Chapter 21

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          Navero, male human cleric, 4th level
          Dania, female 1/2-elf MU, 4th level
          Kortul, male human fighter, 3rd level
          Razuli, male human fighter, 3rd level
          Arlor, male dwarf thief, 3rd level
          Kory Silvertongue, male elf bard, 2nd level
          Topash, male elf druid, 3rd level

Morning came foggy and dim to the marshes.  Night passed uneventfully
- nothing came to camp to eat us and the normal nocturnal sounds of
the swamp were uninterrupted.  The morning mists were very thick and
hid everything from view; feeling somewhat vulnerable, we quietly
loaded the skiff and set out.  Unchallenged, we moved deeper into the
marshes, pausing now and then to bop an adventurous crocodile on the
nose.  Apart from noise we made, everything seemed subdued and quiet,
as if listening for something.  Thick, gnarled trees rose up from the
hidden earth, with vines and moss and strangleweed hanging from their

Kory: "Oh, I LOVE what they've done with this place!  So totally
     retro-primeval.  I must say, this dampness suits you quite
     admirably, dear magic-user.  The way your robe clings to you is
     SO evocative of the dreamy summer days of my distant youth."

Dania: "Leave me out of your wet dreams."

Arlor: "I wanna go home."

Kory: "You be quiet.  I'm quite happy here."

Navero: "I wish it weren't so wet.  This could be a nice place; those
     trees over there are kind of nice, I think.  It would be a very
     pleasant forest, if everything weren't so wet and drippy."

Topash: "This green is perfect as it is, just the way it is; your own
     aesthetic opinions are not shared by Nature, and as no man can
     see all there is in the world, we must respect the wisdom of the
     earth and her choices.  Look at the trees, at the fish, at that
     crocodile about to eat our steering oar (take care of that, will
     you Kortul?)  They know their places in this world, and are
     *WHAM!* (Thank you, Kortul) gifted with a complete natural
     understanding of nature and the balance.  Envy them their ancient

Razuli: "And I just thought it was here to make Dania's robe wet."

Dania: "Shut up."

Kory: "Ah, Dania Dania Dania.  Such a lovely name.  How did you get

Kortul: (Starts) "Quiet."
Kory: "What?  Be QUIET?  Don't you understand?  Of course you don't.
     Why, I am sprung from a veritable royalty of splendidly harmonic
     issuance, perhaps the finest..."

Razuli: (Clamps a hand over Kory's mouth.) "Bard, ya got three
     choices: shut up, dive in, or start losing appendages.  Your
     tongue won't be the last."

Kory: "Music haters."

Topash: "No; there is a disturbance near here."

Razuli: "You feel a tremor in the force, Obi-wan?"

Topash: (sigh.) "No; something is watching us."

Dania: "I don't see anything."

Kortul: "'course not."

Arlor: "I really wanna go home."

Dania: "So start swimming."

Navero: "Maybe it would be a good idea if we all tried to be quiet?"

Party: Yea, sure, right kiddies.  (Party stays quiet maybe 2 minutes.)

Kory: "Damn.  I gotta go to the bathroom."

Topash: "Why didn't you go before we started?"

Kory: "Oh, your buffness?  You too, Raz.  Could I trouble you two kind
     gentlemen to steer us over by those reeds?  Thank you kindly."

Razuli: "Shit, Bard.  But not here."

Kory: "That's what I'm trying to do."

     With faint but audible grumbling, we put the skiff over by the
side of the river.  Kory jumped out and went into the bushes.  Then,
we all heard a great crackling, like trees and bushes being torn up
and pushed aside; a big black shape rose up out of the mists on the
opposite shore, not twenty feet from us, opened its jaws, and spat.  A
huge glob of acid hit the skiff amidships, spattering everyone; we
dove into the water to wash the vile liquid off.  Everyone but Navero,
that is.  He fumbled his save, and was hit full in the face with the
slimy glob; without even a chance to scream, he dissolved into the
bottom of the skiff.  The acid ate out the bottom, and the whole thing
went down like a rock.

Party: "AAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!"

        Twang!                Light! Hurl!
Spellcast!                                    "Kill the *%&$@\%*&!!"
                                  K K  A  BBB L    A  M M
                        "Bolt!"   KK  A-A B-B L   A-A MMM
        Twang!                    K K A A BBB LLL A A M M
Throw!                     Ka-Thunk!                            Twang!
                 Twang!                       Whunk!

(Plus many of the other sounds commonly made by a badly frightened
party unloading into some poor defenseless little dragonling.)

     The baby Black wobbled in mid-air for a bit, then silently
crashed into the stream.  Being a small, shallow stream, it was only
partially submerged, so we spent another couple of rounds filling it
with arrows and bolts and magic until we had assured ourselves that it
was dead.

Dania: "Is it dead?"

Kory: "It damn well better be!"

Razuli: "Where's the priest?"

