Of Stone and Shadow

All things large and small

What do a wolf and a dragon have in common? One is a stinking, snarling, fur ball, and the other a slimy, alien, monster. The answer? They both will do everything in their power to kill you if you piss them off. The other answer? They are both worth a lot of money dead and to the right people. The danger in adventuring for a living is trying to figure out which of the two answers is more important. The old saying goes, there are old adventurers and there are bold adventurers but there are no old bold adventurers. Eventually foolish actions will lead to death and misery. There will come a day when every courageous adventurer will be laid low in the ceremony of his or her choice while friends drink to their memory. The group managed to avoid that fateful day for at least one more week, though it was a close thing.

After the successful stirge extraction some of the group was ready to go back into the ruins seeking treasure, some wanted to investigate the rumors of the catacombs under the crypts, and others wanted to avoid dungeons all together. Eventually, though, it was decided to plumb the dwarven ruins one more time. With greed in their eyes the group readied their gear and left town, but made it less than a mile before running into their first hurdle. A pack of wolves was ranging through the snow. They were paying no attention to the party, the party was not so kind back. Instead of wolves Rolniak and Liryl saw walking piles of gold, and refused to leave them unmolested.

The wolf pack was out of accurate range for everyone with a bow, so Rolniak got the wolves’ attention by firing two sickly green bolts of energy into the closest one. Like all wildlife the party had encountered before, this action earned a swift and decisive reaction. The wolves howled and rushed the party. Sturbin had readied his bow and swiftly release two arrows as the pack came within range but missed wildly. Donella, Liryl’s henchman, release a third glowing bolt of energy into the pack. Four of the wolves had a taste for amphibians and ran past the rest of the group to molest Sturbin, the other four spread themselves out among the five other grounded members. After dodging two bites and taking two more on his armor Sturbin tried to leap out of the melee so that Rolniak could use his powers more effectively. The wolves reacted faster than Rolniak was able to and three of them followed Sturbin’s leap and met him as he landed, the fourth joined his other pack mates in harassing the rest of the adventurers. From her elevated position Donella continued raining down green missiles into the pack, and Rolniak’s burst of sound managed to effect just one wolf. Luckily for Sturbin one of the wolves that had followed him was limping slightly from the opening magical barrage and he was able to dispatch it before the other two turned his newest suit of armor into a pile of rags. With a concerted effort the group managed to dismantle the rest of the wolf pack, and Sturbin was able to down the second wolf he was facing, though not without significant pain. Seeing the rest of the pack bleeding on the ground the last wolf facing Sturbin reassessed its loyalties and then, reaching the correct conclusion, fled into the woods.

With a large bounty of wolf pelts and parts, and being only a few yards from the edge of town, the group decided to take a small respite from the road. Sturbin took the opportunity to find a helpful priest willing to take a donation in exchange for repairing his pretty face. He also stopped by the, now very familiar, armorer for yet another suit of specialty leather armor. Liryl and Rolniak performed their favorite alchemical trick and turned a pile of stinking meat and organs into an equally valuable pile of precious metals. With much of the day still ahead of them, and only one member in any sort of discomfort, the group set off for the ruins yet again, and yet again they did not make it.

This time the distraction was of a much more formidable nature. As they walked through the ravine a disturbing sight greeted them. An 8 foot long slimy snake like creature with a large jaw, many eyes, and large claws was coming up the path toward the group. Clearly this was a dragon, and Rolniak had seen it in the area before. Once again greed overcame wisdom and after a brief debate the group settled upon a tactic. Sturbin was to take up a high position and rain down poisoned arrows on the creature while Amshel, the summoner, distracted it with his powers. The rest of the group was to fill in and worry at the creature until it was down. Things went badly right from the start. Sturbin was able to find a suitable sniping position a few feet up the ravine wall and Amshel began calling his mighty cat, but something about the ritual he was performing angered the creature and it made a garbled trumpeting scream before charging over the heads of the party straight for the little gnome. Forimyr was able to distract it with a swing of his mighty military pick and one of Sturbin’s arrows found its mark in the creatures right claw. When Forimyr tried to slash at the creature something startling happened. The red tracery that followed his swings snuffed out like a candle in a wind storm. As soon as he withdrew his pick from the area immediately surrounding the dragon the tracery reappeared. Somehow the creature was turning off the enchantment on the weapon.

