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Pain. A short, jagged breath. The drip of blood from a rune blade's edge. Images, swirling images, . . a beautiful woman, flawless, exquisite, children: young, full of life and promise. She is mine,...they are mine.

Bright blades while I am held, pinned to the ground by a sword through the back. A rune blade, etched by a master. Bright blade drawn slowly across her throat while I watch. Stabbed through each child,...while I watch. I watch and watch, and watch my soul's heart die, blood bubbling between clenching, desperate fingers as she stares at me, her eyes silently pleading for me to help her. I watch as my children scream for their father to save them, crying, crying, quieter and quieter until only silence remains,...they're gone,...

Blessed shadows, no...they're dead!

I gasp as I come awake, the echo of my loss shuddering through me. And immediately clutch at my side as hot, furious agony floods through my battered body. Instinct closes the runes, channels the magic and heals my wounds.

"A drow rune weaver." Spit a hoarse voice in the hissing sibilants of the draconic tongue.

"You're a rare breed."

My eyes flutter open and I find myself looking across a dark space at a naked high elf chained to a heavy metal ring set into the wall. His lean, muscular body was bruised and battered, and criss-crossed with multiple whip marks and cuts, his long blonde hair matted with sweat and blood. No, not an elf; no elf had green, slit-pupilled eyes like that, or wore a glyph-marked obsidian torc around their neck. A magic-bound dragon.

"Since when do high elves take prisoners?." I ask hoarsely, my voice ragged from screaming, made even more so by trying to speak draconic. The torture had been thorough, and unrelenting.

A shifting by his side pulled my eyes down and I saw two more elvish forms, these female. More bound dragons, unconscious. I lifted my eyes back to the male, who continued to stare at me with those baleful eyes. It would amuse the elves to bind them thus, reptiles forced to become mammals for the sake of amusement and entertainment.

Abruptly the space shifted uneasily to the side, forcing me to use a hand to brace myself, only to discover I too was chained. As I jerked to a twisting halt, trying to get my legs under me, I took a wild look around.

"Are we on a ship?" I hissed, mostly to myself. Yet the drake, arms chained over his head so he could do nothing to keep himself from flopping around as the vessel heeled drunkenly back in the opposite direction, felt impressed to answer nevertheless.

"Obviously." He hissed and I shot him a hard look, my mind working furiously.

Last thing I remembered was being in a stone cell, buried beneath some lord's castle as his guards worked me over. How in the shadow's name did I manage to make it onto a ship? And where the frosty hell was I going??

I looked at the drake. Since he was so willing to talk, maybe I could get some answers out of him.

"So, a prisoner and bound to flesh. Taken in battle? Or did you kneel in surrender?" I rasped.

A look of pure rage appeared on the dragon's elven face and he spat to the side.

"Dragons do not surrender." He grated. "We were captured dishonorably. And now we are being taken to the king, to be paraded as trophies." The rage darkened his face.

"If I get free, I swear I'll rip out their hearts!" He snarled. "How dare they insult us so! I'll burn their white cities to ash and carve their air fleets from the sky!"

A faint smile touched my lips at that. Who wouldn't want a few more high elves dead?

"Pity that's now impossible." A new voice declared, also speaking draconic. We both turned towards it as a door hidden in shadow opened with the whine of rusted metal and a tall, pale high elf stepped into the uncertain light.

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