With the orcs dealt with, the party heads back to Phandalin. There, they present their success and report that the orcs were just a raiding party, not part of a larger uprising. Townmaster Harbin Wester grudgingly acknowledges that they did a good job, and hands over the reward he was offering for dealing with the orcs.
That night, the town citizens gather at the Stonehill Inn to celebrate their new heroes, both for dealing with the orc raiders as well as for taking down the Redbrands. None of the party were allowed to buy a single drink that night, and everyone had a good time.
During the evening, a local farm woman, a Halfling named Qelline Alderleaf, approached the party. She had heard that they were looking for Cragmaw Castle. While she had never heard of it herself, she does know of a person that might know where it is. She mentions an old druid that is known to wander these parts, Reidoth, the druid. Lael gasps in recognition. She has met Reidoth once, during her early training in being a druid. She remembers him as being mostly silent and rather grumpy in a scary kind of way. Qelline says that last she had heard, Reidoth was hanging out in a ruined town called Thundertree.
Thundertree was apparently a town that was destroyed not long after Mount Hotenow erupted. The eruption itself didn’t reach the town, but not long after the ash fell on the town, strange zombies rose up and attacked, forcing the townsfolk to flee. Mostly, the town is abandoned now, with very few actual zombies left.
This being the first real lead they have on the location of the castle, the party agrees to head to Thundertree. Nissin decides that, given the town is about 4 days away, to rent a wagon and some horses to make the trip easier. The trip itself is pretty uneventful, and included a quick stop in Neverwinter. They arrive in Thundertree the next morning, where they find some crudely built signs warning people away from the town due to zombies and deadly plants.
They party quickly decides this is more of a challenge than a warning, and marches in. They are quickly set upon by small, plant like creatures. The battle is quick, though during it Nissin is wounded when one of the creatures leaps into the wagon. The party, now wary of the town, moves deeper in, but before they can investigate more, a figure appears.
It was a wild eyed, white bearded man wielding a quarter staff and waving his arms. He yelled at them for ignoring his signs, but quickly figured out they were adventurers (which he seemed to think was only slightly better than stupid people). Lael then blurted out that she recognized him as Master Reidoth. He needed at her, vaguely remembering her from her training.
He brought them back to a rickety shack he was currently living in to discuss the situation. The party explains that they were in Thundertree to seek him out, because they had been told that he might know where Cragmaw Castle would be. He nods in recognition of the name, knowing it as a headquarters for a tribe of goblins.
Reidoth explains that he came to Thundertree due to something new that changed in the town. A young, green dragon named Virmathrax. It had arrived a few months ago and has set up shop in the remains of the town tower. Reidoth has been watching him to make sure he doesn’t strike out from his new home, but he does wish to take care of the dragon problem soon before the dragon becomes a real problem later.
He makes the party a deal. Kill Virmathrax for him, and then he will show them the way to Cragmaw Castle.
The party discusses this, wondering if it’s a good idea, but in the end decides to do it, as so far this is their best chance of finding Cragmaw. Plus, killing a dragon always looks good on the adventuring resume.
He point the party towards the only building in town over one story still mostly standing, the old tower. It once belonged to a wizard, but now it’s been hollowed out to house the dragon. Virmathrax himself goes in and out the top of the tower, but a small house attached to the side has a more normal entrance for the party to use. If they go at night, they are more likely to catch the dragon sleeping. Agreeing to this plan, the party rests and prepares.
That night, they see the dragon fly down out of the sky and land into the tower. Droop is left behind, as they move into the house next door. Quickly, they move to attack, striking the tower from the small house. Meleas and Torian charge the green dragon, striking as hard as they can and getting the dragon’s attention. Amos helps as best he can, striking with his rapier and quickly backing away. But it is the wizard Nissan and the druid Lael that do the most damage to the dragon with their magic.
Young but not stupid, Virmathrax realizes the true threat, and lets loose with his breath weapon, dropping both spell casters in one attack.
Amos quickly realizes what happens. He casts his Vicious Mockery spell, distracting Virmathrax enough that the warriors are able to get his full attention. Amos then quickly moves into the small house to take care of the spell casters. He uses his meager healing skills to bring Nissin back to consciousness, and helps the wizard stand so he can re-join the fight, week as he was. Amos then moved to check on the druid, and here he received some horrible news.
Lael was dead.
With a cry of pain, he stood and moved next the wizard, who was casting magic missiles at the dragon. With anger in his eyes, Amos aimed another Vicious Mockery spell at the dragon, again distracting him. This allowed Meleas to call upon the power of her diety and strike a holy blow, killing the dragon.
Before waiting for the dragon’s body to even hit the floor, Amos rushed back into the house to pick up the body of his dead elf friend, and carried it to the hut where Reidoth and Droop wait. He kicked open the door, startling the goblin, and then stood there, staring at the druid. Reidoth, for his part, slowly sipped from his cup as he looked at the body in Amos’ arms.
Droop, after recovering from his shock, ran to the body of his master and poked her, trying to see if she was really dead. He called to her quietly, and tears sprung into his eyes. Amos, ignoring the goblin, marched across the floor, and placed the body in front of Reidoth, who hadn’t moved or removed his eyes from Amos’.
“Heal her,” the bard said. “Bring her back. She died fighting your fight for you, and so you will bring her back. You will do it, and you will not ask for anything in return. This is the least you can do.”
Reidoth stared down the young man for a moment before sighing.
“Leave my hut,” he said.
Amos only stared at him.
“Leave now,” the druid repeated. “If you want your friend back, you will take your goblin and leave me so I can work.”
Still angry, Amos turned around, grabbed Droop by the arm, and walked out the hut. The rest of the party was only then catching up to him, and he filled them in on what was happening. They all waited outside as chanting and strange lights came from the hut inside.
Several hours later, with the moon now high in the sky, Lael opened her eyes. She sat up, slowly and with the help of Reidoth, and asked what happened. The druid explained that she had been killed by the dragon, and that, at the very strong request of her human friend, he brought her back to the best of his ability. He informed her that it may take a little bit for her to get used to her new form, but that despite the changes, she was still Lael, the same Lael she was before her death. He spirit had just been bound to a new form.
He then gave her a serious look and made sure she was paying attention to her.
“Despite what your young friend outside believes, this spell cost me,” he said. “it cost me dearly. You, my dear, now very literally owe me your life. One day, I will come to you for payment.”
Lael, understanding the druid master, nodded. This only made sense to her.
“Now,” he said, “go. Re-Introduce yourself to your friends.”
She nodded again, thanked the master, and then took a few halting steps outside. The rest of the party rushed up to her, then halted when they saw not the young, small elf women they expected, but instead, a tall, lavender skinned tiefling. They all gasped.
“Hello, my friends,” she said. “It’s me. Lael.”