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The Dragonslayers III Pt. 6: The Big White-Out

Our heroes trundled over the snowy slopes of the foothills which sparkled under the sparse moonlight through the scrim of clouds above and in spite of the Central Mountains which hovered blackly over the entire scene. They were in the lead of the party of 11. Behind them were Olf the Arborean healer, the green-cloaked bard Canohk and the half-faun warriors of the Achaánal clan taking up the rear; their battle axes with their daggers in their belts, their claymores strapped to their backs and their painted shields on their arms. Before long the clouds thickened and the cold night grew darker, a storm began to brew in a fogbank. The Blackwings could see it starting to move in their direction, an obscuring wall of bone-white which engulfed the Lich-Fortress that had been still visible in the distance in an ominous pall of churning mist. The snowstorm would bear down on the party within the half hour. Of course, it was then that Magiia realized that she wasn’t equipped with any cold weather gear. Grom, the shaman, tried to Calm Storm but failed. The 3 rangers that had accompanied the slayers on their mission to Cleft-Rills and that Vorwulf had sent southward to scout out a safe campsite several minutes before sighting the storm had yet to return. Vor and the 6 Hill-Lander warriors began to furiously dig into the snow. Increasing winds blew sleet into their eyes and the slayers lost track of the rest of their party finding that their dugout only sheltered Magiia the Feren Dragon-Blood Warrior, Grom the Shaman and Olf the Arborean (tree-man) healer aside from Vor himself. The storm raged above its roar rumbling through the snow while the slayers huddled together in their cramped shelter. They set to their assigned watches and took turns sleeping until the storm was finished burying the mountains in a heavy layer of fresh powder.

Dawn. It took a while for them to dig themselves out as the storm had dumped several feet of snow on them during the night. The foothills upon which they were traveling and the mountains to their north were a glittering desert of ice all of the crevasses, ridges and thickets filled and buried. Olf used his ESP abilities to locate the rest of the party and the slayers were able to dig all six of the Achaánal and Canohk the bard up, all blue-lipped and suffering hypothermia. Olf and the shaman healed what they could to ease the damage on the bard and all but one of the fighters. By mid-day they were again on the move in snow up to their waists. They had managed to cover about 4 miles by Vor’s reckoning spotting a large probably heavy-weight brown dragon in the clouds above when they were half that distance. None of them could identify it. Come evening Vor found a great place to dig a shelter at the base of a pair of rocks setting the fighters to do the actual digging. As they were getting ready to occupy the burrow Grom took the time to magically protect all of the party members with Impervious to Elements (Cold). Again they settled in for the night and assigned watches for the night.

Suddenly the screaming of the pair of warriors on second watch woke them abruptly to splattering snow and face-to-face with a rather pleasantly surprised (and very hungry) winter-dragon who had just dug into and opened the front end of their snow-cave. The Hill-Landers horrified were pushing backward deeper into the ruined shelter squeezing the slayers into the rear. Magiia easily pushed her way through the frightened half-fauns to the front. Vorwulf shouted, “Stand your ground!” to the Achaánal clan warriors and then shot an arrow from his bow. The barbed dragon-bone arrow found its mark striking deep, the dragon blasted the crew with its frost breath in response but to no effect. Magiia struck at it with her axe hacking a deep gash in its pearly-white hide the blood dropping as clumps of red ice crystals onto the snow. Grom tried to get a spell off but failed as he was jammed against the rear rock wall. The dragon leapt backward with a mighty beat of its wings blowing snow into their faces causing the Hill-Landers to hide their faces behind their shields. Vorwulf shot another dragon-bone arrow into the beast and it shrieked falling backwards about 100 ft. into the snow; the giant winter-dragon disappearing from sight. Magiia losing control of herself flew into a rage and chased after the dragon crazy for its blood.

Magiia (growling): “I need its blood!”

