By Beth Griese
Date: September 13, 1997
|Borreau||Blonde Human||Tempus Cleric||Brian Smith|
|Lorivar Menasson||Short, dark, & hairy||Monk||Vaughan Herron|
|Nory||Gnome||Illusionist / Thief||Stu Collins|
|Telaran||1/2 Elf, Buzz cut||fighter||Jim Gaynor|
|Verence Gallow||Thin human||Mystra Cleric||Kent Jenkins|
Quote of the Day:
"That nasty stinkin dragon killed my stick!" -- Kent Jenkins
To Garen Thundersson, cleric of Mielikki. From your faithful friend, Jade.
It's strange how the most astounding things happen in the middle of the ordinary, like a beautiful pool hidden in a perfectly normal glade of trees. We had been spending weeks at work on our castle. Workers and servants of all types scurried around the place like ants. Telaran was frequently in the blacksmith's shop and started an evening class for workers who wanted to learn how to swing a sword - he said there was never any harm in having more people at the castle who could defend themselves. Verence and Nory - an unlikely pair if I've seen one - travelled to Suzail on various errands. Lorivar spent most of his time helping in the most astounding places (I even found him covered in mud in one of the privy pits one day), and spent the hours between buried in his books.
Borreau and I grabbed our opportunity to have a honeymoon, and combined it with a tour of the lands around the castle that we now held some responsibility for. We met a forester and his daughter who lived a few miles from the road. They were good people, if slightly worried about us at first, but we offered them employment at the castle should they ever wish it, and when we told them that, at least for these first years, we had no interest in imposing taxes on them, they warmed right up to us.
After a few days of leisurely travel in a huge circle around Castle Weston, though, Borreau and I discovered the end of our vacation together. Northwest of the castle, the trees around one of the mountains became increasingly sickly and sparse. By the time we were at the foot of the mountain, it didn't take my ranger experience to notice the poor health of every plant in the area, the total lack of animals, and the nasty scents in the air. As the mountainside rose before us, I could see that the problem only got worse as the ground got higher. The next mountain in either direction, though, sported perfectly healthy trees and scrub.
We cut short our circuit of the land and went straight back to the castle to rouse the rest of the Wayfarers. For the first time, we had our own land to defend. We spent the next day hiking back to the mountain and spent the night at its foot bathed in complete silence - not a living thing stirred around this cursed mountain.
As we climbed the mountain the next morning, we found that as the plants got scrawnier and sicklier, the smell in the air grew stronger. It smells like brimstone, like vapors from a blacksmith's forge dampened down and made evil. By the time we reached what was surely the source - a large cave near the top with yellow-green fog curling from it - the smell was so bad it burned my nose and throat with every breath.
We tried to approach the cave quietly, but I managed to be clumsy enough to destroy any hope of secrecy. I had just glanced over my shoulder for a moment to look at the healthy, strong trees a scant couple of miles away on the next rise, when my foot turned under one of the rocks on the mountain face that housed the cliff opening and sent a shower of rocks down the side. The response was immediate; a huge beast- man, with hair covering half his body and a ragged hole where his nose used to be, came out of the cave with rocks in hand to try to flatten us.
This huge fellow didn't explain where the vapor was coming from (although by then I was beginning to get a guess that put a sick feeling in my stomach), but he was easily taken down by us, as well as his friend that showed up a moment later. Lorivar scrambled above the cave mouth as quickly as I've ever seen a man move and attacked from above. Nory cast false lightning over and over again, and they fully believed the spears of the gods were coming down on them. Telaran's spear was at its full power, tearing through giant flesh as if it were a doe's skin under a crossbow bolt. Verence was the only one whose sanity I questioned when, in the middle of the fight, he cast a spell to help clear out the stench and make the air around us as fresh as in a pine forest. At least, if our magical cleric MUST go mad, he does it in a way that has pleasant benefits for us.
With the guards at the door cleared away, Nory made himself and I invisible, and we snuck our way into the cave. What we found inside didn't surprise me - I was almost expecting it by then - but the size and power of the dragon resting within still shocked me to my core. I have no idea how Nory handled it, but I was mesmerized for minutes just by watching the poisonous vapor that had decimated this whole part of the mountain creep in and out of its nostrils as it breathed. This wyrm was as long as our castle, its scales a bright, shimmering green.
As it was, it was just as well that I was watching that vapor, because I noticed its nose begin to twitch and rouse the beast from its sleep. We were invisible and as quiet as leaves on a spring day, but we could still be smelled. Nory and I both beat a retreat to the cave entrance - and the rest of the party.
