The Clutch of Verthandi

The Chimera and the Behir

After vanquishing the haunted corpse of Drohun Blackbarrow, the Scarlet Crusade heads west across the Scarred Hills in search of Karridane, the red-dragon-blooded chimera. Cotter leads, eager to rid the Scarred Hills of the “Red Scourge” and thus prove himself the true leader of the Scarred Hill Outriders. As the crusaders enter a narrow pass edged by two steep rocky cliffs, they get their first glimpse of Karridane just before they are buried in a rock slide.

Luckily for him, Eoleo was 40 feet in the air. Of the rest of the party traveling on horseback, Cotter is the only member of the party to escape being buried, though his horse was, ironically, the only one to be so. Continuing with his good fortune, Cotter manages to hit Karridane with three arrows and distract her while the rest of the team struggles to get free from under the crushing rock. Eoleo casts hold monster on Karridane, while Cotter helps Rognar get free. Owen heroically rescues both Niamh and Raleria with an extraordinary display of his excellent training. Eoleo meanwhile traps Karridane in an ice storm and then finishes her off with a lightning bolt.

His air & lightning assault earn him some grumbles from Raleria, but Cotter is only too happy to be done with Karridane and helps himself to the dragon and lion heads of the 3-headed scourge. Before parting ways, Cotter commends the crusaders on their prowess and promises never to speak of them to anyone in Scarhelm. The crusade then discover that the horns of the remaining goat head can be powdered and used to cast a fire spell with exceptionally amplified power. After searching Karridane’s lair the crusaders find an engraved javelin of lightning, a ton of gold and silver, and to the team’s surprise, several hatched copper dragon eggs. They speculate over whether this may have been Alymaneann’s nest, and decide to take the eggs with them because they can be used as a material component for stoneskin. Eoleo resolves to learn the stoneskin spell before the crusade departs.

After spending the night in Karridane’s lair, which reeked of chimera urine but kept scabcats away, the crusade sets out to find Shryllyx, Karridane’s rival. Eoleo presents Karridane’s goat head to Shryllyx, hoping to trade it for some food that wouldn’t give them firegut. However, to Shryllyx, the head was only payment enough to let the team proceed through her territory. Raleria tries to bargain with Shryllyx, but the best deal they can get is permission to hunt on Shryllyx’s land for one day in exchange for traveling two days north, relieving four giants of their heads and/or clubs and traveling two days back to deliver said trophies. This did not really solve the team’s problem of foodlessness, given that the team did not know how to prepare wild game safely and one day was not enough to develop an immunity to firegut. After much deliberation, the team decides it would better benefit their interests if they were to just fight Shryllyx herself (which earns more grumbling from Raleria).

Niamh initiates the battle by running away…and then shooting Shryllyx with three arrows. Raleria joins Eoleo in the air as Rognar charges Shryllyx on horseback and gashes her front two legs with his axe. Eoleo casts suggestion on Shryllyx, and gets her to “submit” to the team and bring them food and tribute. Shryllyx brings a dead Scarhelm outrider (with trail rations in his pack), a twisted wooden wand of daylight, and three fist-sized topaz gems. Having completed the terms of the suggestion, the spell wears off, and, much Raleria’s dismay, Shryllyx resumes her attack. Aiming for the closest target, Shryllyx traps Rognar between her jaws, making it impossible for him to fight back before he is swallowed whole! Unable to fight his way out, Rognar suffers heavy damage from Shryllyx’s tightening gizzard and the team begins to wonder what Rognar would become if they had to resurrect him. Thanks to his throwing axe, Rognar finally manages to cut his way out of Shryllyx’s stomach and lands in a bloody mess beneath her. Eoleo casts glitterdust on Shryllyx, who blindly tries to stomp Rognar with six of her legs, but fails. Rognar manages to roll out of the way just as Niamh brings Shryllyx down with 3 final arrows.

After looting Shryllyx’s lair for more money and magic items, the team makes its way northeast to see Ophemet, narrowly avoiding 3 cinder ghouls hovering above the charred remains of two giants. On their return, Ophemet tells the team that Raleria’s lens is actually a phylactery connecting a dwarf lich, now known as the Doom of Dragonhelm, to the mortal realm. It can be used to glean moments of sanity from the mad dwarf’s mind, and to magnify light spells to dispel shadows. This means that if the crusade can somehow reawaken the artificial sun beneath the mountain, they could use its power, magnified by the lens, to destroy the doom.

Ophemet also tells the team that Dragonhelm is not, in fact, abandoned. Apart from the Doom, the Red Dragon that resides there has fallen under the spell of the Doom and become mad itself. There are numerous other shadows there under the Doom’s control, but there are also other denizens of Dragonhelm, both living and dead, that may be interested in becoming allies with the Scarlet Crusade in a battle against the doom. Additionally, Dragonhelm rests on a waterfall to the east and may be the site of innumerable treasures, so it’s possible that the team may be able to convince Raleria’s miser…er, I mean, father to come along. Not to mention the reason he’s around in the first place is to help restore Alymaneann, who may be another potential ally, so the team wouldn’t be facing the Doom alone.

Finally, Ophemet warns the crusade that the four giants Shryllyx told them of are likely scouts for a giant army, possibly the one referenced in the prophecy of the Clutch of Verthandi. She also implies that it’s likely the giant army is led by the fourth and final red dragon, who, by necessity, is most likely as intelligent as the Dragonhelm dragon is mad. Before the team goes on its way, Ophemet cryptically tells the team to “be careful confronting a giant army; you don’t want to be barking up the wrong tree.”

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