The Dragon and the Apple

A Daring Rescue

The group took their time determining a safe plan by which to rescue the people trapped within the Temple to Chauntea. They watched from a safe distance, noting the movements of a large band of raiders circling the perimeter, flanked by Guard Drakes, the commander leading efforts to break down the temple doors, and the small group of mainly kobolds piling burning straw against the temple’s rear door.

Just the facts, man

Neesa aimed to use her alter-ego as a cult member to lure the commander away on an urgent errand. In support, Brant snuck through the streets to set a fire on the other side of the town, and when that took hold Neesa put her plan into action.

Running toward the temple from the street to the north, she called to the commander for aid, and he rushed towards her. Recognizing him, she addressed him by name, and told him that the dragon had requested that he and his retinue rush to the aid of another group of raiders, under attack to the north-west. The conversation went downhill rapidly though:

“The dragon you say? The big blue feller?”
“Yes, the dragon!”
“The one who’s here to help us?”
“Yes!”
“The one who’s not in charge? That dragon? Or are you talking about someone else?”
“The dragon I tell you! The big dragon told me!”
“You’re really going to go with that? The dragon, who isn’t in charge, is giving orders?”
“Yes! I keep telling you!”
“Okay then. Fair enough.” — stabs Neesa

At this point, Valos decides that this has gone on long enough and throws a javelin at the commander. It strikes home in the commander’s shoulder, all the more impressively since Valos was rolling his eyes at the time.

The commander falls to the ground on the outside of the temple’s perimeter wall, where Neesa wrestles with him and knocks him out. She then shouts to his followers, persuading them that the attack came from the street to the north, and they drop their battering ram and head out into the town, searching for their mystery attackers.

Valos and Marcus take this opportunity to reach the temple doors, where they persuade the priest to let them in. Once inside, they take stock of the situation and ready a plan to hurry the trapped townsfolk out of the temple through the rear door.

Race issues

Meanwhile Khardrash, relying on his draconic nature to help him blend in, grabs some hay and makes as if to help the kobolds working at the back door. Arandur then tosses some stones at one of the two cultists overseeing the work, causing him to cuff the nearest kobold, thinking that the small creature had attacked him.

The kobold doesn’t take kindly to this, and slashes at the cultist with a knife. The cultist responds by planting his sword deep into the kobold’s skull— at which point a certain Dragonborn calls to the remaining kobolds in draconic: “They’re trying to do away with us! Get ’em, lads!”

The ensuing melee proves quite amusing for the party, especially when—having aided the now-dwindling group of kobolds in picking off the two cultists—the temple’s back door erupts open, propelled outwards by Valos’ boot. As smoldering hay cascades all around his fearsome form, the surprised kobolds shriek and turn tail, leaving the route clear for the party to help the townsfolk flee.

Fool me once…

As the group of guards circling the temple reaches the main doors, they encounter the discarded battering ram and begin to investigate. Neesa again calls to them that the raiders are being attacked and that they should go to help. They go, but a single cultist stays behind, curious. Neesa distracts him, leading him toward the temple doors and away from the unconscious commander, but then (once again) fails to convince him of her honesty.

Seeing through her disguise, the guard attacks, but Neesa is saved by the timely arrival of Brant, who solves the problem with the swift application of a rapier to the base of the cultist’s skull.

The party makes their way back to the hidden entrance to the keep, bringing along the unconscious commander and another incapacitated cultist, ready for questioning.

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Under Siege!
Cultists and Kobolds and Drakes, oh my!

While the caravan master hustles to get the wagons under the cover of a copse of trees, a group of guards and travelers decides to investigate the town of Greenest. Cutting stealthily across the open pasture around the town are:

Approaching the town

As they approach the town, the group hears a number of voices issuing orders or crying for help, along with what they determine to be the sounds of numerous kobolds. Through the pall of smoke they can make out caped figures directing the kobolds’ movements.

As the group sneaks around the edge of the first cluster of buildings they come to, a wounded man and two children come running from a house, closely followed by a woman carrying a battered shield and a broken spear. The woman stops, turning to face the house, and braces herself as four kobolds burst through the door and two more step around the side of the building.

