Moreavan 29 Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar) Part 1

For a few hours I stood in the entryway of the temple and watched the fires burning in the night – listening to the far away sounds of people shouting and probably fighting, rival bands of looters fighting over scraps of a doomed city.  I wonder if the arsonists and saboteurs infiltrate the city recently or if the dragon has been setting this up all along.  Regardless it seems to be an effective strategy.  Martialla and the three captains were supposedly sleeping back in the Priest’s quarters but it’s hard to imagine they were having much luck.  There’s not much else that inspires insomnia like the potential for grim death nearby. 

My thoughts kept wandering to the dragon’s mind-slaving sword that we had stashed in a closest – you know like you do with deadly dangerous magic artifacts.  It has to have some connection to the dragon, and I feel like we should be able do something with that, use it to our advantage, but how do you even begin to explore that idea?  That’s the problem with magic, even the people that use it don’t seem to understand it.

Once the soft glow of the fire’s illuminated the city gave way to the soft glow of the morning sun illuminating the city it was time to go.  I explained by plan to my four comrades and suggested that they get back on their boat and head back to Penside’s Ferry, no reason for them to stay and die if this doesn’t work out.  Shockingly they refused.  Jasko in particular was vehement about not “abandoning” me.

“We’re with you to the end.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.  How does you dying with me help anything?

“It’s called loyalty.”

“To what?  If the king rides his horse off a cliff and all his men follow them that’s not loyalty that’s stupidity.  There’s nothing you can do to help, there’s nothing anyone can do, what’s going to happen is going to happen.  I don’t need you hanging around for moral support.”

He shook his head “We’re not going anywhere.”

“But why?  What’s the point?  What you’re saying makes no sense.  If you leave now and things go bad maybe you can find another way.  You can’t do anything if you’re dead.”

“What kind of man would I be if I ran away while you were in danger?

“A smart man?  A man who’s still alive?  A man who didn’t throw his life away for no good reason and can still try to do something?  Do you want me to go on?”

They refused to see reason and I didn’t want to waste time arguing – I remember when I used to be good at convincing people to do things.  It’s a sad day when I can’t get a couple barge-jockeys to do the thing that will save their own stupid lives.  I wished them luck staying in the temple for no reason whatever and headed for the door, Martialla right by my side.

“Now where the Hells do you think you’re going?

“I’m going with you.”

“I . . . I . . . .I . . . . don’t . . . . . what?!

“It’s pretty simple, you need someone to watch your back, it’s me.”

“You’re making my teeth hurt.  Those three idiots I can understand, they’ve been brainwashed by stories of manly heroism and brave last stands and other macho bullshit – the whole society is set up to get them to throw their lives away.  You are an actual human person with a functioning mind, at least I thought you were, you know better.”

“Maybe I do, but sometimes it’s nice to do the right thing and not the smart thing.”

“Who even are you?  Did you get kicked in the head by a mule or something?  What about your niece?  If you die here today who’s going to avenge her?”

“I’m not too worried about it.”

“What’s your angle lady?  I was just joking the other day about going steady, are you in love with me?  What’s going on?”

“I don’t think so, I like men and you’re pretty girly.”

“Why won’t anyone listen to me?!”

Why is it that everyone chooses the worst time to start acting all noble?  It’s some cruel joke at my expense.  Sometimes I feel like the whole world is against me.  There was no time to continue debating so Martialla and I headed through the streets of the wracked city.  Based on the number of charred corpses we saw bobbing in the river I think my theory last night that anyone with a boat had fled was gone – looks more like they tried to flee and a dragon burned them from above.  Martialla had the poor graces to interrupt my thoughts with an irrelevant comment.

“You know I heard that across the sea there’s a queen who’s immune to dragonfire.”

“How does that help us?”

“I just thought it was interesting.”

“Are her clothes immune to dragonfire too or does she run around in the nude after a dragon attack?  That hardly seems like conduct befitting a queen.”

“I don’t know, they don’t talk about that in the stories.”

“Funny, I would have thought a naked queen is what people would be most interested in.”

Once we were out of the city we both took a few minutes to craft ourselves some disguises – random bandit thug number four and anonymous outlaw criminal number seven.  Although I made sure that mine had an illusion of the dragon’s mind-destroying greatsword strapped across the back.  I don’t know how Martialla was feeling walking into the enemy camp, but I was strangely unconcerned – as might be expected from a coalition of backstabbers and throatslitters held together only by a dragon’s will, discipline was a little lax.  It was less a military encampment and more haphazard collection of tents and piles of materials.  Somehow I doubt that your average bushwhacker is going to spend time digging a proper latrine. 

