The Dragon Slayers

FAO: Knight Captain Pieter Van-de-Gaarde
For the Attention of Knight Captain Pieter Van-de-Gaarde,

Dear brother, goodness it has been a while hasn’t it. Well all that unpleasant business with the Rebellion is behind us I suppose, you didn’t have to kick quite so hard though you know..
You may or may not have heard that I have “gone rogue” again as it were.. Well I am a Wizard of the second level now you know.
The point is, well I have left father, for good, I won’t be going back, not the way I left.
And well I have found myself once more in familiar company, before you start blustering and throwing obscenities about, this is legitimate absolutely not a rebellion business.
We are up in some comfort forsaken backwater near the mountains, and well we found a bit of trouble, in the shape of a formerly mythological beast…
What I am trying to say is, the Hearth breakers and I bloody well killed a Dragon! A big red one…
Don’t believe me, I wouldn’t if I were you Pieter, but ask around about the corpse we dragged through town in front of everyone and the slowly spreading reputation my compatriot of diminutive stature Malachai has been nurturing and you will find the proof..
There is however some other unfortunate business I need to mention other than sort of bragging.
The Duke of this Trevarrion place is dead, quite a lot dead… no we didn’t do it.
Elves did actually, we caught them in the act and they were chock full of some very nasty poison, almost lost Catrain to it too, but I would keep that name from your brothers if you know what I mean.
Anyway I might be barking up the wrong murderous elf filled tree here but, I worry that this might be the tip of some kind of “kill all the human nobles” iceberg as it were.
So yes, dragons, murderous elves with poison and I have run away from home forever.
Nice chatting brother,
Yours,
Jayca Van-de-Gaarde

Oh, here is a drawing of the snake seal on the boxes of poison the elves we dispatched were all carrying:

(drawing)

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Session 03: Malachai Log
Being an excerpt from a letter in Malachai’s pack; there’s no addressee

This town is dull. We managed to sell some of the haul, which I’m pleased about, but we still have some spider-fur cloaks and spider-silk carpets and so on, plus some statues of Duke Blackstone that we’re going to offer to him.

Before we got that sorted, Catrain, Esther and I headed into the town. Esther went into the River’s Rest to check things out, and that innkeeper I mentioned before chased her out, saying that “her kind” weren’t welcome. And her kind, of course, is my kind. Your kind.

Esther had to run away from the place. Catrain bumped into the local oiks pursuing her, and ended up in a confrontation with the innkeeper. I don’t know the details, but I know he swung for her and cut at her harp. He is very much owed some trouble, but I’ll have to be careful; Hanneke’s far too interested in being a goodie two-shoes. If I go all-out at this innkeeper, and Hanneke finds out, I don’t fancy my chances. Especially now that we’ve decided to get the Hearthbreakers back together full-time…

Anyway, with the Vengeful Knave’s help, I went into the River’s Rest while Catrain was having her set-to. He let me look like a Brokenhammer dwarf – albeit a short one – and I poured the innkeeper’s ink all over the letter he was writing to Lord Blackstone. He talked about us as ne’er-do-wells and all but accused us of killing the Duke! When I headed out of the inn, I did Catrain a favour and pointed the mob that was chasing her in the wrong direction. Then I settled down to wait for the courier.

I managed to get a hold of the letter that the innkeeper managed to write on his one remaining sheet of parchment; I told the courier that the innkeeper had sent me to get it back so he could make some changes, and that he’d get paid double for his trouble. Courier seemed to believe it.

So I went back to the Keep. It turned out that the two surviving guards (Anton and Helga) weren’t bothering to show up to work. Good to know. Worse news: there’s nothing like enough in the vault to pay us what we were promised, much less the danger money, and when Esther took a look around the place, she didn’t see too much stuff that was both portable and valuable, you know? So that night, we took matters into our own hands; Catrain helped out with some singing, and Esther snuck into the housekeeper’s room and stole her keys. That let us get up into the Duke’s quarters, where Esther found some very shiny things, although they don’t even put a dent in what we’re owed. I had a look through the books and paperwork, but it was all pretty dull land-management nonsense.

