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While Pyre was gone

by Tristan Dunigan

The group stood at the mouth of the cave. The four of them didn't look like your typical band of adventuring heroes, but to their people, they were indeed heroes. The large framed figures waddled a bit further into the cave opening.

"Is it home, Brother Orien?", one of them said anxiously. "Only one way to find out, my friend," Orien said, "Perhaps, a prayer first?" The three other Tortles agreed and bowed their heads and listened as Orien recited some comforting words, "Dearest Mother over us as we venture into this place to seek the artifact of our the serpent who lies within...not find us a tasty morsel." The others looked at Orien, rather disturbed. "You call that comforting, Brother?", Jamoke, one of the other Tortles present, asked jokingly. Orien simply shrugged in response. "Shayla, Ayden, are you both ready?", Orien asked next. The other two Tortles in the group, swallowed hard, and nodded in the affirmative. Orien took hold of the lantern, and slowly entered the cave. Jamoke, unstrapped the machete from his utility harness and took position behind him. Shayla, clutching tightly on a pair of nonaka, and Ayden, leaning on his staff, followed behind the others into the dark, dank cave that was the lair of Pyre.

The entire group was rather jittery. Drops of water from the cave ceiling, landing in puddles was enough to make the bunch jump in alarm. Even the sounds of their own hearts, beating in their chests, echoing off the cave walls was unnerving. Jamoke began to talk to himself quietly, reminding himself of the Code of the Shell. "Be Brave," he muttered to himself, although he was quite sure that when the Code was written, they had not factored in walking right into a dragon's home. "I just hope the damn thing is still here," Jamoke said. Orien had heard all the local legends and was familiar with all the omens. "Its here, my friend, have faith. It is here," Orien tried to reassure his friends. "Unless of course another group of adventures have already looted this place." To this, the others stopped in their tracks and simply starred at Orien. It was clear that his companions did not appreciate his observation. "Well, it is only a slight possibility. I hear this Pyre is quite a beast. I doubt seriously that anyone would get out of this cave alive with the artifact," Orien stated. To this, the stares only got more intense. Orien cleared his throat, "Lets just move on, shall we?" Perhaps they had expected to be cinders by now. The very fact that they had walked at least thirty minutes and nothing, not the dragon, not even a tiny lizard had come to confront them was causing the tension. It was indeed quiet; too quiet. Where was the Dragon?

After wandering through the dark cavernous expanses for what seemed like an eternity, the group saw up ahead the glitter of gold and silver. Orien looked back at his companions. "This is it, my friends. Stay alert." They made their way slowly into the treasure cave. "My but this Dragon is almost as big a pack rat as Shayla," Ayden observed, referring to Shayla's profession as a Trader for several of the family groups in the Tribelands. To this, Shayla simply lightly struck Ayden's shell with her nonaka and stated, "If only your lab was a cluttered, you'd be a halfway descent wizard!" The cave was indeed full of all kinds of treasures; from gold and silver, to gems and statues. "Well, my friends, this treasure won't sift through itself, lets get to work," Orien said. Ayden was wide-eyed and gaping at the sheer amount of treasure in this cavern, "Just one sack of this stuff and we could all retire." Jumoke countered this thought, "But how much fun can you have baking in the sun for the rest of your days? No adventure? No excitement? Count me out of that." "There is much to be said for sun-baking my dear Jumoke," Ayden said, "Some of us would just assume bake the remainder of our days away." "My friends," Orien interrupted, "Lets not talk of baking.....especially in a dragons lair. Lets just find the Scute, and be on our way."

For what seemed like an eternity, the group turned the treasure cave of Pyre upside-down and were still no closer to finding what they had come for. "I don't understand it," Orien said, "According to legend, a Knight came to this cave with it and fell victim to the dragon. It has to be here!" Ayden muttered a few arcane words and closed his eyes,

"Well...the dragon is busy with...someone ... a group of knights? I see a battle in the sky. Looks like we have a little while longer to look." The group redoubled their efforts and searched for many more hours. They still had nothing to show for their search. The group was obviously disappointed. It was Jamoke's frustration that came to a boil first, as he grabbed a handful of gems and jewels and threw them up towards the cavern walls while shouting some choice Tortle profanity. The improvised missiles made a clanking sound as they found their mark on a ledge far up above the floor. The sound attracted the groups attention as they all looked towards the ceiling. Whatever was up there was hanging in a precarious position, because the force of the gems hitting it was enough to dislodge it. It fell straight to the cavern floor and smacked Jumoke square in the nose, laying him out flat. The other Tortles began to examine what Jumoke had "discovered", after tending to their pride wounded comrade. It was a silver shield, decorated with a silver leaf pattern, tarnished and covered with cobwebs and dust. After cleaning the shield off, the group discovered something else. Upon the shield, was a brownish and slightly concave leathery hexagon shaped object. Orien looked and said, "This almost looks like a...."

"Shell?", Shayla interrupted, finishing Orien's thought for him. Ayden looked at the brown hex and noticed a gold rune,

"This is it!!!! This if the Lost Scute of Bravery!" The group took a moment to ponder their discovery and what it meant.

"This is just the first one to be discovered, there is much work left to do, "Orien said. "Your telling me," Jumoke interrupted, "When old Pyre returns, its gonna know that something was in here and now something is missing. We need to distance ourselves from here with a quickness!"

The group gathered up the Scute of Bravery and placed it in a backpack. They then exited the cave as quickly as their shelled frames would carry them. "Looks like the Cat and Mouse game is beginning now, eh guys?", Shayla observed.

"Yup, except this time the cat happens to be the most savage dragon on the Coast. Its not a good day to be a mouse!", Ayden replied as they made their way out of the cave and to their chariots. The group then sped off, Brother Orien leading the way, knowing that sooner or later, Pyre would be looking for them....and would not be very happy.