Fairday 28th Sun’s Rise yr 2534 (continued)
Summary: Dragon hunting, peace talks, return to Lake Town, grave news..
Descending the damp stone stairs, the PCs make their way through a series of old corridors which, according to Folkvar have been unused for decades apart from the Lizards who passed through recently. Before long, the stairs end in a sheer pit which drops over sixty feet into a deep pool far below. Folkvar begins climbing down to investigate and discovers a side passage leading off the main shaft down onto the shore of an underground pool (the same pool which the pit drops straight into). Unbeknownst to him, Folkvar’s movements had not gone unnoticed…
Before the others could follow, Aragatharos appears at the end of the corridor behind the PCs, her skills at stealth outsmarting Alhena who was keeping watch. A veritable torrent of acidic breath cascades down the tunnel, burning the PCs and knocking them to their feet in its caustic wave. Dashel, Morgann and Alhena are washed over the edge of the pit, falling into the pool far below much to Folkvar’s surprise. Alhena manages to grab the edge of the side passage that Folkvar found and takes refuge from the dragon’s assault there. As quick as she appeared, Aragatharos had melted back into the shadows. Mikhail leaps down into the water and Rosilee follows Alhena through the tunnel to regroup with the others while the Halfling remains in the side passage where she can watch the cavern below and the staircase above.
The PCs warily search the dark cavern, Rosi and Folkvar skirting the edge of the pool while Mikhail, Dashel and Morgann explore a dark passage and are attacked by Lizardfolk. The Lizardfolk servants are dealth with fairly swiftly but during the distraction, Aragatharos glides silently through the water and ambushes Folkvar. The Northlander fiercely battles with the dragon with support from Morgann and Rosi’s crossbows and Alhena’s spells. Dashel leaps bravely into combat also but is caught off-guard by Aragatharos and is sent reeling, landing with a splash nearby bleeding heavily and unconscious. Aragatharos once more disappears from sight, escaping through a hidden submerged tunnel.
Rosi drags Dashel to the shore and manages to revive him enough for him to stand and fight. Mikhail meanwhile heads deeper into the dark passage and discovers Aragatharos’ lair- filled with the coins and treasures of her hoard! Sensing an opportunity, Mikhail calls out that he has found the hoard and the dragon falls for the bluff, charging blindly into the treasure chamber where Mikhail and Dashel are waiting. Aragatharos however pops up and sprays the room and passage with more acidic breath, damaging the whole party, before fleeing back down a chute and out of sight. Cursing under his breath, Mikhail turns and heads back to the main cavern where the dragon is already launching a counter attack.
Swooping in on her great wings, Aragatharos snatches Rosi in her mouth and takes off hoping to pick the party off one-by-one. Rosi is injured by the dragon’s teeth but manages to wriggle free, launching a crossbow bolt at the beast’s belly as she free-falls to the pool below. Injured and frustrated, Aragatharos turns and attempts to do the same again, but this time aiming to snatch Folkvar. As she flies in low, Folkvar leaps to the side causing the dragon to collide head-first with the rock face!
The few seconds it takes for the dragon to right herself and take off again creates a window of opportunity which is ruthlessly exploited by the three warriors. Folkvar smashes the dragon square in the face with the Demondrum Hammer while Mikhail beats on her with his own hammer and Dashel leaps forward onto the dragon’s back, plunging his greatsword into the back of her neck. Morgann and Rosi find the stationary dragon a much easier target now and pepper her with bolts while Alhena continues to launch a deadly barrage of magic.
Catching their breath, the PCs begin divvying out the treasure from Aragatharos’ lair. In particular they find a Draconic Sphere, an unknown item believed to store information. Unable to decipher how it works, the PCs take it with them to investigate later. Folkvar and Alhena also begin hacking at the body of Aragatharos along with the body of a blue dragon they find in the lair (apparently killed by Aragatharos around two weeks ago). They manage to extract blood, hide, teeth and bones from the dragons which they hope to craft into useful weapons, armour, items and trophies.
Exploring the caves, the PCs discover a secret tunnel leading directly outside the cavern system to the side of a hill facing away from Lake Town. Below them along the bank of a river the PCs spot a Lizardfolk village where a tribe of blue-scaled lizards toil under the whips of the black-scaled tribe they fought the previous day. Deciding that the blues are likely not as hostile as the blacks, the PCs head down to the river bank where they are immediately challenged by the large black-scaled brutes. Folkvar whips out the severed head of Aragatharos and raises it above his head, roaring with victory. The sight of their leader and matriarch dead right after their sound defeat on Pechwe Island is enough to break the morale of the black-scales and as one, they turn tail and run.
Meanwhile the blue-scales bow to their saviours. A wizened old Lizardfolk elder steps forth, supported by his daughters to speak with the PCs. He addresses Folkvar in his native Fjolnorsk much to everyone’s surprise and expresses the thanks of the whole tribe. The elder explains that their dragon master was slain by Aragatharos around two weeks ago and their tribe had been enslaved by the larger black-scales. He ensures Folkvar that the ancient emnity between Lizardfolk and Northlanders would not apply to his tribe as they are all thankful for being rescued from slavery. The PCs suggest that the Lizards leave the area but this wouldn’t be possible as the dry desert and plains surrounding the small swamp would quickly kill the cold-blooded reptiles. It was only through the magic and wisdom of their blue dragon leader that they made it here in the first place in search of new fertile land to settle.
Not wanting to kill the innocent and mostly unarmed Lizards outright, Mikhail talks Morgann into allowing the blues to remain in the riverside village as long as they don’t cause trouble. Morgann agrees to speak to the Lizards’ elders properly in Lake Town and come to some sort of mutual arrangement.
