Upon returning to the Hyvalian Crusaders’ camp at Veringer’s Field that evening the trio (Dead-Eye, Bers and Olf played by Cris, Jen and Mike respectively) accompanied by Zancor (or One-arm as they were referring to him) were greeted with the news that a guard posted to watch the manor at night was found dead, they were in time to see the corpse, frozen solid with what appeared to be a branded mark on his forehead which resembled a pair of pursed lips. They were told the night before a guard had disappeared probably wandered off into a snowfall. They shrugged that off and introduced Zancor to the camp Corporal, a Westlander strongman, and went to eat and sleep as on their way to camp Dead-Eye had managed to hunt some small game. That night as the adventurers decided to keep watch Dead-Eye spotted someone which resembled a half-naked woman wandering about the camp but decided not to follow-up on it. During Bers’ watch there was a crash and the sound of splintering wood as well as the screaming of the Sleipnir in the stables. The adventurers rushed out with Dead-Eye unarmored to the stables in time to spot something flying away in the distance which Dead-Eye identified as a winter-dragon.
It had taken another Sleipnir and torn a hole in the roof of the stables. Sir Chinsalis set the pair of “dragon-slayers” to task, “kill that dragon”. So, with Olf they decided to try to ambush it by concealing themselves in the stable that night and every night after until it would strike knowing the remaining Sleipnir were too tempting a target for it not to try it again.
When night fell they concealed themselves in a stall under some hay and waited. Around midnight or so they heard it approach as it clung to the stone side of the manor house and put its massive white head through the hole it had made the night before. It scented them immediately of course and it snapped at Bers who swung her axe and missed flinging it outside of the stables into the snow by the second round of battle Bers was forced to dodge as she was badly injured and dealing minimal damage using the sword she had taken from the corpse in the ruins of Black Brow. Dead-Eye jumped up and ran outside so he could get a clear shot with his bow as the dragon was well covered by the roof and could take an attack of opportunity on him when he drew his bow inside of the stable. Olf did his best to keep Bers’ hit points up using his healing ability. By the third round Bers was forced to use a Recovery check to keep conscious even though Olf had already healed up some of the damage she had already taken. Dead-Eye shot the dragon once with a roll of a Natural 20 using a dragon-bone arrow no less wounding the creature severely. It shrieked and immediately smashed into the roof demolishing it as it leapt from the wall and beat its wings fleeing into the frigid night sky. Dead-Eye made a desperate wild shot at it as it flew but missed and even chanced it again losing another dragon-bone arrow in the process before it disappeared over the treetops. He ran to get the Hill-Landers to see if they would help them track the dragon hoping it would bleed enough to leave a trail with bearing to its lair while Olf tried his best to heal Bers’ wounds and she drank a few healing potions. It was nearly dawn before they were ready to move out but move out they did the trail of frozen dragon’s blood gleaming like rubies in the red-orange light of dawn.
It was approaching dusk before they finally lost the trail. Dead-Eye was in the lead along with the Hill-Lander Ranger/Archer, Han. The others plus Bers and Olf who had run to join back up with them as they left camp in the pre-dawn hours were taking up the rear. Dead-Eye climbed a tree as high as he could getting a treetop view of the land above the trees and was able to spot a low mountain among a ridge of hills in the distance perhaps a day’s walk from their current position along the same bearing they were already traveling. He decided (correctly) that was where the dragon’s lair lay. He and Han found a good and well-hidden camping spot as they all needed rest especially Bers who was still wounded from the previous night’s scuffle.
During the night as the others slept Dead-Eye caught a glimpse of the dragon streaking by overhead, luckily they did not light a fire and those sleeping were in a snow-igloo. Come morning he warned the others that the dragon was probably on the lookout and they continued on. All was quiet, too quiet, as they approached a clearing and when traveling through it they were hit by a blast of the dragon’s frost breath from above during another fly-by surprise attack which was completely ineffective against our dragon-slaying heroes but which hurt the Hill-landers. By early evening they made to break through the forest edge into the shadow of the low mountain and were again hit with a blast of frost-breath which again was ineffective against the slayers (successful reflex saves all around plus cover for the trees) and again wounded the Hill-Landers. The dragon landed at the mouth of its cave and ran inside, the slayers and the Hill-Landers immediately dashed after with Dead-Eye leading the charge. They ran headlong into the dragon in its feeding chamber where it had just dropped a freshly killed bear. It took an attack of opportunity on Bers as she charged to meet it while still within its reach and bit her but good. They battled the dragon for 2 rounds and by their second turns Bers and Dead-Eye were already dodging as was the dragon. Dead-Eye opened the second round with a Recovery check and Olf kept using his healing touch to keep the adventurers alive. The Hill-Landers hung back though Han, the archer/ranger, slung a few arrows they were completely ineffective against the dragon’s icy hide. The dragon tore off on its turn deeper into its lair at the end of the second round.
