Scaled Trappings - Writen By: Marc Zukerman
It sounded a bit ominous from the beginning when we were asked if we wanted a map. Lo, many had fallen searching for this bounty, but being adventurers we decided to go for it. I left my bar in the hands of the manager and we set out.
Xee, the brute, a man as tall as his ego was the one who got the map. He's the type of person who thinks the best way to enter a room is a foot to the door, no matter what is on the other side. Aust is the sorceror who wears his inadequecies on his tunic for all the world to see. Maya, the rogue dark elf is as quiet as she is beautiful - and deadly. Some think her studies as a cleric may have negatively warped her view on men, I think it's Xee. And then there's me, Yansi, the bard. Frankly, I'd rather be writing some fantastic ballad, but this magical rod makes for a pretty good weapon. And I've kind of let it go to my head recently. I keep telling everyone I'm a lover, not a fighter, but I've been secretly enjoying the rip of thunder as the rod strikes my foe. Just don't tell Xee or he'll think I need a "lesson".
We were searching for the entrance to this cave of some dead warrior named, er, something like "Toe Jam" although I probably wouldn't have said that to his face. He hid it pretty well, but the map said it should be in one of a few places. So we headed into the mountains and approached one of the locations which did happen to be a cave entrance. Maya, being the only one who can function without a torch in the cave, we gave her a ring that would render her invisible to any but a few nasty creatures we wouldn't want to be encountering anyway. Unfortunately, this was one of those foul creatures I dare speak of.
The next thing we knew, Maya ran screaming out of the cave and dove to the side, knocking me over. Following her was a streak of lightning that should have applied a charge that Mordenkainen would have been proud of. But Maya was lucky. Before she even had a chance to tell us what happened, a bright blue blur flew out of the cave mouth and across the neighboring chasm and circled towards us.
We all screamed "Dragon!" This wasn't supposed to happen! We don't face dragons, heroes do! I almost got killed by a goblin just 5 months earlier! But somewhere in my head rang this incredibly foolish thought: Think of the story! That and my newly found bravado over this weapon of mine. I looked at Xee and recognized the glint in his eyes. But when I looked at Aust, all I recognized was the back of his cloak flailing in the wind as he began to turn and run. "Wait Aust!" I screamed.
"No!" he retorted. "We can NOT kill a dragon! Are you out of your mind?"
Xee stood and hollared, "We can't outrun it, find a defensible position in the cave!"
So there we were, four would-be heroes. That is would-be in about 3 or 4 years after some more experience in the world. Unfortunately, the dragon had other ideas. It landed in the front of the cave and started marching towards us. I wasn't sure if the grumbling was it's stomach or my brain ready to explode, but I knew we didn't have much of a chance.
It came to a stop at the main cavern where we had scattered to the wind to offer it a small shot at wiping us out with one electric breath. "Humans," it bellowed, although I'm sure it thought it was whispering. It was easily 30 feet long with claws as sharp as swords. Its blue scale ran down its reptilian frame as an armor that only the strongest of men could hope to penetrate. As it spoke, its tongue flew out to taste the air. Even the forked tines of its tongue looked sharp enough to cleave me in half. And that wasn't even the worst of it. The individual teeth were taller than I was and the fact that there were two rows of them made me fearful for my life. "Curious. After my hoard are you?" It sniffed and all of a sudden, an incredible fear came over me. I was crippled. All I could see was this 30-foot, no 60, no no 100-foot long dragon snaking its neck over to look at me. The warm puddle at my feet told me I should be running, but there was nowhere to go to. I was trapped!
"You may be of use to me though," the wyrm resonated, "if you wish me not to have you for lunch. I like gems." I quickly looked over towards his hoard. Yes, there were many gems that were probably worth more than the treasuries in every noble house in the city of Greyhawk combined. Unfortunately the dragon took my turn of the head as a sign. "You, over there. The one in colorful clothing stained with his own urine." He slithered his head towards me and reached out a claw. "Do you have gems, colorful one?" He must have taken that gurgling sound I made for a yes, because he reached with one talon and flicked off my formerly hidden necklace which had a large violet hued stone set in the center of a sparkling silver oval. "Very nice, my noxious friend. You should do something about that bladder problem."
