Following the discovery of the Order of the Griffon, and with the realizations they introduced, the group decided to return to Griffton to rejoin Gfedcba and Aven in the bar. They were quick to find the party’s bards; Gfed entertaining and focusing on a spicy little Halfling vixen, and a bemused Aven being entertained by Gfed’s interest in Hafling women. The party reconvened in their always-on-hold penthouse suite after Gfed took a little cajoling and a helping Paladin’s hook to lift him upstairs to complete the meeting. The Bard’s and the traveling party relayed their separate experiences, see episode 108 for the party, but Aven had unique things to tell.
Aven has declared a deeper interest in pursuits other than the sharing of tales and giving performances of legend, instead he will be pursing a path devoted to tinkering and constructing strange functional devices. He revealed his experiences with his adopted Gnomish father that instilled this interest at an early age, but only came to be expressed recently. He has developed a device he is calling a “Pepperbox Gun” that will wreak havoc at range, and brings forth the memory of brave Boko in his final moment against the infamous Blackhail. Aven went on to tell of a discovery in submerged caverns along the cliffs below Griffton. They were writings of a tinkerer, or Artificer, stating formulas, plans and odd statements similar to journal entries, all of which were etched in the wall by a Gnome with a seemingly fragile grip on sanity. Among some of these statements etched in the stone were “must get deeper,” “the dragon knows” and “it’s at the heart.” The group decided that further cave investigation will be placed in queue along with the other multiple tasks worthy of group attention.
So following some deliberation, Bork would stay behind to ensure the party’s collective story would continue should the worst occur, and at the same time make more potions. The group would head back into the tunnels and finish the investigation of the Kobold lair at the Dragon Skull mouth. Along the way to that destination they would explore the side tunnels previously skipped during their pursuit of Zidan. It was the very first tunnel explored that proved to be highly eventful.
The party advanced down a hallway, and after a time it was lit by regular intervals of everburning torches held aloft by decorative sconces. Sentinel detected the sounds of something sleepily breathing from much further down the current hallway, it was deep and perhaps large. Undeterred the party continued down the tunnel as it gradually began to decline and with it so did the temperature. At first it merely noticeable, but gradually the cold became highly uncomfortable. Even dipping below freezing, dangerous to prolonged exposure as well as causing ice underfoot and on the walls. Up ahead was a “T” intersection with pathways heading to the left and right, the cunning Shah utilizing his new special dagger went invisible and approached the intersection as an advanced scout. He did take care to have a rope tied about his waist, held at the other end by the strong Rand to aid his return up the icy incline should it be necessary. Much to everyone’s surprise it was.
Around the left corner was an intelligent ooze, seeing right through magic invisibility, laid a devastating wallop upon Shah. He was quick to react but never-the-less was still knocked down and out by the fierce hit. The ooze, gripping the hapless rogue’s head, began to drag him away sizzling acid upon his handsome brow as he went. The fleet footed Sentinel, having none of that, raced down the decline and engaged the ooze who showed some combat intelligence by releasing Shah and fighting in earnest. While at the intersection Sentinel noticed two additional oozes approaching from down the right hall and relayed it to the group. Mighty Zinnaerris descended the incline and engaged the other oozes with sword and spell crackling. The normally less than graceful Rand quite deftly slid down the incline to carry the fight to the strange monsters. Beyond the surprise start, all went well in the fight for our heroes. Zinn, Rand and Sentinel engaged in successful melee combat. They were capably and effectively supported with ranged attacks from tactical Aven, powerful Fraas and resourceful Gfedcba. Additionally, Gfed summoned a earth elemental for great contribution. Sentinel and Rand in turn shrugged off mind affecting magic by the first ooze before Zinn found herself a little dazed by it. But before long victory was in hand and the oozes were dead. During the fight, it was Zinn’s new weapon that showed it’s worth, first magically stabilizing Shah, and after the fight healing him anew.
