There be dragons?
By Anton Spletstoser
The following uses the setting of Fallcrest and the Nentir Vale from the Dungeon Master’s Guide 4th Edition and the World of Greyhawk in the year 1412 CY.
This did not look good at all. The harvest was late, winter was coming, and the kobolds suddenly seemed to think they owned HIS vale. The Lord Warden of the Nentir Vale read report after report in his office in Moonstone Keep. He was reading them and worrying. The dwarven clock on his mantle, one of the few in the entire vale that did not need an entire tower to contain it, chimed again. It was getting late and Lady Allande preferred her husband attend family dinners, especially when their eldest son was visiting from Greyhawk during a break in his studies.
“I do not like the look of these reports,” mused Lord Warden Faren Markelhay, “The kobolds have hit almost every caravan coming into Fallcrest. The last caravan barely made it to the village, but for the bravery and skill of a band of adventurers who happened to be travelling with it. The tactics and coordination of the kobold tribes had never been this effective before. We need to find out who or what is behind this. Sergeant-at-Arms, in the morning summon those adventurers who claimed to have killed that dragon.”
“Yes sir, but if I may point out, it was a very small dragon,” Sergeant-at-Arms Rand Bekker stated matter-of-factly. He continued, “And they have apparently bought up AND drunk most of the ale the Nentir Inn had on hand during the past two days.”
“Summon them anyway,” replied Markelhay, “Our own guards are stretched too thin as it is. We need more information on what is going on out there in the vale and I am not sending out peasant farmers to scout for me. We need skilled professionals or talented amateurs… we need adventurers!”
“As you wish, milord”, replied Bekker as he saluted, about faced, and headed toward the large iron bound oak doors that lead out of Markelhay’s office.
“And Bekker”, Markelhay called to his back.
“Milord?” replied Bekker.
“Inform that mage… what’s his name… Nimo something… Nimozaran the Green. Inform Nimozaran the Green that we may be requiring his services.”
“As you wish milord,” said Bekker.
“And Bekker”, said Markelhay.
“Yes milord?” replied Bekker.
“Inform Lady Allande that I may be late for dinner… again”, said Markelhay. After Bekker closed the doors, the Lord Warden of the Nentir Vale returned to reading reports… and worrying.
“Fin” Finathern was mildly hungover. But in the same sense as saying a red dragon is mildly angered when you make off with its hoarde. He was then mildly annoyed when there came a pounding at the door. Actually it was a light tapping, but point of view is everything. He looked over to the other bed in the room. The hulking reptilian form of the dragonborn paladin Torinn shifted slightly. His armor and gear stacked neatly by his bed, oiled and cleaned the night before. Fin’s was stacked slightly less neatly on his side of the room. But still arranged in such a way that he could get to what he needed when he needed even if the room had been dark as pitch, but maybe if he was not so drunk. Old habits died hard, even after a gratuitous amount of ale. The knocking continued.
“I’m coming! Hold your warhorses!” snapped Fin as he poured himself out of his bed.
He opened the door to the sight of a page boy. He could tell by the outfit and the heraldry of the Markelhays emblazoned on his tunic.
“And what do you want?” growled Fin.
“Milord requests your presence at his audience chamber after midday meal,” nervously replied the page boy as he handed Fin a summons affixed with the Markelhay seal.
Fin looked out his window at the sun, that gave them a few hours. “Oh, his lordship requests us does he???You may inform his lordship that we will be there,” replied Fin, the sarcasm apparently lost on the lad.
“Yes sir,” squeaked the boy and he promptly left.
Fin started donning his armor. “Hey, Torinn! Rise and shine! We have an audience with a lord.”
He finished strapping his armor and weapons on and strode across the hall and banged on a door. “ Hamadar, Kierra! You two awake in there? Get yourselves presentable. We have to meet his lordship in about four hours.”
Fin then proceeded to the end of the hall and pounded on the door, “Dayreth, up and at ‘em! His lordship wants to make you a general!!!” Fin loved ribbing the eladrin warlord about his apparent ambition to one day command a great host. Of course, he had to admit, Dayreth’s strategy and tactics had certainly helped carry the day against the dragon Atrazzebrax and his kobold minions.
