At first his subjects rallied behind him. The whole of the Tamable World would be theirs! The four surrounding kingdoms were incensed by his actions, but they were not overly concerned, as just the outlying villages were attacked. Soon, however, he cut swift and terrific paths through each of the other kingdoms beyond anyone’s imagining. The neighboring kingdoms were hasty and late in their response, but even banding together they were no match for King Breaker and Fume.
His subjects lost their lust for territory when the taxes doubled and then doubled again to support the expansion. His advisers warned him that he was spending too much time away from his own kingdom. Everyone was turning against the king. Everyone except his dragon. Fume knew the need to dominate. Fume shared his drive to subjugate all others to the Fifth Kingdom. When the king tired in battle, it was Fume who rallied him, whispering victories and reviving his will to conquer. Without Fume, he had no one. He needed no one else when he had the love and loyalty of his only friend, the one creature who truly knew him.
Soon only pockets of resistance were left in the other four diminished kingdoms, who were all but conquered. These pockets, however, gnawed at the king’s thoughts. Why couldn’t he and Fume eradicate them? They must have spies among my people, he thought, even in my castle! King Breaker soon saw spies everywhere he looked, both in his kingdom and abroad. He grew paranoid, wary of everyone, even his advisers. He talked to no one but his dragon. When he learned of a group of rebels he sent away his dragon alone, as there was no one else he could trust. King Breaker stayed behind, locked in his castle, growing more erratic and impatient as the last hold-outs of humanity continued to haunt him. He demanded more of Fume.
The dragon didn’t fare any better against the hold-outs than his beloved master did. He tried and tried, but his efforts were in vein. The rebels were too quick, too well-informed, too sneaky. Each time the dragon came back to report his failure, the king’s face darkened. Soon he stopped speaking with his dragon altogether.
At first the king was simply displeased by his dragon’s incompetence. As time wore on, however, it became obvious that the dragon’s complete lack of progress was a direct slight against the king himself. That dragon was failing on purpose to spite him! After everything they’d shared, after everything they’d built together that ungrateful beast was laughing at him, mocking him!
After leading yet another unsuccessful campaign, Fume returned home to rest and heal himself. He would deliver the bad news to his increasingly demented friend and slip off to his hold to recover. His torn wings and broken maw became harder to mend with each battle. How many more years would it take?
Bleeding, Fume limped into the throne room and gave his report. The king said nothing. Disappointed and ashamed, the dragon lowered his head and found his way to his personal hold.
Licking his wounds from the battles he fought for his declining, beloved rider, he saw a dark and familiar shadow in the doorway. The king’s mad eyes darted back and forth, searching the corners for secret rebels, spies and assassins. His eyes found only the pitiful, mewling wyrm shuddering in a corner. Venting his fitful rage on his traitorous dragon, King Breaker pummeled the poor beast with his fists, his teeth and his fury. He added to the broken creature’s already grave wounds the cuts and gashes of a demented king’s wrath. Through weary eyes, Fume looked up at the king. For the first time in ages he saw that selfish, reckless mortal that triumphed over him so long ago. The dragon lay defeated by the Blood Claim and could do nothing but endure.
Pounding on hide, head and tail the king broke from his personal tempest to discover a greater pounding echoing throughout the castle. He raced from the dragon’s chamber and out into the castle’s bare courtyard to see, approaching his impregnable castle, four separate impossible armies advancing with slow determination. The king was mildly surprised and more than mildly amused at their stupidity until he noted dark shadows accompanying the forces. His face drained of blood. Above the small armies he could now make out the forms of golden, bronze, brass and silver dragons. How could he have not known? From where did they come? How…
“Fume!” the frantic monarch bellowed. “Fume, you must do something! Save me!”
Fume forced open a puffy eyelid. A milky membrane slid back from over his great green eye and he stared at his Blood-Bound.
“You must save me! My castle will fall! I’ve done so much, I can’t lose it all now! You must save it!”
The fields beyond the castle gate thundered with the thud of airborne dragons plunging to the ground, gathering themselves for the single thrust that would break the Breaker king.
“You’ve got to! You are alive because of me! Stop them! Save this place! Protect its walls from falling to those wretches! Do it!”
“If I do,” the broken Green whispered, “it will kill me.”
The armies had approached the outer walls now and were chanting a battle hymn. Foreign verses seemed to simultaneously bolster the armies and mourn the soon-to-be dead. It foretold of the coming victory, but also of the sad, necessary, loss of life. This was no blind war-chant to stir men into a blood frenzy. This was a reminder of the sins they were about to commit, and why they were bound to make them.
Lifting his massive head, Fume closed his eye and added his own ululation to the keen. Still wailing, he made his way to the great bridge separating the outer courtyard from the inner. Louder and taller he sang the elements around him. Soon his voice drowned out even the chanting of the armies. Even when battered and beaten from the abuses of war and his master, when stretched to his full height, Fume was a magnificent beast. He sang water from the clouds and minerals from the soil. He sang the tidal winds and the ochre fire from the setting sun. He gathered the elements about him and added to them his own essence; his acid mist which had almost saved him those many years ago.
His song beat faster now, faster in tempo, faster in magic, faster with passion and faster with fury. Spitting and weaving the swirling words and resonating particles into a single stream, he poured it into an unblemished fang. Once the furious cloud touched his hungry fang it shuddered, then was consumed, the giant tooth drinking in the dragon’s magic, the dragon’s soul, and the dragon’s curse.
His life’s energy spent, Fume collapsed, slamming his fang into the bridge. The armies, the dragons, even the people inside the castle were knocked from their feet. As they recovered, they saw that the dragon’s fang was embedded deeply into the bridge and the rest of him had turned to dust.
It didn’t take long for the advancing armies to recover and soon arrows, bolts, dragon-fire and cannon balls were all fired at the castle.
Not one of them made a scratch.
Breaker couldn’t believe it. He was safe! Fume had done it! He felt an annoyance at having lost his dragon, but he could do it again. In fact, he was looking forward to it. Yes, finally he’d found a challenge worthy of himself once more! He’d subdue an army of dragons!
Soon, though, his elation turned to horror as he looked up and saw the armies crossing his bridge, passing Fume’s fang, dispatching his guards. No! How could this happen!
One of the invaders loosed an arrow that struck his abdomen. The pain must have been overwhelming, but it didn’t register. At that moment time stood still. At that moment, he remembered two things. The first was what he’d begged his dragon to do. Save this place! Protect its walls!
The second thing he remembered was the look of cold, manic hate on Fume’s face as his dragon went to die at his own word. The castle was protected, then, but not the people.
The soldiers had reached him now and in one merciful swing, King Breaker’s reign ended.
Fume was true to his word. His imbued tooth (known later as the Fumic Fang) preserved the castle in pristine condition. Eventually, people tried to live there again, but they were all cursed in one way or another and most learned to leave the castle and the surrounding land to itself. As word of the totemic tooth spread, though, people from across the five kingdoms (and beyond) tried their hands at removing the curse and claiming the castle. Potions, picks, and prayers by the thousands attacked the Fang, but it held true. When it became obvious that it meant to keep its promise, that the steadfast tooth would not yield, people eventually gave up. They left the accursed land alone to fester and molt into a dark place where only the foulest creatures, warped and tortured, could make a home.