Forimyr’s weapon was not the only thing affected. Per their usual tactic both Rolniak and Donella launched a salvo of glowing green missiles at the beast only to have them harmlessly dissipate before they even connected. Clearly something was horribly amiss and the party was now at a huge disadvantage. To make matters even worse, the dragon, after brushing aside his ineffective swings, mauled Forimyr into unconsciousness. Lyril quickly stepped up to defend the fallen dwarf and began battering the creature with her, now blessedly silent, mace. Donella turned and fled and the rest of the party was put into a questionable position. With Forimyr down if the rest of the group fled the dragon might not give chase, content to simply eat the dwarf instead, but with Liryl engaged with it and the possibility of a large pay off, the group decided to defend their fallen comrade.

Liryl’s distraction proved to be the perfect opening for Sturbin to leap from his position onto the back of the creature, poisoned axes first. Both weapons managed to strike true through the tough leather skin and deliver their deadly payload. With a roar the dragon turned to face his new assailant and Sturbin cowered behind his weapons hoping to fend off the forth coming attacks. The beast reared, screamed and lunged, only to fall dead at the quivering frogs feet. With poison in its veins and the wounds on its body the creature had finally succumbed to the parties might. It was a near thing, but Liryl was able to stem the dwarfs bleeding and see to her own, thankful that this time her shield had warded a deadly blow.

Once again the group turned back from their trip to the ruins and headed for the town with a wounded companion and another pile of organs and meat in tow. Liryl and Rolniak performed their magic one more time, and somewhere a priest earned enough in donations to found a whole new church. The party was about to settle down and part ways once more when Rolniak remembered something potentially important. They had killed a dragon, a dragon that might have a now unguarded lair. Though they had no evidence to support it, the hope was that the lair would contain some amount of riches the party would be able to put to better use. For the third, but not last, time greed won out over wisdom and the group, with no preparations, set out in search of the dragon’s lair. The party would have had more success if it had not been snowing, but even with no chance of finding tracks the group had an idea of where to look. Farther up the ravine the dragon had been crawling through was a pass leading off into the wilderness. The group figured the lair might be somewhere in that region and set off to search.

The path was a switchback trail that led farther up the mountain to a steaming lake. As they approached, the party heard the sound of a water fall and splashing noises, as if a creature were playing in the lake. Fearful of encountering another dragon the group sent Donella ahead to scout from the air. After a few minutes the pixie fairy came fluttering back, weaving back and forth as if dazed or drunk. When asked what she had seen, Donella claimed that a stunningly beautiful humanoid woman was swimming in the water. The entire party was immediately interested, some because the thought of a beautiful naked woman swimming alone in a lake was enticing, others because the thought of an unarmed naked woman swimming in a remote lake in an area known to be inhabited by a ferocious dragon was utterly terrifying. After a brief debate wisdom won its first, and only, victory of the day, most likely due to the lack of visible wealth in the situation. Rather than approach the lake and confront the unknown woman the group decided to skirt the edge and scout the valley below for any signs of the dragons lair.

It was debated who would go first, Donella, because she could fly, or Sturbin, because he could scale the walls. In the end it came down to a matter of survivability and courage. Sturbin, being larger, was more likely to survive and Donella had already proven herself to be a complete coward with no loyalty to her fellow explorers. So off Sturbin went, into the wild unknown. As he crawled down toward the valley floor he spotted a potential cave opening behind the waterfall. Cautiously he crawled across the walls to investigate. It turned out to be a natural hollowed chamber behind the tumbling water, with a limestone floor, a few stalactites and stalagmites, and a large sword floating above an altar. Not for the last time greed won out over wisdom and, using his cloak, Sturbin snatched the sword off the altar and fled from the cave. When nothing dire appeared, and no doom rained down, Sturbin took a moment to inspect the treasure he had absconded with. It turned out to be a stylized iron hilt with a serrated bone blade, the whole weapon radiated cold and even coated the inside of Sturbin’s cloak with ice. Wary of a potential curse or trap Sturbin decided that even though he was tempted he would not touch the weapon until he had shown it to the rest of the group.

The ascent was no harder than the descent and Sturbin was quickly reunited with the rest of the party. Everyone was interested in the weapon but agreed that the suspicious circumstances surrounding its location and appearance warranted further investigation. The group resolved to return to town for the final time that day and seek out a sage for further information. The trek back was uneventful and the flock of priests that had been waiting at the gate for their return were disappointed to see no wounds or dripping blood. With regards to the sage there was good news and bad. The good news was that a sage existed, the bad news was that he was a specialist in dirt, plants, weeds, and herbs, but would still gladly take 10,000 gold to answer some questions about the sword. With a deficit of gold, and a surplus of foolhardiness the group decided to instead just learn about the weapon through experimentation. Being the only full member of the party with martial expertise it fell to Sturbin to wield the weapon. What happens next is a tale for another time.

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