Part 17: Chapter ThirteenUrist wakes in a hot sweat, looking around the shared room to see that Minar and Athtar are missing. He focuses his fuzzy memory, rustling through his bedside drawer for a small stoppered bottle and downing the contents. After a few seconds the fog clears, and th commotion from outside can break through. He peers toward the window and notes a dull red light, something other than sunrise, and realizes he'd best get moving.
The common room is nearly empty, with half-eaten breakfasts neglected on various tables and no sign of Sapphire or Jasper anywhere. Urist helps himself to a roll left over from last night's dinner and wanders outside to finally find the source of the hubbub.
A large crowd has gathered outside the Swan, all muttering to one another and standing to the east. He finds Sapphire standing precariously atop a rain barrel, straining to see over the crowd, with Hunter, the bartender from the Chatty Archer, at her side. "That doesn't look good," she murmurs.
To the east, a pillar of black smoke towers into the sky. A red, sullen light lurks there.
"What is it?" asks a villager with a straw hat.
"Dragon," answers Hunter, his eyes narrowed. A murmur of agreement spreads through the crowd. "North and east of Evesmoore, if I'm reading it right."
"In Belmont lands, maybe?" asks the villager in the straw hat.
"Right on the border," says a dusky-skinned human woman in a sheepskin vest. "My cousin rode in with the news this morning. Evesmoore is mighty scared right now."
"They should be," says Hunter, his face dark.
Urist looks around and spots the rest of his companions not far away, then hurries to join them. They look somewhat the worse for wear from last night, but the gravity of the situation has forced them to shake off any sluggishness.
Athtar nods as Urist approaches. "We'd best get started. If a dragon is on the rampage, no town in the Allerfeldt is safe. The countess won't have the manpower to take on something like that and protect her people at the same time, not without help."
Urk cracks her knuckles and rests a hand on the Rune sword at her side. "URK WAS WORRIED WOULD SPEND WHOLE MONTH IN DRAGONHOLT AND NOT SEE ONE DRAGON."
"What about Kyric?" asks Minar.
Deepmind shakes her head. "A dragon attack's more dangerous than his whole bandit clan put together. He'll hole up in the woods until this blows over."
"We'd best hope so, because we don't have any choice," says Athtar. "The only question is, how soon do we ride?"
A) Warn the guards that a dragon has been spotted
B) Warn Lady Regina that Evesmoore could be in danger
C) Head east and protect Evesmoore right away
The smoke of the dragon's attack rises on the horizon to the east. A hot wind blows, and sweat begins to bead on the party's foreheads. The eastern road is a dangerous one today.
Evesmoore is almost a day away on foot, or a few hours on horseback, so their first step is finding suitable mounts. The party visits the public stables south of the Swan and explains what they're looking for to the stablemaster, a broad-shouldered human man with dark brown skin and a close cap of grey curls. "I'm all for someone taking care of that dragon," the man says with a frown. "But I'm not eager to see my property ride straight at a monster that might find it fancies the taste of horse." He scratches his head for a moment and sighs. "Alright; I suppose I can always ask the countess to reimburse me if you get my animals killed. Lars!"
He shouts, and a tow-headed human boy comes scurrying from within the stable. "Lars will help you get mounted," explains the stablemaster. Lars takes them through the stalls to the paddock out back, where several fine horses, ponies, and even a larger-than-usual goat stand around. "Riding goat," explains Lars. "Just got that one from the gnomes yesterday. Sure footed but she's a bit strong-willed. Take your pick."
The others begin saddling horses and climbing into the stirrups, while Deepmind stands awkward in the middle of the room. Aria notices her hesitance and shrugs. "Not a big fan of riding?"
"I, ah," the hyrrinx looks off to the side. "Never learned how."
"IS DEEPMIND GOING TO RIDE THE GOAT?" Urk asks, her eyes bright with interest. "URK INVESTED IN IDEA OF SOMEONE RIDING GOAT INTO BATTLE."
"I shall be riding this fine pony into the jaws of death," says Urist, with a distant look in his eyes as he ties a saddle on backward to the bemused goat. "I believe I saw its horns in a dream last night; a good omen, if ever there was one."
