Chapter 17: The Long Night, Part 2

A brightly-lit mountain town at night

He must do everything himself, it seems. Keothi draws a small scroll from his bag—another dubious gift from Be’He’Quin, his inscrutable patron. Runes written in an alien language crawl across its surface. In the centre of the parchment is a crude image of a figure, arms upraised, standing beneath roiling red clouds. Keothi looks back to the dragon and holds up the scroll. His eyes swirl, turning black as he recites words he doesn’t understand. Above the Keep, the sky begins to boil.

Later, Cyd will remember what happens over the next two minutes in bright, static flashes, like a series of tableaux:

Arrows bouncing off the dragon’s hide; the guards’ useless bows hanging at their sides as they gaze upwards in a terror that is indistinguishable from awe.

A bolt of lightning like a tear in the sky, impossibly close, arcing between three soldiers. There’s a sound like a cannon blast, a smell of ozone and charred meat.

three shapes, fused metal and flesh, tumbling from the battlements to land at Cyd’s feet.

Then she’s lifting her own bow, instinct cresting the tide of panic in her head. A few feet away, Gerard and Saph are helping the bound cultist stumble towards the main hall.

Beside her, Aleph draws a javelin from the leather thong on his belt. “We need to get his attention,” he grunts. Above them, there’s a great inrush of air as the dragon draws breath for another attack. The snow in the courtyard whirls, whipped up into a blizzard; even down here, Cyd can feel the air current ruffling her hair. She turns to the Warforged in disbelief.
“How?!”

*

Keothi has just managed to find a quiet spot in the field hospital currently occupying the top of the tower when he hears the commotion in the courtyard. Around him, patients and healers rush to the windows, then draw back, shouting and pointing. Keothi ignores all of this, unfurling his bedroll and lying down with his face to the wall.

Someone shakes his shoulder. With a groan, he rolls over. Nubbins’ pale face fills his vision.
“Keothi! The dragon is outside,” the gnome whispers.
“I am tired, Nubbins.”
“But—”
Keothi sighs. “Impy. Go and monitor this dragon. Inform me if anything of note occurs.”
His familiar gives him a sceptical look, but departs out of the nearest window. The goliath closes his eyes, monitoring his familiar’s progress from afar. “Satisfied?” he mutters.

*

High above the courtyard, Impy makes an invisible beeline towards the blue dragon towering over the battlements. The beast turns as he approaches, aiming a lazy swipe in his direction. A familiar set of claws flash through the air towards the imp, each one longer than he is tall.
“Oh, not ag—” Impy’s protest is cut off as he disperses in a swirl of smoke.

*

Back in the tower, Keothi’s eyes fly open. “Impy has been bifurcated,” he announces to Nubbins. “I blame you for this development.”
Nubbins blanches. “I’m going to stay here and help Brem with the wounded,” he quavers. “I’m not sure I can fight a dragon.” He pauses, gazing at Keothi with wide eyes. “Does that make me… a coward?”
“I do not care,” the goliath replies, getting to his feet. He lumbers toward the window. Nubbins can do what he likes, as far as Keothi is concerned. Up until a moment ago, he felt the same way about the dragon. But this is the second time it has destroyed Impy, and that is an insult that cannot be allowed to stand.

The warlock gazes out over the courtyard, taking in the scene. The battlements are emptying of people as guards flee the dragon—or fall prey to its lightning breath and excoriating claws. Below, Aleph and Cyd are attempting (unsuccessfully, Keothi notes) to pierce the beast’s hide with a barrage of arrows and javelins.

He must do everything himself, it seems. Keothi draws a small scroll from his bag—another dubious gift from Be’He’Quin, his inscrutable patron. Runes written in an alien language crawl across its surface. In the centre of the parchment is a crude image of a figure, arms upraised, standing beneath roiling red clouds. Keothi looks back to the dragon and holds up the scroll. His eyes swirl, turning black as he recites words he doesn’t understand. Above the Keep, the sky begins to boil.

*

“How?” Cyd shouts again, “my arrows just bounce off!” She glances around in desperation; the courtyard is littered with the broken bodies of guards. Suddenly, she feels very small. “Maybe we should retreat?”
“No,” Aleph answers. “We must do what we can, Cydonie.”
And then the light in the courtyard turns red. Cyd cranes her neck: crimson clouds have materialised over the dragon’s head. There’s a boom, and the air fills with maniacal laughter. A second later, lines of fire streak from the sky like rain, scorching the dragon’s back and smashing into the ground like small meteors. One lands next to Cyd’s boot and she leaps back, jerking away from the heat.