The adventurers, though hampered by the billowing smoke, make to attack the kobolds. Arandur’s first shot goes wide, but Brant charges in, yelling “Who’s paying me?” and runs through one of the kobolds with his rapier. The other characters have a hard time catching the pesky creatures, who quickly injure Brant and Marcus, who had charged in swinging wildly (much to the kobolds’ apparent amusement). The spear-wielding woman fares better, however, jabbing her weapon through a snickering kobold’s ribcage.

Neesa moves to protect the injured man and the children, healing the stricken Brant and Marcus as she does so; four more kobolds appear from behind the house, though, with two charging and grievously injuring her. The others pull out slings which they cast at their attackers, knocking the woman to the floor.

Khardrash steps out of the smoke and takes a kobold through the eye with his bow, causing its comrades to chitter in shock at being attacked by a fellow draconic creature. Valos and Marcus make quick work of the nearby kobolds then, while Talak, trying and failing to scale a burning house to obtain a better vantage point, channels his frustration into eldritch blasts which reduce the last two kobolds to charred corpses.

Through the smoke

The characters manage to stabilize the stricken woman, who the injured townsman explains is a former adventurer named Linan; he is her husband, Cuth, and the two youngsters are their children. In his injured state, he is unable to carry his wife to the keep, where they had been heading, so Valos graciously offers to bear her there.

The party makes their way stealthily through the town, using burning buildings and smoke for cover. When they pass a group of kobolds looting houses, Brant sneaks around the back of the building and bangs on the walls to distract them from the rest of the party. Unfortunately a human in a long black robe — a Dragon Cultist — sees them and attacks, but the group are able to put him down quickly before he can raise an alarm. Neesa takes the cultist’s cloak and mask.

She is able to put these to good use soon after; wrapping the cloak around her and pulling on the mask, she succeeds in distracting another cultist in the next street, enabling the party to sneak past.

At last the party arrives within sight of the keep, nestled on top of a hill in the center of town. They see a group of six townspeople hiding in some bushes nearby, and a group of cultists heading for the keep entrance ahead. Taking advantage of their position, Brant strikes the cultists in the back, killing one of them. Khardrash then steps up and unleashes a blast of ice, freezing the others in their steps and allowing the group — along with their six new charges — to escape into the keep.

Governor Nighthill

Once inside the keep, the doors are closed behind them, and they hear the attacking forces ringing the hill, chanting and jeering. Arandur decides to wait with the guards in the keep, helping them to repair their patchy, old armor and weapons. The rest of the party is directed to the top of the keep’s tower to meet with Governor Nighthill, the town’s leader, who appraises them of the situation.

The governor asks for three things:

  • The safe passage of any townsfolk remaining outside the keep.
  • A prisoner that he can interrogate for information on the attack.
  • A rescue mission for some townspeople trapped inside the nearby Temple of Chauntea.

Brant and Talak agree to head out and claim prisoners while rescuing people from the temple; they negotiate a rate of 5gp for each useful prisoner they return to the governor.

The group is directed to an old sewer tunnel running under the keep, which lets out at a river nearby. Obtaining keys from the keep’s Castellan, a red-haired shield dwarf named Escobert the Red, they make their way along the tunnel, pausing only briefly as Valos pounds a swarm of rats into the walls.

Among the trees

Opening the grate at the river’s edge, Marcus spies a group of cultists and kobolds scouring the opposite river bank for hiding townsfolk. Brant slips quietly away to the west, away from the temple, and draws the cultists after him while the remainder of the group sneaks eastwards into a copse of trees to the east. Neesa opts to wait inside the tunnel’s mouth to guard it and to help any townsfolk inside and through to the keep.

Brant climbs a tree and, once the cultists have moved past him, somersaults down to slip away quietly and rejoin the group. Unfortunately, the large silvered buckle on his black leather boot catches on a notch in the tree, spilling him sideways to crash through the branches to the ground with a loud noise. The other members of the party hear this, but decide he can take care of himself.

