Over the past few months I have been publishing this story in parts. Now that the story is complete, here is the full version:
A few months ago, a group of friends got together to play Dungeons & Dragons for the first time, and started on what we thought would be an easy, three-session adventure. Due to many side quests and not really knowing what we were doing, we ended up caught in something much bigger. Special thanks to Ian for being our Dungeon Master in this adventure. As you will probably be able to tell, I play the Dwarf Falkrunn, and I have started the main focus of this story on where our most recent adventures took us…
The Cult of the Dragon
There were five companions in all, though companions was a generous term for the odd relationship these strangers-made-accomplices had developed over a mere handful of days. In fact, now that Falkrunn thought about it, she was pretty sure that the last few weeks of her life were some elaborate, cosmic joke being run by a bunch of amateur gods who were fascinated by the sadistic antics that had nearly killed her more than once.
It all started when she received a letter from her uncle Gundren, asking her to come to the city to help him claim back the lost mine of Phandelver. The prospect appealed to her, being a Mountain Dwarf, and she jumped at the opportunity. (Okay, so jumped was a strong term for it. Being a Dwarf, it was rather difficult to get any sort of vertical momentum out of her, though not for lack of trying.)
After being on her own for so long, reuniting with a piece of her past was something she couldn’t set aside. Despite everything, she felt that she was finally ready to rejoin civilization.
The quest, if you could call it that, quickly got out of hand. Somehow, Falkrunn had been roped into working with this band of misfits that seemed to have nothing in common, yet her uncle had arranged to be there. It was exhausting, and made her focus difficult.
The journey had started out like any other, but soon quickly devolved into a chaotic stream of events: goblin attacks, finding out her uncle had been kidnapped, nearly being cut apart by a massive Bugbear, being abruptly awoken by a strange Rock Gnome who had dumped a bag of flour over one of her companion’s heads, and burning half a forest to the ground. Heck, she’d even had a full-blown conversation with a pack of hungry wolves, convincing them not to eat her. That was a weird day.
The further Falkrunn got through this deep mess, the harder it was to climb back out. In fact, she had fallen through several underground caverns, and had difficulty climbing out of those, too. She could no longer distinguish whether it was her who caused this mayhem, or the others.
Despite the near insanity of her crew, she had grown fond of, well, some of them. There were two elves that, despite thinking very highly of themselves (which most elves did), were decent fighters and had presumably good intentions. There was Olara, the one who did back-flips off trees as easily as Falkrunn could pop her knuckles, and Keyzana, the blue-haired Elf with an affinity for spellcasting.
Then there was that Dragonborn creature, Lorskan, who was always lumbering ahead of them, barely saying anything except for the occasional grunt that signified his recognition of the common language. Falkrunn didn’t mind him in a battle, though. He was a fury of fire and fight.
The Rock Gnome, Albus, was only with them for a short time. The strange hermit followed after them on legs shorter than Falkrunn’s own, and would make the strangest comments. Falkrunn suspected he was the least sane of them all, but she admired the tenacity of the little creature. He helped them beat down a crew of red-cloaked bandits on a couple of occasions before disappearing back into his half-burned forest, muttering something about taking his wife on a long trip. (Falkrunn very much doubted the existence of his supposed female counterpart, but kindly patted him on the head and thanked him before he departed.)
A couple of days ago, Falkrunn and her companions encountered a downtrodden group of townsfolk on their journey, and agreed to help them rid their town of a large number of the red-cloaked bandits. They were ruling the town with an iron fist, at the behest of some unknown, powerful leader, and had taken to calling themselves the “Red Brands”.
After a few cuts and bruises and getting lost several times in some underground mansion tunnels (not to mention the gruesome murders), they freed the town from their oppression, and Falkrunn was reminded of something she once treasured: It was a feeling of being good again.
The Red Brand’s leader was nowhere to be found. They discovered his self-appointed name, though: Glasstaff. Falkrunn’s company stowed that information away for the time being, returning to their mission of finding her kidnapped uncle.
Unfortunately, while freeing the town of Phandalin, they inadvertently took on their fifth and final companion who, despite their shared complaining, seemed to be a permanent member now. They had yet to see what this human Flavio fellow could contribute, and he had yet to see their faces, for his nose was so highly raised in the air that Falkrunn suspected he could smell everything, including the distinct charred smell of the Dragonborn fighter, Lorskan.
