III

Session 8: The Dragon Returned
One Step Closer

12 March (Continued)

Calcryx accompanied the adventurers, Meepo, and Erky Timbers back to the kobold’s section of the ruined citadel. Upon arriving, kobolds poke their heads out of various doors lining the hallways in surprise and wonder. Owen smiled and winked at the onlookers, while Erky scowled openly at all of them. The wyrmling’s posture was one of defiance, but Meepo seemed strangely serene and confident. Aramis and Azal stuck near one another and wondered what might happen next.

When they returned to the room containing the broken cage in which Calcryx used to be imprisoned, Meepo spoke. “We musst sspeak with Yusdrayl,” he said. Erky took an audibly deep breath, and then gave the adventurers a dubious glance.

“It’s all right, Erky,” Aramis assured him. “We’ve spoken to her before.” The dwarf simply snorted and shook his head, while Azal and Owen stood quietly nearby.

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Session 7: Strength

11 March (Continued)

Aramis blinked at the caged dwarf, “Um, no.” The adventurers set about releasing the prisoners, though the kobolds were reluctant until Meepo walked in the door and explained what they were about. No keys were evident, but Azal and Owen made short work of the locks. The dwarf introduced himself as Erky Timbers, and thanked the group for their help and for dispatching the goblin guards.

After speaking with and releasing the captive kobolds, Meepo told the others that he was going to escort his tribesmen back home. He offered to meet up with the group the next day and took his leave of them. Erky gratefully accompanied the others back to the entrance of the Citadel, where they all took refuge in the secret chamber. Once there, Owen crashed out against the wall and the others started speaking.

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Session 6: The Body
If You Die First...

11 April (Continued)

Owen entered the Nightmare Stance, putting an end to the rat that had wandered into the nest after most of its brethren had been slain. The sinister look on his face quickly faded as the threat to the party was ended. Coming back to himself, he glanced around the room at the others before something in the northeast corner of the room caught his eye. He cocked his head to one side and asked, “What’s that?” The others’ eyes were drawn to the object at Owen’s question, and as recognition dawned, Azal covered her mouth as if she were about to vomit. Meepo, sensing the tension, excused himself and moved back out into the fountain chamber.

It was a human body.

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Session 5: Fate of One
Casualty

11 March (Continued)

The adventurers stood over the bodies of slain rats yet again wondering if there were a more numerous species in the ruined citadel. Meepo poked at the nearby corpses, making sure that they’re fully dead. Owen shoved his book back into his pack and promptly fell asleep in the corner of the room. Azal, too rested her head against a wall after closing the door leading to the hall from which the rats had come. “We should really go back to the fountain room to see if we can figure out where Talgen and the others went,” she asserted. “Maybe if we look harder, we can learn more from the prints we found there.” It sounded like she was trying to convince herself.

“Agreed,” Aramis responded. He gave his friend what he hoped was an encouraging look, and settled in to catch his breath as well.

After they’d rested for a few minutes, the cleric rose and walked over to the eastern door, listening for any sounds of more rats lurking outside. “Hear anything, Aramis?” Azal asked, as she walked up behind the young man and touched his shoulder. “I can listen if you need me, too,” She offered with a small smirk. “We both know you have the world’s worst hearing.” He scowled a bit at the jab, but moved aside to allow the tiefling to place her ear to the door. She heard no more than he had, and nodding to Meepo as he readied his sling, she slowly pushed the door open to find the hall empty. The kobold nudged Owen, who snapped back to consciousness, rubbed his eyes, and made ready to follow the group out the door.

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Session 4: The Dragon Hunters
First Contact

11 March (Continued)

As Meepo led the adventurers away from the Dragon Throne, several scaly heads poked out of various doors looking inquisitive. He ignored them all, and since there was an escort from the tribe, these kobolds seemed content to let the group pass unchallenged. In moments, they had returned to the chamber where they’d first found their new companion – where the dragon had once been kept. Meepo went to the bench near the cage, and gathered a few personal belongings, including a sling and a couple of bags of what sounded like small rocks. He also belted on a pair of daggers, turned to look at the group and nodded once, determination evident in his stance.

Aramis crossed his arms, “We’re ready if you are.”

Meepo nodded in reply, “Thisss way.” Then he moved to a door in the northeast corner of the irregularly shaped chamber. Azal smiled uncertainly at their new companion, but she followed along with the others. Owen looked ready to draw his sword in an instant, seeming to take note of his surroundings in preparation for an attack.

