Critmas and Caverns – Part 3

“Miller!” Kediranyth screamed. “MILLER!” She stood with her back to the dragon looking skyward.
“Amb.. Kediranyth ?”
“A dragon? For serious?” Kediranyth didn’t know if she was shaking through fear or anger, although she suspected it was likely a bit of both.
“What? C’mon, dragons are practically customary in D&D, it’s in the name for Chrissakes!” Miller sounded snippy. To be fair he was feeling pretty put upon, he’d spent ages writing this campaign and had made a point to include monsters he knew would be a challenge whilst also being fun to fight. That was before the entire party had been sucked into the game. Now all he heard was bitching about his carefully chosen monsters. It was enough to make anyone snippy. Plus, he was still a little weirded out by talking to an empty room, also he still had no idea how it had happened and that really pissed him off. All in all it was turning out to be a fairly stressful day.
“Well yeah but it’s kinda different when you’re facing one dude!”
“Christ, don’t you think I know that Amber? Had I known this was going to happen I’d have given you kittens to smite. They only take about 5 hit points to kill, you’d be done and on your way to collecting the gold by now.”
“I’m not even going to ask how you know how many hit points a kitten takes.”
Miller responded silently. That’s to say he made a face at the laptop screen, imagining Amber was on the other side of it. Of course had she been he wouldn’t have dared, but she wasn’t so he did.
“Are you making faces? Dude?” Miller guiltily made a completely straight face at the empty room.
“No, I’m checking the monster manual, also still trying to figure out how you got there and how I can get you back.”
“How many dragons did you give us? Is there anything else we need to worry about?” As Kediranyth finished the second question there was a questioning growl from the snow bank. A shaggy white head detached itself from where it had been face down in the snow and started to slowly shake.
“As you stand shocked by the sudden appearance of one, possibly two, maybe more, dragons you hear the winter wolf start to stir. It growls and looks about a bit, disorientated from the impact of being flung by a dragon. The impact has, however, helped to clear its head and, as it slowly extracts itself from the snow drift…”
“No, no no, Miller you didn’t.”
“… it looks towards your party. It is no longer under your control, instead it is immensely pissed off, especially as, had the wolf been in control, it would have gone nowhere near the dragon. Pissed off and limping slightly from the damage caused by the impact, the wolf begins to move towards you.”
“Well fuck you very much dude.”
Again Miller made face.”Roll for initiative.” He instructed, either choosing to ignore the fact rolls were pretty much redundant at this point that or he found it hard not to say.
Back in front of the mead hall, now sandwiched between a Winter Wolf and White Dragon, the party looked to each other. Holg was the first to speak.
“Now what?” For a while nobody answered. Eventually Rurik spoke up.
“Now you go and smash the wolf in its face with your axe.”
Holg frowned down at the dwarf. “And if I don’t want?”
Ollom spoke up, “Holg, please could you deal with the wolf, there’s a pal.” He smiled although it was an insincere smile, even hidden by beard you could tell he didn’t really mean it. Again Holg felt his feet obey before he’d even given consideration to the request. As he started walking towards the wolf he could be heard to mutter something about dwarves and feats and punching. Neither of the dwarves paid him any heed. Instead, they turned their thoughts to considering the rest of the fight.
“OK so what do we know about dragons?” The party stood around for a moment trying not to hear the smashing and the roaring coming from inside the mead hall. Lyle frowned and scratched his shaggy head, looking hopeful before shaking his head and frowning again. Oswyn looked at Kediranyth as Ollom and Myla did the same. Suddenly a look of recognition dawned on Myla’s face.
“White dragons? Well yes, I um studied white dragons, I believe…” She tailed off as she scanned her mind for knowledge. A few seconds ago she would have said she knew no more than anyone else about dragons but, strangely, suddenly, she found she knew a hell of a lot about dragons.
“… white dragons are chromatic, so, bad. Um they’re cold, like they breathe ice instead of fire. Oh and they will fuck you up.” Myla actually knew a whole lot more than that, like the challenge rating (wyrmling 2, great dragon 21), their most likely method of attack (they prefer sudden assaults, swooping down from aloft or bursting from beneath water, snow, or ice) how many dice to roll in the event of an attack. All information she decided was probably useless in the face of not being at a table and actually facing the dragon (or dragons) for real. Instead she figured ‘fuck you up’ was information enough. There was one other piece of information she felt was invaluable. “They are vulnerable to fire.”
Kediranyth punched the air and the whole party looked at her. She smiled awkwardly having not expected an audience, “I prepared all my fire spells, I knew he’d do something like this.”
