Though your eyes are bound against the bright light of the surface, some light form the sun stabs through the cloth, stabbing into your brain like ethereal daggers. Though the light must be very bright, there is no warmth to it. You can smell burning sulphur and decay, the ground slick and spongy beneath your feet. Perhaps most alarming of all though, is the sound. No birds sing, no insects buzz. As you emerge from the shattered mine tunnel, the utter, complete silence batters you, almost knocking you back. The sound of your own steps, as you shuffle through the boggy ground is muffled to be nearly imperceptible, and the air is so very, very thick.
As the sun sets, you carefully, slowly remove the bandages protecting your eyes from the light of the surface world, wincing even at the dim twilight from the stars and rising moon. The world you left, just days ago, when you went to investigate the claims of the dwarves and gnomes, is gone. Just over the horizon, in the direction of Centerholm, a sickly greenish glow flickers, reflected on the clouds hanging in the sky. The sky itself looks gangrenous, with a yellowish green cast to the stars. You trudge toward town, taking in the devastation of the land around you. Some trees are burnt to cinders, some are blasted, yet crackle with electricity, as if they’d absorbed a lightning strike and are gradually releasing the energy back into the air. You pass a farm, where the fields have decayed to a foul smelling sludge, and the livestock are dead, as if partially dissolved in acid. The one sign of life you see is a barn cat in profile, which mewls evilly, then turns toward you, revealing half of its face warped, sprouting tentacles where its whiskers should be, the eye on that side glowing with a pustulent yellow light.
As the road carries you to within sight of Centerholm, the source of the flickering glow is revealed. Shattered buildings lay across the streets, while green flames die down in the ruins of some of the houses. The spires and central tower of the library stand shattered, thrusting into the sky like the talons of the dead, clawing their way out of their graves. Nothing moves. Nothing breathes. Nothing cries out for help.
You cast around the wreckage, and manage to find a room that has not been completely collapsed. You salvage enough from the wrecked town to lay down some bedding and make camp for the night, resting your weary bones. As you bed down and drift off to sleep, not even bothering with keeping watch, you hear the sound of great leathered wings overhead, and a loud thud, as something very large comes to ground. A mournful, sad cry of rage shakes the walls of your shelter as whatever it is roars its sorrow over the devastation. You rush outside, weapons in hand, and see a massive dragon in the center of the town square, the firelight reflecting green from its bright golden scales, tears of flame falling from its eyes to burn the shattered flagstones below. It turns its massive head, the size of a wagon toward you, and opens its eyes, sapphire irises with pupils glowing the pure white of a winter’s full moon, and prepares to speak.