No one challenged us as we made our way through the camp, if anyone noticed us or cared they probably assumed we just belonged to another bandit group – I saw at least five distinct gangs, and that’s not even counting the goblins and trolls roaming around.  Have you ever seen a troll up close?  I have now.  They’re hideous.  Looks like a tumor with arms and legs – really long arms and stumpy bow-legs.  Even that didn’t bother me so much though – my calm was shattered when we came to the central area around which all the bandit bivouacs clustered like barnacles on a ship.  Laying there, with a wide berth of emptiness around it, was the dragon – curled up like a cat and sleeping peacefully.

Even with its wings folded, legs drawn in, and tail wrapped around itself it was as big as a house.  Its scales were a dark ruby red with bone-white patches on the tips of the wings and around the muzzle – which even when closed revealed horrific looking fangs the size of small blades.   Down the back and tail it had feathery looking scales that stood up but which were actually wicked spikes.  Like the bright colors of a bird I assume, designed to attract a mate, only they could saw your limbs off.  There was an intense heat coming from it that felt almost like a physical force pressing up against me.  The feeling of absolute and utter dread that came over me was paralyzing.  Martialla fell to the ground and started sobbing, trying to press her face into the dirt as if she could burrow into it and disappear.  I probably would have done the same had I not experience the dragonfear before – albeit on a smaller scale.  Still I was frozen, I couldn’t say or do anything.

Without opening its eyes the dragon spoke – its voice like a low rumble of thunder before a deafening clap.  A voice of power and the assurance of awful violence.

“That’s not a bad disguise little one, but what did you hope to accomplish with it?  Are you an assassin?”

It took me a moment to find my voice “Of course not, I would never dream that anyone or anything could harm you.”

One of its wagon wheel sized eyes opened and it stirred slightly, possibly with a tiny hint of amusement in its voice. “That’s very wise of you, uncommonly so for one of your kind.  Many a knight has come to slay me and died in screaming agony.  That’s not very wise of them at all.”

“They’re fools, not even the Gods themselves can match your power.”

“You lie very prettily.  But even flattery gets old quickly coming from one like you.  What is your business?”

“I wish to help you.”

“And why should I allow that?”

“You can accomplish anything you wish, of course, but I wanted to make things a little easier for you – not that you need any help.  You must have come here for something, a human city surely can’t interest you.  Tell me what it is and I’ll bring it to you.”

Its great head lifted on the end of his long serpentine neck and after a moment it got to its feet and unfurled his wings – stretching and shaking slightly like the world’s largest and most awe-inspiring tiger.  I involuntarily took a few steps back and almost tripped over the cowering Martialla, and started shaking like a leaf.  No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t master myself – I was quivering uncontrollably like I had fallen through the ice over a frozen pond in the dead of winter.

“And what then?  I spare the city?”

Looking down instead of at the beast I was able to speak “No, of course not, I wouldn’t dream of trying to bargain with you, you can destroy the city easily – nothing can stop if you choose to do so – I just want to make sure you get what you want.  If your men attack the city and you burn it whatever you’re looking for may be destroyed.  I’m trying to make sure you get what’s rightfully yours.”

“You’re very smart for a human.  Maybe I should keep you as a pet.  How would you like that?”

“It would be my honor.  I can imagine no better life for myself.”

I heard a reverberation, felt in my chest as well, that I eventually realized was a dragon chuckle “You’re quite good at abject obsequiousness.”  Its cart-sized head full of lethal teeth came down level with me, the heat becoming so intense that it was painful.  “Look me in my eyes little one.”

Pulling my chin up was almost impossible – it felt like an entire mountain range had been set on my crown, dragging my eyeline down – but I was able to manage it.  The heat was so awful I was afraid that it was going to damage my vision.

“There’s a woman, she’s the last offspring of a man who murdered one of my sons decades ago.  I’ve killed all the others already.  Tomorrow at sunrise she will walk out the city alone.  Everyone in the city will come out to watch.  I’m going to burn her to nothing, not even ash, there won’t be bones left, she will cease to exist, and everyone is going to witness it so they know my power.”

I managed to nod, my eyes watering so intensely that it was like being underwater.

“You and your friend drop those disguises when you leave, I want my men to get a good look at you.”

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 995 platinum, 159 gold

XP: 206,561

Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat,  Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring,  False Papers, Bag of Concealment,  Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets, crystal necklace

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard

Montumazin 9, Year 887 (New Imperial Calendar)

It took some convincing but Haya Tekram, the potion-maker, eventually came around to my way of thinking.  He bitterly hated the wizard Imrael of course, but he was just as frightened of the dragon that he called Blazewing and the one he called Kohm who was not a giant at all but some kind of genie?  Haya started to explain but I assured him we had more important matters to discuss.  I built a pretty solid case based on three factors – he was clearly the expendable one here to his companions even though he was the aggrieved party, he was very valuable to me since he could finger Królewna & Bonifacja not only for slavery but also for supporting the dark art of necromancy, and if he didn’t get with the program my friend were going to kill him.  All in all I’d say that’s a pretty airtight argument.  Still it took him a while to accept his circumstances. It was only once I told him that Imrael was going to die today that he really got on board.