The dragon roars in fury and pivots to face the tower. Cyd follows its gaze: there’s a figure standing at the window, its skin covered in familiar tattoos.
“Keith!” she yells, “GET DOWN!!”
The goliath does not appear to hear her. In fact, he seems, somehow, to be laughing, his head thrown back and his shoulders shaking. He does not react as the dragon sucks in a gargantuan breath, preparing to obliterate him in an electrical storm. In panic, Cyd looses arrow after arrow into its scaly hide, but it doesn’t even flinch.

There’s a deathly pause, the whole Keep seeming to hold its breath alongside the dragon. And then the silence is broken by the mournful bellow of a horn. Without warning, the dragon launches itself into the air, shaking a section of the battlements to rubble with the force of its take-off. It rears its head, releasing the blast of lightning destined for Keothi into the sky. Its powerful wingbeats shake the Keep as it flies up and away.

“It’s… leaving?” Cyd says. Relief makes her breathless and dizzy.
Aleph looks anything but relieved. “I do not understand,” he rumbles. “Why would it give up so easily? Unless this was—”
He is interrupted by Nighthill, who rushes out of the war room. “That horn means the sally port has been breached!” he pants. “The raiders are inside the Keep!”
“A distraction,” the Warforged finishes heavily. He turns, drawing his axe, and he and Cyd follow Nighthill into the tower.

*

Gerard and Saph are already in the corridor outside the sally port when Nighthill and the others arrive. Aleph greets them with a nod.
“You told us the raiders were massing outside the Keep,” he says. “Now we know why.”
Two guards stand in front of the inner door to the Keep, shaking with nerves as it judders on its hinges. The dull sound of weapons hitting wood comes from the other side: the raiders are trying to break it down. They’re succeeding, too; even as the party watch, the wood begins to splinter. An axe head bites all the way through the door, leaving a long and narrow crack in its wake.

“Give me your report,” Nighthill orders the guards.
“They’ve breached the outer door, Governor,” one of the women says. “We bolted the inner door and put the bar in place, but…” she trails off as the cracking sound of protesting wood intensifies. The bar she mentioned is buckling under the strain.

Aleph steps forward, shouldering his way through the people clustered in the tight space. Shield out before him, he braces himself against the door, pushing back against the onslaught on the other side. “We will hold them back as long as we can,” he says. “The corridor here is narrow: when they do break through, they will have to come out in single file.”

Saph leans around Aleph to get a better look at the door, then scans the rest of the group. Her eyes come to rest on a pair of daggers on Cyd’s belt.
“Cyd, could I borrow your little swords?” she asks.
Cyd frowns. “My daggers? If you like, but you should probably leave the fighting to—”
Saph snatches both from Cyd’s belt before the rogue has even finished speaking. She whips one through the crack in the door, where it embeds itself in the eye of a kobold peering through from the other side. There’s a thunk, a hiss of exhaled breath, then the thud of a body hitting the ground.
Saph punches the air. “Hooray! I’m contributing!”
Cyd realises that her mouth is hanging open. She shuts it with an effort. “That was impressive, for a bookworm,” she manages.
The scholar grins. “Lucky shot, I suppose!”

*

Keothi regains his senses to find that both the dragon and his allies have vanished. He nods to himself in satisfaction, and is about to return to his bedroll when he feels a tug on his arm. He looks down. He sighs.
“Yes, Nubbins?”
“You were laughing for a really long time. Are you alright? Did you hear what Governor Nighthill said?”
“Do these questions have a point?”
“The raiders have broken through the sally port,” the gnome continues. “Cyd and Aleph have gone to stop them. I thought you might want to know.”
“I want to sleep,” the goliath grumbles. But it seems that, once again, his presence is required. He touches his spider staff to his forehead; there’s a brief green glow, and then he climbs out of the window, walking horizontally along the wall.

Sticking to the outer wall of the Keep, he circles around to the sally port, which has been barged open and now dangles from one hinge. When he is standing on the lintel of the wrecked door, he draws both his axes. Then, he waits.