So, it had been about five days in total, and now Falkrunn stood, four feet off the ground, surveying a dark treeline that seemed to stare back at the group with ominous, arching branches. Falkrunn drew as near to the forest as she dared, pulling felled branches into her short arms. When she had collected an armful, she dumped them before the Dragonborn, who, with a lung-filled breath, made the wood burst into hot flames.
Satisfied, Falkrunn threw down her pack and bedroll, and curled up next to the fire, exhausted. With eyes half-closed, she watched Lorskan walk a distance from the ring of light to take first watch. The two elves gracefully curled their legs beneath themselves and went into a meditative trance, a faint blue glow emanating from their lithe bodies. Flavio bent to perfectly position his bedroll over a pile of leaves he had collected. He sniffed in disdain as he shuffled around, finally straightening his cloak just right and crawling into his bed. He muttered something about needing a proper writing desk and closed his eyes.
As Falkrunn drifted off, she thought of a letter they had found hidden in the Red Brand’s hideout. She and her companions had drawn the attention of someone called the Black Spider, who wanted them very dead. This enemy had appointed Glasstaff and the Red Brand’s to remove them. How had they known about their small group of fighters? What had her uncle gotten himself into? What had he gotten her into?
The Dwarf let her dreams take her. They were dark and full of long, hairy-legged creatures with snapping pincers and beady eyes. Beneath their thick bodies she could see her uncle Gundren, beaten and bloodied, reaching out to her. She couldn’t reach him, and began shouting his name. There was a loud CRASH.
Falkrunn awoke with a start to the fire nearly out. Thanks to her darkvision, she caught the sight of four massive Hobgoblins stumbling from the underbrush with weapons raised and snarls upon their collective faces. “There they are! Get them!” The leader cried, and suddenly everyone was on their feet in a panic.
Falkrunn saw the two elves leap into action first, the blue glow around them immediately vanishing, and Lorskan had emerged from the darkness.
Falkrunn didn’t notice where Flavio had gone, but drew her hands up into the air and emitted an eruptive, booming force from her splayed fingers. With a crash, her Thunderwave spell threw three of the Hobgoblins off their feet. It looked as though the other had already been hit with a clean arrow shot between the eyes. Lorskan stumbled back as Falkrunn’s spell took effect.
Two of the creatures regained their footing, still alive, and moved in for another attack. Flavio jumped in with his warhammer raised towards one of them, but his blow glanced off the Hobgoblin’s armour. He fell back with a terrified screech.
Falkrunn turned, drawing her longsword, and saw that Keyzana had begun a spell of her own, her blue hair flying around her hauntingly. The Elf’s hands moved through the air in complex gestures and she muttered an incantation under her breath.
Olara jumped from somewhere in the trees and attacked one of the Hobgoblin’s from behind. Her short sword stuck in his back and he shook her off, howling. She fell back and landed in a half turn with her feet solidly on the ground. Suddenly, the Hobgoblin’s body was encircled with a cloud of energy. Keyzana’s spell had taken affect. Glass shards emerged from the cloud and in a flurry of enchanted wind, it sliced through skin and bone and leather, leaving a fallen heap of shredded enemy behind.
The final Hobgoblin hesitantly stepped forward with weapon raised, seeing his fallen companions, and screamed and the top of his lungs as he ran to attack Lorskan. With one fell swoop of his gleaming silver sword, the Dragonborn cut the creature down. It fell in a second, and Lorskan wiped his blade upon its torn tunic.
“Huzzah! A grand victory! How lucky you all are to have me as your champion,” Flavio cried, raising his warhammer and looking at the group with a toothy grin.
Falkrunn dropped her blade into its scabbard with a generous roll of her eyes and stepped up to the nearest body to search for gold. The others picked through the remains as well, leaving Flavio to his self-celebration.
Lorskan pulled out a long piece of parchment from the belt of the Hobgoblin with the arrow in his forehead. He unfolded the paper and after studying it for a moment, showed it to everyone with a frown. It was a drawing of none other than Falkrunn herself, with the call for a reward of her death or capture.
“25 gold. That’s it?” Falkrunn snorted, looking at the page with crossed arms. “I’m worth more than that.”
Lorskan stuffed the parchment away and, with eyes glowing, stepped towards the dwarf with a thick, long-nailed finger raised in her face. “What is this about?” he demanded.
