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Chapter 4: Of Creatures and Cowards

April 13, 2023
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Though they didn’t know it, one fateful expedition in the employ of N.O.T.E.C. would change Harry and Gontro’s lives forever.

“No, no. You’ve got it all wrong.” The man stopped to take a long draught of ale. “Kobolds aren’t weak to fire… just sensitive to sunlight.”

“Wait,” a woman across the campfire responded, “I thought kobolds were weak to cold, and undead are hurt by sunlight.”

Through odd jobs as N.O.T.E.C. explorers, Harry and Gontro had come across so many different Creatures they could hardly remember which was which.

“Na, it’s both, isn’t it Harry? Aren’t kobolds cold blooded?” Gontro approached the fire from out of the dark, fastening up the buttons on his pants as he walked into the light. “Didn’t we chill those ones back in ’47 out of the underhenge?”

“What!?” Harry laughed derisively. “Those were salamanders. A salamander isn’t even close to a kobold, you old trog.

“You’re wrong too Harry,” The original speaker interjected. He was a massive man wearing shining gold armor and a white, lace cloak. ”Not all undead are weak to sunlight and fire.”

“Well, not all,” Harry quipped back. “But all your garden variety ones — like zombies, mummies and vampires.”

The armored man shook his head. “Actually that’s not true. In the N.O.T.E.C 3.5 edition guidebook it said zombies were weak to fire, but that was technically a mistake. In the 5.0 guidebook, it correctly clarifies.”

Harry stared expressionlessly back in response. “Thank you Quentis. Everyone loves it when they have a friend that can correct them about bureaucratic porc scat.”

Gontro shook his head with confusion. “Wait. So does this mean if I see a zombie, I don’t light it on fire?”

“No, I think fire still kills things in general,” Quentis replied as he rose from the fireside. “Where is Kaldan? Does he even know supper is ready?”

Quentis of course was right. Fire DOES generally still kill things, regardles of what the handbook says.

Suddenly there was a peculiar whirrrrr sound that pierced the silence of the night. Before Quentis even took his first step towards the pot, a figure clothed entirely in black flashed from the trees above, dangling upside down from a rope. “For Furul’s sake Quentis! I said don’t talk about me!” the overhead arrival exclaimed with exasperation. “What if we were being followed!? Anyone eavesdropping would know there’s four of us now!”

Quentis did not even so much as look at the elf dangling upside down hooflengths in front of his face. “Grow up Kaldan. No one is following us. No one is listening. Beans are ready.”

With a graceful flip Kaldan sprung to the ground. His rope shot back up into the tree he previously occupied with another, higher pitched whirrrrr. “Ugghh! I don’t know why you even brought me! I wish I’d have gone with Talmar to Growda!” Kaldan threw up his arms and stormed off into the darkness, kicking up plumes of dirt along with him. One such small cloud of dirt found its way into the bean pot.

I, Paladin Quentis of the order of Barda, do request that my ward Kaldan be reassigned to me for the duration of the campaign in Growda.

I have no lack of faith in his abilities, but his impulsive nature limits my confidence in how he will perform in a long-term expedition, and I believe I may have the opportunity to provide vital training for him on our upcoming mission to Gratar.

-from N.O.T.E.C. public archives — Document G376.b7 “Formal Communications on Record — G376”

“Not the beans!” Gontro said with a groan. “Why do all rogues have such fragile feelings?”

“I don’t. And all good anyway. I already got my bowl.” Harry gave a big, sarcastic smile and shoveled down a mouthful of her own dirt-free beans. “So Quentis, you going to actually brief us? What are we after?”

Quentis sat down with surprising grace for the amount of armor he was wearing. “Well, to start with we’re going to survey a cliffside over on the side of the Gratar Straight. New variety of harpy has been spotted up there.”

“Bag and tag some token templates, you get your creatures, N.O.T.E.C. gets land, I get my money,” Harry quickly replied. “Sounds like a plan.”

“Maybe,” Quentis took a long drink from his ale. “May have some bonus work this time around though. Word is that there’s a real, living dragon on the peak of Mt. Throsho.”

Harriet and Gontro exchanged troubled glances. “And how exactly do you plan to take down a dragon?” Gontro said with wide eyes.

Quentis reached into his cloak and pulled out an old, dingy cloth. “Well I hope that we’ll just be able to document and observe. You know, by the book.” Unwrapping the parcel, he revealed an ornate dagger. The hilt was shaped in the face of a demon with brilliant sapphire eyes, and the curved blade was serrated at the end in a vicious point. “If we get into trouble though… The dwarves of The Mollin Hills Mine call this Dragonsbane, and it is going to help us.”

Harry and Gontro looked uncomfortable, but neither spoke between their concerned glances to each other. Quentis rose, setting his empty bowl down by the edge of the fire. “Can you imagine how rich we’ll become? Every serious Chance player across Tolkheim will pay anything to add a dragon to their lineup. Tomorrow, we’re going to make history as the first expedition ever to bag us a dragon.”

