Dragons of Blackminster

HotDQ 12 Inn Trouble

[GM:The player of “David the Warlock Urchin” was missing for this session, so his “Family” gave him a little task to do to get him out of the way. I brought him back into the Inn at the end of the session and there was an unfortunate incident!]

The wagons stopped rolling when night fell. They were still about 30 minutes ride from the Inn but it was up hill and would take the wagons a few hours.

The lawyer, Urmspoleshurst asked Vassily to accompany him to the Inn as he had an appointment with a hobbit who should be able to give him all the papers he needed to assume his new life (sort of witness protection) when they reach Waterdeep.
“The hobbit will respond to a pass phrase – ‘Do you come here often?’ with the answer ‘Only when there is a Y in the month’ so we can check if it is really him. If the thieves guild has sent a hit squad after me, they may have gotten ahead of us and be waiting”.

Although Vassily thought the lawyer deserved protection for free, Coleman and Ragnar both asked for 20gp each for their protection.

David the Urchin had more important things to do. He had been muttering and communicating by telepathy with something (probably a figment of his imagination!) for most of the day and now stalked off into the twilight woods to collect some mushrooms.
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The Inn was busy, all the stables were occupied with horses and there were an lot of people staying at the inn. Our heroes peered in through the windows and spotted a few tougher-than-average people, including an elf woman (maybe a scout or rogue?) and a lot of mean-looking guys in leather armour. They also saw a hobbit and a local vicar in a quiet room to one side.
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Ragnar made a deal with the proprietor (stable-man) and sold his new war pony. The crafty ostler tricked him into paying for a night’s stabling first.

Vassily stayed outside with Urmsy while Cole and Rags skipped merrily hand-in-hand into the Inn. All eyes turned to them and they noticed an older chap, definitely a wizard, seemed to be in charge and a few of the tough guys waited for his nod before settling back to their drinks. The barman cleared a table for them and brought drinks. They noticed the only hobbit was eating his tea in the side room, but they didn’t try to make contact straightaway.
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There were a couple of local militiamen in the pub, so it seemed relatively safe.
Another guest “Pugh”, wandered in from outside and spoke in whispers to the Wizard (he had been outside with the horses and spotted Urmsy). The wizard “Grub” immediately got up and went outside to “smoke his pipe”. The toughest-looking of the thugs, “Dibble” got up to follow him out and blocked the doorway.

Grub looked around outside and saw Urmsy and Vassily and it all kicked off.
Vassily realised the wizard was trying to cast a spell at him and got in a quick headbutt. He hit but didn’t stop the spell “Tasha’s Hideous Laughter” which had the poor paladin ROFLing helplessly, finding everything hilarious. The wizard stepped over him saying “If he stops laughing, kill him” to the menacing figure of “Dibble”.

Inside Coleman and Ragnar tried to get out but were blocked. Coleman decided (nobody really knows why) to headbutt the unsuspecting hobbit and managed to knock him out. The vicar protested but didn’t dare interfere. Ragnar tried to push past the thug in the door way and was knocked back.

Another thief, “Cuthbert” came up behind Coleman and stabbed him, then “Dibble” struck too, using the flank to his advantage. Behind him the two militia began to rise but Pugh dropped a bag of gold on the table and encouraged them to relax and take another drink “No need to concern yourselves with a simple matter of guild business, officers”.
The fight was brief but bloody. When Vassily managed to shake off his attack of the giggles, Dibble nearly gutted him with vicious stabbing and the wizard firebolted the proprietor (killing him).

Vassily fought well, activating the power of his sword to cast the “Evard’s Black Tendrils” spell, pinning the Wizard and the unconscious Urmsy and Dibble in the tendrils. But the wizard grabbed Urmsy and used “Misty Step” to teleport out of the tendrils (badly injured but free).

Coleman leapt out after them in time to see the Wizard a couple more thieves, including the Elf woman “Magrew” and “Hugh”, bundled the body onto a horse. Dibble got a couple of lucky hits on Vassily and took him down.

Ragnar robbed the unconscious hobbit, taking a rucksack full of papers and then started shooting the gang of thieves. He had to run out to save Vassily from bleeding out and got very lucky with his medicine check, bringing the paladin back awake. In the room behind him, the vicar healed the hobbit.

At this point the Wizard and the thieves managed to take down Coleman and he started to bleed out too. while he was unconscious, the hobbit sneaked over and robbed him of about 120 gold, leaving him a single gold coin. Then David emerged in the shadows and skewered one of the thieves with his Witchbolt spell, whispering “Get him Shoggy” (and something small and dark stabbed the guy in the back while the urchin kept the crazy lightning on him).

Coleman luckily stabilised while Vassily and Ragnar thinned out the thieves a bit. Coleman was healed they just managed to kill Dibble. The Wizard and a couple of his henchmen were galloping away with the unconscious Urmsy but Ragnar shot the horse out from under the lawyer. The wizard and his cronies galloped into the night and Pugh and the hobbit slipped away too, but Urmsy was saved.

The folks in the inn where grateful to the heroes for driving off the bad guys and they were offered plenty of food and drink. There was even some trinkets on the fallen thieves and Ragnar got paid another 50gp by Urmsy for the bag of papers he’d stolen.

While Ragnar and Coleman were getting hammered in the Inn, Vassily (a Teetotaller) noticed that David was acting strangely, chatting with the barman and distracting him while some small invisible creature was adding flakes of mushroom to the barrel. Vassily grabbed some flour from the kitchen and dumped it on the “creature” it was a hideous little demon.
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Reacting before David could stop him, Coleman shot it through the head with a crossbow bolt and the foul creature died and its body dissolved with a horrible stench of brimstone and corruption.

SHOGGY!” the urchin was tearful and explained the creature was his familiar. He hadn’t revealed it because it looked like a demon and they might not have understood [GM: David doesn’t judge a book by its cover (one of his Traits) and was convinced Shoggy was only a bit mischievous and was part of his “family”]. When they pressed him to find out what the demon was doing putting mushrooms in the beer, he explained it wasn’t anything dangerous. "My family asked me to do it. The spores make people a bit more receptive to the voice of the “family” so that they should be able to communicate while they sleep. The spores aren’t dangerous at all."