So we left, locked the door behind us, and got some sleep. In the morning, Kolyev and I finished curing Catrain of the poison, and Ace and Esther worked on a better version of the innkeeper’s letter. Hanneke had picked up this young girl who wanted to be like her when she grew up. I thought it was a great idea, but Esther thought it was a bad one. Either way, Hanneke is far too interested in doing things by the book, so started telling the kid to look after horses and clean armour and stuff. Even got Ace to make her a wooden training sword! And started talking to Cruenna about buying the kid to send her to wherever Hanneke grew up…

The other thing that Ace and Hanneke had been up to was talking to Harigin, who apparently wanted to hire us to head up to Brokenhammer with him to deliver that spear we found. He says it’s made of starmetal (which is good) and has huge sentimental value to the dwarves. Here’s hoping they’re keen to give us a reward! They’re also going to want the location of the dead dwarves we found (that I sent to the House of Locks). Well, they’re welcome to the bodies – I already have what I wanted from them!

Anyway, so, I went back into town and gave the courier his two gold and the corrected letter. I thought “what the hell?” and gave him another two gold to start spreading tales of the Dragonslayers about his route, which has got to be the biggest bargain I’ve heard of in a long time. I called in on Helga, and explained that she ought to get back to work to make a good impression on the woman who’ll hopefully be running the town soon. If nothing else, she’ll make a good patsy when someone discovers Esther’s and my handiwork.

Sending money down to you is looking to be pretty difficult from here. I’ll see if I can work something out, or if not then I’ll just keep a tally and get it all to you in one lump when I can.

Once we’d got everything sorted, we headed out with Harigin. The idea is that we’ll get back in just less than the time it takes for Lord Blackstone’s representative to arrive. That way we can hopefully get paid what we’re owed, as well as sell off the statues and all that. Passed a guy in a cart on the way, who told us that there were some bandits on the road, and one of them was twice the size of the others.

So, yeah, we got ready and carried on. When this ogre and his two buddies popped up, I laid some of the Bitter Hand’s fear on the big one, and that started things off. It was a pretty messy fight – slow work, even with the Avenger’s Blade. Kolyev’s new dire badger companion got killed by the ogre, poor thing. Otherwise, we managed to do away with them and kept on going up the mountains. We’ve just arrived at the gates of the Brokenhammer mountain-home, which is good because I was pretty worried that the place was going to be full of a dragon. We still don’t know where those elven assassins came from, or why they killed the Duke and Duchess. We don’t know where that dragon came from or if it’s on its own. We don’t even know if Lord Blackstone is going to try to have us strung up as murderers or something. But we are definitely getting paid.

Praise be!

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Eperimental notes on dragon skinning

By chance I’ve ended up with a dragon carcass. It’s a little larger than a horse, wings notwithstanding. Long neck and tail make it well over four metres snout to last scale with a similar wing span. Hide is made up of reddish scales similar to common reptiles, eg. kobold. Despite reptilian appearance, wings lead my initial instinct to be treating it like a bird.

Successfully trussed the thing with a little rolling and strain. It’s heavier than a bird of similar size might be. I woder how It flies at all? Cannot find a tree tall or strong enough to hang it from to bleed. Will have to attempt skinning and butchering on the ground. Will begin skinning as I would with a kobold or similar reptile. Ignoring wings as they seem to carry little meat or useful hide. Beginning with a standard opening cut along sternum.

Broke my knife attempting to saw trough scales. Cannot seem to get a blade under the armour to split them from the hide either. Will admit in frustration that I attempted to sever the head with my waraxe which resulted, to my surprise, in a blunted and chipped axe! Scaled hide is astonishingly tough. But it must be beatable because we managed to kill the thing.

