Chapter 44 — Ancient Red Dragon
The tavern was crowded with people.
Soran had just learned some bad news from the crowd; the nearby monsters were suddenly acting strangely, as if they had all gone mad. The monsters began migrating from their original habitats to places near the city, blocking all the roads to the northeast of the city. Monsters from both the plains and the hills moved over to places in close proximity to Whiterun, causing the city to raise its security level and send the local army to patrol the nearby regions. Even the Adventurer Guild published a B-rank investigation request, allocating 12,000 Gold Derahls from their funds to hire adventurers to search for the reason for the monsters' abnormal behavior.
The guild did not even require the adventurers to solve the issue; all they wanted to know was the reason behind it. Even though it sounded simple, the results were not as they had hoped. Of the first few groups of adventurers to investigate, only one returned, and they did not even reach the Dark Swamp before they were sent back with injuries by groups of ogres that had just moved over.
Adventurers who took on B-rank missions were strong; everyone in those squads had advanced professions and were at least Grade 3. Even so, they were forced to retreat due to severe casualties. Ogres usually had a rather average challenge rating, but there was a two-headed ogre wizard among them.
It had the ability Multicast. The wizards in the adventurer squad were overwhelmed and killed quickly, after which the ogre commander ordered its underlings to surround the adventurers. They only managed to retreat by expending almost every tool they had at hand. As they headed back to Whiterun in tatters, they discovered large footprints which most likely belonged to mountain giants from the Southwest. They suspected that the mountain giants were driven away by something, and there was a large chance that the other adventurer squads had been annihilated.
Over a hundred merchant squads were stuck at Whiterun. Some of the squads that had better guards tried to force their way through the southwestern roads but were met with roughly three hundred gnolls; only one-tenth of them survived. The majority of roads had already been closed down to prevent more people from rushing into groups of monsters. Apart from the route Soran came from, all the roads, including those toward Autumnfall and the sea, were also occupied by monsters.
Goblins, kobolds, gnolls, ogres, lizardmen, and many more; as though something horrifying had appeared, almost all the creatures residing near the Moor Mountains were flushed out from their homes. Rumor had it that a dragon had appeared, but unfortunately no one could verify the rumor.
Soran was carrying Vivian in his arms as he walked down the muddy, dirty road. Since a lot of merchants were stuck at Whiterun, every tavern and inn in the city was completely full. More and more merchants arrived at the city, only to find that it was not possible to reach their intended destinations. The only options available were to wait it out or go back the way they came from. Even if they offered twice the price, it was still difficult to find decent lodgings; it was even more so in this period of time, when people tended to reject outsiders. Without much choice, Soran paid one of the merchants at the horse market and left his horse in his care, then headed toward the old city district and the slums.
This was terrible news for Soran. He’d planned to head toward Autumnfall, but that route was also blocked by the influx of monsters. Things would be easier if he was travelling alone, but he was now travelling with Vivian. He could not ensure her safety while in battle.
Ancient red dragon—this was the first thought which came to his mind.
Apart from adult dragons, there was nothing Soran could think of that could cause such a large-scale migration. Judging from the monsters' scattering patterns, he deduced that the location they escaped from was close to where the ancient red dragon had appeared back in the game.
Communications were slow due to the lack of technology. Taking into account the time people needed to confirm the red dragon's existence, the timing of this event was almost identical to the game. The dragon cleverly disguised itself as a typical dragon, and many died at its hands. After collecting and analyzing data, players came to realise that it was in fact an ancient red dragon with a challenge rating of 25. If the dragon had not gotten on the nerves of a Saint, a descended deity, and eventually been killed, the entire southern region might have been destroyed entirely.
Ancient Red Dragon (Grade 7)
Challenge Rating: Level 25 (Monster Level: 34), can use breath attacks
Attribute Estimations: Strength 42, Dexterity 10, Constitution 35, Intelligence 25, Wisdom 24, Charisma 24
Specialty: Ancient Dragon, Legendary Magic, Gigantic Creature, Powerful Dragon's Breath, ??? (Unknown)
The ancient red dragon's challenge rating and difficulty were comparable to those of lesser deities. The only difference between them was that the dragon did not have divinity, but instead had buffs exclusive to ancient dragons. Back in the game, someone tried to overwhelm it with numbers, but the results were catastrophic, as expected. Just by flapping its wings, dozens were killed; another hundred or two were decimated by a single breath attack. After that, no one tried to defeat it that way again.