By the time this was spotted most of the people in the inn had already drunk some of the beer and found it to be even nicer than usual. Our heroes escorted Urmsy back to the wagon train. Coleman and Ragnar had terrifying nightmares and gained no benefit from their night’s rest. Judging by the screams from the top of the hill – the guests at the inn were plagued by nightmares too.
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[GM: David will be able to cast Find Familiar again – it only costs 10gp for components and Coleman handed over his last remaining 1gp (because he felt a bit guilty for killing the thing)]

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HotDQ 11 - Spider Forest

Sherazad, the Arabian priestess, had been pounced on by giant spiders and carried off into the forest. Wazim – the Arabian Merchant Prince (also a Sorcerer and a Cultist) wanted volunteers to go after her.

The brave adventurers going after her were…Wazim, Restogar (the Elf Scout from wagon 2), Sir Vassily, Ragnar, Colman and the urchin, David.
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The cultists all seem to believe that David is a senior member of the cult. Eventually Wazim lets slip that he thinks David is a disguised gnome. They have all been expecting a gnome to contact them and tell them where to take the treasure. It’s possible that the gnome is the surly “Sprocket” from the parrot wagon.
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Our heroes are led by Restogar into the pitch black woods. The sharp-eyed elf is following spots of blood from Sherazad.
David explains to the cultists that Colman (the ninja) is a fellow cultist but that Ragnar and Vassily aren’t. Wazim tells him that Sherazad isn’t a cultist either but that his other guards – Omar and Ivani are, and all four of the guards from Wagon 2 and also the fire dragonborn (Ignator).
As the only other person with night vision, Restogar convinces Ragnar to climb up a tree into the shadowy canopy. As the plucky dwarf pushes through a layer of web, huge black shapes drop on him with vicious fangs. Three giant spiders!
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A fight ensues and a huge Drider emerges (a giant spider body but with the upper body of an elf). David tries to use Beastspeech on the spiders but they are enraged and controlled by the drider. It turns out to be a spellcaster and is soon surrounded by spidery spirit guardians. Ragnar falls and is still being devoured by the millions of mystical spiders. The others struggle to break the monster’s concentration before it kills him. Wazim and Restogar are pretty competent warriors too but it is touch and go for a while. They manage to kill all the giant spiders and focus on the Drider.

Finally they hack it down, just in time to revive Ragnar. Then there is a general hunt for treasure and they find the drider’s lair and rescue Sherazad from a cocoon. They find some jewellery on other victims but Wazim, using Detect Magic, finds a magic sword (picked up by Vassily) and a spider amulet (which he takes for himself).

Later there is much debate (via David’s telepathic power) as to whether to ambush Wazim and Restogar on the way back to the camp. David and Ragnar mamage to convince the more blood-thirsty Paladin and Monk to chill out a bit.

Back at the wagons there is much rejoicing at the rescue and Lewel the gypsy elf woman helps Vassily understand his magic sword – it has the power to hold two spells (one of up to 4th level and one of up to 2nd level). It currently contains an “Evard’s Black Tentacles” and a “Cure Wounds” (cast at 2nd Level). To charge it with spells, a spellcaster can cast at the gem on the pommel and it then becomes stored, ready to be released by an attuned wielder. It takes one hour of concentration to become attuned to the blade. Only one person can be attuned and when another does it, the first is disconnected.

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The nervous lawyer – Urmspolehurst approaches Sir Vassily asking for his aid. At first he tried to offer vassily money 20gp to protect him for a meeting at an Inn (tomorrow night). When the paladin pressed him for details the lawyer reluctantly explained his predicament…
Urmspoleshurst had upset the Leader of the Honest Johns – a crime guild in Baldur’s Gate. The lawyer had managed to get the leader’s younger brother executed on a legal technicality. “Urmsy” had then had to flee from Baldur’s Gate and is hoping to start a new life in Waterdeep with a new identity. He is meeting a hobbit in the Inn with details of his new identity but fears that, with all the recent delays, some of the guild might have overtaken them.

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HotDQ 10 - The Stag
The Crone, the Mother and the Maiden

Our heroes had joined the convoy and helped repel an attack by Wraiths and Spectres with only a few casualties. The action had brought a sense of camaraderie among the wagons except for Vassily’s harsh words to Captain Boris of Wagon 2. It was clear from his scowls that this was unfinished business.

A couple of days later, Vassily suffered from some sort of bug and was feeling pretty sick. Old John, his faithful retainer had to nurse him through the worst of it, cleaning his “smalls” as he had done since Vassily was a nipper. The paladin managed to fight off the poison with the help of some herbal remedy from Sharazade (the Arabian priestess) who went into the nearby woods to fetch herbs for him. He was pretty sure Grey Sally – the assassin from Wagon 2 – had slipped something into his food.

David sent his invisible “brother” to investigate the barbarian furs in wagon 4 – all furs, no treasure and then to investigate Wagon 2. He couldn’t get in but had got close enough to overhear them chatting in Draconic (perhaps like Dragon Cultists?). Ragnar snuck close enough to hear them too, snickering over Vassily’s discomfort.

Agetul – convoy captain – called them all together at breakfast for a warning about the up-coming Spider Forest. It was more than a day’s journey so usually they would have to camp at the roadside somewhere in the middle of it. As long as they stuck together and lit plenty of lanterns, the spiders should keep away. They would enter the Spider Forest about 3:00 that afternoon.

However, as they were about to break camp a magnificent stag was spotted on the road ahead. It was such a fine example that Agetul agreed to keep the convoy here for an hour or two while any that wanted to pursue it, did so. The two barbarian Cossacks from Wagons 4 & 5 immediately galloped off in pursuit. Vassily and Col had both spotted a glint of silver from the beast’s chest and thought it might be magical.

Col and Ragnar decided to go after it, led by the wise old ex-gamekeeper, “Old John” all on borrowed horses. David decided to stay at the camp and chat to Beyd the chef from the refreshments wagon. He got on very well with Beyd, who gave him free ice cream and cakes and the old chap knew all the gossip from the convoy.

Just to split the party up completely, Sir Vassily started goading the mercenaries from Wagon 2, particularly the obvious half-elf hunter, Restogar, about why he wasn’t out hunting. The upshot was that Vassily offered to go with him and then Capt Boris “allowed” Grey Sally to tag along too “as it might not be safe” [nudge, wink].