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Session 3: Here There Be
You Know The Rest

11 March, 103 CY

The adventurers awoke in the secret chamber after several hours of uninterrupted sleep. Aramis immediately fished around in his pack for another sunrod to light the pitch dark room. When he sparked it, the handheld alchemical sliver of the sun ignited in the small room, to reveal Owen already training in the small room. Murmuring something under his breath, he began inspecting everyone’s wounds, concerned about the filth fever. Fortunately, his efforts seemed to have been sufficient and the disease had not persisted in any of them. After the cleric finished examining Owen went back to practicing stances, making repetitive thrusts, slashes, parries, and blocks with sword and shield.

“I’d like to get a better look at that dragon head – an uninterrupted look,” Aramis said to Azal as she checked her gear and began preparing herself.

She nodded and said, “I agree. Let’s head back that way. Hopefully no more rats will come to bother us.” Owen simply nodded and smiled sweetly at the pair. Thinking back to the look on his face during his apparent battle frenzy the day before, it seemed impossible that this ruddy-cheeked young man could have worn such a horrifying visage. He sheathed his blade and opened the door, leading the others back into the tower.

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Session 2: Stirring the Shadows
The End of the First Night

10 March (Continued)

Owen tossed a rock after the dire rat that had fled into the rubble, then sat down near stairs and dozed off. Azal stared blearily at the cracked stone wall of the tower on the west side of the courtyard while Aramis examined and cleaned her bite wounds. She winced before the bandages even touched the torn flesh, but he patiently indulged her. After he finished wrapping her legs he saw to his own, since his healing prayers seemed to have dealt with the bruises the halfling had suffered from falling into the pit. Only after his self-appointed medical tasks were complete did he rest for a few minutes himself.

He was the first to stir, and he set about searching the area for any indication that Talgen and the others had come this way. He found it morbidly interesting that one of his first expectations was the discovery of human remains. He shook his head, idly thinking that he’d listened to one too many of Father Sloane’s sermons when his gaze fell to the bottom of the pit where he thought he saw a small hand. Swallowing, he began climbing down to take a closer look.

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Session 1: Romance Dusk
The Heroes Meet

10 March, 103 CY

The sun arose over the ranch house owned by Rene and Amerie Shepherd that morning to find its occupants already awake and digging in to breakfast. Their son Aramis had arrived the day before, marking the first return to his hometown since his wife had died almost two years before. In that time, he had entered the clergy of the goddess of death, the mysterious Raven Queen, a fact that his family seemed loathe to accept. A young woman called Azal, whom he’d met and befriended in Brindinford, the city where he’d made his new home, had accompanied him on this journey. Though the Shepherds had been hesitant to let a tiefling into their home, their sense of hospitality (and some prodding from Aramis’s more worldly sister-in-law Iva) had shamed them into accepting Azal as a guest.

They had come in response to a request Aramis had received in a letter from Kerowyn Hucrele, the owner of the largest trading company based in Oakhurst, and a personal friend. Her son Talgen and daughter Sharwyn had gone missing near an ancient ruin west of Oakhurst, and no one had heard from them in weeks. She’d asked Aramis to help her find her children. He’d asked Azal to come along since Talgen had been the one to introduce them.

While they were finishing breakfast, Aramis’s brother Orson entered the house and pulled the boys’ father aside. They spoke in low voices for a moment before the older man excused himself from breakfast and followed his son back outside. Mrs. Shepherd looked at the door with a bit of concern, but she turned a smile on those at the table when she saw the watching her. “I’m sure it’s nothing. Don’t you kids worry. Ranch stuff.”

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Prologue: Silence
Setting the Stage

by godfear

20 October, 101 CY

Iva wanted to scream.

Her enormous belly felt ready to burst, and the midwife kept telling her to breathe in that annoyingly patient tone one reserves for children and pregnant women giving birth. She knew, rationally, that it was intended to soothe her, and that being calm was good for the baby. But she was in a lot of pain, and the stupid breathing didn’t do anything at all for that. And that tone…

So. Gods. Damned. Annoying.

She slowly shoved her ire to the back of her mind, closed her eyes and tried the stupid breathing. The pain lessened precisely none at all, but she found she was able to focus her mind better with the cadence of her breath. It reminded her of the training sessions with her father in her youth, and the memory seemed strangely out of place. She hadn’t thought of the man in awhile, but now that she did she wondered what he would think of her right now. He’d probably laugh and tell her she was being ridiculous wondering what he thought about anything while she was giving birth to a shepherd’s son.

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