Miller said nothing but for a moment Kediranyth felt as if the sky was frowning down at her. Just in case, she shot it a smile, but didn’t retract her earlier complaints about the prospect of fighting a dragon.
Meanwhile, Holg had found himself, rather unwillingly, facing the wolf. It stood, shoulders arched, head low, teeth bared as it growled at him. As Clearly, the impact from being tossed by a dragon into a snow drift was enough to combat Kediranyth’s spell, that or the time had run out, Holg didn’t know and didn’t much care. In fact, as time had passed, his capacity for thought had narrowed into a series of simple commands. Mainly punch, rage and ale, also thoughts about how he really, really didn’t like dwarves. He eyed the wolf warily. Its shoulders reached almost as high as Holg’s head, its head was the same size as most good sized dogs, like the whole dog, and its teeth…
“Say Grandma, what big teeth you have.” Holg muttered hefting his axe. He had no idea where the words had come from, they just seemed appropriate. The wolf snarled its reply as it tensed. Perceiving the slight shift in its stance Holg hefted the axe again, spoke calmly to himself; “I would like to rage.” And then launched at the wolf, screaming. For a second the wolf almost looked afraid before it leapt at the raging barbarian. The rest of the party continued to discuss what little they knew (with the exception of Myla) of dragon lore, oblivious to the raging battle going on between orc and wolf. Only when Holg barreled into Oswyn did they stop talking to consider helping. By that time the wolf was looking pretty rough, Holg had suffered a fair amount of slashing damage himself but nowhere near as much as he had apparently visited on the wolf. Before Oswyn or anyone else could decide what to do to help Holg roared, axe held high above his head. With one powerful swing he brought the axe crashing down into the wolf’s skull. It stuck there and he had to wrench it free.
“So, dragon then?” Rurik looked fairly nonplussed with the whole spectacle, despite having to wipe wolf blood from his face. ‘I’ll have to rinse the beard’, he thought to himself. Without waiting to be directed by the dwarven leader, Holg stomped, still raging, towards the mead hall. As if it could sense the approach, or because it was enlivened by the sounds of combat and the smell of freshly spilt blood, a dragon roared from within the wooden structure, the ground seemed to tremble with the force of the sound. Some, aware how hard it was to stop a raging barbarian, others because everyone else was doing it, fell in behind Holg readying weapons and spells and anything they had in their favor. With a hefty kick, Holg booted the doors open, for the second time, and, screaming something about a frenzied rage, disappeared into the opening. With a look to the rest of the party Oswyn lifted his sword and followed the orc. As he ran, the words “LEEEEEEEEEEEEROY JJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJENKINSSSSSSS” followed him. As the two largest, strongest members of the party had gone ahead there was little else for the rest to do but shrug and follow suit.
Inside, the mead hall was chaos. At the far end there seemed to be a large number of people, corralled, presumably the inhabitants of the deserted town. They cowered together, pressing themselves against the far wall, trying to keep as far away from the battle which raged before them. Every time the dragon swung its tail they ducked and wailed, each time it barely missed those unfortunate enough to be closest. Like something out of the myths of St George and the dragon Oswyn faced it, his sword flashing as he swung it. The dragon jabbed its head back and forth alternately avoiding each swing and then trying to snap at the Paladin. Holg grappled with a smaller dragon, likely a wyrmling, his face showing strain and effort. Even though he was fully raging, the small dragon was still enough to try his immense strength. As Myla stepped through the doors she seemed to shimmer and then disappear, the only sign was a couple of footprints in the snow which extended just into the mead hall. The footsteps ceased as the snow became the hard-packed dirt of the hall. Occasionally a flash would signal her location as she flung her daggers.
Kediranyth stood back and, her lips moving silently, began a spell. Gradually flames appeared in her hands, building until she held a basketball sized ball of fire. With a glance in the direction of the dragon she let fly and the fireball arched across the space reaching its target and breaking across the flank of the dragon. It roared in anger and unfurled its great wings beating them to create a shock-wave. Fortunately for Oswyn this also put out the flames which were currently engulfing his armour. At the same time there was the sound of manic laughter from the direction of Holg and the wyrmling. The white dragon roared again breathing a huge icy blast of wind across the hall, the breath seemed to freeze in place for a moment before dropping to the ground and shattering. Oswyn felt his skin freeze as a rime of frost covered him. The only benefit was the momentary relief from the fire, although all to quickly he discovered the cold could burn just as much. Myla, who had snuck ever closer to the dragon cried out and popped back into sight as she too was covered with frost crystals. As the next nearest, the dwarves felt a chill, nothing that would slow them down much but enough to give them pause.The dragon sucked in more air, readying itself for another freezing gust of wind.