The Dwarf, now unamused by the accusation, stood as tall as she could. “Excuse me, dragon-man. It’s a call for my arrest, obviously. Someone wants me dead.”
“Why? What are you not telling us?”
The others watched with blank expressions at the exchange, clearly not wanting to get involved.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Falkrunn breathed.
“Why would they want you, little dwarf? What have you done?”
“Nothing the rest of you haven’t done,” she said defensively, keeping her feet firmly planted. Lorskan was twice her height, if not more.
Unsatisfied, the Dragonborn grunted but stepped back. She could see the distrust in his eyes, and reminded herself to keep a better watch on the big brute. She had only known these people for a handful of days, after all. No one could be trusted, least of all this massive, scaly creature. Well, I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard that beast say, she thought.
“Okay,” Olara calmly said, now that the tension had lessened, “let’s go back to sleep and we can sort this out in the morning. We have a long journey ahead of us, and we need our rest.”
Falkrunn grunted and returned to the fire, where Flavio was tucked back into his perfect bedroll. She shook her head at the human, completely mystified. What is the point of this man, anyways? Why are we keeping him around? She thought. With that, she curled up and went back to sleep, keeping her dagger close at hand.
The next day was uneventful as they walked along the treeline. Lorskan walked ahead of the group as always, brooding more than usual (if that were possible). Flavio was left in the back of the group, boasting about something or other, and being generally ignored. Falkrunn walked with the two elves and listened with interest as they described their homelands.
They took their break when the sun stood at its zenith. While everyone else sat and ate their bread and hard cheese, Lorskan walked a short distance off and conjured his familiar: a small, dragon-like creature he had named Algernon. He knelt in the grass and pulled a piece of parchment and writing tools from his pack and began scribbling something. Then he tied the note to Algernon’s leg and set him off into the skies. The companions watched this strange display, Falkrunn feeling especially suspicious. What was he up to? Was he trying to get her killed?
Keyzana quickly summoned her own familiar, a regal hawk, and it took off into the air after the small dragon. Keyzana watched through its eyes for a moment, then shook her head and looked around at the rest of them. “I lost him,” she whispered, just as Lorskan returned to the group.
Feeling uncomfortable, Falkrunn ate her meal quickly and packed up, anxious to keep moving. They walked through the field until nightfall, then made camp. This time, both Keyzana and Olara took first watch while everyone else slept.
The group managed to get a few hours of sleep before once again being rudely awakened by Keyzana’s shouts. “What hell is this, now?” Falkrunn demanded as she stumbled sleepily from her bed, dagger in hand. She quickly regained her wits as she saw a huge Owlbear bowling straight towards Keyzana from the trees. Keyzana reached up to pull out her sword, but the beast was too quick and knocked her to the ground, taking three quick slashes at the Elf. The beast was a massive, hulking creature with thick black fur and the ferocious look on its beaked face. What had startled this animal out of the woods?
Keyzana lay quite still, and the Owlbear quickly started snuffling at her unmoving body. Falkrunn dropped her dagger and took out her longsword, then raised a hand towards Keyzana and muttered a quick healing spell. The Elf stirred on the ground, and the Dwarf breathed a sigh of relief.
The ground shook beneath them. Falkrunn turned and looked at Flavio, who was lying still with his hand against the ground, glowing red. He had cast some strange spell that was now vibrating the ground beneath them, but otherwise seemed ineffective.
Falkrunn turned back and jumped towards the creature, slashing at it. The heavy blow cut the length of it, and the animal snarled and turned its attack on her. She nearly dropped her sword as she danced out of the Owlbear’s reach. She wasn’t quick enough, and her ribs were raked with a thick set of claw marks. She cried out in pain and fell back. Gods, this beast was strong.
Lorskan was up now, and moving towards the Owlbear, and Keyzana had regained her footing and was reaching to cut off the beast’s head. The Owlbear attacked Falkrunn before she could stumble to her own feet, and all she saw before falling unconscious was a massive black paw coming straight for her head.
“Look at that! I saved you!” Flavio said with a self-satisfied grin on his face.
Falkrunn awoke, rubbing her aching head and looking around. Flavio had cast a healing spell to stop her bleeding. Her ribs ached, but the gashes were gone and she watched as the skin of her arm began knitting itself back together. “Thanks,” Falkrunn sighed in relief. She saw Lorskan’s hulking figure, and his eyes burned into her before turning away.
