Aftermath of the Dragonhunt
As the five individuals were coming to terms with having vanquished such a powerful foe, largely thanks to Karnus and the Staff of Hutaaka, a haunting call drifted through the cavern as if carried on a breeze. The party members wheeled, their weapons instinctively ready, but they saw nothing. "Thank you..." whispered the departing spirit. The ghost! Korak's longtime prisoner had been freed by his captor's death and was ready to find rest. Each companion felt the spirit's blessing settle upon them.
The dragon lay dead. The hoard, albeit greatly diminished since Karnus had uncovered the lair a fortnight ago, was theirs for the taking.
Still the small mountain of gold and silver coins was breathtaking to behold - how on earth, they wondered, were they to transport each person's share back to Specularum? Home lay well over one hundred miles to the west. How could they possibly hope to transport such a volume so great a distance?
Sacks were stuffed to their fullest, backpacks were emptied of unneccessary equipment in preference to coinage, but still only a fraction of the wealth had been taken. Lana knelt and began scooping handfuls of coin into the Bag of Holding but after less than a minute reached the brim.
To transport the remainder of the gold was going to cause difficulty. None of the party members was keen to abandon the hoard of wealth to the goblin tribes, therefore so various complicated plans were discussed, several involving floating disc spells and the ring of telekinesis. At long last, decision was reached. The mages' tent was laid flat, secured at the edges with a frame of tree branches and was then attached to the horses by ropes which would suspend the canvas slightly off the ground. Once this contraption had been assembled, the remainder of the hoard was piled on top.
Eager to leave the noxious cave behind, the heroes departed heaving their newfound wealth with them. Passage through the dense forest was no easy feat; every so often each companion would have to help lift the heavily-laden canvas over fallen trees and logs. Lana eased the horses' burden as best she could with her ring of telekinesis, and slow progress was made.
Just as the party was about to clear the dense interior of the forest a figure appeared wearing familiar robes and walking with ancient slowness. It was the sage - the "Giver of Names" they had encountered the day before.
The stranger closed the distance and bid the party well met, before asking what news they bore. The heroes reported that they had slain Korak as intended, and that they were bearing his hoard back to the land of men. The figure muttered something inaudible within the depths of his cowl. Lana strained to hear. Perhaps it was her imagination but she thought she made out the single word "... unworthy ..." With that the figure threw back his hood, and held the gaze of each companion with a stony intensity. They had failed to notice a small detail in their previous encounter, one shred of information which now made each of their hearts skip a beat. The man's eyes sparkled emerald green.
Surely there could not have been a second dragon! Some other, more powerful being, possessed of superior intellect to Korak, a beast of terrifying strength and magical ability, capable even of altering his form? Speechless, all five companions backed away from the stranger. Were they simply being paranoid? They had thought him an ally, not a master to the very dragon they had sought to slay. And yet he had allowed them to carry out their task. Saying nothing more, they hurried along the path, away from the stranger with as much haste as possible. When Karnus glanced over his shoulder just moments later ... the sage was nowhere to be seen. They were left with the unshakeable feeling that their paths would cross again.
The companions made haste and cleared the forest. The sun was setting overhead and as twilight descended they could see threads of smoke on the not-too-distant horizon. Glaston was drawing near. Upon reaching the village, Lana summoned an amber glow to the end of her staff, and cast its light on the huge pile of treasure the party carried with them. This was proof beyond any other that the dragon was no more. Word spread, and within minutes every villager was crowding into the square, eager to congratulate the homecomong heroes. That night an impromptu feast was held in the party's honour, with singing, dancing and revelry the likes of which Glaston had never seen before.
Drewen sat by the fire with a tankard of ale in one hand, recounting the day's battle and many other tales until the small hours of the morning. Karnus impressed all present with a phantasmal likeness of the fearsome Korak. Vasily and Threy spoke of their battles with the wyrm's goblin minions, and were praised by the villagers - surely now that the green dragon was no longer around to co-ordinate his minions' efforts, the village and outlying region would be under less threat from goblin raids. The clerics smiled politely and called for fresh mugs of ale.
Lana too smiled at the happy gathering. There was a comfortable and familiar feel to her surroundings, the village folk remained kindhearted despite the ordeals and hardships they had suffered. For years this place had been her home, and a great portion of her heart still dwelled here, with the people, with the place, with memories of her mother in particular. As thoughts of the dragon's wealth crept into her mind, an idea occurred to the young woman, one that instantly seemed logical, straightforward and proper. She cared about these people enough to offer them her protection, to ensure their continued wellbeing. In due course she hoped to build her wizard's tower somewhere in Karameikos, the land she had explored so widely alongside her companions... surely there could be no better location than Glaston.
The party departed Glaston late the next day, distributing handfuls of coins among the villagers before leaving. Their return trip to Specularum would lead them along the dusty Eastron Road past a dozen or so hamlets and homesteads. On numerous occasions the companions were hailed by passing travellers or the inhabitants of wayside villages. Each time the party noticed the hoard grow smaller, as the multitude of groping hands could not be kept away from the tempting mass of coinage. Little by little the horses' burden eased...
... upon reaching Specularum, the hoard had been depleted by half. Even the Bag of Holding had been set upon and some of its contents pilfered. Still, the heroes mused, the wealth had been looted from the people of the region in the first place. It was to those same hands that the money now returned, which seemed fitting and proper. The companions returned to the Flying Ferret with a respectful volume of coins all the same and set about the happy task of dividing their spoils.
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