On May 5th, Year 4, a handful of Citadel House adventurers respond to a need to further open up the West Confluence River up river from Kite, in order to produce enough flow to float timbers down the river for the temple. Having been to the dam in the past, Bill leads the party:
- Bill (PaT): Level 2 Human Fighter (archaeologist)
- Conan (MiM): Level 2 Elf Magic-user (vampire)
- Scar: Hawk Familiar
- Slade (HuS): Level 1 Human Fighter (huntsman)
With the dam about a half day’s journey, they take a couple days of food, shovels, and rope and set out, crossing the river at Confluence and following the river up to where the mudslide exposed an ancient dragon temple, arriving near noon.
Seeing the size of the task, Slade decides to go the two miles back to Kite and see if he can get a team of lumberjacks to help with the digging. He arrives in Kite and speaks to Daniel at the lumber mill, who agrees to send a large team in the morning to help excavate the river, not having realized it was so close by.
Meanwhile, Bill starts digging a second trench through the berm, convincing Conan to go down into the Kobold temple. Inside, he is startled by the snakes and emerges painfully, in bat form, allowing Bill to see him heal himself with death magic from severe burns.
Bill tells Conan how to open the passage deeper by capturing snakes and Conan does so, opening it before returning to seek Bill’s companionship. Bill needs a light in the cavernous temple and prepares a crude torch which Conan lights by magic.
They descend together, coming before the dragon statue, which demands tribute before offering any information. They are commanded to drop treasures down the pit further into the temple caves. Following his directions they find a cavern with a stream through it. Not actually interested in giving an offering, Bill starts to examine the carvings on the walls of the statue room. The statue is flippant in his answers to Bill’s questions and Bill is threatening damage to the statue when Slade returns, coming down to join them.
Not impressed by the statue’s threats, Slade agrees they should hit the statue and Bill transforms his assuming bracelet into a pick with which he hits the statue. The furious outcry that follows, shaking the temple, freezes Bill with fear while Slade and Conan flee the room, Slade recovering to return, followed by Conan. They find the statue threatening destruction on Vale in return for their desecration.
They convince the dragon to hold them alone accountable and spare the Vale and he invites them down to face him. They feel duty bound to answer his invitation. Conan pours all of his remaining spell points into a couple rocks encharged with fire and death and they start into the caverns.
Soon, they encounter a great spider, which they slay handily by bow and sword. Though unwounded, they fear going deeper and return to the statue room to accuse the dragon of hindering their progress with other creatures. The dragon is unswayed and mocks their cowardice threatening to destroy the Vale. Discussing among themselves, they reason that if they were all to die, the dragon might still attack the Vale without them being warned. They decide that at least someone should go back to warn the Vale. Slade, religious, self-sacrificing, and trained as a huntsman in a noble household, volunteers to go and confront the dragon alone.
Conan and Bill leave the encharged fire rocks with Slade and hurry back toward the Vale, warning the lumberjacks of Kite not to go to the dam along their way. Meanwhile, Slade descends, down old, uneven, broken stone stairs. It is clear he is the first to descend them for centuries. On his way, he utters a resolute prayer that his actions will succeed in protecting the Vale and that, if it be the Lord’s will, he will triumph. He takes a moment to search a small crack off the stairs, finding a kobold skeleton gripping a dragon amulet, which he takes with him. As the stairs open onto a massive cavern, echoing with the sound of falling water, the dragon’s voice speaks out in an unknown tongue. When questioned, it assures Slade it is only ensuring he will arrive safely before him.
At the edge of the underground lake, Slade climbs wooden steps onto a rope and plank bridge leading out into the lake. He follows the bridge, alone over the water in the small sphere of the torch’s light. He eventually comes to a platform on an island far out in the lake from which he can dimly see the dragon’s massive lips and nostrils in a cave on a shore 30 feet distant. He doesn’t recognize them for what they are until the dragon speaks, inviting him to make the first move.
He drops the torch to the platform and puts his Black Arrow to the string, loosing it into the darkness with a prayer. The dragon roars out in pain as the arrow strikes its eye and then emits a deafening sound that shakes the cavern, shattering Slade’s eardrums. Fighting through the silent pain, Slade hurls the two stones, striking the dragon’s snout with mighty bursts of flame. The head emerges, a shredded and bloody eye gleams darkly in the torchlight as the massive maw opens toward Slade. He scurries backward, stumbling, and is swallowed whole. The rush of wind as the dragon withdraws extinguishes the torch and the cavern is again drown in darkness.
In Citadel, Bill and Conan report Slade’s sacrifice and the rage of the dragon. Funeral services are held for Slade with some of those common people he worked with attending. A number of single women (including one of Wraecliff’s daughters), who prior to his death might have seen each other as rivals come together in mourning his loss.
I was not expecting the mission to end like this. I expected a certain encounter that is yet to come and the dam to be cleared away, maybe a brief visit to the statue room. Instead, I had an impromptu opportunity to pace some fear.