Sunday, November 26, 2017

Far Isles Session #75 - Secrets Revealed

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Chaff (Vivimancer 6), with familiar Pretty Bird and Riding Dog Puppy Whuppy
Torak (Cleric 6) 
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 6), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 3)
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 6) 
Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 5)

Before leaving, the party hid their cache of 5000gp gems in one of the volcanic caves. Over the course of several days, Torak cast animate dead to turn the charred and drowned cannibals into zombie guards, whom the party dressed in the cast off bronze armor and weapons from the stone ships. They also provided a platoon of similar guards for the surviving villagers, promising to return when they next visited the the Jungle Isles.  


Zombie Skaarl
Setting sail, the "Purple Haze" was in the familiar situation of fighting ahead a head wind while trying to get back to Xin. The slow going slowed down even more around sunrise of the second day. They had barely left the isles behind when Chaff, who was on watch, spied a vessel approaching from the stern. It was difficult to see any detail in the dim morning twilight. He had the crew call Lynessa on deck, who on arrival pulled out her spyglass ofr a closer look. She reported a galley or longship riding were low in the water, but the rowers were still bent over their oars, driving inexorably forward. Expecting trouble, Chaff went off to rouse the rest of the party and the musketeers. As the sky began to lighten and their pursuer closed the gap between the two vessels, they could now see potential trouble. The ship was a Skaarl longship with Skaarl warriors at the oars. They were no longer men, however, but undead. Up to eighty of them to be exact, led by a worm ridden and salt encrusted captain.  Lynessa was ordered to set all sail in an effort to outrun her, but the headwind slowed the "Purple Haze"  considerably. The crew started to bring the "Purple Haze" around so she'd run before the wind, but that was a slow process and the undead ship continued to gain. So the party prepared to meet them with force. The musketeers were arrayed at the catapult, ready to fire when the longship came in range. Chaff and Kwinsea both cast some protective spells, and Torak started his holy chant. Chaff also cast a spell on Rodrigo, which resulted in the swashbuckler sprouting as set of bat wings and a tentacle. Only temporary, assured the vivimancer. Meanwhile, the crew had been packing musket balls into a keg of powder. This was handed to Rodrigo, along with the ring of invisibility, who then rose into the air to get ready to bomb the longship when it came closer. Kwinsea then cast summon aquatic monster, and in a few minutes a group of 6 bearded mermen broke the surface nearby and offered their services. She sent them off to attack the zombie ship and to check out its hull, to find out why she was riding so low in the water. 

Preparation complete, combat began when the longship drew closer. It opened with a solid hit of flaming pitch from the catapult, burning 8 zombie rowers at the oars. They were quickly replaced, however, by others standing by. Kwinsea's mermen swam up to one side of the longship and stabbed a few with their tridents before turning away. Torak turned the rowers, affected only a few. Those, having no where to run, cowered in the bottom of the boat. And still the long ship came on, getting closer to the "Purple Haze". At this point, Rodrigo sprang (or rather flapped) into action. He dropped, still invisible, into the stern next to the helms-zombie. He dropped the keg and lit it, now becoming visible. After a quick stab at the helms-zombie, the swashbuckler flew back into the air and as far away as possible. Half a minute later the powder keg exploded, sending a blast of wooden shards and musket balls sweeping across the deck. That not only destroyed about 20 zombie Skaarls, but it obliterated both the helmsman and the rudder. Unable the steer, the longship passed beneath the stern of the "Purple Haze", which had been turning towards the east this whole time. The musketeers raked the ship with fire, but did little damage ('powder's wet', they muttered), and the two vessels moved rapidly apart until the zombie longship finally disappeared over the northern horizon.


The Mermen
The mermen reported the longship had been in good condition; no sign of holes or other problems below deck. It looked to them the longship had just shipped water driving into the waves. They then tuned to dive away, but not before Awg used his charm aquatic creature to get one to stay behind and join the party.  With the merman clinging to a rope trailing behind the ship, the "Purple Haze" turned back to the north-west and continued on it's way. Apart from contrary winds, the only other encounter was with a great sea serpent which Chaff magically converted to vegetarianism; after grazing for a minutes on the seaweed clinging to the hull, the monster slipped away into the depths once more. The next day, the wind shifted to the beam and the "Purple Haze" made better time. After a total of seven days sail from the Jungle Isles, the ship came within view of the Anchorage. 