Pointedly ignoring his companion's bizarre prophecy, Athtar tugs on the reins and brings his horse up alongside Deepmind, extending a hand to pull her up into the saddle with him. "We're riding light, it should be fine for us to share a mount."
Tucked in awkwardly behind the rail-thin elf, Deepmind holds on for dear life. "At least if we get hit you'll give me plenty of cover," she mutters.
"If a dragon decides to breathe fire all over you I don't think seating order's going to make much difference," quips Minar. Aria tries to punch him in the shoulder but he's well out of reach, much to his amusement.
By the time they're all mounted, they find Tweegal leaning against a post outside, a collection of spears and crossbows at his feet. "I heard you're about to go do something stupid," he says. "So I opened up the armory. Have at it."
Athtar lifts a longspear and sights down the shaft, nodding. "Straight and true. Thank you, captain."
"Don't thank me yet," the old orc says with a grin. "Let's see if they hold up to a dragon first."
The rest of the party takes their pick of the weapons and lashes them to their mounts. At last, they ride east.
Beginning "Terror on the Prairie" questbook!
They take the road east, following it through the rocky plains until an offshoot takes them northeast into a wooded gulch. Wispy tendrils of black, oily smoke snake up through the trees ahead. They approach cautiously, unsure of what they might find there, but their apprehension at coming face to face with a dragon is dwarfed by the hope of finding survivors.
What's left of a merchant caravan sits smoldering off the bank of a small stream. The trees part around the water and road, creating a natural clearing where the dragon must have attacked the caravan.
Almost all of the wood has been reduced to ash, and the copper nails that once held it together have been melted and fused with the earth. Steel bands from shipping containers and reinforced trunks have been scattered around the landscape, as have the bones, weapons and armor of a half dozen caravan guards.
"Yep," says Minar, surveying the scene. "It's a dragon alright."
A) Examine the debris for clues
B) Search for signs of survivors leaving the area
Deepmind hops down from Athtar's horse, unsteady for a moment as she stretches her legs. She surveys the scene with keen eyes, frowning at the carnage.
"Those poor people," Urist mourns. "To be set upon so senselessly."
The hyrrinx returns a non-committal grunt. Though the caravan is completely annihilated, there does seem to be some kind of method to the madness. The crates aren't just burned or smashed open, they've been picked through. And the reinforced trunks that were too well made to burn have been pried open by strong claws. The work must not have been easy, even for a dragon, because one of the creature's talons has broken off and stuck in one of the heavy chests.
"OHHH, SAVE THE CLAW," says Urk. "COULD BE USEFUL. OR AT LEAST VERY COOL."
The party gains one Dragon Claw
Meanwhile, Minar scouts the area for signs of any survivors and discovers tracks leading away from the clearing, heading north - several horses and a single set of wagon tracks.
The path splits, and the tracks follow an offshoot up a rocky slope leading to a stone bridge over a crevasse. Beyond the bridge stands a watchtower surrounded by a crumbling stone wall. In the small courtyard inside the wall, the party discovers the single wagon from its tracks. It is low to the ground, and covered with a thick flame-resistant tarp.
They dismount and approach the covered wagon. Curious, Urist wanders over to peek under the tarp, when a voice calls out to them. "Who goes there?" A soldier - a human woman in the red and white livery of the Belmont family of Rostum county - stands in the tower's doorway holding a spear.
"We rode from Dragonholt," Athtar explains, facing the soldier. "We saw the smoke, and hear the rumors of a dragon attack, and came to help at once."
As he speaks, the soldier watches the sky anxiously. "Right. You'd better come inside quickly. We barely managed to escape. The dragon might find us at any moment."
They follow the woman inside and find themselves in the company of four soldiers in Belmont livery, a timid human man in fine clothes, and their five horses. An air of anxiety and fear is heavy in the cramped tower room, and the horses are restless.
"I'm Lieutenant Bentley," says one of the soldiers - a human man with a grizzled beard and an eyepatch. "We're grateful you've come, but what purpose could you have for approaching a dragon?" he asks, his one eye studying the group intently.
