"Stop it Gifford, just stop it! You're going to get yourself killed chasing after a dragon." Searna pleaded. "There are only six of us left, and we need you more than the dead do. We can rebuild, and wait for more noses to come along and join our tribe."
"That's the dumbest idea I ever heard!" Shouted Gifford as he slung his pack over his shoulder and pushed his niece aside. His brow was still furrowed from the recent anger that overtook him as it was accustomed to doing. Breaking things hadn't been the best idea, but returning from the mines to find your village ablaze and virtually your entire tribe decimated was cause enough for him. "I'm gonna rip its head off and make it my puppet, now get outta my way or I'll punch you in the wompas!"
Searna winced having felt the sting of his fists on a few occasions. She knew it wasn't meant in malice, it was just how Gifford handled everything. He didn't believe in looking back, just pushing through to the other side of his problems. "And what am I supposed to tell the others? How do you think they will feel knowing you left them when they needed you most?"
"They'll get over it." The last words he would say to his niece before striking out on the steep downward trail on the Small Tooth mountains that led from his home to a larger trail used by the larger races who lived upon its slopes and cliffs.
He ignored her warnings as she called down to him. "Gifford! Wait! Don't forget the curse! You'll be taken by the hoolygooly with all the witches down there!" Yet his broad form vanished through the underbrush and she wept.
Days had passed, and a simple shelter was erected, the five remaining gnomes huddling together at night for warmth. Winter was on its way, and with the food stores destroyed in the dragons attack the tribe was not likely to survive unless it reached out in trade. Searna was clever, and more skilled than the others at moving undetected, and so she was chosen to take what few things they could spare and journey down to the lands below and trade for food and supplies. Searna was pleased at the thought of searching for Gifford during her journey. She desperately hoped he would give up this foolish vengeance quest and return to help the others rebuild.
She arrived in Westhaven days later, having moved cautiously down the mountain as not to be seen. The journey was painfully slow from that point forward as more goblins and hobgonlins than she had ever seen were amassed along the human borders. Slipping past them wasn't an easy task, but she waited until nightfall and managed to find two sentries who were distracted with torturing a small possum that had wandered too close to their post. She wandered most of the night along the edges of a swamp until she eventually found a few human settlements. Exhausted, she discovered a flooded basement in one of the older structures and bedded down for some rest.
She awoke to distant clangs and screams, and knew immediately there was some large battle raging nearby outside. Afraid to risk being caught up in the fighting she withdrew deeper into the flooded basement. But alas the outer door was thrown open and two goblins came rushing down. She was uncertain whether they sought to kill anyone they encountered, or simply wished to ransack the area and take any valuables. So she hid carefully in the far back of the room, which to her luck had a hidden pathway that seemed to lead into some cavernous tunnels. Carefully she slipped into the darkness and hurried her way deeper underground where she would spend the next few days wandering, looking for a way out.
Seeing light again for the first time in days, she emerged from a small cave entrance within the forest. She wandered a while, but soon came upon a road, and with it roadsigns that lead her to Brost. There she managed to pass mostly unnoticed through the hamlet and eventually to the merchants within. She ventured a peek at the inn in the early morning hours when everything seemed quiet. She was overjoyed to see a drawing that looked a lot like the sort Gifford made hanging among other parchments on a board outside. She marveled at the hand strokes used and could tell right away Gifford was proud of his work. It looked as if he was trying to sell some Gefta, a tribal term used for shields large enough to protect ones chest, but not their legs and head as well. She eyed the coin bag for a moment before she sought a piece of charcoal and carefully wrote the number 100 next to it, and underlined it twice. She knew it wouldn't prevent Gifford from being cheated, but if there were honest folk about, he should do well enough with that much coin. Sad that she had not found him about in her searchings, she knew there could be trouble returning to the tribe with the recent battles, and so set out with the goods and began the long journey home.
It took some time to navigate back to the road she had traveled in on, finding one path blocked by hoards of zombies, and another with bands of roving bandits. To her dismay she found the pathway blocked by barricades and banners marked with a purple dragon... It was worse than she had imagined, not only was a dragon involved, there were dragon knights as well. And to make matters worse, once she managed to find a narrow path through, she discovered the terrain leading back up the mountain was different than she recalled on her way down. She attempted to navigate through, but only ended up more last than before for a number of days, and then weeks. Finally, she found a familiar path and was returning towards the hamlet when she heard a horrendous noise. Ducking behind a low wall, and peering over the top just enough to see what had startled her so, she witnessed a grand dragon in all it's glory. She froze in place, unable to move and watched in horror as men charged the great beast and were slain in rapid succession. Then before she knew what was happening she heard a familiar battlecry. She couldn't muster the courage to move or even to scream out a warning, and watched through tear-filled eyes as Gifford charged towards the dragon on horseback. After the scene unfolded, she collapsed into a ball behind that low wall. Searing heat blasting overhead as the dragon roared and releashed hellfire upon the world. She whimpered, and closed her eyes awaiting death that did not come.
Searna climbed out of the rubble several hours later, skin and clothing streaked with dark stains from soot and ash that still drifted on the winds. She was trapped here for now, no way home, and no uncle to find on this side of the dragon knights. She fled into the nearby woods to find a place to hide.