…as an old song might remind us.
As Zumos looked around the darkened swamp, he heard Falrynth say, “This is not the way it used to be.” After a pause, the old sage restated it, “This is not the way it is supposed to be.”
And Zumos agreed.
The swamp, which should have be in something close to complete darkness, was lit by the glow of a strange substance covering the lake as far as the eye could see: Blood Chaos, that was what Falrynth called it.
The purple-orange lava had nearly destroyed the village where the elderly man lived. Completely destroyed the tower where Falrynth made his home, near as Zumos could figure.
Then the old man’s exclamations seemed to attract more problematic attention: A large adult green dragon was circling the oak tree whose branch supported the platform Zumos found himself on. The huge reptile seemed to focus in on the two of them in their exposed position.
He ran for it and the old man followed.
The dragon executed a flyby attack as they got near the trunk of the tree. Then it appeared to swing around for another pass when a horrific cry echoed through the swamp.
The dragon answered the anguished call and turned to continue its flight around the tree. Zumos could see hiding places under the gnarled roots spreading from the oak’s base. He ran down the stairs someone had carved in one of the roots and got to the mud below.
As he tried to make his way around the tree (choosing in the direction the dragon had come from rather than the direction the dragon had flown off toward), he found his way constantly blocked by the thick mud, which made going quite slow. He tried to use his Water Stride on the mud, but this only swapped one kind of difficult terrain for another.
Hiding in Talar seemed a less attractive idea after Megan Swiftblade realized that Sarshan had tracked her there and began to release his vengeance on Elsir Vale in the town where she grew up. The sage there had identified the purple-orange ooze as the Blood Chaos. And she had important information for the council back in Overlook.
Sam and Maggie took Grigore’s advice to heart: As soon as the male dragon took off to investigate the strange sounds coming from the other side of the tree, they attacked the female with everything they had, hoping to take her down before the other returned.
Grigore saw that his plan to defeat the dragons in detail was working: The smaller dragon flew over the root which sheltered her lair and blocked the doorway with her immense bulk. Grigore could see that the Master Thief and Guild Executioner were pouring on the damage with their thrown weapons, while Rinoa pinned the dragon against the door she guarded.
Even Copper got into the act stepping in front of the green dragon. His ability to draw the dragon’s fire did little to protect the rest of the party, however, since the she-dragon was to breathe on most of the party while attacking him. Her terrifying presence was even able to hit Sam, who had found a perch on the root over her lair. Maggie managed to get far enough up the giant oak to be out of the range of both attacks.
Returning to Overlook, Megan went straight to the High Hall and told them Sarshan plans to flood Elsir Vale with the strange substance he used to attack her in Talar. Reluctantly admitting The Golden Scales were in hot pursuit of the arms merchant, she told them they had temporarily halted the flow of Blood Chaos into Talar.
Karic had to leave his wolf-dog behind to scramble up one of the roots. But he wanted the advantage a ranger gains, shooting from a distance.
When his new friends, Maggie and Sam, bloodied the female dragon quickly, the green behemoth let out a cry of anguish and engulfed most of the rest of the party in its poisonous breath. At first, Karic was glad he was out of that maelstrom of sickly, green gas. Then he heard an answering cry and realized where it came from.
As the male dragon hove into view, the plucky elf knew what he had to do. His dog howled, as he began peppering the mighty dragon with disrupting shots, designed to immobilize it. Even when he missed to exact on the dragon wings he hoped would stop it, he was able to slow the great beast’s progress.
It turned its attention toward him. “I guess it thinks I’m preventing it from rescuing its mate,” thought Karic. “If I survive this, I guess I’ll be able to tell the tale of how I soloed an adult green dragon.”
The dog howled again, this time putting some wolf into it.
After working up quite a thirst answering the questions of The Council of Elders, Megan headed for her favorite tavern in Elftown, The Turned Spoon. She asked the halfling potboy for a large tin pot and dumped a handful of coppers inside. When the bard paused between love songs, she began to beat out a military beat on the side of the pot. “Rat-tat-tat, rattle-tat-tat-tat.”
As Garen Bladerun lay in the mud trying to catch his breath, he marveled at the way the large male dragon was slowed by Karic’s arrows. The dragon was eventually able to break free of the elf’s harassing fire, but not before its mate was in serious trouble.
In fact, almost as soon as the second dragon arrived and delivered the first poisonous blast of its breath weapon, Coppershot killed the female dragon guarding the door. This sent her mate into a rage.
As the paladin saw his companions race for the door beneath the tree, he watched Copper moved in the other direction. Garen began crawling toward the door himself, although he was not sure he could make it in time.
At first, he thought Copper was planning to fight the dragon by himself. Then it dawned on Garen that the warden was executing a classic paladin move: deliberately forcing the dragon to face away from the rest of the party.
And the dragon seemed to be cooperating. So great was his fury at the dwarf who had killed his mate, he could not seem to attack anyone else. His terrifying presence froze Copper and caught the barbarian, Esterhu, as well. Esterhu could do little more than whine piteously and argue with his sword.
At least, that’s what it looked like to Garen.
At first the bard looked annoyed at Megan’s drumming. Then he recognized the rhythm and smiled. Who’s the Paladin? was always a crowd pleaser. And he was tired of singing the same sweet songs all the time.
Zumos’s frustration was overwhelming. He could hear the battle ahead, but the mud kept sucking at his boots. As he made his way forward, he could not help but wonder if going the other way around the tree might have been faster.
He struggled out of the muck and up some stair which climbed over the final tree root, confronting the scene of his friends and the green dragon fighting over the body of another green monster.
“That must have been the one that let out the horrible cry,” he said to himself as he unloaded his best spells on the remaining dragon.
He was able to whittle the dragon down enough to bloody it before it sent another breath of poisonous gas at Copper. Only one other hero was caught in the green gases.
“I’m sorry I diverted your show, Tom,” the Freerider apologized. “But I was in the mood for Who’s the Paladin?”
“No problem,” replied the bard. “I’m kinda sick of every lady who comes in here asking for showtunes.”
“The Band of the Raven has a new paladin. And they just rescued me.”
“Oh, I thought you didn’t have much use for the Order of the Black Feather.”
“The rest of them seem brave enough. Just might rescue this city one more time. But that Paladin may just lose his wings if he doesn’t grow a pair.”
Once Sam had the door unlocked, most of the others headed for its safety beneath the tree. But Copper wanted to fight on, and Grigore decided to make it one last offer:
“I will heal your mate, if you stop fighting us.”
But Grigore had apparently mistaken the origin of the dragon’s rage. As a thoroughly evil creature he was not angry so much out of love for his mate. The fact remained: Copper had deprived him of his mate, and Copper was standing there, right in front of him, practically asking to be killed.
The rest of the party beckoned, suggesting that Sarshan was getting away. Copper still wanted to finish off his second dragon of the day.
But, when the dragon’s terrifying presence left the barbarian stunned again, Grigore convinced Copper to join the rest on the other side of the door.
Which was quickly closed, locked and barred.