Kortul: "In the boat."

Dania: "Where's the boat?"

Kortul: "On the bottom."

Dania: "Oh damn, not again."

     We waded into the stream and went through the skiff; our
equipment was acid-seared and water-logged, but some was salvageable.
Of Navero, Dania was able to find a shoe, his mace, a few teeth, and
not much else.  Kortul and Razuli checked out the dead dragon; careful
to stay upstream of it, as the water was already becoming laden with
its foul and searing blood.  The thing was quite dead; sadly, the hide
was too badly damaged to be of much value, and we knew of nothing else
that was worth anything except its treasure.  Obviously, if it had
one, we were going to have to go out and find it somehow.

Kortul: (Prying out a canine) "Treasure?"

Razuli: "I got no idea where it is.  Better find some to satisfy snot-
     face.  Are we going back there?"

Dania: "Remember the chits?  Forget running."

Topash: "A monetary prize would be of some use.  This 'snot-face' you
     mentioned seems unnecessarily obsessed with it, however; perhaps
     if he did not receive any he would realize the utter futility of
     concern over material wealth."

Razuli: "Yea, yea, what he said.  Let's get rid of these things and
     get outa here."
Kory: "My feelings exactly!  I wish to skip merrily through the woods,
     free of the dismal chains of bureaucracy!  Besides, this dumb
     little thing clashes with my tunic.  Let us be done with them!"

Dania: "Right.  I'll look into it.  But first we find this thing's

Topash: "I'll look into that." (Shapechanges into sparrow, flies off.)

Dania: "Don't go alone, you... oh, you idiot."

     The sparrow flew off in the direction the dragon had come from.
The land in this direction was higher than usual, almost dry;
following the dragons trail was not difficult.  It seemed to have been
trailing along beside them for some time; no doubt awoken from a
gorged sleep by all the noise the others had been making.
Backtracking, Topash could see that it had come out of an overgrown
spot on a small, gently-sloped hill about 400 yards from the stream;
that seemed the most likely spot for the lair.

     Sailing on his borrowed wings, Topash flew into the trees on the
hill, gliding in between their high and noble trunks.  They were
lovely trees, tall, leafy, and straight, which was unusual for the
area; they also seemed to be further apart than was normal.  On closer
examination Topash saw there were faint depressions in the ground
between the high trees indicated that other trees had stood there, but
had been thinned out, allowing the others to grow higher.  They
effectively screened a large area from the air, preventing someone on
the hill from being seen from above.  It was amazing that a dragon
which seemed so young could have done this; perhaps it was an
unusually clever one, although its method of attack did not seem to
indicate that.

     Fluttering deeper in, the ground vegetation thinned, revealing an
occasional track.  Most of these were ordinary; rabbit or such.  Some
were the dragon's tracks; but a couple of these were quite a bit
larger than a small dragon could be expected to make.  A very
uncomfortable thought began to rise in Topash's brain.  He nervously
flew on, to make a startling and disconcerting discovery at the top of
the hill.  Rather than act on his new knowledge, he elected to quietly
leave and inform his new companions of this unexpected turn of events.

(Sparrow shrieks into the group like a bat out of hell, changes into
an elf in mid-air and crashes to the ground.  Topash stands up.)

Topash: "Can the boat be repaired?  QUICKLY?!?"

Razuli: "The boat's a loss, elf.  Ya didn't find the treasure, huh?"

Topash: "No, I'm afraid not.  Instead, I found your baby's parents.
     Do you know anything about dragons?  Like, they rarely have
     children?  And that those children are valued more than the earth
     itself?  And they get a trifle annoyed with people who kill their
Arlor: "I'm going home."

Dania: "Shit, no!"

Razuli: "Hey, God?  What the fuck are you tryin' to do to me?  What
     did I ever do to deserve this?"

Kory: "Oh, Christ!  How did you people ever talk me into going on this
     ill-fated expedition?  You told me, Dragon!  The singular!  I'm
     terribly sorry, but multiple dragons are not in my contract, and
     if you get me killed, I'll never speak to any of you again!"

Dania: "Godamn it all....  We better get the fuck *out* of here!"

Kortul: "Useless.  On foot.  They're flying.  Will defoliate whole
     swamp to find us."

Topash: "I must agree.  They are going to be quite upset when they
     find out about this."

Razuli: "Waitaminute, waitaminute.  `When they find out'?  They don't
     know yet?"

Dania: "Yea, didn't they hear us?  We made enough noise."

Topash: "Ah, no.  They're asleep.  Older dragons sleep more heavily."

Kory: "Oh....   Asleep, you say, dear woodsy-type-person?"

Kortul: "Have to kill them."

Razuli: "That just might be possible, kids.  Where are they?"

Topash: (Hmm...) "There seems no other option, so... this way,

Daniel Parsons
                 "There sure are an awful lot of dragons around here."

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