Shedakor’s eyes widened as the black dragon smashed into the blue with ferocity unlike anything he’d ever seen. Wings beat and bit morehl and human alike with bursts of wind and blasts of sand.

Streaks of death belched from their throats as the territorial beasts vied with each other. Both failed to connect. Stray streams of caustic breath incinerated the poor souls caught in the spray. Victims included both lava elves and amazons.

The beasts collided mid air again, like battle-hammers against shields, and then they intertwined and streaked high into the sky. Moving so fast, the dragons seemed to trail color behind them, as if they were comets, wrapping a black and blue braid across the sky.

With the amazon chariots turning away from the partially constructed outpost where he laid in wait with his riflemen, Shedakor poised for battle. He burst through the main door along with his troops. “Attack!” he howled.

Morehl hammers clacked on flintlocks and a torrent of ball shot hailed upon the unprotected flanks of their enemies. Those in the back screamed and fell from their vehicles; human footmen who raced behind the calvary stumbled and readjusted their shields.

“Tear them out, root and stem,” Shedakor howled, drawing flintlock after flintlock. He slowed his deadly cadence and peered through the grey-blue haze. Far fewer had fallen than anticipated.

The lava elf general jumped back inside just as the cloud of javelin return fire streaked towards the morehl. Spears pierced his soldiers, and they shrieked and collapsed, leaking hot blood with trails of steam; many laid helpless, alive but pinned to the ground by the sharp lancets.

Shedakor hissed and glanced towards Sshkkryyahr who ascended from a pit dug within the outpost floor. She waited safely within the outpost. She hovered within the mouth of the cave they’d dug. “Your cursed bullets are not working, Sshkkryyahr!”

She narrowed her eyes. “Of course not… they require the presence of the fire element in both user and their environment.”

He scowled, and she added, “I will tell you when they are ready.”

With a shout, Shedakor called back what remained of his soldiers. He peered over the deep hole in the earth where the drider had come from. She stepped over the lip and crawled down into the darkness, cackling as she went. “What is down there?” he called into the black, slightly irked that he wasn’t fully in the loop. Emperor Kurlahk put me in charge of the army Charbann had better not know either, he seethed silently.

A shadow fell overhead and Shedakor yanked his head back just in time to avoid being crushed. The fanged rakshasa descended through the hole where the ceiling still yawned open and exposed to the elements. He lowered from the sky on his magic carpet. Torl sank beneath the edge and called after him, slowing his descent as he spoke. “Well… climb on if you want to see it.”

Shedakor hesitated only momentarily and then leapt over the brink. Landing on the carpet was like falling into a hammock, but he managed to stay upright.

Moments later they arrived at the bottom.

Torl stepped off as the carpet flattened against the floor of the massive dugout. He only walked a few steps, the landing was not large. The floor was carved of black, igneous scoria, twisted gray basalt, and pink flecked volcanic glass.

Shedakor followed. He could feel the heat beneath his boots. The fiery elements called out to him. Fire and power laid deep beneath the brittle, stone plug. He could feel it in every fiber of his morehl being.

Sshkkryyahr stood next to a large rune she’d drawn on the plug. “Do you feel the fire?”

Shedakor nodded.

“It runs like rivers through the tectonic plates. They are under pressure and yearn to be released.” She rolled her eyes back in her head and touched the rune, working her dark magic. Torl did likewise. As Sshkkryyahr and Torl chanted some fell mantra, the ground began rumbling. The rune glowed red with magmic light.

Shedakor took a few steps backwards and onto the carpet. Lava elves could withstand great heat and direct flame did not phase them. They could even survive immersion in lava… for a few seconds, anyway. Few living things could survive a direct kiss from Firiel.

The cap over the lava flow cracked and stone splinters flew like bullets as the pressure hissed. Magma burbled up, seeping through the cracks. Everything in the vertical shaft shook with so much pent up energy threatening to burst forth.

Scrambling back to the safety of the carpet, Sshkkryyahr and Torl clambered aboard and urged the artifact into the air. It plunged into the sky even as the lava flow erupted, rocketing upward with burning fury and a burning spray that sent the morehl hunkered within the outpost running. They plunged directly into battle with flintlock and rapier drawn.