Spoiler: Chapter 31: Dunderheads and Dragons
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“Okay,” Flynn says once Nüwa is done communing, “We need to think about our trip into Old Drougant here. Do we want to bring any other people in with us? If so, how many, and who? Do we want to bring pack beasts? And how are we going to cross the lake to get to the keep?”

“I think bringing along some backup might not be a bad idea,” Gavin says. “Having someone to hold the manor behind us when we venture into the throne would make a good fallback point, and hopefully keep our line of retreat clear.”

“Do we want mules?” Nüwa asks. “I can buy mules. I can buy LOTS of mules.”

Flynn nods at Nüwa. “A few mules seems a good idea. Perhaps eight of them so we can distribute the supplies and have spare carrying capacity remaining. We can buy those in Scarlet, though, closer to our objective.” Nüwa nods and has Allison make a note of it. Flynn turns back to the rest of the group. “Who do we bring?”

Seeker's ears perk. “What about those adventurers we left in Hangtree? The ones from Scarlet?”

Flynn frowns. “Dorn's crew? The ones who wanted to speak with Hangtree herself about securing Scarlet's independence?” He snorts. “If they're willing to come, they'd be ideal. The could probably hold the manor house without much trouble, and this would get them a lot of credit with Hangtree.”

“Will they come along, though?” Aelron asks. “I mean, we've all said with varying degrees of seriousness how suicidal this trip is.” Meng grimaces. “Will they want to come along?”

“Successful ventures into Old Drougant are profitable,” Miaoyu says confidently, tapping the emeralds woven into her armor's ivy-leaf tracery. “We can persuade them.”

“We'll ask for volunteers,” Flynn says flatly, “But I don't want to bring anyone with us who doesn't want to be there.”

Miaoyu opens her mouth to say something stupid about Meng, but when no less than three feet either collide with her shins or stomp on her toes, she wisely decides to hold her tongue.

“As for getting across the lake,” Aelron says, talking smoothly over Miaoyu's sudden cough, “I can study up on rafting and boating before we leave Brandt and should be able to figure out how to put together a simple raft we can use to get across the lake. We'll just need to bring some extra rope and a bit of lumber to put the thing together once we're at the lakeside.”

Flynn nods. “Good thinking. I'll do the same.”

The party departs for Hangtree the next two days later, with Flynn and Aelron both using the human ability to shift a skill rank to Trade: Sailor. The trip home is mercifully short and uneventful.

Once they reach Hangtree, the party gathers up the adventurers from Scarlet, inviting them to the clubhouse for a briefing. It's a little crowded in the common room with the entire Scarlet crew plus the party crammed into a space that usually only has to host half the party at any given time, but when Flynn unrolls the map of Old Drougant City and its environs on the table, everyone forgets about the crowding. Three or four of the Scarlet crew even dissolve into laughter.

It takes a few long, uncomfortable moments of silence and Flynn's stony staring for those overcome by mirth to realize that this is no laughing matter. Finally Dorn shoots a skeptical glance at Flynn. “Come on now, man. You can't be serious. Old Drougant? Have you got a death wish?”

“No,” Flynn says quietly, scratching idly at his neck, perhaps remembering the noose that once laid in that same spot. “We've already made one trip into the city to lay the groundwork for this trip, and will ask no more of you than to accompany us into the city's outskirts and help us transport valuable cargo back out of the city.”

Bekki the dwarf narrows his eyes. “What kind of valuable cargo?” he asks.

“Books,” Aelron responds immediatley. “We found an old Ysilarite library whose protective enchantments are still functional enough to protect its contents, and we visited the library in Brandt to get keys that will allow us through to access them. We have a list of which books would be most valuable, and the Ysilarites have agreed to pay us a considerable sum for their return.”

“You want us to risk our necks for a bunch of books?” Dorn asks, incredulous.