Having successfully defeated the ravaging Aragatharos, driving off her tribe and securing a peaceful place for her slaves to settle, the PCs return to Lake Town for a well-earned beer. They are treated to a hero’s welcome by the civilians and mercenaries alike and spend the night eating, drinking and celebrating their victory. Only Mikhail does not join in, he spends most of the night in solemn conversation with Chaplain Scabbia who has apparently received word from Salamonis.
Mikhail interrupts the party around midnight and pulls the PCs aside. He explains that they have to leave at first light- although Salamonis was not hit directly by Tiamat’s Tail, it is currently in the grips of a strange supernatural plague! Not only that but it would seem that the devils found by the PCs in the docks were not the end of the problem and more of the infernal creatures have been spotted! The carts are already packed and Chaplain Scabbia has even provided a set of magical horseshoes for each mount which will allow the PCs to return to Salamonis in a day, such is the urgent need for heroes in the city.
The good mood of the party suddenly drained, the PCs head for their bunks and ready themselves for yet more hardships…
We venture dowm into the dank cave to seek out the cowardly dragon. I am filled with anticipation, and I can sense the uneasiness felt by the group. The passage continues for a short while, and as far as I can tell, the dragon has not been down these passages, only her lizard servants.
At the end of the passage we arrive at a sheer drop, that extends down into a deep pool of water. I attempt to scale down the pit and find that there is a narrow side passage that may prove an easier route. My intuition proves true as I discover that the side passage leads into a vast cavern which is directly below the pit. I decide that I should attempt to illuminate this cavern further, so I call upon my ancestors for light, and cast it into the gloom on the tip of a crossbow bolt. I am blessed with good fortune as my bolt sails across the expanse and impacts just above another passage leading off this cavern. My elation is short lived because I soon hear a loud cry come from up the pit and I see globs of acid cascade down it.
I rush back up the passage to see that my bretheren have been ambushed and doused in the dragon’s foul corrosive breath. I do what I can to help the others down, and Rosi joins me in the side passage, as the others opt to jump down into the water. Rosi and I run down to meet them and regroup. Once there I get a better view of the cavern and see that it is mostly flooded with a few sandy islands. This is a poor battleground, as I have seen that this dragon is far my superior in the water. Therefore Rosi and I attempt to stick to the edge to avoid being dragged into the dark waters.
The dragon appears to have remembered our encounter before, and dives out of the water to attack me. I stand my ground, hoping to keep the beasts attention fised on me so that Rosi can excape to a safe distance. I stuggle to maintain my control as I feel my rage building inside me. Dashiel make a brave charge at the dragons flank, but is caught unawares by it’s powerful tail. However, the dragon seems loathe to engage in an honourable battle and dives back into the waters, where it can spring out from hiding.
Rosi helps Dashiel to the shore while I run over to Mickael, who is busy engaging some of the lizard men that the dragon must have as personal attendants. They are easy foes, but keep us distracted long enough for the dragon to sweep in again an breath her acidic volley onto us all. Luckily not dealing any fatal wounds.
While we are still reeling from this attack Aragatharos swoops in and seizes Rosi in its teeth. Fortunately the dwarf is agile enough to pry herself free. This is when the dragon makes a fatal error. It attempts to snatch me, as if I were no stronger than Rosi. I step aside the overconfident lunge and bring my hammer down on the monsters head. With that the rest of the party exact their leathal toll, felling the dragon, and ending it’s dominance ocer the black lizards inhabiting this area.
We discover the dragons hoard and divide up the gold as best we can. I also discover the body of a blue dragon, which I am told are also cruel, savage beasts. It appears there is no quater drawn for fellow dragons. From what I have heard, dragon hide and claws make excellent clothes and daggers, so with Alhena’s guidance on the useable components, I set about skinning and declawing the dragon. While I have never skinned a dragon before, I have skinned many deer and elk, and the skill seems to transfer easily. However, we opt to keep the dragon’s head whole, as we think it would make a fine addition to the decor in the Dancing Griffon.
With our bloody trial complete we set out through a tunnel we found leading off the hoard chamber. After a steep climb it opened up onto a Lizardman ca,p, filled with the black scales and blue scaled lizards. The blue scaled lizards seem more peaceful than their black scaled bretheren, as when the black scales react to our appearance with raised weapons, the blue scales backed away.
At this point I was in no mood for a fight, as the dragon had tired me greatly. So I raised the head of Aragatharos above my head and threw it down in front of the lizards and bellowed in Fjolnorsk, ‘We have killed your master! Do not test us or you will die before our steel! Fly with the winds and begone!’ This worked as the black scales turned and ran at the sight of thier master’s lifeless head.
To my surprise, once the black scales had fled, the blue scales remained. A particularly old looking one approached and addressed me in Fjolnorsk. He explained how his tribe has been cruelly subjagated under Aragthoras and her black scales and that they are peaceful. I took pity on them and allowed them to remain under the watchful gaze of the Lake Town guards, only as long as it benefited both parties. However, something the lizardman says unsettles me, as he reminds me of the ancient myth of how my people rose up from slavery in ages long past. I get the feeling that the people who built these local ruins are somehow connected.
We return to Lake Town as victorious champions, and we celebrate long into the night. In the morning our moods are darkened as we are met with grave news. Even though Salamonis escaped destruction from the falling star it is being gripped by a terrible plague and devils. We agree that we must return with all haste. I fear for Hilda, I hope that she is safe. I havent known her long, but she is one of the few people that has shown me kindness in these lands, and that makes her very dear to my heart. While I look forward to seeing her well, I also dread the encounter, as I am now a charred ruin of my former self, and worthy of disgust. I shall just have to hope she continues to show me the kindness of our first encounter.