She leapt into the hole in the snow onto the rapidly sinking corpse. They realized that they were very near to North Lake, the stones where they had dug their quinzee were probably just beyond the shore, and the dragon had jumped backward and dropped dead over the lake falling through the built up snow into the icy water. Maggi (Magiia) was slashing madly at the draconic corpse steeping herself and her dagger in blood and gore. The others realized she would be dragged under into the icy waters by the sheer weight of the dragon’s body and probably drown due to the encumbrance of her armor. Grom cast Bestial Might and growing a pair of wings snatched her from the dragon’s mutilated corpse just as it sank beneath the freezing lake waters bringing her back to the camp by the rocks. She turned and spent the last of the manic energy of the episode trying to spot the location of the dragon’s body when she couldn’t see anything she collapsed to her knees finally recovering her senses. The party spent the rest of the night bunched up against the rocks in the depression where their snow-cave had been.

The red dawn saw the party breaking into their trail rations. Of course, it was then that Magiia realized that she wasn’t carrying any food. The shaman shared some of his rations with her and gave her 10 days’ worth to carry. After breakfast and just before they broke camp the shaman war-painted them as a “precaution”. Later Vorwulf found a stable and easy path across the hills and over the snow and led the party straight eastward. The day was uneventful but exhausting and by dusk they came to a steep decline. It was snowing. Vor knew that the Trade Road was very near and possibly the safest if not the only way down from the foothills otherwise the party would have to climb moving very slowly along the steep hillside. Due to the snowfall and the deepness of the drifts he simply couldn’t find it. He found what he thought was a safe camping spot and began to dig hoping to find the road in the morning. By dark the dugout was ready and the group gathered while Grom cast his Protection from Elements spell. He botched it and the magical energy got away from him exploding in a brilliant flash. Fortunately the explosion only really wounded Vor though somewhat badly (he rolled a Natural 1), the other fighters were only lightly singed. The shaman apologized from the center of a ring-shaped crater and used the Heal All ability on a magic ring to restore all of the wounded back to full health. He successfully cast Protection from Elements on the second try. The night went uneventfully as another winter storm raged above.

Come morning the slayers were puzzled to find dragon tracks sunk into the snow circling their burrow. They surmised from the tracks it was a heavy-weight and a five-toe.

Vor: “A five-toe, sh*t. Those things are smart.”

Grom: “What are they more powerful or something?”

Vor: “You remember that big red one? [The Dragonslayers I Pt. 38: The Big Red One] He was a five-toe but also a dragon-lord.”

Grom: “Oh.”

The slayers studied the tracks for quite some time, the rest of the party the six Achaánal and Canohk the bard, Olf was waiting patiently, were getting a bit restless and eager to get back on the move. Vorwulf guessed, due to a few recondite clues gathered from and around the tracks, that it could be a Brown Spine Dragon a species native to the Granfor forest but believed to be extinct. None have been seen alive in an age. Reminded of their mission by the bard they tore themselves from speculation on the tracks and began hunting for the Trade Road in the snow. Vorwulf still in heavy contemplation about the rare dragon started off in the wrong direction. It was the shaman who spotted the road only a few hundred feet east-southeast from the quinzee. They figured it was time to get some bearing as to where they should be headed so Magiia whipped out the sword named Anvil and let the shaman use his Clairvoyance on it. He was able to get a better read on the rebel camp than last time and could see with his mind’s eye the warriors the Blue-Hand had gathered to himself. Among the Blue-Hand’s forces were about a hundred Westlander “peasant” warriors and around fifty Westlander tribal warriors. Due to the shaman’s descriptions of their facial tattoos Vor thought they may be from the south somewhere around Veringer’s Field and Eagle’s Grove. They decided they needed to keep moving straight east as they had only covered about 14 miles in the past 2 days. They still had easily over 30 miles to go. If they kept making as little headway as they had so far they were going to lose the race with the Black Moon. Snow began to fall as they pushed on and soon the gossamer haze of the harsh Westland winter cut their vision to around 20 ft. They stopped and tied themselves together at the waist with a rope then continued on in the white-out. As dusk fell the haze eased a bit as did the snow fall though it didn’t stop. Again they found an obstacle in their path. They gazed over the steep drop to which they had just arrived. The hillside was extremely steep and below that another steep hillside which led into a gorge and that to a frozen but presumably still flowing river. To the north they could just make out a still flowing waterfall more by its sound than anything else.

Vor: “Devils Falls.”