Dayreth had already been awake and dressed since sunrise and had been studying “Lohmi’s Art of War” when he was rudely interrupted by Fin. “I heard everything through the pitifully thin doors and walls of this somewhat questionable establishment,” he stated loudly enough to be heard by Fin. This is to say, slightly above the level of a normal speaking voice. “Three and a half years at Greyhawk’s leading military academy for this???” he sourly thought to himself. He collected himself and called out, “I will be ready when the time comes.”
Fin returned to the room he shared with Torinn, the paladin of Kord, god of storms and battle. The dragonborn was finishing his prayers as he entered. He then started to don his own heavy armor and asked, “Do you have any idea why the lord warden would wish to see us?”
“I haven’t a clue, maybe one of the clerics told him that story you spun to get them to heal Hamadar without putting up a fuss,” quipped Fin.
“It was the truth, I am a paladin and I am dragonborn, I am honourbound to tell the truth,” stated Torinn, “I merely stated the facts as I saw them.”
“Were you on the same plane of existence as the rest of us then?” Fin shot back, “That blasted dragon almost had our guts for garters. You were making us sound like heroes out of some epic.”
“But we were victorious,” stated Torinn flatly, “I merely stated it in a more ornate manner than you are used to. And being a paladin does have its privileges, the temple priests and priestesses did provide us with healing and supplies did they not?”
Half an hour later the party was in the taproom of the Nentir Inn having breakfast. It was a relatively new building of flagstone and timber, but was already doing a thriving trade. It wasn’t as fancy or ornate as the more established Silver Unicorn Inn and the clientele were certainly more “colorful”, but the rates were cheap and the ale and food was good. Bread, cheese, and fried eggs and sausages were quickly disappearing from the serving platters. Killing dragons works up an appetite.
“What do you think his lordship wants with us this time?” queried Kierra as she sliced an apple into precise wedges, “We already got that silly box back for that fat merchant and we killed a dragon…. a DRAGON.” The elf deftly flipped three thin apple wedges into the air and caught each in her mouth, one after the other. Then she spun her dagger with a flourish with one hand and seemingly made another apple appear out of thin air with the other. Now, thought Fin, was a good time to make sure your coin purse was still where you thought you had left it.
“We will find out in due time Kierra,” replied Hamadar darkly, “I’m sure this ‘lord warden’ will tell us all he thinks we need to know when we see him.” He seemed moodier than usual, and that was saying a lot for the warlock. The encounter with the dragon had left him in dire need of the local clerics. And they in turned had been less than enthused about healing one who, rumors said, had made a pact with dark forces to gain his powers. On the other hand, those powers had also sent many a kobold on a one-way trip to whatever dark god they had worshipped in that dank and vile lair. And the local clerics had been won over by the paladin and his telling of their exploits against the dragon and its kobold minions. By then they had almost been fighting each other to heal him, especially some of the prettier ones.
After their bellies were full, the party stepped out into the morning air. It was a cool, brisk autumn morning. The smell of harvest time was in the air. They made their way across the bridge that spanned the Nentir River, paid the toll, past the upper quays, and marched into the Hightown, the northern part of the village. The buildings here were older, Hightown having made it through the fall of the city relatively intact. The wealthier citizens lived here. There were few people moving about as most laborers and tradesmen were already in the fields or at their shops. But the villagers they did pass in the street looked strained. The last two months of almost constant threat of attack were taking their toll. Several of the outlying farms had been attacked and burned. The men of the Lord Warden’s guard were only sixty strong and did double duty as constables as well as soldiers, but most were young and inexperienced. The sergeants did their best and had trained some of the townsfolk into a fairly capable militia. As another group of villagers passed the party and recognized them, their countenances visibly lightened. There was even the glimmer of hope. The recent thrashing one of the kobold tribes at the hands of the adventurers had had an almost miraculous effect on the morale of the village.
“We best make sure we have enough supplies,” said Fin while looking through his pack. It was never a good thing to run out of a simple item that can mean the difference between life and death in a dark hole in the ground. He recalled that the caravan they had helped to defend on their way to Fallcrest had been fairly well stocked.
“We could check with that fat merchant, Segod… Segod Sarsfield… He owes us a discount. He promised,” said Kierra.
“He did have a very well stocked wagon,” agreed Torinn,”He should be set up in the village marketplace.
