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.
Tales of the Yawning Portal:
The companions walked up to the meeting place, a large barn roughly 80ft by 30ft, simple in design with large doors opened enough for three abreast to walk into the door. Burian rested for a minute on his knees, playing with the patch behind Francois’ ears that he responded well to. Francois gave him a big lick across his nose, and was rewarded with a thick chunk of jerky.
“Good boy Francois, good boy. You stay out here and watch out for us, give us a yelp if you see anyone else come along.” he told the wolf, and Francois seemed to understand the commands. Burian threw down a large hunk of meet and left Francois to it as he rejoined the others, walking into the barn itself.
The barn was open, with crates, burlap sacks and other items strewn across the place. The barn seemed to have a loft with a large central gap for hoisting supplies up into it, and the ladder for the barn was situated on the far side from where they entered.
Standing in the clearing in the centre of the barn were 4 figures, the seller and three hired goons. The seller, a sinewy elf in gray clothes, smiled at the three humans behind her, “I told you they would come. A dragon egg is much too valuable to pass up.”
The elf turned back to the companions, and gestured at the large hide backpack she had left on the floor, “Now, let’s do this quickly. Here is what you asked for.” She opened the backpack to show the gleaming shell of the dragon egg.
“You throw the payment over to me, and we will leave the egg here. We will exit the barn, and then you can leave after five minutes have passed. No fuss, no muss.” she said, before pausing and looking at the group more closely, “Hold on. Something is not right here. I thought you’d be taller somehow.”
“Ha! That’s what everybody says about him! Our boss ain’t the biggest is he?” Kalashnikov raucously said, receiving an angry glare from Jester.
“My height is utterly irrelevant. I thought you’d be shorter, but it does not matter to our business. Now, are we making this sale?” Jester confidently responded, hoping his attitude convinced the edgy seller.
Through this exchange, Drenk had been scanning the barn, and noticed a bit of movement in the loft, but decided to keep his mouth shut until the sale was complete. He couldn’t make out what was moving over the distance anyway.
“Alright, throw the payment over to me then.”
“Where I’m from, we shake on such a momentous deal.” Jester said, as he slipped the Harper’s pin inside the bag of diamonds on his belt.
“Nope, that was not the deal, customs be damned.”
“Alright, I hope you can catch, and that this bag does not come undone!”
Jester threw the bag over to the elf, who nimbly caught it the right way up. She quickly opened the bag and inspected the contents, and seeming happy with them, she nodded back to Jester. “Remember, five minutes. We do not want to be caught together.” And with that, she and her muscle headed out the back entrance and were gone into the night.
“Five minutes eh? I think I saw something up in the loft. I’d better check it out if we’ve gotta wait.” Drenk said, loosening his axe and keeping a weather eye on the loft as he walked over to the ladder.
Jester, Burian, Kalashnikov and Enna looked over the egg and inspected the area around it. The egg seemed to be intact and genuine to their eyes, but was noticeably lighter than they expected. there seemed to be nothing wrong with the egg, so Jester picked up the egg and went over to the back entrance, to see whether the seller was still there. She was gone, her guards too, and nothing stood out in the early morning dark behind the barn.
A booming voice interrupted the group from their idling, erupting from a huge half-orc, framed in the barn entrance, “The toll for passage out of this barn is that egg. Give to us and you will live and leave.”
<You shall let us pass!> Kalashnikov shouted into the mind of the thug, trying to scare him into letting the group through.
“One of you lot is doing creepy shit with my mind. Stop it! And a bit of friendly advice, mind shit won’t ever get you what you want.” He brandished his weapon menacingly, making it clear that the only way out of the barn was to pay him. “Don’t you try anything, we have you surrounded.”
“Ah but you don’t know about our secret weapon. My wolf is out there, prowling for prey just as…meaty as you. Francois get ’em!” Burian responded.
“Ha ha haaa, that was your wolf was it? One of my friends should be taking care of it right about now” the thug rumbled.
“Yiiip..” Burian could hear the short, sharp scream of his new animal companion, suddenly cut short. Anger flared inside him, that the life of Francois was threatened by such as this brute. He could feel the deep veins of power beneath the wooden floor, and dropped his new shield to grab one vein and summon a giant Thorn Whip from underground. Bellowing with rage, he cast the whip at the half-orc, grasping him and ripping him forwards.
Moments after the whip was cast, a net dropped from the loft over Kalashnikov, but he managed to dodge out of its path. Enna was not so lucky when a second net fell on her, but this did show Drenk that at least 2 bandits were hidden in the loft with him.
