"Its scales are like polished silver and so strong that no sword can cut them, no arrow pierce them. Its claws are hooks that rip through even the most tempered armor. Even its tail is tipped with a spear head that can cut through solid rock. Its head is adorned by a crest of horns like the crown of hell its self. Its wings like those of a metallic bat, the membrane unpierceable. No weapon or magic has harmed it to date. Its breath an aurora of flames of unnatural beauty that can burn to the very soul or else only what it wishes to burn. This monster has tormented the land for generations now, stealing sheep, chickens, even cows as it wishes. Not even the vegetable and fruit harvests are safe from its appetite. Worst yet, the beast tricks you, tricks us, as its form not that of a great serpent but the frame of a woman."
The old man chugs back his beer as he talks to wandering adventurer in the green and brown tunic, sword at his side, a youth looking for adventure, not even partnered with anyone else yet.
"Sounds like a demon," says the youth.
"No," grumbles the old man, "tis a dragon, lad. Our town has hired priests, paladins, holy warriors, and exorcists of all sorts before. The beast is impervious to their spells, chants, and prayers. It is angered by our attempts, placated only by tithes of food...and people."
The young adventurer nearly chokes on his drink, "you mean..." he stops and speaks quietly, "your town has sacrificed people to it?"
"In a manner of speaking," says the old man, "no one has seen what becomes of the youths as it carries them away. But I can only imagine the worse. Our mayor would placate us into believing they become its slaves...although I imagine such a fate could be worse than being eaten by the monster..."
"So the town is sick of it then?" asks the adventurer, "and you want to try to slay it again?"
The old man pauses, "yes, but also no...this not by order of the mayor, but by a nobleman whose villa has just recently been built by the lake where the monster's lair is also near."
The old man looks about, "the sacrifice has become so common place that every few years the dragon speaks to the people. the foul beast flies from a overcast sky, on such a dreary day it descends into the town square, perching upon the pillar of laws like some obscene gargoyle that has left its cathedral in pursuit of sin. There the thing issues its demands to the people, what they are to bring to it and where...not always the same spot."
"You have a way with words," whispers the young adventurer.
"As it happens," says the old man, "the count was unaware of the dragon when he had the villa constructed; our mayor anxious for the revenue of nobility and their guests to pass through our town. Providing servant and ground tending vocations to our people. Perhaps even hoping the count would become aware of our plight, a plight ignored, a plight we were told as a town with its own mayor was required to ask the guild ourselves to deal with a monster as it is not the job of the royal army to fight such things but the guild..."
The old man stops as a barmaid brings them another pitcher of beer. The old man leans in, "As it happens as well, the count has himself a beautiful daughter, a gorgeous young thing full of breast and hips and long golden strands of hair. Dressed only in the best finery, and educated with the best available tutors. She can often be seen by the lake side with her hand maidens reading a book."
The old man looks around, "thus the beast came to the town square young man, perched there like...hmmm...like a...hawk of silver staring down upon a field of mice. It demanded three sheep, as though it did not take them its self anyway, jewels of such value that I fear our mayor has contacted the thieves guild...and as it put it...the lovely daughter of the man who dared build a home upon its shore."
"I...see," says the young adventurer, "so you I take it are one of the towns people who ended up working at the villa, and the count sent you to the guild hall in ExRez to hire adventurers to slay this humanoid dragon?"
"Yes," says the old man plainly.
"Hmm," says the young adventurer, "definitely not your typical monster hunting job like the count posted. This should cost more...and need a small party at least."
"I agree," says the old man, "as does the count, however he dared not post the job like that for fear the mayor would find out. As far as the town knows the villa is having a problem with an outbreak of Smile Slimes and needs an adventurer to clear out the problem. Which is why I am meeting you here. He is desperate."
"Three hundred gold pieces," says the young adventurer, "plus I will need to bring in at the same price each three others I know of equipped with dealing with magic resistant...and sounds like boss class, monsters."