With high morale, the party continued down the right passageway. Around a left corner they ventured, and approached the end of the hall, notable for the way it opened to 30ft wide at its end leaving great space for a double door 10ft wide at the center. Perhaps this suggested something large was on the other side. The Tactical Aven first detected, then disarmed a lethal trap rigged to the door’s opening. Rand peaked under the door to gain further insight as to what might be lurking in the space beyond, he was unable to detect any evil, but a few of the others could hear a spell of ‘shield’ being cast. Assuming there was some kind of a spell caster preparing itself, Rand thought time could be against the group, so he broke the door open wide and made one step in. Rand summoned light upon a coin that shined like daylight and threw it into the darkness, and what proved to be a metaphor to his coming fate, the coin landed in an icy pool and descended away once again leaving the room to darkness. Members of the group however perceptively spotted the visible breath from a large creature hiding among the icy stalactites hanging from the ceiling of what was a very large, ice filled cavern. At the same time, Aven struck light upon an arrow and sent it across the cavern. From where it landed he could see stairs that led up to a raised deck like area and strewn all about it were treasures piled high, but to his growing concern he could also spot three very large egg shells that clearly seemed to have been hatched long,,, long,,, ago.
With the knowledge of the creature on the ceiling, and disregarding the dragon warning signs, Rand called out “Who Goes There?!” With that, the battle began. A fearsome White Dragon swooped down upon the group – the first hostile dragon any of them had ever seen – and gave them a taste of what dragons can do. The winged creature of icy fury let loose a cone blast of deathly cold. The party took the blast and surged forward eager to return the carnage in kind. Powerful Fraas got first blood upon the dragon, reminding the beast that fireball hurts exquisitely to cold loving creatures. Shah too got in on the action introducing him to what the fire friendly Ifrit can do. Fleet footed Sentinel, Mighty Zinn and Strong Rand all showed their bravery swinging away upon the enemy but to no avail. It was the same for Tactical Aven and Resourceful Gfedcba launching their ranged attacks without success. It all happened in a blur, but what did seem to stretch the seconds was when Cunning Shah used the magic of his dagger to transform his shape into none other than Lord Garland. It was a startling sight for the frosty nemesis and he was literally taken aback. He paused for an agonizing second or two, but then let loose a ferocious supernaturally terrifying roar. Despite their most stalwartly brave intentions Zinnaerris, Gfedcba, Aven and Shah were panicked when the magic of the beasts roar pierced their resolve. They dropped all their weapons and would run for a long time… Fraas and Sentinel however managed to resist the dragons frightful attack and as for Rand, his heart is divinely bolstered against such fearful things. The vile dragon seeing through the ruse of the rogue and knowing the strength of the party was broken, ended the short fight with a question: “Mortals,, do you yield?”
It was Sentinel who responded first and wisely, accepting the dragons offer and throwing up his hands. Fraas, perhaps still recovering from his feat of will in resisting the frightfulness of the dragon was left in shock saying nothing. The situation was bleak, that much was clear, but to Rand, the prospect of surrendering to a dragon didn’t seem much better – he maintained his combat stance facing off with the enemy.
The dragon, ever confident and tickled at the meager efforts of such ‘mortals’ made an offer:
“Leave all these magic weapons and you can go.”
Again Sentinel acting in a quick and wise way turned to go and with him Fraas followed his lead. Rand’s mind raced; the weapons that would be left behind were the very weapons explicitly entrusted to the party in order to slay Draugarlond. Not to mention within those weapons was the last thread of connection to Rand’s dead brothers. His decision was sealed, Rand spoke up
“Instead, I’ll trade myself for the weapons, they go, I’ll stay.” The dragon glanced at Rand and sneered.
“Agreed. A Paladin is worth more than weapons.”
Besides, thought Rand, its my friends that are meant to wield those weapons, not me. This is a good trade.
Sentinel picked up the chaotic weapons with a sack, careful not to touch them. He exited the room and slowly closed the door, as he did, he looked back at his friend. Rand slowly descended the ice covered steps alone. The White Dragon looming over him.
After some time, the rest of the party recovered from their terror and got together. An excursion was made to try to find out what had happened to Rand. Shah looked under the door, and saw the dragon hovering over Rand’s body, incased in ice. Apparently the dragon was alerted to the presence of those at the door, who made haste to remove themselves from the situation. Especially Shah.
