Given the monumental events of recent days, I am unsure how relevant or important this mission report may be. But I will relate it nonetheless, if for no other reason than posterity.
I am Orin Stonetracker, dwarven ranger and member of the Militia. Accompanying me on this mission were the following capable members of Lihr:
Jutt, dwarven ranger
Isho, human wizard
Runt A, half-orc druid/fighter/barbarian
Our task is to find and negotiate with the two-headed dragon that has been devastating the landscape for several months. We have been given a small chest of gems to offer, with the promise of more later. All we know as to his or her location is that it is somewhere in the mountains to the north of Lihr.
As we head out on our first day we notice the weather turning colder. Even this close to Lihr there is a marked lack of animal life. Crossing a field in the afternoon, we are attacked by two gaunt and desperate wolves. We quickly put them out of their misery and continue.
Shortly after that the rain begins pouring down. We are soon soaked, but continue our trek through the forest. Before nightfall we come to a river and decide to make camp rather than try and cross.
From out of nowhere a male human appears and speaks to us. His name is Kel, and he offers us a tent for trade, since all we have are tarps. We negotiate a bit, though Kel seems a little shady. Runt offers to trade a pair of very worn but serviceable knickers once belonging to Raynor in exchange for use of the tent for the night. Kel considers for a bit but finally agrees. He seems to have some sort of tunnel underneath a nearby bush that he disappears into. He emerges after a bit with a musty tent.
A short time later another fellow appears who looks much like Kel. It is his brother Del, and he seems to have his own tunnel in another nearby bush. The two apparently don’t get along with each other. Del encourages us to consider camping on the far side of the river, but we refuse.
Sometime before midnight we hear a deep voice from across the river, claiming to be hungry. Another deep voice concurs. We eventually see that both voices belong to the same creature: an ettin. It approaches our camp demanding food. We give it fair warning, but it wades into the river and comes our way. A short but intense battle ensues, and the ettin is soon dead. Kel and Del make an appearance and are amazed that we slew the beast that has been tormenting them.
We offer to give Kel and Del some tips for improving the defence of their lair if they allow us to see it. They are reluctant but eventually let me in to have a look. It is a crude, muddy affair – basically two tunnels dug into the earth, with truss supports, leading to a cramped central chamber. It smells of unwashed bodies and mildew, and is crammed full of various bits of stuff – mostly old mining and camping gear. The room has been divided down the middle by a low wall, reminiscent of two feuding children forced to share a bedroom. I give them some general advice about improving their burrow, consisting primarily of telling them to build in stone (I’m a dwarf after all, and it’s just common sense).
We attempt to follow the ettin’s tracks back to its lair. We eventually find it, but there is little there of interest. Continuing on our way, we spend the entire day trekking up into the foothills of the mountains. Other than the general lack of wildlife, there is nothing remarkable about the journey. The weather continues to get colder.
We have reached the mountains, and our progress slows a bit as the way gets steeper. We eventually come to a cliff face thrusting up forty feet above us. Peering over the edge are two hooded figures. From the noses sticking out from beneath the hoods we can tell they are ratkin. They say that we cannot pass. Negotiations ensue. After a few offers and counteroffers, they eventually agree to let us pass in exchange for four 10-gold-piece-value gems and two slices of very smelly cheese.
Upon reaching the top of the cliff we see that there are five ratkin in all, and they claim to be from the Za clan. They will let us pass, but will not offer any more help or information without additional payment. We chit-chat a bit. They ask what we are bringing for the dragon, which we talk around without actually revealing. There is some interesting banter between Runt and their leader.
We move on, and later in the day see signs of humanoid tracks. We can’t tell what kind of creatures they are, and nothing reveals itself. We make camp and spend a quiet, cold night under the stars.
Early in the day we encounter more ratkin. This group is led by a strange shaman-type female named Zaduyart. She also refuses us passage, but like the other ratkin is open to negotiation. All we see of her is the tip of her nose from beneath her hood – it constantly twitches, more so when she is excited. But it is also apparent that the twitching is exacerbated by some sort of disease. She is flanked by two enormous ratkin guards, each standing more than seven feet tall.
Zaduyart says that we have power, and she has knowledge. She offers to give us her knowledge if one of us agrees to carry the mark of Chern – she specifically wants Isho to bear this mark. Isho is not amenable to this notion. We decline her offer, and instead propose to give her information about Doris the ratkin. She seems very interested in this and accepts. Zaduyart and the others seem to fear Doris somewhat. She is an unknown, not of any clan, so any information about her is valuable.
Runt tells Zaduyart that Doris slept with a paladin of Corean. This is very exciting to Zaduyart, and her nose twitches rapidly as she hears this news. She demands to know the name of the paladin. We are reluctant to say, but Runt eventually reveals that it was Fitz Chivalry.