“The books will be the source of income,” Miaoyu puts in smoothly, “But that's not the mission's primary objective. We're not asking for your help with the primary objective, though. All we ask of you is to accompany us as far as the library, help us move the books to a manor we've secured outside the city's walls, and then hold the manor for us while we venture in after our primary objective.” Flynn nods, pointing out the library and manor on the map.

Dorn shakes his head. “Sorry, but no. Old Drougant is far too dangerous for me to be running in there to please a bunch of Ysilarites. I won't stop any of my crew who want to go, but I'm not going in there myself.”

Bekki nods agreement and stands. “Come on, lads. Let's go find something sane to do. Caravan guards through Demonsbreath Pass, maybe.” The majority of the Scarlet party leaves, but four are still at the table when the commotion dies down: Evanna, a fighter/rogue half-elf; Luff, a Connish fighter; Morag, a fighter/mage half-dwarf; and Coleen, another fighter.

“Okay,” Coleen says cautiously, once the rest are out of earshot, “What's the pay for this insanity?”

After a quick headcount, it's determined that there are ten people who would actually be venturing into Old Drougant proper and would want a share of the loot. “Ten percent of whatever the Ysilarites offer for the return of the books,” Flynn tells them. “It should be quite the payout, especially if we can find any of the books on their list.”

“Huh,” Coleen says quietly, leaning back. “Actually, that sounds pretty good.”

Evanna and Morag are nodding along, but Luff balks. “You can afford more than that, and for this level of risk, I expect better than that. You'll be getting more loot out of whatever your main expedition is. I want a share of that.”

Evanna and Coleen turn frowns on Luff. Morag just shakes his head, murmuring, “Here we go.”

Luff glares at them. “What? It's only reasonable. Look at them!” His sweeping gesture takes in Nüwa at one end of the table, still resplendent in her recently-purchased Quennish ritual finery; Gavin's rack of armor and weapons along the wall, gleaming like new; Miaoyu's ivy-traced robes and unicorn-hair-strung bow; Aelron's glowing staff and Seeker's elven-woven armor. “You think they can't afford to pay us more?”

“Whether or not we can afford it is immaterial,” Flynn says calmly. “You'll be paid for the work you're doing, which is goods transport and stewardship, with combat bonuses and hazard pay. You'll be able to say you've been inside Old Drougant City and returned to tell the tale, and best of all, no one will be dead. Will that be sufficient?”

Luff looks ready to continue arguing, but between the daggers Coleen and Evanna are glaring at him and the placid, utterly immovable look on Flynn's face, he drops it. “Fine.”

Flynn smiles. “Excellent. Gather your things. We depart tomorrow midmorning. If you have anything special you want loaded onto a mule or horse, see Nüwa tonight. She's handling logistics. If you need any potions, enchantments or healing, talk to Seeker. Anything else, talk to Miaoyu. Aelron and I have some reading to do before we head out.”

Coleen stands, steps forward and holds out her hand to Flynn. “Looking forward to working with you,” she says, somehow combining a smirk with an air of respect. Flynn shakes her hand, still smiling.

Morag, standing near the door, nods. “Should be interesting.”

Luff departs without much ceremony, and Evanna shoots an apologetic look over her shoulder as she rushes after him.

Once they've all left the room, Nüwa stands, surveying the table. “That went pretty well, I think.”

“Not as well as I'd hoped,” Gavin says, “But it'll do, I think.”

“Well, I have food and other supplies to stock up,” Nüwa says, heading for the door. “I'll talk to you all lat—oof!”

She's just run straight into Meng, who is blocking the door, staring stonily down at her.

She arches an eyebrow at him. “Yes, Meng?”

Meng's face remains stony. “I will allow you to go to Old Drougant City under three conditions. One: no wandering off alone.”

"I agree," Miaoyu says immediately, interjecting from her seat at the table. "You don’t know how dangerous it is in there. Being alone, even for just a minute or two, can be your death sentence. That means if you have to tinkle, you bring someone with you.”

