Raiders of Oakhurst - A memoir of Erais Gunterson

Colmarr

First Post
Tira reappeared, moving into the cavern from the entrance behind Skamos and me. She was limping badly. Even as the tiefling turned his attention to the remaining kobold shield-warriors, I channeled Amaunator’s power again and mended her wounds. By the time I was done tending to the half-elf, Corrin and Skamos had finished off the remaining kobolds.

I looked around at my companions. Corrin was breathing heavily and favouring his left arm. A nasty purple bruise was developing on his cheek. Tira seemed much recovered. My magic had closed her wounds and restored much of her vitality, but she was still breathing shallowly.

“We need to rest for a moment,” I said. No one disagreed.

We gathered into a small alcove, keeping a wary eye on the entrances. I retrieved my healer’s kit and did what I could to patch Corrin and Tira’s wounds, then I looked around the cavern. A crude stone altar had been erected in another alcove across from ours, bearing a rich red worship cloth and a surprisingly well-formed statue of a rearing dragon. Blood-red candles guttered on either side of the shrine. I grimaced at the heathen idol, blew out the candles, and then flipped up the worship cloth to cover the statue. If the kobolds worshipped dragons, was it any wonder that they threatened Oakhurst so?

When my companions had had a chance to catch their breath, we pushed deeper into the caves. As it turned out, there was only one further room in that branch of the cave. And it was a throne room.
We did not realize that at first. The room’s occupants had obviously heard our battle with the wyrmpriest and his guards, and were hidden in niches and under furs. They only leaped out to attack when Corrin entered the chamber. And as if two kobolds were not enough of an unpleasant surprise, a furred spider the size of a pony dropped from the ceiling, narrowly missing the diminutive paladin.

The ensuing combat was by far the greatest display of bravery I have ever seen. Outnumbered three to one, and battling a monstrous spider in close quarters, Corrin merely retreated into the mouth of the cavern and methodically blocked the enemy’s approach. From that position, he used his armour and shield to effectively blunt the kobold’s attacks while repeatedly stabbing out at the spider with his shortsword. The arachnid reared up on its hind legs in rage, but could not find an opening through which to bring its greater size to bear.

With the kobolds effectively trapped by Corrin’s stalwart defence, the rest of us flung waves of magic at the creatures. The kobolds had no defence against that onslaught, and the giant arachnid finally fell, Corrin’s shortsword piercing one of its crimson eyes. As the spider collapsed, one of the kobolds darted around behind a pillar of rock. Moments later, it reappeared, dashing out of a small crack in the cave wall and back towards the gong chamber. Another kobold, which must have been hiding in the throne room the whole time, came with it and pushed the injured creature out of the way in its haste to escape.

“They’re running!” Tira shouted, and then she and I gave chase, leaving Corrin and Skamos to deal with the remaining kobold.

Despite their small size, the fleeing kobolds almost got away. I brought the injured warrior down with a blast of divine energy just before it rounded a bend in the passageway, but the hidden kobold was too fast for me. It disappeared into the gong chamber, and I knew that weighed down by my armour I had no chance of catching it. Fortunately, Tira was faster.

Just as the fleeing kobold disappeared out of view, Tira reached out with one hand and a crystal blue beam flew from her fingers. I heard a yelp of pain, and saw Tira slow to a leisurely stop. I rushed past her and into the gong room. The fleeing kobold was in the middle of the cavern, struggling in vain to reach the stream there. Its legs and waist were covered in an inch-thick layer of ice, slowing it to a crawl. Tira laughed mischievously and blasted the kobold with another ray of frost. The beast yelped again, but continued to struggle toward the stream.

I rushed across the cavern and dived onto the creature, sending both of us crashing into the stream. The water was icy cold and I surfaced gasping for breath. The kobold thrashed nearby and I jumped on it again, dragging it back under the water and grabbing a hold of one of its arms. When we surfaced again, the beast took me completely by surprise.

“I surrender!” it yelled in heavily accented but nevertheless understandable common.
 

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Colmarr

First Post
Tira and I dragged the yielding creature back to the apparent throne room, where we tied it securely with rope and gagged it. The beast looked nervously at the bodies of its deceased companions, and wrinkled its canine nose at the ichor oozing from the cracked carapace of the giant spider. We ignored it for a time and looked around the cavern. It contained another shrine, this time carrying several stone dragon statuettes. A crude rock throne stood in one corner, opposite a mound of furs that doubtless served as a bed. Finally, when we had finished our search of the room, we removed the kobold’s gag.

“What are you doing here?” I asked the cowering dog-man.

“We live here,” it replied simply.

