28 September 1380 C.E.
The green-scaled dragon had two powerful legs and a pair of long, leathery wings. A long spike adorned its thrashing tail. It flicked its head from side to side scanning the clearing and then lunged at the hobgoblin huddling against the rock. When the dragon’s quarry rolled out of the way of its snapping jaws, it sprang lightning-fast back into the air, taking wing and flying up over the tree line.
“Well then,” said Moria. “Shall we retreat to the safety of the trees?”
Nylth took a deep breath and began a song about a legend known as the Dragonborn.
The hobgoblin plucked the arrow from his back, casting it aside with a curse. Rolling up into a crouch, he reloaded his crossbow with trembling hands, eyes on the sky. Quinn held his position, accepting a strength-bolstering prayer from Nima before the priest followed Moria back into the trees.
The dragon disappeared behind a line of trees before winging around, its eyes searching the clearing.
“Thass right,” Quinn muttered. “Suren ye see me.” The dragon espied the paladin holding his ground and flew toward him. Nyleth drew back and let fly an arrow, which struck the dragon and elicited a loud hiss! “Here!” Quinn bellowed at the beast. “HERE!”
The hobgoblin shouted at the copse of trees to the west and withdrew under the boughs of the nearest elm.
“I gotta kiss fer you, numpty,” said Quinn, his sword ready to strike as the dragon flew closer. Moria turned on his heel and rushed back toward Quinn. When he was back in range for it, he cast haste on the spellknight, himself, and Nima. The priest then summoned his elemental.
Flapping its leathery wings, the dragon turned its head in the direction of the arrow that wounded it, locking eyes with Nyleth.
“Well, damn it,” said Quinn.
The soldier pine shuddered with the force of the dragon as it crashed through the boughs to a perch not five feet above the bard’s head. A beat later, Nyleth’s song transitioned into something almost like a lullaby. The dragon’s long, sinuous neck arched under its wing, and it drew its spiked tail back to strike … but held, staring at the singer intently, unmoving.
While the adventurers watched Nyleth snare the dragon with her song, an arrow flew out from behind a tree and struck Quinn. “What the!” he complained, turning to see a mounted worg charging him. The spellknight struck first, his blade biting deep into the hairy beast’s flank. Then it bit through Quinn’s greave and shook its head vigorously. The paladin shoved the beast off of him with his shield.
Moria cast an enchantment, tossing sand at the worg and its rider. With a thump, Quinn’s nearby assailants both collapsed to the ground. The wizard moved up beside his friend, scanning the tree line for additional threats. Quinn glanced at Moria as he approached, confusion giving way to gratitude. “Roiling mist?” said the wizard, sounding puzzled. He drew Quinn’s attention to the west edge of the clearing.
“Someone shot me wi’ an arrow, too,” said the Dalesman. Then his gaze dropped to the sleeping goblin and the shortbow it held. Nima approached, and with a quick prayer healed Quinn’s hurts.
The dragon continued to stare hard at Nyleth, unblinking, while her companions heard the sound of beating wings from the west as a second dragon swooped over the clearing. Moria glanced up at the new monster with no small amount of concern. Quinn’s eyes glazed over as he tracked its movements. The scaly beast inhaled as it glided toward them and belched forth a great glob of mucoid slime, which burst into a cloud when it struck their midst.
“Look oot!” cried Quinn.
Moria reeled as the caustic cloud opened weeping wounds on his sensitive skin. The others were burned by the acid as well, though not so badly as the wizard. Seeing this, Nyleth’s voice caught for a moment, but she managed to keep singing. She made her way farther out on the branch, trying to catch the second drake’s attention. It was just out of range of her enchanting voice, but she did add a casual line into the chorus about two more worg riders hiding in the southwest corner of the clearing and beneath the tree between the two buried boulders. It rhymed better in Faerie.
Quinn strode out of the cloud left behind by the dragon’s caustic breath and waved his arms to get the second dragon’s attention. He cast protection from evil upon himself and then channeled St. Immotion’s healing energy to restore himself to fighting fit.
The hobgoblin ducked under the tree across from the adventurers, drawing his longsword and slashing at the ground … and the buried cord in front of him. They heard a SNAP as it t whipped off the ground, disappearing into the trees to the east, and then the CRASH of tree limbs snapping. The dragon hissed as the air above filled with stones raining down into the trees to the west, pelting the dragon and the hobgoblin. The worg riders emerged and fired arrows at the airborne beast, but its scales deflected each shaft.
Moria cast another spell and vanished from sight, stumbling invisibly away from the cloud and the gathered humanoids. Nima channeled healing energy into his nearby companions, including the invisible wizard. His elemental advanced on the hobgoblin, which clutched his head and bled profusely from the bludgeoning wounds he had inflicted upon himself in an effort to bring down the dragon.