As stealthily as we could I led him away to where Molly and Arlonni were waiting in the darkness to escort him back to our camp to be stashed away with the teamsters for safekeeping.  I returned to his tent and disguised myself as him and waited.  It was nerve-racking to say the least.  There are so many things that can go wrong, but as they say nothing ventured, nothing gained.

In the early morning hours Imrael took his position by the slave-yard and I took aim with my crossbow – staying inside Haya’s building.  Cover doesn’t mean much against magic probably but there’s no reason not to try right?  The wizard was quite startled to suddenly find a crossbow bolt protruding from his belly, and I put another in his leg before he rallied himself.  He ordered a contingent of his skeletons to attack but as they clattered forwards they suddenly fell in a pit – conjured by Barjin who was lurking nearby according to plan. I pegged Imrael with another bolt, you know the expression shooting fish in a barrel?  Maybe it should be changed to wizards on wall.  I’m a decent shot but this fellow wasn’t doing anything to get out of the way.  Ducking must not be at the curriculum in wizard school.

He gathered himself enough to invoke a spell and send four bolts of eldritch energy at me – I tried to avoid them but they sought me out unerringly, magic you know.  I braced myself for whatever awful thing was going to happen but what happened is my Brooch absorbed the deadly lights.  I knew it did something but I wasn’t sure what, I guess it does that.  I lined up another shot and nailed him again.  Desperately, he ordered another squad of skeletons forward, but just like the first they were swallowed up by a suddenly appearing pit.  Imrael cast another spell but this time my crossbow flared and seemed to absorb the magic.  I should probably learn more about what all my stuff can do.  Some day, when I have more free time.

My fifth shot was my last – a crossbow bolt in the chest tends to do that.  Imrael stood stock still for a moment and then plunged off the wall to the ground.  He probably was still alive at that point but a ten foot fall onto his head changed that in a hurry.  In a hurry of my own I stashed the crossbow and switched from my Haya disguise into what I hoped was that of your standard person who’s been enslaved.  I wandered out into the city streets just as Kohm came into sight – quick as a snake he was on me and had my arm in a vise-grip.

“What’s going on here?!” he boomed “How did you get out?!”

I stammered and stuttered and blubbered until it looked like he was going to try and slap some sense into me – at which point I told him that we saw the wizard get killed and they hoisted me over the wall to try and escape and get help.  Just then cries started coming from the slave-pen.  Without Imrael to control them some of the skeletons were attacking the slaves.  Cursing, and quiet an accomplished curser he is, Kohm told me to lay down on the ground and not to move an inch.  I did so as he flew over the wall bellowing for Blazewing.  The two of the methodically, but quickly destroyed the skeletons before things could get out of hand. 

I was seemingly forgotten for a moment as Kohm searched Haya’s room, cursing all the while.  He came out and after a brief conversation Swiftwing flew off like an arrow.  Still cursing under his breath Kohm seized me by an arm and a leg and threw me over the wall into the slave-pen.  And I mean that literally.  He threw me over a ten foot wall like a child tossing a ball.  It would have been quite a bad landing, but the people on the other side managed to mostly catch me and break my fall.  Still I got the wind knocked out me for a moment. One fellow in a ragged sergeant’s uniform cleared everyone away from me.

“Back up, give her room to breathe!”  Once I had regained my breath he spoke again “Who are you?”

“No one of consequence.”  I looked around “You fellas ready for a good old fashioned slave revolt?”

The slaves weren’t all soldiers, but a lot of them were, and once I explained the situation to them they couldn’t get over that wall fast enough. I produced the falchion and greatclub that I hadn’t had a chance to sell yet from my various extradimensional storages, but I left the spear where it was – I was worried about getting it back.  Call me cold hearted if you want, I’ve been called worse.

Kohm drew a scimitar as the first soldiers came over the wall – aided by those who weren’t fighters – and promptly flew away as the trickle turned into stream.  He was clearly a strong warrior but when you’re facing down two score of angry soldiers you decide somethings aren’t worth it.  Even if only two of those soldiers have weapons.  Once he was gone they quickly worked to get everyone over the wall and then the sergeant who I had given the falchion and a Vieland soldier who had the greatclub came to me. 

“What do we do now?”

“Now you lot head to the south where my friends are.”

