I stood like a god on the dragon cult’s altar, some thirty feet above the ceremonial hall. The circular obsidian platform was supported by a rather magnificent effigy of a dragon, its curved tail forming the stairs that lead to the hall below.
By cunning use of my arcane powers I had discovered a horde of treasure located in the belly of the great beast. The loot hungry reprobates it is my misfortune to be lumbered with had scooped up the shiniest baubles in their grubby mitts with nary a thought for my skill in unearthing them, but I shan’t complain. I am after all a simple soul who delights not in worldly treasures.
One might have expected more consideration from Itiff, the half-elf
ranger, on the basis that we had valiantly rescued him from torture and certain death only minutes before. Despite his foolishness in being captured we risked our lives for him, but did he show any gratitude? Nay he did not. As Lunar, my gnomish colleague pointed out, ‘there is no honour amongst half breeds.’
And I suppose it’s no surprise that Lori, our Pious Paladin, unashamedly shovelled treasure into her backpack, caressing the gold with her stumpy dwarven fingers. After all, what is the church for if not to accumulate wealth from their worshippers?
Her pack full to bursting, Lori returned via the sweeping staircase to the flag tiled chamber below, and that’s when things went sideways.
Screaming that we had desecrated their idol, four Dragon-Claws rushed into the hall. They call themselves Dragon-Claws but to be honest that’s a pompous name for thugs in shiny armour with swords so large one suspects they’re overcompensating for something. Despite their inflated title I realised that Lori was in a fix facing four of them alone. I say alone, but she actually had Komgrirk Simplehead, the kobold dung heap with her. By now we had become somewhat accustomed to his smell but I hoped his vile odour may turn the attackers away. However, it was not to be.
The Dragon-Claws advanced brandishing their weapons and it was clear that I was going to have to save the day again. Naturally I chose to stay out of the way on the raised altar. This was certainly not due to any cowardly instinct on my part but a reflection of the teachings of the great warrior, Sun-Elf Tzu – he who controls the high ground controls the battle.
To my right, Lunar hid on the platform and readied her crossbow. I suspect she has never heard of the ‘art of war’ and was just being her normal sneaky, cowardly self.
I called on the power of the weave and conjured a fire bolt, which I hurled towards the assailants. I deliberately missed, wanting to give them a chance to retreat but they paid my warning no heed, a fact they would not live to regret. The first of them met his demise, Lunar’s crossbow bolt skewering his head.
Itiff, in a demonstration of bravery or idiocy, I still can’t make my mind up as to which, leapt from the stairs, his cape trailing behind him, and landed atop the nearest Dragon-Claw, cleaving him near in two with his battle-axe.
The third was soundly mashed with Lori’s war-hammer while I took care of the last with a devastating fire bolt. And that was when the trouble really started.
Frulam Mondath, high-priestess of the dragon cult marched into the ceremonial hall surrounded by Dragon-Claws. In the good old days of adventuring high-priestess’ would be so scantily clad their outfit, or lack thereof, would make a Succubus blush. So it was a tad disapointing to see her bedecked in chainmail beneath her midnight-blue robes and brandishing a halberd.
Mondath pointed at myself and Itiff and in a voice layered with hypnotic intent commanded, “Grovel!”
Well Tarquin the Honest does not grovel for anybody, and certainly not for a high-priestess who has forsaken the skimpy loincloth of her trade for full body armour. I made a magical gesture of refusal with one hand and launched a well placed fire bolt with the other.
I was pleased to see that she was somewhat taken aback by my refusal, and also that I had set her robe on fire. Itiff had no more succumbed to her charms than I had and was busy inserting his scimitar into a Dragon-Claw.
It was at this point that Lunar decided to sneak from cover with a golden dagger clutched in her tiny paw. It was a magical device of such power that should she impale Mondath the battle would be ours for sure.
Alas, she launched the blade with what some would describe as ‘a girly throw’ although I would say it was more akin to that of a blind, no armed hobbit.
The dagger clattered harmlessly onto the floor and our potential advantage was squandered.
Lori battled valiantly, her war hammer smashing Dragon-Claws left and right but the tide of the battle was about to turn and not in our favour. A Dragon-Claw a good head taller than the others grabbed Komgrirk and lifting him from the floor slammed him headfirst into a pillar. The little fellow collapsed unmoving and I felt a moment’s fear. What would that Dragon-Claw do to me if he weren’t stopped? Bolts of blue magic crackled from my fingers slamming into the rogue. He convulsed and dropped.
But I was not the only one using the arcane arts. Mondath threw a spell at Itiff and he froze, completely unable to move. Amusing as I found it to see the half-elf struck dumb, dribble running down his chin, now was not the time for merriment. He was under attack from a Dragon-Claw and defenceless. More magic forked from my splayed fingers and with the addition of a timely crossbow bolt from Lunar the Dragon-Claw was floored.
Enraged, Mondath summoned the forces of the dead; a swirling screen of dark spectral forms surrounded her. Caught in the whirlwind’s deadly path Itiff fell and Lori staggered backwards. I could see that she was conflicted, wanting to save Itiff, but I am nothing if not expert in the tactical advance away from the enemy and I shouted, “Lori run!”
Fortunately she heeded my warning and backed towards the stairs. Our swarthy band of adventurers was decimated: Komgrirk and Itiff were down, Lori was battered and beaten and I only had a gnome between me and an enraged cleric with a frighteningly large halberd. I was going to have to take drastic measures. The thought of hurling Lunar at Mondath never crossed my mind, I feel I should make that clear. No, instead I once again called on the weave, channelling all my power and the brightest, bluest bolts of magic I have ever conjured sparked from my fingers and slammed into Mondath.
I saw her stagger, and I waited for her to fall, but she did not. She swayed unsteadily on her feet, then she ran. I was too drained to send more magic after her, but Lunar did what she does best and shot her in the back, sending Mondath crashing to the floor defeated.
As I descended the stairs with no intent of looting Mondath’s cadaver, Lori lay her healing hands on Itiff, bringing him back from beyond the veil. He coughed, spluttered and then mumbled something unintelligible, so no change there. Satisfied that Itiff was saved she turned her skills to the fallen ‘venturer Komgrirk. He was gravely injured and she worked feverishly using magic, potion and prayer to try and save him. Unfortunately, she succeeded and so we were not at last to be rid of his maleficent odour.
The party was bloodied and beaten but once again I, Tarquin The Honest, had saved the day, and without a scratch on me.