Something appeared out of the air, slapping the dragon in the face, stopping the breath. The wyrmling. Holg screamed again with manic laughter and began to charge towards the, now fully angered, dragon. As he did the sound of music filled the hall, Lyle had unstrapped his mandolin and was calmly finger picking a tune. He looked around at the dragon, the terrified villagers and the rest of his party and smiled. “Kick open the door, get on the floor, everybody kill the, er, dragonasaur.” He warbled shrugging at the looks he seemed to be getting. As he repeated the refrain he could see, not only his own party but the townspeople as well straightening up, fierce expressions on their faces, all of them inspired by his song. He continued playing the mandolin, the tune shifting into something a little more melodic as he sang “… For too long now, there were secrets in my mind, for too long now, there were things I should have said, in the darkness…I was stumbling for the door, to find a reason – to find the time, the place, the hour, waiting for the winter sun, and the cold light of day…” Lost to the music he remained at the door.
Clearly not a fan of British metal singers, the dragon, remained uninspired but recovered from the dead wyrmling slap to the face. With a shake, rather like an oversized, scaly hound, it gathered itself. Its eyes glinted for a moment before slowly disappearing as a cloud of fog wrapped around it.
“Fuck.” Kediranyth exclaimed. “Fucking fog cloud. Fucking dragon.” She raised her hands and muttered something to herself, casting another spell. Halfway through, however, she changed her mind and her form started to ripple as flames spread along her arms, up and down her body, writhing in her hair. Her smallish druid form stretched and elongated, filling out until a huge fire elemental stood before the dragon, now completely hidden in the fog. Her head almost touched the ceiling and the flames charred the wooden joists. She tried to call out “sorry for your roof guys,” and “you might want to start running away, I’m probably going to set everything on fire. Sorry again!” but her words were lost in the roar of her elemental flame. Also, she was speaking in Druidic and very few people understood that language. Fortunately, her sudden transformation into a flaming giant was so terrifying that most of the corralled townsfolk found the ability to overcome their fear of the dragon enough to flee the building. Kediranyth stomped forward, her footprints flaming divots in the floor of the hall, into the fog cloud. As she stepped into the freezing corona her flames flickered and then rallied, glowing brighter. The fog slowly burnt off until dragon and elemental were visible. Kediranyth had the dragon grappled and was in the process of wrestling it to the ground. The dragon struggled but seemed unable to break her hold. Where the Elemental’s flaming arms and body pressed against the dragon there were tendrils of smoke and the smell of scorching as fire battled with the cold nature of the dragon, slowly winning.
Partly because he was still raging, partly because orc barbarians cannot resist a fight, Holg charged across the hall towards the dragon and swung his meaty fist at the patch of dragon hide closest to him. His fist glanced off the blue-white scales and the momentum of his swing propelled his arm and hand in an arc back towards his face. As hand and face connected with a loud smack Holg stumbled backwards, momentarily stunned. The dragon, still fighting the flamey grip of Kediranyth in elemental form barely noticed the attack, Holg’s fist making about as much impact as that of a fly when it lands on a horse. Like a horse the dragon’s only response was to flap its tail in the direction of the annoyance. The rest of the party stood and watched as elemental fought with dragon and Holg punched himself in the face.
Lyle had stopped singing and was in the process of conjuring a giant hand. Although Kediranyth seemed to have things mostly under control grappling the dragon to death would take an age, if it were even possible. Lyle intended to grab hold of the dragon and hold it while Kediranyth and, until he punched himself causing Lyle to doubt him, Holg pummeled on it. If nothing else it would give Kediranyth the opportunity to unleash a few more flame attacks. As Lyle swung Bigby’s hand (as the construct is known) towards the dragon intending to grab it by the tail something smashed into him knocking his hand off course. A voice roared, “NAUGHTY!!!” into the hall followed by a wrenching, cracking sound as something tore the doors of the opposite end of the mead hall. A towering shape blocked the now open end and the voice roared again, “NAUGHTY!!!” Being the closest Keridanyth was the first to see a huge Frost Giant entering the hall. Like the Dark Elf it was dressed in some semblance of Christmas, a red suit, trimmed in white fur with a matching hat atop its head. If she hadn’t been busy choking the life out of a slowly weakening dragon Kediranyth probably would have sworn. Miller had just attacked them with a very large, very angry Santa Claus.