I growled in frustration. Something told me this wasn’t going to be easy. I decided to be more specific.

“Why did you raid the human and halfling settlements?”

“We hungry.”

“And you kill sentient creatures for food?” I asked in disbelief.

“We kill,” the kobold nodded. “Don’t you?” The question was asked with such naivety that for a moment I almost believed that these creatures were unaware of the gravity of their actions. But then the captive flashed a nervous smile, and torchlight glinted off its needle-like teeth. Something inside me, perhaps some hint from Amaunator, told me that the kobold knew exactly why I took such umbrage at its tribe’s activities.

“Are you in charge here?”

“Yes. Me king” it nodded fervently.

“Then why did you try to run away?”

The kobold shrugged as much as its bonds would allow. “Me not stupid king.”

As much as it rankled me that the creature could be so flippant given its tribe’s recent past, it was clear that the kobold was telling the truth. It’s clothing was far superior to the rags worn by the other dog-men we had slain and the very fact that it spoke common confirmed its claim to a position of importance.

The kobold king named himself Meepo, and offered to lead us to a hidden treasure if we let it live. While the promise of reward did not sway me, there was no denying that we were in no condition to press deeper into the caves without resting. Unable to press on, and unwilling to kill our captive, we retreated from the complex and found a defensible position in a small cave further up the mountain. We tied the kobold’s arms behind its back and replaced its gag so that it could not call for rescue.

As we were leaving the kobold lair, I stopped outside the cavern in which the dog-men females and children huddled. They stared at me with fifty wide eyes. Corrin stomped past without stopping and Tira soon followed him, tugging on Meepo’s rope leash. Skamos stopped next to me for a moment.

“We should lead them out and disperse them,” I suggested.

The tiefling shook his head. “We don’t have time. And what would we do anyway? Lead them into the wilderness?” He gave a wry smile, and I was forced to admit he was right. We left the kobolds where they were.

Early the next morning, we followed the still-bound Meepo back into the cave complex. He led us in the direction opposite the one we had taken the day before, away from the throne room and into a small side chamber near the kobold’s alarm gong. There, he pointed to a pile of rocks that blocked the entrance to another cavern.

“Treasure hidden in there,” Meepo said.

Tira gave an absent-minded tug on the kobold’s restraints, causing the creature to complain bitterly. Skamos smiled.

“He’s despicable, but I kind of like him.”

I looked at the wizard in surprise. Skamos merely shrugged and scratched at one of his horns.

“Don’t get too attached", I suggested. "Betrayal runs in his veins”.

I turned to Meepo. “Why is the entrance walled up?” I asked him.

“To hide the treasure,” he replied, as though the answer were obvious. I searched his alien eyes, but there was no hint of artifice there. I nodded to Tira, who pulled Meepo into one corner, and then Corrin and I set to work uncovering the entrance.

When we had roughly half of the wall removed, we shone a light into the cavern beyond. The area was bare of decoration, and the air from inside seemed different somehow. A pillar of black stone stood at the northern end of the chamber, opposite the entrance we had made. But there was no sign of the kobold’s treasure.

Skamos gestured at a nearby pebble, which began to glow with crisp white light. Then he tossed it through the opening. The new light source illuminated a pile of items in a tunnel to the northwest or the chamber. Clearly visible in the jumble were numerous suits of armour. I glanced at Corrin, who nodded and then began to climb over the rubble. Once he was trhough, I looked back at Skamos and at Tira, who tightened her grip on the rope tied to Meepo. Then I followed Corrin into the newly-revealed cavern.

The halfling was roughly twenty feet ahead of me, following the eastern wall north and around the black stone column. I saw him step warily behind it, eyes scanning the room, and waited for him to emerge on the other side.

And waited.
 
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Colmarr

First Post
I took a tentative step forward, Corrin’s name forming on my lips. And then I saw the creature clambering towards me across the roof. It was roughly the same size as a halfling, but its skin was mottled grey and black. It blended into the shadows with terrifying effectiveness and as it scuttled towards me it seemed to shift into and out of sight. I raised my mace to point at it, but before I could shout a warning, the creature launched itself at me.

I swung wildly at it as it leapt, put completely mistimed my blow. My mace arced through the air six inches above the creature’s fang-filled head. I jumped to the side as it crashed to the ground, narrowly avoiding the impossibly long arm that slashed out at me. The creature snarled at me as its skin colour danced and shifted, fading quickly to a dull grey.

I saw Corrin stagger back from behind the pillar at the north end of the room. The halfling glanced my way and then charged my opponent, his battle cry of “For Tymora!” echoing in the rocky cavern. His shortsword stabbed out at the creature, but the paladin struck only a glancing blow, that seemed to glance off the aberration’s hide with little effect.

