25th of Kythorn (continued)
Balthus teleports the four adventurers to Castle Dragonsbane and, exhausted from his ordeals in the Temple of Unknowable Horror, retires to the Bloody Stump. Shaffer and Dalnim take this opportunity to spar and touch up on their techniques while Saladin goes into Heliogabalus and indulges in as many vices as he can, reveling in the gift of life. Exhausted after the day’s activities, the four adventurers get some well-earned rest.
26th of Kythorn
The four adventurers awake in the early noon the next day, and ponder among themselves what their next course of action should be. Before they can reach a definitive conclusion, they are interrupted by a commotion in the streets. Panicking citizens and worried soldiers tell the heroes that a dragon has been sighted to the north along with a vast army that is headed for the city. The four heroes rush to the north city gate and see the monstrous Nightmare Army that marches on towards the city, but there is no sign of the dragon.
Balthus, Shaffer and Dalnim ride out towards the army and try to goad Illisuspirira the red dragon into showing herself. Balthus intimidates the horde of giants and goblinoids with his boasting and then rides back to the city walls. Then they see her: Illisuspiria, the Red Queen of Nightmares, swoops in and attacks the soldiers at the gate with a well-placed breath of fire. Balthus, Shaffer and Dalnim are safely tucked away beneath the gatehouse, but Saladin is caught in the blast. Fortunately, he has time to react and is able to shield himself from the blast with a quick bit of wizardry. He then hastily erects a wall of fire and a wall of force to slow down the advancing army, while the other three heroes prepare to teleport onto the dragon and take the fight to her.
Despite their valiant efforts, the three heroes fail to harm Illisuspiria in any significant way, but Saladin and Shaffer turn their attention to the Nightmare Army instead, weakening their forces significantly. The Red Queen recognizes Balthus as a descendant of her hated enemy Nathrepulisthis and sees fit to capture him alive for further torture later. Thanks to Dalnim’s meddling, Balthus is able to wriggle free from Illisuspiria’s grasp long enough to teleport to safety. Dalnim is flung halfway across the city and lands in one of the gardens of Castle Dragonsbane.
Around this time, Hector of Kratopolis, High Priest of Tyr, arrives with his army and engages with the Nightmare Army. With his help, Saladin and Shaffer are able to push back the monsters and break them off the battlefield. Balthus and Dalnim attempt to fool the enraged dragon into bringing most of the castle down upon her head, but she is simply too powerful to be stopped in such a manner.
With the Nightmare Army broken and scattered, Saladin and Shaffer move with Haste back to the castle to confront the dragon and save their friends. Hector and his contingent of elite guards follow suit. An epic and exhausting battle ensues, as Illisuspiria attempts to kidnap Balthus while the others strike at her armored hide to little avail. Finally, Balthus escapes the dragon’s grasp, but she spits a gout of flame on the four companions. Dalnim bravely gives his life to save that of Balthus from the fire and when a deadly claw rakes Saladin’s hide, Shaffer selflessly uses his Ring of Friend Shield to absorb the brunt of the damage and perishes from his wounds. This buys Saladin enough time to construct an Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere around himself and Balthus and save his life.
When Hector’s forces arrive to drive off the dragon, she vows revenge on Saladin and flies off, but not before destroying a significant portion of the city. King Gareth and his court finally emerge from the rubble, thank the two companions sincerely for their sacrifice and tend to their wounds. The two are put on a wagon and ridden out west towards Bloodstone Pass where the king hopes to rally his forces and turn back Illisuspiria’s tide of evil.