Meng frowns. “The world must be coming down around me. I actually agree with the outlaw. Two: I am to accompany you at all times. Three: in the event that you are about to do something unbelievably suicidal, I get the right to veto. I have one of these. Are these terms acceptable?”

Nüwa glances back at the rest of the party, but no one seems inclined to argue with Meng's serious face. "Fine…" Nüwa drawls. "I accept."

Meng smiles and steps back, clearing the doorway. “Excellent. Thank you.”

Later that evening, Nüwa returns from procurement to find Miaoyu sitting at the clubhouse table alone. The table's been cleared off except for two candles and a small white cloth, atop which rests Miaoyu's mysterious black gem.

Miaoyu looks up as Nüwa enters and smiles. "Wanna do something fun?" she asks

Intrigued, Nüwa takes a seat across the table from Miaoyu. “What's the game?”

“Trying to figure out what this is, what it does,” Miaoyu replies. She produces a notepad from one of her seemingly infinite pockets. The top sheet of paper is covered with scribbled notes, some circled, some crossed out, some underlined, some followed by question marks. “I have a list of everything I know, everything anyone has guessed, hypotheses tested and hypotheses I have yet to find a way to test.”

Nüwa cracks her knuckles. “Let's see if we can't find some ways.”

About an hour later, Aelron comes out of his room in the back of the clubhouse and finds the two of them conducting experiments while Seeker watches from the corner. Nüwa is in the process of casting a divination spell, and the table is scattered with pages full of scribbled notes. “What are you doing?” Aelron asks.

"Trying to figure out what this does," Miaoyu says, gesturing at the black gem. "So far, we know it’s safe to cast a diamond spell on someone holding it; it doesn't appear to interfere with divination unless the divination is directed at it specifically.” Miaoyu frowns, sets down her notepad, and looks up at Aelron. “You’re the magical theory student. Tell me what you make of this: Nüwa’s been casting various Detect spells. Last time, when the Ylsilarite novice did that, he cast Detect Artifact of Tykanria, looked at it, and got violently ill. Nüwa cast Detect Spoon and didn’t get sick. Did that mean that maybe it is an Artifact of Tykanria and it reacted to the spell because it actually got a ping?"

Aelron, who has just poured himself a drink while listening to Miaoyu, practically does a spit-take. “Detect Artifact of Tykanria? You mean he actually cast that?!” And he dissolves into laughter. Nüwa and Miaoyu stare in mild alarm until Aelron can get himself under control enough to explain.

“Detect Artifact of Tykanria is a spell usually used to haze new Diamond tower initiates. Pitting piddly cantrip-level detection magic against the goddess of secrets and darkness NEVER ends well, though the consequences vary from case to case. Some people get a splitting headache, some people vomit all over the place, one kid I knew went blind, I felt really sorry for him. He was stumbling around in the dark for a few days before a Larlonite showed up.”

“But did they were casting it on an artifact of Tykanria, right?” Miaoyu asks.

Aelron snorts. “Oh, hell no. I mean, usually it was something at least vaguely associated with darkness or secrets. A shroud, a locked journal, a lantern shutter, something like that, but all completely mundane items. Actual Tykanrian artifacts are protected by actual Tykanrians, who know better than to go blabbing about what they are. As near as anyone who has studied the phenomenon can deduce, Tykanria doesn't want people casting that spell and uncovering her secrets, so any time someone does, she makes it distinctly uncomfortable for them.” He shrugs. “Magic has lots of consistent rules that it follows rigidly, right up until it tosses them out the window. Usually because of divine meddling.”

"There goes that theory." Miaoyu sighs and crosses out something on her notepad.

"You know what?" says Seeker, who had been watching from a corner. "This is driving me up the wall too. I’m going to ask Larlon."

All priests have the favor of their god, and in the case of some gods, such as Larlon, the favor can be expended once per session to ask a question directly. So Seeker dials up Larlon. “My Lord, is there anything you can tell us about this gem?”