The creature screeched at Corrin, but then sidestepped his attacks with startling ease. Its elongated arms shot out at me again and I felt its rubbery hands close around my throat. I puzzled momentarily at its inhuman strength before my survival instinct kicked in. As Skamos and Tira rushed into the room behind me, I struck again and again at the creature’s arms, trying to force it to release its grip.

A burst of flame filled one corner of the room, and I could hear Skamos’ and Tira’s chants as they unleashed spell after spell. As I battered at my attacker, I risked a glance away, and saw to my horror another of the creatures sheltering from the storm behind the stone pillar. Even as I watched, its skin shifted and it disappeared from view. Corrin swung again and again at the beast choking me, but forced it only into moving closer to me. Then the paladin jabbed out with his shortword, aiming for the choker’s exposed flank.

I felt the blade pass between the link of my chainmail and score a line of fire across my chest. I yelled in pain even as I struggled to rid myself of the beast that had somehow repositioned me into the path of Corrin’s blow. As I battered at it with my mace, Corrin reached out and touched me with his palm. I felt a surge of calming coolness wash over me. The burning wound on my chest cooled and then vanished, even as stars appeared in my eyes and my vision began to dim. I knew that if I did not disentangle myself from this creature and quickly, I would be beyond aid.

The choker’s grip tightened around my throat and I struggled to remain standing. I was vaguely aware of the second choker pouncing on Skamos behind me, and saw a flash of crimson light as he tried to blast the creature with an orb of force. Tira had at some stage moved to the northern end of the cavern, and she cast a bolt of crackling energy back at the choker attacking Skamos. Suddenly I felt the choker’s grip lessen, and I gasped down a breath of chill air, relieved at just being able to breathe. The choker, still clinging to me with one suckered hand, lashed out at Corrin with the other and I saw the bleeding wound in its shoulder that had obviously diverted its attention. I threw my arms up with all the strength I could summon and managed to force its grip from my neck.

I staggered back out of its reach and managed to summon a bolt of faith despite the fog filling my mind. Filled with Amaunator’s power, I cast it at the choker and took grim satisfaction as the lance smashed into the creature’s abdomen and forced it back into the wall. It screeched with rage, and then its skin rippled and it faded from view.

Skamos’ opponent likewise vanished, and we were left spinning futilely in a darkened cavern, trying to defend ourselves from attackers that we could not see. As Corrin, Skamos and Tira cast wildly about at shadows, I willed myself to be calm, and years of meditation at the Temple forced my frantic mind to respond. I scanned the cavern slowly, visualizing the chameleonic abilities of the chokers and searching for them in the nooks and crevices on the walls and ceilings.

It worked. I pointed one of the creatures out to my companions with a shout, and the area to which I gestured was instantly filled with bolts of arcane energy. Colmarr rushed forward, only to find himself attacked by both chokers. He fended off their blows with sword and shield. It soon became clear that In revealing themselves again, the chokers had sealed their fate. They were bereft of the element of surprise and cornered in one section of the cavern. Skamos’ and Tira’s magic quickly finished them off.

As the second choker fell we paused, each breathing heavily. I glanced at my companions in turn, and slowly a smile spread across my face. We had survived Meepo’s treachery. And then I realised that the kobold was nowhere to be found.
 

Colmarr

First Post
“Where’s Meepo?” I asked, and Tira and Skamos both shrugged.

The half-elf waved towards the main cave entrance. “I let go of his tether when those creatures attacked. He got loose somehow and ran off,” she said. “I had more important things to deal with.” She reached out and ran two fingers along my neck and I impulsively brushed them away. The memory of the choker’s strangling grip was still raw. As much as it annoyed me that Meepo had escaped, I could not fault Tira’s decision.

We settled down into the northern end of the cavern and caught our breath, keeping a watchful eye on the entrance in case Meepo attempted to return and complete his treachery. When he did not return, we took a few moments to search the blocked corridor to the northwest. Amidst the rubble and shattered and rusted armour, we uncovered the skeletal remains of a dwarf dressed in leather armour. The corpse was wrapped in a crimson cloak that embroidered in thread-of-gold. The cloak was in noticeably better condition than any of the other items in the pile, and Skamos agreed with me when I suggested that it could be magical.

“The garment’s excellent state of repair despite its surrounding, together with its above-average quality, is strongly indicative of magical work. And if the cloak is indeed magical, it is highly likely that the garment is enchanted to provide its wearer with additional protection against assault.”