Even though it was dangerous, many wanted to sneak into the ancient dragon’s lair for its treasures. Over 5,000,000 Gold Derahls, loads of Rare and Epic-grade items, and a dozen Legendary-grade items—it was enough for people to risk their lives in an attempt to obtain even a small portion of it. It was even possible that Divine-grade items could be found in the lair. Whether or not there were though was debatable since those were usually kept in shrines. Unless the god who produced them had fallen, normally those items could not be obtained, even if it was a powerful ancient dragon. One thing was certain though; someone did manage to steal a few Legendary-grade items from the ancient dragon. These items even became the keys to slaying gods in the future.
However, Soran was simply a Level 5 rogue right now. He could not even stand in front of the red dragon due to its terrorising aura, let alone fight it. Naturally, he did not even think of taking on the dragon. He was more concerned about the monsters obstructing the roads, as he could not bring Vivian to Autumnfall if this issue persisted. From what he could remember, this dragon stayed around for a lengthy period of time, meaning that the roads would be closed down for weeks or even months to come. Unless someone eliminated all the monsters, Soran would have no choice but to cross the Whiterun Plains with just the two of them.
Soran held Vivian in his arms as they entered the crowded and noisy tavern. There were fully armed adventurers everywhere, as well as a few small-scale merchant squads
“Those goddamn gnolls!”
A brawny man slammed a mug on the table and said in a low voice, “Just like that, they ate Meyer. When I found his corpse, I couldn’t even put his parts back together.”
Everyone was complaining and grumbling about the sudden situation. The mass exodus of monsters happened out of the blue, and everyone was clearly unprepared. Even the lizardmen living in the Dark Swamp began to attack the settlements and villages on the perimeter of the swamp, forcing the people there to move away.
What people knew for sure was that some creature or monster had forced the lizardmen out of their original homes. With their homes gone, they had to attack the nearby humans, as they needed new territory.
Suddenly, a seemingly drunk man bumped into Soran.
“Sorry!” the man said.
Just as he crashed into Soran, his hands reached toward his wallet, but Soran did not allow that to happen. With a shoulder lock, Soran caught the thief’s arm and stepped on his knee, pinning him on the floor.
The entire tavern went silent. The painful moans of the thief could be heard; Soran ruthlessly dislocated the man’s shoulder.
“Be careful who you mess with.”
Soran put Vivian down and unsheathed the curved sword on his waist. He lightly poked the thief’s shoulder with the tip of his sword. A few men who might be the thief’s gang members crossed their arms while approaching Soran.
“Enough,” a man who was sitting at the bar counter stood up and said while looking at Soran. He then pointed at the thief, who was still pinned to the floor. “Break his arm and throw him out. Know your place! How dare you, trying to steal things in my tavern!”
Men appeared from the corners of the tavern. They nodded to Soran, signalling him to let them handle the rest. The men broke the thief’s arm with a brutal twist; he yelled and cried in pain, but the men did not care and simply tossed him into the gutter outside the tavern.
They were hitmen hired by the tavern; this place probably had dirty dealings behind the scenes. It was reasonable to Soran though, as it was almost impossible to find a proper shop with a clean background in the slums.
“Young man, those were some good skills. Do you want to stay here for the night?” the brawny man standing in front of the bar counter asked Soran. “It’s 2 Silver Derahls for a night. If you don’t like it, go sleep somewhere else.”
Soran glanced at his surroundings before tossing two silver coins onto the counter, then held Vivian in his arms again. The man nodded as he received the coins.
Soon, a maid who wore heavy makeup led the siblings to their room on the second floor. The maids were mostly part-timers, serving as tavern clerks and chambermaids, but that was not all. To those who could afford it, they provided special night-time services.
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