So that’s how Vassily found himself lost in the forest with two people who were probably going to ambush him. To put them off he casually mentioned that he was a great warrior who could also heal people – including heal himself! In the end he got so worried about them getting the drop on him that he frightened off their horses and galloped off on his own. He’d never been in the forest without faithful Old John and he had never listened to Old John’s good advice about which side of trees moss grows on. He wandered for a couple of hours before finding a clearing with the signs of recent battle.

Meanwhile Col and Ragnar followed their tracker – Old John, deeper and deeper into the wood. For an hour they followed the deer and then followed the pony tracks of the cossak hunters until they reached a clearing where OoVarVoo, the huge male barbarian was struggling with the enormous stag while his sister IrarNoo, lay gutted on the forest floor. Not only was he fighting the Stag, but hidden in the shadows of the trees were three women, a wizened hag, a matronly middle-aged woman and a beautiful and naked girl of about 19.
Old John succumbed to a charm spell and dismounted and staggered towards the beautiful maiden.
OoVarVoo succumbed to a Hold Person spell cast by the ancient crone.
Ragnar leapt from his horse and hid.
Col cast his Pass without Trace and snuck nearer to the fight, intent on stealing the amulet from the Stag and ignoring the other opponents.
Old John, stupefied by the maid’s magical charm didn’t fight back when she kissed him and bit him with vicious fangs. As the only member of the group visible, he was also hit by a ray of sickness from the middle-aged woman. He soon fell and began bleeding out.
Col and Ragnar pretty much ignored him, focussed purely on the glittering prize at the Stag’s throat. It was a triangle of silver, inscribed with an eye. Col got close and cast a Darkness spell, engulfing himself, the stag and the paralysed OoVarVoo.

Ragnar took advantage and leapt into the dark, somehow managing to clamber onto the Stag’s back. With Ragnar distracting it, Col managed to rip the silver amulet free and ran off with it. Instantly the stag transformed into what felt and sounded like a wriggling goblin with Ragnar collapsed on top of him. “Ger Off me! S’not my fault yer idjit. I waz enchanted. It’s the ’ags ya want, not me – not Zarg the Scrofulant, ambassador to the Goblin King”. At the same time as the amulet was snatched, the three women screamed and the youngest one fell dead.

OoVarVoo snapped out of the paralysis and killed the crone and between them, they killed the third one too. They bickered for a while over who deserved the magical amulet as the pool of blood widened around Old John and the goblin sneaked away (Zarg was clearly a spellcaster as he teleported away once he got out of the cloud of darkness).
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By the time they remembered Old John, it was too late. They left him and the three hags where they lay (Although OoVarVoo reverently carried the body of his sister away to be cremated) and returned to the wagons, having not even searched for the hag’s nearby lair [GM: which had magical treasure in it! Zarg will have made off with that].

An hour or so later, Sir Vassily rode into that same clearing and came upon the abandoned corpse of his faithful retainer – the man who had raised and guided and served him all his life. Grief-stricken [GM: at least he should have been!], Vassily rode through the forest for another couple of hours, carrying Old John with him. Eventually he found the road and made it back to the wagons. All the others had returned by then – Grey Sally and Restogar scowling their hatred and chuckling at loss of Old John.

Col and Ragnar took the amulet to the beautiful Elven Gypsy woman. She made a gesture to avert the evil eye and told them to take it away and destroy it. “Thou hast found a Hag’s Eye. Through that accursed item, the hags can see and are drawn to it. I assume thou hast burned their bodies already so that they shall not be re-born, but even so their sisters will know where the Hag’s Eye goes and will come for revenge”. [GM: for those who care, these were not standard hags – they were both weaker and more mysterious than usual – I often change the monsters, especially when players might otherwise know too much about them].

In the fire that cremated Old John and OoVarVoo, they melted the amulet into a blob of silver and Col sold it to Lewel the Elven Gypsy for 60 gold pieces. He claimed to have gotten only 15 for it and split it with Ragnar and OoVarVoo, pocketing the rest himself. In gratitude for his rescue, OoVarVoo gave his sister’s pony to Ragnar. Now the dwarf has to pay for fodder for the beast for the rest of the trip which will cost 10gp.

All the time his friends were chasing magical stags, David continued searching for clues about the cultists. He used his telepathic ability to chat to the mute Elf Selvek (not very talkative but seems to be honest and kind). He also discovered that Ivani, one of the Arabian guards had had his tongue cut out a few years back and did not appear to speak common anyway. He chatted telepathically with Ivani and tricked the man into revealing he was a cultist – the urchin tried to leave Ivani with the impression that he was a member of the same cult but there is some doubt as to whether Ivani believed him.

The Urchin went on to trick Grey Sally into revealing that she and the other mercenaries of Wagon 2 are also cultists. His clever use of the “secret” hand-sign convinced her and he told her that Vassily was useful as a cover, being a dumb paladin, nobody suspected his youthful ward. He told her that Col was a cultist too and that he was evaluating Ragnar to see whether to enlist him. Grey Sally appears to be completely taken in and, to David’s surprise, even seems to think this scruffy little boy is a senior member of the cult– almost as if she was expecting it!

They camp in the Spider Forest and because she felt sorry for Vassily (for the sad death of his friend) Sharazad the arabian warrior-priestess, went a little way into the forest to find more herbs to settle his fever. [GM tip #321 – make the players to blame for everything ].
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Suddenly the alarm was raised. Sherazad has been poisoned (paralysed) by giant spiders and carried off (still alive) into the dark forest.
Wazim, the Arabian merchant prince (sorcerer or warlock) asks for volunteers to go with him in pursuit. He will leave Omar and Ivani to guard the wagon but asks for help rescuing the girl. Agetul agrees “She is a healer and therefore worth the risk”. The Spiders are big and scary but not so tough or brave if you whack them hard enough. They might be able to overpower a lone girl but a few tough warriors should manage a rescue."

[GM: Let’s hope the whole party, or at least most of the party will volunteer. Sharazad has helped and healed a few of the travellers so Restogar, Wazim and Toxa are up for it. If David doesn’t fancy a trip into the DARK to fight spiders, Toxa the dragonborn lady is available to be played for this fight.]

