Monday, 28 May 2012

Dungeons and (Red) Dragons

‘I want you to run when the fighting starts. Run and don’t stop for anything.’ – Milgos to his hireling Burke.

Burke was home. He propped his battered bastard sword in the corner by the door. His wife had emerged from the back room. ‘You’re late. I was worried sick.’ She began before noticing her husband’s worried expression. ‘What happened? How did it go?’ she asked. Burke answered first by producing a stuffed pouch of coins. He threw them onto the table with a clank.
‘That’s severance pay. I’m done. I’ve had enough dungeons and dragons. Things are getting too dangerous.’
‘You knew it was dangerous from the start. What’s changed?’ his wife frowned anxiously.
‘Milgos died. Fang too. Things were… rough. There was a dragon. I have to go. The mages are holding a séance to call Milgos’ spirit back into a body. They say he can’t use his old body as it’s too badly burnt.’
‘Before you go you’d better give me the whole story. You can’t leave me worrying while your off gallivanting with mages.’
Burke sighed ‘Very well.’ He slumped at the table. ‘It started off normal enough. Milgos meditating and Jana praying to her god. I never did work out who her god was. She was praying for spells to protect us from flames, little did she know the inferno that awaited us. We knew there was a dragon in between the surface and us. What we didn’t know was how big it was. I never saw a dragon before. Here’s hoping I never see one again.’
‘You look famished. Keep talking, I’ll fix you something nice.’
‘That will make a nice change from iron rations. We were under the ground longer than we’d intended and food was getting scarce. We had a meager breakfast and prepared to meet the dragon. Osric and Milgos snuck ahead…’
‘Osric?’ said Burke’s wife as she prepared a delicious sandwich. ‘Who’s Osric? You never mentioned him before.’
‘We met Osric in the dungeon. It’s strange the folk you meet underground. They almost always turn out to be trustworthy. Osric is half elf but don’t let that fool you. He’s really all right, hardly any arrogant in him. His elf blood must be weak. He shoots things, except when a monster’s using him as a chew toy. Remind me to tell you about the owlbear.’
‘Owlbear. I hear they are cranky creatures and yet they look so cute.’
‘Once you see and owlbear up close you wont think they’re cute, besides this is a story about the dragon. The owlbear story happened before that. I’ll tell it to you later.’
Burkes wife looked glum then turned her attention back to preparing the sandwich.
‘Milgos and Osric snuck ahead. I couldn’t see them and the boss had told Burne and me to stay put. You remember Burne? Tall fellow carries a torch most places and drinks too much. Osric left his baby shrews with us guard while he did battle.’
Burkes wife gave him a quizzical look.
‘Best not to ask.’ Burke nipped the question in the bud. ‘Shrews and hyena’s; you’d think we were part of Otiluke’s Amazing Circus. Milgos looked me in the eye and said, “I can’t ask you to fight a dragon. When you hear the fighting run. Look for the exit from the chamber and runs as all the forces of hell were at your heels. Run and see your family again.” He made Burne and I promise to flee.’
Red Dragons. Look out for it's fiery breath! 
Burke continued his tale between mouthfuls of sandwich. ‘We followed the scouts along a narrow tunnel. We passed some charred corpses but didn’t stop to investigate. The tunnel opened up and the fighters of the group stopped before entering the chamber in which the dragon resided. Then this roaring starts up in the corridor behind us. This is strange because the tunnel was narrow, no dragon could fit along it and yet the noise sounded like a dragon stalked us when we were certain it lay resting in the cavern before us. Ugh gestured to his hyena Fang and the two retraced our steps to investigate the fearsome noise.  It turned out to be some trick of the dragons. Perhaps he meant to drive us all into his lair. Seeing his parlor tricks failing to fool us the wyrm turned to honeyed words. The draconic fiend engaged Osric in conversation. It seemed the half elf’s cloak could not conceal him from the dragons keen senses.’