Bentley's three remaining soldiers - the human woman, an orc man, and a dwarf woman - all seem on edge, perhaps more so due to the party's presence than the fact they were attacked by a dragon. The other man - the human in fine clothes - sits near his horse, nervously clutching a satchel. He's clearly not a soldier, perhaps a merchant.
A) "We came to help any survivors."
B) "What brings Rostum soldiers to Dragonholt county?"
C) "Why would the dragon attack your caravan?"
"Begging your pardon," Urist insists, struggling to focus on the soldier's uniform. "But if I'm not mistaken, you're Belmont men, yes? Awfully far from your territory to be moving unannounced in strength, eh?"
The lieutenant grimaces before speaking. "We're tasked with protecting this merchant and his caravan on a trade mission." Bentley looks over his shoulder and calls out, "Keven!"
The skittish merchant jumps to his feet, still clutching his satchel tightly. "Y-yes!" exclaims the timid man as he steps forward. "I-indeed! I've come from Rostum on a-" he trails off, looking to the lieutenant and swallowing before continuing. "-on a trade mission to Haverfor-"
Lieutenant Bentley coughs loudly and clears his throat, causing the smaller man to startle and cease his explanation.
Urk rolls her eyes, turning to the party and pointing dismissively back to the guards with her thumb. This unsubtle gesture of doubt is not lost on either side, and there is a quiet tightening of grips on weapons.
A) "Why does a merchant need so many guards?"
B) "Why would a dragon attack your caravan?"
"The dragon just came upon you suddenly? Without warning?" Athtar narrows his eyes at the merchant. "There are no known dragons living this close to Allerfeldt."
The merchant looks nervously between him and Lieutenant Bentley. "I can't say I know," says the lieutenant. "What reason does a bloodthirsty beast have to attack and kill anyone? It's in their nature to be destructive, is it not?"
"But did you provoke it?" Athtar presses. The frail merchant tightens his grip on his satchel, which bulges from its contents.
We investigated the attack
The pieces begin to fall into place: the evidence of the dragon searching the caravan, the number of armed soldiers accompanying a merchant, the nervous attitude of the merchant himself, and the bulging satchel held with the utmost care.
"MAN STOLE DRAGON EGG," Urk casually remarks, waving toward the satchel. "JUST IN CASE NOT VERY OBVIOUS TO ANYONE."
Lieutenant Bentley and his three soldiers draw their weapons, and the merchant shrinks behind them.
"It's time you moved along," growls Bentley.
Suddenly, something huge strikes the side of the watchtower, causing the walls and ceiling to shake. A deafening roar sounds from outside, and a massive clawed hand smashes through the wooden ceiling, slashing through the air overhead.
"Olga to the ballista," calls the lieutenant. "Keven, stay inside and stay low. "The rest of you with me!" With that he charges out of the tower, followed by his soldiers and the party close behind.
Clinging to the side of the tower is a creature of overwhelming stature with luminescent red scales, each the width and length of a human hand. The monster stands on its hind legs, two stories tall with great leathery wings and a tail just as long as its body that whips from side to side. The creature blindly reaches in through the hole it has created in the roof. As of yet, it has not noticed that a group has poured out into the courtyard.
The dwarf woman hustles over to the covered wagon and throws off the heavy tarp to reveal a military ballista mounted on a flatbed wagon. She immediately sets to work, arming the device.
"Keep it distracted!" shouts Bentley. Then he and the two remaining soldiers pull heavy crossbows from their backs and form a rhythm of firing bolts at the great lizard and reloading.
"What do we do now?!" Aria yells as the party fans out and draws their weapons.
A vortex of magical energy begins to swirl around Urk as she draws out her runes. "DRAGONSLAYING."
A) Take aim and fire
B) Assist the dwarf with the ballista
C) [Arcana] Buffet the dragon with runic magic
D) [Ice Rune] Cover the beast in magical ice
E) Swat at the creature's tail and hind legs
Reaching into her belt pouch and grasping the frost rune wrapped in sheepskin, Urk grins as the vortex building around her becomes tinged with winter ice. Already the air in the courtyard feels colder, and frost forms on the delicate flowers that grow inside the walls. As she draws out the shard, the dragon halts its action and snaps its jaws at the orc sage, fixing its gaze on the object in her hand.
