Fallcrest was such a simple town. It was a good place to stoke the fires of commerce and nurture a growing family. The pretty, young girl laughed and giggled with her girlfriends as they teased the shopkeeper. His fine porcelain figurines dangerously danced on their finger tips and he could not figure out which of the three pranksters to go after as they separated to different corners of his shop.
Shopkeep: Elena, if your father was here I’d, I’d…
His red face and stammering was made only worse by Elena mocking him as she scrunched up her face to mimic his frustration. With that she burst out in full laughter, looked the shopkeep in the eyes and dropped the carefully crafted dragon miniature to the ground. Her eyes studied him intently as he looked down in sadness at the dragon’s broken wings. Then, with a whirl, she ran out of the shop. Her friends followed quickly and continued to laugh.
The three adventurers continued their pranks down the street and open market, never missing a chance to pull on the loose end of a maiden’s apron strings or snatch a tasty fruit from an open cart, with the other two distracting. Such was Fallcrest. Kids will be kids and the the townsfolk were used to such shenanigans. It was a dangerous world outside of the town and so a little prank here and there was paid no heed.
As the sun set the girls cruised for more fun, but it was not to be. Finnegan, one of the stablehands at Elena’s estate caught up with the three. Elena was to report immediately to her uncle. With that news, the other two girls departed and Elena scurried back to the house. It was one of the older properties, but had undergone much work over recent years as her father’s business grew more and more successful. Now it had high walls around its perimeter and a lavish courtyard between the gate and the main entrance. Still, despite its extravagant nature, it felt somewhat dark and lonely as an enclave cut off from the vibrancy of the city center.
Elena slowly opened one of the giant double doors and slipped through. Before her was the long great room with high ceilings. Items of warrior antiquity lined the walls at appropriate intervals: suits of various kinds of armor, spears and swords. None of it ever wielded by her father but greatly admired by him and used to inflate his status among other businessmen and high society. It was a proper feast chamber. So, naturally, out before Elena stretched a long table, able to seat perhaps twenty on a side. At its far end was the master’s high-backed chair, and behind that a couple of steps up to a raised area that could be used as a sort of stage to speak to the seated guests.
Upon this stage now sat a white haired man, elbow on the armrest, long fingers stroking his chin. His thin body did not fit the chair too well, but he thought it suited him as it had been finely crafted specially for a man of importance – Elena’s father.
Elena: Uncle, you have sent for me?
With that, the thin man moved from the chair and left the room through one of its back doors. Elena scurried to catch up. It was hard to follow him through the dimly lit corridors and he made so little sound that Elena had to guess where he was going. To his small chamber she went. His bed cloth still lay on the cold stone and that is where he sat. His spindly fingers held it – the orb.
Uncle: Sit. You are intrigued, no? Watch.
Elena dutifully sat facing the man. The dark chamber lit up with a long shadow of her uncle cast upon the stone wall. It frightened her, for though the man was smallish of stature, weathered and wiry, this shadow upon the wall was huge and menacing as the light caused it to flicker and shift.
Soon the orb grabbed all of Elena’s attention and she relaxed. Swirling clouds within the orb disolved and a sandy beach came into view. So too did the form of a dragon, some raggedy troglodytes and the five adventurers. Plus there was another, a young lady clearly out of her element and looking terrified. Elena’s heart grew excited when she saw the red-head – the sorceress to whom she could only imagine a persona. An idol. The wizard too. Strong women, like Elena wanted to be.
The orb’s images flickered and its master’s hand moved skillfully to clear the view. A nasty fog lay over the scene, making things difficult to see. For the adventurers it was a much more serious thing. The caustic fog burnt their lungs and eyes. They could just make out the shape of the great dragon Aurumendor, chained to an obelisk. Since last seeing the dragon held captive in the lake, the obelisk had grown so much that it was now pulling the dragon out of the water, by its chain. The chain glowed with a green hew that seemed to perhaps be the very life force of the great beast.
Quickly, the wizard cast a magical hand that carried a silver key to the dragon. With a bit of luck, the wizard was able to unlock the dragon’s collar. Yet the task was not complete, so the sorceress teleported to the obelisk and in a feat of great acrobatics, hung upside down, legs wrapped around the chain, hands dangling down to remove the collar and free the dragon. With freedom came a splash, as its nearly lifeless body fell into the dangerous waters. The orb showed that this was not at all pleasing to the Paladin Felsmon, a dragonborn whose kinship to the beast needed no explaining.
Elena and the master watched the battle unfold…
The adventurers rushed in to attack the troglodytes, but they were not ordinary creatures. Their flesh hung loosely off of their bodies as it is with the undead. If only the cleric Z’alden was there to dispel them. No. With blade and bow did the melee rage. The leader taunted the adventurers with how he, General Guano, would complete the transfer of the dragon’s energies to the great army that lay within the obelisk. Kengistan, home of the dragonborn, would soon be overrun and destroyed by means of the very life force of a dragon. Guano reveled in the irony.
