The beginning of spring, the morning sun was golden bright and peaking over the silver-grey clouds that still lagged along the horizon. The slayers began preparations for their trek north along Barbarian’s Tread into Norusk on the hunt for the red-dragon lord of Grom’s visions. Magiia was in bad shape, sweating and shivering. She had run out of Dragon’s Blood Potions and was jonesing. Bad. She had stretched her supply as far as it could have possibly have gone over the past few weeks in anticipation of the spring melt running out completely the just week before. She was well into the first stage of withdrawals. While she convalesced on a table in the Hopping Rat Vorwulf wrangled the horses and kit into the tavern stable. Grom made arrangements for Kyrahma, his hound, with his protégé Og while he was away. Olf had parted a few days hence as the shaman had failed in his efforts to convince the healer to stay with the guild. It would be the last they would ever see of the Arborean. The slayers had re-hired Ebor the bartender to mind the Rat and he began to wipe up and get things in order from the utter mess left behind by a very busy winter. While in the stable Vor sent off a Magical Pigeon from the guild scroll they had been given in Chago upon joining to the Blackwing guild master there.
The message had been, “Starting to build guildhouse. Need experts, trap-builders, vault-makers, top stone masons, castle engineer, pigeon-keeper; send immediately to Merdna. On Red Dragon Hunt, Trollguard, spring. Vorwulf.”
After, Vorwulf galloped off on a horse while the shaman tried to figure what to do to ease Maggi’s pain in the meantime. He found that he could do nothing. Vor returned in less than an hour dragging with him a simple row boat. The shaman was puzzled so Vor told him that he was planning to use the jeweled gold closed helmet taken from the Skulls (see the Dragonslayers I Pt.37) which had the Mysterial Chariot ability on it allowing him to cause the boat to be enchanted and levitate about 5 ft. in the air and travel at a very brisk pace. They were going to brave the spring rains and have to deal with a lot of mud, it could take up to 3 weeks by horse. This was their best option.
Cris (Vorwulf’s Player): “It’s essentially a magic hover-vehicle.”
Gil (Grom’s Player): “Coool.”
They began loading up the row boat in the staging area, the small courtyard between the stables and the tavern lastly depositing Maggi and her gear. As they made their final preparations a merchant and his fully loaded wagon rolled up.
The merchant appeared to be Hill-Lander bearing the embroidered image of a blue-bull against a green field on his chest as well as a tartan sash over his shoulder. He was selling various grades of whiskey so Vor purchased 1 barrel of whiskey and a cask of the merchant’s “best” for 1,880 gold pieces. The merchant, the only name they got from him was Aáhdrahké (a-AH-draw-KAY), after the sale trundled off without a word. He seemed a little snobby and was not forthcoming to any of the slayers’ questions. Fortunately another friendlier Hill-lander merchant approached them with his wagon which was loaded with several hogshead of strong ale. On his chest was embroidered a white rabbit with a silver tankard on its back against a green field, the same was painted on all of the hogsheads. They didn’t bother to get his name though he gave the name of his boss, Craftsman Banik of Baáchkul (bah-AH-kool), a brewer from Aáhké, a town, basically the only town, in Norusk. Vorwulf asked for directions to the town after asking after the dragon, which the ale-seller revealed that no one has yet seen a dragon but they know it’s there due to the forest fires to the northeast of Aáhké. As for directions they were to “go north along Barbarian’s Tread, take the north road at Gallow’s Fork and stay west ‘til you run inta’ town”. Vor purchased 2 hogshead of ale for 800 gold pieces and the talkative seller went on his way.
Shortly after that with a better idea of where they were going the shaman jumped into the boat and Vor took up his position at the bow and activated the helmet. The boat rose and then shot forward moving very fast, the still chilly but moist air blasted into their faces. Magiia was huddled against the transom bundled up in furs and blankets. Her nose was running and she was groaning with severe stomach cramps. Grom intending to read for the duration of the trip reached into his Bag of Holding and pulled out Blackbrow’s spellbook, the one covered in chromatic-yellow dragon hide, but was already familiar with its contents so he deposited back into the bag and instead pulled out the Tome of Dragonslaying. They had yet to get it open, the first thing he noticed was that there were no locks, the animated troll face on its iron bound cover was not pleased.