The great lizard's eyes burn, and its nostrils flare as Urk reaches her will into the shard and draws upon the stored magical energy inside. The heat of the dragon's will prods back, attempting to wrest control of the magic away from her, but it cannot bear to touch the chilling energy.
Urk releases from the shard a blizzard that coats the tower and the dragon's wings in bitter frost. The creature roars, and fire builds in its throat, but the frost rune's magic reaches out and snuffs the flames. Just as ice crystals begin to form on the dragon's scales, its long tail slams down beside Urk, forcing her to dive out of the way and lose focus on the magic.
Sprawled on the ground, she looks up as the giant beast thrashes and roars. "THAT WAS SICK."
Mark two progress
The dragon leaps down from the tower wall to land in the courtyard, causing the ground and walls to shake. A fiery light swells in the creature's throat. The rumble of its growl vibrates through each of the party members, along with the heat of its furnace-blast breath. Lieutenant Bentley and his soldiers draw back from the beast.
Then there's a whinny and beating of hooves on the stone bridge. They turn to see the frail merchant frantically riding away, still tightly clutching his satchel. The dragon roars and snaps its jaws at the fleeing merchant, then beats its leathery wings, kicking up a whirlwind and lifting itself into the air to follow after the panicked rider.
"Fire!" calls Lieutenant Bentley from behind. The party turns back just in time to see the dwarf soldier at the ballista let her missile fly. The bolt slices through the air and passes within a hair's breadth of the men on the ground, but the soldier knew what she was doing; the steel shaft slides harmlessly past and horribly into the dragon. It tears a ragged hole through the monster's leathery wing and sinks into its rib cage with a thick, meaty thunk. The beast howls and falters, crashing down among the trees.
Mark six progress
Without so much as stopping to nurse its wound, the dragon bounds after the merchant on foot. "Mount up!" yells Athtar over the din, and as Bentley and his crew reel to get themselves sorted the adventurers are hot on the dragon's tail. Soon they break out of the woods and see the dragon bounding across the rocky prairie. Farther ahead is the merchant, riding as quickly as his horse will carry him.
In the distance can be seen the thatched roofs and wooden walls of the village of Evesmoore, and each second that passes brings the dragon closer to destroying them all.
By chance, Minar and Aria find themselves riding closest to the beast. Their spirits rise with each desperate snap of the dragon's jaws. It is wounded and enraged. They might be able to press their advantage to force the dragon into making a mistake.
"Cover me, I'm going in!" yells Aria over the thunderous noise.
"What? No, you cover me!"
"I saw it first!"
"That's not how this works!"
A) Keep the battle conventional and personal
B) Press the beast with a volley of ranged attacks
C) [Agility] Assault the dragon with trickery and bladework
Minar ends the argument by jerking hard on the reins, bringing his horse over to cut Aria off. Her mount rears up and comes to an awkward stop, while Minar spurs his onward, leaving Aria cursing in his dust.
He maneuvers with the dragon on the road. When the dragon attempts to break away, he follows, but when the dragon attempts to close, he flees. Once the gap widens enough, he readies his bow and draws an arrow back as far as he can.
Minar has Archery
He looses the arrow and it catches in the dragon's leathery wing. Immediately, he draws another, maneuvering around the dragon to fire again. Some glance off the creature's hide, but others stick in the wings or strike too close to the eyes for it not to take the harassment seriously. The dragon snaps its jaws at him, but he looses a shaft into the creature's maw that sends it reeling back and choking. A follow-up strikes the dragon's softer underbelly, puncturing the scales and sinking into flesh. The beast roars, and the air ignites into flames that Minar has to swerve desperately to avoid being engulfed by.
Minar loses four stamina
Mark two progress
His manic, singed horse goes wild, taking its rider away from the source of danger. A few moments later, Aria catches up to Minar, giving him a rueful look.