I ran my hand across the cloth before uttering a short prayer over the dwarf’s body, then undid the clasps fixing the cloak to the leather armour. I lifted the crimson cloth and held it up in front of me. “What do we do with it?”

Tira laughed. “It might stop you from getting strangled next time. Oh, don’t give me that look. I was only joking. Actually, I think Corrin should have it. For such a small man, he finds himself in big trouble with alarming regularity.” The warlock flicked her hair and flashed a disarming smile at the paladin, which Corrin returned without any hint of ill-feeling. The halfling reached out and took the cloak from my hands. He swirled it around him grandiosely and then fastened it to his armour. I couldn’t help but smile. The flashy garment suited him.

Having reassured ourselves that Meepo was gone, we made our way back out into the main cavern. The only remaining unexplored tunnel sloped gently upwards, filled almost entirely by the icy stream into which Meepo and I had fallen when he first attempted to escape. We quickly checked the surrounding caverns to make sure that the kobolds had not returned while we were resting the night before, and then stood at the base of the stream discussing what to do next. Clearly we had driven off the kobold raiders, but we knew from the captive at Cragg’s Keep that hobgoblins were involved, and we had so far not encountered any here. We knew that it would do no good if the kobolds were dispersed but the hobgoblins remained, so we drew our weapons and began to make our way up the tunnel, heading ever upwards into the heart of the Stone Table.

The water of the stream was frigid when it splashed against my legs, and once it was inside my boots a deep chill set in that even the exertion of the steady climb could not dispel. The tunnel wound back into the mountain until eventually opening into a chamber graced by a thunderous waterfall. The glowing tip of Skamos’ wand lit the room like a midsummer evening, making the cascading droplets of water sparkle like crystal. It would have been a breathtakingly beautiful sight, were it not for the fact that the passage wound under the falls. I must admit that I groaned audibly when I realized that. Wet boots would soon be the least of my worries.

We made our way under the falls as quickly as we could, attempting to minimise our exposure to the freezing water. Even so, we were soaked to the skin by the time we reached the far side of the cavern, and the links of my chainmail felt like ice against my skin. As we moved onwards, I would occasionally relax, only to feel a rivulets of icy water run down my spine from some unknown catchment in my hair or on my shoulders.

In retrospect, it makes me smile that I could be so distraught by cold water having just overcome the reanimated dead, bloodthirsty kobolds and most recently the stranglers. Humans have a strange ability to focus on their present woes to the exclusion of all else. In many ways that is a survival mechanism. It allows us to move on in life after traumatic experiences. In other ways, it is a hindrance. I must make a point one day to discuss this trait with members of the other sentient races. I am curious to know whether this foible is unique to humans.

We eventually emerged from the tunnel into a small cavern split by a gaping split in the floor. A rotted and unsound-looking rope bridge spanned the gap. When Skamos shone his light into the chasm, we could not see the bottom. The cavern showed signs of recent habitation, but it had clearly been emptied in a hurry. We searched the area quickly, and noticed some booted footprints in a pile of straw bedding. Nearby we found some broken spear shafts and a dented tin cup.

“This is where the hobgoblins camped,” Skamos said.

Corrin looked up from inspecting the chasm. “How do you know?”

“The footprint is of a boot. Kobolds don’t wear boots. The spear shaft is too thick to be of Kobold manufacture, and the cup shows a level of sophistication that seems beyond the dog-men. It’s a logical deduction.” He shrugged, almost as if to say that anyone could have, perhaps even should have, reached the same conclusion. I smiled at his unintentional arrogance.

Corrin nodded without gusto. “Fair enough”. He picked up the tin cup and tossed it into the chasm. It bounced once or twice on the sides, and then fell for a distressingly long time before we heard it strike the bottom. “They clearly didn’t leave that way”, he quipped.

“Whichever way they went, they’re gone now,” Tira replied. “And judging from the fact that they took all their possessions with them, I don’t think they plan on coming back”.

Skamos nodded his agreement and pointed his light back into the tunnel. “Shall we continue on?”
 

Xorn

First Post
If you don't continue to write this story I will hunt you down and beat you.

Oookay... so that might have been a little over the top. Seriously, this is a fantastic story, of an adventure I feel a bit of a connection to. Keep up the great writing!
 


Colmarr

First Post
Lol. Don't worry Xorn, there's more to come. We missed a few sessions in a row because of inavailability of players, but we've now finished the adventure and it's just a matter of me catching up. I'm a pretty slow writer.

And for those not in the know:

Xorn was one of the contributors/creators to the Raiders Reloaded pdf compilation. So it's somewhat satisifying for me that he's enjoying reading about us enjoying his (co-)creation.

