“That’s enough!” A new voice cried, followed by a fit of coughing and hacking. Another figure emerged from the brambles, hunched over and leaning heavily on a walking stick. He was quite old, well-wrinkled, but even then his features were strange, tough to place. Not green enough to be an orc, but too green to be an elf, and with ears that were only very lightly pointed. His eyes were piercing and blue-green, with a youthful appearance that belied his otherwise decrepit frame.

“Please, Father,” Sally said. “Let us-”

“Let you be what? Young, hotheaded sticks-in-the-mud? Bah! If these strangers have made the trip to see me, let them see me.” He coughed again, wheezing and bringing a rough linen handkerchief to his lips. It came away stained crimson.

Sally, grudgingly, bowed her head. “Yes, Father Zelten,” she said. “The will of the edor be done.”

“You kids really need to learn to laugh a bit, to have a little fun,” the edor said. “Things don’t get any better when you’re this old, let me tell you!” Then, to the travelers: “Come! Our campsite is just a bit further up.”

With Sally in the lead, the orcs took Eggebrecht and Feris into a hollow where they had pitched a small camp and tents. It seemed to be a hunting camp, with evidence of slaughter and several caracasses, but there were also children and older orcs present, which was quite strange. There were no other edor but Zelten, who led them into his tent and shooed the others away with a warning about evesdropping before he once again spent several moments huddled over a rag that sopped up bloody foam from his lips.

“You did well to come when you did,” Father Zelten said with a chuckle. “It’s not long before the still, silent world takes me at long last.”

“I’m quite sorry to hear that,” Eggebrecht said.

“Not nearly as sorry as I am!” laughed Father Zelten. “But such is the way of things. Perhaps because there are so few edor anymore, we still carry a lot of weight with the various wild folk with whom we make our home. And with poor Zobela gone, now…she was one of the youngest, still flexible enough to make a difference. A real blow, that, and easy to see why it’s got the damn too-serious kids all riled up and ready to burn things.”

“You really do have my sincerest apologies about that,” said Eggebrecht. “It’s a tragedy when such a rare creature such as yourself dies.”

“The good die young, as they say,” Father Zelten said. “But you didn’t come here to talk to me about the affairs of edor or why there are so few of us anymore. No, you’re here to ask about dragons, am I right?” He coughed. “To get a leg up in the treasure hunt, yes?”

“No,” said Eggebrecht. “It’s the knowledge I care about, not the gold.”

“Good!” Father Zelten laughed until it was choked off by a fresh fit of coughing. “Because I have no idea where it is. Or even if it exists! Highclaw always met us by the Meeting Stone out on the prairie, and as to what she did with all the gold, well, as far as I know it all went into the lake!”

“I’m sorry,” Eggebrecht said. “Did you say…she?”

“Oh yes, that’s a shock, isn’t it? Highclaw, the greatest and last dragon of our age, was a female. Females often are the more fierce of the lot, as you might have noticed from Sally and Jinny.”

“And Feris,” piped Feris, who had otherwise been mostly quiet.

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