Derendil stood on the ledge below the troglodyte stronghold, ripping, tearing, and throwing anything that got too close. They were outnumbered, but at this point, he hardly cared. He barely felt the attacks that rained down on him from all sides. Then everything went dark. For a brief moment, he felt as if he were flying, being carried back to his ancestors on the back of a regal griffon.
But then he awoke in the darkness.
He groaned, feeling the all-too-familiar sway of the keelboat beneath him. He pushed himself to a sitting position with a slight grunt and looked around, trying to figure out what had happened. Everyone was yelling, pointing, and arguing. And rowing.
Derendil turned his attention to match that of his companions and saw one of the most beautiful things he'd ever seen. A glittering dragon, wreathed in sunlight was headed straight toward them. She was as green as the forest just before rain, and it made his heart sing. Even better was that she seemed to be delivering the sun to them!
Until suddenly she wasn't.
The lithe beast shrieked in anger and dove beneath the black waves of the underwater sea, dousing the magnificent light it carried. Cursing, the team leapt to action. Someone conjured a thick mist, while the rest – himself included – grabbed the oars and began pulling harder and more in unison than they ever had. The keelboat lurched and seemed to skip across the inky surface of that terrible liquid void. By some divine miracle, they managed to outrun the wyrm, despite all odds, and gain a few precious moments of respite before coming to an intriguing island.
Had some of the more faint-hearted members of the party not already retreated or been lost, perhaps they would not have stopped to investigate. Derendil, for one, was glad that they did decide to stop and explore.
At the center of the small island stood a shimmering ziggurat. An ancient temple covered in elven runes. Mesmerized, Derendil approached the temple doors, whispering aloud as he read the runes.
One of the others - one of the small, annoying ones – cautioned that this was a flying temple belonging to a powerful sorceress from ancient times. Of course, Derendil already knew this, having read it in the runes. Not only was she powerful, but she was an elf. He silenced the small thing with the large nose and closed the gap to the entrance. A woman's voice, soft and pure, beckoned him forward. Completely enamored, Derendil placed a furry claw against the door, simultaneously caressing it and searching for a way to open it.
And suddenly, he was flying again.
He soared among the clouds, between magnificent cities floating on the inverted caps of mountains, removed and enchanted by powerful magicks that could only have been devised by ones as timeless and pure as the elves. Shifting his weight, he spun and dove, weaving through a flock of eagles. A bliss unlike any he had ever known vibrated through his entire being as he beheld the burning, golden glow of the rising sun on the horizon.
With a twist, he began a backward arc; arms spread, eyes closed. He concentrated on the feeling in this moment, holding on to it. But something was wrong. He started to lose control, and was no longer flying – he was falling. Faster and faster he fell, through the layers of clouds, toward the courtyard of one of the flying fortresses. Faster than he would have thought, he slammed into the flat stones of the courtyard.
But when he opened his eyes, Derendil did not see some wondrous city. He saw a ruined temple, profaned by hideous creatures attacking his friends; defiling this beautiful place. A rage welled up within him. His breath quickened, each exhale accompanied by an increasingly intense growl, until finally he unleashed a roar and charged the beast. He circled behind and tore at it with his claws, needing to dismember this abomination and cleanse the temple, as was the noble thing to do.