The return to the town of Gazeamoral was a success, loaded down with objects of value from the ziggurat of the now defunct purple worm cult, Beni Profane and his companions were feeling wealthy again. The Fifteen year old Hegemon of Gazeamoral was willing to make Beni into a knight, and the party had recently stolen a map to a great treasure from some kind of necromancer/diplomat. From any angle the sometimes 'Order of Gavin' was moving up in the world.
|My favorite dragon form the Monster Manual|
An uneventful return to the gilded spires of Illum Zugot found the pompus priest king as mired in fanaticism as ever, unwilling to consider the danger that demonic outsiders were infiltrating his lands more of an affront than the continued survival of the Southern necromancer (who also happened to be the only local ruler actually fighting against the otherworldly menace). Despite the Priest King's earlier promise of support for the adventurers road building project he was predictably unwilling to levy any laborers without a promise that his own knights would be left in charge of any garrison to protect the road and that such a garrison would be a monastery, basilica or holy order. This did not sit well with anyone but Karna, as even the imperial priest Tarvis didn't feel that wealth laborously pulled from the forgotten places of the earth should go to strengthening and glorifying the Priest King. Luckily, Beni's lavish gifts to the rat goddess and her flock amongst Illum-Zugots poor allowed the recruitment of laborers directly from the underclass. A rat priest agitator even sought Beni out and asked for the adventurer's continued help in subverting the Priest King's rule.
While in Illum Zugot, Beni also encountered a fellow 'ratcatcher', some kind of perfumed sneak thief who considered joining the party. The adventurers didn't really want such a henchman, but Beni entered into a contest of thievery with the man - stealing a lily from the Priest King's gardens. The stranger was successful, but Beni, despite silently penetrating the Kings fortress could find no lilies in the gardens and suspected he'd been set up by the creep who plucked his lily from a less dangerous place.
After leaving the road building in the hands of some of the band's henchmen Beni, Tarvis, Karna, Eryaria, Daroullian, Lau Taxan and Ginny Bo, Fitzwalter headed South to return to Zorptah, the town of thier first adventures. Travel through the haunted woods along the Southern road was uneventful, but upon emerging into the dry hills North of Zorptah the adventurers heard a sound like a swarm of bees. Hiding from fear of giant insects, the entire party watched a strange group of winged humanoids wrapped in winding sheets that flew past surrounded by a swarm of bugs and birds trapped in the odd creature's foul auras.
The rest of the trek South was uneventful, and soon the familiar sights of Zorptah appeared, only slightly changed. Guards now stood at the entrances of the town, and not the slack layabouts of the militia with there rusted glaives and patchwork armor, professional looking heavy infantry in thick armor of heavy scale reinforced with plates. The nearest pair of guards appeared to be protecting a group of Zorptah's citizens who lay stretched on the hot rocks before the gates. Upon hailing the guards the adventurers were greeted as "The old liberators" and told that the villagers were not being tortured, but rather performing thier morning adulation of the snake spirit.
The "New Liberator" was the Griffon Lord of the East, an ancient man with cruel habits who had swooped into Zorptah because he feared the war to the West would spill over into his lands once the necromancer fell. The Griffon Lord promised things wouldn't change much in Zorptah and the adventurer's property had not been seized. He offered to allow his famous armorers to do work for the party, making Wyvern scale and purple wyrm leather armor and informed them that he was taxing any treasures recovered from Pahvelorn. This promise (along with the rumors of the lord's penchant for feeding people to griffons) will ensure that the adventurers hate the Griffon Lord.
Trying to find a buyer for unwholesome magics recovered from the wyrm, Tarvis discovers that the kindly wizard who sponsored one of the party's earlier delves is absent, and that his beleaguered apprentice has now deals in 'pack apes. Speaking to the merchants of the bizarre at Thracle's emporium the party sells a suit of evil, magical black armor for 3,000 GP, a wyvern and the promise to retrieve some mushrooms from a ruin in the desert.
During the stay in Zorptah Earariya, the party's twelve year old sorceress discovers that she has picked up a tiny purple wyrm which has clouded her mind into feeding it until now. The witch strikes a deal with the alien intelligence, which teaches her spells in exchange for protection and aid in its plan to take over the world with an army of extraplanar wyrms. Earariya makes it clear to Beni that the wyrm may need some killing should she start acting strange.
In the effort to retrieve the merchant's strange mushrooms, the party ventures into an area allegedly haunted by dragons. Moving cautiously the adventurers promise each other that they will flee at the first sign of a dragon and make this a safe trip. Of course this doesn't work. The long lost ruins turn out to be easy to find, and since the merchant told them to harvest the mushrooms at night the party camps at a distance and observes. The adventurers see nothing, but a tumbled hole in the ruins appears to lead into a large mound of cyclopean bricks. Beni sneaks forward once the nice falls, and the mushrooms begin to glow, and become obvious (they carpet the area around the cavern entrance). As he harvests several pouches full of the strange glowing mushrooms, using his elf saber to cut them, a wind picks up. The wind is unnatural, the portent of a dragon, and the party seeks some where to flee. The only spot hidden from the air is the cave entrance itself, and the adventurers foolishly rush in. Almost as soon as they enter it becomes obvious to the party that this is a dragon's lair. A scattering of gold coins covers the floor, and the stones are smooth where iron hard scales have rubbed them over the years. Beni notices the ceiling is covered in gloom and rock outcroppings so he quickly scales the roof, fastening himself with a rope above the center of the gold pile. The rest of the party rushes down a stone stair, herding their pack apes into a crevasse at the other end of the chamber, and find that its sandy bottom holds a pair of roofless ancient ruins. Seeking the pitiful cover of the ruins the adventurers await the inevitable.