The jeweled eyes of the thing menaced him as it slung insult after revolting insult in his face and when that failed to dissuade Grom from trying to open it, it glowed red hot burning his hands. A little miffed the shaman convincingly threatened to burn it. It immediately relented and opened itself. It was then that the shaman realized that either the thing believed itself to be an actual troll or it was animated by the imprisoned spirit of a formerly living troll. The first thing he found in the tome was a song titled, “The Epic of Red-Tooth Dragonbane”, a very well-known bit of pop-culture throughout all of Ar along with a colored crest of a tower enwrapped by the coils of a black serpentine dragon surrounded by mutli-colored stars, it was identical to the crest on the Ring of Dragon Protection that had once been Bers’ but which now Maggi wears (see The Dragonslayers I Pt.28). It was apparently the oldest entry in the book. He flipped through the vellum pages and found some invocations: Protection from Dragons, the counterspell for Expel from Lair, and Track Enemy (Dragons only). When flipped the next page after the last spell he found another, apparently the newest entry in the book. The spell was titled “Draught of the Dragon’s Soul”. He was able to identify it as a Spell of Legend. He seriously contemplated trying to use it.
Gil: “This is cool, I’m gonna do this.”
Cris: “Dude it turns you EVIL.”
Gil (flipping through the Great Grimoire: Book of Spells Vol.I): “I don’t see that here. I’m gonna do it when we kill that dragon.”
Cris (pointing out the applicable passage in his copy): “See. Right there. The recipient of the benefits of this spell gains an evil alignment automatically.”
Gil: “I dunno, it might be worth it.”
Cris: “Dude. It’s an EVIL spell you’re feeding off of a dragon’s SOUL.”
Gil: “Oh. Well, guess not then.”
In no time the slayers’ transport was passing through the gates of Fertum Vorahd, the long banners on either side bearing the gold-horned white ram against a green field wafted in the breeze. Magiia’s eyes were rolling blindly around in her head. It was still mid-morning; it had taken only about 10 minutes to get from Merdna to the Fertum. The guards were a little taken aback by the strangeness of their vehicle which as soon as Vor had walked into Lord Vorahd’s manor dropped with a slap to the ground with Maggi still twisted in her sweat-moistened bundle.
The shaman and Vor walked into the main hall where Vorahd was waving a sword around apparently bored while a scribe worked on a pile of documents spread over the heavy wooden feasting table. He was very happy to see the slayers especially the shaman whom he embraced heartily. Vorwulf got the shaman to ask the lord for the deed to Ekit’s Watch, in his own name not the guild’s “just in case”, which the relieved old lord had his scribe attend to. They were to pay 100,000 gold pieces for the deed and pay a flat 100 gold piece annual tax to Lord Vorahd’s tax-collectors. Vorahd warned them that the Merdna Elder Council also laid claim to that land but to “nevermind them it’s mine plain and simple”. That business concluded they gave Lord Vorahd the two ebony staffs with skull toppers, the blue-steel pike, and the blood-metal longsword.
Gil & Jenn (Magiia’s Player): “What? We’re not gonna try to sell ‘em to him?”
Cris: “Naw. You don’t know how RICH we are right now, it’s just geesh.”
Outside as they prepared to leave from the Fertum following the northwesterly Barbarian’s Tread into Norusk, Vor found a traveling alchemist trying to ply his wares and purchased all of his available healing potions with a large emerald and a ruby. He also asked the trappers that had just arrived if they had any information concerning the road they were about to embark on. The trappers said there was dragon-sign mostly Grayling and Lindwurm. The Lindwurm was further north several days however. Vorwulf had to consult his dragon-lore to figure out what a Lindwurm was. It was a native dragon of the Hill-Lands which primarily predated the herds of the hillmen. It was essentially a winged serpent with a pair of eagle-like talons and that it was:
Cris: “Venomous. Great.”
Jenn: “It’s what, poisonous? What about its breath?”
Cris: “It’s got a poison bite instead, so don’t get bit.”
The slayers jumped into the boat and soon enough they were off. Maggi was hanging her head overboard to be violently ill.
Jenn: “Man we need to find a dragon quick!”
The slayers in their weird little vehicle whizzed out of the Fertum’s north gate onto Barbarian’s Tread, trees on either side. Magiia hung her head over the side and wretched.
To Be Continued…