"They really go through a lot of trouble for a bunch of trails nobody would have any reason to use."
"I think they just didn't want to inconvenience any madmen who decided to wander out in the snow."
" well, now I feel terrible. You're so pathetic that we'll just let you live."
"I'm pretty sure that these happened when all three animals were trying to keep warm."
"These things happen but it had to be pretty damn cold for a white dragon to be in the mix."
These are the biggest critters running around out here, and in addition to multiple attacks they also have an option to breathe frost as you. They don't really get a chance to do this, however, as they're perfectly positioned to have a fireball placed right behind the one in the upper right corner and be finished off by a couple of sword attacks.
"It doesn't take much to entertain her, does it?"
"Hey, don't knock it. Unholy chimeric abominations are great."
"We might have already done so, and kicked their ass."
"Or not. I can't imagine what they eat when a steady diet of adventurers isn't presenting itself."
"That's that's a wand of fireballs! MINE!"
"You can have it, but you get to lead the way. I'm not standing in front of you when you've got that in your hands."
"Who could have lived here and built this? The Northmen have been here for centuries, and this isn't anything like what they build."
"Whoever it was, I like them already."
"Or that could have been them just now. I guess they wouldn't care about the cold, and it does stay dark up here for long parts of the year."
"I feel a lot better about robbing graves when the person who was in it just tried to kill me."
"This has dragon's lair written all over it!"
"That would mean a lot more from someone who had ever been to a dragon's lair that isn't in the middle of a city."
"To me, it speaks more of abandoned dwellings than anything else I would be very interested to know who the dragon displaced when he claimed this place."
"What clued you in? The giant mountain of treasure, or the giant freaking dragon sitting on top of it?"
"I'm more concerned about those guys in black robes over there how the hell did they beat us here?"
"Maybe stopping to take a soak in the hot springs wasn't our brightest idea."
Welcome to the hardest battle in this or any of the Gold Box games I've played with, and this isn't even all of it. There's one more group of enemies above us with about 3-4 black robed mages and a couple of clerics, giving us a total of about 10-11 spell casters, all of whom have disabling spells. The good news is that you should know if you're going to win this fight in about the first fifteen or so seconds. If any of the enemies get a spell off in the first round, you lose. We need to get physical attacks in on two targets with -4 AC and get a fireball or ice storm dropped on the other two. Fireball can kill the mages if we get some good rolls, but it doesn't end there they get reinforcements, including more spell casters. They're going to get dropped in right in the middle of our formation, and have a chance to win initiative in the next round and start killing our characters. I had to reload and retry this fight about 20 times, because you don't get to heal between this and the final battle in the game. If you look at the next image you'll be able to see how the first time I won it went. This right here is the section that would get a pen and pencil DM punched squarely in the dick.
The only survivors were Zanros and Siulajia, which isn't a good situation. The fight I went with actually only had five of our group survive, but that group included three fighters and two magic users.
"It almost looks like the poor thing starved to death."
"The gem. It couldn't tear itself away from looking at the gem to do anything."
"We even know about the spell, and it's still enough to pull us in."
"Wait, you can talk? When did this happen?"
"As long as you could talk, we'd probably have been able to figure it out. It's not like you would have turned into a pelican unless you reversed three or four words."
"But to the problem at hand. THis hoard is not your goal! What of the great staff of the ages? Is that not your wait that was the quest of the five halfling half-brothers!"
"Did you miss the dragon too? Or are they having to deal with one of those too?"
"This is um the the quest for
the gem! That's it! You have reached your goal, the lair of Freezefire, that old monster himself! He lies on more wealth than any of you has ever seen, clutching the gem in his long-dead claw! But behind you are your enemies, and they are already in the mountain! You must hurry!"
"Er they're behind us because they're all dead. I think you were a bit late."
"Oh Gods dammit Zanros, didn't we just talk about this?"
"But trust me, we are going to talk about this after we deal with this stupid lizard."
And with that, we're dropped right in to the final fight of the game. Freezefire (who lost an E somehow) would be a big enough problem for a healthy party, but with three people down and most of those half dead this isn't a good situation. Freezefire is tougher than Great Wyrm (meaning he's more than 1200 years old), and he's everything that a dragon that age should be. Even if we had a dragonlance this wouldn't be easy. Luckily we do have some dwarves who have come along to help us who will do a lovely job of distracting him until he uses up his daily allotment of breath weapon attacks while also chipping away at his health. He's got some impressive magic resistance, and our leftover ice spells aren't going to be of any use against him. Lightning ends up behind the option, since we have some wands at our disposal. Galen doesn't get a chance to enjoy his nice new helmet, since Freezefire goes ahead and drops him with a disintegrate spell in the first round of the fight. I'd have been tempted to reset and try it again, but that would have meant going back through the previous fight again. Eventually, however, a spell brings him down. Split between our surviving characters, he's worth 6666 experience points.
The good news is that the people who came in behind us resurrect everyone, including the pile of dust that used to be Galen.
"I never thought I'd look forward to walrus blubber so much."
"I think the shattered corpse of the dragon and the number of bodies scattered around might have worked as an inadvertent chip in our favor."
Naturally, we take all the jewelry, gems, and all the platinum we can physical carry. It's worth 22,000 XP.
"C'mon guys, let us make a deposit before you wave more money in front of us!"
"Who's this Lord Piegeiron guy?"
"I have no idea, but it sounds pretty good."
And with that, our journeys are complete.
Galen lost all of his equipment to Freezefire's magic, but everyone else in the party contributed a few things to kit him out. Paladins aren't generally the retiring type, so he went off in search of more adventure. He headed east toward Zhentarim Keep, and left a trail of stories in his wake.
Kedzie finally got ahead in life without getting slapped down, and her share of the treasure was enough to set her up comfortably for quite a long time. Eventually, however, she got bored, and set up an organized crime ring to keep herself occupied. It still operates to this day as one of the more ethical such organizations in the Savage Frontier.
Alaric used his share of the treasure to break his vow about boats and head out to the islands, where he set himself up as lord of one of the islands that the party had cleared of Krakens. He's also doing his best to woo Jagaerda, with the possibility of combining their holdings to found a unified island kingdom.
Vermunt continued his wanderings, and later served as the link that kept all the members of the party in touch. Eventually he did settle down and found a small temple, but only long enough to appoint an assistant priest and go off wandering again.
Zanros and Siulajia settled down near the forestlands where her father worked as a guide, which was an excellent and isolated place for a mage's tower. Despite the doubts of their friends they were actually fairly happy together for the rest of Siulajia's life, and had several children.
The Dude took off to parts unknown, and to this day nobody knows where he's abiding. He's become a slightly saner and less confused version of Amanitas, and has sponsored several adventuring parties in the same way. He has not yet acquired a taciturn manservant and a rude parrot, but it's probably only a matter of time.
Kriiador went back to work for Raurym for a few more years, and between that and the slightly smaller share of the treasure he received was eventually able to settle down into a life of luxury. Whether or not he ever grew a personality is a question for the ages.
For the curious, this is what the final tally of our party's wealth from this adventure. Combined with the loot from the first game they're probably some of the wealthiest people on the Savage Frontier, although you'll certainly never hear about them in any of the books or histories of the area.
Thanks for reading, everyone!