Having given her this information, Zaduyart reciprocates. She tells us that the dragon lairs on a peak with ruins upon it, not far from here. She says that these ruins are haunted, and that the winds there will drive us mad.
Zaduyart asks us about others Doris has “liaised” with. Runt tells here that there is one person that even someone as undiscerning as Doris actually refused to sleep with. She is completely uninterested in this.
The entire time we have been speaking with Zaduyart, Jutt has been having a staring contest with one of the big bodyguards. They have been exchanging various menacing looks, and the ratkin even manages to intimidate Jutt at one point. Jutt quickly recovers from that however, and continues to sneer and flex and otherwise provoke the guard. Eventually the ratkin has had enough and he attacks Jutt. He strikes fast and hard and Jutt is staggered and barely on his feet after the first flurry of blows.
Hoping to still salvage the negotiations, I attempt to hold Jutt back from retaliating. My efforts fail, and all diplomatic negotiations officially end. Runt steps up and attacks the ratkin guard. Zaduyart steps back into the cave behind her and casts an entangle on the whole lot of us, her guards included. We battle the two giant ratkin as Zaduyart disappears into the cave. While formidable opponents, the two brutes are no match for us and they both soon lie dead.
As we heal ourselves, Zaduyart speaks from the depths of the cave, asking us what we want. We demand more information about the dragon and the area between here and its lair. She agrees to tell us provided we promise not to enter the cave. We agree. She tells us that the dragon breathes acid with one head and lightning with the other. She tells us the general direction to go from here, but says there is little else to know. We are satisfied with this and leave.
The high altitude is beginning to affect us adversely. Our exertions climbing through the rough terrain leave some us feeling fatigued. But late in the day we finally reach a small plateau littered with ancient ruins of white stone. Some of the worn statues are recognisable as Slarecians.
There is a particularly large statue in the centre with some sort of ancient inscription under it. Isho moves closer to have a look, and whatever is written there baffles him utterly – it seems to be a magical effect that leaves him confused. When Jutt looks his way it is enough for him to be effected as well.
Given the unpredictable and potentially dangerous nature of this type of confusion, I immediately grapple Isho to try and pin him to the ground, while Runt attempts to knock out Jutt with the flat of his axe. I tie up Isho, but he already seems to be recovering his senses. Jutt is also beginning to come out it, though he has a bit of a headache from being bashed about by Runt.
It’s just in time though, as we notice two of the smaller statues moving towards us. One of them suddenly leaps forward and attacks. We identify them as Slarecian gargoyles. One has a red horn that generates heat, the other a blue horn that it aims at individuals and slows them. We quickly slay them and take their horns.
We move forward, hoping to see a cave or something similar where the dragon might be lairing. Runt suddenly falls through an illusionary floor, into a chamber some thirty feet below. The entire chamber is covered by ancient magical runes. An almost comical series of events now ensues, as the rest of us try to keep our eyes closed and somehow mount a rescue attempt.
Isho is lowered into the chamber first. He does well to keep his eyes shut initially, but fails to do so when a horse-sized, two-headed dragon comes into the chamber and begins speaking nonsense. Neither Runt nor Isho can understand what Jutt and I are saying any longer. I attempt to go down the rope to discover what is going on. It soon becomes clear that Jutt can no longer understand me either, but can apparently understand both Runt and Isho. None of us seem to understand the dragon.
Dangling from a rope, surrounded by companions I can’t understand, and unable to see what is going on, I eventually have little choice: I open my eyes. Confusion sets in, but then some amount of clarity as I begin to understand what the others are saying. Whatever strange affliction has affected us, it is at least the same affliction for all.
None of this helps much when a pair of truly enormous dragon heads poke their way down the tunnel the smaller dragon is standing in. They tower above the smaller dragon, and but for the size look remarkably like it. One of the heads speaks, but none of us can understand what it is saying. Its twin expressions seem to be one of curiosity and annoyance.
Isho now does his best at pantomime diplomacy. He holds his hands out in a gesture of peace. He then takes the chest of gems we’ve brought and holds it forward. He steps up, places the chest on the ground and opens the lid to reveal its contents. He pushes it towards the dragon and gestures that it is for her as he steps back. The dragon scowls a bit, but seems to get the gist of the offer. She leans forward and takes the chest gently in her mouth and pulls it back into the tunnel. The offering accepted, we make our way up the rope and out of the chamber.
We begin to make our way back down the mountain. The journey home is a blur. It’s hard to remember now the order of events that follow. We arrive back in Lihr to chaotic scenes, made all the harder to fathom because we find that we cannot understand what anyone is saying, and they cannot understand us. We are all apparently speaking Slarecian. We know enough to not speak to others if we can help it, because doing so will inflict upon the listener this strange curse we have. But after a short time our affliction lifts, and we can once again understand what others are saying. Though actually comprehending all that is happening is another matter entirely…