We rejoin our four wayward heroes Bers the fighter played by Jenn, Vorwulf the archer/ranger and his protégé Draznor both played by Cris, and Grom the shaman played by Gil stopped in the middle of a hidden back road in Nor Forest. In front of them stands a man in full plate armor whom just declared himself Boshi Ironskin wielding a pudao seemingly waiting for them to charge. Behind him they could see what appeared to be another Ivoran, a mage wearing black and yellow striped robes and cape, yellow gauntlets, a high quality scimitar at his side. At either of his slight shoulders buzzed a large, 6 inch long, wasp. Vorwulf sighted a familiar face hidden in the bush behind these two, an archer wearing yellow silk with scaly skin known as Wu’ahm (see Pt. 25). Vorwulf shot at the hidden archer and stuck an arrow in him and he returned fire. Vor dodged the arrow. Grom tried to cast a spell but failed his casting check so the spell just fizzled out. Bers charged and was struck by a dusky skinned woman whom tumbled out from the bushes on one side of the road with a cutlass so she swung at her in a simul attack wounding her badly and forcing her into a recovery check before she could roll away. Draznor shot Wu’ahm the half-dragon archer and the striped mage cast a spell which summoned another comparatively large wasp different but similar in appearance to the other two. Wu’ahm shot Grom with three arrows at once one a critical hit forcing him to into a recovery check while the dark-skinned woman started to run away. Bers readied and waited for Boshi to rush her while it appeared he was guarding the mage waiting for someone to rush him. Draz aimed at the dark-skinned woman through the bushes she had run behind and shot her dead with a lucky shot. Vorwulf dueled it out with Wu’ahm with arrows killing him halfway through the second round being only lightly wounded by one of Wu’ahm’s arrows. Bers charged and took a power attack on Boshi her great sword blowing through his armor wounding him badly. He power attacked back slashing at her with his pudao but missed and was killed by her follow up strike. The striped mage sent the summoned wasp at Grom who dodged its dagger-like stinger. Draz shot the mage but the arrow bounced off of his robes. As they advanced on the mage, all 3 of his companions dead he surrendered all the while whining pathetically and begging for his life.
Vorwulf: “What’s yer name!”
Striped Mage: “Xanto, Xanto the wasp! Wait! Wait! Here, here’s my money just don’t kill me!” He tossed his hip purse at their feet.
Bers: “Should we kill him?”
Grom picked up the purse and emptied it into his hand. It was apparently a Hip Purse of Holding and out fell 6 potion vials, some coin which a few were stamped with the mark of Fertum Vorahd and a single gold talon stamped with the Coiled Dragon symbol. Vorwulf noticed as did Bers.
Vorwulf: “Where did you get that talon! Where’d you get the gold from!”
Xanto: “From the guy with the black mask on! The boss of tha’ guy that led you guys here! Their… the cult’s cave is at the end of this road!”
Vorwulf: “What are they called! Their name, their name!”
Xanto: “The Disciples of the Divine Flame! Please, please!”
The mage was slowly backing up the entire time as well as sweating profusely. The dragon-slayers conferred as to what to do with him but they forgot to keep an eye on him. As soon as all of their backs were to him he cast a spell on himself causing him to sprout golden-brown wasp-like wings and he buzzed off over the trees. Vorwulf and Draznor could have gotten a single shot at him each but decided to let him go as he was just a “hireling” anyway. They decided to go after the dragon cult and swallowed some of the potions that they were carrying realizing they were getting a bit low on healing potions though they gained 3 Closed Wounds potions from the hip purse. The rest, 1 potion of each Adhesion, Fly and Sharpen Smell they put back in the purse and let the shaman carry it. They began marching forward.
The hacked through the four draconian guards by the beginning of the second round and killed all four of the cultists’ pet dragonsauri. Lesser members fled their approach and they found themselves very shortly in the main chamber of the cultist lair. The chamber was massive and its floor sank 20 ft lower than the rest of the complex and they entered by way of a stone ramp-way. At the end opposite them was a 5 ft high dais accessed by two narrow ramps on either side. Atop the wide dais stood two cultists in yellow robes with the familiar flaming black spiral embossed on the front with one wearing a polished black dragon-skull mask and the other a white one. Each ramp was blocked by 2 human cultists dressed much the same but with chest plates bearing the cult symbol and armed with halberds. Two naga cultists armed and armored the same way sat in front of the dais. After dropping a naga cultist Bers got hit by a Slow spell cast by the white mask failing her saving throw. Vorwulf and Draznor shot at the two leaders and the shaman threw fire at the white masked leader finding the fire burnt off his robe but didn’t affect the scaled skin beneath also revealing the draconic wings protruding from his back. By the end of the first round one more cultist was killed and both of the leaders dead feathered with arrows but not before the white mask had hit Grom with a magical blast that forced him to make a recovery check. By the beginning of the second round they had killed all but one human cultist and promising to let him go he told them where the dragon Sawback’s lair was located. It was the mouth of a cave approximately 5 miles to the northeast, a big one from whence a large creek flows into the Estnik River a spur of the larger Nirix River. Just follow the bluffs of Hirok.