"See?" he coughs, trailing smoke. "I'm fine."
The battle rages, and blood, sweat, and cinder spread across the prairie. The dragon bounds through the fields, barking bursts of flame at the fleeing merchant, drawing ever closer to Evesmoore.
Eighteen progress has not been marked
Six time has not passed
With the rest of the party still trailing, Aria breaks away from Minar, who's now the one left shouting curses as he tries to regain control of his terrified horse. She rides her mount feverishly along the road, keeping pace with the bounding dragon. Whenever it releases a burst of flame, its pace slows momentarily, and Aria slowly begins to close the distance despite her mount's obvious fatigue.
A) Press her mount forward as quickly as possible
B) Fire upon the dragon from afar
Allowing her mount a respite from a forced sprint, Aria readies her own bow, drawing a fresh arrow. Perhaps a few well-aimed shots can distract the dragon from its furious chase.
Aria has Archery
She takes careful aim and looses. The arrow strikes true, piercing through the scales on the dragon's flank. Aria guides her mount with her legs as she readies a second shot. She aims and fires, this time planting a shaft in the base of a wing.
Mark one progress
The dragon snorts and growls, turning and skidding to a stop in her direct path, its jaws and talons ready to end her bothersome assault. Aria's mount rears up in panic, causing her face to collide with the back of its head.
Aria loses three stamina
She finds herself uncomfortably close to the dragon now. Behind it, the Rostum merchant flees along the road toward Evesmoore. At least the dragon isn't charging toward the innocent villagers if it's distracted.
Eighteen progress has not been marked.
Six time has not passed
Fetid brown teeth twice the length of a hand snap together just overhead as Aria desperately ducks beneath a fatal bite. she dodges backward, and four razor-sharp claws slice through the air a hair's breadth from her face and neck.
At that moment, the thunder of hooves indicates the rest of the party catching up with the dangerous melee. "A little help!" Aria yells.
A) Climb up on the dragon's back and attack
B) Search out its weak points
Deepmind tugs on Athtar's cloak, and the elf looks back over his shoulder. "Bring me in close!" she yells over the noise. Athtar nods, and spurs his horse forward.
The pair gallop across the path of the dragon's attack, pulling its attention from Aria. Deepmind draws her dagger and waits, while Athtar maneuvers close enough to keep the dragon's swipes from being meaningful, flowing like water around claws and legs.
Deepmind has Agility
Deepmind slides from the saddle as they pass between the dragon's legs, dancing away from razor-sharp talons and twirling to the beast's flank. Along the way, she experiments with a few quick stabs, testing the armored scales for weaknesses.
Deepmind has Thievery
She jams her dagger hard beneath a scale and slides it back and forth. She sweeps under another clawed attack then pick a new scale and repeats the maneuver. The dragon howls in pain and rage, and soon boiling hot blood is bubbling from beneath its scales, which burns Deepmind's hands and forearms. She yowls, dropping from the side of the dragon and scampering back to Athtar's horse, where he helps her back up to the saddle.
Mark two progress
Deepmind loses three stamina
"How did it go?" he asks.
The hyrrinx rubs her hands furiously into his cloak, scraping off the burning blood. "Could've gone better," she admits.
Turning, the pair look into monstrous eyes - each the width of a buckler - that glare with hate and fury. In that moment, it becomes easy to imagine being a rabbit looking up at a diving eagle.
Eighteen progress has not been marked
Six time has not passed
The rest of the party comes up to a skidding halt behind Athtar and Deepmind, slowly reconsidering their bravado as the dragon releases a terrifying roar. It begins a dead charge in their direction, and with each breath embers drift from its nostrils and reflect menacingly in its eyes.
"I think," Urist cautiously suggests. "We may have made it mad."
A) Check the dragon's aggressive charge from range
B) Brace for its charge and continue the fight in close combat
"Hiya!" Athtar calls out as his horse breaks into a gallop. Deepmind's grip around his waist tightens while he tears the longspear free from its bindings and levels it at the charging dragon. The beast launches toward them with the power of a catapult's shot.
