Another tale from my D&D campaign: a tale within a tale within the game.
In the sea-fishing village of Warjos Dos stand two walled compounds, among the huts and homes; the Western Temple of Rhoban the Brewer at one end of town, and the Fortress of Lord Warjos, champion of Rhoban, and protector of the coast, at the other end.
And on a chilly fall evening, Lord Warjos held a feast for some young heroes who had helped to repel an invasion of the town, and who had discovered the murder of Warjos’ friend and former adventuring companion, Ilbahn, and Ilbahn’s family. Willy the Brewer, a round and serious priest with a taste for beer; Maira, a part-elf woman just beginning to learn magic’s trade; Xanril, Willy’s childhood friend, a young man who had helped build Rhoban’s cathedral who was quick with a bow; and Maria’s traveling companion Matla, a giant of a man, one of the Free Folk of the north, wearing skins, uncivilized.
The beer flowed, and the fire burned warm and bright, and servants brought out course after course, and the young heroes were honored and humbled by the generosity of the town’s military leader. But they were also curious, because before Warjos had been a leader, he, too, had been an adventurer like they.
It was Willy, the young acolyte of Rhoban, a native of the town and now on a path for larger things, who, when the servants’ trips had slowed down, and the beer had mellowed everyone’s moods, was bold enough to ask,
“Lord Warjos, the stories of you and your companions most mighty deed are surely known around the world. It’s a tale about which people both low- and high-born can say they are familiar. But still, I would hear it from you directly, if you would do me and my friends the honor. Please, sir: tell us of how you fought, killed, The Dragon?”
Warjos took a deep draught from his mug, and set it down. He stared into the fire pit for a moment. And then, with his rough but commanding voice, he spoke.
“First we had to get a scale and a claw and a tooth of the dragon from her lair. Many lizard folk and kobolds guarded the caverns in which she slept, and a band of cultists dogged our trail, harassing us and seeking to delay us, for what reason we knew not.
“But eventually we made it past the early defenses (a pit of oil that the slightest spark or flame would set off into a raging conflagration) and obtained one each of scale, claw and tooth.
“Then we had to bargain with the elves to help them enchant a weapon to slay it. We had to do several small deeds to win the favor of the elves and their queen, since none of us were of elfin blood. But eventually we began the process of enchanting the weapon.
“The final stages had to be done on the grounds of the old elven fortress, south along the coast. We explored the ruins and found that there was, at one time, underground passages, but they had all been collapsed and impassable. When Anansegr the Elven wizardess began the final ritual, an army of undead skeletons and zombies appeared and attacked her; we fought them long enough to complete the ritual.
“We ended up with a single arrow of power, so potent in magic and attuned to the beast that we were told a single true shot would be enough to kill her in an instant. We protected it from the kobolds and lizard folk in the dragon’s thrall and carried it past the dragons defenses once again
“We ventured back into the mountains, ran afoul of the dwarves there, escaped, and crossed into the dragons domain. We were attacked again by the cultists, and captured one of their number, a woman. Ilbhaan questioned her, trying to find out what the cultists were up to. She struck me as insane, babbling on about how magic was going to doom us all, and how much better off we would be without it. Her words struck deep into Ilbhaan. He spent much time in conversation with her. Eventually, he convinced her to help us slay the dragon. She was eager for its demise, but wary of Ilbhaan’s magic.
“Once again past the dragon’s defenses, deeper, until we found the sleeping chamber of Tountomos.
“She was waiting for us. Somehow, she knew that we had her doom with them.
“She whipped up sorcerous winds to deflect any arrow; we began a holding action to wait out the spell. We took blows that would slay a normal man dead, and kept fighting. Chaisa held strong in her faith and helped the group maintain, but it was taking too long. Finally, Diggy managed to steal a gem from her horde and began climbing out of the cavern, which was enough to enrage her and cause her to chase after him. In the tight tunnel, the winds were no longer a factor, and Warjos was able to take aim and fire.
“I aimed true. The arrow struck.
“Tountomos was dying.
“But before the Wyrm died, she called out Ilbhaan’s name, and called him close. Wary of a trick, he protected himself with what few spells he had left, and walked over. She spoke to him in a corrupted dialect of Draconian and Old Imperial, whispered to him a prophecy, and foretold his doom. Then, only then, did life leave her body, an ancient and powerful force of nature gone from our world, forever.
“My friend was ashen-faced and not from the exhaustion of battle. He was silent on the journey back, not even speaking to Mlanda, the cultist. As he used up his spells, he did not replenish them, until they were all gone.”
Warjos stood, and in a swift movement he raised his mug in a cheer. “To Ilbahn, and to Tountomos. Today, they both reside in the after world. But we… we live on, in a world that much poorer, that much less magic, for their passing.”
Then Lord Warjos simply bid them goodnight and left the Great Hall, leaving the young heroes to their thoughts.