Back in the Well of Demons, we had to split up to Place the Items. They have to be put on Altars in four Different Rooms at the Same Time. (No Problem, right? ’Cause we Work so Well Together.) After some practice (“ON Three or AFTER Three??”), we Managed to Coordinate and Plunked the Artifacts down on the Altars. The Room Shook and Rumbled and I caught a Glimpse of Something Huge Rolling past the door. Then the Idols on the Altar started Screeching and Raising an Unholy Ruckus so I , eh, hastily decided to Rejoin my Companions.
As I stepped into the Hallway, I saw the Huge Orb Thing Rolling Away from me and Disappearing around the Corner. As I hurried after it, I noticed the Rolling Stone had Worn a Groove into the floor. Obviously, It was Coming Back. I rounded the corner and stepped out of the Hallway into a smaller corridor off the Beaten Path. Two Doorways Flanked me. To my left, I saw the Friar poking at a chained skeleton which in turn, grabbed at his ankles. On my right, the New Guy Popped up muttering something about a Water Vortex before abruptly Disappearing back into the room again. Whatever.
Skeletons seemed Much More Fun so I went to help Casual Fred. One of the Epidermally Challenged rose to meet me and I Cheerfully knocked its head off with my Maul.
Now I’ve always been a little intrigued by Skeletons. They lack Intelligence and even Sight, but yet they seem to always be able to focus in on their nearest enemy. There’s not much Finesse when fighting a Skeleton; it’s more about Hacking through whatever Sinew or Ligaments they have left to Dismember them, and scattering body parts. It Never pays to Underestimate them though. The Magic that Binds the Bones Doesn’t need the Complete Body to be Effective. Hadrick the Mouth Breather came to a Tragic End when in the Midst of a Great Battle, a Skeleton Hand climbed up his beard and clamped his jaw shut, Suffocating him. So I expected Skeletons to, well, CHEAT, and not follow the Rules of Nature but I was Astonished when the Skull I just knocked off flew back to Perch on the Bony Neck like a Bird returning to its Nest.
“Don’t bother,” the gravelly voice of the Casual Cleric said. “You can’t hurt them and they can’t really hurt you. Just get out of their range.”
Stupid Skeletons! Cheating AGAIN! But it wasn’t a total Waste of Time; that was the most I had heard out of the Friar in the months I had known him. I think he was starting to Open Up. Bypassing the skeletons without fighting them seemed a Little Boring and I was Contemplating Giving them a Little Beat Down, just for Practice, when the New Red Shirted Guy collapsed in the doorway.
“Dragon!” he gasped. “There’s a frigging dragon out there!”
A Dragon! My Heart Sang with Excitement! I had Never Seen, let alone, Faced a Dragon before. That Stone Dragon Statue didn’t really count. This was Glorious! A Worthy Foe! I shoved the Red Shirt Guy out of the way and ran back to the Main Hallway. (You know, if he was afraid of getting attacked, he really should wear a color other than red. It does kind of Shout to all Enemies ‘Here I am in the Red Shirt! Come Get Me!’ Although Bloodstains are harder to see…)
In the Hallway, a Long, Sinuous Dragon the color of Green Poison with the body the size of a Horse (a REAL horse, not a Dungeon Horse) flew by to harass the Paladin and Elf. I attacked It with a Dizzying Blow that got its Attention. It turned on a knife’s edge, its Gleaming Scales Undulating and Wing Tips Caressing the walls as It flew towards me. I had Never seen anything so Graceful and Beautiful. The Beat of its Wings was like Music.
It Swiped at me, first with one front claw, then the other, which I easily dodged, and then It Leveled a Glare at me that I was too Excited to acknowledge. Behind me, the Paladin and Elf hurried into the side passage.
“Hey, Arneth!” I yelled joyfully. “Look! A Dragon!”
“Leave it alone, Falkrunn,” the Tin Maiden called. “We can get around it.”
“But It’s a Dragon!” Running from a Dragon? What kind of Logic was that? Why would you want to ‘get around it’?
