We were all badly hurt, so we focused on recuperating while Stria mixed up a lovely treat to feed to the basilisks before we killed them. Some kind of fish stew that came from a faraway land. She said it was poy sin stew.
We hired a dwarf named Girm and a man and his toothless dog and set off towards the big tree, with two mules pulling Oscar’s cart that I should really tell him I’ve been borrowinmg.
We were interrupted along the way by a huge black dragon landing nearby. It noticed us, after a few tense moments. Err, noticed me, I should say. Stria and u-Heury were nowhere to be seen, and Girm had already run off back down the road. The other hireling had his hands full trying to keep his dog from running away.
I immediately recognized this as the moment I had been waiting for. This creature was challenging me to single combat. I would meet its challenge, as dictated by fate, and two would enter this forest arena, while only one would depart. Err, three would enter and either one or two depart; I would need a mount to challenge a dragon. u-Heury had disappeared, which meant no one was driving the cart, so I jumped up into the driver’s seat and begin trying to figure out how to detach a mule.
After flapping its wings and arching its back to look as intimidating as possible, the dragon demanded a magic item in tribute. I had none, so I shrugged and politely asked for a moment to locate my helmet and detach a mule before the duel commenced. The dragon ignored me. Stria, on the other hand, came out of hiding and displayed her odd crystal dagger, offering it to the dragon.
That was when the second dragon landed and the two dragons began to fight. The second one was too much for the mules, and they both ran off. I shifted my efforts from detaching them to stopping them, and Stria disappeared again. u-Heury reappeared once I stopped the mules – never mind how he kept up, I have no idea – and tried to convince me not to charge both dragons as they fought. Meanwhile I implored the dragons to wait their turn. One of them smacked me with its tail, and I went flying into a tree, but I was only stirred, not shaken.
A few minutes later, I was ready. u-Heury had convinced me that I could not in fairness risk Oscar’s mules without his permission, so I would face the dragons alone. I found my helmet, grabbed for u-Heury’s spear, and set off back to where the dragons were fighting.
Seeing my approach, full of sound and fury, they took to the air and fled.
The dwarf Girm had fled before the dragons did, but we searched the sight of the battle and recovered two small dragon scales, about two inches across. They were too small for use as armor, but might go well on a necklace, or – getting creative here – if I could mount a metal ring perpendicular to the plane of the scale, it would make a very nice set of black knuckles. Like brass knuckles, only black for a black dragon, right? Perhaps a smith will be able to make me a pair. If not, a necklace would be quite fashionable.
Since we were lacking a dwarf we returned to town and found him hiding in the cellar of the general store, and convinced him that he needed to go back out with us to redeem his cowardice. And I showed him the scales. He was very impressed that I defeated two dragons with only a few scratches.
We traveled to the Holy Oak without incident this time, and Stria even brought treats for the basilisks. We planned to lure them with the treats and attack with missile weapons, hopefully just one or two at a time, and retreat into a narrow corridor for a defensive position if necessary.
But our plans were sidetracked when we decided to take the boat downriver from the trogolodyte beach. We were expecting to end up at the basilisk beach, but before we arrived, we found a bridge and stopped to explore it. On one end, a secret door led into a garden room filled with shadows who guarded black tomatoes. The shadows seem to want us to ask permission before touching the plants, and their touch saps strength! Hopefully, my sword arm will recover with rest. On the other end it had a room filled with statues coated in slime, likely from the moisture.
We were briefly interrupted by a wizard who is looking for something, I don’t recall what, and denied being Henry Slippuims.
We resumed searching the statue room and found a secret door, leading to a room with a sarcophagus. Expecting the worst, we surrounded it and prepared to push it only halfway open, so any mummy will still be trapped inside…
Fred and the kid decided to try the creepy tree again. Maybe take the boat down the river to see what we can find. Maybe try to tackle the giant lizards. I took my half of the spider venom sacs and Retep got me to where I could make two vials of poison strong enough to kill giant lizards when put in their fish. I put in an order for two more doses from some unknown supplier. If we go for the lizards, we’ll have to make do with partially incapacitating all four or killing only two. The kid hired a guy with a toothless dog and a dwarf with a heavy crossbow. The former is cannon fodder to distract the lizards. The latter might be useful.