Larlon peers through Seeker's eyes for a moment, sees the gem, and withdraws. "Your favor is not expended," Larlon replies, uncharacteristically terse. "I won’t answer your question."

Seeker blinks. “That was unexpected,” he tells the others.

Miaoyu's eyes light up, and she looks to Aelron, who shrugs again, looking puzzled. “That is... new. Inconclusive, but it certainly suggests that whatever this gem is, it has someone very powerful protecting its secrets. I've never actually heard of Larlon refusing a request for wisdom, let alone been in the room when it happened.” Miaoyu scratches down more notes, then returns the gem to her bag.

Aelron does a double-take. "Are you taking that with you to Old Drougant?" he asks, alarmed.

"Yep," Miaoyu says.

"Don’t you think that’s incredibly dangerous?"

Miaoyu shrugs. “As far as we can tell, it doesn’t do anything. But if it does, Old Drougant would be the place where we find out. And if it becomes a problem, I’ll toss it.”

Aelron mutters something about suicidal Qennish idiosyncracies and stalks back to his room.

As the party begins gathering up their things the next day, Gavin conspicuously clears his throat. Everyone alternately looks up from their activities or makes some sound of acknowledgment.

“I’ve been giving this careful thought,” Gavin says, his seriousness earning him a couple of double-takes. “I was thinking of bringing Keegan with us.”

“No,” Flynn says, before anyone else has a chance to respond. His tone suggests little tolerance for counter-arguments.

Gavin presses on, regardless. “He can help us with all of the animals, and he’ll never be alone. The last expedition went amazingly well.”

“Reasonable,” Flynn says. “No.”

Gavin sighs. “Why don’t we ask Keegan if he wants to?”

“Normally I would agree,” Miaoyu says, looking up from the toolkit she has spread out before her. “But not with something like this. It’s too dangerous and kids his age want to please their caretakers. If we ask, he’ll say yes, regardless of whether he wants to or not.”

Gavin finally relents, and a wise decision it was: Flynn’s player later revealed that if he had continued to insist on bringing Keegan, Flynn would have challenged him to a duel.

Once the last of their things are packed away, they depart with their hirelings and set out for Scarlet. The journey is short and uneventful, and they reach their destination on a sunny afternoon. Strangely, Scarlet is in the midst of preparation for a celebration of some kind. It's not harvest festival season, and there isn't a major holiday coming up... Flynn stops a few passersby and learns that not only did the king grant Scarlet's request to become an independent barony, he came to the town himself to sign the paperwork. Luff, Coleen, Morag and Evanna are thrilled—all of them are Scarlet natives and had been hoping that their service to Hangtree might incline her, and therefore the King, to look favorably up their county and grant independence. It couldn't possibly have gone better for them.

Apparently the King is currently staying at Forscythe Keep, about a day’s ride away. Some of the party gets confused looks at this news. “Isn't he off fighting rebels in the west?” Seeker asks.

"Yes and no," Nüwa says as she purchases a treat for Keegan. "There are campaign seasons—late spring, summer, and early fall—and seasons where everyone rests and gathers resources. This is the resting season. With no active campaigning going on, he's got time to come down here and attend to Drouganti internal affairs.”

Everyone stares. Gavin and Flynn exchange glances. They know that she's perfectly correct, but they’d never guess free-spirited Nüwa for the type to know that.

"How?" Gavin manages.

Nüwa rolls her eyes playfully. “I’m a Sanseliean, aren’t I? Before we can become ordained, we have to hold a military command. When I was working on one of my cases, I was a commander for two days. I learned a lot in that time.”

The party decides to book it to Forscythe in hopes of earning an audience with the king and discussing the return of the sword. The hirelings elect to stay behind and enjoy the festivities. A wise choice, too, given that the party begins a forced march and actually take reserve hit point damage. Fortunately it's only one night's forced march, and Seeker undoes the damage almost immediately.

When they reach the gate of Forscythe's keep, Flynn calls out: “Oi,” expecting one of Hangtree's guards.