Quick examination shows that most of our attacks seemed to do bludgeoning/crushing damage rather than piercing the plates. The killing blow entered through the mouth where there are notably no scales. (Possible place to start skinning from?) Only notable injury to overcome the hide was done with a dwarven spear that passed trough the right wing base, just below the shoulder. It is unclear why this weapon should have penetrated when others cannot. Have removed the broken haft and attempted to use its blade to cut the hide elsewhere but to no avail. Am packing the wound with a little salt to preserve the meat as I’m becoming unsure I will be able to strip the carcass before nightfall.

Washed and dressed the body. Considering trying to cook complete in the hopes that roasting will loosen the scales from the meat. Not sure if such a feat will be possible without some involved engineering. Have stuffed, where possible, with wild garlic, rosemary, sage and some other herbs to add flavour to the meat and help stave off rot. Am now rebinding it for transport.

Carried the damned beast to the shore where we are putting it on a raft to transport back to town. Can’t imagine a little bit of river water will do it any harm but have wrapped it in tarp from the burned boathouse just in case. Catrain and Malachai insist on accompanying it but I trust them to keep it secure and stop any scavengers from gnawing on it.

Now working in castle kitchen. Just found a ruddy elven poisoned crossbow bolt lodged between two scales! Even that didn’t penetrate the bloody thing. Have bent several shoddy halfling-made kitchen implements on the hide with no further progress. Am moving on to tools borrowed from the forge.

Just split a chisel against the thing. This is starting to feel futile. Have managed to score the hide in several places but am still unable to break or pierce the scale along these lines. Strongly suspect that some kind of magic is at work here. Will ask Jayca to have a look through his books or whatever the lad does and see if he can discover anything. For now I think I’m going to have to hope we have figured it out by the time I have to prepare a larger specimen. Wouldn’t want all that meat going to waste.

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Session 02: Malachai Log
Being an excerpt from a letter in Malachai’s pack; there’s no addressee

So you remember I said we killed a dragon? Turns out they’re really hard to skin; Kolyev tried, bless’im, mainly because Hanneke was really keen to get some armour made of the bloody thing’s hide. Managed to get it hoisted partway up a tree, but even his weird waraxe thing wasn’t good enough!

The five of us headed into the dragon’s cave thing. Cruenna (maybe? Human names are still pretty difficult, even after all this time) stayed out front to keep an eye on the entrance – and our dragon trophy! – and Esther…well, I don’t know where Esther got to. I suspect she was up to no good, though; you’d like her.

Anyway, we headed in. There was a sort of basic alarm system that Hanneke and Kolyev found (with their feet), so we knew we were busted going in. A bit after that, we found a pit trap thing, with some pretty brutal spikes under it. The next bit wasn’t our finest hour; there were lots of false jumps, not getting quite far enough, and me nearly killing Hanneke by thinking I’d hammered a piton in when apparently it was just in some dirt or something. We just about managed to get everyone across, though, and left ourselves a nice little ropeway to get back.

Catrain went scouting ahead while the others were coming across; she spotted about three kobolds. Fair enough, we’re in their house. One of them followed her back, so I shot it in the face when it stuck its head around the corner. At least it was a quick death, you know?

Anyway, when everyone was across, we headed forward; Ace used one of his spells to carry a lantern towards all this shouting and commotion, I guess because one of their little kobold buddies was dead. The fight got pretty nasty; I ended up in a tangle with a kobold sorcerer; he did me way more hurt with his spells than I managed with my crossbow, but he got his in the end. I put the final bolt into his skull myself, and when I came back later to send them all to the Bitter Hand, I made certain that He knew exactly what that scaly sorcerous bastard had done.

There was this big cavern full of treasure, with some kobold children in there. Catrain talked to them for a bit and then we sent them up to their sleeping quarters to hide out while we took all the loot out of the cave. No need to exterminate them, you know? Just kids. Outside we searched through the bodies a little; mostly the Duke’s troops, with a couple of fancy dwarves. Turns out later that one of them was the Overseer’s son or something. It was his spear that did most of the work on the dragon before we got there, if I’m honest. Hanneke’s got hold of it to turn into a lance or something.