The flying dragon made a sound like a tremendous crocodile, rumbling in outrage. Landing between the two worg riders, it struck its long neck out, snapping its jaws just shy of one goblin and lashing out with its tail at the other, opening a vicious gash across the worg’s face.
The treed drake continued staring at Nyleth, salivating freely and tail at the ready. Seeing that the bard’s song was keeping it occupied, Quinn charged the dragon on the ground. His falcata opened a bloody gash across its flank, and the beast shrieked in pain, arching its neck over its body and biting the spellknight.
The worgs backed away from the drake warily, their riders drawing bows. One arrow lodged fast in the scaly beast’s neck and it cried out loudly again. Moria cast another spell, then moved invisibly toward the melee. The elemental continued attacking the hobgoblin, which cried out in anguish and beat out the flames that threatened to engulf it. Nima cut one of the worg riders down, and as he slumped to the ground, its mount bared its teeth and growled uncertainly at the dragon.
The drake turned slowly, its eyes fixed on Quinn. Hissing loudly, it snapped its jaws at the spellknight, drawing blood. Simultaneously, it lashed out with its tail at the worg flanking it, which darted out of the way to let the iron-hard spike lance into the ground. It shrieked again, eliciting a moment of distraction from the dragon looming over Nyleth, but with renewed passion, the bard held her quarry in her musical snare.
Quinn took advantage of the flank provided by the other worg rider to engage fully with the grounded dragon. The monster raised up on its legs, shrieking mightily and stretching its wings out to their fullest extent. Opening its great fanged maw, which dripped with acidic bile, it descended on the spellknight, biting and pursuing him as he dodged and moved alongside it. Quinn spun around, knocking the dragon’s head away with his shield and brought his falcata down upon it, chopping deeply into the base of the monster’s skull. The dragon collapsed to the ground, raising a great cloud of leaf-fall and detritus as it shuddered, then lay still.
With the greater threat dispatched, the worgs turn on Nima and his otherworldly servant. The priest held off his attacker, but the other worg managed to sink its teeth into the fire elemental, an altogether questionable tactic.
Moria and three illusory duplicates reappeared as he cast color spray in a cone that caught the mounted worg and its rider. Both took the full brunt of the scintillating brilliance. The goblin fell unconscious and slipped from his saddle, and the worg hung its head, standing on suddenly unsteady legs. Nima and the elemental continued their heated melee against their target.
At the sound of its mate’s death throes, the dragon above Nyleth blinked and started, looking suddenly over the tree line at the inert body between Nima and Quinn. Giving an outraged shriek/hiss, the beast launched itself out of the tree and flew straight toward the adventurers. Nyleth fell out of the tree in the wake of the beast’s departure, but still somehow managed to keep singing, changing the magic of her tune to bolstering her companions.
Quinn turned to face the oncoming dragon, steely-eyed and unafraid. The monster belched forth a gob of acidic bile, exploding into the midst of Nima and the worg. The priest avoided the worst of the burning, but the worg howled as the cloud engulfed it, falling dead with a bloody choking sound. The spellknight moved out to meet the drake, laying hands on himself again, bellowing and smacking his shield with the pommel of his sword.
Moria stepped up and brained the sleeping goblin, putting the wretch down once and for all. Nima prayed and a beam of searing light lanced forth from his outstretched hand to strike the dragon. It shrieked in pain and dove at the priest, full of rage. Nima flinched as the monster landed awkwardly in front of him and closed its jaws just shy of his face. Hissing in frustration, it leapt back into the air.
“Oh, hells,” said Quinn. Without another target, he struck the stunned worg but didn’t manage to slay the beast.
Nyleth regained her feet and stumbled toward her companions in the clearing, still singing. Moria conjured a deadly illusion, targeting the dragon. With a hiss, it back-winged in mid-air, lashing out with claws and tail at a phantasm only it could see and shrieking in pain. Nima’s healing energy invigorated his companions and the elemental.
Coming out of the spell-induced stupor, the dragon looked around in confusion before turning to look at the adventurers.
“Come on, you overstuffed lizard!” Moria shouted.
“May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your nostrils!” yelled Nima.
Ignoring the verbal taunts, the dragon glared at Quinn, its mate’s killer, and swooped down upon him. The spellknight raised his shield and stood his ground. The drake staggered as it landed, its jaws snapping against Quinn’s upraised shield. Then the paladin counterattacked.
His smite struck the dragon straight in the chest the falcata piercing its heart. It was slain instantly, not even able to utter a death cry as it fell heavily to the ground. The woods fell eerily silent, and Quinn spun to glare at the worg, which sniffed the air intently.
“Flee,” Moria commanded it in Fomoraig. “Now.”
The worg took the cue and bolted for the woods. Nima bowed to the elemental before dismissing it back to its home plane.
“Are … you … we … are we all okay?” said Nyleth, idly pulling leaves and sticks out of her hair as she stowed her bow.
“I hurt,” complained the wizard. “Worst. Breath. Ever.”
“Oh dear, Ecoriel,” said the bard, fussing over his wounds a little.
