(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.
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.