We loaded all the loot into the carriage – there was a lot of it! – and Catrain and I took a salvaged raft back downriver with the dragon’s corpse. Nothing too eventful happened, thankfully, so we met back up with them at the docks in Trevarrian.

Oh, it was beautiful. Four of us (OK, five if you count the Vengeful Knave’s help!) carrying the dragon through the streets, Catrain singing this song about how awesome we all are, and Esther (I assume – didn’t get much of a chance to chat) off picking pockets or robbing houses while the people were distracted by our parade.

We got let into the castle through the big doors this time, and one of their fancy human servants knocked on the door to the throne room and threw it open for us to walk in in triumph.

So, of course, that’s when everything went to shit. There’s these three elf-cloaks on the floor, and two elves with crossbows just standing there, and the Duke and Duchess are dead and maybe so’s the Brokenhammer dwarf. I sent the Avenger’s blade in there to do its thing while I got my crossbow loaded, and the rest of the Hearthbreakers laid waste to all three of the elves. Catrain got poisoned pretty bad, though; between me and the Green-Eyed God, we got her just about stable but she’s still not 100%. Neither’s the Brokenhammer guy, Haragin or something, but I was just about able to save his life after Ace worked out which bottles had the antidote in.

And then, of course, it’s all hue and cry and “WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS?” and all that. The innkeeper wanders in like he owns the place, being all fake-humble and generally obnoxious, so we had a little fun with him. Got a good few people on-side with the notion of Cruenna (sorry, Cruenna Dragonslayer) taking over, but it’s down to Lord Blackstone about who actually takes over from Duke Morgan. Problem is that it’s the innkeeper who’s writing to him. Should probably get on the case with that…

The best thing? Those elves were carrying the exact same poison-cases as we found in that abandoned old house; I’m guessing it was these elves on that raft that started shooting at us. No idea why they attacked the Duke and got in the way of us getting paid, but they’re rotting in the House of Locks now. Catrain told me that elves like to be buried underneath trees, but people who cross me don’t get what they want. Their bodies are in the midden.

I’ll send some money soon; Ace reckons we’ve got a pretty good haul, and if Cruenna gets put in charge then I’m pretty sure we’ll get what we agreed and then some. Only right I give part of it to you.

Praise Be.

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Dear Father
I killed a Dragon today, what did you do?

Dear Father,
The fact that I am writing to you maybe somewhat of a shock. I doubt you expected to hear from your “prodigal son” so soon after the um, falling out.
You may have noticed the carriage is missing, I suggest you get a new one, I do not think you would want this one back now anyway. It may have some Kobald entrails on it, but that is another story.
I normally would not presume to further enrage you with this missive but I feel the events that have just transpired warrant it.
I killed a Dragon Father, yes a big mythological scaly fire breathing monster, only it was real, very very real.
And ok, I had some help with the killing part and I didn’t actually damage it per say but rest assured without my magic the rest of the Hearthbreakers who actually did the killing may not have killed it.
I may have passed over the part where I mentioned Dragons exist, they do, take a look at this “ink” this is Dragons Blood Father!.
I would have cut off a bit of it and stuck it in here too but it is awfully hard and frightfully smelly.
Oh and did I mention I am working with the old gang again? They are all here, well Hella isn’t but if she was I would be running in the opposite direction.
Cosmic Creepers ate a Kobald, I hope it doesn’t upset his stomach.
Anyway the point is I am travelling with the um “Band of criminals and ruffians” you forbid me to see again, is that what having a backbone feels like? If it is I do not entirely object to the sensation.
Needless to say I will not be coming back, Esther is here too, she is doing much better without the Van-de-Gaardes I have to say, well she has me but I am still not entirely sure if that counts.
I bought them all a slap up feast with your money, they all seemed to enjoy it, even if it was late and terribly embarrassing to have to deal with the servants in front of my companions.
I get the impression they think I handled it badly but I cannot work out why, the food came out pretty sharpish.
Before I ramble on, I would like to say goodbye father and that you should probably pull one of my brothers out of the Knights to have your grandchildren soon, maybe Willem? I know he had someone a while back that he was chasing and given that they were female he is a better rooster to bet on than me eh?