They had come to the river gorge which fed Loc Lake and thus Farm Creek and which flowed under Miller’s Bridge to the far south. They set camp by digging another burrow at the base of some rocks. By third watch the snowfall had become a raging snowstorm and the team awoke to their snow-cave collapsing in on their heads! The Hill-Landers were able to keep it from completely burying all of them using their shields to shore up the ceiling while Vor desperately worked to repair it. Grom spent an hour trying to calm the storm but to no avail so he continued with another more powerful version of the spell (Calm Storm I & II) for an additional hour finally able to ease its elemental rage. At dawn they spent an hour at the top of the slope arguing about the best way to get across as walking around would simply take too much time; time which they did not have.

Eventually they settled on going north a ways towards Devils Falls so they can cross the river which flows from the mountains to the waterfall and having Grom cast Bestial Might on himself to grow wings, fly over and tie the rope to an anchor, and move across it in a daisy chain. After a couple of tries they got it right and were able to get their party across the frozen river without casualty. A few hours later towards early evening however, a deep and ominous rumbling came gradually to their frozen ears and they saw a billowing wall of white ripping down the mountainside from their immediate north. Someone shouted, “Avalanche!” Immediately Grom used his Bestial Might to fly off with Olf the healer and Vor slashed the air with his Scimitar of Dimension Door Maggi just barely jumping onto his back in time to be whisked out of the path of white death as he leapt through.

Late that night the team found themselves resting in the tops of trees in a thicket at the foot of a hillside. The slayers had finally regrouped with the healer’s help they had located the buried members of their troop and rescued and healed them among the thicket in which they now rested. The night passed uneventfully, the party decided to rest for another day as the shaman and healer were both still exhausted from the previous night’s efforts. The day was grey with unbroken cloud cover the only sign of dusk was an intensification of the wintry gloom prior to a very thorough and seemingly premature darkness. Just as they began to drift off to sleep a fighter screamed! The trees were whipped by a blast of stinging winds and snow. The slayers, the bard, healer and the fighters held on for dear life. In the sudden chaos Vor and Maggi caught a glimpse of a massive brown dragon with a collection of quills at its tail and horns over its back swooping in just above the skeletal treetops. It was a Brown Spine Dragon. Magiia’s eyes followed it as it soared upward into the clouds.

Magiia: “It’s flying east!”

Jenn (Magiia’s Player): “Should we go follow it?”

Cris (Vor’s Player): “Man, I want to get that dragon but we got a mission. Let’s find the Blue-Hand first.”

Jenn: “Aww.”

Magiia growled.

The next morning they climbed back up the hillside and continued struggling eastward through the frigid waist-high drifts. By sundown they found themselves at a dead stop on the edge of a 100 ft. cliff. Vorwulf knew the cliff and the box canyon it bounded as Nizgal’s End named after the fate of a petty warlord of a century ago. Stumped they bivouacked on the cliff’s edge.

 

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 5: The Hammer and the Anvil

All three of the slayers sat in the taproom of the Rat in what functioned as an official guild meeting. Grom had managed to concoct 5 doses of highest quality healing salve and Magiia would have to wait for the month it would take the artist to finish her portrait. During their conversation about the current situation and what they should do about it the subject of the Gate Stones arose (see the Dragonslayers II Pt.14: A Black Moon Rising) that they, sans Magiia, had previously acquired in their battle against the God-King of Troll-Guard (see the Dragonslayers II Pt.16: The God-King Awaits!). The players figured that none of their characters could use the stones and the casting check to use them was just too high. Plus, none of them had the proper skills to even try. Then Cris (and thus Vorwulf in the meeting) had an eureka moment.

Cris [snapping his fingers]: “The Druid! Vezik!”

Vorwulf ran out of the Rat east along Sirti Street to the Town Center, past the blackened oak and into the beerhall where the druid’s party had decided to catch some drinks and a meal. A few minutes later the Haldred’s group was meeting with the Blackwings in the Hopping Rat. They let Vezik borrow the manual for the Gate Stones overnight and were set to meet up with him and his party at Town Center at sunrise. He would send them direct to Blackbrow where they could hopefully end this in one fell swoop. The rangers, Canohk the bard, Olf the healer and 6 Achaánal warriors would accompany them. The Achaánal were seeking to redeem themselves as they felt ashamed of their performance against the zombie dragon the previous night. The elders of Merdna when contacted could only wish them luck as they had no warriors to spare. The Blackwings began checking their equipment and packing their gear. The Hill-Lander warriors, Canohk the bard, and Olf had decided to stay in the Rat. Magiia sneered at the bard (Ferenoi are somewhat racially biased against Fauns).

