I produced the receipt showing the amount of gold we’d spent for the soup and jerky, so Mosby paid up. The frog farmers were glad to have their loss recompensed and they went their way and we went ours after a pleasant shared breakfast. Our road took us west along the road, paralleling the river as it ran across the grasslands my folk once travelled in their hordes. We took our lunch in a pleasant grove of trees, one of many that dotted the plains as the woods to the north faded out.
Midafternoon, the sharper-eared of us heard an eagle’s cry, and we made our way north toward the sound. Nann and Talvi scouted ahead, the rest of us cautiously following. Halfway to the woods, Nann hobbled her horse and went ahead on foot. As we came up, we also dismounted and hobbled our horses.
Nann and Talvi came back to tell us that several bandits had a hippogriff caged and were trying to move that cage to a cart. Anguished cries from the hippogriff (answered by an unnerving low bass rumble) convinced us to charge in and free the noble beast – Wikton and I were particularly keen to do this, but everyone agreed. Tasso and Luna stayed back with the horses (and Hollin) as the rest of us made our move.
Nann and Beth drew first blood, but Beth was hit herself. I went to her side to aid her as Boraen jumped at the bandits. Talvi ran to join him. Pyrea put a stop to the battle when she cast sleep on all the surviving bandits. Wikton began battering at the lock; Boraen tried to bend the bars of the cage to free the hippogriff. I helped Beth to her feet.
But then, clambering over the slope came a great green scaled beast. This was a fearsome beast, easily 50 feet long if it were an inch! Boaraen and the wyrm charged at each other, and the wyrm belched out a sickening green gas cloud. Boraen went down, and Grel and Wikton – who’d just smashed off the cage’s lock- reeled, retching. I cast faerie fire on the beast and prepared to charge in with my cudgel.And Fergus coolly stepped forward and shot an arrow into the wyrm’s craw, and straight through to its brain. The beast convulsed and rolled and perished. Boraen was too hurt to skin it.
This was an older wyrm, clearly, from its size, and the choking gas it blew out at its enemies over time weakened the bone structure around its nasal gas chamber. A well-placed arrow or spear could pierce the roof of the mouth and push through the cavity to paralyze or kill. Fergus’ arrow had hit perfectly. Even the hippogriff flew back to honor Fergus, wyrmslayer, before launching off with a screech to meet her mate.
As Wikton and Grel and Boraen got their strength back (with the help of some potent potables), Tasso, Luna and I took the arms, armor, outerwear, and scant treasure of the magically sleeping guards. Pyrea indicated they’d sleep until awakened, so Josef and Willie carefully carried them into the cage and locked them in. Josef, Willie, Luna, Tasso, and Hollin began to set up camp for the night.
And then it was time to investigate the lair. We found several gems, an ivory scroll case, a leather scroll case, a small gurgling flask, a headband, a gold seal, a primitive gold idol, a chain, and a chalice, as well as a great hoard of gold and silver. Perhaps a third of the gold pieces were from many centuries past, and it took us more than two hours to get the treasure out of the lair and up the narrow, stinking passage to the camp above.
Grel opened the leather scroll case to find a map, showing Southbridge and a set of ruins to the northeast. These ruins, a note said, contained the fabled Black Giant’s Eye. Wikton suggested that the idol may be bestial-made, possibly of an evil god. Pyrea looked at the scroll in the ivory case and determined it was a spell of confusion, which she kept. The potion, though, she could not identify, other than to say it was an oil. Beth sipped from it and then nearly bit her tongue off, which allowed us to realize this was an oil of sharpening, and Fergus asked to have it as his prize.
As we were settled for the evening, over dinner we discussed the further division of our spoils. A full share of the wealth was 75 gold pieces, 128 silver pieces, and 8 royals. Tasso and Luna were not in line for shares, but I gave each 25 gold pieces. We divided the jewelry – headband to Boraen, idol to Wikton, chalice to Beth, the seal to Grel, and the chain to me, and each of us took a gem. I got a huge topaz.
The next day dawned bright and warm, though the bandits still slept in their smallclothes in the cage. We decided to camp a few days, though Hollin fretted, to heal up our wounded. Pyrea put Boraen to sleep so we could treat him without interference from his dark side. Grel was able to bring him some comfort. I tended to Wikton, laying my hands on him twice to bring him the healing powers of the land.
The 19th day of autumn, as I returned from my solitary meditation, Nann pointed out to me a great winged black panther. It seemed to smell the skin of its kind, and was growling. I offered it dried sausage but was rebuffed with a snarl. I summoned the power to talk with animals, and asked it to explain. Old, long-dead, smoky meat – it would only eat that if it was half dead from hunger. Which it was not, so it would hunt its own fresh kill.
The panther demanded to know why we had the skin of one of its kind, why would we take the pelt? I explained that we had no fur – to stay warm or keep off the sun or fend off insects, we needed to make clothes. It lost interest and turned to go, as it was summoned – but I forestalled it. “Why,” I asked, “do your kind answer the summoner?” It looked at me queerly and said, “She calls, and I respond,” and It flew off to the northwest. I picked up the sausage, dusted it off, and enjoyed the snack
Wikton, Grel, and I together worked to heal Boraen. I think my ministrations made the difference, and the next day I tended his wounds again. On the 21st day of autumn, we woke Boraen and broke camp.