Your Son,

Jayca Van-de-Gaarde

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The Hearthbreakers

Six individuals of questionable auspice,
Found themselves enlisted in the armed service.
The Hearthbreakers they became,
Until misfortune ended their game,
Leaving them all to go their separate ways .

Years later Jayca came to the fore
Offering his old comrades gold galore
And suddenly the Hearthbreakers were disbanded no more!

So six individuals of questionable auspice,
Found themselves in a Duke’s service.
“There are Kolbolds to stop!” cried the ruler
“There’s a flame throwing monster” whispered the rumours
So our intrepid heroes took to the road.

They fought Kobolds a plenty
Until being led into a spinney
Where lay a wrym whose desire to destroy was strewn around clearly.

Our six individuals of questionable auspice,
Found themselves at the edge of a precipce.
Should they slay the dragon?
Or run away and search out the nearest barman?
Courage was chosen and the team sprang forward with remarkable fierceness.

When the scarlet wrym tried to set her friends on fire
Brave Hanneke ran the beast through; her eyes full of ire!

When all was done the Hearthbreakers eyes turned to the cave
Was this where some extra gold could be made?
They sat down around a small blaze
The past few moments swirling around them like a haze.
One thing was sure, the Hearthbreakers would make sure they were paid.

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Session 01: Malachai Log

(Being an excerpt from a letter in Malachai’s pack; there’s no addressee)

The meeting in Trevarrian felt like a trick. I mean, not that I thought Ace was in on it or anything, just that “hey you, the surviving Hearthbreakers, why don’t you all gather in one place because we’re offering you a shitload of money?” seems a bit too good to be true. Anyway, it was good to see everyone again, even if it felt way too weird without Hella there.

Fuck. I miss her.

Anyway, so we met with Duke Morgan and some Brokenhammer dwarf and the Duchess whose name I can’t remember. Kolyev, charmer that he is, nearly got us all killed or arrested or thrown out or something, but Catrain pulled us back from the brink. That’s kinda what she always does. So the Duke offers us 500 gold each – well, 3,000 gold total in the end! – to sort out some “kobold problem” up north that’s gumming up trade. But then it’s all very hush-hush and we’re hustled out to some other briefing with the Duchess and the Brokenhammer and this woman who seems to have the same tailor as Hanneke. Her name’s Corenna or something? You’d think I’d remember by now, but it’s best not to form attachments to these sorts of people.

Turns out that they don’t really think it’s kobolds. They think it’s something worse, and they’ve lost two rangers and twenty guards looking into it. Naturally, the Hearthbreakers are where you go after that – I guess we were always pretty expendable when you get down to it. So there’s a bit of back and forth, and Esther and Catrain get stuck into the negotiations, and eventually we’re planning to go shopping on the Duke’s copper next morning, and head up into the hills after, with this Corenna trusty-lieutenant-type in tow. Just hope she doesn’t get in the way.

Typically, Ace has ordered a “feast” for us at the River’s Rest, so we headed over there. Took ages – and Ace isn’t exactly the best at handling that sort of setback, is he? – but it was well worth the wait. Stuffed my face and my pockets! I decided to pay a gold for a room – I’d still do the job for 499, you know? – and I was just doing my thing when Hanneke knocked on the door. Apparently there was some sort of stuff going on nearby that needed me for moral support or something.

So off we went into the deep dark woods in the dead of night, which seems like exactly the kind of solid planning that got the Hearthbreakers where we are today. Esther and Catrain had found a box with a picture of some snakes on, with some bottles in that turned out to have snake venom in them. So we’re following some tracks and we come across two figures just casting off on a raft. After a bit, Catrain does some bardic business to distract them with pretty lights, and one of them fires a crossbow at us! Turns out it’s poisoned, too, with the same stuff in those vials. Just as well none of us got hit, cos I’m not sure how the Bitter Hand feels about fixing people who took ill from poison.

