My hair was singed and face blackened, but the hole was made, and the disk floated slowly downwards into it. The bottom of the pit had a pool of glass formed from the melted sand, and my next attempt at digging, a smaller Thunderwave, reflected straight off of it and propelled me swiftly out of the pit. Giving up for now, and determining to return the next day to try another Wall of Fire, Dalzion and I headed back to the cave we’d passed a few hundred yards back. I loaded the chest and the invalids onto the disk and Dalzion carried Kimiriel.
We entered the cave, ready for a good night’s sleep, as we had both taken quite a beating. However, that was not to be our fate. Immediately, Dalzion’s keen dwarfish nose smelled dung. Dragon dung.
We moved swiftly out of the cave, though we were severely hampered by the disc’s speed, and so we hadn’t gone far before a thunderous crash shook the earth beneath us. Frozen in fear of what we knew was behind us, we took no defensive action as the large dragon, obscured in the pitch black of midnight, swept its tail into the pair of us, sending us sprawling into the sand.
I turned over in the sand to see the dragon bearing down on me. Knowing the intelligence of dragons, I attempted to reason with it, pleaded that we hadn’t known the cave was the dragon’s and that we were just leaving. I got a set of gleaming white teeth gnashing into my side as my reward for attempting diplomacy. Dalzion struggled to his feet and drew his mighty hammer, setting himself to leap to my defence.
I was panicking now, as I knew we stood little chance against this monstrosity inches from my face. I didn’t even attempt to stand, instead scurrying back with my shoulders and feet, firing off a pair of Icy Rays at it, attempting to pin it in place. One flew off wildly, but the second struck the dragon’s foot. To my dismay, the spell which would normally immobilise a foe completely only irritated the beast, barely encasing a single foot in ice. Focusing more magic through my orb, I managed to spread the ice to cover the entire leg through an added ounce of effort, but this still did little more than inconvenience it. The dragon crawled forward and snapped at me again. This time, however, I raised my enchanted bracers in the way and they took the brunt of the damage as the massive teeth clenched down on my arms.
Now Dalzion was finally ready to join the fight. Summoning all the strength that Kord could grant him, he took a flying leap into the air and brought his hammer down upon the dragon’s side with a mighty thunderclap accompanying his ringing blow. A wave of blessed relief swept over me as the power of Kord granted me some rejuvenation, and the wound in my side closed over. The dragon stumbled to the side slightly and looked over at this new troublesome insect, and swept his tail around again, attempting to knock the dwarf on his back again. Dalzion, however, held his ground against the massive tail and stood as tall as he was able against the beast. Seizing the opportunity, I stood up and fired off a thunderwave at its head, hoping to disorient it. This was largely ignored by the dragon, who continued its onslaught of Dalzion, who returned with another hefty hammer blow that beat the dragon to the ground, its legs splayed beneath it.
Hoping to make life even more difficult for the dragon, I created a patch of icy terrain beneath its feet, hoping to make it difficult to stand up again. This would have been effective; except that the dragon decided that it had had enough and threw itself into the air, flapping its wings and taking off into the night. I wasn’t having any of this, so I conjured a patch of light to see where it was going and, glimpsing its tail, threw a lightning bolt after it. The lightning missed horrendously and shattered into the cliff above us, which split and tossed down a dozen or so boulders towards us. Another thunderwave threw back some of them, but we still had to dive out of the way of the largest ones.
By this point, with the dragon splashing about, the boulders thundering down and my thunderwaves surging around, a sizable cloud of sand had kicked up, and it was getting hard to see. The dragon soared down out of the darkness and ripped into Dalzion before vanishing again. Realizing the danger we were both in, unable to see our superior foe, we decided to hide. Dalzion ran for the cave entrance and I ran into the cloud of sand. All things considered, I think he made the better decision.
Heading towards the cloud to hide, I realized that the disk with the chest and invalids was still following me around, giving away my position. I quickly dispelled it and ran into the swirling sands. In seconds, I was completely lost and bewildered in the sandstorm, unable to see my foe or anything else, for that matter. Dalzion made it to the cave and stayed there, equally perplexed by our hidden winged enemy. Almost immediately, boulders began to fall in front of the cave entrance, as the dragon attempted to seal the dwarf in. Not knowing what else to do, he ran out, and a rock hit him in the back and sent him flying again.
I, still running, decided to pick one direction and charge, hoping to find something to help guide me. I ran into a wall quite quickly – a scaly wall, with claws at the bottom. Panicking, I unleashed a simple magic missile, and in my terror unleashed a deadly torrent of energy with it, blowing off a chunk of the dragon’s foot in the process. It screamed in agony and took to the sky again, and I found myself on the edge of the cloud. Unfortunately, the cave was in the opposite direction, on the other side of the cloud, so I could do nothing but turn around and run back in.
Eventually, I found Dalzion again, hammer ready, waiting for the dragon to descend again so that he could strike it. I also waited with a magic missile, but after a minute of nothing happening, we thought it might have left. I walked into the cave for safety and created another floating disk, during which nothing happened. I put the chest onto it and went to find the invalids and Kimiriel. Ill news awaited. Kimiriel was crushed under a boulder, and two of the three invalids had been sliced open at some point, probably while I was busy running around in the sandstorm. Upset that I had let so many die today, I loaded the last invalid onto the disk and vowed that I would do all in my power to deliver him safely to the Crystal Palace. With that, Dalzion and I headed into the cave for shelter for the night. The dragon promptly sealed us in, evidently waiting for us on top of the cliff. Since I had the ability to teleport short distances, this didn’t worry me too much. So we decided to do some exploring.
|What we found|
|What we were hoping for|
The cave was not very clean, and the dragon’s hoard was hardly what you’d call impressive. While there was the traditional pile of treasure, it was mostly copper coins. I found the spectacular pile of dragon dung that Dalzion had smelled earlier, and saw something shiny in it. Gritting my teeth, I used a delicate mage hand to pick it up and a small prestidigitation to clean it. It turned out to be a ring of protection, though there was something strange about its magical aura. I determined to study it later. All in all, there wasn’t much around, except for three impressive tall gold statues, far too heavy to move. So we caught some sleep.
Refreshed in the morning, we continued looking around, though we were still wary of the dragon having a back entrance, possibly through the large fissure in the ground that dropped down to a running stream. Our sharp eyes noticed that there was a passage behind each of the statues, and of course that prompted investigation. The statues were massive and impossible to push over. I had come up with a half dozen complex and dangerous magical solutions and was evaluating their relative merits when Dalzion, ever practical, suggested slinging a rope round its head and pulling it over from the top. Of course it worked, but using the resonant frequency of the statue for arcane demolition would totally have worked as well.
The statue’s head came off as it fell, and its shield shattered. These smaller, more manageable pieces were quickly swept into the bag of holding with glee. Behind the statue there was a foul stench that made us gag, but ever curious, we decided to venture in.
Then we stopped, so Marius could figure out what was back there. A magical pencil appeared and began to draw shapes before us...