Monday, December 1, 2014

The Early Bird Gets the Wyrm

Following the Battle of Gideon's Fort, my Homeguard players were faced with a bit of a dilemma.  They could move on to greener pastures, but they knew that somewhere across the river and up The Hill a badly wounded red dragon lay nursing its wounds and plotting vengeance.

To quote The Professor, "It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him."

So, fearing that their enemy would only grow stronger by the day, the group decided to send an expedition of eight across the river to slay the beast before it could strike back at them.  In fact, in what would prove a pivotal decision, they resolved to begin preparations before dawn, though several members of the party were still wounded from the battle the night before.  Boats proved to be a problem, however.  Most the craft in the area had been intentionally destroyed by the retreating dragon, leaving only one small coracle ... and that with a hole in the bottom where the hob-nailed boot of a bugbear had trod upon it in the darkness.  Hasty repairs were made, but the little craft was too small to bear the whole party so several trips had to be made with more delays.

All told it was ten in the morning before the explorers gained the high ground above the illusion-cloaked mouth of the dragon's tunnel.  In the end, though, this proved to be critical for several (real life) days prior I had charted the dragon's activities to the quarter hour in case the adventurers chose pursuit.  As it was, I knew precisely where the beast was and what it was up to, independent of the players' choices:

The monster had first retreated to its lair, but brooding upon its defeat at the hands of spellcasters of unknown power it began to fear that it would be trapped in its cave.  The creature began collapsing portions of the tunnels around itself, ready to settle in for a few years of safe repose, but its pain-filled paranoia grew.  The dragon left its lair an hour past dawn to set about trying to destroy the ledge that led to its "front door" then, loathe to see its treasure left exposed, it went to some lengths to try and block up the door from the outside before settling to wait and heal amid the boiling mud and steamy cover of the hill's volcanic geyser fields.  From there it planned to keep watch on its own front door from the outside, ready either to flee or strike with a burst of flame from ambush.

The party had arrived earlier than the creature had imagined, however, and surveying the scene from slope above, the cleric Kalyn made her search check and spotted the contour of a wing amid the plumes of scalding steam as the dragon dug itself into the hot mud to wait and watch.  A volley of arrows (including 2 natural rolls of 20) caused the beast to rise and prepare to flee, but three Magic Missiles struck it in the head before it could get off more than a single gout of flame (partially roasting a fighter).  The dragon plummeted back into the scalding mud in a tangle and breathed its last!

My youngest player was so inspired by the victory that she composed the following song (to the tune of Tick, Tock Goes the Clock):

Roast, burn goes the fern,
We came to slay the dragon,
Til we hear its heavy wings flapping.
We came to slay the dragon.

Roast, burn goes the fern,
We came to slay the dragon,
Til Sayana takes her fall.
We came to slay the dragon.

And all too soon the dragon flies away.
We wake up in the morning,
Roast, burn goes the fern,
We came to slay the dragon.

Til we all find the dragon.
Poor Sarah takes a fall,
We rush over to help her.
We all shoot Magic Missiles

Til we all kill the dragon.
Roast, burn goes the fern.
We came to slay the dragon.
Til it dies before our eyes.

Now the adventurers, keen on finally getting their hands on the dragon's gold, are faced with the problem of how to descend the 80 foot cliff face and protect themselves from intermittent geysers of boiling spray while digging through the tons of mud, boulders, and debris that were shoved in place by creature before it met its end ... but that's an adventure for another day!

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