The Dragon had turned and was flying back towards me. I launched myself at it, tangling Its wings and knocking It prone on the ground. I could see the Intelligence in Its eyes as It assessed me. With a Hiss and a Flick of Its tail, I was knocked off my feet. It struggled to take to the air again, but a blow from my Maul Landed It. As we Skirmished in the Corridor, the Large Orb Rounded the Corner and Rolled Over us. I Remember the Surprise (and Annoyance) Reflected in the Dragon’s Face as the Big Ball Squished It Flat. Of course, it Rolled Over me next and amazingly didn’t hurt as much as you would have thought.
With a Snort and an Elegant Shake of Its Head, the Dragon Recovered, this time Scoring as It attacked me with Its claws. I struggled to my feet and the Green Serpent Bit me before Taking Wing. I struck It as It Flew By, marveling how Effortlessly It maneuvered in such a Relatively Small Space. Its strategy wasn’t to Hover, but Quickly Fly By, Raking Its Adversary with Its claws. I Dodged the Talons, but got knocked over by the Tail. On Its next pass, It tried to Bite me but I jumped to the side and leaped over the tail. The Dragon tilted Its head and stared at me before sweeping forward, feinting to the right, then striking with Its claws to the left. I struck a blow back but the Tail knocked me over again and I laid there, stunned and out of breath. I Swear I heard the Dragon Snicker as it flew away from me… and the Orb that rounded the corner. This Time, the Big Ball of Rock Hurt a Bit More when it rolled over me, but of course I was also a Bit More Battered. I laid like Roadkill in the Orb’s Rut, Darkness Blurring the Edges of my Vision. Suddenly, the Platinum Paladin appeared by my side and Laid Hands on me, Infusing me with New Strength. She and Red Shirt joined me in attacking the Dragon until we heard the Friar call out.
“The Door is open!”
The Door to the Inner Secret Sanctum Room Place had finally opened and as we were digesting this, the Dragon launched Itself over our heads and flew toward the Open Door. I drew my crossbow and hit It twice when I had to step out of the Hallway to let the Orb go by. The Dragon flew back towards us and with a Burst of Green Vapor bathed us in poison. I easily shook it off, but was surprised It hadn’t tried that trick with me before. Frowning, I watched it fly by again. It seemed to be laboring. I opened my mouth to speak when the Red Shirt struck the Fatal Blow.
The Dragon floundered, Its delicate wings scraping the walls before It careened to the ground and slid the length of the hallway. My companions promptly forgot our Fallen Foe and rushed to meet the others at the Door. I couldn’t leave yet. I was drawn to the Dragon. Its breath rattled and shuttered in Its Broken Body. I looked at the Torn Wings and Numerous Gashes in the Green Scales, Blood dribbling from the slightly open mouth.
I felt Its eye on me. There was nothing I could read in the gaze, no anger or resentment; It was just Looking at me. I tentatively placed a hand on its shoulder, but It didn’t react except to continue to stare.
“Worthy Adversary,” I said Gravely. “I will Remember You, Drakk Grom.”
The yellow eye seemed to cloud over and I watched the Dragon Depart from this Life. It was the First Time I had watched an Adversary Die. Not that I ever had time to before…
And I actually didn’t have time then either. There was still a Battle to be fought in the Inner Secret Sanctum Room Place and I think it says a lot at how far I’ve come as a Fighter that I didn’t let my Distress over the Dragon Impair my Performance. We fought a Skeleton Minotaur, numerous little Demon Boogers and some Evil Gnoll Priest Guy and Vanquished them all. We even saved Splug.
Splug was actually the one who put it all in Perspective for me. Once we had returned to the Bar, he and I had sat in a corner long after all of the others had drifted away (Splug was a Very Willing Listener as long as you kept his Tankard Full).
“Stupid Dwarf!” he scoffed. “Maybe it good dragon, maybe bad, but you no kill it, it kill you. And eat you too. You think it cry over you die?” He took a pull on his tankard but I could hear him mumble, “Look like dwarf, smell like dwarf but sound like elf.”