They were moderately wounded and were low on potions so they decided after they rest for the night they would go to Ekit’s Watch and try to purchase potions from the hedge-mage there. They also decided since the lair is obviously under or within Hirok they should check the north side for any other entrances into the dragon’s lair. Meanwhile the shaman was fascinated with an egg-shaped object of agate on a polished brass stand behind where the black masked cult leader had been standing when they rushed in. Ultimately he left it alone as it was too large to carry and it wouldn’t fit into the mouth of his hip purse. He didn’t sense any magic on it anyway. He also noticed the cave walls had a plethora of carvings and graffiti, symbols of various gods, cults and the vandalism of travelers. Some had been newly defaced and among the newest additions was the spiral symbol of the cult.
The next morning they found themselves in the dark storeroom ground floor of the tower called Ekit’s Watch which the eccentric mage which owned it had told them was called Raven’s Eyrie. He was wearing a bright red robe the deep cowl of which hid his face which must have been of a very strange elongated shape judging by the way the crimson hood draped over it. He sold them nearly a dozen potions of Close Wounds for a steep price which they paid without haggling. They then scouted out the north side of the Hirok bluffs and finding a cave they entered guessing this was the cave called Merchant’s Stow the mage of Ekit’s Watch had told them about when they asked about the north side of the hill. The wretched stench of carrion filled their noses and mouths with foulness. Within it was a bent cavern which contained some old molding crates and boxes as well as a couple of pits in the floor which opened into deeper caverns. Vorwulf descended into one of these with a lit torch while Bers stood by holding the rope. He found a larger cavern which curved around where he stumbled onto the rotting corpse of an adult wyvern. It had died of a severe wound which was a single bite that had nearly split it into two halves. He continued past it and found another opening which lead into a deeper and larger cavern beneath. Deciding this was the rear entrance to the lair he fetched the rest of the dragon-slayers and they entered the low cavern.
They found it a massive feeding chamber its floor littered with bones rotting flesh still clinging to most. Here they fought and killed 4 dragonsauri of a more wild variety than those that belonged to the cult. They continued on as the ground rose and found another ancient and apparently deserted feeding chamber with two passages exiting. The left rose and a bright greenish magical glow filled the large chamber at its end. The other to the right was shorter and glowed with the faint shimmer of sunlight on water. They went towards the sunlight and found themselves in a large chamber which opened to the outside with a large body of water at its center which was flowing out of the cave mouth. At the north of the chamber was a 20 ft. cliff at the top of which was an entrance to the chamber which glowed with the magic light. Immediately they were attacked by 4 draconians one of which was an adult and almost 10 ft. tall. They had glided from the top of the cliff with their short spears in hand at the adventurers. The fight didn’t last long with the slayers easily chopping through the monsters within two rounds. The group discovered that the glowing chamber had a large emerald at its center placed atop a stone pedestal shining with its own inner light which the shaman entertained the notion of taking until talked out of it by Bers.
Vorwulf: “Well, if you’re going to take it at least let us back out of the chamber first!”
They wandered around the caverns for a spell until they found their way to the High Chamber of the lair and were staring down the main shaft which led to the subterranean water chamber far below. The shaman drank the potion of Fly that they had taken from Xanto the wasp and he carried Draznor. Bers and Vorwulf dove into the shaft hoping once they were in complete darkness her Cape of Bat Flight would start functioning and she could catch and carry him. Surprisingly this actually worked. The water chamber was the largest chamber yet and snaked to the north and the south curving in such a manner as to conceal the end lengths of the chamber. Vorwulf was able to spot a faint flickering light at the north end and that’s the way they flew.
