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Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Part III

Posted on Posted in D&D, Tyranny of Dragons

It took about a day and a half for Lisinth Erlantha to recover from his ordeal at the hands of The Cult of the Dragon enough that he could speak to The Five Heroes. He explained to them of his growing concern with The Cult’s activities. Historically they had obsessed with the creation of undead dragons. While these abominations were powerful the rituals needed to create them were long and complicated, serving to put a limit on The Cult’s activities. Of late, however, The Cult seemed to have been more interested in live dragons and this seemed to have given them a new sense of mission and energy.
It was Lisinth’s plan to travel to the city of Elterel and speak to a paladin called Throone. He asked The Five Heroes if they could undertake a mission on his behalf; to return to The Cult’s camp and spy upon it. If the Cult set out for another raid or if anything significant entered or left the cave The Five Heroes were to bring the intelligence to him in Elterel. Eager to do all they could to stop the atrocities of The Cult The Five Heroes agreed.
Meela took a leap of faith and shared with her four companions and Lisinth the grim visions that had been haunting her Trances. Lisinth listed with interest and promised Meela that they would speak about them again when The Five Heroes met up with him in Elterel.
The next morning The Five Heroes set out once more for the raiding camp of The Cult of the Dragon. As the day drew on they began to move forward with greater caution, convinced that The Cult would be on the alert after the loss of its captives a few days before. As the day waned they spotted a pair of hunters upon the hills ahead. The hunters brought down some game and then headed off in the direction The Cult’s camp. Stealthy The Five Heroes followed.
From up on the plateau looking down onto the camp The Five Heroes could easily see that The Cult’s raiding camp had changed dramatically in the last few days. The camp seemed all but deserted. The watchtowers were intact but abandoned. Half the tents, mostly those that had housed the kobolds, had been torched while the remainder were empty. The only light to be seen was a single campfire about which sat four men, the two hunters and two others. As The Five Heroes watched the men lashed their catch to a series of poles and carried them over to the large cave mouth, reappearing a few minutes later empty handed.
Cautiously The Five Heroes made their way to the mouth of the valley. Meela cast her eyes across the ground and noticed the tracks of many people, both kobolds and humans, who had left in the last couple of days. Unfortunately the tracks showed that The Cult had scattered in several directions once leaving the valley.
It was decided that The Five Heroes would speak to the hunters and see what they could learn. Belinda and Mort took the initiative in this. It proved to be hard work, the hunters were reticent and suspicious, but persistence, and a little gold, paid off. The hunters revealed that they were in the pay of The Cult, providing them with a steady supply of fresh meat. After the escape of the prisoner many of the cultists had panicked and hastily abandoned the camp. Someone who hadn’t left was Mondath who had retreated into the caves with what cultists remained, primarily The Dragon Dog kobold tribe. There they were guarding something that they could not transport away but was too precious to be abandoned.
The hunters seemed to have no particular loyalty to The Cult and made no effort to stop The Five Heroes as they headed for Mondath’s tent.
If they expected to find any clues as to The Cult’s plans in the tent The Five Heroes were disappointed. The contents were in disarray, as if either the owner had left in a hurry or someone else had searched it first. This seemed to leave them with only one choice: to look for answers in the cave itself.
Cautiously The Five Heroes approached the cave mouth. With her keen senses and night-piercing elven eyes Meela spotted two guards, one at either side of the cave mouth. Garrick and Meela broke off from their companions in the hope of sneaking up of the sentries but they proved to be too alert. A short skirmish ensued but, with their superior numbers, The Five Heroes overpowered the guards.
The cave was long, going deep into the hill, and slick with water. At the back it overlooked a second, smaller cave that seemed to be alive with a fantastic display of fungal growth. Large, crudely cut steps lead down into the fungal cave. Ready to trouble Meela headed down the steps first only to fall prey to a trap. The second-to-last step was on a cunning pivot and tipped forward as Meela put her weight on it, sending the elf tumbling down into the fungi. Even as she pulled herself to her feet four particulary large fungi began to send silky grey tendrils in her direction. Evandar and Garrick rushed down to back up their companion but the three soon found themselves in trouble as they were lashed by multiple tendrils the merest touch of which left terrible injuries. The three were forced to fight their way back up the steps to where Belinda and Mort waited. After Mort the had used his divine power to treat their injuries The Five Heroes used arrows and spells to destroy the fungi, what Evandar had identified as Violet Fungi, form a safe distance.
Once the hazard had been cleared The Five Heroes pressed on. Soon they found themselves in a wide cave that stank of bat-droppings. There seemed to be three ways to proceed; directly opposite where they had entered the cave dropped away gain but there were also passages off to the left and right. The Five Heroes crossed the cave to the right-hand passage. As they did so they began to spot the bodies of dead bats lying here and there on the floor of the cave. Belinda and Evandar examined the small corpses and came to the conclusion that they had been drained of all their blood. The mystery of the dead bats was suddenly, and painfully, resolved as ten, bird-sized flying creatures dived on to The Five Heroes from above. The attackers were pinkish in colour and their most prominent feature was a long, needle-like mouth. The Five Heroes, especially Meela who wore no armour and barely any clothing, quickly found one or more of the creatures clinging on to them. The Bloodsuckers then lanced their prey’s flesh with their needle-like mouths and began to suck out their victim’s life blood. With desperate savagery The Five Heroes slashed and bashed at their attackers before blood loss overcame them. The battle was a short one but left The Five Heroes bloodied. Once again they were thankful for having the healing power of the gods, channeled through Belinda and Mort, to revive them.
