Leaving behind two columns of black smoke rising into the sky behind them from the Varidna Plain they made their way to Fertum Vorahd to gain some well-earned rest. They were disappointed at not discovering the dragon hoards they were expecting or being able to harvest any dragon-bone. The few days they spent there were occupied with purchasing another wagon and some donkeys to haul it, drinking in the tavern and being openly avoided by the remaining members of the Crossed-Staffs and keeping an eye on the ratlings which they occasionally caught watching and following them. Vorwulf recruited a protégé of his own named Draznor a human ranger/dragonslayer. After they were all fully recovered from their foray into the Varidna Plain they decided to “take care” of their ratling problem.
They decided to set a trap up for the ratlings by stocking up their wagon with their gear and the dragon-bone they harvested from the young Crimson Reaver then Vorwulf would lay in wait since his Hide skill was the highest. The others would wait around a corner or near the door in the tavern nursing some full tankards. They assumed that the street urchins were not going to bother their stuff since they were probably under the auspices of the Crossed-Staffs.
It took until late afternoon until a ratling took the bait revealing itself to approach the wagon but before it could presumably pull one of those magic flasks Vorwulf made his move and jumped out and shouted for his comrades. They pursued the ratling down the main street, the small creature unable to lose the pack of howling adventurers. They chased it out of the gates and beyond as it fled north into Morik’s Wood. Draznor was assigned to follow behind them with the wagon. It seemingly got away as they lost sight of it in the bush but Vorwulf was able to pick its track back up and they pursued at a more leisurely pace eventually coming to a clearing and once they walked to the center of the tree-lined ground a group of 10 cultists wearing yellow silk robes leapt from the bushes and crossbow bolts shot from the 10 ratlings hidden in the surrounding bushes. The first round was a stalemate as the adventurers and the cultists/tat-eyes did more maneuvering than anything else with Bers forced to wipe her eyes as a ratling assassin spat in them in a dirty fighting maneuver after revealing itself. Three of the thugs were dead by the end of the first round. At the beginning of the second round a roar ripped through the clearing form above and a brown-fang dragon wielding a giant-sized two-handed mace dropped through the canopy snapping branches. It had to have been 30 ft long from nose to tail but fairly light weighing in at around 960 lbs. It was wearing a steel pectoral plate bearing the insignia of the dragon-cult. The four battled the dragon and the ratlings with 2 more back-stabbing ratling assassins making their presences known at key moments but proving to be ineffective in turning the battle. Only 1 ratling assassin dropped by the end of the second round. By the end of the third round 5 ratlings, a second ratling assassin and the dragon were dead. At the end of the fourth round all but two ratlings were killed and the adventurers were only moderately wounded at worst and began chasing the surviving two ratlings down both of which fled north and were bleeding profusely. After an hour they came across the corpse of the first dead of its wounds and continued chasing the other which they found dead after another hour at the mouth of a cave. They were immediately attacked by 3 ratling savages who were all dead at the end of the first round. They entered the cave determined to eliminate every ratling they came across especially now that they knew they were in league with the dragon-cult.
They tore through the cave complex which featured a subterranean river they found their way into a cavern filled with the cowering offspring of the Daggertooth ratlings defended by their mothers which attempted to engage the adventurers with their bare hands and teeth. Draznor was put out of action by a barbed javelin to the leg, nailed when the javelineer popped out from behind a stalagmite. Our heroes backed out of the cave and were swarmed by the tribals which they hacked through without a problem barely taking a scratch. Draznor was sent back to the entrance to keep watch for any reinforcements. They leapt over a chasm when the narrow planks that crossed them were kicked over by the ratling defenders, Bers flew over using her Cape of Bat-Flight. They eventually found themselves in a large chamber where the leaders of the tribe held court and by the third round they had eliminated them and taken their treasure a blue-steel chest with a mirror polish. Within it, after finding the key hidden on the chief’s corpse, they found a fair sum of coin of several different types and 10 gold talons and 6 bronze pigs. The talons bore the symbol of the dragon cult, the flaming spiral. Their aims achieved the dragon-slayers left for the fertum by the next morning.