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HotDQ 09 Wagons Ho

The red wizard opened a portal to Baldur’s Gate.
Quite a crowd of people went through…
• Cole the monk of shadows
• David the urchin warlock and his familiar Shoggy, the imp (disguised as a rat familiar)
• Ragnar the dwarven rogue
• Sir Vassily the paladin knight and his retainers…
• Dave the Squire – an aspiring knight but from a poor family, a few years older than Vassily
• Old John – family retainer, woodsman, cook, odd-job man
• Sarah the pretty young maid, cook and mender
• Lady Natalie Froome (just accompanying them back to the safe house)

The Wagons

Ragnar and Cole managed to impress the veteran Dwarf Shield-maiden, Agetul Isambard and were hired as guards – assigned to Wagon 10 – Verther’s Silks. Agetul seemed to take a liking to Ragnar, after some rough sparring – she squeezed his butt.
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Vassily had to buy passage on the wagons for himself and his entourage (David, Dave, Old John & Sarah). They were scattered across different carts. Vassily and David on Wagon 1 with Lewel the beautiful elf merchant and Agetul. Onthar Froome and the Order of the Gauntlet had provided enough expenses to cover the costs.

Dave the Squire & Old John on the Wagon with the friendly Elf Bard and his silent brother.

Sarah on the refreshments wagon with the fat half-elf chef Beyd and the bright-green-skinned woman, Imsa.

David hired a gang of local urchins to try to find dragon-stamped coins in the wagon train. The gang-leader, Travis, was a few years older (15?) and agreed terms. It was fairly risky work as the wagons themselves were well-guarded but the urchins managed to pickpocket several of the guards (including Cole and Ragnar!) but found no evidence of dragon-stamped gold.

When they met up to report, the gang tried to mug David. Much to Shoggy’s delight, David’s Arms of Hador spell (cast in self-defence) brutally murdered two of the children. The leader scampered away, cowering and wet himself. David sent Shoggy to follow the lad who turned out to be related to one of the thieves guild leaders.

Rumours of magical evil monsters killing children were passing around the city when they left. Shoggy is very pleased with his master – after a slow start, he seems to be getting into his evil stride with the murder of a couple of children. Shoggy is hoping for great things from this one!
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David managed to telepathically communicate with the Gargoyle on Lasfelro’s wagon. It had been ordered not to talk to anyone, but decided that telepathy didn’t count so was glad of the company. It was magically enslaved to the merchant Lasfelro, won in a card game. It told David that Lasfelro was concerned about the rumours of dragon cult attacks and had hired an additional guard – the wagon was apparently carrying bric-a-brac. It still seemed odd that security was so tight.
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Vassily managed to get the story of Green Imsa – after an accidental affair with a young wizard, she was cursed by his older, more powerful, wife. The wife was sufficiently known and feared in Baldur’s Gate that no other wizard would remove the spell. She was hoping to have better luck in Waterdeep. They were chatting quite amiably until he told her to get back in touch once the green had faded.
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They became suspicious of Wagon 2 – a group of 4 grey-tabbarded mercenaries
• Capt Boris – human veteran warrior
• Redburn – dwarf berserker
• Restogar – half-elf ranger type
• Grey Sally – half-drow, haf-orc, assassin type
No real reason for suspicion other than their general appearance, uniform, disciplined guarding of the wagon and the fact it was a sealed freight container, not accompanied by a merchant.
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The other suspicious-looking person was the lawyer – Urmpoleshurst. He kept clutching his briefcase and looking nervously around. When they stopped near an inn, he hid in a tent next to the wagon rather than go for a drink.
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On the second night the wagon train was attacked by spectres and a couple of wraiths. The spectres killed one of the two dragonborn guards from wagon three – Scorch. His brother Ignator breathed fire on the spectres but they seemed resistant to almost every kind of damage. Scorch was raised as another Spectre by the wraith. Fortunately the combined forces of the wagon train guards (and Vassily and David the brave passengers) managed to gang up on the wraith and bring it down before it could raise any other spectres.

Angesstun, the dwarf merchant from Wagon 3, showed himself to be a pretty poor combatant, fleeing from the spectres and getting knocked out. He was lucky not to be killed and turned into a spectre. His wagon turned out to be full of vats of Cooking Oil and perfumes.
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After the fighting David recommended to Agetul (Head of Wagon Train Security) that the remaining dragonborn guard on wagon 3, Ignator, was swapped for Cole and Ragnar as it didn’t seem safe to have a fire-breathing guard guarding a wagon full of flammable oil! Agetul was particularly pleased to move Ragnar closer.

Further back down the wagons, the two peasant labourers from wagons 4 & 5 also perished and were transformed into spectres, but the other wraith and spectres were killed fairly easily by Wasim, warlock or sorcerer, and Sherazade, soldier-priestess (both from the distant deserts of Zakhara). They were able to do force and radiant damage while the other fighter types kept the creatures pinned down. The surly and belligerent gnome – Sprocket – also cast some magic missiles. also Esseren – young female guard was killed.

The elven bard and the zakharan priestess were able to grant some healing. The bard also told stories (sang sagas) that granted temporary hitpoints.

Our heroes noticed that the mercenaries from wagon 2 had hung back a bit, defending their own wagon and using ranged attacks on any monsters that weren’t directly on them. To Vassily, this seemed like cowardice, despite being excellent tactics. After the fight he muttered something about “cowardly hanging back” to Boris who almost lost his temper. Cole noticed Grey Sally urging Boris to remain calm and leave her to deal with Vassily later.

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HotDQ 08 The Paladin's Decision

The Paladins’ impromptu Festival continues with Sir Sebastian just managing to defeat Sir Vassily in the sparring. It was not an unexpected result as Sebastian was one of Elturel’s best knights.
Ragnar went off to drown his sorrows (or at least float them a bit) in one of the city’s taverns while David took part in the footrace around the city walls.

As Ragnar had done so badly in the earlier events, Lord Commander Froome asked one of his own people (his “ninja” spy) to get to know them with a view to accompanying them (or replacing them) on the mission.