Soon the dragon returns, huge and terrible with glowing eyes and a tail as long as it's heavy muscled body. The dragon settles itself on the midst of the coin pile, and with it's huge jutting reddish ivory teeth set in something similar to a smile. A long black tounge darts between the dragon's scaly lips past the horrible teeth and quivers in the air. "I smell ape ... and human" the dragon hisses. Knowing they are discovered Karna shouts up from the ruin - "Yes we are travelers and dangerous men, seeking shelter." The dragon laughs and neogtiation begins as the other party members attempt to move up the stairs so they can hide just beneath the lip of the crevasse.
Negotiations break down quickly. the dragon not only wants the apes carrying the band's provisions but tries to force them into the dark passage at the back of it's lair. With a prearranged signal from Karna the party attacks. Beni drops from above, shouting the name of his rat god and plunges his now glowing elf saber into the dragon's left eye. The huge mottled brown beast is unamused but does not seem mortally injured as much as extremely angry despite the gruesome wound. Crossbows rain bolts at the dragon to no effect, and Earariya fires the magical crossbow like wand that the retired Sarin discovered in the deeps of Pahvelorn. The deadly beam of unnatural light doesn't even mark the dragon's thick scales. The party's clerics charge forward, and Tarvis's longtime henchman Darullan (who was originally recruited as the winner of an archery contest), pulls out the demonic life drinking dagger. The dagger, flung with the considerable strength of the large warrior, somehow manages to worm its way through the thick scales of the dragon and more impressively the magic of the possessed knife sucks loose the dragon's life. As the ancient beast thrashes and howls, it's body folding in on itself and desiccating as the adventurers watch, but in its death convulsions Beni is flung to the wall and knocked unconscious.
When Beni is healed the party begins to try to figure out how to move the dragon's hoard. It is too heavy to carry with them along with the beast's body, but cannot be left unattended. The adventurers chop up the crumbled dragon corpse, and bury the gold in the floor of the cave, heading North to Gazeamoral to boast of their deed and sell the dragon bones and skin. In Gazeamoral the party is greeted warmly enough, though some of the advisers to the Hegemon are unhappy that the dragon is dead, fearing increased trade from the South, but assured because rumors claim that a family of dragons dwelt in the ruins. This is bad news for the adventurers though, as not only might another dragon appear to claim their treasure, but it might just as easily hunt them for vengeance.
Wasting little time, but selling the dragon's bones and much of its skin to Threacle's emporium in Gazeamoral, the party heads South to claim their gold. On the way they encounter a knight errant, presumably from the East. He speaks of honor and hunting dragons and is met with Beni's confused bluster. Not sure what to make of a group of heavily armed men and a small girl, attired in the skins of mythical beasts and wielding an odd assortment of weapons who claim to be priests, knights, town counselors and delvers under the earth, but who deny knowing a thing about any dragons or that they are adventurers, the knight challenges Tarvis to a joust. Tarvis does not wish to risk his horse over some fool's concept of honor, but Beni, annoyed by the odd knight's condescension and vaguely testy about his own knighthood challenges the man to a saber duel.
Beni of course wears a magical breastplate that renders him immune to cuts by mortal weapons, and figures this will make his victory inevitable. The knight fights well, and Beni can't seem to strike a blow through the man's armor. While Beni's magical cuirass takes several hard blows, both parties are wounded eventually. Beni with a pommel strike to the ear, and the knight with a riposte across his unarmored chin. Neither wound is serious, but the fight is winding down when a dragon wind begins to rise. Beni shouts to the knight that he will accept an offer of a draw, and the party flees point upward and shouting "dragon".
It is unclear what becomes of the knight, but soon the party returns to the ruins and finds them surrounded by strange poles, almost like a shoddy defensive works. Scouting the burrow Beni is peppered with arrows by a pair of cloaked figures floating by the ceiling of the great chamber.
The party attacks with Tarvis and Darullian's shields in front to take the arrows of their enemies. The pair of strange archers, levitating amongst the cavern's stalagmites are quickly slain, but were guarding a group of eights more cloaked warriors. The battle that follows is finished quickly by a blast of eldritch energy from the most dangerous demon weapon the adventurers have yet recovered. Even with the use of the the powerful weapon some of the cloaked figures must be fought with melee, and they prove to be both dangerous fighters and spell casters. Darullian is pinned to the floor by ropey magical tendrils as he charges forward, and Lau Taxen dropped into slumber. Still the party is victorious and discovers that their assailants are grey skinned elves. Elves being mythical creatures it is unclear where these came from, and why they were burning a smaller dragon corpse. Indeed, the party finds another dragon corpse in the crevasse, on a still smouldering pyre. Taking the bones of the small dragon, as well as the effects and corpses of the elves the party digs up thier gold and rushes back to Gazeamoral. When they arrive, the town is surrounded by burnt land, and its gates are smashed. A dragon has visited, and the Hegemon cannot let the party return as Gazemoral has already lost twenty soldiers before chasing the wyrm off. Beni and Earyaria donate their shares of the dragon's hoard, 5,000 gold to the dead guards, and Beni adds 1,000 more for the benefit of reconstruction, before the party heads East to Illum Zugot, trying to reach the dragon before it slaughters their road building crews.