Grom decided to cast Clairvoyance on the sword Magiia had “inherited” from Bers, the silver single-handed great sword with the stamp on the blade of an anvil being struck by a hammer. This after Vor told him that the sword had come from the ruins of tower Blackbrow. It had been acquired by Bers after her and his master had looted the place and cleansed it of its resident wyvern (see The Dragonslayers I Pt. 6: Part the Sixth). The visions and whispering of the spirits told that the sword was named the Anvil and was the twin of the magic sword named the Hammer. He saw that a young man with a blue hand painted on his cloak wielded the Hammer against the undead under his war-banner. His forces were camping in a clearing in a wood, a wood rife with faeries and errant magic. When the Blue-Hand wielded the sword against the undead hordes it emitted beams of sunlight and was able to hold the creatures at bay while his men copped and hammered them into dust. When he came out of his trance he relayed the information to his companions. The anvil was required to trigger the full magic stored within the Hammer both blades must be stuck into the lich’s body and would destroy the creature and its phylactery wherever it may be hidden as well as the 3 phylacteries in the form of crystals it wears on its right wrist and the comparably very large one it wears on its left. Grom gave Magiia his last Guardian Bear Totem.

Come night fall, the shaman took it upon himself to go to the Woodcutters’ guild at the North Gate to try to recruit some axe-men but was predictably turned away. While he was walking back along the snow covered street a sudden twinge up his spine caused him to turn to the northern horizon and there he saw a red glow as a forest fire hovering above the trees.  He shook his fist and shouted: “Damn You!” By the time he arrived back at the tavern the others were asleep, he soon joined them in dream.

Vorwulf suffered the dream-haunting of the Lich-Fighter of Blackbrow and suffered a nasty constitution drain (he rolled a Natural 1) and was deathly pale upon waking in the morning. The shaman had also had a dream and while Vorwulf drank down a Potion of Purification he told it to him with the Hill-Lander warriors as an audience while they geared up. The shaman related that he had been having the same dream for a while now about a large red dragon wearing a necklace of three dragon skulls laughing as it burned the forest and the monster’s desire for a giant glowing mushroom the height of a great redwood. The dragon he had recognized, it was the very same that had destroyed his tribe in the far north. An Achaánal perked up and said the dragon didn’t mean much to him but the mushroom sounds like the one that sprouts every snow-melt at the very end of winter in a placed called the White Heath among the cursed ruins which lie there. The White Heath was directly north from Merdna along the Barbarian’s Tread in what was their homeland and former kingdom, Norusk. The Achaánal had been ousted by a Low-Lander rebellion agitated by a fitful Hyvalian Paladin named Chinsalis. The High-Lander fighter spat on the ground to clear his mouth of that despised name and went back to quietly honing his claymore.

At dawn the party of Blackwings and Druidic marshals left the tavern hauling the Gate Stones with them as they made their way to the town center all wearing the war paint on their faces painted on by the shaman before departing. Soon they found themselves at the center of stones with Haldred Vezik chanting the inner glow of the various precious Gate-Stones pulsating with his voice each time growing in intensity until the final pulse was a blinding burst of light. When the light faded and their vision returned to them the war-party found themselves in an unexpected place.

They were at the foot of a mountain slope atop a range of foothills with a frozen lake visible a few miles off at the bottom of the foothills. Vorwulf and Magiia turned around towards the mountain and could see a large ruined fortress being dug out from under the snow, dirt and rock of the mountainside not far off further up the slope. It was being unburied by a horde of worker-zombies and skeletons. Vor was able to get his bearings and realized that they had been teleported to the foot of the Central Mountains at the northern border of Cleft-Rills overlooking North Lake with the North Gate Pass a few miles to the east. To their immediate north-east was a large canyon between the outcroppings of the mountains. The ruins of Blackbrow tower were about 12 miles directly south. That’s when they realized that since the Gate Manual was very ancient and thus the Blackbrow referenced within it written in Trollish Magical Script no less must have been referencing Castle Blackbrow. The map of Cleft-Rills and the position of all of the old ruins made perfect sense now in Vor’s mind (he had had his suspicions), they were watch and guard towers ringing the outskirts of a central fortress. They looked at the distant fortress ghost-lights aimlessly haunted it’s still earthy battlements.