The old man pauses, "I am certain the count won't have any problems with that. Time is of the essence. When can your team be ready?"
"tonight," says the young adventurer, "meet us at the south gate with a ready coach."
-In the back of the guild hall in a meeting room.
"I dunno," says a large man with a double headed axe strapped to his back, "sounds pretty typical to me. Big bad monster moves in, demands the locals give it sacrifices."
"I have confirmed," says a tall mage in white robes, "Count Dareth built his villa on the shore of Lake Contro, near the town of Daston. The guild has records of Daston hiring adventurers going back forty years at least..not really generations as you say he said Pen, but certainly long enough to feel that way I am sure. The records also confirm that every adventurer including seven priests, three exorcists, two zen monks, as well as one shaman and one druid all failed on their missions; of the scripture types only one zen monk and the druid returned alive. Although if I had more time I could examine the make and records of the other adventurer teams. I focused on these as you said Pen it sounded more like a demon than a dragon."
"Draconians and Dragonoids," snorts the large man, "I've heard of them, really pains in the ass to beat. The former are magic the later have insane toxic powers."
"Not fought them yourself Kyle?" asks the mage.
"Nah," says Kyle, "you don't hear about them too often. Usually show up down south I hear, only in the summer months. My cousin fought a few, said they are tough, but dumb as a box of bricks even with magic."
"Strange," says the mage, "but there is a good chance these other adventurer mistook this creature for them; if they are dealt with so regularly. Or else perhaps there is a special weakness..."
"We are meeting the client in two hours," says Pen, "grab what books you need Brad; we can study up on this thing on the way to Count Dareth's villa."
"So, really not stopping by in Daston?" asks Kyle.
"No," says Pen, "seems the count is adamant this stay underwraps. Sounds like the town might object to him hiring us to take care of this monster."
"One of those towns," says Kyle with a *snort*.
-In the villa
In the elaborate villa a day's journey from the guild hall, the rather plain looking man in a suit who could have easily been mistaken for a butler of the manner and not its master is sitting across a coffee table from the three adventurers.
"I was told it would be a group of four," says Count Dareth.
"Our fourth opted out," says Pen, "given the special conditions of the job. They weren't comfortable with it. I assure you sir, we are all you need to deal with some Winged Draconian."
His name dropping a creature brightens up Count Dareth's expression.
"Good," says the count, "I trust then, you understand to keep this private from the staff who work in town. I gave most of those servants the day off and only the ones I brought with me from the capital working today."
He stands and looks out the large and elaborately decorated glass doors to a patio over looking a grassy field with a clear view to the lake.
"Normally this time of day my daughter would be sitting down there with her hand maidens. A delightful little table and tea set. So much like her mother...shame she had to stay in the capital to see to the business affairs. This was supposed to be a nice vacation for me and Tabitha. In a sense we are trying the place out to see if we like it as a summer villa."
Pen and the others exchange a look that speaks for its self about all that.
The man *sighs*, "honestly it was great; until that bastard of a mayor paid me a visit. Told me that monster wanted my daughter!"
He grips the curtain.
"Excuse me," says Pen, "sir, not to stab ourselves in the pocket book here; but I understand why the town couldn't call in the royal guard; but don't you have your own court guards?"
"I looked into it," says the count, "my villa doesn't count...as imperial court land...and..."
His knuckles are white as he grips the curtain, "those bastards told me I can't return with my daughter unless the monster is dealt with least the beast follow us back to the capital and threaten the citizens there. If I tried that to force the army to deal with it...I could lose my position and authority."
He grinds his teeth as he forces himself into composure. He straightens his tie and turns, "as you can see gentlemen. I am forced to call upon the guild like an ordinary villager...no offense. But I would prefer a court sorcerer and a platoon of knights deal with this of course. Instead of four...such as yourselves. No offense."
"None taken," says Brad the mage placing his hand on Pen's shoulder, "we already have a plan to take care of this monster."
"Great," says the count, "so you are heading out at once?"
