( To Part 1 )
We broke camp in the woods and hiked back into Duskvale, where we found the bodies of the half-dragons, undisturbed but for flowers placed upon them. We began the perilous descent down the cliffs towards the dragon's lair just before noon. I espied dark, humanoid shapes climbing up the shadowed cliffs toward us, but the halfling, Barridan, rained fire down upon them, and they fell into the sea. We proceeded to the cave mouth, where we were met by the half-blood swordsman who had escaped us last night, as well as a giant human woman in heavy armor with a great sword, who claimed to be the human parent of the halfbreeds, and was enraged by their deaths. She struck two mighty blows at me, one of which pushed me back to the edge of the cliff, and the other of which was mercifully blocked by a stalactite. Seeing us outmatched, the halfling and the bard decided to dive off the cliff using magic to slow their falls, and my footing was weak enough that they shoved me over the edge as well.
It was a long fall, and only made longer by the magic which protected us from the impact. I stowed my axes so that I would not drop them when we hit the black, churning waters. None of us were trained swimmers, and we were swept under by the current. An eternity of darkness followed, and I resigned myself to death, regretting my failure. When I was grabbed by great claws, I did not have the breath to fight back. The sea cats, as we found them to be later, dragged us into a sea cave in the bowels of the cliffs. Barridan was unconscious, but Adam, Alonso, and I were unscathed. Additionally, the cats brought with them a towering half-orc clad in armor of dragonhide and wielding a strange spear. He introduced himself as Somak, and stated that he, too, was here to slay the dragon. Adam claimed that we had met Somak before, in the hills while fighting giants. 'twas a strange coincidence, but we thought little of it at the time, for we realized that further up in the cave was a row of coffins, three of which were open and mostly full of dirt.
We deduced that the closed coffins were likely full of vampires, and that the three people we had seen on the cliffs were likely the absent three, fleeing back here to escape the sun. Alonso and I bound most of the closed coffins with rope, with the plan of dumping them into the water, while Barridan spread oil as a back-up in case it came down to using fire. Unfortunately, Somak awoke the vampires by bumping his spear against the cavern's ceiling, and battle ensued. The vampire escaped their coffins as foul vapors, except for the one whose coffin had not yet been bound, which jumped out at Alonso and stole his mind, making him attack me. Alonso discharged a spell from his blade into me, and I was badly injured again. Adam cast a spell which caused Alonso to collapse into a fit of hysterical laughter while Somak, Barridan, and I dealt with the remaining vampires. One hid in a crack in the wall where we could not reach him, and stole Somak's wits as well, though he requested that we cease to fight. We did so, and eventually the lord of the brood emerged from up the tunnel, a vampire by the name of Hathras. He explained that he desired our aid in slaying Saffras, the mother of the half-dragons, who was a cleric of a vile god and had trapped him and his spawn here in servitude. We reached a deal with Hathras, that we would let him go free if he aided us in slaying Saffras, and then rested in the sea caves, keeping a close eye on him. I dreamed the dream I always dream... of the burning of Kathras Deep, and of my family, and of myself. But I was strangely interrupted; one moment I was standing atop the melted battlements, and the next I was in the deep woods, meeting Somak. 'twas disturbing, to change thus - it has not happened before in my memory. I awoke early, and assumed the watch from Alonso.
Hathras told us that Saffras was waiting for us at the top of the cliffs, so we proceeded up after waking. On our way through the caves, we pilfered her potion workshop, and drank many potions before engaging her on the plain outside the exit from the caves. Hathras was as good as his word (odd for a vampire), and managed to disarm and grapple Saffras, who the rest of us then rained blows down upon her. Alonso also slew the remaining half-dragon, and struck the killing blow to Saffras as well. She wore a great suit of mightily enchanted black plate, and I was sorely tempted to don it in the tradition of my fathers, but we were pressed for time before our potions wore off, and we again used Adam's falling magic to traverse the cliffs, down to a great black eye in the rock where the dragon laired.
The beast hid upon the ceiling, using illusory duplicates to foil our attacks, and engulfed us in mists. We spread out to avoid being crushed from above, and to avoid its breath, but it breathed upon me and Barridan. I took the brunt of the breath, but was protected by Somak's magic, which warded me, Alonso, and Somak himself against the vile acid. A vicious battle followed; Somak struck several good blows, but kept his distance with his spear and a spell which made him as tall as a giant, while Barridan's spells bounced off the beast, Adam diverted some of its strikes with illusions, and Alonso failed to pierce its hide, but for one lucky shot with his bow. I closed with the beast, and struck many deep blows with Tooth (once my father's axe, but melted in the dragonfire that took my face, then reforged in the blood of a white wyrm, and now a deadly weapon against all dragonkind), but the beast did just as well - sensing that I was the deadliest threat to it, it tore at me savagely, and my soul was held to my body only by the magic of the many potions I had imbibed earlier. A red mist descended upon my sight, and the voices of my ancestors urged my onward; I had an opening to retreat, but could see that the beast was nearly dead, and pressed in for the kill. I was not to have that honor; Somak downed the beast with a thrust into its spine. It then began to speak, accusing Adam of manipulating us. Adam stepped forward and slew it with his rapier... odd, since yesterday he did not have one. I collapsed into a stupor of strange dreams from my wounds...
When I awoke, Barridan and Somak had slain Adam, and they and Alonso claimed that he had in fact been controlling our minds. In truth, I do not remember much between the burning of Kathras and the temple at the crossroads. It is strange... I am not sure I believe them, for he seemed a decent sort, but the effects are writ large across all of our memories. None of us remember meeting, nor do any of them remember where they came from. I do... but it is part of me. They believe that the rod is to blame; we are not truly sure what it is, so we have buried it deep in the rock of the sea caves using Somak's magic. We are still unsure of Adam's motives, but we speculate that he may have come for a strange, perfectly black sword, which Barridan believes to be a 'wardbreaker' weapon of some kind. I have been entrusted with carrying it - we think that it might be malevolent, but I have assumed this risk and burden willingly. The hoard was large, and contained a bag of great space, which we managed to store it all in, except for a few wands which Barridan has assumed possession of. Somak has been entrusted with the bag; despite its great weight, it slows him down no more than his armor did. We butchered the dragon's corpse for meat and the hide, and Somak and I each took a tooth as well, as trophies.
We are unsure of our next move. We're not sure who Adam really was, or for what purpose he sought to control our actions. I think we will begin retracing our steps with the aid of this journal; it remembers more than any of us. Apparently there is a village a day's walk from the crossroads where we first remember; we will likely go there, and see if anyone knows of our original purpose, and perhaps seek a sage who can tell us of the black sword.
-Journal of Fjolkir the Beardless, Sixth Day of Firefast
( To Part 3 )