In oder to understand how we ended up doing favors for a dragon, I must tell a story that is a bit self-centered. I question even telling it as I’m unsure if the dealings between sorcerers and dragons should be known to more than those involved in the events, but I feel that the question would invariably rise when some of our tales start with getting information from an otherwise unmentioned kobold…
I had heard of dragons sometimes making pacts with sorcerers. This intrigued me as a way to increase the versatility of my spells and gain a powerful ally against the impending emergence of the harbinger of doom. I spent a long time in the library researching. The information about the ritual was in an obscure text and lacked some details, but one thing was clear: in order to make a pact with a dragon of my choosing, I would have to be in the presence of the dragon. Without being in its presence, any dragon may respond to the ritual, and there may be no way to know what kind or even whether it is good or evil.
An evil alliance was out of the question, so how to go about finding a dragon and, just as importantly, the right kind of dragon? Well, Sigil is home to a variety of races, so I thought I'd start there. I called our faithful tout Ourasa and inquired about the presence of dragons in the city. He informed me there most certainly were, but would likely be shapeshifted.
I had decided that a pact with a copper dragon would be my best alliance, so I wrote an advertisement and paid Ourasa to put it out to as many dragon-friendly areas of the city as possible: "Magic Performer seeks assistance for his show! Make money and scale up your own power with the help of a practiced magician! Free to watch, but COPPER, silver, and gold appreciated. All proceeds go to the needy."
It worked even better than expected. I was planning a little street performance in Sigil for the next day, when, to my surprise, Ourasa showed up in the Tasty Pig with a wax-sealed scroll. They symbol on the seal was an X crossed by 3 horizontal lines, the symbol for copper. My fingers trembled with excitement as my eyes scanned the words:
"Good day to you. I believe your message as advertised had more meanings than one. If that is the case I have some Copper that you may be interested in. Since I am needy I wouldn't mind the proceeds going to me. I believe I can provide the assistance that you require. There are matters that I would like to discuss with you. You can find my servant at the The Known Dragons Tavern. His name is Dhunu, and he is a kobold; a little fussy at times but serves me well. He can bring you to me."
I wasn’t confident that my little advertisement would be understood by only the one type of dragon I had an interest in meeting, but I couldn’t pass up the chance. Ourasa guided me to the Known Dragon, a tavern in Sigil where the message said I might find this Dhunu. The food smelled better than the average fair, the drinks were good, and the atmosphere was even darker than most taverns. In short, it was my kind of place.
Ourasa followed me in at my request, standing by my shoulder as I took a seat at the bar. In between ordering a drink and some small talk with the half-black dragon bartender, Ourasa pointed out the little kobold who had give him the message to give to me. He was in a corner near a fire place, and had obviously chosen it to give him a view of the goings-on in the bar.
I gave Ourasa some extra coin and indicated silently that he was free to take his leave, then asked the bartender politely about the kobold’s drink. It turns out that his favorite drink was Rusty Ale, and it was almost out. Lucky me.
I dropped payment, with a generous tip onto the bar for the information, onto the bar, and picked up my fire whiskey and the fresh Rusty Ale. I made my approach as noticeable as possible, not wanting to startle the “fussy” kobold. He sat on a chair that must have been made for races of his stature, otherwise he may have looked like a child sitting at a too high table.
He was still startled. “Who are you? What do you want?"
I was already holding out the drink, and trying to be as friendly as possible while remaining anonymous, I dodged the question, "Waiting for someone is boring, and thirsty, work. I thought you could use some company to pass the time. May I?” I asked indicating a chair that wouldn’t block his view of the tavern.
The drink slid in front of him next to his empty mug, and the kobold look at it, debating whether to accept it and deal with a stranger or turn it away, "I guess, but as soon as the person I am waiting for shows up you are going to have to leave."
"Of course, of course,” I responded, "It just so happens I'm meeting someone here myself. It's a nice place to have a quiet conversation. And you never can really know just who's listening because everyone's always out for silver, gold, and platinum if they can make a single coin off of you. I even met a guy willing to do the most unbelievable things for a copper."
"It is my favorite place in Sigil. There are not many places that you can get a good drink and Shrieker Soup. For a copper? No one does anything for a copper here in Sigil."