Fearful that Calcidius might be waiting for them in the harbor itself, the party had Lynessa drop anchor on the opposite side of the island, so they could row ashore and head over to talk to Bellephrone (assuming she was still alive). They moved through the open pine forest easily, at least until they were getting clos to Bellephrone's hut. There they were met by three of her wild boar guards, and they were not happy. Hoping to be recognized, Kwnisea allowed one to sniff her from top to bottom. But the boars' fur rose on their backs and the started to snuffle and shuffle, getting ready to charge.  Kwinsea cast a tidal force to keep them away, and Chaff caught a couple in his web. The party then called out for Bellephrone, and in a a few minutes the witch appeared outside her hut, calling off the boars and gesturing for the party to approach.

She greeted the party, and then laughed cruelly and wagged her finger at them. "You have made some powerful enemies, my friends" and told them of Calcidius' attack on the anchorage. He sank both the "Serpents Revenge" and the "Magnificent Marios" in a flurry of fireballs, slaughtering all the crew and leaving the burned hulks in the anchorage. The other ships fled, allowed to go as the wizard had no quarrel with anyone who'd not interacted with the party. Chaff asked how Bellephone had escaped. She simply laughed and winked, and told the vivmancer it would take more than one wizard to do her any harm. That made everyone's eyebrows rise, as obviously the witch was more than she appeared. So they asked her to tell them her story. And this time she opened up a little more about both her origin and the origin of the Far Isles. She didn't say exactly who she was, but hinted she was both thousands of years old and possessed great powers. The mist itself was some sort of cosmic intelligence that, from time to time, would drop out of the space between the stars and onto an unknowing world. There it would stay for awhile, then usually lift for a short time, before returning and then carrying off some or all of the lands it had covered. By this means, the motley collection of lands the people of Langushur called the Far Isles had been formed. Every time to mist lifted on a different world, people would arrive to explore and make contact with the isles. Sometimes they were also trapped when the mist returned, and these newcomers would  join the Isles permanently. Bellephone also dropped the bombshell that she had been the first to be trapped by the mist.  She, and a few other powerful beings, were permanent inhabitants of the mist. Whereas others could leave if the wished when the mist lifted, she and her beings could not. The party learned that H'sslik the Lizard Wizard was another of these powerful prisoners. 


The Mist
All this gave the party food for thought, and so they asked Bellephone what her wish would be. She wanted simply to stop the cycle, the get out of the grasp of the mist. And so the party offered to help by tracking down the secret of the mist. They asked for information on the other powerful beings of the Isles, and she gave directions to the far east to meet with another of her fellow prisoners in the mist. His name was Empyrius, and was a member of a god-like inter-dimensional race. Bellephone hinted that he would know more about the behavior of the mist, but did note that she had not been in contact with him during this mist 'cycle'. Good information, but first the party had unfinished business in Xin and with a certain crazed Calcidius ...

TOTAL XP
830

GAINS
1 Merman 

KILLS
20 Skaarl Zombies

LOSSES
None

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Far Isles Session #74 - Treasure Loaded and Loaded with Treasure!

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Chaff (Vivimancer 6), with familiar Pretty Bird and Riding Dog Puppy Whuppy
Torak (Cleric 6) and his zombie servitor
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 6), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 3)
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 6) 
Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 5)

