The Tyranny of Dragons: Dawn of Heroes

Journal of Sora Goldflame, Servant of Lathander

After the final attack, or attempt at an attack, by the dragon, I managed to catch an hour of sleep. Myself and my companions were roused by Governor Nighthill, at what must have been the first hour or two of the morning. He apologized, but said that the need was urgent. From the parapets they could see that the the cultists were trying to set the town mill ablaze. This mill was vital for the town, and if they lost it they would lose an entire seasons harvest with it.

We gathered our equipment, including Martigan who was walking again with only a slight limp, and headed down through the secret tunnel out to the river. There was no ambush waiting for us this time, so we started heading west down the river toward the mill. Unfortunately, unlike our trek to the temple of Chauntea earlier, we were spotted traveling through the shallows of the river. By this point we were well practiced dispatching raiders and kobolds, and we swiftly made sure they would no longer trouble anyone again.

When we got close enough to the mill to hear its creaky waterwheel we moved onto the land, sticking to the shadows and brush. As we approached, we could see a small group of cult raiders trying to set fire to the mill. Refreshed from our short rest earlier, this group proved no trouble for us, and we got to work extinguishing the flames. Xanadu remarked that they had done a terrible job setting fire to the mill, as if they were intentionally trying to be unsuccessful. If only we had known then what that portended.

We went around the side of the mill, where there was a main loading entrance as well as a door to what looked like a small attached office. Martigan pulled out some delicate tools and was able to quickly pick the lock, something that I had not expected from one so clearly a warrior. The inside of the office was dirty, with paperwork and extra sacks of old grain everywhere around the room. It appeared to have already been searched, as evidenced by a safe in one corner that had already been cracked open. There was another door that led into the mill proper from the office, and there was smoke coming through from beneath it.

We opened the door and saw before a large room, the size of a barn, with a loud mechanical mill in the east end that was being powered by the waterwheel outside, and a second story loft that was open in the middle. There were sacks of grain stacked everywhere against eh walls on both levels, and many of them were burning and smoldering. As we moved to smother the flames, servants of the Cult of the Dragon emerged from hiding all around us on both levels of the mill. It was an ambush!

Ura was wounded in the initial volley of thrown spears they let loose. Xanadu's reflexes proved fortuitously quick as he responded by letting loose a sheet of flames that fatally burned three of their number. We then moved to the loft to engage the remaining assailants, who fought fiercely, but were ultimately no match for our prowess and the righteousness of our cause. After securing the mill and putting out the fires (which seemed set more to draw us into the ambush than to actually cause damage), we waited for about ten minutes until some of Governor Nighthill's guards arrived to defend it; we then returned to the keep, once again using the river for travel, this time unharrassed.

When we returned, the governor and Escobert thanked us once again for aiding the people of Greenest. They informed us that it seemed some of the raiders had left, albeit loaded down with loot from the town, and that we should get some well-earned rest. We did just that, and I know I for one fell asleep from exhaustion as soon as I laid my head down. I wish I could say I slept soundly, but my dreams were filled with darkness and visions of the world ravaged by freezing cold, choking fumes, lighting storms, waves of acid, and horrible fire, and then just before I awoke, I saw ten evil-looking eyes glaring at me from the darkness, as if whatever was there could SEE me through my dream.

I woke up with a start, then realized that there was a commotion in the courtyard. My companions had awoken as well, and we all went to investigate. We went and met Governor Nighthill upon the parapets overlooking the entrance to the keep, and from that vantage we could see what the commotion was about. Standing just inside the light cast by the large braziers lining the keeps walls was a large group of kobolds, surrounding a massive, blue-scaled, purple robed half-dragon with a wicked looking greatsword.

To our collective horror the kobolds then brought forth from the darkness four prisoners, three children and one woman, their hands bound, and pushed them onto their knees in front of the dragon-man.

"Defenders of Greenest!", shouted the monstrous creature in a deep, bestial voice that boomed with rage and power, "This has been a successful night, and I am feeling generous. Do you see these four pitiful, useless prisoners? We have no need for them, so I will trade them back to you. Send out your best warrior to fight me, and you can have these four in exchange." As it was saying this, it circled the prisoners, casually holding a spear in one hand, occasionally using the gleaming tip to raise up one of the poor captives chin's.

There was an audible gasp from those within the keep. Then one of the guards, a Sergeant Markguth, started shouting and yelling, pushing his way through the crowd in the keep's courtyard. "That's my sister and her children in that monster's clutches! Let me through, I must save them!", he practically screamed. Some of his fellow guards restrained him, as they realized what most of us had at this point: fighting that half-dragon was all but certainly a death sentence.