The ninja was considerably faster than David and the faster than the young squire Jonathan (son of Humprey the Chamberlain). However, it wasn’t all about speed. At various points the runners had to climb down stairs and back up or risk a dangerous leap. Jonathan fell badly and had to be healed by the Paladins and Priests stationed around the walls. In the end David was just overtaken by the ninja but demonstrated courage and also didn’t cheat so impressed Froome considerably.

Sir Vassily found Ragnar brooding over his beer and managed to talk him into competing in a chariot race, from the city gates, round a maypole in a village a couple of miles away and then back. The dwarf’s tough constitution shrugged off his drunkenness and his chariot headed out taking an early lead. He had to decide whether to stick to the road (a long curve around a small marshy wood) or risk a shortcut across the marsh. He decide to try to cut the corner and ran his chariot into a mudbank.

One of the other three racers followed him into the marsh but took a different path. He was one of the locals and smirked as he passed close by. Ragnar leapt onto the passing chariot and pushed the startled driver out into the mud. He reached the Maypole closely followed by the other two. His muddy rival managed to drag the dwarf’s chariot out and also caught up to the pack. They all raced back to returning through the marsh, neck and neck – but the muddy guy – perhaps driven by anger began to pull ahead.

Ragnar made another leap, pushing the driver out at the last minute and raced back to the gate in first place, and back in the wagon he originally started in.

The bruised and battered rival was not very happy but the crowd had enjoyed it and Froome (despite pretending to a Paladin’s disdain for “cheating”) could not hide a twinkle of amusement.

The final event was the Grand Melee, three teams of four, no rules except for not leaving the compound and not killing or maiming each other. Our heroes (joined by the Ninja) formed one group. The other groups were led by the Paladin Natalie Froome and a dwarven war priest.

Natalie’s cleric put up a spell of Spirit Guardians, swirling angels attacking all enemies within 15 feet of the caster. David clambered onto a roof, straddling the ridge and managed to hit the cleric with an Eldritch Blast, breaking his concentration before the swirling angels did too much damage. The Ninja cast a shadowy spell to aid Ragnar in his stealth and the dwarf managed to hide and shoot from cover, finally getting some good shots in, while Vassily charged in and struck the enemies with his various Smite spells. The ninja and a rogue from Natalie’s group had a close battle until the ninja was knocked out. The one of the clerics struck David with a Sacred Flame and the poor lad toppled off the roof, failing to catch the gutter on the other side and rolled off “out of the compound” and out of the competition.

David returned to offer advice and encouragement as his remaining team mates mopped up the rest of the opposition. They had worked together, they had taken risks and shown resourcefulness. Froome agreed to send them to Baldur’s Gate and have his agents there assist them with joining the Wagon Train.

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HotDQ 07 - Elturel
The dice officially hate Ragnar

It was a sad Ragnar that trudged back to the waterfall, carrying the unconscious urchin, David. The truth was that David had woken a couple of hours ago but feigned sleep to avoid having to face the long hike and the deaths of Marcel and Salty.

When they reached the waterfall, Leosin the half-elf monk, met them there.

He was upset by the loss of Sodium Chloridius and offered his condolences for the brave dwarf, Marcel too. He had been hoping to enlist Salty to undertake a quest – perhaps Ragnar and David might help?

David had seen frightening images of the cultists plans as the face-hugger had tried to possess his mind. The gathering of treasure, new-minted coins bearing a five-headed dragon, the summoning of Tiamat, the destruction of the world in fire, ice, lightning, acid and poison.

They agreed to travel to Elturel, the city with a second sun – Amanataur’s Gift, blazing constantly in the sky over the city, banishing undead.

Leosin, an agent of the Harpers had overheard much of the dragon cult’s plans while he was a prisoner. They were raiding all over the land, forging gold coins from their loot and gathering it all in a secret location ready for the Ritual of Summoning. The first wagon(s) would be in a wagon train heading north from Baldur’s Gate, bound for Waterdeep and the North (approx 40 day journey).

The monk gave them a letter of introduction to Lord-Commander Ontharr Foome, leader of the Paladins of Elturel and also a senior member of the Order of the Gauntlet. It asked Lord Froome to send them “with all haste” to Baldur’s Gate and assist them in getting hired by the Wagon Train. The primary mission should be to work out which wagon or wagons were carrying the cultist gold and find out where it is going.

Leosin warns that Froome might wish to test them before endangering his own organisation and in order to judge whether to send his own people on the mission instead of entrusting the fate of the world to unknown heroes. Leosin believes that the cult have infiltrated all the other factions. He can only trust the Paladins and he doesn’t think a mission like this “plays to their strengths”.

Although David, having witnessed the images of future apocalypse, is keen to help, Ragnar demands some kind of payment! Leosin adds to the letter, asking Froome to advance them 250gp each to cover their expenses. He bids them good luck as he heads south to consult with members of his own organisation and promises to be in touch with them via a Sending spell in a couple of weeks.

It takes a couple of days hiking to reach Elturel. David is delighted with the place, as the second sun blaze all night too, banishing the darkness.

Tired, and still in shock from the loss of his friends, Ragnar stomps up to the gate of the Paladin’s Chapter-house and demands to see the Lord Commander. When the Chamberlain (Humphrey) advises them that the charity dispersals of food are in the morning, Ragnar responds with curses. It is an unfortunate start – from Humphrey’s point of view a very ragged-looking dwarf and an urchin are not the typical heralds who call on Lord Froome with a letter.

They are brought to the scullery and offered food and drink and a chance to freshen up. Ragnar refuses to hand over the letter “it is to be delivered in-person”. They catch the attention of Sir Vassilly, a paladin of the Lord’s Alliance, currently on secondment to Lord Froome’s regiment. Despite outward appearances, Vassilly sees something in them [GM:he better had as he is a PC, replacing poor Marcel]. When they are ushered in to an audience with Lord Froome, Vassilly is allowed to accompany them (possibly in case they try to assassinate Froome!).