We bickered about planned what to do next til the raft went out of view. I’d forgotten quite how important Hella was to us in that way; without her, we were just a bunch of yokels with hearts in the right place. She made us something fearsome. She made us into her Hearthbreakers.

We headed back to the Rest and got some shut-eye. Woke up in the morning and I’m pretty sure that Esther had it away with that pretty barmaid she’d had her eye on. Some things never change! Reminded me of having to explain to Hanneke that maybe Catrain’s bawdy songs aren’t, like, a manual on how to get on in love. Not that I’ve exactly got a great deal of experience in that regard, given the givens, but you see a lot on the road.

Aaaaanyway, so we’re met by Helga – or maybe Elga? Some northern human name, anyway. – and it’s off to market. I thought she was going to be a massive prick like her buddy from the day before, but actually she was alright. Took the first steps towards chaos like a baby tasting candy for the first time. I even said a prayer for her! So we got everything we were after and headed north in Ace’s carriage, with Hanneke and Corenna as outriders.

Spotted an “ambush” on the way, and chased some kobolds down. One of them – smart little bastard – got tripped up and me, Esther and Catrain dug for info. It’s good working with another halfling; she might not have been brought up right, but she gets it, and that goes a long way. I felt bad about menacing the kobold, especially as it turns out they’re people, but the little fucker had been trying to ambush us. Apparently they have some big boss (and we’re thinking, y’know, Catrain heard about some house-sized, flying, fire-breathing thing…) and it wants them to collect valuables for it. And it can’t say any more, because if it does then it’ll get eaten. We let it go, and head back to the carriage. We talk about what we learnt and Ace starts freaking out about dragons. And, it’s like, clearly it’s not a dragon, because dragons don’t exist. But on the other hand, it kinda starts looking a lot like a dragon…

So we stop overnight at this abandoned ranger station, which hasn’t been looked after for a little while. And in the morning, we head up to the trading post, and it’s a wreck. About a dozen kobolds went for us while we were spread out, but it was like old times. You get back in a situation with these people you bled with years ago, and it’s like no time has passed. So we dealt with all the ‘bolds pretty quickly, and got everyone patched up, and Ace mentions how Cosmic Creepers (that’s the cat, right) is scared of something over in the forest.

Naturally, being intelligent people, we decide to check it out. Esther goes first, cos that’s her thing, and comes back talking about some big red thing. So we all decide to head over, with me, Esther and Catrain up front and the loud ones coming behind. We get really close, and I give Him Upstairs a prayer and stick my head over the edge.

And, yeah, OK, it’s a dragon. A fucking red dragon. Not the size of a house, but surrounded by a lot of dead soldiers sent by the Duke. And it’s pretty badly wounded, too. So I tell Esther and Catrain and I go find myself a vantage point while it still can’t see me.

And then we do our thing, and it’s beautiful. Ace and Kolyev go to town on the protections and enhancements, Ace throws off a distraction with magic, and Hanneke charges in on Wilbert and stabs the big scaly bastard with her lance. And, it’s like, any other thing would have been crying out for mercy, but it just looked pissed. And so I’m shooting it and Catrain’s singing at it, and Esther’s trying to sneak around it and Kolyev and his badger are charging it and Ace is making sure Ace is OK and Corenna’s…OK, so I don’t know where Corenna was. But anyway, we’re all going at it and there’s a lot of fire and then Hanneke rounds on it and it looks like she’s charging straight into its mouth. And then there’s these two horrible crunching noises and I see her lance coming out of the back of its head.

Yeah, that’s right. First (living) people to see a dragon in centuries and we killed it. Just call us the dragon slayers. Plus, y’know, now we get to check out its cave full of kobold loot…

Praise Be. Oh yes.

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