When the brave adventurers walked deeper into the abandoned town of Thundertree, the voice of a malicious green dragon boomed forth from a ruined tower. A most devious offer of parley it was. “Wizard!” Venomfang lied, “No harm will come to thee and thy companions beneath this roof!”
Fearful, the adventurers negotiated terms, shouting across the village square. In exchange for magic, they must oust a nearby druid from his home: an interesting proposition indeed.
Rygoth the druid was the very human the adventurers had been seeking in the first place. He would be their guide to an unknown castle, rumored to be the fortress of a mysterious villain—Black Spider. Upon agreeing to show the way, Rygoth left his home with the adventures who were content to let the dragon lie. And thus sprung a devious thought in the mind of the notorious criminal, Brinkli Carrowdown. The moment was ripe for deception. Upon seeing the druid depart, perhaps Venomfang would uphold an important piece of the bargain.
Brinkli the halfling enlisted help from alluring Ae the demon-born Tiefling. Together, the two crept across a field, past the corpses of two giant spiders, towards the dragon’s lair. Brinkly poked her head into an arrow slit high up in the tower’s stone wall. She peered down into a scene of destruction. Walls were smashed, beams were broken, debris strewn chaotically across the floor. On the floor sat a pile of riches. Gems, silver, coins, medallions, jewels, a battle axe carved with ancient runes, even a golden treasure chest. And on the treasure, lay an enormous green dragon, Venomfang. His wings were bent backwards. His feet were crumpled beneath his serpentine body—injuries from the fight with the giant spiders. His golden eyes drooped sleepily. He looked pitiful, lying there in pain. When Brinkli saw him, she thought this: I can take him.
Ae chanted a cantrip and the door to the tower burst open. The dragon didn’t budge. Brinkli watched carefully. She chanted a cantrip herself, quietly, under her breath. A spectral hand appeared in the air. Brinkli waited. She bided her time. When he moved is bulk off the treasure chest, she would fling it open with her mage hand a steal the item inside. If only Ae could convince him to move.
Venomfang was confused. “What are you doing?” he asked, genuinely perplexed. That foolish tiefling had just conjured four balls of light and sent them floating through the open door. The even more foolish Halfling was hanging to one of the crenellations on the outer wall, poking her head into plain view. Perhaps they needed just a bit more coaxing. They wanted the magic items he had promised them. But they would need to come inside to retrieve them. Surely they would come. An injured dragon could not pose too great a fright. He chuckled to himself in his mind, never letting his listless façade drop for a moment. The halfling still thought she hadn’t been seen. That halfing would make a delicious supper. Venomfang felt his mouth water. Suddenly, the tiefling poked her head into the arrow slit. Foolish humanoids.
Brinkli spoke, “Dragon. I do not even see the magic ring you spoke of. You are covering the battleaxe with your tremendous weight. How do you expect me to retrieve these items? We removed the druid from your vicinity. Please hand them over. A deal is a deal.”
“I can hardly move,” Venomfang replied. He inched his body forward. With a painful wince, reached his arm underneath his chest and dragged the dwarven battleaxe out from under him. He rolled with a laboring breath and revealed an ornately carved chest worked with gold. “By all means, come and claim your reward. But as you can plainly see, I am not in a state to bring these treasures to you. Do you see now why I wanted the druid gone? If he knew the true state of my health, he would surely strike.”
When the dragon rolled off the chest, Brinkli felt a surge of adrenaline. Her ears perked. Her fingers tingled. Quickly, she directed her magic hand to open the chest. Within, on a velvet pillow, was a magic ring glowing with blue light. She snatched it from its resting place at the very moment when the dragon breathed a plume of noxious gas at her face. They say time slows down in the moments before you die. For Brinkli Carrowdown, it seemed this moment was now. She saw the green clouds of fume speeding towards her. She smelled the chlorine odors. She watched Ae, with demon reflexes, drop from her perch to the ground and avoid the poison vapors of the dragon’s breath. Brinkli held fast. Hell-bent on stealing the ring, she took the gas straight to her face. The world seemed to swim beneath her eyes. She was dizzy. Very dizzy. She swooned. Back she fell from the tower. Blackness.
The smack of the ground lodged her into consciousness. She lay on the ground, gasping for breath, thanking her halfling luck for her stout heritage of resistance to all manner of poisons. Ae pulled Brinkli off the ground. Venomfang roared. He crashed into the roof of the tower furiously. Ae dashed away, into the forest. Brinkli sprinted, as fast as her little legs could carry her. In her real hand, she clutched the magic ring.
Rygoth guided the adventurers to a small clearing in the forest just a morning’s walk from Cragmaw Castle. “My thanks for dealing with the Goblins that inhabit this castle. I know not now where I will go, for the dragon’s ire is certainly irked. I dare not return home. The luck of heroes must flow in your veins, for that was truly a foolish heist. You are fortunate to be alive. Well, so long,” said Rygoth.
