Dren is freed from the net and aided in battle by......

Dren's stomach tumbled with fear.  He had panicked and thrashed, but that had proven futile, so he changed tactics and hunkered down instead to work his brain.  He thought hard about ways to escape the net, fight off six of the biggest, toughest breed of trolls in existence, and then go toe-to-toe with the being who had nearly killed him.  Unfortunately, for all the notoriety of a dragon's intelligence, Dren's brain came up empty.  Panic set in and the world around him tumbled and swirled just like his belly.  He closed his eyes and concentrated on his tail, the tip of which had slithered silently and unobtrusively through the netting and around to the other side of his body, effectively hiding it from the trolls' view.  It was not as dexterous as his clawed digits, but it was nimble enough and strong enough to remove the stakes from the ground which imprisoned him.

He listened for sounds that might indicate the trolls had caught on to his ploy, but trolls -- for all their brute strength -- were almost completely void of intelligence and imagination, and were content to simply beat their captive with their fists and with sticks.  Some of them did nothing but pick their nose and foul the air while awaiting a command from Kregmar.

Dren peeled back one eyelid and looked past his inner membrane at the scene surrounding him.  The weasel Byarly sidled up to the tall, frail necromancer and held out one hand.

Seeking his compensation for selling me out, that bastard! thought Dren.

Kregmar was tall and thin, almost skeletal, as if a sharp breeze could knock him to the ground.  His face was concealed under layers of free-flowing robes and hoods.  Occasionally one could see a brief glimpse of sallow gray cheeks or bony chin, but the demon lover's eyes remained in darkness, perhaps forever secluded from the rest of the world.  And who knows?  Maybe he had made a deal with some ghoul who took his eyes for payment, never to see again, to wander the world in perpetual blindness.

But his voice was loud and his laugh was hearty as he produced a hefty sack of gold from somewhere within the myriad folds of his vestments and dropped it into Byarly's greedy clutches, "You've done well, my compatriot!  Go home and spend this on something other than cheap swill and harlots!"

Kregmar clapped Byarly hard on the back and sent him on his way.  Byarly cringed at the contact with the necromancer and refused to look him in the face, but he pocketed the gold.  He slunk away into the great open fields with haste, hoping with sudden religious fervor that Kregmar would allow his escape and not split him open and eat his heart.

Kregmar, for his part, never gave Byarly a second thought, and immediately turned his full attention to the dragon trapped before him.  He sighed, which reminded Dren of a methane expulsion from a nasty bog, and spoke in a voice not unlike the crinkling of dry leaves and rust, an ethereal scream that warbled on the breeze to Dren's ears, "My immortal archenemy, the dragon called Dren.  Did you think I had forgotten our last encounter?  Had you hoped my near slaying of you had satiated my desire to wear your head as a hat?  Hmmm?"

The End

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