Then Martigan stepped forward.

He told the sergeant that he would make sure his family was safe, then commanded the other guards to open the gate. He strode forth from the keep, his face grim and determined, while the draconic cultist sized him up with a smirk. The dragon-man gave a nod to his kobold minions and they released the the three children. But not the woman.

"She stays with me until the fight is over," said the beast. From behind its cohort emerged two of their savage drakes, whom the kobolds kept trained on the kneeling, sobbing woman. "She is my insurance, to keep you honest and make sure there is no outside interference. Regardless of who wins, she will be released afterwards. I'm sure that will soften the blow for your friends while they're retrieving your corpse," cackled the half-dragon.

A crowd from the keep had gathered behind Martigan, made up of our group as well as Governor Nighthill, Sergeant Markguth, and some of the keep's guards. The kobolds had spread out into a half circle, so that now Martigan and half-dragon cultist were surrounded by a rough circle. With nothing but an exchange of glowering stares, the two combatants engaged.

Right as they closed with each other, the dragonman opened his fanged maw as if to shout, but instead released a bolt of lightning from its mouth. The attack caught Martigan by surprise and he took the full brunt of the breath weapon, though that did buy just enough time for those in the crowd behind him to dodge out of the way. The half-dragon tried to press the advantage as Martigan was smoking and staggered, but our friend put up the fight of his life, fending off and evading the draconic cultist's devastating blows while landing many damaging strikes of his own, heavily wounding his opponent.

Then the tide turned; the half-dragon landed a deadly blow, nearly severing Martigan's shield hand with it's two-handed sword as the blade sliced through one of the bones in his wrist and sank into the other one. Despite this grievous blow, I thought that Martigan might still defeat the dragon-man as it was also badly injured. I thought wrong.

The beast once again opened its jaws, and electricity exploded out from it's mouth straight into Martigan's chest. He flew backwards through the air and tumbled roughly to the ground in smoking heap. The creature then walked over to our friend's smoking, convulsing body, and sank his blade into Martigan's stomach, making blood erupt from his mouth. The half-dragon then walked away, laughing with disturbing boisterousness as it waved to its minions, who then released the captive woman. The dragon-man, and his kobolds, walked off into the darkness and out of site.

I immediately rushed forward and tended to Martigan's wounds, desperately trying to stop his bleeding and apply salves to the burns all over his torso. Though my magics were expended, I am still a skilled healer and surgeon, and I was able to stabilize Martigan and even get him to regain consciousness. He would live, but he needed lots of rest and plenty of healing magics as soon as possible. Sergeant Markguth was overjoyed to be reunited with his sister and nieces and nephews, and our small crowd quickly retreated back into the keep, Ura and I carrying Martigan between our shoulders.

Once inside the keep again, it became apparent from the parapets that the raiders were pulling out of Greenest. We hoped this meant that this night of terror was finally coming to an end, and thankfully that would prove to be true. My companions and I all retired to our bedrolls, finally able to get a few consecutive hours of sleep during what remained of the night.

We slept well past daybreak, clearly needing the rest after the events of the previous night. After I had used magic to heal Martigan's more grievous wounds and we had eaten a meal of porridge and sausages prepared by some of the folk of Greenest sheltering in the keep with us, the governor came to speak with us again. He hated having to ask for our aid yet again, but we were the only ones he could turn to, and he needed to ensure that Greenest was safe. He wanted us to follow the trail of the cultist, find out where their camp is located, and scout it out for him. He was worried that they might be planning another attack, and if it was targeting Greenest he wanted to be prepared, and if it was another settlement then he wanted to give them warning. As a reward for this task and our efforts the night before he offered us 250 gold pieces each; we accepted of course, and would have regardless of any reward.

We decided to leave immediately, hoping that the cultists guard would be down so soon after their raid. As we were leaving, a young man walked up to Martigan, limping heavily on his bandaged left leg. "I hear that you intend to follow the raiders and see where they've gone. I'd like nothing better than to come with you, but in this condition, I'd slow you down. In the midst of all this tragedy, there's no reason you would have heard about the fate of my master, Leosin Erlanthar, but it's important you know. He is a monk from Berdusk. He disappeared last night, after we fouhgt a particularly savage battle against raiders. A few others and I fought our way to the keep, barely. Leosin didn't make it at all. We went back this morning to lok for him, but all we found was his broken staff and this choker, which he always wore."

Martigan's eyes went wide, and he quickly conversed with the young man, whose name we learned was Nesim Waladra. Apparently Martigan's mentor was a friend of this Erlanthar's, and had sent Martigan here in his place to aid the monk.

