Chapter 13

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A dragon!  A Red Dragon!  Not some panty-waist Wyvern or a baby black,
but what seemed to be, from all indications, a REAL LIVE ADULT RED
DRAGON!  And that stupid Cavalier wanted us to go in and kill the

Dania: "Are you out of your fucking mind?"

Rourk: "Your insinuations are insulting to one of my stature.  One
     need only think of the glory that could be won from the defeat of
     such a beast to realize our only course of action."

Dania: "YOUR only course of action!  Hell, I'M not going in there!"

Razuli: "Arlor, are you sure it saw you?"

Arlor: "Did my best not to let it.  Might have."

Kortul: "Came here for reputation.  Get it, or die.  Plan?"

Rourk: "Exactly, barbarian.  You have a keen grasp of the obvious and
     proven facts.  Dragons as large as this sleep hard, and are
     easily surprised in their lairs."

Razuli: "Oh, my!  Are you suggesting that we actually SNEAK UP ON IT?
     Not give it a fair, fighting chance?"

Rourk: "I propose only the time-honored strategy.  One so uneducated
     as yourself would naturally see this in the incorrect manner.  As
     I realize your obvious limitations, you can be forgiven, for

Razuli: "Rourk, you've come to your senses.  Sooner or later, I knew
     you'd realize that I'm always right.  It just took time, that's
     all.  The thickest *ahem!* helmets are always the hardest."

Dania: "You are all forgetting something.  *WE CAN'T DO IT.*"

Razuli: "Think of all the treasure it will have."

Dania: "Well...  we can't do it.  It'll slaughter us."

Navero: "If it isn't killed, what will it do?"

Rourk: "That is plain and obvious.  Orcs are naturally slovenly, and
     would not have constructed the barrier and maintained the poison
     unless it had some means of getting across the lava pit."

Dania: "Like, maybe, swimming the backstroke.  How much money do Reds
     usually have, anyway?"

Razuli: "Enough to keep us happy for, oh, say, several years?"

Dania: "I could buy a castle.  A small one, wouldn't have to be
Navero: "Red Dragons are greedy and evil, aren't they?"

Kortul: "The worst."

Navero: "It would probably come out and ravage the countryside, and do
     a lot of harm, unless someone is there to maintain the barrier
     and keep the dragon from destroying it and escaping."

Rourk: "I have no desire to remain as permanent guard, and the
     citizens of the town are obviously too cowardly to do so
     themselves.  There is only one thing to do, and that is to kill

Razuli: "Right!  For morality's sake!"

     We returned to town, and borrowed the money we would need at the
moneychangers.  The sum was not great, although the 'changer charged
some hefty interest. Then, we all got training to go up a level; the
time we spent would hopefully give the dragon a chance to go back to
sleep, assuming it did not see Arlor.  So now, the party is:

          Navero, male human cleric, 3rd level
          Dania, female 1/2-elf MU, 3rd level
          Rourk Ravensbane, male drow cavalier, 3rd level
          Kortul, male human fighter, 2nd level
          Razuli, male human fighter, 2nd level
          Arlor, male dwarf thief, 2nd level

     (Fortunately, this is 1st edition AD&D, before the dragons became
Dragons, i.e. got nasty.  We wouldn't even CONSIDER doing this now.
Not with a party like this.  The 2nd edition has improved some

     We trained hard.  Practiced all our skills.  Insisted that Rourk
teach everyone some Drow Silent-Speech.  Got fire-resistant backpacks.
The works.  Dania's master was not pleased with her sudden interest in
fire resistance spells, seeing that she had not completed the task he
had already given her.  She promised him that in just a little while,
she would be able to get him with something even better than expected,
so he decided to wait and see.  He did not take the opportunity to
read her mind, as he had done earlier; perhaps he liked surprises.

     Finally, the day arrived when we felt more preparation wouldn't
do us the slightest bit of good.  We rode to the cave at dawn,
tethered our horses, and walked quietly into the entrance hall.  We
ran rags and threads and bits of leather strapping through our armor,
so it would not make as much noise.  We tied soft soles to Rourk's
metal boots; everyone else's were soft enough to be quiet.  Then, we
went to the Shimmer Mold cave, and coated all of our armor and
equipment, first liberally with the glowing liquid, then with soot to
kill the shining.  Everyone wore scarves over their faces, so they
wouldn't be exposed.  All of this was done in complete silence; no
arguments broke out, no one even spoke.  Even the use of silent-speech
was minimal.  For the first time, the party acted with complete unity
of purpose.

     We then practically emptied the pool of mold juice into
waterproof sacks, and carried it to the lava pit.  Arlor and Dania,
the quietest and lightest people, carefully made a strong bridge along
the wall to the other entrance, wide enough and thick enough to hold
all of us, but not enough (hopefully) to support a dragons bulk.  The
rest of us joined them, and we all went in.

     Arlor spotted a thin wire stretched across the entrance, and cut
it; it led to a precariously balanced pile of old armor, tucked into a
hidden alcove.  The floor beyond had been coated with some slippery
goo; we covered it over with more of the soot we had brought, careful
not to raise a choking cloud of it.  Navero cast Resist Fire on

     We went down a wide passage about 20 feet, which then opened into
a cave about 80 feet across.  The rock formations were more numerous,
but were ground down and rough.  Far away, at the western end, was a
pile of more coinage than most of us had ever before seen in one
place.  Gems and jewels, and more valuable things, glinted in the dim
light the lava made.  And, most important, there was the focus of all
our thoughts.  It wasn't a deep red, as one would have imagined, but a
bright scarlet; and somehow seemed small in the quiet immensity of the
cave.  It was larger than it's pile of treasure, though; and that made
all the difference.

Its eyes were closed.

Its breathing was very slow; maybe once a minute.

Its great wings lay flat, rustling with it's breath.

It looked deadly, even in repose.  Thick dagger of a body, long
graceful neck, an adze-shaped head angling down to thin jaws that
could crush any of us instantly.  It's claws were straight, not curved
sickles, tapering to small graceful points so sharp they seemed
impossible in something so large.  Its essence was glory and
destruction, sheer power as an end to itself.

It reeked of the death it held inside.

The columns of living rock outlined the golden altar on which it lay.

We came forward for the ceremony in silence.

It opened its eyes.

Daniel Parsons

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