Lost Chapter #22

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                      *    THE ADVENTURERS    *
                    *                           *
                      *     Lost Tales...     *
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*    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and      *
*  other terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  *
*  However, this does not mean that TSR in any way endorses or      *
*  authorizes their use, and any such items contained within these  *
*  stories should not be considered representative of TSR in any    *
*  way, shape, or form.                                             *
*    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    *
*  right 1991-8 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons   *
*  or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.  *
*  Copying and/or distribution of these tales is permissible only   *
*  under the sole condition that no part of them will be used or    *
*  sold for profit.  In that case, I hope you enjoy them...         *
*                                                                   *
*                                  Thomas Miller                    *
*                                  tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu   *
*  Date:        6/5/212 C.Y. (Common Year)                          *
*  Time:        afternoon                                           *
*  Place:       the city of Denchan, south of the Crystalmists      *
*  Climate:     warm and unpleasantly humid                         *
*  "You were born to become a chalk outline."                       *
*                                        - from _Murder at 1600_    *

                        XXII.  Folly

  All was chaos, even as the mayor banged his gavel repeatedly
on his worn table.

mayor:  Order...order, I say!
city councilpeople:  (finally stop their heated bickering and pay
  attention to their mayor)
mayor:  That's better.

  The mayor was a large man, and his clothes didn't fit him well,
moreso because the hot, sticky night air caused the cloth to stick
to his skin.  He wanted nothing better than to leave the city hall,
go to his mansion, and soak into a nice, scented bath.  Still, he
knew that even that wouldn't make him, or anyone else, forget about
the problem at hand.

random councilman:  We have to do _something_!
mayor:  And we will-
other councilman:  We have to do something _now_!
mayor:  And we will!  All of you, be silent, or I'll have you
  ejected from this meeting!

  That got their attention, and he continued laconically.

mayor:  Councilman Lenster, report your findings.
Lenster:  (stands uneasily, coughing to clear his throat)  We have
  visited the nearby towns, and outlying areas.  The problem is
  prevalent there, too.
assemblage:  (whispering and muttering in low voices)
Lenster:  The dragon has been plundering all of their caravans and
  shipments, as well as ours.
Wervis:  (an old, bald councilman of many terms, he stands)  See?
  This can't go on!
mayor:  (wearily)  And it won't, but you have to sit down and obey
  the rules of order.
Wervis:  (sits, grumbling)
mayor:  (to the group)  So the problem is universal.  We guessed
  that.  (he points at a young, skinny councilman)  Ermac.  Did you
  gather information on casualties to this point?
Ermac:  (stands)  I did.  (he reads from a scroll)  Caravans looted
  after leaving the city:  fourteen.  Caravans looted while en route
  to the city:  twelve.  (he pauses)  That we know of.
assemblage:  (muttering again)
Ermac:  City guards or soldiers slain by the dragon:  seventy-nine.
  And there are a dozen more dying or wounded.
mayor:  Very good.  Err, not so good.  What else?
Ermac:  (sighs)  Total value of losses, estimated:  two hundred ten
  thousand, six hundred thirty-five coins of gold.
assemblage:  (begins chattering)
Wervis:  (stands again)  Aha!  We must end this now!
mayor:  And how do you intend to do that, Wervis?  Are you going to
  hobble up to the dragon's mountainous lair and stick a sword in
  its belly yourself?
Wervis:  (pales)
mayor:  I thought not.  And recall that we've sent a squad of our
  finest warriors and court wizards up there already...and they
  never came back.
Ermac:  (mumbling something about having forgotten those stats, he
  makes a note)
Wervis:  No guards...no city wizards...what we need are adventurers!
  Mercenaries for hire!
councilmen:  (some of them begin to nod and mutter)
mayor:  I hardly think-
Wervis:  (sensing the council's support for his idea growing, he
  continues)  We can post a reward - a big one!  After all, such a
  payment is nothing compared to what we've lost, and will continue
  to lose, if the dragon is allowed to run amok.
mayor:  You can't do that without introducing a bill and voting-
Wervis:  (holds a rolled parchment up, cackling)  It just so happens
  that I've got a bill right here!  (he unfurls it, waving it around
  happily)  It contains provisions for everything - all we have to
  do is have a majority sign it.
mayor:  (sighs)

  Later that evening, the tired fellow finally returned to his home.
He was exhausted, his back hurt, his head hurt, and he felt ten years
older than he was.