Froome is a jovial old man who greets them warmly, offers food and drink. Ragnar gives him the scroll and he pauses before taking it. [hidden in the next room is a wizard casting Detect Magic, the delay is to allow a warning to be raised – it also allows Froome to study the two vagabonds with his own powers]

After reading the letter, he tells them he can help – magically transport them to Baldur’s Gate in time to join the wagon-train and even assist them in getting hired as guards. However, he wants to know if they have “the right stuff” for such a dangerous and important mission. The only way he can get to judge this is through some tests of skill and character. They agree to take part in sparring knockout and other competitions – a foot race around the city walls and a horse race and finally a team Grand Melee event.

Froome has the services of a Red Wizard of Thay – an exile claiming Sanctuary after betraying his Red Wizard masters. This wizard is hiding in Elturel, never leaving the hallowed grounds and casting spells on behalf of Froome. Although he is clearly evil, Froome is willing to make use of him and is bound by the law of Sanctuary.

David discusses with the wizard to prove he is a competent spell-caster, hoping to avoid the need for taking part in the competitions. While this does prove his “level”, Froome still wants to see some evidence of “back-bone” and resourcefulness.

Meanwhile Ragnar and Vassily have a practice spar. Perhaps Ragnar isn’t over the death of his friends [GM: or the dice gods continue to make sport of him]. Despite the use of sneaky tactics (such as shooting the paladin before he had his shield ready, and attempting to clamber onto a roof) Ragnar is beaten. Sir Vassilly is so friendly and noble about it that Ragnart gives him Marcel’s old shield. It appears Marcel’s protective spirit is bound into it and the battered shield is now magical.

Next morning, Ragnar barely manages to defeat a lowly guard – Trevor, while Vassilly takes on and defeats Natalie Froome, daughter of the Lord.

In the next round of the knockout tournament, Vassily and Ragnar compete but Ragnar [GM: once more cursed by the dice gods] is defeated (knocked out and set on fire!).

Next Time – Sir Vassilly will face Sir Sebastian, one of the senior knights, in the Individual Sparring Final, David and Ragnar may choose to take part in the foot or horse race and then they all get to take part in the Grand Melee – last man standing wins for his team. Unless they can impress Froome, it won’t be them getting sent to Baldur’s Gate and the fate of the world will rest on a bunch of noble knights instead!

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HotDQ 06 - Hard Times in the Hatchery
Death comes to Blackminster

They rested for a while after the fight with the face-huggers. After an hour an elvish voice came from the darkness of the cavern.

“Sodium Chloridius – glad to see you made it.”. It was the half-elf monk, Leosin, who they had last glimpsed tied to a cross at the back of the Raiders’ camp.
Salty knew him well, as they were both exiles from the Well of Dragons following the recent attacks by the dragon cult. Leosin was known to be the foremost authority on the Cult
“Thanks to your distraction, I managed to wriggle free. Rather than make a run for it, I came deeper into their lair. You guys were all captured and they did some ritual to magically prepare you for the hatchlings. You’ve been asleep for 3 days waiting for the hatching time.
I’ve spent the time living in the kennels of their pet lizards, covered in lizard crap to mask my smell.
I was able to sneak out a few times and managed to loosen the glue binding you all to the walls.”

He dragged over a sack containing all their lost equipment.

“I think I can sneak out, if I go alone. I have vital news and can’t risk waiting for you. The cultists are planning raids all over the Sword Coast. They will be selling the loot to buy gold and smelting it into new coins marked with Tiamat’s heads. Then they are gathering all the coins at some secret location ready to help with the great Summoning. They mean to summon Tiamat herself from the deepest hells and have her conquer or destroy the entire world!
Their first shipment will be leaving by wagon train from Baldurs Gate, heading north on the 7th of June (a week or so). I don’t know how many wagons or which ones or how many cultist guards.
They bragged that they had cultists infiltrating every organisation, and could not be stopped.
If you make it out, meet me at the waterfall, halfway between here and the Town of Greenest. I’ll wait one day – good luck. If you make it and I don’t, pass on the news to Sir Onthar Froome in the City of Elturel.”

Leosin also explained that the Raiders’ camp had dispersed leaving just a small honour guard behind to care for the hatchlings.. There were three possible ways out…
1. past the kobolds and drakes in a fungal forest – about 12 kobolds, 2 large lizards and 4 small ones.
2. past the high priestess “Mondath” who is in charge
3. past Cyanwrath the terrifying blue half-dragon man that killed their friend in Greenest and KO’d them all when they reached the camp. Cyanwrath had two orcish henchman with him.

They decided to take on Cyanwrath! [GM: they are 3rd level now and hoped to get the drop on him. They knew it would be a tough fight but I guess they wanted revenge]
David was terrified of the dark and spent most of the time whimpering.

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Ragnar sneaked up into the temple area – currently empty and found a golden treasure chest bolted to the floor in front of a huge statue of the five heads of Tiamat. He spotted that the nostrils all had hidden tubes but decided to check the box for traps (and failed) then tried to unlock it (succeeded but triggered the trap). The nostrils sprayed acid mist everywhere and he took a lot of damage but managed to grab a couple of potion flasks and stagger out.

They waited for the mist to clear and went back in. The treasure in the chest was all melted by the acid – the gold was fake, the gems and pearls and rings were fake. They wondered if the potions were fake too but didn’t get around to checking them before their bickering drew the attention of one of Cyanwrath’s two guards.

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Salty tried to bluff and intimidate the orc and was quite successful. He told Hakka to go back upstairs and says they will continue to search fopr the escaped monk downstairs (but then for some reason he chose to follow Hakka in the opposite direction). Hakka and Salty (and Marcel) exchange more insults and Cyanwrath and the second henchman were alerted.

Marcel stomps over and Hakka shoots down at him from the landing [GM: crit and big damage!]

Ragnar pops in and out of hiding and shoots with advantage (but misses every single time!).

The second orc henchman appears and also shoots Marcel, nearly finishing him off.

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Finally Cyanwrath appears and uses Lightning Breath to blast Marcel and David. When he charges Marcel, his greatsword cuts the brave dwarf down. David scrambles over and forces a potion down the poor dwarf’’s throat – unfortunately the potions from the fake treasure chest were poison and Marcel dies.

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Salty firebolts the enemy but is cut down by Cyanwrath. The unlucky half-elf bleeds out before anyone can get to him.