"Not really," says Pen, "we have no information as to where its lair is, seeing as how we can't question the villagers who have decades of history with it. We are left with a desperate move, and you may not like it."
*The plan is a rather simple one. Pen, Brad, and Kyle learned from the old man that the ritual of sacrifice was to be done at a specific place chosen by the dragon, an altar on the north eastern end of Lake Contro. Ancient ruins of unknown origin found throughout the land, deep blue stone altars depicting an abstract mural resembling a magic sigil with nine shallow circular holes arranged around the center. The sheep, jewels, and human sacrifice were to be brought there by sundown of a specific day, an odd day each year that corresponds to no known celestial alignment or particular event in nature. Brad the white mage made note of how random that is. The count had been told not to try and hide or move his daughter or the creature would come ahead of schedule for her and takes it revenge out on him and the town. Regardless of the count not being too concerned about sacrificing them for not telling him about the dragon before construction of the villa began, unconcerned it seems about the innocents in the town as well, there would still be the official word from the king and the court regarding his taking such actions and risking bringing the monster into a more heavily populated, and home to nobility area.
The dragon however wouldn't know any of that, so the chances he'd make a run for it mean the dragon is likely keeping a watchful eye on them regardless. As they don't know where the dragon is, they would bring the dragon to them, using the count's daughter Tabitha as bait. Riding the coach to an old fisherman's shack on the west side of the lake, unpopulated, open area with old buildings.
In the coach as it heads up the western shore, Tabitha looks out at the sunlight dancing on the lake like a sparkling pool of jewels.
"You look rather unconcerned," says Brad sitting across from her.
"Hm," says Tabitha looking at the lake, "did my father tell you building the villa here was my idea?"
"No, he did not," says Brad.
"My mother," says Tabitha, "would bring me to this very lake when I was little. My aunt used to live in the town north of here, Brackson. Strange how the dragon only ever harassed Daston though. There are three other towns nearby, and seasonal fishermen who come here in the summer."
Brad raises an eyebrow, "you knew about the dragon?"
"Of course," says Tabitha, "its been here for ages according to the stories I heard in Brackson."
"I see," says Brad, "strange the count didn't know them,"
"He wouldn't," says Tabitha, "he should have, but he never did listen to me. I might as well be a fancy dog or peacock strutting about the lawn as far as he cares."
"You tried to warn him?" asks Brad.
Tabitha nearly laughs, "No, I told him stories that I was told when I was little...such as why Daston was cursed by the dragon..."
"really," asks Brad, "why is that?"
Tabitha picks up her book next to her, "you are an adventurer aren't you? Don't you usually bother to learn about something before you go off to fight it and use people as bait, gambling the lives of yourselves, your client, and the townspeople in the bargain?"
"My apologies," says Brad, "your father the count was rather clandestine, secretive as it were about this job. Politics not withstanding you are right, we did take the time to learn about what we are fighting."
He holds up his book, "Winged Draconian, fearsome creature indeed, weak against earth energies and ice...a monster of wind and fire, Boss class..."
Tabitha is shaking.
"The fear setting in?" asks Brad, "realization,"
He flinches as she tosses her book in his lap.
"I marked the page," says Tabitha.
Brad gives a questioning glance and opens it up, a picture of three dragons. A very small one, like a pup flying over the lake, a larger one above it, or on the edge of the lake, both have a rather classical appearance to them, the one on the edge with a tuft tail and oddly mammalian shaped face and crest down the back of its neck...and above them, a massive dragon drawn with thick black ink, he almost mistook it for a cloud.
"What is this?" asks Brad.
"The legend," says Tabitha, "three dragons, were visiting the lake, Daston had hired a team of heroes, champions, not adventurers to slay the dragons that were eating the fish, their livestock, and frightening away the people. The champions couldn't even harm the beasts, but learned that they were not of this world, a mysterious hero came to Daston and told them a means to banish the beasts back to their own mystical realm...it involved destroying an ancient altar on the southern shore. When all was said and done, the two larger dragons..."