“You had better get some more sleep. We have plenty of hours before daylight,” Keyzana said. “I’ll take watch.” Olara piled some more wood on the fire, and Falkrunn fell back into an exhausted sleep, wondering if they would ever get a full night’s rest without something going amiss.
Another day of walking preceded that. Falkrunn’s head still ached, and her legs were stiff from the days of journeying with these long-legged folks. She was thankful when they arrived finally at their destination: Thundertree. They were told a Druid lived in this abandoned town. Falkrunn hoped he could help them find where her uncle was supposedly taken hostage.
As they skirted the edge of the forest, the abandoned town of Thundertree came into view. The town had been completely destroyed by a volcano eruption years past, and was now overrun with huge trees and long, winding creepers. The buildings were half caved-in, and covered with various plant life. A worn sign had been hastily planted in the ground not far from where they stood, twenty yards from where the town began. In black paint, the inscribed words read: Do not enter here. Plant Monsters and Zombies reside.
“Okay, so that sounds promising,” Keyzana said with raised eyebrows.
Without a word, Lorskan entered the town, followed distractedly by Flavio.
Keyzana conjured her familiar, and the hawk took flight and surveyed the town. Her eyes glazed over as she looked through the bird’s eyes, and relayed a description to her remaining companions. “The buildings have all been overrun by plant life, but there stands a tower still, though the roof is caved in. The druid might be in there.”
“Do you see any undead walking around?” Olara asked.
Keyzana shook her head.
“Can you see into the tower?” Falkrunn asked the Elf.
She was silent for a moment, and then looked at them with shock. “Lying within the tower is a green dragon curled about a pile of gold.”
“A dragon?” Falkrunn hissed, the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end. She recalled what she knew about dragons from her studies as a youth. “It’s green, you said?” Keyzana nodded. “That means it spews acid.”
Keyzana swore, and Olara looked stricken. It seemed that neither of them had fought a dragon before. Falkrunn nervously hoisted her pack higher on her shoulders and said, “let’s hurry up and find that druid. Oh, and we should probably tell our idiot companions to stay quiet. I really don’t feel like getting melted by acid today.”
They crept forward, weapons drawn and eyes alert. Flavio had moved on his own to the side of a house, and was standing over a burning bush, eyes wide. He shrugged smilingly and gave no explanation as they passed him. They made their way up to the house near the tower. Lorskan was nearly across the town already. What is he up to? Falkrunn wondered suspiciously, not for the first time.
Keyzana gasped in surprise, and Falkrunn looked over hastily. A vine had wrapped itself around her ankle and was trying to pull her to the ground. She quickly slashed at it, and it curled away. A second later, a mass of twigs began joining themselves to each other, growing into a rickety, humanoid structure. There were three of these wooden creatures, and they began attacking within seconds of being fully formed.
“Where is that dragon-man?” Falkrunn growled as she replaced her sword with two throwing hammers. Fire would be useful. Unfortunately, the three of them couldn’t conjure it out of thin air like Lorskan could.
Olara and Keyzana jumped forward and cut at the stick-creatures, slashing out pieces of them. Falkrunn threw both of her hammers. One struck the nearest creature in the arm, and the other struck its chest and it exploded into splinters.
Falkrunn left the other two tree-creatures to the Elves and turned and ran for the road, hoping to catch up with Lorskan. She reached him with no more breath to spare, and hurriedly explained to him that there was a dragon in the tower. “We need your help,” she told him, hating that she was asking for it. “The plants are alive, and they’re all trying to kill us.” Then she turned and ran back down the road, Lorskan following at her heels and soon overtaking her in strides.
The two Elf women appeared with weapons drawn, and were staring across the road at a lone figure. It was an old, white-haired man and he was gesturing at them frantically. Flavio jogged up from behind a house, looking uninjured. “Hurry,” the old man whispered to them. “Come with me.”
Sharing glances, the group trotted after him as he led them through a sunken doorway and slammed the wooden door in behind them. “What are you doing here? Who are you?” The man demanded with authority.
Falkrunn stepped up tentatively, “sir, are you the druid who resides here?”
“Resides? Yes, yes. How do you know of me?”