And as for Nortonweb, well, he's my DM :eek:
 

Colmarr

First Post
The tunnel continued rising, and the only noise was the splashing of the stream. Chunks of ice now bobbed within its waters. Finally we reached a great bend in the tunnel, around which a glimmer of light was visible. Skamos motioned for the rest of us to wait and crept forward to peer around the corner. His eyes went wide for a moment, and then he snuck back to us.

“There is a massive cave ahead, with an opening to the outside of the mountain. The cave is filled with snow and ice, and there is a large body of frozen water in the centre. The cave appears to be uninhabited. Most perplexing.”

“Perplexing?” I asked. “Why?”

The tiefling looked at me as though I were dense. “We are way too far south to encounter naturally occurring snow and ice at this altitude, particularly on the inside of a mountain. There must be some form of supernatural climate change in effect here.”

I sighed. He was of course correct, but I was beginning to wish that it wasn’t always me that asked for the explanations. “Was there anyone in the cave?”

Skamos shook his head. “I did not see anyone.”

“Let’s go,” I said. “I want to get a closer look at this myself.”

Skamos and I crept forward, leaving Corrin and Tira behind. Skamos was surprisingly stealthy for one so academic, and I was painfully aware of each clink of my chainmail. I pressed my left hand down against it to muffle the noise as much as possible. Skamos stopped just short of the corner, and gestured for me to go ahead. I mouthed a prayer to Amaunator, and then peeked around the bend in the tunnel wall.

The cavern ahead was simply enormous, far eclipsing any of the other chambers we had discovered inside the Stone Table. The floor of the area was covered in what appeared to be approximately a foot of snow, and the source of the icy stream into which I had fallen fighting Meepo became immediately apparent. A small lake filled the centre of the chamber, covered mostly with cracked and broken ice half-a-foot thick. A lacy curtain of frost climbed the walls to over 5 feet in height. And on the far wall, approximately ten feet above the floor of the chamber, a weathered hole in the side of the mountain granted egress to the sky.

The chamber was still but for the gentle sloshing of the lake and the grating of ice sheets against each other. Nothing moved, and the chamber seemed as still as it was cold. I motioned for the others to join us, and we slowly made our way into the chamber. Even as we trod carefully forward, something nagged at the back of my mind, and I paused to try to shake the feeling.

Something moved beneath the ice, large and white, and then was gone. The others did not react, and for a second I believed that I had imagined it. Then I saw it again, this time moving towards us. My second glimpse was clearer, and I took in scales and horns and massively powerful limbs. And then my brain provided the information it had been trying in vain to convey. I glimpsed again the shrine in the cavern where we had fought the kobold priest, and the figurines in Meepo’s throne room. I remembered the statues, and what they depicted.

As the massive bulk of the creature erupted from the icy lake, sending chunks of ice and drops of freezing water spinning through the air, I screamed a warning and prayed it was not too late.

“Dragon!”
 

Colmarr

First Post
I had never seen a creature so big. It was roughly the same height as the Greycows that traveling circuses brought to Kronos Keep each midsummer, all grey leathery skin, dangling ears and massive ivory tusks. But aside from its general size, the dragon was nothing like the Greycows. Its body was less stocky, almost equine, and instead of tree-like Greycow legs, it possessed the rippling hunter’s legs of a cat. Its muscular body glistened from tip to tail with chitinous white scales. The beast’s neck added another three feet to its length, and the armour-plated tail another three again. Its leathery wings flapped twice as it crunched into the snow ahead of us, flinging water and shards of ice across the cavern, even as the dragon’s horned head darted forward. As the last of the water rushed away from the beast’s snout, I met its eyes for a split second, and saw a bestial malevolence in those blue orbs that shook me to my very core.

We all scattered, but we were too slow. The dragon opened its fang-filled jaws and roared, and then the air was full of rushing ice, stinging my exposed skin and piercing the vulnerable gaps between the rings in my chainmail. I felt my skin freeze and then crack, opening painful wounds that immediately began to chafe against my clothes. The world disappeared in a haze of grey and white and pain, and then just when I felt I would never know warmth again, the blizzard abated.

Corrin was the first to react. “For Tymora and Waymoot!” he bellowed, and I could only stare in surprise as he charged the monstrous beast. His shortsword slashed out at it, glancing off the beast’s natural armour. In turn the dragon swiped at him with its claws, and I notice for the first time that each was tipped with ice-like talons the size of daggers. Corrin shouted a challenge to the mighty beast, and a nimbus of radiant power flashed into existence around the creature.

