Barricaded on the upper floor of the town hall building in the Hobgoblin-occupied city of Salido, the Party had dispatched the Halfling Infiltrator Stoat in an effort to locate the Krangi leadership after learning that they were not within the structure’s confines as originally believed. Though unable to pinpoint the whereabouts of the intended targets, the scouting mission did reveal the movement of numerous siege engines against the Group’s position, and the presence of a killer from one Party member’s distant past.
The resulting battle saw much in the way of death and destruction. Debris from the shattered town hall littered the ground and smoke filled the air from neighboring buildings set ablaze by potent magics. The fighting had also nearly seen the end of Alamir, the Aspect of Valor – who had been the target of magical bombardment by enemy spellcasters. Though incapable of halting the whole of the Krangi advance on their own, the Group had slowed it, and Stoat had delivered justice to the slayer of his family. Now another enemy beckoned, one atop a black dragon…
Godday, Sixth of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Withdrawing from the battle in Salido, the Party expended magic to appear in the secured teleportation chamber deep within the King’s castle in Bet Kasel. Sounds of fighting filled the Group’s ear, even from well inside the keep, and they raced through the corridors in search of Eresar II. Guardsmen directed them to the city’s southwestern gate, where the King had taken his personal defenders to reinforce the troops at the wall.
As indicated, Eresar was found just behind the front line, overseeing the defense of his city and orchestrating troop movements as reports reached him. He permitted the Party access and passed on the most current news available. In addition to the obvious hobgoblin attackers, the King spoke of devils emerging from a gate or portal on the city’s west end, and of the Dragon Rider and his mount – who circled the city from on high raining death to men along the battlements.
Still of the belief that the Dragon Rider was in fact the Aspect of Malice, the Party elected to confront the winged black monstrosity, leaving Eresar and the elite men of his king’s guard to counter the threat posed by the devils on the west end. The King wished the Group luck, and moved westward through the streets, guarded by a dozen or more seasoned protectors. With the King’s safety verified to the best extent possible given the circumstances, the Party moved north to the open fields separating the city proper from the wall.
Once in the fields, the Group selected a location near an exterior protrusion in the wall, thus placing them within reasonable distance of three battlements along its length. Should the situation come to demand it, they could – in theory – call upon any or all of the three positions for aid. With their setup completed, the Party augmented themselves with magic, and concealed most of their number with invisibility. Rarnok stood upon a large rock, visible and ready to draw the monster to himself on its next pass.
Moments later the beast came into view, still following a path just above the wall, scanning for targets. Being in possession of both sturdy equipment and numerous clearly magical auras, the Party’s Gnome quickly caught the dragon’s eye, and he encouraged its altered course with taunts and confident gestures. Nearby, the rest of the Group waited, hidden or invisible – each prepared to strike with their most powerful magic or mightiest attack.
As the creature closed to within spell range, it made the first aggressive move of the encounter, targeting the Aspect of Time with a potent Dispell Magic, removing many of his temporary enchantments. Rarnok countered by utilizing his Aspect speed, recasting some of the lost spells immediately. Meanwhile, Alamir, being enhanced with flight and invisibility, lifted himself from the ground and into line with the dragon’s current trajectory.
The dragon, under the effects of a See Invisibility spell, continued its route toward the flying Aspect, conjuring a Forcecage around him. Its acidic breath attack was then directed at Maldus, delivering severe injuries to the Aspect of Life despite the protection afforded him by his Resist Energy spell. By this time, the creature had entered the designated kill zone, and the Party launched its full attack. Stoat fired his bow from a hiding place in the tall grasses, sending an arrow into the Dragon Rider – causing a startled jerk on the reigns of the monster’s riding harness.
Rarnok acted next, using his flight spell to charge the dragon in mid air and make an attack. Meanwhile the Aspect of Valor escaped his magical prison, utilizing his Dimension Stride Boots to blink beyond the walls of his Forcecage and toward the airborne melee now in progress. Maldus remained on the ground, tending to his wounds with curative magics. Only the Halfling wizard Azravan had yet to engage, a calculated move that would give him the surprise he would need while the others kept the beast preoccupied.
Emerging slowly from his hiding place behind a nearby tree, the non-Aspect Party member collected himself, speaking the incantation of his spell and making the proper movements with his arms and hands. This was old magic, the kind not seen in an age or perhaps more – magic that if successful, would incapacitate his foe for a short while, and hopefully buy the Group enough time to slay the beast despite its magical resistance and awesome power.
Azravan completed the casting in hurried fashion, and was overjoyed as the magic told hold of the dragon, and sent it crashing to the ground. The Party fell onto the creature with their full might – slashing, stabbing and casting at the gargantuan beast with everything in their repertoire. The rider, who had vanished from the saddle as the dragon fell, was nowhere to be found; a fact that, while troubling, could not be allowed to distract the Group, for fear that the magic would expire.
Despite its incapacitation, the dragon was still a potent creature, proving difficult to damage even in its hindered state. Sword blows, even from the mighty Civilizer, could barely injure the monster, with spells such as Clould Kill faring little better. Indeed even a trio of deadly Blade Barriers from Maldus were all but ignored by the dragon’s scaly body. With the magic soon to fade, a solution was needed if the Party wished to avoid battling the beast at full strength.
It was then that Rarnok came upon an answer, one that would use the dragon’s size against it. He placed a Wall of Shadows on the beast, letting the magic siphon strength from his foe, a tactic that would eventually render the creature immobile for hours. Stoat took the initiative as well, using rope and his Immovable Rod to secure the creature’s neck to the ground. As the magic faded at long last, the beast became active once more.
Despite the drain on its strength, the dragon was still potentially dangerous, as tail sweeps and wing buffets lashed out at the Group on every side. Alamir took hold of the monster’s tail, straining with his full might to prevent the beast from lashing out at the others. True Strike spells permitted more successful attacks against the dragon’s durable hide, and spells delivered through touching the creature’s scales proved effective, bypassing the chance for avoidance.
After what seemed like an eternity, the dragon collapsed utterly, going limp and deathly still. The constant drain on its strength from the Wall of Shadows had rendered it inert, and the Group had little trouble finishing off the monster from that point. Rarnok pulled teeth from the creature’s skull, trophies he would wear proudly from that day forth. Stoat harvested scales from the corpse, to eventually be fashioned into armor of the highest quality.
Maldus meanwhile, collected blood as it flowed from the body, the rarest material component necessary to conduct the ritual that would hopefully destroy the Dark One’s hold over the souls of the four fallen heroes. He was determined that in the place of Malice, there would be Lombord Talrek, in the place of Torment there would be Argenon Remel, in the place of Undeath there would be Gonjeyla Sarazi and in the place of Rage there would be Kovayl.
Beyond that, he would see Hanadrel Rolendar saved from a wretched, tortured existence shrouded in darkness. He would see the Time of the Void averted once and for all…