Charging in to close with the half-orc thug, Burian threw his anger into a casting of Shillelagh, imbuing his quarterstaff with power, but missed his first strike against the brute. As his staff struck a crate, he forced the thug to move out of his path, and two knives came flying in from afar as Jester hit his target over the full 80ft length of the barn. While no one could see him clearly, he smirked and blew over his fingers, admiring the throw.
Kalashnikov, having avoided the net, cast a necrotic Hex on the half-orc, and the thug could feel his strength sapped, before he was hit with a bright magenta beam of Eldritch Blast. The blow hit him square in the chest, and looking down at his bare muscles he could see his skin starting to dissolve. Entangled in her own net, Enna could not do much more than hack at errant ropes, ineffectually trying to escape. Leaving her struggles for a moment, she closed her eyes and chanted a low hymn to Eldath, and Blessed the dwarven brothers closest to her.
Up in the loft, Drenk could now see two bandits moving around the gantries, and was able to sneak up behind one. After whispering a sweet one-liner that would never be heard by his group, he surprised the human and swung his maul, battering the bandit clear off the gantry. The bandit screamed for seconds as he fell, then landed with a sickening crunch narrowly between Kalashnikov and some crates.
Burian was the first to be hit by a new threat. Two crossbowman revealed themselves from behind the barn doors, one striking Burian in the leg with his heavy crossbow. The second took a shot at the source of the impossibly accurate flying knives, and heard a pained shout from the back barn entrance after her fired his shot. Jester had been seriously injured with an arrow in his side, but refused to be cowed until the job was done.
Enraged by the flurry of blows that had hit him, the half-orc brute decided to swipe at the main cause of his troubles, hitting Burian square in the chest once, then twice, knocking him backwards across the barn floor. Tears of pain and anger matted Burian’s beard as he ran straight at the half-orc, his next swing with the staff missing too. Blood dripped down his side, but he would continue to shout and shout for Francois until he was hoarse or dead. “Francois! Where are you, boy?”
Just as the half-orc was bringing his club back to hammer Burian into the floor, an arrow suddenly buried itself right in the necrotic wound on his chest, and the surprised half-orc tumbled over backward, dead before he hit the floor. Jester notched another arrow, and watched calmly as Burian took cover behind a wooden cart.
Acting totally unfazed by the body that dropped next to him, Kalashnikov hastily moxed his Hex to the nearest crossbowman and cast a cyan bolt of Eldritch Blast at him. Unfortunately, his near collision with the falling bandit threw his aim off, and the bolt went clear wide, forming mini fireworks in the sky above Phlan. deciding to take cover, he jumped over the pile of flesh that had previously been human, and hid behind some crates.
Meanwhile, Drenk had been manoeuvring around the giant gap in the loft, trying to get closer to the second netter. The bandit left off a shot with his bow, but the angle was such that it bounced off Drenk’s armour, earning a mocking “Very intimidating,” from the half-orc bearing down on him. Drenk followed this up by throwing his javelin across the gap, impaling the hip of the bandit, and moving closer. “You’ve got a splinter in you.” he laughed.
Throwing off the net that had been hampering her, Enna quickly assessed the situation and started to move towards the clearly-pained Burian, before another arrow flew straight past her. She turned to see a gurgling Kalashnikov fall to the ground, his throat penetrated by the shot and his beard neatly ringed around the arrow. She turned, hurrying over to her hurt compatriot. More arrows flew past her as she sprinted from cover to cover.
“Where are you Francois? Please be okay boy…” Burian called out, whilst casting Cure Wounds to staunch his bleeding and return some vitality to his body. Between the ends of the barn, a flurry of arrows was being fired back-and-forth, arrows thudding into crates all around the companions. Somehow, Burian thought, those crossbowmen needed to be pulled from their cover.
When Enna finally reached Kalashnikov, she could see he was in no condition to continue the fight, and cast Spare The Dying to prevent him from coming to any more harm. Dragging him with her, she re-entered the safety afforded by the crates, and Kalashnikov found himself staring into the eyes of the dead bandit, unable to move.
Drenk and the last netter had finally closed, and were locked in bitter combat on the gantries, where one wrong move would knock one of them over the edge. His maul thumped into a burlap sack, but his opponent was struggling to fight with the javelin wedged in his side. Seeing this, Jester carefully took aim at the bandit and shot an arrow neatly into the tendons of his left leg. The resulting lack of balance sent the would-be netter over the side and he crashed to the floor beside Kalashnikov’s prone form, looking even less human that the previous bandit.
