Back at the ruins of Thundertree, the shaken party hatched a plan. Reidoth was disappointed in the outcome, but impressed with the party’s resolve to turn the tables on Venomfang. The dragon was young (for a dragon), vain, and would be overconfident. If they could lure the dragon into a killing ground, they might have a chance. There was no way there were going to bring the head of the old druid to the dragon, nor leave their companions behind, even they were to die. It was time to show the dragon why those overgrown lizards were no longer the dominant species.
There was some concern about the fate of Tai Ni Dong and Fizbo, whether they would survive the night after suffering their injuries. Reidoth advised that the dragon often did a patrol at dusk, either prowling around Thundertree on foot, or a flying patrol of the broader area. Perhaps they could enter the lair while it was out and rescue their comrades. Igo volunteered to observe the dragon lair and advise if it left. However it was not to be, perhaps expecting a rescue attempt, or for other reasons, the dragon stayed in its lair.
The following afternoon the party finalised their plans and with Reidoth made for the dragon lair. They took up their positions and called the dragon to advise that they had fulfilled their bargain. There was a nervous wait, but eventually Venomfang responded, growling and then slithering his way through the passage out into the setting sun. Before the dragon’s eyes could adjust to the bright light, the party attacked, taking the beast by surprise. Guinne was up in the tree, raining down arrows upon the creature, most bouncing off his scales but some finding the gaps between them. Igo fired his longbow from the side, likewise finding some of them getting through the dragon’s scales. Eric, after casting bless to increase the efficacy of some party members fired his own light crossbow into the opposite flank of the dragon, but his lighter weapon found it difficult to penetrate the dragon’s armour. Goldi fired off as many spells as she could, mostly magic missile as these bolts of magical force never missed. The elf wizard also cast burning hands from Fizbo’s staff of fire. The staff had other spells, but Goldi was worried they were beyond her ability to control and resolved to only use them if things got desperate for fear of injuring her companions. Reidoth cast call lightning and bolts of electricity arced from the sky to strike the dragon – making Guinne somewhat uncomfortable as the bolts came too close for her liking. However they were devastating in the damage they did to the dragon’s body. Bonnie hurled her throwing hammers at the dragon, getting ready to charge in and hopefully finish the dragon off with her magical golden axe. However the entire surprise attack worked better than they could have hoped. The dragon was staggered, and collapsed under the barrage. It managed an angry, croaking roar with a buff of noxious gas coming from its mouth, and then died. The quiet that followed after the noise of the attack was unsettling, as if the entire area held its breath to see if the dragon would rise again. It did not. Its broken, holed and arrow studded body remained on the scorched earth outside its lair, jaws agape, eyes glassy. Everyone froze as if they couldn’t believe what they had done.
“Quickly!” yelled Bonnie, breaking them out of their trance. “Find Fizbo and Tai Ni Dong!” The party moved into the dragon’s lair, expecting to have to fight a new battle with the blights who served the dragon, but they were all in the process of fleeing after the death of their master. The monk and wizard were found in the lair, and Eric cast cure wounds on them and was rewarded to see their eyes open and groan and cough. The air in the dragon lair was still tinged with an acrid, green mist and they all stumbled out of the lair into the fresh air.
They had won.
Later that evening, eating a meal of rabbit and vegetable stew, Reidoth acknowledged a lot of their success was owed to the dragon being young and overconfident.
“Never expect that from an older and wiser dragon,” he advised. He went on to point out on their map where they could find Cragmaw Castle, the location where they believed Gundren was being held.
“Do you think people will return to Thundertree now?” asked Tai Ni Dong.
“Probably, now the dragon has been killed,” replied the druid. “And then I will move on too, I think. I have no wish to live in civilisation.”
“No one – except perhaps Igo – thought that a small village like Thundertree would ever be “civilisation”, but they understood the druid’s desire to be with nature.
Team TPK stayed for a couple more days in Thundertree. Tai Ni Dong showed them where he had lived – a ruined house on the edge of the village – and explained how he as a boy and his family had fled to Neverwinter when Mount Hotenow had exploded, raining rocks, clouds of poisonous gas, and ash, for hundreds of miles around. The volcano was quieter now. There was still a wisp of smoke coming from the crater at the top of the mountain, but there had been no major earth tremors for several years.
The party left in the early morning to head back to Phandalin to get more supplies and then head to Cragmaw Castle.
[To be continued…]