The situation has not improved. I daresay it has deteriorated a little. That's not a good thing, as you can probably imagine.
The sky dwarf offenive had eased off this morning, at least as far as we could tell from our hiding spot, and the dragons relaxed enough that we felt confident in emerging. The lithe snotface that spotted us first didn't look especially surprised, so I'll assume they knew we were nearby. Maybe dragons have fantastic noses, or something.
Well. Yeah. Of course they do. I knew as much. Evan told me their honkers are almost as sensitive as a dog's. Poor 'ol Evan. Why'd you have to go and die? You depressed the hell out of my son.
Anyway. The Valley of Thorns is a bit of a battlefield. A lot of the thorns have been cleared away by the dragons to create runways, allowing them to get into the sky at a frightening speed. It's a bit more difficult to do that when you have to flap into the air from a stationary position, no doubt, and I think quick deployments have helped stem the tide of the sky dwarves.
We found Barrel watching over the wounded with his 'wife'. Whatever you wanna call her. Pregnant or not, the would-be Omega ignored her belly in favour of attaching a massive, vine-formed splint to an auburn dragon with a broken leg. Barrel watched her work, his expression that of a student taking mental notes.
"Barrel!" I called, waving in his direction. A few dragons looked back at me, glaring, but none of them bothered with us beyond that. "Hey, Barrel! Mr. Alpha! Over here!"
Barrel peered over one shoulder at our ragtag band, sighed, and wandered over. He shrank as he advanced, appearing no larger than a hound when he settled on his haunches in front of us. I held out a hand; he didn't shake it. He studied Jeffrey for a few cold moments, waiting until the former king bowed his head, before looking at me.
"Uhhhh..." I drew back. "Hey, pal. Nice to see ya again. How's it going?"
Barrel's eyes flicked from side to side. Dragons, dragons, wounded dragons on all sides, covered in dozens of small stab wounds. What kind of answer did I expect?
"Yeah. Sorry. We're not much better." I gestured to Grylock, who'd flopped onto the ground. He was pulling thorns out of his ankles with his teeth. "Any idea why those things are attacking you? The, uh, sky dwarves, I mean. Been wondering 'bout that."
Barrel rolled his shoulders. He stole a brief glance back at his wife, seeming to consider something, but the idea must not have been worth mentioning.
"Wives. I hear ya. Mine's... well. Still missing. Bet she's swearing her head off right now." I rubbed the back of my head. "You know how Libby is. How she gets."
"Yeeeeep. Women. They... they do things." I felt stupid, wondering why I'd come all this way. I knew why, but asking... asking didn't seem like a great idea, given the circumstances. "Sooooo... Barrel... um... is there any way we can...?"
"He wants te ask ye for help findin' Libby, dragon-boy. Stop beatin' the bush, Dragomir, ye shy fucker." Grylock spat out another thorn. "Dun wanna stand here all day expressin' useless platitudes."
Nodding, clearly not surprised, Barrel sighed. He took another look 'round his camp, at his wounded comrades, and snorted out a tiny jet of flame. There was frustration in that fire, frustration tinged with a small amount of irritation for putting him on the spot. Obligation and friendship demanded Barrel find a way to help us; obligation and service demanded he ignore the request and worry about his kin first.
I had a miniature epiphany in that moment. I was staring at myself. In, uh, draconic form. I'm sure I've had that same expression a million times when making leadership decisions. It's a shitty job. You don't realize how shitty 'til you're forced to do it.
My next sentence was tough to spit out. But I managed.
"... forget it. You guys have your own worries." I shrugged, attempting to look carefree. "It was wrong of us to come begging."
I felt my group tense up. Fynn in particular exuded unease. "Dad...?"
I turned and put a hand on his shoulder. "It's okay, kid. We'll find your mom on our own. Wouldn't be safe for the dragons to go flyin' around scouting for us right now anyway. Isn't that right, Barrel?"
Behind me, Barrel nodded. He looked sad - but a bit relieved. No, a lot relieved.
"Well. Glad we wasted our time on that. Only took a day 'n a life te get here." Grylock hopped to his feet. "Where we gonna commit suicide next, o fearless leader?"
Fynn covered his mouth. Instantly angry, I spun to bark at the goblin -
- and the next moment I was hitting the ground as something exploded in the distance.
While Evan was still with us, he pestered us with dragon lore non-stop. Some of that lore included anatomy, and anatomy inevitably addresses things like, oh, how a dragon breathes fire. Dragons store a volatile mixture of pressurized natural gases in fleshy pockets inside their bodies, and when one pocket meets another pocket, BOOM! The gases erupt and flow out the dragon's jaws as fire. It was more complex than that, but I wasn't listening very carefully, and basically assumed it was like farting out one's mouth.
There is, that said, one key difference: farting out your mouth probably wouldn't make you blow up and shower your guts onto everyone you know and love.
The battle raged once again as the sky dwarves pressed in on the aerie in a massive swarm, buzzing out of the thorns at near-ground level to catch the off-guard dragons by surprised. Worse, a large number of the sky dwarves now wielded flaming spears - and their decent to good aim allowed them to throw one such spear right down a dragon's throat. Explosion, guts, raining blood, you get the picture.
That ended the conversation. We're huddled in a cave with a few older dragons at the moment while the younger, fitter members of the aerie fight off wave after wave of sky dwarves. It sounds as though they're getting sneakier and not simply launching suicide attacks, which is, as far as the dragons are concerned, not a good thing.
I'm playing Tic-Tac-Toe with an old blue dragon that's missing half its teeth. I somehow don't feel very productive.
Gods. Libby, be safe. Be very, very safe. And Traveller... if you don't defend my wife... I swear... you're dead. Dead.
Yaaaaaaay, another siege,
Dragomir the Wanderer