Skamos shouted “Spread out!” and I hurried to my left, staying as close to the cavern wall as possible to keep space between me and the dragon. Behind me, I heard Skamos finish an enchantment and a ball of fire the size of a cart appeared on the surface of the lake. The ice immediately began to melt under the intense heat, and the fiery sphere was soon surrounded by the sizzle of boiling water and a pillar of steam. The flame licked out at the dragon’s haunches and its white scales began to crack and char almost immediately.

The beast roared in pain and its blue eyes went immediately to Skamos. Fortunately for the tiefling, Corrin stood directly in the creature’s path, with the wizard safely beyond just inside the tunnel opening. Instead, the dragon leapt with all four legs, taking it clear of Corrin’s flashing blade. It landed with two legs on the ice and I expected it to fall awkwardly, but its talons dug into the hard surface instinctively, and it was moving again without any noticeable delay. Only then did I realize it was headed straight for me.

The beast’s front claws descended on me simultaneously, and I threw myself full-length to the side. The dragon’s weight crushed the snow where I had stood moments before, and I had no doubt that it would have done the same to my ribcage had I not escaped. I tried my best to turn my dive into a controlled roll, but I could not manage it in the foot-deep snow. I sprawled awkwardly in the cold, all too aware of the fanged maw and razor-sharp claws poised to end me.

Corrin saved my life for the third time in less than 48 hours. I heard him shouting behind me, and then the dragon answered in kind, except that its bellow was one of pain and frustration. I scrambled to my feet and turned to face the beast, which was standing on its hind legs, the muscles of its neck and forelegs twitching uncontrollably. Corrin darted at its haunches, shortsword flashing even as Skamos’ sphere rolled across the ice and slammed against the dragon’s hip.

The dragon’s head darted forward again, and Corrin and I were engulfed again in the creature’s blizzard-like breath. I screamed from the pain of a thousand needle-like scratches, even as I lost feeling in my fingers and ears from the cold.

When the roaring wind dissipated, the creature lashed out with its claws and dealt Corrin a blow that rang through the cavern like a thunderclap. Even though the paladin managed to get his shield up in time, the force of the dragon’s attack drove the diminutive halfling onto one knee. I scrambled away from the beast again, eager to be clear of its slashing claws, and fashioned a lance of divine energy. The blast flashed against the dragon’s scales, even as a counter-point blast from Tira crashed into the creature’s neck from the other side of the cavern.

For reasons known only to Amaunator, the dragon again followed me. It swiped at me, attempting to grab me with its wicked claws, and again I threw myself flat to avoid its attacks. The beast seemed determine to finish me, and I am ashamed to say that I took my Lord’s name in vain in my terror.

Corrin again did his best to divert the beast from me, and I took the opportunity to pause and summon Amaunator’s light. Not willing to waste time rising from my freezing surroundings, I cast the prayer at the beast while still half-covered in snow. A spear of brilliance momentarily connected the dragon to the Sun Lord’s symbol in my outstretched hand. The light reflected from the creature’s glistening scales, filling the cavern with tiny rays of light as from a thousand shards of a broken mirror. Then the ray of light seered through the dragon’s chitin and the smell of cooking flesh reached my nostrils.

My prayer seemed to have done the trick, and the beast finally abandoned its pursuit of me. It dodged around Corrin and moved back towards Skamos, the wizard’s fiery sphere trailing behind it. Corrin dashed after it, the halflings short legs carrying him at a seemingly impossible speed, and again threw himself in the path of the enraged beast. The dragon draw up in frustration, and lashed out with its freezing breath again. Corrin and Skamos disappeared into the white storm, and when they came back into view, the wizard’s robes were slashed open and covered with frost. Icy crystals glittered on the tips of the tiefling’s horns.

Corrin gritted his teeth and yelled his defiance to the massive beast through wind-burnt lips. The dragon hesitated momentarily, and for a second I believed that the creature had been cowed. Then its fiendish blue eyes glanced at me, and my heart sank. By chance or by design, the dragon’s movement and Corrin’s protection of Skamos had left the beast with a clear line back to my position.

The dragon charged me, massive legs churning the snow beneath it, and its right claw lashed out. This time, Corrin’s god deserted me and I could not avoid it. The dragon’s claws shredded the links of my chainmail and stripped it away from my left arm, leaving gaping furrows in my flesh even as the snow around me turned pink. I staggered to one knee from the pain, swinging wildly at the beast with my mace. Through the space between the dragon’s legs, I could see Corrin rushing to my aid. Behind him, Tira stood calf-deep in a snow bank, emerald energy building about her flashing hands.