The next day, Harry stared in wonder at a massive dragon as it circled above its orc prey, hiding beneath a small bridge over a stream and ready to light it up. “Gontro, look out!” she tried to shout, but it was too late.


The explosion deafened Harry temporarily. Her vision spun and her head rung. Peering over the little hill she was hiding behind, she could see Gontro was fine — more or less. Above him was the wreckage of what had previously been a bridge.

The orc sprung forth and ran along the streambed, shouting profanities as he fled. The dragon circled back and started to dive along Gontro’s path.

“Maximum power assassin’s BLADE!” As the winged monstrosity passed the line of trees along the side of the brook, Kaldan sprung forth from out of nowhere with a great war cry… scimitars gleaming in the sunlight. The elf was poised to land the blades square into the dragon’s back. Just as the blow nearly found its home, however, the great creature tilted ever so slightly. The rogue plummeted to the riverbed below with lingering cries of dismay.

“Kaldan, you stupid porc.” Harry grumbled to herself as she watched the scene from her cover.

HARRIET- It’s not that REDACTED is a bad rogue, it’s that he always shouts the name of whatever PS move he’s going to do seconds before he does it!

PALADIN ROGER: Surely it can’t be as bad as all that?

HARRIET: Can you imagine if I yelled “ANSWER QUESTION!” before I answered your questions each time!? That’s what we deal with every day! Those are inhumanee working conditions!

-from N.O.T.E.C. public archives — Document G376.c11 “Debriefing of Hariet Destudo — G376”

The dragon was back headed towards Gontro now. Harry notched a bolt in her crossbow and lept over her hill, running frantically towards the fleeing orc. “Over here you bag of decycle slime! If you had half a brain you’d know I taste better than him!”

The taunt seemed to be super effective. The creature immediately turned and it was Harry’s turn to turn tail and run. Back over the hill and down the green slope. She was certain she’d never run so fast in her life, but it was to no avail. The great dragon was easily catching her quickly. He’d overtake her soon, and that would be it.

What was that? Something shiny up ahead. “Quentis!” Harry shouted from airless lungs. “You better have a plan!”

Quentis stood at the peak of the next hill. He held up his great bluemetal sword in two hands and closed his eyes in focus. He recited an inaudible mantra, whispered into the flat of the blade. As Harry approached, she could see a yellow light beginning to spread from Quentis, reaching out towards the oncoming dragon with tendrils like a morning corona through the mist.

Wrangling harpies and tagging goblinoids is a fine and respectable livlihood, I know. At some point a man hopes to have something better to his legacy than just a trail of blood and token templates.
There is hope though. I’m far too afraid to disclose the details even here, but Harry and I may have found a better way. Tomorrow we’ll find out.

— from N.O.T.E.C. public archives — Document G376.e7 “Recovered Journal of Paladin Quentis’— G376"

Harry was just at the bottom of the hill now. The dragon had overtaken her. She dared not turn around, but she could hear the great wings beating and knew her time was short. “Maybe he’ll choke on me” she thought, and she chuckled to herself for what she could only assume was the last time.

But then something curious happened. She could see Quentis standing on the hill, but his movements had become strained and sporadic… like he was pulling against a great weight. The yellow light around him was nearly blinding and was directed in a beam straight over Harry’s head.

The dragon whizzed past Harry’s head– so close that she ducked. To her delightful surprise, it didn’t snap, claw, or explode her. Totally bathed in the yellow light emitting from Quentis, it zoomed straight for the paladin on the hilltop. Without regard for her safety– already having assumed she was dead any second– Harriet raced up the hill to Quentis.

The creature alit a good distance from Quentis– close enough for its large blasts to be ineffective, but far enough for the great mouth to pose less immediate threats. As Harry approached, he brandished his sword and waved her back. “No, I think this one is my fight. That prayer will compel him to pursue me and only me until I’m dead.”

He looked back towards Harry briefly, sword still ready. “Do you still have it?” Harry nodded. “I hope you remember how… it’s more important than me. I’ll put up a fight, but save yourself and use it when the time is right.”

“We’ve been in tougher spots than this, Q.” Harry’s lips tightened. “I will. They won’t get it.”

Quentis smiled as he turned. The yellow light was dimmer now, but it continued to shine forth from the paladin himself, making his armor glisten in the sun. He walked towards the creature and Harriet watched for a moment before running down the hill to meet the oncoming Gontro.

“Be warned creature! I am Paladin Quentis of the Knights Barda, and no harm shall come to my friends!” He pointed his sword squarely in the face of the great purple and black dragon as he spoke.

After an initial snarl in response, the dragon did not lunge or breathe fire, but instead lowered its head and slowly crawled forward towards Quentis. For a moment, it silently approached, and seemed to be studying the man’s face.

Your friends!? What is wrong with you!?” screamed the dragon with a flail of its wings. “I was having tea. Literally just sitting down to tea and I hear someone scream ‘LONELY BLADE’ and a knife hits me in the shoulder.” The dragon gestured towards its front shoulder where a throwing knife was still lodged.

Quentis backed away slightly and shuffled nervously. “I, uhhh… We had assumed you were just some beast. We didn’t know you were intelligent.”