Having defeated the treasures guardian, the party now had to decide how to deal with their new windfall. The first order of business was to get word back to the ship and start moving as much of the ships company as possible up the mountain to start hauling treasure. And butchering and flensing a dragon, as the party had visions of dragon armor and dragon’s teeth trophies. Meanwhile, the party helped the captive maidens out of their prison. The six women continued to wail and cower and chatter. Kwinsea, relying on her flair for languages, was able to grasp a basic understanding of their words, as the language was related to those already encountered in the Jungle Isles. The six were understandably in shock, but the aquamancer was able to calm them and promise them they would not be harmed. She then asked probing questions about the situation. Is there more than one dragon (no)? How many people used to live here (Many hundreds)? Any other survivors (not that they know of)? Places survivors could be hiding (many caves around the volcanic peak)? Had they seen any other ships in the days before the dragon came (no).   Kwinsea and Awg also went for a swim around the island to confirm there were no other dangers and find a fishy friend to question. From a passing flounder, they learned that large aquatic dinosaurs sometimes lurked in the area, but ships were rarely seen. 

Instant Fortress
Back on land, a half dozen sailors and a pair of musketeers arrived to help with the gold and dragon; the rest were left aboard the “Purple Haze” to guard their only way off the island. The sailors were lowered into the cistern to bag and haul up treasure, while the musketeers sat down to guard and grumble. The ships cook was walked over to the dragon carcass with his biggest cleaver and told to start butchering.  Rodrigo sat himself down to watch the proceedings and make sure the crew didn’t walk off with too much loose treasure.  Chaff meanwhile examined the magic items, in particular the scroll and cube. The scroll was written in a strange tongue, so he had to wait for Kwinsea to return and translate. It proved to be a scroll of protection from undead, which was turned over to Jaz as her reward for crawling in the lizard wizards vats some days ago. The cube likewise had a word inscribed on it in the same weird language; Kwinsea whispered the word to Chaff. He, accompanied by Torak, then walked off to a safe location and spoke the word aloud. The cube instantly grew into a 30’ tall tower, and Chaff found himself standing in front of the open front door. Torak, unfortunately, found himself standing too close for comfort and was pinned beneath one corner. Chaff quickly shrank the instant fortress to tend to his comrade, who though on death’s door managed to avoid another visit to the Drowned God.  

With enough excitement for one day, the party settled down for the night, one eye locked on the treasure. Next day, work resumed in dragon carving and treasure hauling. Having talked over the risks of bringing all this gold back to Xin for the customs officers to tax, they decided to take 5000gp in gems and hide it away in a convenient cave as a sort of offshore tax haven. So off went the bulk of the party to find an appropriate cave. Following the directions of the still skittish ex-captives, they found some hiding places without too much trouble. They also found more survivors; a cave full of old, men, women and children. With Kwinsea once more translating, they learned they had fled into the jungle when the dragon first attacked. Many others had died in the dragon’s flames, including all of the islands warriors. They were overjoyed to learn the dragon was dead, but then started to wail and worry about their fate now that most of their people and all of their town was gone. And what about their treasures? The party murmured something non-committal about the treasure, but promised to put the crew to work building shelters for the survivors. And what about other help? The people would need fresh blood or they would die out? Once more, the party made some quasi-promises to look into that.  

Witch Doctor
Work continued over the next few days, and the treasure hauling was slowed down by diversion of resources to town building. But all proceeded without incident until the 5th day. Around mid-afternoon, Pretty Bird (who had been flying air patrol over the “Purple Haze” for the last few days) returned to Chaff to report four war canoes approaching from the south-west. They appeared to be coming from an island just barely visible in that direction, and based on their paddling speed would arrive here around dusk. Questioning the island survivors, the party learned of a tribe of cannibals who lived to the southwest, and who would sometime raid this island to capture ‘long pig’ for their feasts. Oh, who will protect us now!! We are lost!!! Well, this time at least, the party was going to protect their treasure hoard (and the islanders of course).  First of all, word was sent to the “Purple Haze” to raise sail and head around to the other side of the island. As the day drew to a close, the party suspended work on the ruined town site and hustled everyone down to water. There, just out of sight of the cove, Chaff summoned his instant fortress and sent all the islanders, crew and the invalid Torak inside. He also posted the two musketeers at the top to stand guard. Jaz took up position in a nearby tree, and Chaff summoned the ebony fly and buzzed nearby. Kwinsea and Awg headed into the water with plans to intercept the canoes. They were joined by Rodrigo, who borrowed Torak’s shark spear and transformed into a mako shark. And then they waited about 200 yards off shore. Before long, the sound of muffled paddling could be heard as the canoes approached. After they passed by the party in the water, the aquatic team sprang into action. Kwinsea got behind one boat and loosed a lightning bolt, crisping everyone in that canoe.  Rodrigo the shark leapt out of the water and belly flopped on the stern of a second canoe, tipping it over and sending most of the crew splashing into the water. Awg turned on those in the water, in particular one obvious leader dressed in old plate armor. That unfortunate was stabbed and then sank to the bottom thanks to the weight of metal he was wearing. 

