This is part of the ongoing narrative of our D&D campaign, which is graciously being run by Proud Lion, a fantastic comic shop in Cheltenham. Their RPG Encounters nights are a lot of fun, and give me some entertaining material to work with.
[Before reading, please be aware that there may be spoilers ahead for the D&D campaign books. Equally, our stories are fluid, so things may not follow the books too directly]
The dragon dealt with now, the adventuring party set about recovering from the clash. Luna was stabilised by Levan during the action, but Knott Important and the gnome were lying unconscious in the wake of the blizzard unleashed by the dragon.
Drenk dug around in his healing kit to find the means with which to stabilise Knott, while Enna cast spare the dying on the stricken gnome. Both in a bad way, Jester passed his healing potion to Enna, who carefully poured it into the mouth of the gnome, as he was most likely to be able to help heal the group.
Having done all he could to help heal the injured, Drenk picked himself up and helped Levan barricade the door behind them, piling up all the damaged furniture and detritus from the room behind them. The room had another door on the opposite wall, so Drenk sat himself against this door as the group settled down for a rest.
“All I wanted was this head,” he mused sorrowfully to himself, reflecting the general malaise that had come across the party, “I just wanted to scare some goblins into thinking I was a minotaur.”
Now awake, the gnome healed Luna with an incantation of cure wounds, while Knott emerged from unconsciousness enough to submerge himself into a meditative trance to encourage the healing of his own wounds.
While the group sat against the walls of this room, Burian moved to the corner of the room where the dead wyrmling lay. His eyes wet with tears for the majestic creature needlessly slain, he accepted that the killing had been an act of self-defence as the dragon would not back down. Thinking of his time in the forest as well as moments in his childhood when his father taught him and Kalashnikov to never let a death go to waste, he prepared to make the most out this dragon’s death.
Thinking back of his aberrant behaviour in the wake of Francois’ death, he didn’t regret going against the druidic code by burning the wolf whole. The wolf’s spirit would roam the wilds with his blessing, whereas this dragon would serve a more material purpose. Chanting a druidic death-song, he plunged his knife underneath a scale, and set about his morbid work.
After a few hours, Burian had removed all the usable scales from Calcryx’s body, carefully washed them and placed them in a sturdy bag to carry, horns and all coming to about four pounds with the previous scales he had collected. At one point, Jester had come over to say, “I want that skull!” before settling down to nap, and he woke to find the grisly, meaty trophy staring at him. He picked at the skull, gingerly removing the strands of flesh still attached, leaving Calcryx’s bones bare and gleaming white after a polish.
After giving dragon-flesh burgers a go, and finding them completely unpalatable, Drenk and Burian manoeuvred the corpse to the edge of Calcryx’s hole, and rolled it in. They immediately regretted this when they heard the tell-tale jingle of treasure underneath the bloody body, and after levering it out again, they found Calcryx’s meagre hoard.
The dragon has obviously grabbed everything shiny from the room before digging the hole as the hole contained a crystal goblet, a jade dragon sculpture and a whole mess of silverware. Thinking critically, Jester estimated this stuff could probably make about forty-nine gold pieces in the marketplace.
The only other item in the hoard was a strange scroll case, sealed in a burnished silver, with runes carved along the side. Burian could easily make out the runes, and in Dwarvish they read KHUNDRUKAR. He recognised the name from long ago, as it was an ancient dwarven kingdom of some kind, and the main city was a final resting place of a very powerful clan of shield dwarves. As he cast a detect magic ritual focused on the scroll case, he remembered back to the ghost stories their parents used to tell Kalashnikov and himself.
Burian remembered being a kid, sat at the table with his mother and Kalashnikov, before he was known only as that, where his mother would tell them spooky tales of Khundrukar. She would talk about how they became bigger than any other clan of dwarves ever had, and the twins would misinterpret this as a physical size each and every time. But, as she would explain, this meant that their empire spread further than any other, until the dwarves turned on themselves.
No one, said their mother, knew what happened to cause the fall, but the capital city Khundrukar fell into chaos before being lost to time. Any who had looked for the city went missing, and only little titbits of information had ever got back. The most anyone had found usually led to the undead, resulting in people dying, being eaten or just never being quite right afterwards… And like all good dwarven ghost stories for children, the tales would end with a horrific death sequence to scare the dwarven children into obeying their mother.
Swayed from his reminiscence of happier times by the activation of his spell, Burian could see that no magic had been used in the creation of this ancient scroll. The dragon’s corpse was slowly losing its magical aura, as were the scales in his bag, so feeling reassured about the lack of magic, Burian found that the scroll case was simply screwed shut.
He unscrewed the top, and a scrap of parchment fell out. Taking it lightly in his hand, he opened the rolled-up scroll to find that age and water damage had taken its toll on the legibility of the scroll, but he was able to make a little out, and he read this aloud to the group.
“…the remaining few. By order of Durgeddin the Black, we have created a secret dwarven redoubt. None shall find us; however…” the druid spoke, “Hmmm. That’s not much ‘elp. I suppose if nothing else, we could sell this to a bunch of collectors for something like one ‘undred gold pieces.”
This prompted a little discussion about Khundrukar as Burian rolled the parchment back up and stowed the scroll case, before the group started stretching and prepared to leave. Levan and Drenk got up from resting against the back door, and Levan opened the door to see a corridor stretching off before turning to the right. He called Jester over, and Jester agreed to explore the corridor quietly.
But as soon as he put his foot down on the outer floor, the floor fell away from him into a large, deep pit, and only his incredible reaction saved him from falling. Turning the fall into a leap, he dived across the gaping hole and caught his fingers on the other side of the pit. Jester pulled himself up as a very large clang echoed down the corridors, announcing the activation of the trap.
From his vantage point on the other side of the trap, he could see that here was a thin walkway long the outer edge of the trap door, and pointed it out quickly to the group. He then had a quick scan down the corridor, and followed it round to the storage room they had left earlier. Running back, he told the rest of the group, before beckoning them over.
Luna’s superb hearing could just about hear some noise in the columned room, so she silently put her ear to the barricaded door, and could hear goblin voices heading towards them. A loud clattering of weapons against door started up shortly after, announcing their presence to the whole party.
“Um, why don’t we go the long way around?” Drenk suggested, and the party started to make their way around the pit, but Levan the paladin stood steadfast, intending to hold them of as long as he could.
“Aye laddie, you’d make a good job of it, but there ain’t no point wasting yer life when we have all these, is there?” Burian patted him on the back, before sprinkling his bag of hundreds of caltrops along the floor. With a barricade, caltrops and a pit between the group and the goblins, they felt more comfortable in making their way around to the storeroom.
Emerging from behind a set of barrels, the group found Kalashnikov hunched over a fizzling wineskin, a pungent aroma surrounding him. Burian shook his shoulder, and the warlock’s head spun round, ready to fire off a bolt of energy. Sorely tempted, Kalashnikov saw the looks on the rest of the party’s faces, and grabbed his wineskin and regrouped with them.
Enna, Levan and Luna split off at this point, heading back through the room where they found the gnome, to try and draw away some of the goblins they could hear. The rest of the depleted group slowly moved into the columned room, listening for their goblin pursuers.
Goblins seemed to surround them, with scratchy noises coming from both the dragon’s final resting place and behind them in the corridor, and the group steeled themselves for yet another violent encounter…