*

When the door begins to splinter to fragments around him, Aleph finally steps back. Stones fly through the widening cracks as the raiders grow bolder. One kobold tries to skewer Aleph with a spear; the Warforged brings his shield down on the weapon, snapping it in two, before lodging his axe in the creature’s head. An arrow from Cyd takes down a second. It is closely followed by a dagger, which whizzes past a hair’s breadth from Aleph’s face before lodging in a cultist’s neck. Behind him, Cyd and Saph exchange a high five.
“Why don’t you come out?” Cyd taunts. “There’s plenty more where that came from!”

But though they continue to fling stones and spears through gaps in the door, none of the raiders emerge.
“They wish to lure us inside,” Aleph mutters, after a few seconds. It’s a sound strategy: the door is too narrow for either side to charge through it effectively, so whoever does will be putting themselves at a disadvantage.
“What do you suggest we do?” Gerard whispers.
“Take the bait,” the Warforged answers promptly. “They underestimate our strength. If they can fell me as I enter, they will have done well. If they cannot, they will soon wish they had not launched this assault at all.”

He looks round at the guards, the Governor, the rest of the party. Reading the same determination in each face, he nods. “With me, then.”
So saying, he charges, shield first. The tattered remnant of the door bursts apart as he barrels through and into the vestibule beyond. Gerard follows a step behind, while Cyd fires into the room from the doorway. Caught by surprise, the raiders back towards the open door of the sally port.

That is when Keothi appears behind them, striding into the room along the ceiling. With a deep roar, born as much from sleep deprivation as from battle lust, he launches his hand axes into the raiders’ ranks, decapitating one man at a stroke.

After that, the battle is over quickly. As the last raider is cut down by one of the guards, Nighthill hurries to the outer door.
“We should reseal it quickly,” he says, “before they send reinforcements.”
Aleph holds up a hand. “A moment, Governor.” He picks up the body of the last raider to fall and steps through the ruined entrance onto the causeway beyond. The Keep is surrounded now by raiders, and they watch the Warforged warily from behind makeshift barricades. Aleph raises the body above his head, displaying it to the army at the Keep’s gates. Then he brings it down, breaking it across his knee with a wet snap. “DO NOT TEST US AGAIN!” he bellows.

As soon as he is back inside, Gerard and the guards start barricading the doorway, blocking it with whatever comes to hand. More guards soon flood into the room, bringing planks and nails to hold them in place. They are followed by Councilwoman Jardar her face stony.
“You are needed outside,” she says, addressing the party. “The raiders have taken the mill.”
“There’s no one inside, though, right?” Cyd asks. “Can’t it wait?”
Jardar shoots her a withering look. “We have months’ worth of food stored inside. We did not expect the raiders to be interested in it, but they seem determined to destroy the town. If the stores are burnt or stolen, Greenest will starve.”
“I must sleep,” Keothi groans. At this point, it’s almost a plea.
“We all need to undertake repairs,” Aleph says, “but we cannot stand by while we still have strength.”
“I do not intend to stand,” the goliath replies.
Cyd nudges him with an elbow. “Come on, Keith—it’s almost dawn! One more fight, and then you can rest. I promise.”

Read the next chapter here!

New reader? Check out the first chapter!

News!

Happy 2019, and thanks for reading our first post of the new year! We have some exciting news: if you’ve been enjoying the Tabletop Tales story, you can now play it for yourself, because we’ve just released all of the side quests from the blog on DM’s guild!

The Secrets of Greenest is a collection of all the side quests we’ve played in our campaign so far, plus one that hasn’t come up yet! It’s pay-what-you-want, so you can download it for free, or make a contribution if you’d prefer.

We’ll be adding more adventures, side quests and other content to DM’s Guild over the course of the year, so we would love to hear your thoughts on The Secrets of Greenest. Any feedback, positive or critical, would be very helpful.

Warning: The Secrets of Greenest contains spoilers for upcoming blog posts! 

We’ve got lots more planned for this year, including new content for the blog and DM’s guild, new Patreon rewards and tiers, and more, so stay tuned!

And, as always, thanks for reading. It means a lot to us.

Lou & Cam X

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3 Comments on “Chapter 17: The Long Night, Part 2

  1. Pingback: Session 6: The Long Night, Part 1 – Tabletop Tales

  2. Pingback: Chapter 16: The Long Night, Part 1 – Tabletop Tales

  3. Pingback: DM’s Notes: Session 4 – Tabletop Tales

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