The Crimson Dragon - Chapter 50
Four sea monsters, each occupying one of the rocky mountains, yet they did not dare to make another move as they feared the Crimson Dragon in the centre at least not until the goddess decided to dish out punishments. Meanwhile, Claudius was still in his period of hibernation. It was the same with all other dragons;his rate of activity would lower drastically, falling into deep slumber for years or even decades. As dragons were vulnerable during their sleep, they tended to hide in their lairs and set up all sorts of traps and magic to ward off invaders. Claudius, obviously, did not do so. All he did was enlarging the magma moat and making it deeper, as well as modifying the ground a bit to make it more comfortable to sleep on. He was confident that no one would dare to disturb his sleep and the magma moat should be able to deny access to most invaders. Unless other dragons or devils decided to attack him for some reason, it was very difficult for other species to cross the wide river of molten rock. Devils were unlikely to attack either, as materializing in the main realm was extremely troublesome for them.
The hibernating Crimson Dragon was about to reach his hundredth birthday, which also indicated that he would soon be a young adult. By the time Claudius woke up, he would receive a whole new list of magic spells as well as a significant increase in the six attributes. Typical Crimson Dragons would be making themselves well known across the continent at this stage, but Claudius was an exception he already had quite the reputation. The title 'The Crimson Disaster' was given to him after the war with Sylvia the Jade Dragoness, and he became even more famous after the Battle of the Four Dragons. Forces of various affiliations were well aware of his achievements and were paying attention to his every move.
Now that Claudius was asleep, the dragon aura which he had been emitting all the time was reduced to negligible levels, attracting all sorts of seabirds and predators to gather. Although there were comparatively more sea monsters in the region, the predators from other places still chose to hunt there due to the abundant amount of fish. The four strongest sea monsters were now staying near the volcanic island as well, causing the nearby sea to lack a strong presence. The seabirds brought along seeds, dropping them across the island. The volcano provided fertilizer in the form of ash and kept the place warm all year round, not to mention the ample amount of rainwater, allowing the plants to grow at a fast rate. In merely five years' time, the entire island had been covered in vegetation apart from the area near the volcanic crater where crimson lichen dominated the place. The lush plants and trees growing on the island were in much better condition than their counterparts at other locations. For example, a certain type of tree would normally only grow up to three or four metres tall in five years, but the ones on the island looked as if they were decades old. Various insects also somehow reached the volcanic islands, growing into large and fat creatures, with some even mutating into gigantic versions of their original species. If Claudius woke up right now, he would be happily gathering all sorts of insects and plants to make specimens.
The volcano also remained inactive for the past few years. Hot, sulphurous air still emerged from the volcanic crater and cracks on the volcano on a daily basis, but it had been years since the last eruption. Only streams of lava flowed out from the crater, creating smooth paths on the outer surface as they cooled down. With the master of the region remaining dormant, the sea monsters gradually formed an ecosystem on their own and reached equilibrium. Several brave fishermen also attempted to approach the surrounding seas with small boats, and they managed to make it closer to Hell Island after studying the patterns of the sea monsters. The fishermen could barely see the white mist and dim red glow at that distance, and there was no need to travel closer as fish was most abundant at this distance. Of course, it was a high-risk, high-return location;some fishermen still died from the attacks by sea monsters from time to time.
The dangerous yet rewarding situation attracted the attention of the so-called adventurers who seemed eager to meet their demise. The Velen Isles was not as big as one would expect as it was overshadowed by the island nation Lantan on its south. Adventurers gathered at the Sundrah port on Lantan Island, and from there they arrived at the main island of the Velen Isles. After staying there for a while, the adventurers learnt from the residents that the volcanic island on the north was filled with all sorts of sea monsters and treasures. They even managed to buy more detailed information from one of the residents, learning about the possibility of a dragon on the island. The word 'dragon' alone was tempting enough as it came along with treasures and gold most of the time. Up to a hundred adventurers began their search for the island after making preparations.
It could be considered a large scale hunt as the islands in Floren were nothing like the cities on the main continent, where full-time adventurers were as common as stars in the universe. In fact, a lot of the 'adventurers' who joined the search were simply merchants, sailors or even pirates who sort of knew how to fight. Bound together by their greed, numerous small ships scrambled towards the north like an army of cockroaches. The exact location was unknown as Hell Island was a relatively new island, and it was nowhere near the major shipping routes. Only a handful of fishermen from Santa Cruz Island or other nearby islands knew of the exact location, thus the greedy adventurers had to either hire the fishermen as guides or somehow manage to buy a map.
The adventurers first had to face the onslaught of sea monsters, but little did they know that they were being used by the priests of Anbo. The goddess told her priests about the island's location and that a hated enemy was living on the island. The priests had always wanted to get rid of the dragon to please their goddess, yet their combat capabilities was so pathetic that fighting against an 'adult' dragon was nothing but a dream. By luring the adventurers towards the island, the priests could sit at their temples and reap the benefits without being exposed to any risks. While in theory, the priests could control the sea monsters and open a safe path for the adventurers so that they could fight the dragon with their full strength, but it was unfortunate that the monsters were under the direct control of the goddess and there was nothing the priests could do to stop the attacks of the monsters.
Among the 'adventurers' were believers of the righteous gods as well. Claudius' Udaeus army conquered the entire Santa Cruz Island, notifying Chauntea and Pelor of his presence indirectly. The two deities and their believers labelled their conquerors as a neutral force of order as the soldiers did not instigate a reign of terror or rule in tyranny. The fact that the island was conquered did not affect the residents' daily life significantly, and nothing had changed apart from the ruler in name. The Udaeus only took taxes and food supplies from time to time, occasionally 'hiring' some women as well, but they did not commit crimes like rape or mass murder. However, everyone still knew that they were the subordinates of a Crimson Dragon, and according to the common knowledge of the world, Crimson Dragons bring nothing but chaos and destruction. The two deities and the residents could not help but stay alert.
The grain goddess Chauntea was not a big threat to Claudius as her believers were not proficient in combat, but Pelor was part of an alliance of the deities who belonged to the good alignment, thus his followers would all go to war just for the sake of 'righteousness'. A handful of priests, paladins and adventurers who worshipped Pelor thus joined the hunt for the dragon in order to obtain more information about their target. They were all combatants at their prime ages of around forty years old, having well-developed physiques and strong wills. Female teenage paladins fighting Crimson Dragons was something which would only happen in games or novels......
The monsters on the outer regions all had their own territory, thus it was possible to sneak through the opening after killing one of the leaders, but that would not work for the four gigantic sea monsters residing within the island. No matter which direction the adventurers approach from, it was almost certain that they had to fight at least two of them simultaneously. After the paladins and priests slew a massive shark with a weird appearance, the group headed for their destination Hell Island. They were going to climb the volcano in the centre from the converging point of the four surrounding rocky mountains, hoping that they could find the Crimson Dragon after all the hard work.