All seemed hopeless for Rand. He was surely dead. The dragon was powerful. The party was scared. But it was split. Half the party wished to honor Rand’s dying wishes and continue on their quest. The other half was not content to let the dead dog die. Eventually a plan was hatched. The group traveled to the Order of the Griffon the ask for help. Three brave Griffons were the first to join the group. Colwyn, Gareth and, Tahgen Twinblade were also convinced to join the quest. With their added strength, the party began to hatch an optimistic plan.
Bork was called upon to create 4 cold resistance potions. Which were given to Zinnaerris, Sentinel and Fraas and Shah. Zinn and Sentinel were also enlarged and had their strength bolstered.
Aven disarmed the trap at the door, Gfedcba sang has his song of courage and the potions were drunk. The doors were burst open, the Griffons flew in and the melee fighters entered. Expecting a fight, the warriors were instead greeted by stillness.
Moments later the water began to tremble, and someone shouted out, “The Water! It’s in the water!”
The melee fighters all crowded around the edge of the water with their weapons at the ready. Ranged fighters, too, were ready to attack. Out burst the dragon, for just a moment. Zinnaerris got off a shot that struck true, dealing heavy damage. But the moment was short, and in that short moment the dragon grabbed Gareth and drug him down into the water.
Helplessly, the party stood at the edge of the water, hoping the dragon would again emerge so they could have a chance to strike. Instead the dragon seemed content to use Gareth as a play thing, prodding and biting him, and forcing the party to watch as their comrade drown. Gfedgca summoned a water elemental that dealt several damaging blows to the dragon, but it was not enough to stop him from pulling Gareth down every time he made progress in swimming toward the surfac. In a desperate attempt to save the old knight, Aven tossed a rope into the water. Gareth managed to grab hold of the rope and the party began to pull him toward safety, but their hope was short lived. As soon as the dragon saw their progress, he closed his mighty jaws around Gareth and tore the old man to pieces.
Stunned and uncertain what to do next, the party remained at the edge of the water, the griffons circling anxiously overhead. Aven again attempted to use the rope. This time he enchanted it and it wrapped itself around the dragon’s face. Sentinal and Zinnaerris took hold and began to pull the dragon toward the surface of the water, but it resisted and the rope snapped. The dragon swam even deeper into the water and took refuge inside a cave deep under the ice.
Sentinal decided the only way to lure the dragon out of the water was to enrage him by stealing his riches. He ventured over to the double doors, and opened them, narrowly avoiding a block of falling ice. Once inside, he saw Rand’s body frozen in a block of ice on the far side of the room. He immediately ran to him and began pushing him toward the door, all the while stuffing his clothing with the most expensive looking items and calling out to the dragon gleefully, “I’m stealing your treasure!” Still the dragon did not emerge from the water.
Moments later, the party heard mumbling from deep beneath the ice. Fraas realized it was a spell for reshaping ice. “Get away from there!” he shouted to Zinnaerris, just as a cylinder opened up in the ice beneath her feet. She jumped away just in time to avoid falling. As she did, she saw the dragon running quickly up the side of the newly formed tunnel in the ice. She cast a fireball spell but he dodged it easily. When he reached the surface, she struck at him again, this time with Dragonsbane, but it glanced off his shield.
The dragon landed on the ice and let out a great roar. Aven and Shah panicked and ran screaming into the back room, where they attempted to hide under a pile of treasure. Fraas, who had been lying in wait all this time just outside the door to the room, seized upon the moment and cast a fireball spell that dealt massive damage. The dragon roared in pain and took off into the air. He landed on a broken column, then glared angrily at Fraas and cast a spell that blocked the door with a thick wall of ice.
The griffons circled overhead the dragon while Sentinal attempted to climb the column. Meanwhile, Gfedcba used his scorching ray wand and dealt another terrible blow to the dragon. The griffons swooped in to distract and harass the dragon while Fraas burned a hole through the ice wall. Sentinal reached the top of the column and managed a few glancing blows. Finally, Fraas melted a large enough hole in the ice to cast another fireball, but the spell missed. Fortunately, Gfedcba’s aim was true as he fired another scorching ray spell that delivered the fatal blow. The dragon roared and collapsed. The party could hardly believe it! They had killed a dragon, though at great cost, for both Rand and Gareth were dead and they had yet to discover whether their friend could be saved, or whether he would forever be remembered as “Randscicle.”