They spent a few days in Fertum Vorahd trying to decide what to do. They still weren’t entirely sure where the dragon Sawback’s lair was located and decided to travel back to Merdna where the dragon cult seemed to operate openly and to call upon the corrupt druid under the pretenses of identifying the two items they had taken from the Black Cathedral (see Pt. 28). They were in Merdna as soon as Draznor was fully recovered. That day after flashing their cash all over town they were meeting with the presiding druid of Hirok-Nor and rumored dragon-conspirator. He was a perfumed fat-man who was rude, overbearing and draped in fine and expensive clothing his fingers and neck weighted with gold and gems. He became instantly courteous when he realized they were not the servants of his new clients but they were his new clients though he kept a perfumed handkerchief to his nose the entire time. He had introduced himself as Jeorwe the Priest of Hirok.
They handed him the ring and he immediately began to tell them what it was.
Jeorwe: “This is a ring of the Slayers of the Tower, a ring of dragon …” he trailed off then looked up at them with an expression as he if he were trapped.
He exhaled deeply and continued on, “A ring of dragon protection”. Vorwulf recognized the name attached to the gem-encrusted ring. It belonged to a legendary group of dragon-slayers whom mysteriously disappeared somewhere in the Great Delta (a still wild region far to the southeast) and are known mostly due to a song sung about their leader known only as Redtooth the mighty. They were actually a group from some of the very first test-games in which Cris had played, but not as Redtooth. An NPC bard hired by Redtooth to write and sing his epic had rolled a Natural 20 to write it and during its first performance in front of a full house some of which were bards. There were 5 rings which were commissioned by the group and were +5 rings of protection versus dragons. They handed the sword to the druid.
Jeorwe (as he turned the sword over in his hands): “This is interesting. You said you found it in some ruins in Varidna eh? It’s not extraordinary though it is magical. I have another client who wishes to remain anonymous that will be interested in this and will offer you a fair price.”
They knew that he was probably going to lie to them about what the sword actually was and told him they weren’t going to sell it and took their leave. They exited the backroom of the tavern which they had “rented” for the meeting and put Draznor to keep eye on any tails. They immediately went to find another magic user and found out the local Apothecary was in fact an Ivoran Alchemist. He identified the sword as a Dragon Bane weapon which could absorb the breath weapon of the last dragon it killed within its large pommel stone and the wielder could unleash it as additional damage on a strike. The runes on the blade read, “Suck the Breath & Drink Deep the Dragon’s Blood”. Vorwulf took the sword for his own and Bers the ring.
They then split the party in two with Grom the shaman and Draznor going off on their own and doubling back around so that they can keep an eye on the other two and anyone that may be tailing them. Meanwhile Bers and Vorwulf sported their new items, the ring and the sword, in public. It wasn’t long before the shaman and Draznor caught eye of street urchins spying on the other pair. Draznor was able to snatch one up and interrogate him getting the info that a cult member was waiting in the beerhall and wasn’t wearing his robes. After the kid described the guy Draznor tossed the kid a gold piece and told him to carry on with the job and to mention nothing of “this”. The group reunited in the beerhall and kept an eyeball on the cult member when he got up and left they followed. He departed on his horse from Merdna that evening with Draznor following and leaving sign for Vor while the others hastily prepared the wagon and their gear for the chase. They pursued him into the night as he rode hard first north on the road then suddenly cutting east leaving it and going into Nor Forest towards the hills/highland known simply as Hirok. They passed under the hateful gaze of Ekit’s Watch the long red banners bearing the black raven fluttering the night breeze. They lost him as he cut deeper into the forest but figured they could track him in the morning as their donkeys were exhausted. They also needed sleep and so laid down for a short nap for the few hours they had before dawn.
Late the next morning the four adventurers were tracking the cultist’s horse traveling southeast. After about 2 or 3 hours of travel on foot with the shaman leading the donkeys they came to a clearing and an obviously well-traveled and remote trail. As they broke the tree-cover they noticed a large man wearing a suit of full plate armor painted with the image of a horse severed in two on his chest. The armor appeared to be of Hyvalian design, the crown of his great helm had a horse-tail tassel and he had a pudao in his hands.
Armored Guy (in a strong Hyvalian accent): “I am Boshi Ironskin! Your heads shall fetch me a decent wage!”
To be continued…