The Boundary Lands

Chapter 7 - The Jeweled Cities (s. 17)

7.2 Dragon Slayers

After arriving in Sijil, the party has a few weeks before their fight. So, they ask around town about House Malatar’s dragons to find out what they are up against. When the dragons fight in the arena a magically constructed, enormous steel cage is set over the battlegrounds so that the creatures cannot fly away. The cage is dome-shaped, and at its peak the height of the dome is low enough to keep the dragons within range of melee attacks at all times, so the party does not have to worry about the front-line fighters, The Zaza, Daza, and Aramil, ever being out of range.

Studying the Enemy

They also discover that the dragons are very young, giving the party hope that they can actually defeat the beasts. Fully grown, adult dragons would surely spell doom for the party – they are steadily becoming very accomplished fighters, but still have little experience with such epic threats as an adult dragon. The dragons are of two different types. One is a black dragon, a dark-scaled monstrosity that spits caustic jets of acid at its foes. The other, which is slightly older and more dangerous, is a blizzard dragon, a deadly creature that sports icy white scales and is encircled in a powerful aura of frost that ebbs and flows throughout the battle. More specifically, they learn that the blizzard dragon slowly builds up its elemental power as it fights, periodically releasing it all in a crescendo of icy death for its enemies.

One benefit of being in Sijil is the city’s numerous bustling marketplaces. The party finds any number of reputable, and disreputable, shops that deal in rare magical concoctions and items. The rules for their fight are quite lax, and the party can enter with whatever equipment they like. So, they decide to purchase a number of potions of resistance, some to protect against acid and some to protect against cold. The plan is to have half of the party be protected from one dragon’s breath weapon, and the other half protected from the other’s (one person cannot benefit from both potions at once). Hopefully, each half of the party will engage the appropriate dragon, and the potency of the creatures’ breath weapons will be greatly reduced. The party also purchases a number of potions of healing and vigor to help sustain them through the fight. Some party members also take advantage of the higher-end merchants in town to upgrade some of their magical equipment, purchasing new weapons and armor with their accumulated gold.

An Anonymous Gift

While strolling through one of the more secluded alleyways in one of the many marketplaces of Sijil, the party is accosted by a dark-cloaked man. He asks if the party is the group that will be fighting the dragons in the arena soon. Much of the city is abuzz for the upcoming contest featuring House Malatar’s dragons, so the party is not surprised that the man recognizes them.

The shadowy figure says that he wishes to give the party something to aid them in their fight. He produces a long, wicked-looking dagger from the folds of his cloak. The jagged, zig-zagging blade appears to be purely ornamental and the weapon features a glistening, bejeweled hilt that looks difficult to wield. Aramil scoffs at the clearly decorative weapon.

The man offers it to the party, telling them it is a magical dragon-slayer blade. It may not look effective, but he assures them it is enchanted to deal a devastating blow to a dragon. It can only be used once, then the blade will disappear as its energy is unleashed on its target. He tells the party it may not be powerful enough to slay one of House Malatar’s dragons outright, but it will deliver a significant wound to one of them.

The party decides they’ll have to investigate the blade themselves, but sees no harm in accepting the gift. The dark stranger tells the party to let no one know they have received this powerful item. They ask the cloaked figure who he is and why he wishes to help them. The man responds, “I would prefer to remain anonymous. Let’s just say I represent some powerful interests that can profit from House Malatar’s loss.”

A Costly Examination

The party takes the blade and the cloaked man disappears into a dark alleyway. Back at their inn, Erik studies the dagger using his arcane training. As best as he can tell, the blade is magical and is capable of delivering a huge, one-time surge of energy to a target. The arcane enchantments on the weapon are quite complex, though, and he can tell little beyond that. Although the cloaked man that gave them the weapon told them to keep it secret, the party decides it’s worth the risk to take it to a trained enchanter to confirm what the dagger does, and that it is not actually a cursed weapon that will backfire on its wielder. They find a reputable, well-respected arcane expert, pay a small fee, and leave the dagger with him to be examined.

As the fight draws closer, the party decides to look into placing bets on the fight. Gambling and gladiatorial contests go hand-in-hand in the Jeweled Cities, and the party figures they have nothing to lose, since if the fight doesn’t go well for them they won’t be around to mourn the loss of their gold. Unfortunately, they find that the convention is not to bet on one side winning the fight, but rather to bet on whether individual combatants will still be standing at the end of the fight (which does not include combatants on the winning side that are alive but unconscious at the conclusion of the battle).