Grom cast Clairvoyance again on the sword named Anvil. He told the others that its twin lay somewhere called Horn-Wood near a place called Hornstone.

Vorwulf: “Well, I guess we better go find the Blue Hand then.”

Cris [to me]: “This is a one-way trip through the stones isn’t it?”

Me [the GM]: “Yup.”

They began trekking east.

 

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 4: Tides of the Black Moon

It was the next day after the attack on Merdna by the forces of Blackbrow. The Civil Authority had decided to prepare for a siege demanding a written inventory to be submitted by all shops and guild-houses. The North and South gates had also seen battle but sporadically and with small forces using hit & run tactics probably as a diversion pinning down the defenders so they couldn’t redistribute to where they were needed. Runners had been sent out to all nearby settlements as soon as possible after the attack and had since returned. The news they had brought back was burning through the city igniting rumors and melting the general anxiety of the shaken populous into black fear. Lord Vorahd and his warriors were determined to stay in the Fertum where they believed they would have strategic advantage so they could not be counted on to help defend the city. Asternor to the south was still cut off by a siege conducted by the greater forces of Blackbrow. Those forces were in much greater number than those of the force that had assaulted Merdna. Sirti to the West had taken occasional raids and so refused to help in favor of their preparations against what they perceived as an imminent oncoming siege. There had been no word from any of the towns along the western half of the Nirix River. Runners sent in that direction had returned with the information that the roads are being patrolled and guarded by the Black Soldiery of Blackbrow (see Dragonslayers II Pt.6: Raven’s Eyrie).

Our heroes, the Blackwings, the slayers, were nearly fully recovered by the time they had risen at dawn with the pale winter sun. The inventory that they had just finished was more than a little pathetic, it was blank. The cupboards and store of the Hopping Rat Tavern were bare and all of the barrels empty. Vorwulf ordered the guild apprentices (consisting of his and Grom’s protégés; Zrasknor and Og respectively) to use his Bottle of Endless water to fill an empty hogshead, two barrels and a cask with water and store them in the rear storeroom of the Rat later putting the hogshead on top of the trapdoor that lead to the cellar “for security reasons”. Vor still wasn’t sure how the thieves that stole the money from the chests had gotten in. Grom was inspecting the chests in the “secret vault” in the cellar and cast Clairvoyance to try to get a better handle the identity of the thieves. He discerned it was indeed the ratlings, the Tat-Eyes, Merdna’s newest and currently dominant criminal gang. Vorwulf also checked around the cellar but was unable to find out how they got in and presumably out without anyone noticing. After spending about an hour of doing that Vorwulf gave up and went outside to retrieve his master’s bones and Bers’ corpse. Just after high noon they had a simple funeral and burned the remains of the pair in the courtyard of the Rat depositing the ashes in a couple of empty wine bottles and setting them on the shelf behind the bar. Magiia spent that time admiring her new armor. She was impatient for some “real” dragon-slaying to happen.

Jenn: “I dunno who those two people were.”

At the conclusion of the cremation ceremony Vorwulf went back to the gate to make sure everything was in order. After that he needed to find the armorer as his armor was torn to shreds (at about half its hit point total). The shaman left to see the apothecary. After they left Magiia decided to go to the Artist/Herald to order a portrait of herself that she could hang in the tavern/guild-house. She was sent by the Blackwings in Chago as a Guild Seeker, an officer meant to ensure service/product quality of guild members, but found herself hired on as a Clerk for the Merdna house. She was halfway there when she realized she had no money and thus caught up to the shaman, they were both heading the same general direction anyway, bluffing him out of 50 platinum pieces. She told him she had found “a guy selling alchemist’s fires”. With that she ran off putting in the order and having the artist do some very good sketches which painted her unfortunate visage in a favorable and somewhat unrealistic light. Grom walked into the apothecary shop and wound up with a crate of herbs that he needed to produce 30 doses of healing salve after slamming down a silver talon on the counter. He returned to the tavern first and began to grind and boil down the herbs processing them into healing salve.