Returning their attention to the right-hand passage The Five Heroes descended a short flight of steps. While the way ahead was obscured by a curtain of heavy, leather strips The Five Heroes could smell the coppery odor of blood from ahead. Cautiously Meela used her spear to move aide the curtain and press ahead. The chamber beyond was strangely cold. There were a number of stone columns, a common sight in the caves, in the cave and strung between them were a number of chains from which hung numerous animal carcasses.
Evandar was the next to enter the cave but as he moved aside the leather curtain he cried out in pain. The leather strips were studded with numerous small metal hooks that dug into his flesh. While the hooks had drawn blood they presented a more insidious threat as they had been coated with poison. Belinda, who had received medical training while studying to be a priestess, did what she could for Evandar but the toxin left him feeling drained.
Evan as this was happening The Five Heroes came under attack from behind. Perhaps alerted by the sounds of the fight with the Bloodsuckers a group of six kobolds had snuck up the left-hand passage. Spotting Mort, the rearmost of The Five Heroes, the kobolds unleashed a volley with their slings before falling back down the tunnel.
The Five Heroes moved quickly to pursue the kobolds. The short passage ended in a smallish cave where the kobolds made their stand. The right hand side of the cave dropped away into a larger cave and there were small steps that lead down into it. In the left hand wall there was a narrow passage leading down. Meela was, as ever, quick to engage her foes but the kobolds had a deadly surprise prepared. Up the steps from the cave below stalked three fearsome drakes, each the size of a war dog. The cave was soon the sight of a viscous, no-holds-barred melee. Garrick managed to stay safety back, sniping with his bow and arrow from cover, but the Belinda, Evander, Mort and especially Meela found themselves at the center of a bloody battle, striking out in all directions with maces, axe and dagger. The battle was hard fought but The Five Heroes won through.
As the Five Heroes surveyed the site of the battle they began to consider taking a few minutes to rest, see to their injuries and get their strength back. The cave where they now stood seemed like a good place but Evandar wanted to scout out the side passage first. The passage-way wasn’t long but, when he was half-way along its length, Evander stood on a cunningly hidden trigger causing a deluge of rocks to fall on to him. Pulling himself out of the rocks, with a little help from Meela, Evandar stubbornly kept on to the end of the passage to find himself face-to-face with ten more kobolds, four of which had bat-like wings. The warlock found himself on the receiving end of a barrage of sling-bullets and rocks that struck him senseless.
Quickly Meela scooped her fallen companion up and dashed back to the where Belinda, Garrick and Mort waited. As Mort called upon the divine magic of Lathander to revive Evandar Garrick fired an arrow back down the passage at the kobolds. This has the unfortunate effect of bring the gnome to the kobold’s attention and, filled with ancestral hatred of gnome-kind, the kobolds ran and flew up the passage to mob him. Before they had properly recovered from their last life-and-death battle The Five Heroes found themselves once more surrounded by kobolds. It was Garrick, despite a spirited defense, who bore the brunt of the attack. He would have perished if not for the healing powers of first Belinda and then Mort. Soon enough the battle was over and The Five Heroes stood bloodied but triumphant.
More than ever The Five Heroes wanted somewhere to rest but Evander warned his companions that they would not be safe until they were sure that there were no enemies lurking near-by. This meant returning to the cave of the Bloodsuckers where there was one exit that they had not even begun to investigate, the ledge opposite the tunnel they had entered. Moving up to the lip The Five Heroes gazed down to see that the cave dropped once more before opening out into a chamber that seemed to be full of junk. While his companions were happy to leave their investigation there Mort wanted to head down into the cave and see if there was anything unusual or important down there. Unwilling to let him go on his own Meela accompanied the young priest while Belinda, Garrick and Evandar stayed on watch from above.
At first the junk yard seemed to be exactly that but then it became clear that it was inhabited as four, humanoid lizard creatures rose up to attack the intruders. Belinda, Garrick and Evandar quickly dispatched one of the Cave Dwellers but the other three closed in to attack, one towards Mort and two on Meela, with viscous fangs and claws. Almost as terrible as their talons was the gut-wrenching smell that the Cave Dwellers gave off. The Cave Dweller attacking Mort was quickly slain but the two on Meela managed to wound her severely before they were themselves killed forcing Mort to call upon the power of The Dawn Lord to ease her many wounds.
Confident that they had dealt with all dangers in their imminent vicinity The Five Heroes retired to the chamber where they had fought not one but two battles with kobolds so they could bandage their many injuries, snatch both some rest and east their provisions before continuing to explore the caves in an effort to unearth the secrets of The Cult of the Dragon.

Continued…