Even as she unleashed her spell, the dragon’s other claw swept round. Off balance and kneeling in the snow, I had no chance at all. The huge white paw crashed into my shoulder and head. Pain filled me, and then I was toppling into the snow. The last thing I remember was my vision turning white as snow erupted around me, and then everything went black.
 

Colmarr

First Post
I was woken by small hands, cold as a chunk of ice, against my sternum. Even over the ache that filled me, the feel of Corrin’s knuckles against my breastbone brought me around in a wave of agony. The snow upon which I rested was cold, it paled into insignificance compared to the chill in my bones. I coughed weekly and opened my eyes. Corrin crouched above me, with Skamos’ concerned face behind him. Tira stood beside Skamos, her mouth a concerned ‘O’. When my eyes met hers, her mouth reverted to a teasing grin.

“Wakey wakey, sleephead,” she said in a sing-song tone.

I grimaced and raised a hand to my head, and found it wrapped tightly with bandages. My left arm was bound to my chest with more cloth, and I struggled to sit up with only one free hand. Tira reached down and helped me rise.

“The dragon?” I asked, and they stepped aside, revealing the beast’s corpse behind them. I could not help but breathe a sigh of relief. I looked again at my companions, taking them in. Corrin was covered with livid purple and blue bruises, and his face was chapped and raw. Dried blood marred his cheek, having trickled from one of his ears. Skamos’ robes were little more than tatters, hanging from his red-tinged flesh in strips. He fidgeted absent-mindedly with one of his horns, and I noticed with a start that the last inch of it had been chipped off, exposing the discoloured interior. Tira was the most presentable of the three, and I almost laughed. Of course she was. She always was. She seems to have come through the battle without a scratch, but her usually immaculate auburn tresses were tossed and frazzled, and her fingertips were blue with cold.

“How?” I asked, and began to climb to my feet.

Corrin smiled, and his teeth flashed whiter than the snow surrounding us.

“It was you that killed it, in a way.”

I grimaced at him in confusion.

“Each time the beast attacked you, Tymora punished it for ignoring my challenge. And finally, I imagine she’d had enough. The dragon perished seconds after you fell.”

I paused, considering his answer. The last moments of the battle replayed themselves in my mind and I recalled thinking that my luck had finally run out. The irony was delicious, and I could not help but laugh. “Curse your goddess, Corrin,“ I said without malice. “How can she bring me good luck and bad luck at the same time!”

Corrin laughed, and Tira soon joined in. Skamos simply stood there, scratching at his broken horn and wondering what the joke was.
 

Colmarr

First Post
We spent the night ensconced in Meepo’s former throne room, half expecting the kobold king to return in the twilight hours. But the night passed uneventfully, and we set out for Oakhurst early the next day.

Our entry into town was cause for jubilation, and Terren Oakhurst rushed out of his store to usher us into the Sleeping Dragon, where Mathwyn immediately place foaming tankards of ale before us. Townsfolk came from all directions to hear our tale, and even though Mathwyn offered her neighbours a “victory discount” I imagine she did better business that day than any other day before or since.

As Corrin, Skamos and I happily cradled our pints, Tira climbed up onto one of the room’s tables and regaled the villagers with stories of our adventure. The assembled men and women oohed and aahed on cue, and the warlock lapped up the attention like the performer that she was. When she reached the point at which we encountered the dragon, she reached down beneath the table and grabbed the large burlap sack there. The dragon’s severed head spilled out of it and landed with a thud on the tavern’s common room floor, causing the townsfolk to jump back in fright. Even dead, the creature’s visage was fearsome. Mathwyn’s daughter Laurel screamed and staggered backwards, tripping and landing in my lap. She flung her arms around me with terror, but then our eyes met and she jumped back to her feet. She flashed me a smile before disappearing into the kitchen, her cheeks filling with colour.

The celebrations lasted long into the night. When the Sleeping Dragon’s ale and wine stocks ran out, farmer and blacksmith alike vanished to their homes and returned with stores of whiskey and spirits.

Corrin was at the centre of the festivities, dancing with as many women as he could, and boasting to all of the men who would listen. But in between, he sought out the survivors from Waymoot to offer them his condolences and his company. More than once I saw him huddled in some quiet nook with two or three of them, talking quietly as villagers caroused around them. When last I saw him, he was sitting in the common room of the inn with a protective arm around Sofia. The halfling woman’s composure had finally cracked, and she was weeping softly against Corrin’s chest as he whispered soothing words into her hair.