Vorwulf had walked into a commotion at the gates, the guards were hallooing and very, very tense at a group that come along the Sirti Road to the West Gate. The ranger/dragon-slayer peeked through a fist-hole in the gate. He recognized the leader of the group as the druid from Fertum Vorahd that Grom had worked with for the plague cure (see The Dragonslayers II Pt.9: Rock Puncher). Vorwulf got up onto the battlements and shouted down the rowdy men seizing command he ordered them to open the gates. Once inside the druid leader introduced himself as Haldred Vezik. Vezik was Lord Vorahd’s Haldred with whom Grom had worked with to produce the plague cure (see Dragonslayers II Pt.9: Rock Puncher) for the Fertum, unfortunately the shaman never bothered to get his name. Vezik was currently acting as an agent of the Druidic Council as they were having a crisis in personnel since Siamnecca’s rebellion in the west against Chago had lured too many of their number away to the coast. With him also wrapped in green cloaks were 3 rangers acting as Druidic Marshals, an Arborean Healer named Olf (see The Dragonslayers I Pt.14: Winter at Veringer’s Field) and a familiar face Canohk the faunic Hill-Lander bard. The news that they brought was not particularly encouraging.

The undead have conquered Fort Ebernel in the Falmark but not the Fertum there and the town of Falton has strangely been spared the plague that has preceded the invasions of Blackbrow everywhere else.

Cris (Vorwulf’s player): “Oh yeah, it’s that witch there. The haunter of the swamp or something like that.” (See The Dragonslayers I Pt. 22: Into the Great Wide Open; the witch’s moniker is actually the Haunter of Witch’s Wood but it didn’t come up in game)

Jenn (Magiia’s player): “She wanted to kill everybody right?”

Gil (Grom’s player): “Yeah, why would she save everybody?”

Cris: “Her territory, they’re her people to kill.”

Gil: “Oh.”

In the Cleft-Rills region to the far east, Vorwulf’s homeland, Caer Dreyhawk has fallen and Lord Dreyhawk is feared dead meanwhile the ruins of Blackbrow were “inactive” at last word but those who have since been sent to scout it have not returned. There is a Draco-Lich dominating the crown of the hill above the Caer (a small Motte & Bailey). There was hope there still however, as there was a small resistance being led by one known only as “The Blue Hand” (see The Dragonslayers I Pt.7: Part the Seventh & Pt. 19: Black Wings). “The Black Moon is key to the undead Lord’s strategy” said Vezik. He told Vorwulf that the Druidic Council of Hirok-Nor believes that the black moon which follows the winter sun will cause an eclipse in a fortnight (2-weeks) and which will last around just under a fortnight. The black moon empowers the forces of darkness and death by its mere presence but during an eclipse they will be doubly powerful and may be reinforced by freshly “born” undead animated by the hateful powers of the Black Moon!

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 3: Zombie Dragons Doom

The group of 10 undead Arboreans continued to march towards the West Gate, these gate-breakers would soon be on the gate and the slayers knew if the gate fell the warriors on their side were both outnumbered and outclassed. It would be a slaughter. They continued to furiously battle the undead strike force that had been teleported in behind the palisades.

Magiia the Ferenoi power attacked the Bone-Lord with the axe she had taken from Bers’ corpse but the blow was parried easily. Vorwulf shot the Arborean zombie that was attacking Magiia. The undead captain, the Bone-Lord, missed Magiia with a clumsy slash of his mean-looking bone-sword. Grom directed his inferior earth elementals to slam the standing Arborean which had little effect due to the hardness of its worm-eaten body.  He then used his sling to take a shot at the “skull knight”, his bullet bouncing harmlessly from the Bone-Lord’s bone-plating. One of the sword-wielding skeletons which Magiia had just smashed down suddenly reassembled its bones and stood next to her ready to attack. The downed deadwood Arborean at the gate began to stir and stood up its body still studded with Vor’s arrows. The other slammed its club-like fists into Maggie (Magiia) whom attempted to dodge but failed. Another blow from the undead captain’s bone-blade was deflected by Maggie the amazon and an arrow from the ranger’s bow thudded into the newly (re)risen Arborean. The newly reassembled skeleton picked up its sword and stuck Maggie with a natural 20 wounding her badly; she made a recovery check to remain standing yet again. Grom sent his elementals to grapple the Arborean at the gate while he shot another sling-stone at the skull of the remaining sword-skelly cracking its skull a good one. Maggie struck the sword-skelly smashing it to pieces sending its cracked skull flying out into the snow. She parried another blow from the Bone-Lords blade and the Arborean that had slammed her earlier went for another but missed completely. The other undead Arborean broke free from the grip of the elementals. Vor put an arrow in the Arborean that was attacking Maggie and another in the one at the gates just before it smashed another hole in them. Grom used his sling to shoot Maggie a healing potion which she easily caught.