mayor's wife:  Shall I heat up some stew for you, dear?
mayor:  Sure.
mayor's wife:  How did it go?
mayor:  Not well at all.  That Wervis is a troublemaker - I never
  should have let him get elected to the council.
mayor's wife:  It's not your decision, dear.
mayor:  (sighs)
mayor's wife:  So what's to happen?
mayor:  (groans)  Adventurers.  The city will pay adventurers to go
  into the mountains and rid us of the dragon.
mayor's wife:  (shakes her head as she heats the stew)  No surprise,
  really.  Most people I've talked to thought that was inevitable.
mayor:  And did they approve of it?
mayor's wife:  (nods)  What do you expect?  They're commoners.
mayor:  (sighs)
mayor's wife:  You aren't happy with the idea?
mayor:  It's not that - it's probably the best course of action at
  this point - but I don't like dealing with the politics of it all.
mayor's wife:  Oh.  I'm sorry.
mayor:  Don't be.  Wervis and the rest are in charge of it.  All of
  it.  I neither wanted, nor have, a part in any of this.  All I've
  got to do is sit back and wait for a report.
mayor's wife:  That's nice, dear.

  And that was the extent of the mayor's direct involvement in the
affair.  The next day, signs went up, within the city and without.
Outlying areas and neighboring towns were notified as well.  The
call was out:  daring, resourceful adventurers were needed to go
up into the peaks and destroy the foul menace of Cynder.
  For the better part of a week, the committee (headed, naturally,
by Wervis and mostly staffed by his trusted cronies) filtered the
applicants they got.  Some were mere fortune-seekers who would
likely take the down payment and run.  Others were overly foolish
and probably incapable of defeating anything bigger than an ogre.
A few tried to make their own terms, and were turned away.  Those
who met the committee's approval were given a time and place to
  Thus it was that now, only a week after Wervis pushed his bill
through the city council, eight adventurers rode into the mighty,
ominous Crystalmist Mountains.  Few of these people had known one
another before the party was formed.  Most of them were in it for
the money, though a few used the excuse that it was the right thing
to do (and the hefty reward was conveniently left undiscussed.)
  Eight in number, the party contained a variety of personalities.
There was Flexbar the warrior, who wanted to be the party leader
but couldn't get the support he felt he deserved.  There was Milin
the wizard, who said little and let his magic do the talking.
Crestar the priest babbled constantly about his god, the great
Heironeous, and how this quest was the god's will and could not
fail.  The rogue Trixtan was not only a skilled scout and break-in
artist, but he was familiar with the Crystalmists - an added bonus.
Percifal the paladin rivaled Crestar for righteous chatter, and he
spent more time worrying about the honor and glory that would soon
be his than the dangers involved.  Iblis the illusionist kept his
mouth shut and his eyes open, though some of the others wondered
what use illusions would be against a dragon of Cynder's power.
Eidos, an elven warrior and mage of much skill and power, made his
opinions known to all; he had a very clear idea of exactly how the
companions should go about their quest.  Arvagard the assassin was
a last-minute addition to the group; Wervis had insisted that the
mission was too important to not have a death-dealer along.  Some
of the adventurers had objected loudly, but apparently the greater
good of the quest overrode their moral problems with having a paid
killer among their number.
  Eight they were, and onward they rode.  They'd entered the mighty
Crystalmists three days ago, Trixtan guiding them as best as he was