Things started to fall apart a bit for the party. In one of the still untouched canoes was a witchdoctor-looking figure, dressed in mask and a robe of skulls. He muttered a spell and Kwinsea found herself paralyzed and sinking to the bottom. Spears flew from both canoes, hitting Awg and Rodrigo in the water. Chaff then arrived on the fly to leech blast a canoe, but the witchdoctor screamed another incantation and the leeches disappeared. More spears struck at the two in the water, who then decided to dive out of danger. They grabbed Kwinsea and headed for the safety of shore. Chaff likewise turned the fly towards land. They all scrambled up the path to the instant fortress and crowded inside. Those still able to fight made it to the arrow slits and the top, and watched as the surviving cannibals beached their canoes and prepared to move inland. Those tribesmen were not prepared for the fortress, and came to a halt when it came in view. A flurry of spells and missile fire from the tower discouraged any further advance, and the witchdoctor led to tribe back to the canoes and off into the night. They did not return and the next day the party resumed work on the treasure hoard. After another uneventful week, the treasure and dragon parts were all loaded aboard the “Purple Haze”, 

TOTAL XP
670

GAINS
None

KILLS
Loka the War Chief
12 Cannibal Warriors

LOSSES
Torak (Temporarily)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Traveller - Welcome to the Symera Subsector

Background


The "Edge of Night" sector includes over 400 star systems and marks the furthest spinward expansion of humanity from The Earth Before. The name refers to "The Night"; a vast of rift of dust and gas, devoid of star systems, and much too wide to cross with existing jump technology. No one knows what lies beyond "The Night"; likewise, many of the sectors' inhabited systems are largely unknown to those in more civilized space.

The Symera subsector sits near the centre of the sector. Its 32 systems exhibit a technological and population pattern typical of those regions of space devastated by the Nanite Epidemic. The high tech planets tend to be depopulated and struggle to maintain existing technology levels, while lower technology worlds have higher populations, as they were either unaffected by the epidemic and/or absorbed a great number of refugees fleeing it's devastation. Even 200 years later, this pattern is evident. Although, as always, some individual systems are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Politically, the subsector is roughly divided between a mix of independent systems and the allied worlds of the Triple Concordance (which lies completely within the subsector).  In addition, polities from outside the subsector intrude to trailing (Hegemony of Aeo), while to spinward in the Xiaochen subsector are the worlds of the Technocratic Union.  

Politics


Hegemony of Aeo

"The Hemegeny has no need for fanaticism; cold practicality and logic will guide us to our destiny."
Special Inquisitor Sivara Tizen

In the aftermath of the Fourth Interstellar war, several new and radical polities arose among the shattered remnants of the old republics.  Spinward of the old core of civilized space, the theocratic and militaristic  Hegemony of Aeo became the dominant state. In the century since the rule of "The One" began, the Hegemony has gradually but relentlessly expanded outward, swallowing independent systems and pocket empires alike. The Hegmony first appeared in the Symera subsector 30 years ago, absorbing several independent planets on the trailing border of the subsector. Though not actively expansionistic in the subsector at the moment, it continues to push its influence and policies when prudent.
               