Keyzana stepped up, “we were told by our friends in Phandalin that you might be able to help us find this Dwarf-woman’s uncle, Gundren. He was taken captive, you see.”
“Captive? Where? By whom?”
Falkrunn answered him: “goblins took him, but we believe they are led by someone named Glasstaff. Have you heard of him?”
The druid shook his head.
“What about the Black Spider?” Lorskan asked.
The druid shook his head again.
“We think he may have been taken to Cragmaw castle,” Olara provided.
The druid’s eyes finally alighted. “Ah, yes. I know of Cragmaw castle. It’s here in this forest.”
“Great!” Falkrunn exclaimed, “can you tell us how to get there? Do you have a map?”
“First, I need something from you,” the old druid said, looking the companions up and down critically.
“With what, exactly?” Keyzana asked.
“I need you to help me remove a dragon. Do you think you can do that?”
Falkrunn eyed the uncertain group. “Uh, we have a can-do attitude that says we can! In fact, I myself know a bit about dragons. I think we can help you out, if you help us in return.”
He looked at them doubtfully, then sighed and said, “alright, adventurers. We have a deal. You help me rid this old town of a green dragon, and I will take you to Cragmaw castle.”
Why would he want to take us there? Falkrunn wondered, but said, “alright, let’s do this. But first, we should probably think out how we’re going to do it.”
Lorskan pushed a dust-ridden desk out from the corner of the room, causing Flavio to cough airily, and they began to lay out a plan.
Falkrunn thought again about how these circumstances truly were the work of some sadistic, amateur gods…
Let Sleeping Dragons Lie
Falkrunn couldn’t decide what she liked more about her group of companions: their aptness for being distracted, or their complete inability to agree on almost anything.
“Why don’t we just talk to the dragon?” she asked the group, feeling frustrated by their lack of progress. “Druid, can it be reasoned with?”
The wizened man creased his already wrinkled forehead and shook his head. “No, I don’t believe it can be reasoned with. This is a young dragon, who is especially fierce and thinks itself noble.”
“How often does it leave the tower?” Keyzana asked, pacing the dirt floor with hands clasped behind her back.
He shrugged. “Only to feed and pillage, neither of which stirs the beast to wing on oft occasion.”
“So we are at a loss,” the Elf said, stopping in her tracks. “Why not come with us, Reidoth? Leave this place?”
He shook his head a second time. “I cannot leave, noble Elf. It is my duty as a Druid of this forest to maintain a balance. The dragon in that tower disrupts the balance of nature, and that must not continue.”
There was a short silence.
“We are not strong enough to defeat a dragon, nor to drive one off,” Olara told the group, “so we must find another way.”
Keyzana stepped towards the Druid, opening her hands in a plea. “Draw us a map to Cragmaw Castle, if you will not come with us. We will return once we have saved Falkrunn’s uncle and have drawn up a better command. Right now we are five individuals, lacking all cohesive skill. Help us, and we will find a way to defeat the Green Dragon another day.”
The Druid looked around the table at the Dragonborn, Human, Dwarf and two Elves. With a laboured sigh he dropped into a nearby chair, dust erupting from it in sparklets of silver. The dust particles rose in the streaks of afternoon sunlight that peered through the shutters of the boarded window. “Very well,” he said finally, clearing his throat. “Very well,” he repeated, more firmly, “I will draw your map, though I don’t claim any great skill at cartography. It has been a long while since I have seen Cragmaw Castle.”
Falkrunn walked around the table and placed a hand on the old Druid’s shoulder, catching his green eyes in hers. “I promise, on my honor as a Dwarf of the Rockseeker clan, that we shall return and free Thundertree of the Green Dragon that haunts it.”
She thought she saw redness in his eyes, but he quickly said, “thank you,” and turned to pull out a stack of parchment and some ink, then set to work on his drawing.
As the Druid’s busy hands scratched away, Lorskan released his familiar and it flew above the ruined town. With glazed eyes, the Dragonborn relayed what he saw, “There is a giant web across the main road, and a great black spider stands hidden in a broken cottage. I see no other creatures besides this.”
So just the dragon and one exceptionally large spider. Great. Falkrunn thought to herself.
Lorskan returned his gaze around the room, then said, “I am leaving to walk ahead.”
“Leaving?” Olara asked in surprise, turning from the Druid’s map making.