I looked over at my compatriots, but they seemed about as frigid as I, all except for Xee. He seemed to be smiling from ear to ear about something, although I couldn't figure it out. I imagined the prospect of death in battle.
"If you would like to live," the dragon continued, "you can help me. There are some giants nearby that are in possession of a large cache of gems that I would like to have. If you help me I will let you continue your sorry days. If not, then I shall let the horses outside live and have you for lunch instead." Faced with those options, we agreed to help. He then shimmered and where the wyrm once stood was but a man with strikingly blue hair. He wore no armor, but reminded us of his power by flicking a forked tongue at us. My initial wave of fear subsided and we all filed out of the cave and started for what I imagined was the giants' lair.
The dragon kept us in front of him, so we took periodic looks back to make sure he was still there. Xee moved over to me and I asked him what was so funny back there. "If it wasn't for you sissies back there, we could have taken a shot at him," he answered. It wouldn't have been too bad."
"We could have died!" shouted Aust.
"Possibly, but think of the experience!" Xee followed.
"Think of the stories!" I wondered aloud.
"Think of the inability to breath, you idiots!" Aust retorted.
"Men," was all that escaped Maya's lips as she shook her bowed head slowly.
"One good thing came of this though," Aust reflected quietly, "He has no idea of the gems we have in the magical bag."
"How full is it?" I asked.
"Not at all. It could probably hold him in human form," he gestured back at our captor, "if we could figure a way to get him in there."
"Hey," Xee interrupted, "what would happen if he was to be put in there?"
"Well, it's an extradimensional space. Technically he'd be captured I guess. He'd probably run out of air at some point."
"How in the nine hells are we going to get him in there?"
"I don't know, you're the sorceror, you tell me. Maybe we'll feed the bard to him and he'll get full and fall asleep."
"Don't count on it, he isn't too much of a meal."
I snickered at both of them, but wondered myself if there was anything to this suggestion. We marched horseless much further than we could possibly handle and the dragon finally told us to set up camp. "Weak humans. We set out in four hours."
I sat down by the newly created fire. I pulled out my lute and asked the dragon if he wanted to hear any music. He plopped his human head into his human hand and shrugged. So I pulled out my music and started to play. It was one of my earlier pieces, "My Life as a Goblin" which was autobiographically telling of a time I ran into a mischievous faerie who changed me into a short pugnacious humanoid. He snickered and I then worked my way into "Alquin's Revenge" a popular ballad that was written long before my time. I noticed that the dragon was quite fixated on my playing. I knew that I had an effect on men and women, but I never thought a dragon could go for my stylings. I thought to myself and eyed Aust. The sorceror reached to his belt and unfastened the magical bag. Xee wandered over and picked up the bag from Aust. In sync, I put in a little "musical magic" of my own. Although the youngish dragon was immune to many arcane magics, he seemed to be fascinated by the power of song.
Xee strolled behind the still human-formed dragon and snuck up on him. I rode the song to a crescendo and just as Xee started to lift the bag, the dragon came out of his trance. He started to leap up, but Xee had him from behind. The human-form started to shimmer and it appeared he was starting to change back into his native body. "Quick!" I screamed.
Xee leaped on the the just-changing form and slipped the bag over the body and in the blink of an eye it was gone. Nowhere to be seen. Xee dropped the bag and it started to gyrate. It seemed as if arms were poking at it from inside. It expanded and contracted as if it was hyperventilating. Some parts of the bag appeared to be unraveling and just when we thought it would break with the fierce dragon storming out in a blaze of lightning, it stopped. Dead. The bag, the dragon, all of it. Dead.
Xee collapsed from the excitement onto a rock and sighed in relief. I screamed. Nothing intelligible, I just screamed. Maya smiled and shook her head. "Men," was all she said.
But Aust's reaction was the strangest. "Nuts. I guess he's found our gems now."