It was the smoke that led him to that place. His view was blocked by the towering trees, but the acrid smell of burning flesh told him that something was terribly wrong. He broke into a run.
The sight that met his eyes was ghastly. The long, serpentile form of a majestic, green dragon lay crashed through the trees, smoke billowing from several places, its shiny, green hide spotted with bruises and cuts.
He approached it cautiously. The dragon had apparently passed on, leaving behind its mortal husk. The magical energies contained in its body were already escaping to the heavens. Even as he walked around the body of the mighty beast, a human gasp sounded nearby and he realized, with a start, that the dragon was a manned one.
The broken form of a tall, thin person lay a few feet away, in a pool of blood. His shiny, green robe was soaked in blood and his painful moans foretold impending death.
He knelt beside the dying rider and examined him for signs of life. The heart beat was faint. Suddenly, the rider’s eyes flickered open. His breath was long and drawn.
“They will be here soon. You have to run away.”
“Who are you? Who is coming?”
“They will kill you, and they will take the Ring. It must not fall into their hands. You have to take it.”
The rider nodded to his right hand. A large, emerald ring shone on his finger.
“Take it. Take it and run away.”
The boy took it from the rider’s fingers. Even as he was removing it, the air grew dark and heavy. Terror-struck, he looked up at the rider, but he had breathed his last. He could hear movement behind him in the woods. Fearful, he clutched the Ring in his hand and ran into the darkness of the woods.