"Who goes there?" a gruff voice replies. Apparently the King's guards have taken over security. Gavin kindly performs introductions.

"Sir Gavin of Tidehollow; Flynn, bailiff of Hangtree; Aelron Firemind of the Gemstone Towers; Seeker, Purifier of Larlon; High Priestess Miaoyu." Gavin swallows and does his level best to keep the annoyance out of his voice. "And Nüwa Benechuss, the Lady of the Garden of Razors."

Beyond the gate, they can hear scrambling and the gate slowly opens for them. They are shown inside, where they encounter a young Connish woman with a broadsword. Flynn and Aelron greet her immediately; they met back in New Drougant City. The rest of the party hangs back a bit.

"Hello, Calli,” Flynn says warmly, glancing back at the rest of the party. "Calli is one of the Lady's friends in the Royal Court, and the woman responsible for our audience with the Gilroy family.” He turns back to Calli, smiling, and asks, “Is the Lady in?”

Calli cringes. “I knew you were gonna ask that. Come with me. We need to talk.”

She leads them into the keep and finds a small unoccupied sitting room replete with a table of pastries and drinks where they should be relatively undisturbed. Once everyone is seated, she looks to Flynn and says, “I suspect you’ll just tell your friends what I’m about to tell you, so they can stay. You see, the king and Hangtree sort of… fought. Then she stormed out.”

"Was it a duel or a lover’s spat?" Miaoyu asks as she bites into a pastry. Beside her, Nüwa leans forward eagerly.

Calli pauses. “I wasn’t expecting foreigners to be quite so… interested.” She turns her attention back to Flynn. “The king wasn’t happy with the way Hangtree handled herself here in Forscythe. He felt she overstepped her bounds by making a huge spectacle of Forscythe's death. The other counts and barons in the area are decidedly nervous. They're afraid she was making a power grab, and that they might be her next target. That’s distinctly NOT the impression the King wants his nobles to have, so he's come out here to give Scarlet its independence personally and rap Hangtree's knuckles. He wanted to show the other nearby baronies that nothing bad was going to happen to them, and he was keeping her in line.”

Gavin speaks up. “Not to bring the conversation off track, but if the king doesn’t like big displays of power, do you expect that he’d object to us retrieving Fidelity?”

At Calli’s confused expression, Flynn hastens to explain. “We're on a mission to retrieve the Sword of Drougant, the old relic of Laeros, and return it to the King.”

Calli blinks. "I see. Flynn, can I talk to you in private?" She pulls him into the hallway and begins whispering frantically.

"You're traveling with a Benechuss and a landed Aurbeski knight, and you're telling them about our national relics? This is obviously a Bene plot to get their hands on the Sword. Please tell me you’re just leading them on."

"Yep," says Flynn without hesitation.

Calli blinks again. Apparently she was expecting Flynn to protest, something along the lines of 'No, really, they're helping, and they're not that bad of folks.' His immediate confirmation throws her, but only for a moment. She nods in satisfaction, and returns to the sitting room.

“Sword of Drougant, huh?” she says, resuming the conversation where it left off. “Well, the Sword's been lost for centuries. I imagine the king would welcome its return, but I sincerely doubt you’d be able to find it.”

"We have found it, actually," Gavin says. "The source is reliable."

Calli raises a brow. “Oh? And what is this source?”

An awkward silence falls over the room. Eventually all eyes are on Miaoyu.

Miaoyu shrugs. “May as well just be straight about it. I asked Gilgadar.”

Calli doesn’t seem perturbed at all, but she leans closer to Miaoyu, peering at her curiously. Eventually she seems to remember herself and straightens up. “Sorry,” she says after a moment. “I just thought the sundered fate would be more… crackly.”

Miaoyu grins. “So did I.”

Calli shakes herself. “Well, then. you have your… quest. As for the baroness, she stormed out of here in a towering hurry. She seemed furious. Headed north.”

"The Corpse Copse is north," Aelron says, worried.