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David once again challenges Cyanwrath to single combat – goading him into it by saying “last time you chickened out”. He hexes the creature and then manages to survive the first couple of attacks and hits him with Arms of Hador. It’s too little too late, and the half-dragon cuts him down – fortunately the boy doesn’t bleed out and passes into unconsciousness.

Ragnar fires a few more arrows at Cyanwrath as he runs off up the stairs, pursued by the two orc henchmen. After several more misses, he smashes his bow in frustration and ducks into a fungal forest (away from the noises of kobolds and drakes) where he nearly falls asleep due to the spores.

Somehow he manages to shrug off the drowsiness and sneaks out to find another way back to the main chamber, mere seconds ahead of the orcs and Cyanwrath. He scoops up David and grabs Marcel’s shield and manages to escape the caverns and the deserted camp.

The shield seems to have absorbed Marcel’s protective spirit and has become a +1 Magical Shield.
[GM:They level up again to 4th level – the two replacement characters will also start at 4th]

How I thought that whole scenario might have gone

It’s a lot easier with hindsight and without being betrayed by the dice, and if you are more familiar with the spells and abilities…

1. Ragnar could have been so suspicious of the obvious trap, he would have left it alone.

2. When the single henchman came downstairs to investigate their noise, Ragnar was hidden and could have easily got behind him for an attack with Advantage and Sneak Attack extra damage, also giving Marcel a hack with advantage (with Ragnar flanking), then Salty could have automatically knocked him out with a Sleep Spell and made almost no noise. [I deliberately had a single guard come down to give them the chance to take him out]

3. The second henchman would have come down to investigate after a couple of rounds and I’m sure they could have killed him in similar fashion before Cyanwrath arrived on the scene and without the loss of a single hit point.

4. The fight with Cyanwrath was always going to be tough but David managed to take about a third of his hitpoints with Hex and Arms of Hador, it would only have taken a couple more hits before his hitpoints got so low, Salty could have KO’d him with Sleep.

5. At least one of them had a healing kit, so the first order of business when somebody goes down and fails a single death save should be to stabilize them – no roll required if you use a dose of the healing kit. Healing is better as they get back in the fight but no PC should ever be left to bleed out when there are people who can stabilize him.

6. Marcel died with his Second Wind unused – for a fighter Second Wind is a bonus action so he could have used it in any round to get 1d10+con hitpoints back.

7. It was amusing and “in-character” for David to feed the poison potion to Marcel, but was it really worth the resulting carnage?
8. At any time, they could have surrendered and their captors would have stabilized them [they would have had another chance to escape – because they are the heroes of the tale].

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HotDQ05 - The Raiders Camp

[GM:As there were so many players, we decided to split the group – the remaining heroes in this group are Ragnar (Dwarf Rogue), Marcel (Dwarf Fighter), Salty (Half-Elf Sorcerer) and David (creepy human, urchin, warlock). The bad news for this group is that both druids and the cleric are on the other table! We will all have to pretend that Titania, Hew, Hareng, Thorgrym and Carro never existed – but they might turn up later as the group fluctuates with University terms and holidays]

After much discussion, they decided to try to sneak into the raiders’ camp disguised as cultists. They had some cultist robes from the ones they killed, in the town and on the road.
Salty is the only one who speaks draconic and that seems to be the language used by the cult – particularly as the kobolds don’t seem to speak common. There have been some dwarf and elven cultists although most are human.

David sticks out as being younger than any cultist they have seen so far. He has to wear the costume of one of the “Chosen” kobolds. They have armour painted like scales and a helm with a dragon snout.

The sentries guarding the entrance to the canyon of 100 tents aren’t very alert. There are a few flying kobolds and normal kobolds in hastily-erected wooden towers on either side and a couple of human cultists sitting about on the hillside.

One of these calls down and Salty explains they are stragglers and that they have been transporting stolen barrels of beer from the ransacked taverns of the town. The cultist wanders down to “inspect” them and gives a peculiar wave.

Unfortunately Salty misses the secret sign and they raise the alarm. There is a gong on the hill, loud enough to raise an alarm in the camp beyond – there are 100 campfires and probably 500 raiders in there.

Ragnar manages to shoot a few, bringing down Urds and Kobolds. David and Salty blast a few with spells but they are overrun.

Nobody remembers to prevent the Gong from being sounded and our heroes are soon overrun. They deal with the sentries but then wave after wave of the raiders arrive from the camp and they are forced to retreat up the hill to a dead end.

When the huge, blue-skinned half-dragon man arrives he makes short work of the remaining heroes. The urchin, David, challenges Cyanwrath to single combat but claims he needs to be healed first to make it a fair fight. The half-dragon casually back-hands him and knocks him cold. Then he invites Marcel to surrender but the brave dwarf charges in and he too is knocked out.

They awake hours later in a dark and damp chamber amid dripping stalagtites, glued into the walls by some sort of sticky cement. Marcel manages to break free and help the others get loose but the nearby dragon eggs crack open and they are soon fighting to avoid reptilian face-huggers.

David is almost possessed by one as they wrap around his face and insert painful filaments. He manages to resist until Ragnar pulls it off him.
Salty burms one with Firebolt but the damage causes it to squirt acid blood.
Ragnar head butts one and tears another apart with his bear hands.
David got flashes of the Cultists plans while it tried to take over his body..

The chamber has many more eggs.

[GM:Despite things going so badly wrong, they level up to 3rd Level]

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HotDQ 04 Drunken Cultists

They were asked by Governor Nighthill to track the raiders, find out what was going on and also asked to rescue the captured Monk Leosin.

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Leosin was an expert on the dragon cult and had warned Nighthill there might be an attack.Leosin’s fellow monk – a wood elf, monk called Carro – joined them too. Leosin had been sure the cultists were up to something and had been investigating up and down the Sword Coast for months.

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Carro had seen the cult leader (a woman priestess in purple robes) recognise Leosin, cast hold person on him and then he was dragged away.

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Salty also knew of Leosin – knew he was dedicated to rooting out the cult.

Nighthill revealed his callous nature when Marcel asked for a bedroll, He took one from an injured old woman – Mrs Miggins of the pie shop. Nighthill wants the heroes to undertake the mission, promises them a reward “once the own is back on its feet – financially”. He also asks a visiting dwarven priest of Ilmater – Thorgrym to accompany the heroes.