“I do need a new shirt and jerkin. That bloody dragon ruined my last set,” said Hamadar, ”but at least I was able to liberate this lovely set of darkleaf leathers.” He looked down admiring the newly acquired magical leather armor they had discovered in the dragon’s hoarde. It was covered in ornate patterns and the subtle shape and texture of the gravetree leaves that gave the armor its special protective abilities.
“I would say you had earned it, you did manage to slam the beast against the wall hard enough to knock it senseless,” Dayreth pointed out, “and I could do with a few minor items as well.”
The party made its way south and came to the cliff that effectively divided the northern and southern parts of the village. The morning mist off of the river was beginning to burn off from the sun’s warmth. From the bluffs they could see down into the southern part of the village. They saw the market green, located next to the docks by the river. They followed the trail to steps carved into the stone of the sloping cliff and proceeded south into what the villagers called Lowtown, the southern half of Fallcrest. Here the buildings were newer and the people poorer. Here and there you could still see rubble and ruins left over from the fall of the city during the war. They asked a villager for directions and made their way toward the market green.
Segod Sarsfield was setting up his stall. This was going to be a profitable day. He could feel it! The last few caravans had been almost completely sacked and after two months the demand for his wares meant he could deal honestly and still make a profit. The Lord Warden’s Sergeant-at-Arms had been polite enough to inform him that the lord “frowned” upon anyone or anything trying to make “unreasonable” profit from the current crisis. Segod suspected that “frowned upon” included all manner of unpleasant things and did not want to find out exactly what they were.
Segod had never considered himself an “adventurer merchant” as some called the traders who went into areas of personal as well as financial risk in order to make a profit. But his creditors in Greyhawk had made it all too clear that they would appreciate his prompt repayment of the loan he had taken out to start his trading business. If only he hadn’t listened to that thrice damned tiefling partner of his, well, former partner now. He had sunk almost all of his savings into this trading trip into Nentir Vale. Well, he wouldn’t put too much of a mark up on his wares, maybe an extra fifteen percent. Then he saw the party approaching. He bellowed in his best trader’s voice, “Welcome my hearty friends, I suppose you’re here to see about that fifteen percent favored customer exclusive discount I had promised you!”
Nimozaran the Green, High Septarch of Fallcrest, Head of the Fallcrest mage’s guild, and wielder of powerful arcane energies was deep in thought. A thought had occurred to him after his morning bath. He had returned years ago to Fallcrest. He had been determined to rebuild the mage’s guild and return it to it’s former position of prominence in the village. But in all those years since, he had only managed to recruit one apprentice, the Halfling Tobolar Quickfoot. Oh, Tobolar was loyal and eager enough to learn the arcane arts, and he had paid in gold, it’s just that he seemed to have all the natural talent in the arcane of a lump of granite. Tobolar, for his part, did try, honestly he did try. But rarely succeeded, his ambitions seemed to outstrip his abilities by several leagues. He had been studying for the better part of a decade and had only learned the most basic of cantrips.
“Master?” Tobolar whispered carefully, Nimozaran the Green did not like interruptions.
“Yes Apprentice Quickfoot?” answered Nimozaran formally. He like being formal, though technically Tobolar was the only other member of the mage’s guild in Fallcrest besides Nimozaran. No one else had had the one hundred gold pieces required for the initiation ceremony.
“There is a messenger at the door from his Lordship,” said Quickfoot, “ he is requesting your presence at the keep after the midday meal.”
“Oh bother,” muttered Nimozaran, “what can be so important that it must pull me from important guild business?” He was still trying to figure out how to recruit more students from the vale.
“He mentioned a generous donation to the guild and maybe the possibility of enrolling his middle child here at the tower,” replied Quickfoot hopefully.
“Oh yes, that would do the trick. If his lordship enrolled one of his children here at the tower then that would be a sign of his endorsement of my position as High Septarch of Fallcrest,” said Nimozaran, his eyes partially glazed over as he imagined the requests for enrollment once one of his Lordship’s own children was an apprentice at the tower.
“And another thing Master,” said Quickfoot.
“Well, out with it,” shot Nimozaran, a little put out at being pulled out of his vision.
“We received another report from the hunters scouting the vale earlier this morning, but you informed be you were not to be disturbed unless it was of dire importance,” uttered Quickfoot cautiously, “they have seen more dragon sign, somewhere in the direction of Kobold Hall.”
