Bloom 24, 721
Gunther was mixed with both elation that the thieves had been captured, and remorse that his shop had been severely damaged during the fight against the cultists. He lamented that it would be several days before he could reopen his shop. The party did their best to console him, with Thygurn assuring him that the shop could very well benefit from all this attention. At last, he rewarded them with the schematics for a hand cannon, as well as a small pouch of coins for safely returning his stolen gunpowder. They also received a sizeable bounty form the City Watch for killing or capturing a dozen Crimson Coil cultists.
A short time later, the party made their way to Delver’s Square to pick up a few last minute supplies before going back down to the Black Lake to face the dragon blocking their way to Khaled Del. They picked up a few choice potions to add to their arsenal, while Ian went down to the Dark Market to procure some poison that may aid them greatly in the battle. He got more than he expected, finding a few vials of the very rare and very potent Drow Poison
With all now ready, the party then made a hasty return to the Clock Tower, down through the crypts and dungeons beneath it, into the dwarven foundry and at last down the long chain ladder into the caverns deep beneath the city. All the while, they discussed and refined their plan of fighting the dragon.
From Maur’s reading the night before, they knew that black dragons preferred to attack first and ask questions later. Only after the creature has first demonstrated its dominance, or proven its weakness, would it normally attempt to parlay. The party knew they would have to hit the creature hard and fast to have any chance of defeating it.
As the party gathered at the bottom of the chain ladder, on the edge of the dragon’s lair, they drank their potions of acid resistance and slowly assembled just out of sight of the lake where the dragon had made its lair.
Maur drank his potion of flying, and soon followed it with a potion of invisibility as he flew into the cavernous lair of the dragon, soaring up towards the ceiling over 100 feet above. He surveyed the area, seeing the dragon alert and perched atop its pile of treasure on the small island at the far end of the lake. Beyond this island, on the opposite side of the cavern from where the party was positioned, a narrow tunnel following a river exited the back of the cave. Maur swooped down, using his runestone of improved phantasmal force to create a convincing illusion of a horde of dwarven scouts and warriors moving down this passage to attack the dragon.
The dragon wheeled about nearly instantly to confront the dwarven force, roaring loudly it breathed a stream of acid that nearly filled the narrow passageway. Maur focused his concentration on making the illusion respond accordingly. The illusion dwarves writhed in pain. Screams of agony soon filled the room.
The rest of the party took this as their queue to move swiftly into action. Quickly, they rushed across the dwarven bridge, traversed the narrow ledge and made their way down to the shore of the lake, soon approaching the shallows where they could cross over to the dragon’s island. All the while, the dragon, tricked by Maur’s illusion, effortlessly slew wave after wave of dwarves. It breathed again, decimating a dwarven priest and his bodyguard that was preparing a spell against him.
With the party in position, Thygurn cast a spell conjuring a hand cannon. Having only just received the schematics earlier that day and having little time to review them in detail, it took several attempts, but finally, he managed to conjure a working specimen. At that moment, Maur dropped his continual light stone into the dragon’s treasure horde, illuminating the entire chamber. The battle was on!
Maur dove down onto the preoccupied dragon, slashing wildly at one of its wings, hoping to sever it. Unaccustomed to flying, he instead landed on the creatures back, awkwardly slicing its wing to little effect. The dragon, feeling pain for the first time in this battle roared out, shaking violently to dislodge Maur, who managed to barely hang onto the beats back. Gideon crawled through a mass of stalagmites, emerging at the dragon’s flank, where he swung at one of the dragon’s hind legs. His staff bounced roughly off the dragon’s thick scales, bruising it slightly. Ian and Thygurn sloshed across the narrow strip of water, coming to stand beside the dragon’s small but impressive horde of treasure. Ian pressed forward, knowing that a sneak attack would likely be his only chance of harming such a powerful creature.
The dragon suddenly took to the air, hoping to gain some distance from his enemies and shake the worrisome dwarf from his back. Gideon, at the last moment, reached out, grabbing the dragon’s tail, being carried up into the air with it. As the great beast soared up towards the ceiling, beating its powerful wings, Ji-Geoman loosed a volley of arrows. The first bounced harmlessly off the dragon’s coarse hide, the second caused a pale purple flash of light to emit from Maur’s shoulder as one of his stoneskins was consumed. Lady Rill’s protective magics deflected the arrow, harmlessly. Thygurn raised his hand cannon, pulling the trigger. A loud BOOM reverberated through the cavern! A solid shot tore into the weaker underbelly of the dragon, sending it into a spiral, crashing down into the lake. Maur and Gideon held on tightly, riding it down.