They rest and recover until afternoon, then set off in pursuit of the raiding army.

They travel into the dark of night and camp about midnight. Carro’s excellent eyes, spot the camp fires of the cultists strung out for many miles ahead. The nearest ones are only a couple of hours away. Titania transforms into a wolf and runs offf to investigate. She finds a small group of stragglers, three human cultists, half a dozen kobolds with three Urds (winged kobolds) and a couple of small drakes. They are the ones who raided the local pubs and have many barrels of beer and crates of whiskey. It seems they decided to stop for a little drinkie.

She sneaks close enough to hear the beefy fighter bragging about an incident during the raid. The old widow, Mrs Miggins had refused to part with her wedding ring. “You can take it from my cold, dead fingers” she had croaked. Then the warrior held her severed hand aloft and laughed about it. He plucked the ring off and threw the hand to the drakes.

The cultists made plans to set off at dawn to catch up to the rest of the army, but they went back to drinking.

The heroes caught up with the stragglers at the side of a little river, close to a waterfall. They had destroyed the little bridge there, leaving only a set of slippery stepping stones for their pursuers to cross. The kobolds and urds were asleep.

Titania tried to sneak closer and made too much noise. In the panic that followed, Hew leapt the river and became surrounded b cultists, the others found it difficult to cross in a hurry. Salty put a few down with a sleep spell. David hexed one but failed to hit it with further spells.

Marcel and Herang were the next across, but when Carro and Ragnar made it over, they were flung back by thunderwave spells from two of the cultists. Hew grappled the big guy and pulled himself and his victim into the fast-moving river. Fortunately Titania and the new priest pulled him out before he floated past and over the waterfall. The big cultist wasn’t so lucky.

They had a plan to keep some of the enemy alive but Hareng was raging and accidentally killed the remaining humans, and the others accidentally finished off the kobolds and urds.

They gathered the robes and loot of the cultists while Titania transformed again and followed the trail to the Raiders’ Lair. It was hidden in a valley, the entrance of which was narrow and overwatched by two small wooden towers. Further up the valley she could see the monk – Leosin tied to a cross.

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GMs notes – the large number of players – a few new to the game system or new to their character’s abilities, made the combat rounds go very slowly, We agreed to probably split into two smaller groups and Chris offered to DM another adventure. I’d suggest running the episodic Encounters scenarios that are part of the same overalll adventure story – Tyranny of Dragons. There is a lot of cult activity up and down the Sword Coast and the Moonsea and lots of free scenarios for in-store play.

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HotDQ 03 - Church on Fire

Crossing the bridge, they start up the hill to the church. An eight-foot wall runs around the churchyard and a few trees, shading the great Church of Chauntea.

There is the sound of prayers and hymns coming from the townsfolk trapped inside. The raiders have boarded-up the front door and two cultist acolytes are lounging about outside occasionally shouting at the priest inside to throw the church treasures out of one of the windows . At the back door a gang of kobolds and another cultist are piling branches against the back door ready to start a fire. They have three of the small but tough lizard dogs with them.
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Marcel and David sneak along the south wall and the dwarf lifts the boy to peek over. He hexes the cultist at the back door and then hits him with an Eldritch blast, nearly killing him. His action takes his companions as much by surprise as it does the enemy!

The injured cultist raises the alarm and sacred flames the boy. The lizards rush the wall and gekko their way up and over. Marcel protects David briefly but is pulled down by the lizards while the boy runs for cover.

Hew and Hareng run for the churchyard gates and go in to fight the acolytes at the front. Salty and Ragnar and Titania join the fight with ranged attacks (Fire bolts, arrows and hurled flames).

In the courtyard Hareng is swarmed on by kobolds while Hugh is struck by more sacred flame spells. At the rear, the cultist starts the fire and then joins the fight, cackling like a lunatic.

Hareng is taken down by the pack of kobolds. Salty is dropped by sacred flames and Hew smashes open the church door but is cut down too. Things are looking bad, but the priest – Father Almanac, emerges and begins healing.
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They manage to patch everyone up, save the townsfolk and the holy treasures (including a reliquary box) and hack down any remaining lizards, kobolds and cultists.

They lead the frightened townies back to the keep through the hidden grating and through the sewer tunnel.

Back in the keep, it is nearly dawn and, although many buildings (including the church) are aflame, the raiders are retreating now. They have taken every beast of burden – every horse, mule, even oxen, wagons and carts and are escaping with treasure from every house. The blue dragon has wheeled away into the grey skies – it never seemed keen to join the combat, just flew round the keep for a few hours keeping the militia pinned down.

A small army (30 kobolds and cultists) led by the huge blue dragon man turn up at the front gate with a flag of truce. Cyanwrath demands honourable single combat with the town’s champion and offers to release four captives in exchange.
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Castellan Escobert (the old dwarf warrior who helped them reach the keep) offers to sacrifice himself – the dragon-man is huge and powerful and almost certainly fighting him is suicide. Hareng offers to take up the challenge himself (he has apparently dreamed of fighting this creature and believes the dreams were an omen of some kind).

Cyanwrath appears to be honourable as well as very arrogant. He toys with the brave barbarian for a few rounds before hacking him down and twisting the greatsword in Hareng’s wounds, killing him. The captives are released and Cyanwrath strides out of the town surrounded by his cheering followers.

Inside the keep all are stunned at the slaughter but Father Almanac and Hew convince Lord Nighthill to allow the Reliquary box to be opened and the Sacred Scroll of Revivificaton to be used to revive Hareng.

Having followed the promptings of his vision quest, the barbarian is rewarded with early access to the War Caster feat (he wanted to multi-class into Druid).

Hours later (after a full rest), Lord Nighthill asks the heroes if they will do another favour for the town (he offers danger money too)…

1. Follow the raiders back to their camp.
2. Find out what is going on (this is a massive raid, why now).
3. Rescue the monk – Leosin. He is a half-elf with a lot of specialist knowledge about Dragon Cults. He was visiting the town and was the only person captured and taken away alive.

Now the raid is over, our heroes help put out the fires, then collapse to rest. The little girl, Gretel Swift, climbs into Marcel’s arms, twists her fist into his beard and goes to sleep.

When they wake, they will be 2nd Level.

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