"You’re familiar with her spear, aren’t you?" Flynn asks Miaoyu. He's having none of this speculation garbage.

"Yeah, I saw her beat up Olaf with it. Give me a few minutes." There’s a brief lull as Miaoyu begins her augury. When she's done, she nearly chokes on her wine. "She’s in the King’s Woods. She’s right outside of Old Drougant, barely north of the city's boundary line." Miaoyu glances at Flynn. "Do you think she went after the sword herself?"

He shrugs. “Maybe. She might also think we went back and is looking for us.”

Nüwa, Flynn and Gavin throw together a plan. The party spends the night at the keep and at first light Miaoyu, Aelron, Seeker, and Flynn head to the King’s Woods. Nüwa and Gavin return to Scarlet to collect supplies and their hirelings as well as find an inn for Keegan and Allison. The two groups will meet outside of Old Drougant’s west gate.

Gavin and Nüwa have a peaceful trip, or as peaceful as can be expected given that each of them detests the other’s personality, culture, and life choices. Arrival in Scarlet goes similarly: they purchase last minute supplies, pausing only to snipe bitterly at one another. Occasionally Nüwa shakes things up by blatantly ogling Gavin’s butt, which of course annoys him to no end. After the third shopkeep locks his door behind them, Gavin has had enough.

"Can we just settle this with a duel?" he grinds out.

Nüwa looks insulted. "A duel? We don’t do anything so barbaric in Qen. We’re more of a poisoning society."

"Then how are we going to deal with this?" Gavin asks, throwing his hands in the air. Nüwa gives him an appreciative once-over. He glares at her. "No. I swore an oath not to pass on the selkie bloodline."

Nüwa rolls her eyes. “Fine. Meng, can I have a duel?”

"No."

"Does that count as your veto?"

"We’re not in Old Drougant yet," Meng says calmly, “So, no.”

Nüwa nods. “I appreciate your traditional Qennish dedication to technicalities.” Meng smiles without mirth.

Alas, Nüwa and Gavin don’t find a way to, ah, relieve tension.

Miaoyu periodically checks on the Baroness’s location and find her moving east and a little south, supporting the theory that she may be intending to enter Old Drougant. By the time they reach the King’s Wood, however, she seems to have stopped traveling; Miaoyu's augury is returning the same destination every time.

The forest itself is beautiful and lush, but a heaviness weighs on the air, as though the entire forest knows it is being watched. On a whim, Aelron casts Draconic Introduction. He gets a response: Mark of Death, Blade of the Pursuer, Shroud of the Wood of the Lost Eye.

Shroud of the Wood. That’s not intimidating at all.

Night falls and the woods seem to shudder. The soft noises that lingered over the course of the day seem to all but vanish and the animals fall completely silent. Flynn wastes no time leading the party to shelter under the roots of a great tree. No one lights a fire for fear of alerting whatever has the animals so scared. Mark of Death, Blade of the Pursuer, Shroud of the Wood of the Lost Eye... no one sleeps well that night.

Morning comes and Miaoyu finds that the spear—and hopefully the Baroness—is still in the same location. The party sets out directly for it. In the light of day, they notice something they hadn’t before. The limbs of the trees have been pruned so they rise high above their heads; Flynn is able to comfortably ride his horse through the forest. It's almost as though the entire forest is someone's garden.

Oh, wait. Dragon.

Miaoyu gestures at the perfectly shaped trees whose branches don't begin until fifteen to twenty feet off the ground. "Maybe the dragon did that, if he travels through the forest on foot a lot?”

Aelron nods. “It’s possible. Dragons can pass through their home without a trace if they desire, but I imagine a dragon with a name like that is large enough to want plenty of clearance if he's moving around down here.”