Athtar has Military
The knight watches how the dragon moves and how its scales move like plates of armor. The beast slashes a clawed paw that passes over his head as he ducks and rides under an outstretched wing. He keeps calm, and then spots the gap in the armor he needs. Athtar thrusts, and the tip of the spear slips between the scales behind the dragon's foreleg and punctures deep into the soft flesh.
Mark two progress
The dragon jolts suddenly from the pain, and his spear is nearly ripped from his hands before Athtar manages to free it from the beast's armored hide. The creature spins away, sweeping a massive spiked tail in his direction and grazes his shoulder.
Athtar loses three stamina
Athtar has Agility
Athtar manages to maneuver his horse away from the assault, ducking the dragon's spiked tail. Then he rides hard and fast, back toward the road and the party while the dragon thrashes around behind him.
Breathing hard, Deepmind loosens her grip slightly. "Next time," she suggests, "I'll take the goat, thanks."
There's a furious exasperation in the dragon's howls. Its focus is split between its true target (the fleeing merchant) and the party (who are clearly so bothersome that they cannot be ignored).
Eighteen progress has not been marked
Six time has not passed
The dragon swivels its snake-like head and pins them with a burning gaze. Its chest and throat swell with a red-hot glow, and embers and smoke drift from the beast's nostrils. The creature's massive claws sink into the soil as it opens its maw to release a deadly roar.
A) Dive behind cover and wait out the firestorm
B) Charge through the flames and hurl a spear into its maw
C) [Frost Rune] Choke the dragon's fire with runic cold
Urk nudges her horse forward to stare down the dragon, a swaggering confidence pouring off of her. The dragon's fire breath builds in its throat, a pulsing golden glow of molten air and head. Nervously, the rest of the party's horses begin to shy away from the billowing heat.
Then suddenly, the glow is gone, and the dragon begins to sputter and cough as great plumes of black smoke pour from the creature's nose and mouth.
Urk grasps the frost rune in hand, and like Karthuun, she has frozen a dragon's fire in its throat. With another press of her will, the shard sends a giant spear of ice hurtling through the air.
Urk has Runes
The ice crystal catches the dragon in the maw, percing into the beast's throat with a horrid "thunk." The creature staggers backward and claws at the crystal, managing to break it off and cough up sharp fragment that are now painted red with the dragon's blood. The creature hurls the ice spear, which shatters beside Urk in a spray of sharp crystals. Then it turns and runs, bounding through the fields toward Evesmoore.
Mark three progress
Urk loses three stamina
The dragon roars and staggers forward several paces. The party follows and its attempts to keep them at bay are weak at best. Braxton and Rochelle are riding toward them from the direction of Evesmoore, and together the group is able to restrain the weakened dragon with ropes.
As Urist tests the restraints to ensure they are secure, Tallea approaches from the south, dragging the Rostum merchant by the collar. The man is still clutching his satchel, and the dragon huffs and claws at the dirt, struggling forward. Its obsession with the merchant shockingly present even now.
Urk glances over at the merchant, then to Rochelle. "ROCHELLE KNOW MERCHANT STOLE DRAGON EGG, RIGHT? WAS RIDING TO EVESMOORE TO LET DRAGON DESTROY IT SO PUNY MERCHANT MAN COULD ESCAPE?" She shrugs. "SEEMS LIKE PROBLEM FOR NOBLE FAMILY TO SOLVE."
The merchant's simpering, manic smile fades as Tallea hoists the man up by his collar. "This village," she shouts, "you were willing to sacrifice an entire village to save your own thieving skin. And for what?"
The frail man whimpers and stammers, trying to articulate a defense, but Tallea shakes him and he quiets instantly.
"There is no talking your way out of this," says Tallea. "Your freedom is forfeit. We're escorting you to Dragonholt. The countess will decide what happens to you next."
Curious, Urist wanders over to his satchel where it rests on the ground and opens it to reveal a giant egg, glistening black with marbled red veins that seem to glow with molten heat. Immediately the dragon snorts and howls, clawing at the dirt and attempting to reach it.