“So long,” said Ae.
“So long,” said Rygoth.
“So long,” said Thorn.
“So long, said Rygoth.
“So long,” said Brinkli.
“So long,” said Rygoth.
“So long,” said Theo.
“So long,” said Rygoth.
“So long,” said Amastacia.
“So long,” said Rygoth.
I bet you can guess what Nova the dragonborn said. She said—-Ow!, no, wait. Ah! She said nothing. There was no dragonborn, what am I talking about.
(In another dimension, with a deep voice, Nova said, “Fare thee well.”)
The adventurers sprung into action. Thorn, the bald, grey skinned half-orc, led the brave party purposely through the deep forest. Upon sighting the towering castle, Theo the accountant—er, wizard—sent his magnificent fey owl on a mission of reconnaissance. The owl flew by windows and arrow slits to peek inside the castle. Theo, using his mighty accountant abilities, followed behind, occasionally stopping to peer through the very eyes of the owl as if they were his own. What he saw was at best humbling, at worst terrifying. Goblins and hobgoblins inhabited the castle, honing their weapons and playing at games of dice. A fearsome owlbear occupied a small chamber. And, in a great bedroom, there lay a dwarf in chains. Gundren, it must be. And watching over him was a wolf, a Drow and a beastly strong looking bugbear. The bugbear was reaching for a javelin and quicker than Theo could have imagined, reared upright and launched the throwing spear straight at his face. “Aghhck!” cried Theo. As the spear pierced his eyes, Theo’s sight was disrupted, jolting him back into his own body. “They killed my owl!”
Quickly, the adventurers hid behind trees and bushes. They tied tripwires between the trees. Ae blew a silent whistle to lure the wolf out of the castle. If it must come to killing—which of course it must with Thorn there quietly chanting, “combat, combat, combat!”—but if it must come to killing, better to draw them out into the forest, where a clever party could use the terrain to their advantage. A savage grey wolf came charging out from a hole in the castle wall. Ae hefted a throwing spear. With careful deliberation, she sighted her mark. She took a short step to gain more power with her throw. As she heaved the spear, her toe clipped a tripwire! Ae fell forward. Already in the process of throwing, the spear sailed wildly off course. It sped towards the unlucky left kidney of Thorn the not so peaceful monk. Reacting with the instincts honed through years of martial study, Thorn caught the spear in mid flight. Deftly, he redirected the spear towards its intended target—the rapidly approaching wolf. The spear sailed just wide of the wolf, however, who came on unscathed. Quickly though, a barrage of arrows and firebolts made neat work of the beast as it came sliding to a halt by the feet of Ae, utterly dead.
An errant firebolt, however had surreptitiously landed at the base of a dehydrated tree. With speed only explained by magic, the trunk lit up in fire. Flames licked at its upper branches. Only the lithe Elf cleric noticed the blaze. Ever vigilant, she glimpsed a spark from the corner of her eye. Seeing dry brush and poorly nourished trees all around her, she thought the forest might go up in flames. She conjured a globe of water to put out the blaze, avoiding a potential disaster.
Without warning, a band of beady eyed hobgoblins appeared on the scene brandishing deadly weapons. Ae thought fast. She spoke fast. She uttered a spell, and a thunderous blast erupted from a point in space centered in the midst of the hobgoblins. SHTADUMMM! Before even a chance to react, four hobgoblins were utterly liquidated by the force of that sonic boom. The adventurers head ringing in their ears. They could hear nothing but the resonating high pitched tone that was the after effect of the bard’s brutal magic. Nevertheless, of one mind, they fled the site of the ambush and circled around behind the castle.
Startled, the adventurers came upon a team of goblins, led by a stout hobgoblin with an under bite. Theo reacted first. He shot a sticky web from his wrist which ensnared the doomed crew. The adventurers proceeded to annihilate the goblins and their luckless leader. They hardly had time to breathe, though, before the fearsome owlbear charged forth from a doorway in the castle walls. It ran on four strong legs, covered in grizzly like fur. Its head was that of a gigantic owl. From its cruelly sharp beak, it screamed a deep, bellowing squawk. The adventurers launched an immediate, all out attack. Crossbows thrummed. Fists flew. Fire scorched. A beam of holy light burned. Demonic whispers filled the owlbear’s tiny brain. It was overmatched. It died practically before it could blink.
And thus, was paused the great assault on Cragmaw Castle. What will happen when the adventurers face the next greatest foe, Black Spider. Will they save their benefactor, Gundren, or will they go the way of owlbear, into death’s eternal resting place? All this and more in the next installment of…D&D AT UNITCORN 17!