Summoning further power from the ground, Burian cast another Thorn Whip to pull a crossbowmen out from behind the barn door, and crashed his head against the door as he pulled him into the barn itself. Enna took this opportunity to cast Sacred Flame on the exposed archer, singing him a little before Drenk launched himself out of the loft, trying to crush the crossbowman. His jump fell a little short, however, and he crashed to the ground, a pain in his leg telling him he had at least pulled a few muscles.
Pulling his scimitar out, the bandit facing Drenk took a hasty thrust at the half-orc, but had to pull his shot away at the last minute to duck from a shot fired by Jester. The rogue quickly darted up the ladder to the loft, leaving the egg in a safer place before trying to find a higher vantage point to fire from.
Drenk finished off his opponent with a crashing blow from his maul, and Enna took the momentary reprieve to heal Kalashnikov, using Cure Wounds to bring him around. She helped him sit up against the crates, as Kalashnikov stirred slowly, risen from his dreams of pelts. He found it difficult to draw his eyesight away from misshapen messes around him, but the commotion of the fight drew him back to true consciousness.
Seeing how his previous attempt had worked so well, Burian erupted from cover, yelling “Get over here!” as he used Thorn Whip to drag the final crossbowman out towards him. Charging towards the bandit, he dodged a panicked shot and brought his staff around to strike. “What have you done to Francois?!” he called out as he used all his power to snap the crossbowman’s neck with his clothesline strike, and he sprinted outside, the fight done.
Kalashnikov recovered slowly, pottering around inspecting the bandit’s bodies but finding nothing. He wandered towards the barn doors as Jester shimmied down the ladder with the precious egg and Drenk gathered the bodies for a funeral pyre, making sure to pick up his javelin from where it had fallen as the impaled bandit had dropped. Enna gathered up the black dragon scale shield discarded by Burian in his fury, and said a small blessing to Eldath before casting Sacred Flame to ignite the pyre.
The warlock brother left the barn to find Burian kneeling by the broken body of his wolf. Francois had three arrows embedded in him, and bloody flesh hanging from his mouth. He had not died cowering, but rather fighting, and Burian wept at the senseless loss of such a pure life. Gathering the body in his arms, he turned to see Kalashnikov brandishing a knife with a menacing gleam in his eyes. Burian simply walked past his brother, punching him straight in the cheek and knocking his pelt-coveting disgrace of a brother to the ground.
“While I didn’t know him long, Francois was a good boy, and I had hoped we could one day bond as truly as the inhabitants of my forest. Return to the world in flame, Francois, and may it be all the better for it.” he prayed, and placed the wolf on top of the pyre. Reclaiming his shield from Enna, he walked out, beard sodden with tears, as the barn burnt, taking all trace of his departed new friend with him.
“I’ve just got one question: why is the bloody barn burning? We said no fights!” he accosted them, before they explained what had happened, how the seller had escaped with the diamonds and they had still returned with the egg.
Jester laid the backpack in front of the Harper, who reached down to pick up the shining egg. He too a cursory glance at the egg, then to all the companion’s shock threw it to the ground. It broke into fragments and released a flash of bright light, blinding the aghast group.
“What, couldn’t you tell that it was a fake?” he asked scornfully, “I’m…amused that you didn’t see that. Did you at least plant the pin in this otherwise-complete-mess?”
“Yes, I palmed it into the bag of diamonds before throwing it to her,” Jester explained, “She didn’t seem to see it, so I assume she still has it.”
“Ah ok, that’s better, now, I’ll just take a minute to confirm it,” he said before he started chanting a low string of words foreign to all there, “Good. Everything seems to be in place. I suppose you technically did all parts of the job, so I should give you these coins, as promised, and for planting the pin, hmmm, a Potion of Healing should be a reasonable bonus for you.”
He passed the Potion over to Jester, and addressed Burian directly, “I’m sorry for your…loss, but this was still an important mission.”
“There has been an increase in dragon sightings across the Forgotten Realms and the Sword Coast, so you should keep your eyes and ears open to all things dragon-kind. It might save your life. This Harper pin should indicate to those you meet that you’ve assisted the Harpers, keep it safe.”
Burian could feel the tingle of magic in the pin as he pocketed it, keeping it safe next to the Zhentarim coin, but what he really wanted, he could never recover. The meeting done, the companions returned to their lodgings, and went to rest their weary heads.
And that’s it for this instalment. Next week our DM should be opening up the Tales of the Yawning Portal, so we are likely to divert from the path of dragon-seeking justice. Thanks for reading!