Samaya the Blue crouched with her companions behind the ash covered rock.

“This is bad,” Pernor said.

“We’ve been through worse,” Samaya told him. “Just get Berrenor up again, and we’ll have this dragon’s head mounted on our wall by evening.”

Pernor swallowed nervously, and turned his attention to his unconscious brother. “Fayleth, I beseech you, who watches over those who roam. Grant your blessings to this unworthy one. Lighten his load so that he may walk your roads once more.”

Normally, Pernor’s hands glowed brightly as he placed them over the wounds he wished to heal. This time, it was so faint, even in the dim light, that Samaya couldn’t be sure they were glowing at all.

Blood continued to well from the deep gashes where the dragon had sliced right through Berrenor’s armor. Pernor stared for a moment, then repeated the prayer.

“Is Fayleth asleep or something?” Samaya snapped, when Berrenor’s condition didn’t change. The warrior had shaken off much worse injuries than this with the help of Pernor’s prayers.

Pernor gave her an offended look, and quickly assured Fayleth that his companion meant no disrespect.

“Perhaps this is a test,” he said. “Fayleth is known for such things.”

Samaya peered around the rock. The great wyrm stalked around the cave, looking for them. Many dragons were intelligent things, devious and cunning. Some were as smart as the wisest of men, perhaps even smarter. This one, however, was just a violent beast, which in some ways made it more dangerous.

She crouched back before it could see her, and turned to Pernor.

“She picked a fantastic time for it. Get his armor off and see if you can stop the bleeding the old fashioned way. I’ll see what I can do about our fire-breathing friend out there. I don’t suppose you’ve got any idea where Applevale is?”

Pernor had already started undoing the straps to Berrenor’s armor, but shook his head. “I was busy dragging Berrenor back here, and I can never keep track of her anyway, even when there aren’t dragons involved.”

“Figures,” Samaya muttered. The halfling would do what she thought best, as she always did. Samaya would just have to hope the cut-purse managed to not make things worse.

She slipped down several of the outcroppings as quietly as she could, before boldly stepping out.

“Over here, hell-breath!” she shouted, then murmured a few quick words in Elvin. “Lightning!” she called out, stabbing the air in front of her with her wand. A few sparks fell lazily from the tip.

The dragon stared at her for a moment, then let out a deafening roar. Samaya leapt to the side as it charged. She managed to avoid the teeth and claws, but the massive body slammed in to her and sent her crashing across the cavern. Gasping for breath, she forced herself to crawl behind cover before the dragon could recover.

Crouching behind her rock, she tried to cast the lightning spell again. This time, she didn’t even get sparks; absolutely nothing happened. She tried every cantrip she knew, but nothing she did had any effect.

A hot wind blew over her, and she looked up at the snarling dragon peering over the rock at her. She started to think she might have been shouting a little too much as her attempts at magic failed.

The dragon reared back to bite, and just as she was thinking it was over, a rock bounced off the dragon’s head.

Bellowing in anger, it twisted around to face this new assault. Samaya didn’t look until she was at the next rock outcropping.

“Hey, ugly!” Applevale yelled. She was holding on to a large stalactite at the top of the cavern. “Can’t get me up here, can you?” She reached into her bag, pulled out another fist-sized stone, and hurled it at the dragon. “Come and get me, if you can!”

Applevale was many things, but suicidal wasn’t one of them. She was distracting the dragon to give Samaya an opening. It would be a good plan, if only Samaya’s magic would work.

Berrenor’s sword lay on the stones where he had dropped it, only a few yards from the dragon. If she could get to it without attracting the dragon’s attention, there was a chance she could swing it hard enough to get through the dragon’s thick hide, maybe she could kill it. There was an awful lot of ifs and maybes in that plan, though. More likely, she’d just buy time for Pernor to escape with Berrenor, and maybe convince the halfling to give up and run.

Before she could even begin, though, it was too late. The dragon’s sides inflated, a bright light shining through the flesh. A dragon that size could engulf the entire ceiling in flame. There was no way Applevale could survive that.

Except instead, the dragon began to cough. Smoke poured from its mouth and nose, and Samaya could smell something burning. With one last, painful-sounding cough, the dragon collapsed to the ground.

Samaya stepped out from her hiding spot, just as Applevale was halfway down the cave wall.

“Catch me!” the halfling yelled out, cheerful as ever, as she leapt from a stony outcropping and dove into the mage.

“I thought we agreed you’d only do that to Berrenor,” Samaya said, disentangling herself from Applevale. The small woman just shrugged.

“How did you do that?” Pernor said. He walked cautiously to the dragon. Smoke still rose from its nostrils. “I’ve never seen you cast a spell like that before.”

Samaya shook her head. “I didn’t cast anything. My magic isn’t working.”

“That’s what I thought,” Applevale said, still lying on the ground. “I saw that Pernor couldn’t heal Berrenor, and then your lightning spell fizzled, and I figured if something was blocking his prayers and your spells, it was probably blocking every kind of magic, and you said once that a dragon uses magic to keep its insides from burning up, so I figured if I could get the big lug to breath fire, he’d probably cook himself, and he did!”

“You were actually listening when I said that?” Samaya asked.

Applevale nodded. “I always listen. I’m usually doing something else, too, ‘cause just listening is boring, but I still listen.”

“But what would cause all of our magic to fail at the same time?” Pernor asked.

Samaya shook her head. “I have a bigger question: is it only the two of us and the dragon that lost our magic?”

The priest’s eyes went wide. “You don’t mean…”

“All we know is that everyone in this cave was effected, but the effects could be much, much bigger. The entire world might have changed.”

Pernor looked pale. “If everyone’s lost their magic… it’s going to be bad.”

“We’d better gather up as much of the dragon’s stash as we can carry,” Applevale said, pushing herself to her feet. “There’s no kind of trouble where a pocket full of gold won’t help.”

Samaya exchanged a look with the priest, but neither said anything. They both knew Applevale wasn’t wrong.

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