Skamos initially kept to himself within the walls of the Sleeping Dragon and the straight-laced tiefling was largely ignored by the revelers. Only when Terren Oakhurst ordered a bonfire built in the main square did the wizard move outside. The leaping flames kindled his stony heart, and he spent the remainder of the evening conjuring lights and fire for a crowd of drunken spectators. As I wandered through the throng, I stopped in surprise. Despite all of the wondrous and fearsome sights I had seen over the previous few days, the grin splitting Skamos’ face that night was the one that surprised me the most.

Tira was courted by the town’s men, and she left them all with nothing more than a flashing smile and a flick of auburn hair. As if the men were not enough, a horde of women and young girls swamped her whenever she was managed to escape the men. They clamoured for her to re-tell our tale, and she was happy to oblige them. Some of the younger girls stared at her with mouths agape, and I smiled to think of the new generation of female adventurers that she was creating that night. Hours later, Picard appeared in the main square and Tira spent the early hours dancing and laughing with the eladrin ranger. The two of them seemed perfectly suited to each other and when last I saw them they were striding off into the darkness, bodies locked together in a passionate embrace.

As for me, I spent the night moving from group to group, enjoying the hospitality of Oakhurst’s citizens. I rarely went for more than a few minutes without a flagon of ale in my hand. First Terren, then Mathwyn, and then a steady stream of nameless villagers congratulated me on our victory and thanked me for our aid. More than once someone clapped my injured shoulder enthusiastically, only to apologise noisily when I grimaced in pain. But overall, the night was one of revelry and celebration, and I celebrated as much as anyone else.

As the darkness receded and the first glimmers of dawn appeared on the horizon, I found myself standing at the foot of Oakhurst’s statue to Amaunator. Around me, townsfolk drifted off to seek what little sleep they could find before the bland realities of life would call them to move on from their celebration and face the new day. For the first time in hours, silence fell over Oakhurst’s main square and, without meaning to, I found myself thinking of all that had happened since I left Kronos Keep less than a week earlier.

I had achieved much in that short time, perhaps more than most people would achieve in a life time. Many people had called me a hero that night, but in the cold light of that early dawn, my thoughts were instead drawn to the things that we had not achieved. I thought of the devastation in Waymoot, and of the innocents that had died there. I thought of Meepo, slinking through the night somewhere and doubtless planning further atrocities. But mostly I thought of the Ubler family, father, mother, son and toddler daughter lying in shallow graves outside a home that they had believed safe. A tear welled in my eye and then trickled down my cheek as I remembered cradling Ubler’s toddler in my arms as I laid her in the earth.

Movement in the background caught my eye and I looked up toward the shrine on the far side of the square. Olvar stood in the doorway, tired and stooped, but beaming with happiness. Sybil nestled against his shouder, her hands placed lovingly on his chest and the locket that we had recovered from Belazamon’s tomb around her neck. Their body language spoke of intimacy and love, and it was clear that Olvar had managed to cross the emotional distance that had separated them for so long. I returned the old priest’s smile. Perhaps we had made a difference after all.

I felt a smooth hand slide into mine, and looked around to find Laurel standing behind me. She smiled gently and closed her fingers around my unresisting hand. And then she wordlessly led me out of the square and into the Sleeping Dragon. We climbed the stairs to her room hand in hand, and the last thing I saw before I stopped caring about such things was the sun rising above the mountains to the east.

The End​
 
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Colmarr

First Post
AUTHOR’S ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thanks firstly to Olgar Shiverstone, for penning the adventure upon which this story hour is based. If you hadn’t written it, we couldn’t have played it. And if we hadn’t played it, I couldn’t have written this.

Thanks also to all of the other gamers who contributed to the Raiders Reloaded project, especially Xorn for creating the dundjinni maps. My group played the adventure online over Battlegrounds RPG and your maps made the whole thing a visual feast for us all.

Thanks to Peter (a.k.a Nortonweb) for DMing the adventure for us. D&D may be a game of co-operative storytelling, but you set the canvas on which we paint and you did so while dealing not only with new and (when we started still-unfinished) rules but also unfamiliar technology. Without your patience and investment of time and effort, this story hour would never have come into being.

Thanks to Troy for bringing Corrin to life, and for all the times that stalwart halfling saved Erais’ bacon. Thanks to Rich for being Tira’s confidence and courage. And thanks to Andrew (a.k.a Nom) for adding the brimstone to our tiefling wizard.

Thanks to my loving wife for putting up with an annoyingly slow writer. The journey’s over now, so I’ll be back to watch All Saints with you soon.

And finally, thanks to everyone who has read this. Although writing is personally rewarding for me, your support (even if just as another number in the “views” column of the forum) helped keep me motivated to tell our tale.

I hope you enjoyed it.
 


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