Trixtan:  It has been a while, you know...five years at least.  Much
  has changed.
Crestar:  For example, the dragon is there now.
Percifal:  But not for much longer.  (he raises his sword)  And then
  the land will be free, and the people happy, and-
Eidos:  Put your blade away and quiet down.  If that dragon's within
  a day's ride of us, he'll hear you.
Percifal:  How dare you?!?
Eidos:  (yawns)
Flexbar:  Save your anger for the dragon, good fellows.
Arvagard:  We will no doubt need all the anger we can muster.  That
  wyrm is a tough one.
Milin:  (speaks up)  What do you know of the beast?
Arvagard:  (takes a serious tone)  Only the legends I've heard...
  that he slaughtered the armies of the Olvenfolk, a hundred years
  ago, on the Quiet Plain.
Iblis:  Don't forget the time he wrecked Castle Furyon in a matter
  of moments...and decimated her proud armies.
Percifal:  (helpfully)  My great-grandfather was slain in that epic
Flexbar:  I heard that Cynder's so mean, he fought and killed his
  own mother, when he was old enough.
Trixtan:  Why?  To get her treasure?
Flexbar:  Probably also to gain status.  Status is important to the
Trixtan:  (eyes wide)  You know of the ways of the great wyrms?
Flexbar:  (proudly)  I'm somewhat of an authority on the subject.
Eidos:  I read somewhere that Cynder once ruled the plains of the
  Voll, until the Aerdians moved in.
Milin:  Then perhaps the monster _can_ be defeated.  If a great
  horde of invaders could drive it away...
Eidos:  They didn't drive him away, the story goes - he left right
  before they got there, to pursue a mate.
Flexbar:  A natural instinct, to be sure.
Crestar:  Mate?
Eidos:  Whatever happened to that mate, recorded history tells us
Arvagard:  All very interesting, but all that really matters is
  where the dragon is _now_.
Percifal:  And I suppose you have a plan to kill the thing?
Arvagard:  Of course.  (he produces a great black arrow)  Do you
  know what this is?
Milin:  I see runes on its shaft...magical?
Arvagard:  Highly magical - an arrow of red dragon slaying, actually.
Flexbar:  (gapes)
Trixtan:  Then you mean to slay the monster yourself, and claim the
  entire reward?!?
Arvagard:  (smirks)
Trixtan:  (fuming)  But-
Eidos:  Fear not, thief.  The balance of the reward is due to us
  regardless of who kills the dragon.
Flexbar:  I have a longbow - it should be _I_ who fires that arrow.
Arvagard:  Forget it.  The arrow's mine, as shall be the kill...
  perhaps the greatest assassination in all history!
Milin:  (whistles)  Undoubtedly.
Percifal:  (to Iblis)  What think you of all this, illusion-weaver?
Iblis:  (shrugs)  Who can say?

  The truth was, all of them - even proud Percifal or indifferent
Iblis or jealous Flexbar - were secretly relieved that one of their
number had such a weapon available.  It would make a dangerous task
much less so; for that, they all breathed a sigh of relief.  Even
though they put up airs of confidence and fearlessness, each of
them was fully aware of the true power of any dragon, much less one
as old and evil as Cynder.
  They trudged onward, for the remainder of that day and then the
next.  There were attacks - wild wolves, then a band of hobgoblins,
and later still a trio of trolls - but all of these were repelled
without major difficulty or delay.  Finally, after the better part
of a week, the eight companions stood before a man-sized tunnel at
the foot of a great mountain.

Trixtan:  This is the one.
Milin:  How do you know?
Trixtan:  (points at the plume of smoke rising from the peak, far
  above their heads)
Milin:  Ah.
Crestar:  Hold.  I must have proof - I shall commune with my god to
  assuredly verify the veracity of-
Percifal:  Enough of this!  The beast is clearly nearby, and we
  shall forge ahead!  (he marches into the tunnel)
Trixtan:  Good idea.  (he follows the paladin)
Eidos:  (frowns at Crestar, annoyed, as he enters the tunnel)
others:  (follow, in ones and twos)
Crestar:  That's the problem with youngsters these days - none of
  them believe in Heironeous.  Well, someday they'll learn.  (he
  realizes that he's talking to himself, and dashes after the
  others)  Wait for me!

  The tunnel was dark, but they had ways of dealing with that.  A
half-hour's march and several dead-ends later, they entered an
empty complex of rooms and passages, and decided to make camp.
Guards and barricades were set, although it was obvious that this
area wasn't the dragon's true lair.  Regardless, nothing happened
that night, and the next morning, they resumed their explorations.
They were in good spirits; after all, they were in the dragon's
domain, but odds seemed good that they could find and confront it
at their leisure.  The first half of the day was spent exploring
the dusty rooms, now revealed to be the long-abandoned warren of
some goblins, given the evidence that lay about.
  After a break for lunch and rest, they continued onward...and
that was where disaster struck.  The party was moving through a
high, arched passageway when the ceiling collapsed suddenly!
Thanks to Trixtan's keen ears and shouted warning, they were able
to outrun the barrage of falling stone...all except the wizard
Milin, who was too slow.  The spellcaster was crushed by the
falling rubble, which also blocked the way they'd come.

Percifal:  Well, we must forge onward.  It's the only way.
Crestar:  Poor Milin.  (he regards the rubble forlornly)  No one
  could have survived that.
Flexbar:  Damn.
Arvagard:  We'd best consider ourselves fortunate that only one
  was slain.
Eidos:  (angrily)  Pardon?
Arvagard:  All I'm saying is that it could have been worse.
Crestar:  True.
Trixtan:  (sadly)  The day's young.