The Triple Concordance

"From many comes one; though the one must never forget who comes first."
Chief Executive Administrator Galvin of Antigone

Faced with the threat of the Hegemony of Aeo to the trailing and the Technocratic Union systems to the spinward, several of the previously independent worlds at the core of the Symera subsector grudgingly accepted cooperation over capitulation. The three most advanced systems  (Rastafar [0207], Tortuga [0506] and Antigone [0606]) initially joined in an alliance, and then dragged in the adjacent  lower tech and less powerful systems to provide resources and buffer zones against the threats surrounding them.  The three founding worlds rule as the Tri-Council, while the other ten systems sit on a General Council which can provide advice and feedback, but has little say in decision making. The Concordance has held up well when there is a clear and immediate threat, but in less hazardous times, relations are shaky and worlds act more in their independent self interest.

Technocratic Union

"Those who rule their technology need not fear it, but may rule by it."
Councillor Gaius Ralu

A very loosely confederated group of high technology worlds, the Technocratic Union uses its technological advantages to gain influence over less advanced systems. It is surrounded by a loose network of client systems which gain advantages in high technology and trade from the Union. In the Symera subsector, both Vordenhaven (0104) and Symera (0205) have close ties with the Union.

Organizations


Navy
The Concordance Navy consists of ships and officers provided  by the Tri-Council worlds. The enlisted men are drawn from the ships' home world, or from one of the worlds of the General Council. The quality of both ships and men vary widely, ranging from modern starships from services of long and proud tradition, to little more than reformed pirates and privateers.

The navy of the Hegemony of Aeo are the scions of orthodoxy and expansionism. The high command has great influence with "The One", and as such officers in the navy are held in high regard in society.

The independent systems of Jagir (0109) and Vordenhaven (0104) have small navies, but neither has  progressed much beyond the level of a glorified system defense force towards a truly jump capable interstellar navy.

Marines
Marines of the Concordance Navy serve as shipboard security, defending against both munity and boarding actions. On capital ships, they also provide at least some of the Gunners for turret mounted weapons. Very rarely, they provide advance landing forces to deal with minor insurrections or to gain a toehold ahead of  the army.  The Marines recruit officers and men from all systems in the Concordance. They are the most cosmopolitan of the Concordance forces, and tend to be strong supporters of the  alliance over individual worlds. As such, they are not trusted in higher circles.

The Hegemonic Assault Corps, while not quite as prestigious as the navy, is probably held in higher regard by the average person. It plays little or no role aboard ship, but is instead dedicated to ground assault. To be a member of the Corps is to drop unto a hostile planet with no protection but your assault pod, personal weapon, and [hopefully] a massive suppressive barrage from the fleet in orbit.

Army
With the exception of some low population, airless hellholes, every system in the subsector boasts an army of some sort. They range from the spear armed levies of Outer Hastur; to the generally well equip and modern forces of the Triple Concordance and the Hegemony; and all points in between. Roles also range from intra-planetary conflicts, to planetary defense against out of system forces, to providing expeditionary forces to other systems in time of war.

Individual systems of the Triple Concordance maintain their own armies for local defense and other local uses. Each system also contributes a number of units, higher formations, and commanders to a standing Concordance Army for expeditionary and other tasks of common interest. As a general rule, this common army is held in high regard by the citizens of the Concordance worlds.

The armies of the Hegemony are much more focused on local defense, as well as providing occupation forces after the Assault Corps has captured a new planet. It's ranks are heavily filled by conscripts, and army service is typically not highly regarded.

Scouts    
The "Honorable Company of Explorers and Cartographers", colloquially known as the Scouts, have a history that dates back almost to the Earth Before. Or at least that's how they tell the tale. In any case, they are a vaguely paramilitary organization that have bases scattered through much of civilized space and operate outside the bounds of local political control. The Scouts are dedicated to collecting, maintaining and disseminating up-to-date information and star maps for the use of merchants, militaries and travellers alike. Scouts have a well deserved reputation for being tough, self-reliant and short-lived.

One place where the Scouts are not welcome is in the Hegemony. There, a organization known as the "Special Inquisitors" plays a similar role. They are also known to perform services as spies and special agents for the Hegemony. That said, the two organizations do maintain somewhat loose and informal ties, trading information when it suits them.