The amazon downed the potion after backing out of the reach of her foes. Vorwulf continued to shoot the deadwood Arborean at the gate and Grom turned his attention towards the oncoming gate-breakers as they drew too near for comfort. He called down lightning upon their heads splintering wood and blackening their bark-skins but not dropping a single one of the five he managed to hit. His elementals continued to harry the deadwood zombie at the gate. The Bone-Lord followed the Ferenoi and continued his assault, she easily parried his blows. The Arborean that had been fighting with Maggie, with the Dragon-Blood Warrior out of the way, moved to the gates ready to begin battering them down from the inside. Vor knocked one of his magic arrows, an ice-steel frost-burst arrow, and shot it into the Arborean readying to bash at the gates. Frost burst over its fire-blackened body then Magiia shattered him to splinters with a powerful blow from her axe. The shaman tried to cast another Call Lightning spell but failed but his elementals held fast the last Arborean on their side of gate. The bone-knight swung at Magiia again but she was able to parry him yet again. Vor shot the still-standing Arborean and the amazon hacked into the Bone-Lord whom struck her in a simultaneous attack. He came out the worse. Vor drew his bow again and the bowstring snapped. Grom pulled out a potion of Greater Fireball, essentially an arcane grenade, and used his sling to great effect launching the weapon at the nearing gate-breakers severely damaging 9 of the 10. Vorwulf pulled the longbow from his back and shot at the deadwood Arborean missing it by a mile.

The gate-breakers were now in charging distance of the West Gate. Vorwulf activated the Ring of Orbs spell on one of his many magic rings and launched the acid orb at the “skeleton knight” doing little damage. Magiia power attacked the Bone-Lord who “simuled” her again but she smashed him down the second before his blow could land. Meanwhile across the battlefield the general of the Blackbrow army, one of the two remaining of the three disciples (see The Dragonslayers II: Pt. 5 & Pt.6), was busy trying to cast a spell that would devastate the archers along the top of the palisades, fortunately for all he failed his casting check. Back behind the gate the grappled Arborean broke free and the Bone-Lord leapt back up from the ground worse for the wear but completely reassembled.

Grom: “Oh! Hey! I just remembered I have that magic rod of Quicksand!”

The shaman whipped out an electrum rod from his bag and used one of its charges. The ground directly in front of the gate in a 75 ft radius instantly turned into a slushy quagmire catching all of the gate-breakers whom immediately began to sink, the archers and javelineers on the wall were quick to take advantage. The gate-breakers were toast. Vorwulf launched the fire orb from his ring of orbs which were rotating about his person at the Bone-Lord again dealing little damage. Magiia struck at the lone Arborean cutting it down for the last time. Grom slung a stone at the undead captain doing no damage and Vor followed with a magic alloy arrow which did deal significant damage to it. Magiia followed that up with a blow that knocked it down again. Vorwulf, seeing the fight was now in their favor and under the control of the Dragon-Blood Warrior and the shaman pulled out his spyglass and turned his eye to the enemy line.