Yet the forces of good were strong too. The stout dwarf, Barrick, raised up the Key of Bonderstrong and axes rained down upon his enemies. Acid and necrotic attacks were withstood as the Rift used her wizardly staff of elemental energy to protect the dwarf and other comrades. The dragonborn warrior’s might breath felled many an undead troglodyte as the evil general sought to release more evil warriors from obelisk.
Yet the crafty wizard had done more to thwart his plans. After ranger Erik had knocked Guano prone, the general’s skull tipped club lay on the beach and the clever wizard had grabbed it with her magical hand. Now the general was quite displeased and began showing signs of severe distress as he specifically targeted the wizard. Rift’s friends protected her, stopping the general’s advance as best they could.
All the while, the red-headed sorceress, Tira, was attacking the obelisk. To some effect, she could better discern the nature of the construction. Alas, its attacks on her were too much to endure, so she levitated away from it.
At that point Elena let out a suppressed cheer and soft hand clap, briefly breaking the uncle’s concentration.
The battle continued, now with the wizard blinded by attacks and on the deck, seeking a respite from the fray. General Guano sought his club, which gave him some powerful connection to the obelisk and the army that lay within. He moved toward the prone wizard.
Now, the key, the Key of Bonderstrong! Its powers stirred within the dwarf’s heart and he knew what he must do. Now was the time. The battle with Guano and the remaining troglodytes must be left to the others. Now was the time to fulfill the destiny of the key!
Pivoting in the sand, Barrick’s feet dug in securely to start his sprint and his fist reached toward the sky with key in its grasp. Off he went and with an acrobatic leap he bounded onto the dragon’s back and toward the obelisk. The key knew its part too and in concert it transformed into a great pick axe. Filled with the sense that he could destroy all of the evil in this wretched place, Barrick swung his mightiest stroke with the pick. Deeply into the obelisk it did sink.
A sphere of fiery energy began to emanate from the Pick of Bonderstrong and as it expanded its incredible energy affected all within its radius. Consumed within the sphere, the obelisk disintegrated in place and the screams of the warriors within were inflicted no more. General Guano turned to look and as the growing sphere engulfed him his outstretched arms could do nothing to hold back the sphere. He mouthed a silent cry as the sphere quickly moved up past his arms, turning them to fine dust before his very eyes. Then he was no more.
The adventurers felt something quite different. Within the sphere they felt warmth and goodness. Their wounds quickly healed and they marveled at the transformations around them. The water turned pure again and so did the surrounding forest. The earth trembled as off in the distance the temple of evil imploded. Destroyed.
Now attention turned to the dragon. The Paladin organized his friends into a team that pulled the dragon from the waters. With the recovered golden claws and tail laid out around the dragon Aurumendor, the dragonborn warrior performed his ritual of healing. To their amazement, the dismembered parts slid back to their proper positions and rejoined the dragon, now fully whole again.
After a moment of studying his surrounding, the dragon regained his bearings and raised his head up above the adventurers. Gazing down upon them, he spoke:
Aurumendor: I am in the presence of more than heros. Thank you.
With that his lungs filled full with the now fresh air and he breathed. The humans, elves and dwarf amongst them squinted and braced, but the dragonborn knew that this breath was of a different sort. It was sweet to the smell and warm to the soul. All of the adventurers felt renewed and enhanced in strength. They were now more. Stronger. Smarter. More skilled. Their quest burned strong in their hearts and so did their resolve.
The dragon spoke again.
Aurumendor: Time is fleeting. I must soon bless the unborn dragonborn, lest they hatch into dracomen and unleash a terrible force upon not only Kengistan, but all good lands. You are the friends of Aurumendor, so to you I must repay.
Rift: How about a ride on your back?
Aurumendor: (With a sense of annoyance and regret.) Hmmm. Yes. Okay. This once.
With that, the five adventurers and the young farmer’s daughter, Xeriope, climbed upon the dragon’s back and took flight.
Panning quickly, the master struggled to keep up with the dragon’s quick movements across the sky. Its prowess was an amazing sight to behold and Elena’s jaw dropped. So how she wished to have such adventures. The man and Elena relaxed beside the orb as the dragon ferried the adventures over hill and field. With a stop at the Xeriope’s home, there was much rejoicing. Her father’s tears showed the appreciation he had for the adventurers and their rescue of his beloved Xeriope. A small drink of his finest was given out in celebration. Empty of wine but full of joy, the adventurers left him.
Soon the dragon swooped over Mount Hol’dna. Tira’s amulet had been drawing her to this rocky and foreboding stone. After spiraling in (Aurumendor’s signature move) the dragon landed outside a cave entrance. A quick dragon breath down its throat to clear out any immediate nasties and the adventurers were off. Excited and with renewed energy, the Paladin dragonborn lead the way. It was more of a charge. Oddly, the ranger was in the rear.
As he looked into the orb, the master could not believe what he was seeing. He shook his head and grinned.