Merchants
Trade, like religion and war, is a basic human instinct and expansion among the stars hasn't changed that fact. Merchants range from local market hucksters selling their wares, to free traders trying to make a living on the margins of established trade routes, to powerful mega-corporations with interests across sectors and powerful influence over governments (or sometimes forming the government themselves). There is little to differentiate merchants from one polity to the other; all are focused too much on making a profit to worry about politics; unless of course it can be influenced to their benefit.  

Travellers Aid Society
Even more than the scouts, the true origins of the Travellers Aid Society are lost in the depths of history. It's rumored to have once been a secret society of powerful individuals, who conspired to control galactic affairs by masterminding events in order to gain political power and influence. Whether they had any success is anyone's guess. At this point in time the organization has evolved into a fraternal society dedicated to providing its members with assistance, connections and accommodations when travelling the far reaches or civilized space. It is still a very exclusive organization, its membership heavy with military officers, politicians and powerful merchants.   

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Far Isles Session #73 - Dragon Rising

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Chaff (Vivimancer 5), with familiar Pretty Bird and Riding Dog Puppy Whuppy
Torak (Cleric 5) and his zombie servitors
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 5), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 2)
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 5) 

The party split up their prisoners and led the two musketeers away, one by one, for interrogation. They mostly wanted to learn if there was any sort of bounty on Atli's head, given his apparent long history of smuggling and nautical skulduggery. The first, Ulthos, stood by his employer, convinced the party would just kill him anyway. Which they did when the musketeer proved unwilling to cooperate. Hathos was more pliable, but really could tell them nothing beyond "I'm sure he's wanted somewhere on the shores of the seventeen seas"; so he too was dispatched. Followed shortly by Alti himself, whom Torak drowned in the red pool which had claimed Pahu Mahu. The cleric, having offered up his sacrifice to Brall, removed the dead smugglers golden teeth. And then animated both Alti and Uthos as zombie servants. It now being dark, the party set camp for the night, then trekked back to the "Purple Haze" without further incident. 

Once there, they had Lynessa raise sail and bring them back to the Smoking Island, where this tawdry affair had begun. Reaching it  after a couple of short days of sailing, they found the island much as they left it. Smoke still rose from the slopes of the island peak, and on the shore the docks and scattered boats still lay, undisturbed. The party rowed ashore in the ships boat, and there found a path leading up the jungled slope. They climbed for about an hour, until the switch-backing trail started to level off and run more or less straight to the north. The trees started to thin a little, and ahead they could see the source of the mysterious smoke. A low saddle between the main mountain peak and secondary spur was covered in what appeared to be a field of ash. There was definitely the smell of an old fire present, but occasionally a more sulfurous odor emerged as well. Maybe the volcanic peak was more active that it seemed? 
   
Field of Ash
Moving closer and into the open,  the party could see a ravine between them and the ash covered slope. A pair of stone pillars stood on each side of the ravine. It looked very much like a bridge once spanned the chasm, but there was now nothing left. The party  contemplated trying to go around the ravine, but realized the combination of almost impassible jungle and steep slopes would make that both difficult and time consuming. Rodrigo then got the idea to summon some monkey's with his simian sword, and then Torak could use his scroll of speak with animals  to question the creatures about what happened here. The swashbuckler was soon surrounded by a hooting hoard, whom he directed to his good friend Torak for questioning. It took a few minutes to get useful information out of them, but Torak learned that until a few months ago, a town of humans occupied what was now the field of ash. The monkeys weren't immediately clear on what burned the town, some 'big fire' or 'scary fire'. Probed more deeply about the source of the flames, the monkeys answered that it was a 'flying fire beast'. And at almost the same moment, from the far side of the ash covered slope, there came the snapping sound of leathery wings . Turning, the party observed a terrifying sight; rising from the far side of the saddle was a red dragon. And as it rose into the air, it was obviously headed their way. 