The Dragonborn nodded and made for the door without another word of explanation.
“I’m coming too!” Flavio said, trotting up to the Dragonborn.
Lorskan eyed him quickly and said, “fine. We will return.” The two left without another word, or to see if the others would follow.
“Odd, him,” the Druid muttered to the remaining three companions, continuing his drawing.
Falkrunn glared back at the closed door. “I don’t like it. I don’t like any of it. What’s his deal?”
Keyzana nodded in agreement. “He’s up to something. I will send my hawk after him as a scout.” She summoned her familiar and opened the door again to release him.
“I wonder,” the Dwarf added, “what does it have to do with the human?”
The two Elves looked around doubtfully. They had only met Flavio in Phandalin when they saved him from the Red Brands. Perhaps they needed to search more into the human’s past. Falkrunn still couldn’t shake an odd feeling about the man. Why had he joined their crew? What did he have to gain? It couldn’t all just be for gold.
They sat waiting as the druid sketched out the length of the forest in quick, ink-blotched lines.
Flavio followed behind the hulking Dragonborn as they skirted around the town’s edge. The creature Lorskan said nothing, and Flavio began to look around nervously, regretting his decision to follow. However, something stronger than doubts kept his resolve, and he took comfort in placing a hand over his warhammer.
They crossed the treeline and made for the road. The road was lined with a scattering of broken and rubble-strewn homesteads. Trees grew in every uninhabited inch, and had even forced their way through stone where it pleased them.
The human and Dragonborn reached what looked to have been the town’s square, featuring a central figure: a towering wooden statue depicting a human man dressed in finery and puffing out his chest with dignity. Flavio looked up at the monument and stood a little straighter, nodding at it as they passed.
Directly behind the statue was a large, solid building with patches of vines that had dug partially into the stone. Flavio muttered a quick prayer to himself as he watched the Dragonborn reach for the door. What was he doing?
He thought he heard a thump coming from inside. Flavio held his breath.
A man in black robes appeared from around the door and they exchanged words. Lorskan looked back at Flavio with a distrustful expression and said, “don’t follow,” then pushed through the door and slammed it behind him.
Flavio wrung his hands nervously and crept up to the door, pressing his ear to it. Something snapped at his feet. He tripped and fell into the nearby brambles, gathering an accumulation of scratches across his face. He cursed silently and pulled himself out of the thorns, then prayed for forgiveness, returning his ear to the door.
The Druid Reidoth stood and sprinkled sand over the parchment, letting it soak up the extra spots of ink. Then he gently lifted the parchment and waved it through the air. He handed it to Falkrunn and she took it reverently, folding it and pushing it into her breast pocket.
Olara nudged Keyzana, and she returned her gaze to the room, leaving her hawk to circle the skies. She looked at her companions in confusion. “Lorskan and Flavio have gone to the town square, where” she told them with a pause, “Lorskan has entered alone into a building and left Flavio behind.”
Well, isn’t that just the gem in the crown. “Let’s go,” Falkrunn growled, pushing through the door and making her way to the forest’s edge. The Elves followed closely, their steps silent in the long grass, their fingers poised for attack.
Six cloaked figures emerged from the building and marched across the town’s square, followed by a seventh, much taller cloaked figure. The six wore masks with great black horns. The seventh was quite clearly the Dragonborn himself.
Flavio stumbled back, and the cloaked figures turned towards him. The one at the front spoke to the tallest of them. “What does he know?”
“Nothing,” Lorskan’s voice emerged distinctly from behind his black cloak, “and he will not follow us.”
The six began to walk in the direction of the tower. Lorskan turned and grabbed Flavio roughly. “Follow me, and I will kill you, human.”
Flavio yelped and fell back as Lorskan turned and followed the others. He watched them walk away.
Suddenly, a giant hawk dropped from the sky and landed lightly on Flavio’s shoulder, peering at him with large eyes. He cried out in surprise. It cocked its head, then took flight southward. Flavio got to his feet and brushed off his coat. “What a strange eagle,” he said, then shuffled away, following the black cloaked figures with some distance between them, one hand still clutched on his warhammer.
“You won’t believe this,” Keyzana breathed.
“What is it?”
“Lorskan, cloaked in black and following six humans. They make their way to the tower of the Green Dragon as we speak.”