"Copper can be worth more than anything in the color of the rainbow, in my opinion. I'm sure there are other that would disagree with me, but there's something that just speaks to me when it comes to copper.”
“Well, my boss would agree with you on that, but I will always prefer gold.”
At that moment, I was quite certain the letter was genuine, but a well-dressed female walked into the tavern. "That might be my contact. Be ready to scram just in case,” he said.
“Oh? Do you know her?” This could be fun, I thought. He obviously had no idea who he was actually looking for.
“No, but she looks the part all regal and like. I can see her being a powerful sorceress.”
He sat forward in anticipation, but had to sit back again when she ordered food and began her meal, “If that’s her, she’s in no rush…” he said with his words trailing off in annoyance.
“So, your contact is a sorcerer, eh, Dhunu?”
I couldn’t suppress a smile as he nearly jumped out of his chair, bumped the table and nearly knocked over his drink. He stammered, "How did you know my name, I didnt tell you my name…”
I had planned on teasing the kobold further, just to see how fussy he really was, but he looked like he was about a second from bolting out the door. No wanting to deal with chasing him down, I quickly put the wax seal from the letter onto the table. "I had to be sure it was genuine… I really would like to meet your boss.”
He visible relaxed, and then became frustrated, “Oh, so you are the one I am waiting for? Why didnt you say so in the first place? You could have introduced yourself like a civilized person.”
“Would my name let you know I was the one you were looking for?”
“No, but you obviously knew that you could introduce yourself with that. Lets get going.”
I smirked at him, "But I didn't know if this was true in the letter or not. At least not until your said your boss would agree with me. It could have been some other evil one pretending to be copper. Besides, it's not my fault you didn't think I looked regal enough. I think I might just be a little insulted at that… I've always thought I looked quite dashing in this cloak.”
“Yes, it is a very fine cloak. You just arent my type. Your ears are too pointy.”
I quirked an eyebrow and laughed, “Lead the way, then.”
As we walked the streets of Sigil, I took in the sights as Ourasa was the usual mode of transportation, skipping from one place to the next. (Except for that time that we were chasing down Rast, the Mercy-Killer, and that was no time to be taking in the sights.) He eventually took us down an alley-way, and in similar fashion to Ourasa, pressed a copper object of some kind against the archway, creating a familiar portal.
On the other side, I immediately felt something was amiss, and dodge out of the way just in time to see Dhunu get a face-full of fine, white flour.
"Was that supposed to happen, Dhunu? I don't quite like the idea of not having a way back out,” I asked casually. I wasn’t too worried figuring if this fussy kobold wasn’t worried, then I shouldn’t be.
"The portal always closes behind. The flour on the other hand is new…. My master thinks his pranks are amusing. I … have grown to accept them.”
I grinned, holding back outright laughter at his misfortune. "It is a little amuzing… Nothing wrong with a little bit of levity in the darkening days we are in,” I responded, as I clapped him on the back, sending large puffs of white smoke into the air.
He still glared as he pointed down the rocky corridor, “This way, please.”
The portal had dropped us into a cavern, the walls, floor, and ceiling showing distinct signs of expert workmanship. I held Tsurlar’s Blade aloft as a torch, as he led the way down the corridor, which sloped down through several winding turns before finally opening into a large, well-lit room with high ceiling and intricate stone work.
I sheathed my blade as the dragon turn its head towards me, and asked in a decidedly female voice, "What would the rouge do if he needed something better than iron daggers?”
It would surprise no one that knows me for even a day that I would be awe struck at this moment. She was beautiful to behold, lounging on top of her horde of gold, gems, and jewelry, and was unmistakably copper. Almost too copper, in fact. The sort of color that lasts only a short while in freshly smelted weaponry, armor, or coin before handling with bare hands and weathering tarnish it. She was not the first dragon I had ever met, but she was the first that wasn’t threatening my life at the moment of our introduction.
"He would buy adamantine daggers, of course.”
"No silly, he would steel one.”
I guffawed, not only at the joke, but at myself for treating the question as a riddle and answering with logic. "I'll need to remember that one. I am Kemanorel, Lady.” This should be quite interesting I thought; all the power of a dragon, an exceptionally skilled one by the look of the stone-work, and she likes pranks and jokes.