They came upon a bluff which dropped into the dark waters of the Water Chamber and atop that a large passageway with a high vaulted ceiling and lit by dozens possibly hundreds of oil lamps placed within the niches in the walls. There was a golden double door at the opposite end bearing the image of a ridge-back dragon. It was to these and over the dozen halberd-wielding cultists grouped at the center of the passageway. They fought with the cultists cutting them down though at the end of it Bers was now feeling the accumulation of all of the wounds she had suffered through all of the fights that they had experienced since entering the lair. She downed potions while the others tried to figure out how to open the massive gold doors all were also downing potions in an effort to heal their wounds. When all had drunk all of the potions that they were going to the doors opened and all could see old Sawback.
The dragon was 40 ft. long from nose to tail and probably a Great Adult. The gold diamond-encrusted claw sheath shone on its right forefinger and a gold necklace with a single large ruby glittered against its chest. Its throat puffed out and they could hear and feel the great rush of air as it inhaled. Bers, Grom and Draznor were terrified (failed their Courage Saves against the dragon’s Horror Factor) and Bers turned and fled. Vorwulf shot at it and planned on advancing. Sawback blasted them with its fire breath, Bers being fortunate that she had run outside of the maximum range of the flames. Bers was able to overcome her fear and turned and ran back to the fight determined to close with the dragon. Grom cast Dispel Fear on himself curing his terror but Draznor was paralyzed unable to conquer his fear until the end of the round. The dragon clawed Vorwulf dealing a fair amount of damage. Grom had to cast a healing spell on himself due to being badly burnt by the dragon’s fire breath. While fighting the dragon Vorwulf found his strikes were being stopped by a Mage Armor spell which he was going to have to chop away before he could make contact with the dragon. At the beginning of the second round the dragon again blasted the group with its breath luckily Grom was out of range. Draznor peppered the creature with arrows which was helping to knock down the magical field around it but knew his arrows may not do a thing to the creature itself even on a critical hit. Grom maneuvered around to what he thought would be a safe distance and cast Nature’s Ability on himself wings sprouting from his back. Bers and Vorwulf closed with the monster and hacked away at it. It took an attack of opportunity on each of them as they closed with it hurting them badly. They began to back away in turns and down a potion from their bandoliers while one fought and the other would run back in to fight allowing the other to fall back. The third round began to go their way as the field was finally knocked down and they dealt plenty of damage to it with Vorwulf “working the leg” trying to slow it down and Bers getting in a devastating power attack with her sword. At the end of the round it swiped at Grom with its tail as he flew in approaching from above. In the fourth round of combat the dragon backed into its lair, a massive rounded cavern with another chamber to the north, south and west (directly behind the dragon) joined by gigantic chiseled archways. Bers got in a couple of power attacks, Vorwulf hung back to guzzle a potion and ran back in to engage the dragon while Grom pursued it by air and tried to cast a spell on it but his magic wasn’t strong enough to penetrate Sawback’s spell resistance. Draznor stayed back but remained within bow range but was taking a range penalty for the distance and kept hoping for a lucky shot with his arrows which kept striking and shattering on the iron-hard scales. The dragon blasted them again with its breath and tried to trample the two in front of it both successfully dodged, barely in each case. In the fifth round the dragon had positioned itself well using the trample and unleashed a fourth gout of flame-breath catching all but Draznor in the heat cone forcing Bers and Grom to make recovery checks to not get reduced to cinders. Grom moved as far back as he could winding up by Draznor. Vorwulf continued on the attack even though his potions were spent and he was badly injured and Bers dodged a strike from one of the dragon’s massive scimitar-claws. It snapped its powerful jaws at Vorwulf who tried to dodge but got chomped and swallowed instead. Bers swung her sword in a power attack at the end of the round and scored a powerful hit cutting the creature deep and splitting its side open suffering burns as she got sprayed with a flood of scalding dragon’s blood. The monster shrieked and as it collapsed Bers having to run away from the massive bleeding body as it came crashing to the smooth stone floor. A few minutes later Vorwulf emerged acid eaten and a bit worse for the wear having cut himself free of its gut. All four had survived but were all very badly injured. Bers’ and Vorwulf’s armor was completely destroyed or hanging off in shreds barely having enough hit points left to hold together. They surveyed the massive treasure filled chambers which glowed with firelight from huge solid gold braziers and various magical lights. What really caught their attentions was the massive mirror-polished vault door behind the dragon’s main pile of treasure in the far end of the north chamber. They decided to simply spend the night here and take account of the treasure, at least the bits they would plan to carry out after a good rest. They were careful however to avoid the hoard piles until they could figure out a way to dispose of the gold scarabs which were likely swarming within.
To Be Continued…