"You really stole a dragon's egg?" gasps Braxton in surprise. "It's no wonder the poor beast is so frantic."
There's a scraping sound as Urk draws the Rune sword from its scabbard. "SO ARE WE SLAYING THE DRAGON THEN, OR?"
"What?!" Aria pipes up from the back. She pushes forward toward Urist and the egg. "No! We should give her back her egg! It's stupid Kevin's fault-"
"Keven," Urist corrects her.
"Who cares? It's his fault the dragon's here in the first place, we should give her back her egg and let her go."
"Let her go?" Minar goes slackjawed. "A dragon the size of a house? You really think this big dumb animal is going to understand 'sorry, this was all a big mix--up, we're square'?" He looks back over to where the beast continues to struggle against the ropes. "It'll kill us the moment it gets the chance. Or kill some other random people that happen to get in its way."
"She's not from Allerfeldt," Aria insists. "We give her the egg back and she'll go home to her lair. She wasn't bothering anyone before this, we don't have the right."
"It torched a caravan!"
"A caravan full of people who stole her baby! Let her raise her family!"
"Great! So there'll be more dragons!"
Athtar and Deepmind watch the argument unfold from the sidelines, sharing an uncertain look between them. Urk idly picks at the ground with the tip of the glowing sword. "SOOOO, WE SLAY DRAGON? WE DON'T SLAY DRAGON?"
"Dragon eggs have many useful alchemical components," suggests Urist. He gets a few flat looks and glares, then coughs embarrassed. "Er, hypothetically."
A) Slay the dragon here and now
B) Return the egg and release the dragon
(This one should definitely take more than one vote to decide, so I'll leave this up for a bit! Feel free to discuss both options!)
Full of resolve, Aria bulls past Minar, the pack containing the dragon egg in her hands. She ignores his protests as she opens the bag in front of the dragon and rests it on the ground. Then, without warning or preparation, she kicks out the nearest stake holding the ropes in place.
All at once, the dragon surges frees from its bonds, sending the rest of the group reeling back reflexively as the great beast's neck cranes into the sky. Minar lurches forward, clumsily trying to interpose himself between the dragon and Aria, but Aria ignores him and keeps a steady gaze on the great wyrm's eyes.
The long neck bends downward to bring the dragon's nose to the egg, which it gently sniffs. She glances up at the two humans standing stock still before her, studying them, before giving the very slightest incline of her head. Then the dragon delicately lifts the egg in her jaws and, without a backward glance, begins bounding toward the far horizon, away from Evesmoore and out of Allerfeldt.
Shocked, Minar watches the dragon go, while Aria casually pulls her violin from her pack and begins to play a happy tune in the silence that follows. The rest of the party sheepishly creep back with their horses and begin mounting up for the ride home.
Completed "Terror on the Prairie"!
With the dragon gone, Rochelle rides off to find her mother and reverse the evacuation. The party, Braxton and Tallea take custody of the merchant, who seems a broken shell of a man, as terrified of Tallea as he ever was of the dragon.
As they approach Dragonholt, a stiff, cool breeze blows past, a blessed relief from the heat of the day. It lasts only an instant, but it promises a cooler night ahead, and even the horses perk up at the prospect (the goat, meanwhile, remains placidly indifferent).
In time, Keven is delivered to his jail cell and the mounts returned to the stable. It seems word of their success has already spread, and the anxiety that gripped the town this morning is dissipating faster than the heat.
Mark three progress in heroism - Heroism level up! Max stamina increased by 2 for everyone, party fame increased by one, everyone gains one experience
Mark one progress in combat training
Mark two progress in physical training - Maxed out! Can now purchase agility, athletics, endurance and stealth
Two time passes
A) A fancy celebratory lunch is called for - to the Countess Inn!
B) Decompress on the Village Green
C) Get some simple celebratory pastries from the Bakery
(Well done in defeating the dragon! You guys made some good choices that made it go pretty smoothly, and the party's become pretty strong at this point. Getting the Ice Rune definitely made things easier.. Enjoy the rest of Day Six, we're getting close to the end now!)
That's one vote for each option. Does anyone want to tie-break?