The Dragon
Though the dragons appeared to be on the smaller side, the first instinct was to run. But right away , they were afraid if they did so, the dragon would simply torch the "Purple Haze" and strand them on this island. Instead, the party scattered for cover among the rocks and trees along the edge of the ravine, all the time the dragon flying closer. The spell-casters cast their protective spells, and Rodrigo figured this was as good a time as any to quaff that potion of heroism he'd been lugging around. He also directed his monkey cohort to the edge of the ravine ,in the hope they would distract the dragon. As the dragon drew close, it opened it's maw to release a cone of liquid fire, catching Rodrigo and a band of monkeys in the flames, The monkeys were incinerated, and Rodrigo burned badly and barely hanging on to life. The party then retaliated, Kwinsea striking the flying beast with a lightning bolt and Chaff vomiting an insect swarm which engulfed and enraged the beast. Pistol shots from Rodrigo and Jaz missed, but the shock of the lighting and insects turned it away, and it flew back over the rise from whence it came. 

The party first breathed a sigh of relief, thanking their luck and their gods for their survival. Torak healed Rodrigo, and then animated a couple of crisped monkeys to join his other two zombies. Weighing options, the party decided to strike out across the burned town and deal with the dragon now, when it was obviously wounded, rather than retreat and face it later. Chaff sent Pretty Bird into the sky to look for the dragon, but the bird could see nothing but ruins. Checking the mountains edge revealed  no cave opening or similar dragon-ish lairs, but there were a number of large wells or cisterns scattered throughout the burned town that might be it's home. There was a also a crack on the slope of the main peak from which  a trickle of smoke arose. The party, however, opted to focus on the wells. Chaff summoned the ebony fly to transport everyone over the ravine. Rodrigo borrowed the ring of invisibility from Torak and walked point ahead of the party. The rest of the party marched behind,  following a skirmish line of zombies. Which was good, as the ruins were not safe. Hidden among the chocking ash and charred bits of wood were a number of deep pits, some of which released a gout of blistering fire when breached. A couple of zombies were lost this way, and Jaz was badly burned by one fire trap. But everyone else escaped unscathed. 

When they reached the first well, Rodrigo, grasping Torak's light dagger in his teeth, was lowered down on a rope. He found it was a large cistern, empty but for a foot or two of murky water on the bottom. The party then moved on, heading for the largest cistern opening. This stood in the centre of a large plaza. While the rest of the party waited at the edge, the invisible swashbuckler crept forward to look. He, however, didn't realize dragons had an exceptional sense of smell. Just as he was about to look over the edge, there was a roar, and the dragon emerged from the well with a vengeance. As it snapped it's wings to climb into the air, the dragon also snapped it's mouth and claws at Rodrigo, nearly crushing and slashing him to death. This didn't deter the swashbuckler though. As the rest of the party opened up with spell and missile, Rodrigo swung the grappling hook he'd been carrying, caught it on one of the dragon's horns, and then scrambled up to the top of it's head. The beast reached back to try clawing the swashbuckler off his back, but Rodrigo dodged, and stabbed down with his swords. Only one penetrated the reptilian scales, but it drove deep into it's brain. The dragon shuddered, then it's eye's rolled back and it collapsed dead on top of Torak's zombies.

The Hoard
After taking a breather, the battered Rodrigo insisted on being the first down in the dragons lair. He leapt atop the ebony fly,  and buzzed down into the cistern. Below he saw a much larger chamber than in the previous cistern. And in place of stagnate water, this one held the dragon' hoard. A layer of gold and silver covered most of the floor; a mix of coins, gems, jewelry and decorative gewgaws obviously recovered from the ruined town. And barred behind a rough portcullis of jungle logs were 6 young women, crying out and screaming at Rodrigo in some unknown language. For now, the swashbuckler had other things to do. Grabbing a single goblet, he rose fly once more up the well to tell the party they' hit pay dirt ...

TOTAL XP
58010

GAINS
Atli the Golden's Gold Teeth (150gp)
A Mixed Dragon's Hoard; gold & silver coin, gems & jewelry, golden gewgaws, etc (55800gp)
Magical gem
Instant Fortress
Scroll - Protection Against Undead 

KILLS
Atli the Golden [Captain of the 'Waverunner']
Uthos & Halthos [Rigging-Rat Musketeers]
1 Young Adult Red Dragon

LOSSES
Amazingly, None