She reaches over and flips the page, showing a picture of the lake being turned into a mirror portal and sucking in a blue inked dragon and the black inked dragon, "were sucked into this magic portal, banished. However the third dragon, their baby, was now trapped here, as the champion had closed the portal without realizing a third dragon was hiding in a cave while the two big ones fought the heroes. With the altar gone, smashed after the ritual to prevent it ever being opened again, the dragon had no way to return home...or be banished. It ended up killing the champions and cursed the town that hired them. They have to placate it now...or else."
Brad is looking back and forth at the pages, intently. He had heard of spells being used to banish stronger monsters; but these, make no sense to him.
"You are all going to die," says Tabitha, "and I am going to be abducted by a vengeful dragon, all because my father built his villa ontop of where the old altar was, and because that greedy mayor gambled with theirs and our lives that my father could hire competent heroes with his wealth when they never could..."
"This don't mean a thing," says Kyle holding the book as the three talk inside the old fisherman shack, Tabitha standing away from them looking out the window, but still clearly able to hear them, "remember the werewolf? Those villagers had a crazy legend about it to, but it popped in blue fire like every other monsters does, no problem."
"It can mean that," says Brad in while turning to look at Tabitha, "it can mean one of three things, all of which point to the fact we really needed to follow protocol and investigate the town first. One it can mean exactly as you say Kyle, a monster that has been around long enough that the villagers have built up an exaggerated legend about it. It can also mean that but at one time there were three of them, and this one either proved to be too strong, they were worn down defeating the other two, or they downplayed this one in the legend and it was the strongest of the three. The third option is...unlikely, and that just as the legend implies it is a genuine dragon."
Kyle just shakes his head, "little rich girls reading dumb legends. Its a Draconian, getting psyched out before a battle doesn't do us any good."
"I have to agree," says Pen, "no offense Miss Tabitha, but the only genuine dragon in the world is Baragas, the eternal behemoth held in an endless stalemate in the red wasteland with the god of good and the god of evil; both holding it there till time its self stops. Just to emphasize madam, a true dragon is a world ending creature. Monsters take on dragon shapes, and we call them dragons, but this legend is just that, a legend. If it were true we'd all know about it, and wouldn't have to have heard about it from some book found in the library of a town...possibly, not saying its the reason why though, trying to discredit a neighboring town..."
Tabitha shoots him a dirty look.
"Or maybe," says Pen, "Daston trying to explain as best they can why they have had such bad luck with adventurers they hired; just trying to make it out like they have it worse than they do. We did experience this before madam, we fought a werewolf, the locals insisted it was some nature god there to avenge them cutting down trees. It had been around for fifteen years, but it turned out to be just a higher level werewolf than normal. it happens, people don't realize it, but monsters don't have fixed strengths, sometimes they can be weaker or stronger, and even smarter than you'd expect. Don't worry we will deal with it."
Tabitha *sighs*, "I don't mean to insult you," she says, "I don't even mean to question you. I know you are the adventurers...I hope you are right."
She turns and looks at them her eyes more pleading than stern as they were before, "I really do hope you are right. I may not like my father, but I do love him, and the people in Daston just want to be free of the curse. Just..." she turns and looks back out the window at the lake.
Her mind drifts to a time when she was very small, playing by the lake and seeing the silvery female formed dragon dipping into the lake and catching a fish. She had been amazed all full of childhood wonder, big eyes and saying "Woowww," running to tell her mother what she saw and saying she wishes she could fly like the pretty silver lady. Her aunt and mother had nearly panicked though...she saw them, the adventurers hired then, that her mother had hired. She can barely remember them but as she was very young, a silhouette. A swordsman, a tall mage, a very large man with a club, a woman who was their healer, and an archer...she never saw them again. It would be five years before they'd come back to Lake Contro, and then they had so many guards with them. Her mother nearly had a fit when she suggested to her father about building a villa here, as she had fond memories as a little kid of the gorgeous lake.