“Oh, yes, yes. I just knew there had to be another dragon in the vale, all the signs pointed to it, the destruction and stolen livestock had been too widespread to be the work of one beast. I was right!” exclaimed Nimozaran, “I must prepare a new report for the Lord Warden when I meet him!” He was excited now, and the energy of it was flowing through his very being. He felt ten years younger, maybe even twenty. He knew the villagers mocked him behind his back. The “crazy old man in his tower” is what they said, he knew it, but this would prove that he was a great wizard to be respected and taken seriously. He started toward the steps to the lower levels.
“Master?” asked Tobolar.
“Yes, Apprentice Quickfoot?” responded Nimozaran in a mildly aggravated tone.
“Should you not maybe don your robes of office before meeting with Lord Markelhay?” Tobolar asked in a guarded tone.
Nimozaran the Green, High Septarch of Fallcrest, Head of the Fallcrest mage’s guild, and wielder of powerful arcane energies was still wearing only his loin cloth.
“Quite right,” answered Nimozaran as he turned to his wardrobe without missing a step.
Fin, Torinn, Hamadar, Dayreth, and Kierra were walking away from Segod Sarsfield’s stall. It had been a profitable day indeed! The profit he just made from those adventurers nearly paid for the trip by itself. His colleagues had laughed at him when he had invested in fine armor and weapons and high quality adventuring gear along with more sundry items. They told him that no one was going to be able to afford such rare items out in the borderlands. He had figured on selling most of those items to the village guards or the militia and they had bought some of them, but those adventurers probably had more gold on them than every peasant in the village put together. They had purchased some adventuring gear, a few of his fine daggers, a crossbow, bolts, leather and metal polish, and a fine suit of chainmail. That warlock had even bought a set of his best courtly dress, the latest fashion from Greyhawk, well the latest fashion from about eight months ago. The elf had even bought a fine new outfit for herself, a dark charcoal gray satin shirt and fine leather riding breeches, leather boots and gloves, they were young men’s clothes, but she said she preferred breeches, well elves were strange anyway. That pretty elf girl had even shown interest in a set of locksmith tools he had, though what a pretty girl like that would need with those he could not fathom. But he could fathom the jingle in his coin purse. Now that he thought about it, where had he laid it? Ah, there it was, right next to his lockbox. He must keep his wits about him when trading goods out here on the edge of civilization. No telling what unsavory sorts may be about.
The party made its way back their rooms at the Nentir Inn, there they stored their recent purchases. Hamadar and Kierra changed into their new outfits. Dayreth donned his new chainshirt and put on his best tabard. Torinn and Fin polished their armor until they looked ready for parade. They then went down to the taproom for a quick meal and the aromas of cooking food and pipe tobacco wafted up to them as they came down the stairs. There were already several other travelers there dining and talking. Today’s special was a savory lamb stew, some sort of soft cheese, steamed onions, and fresh strawberries, all for a reasonable four silver pieces.
After their meal, they crossed the bridge and showed their summons to the sergeant, who probably could not read all of it, but recognized the seal of Lord Warden Markelhay and let them pass. It was noticeably warmer now and clouds passed lazily across the sky, carried by a light cool breeze. The pleasantness of the weather was marred by the fact that the village was under threat from some dark force from without.
As they strolled through the northern part of the village, they could not help but notice the impressive fortress that was Moonstone Keep. Even after the fall of the city ninety years ago during the Bloodspear War, the strong gray stone walls still stood strong. It was hard to miss, situated as it was on a steep sided hill just north of the village. It dominated the surrounding terrain and was a natural strong defensive position. Tall walls surrounded the northern and eastern sides of Hightown. Bordered on the south by the bluffs and the west by the river. They had heard that if the village were attacked again, the people of Lowtown would make their way to Hightown and there they would make their stand.
As they came up to the gates of Moonstone Keep, they were challenged by the gate guards. They presented the summons and were lead through the gate to the great doors that opened to a spacious hall. The hall lead to the lord warden’s audience chamber, portraits of past lord wardens and tapestries telling the history of the vale and of Fallcrest covered the stone walls. The hall ended in heavy oak doors that opened in unison as they approached and they were ushered into the audience chamber to stand twenty feet from his lordship, Lord Warden Faren Markelhay. He was seated on a large chair set on a raised dais reading something, a look of concern upon his face. He signaled to the guards and they allowed the adventurers to advance to stand ten feet from the Lord Warden. He looked up at them.
