Tai Ni Dong was originally from Thundertree, he knew exactly where the dragon’s lair would be, a cave underneath a great tree just on the edge of town.
There were two large carnivorous plants just at the entrance, looking like any other plant until they moved to strike. The party made short work of them, however.
The tunnel leading underneath the huge tree was 10ft wide but the party had to climb over roots at times, and roots also hung from ceiling. It was dirty, damp and foul smelling, with a faint green mist that tickled the throat and made the party cough. Creatures moved just outside of the party’s vision, but they did not attack. Then the dragon’s sibilant but deep voice echoed through the area.
“Adventurers! I know you’re out there. Talking to that druid, I presume. I can smell your foul odor. I know that druid wants me to leave. Coveting my treasure. Undoubtedly I’m sure you do, too. So if it’s a battle you want, I will provide it, but I hope to parley. If you value your lives you should hear me out. I come carrying, as the human custom goes, the white banner of peace. Step into my lair and no harm should come to you.”
The party discussed this, then yelled out to the dragon that they would parley. The dragon urged them to continue on down into his lair. Blights and stranger creatures moved out of the party’s light, letting them pass. The finally came to a huge cave. The dragon Venomfang itself was not huge – a young dragon, Fizbo judged, but even a young dragon is powerful. It slithered down a large natural column.
“The truth is,” said the dragon, “that this fight is more evenly matched than I prefer. I will destroy you, but I will be forced to lick my wounds and in that time, be a prime target for my half-sister’s inevitable attack! I may be inclined to be evil, by your own standards, but I’m not stupid. I would much prefer fights I can overwhelmingly win.”
“How can we trust you?” asked Fizbo. “You could probably gobble us up right now.”
“I’m quite full, right now”, the dragon replied, but seemed pleased the party thought it wouldn’t have too much trouble with them. ‘Vain’ thought Fizbo. ‘Maybe we can use that against it.’
“Another party tried to kill me recently, you see”, continued Venomfang. “They didn’t take to negotiating. Thought I was a liar. Oh…..The druid didn’t tell you about them?”
“That duplicitous human!” growled Goldi.
“Hang on,” whispered Igo. “We don’t know this is true.”
“He could be lying,” agreed Bonnie.
“Let us put aside our weapons,” suggested Venomfang. “To be welcomed into a lair of a dragon is a trust and honour no dragon dare go against! I’m giving you all the draconic guest rite. May Tiamat the dragon goddess strike those that defy this rite down!”
After a brief discussion the party put away their weapons, as a gesture of good faith.
While he spoke Venomfang glided with supernatural grace between various stalagmite columns, coiled around them, looked around, moved around the party. But he wasn’t behaving like a predator, Fizbo judged. In fact the dragon looked concerned for things hidden.
“There’s more of her spies around,” continued the dragon. “She will be concerned that I am talking with you instead of fighting. I can feel her attention…I must whisper now.”
Venomfang moved closer, not so close to threaten the party. He dropped his voice in volume.
“You see- I need a favor. Yes. Close together, now. I’m offering you a deal. Closer. I must whisper. There’s another nearby dragon who has a better lair. Her name is Verslexia and those spiders you torched in that building were her spies. If you’d slay her I’d gladly leave this place at once with all my treasure. No problem at all. I will rid myself of this place and vow never to return.”
“This is my town, dragon!” yelled Tai Ni Dong. “I would reclaim Thundertree!”
“Ahh. You were from here? Thundertree it was called? I see. I take it my lair here is insulting to your tastes. To your sense of cultural pride. For that I’m sorry. You could not have been bigger than a hatchling at that time! It appears I underestimate human memory and ambition. You and I share similar motivations! Well you may reclaim your town! You can even pretend to have ‘drove me off with heroics’ should any adventurer find me in my new lair.. I’d gladly play along… what is your name again, fleshling? Deal with my sister and then we can talk about how I should retell your story of how you drove me off from Thundertree!”
“Why do you talk about the druid Reidoth as if he tricks us?” asked Bonnie. “And what about the eggs?”
“They must be his sister’s eggs!” suggested Igo.
The dragon moved again, lithe and graceful. “Yes, my sisters eggs. I care nothing for them. As for the druid, see.. we have an arrangement me and him. I help him keep my sister’s influence at bay. He saves me time from going out and hunting for treasure and food.. He sends groups like you to me to deal in hopes I leave here. I either get treasure, or an attempt at a new lair! He can’t defeat me so he gets the stupid ones killed and the smart ones to help me leave his domain! Oh.. he didn’t tell you that? That’s too bad… yeah. It appears those druids love nature more than their fellow civilised beings. I suppose he cares less about you than you of him! Reminds me of dealings with my own kin. It appears the only honest deals that exist can only be between different races.”
Alarm bells were going off in Goldi’s head. The dragon was lying, surely, he was contradicting himself. Something wasn’t right. The dragon spoke again.
“Please listen to me! I would rather not risk my life for such a mission or leave my treasure unguarded. I knew this site would draw attention by adventurers.. It was all planned! I swear it on your gods and my own. She lives in the woods deep in a cairn about 10 miles from here…her name is Verslexia. She’s my half-sister. Come closer now and I’ll give you a map!”
“I’ll go,” said Igo, and moved towards the dragon, the others stood back in a group.
A broad smile broke across the dragon’s face. He now had the party where he wanted them, all together in a group – except for the ranger who had moved forward into claw range.
“Thank you for trusting me – MEAL!!”
The green dragon roared, exposing a ball of poison gas quickly building in his mouth. The scent of bleach and volatile chemicals hits the party member’s faces followed by a viscious cloud of acidic haze! Tai Ni Dong and Fizbo collapsed to the ground immediately. The others were badly wounded, except for Igo, who had avoided the blast of poisonous breath. The dragon immediately ran into the middle of them and snatched up the two bodies of the fallen heroes.
“Listen to me, would be heroes. I have no sister, the eggs are mine, though I care little for them, but they are mine. I have need of eyes and ears outside my town. MY town, Thundertree. Soon the lands around will be mine as well. You will report back to me every month, with tribute for my hoard. Are we agreed?”
Bonnie was seeing a way out of this.
“But,” continued the dragon, “as a sign of good faith, you will bring me the head of the druid Reidoth! By sunset tomorrow! Or your companions will truly die!” The dragon squeezed the bodies a little, and Tai Ni Dong moaned – he was still alive, but unconsious!
“Now go!” commanded Venomfang. “And bring me the head of that druid!”
The remaining party members fled the dragon’s lair.