Han and Dead-Eye both used their tracking skills to follow the dragon’s path through the lair until they came to a lower large chamber which was dominated by a frozen lake across which lay a landing of stone on the far side and another passage probably the entrance to the horde chamber according to Dead-Eye’s Dragon-Lore (again, he was right). The ice of the lake had several large holes in it and was cracked everywhere appearing very uneven and unstable but they had no choice but to chance running over the ice to the opposite landing in order to corner their prey. The dragon was nowhere in sight.
They began to cross and immediately the dragon’s head popped from the water in a hole in the ice and blasted everyone on the landing with its breath weapon badly wounding the Hill-Landers whom took shelter behind a boulder on the landing and the instant after its head dunked back under. Bers and Dead-Eye with Olf behind began to cross the ice at a careful pace until Bers remembered she had the Cape of Bat-Flight taken from the vampire knight of Hornstone. The dragon’s head came up again to blast those on the ledge injuring all of the Hill-Landers enough that they yelled to the slayers to carry on without them as they were running back out of the lair like “sane men do”. The dragon lunged from the water shattering the ice-crust of the lake causing Bers to fall into the frigid waters; she desperately clawed her way onto a loose piece of ice. Fortunately she remembered she had the Cape of Bat-Flight taken from the vampire knight of Hornstone and shot into the air.
The battle commenced and Bers and Dead-Eye both had to dodge, Bers twice in the first round and Olf had to make a recovery roll after getting swatted with a claw after the dragon took an attack of opportunity as he ran past it to try to heal Dead-Eye instead of running to the other ledge like Dead-Eye instructed him to. In Cris’ words, “Dude, I told you!”
By the second round Dead-Eye led off with a Recovery check and Bers remembered she was carrying a Dancing Axe (a weapon which can fly and attack on its own) from a previous sojourn and tossed that into the air to assist them. Olf healed himself. The dragon was then forced into a Recovery roll and by the end of the round destroyed the flying axe with bite splintering it to shivers. In the third round Dead-Eye again led off with a Recovery check ( a turn used up in the previous round to avoid dying from a savage bite attack) and Olf again healed himself. It was Dead-Eye who finally dealt the death blow with his last dragon-bone arrow. They climbed off of the ice onto the ledge, Bers just landed and then she whistled for the Hill-Landers if they could still hear (they would need help carrying out the horde). The Hill-Landers did hear and came running back to join the others in the glittering horde chamber lit by large fire-gems embedded in the walls.
The horde consisted of 1 Black Pearl, 3 pieces of Chalcedony, 3 Opals, 1 large Opal, 7 pieces of Lapis Lazuli, 7 bits of Phenacite, 6 pieces of Turquoise, 3 large bits of Tiger-Eye, 1,000 iron pieces (ip), 2,000 fliks (fk), 4,000 silver pieces (sp), 4 pieces of ivory, 3 magic potions (Greater Strength I, Heal [120 HP], and Blinding Strike), Jar of Powdered Quartz, a high quality Quarterstaff, 1 quiver of highest quality midnight steel arrows (quickly claimed by Dead-Eye), 1 mallet (tool) picked up by Bers because it may be useful plus Olf sensed “magical vibrations” coming from it using his newly acquired ESP ability, an ugly, poor quality (bad art) painting in an embossed jet frame which they left there, and finally, a Book of Invocations with pages of Astral Drift-metal and two spells written within which have to wait until they get the book identified. The Hill-Landers were given a share even though they were “useless” in Dead’s words which consisted of 4 bits of Lapis Lazuli, 4 phenacites, 3 turquiose, 166 ip each, 333 fk each, 666 sp each, getting all of the ivory in lieu of the potions, the black pearl, and the large opal. With the treasure accounted for and split amongst them they decided to sleep through till the next morning in order to heal up a bit before trekking back to camp.
The victorious march back went quickly and was uneventful. They neared the location of the crusader camp when they all spotted the large pillars of black smoke rising lazily into the sky. The Hill-Landers shouted, “No!” They ran towards camp drawing weapons the dragon-slayers just stood there gawking. The players just sighed and stated they were drawing their weapons, but not dropping their bags and packs, and approaching slowly and carefully.
To Be Continued…