  They kept going, but their options became limited.  There were
fewer side passages, and all of them seemed to dead-end or else
loop back upon themselves.  They had just begun to get bored and
restless when they entered the narrow end of a long, somewhat
conical room.  The far end, perhaps a hundred feet distant, led
into a much larger cavern - perhaps the lair of the great dragon!


     (where they came from)

               | |
               | |               _
               | |              |_ = ~30'
              /   \
             /     \
    ________/       \________

       (huge cavern ahead)


Flexbar:  (whispering)  This could very well be it...
Crestar:  (also whispering, as is everyone at this point)  We'll
  need to scout the area ahead there, before we all advance.
Trixtan:  Say no more.  (he moves out to make sure there's no
  dragon hiding around the corner at the end of the conical room)
Eidos:  I'm with you.

  They crept through the chamber, slowly, cautiously, and then
vanished from sight into the larger chamber beyond.  Tense moments
passed...and then two things happened almost at once.
  First, there was a muffled cry, drowned out by a roar.  Second,
a thick slab of stone slid down from the ceiling, blocking the
passage they'd entered the conical room from.

Flexbar:  What?!?
Crestar:  Oh, Heironeous...look.

  At the wider end of the conical room was a huge dragon, its
scaled hide blood-red, its massive limbs impressive.

Cynder:  WELCOME!
Flexbar:  The dragon!  (he draws his sword hurriedly)
Percifal:  Stand fast!  Assassin - ready your arrow!  Spellcasters,
  prepare your magic.  We will conquer this beast yet!
Arvagard:  Right.  (he reaches into his quiver)  Aie!
Iblis:  What?
Arvagard:  It's gone!  The magical arrow is gone!
Cynder:  (grins toothily, then inhales)
Percifal:  Spread out!  Get some-
Cynder:  (breathes, a great gout of flame that fills the conical
  chamber and obliterates everything within)

  When the smoke finally cleared, and the flames finally died down,
the dragon resumed his previous form and wandered into the still-
steaming chamber.
  He was muchly pleased with himself.  After all, he'd been in on
this from the very beginning.  He had several disguises - alternate
identities, used when he walked among the world of mortals - and
the persona of a plain-looking, plain-acting city councilman in
Denchan had been most useful.
  Not as useful, he decided, as the new one he'd invented about a
week ago.  As Trixtan the thief, he'd been able to tell the city's
dragon-slaying committee exactly what it had wanted to hear, and
it was child's play to get himself hired along with the others.
After that, a little misinformation here, some misleading there,
a clever yet simple collapsing-ceiling trap prepared in advance...
  He hadn't known about the assassin's magical arrow, but once the
fool had given away his trump card, it had been easy to use a spell
or two to pilfer the item, undetected, in the night.
  Trixtan - Cynder - stopped in front of the assortment of melted,
ruined items that were the only remaining evidence of the party of
adventurers.  It looked like Percifal's armor, and Flexbar's
bastard sword, had been powerful enough to survive the inferno.
He picked these items up with ease, pleased that they would be
attractive new additions to his hoard.

  Cynder gave the town of Denchan four days, just to let the
suspense and fear build up.  Then he flew from his mountain lair
and razed the town to the ground.  No building was left standing,
no hut left unburning, no innocent left alive.  Such was the
vengeance of an angry dragon, and it added a fresh new misdeed
to Cynder's legend.

next:      the wispy thing
ftp:       ftp.myths.com in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.intertex.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
www:       http://www.myths.com/pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv/adv.html
mail:      tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     Special thanks to Patrick Weeks, Leonard Bottleman, Matt
  and Andy Hurd, Richard Mosher, Lance Dooly, Tom Vallow, and Vince
  Gray for a plethora of ideas, many of which were somehow worked
  into this tale.

    Here is a summary of the few times that Cynder and the
  Adventurers have crossed paths:

  epi   game date    location

  049    8/28/570    crypt in Crystalmist Mtns near Yeomanry
  162   10/ 7/573    Griff Mtns
  497    6/26/576    Isle of the Ape

    Final note, since so many of you have been asking:  no, we've
  not seen the last of Cynder.  I can't say when he'll be back, or
  what shape he'll be in, but we will see him again someday.

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