Following one of the treasure maps recovered from the cultist’s room in the villa, the party sets out for a secluded, hilly area southwest of Munitio.
On their way, they encounter a strange triad of giant raspberry bushes that possess healing properties, nestled in a beautiful glade near a crystal clear brook. The party takes samples and Brennan makes a note to investigate more later.
Approaching the area indicated on the map, the party runs into and dispatches sentries for a hobgoblin camp. The cry goes up and about 16 hobgoblins attack the party. Quick sleep spells by Sextus and Yiska lay out most of the band. The hobgoblin leader, swayed by Caelia’s charm and the promise of more loot, agrees to lead the party to the monastery and fight against the other tribe of hobgoblins with whom they had earlier allied.
The hobgoblins lead the party to an ancient monastery, through its sanctuary with demonic carvings, and into the caves below. Bluffing their way past ogres, goblins and other hobgoblins, they make it straight to the king’s chambers! A fierce battle is waged, leaving all enemies dead, except for a charmed hobgoblin and a charmed ogre. Looting the area, the party withdraws from the king’s chambers only to fall down a chute leading to deeper caverns far, far below.
In the undercaverns, the party finds and kills a pair of berserker humans, some giant shrews and a pair of owlbears, while avoiding the fierce piranha birds. They stumble across a small band of humans, led by the mad “King Derwinky”, obviously lunatics driven crazy by their long isolation in the caves. The party convinces the King of its peaceful intentions, pays tribute with food, clothing weapons and armor, and in return is rewarded with the Aegis, a +2 shield. The party expresses pity for the sad cave-dwellers and determines to find some way to help them in the future.
Thorough exploration of the undercaverns leads to an ancient treasure cache, with coins, gems and various magic items. The party excitedly scoops up the loot, only to be faced with a gelatinous cube! After dealing with the strange creature the party makes its way to an underground stream. Following along it for several hundred yards, they come upon a dry landing, and are noticed by a kobold sentry!
Unable to convince the fierce kobolds not to attack, the party reluctantly kills many of them and takes the chieftain prisoner. Charmed, the chieftain warns about the kobold’s’ deity, a dragon named Mekleth. The party is unconvinced until coming across a room blasted with scorch marks and strewn with charred kobold corpses. All doubts evaporate when the party – fleeing a great roaring sound behind them – dashes into the next cavernous chamber to be faced with a huge red dragon – it is Mekleth herself, coiled upon a pile of glittering treasure!
Thanks to Caelia’s caution, the party is prepared with a plan. While Caelia parleys with Mekleth, Brennan casts Resist Fire on Werm and Unstad. The party spreads out to avoid being caught in any fiery breath. When the conversation between bard and dragon begins to flag, Caelia consults her sword Oathkeeper to determine whether Mekleth is an enemy or potential ally. Confirming the dragon’s murderous intent, the party springs into action!
Caelia fires a crossbow bolt that strikes the dragon in the face. The dogs circle the great wyrm and harry at its heels. Werm, Matia and Unstad assault the dragon directly. Fortune is with them as a surprising number of blows land, doing significant damage, perhaps boosted by the blessing and inspirational song.
Mekleth, enraged, roars out a gout of fiery breath at the three fighters near her head. All are engulfed in flames and Matia and Unstad drop immediately. Werm manages to dodge the worst of the attack, but is still badly burned. A spell from Brennan covers the dragon in faerie fire, making it easier to see (and hit) in the dim cavern. Before the great beast can breathe death on the party again,, Caelia fires another crossbow bolt. It hits Mekleth, and the great red dragon shudders as it dies, collapsing in a great scaly heap.
Brennan and Jarol set to healing Matia and Unstad immediately. Miraculously, they both survive, though Matia will need a month of bed rest and is now crippled. Unstad is doing better, but has hideously disfiguring burn scarring half of his face. The party plans another trip to Quadrivinium soon to sell loot and receive healing restoration.
Brennan sends Werm to the villa with the dogs to bring back a company of troops and all of the wagons and carts available, along with the master craftsmen and their teams. The dragon’s hoard amounts to about 40,000 gold pieces, not including some very interesting magic items and weapons. Much of it appears to be goods raided from distant caravans.
The troops and wagons arrive a day and a half later, along with Gurstag, the thief now in Caelia’s employ. While keeping watch, Gurstag reports, he observed a fight between the humanoids in the monastery. It appears many were killed and the remaining hobgoblins retreated into the upper caves. The party, recalling word of an evil cleric and human prisoners, decides to once more delve beneath the monastery to clear out the upper caves and rescue any prisoners.
Exploring one of the other monastic buildings, the party finds a demonic statue with glittering gems for eyes. Impulsively, Brennan touches the statue while examining it and a dozen doors around the chamber open to disgorge animated skeletons, from their tombs. The party soon destroys the undead, recovering a magic dagger from one of the tombs, but opts to leave the statue untouched…for now.
As the party prepares for another delve beneath the monastery, the beginnings of a defensive stockade go up and master craftsmen and their teams begin their assessment of the construction materials to be salvaged. The party heads back to the villa to rest and regroup before returning, and Sextus’ newly hired sage is able to identify most of the magic items. The party distributes some of them, as appropriate to the practical needs of the party, while others might be sold in Quadrivinium. The dragon parts – organs, blood, meat and hide – might also fetch a fair price from alchemists and mages.
Caelia begins penning an epic song about the battle with the dragon. Sextus begins reviewing the many scrolls and spell books he has accumulated and finds that he has made a breakthrough in his magical abilities. The whole party is held in awe when the dragon carcass is brought back to the villa. Brennan begins calculations on about how long it will take to strip the monastery of all of its useful construction materials. Several hundred tons of quarried and dressed stone block, tiles and columns will come in very handy for new construction projects at the villa…