The cultists turn and catch sight of Brant, who runs and just manages to lose them in the trees. He crouches behind a rock, but hears them coming closer, searching the undergrowth. Peering out, he flings a stone through the trees in an effort to lead them on a false trail once more. Luck is with him this time, and a loud crack echoes back as the stone hits squarely on a tree some sixty feet to the west. Taking advantage of the diversion, Brant is able to quietly slip away and rejoin the party.

A draconian gambit

The party spies the Blue Dragon circling the keep, occasionally swooping down to blast the defenders with lightning. Talk’s intuition tells him that this dragon is likely not here out of any particular obligation, and that its heart isn’t really in the fight. He resolves to do something about this.

Borrowing the cultist cloak and mask from Neesa, he puts them on and walks out into the field. Magically enhancing his voice, he calls to the dragon, and attempts to dismiss it. The dragon hangs in front of him, beating its wings, but Talak manages to avoid succumbing to the terrifying presence of the beast. Things seem to be going well, until…

The dragon blasts the patch of grass in front of Talak to ash, singeing the toes of his boots. It turns and swoops back to the keep, and Talak slowly backs away into the protection of the trees.

The rest of the party tell him it’s ok, it happens to everybody at some point.

Ambush!

Shortly thereafter, they hear numerous footfalls ahead of them through the trees— something is coming their way! Brant and Khardrash scuttle up trees to hide, with Valos’ aid, while Talak ducks behind a tree, and Marcus stands firm in the path of the onrushing horde.

Through the underbrush comes crashing a group of six townspeople. They pull up short at the sight of the cleric, but he calms them with a gesture and waves them on. As they pass, a group of six kobolds arrives, hot on the townsfolk’s trail.

Brant swings down from his tree, surprising the kobolds, bloodying two and knocking four to the ground. Khardrash lets loose an arrow from his position in the branches, and one of the standing kobolds takes the arrow in the shoulder. Valor wades in with his hammer, crushing the skull of a prone beast; Marcus crushes two more with his warhammer and mace, and Talak blasts another with eldritch flame. The kobolds attempt to fight back, but are quickly brought low.

The party sends the group of civilians back to the river to find Neesa and the entrance to the keep, while they press on to the temple. There they see a group of cultists attempting to batter down the main doors, another group — complete with two drakes — circles the perimeter, jeering and chanting.

A last, small group piles burning straw against a back door, creating great clouds of thick smoke that threatens to obscure the area completely…

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Everything begins somewhere…

…and this story begins on the road from Baldur’s Gate to the east, a little way west of the town of Greenest.

After many days of travel, a caravan of merchants and travelers crests a rise and gets its first glimpse of the town.

“You’ll have a soft bed tonight,” Bram Leenor called over his shoulder to his apprentice Dom, who was in the back of the wagon. “Nice place, this, we ought to do some decent trade. Heh, I knew a girl here once…”

“Oh not another tall tale of your ever-so-manly conquests, please,” replied Dom, climbing from the wagon to sit down on the bench next to Bram. “You realize that no-one believes any of that claptrap, right?”

Bram chuckled, and turned to reply, when a shadow fell across the caravan, a sudden downdraft flattening the wide cloth brim of his hat over his eyes. Dom snorted at the sight of his master frozen for a moment, mouth open, finger extended as though to make some important point, with his hat brim blocking his eyes.

A glance ahead on the road removed the smirk from his face, however. Bram, cussing, pushed his hat out of his eyes and saw his apprentice frozen in much the same attitude, eyes and mouth wide, hand extended, gesturing forward.

He registered the sounds around him: the horses were whickering and stamping in their traces; voices from the other wagons in the caravan raised in alarm; the shouts of the guards… and far off, the screams of terrified people, carried by the wind.

Turning his head, he followed the direction of Dom’s outstretched hand.

“Oh bugger.”

Ahead of them, swooping across the fields towards Greenest, was a creature everyone in the caravan knew, but that none expected to see. Bram watched it rise as it reached the edge of the town, beating its wings to hold position before it unleashed a burst of crackling lightning onto a house, setting fire to its thatched roof.

“Oh, bugger.”

Their next stop was being assaulted by a Blue Dragon.

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