“Oh, so if I couldn’t talk you’d be totally fine throwing knives into my den and using wild magic on me? You think I’m a beast? I thought wild magic was looked down on among the Paladins of Barda…you beast.”

Quentis furrowed his brow and stood up straighter. “That wasn’t wild magic… it was a prayer. A holy incantation.”

“Oh, are we pretending that your mind control spell isn’t wild magic just because you shrouded it in religion?” The dragon laughed, relaxing a little. “So, you don’t want to kill me now because I can talk, but I am now compelled to kill you because of your ‘definitely not wild magic’, which was some pretty impressive sorcery. So it would now seem we have a conundrum, little one.” The dragon rose up to tower over Quentis and once again began walking towards him.

“No wait! We can figure this out.” Quentis scrambled backwards in increasing terror. Unfortunately, his heavy armor betrayed him and a stumble over a rock left him stranded on his rear facing the creature, his sword dozens of hooflengths away.

As he pushed himself backwards and struggled to get up he pleaded to the creature, panic increasingly set in. Unarmed and prone was no honorable way to die.

It suddenly occurred to him– he viciously tore off the side panel of his breast plate to expose the cloth package stored below. Tearing off the ancient coverings, he revealed the blade. “Dragon’s Bane, be with me!” he shouted, holding the blade aloft. The glow from his prayer was fading, but as Gontro and Harry looked on, Quentis seemed illuminated by more than just residual mana in that moment.

“Oh hells NO!!!!!” the dragon shouted as he saw the blade. WHIIIIP– his tail smacked the dagger from Quentis’s gauntlet. SCTHWOOOOP– his great jaws engulfed the Paladin, swallowing him whole.

Watching below, Harriet let out a cry of surprised dismay. Gontro, however, was too preoccupied with the dagger skittering down the hill.

HARRIET: Look, I have no clue what you’re talking about. Quentis and I had worked together more than 20 years. If he was up to something, I’d know.
PALADIN ROGER: That is precisely my concern actually. We think that you and Quentis may have been hiding some side dealings. What do you know about Quentis hunting a dragon?
HARRIET: A Dragon!? Did you know Quentis? He was all talk. Harpies and goblins, he was your guy. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to go unless I’m under arrest.

-from N.O.T.E.C. public archives — Document G376.c11 “Debriefing of Hariet Destudo — G376”

“ACKKK KKRIIGGHAHH…SPLOT.. KGGHR.” The dragon sat on the ground where Quentis stood previously, retching and spasming. It continued struggling to clear its airway, eventually rolling onto its back… arching violently. After a few moments, it finally loosened the gob of metal in its throat. With a great swallow it sat up, tears in its eyes from the ordeal.

Out of nowhere a poof of green smoke appeared by the dragon’s face. “VORPAAAAL…. STAB!!!” Kaldan shot out of the smoke, both scimitars pointing at the dragon’s snout. Without so much as a thought the dragon’s great paw smacked him out of the air, pinning him to the ground. Harriet rushed up the hill, not seeing that Gontro ran the other way…towards the dagger that had fallen from Quentis’s hands.

GONTRO: Dragonswha? Is it some kind of new trendy herb?
PALADIN ROGER: No, a special knife requisitioned by Quentis before he left. Especially potent weapon against dragons, it’s told.
GONTRO: Huh, never seen a dragon. Never saw any of Quentis’ stuff either, and I don’t really like what you’re implying here.

-from N.O.T.E.C. public archives — Document G376.c4 “Debriefing of Gontro ‘Greytooth’ Beebleboop — G376”

“Why don’t you people just leave me alone!?” the dragon yelled into Kaldan’s face, tearing off his black mask with a single claw.

“Oh my gods, you can talk.” Kaldan muttered, his fair skin turning even paler and his eyes stretching wide. “Are you going to eat me now?”

“Eat you!? Did you not just see that? I had assumed you people were gooey and soft. Unnecessarily crunchy.” The dragon slowly let his paw off the elf. “I just want to go back to my den. I left the kettle on.”

The dragon backed away from the rogue and sat down on his haunches. “I’ll make a deal with you elfling. You run as far towards any horizon you choose as you can. Once you can’t run anymore, never come back this way.” Kaldan glanced at Harriet approaching and backed away nervously, as if about to defend himself. “I may not eat you… but I can still tear your top legs off. You never come back, and you keep your stabby little elf legs. How does that sound?”

Kaldan hesitated for a moment, again looking towards Harriet. With no warning, he threw a leather packet at the ground and disappeared in a poof of green smoke. Unfortunately, the dust cloud from him tumbling down the embankment on the far side of the hill made his exit less smooth than he probably would’ve liked.

The creature turned towards Harriet, eying the small crossbow in her left hand. “Are you a stabby little one as well?”

Harriet looked down at her hand, suddenly realizing a bolt was still loaded. She disarmed the weapon and sat it at her feet. With her hands up, she slowly approached the creature. “My name is Harriet, and whatever I planned to stab today isn’t the plan anymore. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“Ooo, an intelligent human. Likewise Harriet. You may call me Raidon.”

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