“Thank you all for coming on such short notice,” he began, “I understand you have been making quite merry since your return from that ruined temple and dispatching the fell beast that made it’s lair therein.”
“It was a glorious victory in the name of Kord,” said Torinn, he always did have a way with words, “It was a difficult fight, and at times the outcome was not certain, but we triumphed over the dragon Atrrazebrax and his vile kobold minions, even though we were greatly outnumbered.”
“Yes, Ressilmae told me of your encounter with the dragon. He was quite impressed with your accomplishment, being a retired adventurer himself,” said Markelhay, he continued, “And that is partly the reason I have summoned you here. We have been receiving reports from our scouts and hunters that there may be another dragon in the vale.”
He let that bit of knowledge sink in. Having two dragons, even young ones, in such close proximity was unusual. They were notoriously territorial creatures. It may have been coincidence, but Lord Warden Markelhay did not believe in coincidences. Something out there was orchestrating this, he could feel it. And he knew he must get to the bottom of this if he was to people his vale and his people safe.
Dayreth spoke up, “It is strange that two such creatures would be in the same vale. It could be that they are of the same clutch, siblings if you will.”
“That was my thought exactly,” cut in a voice from a dark corner of the audience hall. An elderly man in ornate green robes stepped out from the shadows.
“May I introduce you to Nimozaran the Green, High Septarch of Fallcrest,” the lord warden stated. Nimozaran visibly puffed up at the statement of his full title.
“And I have received further reports that point to it’s probable location,” he began, “It seems that it may have taken up residence in Kobold Hall, or rather under what is left of it. It has been going to ruin for years now, abandoned almost one hundred years ago, on the edge of the Cloak Wood forest. I do believe is was built by a Lord Syward Greylond, of the Greyhawk Greylonds, a very prestigious line…”
“If we could return to the matter at hand, High Septarch?” Lord Markelhay interrupted.
Nimozaran the Green then went into a surprisingly detailed report detailing dragon sightings, increased kobold activity, and maps of the general area around Kobold Hall. Each segment of the report was detailed, very detailed. Kierra was sure he was casting some sort of sleep spell and elves don’t even sleep! Fin’s head bobbed a couple of times, and Hamadar seemed to struggle between hiding his boredom and staying conscious. Torinn and Dayreth seemed to be the only ones really paying attention. They even asked a few questions which Nimozaran was more than happy to answer with a long detail response.
“And so,” Nimozaran concluded, “we need you to go to Kobold Hall, explore it, and determine if another dragon does indeed make its lair there. To speed you on your quest, I have prepared something for you. The Green Tower possesses a teleportation circle. I will use it to send you to Kobold Hall in an instant. I have inscribed a scroll of teleportation for you to use for your return. All you have to do is read it and think of the teleportation circle, and you will be returned to the tower.”
“Thank you, Nimozaran,” said Lord Warden Markelhay, “So, that is the quest we are offering you. If you can explore the ruin that is Kobold Hall and return with information as to whether a dragon now calls it home or not, I will pay each of you two hundred gold pieces. If you can bring back proof that you have vanquished the beast, I will pay you each four hundred sovereigns and you may keep the monster’s hoarde. Are we agreed?”
The adventurers consult with eachother, Kierra began, “Are we going after ANOTHER dragon? I try to make it a personal policy to limit exposure to dragons as much as possible.”
“But this is an evil that must be faced and defeated,” said Torinn, “It is our duty. I do not think we should take payment.”
“That’s YOUR duty,” Fin shot back sarcastically, “OUR duty is to get paid for whatever services we render, this is our trade. That means we get PAID. Hey, that’s kinda catchy.”
Hamadar rolled his eyes, “And we all have debts to pay back in Greyhawk, Fin. It’s why we all came out here to begin with. Rife with opportunities you said. It’ll be a great adventure you said. So far I’ve spent more time under a healer’s care than I care to.”
“At least that last healer was pretty,” quipped Dayreth, Kierra shot him a nasty look. “I’m sure that we can overcome this challenge with proper planning and tactics. A dragon is a tough opponent, but we’ve overcome one and we can take what we learned from that encounter to aid us in this one.”
“Besides,” Kierra cut in, “Think of all that GOLD.”
The party paused for a moment and turned to his lordship, and said as one, “We are agreed.”