A great splash of water erupted from the lake as the dragon plummeted into the black depths. Maur struggled to maintain his grip as the dragon seethed and thrashed about, frantically trying to shake him from it’s back. All Gideon could see was blackness, briefly interrupted by a flash of pale purple from his stoneskins absorbing an attack as the dragon coiled around itself, biting at him.
Maur readied his bow to fire again at the dragon when it emerged from the water. Ian was briefly distracted by the dragon’s treasure, noticing a glimmering platinum chalice set with jewels.
Thygurn, realizing that the dragon may attempt to drown his companions, then called upon the power of Teun to lower the water of the lake. Holding aloft his holy gear shaft, he uttered his prayer. The water instantly began to recede from the island, mystically draining away. The waters of the rushing stream that fed the lake plummeted down as a waterfall in the muddy basin that formed around them. The fast-moving waters of the stream this lake fed began to slowly drain backwards. He had bought them some time, but scant little as the lake quickly began to refill.
At this, the dragon, spun about in the mud, truly surprised at this display of power. It struggled to its feet and Gideon leapt clear, pummelling it with his staff. The dragon, with a terrible wound in its belly, finally had enough. “Tricksters! Thieves! You dare come to steal from the great Nightscale!” It shook itself violently, shedding the water and mud from its jet black scales. Maur was almost slung from it’s back as well but managed to wedge his foot between a pair of spike-like growth protruding from the beast’s spine. “Get off of me!” the dragon roared.
“We did not come here to steal from you, but to gain passage,” Maur said, “and to avenge the dwarves who came before us. The ones whose bodies still lay about this cavern!”
“The doom that shall befall all who stand before me!” Nightscale roared again, then inhaled deeply. Maur had positioned himself near the neck of the creature. Looking ahead, he could see that Thygurn and Ian had allowed themselves to fall into a position where the dragon could easily hit both of them with its breath attack.
Maur raised his bastard sword, “For my kin!” he yelled, driving it deep into the back of Nightscale’s head. Acid splashed from the creature’s maw, as the whole of the beast suddenly spasmed and contorted. Maur lost his grip on his sword, still embedded in the dragon’s skull, and was finally flung from the beasts back. Gideon narrowly dodged a chaotic swipe from the dragon’s tail. After a few moments, the dragon ceased its death throes. With a final heave and sigh, it breathed its last. The water refilling the lake soon covered its lower body. The rest of it lay like a black shroud upon its former island nest.
The party breathed a collective sigh of relief, knowing this creature that they had planned so long to face now lay dead. They had spent almost every coin they had on ensorceling themselves for this battle. Looking over at the piles of coins, art objects and magical items, they wondered if there was enough to compensate them for what the battle had cost them. Gideon, Ian and Ji-Geoman set about to assess the dragon horde, soon realizing that most everything here was of ancient dwarven craftmanship. Most of the coins bore the signs of dwarven mint. The varied art objects clearly of ancient dwarven craft, they knew, would be difficult to sell in the city, without causing a veritable horde of delvers to flock to this area.
“We have a king’s ransom here,” Gideon thought. All his life, he had been poor. He had dreamed of riches such as this, but he remembered his brother-in-law’s words. Although he despised the man, loathed everything about him, he heard his voice ring clearly in his head, “Wealth is only for the strong. The weak can not hold it.” At that time, he dismissed those words as just another example of his abject cruelty and arrogance, but now he understood their meaning. “Yes,” Gideon thought, although he hated to admit it, “he had been right. We will have to be strong, and smart from here on out. Wealth such as this will bring contempt. Every thief in the city will be looking for a piece of this if we aren’t careful.”
As Gideon prepared to share his thoughts, he glanced at Ian who was busily counting the many coins with wide-eyed amazement. Ji-Geoman was looking towards the two dwarves, casting Gideon’s attention towards them. Instead of paying attention to their newfound riches, they were deep in discussion about taking the bodies of their dwarven cousins out of the dragon’s lair for proper burial in the vaults above. They then turned and gazed admiringly towards the now open tunnel beyond the cavern, believing the path to Khaled Del was now clear.
As Gideon walked towards them, something about the dragon caught his eye. Walking past the pair of dwarves, he approached the still warm corpse of Nightscale. Between the scales of the dragons right hand, wrapped around one of its mighty claws, he at first didn’t believe his own eyes. Leaning closer, he saw clearly – a bone ring of the Quaan.