We had a long discussion about what to do next, even though all of us knew what had to be done. The dragon was evil right down to its talons and was a threat to our castle, the people on it, and had taken up residence on land that fell under our domain. We agreed to rest the night at the bottom of the mountain and, the next day, take our assault to the dragon.
I spent my watch that night pondering our group as they slept by the firelight. I've never thought of us - or particularly myself - as anyone out of the ordinary. We were adventurers, true, and had managed to survive longer and through more deeds than most did. But the thing we were now facing, battling a dragon, was the kind of thing that legends are made out of. Had we crossed somehow from ordinary to legendary? While The Wayfarers still had no acknowledged leader, I still felt responsibility for my friends, and as I looked at the faces asleep in their blankets, I worried whether I would see all of them again tomorrow night. My glum mood was not improved when I felt the strength of presence high above me and looked up in time to see a giant, winged cross between a bat and a serpent glide above me back towards the cave with a new giant clutched in its claws. Besides the dragon, we were now going to have to face another door guard, as well.
In the morning, nobody spoke much as we climbed back up the mountainside again. This giant, though he was dozing when we arrived, responded to us a bit more smartly than the two yesterday; he stood at the entrance of the cave and pitched rocks at us. He wasn't much more successful, though, and with a fast charge, the huge monster was soon toppled. We were a warband on our way to slay a dragon; we were not to be trifled with by an overgrown orc.
Almost before the giant had breathed his last, though, the burning vapor around the cave entrance began to billow out with a fury and the stones within clattered and scratched beneath clawed feet that were gathering themselves for a charge. This, when we had discussed the fight yesterday, was what we had feared most. If the dragon got the chance to take to the air above the mountain, it could attack us at its leisure and leave whenever it pleased. We barely had time, though, to make our stand at the entrance, let alone bring the fight in to it. I began to wonder if the workers back at the castle would leave a marker here where the domain's brief lords met their end.
When the great wyrm burst out of the cave, Borreau, Telaran, and I all buried our blades into it as it passed by. But even though my sword's impact with its scales - and then the flesh and bone beneath - jarred my teeth, I knew our brief chance at damage wasn't going to be nearly enough to bring such a terrible creature down.
Instead, our salvation lay in the hands of our illusionist and... whatever it is that Lorivar is. Lorivar had again scrambled right up the cliff face to perch above the cave mouth. After the dragon had passed by and I had been thrown onto my back by the impact with the wyrm, I saw the amazing sight of the dragon taking to the air - with Lorivar clinging like a fly to its neck, just above its head. He had managed to drop down on top of the thing and now rode it like a roc. Nory, who had been back at a safer distance, cast a globe of pure light the he sent like a catapult shot, striking the dragon's face just as it turned to make its first devastating pass at us. As it screeched, blinded and probably hurt some more, Lorivar actually stood above its neck and drove his arms into the base of the dragon's skull like dwarven pickaxes.
The blindness and Lorivar's blows proved too much to keep the dragon aloft; it fell back to the earth and plowed up a furrow of dirt before it. Its bones crunched under the impact with a sound like trees being felled by lightning. Those of us with blades finished the job quickly, and with brutal suddenness, the battleground was quiet save for our own hoarse breaths.
It took us a few moments to gather our wits back around us as the size of what we'd managed to do settled on us. I came back around a bit as Nory suddenly, with a whoop, took off like a stallion into the cave. The dragon's treasure awaited us, and it was astounding in its size: coins and weapons and armor of all sorts lay in piles. It wasn't the kind of treasure that bought nations - this dragon must not have been very ancient, after all - but it was enough that we would never be able to carry it back to the castle. We would send wagons back to the mountain to retrieve it all and supply our castle's reconstruction for quite a while.
Before we left, curiosity got the better of us, and Verence cast a spell that let him speak with the dead - namely, the dragon. The dragon's name had been Krayzolin, and he had been retrieving hill giants to use as his guards from a fort to the west of us, close to the edge of our territory. Maybe someday we'll investigate that fort and see about clearing it out, too. But for now, we were content to return to the castle, where we planned on celebrating our victory in style in our home, our castle that was even now beginning to take shape into a sturdy stronghold. And was now a good deal more secure than it had been a day ago. Even the legendary can be accomplished with enough determination - and some fortune from the gods - behind it.
The Jade Letters are the property and copyright of Beth Griese, not to be published or redistributed without permission.
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