"Leosin has been investigating these raiders for months," the Nesim continued, "I fear that he might have tried to infiltrate their group when they retreated, or worse, was captured and carried away as a prisoner. No one understands these bandits better than he does, and his knowledge will be invaluable against them. When you find their camp, please look for any sign that Leosin is there. One of my brothers has already departed for Berdusk to bring back help, but it will be many days before help arrives. Anything you can do before then would be a godsend."

Martigan assured the young man that we would find his master. We examined the staff and broach; the staff was of no note, but the choker was a braided leather neckband with a silver dragon design chased into the leather. The ends of the choker were ragged, as if it was roughly torn off. This certainly was not a good sign for Leosin.

We headed south, following the trail that the raiders had left. After about 4 miles, we spotted smoke from a campfire a few miles away. We cautiously approached, using the terrain as cover whenever possible, until we could get a better look at the source of the smoke. There, in a low spot between the hills and sheltered by some boulders, was a group of four human raiders and eight kobolds. We quickly put together a plan to ambush the group.

Ura snuck up on the human group's flank to steal their weapons from where they laid against one of the boulders, while Xanadu and Martigan would disguise themselves as cultist raiders using some robes they had taken from defeated raiders the night before. The plan actually seemed to be working at first, the raiders speaking pleasantly with Xanadu while Ura successfully stole their arms. But then they got a good look at Martigan, and they recognized him right away from the duel he had fought with the half-dragon.

By that point it was too late for the Cult of the Dragon raiders, and we slew all but one of the group, leaving a human cultist alive for questioning. He proved easy to get talking, especially once Ura started discussing how she would eat him. We discovered that the name of the blue half-dragon was Langdedrosa Cyanwrath, and that he was the lieutenant to one of the more powerful leaders of the Cult of the Dragon. They had been raiding Greenest to gather loot for the queen of dragons, confirming what the other cultist prisoner had told us the night before.

Our prisoner informed us that his group was made up of stragglers from the main force, and that they hadn't expected anyone to actually follow them. Despite their doubts though, it seemed the cult's leaders were more cautious, for the cultist told us that there was a rearguard waiting in ambush for anyone as ambitious as us. He told us the camp was about another 5 miles away, and described a narrow pathway that wound through the space between two plateaus where this elite rearguard were waiting vigilantly.

That seemed to be all of use that the man knew, so we let him go after getting his word he would no longer engage in villainous acts. Still, we stripped him naked just to be sure, after all we didn't want him to be slain by some vengeful villager upon seeing his cultist robes. We continued to pursue the main raiding force, the gently rolling hills of the Greenfields giving way to a more rugged region dominated by steep-sided, rocky plateaus.

As we got closer, we could see that the plateaus rose anywhere from 50 to 250 feet above their surroundings, their side nearly sheer except for areas where rockfalls and subsidence created natural ramps. The land between the plateaus was largely flat, broken only by outcroppings and wandering streams in steep-sided gullies. The crumbling sides of the plateaus were dotted with caves and tumbled boulder fields. Thanks to our former cultist's information, we were able to spot the ambush point where the rearguard was hiding.

Unlike the mill the night before, this time we were going to turn the tables on our ambushers. We approached the eastern plateau about a hundred yards away from the rearguard, making sure to stay low and stick to cover. We then scaled the plateau wall, taking our time to find natural handholds in the steep walls and ascend to the top. We then stealthily approached the ambush site until we were close enough to look down upon them from our hidden vantage points.

There were nine of the cult's rearguard lying in wait, each decked out in elaborate black armor and robes that were stitched and embossed with the symbols of th draconic cult. They were hiding behind piles of boulders that they seemed ready to use to create an avalanche on anyone foolish enough to walk into their trap. We silently signaled to each other and then ambushed our ambushers.

The cultists fought fiercely, and despite our having the advantage of surprise we still barely managed to defeat them all. One in particular, no doubt their leader, was dual-wielding a long sword and short sword and raining blows down on both Ura and Martigan, handily fighting them both at once. Finally, we managed to overwhelm them, slaying their leader and all but one of the other cultists.

We climbed back to the top of the plateau and made camp for a short while so we could recover our stamina and tend to some of the wounds we had suffered. In addition, we bound our prisoner and tended to his wounds enough to make sure he wouldn't bleed out. While we're sitting here waiting for him to regain consciousness so we can question him, I've been updating my journal. I don't know if it's just my gut or insight from Lathander, but I'm sure that we're about to discover that whatever we've become involved in is bigger and more dangerous than we ever imagined.

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