“Aww, c’mere,” said Quinn, laying hands on his friend and healing him.
Moria nodded his thanks to the paladin, then moved to examine the bodies. “So. Dragons?”
Quinn sounded absolutely giddy as he said, “Aye.”
“Guess so,” said Nyleth. “They seem to like music, though.”
“Who doesn’t?” Moria said glibly.
“Ev’ryone likes yer music, Nyleth,” said Quinn, elbowing the wizard in the side.
“S’truth, Sayyadati Nyleth,” added Nima. “Your songs are most wondrous.”
Moria nodded. “You, if you’ll pardon the expression … killed.” He offered a small smile.
“Thank you all,” said the bard, rubbing her throat unconsciously. “That was … unnerving.”
“I wanna get one o’ their teeth, I think,” said the Dalesman
Moria nodded. “They have – had – plenty.”
“Quinn, that will make such a song for Pastanti!” Nyleth exclaimed
“Song, hell. Necklace,” said Moria.
“Necklace and song!” said the bard, grinning brightly and clapping her hands together before bowing to everyone.
“And such a blow, Ghazi Quinn!” said Nima with his own bow. “The djinn themselves are in awe.”
“Well, shucks. Ye’r the one who made me all strong-like,” said Quinn. The paladin returned the bows to Nyleth and Nima, then offered one to Moria for good measure. “So, they gotta have a lair ‘round here someplace, right?” he asked. Moria nodded and returned his attention to examining the Historical Find.
“Are any of the, erm, bits useful, Ecoriel?” Nyleth wanted to know.
The wizard tsked. “I don’t think these were true dragons,” he said. “More akin to wyvern-kind. A mated pair, though.” He sounded thoughtful. “Formerly.”
“Do you think there might be, well, wee ones around?” she asked.
Moria shrugged. “That is possible. Easily inferred.”
“Oh, goodness, wouldn’t that be the cutest pet?”
“Difficult to train, I would expect.”
“An’ do the dragon-kin keep treasure hoards, too?” Quinn wanted to know. “‘Course, fer all I know, the true dragons didn’t either…”
“I am not sure I can speak to that,” said Moria. “You are, after all, referencing legends.”
Nyleth poked him in the arm. “Just mostly kidding, though do you want the organs from inside? If it was a true dragon, the humor-producing organs would be useful, as would the scales. Though, if this is a lesser one, they may not be as useful.”
Moria feigned an appalled expression. “What do I look like? A necromancer.” He looked down at himself. “Oh. Shut up.” The last was directed at Quinn, though the wizard had not looked up at his friend.
“I wasnae gonna…” said the Dalesman, though his tone suggested that maybe had been. Nima grinned.
Nyleth poked at the dragon corpse with her index finger. “It’s … not as slimy as I would have guessed.”
“If our missin’ elf ran intae these two, there might be some proof in their lair,” said Quinn.
“That’s true, though it might be grim proof,” said Nyleth.
“I do not disagree,” said Moria, examining the barbed tail. He collected a handful of scales, a couple of teeth and a claw.
The bard pulled out a tiny knife and removed a single scale from one of the drakes. “I wonder why the hobgoblins were trying to get them in the open?”
“Could be th’ only way they could take ‘em doon,” said Quinn.
“They lay a cunning snare,” Moria commented, indicating the stone shrapnel.
Nima examined the hobgoblin’s body. “This one really does have … a particular skin,” he said in a bemused tone.
“How so?” asked Nyleth.
“It is made of mithral.”
“Oh?” said Moria, his interest apparent.
Nyleth stood and crossed to look at it. “Are you certain?”
“Yes. It is magical, and his longsword is also of high quality?”
Their musings were interrupted when Quinn called to them from the edge of a depression he’d gone to investigate. “I think I got somethin’ over here.” The others joined him. The crevasse was approximately twenty feet deep, lined in weathered limestone, and appeared to be full of bones and grimy refuse. In the shadowy depths, they could barely make out the bottom. “Mebbe they lived doon here?” he suggested.
“Perhaps,” said Moria.
The adventurers descended to search the pit. The floor was deeply piled with the bones of humanoids of all shapes and sizes: humans, goblins, bugbears, and others. There was also a great heap of well-gnawed leather and steel, but some of the equipment was newer and is retrievable. Among the armor and weapons, they found a scattering of precious metal coins and gemstones. They had discovered Quinn’s dragon hoard.
As they looted, a rusted out pot-helm stirred in a far corner, and a glimmering light flickered to life within. Overturning it, Nyleth found a hollow in the stone containing four emerald-green eggs and a lithe, diminutive creature that looked like a humanoid with wispy, moth-like wings and long thin ears.
“Hello there!” Nyleth said brightly in Faerie.
The sprite looked up at her, hope blooming on her face. “Greetings, Tuatha Sylva-Gleann. I am called Amquis.”
TO BE CONTINUED?