On our way, we noticed that the woods were too quiet. Dead silent. Then a black dragon landed on the treetops above us. The kid, probably wisely, promptly vanished into the bushes. It wasn’t looking at us right off, so we could have tried to sneak past. Unfortunately, Fred got his back up, and was yelling about charging at the thing. Even trying to unharness a mule after grabbing one of the kid’s spears. The dragon is in the trees. You can’t charge it. But Fred was incapable of logic. I tried to knock him out with the pommel of my dagger, but he was so fanatical, he brushed it off. The dragon turned to us, and said how adventurers tasted good, and it looked forward to eating us, unless we had a bribe. I asked what kind of bribe was acceptable. The dragon said something magic. So, in the interest of all of us not being eaten alive, I offered the dragon the magic crystal dagger. It expressed delight and started reaching down to take the dagger, when there was another crash and a second black dragon said something in dragon language. It sounded pretty snotty, whatever it said, and the two dragons began fighting. That was the part where I dove into the bushes.
The mules bolted. I saw the kid run after the wagon and leap on. Frederick followed him, still wanting a mule to charge a dragon with. Dragons that are in the friggin trees. He seemed to think they would accept a challenge to personal combat and come down on the ground and fight by rules. Boy really is dumb. I saw him manage to jump onto the moving wagon as well, and he and the kid struggled over the reins. The kid wanted to keep the mules moving away, while Frederick was trying to turn them back towards the dragons. By this time, I was dodging acid falling from the dragon battle, and thinking I should make a break for the wagon myself. The kid must have convinced Fred to leave the mules alone, because he started running back just as the dragons flew off. He now believes they fled from him. I’m letting him have his illusions.
The dwarf had run off. The other guy fell for Frederick’s story about beating the dragons. Definitely cannon fodder; his dog has more brains than he does. Ignoring my and the kid’s superior climbing skills, Frederick clambered up a tree in search of dragon scales or blood or something. He managed to find two scales. We decided to go back to town to hunt the oath breaking dwarf and maybe sell the scales. We talked to the dwarf shopkeeper, and I had to step in when he started getting insulted by the boys disparaging the oathbreaker’s courage. I said all we wanted was for the oathbreaker to come back out with us and fulfill the contract, or give us our money back. He said he’d find the oathbreaker, and to come back tomorrow. Honestly, Fred can be so charming when he wants to be, but, idiot boys. By that time, it was too late to get fresh pastries, and the magician’s butler wouldn’t give us the time of day. He’d better pray I never get bored, because he could do with being taken down several pegs before I let him die.
In the morning, we went back to the shop, and confronted the oathbreaker, who admitted he had run. He was ashamed and agreed to come back out and honor the contract. Good lad. Now I won’t have to hunt him down. This trip to the creepy tree was uneventful. The boat appeared to have come loose from where we left it on the beach, but the kid dragged it in using a pole. We got in, and he used the pole to steer the boat through the current. He insisted he knew exactly what he was doing, but I’m skeptical, because it was a wild ride. We found a bridge just before we got to the gnomes’ fishing spot, and the beach where the lizards feed. We climbed up to explore. We discussed whether we could shoot the lizards from the safety of the bridge, but we’d need lights on the beach first. We so need a mage. One side of the bridge ended in a suspicious blank wall that just screamed secret door. The other end went off into darkness. The dwarf earned his keep by opening the secret door.
The kid flat out refused to go through it. Weird smell of growing things. I followed Fred into what was a black and twisted garden, with what looked like black tomatoes on some of the plants. I saw the black thorn vines, and knew we were beyond the passageway we hadn’t gone through, the one where the black thorn vines moved and had killed someone. In this room, shadows moved on their own. Fred started to reach for a tomato. Because that was ever going to be a good idea. The kid egged him on, and wanted to eat one. Which would have gotten him way more than a tummyache. Mother Night, why do I have to be the only grownup? We’ll never know what it would have done to him, because the shadows condensed into a vaguely human shape and threatened Frederick. He tried to say he would leave and not touch anything, but the shadows wanted him to die and taste the fruits of their labor. We ran, and the kid and the dwarf got the door shut behind us. I hate this friggin tree. Why can’t we find normal dungeons with normal bad things?
We went across the other side of the bridge, and a mage appeared out of nowhere. Mages like that trick. They think it impresses people. Just makes me want to backstab the arrogant bastards. He wanted us to find jars with teeth. He’s the mage, why can’t he find his belongings? I don’t know that there’s enough gold in this for me to find teeth for him to start a skeleton army with, since that’s what teeth usually means - sow them in the ground and an army springs up. Across the bridge was a room with lots of statues. They seemed to be the queens to match the king statues to the south. We searched the room, and the kid found a secret door. It burns that the barbarian boy is better in a dungeon than me. They’re all about the wild and stuff. He’s annoying, but the kid’s good. Through the secret door was a room with a coffin. Lots of snake imagery, which was not comforting. I set up with my bow. The kid and one of the henchman went closer, to move the lid halfway down. If there’s something in it, it’ll only be able to sit up, not get out and attack us. I’d really feel better killing walking corpses with something longer than daggers…