“And you?”

“I stay here to talk to the dragon, we can’t have him trailing after us.”

In the end all the soldiers resolved to stay and back me up while the non-combatants headed to Argo and the rest.  I tried to convince them to go as well, if things go bad no reason for everyone to die, but honestly I didn’t try that hard and I was relieved when they refused to go.  We spread out amongst the nearby buildings to await the dragon.  Its return was swift and once it saw the slave-pen empty and no sign of Kohm he roared horrifically – I actually cowered involuntarily for a moment – and then it blasted one of the walls to pieces not with a flash of flame like in the stories but with a bolt of Gods damn lightening from its mouth!

I was so shocked (pun!) that I didn’t realize I had stepped out of my building until I had already done it.  My body was proceeding with the plan without me.  The dragon’s head whipped around on its sinuous neck and I threw my hands up in a way that would have been embarrassing under any other circumstance.  There’s no use in pride when you’re dealing with a dragon.

“It’s over Swiftwing.  I’m sure you could find and kill us all if you wanted to but there’s no point.  The scheme is foiled. 

The dragon reared up, wings unfurled and sprung lightly before me with an effortless hop – its scaly face inches away from mine.  It’s breath was like the air itself was burning.

“You’re a brave little one aren’t you?”

“Not in the least your magnificence.”

“There’s no reason to kill you all maybe, but what if want to?”

“There’s nothing we could do to stop you of course.”

“No there isn’t.  So why should I spare you?  The ‘scheme’ as you call it is foiled but I could just devour you all.  It’s been a while since I devoured a whole village worth of your kind.  It’s quite enjoyable.”

“I could s-sing for you.  Legend has is dragons like music.”

A strange light sparkled in its eyes “Does it now?  Well go ahead then, far be it for me to contradict legend.”

My throat has never been so dry in all my life.  For a split second I felt like I was choking.  I spike of fear hit me as I thought I might not be able to sing, but I took a moment to master myself and started.  I was a little shaky at first, but I managed to smooth things out.  I’m a very good singer on my own, with the magic of my Bracers I’m a great singer.  For all my skill though the dragon didn’t seem moved at all.  In the tales the beautiful maiden sings the deadly dragon to sleep with her sweet voice, in this case the dragon just listened like a mildly bored audience member.

My song ended and I licked my lips, but before I could speak the dragon lifted its head and started singing itself.  I couldn’t understand the words, it was singing in the language of dragons, but the song was so beautiful and its execution so flawless that I fell to my knees.  The greatest singers I have ever heard in the human world were like candles to a bonfire compared to the magnificence of the dragon’s song.  It seemed like multiple harmonies and melodies were coming from a single creature.  I was awestruck.  For a brief moment the dragon sang in my own voice – perfect pitch.  I sat on my knees before the creature as its song ended, completely at a loss.  All thought had flown from my head.

“Dragons do like music, perhaps someday your people will make some.  Fly away now little songbird.”

With a leap and a few flaps its wings the dragon was quickly a speck in the sky.  As the soliders came stumbling out of their hiding places many of them were sobbing like children.  Whatever else happens to me the rest of my life I will never forget the the dragon’s song. Never.

____________________________________________________________

Funds: 10,258 gold

XP: 70,003

Inventory: Ring of Many Garments, Bag of Tricks (rust), Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, Resplendent Diplomat’s Palette, Secure Paypack, Skeleton Key, Brooch of Shielding, Pouch of Magic Stones, Masterful Grey Gloves, Black Marketers’ Bag, Biting Bracelet (Endless Ammunition), Boots of Escape, Bracers of the Glib Entertainer, Ring of Animal Friendship, +1 Falchion, +1 Greatclub, +2 Commanding Light Crossbow, Headband of Alluring Charisma +2, Manual of Quickness of Action, Bracer of Fire Resistance (10), Spear of Piercing Thunder, Handy Haversack, Amulet of Natural Armor +1, Cloak of Resistance +2 (2), Headband of vast intelligence +2 (2), Ring of Feather Falling

Signet ring, noble’s outfit, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger, succubi carving, Domiel family ring, walking stick, masterwork playing cards, spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, diamonds (14), silver crown, waterskins (6), trail rations (7), antitoxin (9),  formula book, smelling salts (3), sunrods (3), thieves’ tools, tindertwigs (6), various and sundry inebriants and intoxicants

Potion of Spider Climb, Potion of Eagle’s Splendor, Potion of Jump

Silver ring, gold bracelet, gold and pearl pendant, gold ring, platinum necklace (2), mithril hair clasps (3), 4 small diamonds

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler , Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin

Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(Reoccurring), murderous Halfling (Reoccurring)

Graltontown Buildings – Mill