There weren't always dragons in the Valley. Yet something afoul and sinister is moving beyond the jungle brush. They are being followed. Whatever it may be, remains hidden in the darkness, yet there is an odor in the air, unlike any he has ever sensed before, drifting faintly past his nose. With a torch in hand, he strays away from his party to further investigate. Staring into the darkness, he was sensing a presence, but nothing more can he detect. Two of his companions walk up behind him, standing with their spears at the ready. After a few moments, he slowly turns and rejoins the group of warriors on their somber journey to the meeting place. As the men moved further down the trail, a pair of glowing red eyes appear in the area that the young warrior was staring at with such intensity.
The seven men represented the best qualities of their tribe: strength, wisdom, and courage. The two elders of the group are brothers to the chief and members of his royal council. Accompanying them, is the commander of the chief’s army and four young, but seasoned warriors. This was the custom when tribes of the King were summoned to discuss major affairs of state. However, this meeting is unusual, due to it being held in a secret place and the middle of the night. The Commander of the party enters the clearing first and notices that his group is the first to arrive. He orders that one of the small firepits be lit and to plant their Tribal Staff in the slot behind it. As the men stood around their pit, quietly listening for any movement. Bush leaves are gently moved aside, from two different directions, and parties of the same number silently entered the clearing. Each of their leaders commanded the lighting of their firepit and staff to be planted. They all stood in silence, as four more tribal representatives in kind, took their place in the great circle of firepits. Each represents the chiefs within the King’s empire and his trusted allies. Although the men's attributes varied in shape and size, one group undeniably stood out, for their group was all female. Amazons Warriors from the Westerner Hills. Although pleasing to look upon, their stern forward-looking stares were hotter than the flames of their pit and their sharp spears reflected the lights of the firepits into the eyes of their owners.
The silence was broken when a thin tall man stepped onto a small platform in the center of the rings of firepits. He was old, but his presence was strong. As black as a mamba snake and just as deadly. When he spoke, the warriors felt the thunder in his voice. Not loud, but clear enough that all could hear. This was Aeru-Jubal, Warrior King of the Seven Hills.
“Tribes of the Seven Hills, my warriors, I have called you here tonight for your council and to take action regarding an external threat to the people of this kingdom.” Their focus intensified as he went on to speak about the intrusions from the coastal kingdoms, killing and taking captives to be sold to merchants in crafts along their shores. Our patrols have dealt with those who dare to venture too deeply into our valley, punishing the intruders and allowing the captives to dwell safely within our borders. The king stated that under the veil of these foreign intruders, a new arrival has set up camp in their land. Not a profiteer, but hooded predators, using leopard-sized beasts, with heads of a crocodile, to hunt down their prey.
By the murmuring in the gathering, the king picked up and tolerated their unbelief. Some of the leaders carefully expressed that the king should not allow such tells to be spread throughout the land. Suggesting that his scouts are attempting to cover up their failure to prohibit the outsiders from penetrating the interior or have corrupted themselves with the foreigners to weaken our defenses and to cover up the taking of our people. The king patiently allowed this debate among the tribal leaders before raising his hand for silence.
“Brothers, the words that you are speaking, I and those who sit in my council chamber have spoken, as well. Just before I was about to issue the order for the removal of the tongues of my scouts and have each one of them be impaled at our borders, as a warning to all intruders and traitors, their captain pointed to a skin-covered litter. I ordered the litter to be uncovered and now I have ordered them to present their findings to you and to tell you their tell in their own words.”
The captain and his four litter bearers took their place in the center of the circle. All eyes were on the litter as the captain began to speak.
“Tribes of the Seven Hills, as I led my warriors as I do each day, patrolling the borders area assigned to us by General Utfu, we came upon a train of captives being led westward through the jungle. Before attacking them we followed them for a half day’s journey to see if others would be joining them as they stopped to make camp. I was about to give the order to close in when a robed figure entered the camp. Flanked on each side were two large beasts that were like a leopard, but They had no fur, and their skin was like that of a reptile down to its hairless tail. It had a head, that reminded me of the crocodiles I see by the river, only with a short stout face. Two large fangs protruded from their upper mouth, which was lined with a row of very sharp-looking teeth. As the husky beasts breathe in and out, occasionally I saw sticking out, serpent typed tongues as though they were tasting the air. One of the creatures must have sensed our presence and instantly lunge for one of my warriors in hiding. The beast impaled itself on his spear as he fell backward. As the impaled beast struggled to claw at the young man, his friends speared the beast on each of its sides. Our spears broke from any attacks from above. We were only able to penetrate its skin below its scaley ridgeline. The robed one, armed with a staff that shot lightning, and his three remaining beasts attacked and killed many of my young warriors. The slavers with him also fired their weapons upon us, but a few well-thrown spears eliminated that threat. At the end of the battle, the robed man escaped into the jungle carrying one of the captives and two of his beast in pursuit. What remained of us are four of the captives, one being the mother of the child that was carried off, six of my warriors, and this bleeding pig of a slaver to verify our story.”
The tribesmen murmured among themselves as the patrol captain pushes the slaver to the ground at their feet. Holding up his rope-bound hands before him pleading for mercy in his native tongue. The king walks over to the man and asks if he understands any of the words that are being spoken? The man frantically shakes his head yes and states that he speaks enough to communicate with his cargo to prod them along the journey to the coast. “What the Captain is telling you is true, but I had no idea about the meeting on the path. My leader kept many secrets and often made side deals.” He throws himself at the king's feet, who in turn kicks him away. One of the tribal leaders, still skeptical of what he is hearing, scoffs and states that this man will surely say and confirm any story that he believes will spare his life. “So thought I Prince Obo, until I was shown this!” The king pointed his spear in the direction of the tarp-covered litter, which was quickly removed to reveal the dead carcass of one of the beasts that attacked them. All were taken back in awe of the site and the size of the creature. Speaking over the chattering crowd, the king shouts, “Here, my warriors are the evidence of the enemy we now face. Proof, that this is no tale to frighten small children and silly old women!! The men shout out in agreement with their king and moved to outline in council how to deal with this strange new threat. As the king and the leaders were heading back to the raised platform to sit and counsel one another on what needs to be done, He turns his eye to the patrol captain and orders him to return home with his warriors and the former captives, along with the head of the dead beast that he dubbed with the name of Dragon Leopard. As for the slaver, we will keep our word to him that no man will harm him as long as he truthfully confirmed your story. The king nods toward one of the guards to cut his bonds and presented him with the knife. “Take this message with you that you jackals and vultures have plucked greedily at the flesh of our land, but you will never be allowed to touch its heart. All that enter will not be shown the mercy I am showing to you, Now run for your life, for although I have given my word that no man shall harm you, I did not place such restrictions on my Amazonian sisters. So run, Run!! For your very life depends on it”
The slaver immediately dashes off through the dark jungle. The tribe listens as the man trips and tumbles in the bush until all goes silent. The King signals to the women to take pursuit. As they enter the edge of the jungle, they all hear a nerve retching scream and the sound of flesh being ripped apart. The women cautiously approached the edge, with spears raised. Then suddenly something is thrown into the circle ending at the foot of the king. It was the head of the slaver. Decapitated in mid-scream.
From the dark edge of the jungle, pairs of glowing red eyes appear. As the warriors looked around the clearing, Red eyes were being spotted in all directions. One of the chieftains present shouted “Circle and protect the king!!”. As they formed with shields and spears before them, the Robed men entered the clearing as their Dragon Leopards lunged forward, attaching the encircled warriors.