‘What do dragons talk about? We seem to have little in common with them.’ Burkes wife asked.
‘Well this dragon wanted to be entertained. I suppose he doesn’t get much company living deep underground with only dimwitted dog-headed kobolds for neighbours. Osric gave the dragon an abridged personal history before the dragon became obsessed with the baby shrews that formed apart of the half elf’s tale. 
Bring me the shrews and I may let you live.” 
Jana and Ugh, who had given up on discovering the source of the roaring, brought forth the mewling shrews. They did not live up to the dragon’s expectations. His attention was instead caught by Ugh’s shiny helmet much like when a raven sees a shiny bauble. Jana says the helmet is evil and makes Ugh do violent things. I think Ugh would do nasty violent things whether he wore a helmet or not. 
Remove your helmet little one so that I might inspect it better.” Ugh made some excuse being careful not to insult the wyrm. Did I describe the dragon to you?’
‘No. I’d imagine it would be something you’d never forget.’
‘Big as a house it was and the length of 10 men. Scales a deep red the colour of hearts blood. It radiated heat and lay on a mighty pile of glittering coins and jewels. 
You have entertained me little ones. Braxas is pleased that you have chosen to name a young shrew after him. Come look through my horde. Find something you like. You need only ask and I shall consider granting you a boon.” While the party searched amongst his treasures Braxas the dragon asked many questions about the party learning that a dark elf formed part of the group but as Osric put it “Milgos is so sneaky even we don’t know where he is. He comes and goes as the mood takes him.”
You don’t happen to have gauntlets do you?” Ugh interrupted.
I do.” replied the wyrm. “I keep them in that bag. It is a magic bag.
Osric enquired about magic bows. “As I like to lie on my treasure mound I keep all my sharps in the magic bag. I can’t have them sticking into me.” Braxas replied with a sly smile.’

‘Sounds like the dragon is too eager to have folk reach into his magic sack. Smells like a trap. They say you can never trust a dragon. Least of all the red ones. Folk say the gods colour coded dragons for our convenience and that the primary colours are always the worst.’
‘Your right, the bag was a trap. Osric put his arm inside and nearly had it bitten off. The bag had teeth and was hungry. A deep draconic belly laugh reverberated about the chamber as the dragon turned on us.' 

'The fight was messy and desperate. Milgos called on us to run and we ran for our lives. As we ran we saw a flash of light and felt the rolling waves of heat as the dragon exhaled. Turning and shielding my eyes I saw Milgos stride up to the Wyrm wand in hand. He touched the beast and nothing happened. His magic had failed and then he was bathed in fire and fell to the cavern floor a charred corpse. Burne sprinted for safety but I couldn’t help but stop and watch while the fighters set about their grim work. Did I mention Milgos was killed? I’ve never seen that happen, I never thought it could happen. He always seemed prepared for anything; I guess he wasn’t prepared to face dragon breath. Fang leapt at the wyrm who then bathed the hyena and Jana in flame. Fang was fried to a crisp and Jana staggered back badly burned. Osric peppered the dragon with arrows finding many weak points in the dragon’s scaly defence. Ugh’s sword glowed in the presence of its ancient foe, did I mention it was a sword of dragon slaying? Ugh landed some telling blows before being beaten down by a combination of claw and maw. Betty despaired at the loss of her employer Milgos and swatted at the beast ineffectually, blinded as she was by rage. She too would fall to dragon claw while Jana desperately attended her and the stricken Ugh.’
‘So at this point everyone is dead or dying? How on Oerth did you survive?’
‘Osric. He doesn’t look like much but he’s a deft shot with a bow. Osric fell back before the draconic assault while keeping up a constant stream of arrows. Finally one found it’s mark in the eye socket of the brute and the raging creature fell shuddering to the cavern floor.' 
Milgos! NOOOOOO!
'We had paid a high toll for our victory. Milgos was dead and Fang too. All that was left to do was loot the horde but we found little joy in it. Ugh and Osric started carving up the dead beast insisting that the bloody parts they took would make good armour. Betty stood guard over Milgos’ charred corpse. At one point Ugh made to loot the body.
The half orc grunted, “The dark elf is dead. He doesn’t need his stuff any more. It’s wasted leaving it here.”
No one touches him or his treasures.” The warrior woman pointed her sword at Ugh’s chest. “Best attend to your hound once you’ve finished looting.
Ugh shrugged callously. “I’ll just buy another.”

Burke stood from the table and made to leave. “And that’s all there is to tell. At one point Jana threw Ugh’s helmet into the magic bag of eating. She says Ugh will get better eventually but I’m not so sure. His callous attitude towards his dead pet does little to reassure me.’
‘What about the baby shrews?’
‘They lived. Osric was very happy. Probably happier than he was when he got his cut of the loot. He’s an odd one. Now I must get to the Tower of the Mages. I need to see what becomes of Milgos once the wizards are through with his soul.’

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