“And Flavio? What of him?” Falkrunn asked, peering out of the broken window of the weaver’s shop in which they now hid after catching sight of a spider in the distance.
The Elf grimaced. “I sent my familiar down to warn him and lead him to where we hide, but he ignored it completely.”
“Perhaps he didn’t recognize the hawk,” Olara suggested.
A bark of humourless laughter escaped the Elf. “He’s seen the hawk before, many times.”
Falkrunn shrugged, “from what I hear, Human’s aren’t the smartest of creatures.”
The two Elves nodded in agreement. After a moment’s silence, Falkrunn said, “what should we do about Lorskan?”
“He is a traitor, as far as we know. Or, he was never on our side to begin with.” Keyzana said, a hint of sadness in her voice.
“If he wakes this dragon, there will be no fighting it,” Olara whispered. “We cannot win.”
“So we hide?” Falkrunn asked, stomach twisting.
“It is that, or run,” Olara told her.
As way of answer, Falkrunn collapsed into a chair and put her feet up. “So we wait and see what happens.”
“Anyone know how to give a good massage?” Keyzana smiled, sitting on the floor and returning to the eyes of her hawk.
“Actually,” Falkrunn said, grinning, “a massage sounds great.”
CRACK. There was a sudden burst of sound as the door to the weaver’s cottage broke open in splinters and six full-sized twig creatures broke their way into the room. Olara quickly pushed Keyzana into her own mind and the three tore out their weapons and stood to face their enemy. The creatures clacked and snapped like many breaking twigs, and Falkrunn suspected they were communicating with one another.
Olara leapt forward on powerful Elven legs and cut the leading twig creature in half with her short sword, spinning her weapon through the air with incredible force. Keyzana circled her right hand in the air, then cupped it with her left hand and emitted a huge cone of hot flames that engulfed three of the blights and some of the nearby furniture. They exploded into tinder and ash.
Falkrunn raised her longsword and cut at the nearest foe, but her height was against her. It stuck firmly in the creature’s armoured bark, and the blight clacked at at her angrily. She grimaced and she tried to pull the weapon free, but the blight reached out a sharp hand and grabbed at her, slashing a shallow cut across her cheek. The blade came free and she stumbled back. Olara side-stepped in and with a backhanded cut, she tore across the middle of the creature and it burst apart.
There was only one twig creature remaining, and Keyzana stepped up to it, grabbed it by the arms and kicked it in the chest. It exploded into tiny shards of wood as she tore the thing limb from limb.
With trembling hands, Falkrunn returned her sword to the scabbard at her back. “Thank the gods for Elves.”
The two elves looked at each other and grinned.
Falkrunn and the Elves ran from the weaver’s cottage and went in search of Flavio. Falkrunn’s heart was nearly beating out of her chest, and she looked forward to putting her back to the forsaken town of Thundertree.
Flavio was hidden behind a tree with his back to them as they approached, looking out at the tower. Keyzana grabbed his attention, and he shot around with a wild expression that softened upon recognition. “Oh, it’s just you.”
“Just us?” Keyzana growled, her eyes furious. “Next time you see a giant bloody hawk land on your shoulder, it means hey, follow it. We were nearly torn apart by plant monsters just now.”
Flavio looked genuinely shocked. “Just so you know, Lorskan threatened to kill me, then went trouping off with a group of black cloaked cultists.”
“Huh,” was all Keyzana said in response, and they all gathered round to watch the tower, evidently over the hawk incident.
Minutes later the cult emerged from the tower and headed in one direction, leaving Lorskan behind. “We need to do something about this,” Falkrunn whispered to the rest.
“I can interrogate him,” Flavio said, and the other three looked at him doubtfully. He raised a hand in defense, “I have a spell,” he said, as though explaining it to a gaggle of children. “If it works, he will have no choice but be compelled to tell us the truth. However, he will be aware that he is under the spell. He can withhold what he wants, but he simply cannot lie.”
“Well, then we’d better think what to ask him,” Falkrunn said. “Let’s go.”
The companions caught up with Lorskan when he was nearly out of the town. He no longer wore the black cloak of the cult. “Hey!” Olara called to him, and he stopped to wait. “Where have you been?” Her voice was accusatory. “Flavio tells us you threatened his life.”
Lorskan shrugged and continued walking. “Hey,” Olara said again. “I think you owe us an explanation.” She grabbed for his shoulder.