He could see the force was being led by a disciple of Blackbrow, a mage (necromancer) dressed in a crimson robe with a red silk hood over his head painted with a black skull on the face and he could see another commander a vampire in bronze armor and a black cloak appearing as a pair of bat-wings levitating above the heads of the man force. The disciple was surrounded by 6 deadwood Arboreans, the vampire had 10 wudu zombies and 10 skeleton warriors beneath him. There was also a lich fighter with the same behind him and a force of 25 soldiers in bronze plate and well-armed beneath the banners of Poisonwood, mercenaries. The line was marching towards the gates. So Vorwulf activated the Thunder-Arrow ability on his longbow launching a storm of crackling arrows composed of pure electricity towards the enemy line which rained down on their heads exploding with the crack of thunder. The disciple halted his forces and pulled them back probably in an effort to get them out of spell range.

Gil (Grom’s player): “Their pulling back? Really?”

Cris (Vorwulf’s player): “Yeah they don’t know what we got.”

Gil: “And they can’t get across to the gate.”

Magiia finished smashing the Bone-Lord to dust after he raised one more time, his magic bone-sword crumbled with the rest of him. Vorwulf took back to his spyglass. After a few seconds he passed it to the shaman. Grom could see the enemy army was staying put; it appeared that they were waiting for something.

Jenn: “Aw, no.”

Cris: “They did have a dragon with them.”

Cris [to me, the GM]: “That runner never came back did he?”

I acknowledged that he did not.

The 20 men along the battlements were cheering after finishing off the gate-breakers with arrows and javelins and were in high spirits some roaring taunts over the palisade they definitely believed they could take on any enemy at that point. The slayers all laughed, they knew better.

Vorwulf was contemplating going back to “the rat” to fetch the superior quality arbalests that they had for dragon-slaying to reinforce the gate-defenses when he and Magiia heard and felt something heavy moving possibly stomping about. They all heard the unmistakable roar of a dragon ripping through the air from the city center. Vorwulf took back his spyglass from the shaman and directed it towards the city center able to see over almost all of the buildings, most were a single story after all, from the battlements. He could see what appeared to be a zombie dragon. He tried but couldn’t quite identify what type it had been in life, it was fighting with the sheriff, his deputies and the Achaánal warriors. The druid tree in the town center was acid blackened and bubbling puddles of acid pocked the site of the battle, a few dead warriors lay strewn about. The fighters seemed to have just retreated to cover most seemed to be terrified and/or nauseated.

The wind was howling now and the snowfall was getting heavier. Vorwulf dismissed the power of the Ring of Orbs and then rubbed some Oil of Mend over his armor and activated his Boots of Haste. The shaman used his healing touch on Magiia and she donned the chain mail she had taken from Bers’ corpse. They also finally got around to letting her know that the helmet was magic and had the ability of Shield on it.

Gil: “Man guys, I’m out of spells, that’s it for the day.”

Grom pulled out his Mace of Supernatural Power.

The Blackwings abandoned the palisades and ran towards the city center. After several minutes, Vor waited to engage the dragon until the others caught up to him, they made it to where their quarry was and charged it as soon as they got the chance. It spat a gout of acid at them which Vorwulf was able to evade and the other two dodged. They chopped the zombie dragon down in record time. Every time that it had rose back up they simply hacked it back down.

Jenn: “It didn’t even get to hit anybody.”

After the dragon was done Vorwulf surveyed the area for any additional enemies. He spotted a robed shadow with one arm fleeing down an alleyway then suddenly disappearing in a flash of green. He guessed it was Zancor. He was right.

The slayers made their way back to “the rat” and delivered the arbalests to the guards on the West Gate. They found that the forces of Blackbrow were retreating from the field, for now. After that they took their leave to rest in their tavern, they had been relieved by the Achaánal clan warriors, they had lost 2 of their number but were still a formidable force (against the average mortal foe that is), who had volunteered to hold the gate while the Blackwings rested. Grom retreated to his quarters to pass out, he was utterly spent. Later in the day the snow and wind ceased and the a few breaks in the clouds let in a few golden shafts of sunlight. Vor took Magiia to the secret vault where they had stored their treasure chests in order to equip her with some more powerful items. He found two of the chests, the ones they had bashed the locks off of before trying the keys they had on the third, were light on gems and coin by about half.

Gil: “Aw! What the hell!”

Cris: “It was the ratlings.”

Gil: “What!? Really? Didn’t we pay them off!?”

Cris: “Yes. It was the ratlings. It was too much for them [to ignore].”

 

To Be Continued…