“HO, HO, HO” the giant bellowed, smashing his way into the mead hall through the gaping hole that was once a door. Kediranyth lost her grip on the dragon with the shock and it quickly squirmed away from the huge elemental. The party stood together watching as the giant stomped his way towards their friend.
“Someone’s gotta do something.” Rurik exclaimed. Lyle focused his concentration again on forming the giant hand which, one it was formed, he swung catching the giant off guard and knocking it to the side. As it stumbled, Kediranyth was able to roll out of the way, the Frost Giant’s foot barely missing her. Still in elemental form she backed as far away from the giant as she could. The flames around her flickered and licked at the wooden walls of the mead hall. Before the giant could recover, Lyle swung again with the hand, pummeling it into the side of the giant’s head. With a roar the giant swung a huge ice encrusted axe at the hand. Lyle recoiled for a moment losing his grip on the evocation.
“Um, that’s me out for the moment guys. I got nothing else against a… Wait!” Lyle took a deep breath and fixed the Giant with a stare. “Hey!” He yelled attracting the giant’s attention. “Yeah you!” The giant slowly turned towards the small bard who immediately began singing.
“U.G.L.Y, you ain’t got no alibi, you ugly, hey, hey, you ugly…” As he chanted the giant started to look just a little bit doubtful.
“Keridanyth, punch it!” At the same time the dwarves and Paladin hefted their respective weapons and charged. One at a time. As the Frost Giant Santa saw the advance he narrowed his eyes, held his axe ready and bellowed, “NAUGHTY!” Lyle stopped chanting and stood silently, concentrating. Slowly his shape began to shift as he left behind his halfling shape, growing rapidly and bulking out until he became a huge bear. With sharks for arms. A Sharkenbear. With a triple guttural snarl Lyle charged at the frost giant, swinging his sharks.
“As Lyle attacks Santa with his shark arms…” Miller’s voice floated in from outside the mead hall, ignored by everyone, but still valiantly trying to DM, despite the fact things had gotten wildly out of his control. Inside the hall energy crackled as Oswyn attacked with banishing spite and Kediranyth did her best to not set her companions on fire. The dwarves had taken advantage of their small stature and seemed to be mostly hacking away at the Giant’s shins, dodging out of sight beneath him whenever he swung at them. “Santa roars with frustration and attempts to cast ice slick across the floor. Holg however manages to distract his attention with a well placed swing of his axe. The axe cleaves into Santa’s forearm slicing through the red cloth of his suit. Blood immediately begins to pour out of the wound. Santa is starting to look quite rough as the attacks begin to wear him down.”
While the fight raged, the flames from Kediranyth’s elemental form had finally taken hold of the ceiling beams. Unbeknownst to those below the roof was burning merrily, flames licking across the thatch and down the wooden sides of the building. Flaming bits of wood dropped to the floor encircling the struggling figures. The Frost giant was the first to notice the danger, and made to step backwards out of the hall. Realizing he was about to gain the outside Kediranyth moved round behind him. At the same time Lyle moved the opposite way, flanking the creature. The party redoubled their efforts, no longer noticing how they only seemed able to attack in turn, all of them set on one single goal.
Finally, Miller’s voice broke their concentration. “Lyle, how do you want to do this?” However, before the Sharkenbear bard could respond there was the sound of creaking and groaning from above. Everyone looked up to see the roof of the building, which was completely engulfed in flames, was starting to shift. Realizing the roof was about to collapse, Oswyn grabbed a dwarf in each hand and made a break for the gaping hole the giant had ripped in the building. Holg followed the Paladin and Myla brought up the rear, throwing herself into the snow and rolling as flames grabbed at her. With a final monumental crash the roof fell in and the hall collapsed in on itself. As the party stood and watched Kediranyth, no longer in elemental form emerged carrying a very squashed looking, but still alive, halfling. She joined everyone else and stood in the snow watching, as the hall burned, consuming the body of the frost giant. As they stood there the snow began to fall, slowly at first, building up into a blizzard, the flakes whipping around until everything was obscured in a white blur.
From somewhere in the white a dog barked once and then barked again. The party slowly pushed forwards into the storm, the crunch of snow becoming the crunch of gravel. Gradually the snow cleared and as it did the party found themselves not beside a burnt out mead hall, not on the outskirts of a no longer deserted town, but standing at the door of the RV. Through the glass there was a blur of movement as something small and brownish ran back and forth. With a glance at the rest of the group, Amber reached for the handle and slowly opened the door.
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