"Welcome to my abode, Kemanorel. Please make yourself comfortable,” and with a gesture of her claw at stone floor, a chaise lounge rose up. To my surprise, Dhunu rushed forward with a beautiful and soft rug and covered the newly created couch. He was a faithful companion, and one I knew I could trust, but I had nearly forgotten he was there the moment the conversation had begun with the dragon. “Please, Dhunu, fetch our guest some refreshments.” His response was immediate, hurrying down a side passage, out of sight.
"I do believe you have a proposition for me.”
I nodded as I took a seat on the couch, but leaned forward, elbows on knees, and unable to stop my nervous habit of rubbing my thumb into the palm of my hand, “The material plane is in danger, and my friends and I must prepare for the fight to come. As a defender of the material plane, I require more power, and, if you may be so willing when the time comes, even more powerful allies. With circumstances as they are, I ask that we make a pact.”
"That could be agreeable. I too seek much. What do you offer?”
“In addition to some of my power, I offer gold for your horde, and my services should you call upon them.”
She purred like a cat at the offer, though it was closer to an earthquake’s rumble, "Oh… I like that.” The joy in her voice was unmistakable, "What stipulations, if any, do you put upon your service?”
"None, Lady. In the future, I may ask a request, and you are free to accept or deny it at the time, but it is not a condition of the pact I ask of you now. I only hope that when the time comes you find me worthy of help.”
"Then it is a deal. Oh, heavens me. I forgot to introduce myself. You may call me Ivol.”
At this I smiled, and kneeled down on the stone in front of the couch. I pulled a bag of gold from my haversack and placed it on the ground in front of me and asked formally, "I, Kemanorel, ask in this day to form a pact with you, Ivol, offering my power, gold, and service as the bargain.”
"I, Ivol, accept this energy from you, Kemanorel, and offer of myself a portion of my essence.”
We sat in mediation for several hours as the pact was formed. I felt waves of power wax and wane between us; my magical power drained little by little, while knowledge of new spells form my mind piece by piece until the puzzle was complete. When the ritual was finished, I was incredibly thankful to Dhunu for the refreshments he had brought out in the interim.
It seemed odd only afterwards that we would make such a partnership before having spent time talking to each other; but, I also suppose that such an pact might only be a contract to some. Or perhaps it is simply prudent when the required interaction might take an hour or it might take ten. In any case, Ivol and I, along with Dhunu, spent a few enjoyable hours talking of past adventures, good and bad. I told her of the triumph of tricking the Fire Giantess into fighting a hydra, and then the eventual failure as she assaulted Aiwan, how I started looking only for gold and glory, and found myself in group that I could call my friends, in the unlikely position of maybe being the only defenders against the Fiends in the Temple of Light. In response, she regaled me with stories, much to Dhunu’s chagrin, of the best pranks she had pulled on him.
He was every bit as fussy as the letter had said, but I could also see why he would put up with such pranks to be in the service of such a kind mistress. You didn’t have to be a mind reader to see that despite his outward reactions, that he had genuine affection for Ivol, or that he didn’t really mind the pranks and joking as much as he let on. I was sure I could trust him as much as anyone.
It was unfortunate to have to spend so few hours before returning to Aiwan, but duty called.
"I will have Dhunu guide you back. Expect to hear from him again soon. I may have some need of assistance.”
"I will be sure to make myself available, whatever you request."
I offered my hand with only my ring, middle, and index finger outstretched; she returned the gesture, palm up, with a claw pointed to the ceiling. As I wrapped my three fingers around her middle claw, my eyes had a strange feeling, as if heat waves from a desert mirage were manifesting in the goo between the front and back. I’m not sure if maybe the ritual hadn’t been fully completed until that moment, or if it was just delayed, but I knew the pact left a physical mark. I think Ivol could tell something had happened as well, but neither said anything.
As I relaxed my fingers and let my arm fall to my side, turned on my heel, and followed Dhunu from the cavern, I was both honored and relieved. Honored at having such a fine patron, and relief knowing that this world would not fall so easily to the hands of a demon tyrant.