Into a large chamber the adventurers stumbled whereupon they were greeted by a fireball from a pair of skulls. The skulls’ mocking of the adventurers was short lived for their fire was muted by the wizard’s quick use of her staff of elemental power, which blunted the attack. The owlbear that appeared next was in no mood for joking, as it charged the paladin who was in the lead. A mighty blow it was and the dragonborn reeled at the force of this strange creature. Yet the wizard, Rift, once again answered the attack with a powerful blow of her own – a tornado of sorts that would spell the beginning of a furious end to the owlbear. First the ranger would pierce it with two arrows and then the sorceress would set the beast on fire, its fur smoking as it connected once again with the paladin, who would soon be blinded by one of the skulls. Ah, to be on the sharp end. So too was the owlbear, pummeled by Rift’s spectral ram, teleported up high only to fall and sustain more damage. Lying prone on the ground, the owlbear took another arrow from the ranger and never did breathe again.
The battle with the two skulls continued with a game of cat and mouse as the five adventurers hunted them and pushed them back further and further into their chamber.
Elena: (Thinking to herself.) Skulls are cool and all that, but just kill them already.
Soon the battle was over. The skulls had tried to escape their fate by flying high above the adventurers but with ranged attacks they had been felled. No more mocking, though the adventurers could have easily been ridiculed as they attempted to disarm flame traps by using the smoldering carcass of the owlbear as a shield. All for a lousy 600 gold pieces.
Elena: Master, how long will this go on? I want to see someone die or something.
The man cast a stern eye toward the young lady. Elena had forgotten her place for just a moment. She knew that this man was very serious indeed and that her little act was a great annoyance to him. With eyes cast back down on the orb, she continued to watch quietly.
Soon the adventurers had healed and steeled themselves for the next battle. This time they carefully crept forward with the ranger in the lead. Foot traffic had passed this way, some human, some with large claws. As the path sloped upward it grew unnaturally cold. In the distance, a human could be seen midway through a large chamber. But this was surely no friend, for he wore a symbol of Dis and behind him the ranger could spy several spiny devils with long wicked claws and, of course, spines. These types had been encountered before in the Horned Hold and the adventurers knew them all too well, with their poison dripping quills that could be shot out a great distance.
A horrible moaning could occasionally be heard as if many men and women were suffering through captivity in a pit.
Erik the ranger paused at the entrance to the cavern but the sorceress entered further, readying her chaos bolt to respond to any aggression. Through the dim light she could see another human. Then Erik let loose an arrow. It flew true and struck the human follower of Dis in the chest, dropping him to the floor. The battle was underway.
Rushing to the fore, Barrick engaged the enemy but was soon surrounded by more humans – and a squadron of spiny devils. Then another squadron of devils appeared and the adventurers were feeling completely overwhelmed. Spines flew and struck their marks, leaving a trail of poison coursing through the valiant adventurers. Further still, a very large devil came into view, flapping his leather wings, twitching his tail and menacingly lofting his deadly trident.
At this point the orb began to flicker and its light fluctuated.
Elena: What’s wrong?!
The man waved his hands over the orb, attempting to regain focus. Elena knew that the orb would soon no longer be able to see the battle. “Just a little longer”, she silently pleaded.
The wizard’s ice storm froze the spiny devils in their tracks, giving her compatriots time to do more damage to them. The sorceress’ tempest surge. The fighter’s sweeping blows. Perhaps the adventurers could stand against so many. Perhaps they would get continued luck for as the large devil struck at them he would miss. Moreover, the dwarf had found his calling and to be a giant slayer it was. Such a stout creature could deal so much damage to a large one and that’s exactly what Barrick did to daze the giant devil.
Not to be outdone, the ranger stowed his bow and joined the fray up close and personal. The devil must fall! Four strikes from the ranger left the devil bleeding for many more exchanges to come. This must have greatly angered the devil for he cast a ring of fire around Erik and set his spiny devils upon the ranger, stinging him with their horrible poison. To make matters worse, all of the spiny devils were on the move again, so Rift cast forth silver energy from her staff, bringing many of them out of the air and onto the ground. Black ichor spilled out from within, but they kept coming.
The orb flickered some more and the view became a bit fuzzy.
What could be seen, though, was one of the greatest attacks yet witnessed by the young Elena. The dragonborn paladin revealed his true potential and amazed even his comrades, for in just one quick series of attacks he both froze and electrified no fewer than eight spiny devils, killing one outright and leaving the rest to seriously consider their mortality. The dragonborn’s breath was truly a sight to behold. Now it was easier for the paladin’s comrades to finish off the spiny devils and so that is what they did.
No valiant deed need go unpunished, and so the large devil retrained his focus on the paladin, pushing him back and knocking him prone. Yet the dragonborn still smiled for his last attack had turned the tide. Surely the large devil knew it too and his punishing deed went not unpunished by Erik who stood by his paladin and struck the large devil severely. All the while, more spiny devils fell.
Just as the orb finally lost its connection, Elena and the man could see the brave paladin rise and strike the great devil with what looked to be a final blow.
Elena: Wait! What’s happening?
Uncle: The orb has it’s limits. Elena, go find Finnegan. It is time to plan. We shall throw a great party with the finest of Fallcrest and the neighboring lands.
Elena: Yay! Party!