They trek through the woods for the better part of the day, stumbling across what appear to be the dragon’s gardens. They often resemble the Zen gardens that Miaoyu is familiar with, shaping and beautifying the already existing terrain, plants and natural features to create beautiful scenery. At one point, an obviously sculpted river winds through a series of small saplings set among beds of small flowers, all in the midst of a small clearing that allows enough light to reach the flowers for them to flourish. Aelron fixes the image in his mind, but urges the party to hasten on.

Eventually, Miaoyu announces that they are approaching the location of the spear. The party is moving through thinning tree cover, approaching what appears to be a large clearing. “It’s just past these last few trees,” Miaoyu says. “I’m going to find a spot to cover you guys.” She promptly disappears into the shadows. Flynn dismounts and approaches the clearing, Seeker and Aelron a pace or two behind.

The clearing is huge and beautiful, dotted with wildflowers of all varieties. A small hill at the far end of the clearing is home to the skeleton of a huge ash tree split down the middle by a huge burn scar; obviously the victim of a direct lightning strike.

Hangtree sits between the party and the ash, fast asleep, her spear propped against her shoulder, leaning against the lolling head of an enormous dragon.

It’s a great, serpentine beast, grey and blue scales shimmering in the sunlight. Its hide has been punctured in multiple places, and its blood is even now still oozing slowly to the ground. Its limbs are crumpled at odd angles. Aelron fires off another Draconic Introduction, but gets no response. Apparently the Mark of Death is no match for the Knight of the Bloody Chalice.

Flynn promptly goes to Hangtree and sits down in the grass. He'll be clearly visible and non-threatening when she wakes up, but he's making no move to wake her. Assured that there is no impending danger, Miaoyu leaves the shadows and joins him, staying several respectful feet away. Seeker approaches Flynn. “I’d like to look her over if I may—”

"No," Flynn says, and the matter is closed. Seeker retreats to Aelron’s side.

"Shall we investigate the tree?" Aelron asks, more for something to do than because the tree is really that interesting. They leave the others, though easily within shouting distance, and Aelron studies the tree for components. Eventually, he’s able to extract a small piece of its bark and enchant it for a small resistance against electricity. Dawnflame, Aelron’s player, is dying to take apart the dragon for magical components, but as a priest of the Mother of Dragons, Aelron isn't allowed to profit off the death of such creatures.

It’s late afternoon when the Baroness finally awakens. She blinks slowly at Flynn. “I don’t remember you being here when I went to sleep,” she says, then winces. “Is Seeker here? I think the dragon’s head is holding my internals… internal.”

“Seeker!” Flynn bellows. Seeker trots over immediately, Aelron following more sedately, toying with his new enchanted piece of bark. As soon as Seeker is in view, Hangtree gestures him closer and points out where one of the dragon's talons punctured her armor. It doesn't take Seeker long to set her at least mostly to rights, and as soon as he’s finished, Hangtree shakily pushes herself to her feet. Aelron casts Regeneration—a divine spell granted by the Mother of Dragons—on Hangtree, hoping to heal any internal damage that Seeker wasn’t able to reach.

Thankfully, the Mother of Dragons isn't a vengeful deity, and, as mothers go, is a fairly hands-off sort. She grants the spell to Aelron. If you, as a dragon, aren't strong enough to fend off one piddly little mortal knight, well, that really isn't her problem, and the fact that you're dead now is no reason not to grant her priests the spells they request. Even if those spells are being used to cure the person who offed you.

Feeling a little more steady on her feet, Hangtree looks at Flynn. “Why are you here?” she asks again.

Flynn shrugs. "You said to follow."

She gives him a smile. “I suppose I can't really be upset with you for following the letter of my instructions in true Drouganti fashion. Headed back into Old Drougant, I take it?”

Flynn nods. “Would you like to come?”

"I’d like to say yes." She sighs, winces. "But I think there’s a rib in my lung."

"In that case, would you like us to accompany you to Scarlet?"

Hangtree agrees and the five of them set out. They met with Nüwa and Gavin just outside the walls of Old Drougant and Hangtree, satisfied that she no longer needs help the last few miles, continues to Scarlet alone.