Thus, the party members must choose to place bets individually. If they win the fight, but the party member they put money on is unconscious at the conclusion of the fight, they still lose their gold. The party has some time to mull over their bets, as they cannot be placed until a few days before the fight. Needless to say, the odds heavily favor House Malatar’s dragons to emerge victorious, and there is plenty of money to be made if the party can survive the fight intact.

A couple of days later the party returns to the enchanter’s shop and is pleased at his assessment of their magical dagger. He tells the party it is a dragon-slaying blade, a one-time use weapon designed to deliver a mortal wound to a dragon. As best as he can tell, it is not cursed. Handing the weapon back to the party, he eyes them inquisitively, perhaps with a hint of recognition. The party hurries out of the shop, hoping the wizard doesn’t put two and two together.

A few days before the fight, the party heads down to the arena to place their bets. A large crowd has gathered, and a variety of agents from numerous merchant houses call out above the din to attract bettors their way. The party approaches an agent and is dismayed to find that the odds for them to win the fight have greatly increased! Apparently word has gotten out that the party has a powerful magical dragon-slaying weapon to use in the fight, so the pay-off for betting on any one of the party members has decreased. The party curses the enchanter they hired to analyze the magical dagger, but figures it was still worth the cost to be sure House Malatar wasn’t trying to slip them a cursed item.

The party places their bets. The Zaza bets 1,000gp on herself. Erik spreads out the risk, putting 500gp on himself, 500gp on The Zaza, and 500gp on Aramil. Aramil puts his faith in the well-armored front-line fighters of the party, putting 1,000gp on himself and 1,000gp on The Zaza. Invicto spreads out a 1,500gp bet evenly between all the party members.

The Spectacle of the Century

The day of the fight arrives, and the party heads down to the massive arena in the middle of the city. Waiting in a dark, narrow tunnel, they reunite with Daza and hand him a few of the potions they have procured, including a Potion of Resistance. All of the party members down their Potion of Resistance, and some drink a Potion of Vigor as well. They fill Daza in on the magical dragon-slaying dagger and ask him to wield it. The party knows he is just as accurate, if not more so, than any of them with a blade, and since he fights with a weapon in each hand he will still be able to wield one of his preferred weapons, a scimitar, along with the dagger. Since the blizzard dragon is the older and stronger of the two, they tell Daza to use the weapon on it the first chance he gets.

The noise from the spectators filling the stadium is like nothing the party has ever heard, or even imagined. House Malatar’s dragons are the biggest spectacle the arenas have seen in decades, maybe centuries. People come from all over the Jeweled Cities to see the dragons fight, and the arena is packed well beyond capacity, with throngs of people standing in aisles and stairwells straining to get a view of the fight.

A speaker for House Malatar introduces the dragons first. His eloquent speech about the exotic beasts, their terrifying power, and their vicious ferocity whips the crowd into a frenzy. The dragons enter to thunderous applause and are led out of a large tunnel on the other side of the arena, directly into the huge steel cage encompassing most of the sandy floor of the stadium. A speaker for House Un’rynan introduces Daza and the rest of the party to half-hearted cheers and they file into the steel cage. The dragons do not wait for any sign to begin the match, and the battle is joined.

The party knows the blizzard dragon is the more dangerous foe, and its elemental power must slowly build over time until it is released, so they focus all of their energy on it first, hoping to bring it down before it can get its most devastating attack off. The front-line fighters all rush to engage the beast while Erik and Invicto hang back. Daza proves to be a very capable combatant. He stalks the blizzard dragon like a hunter, quickly finding weaknesses in its guard and slashing it with his scimitar. Unfortunately, it avoids his first thrust of the magical dagger.

The Zaza quickly finds herself caught between the two dragons as the black dragon moves alongside its fighting partner. She is buffeted by a slashing barrage of claws and fangs from both sides, but manages to fend off most of the attacks with her shield. Aramil shouts some inspirational words to The Zaza just before the black dragon unleashes a torrent of burning acid onto the two fighters. Unfortunately, Aramil and The Zaza imbibed the Potions of Resistance against cold, so they have little defense against the black’s attack.

Meanwhile, Daza darts through the blizzard dragon’s defenses and lands a blow with the magical dagger. It buries itself deep into the dragon’s side as it begins glowing with brilliant magical energy. Blinding rays of light shoot out of the wound as the dragon howls in pain. Once the light subsides, there is no trace of the dagger, just a gaping bloody wound in the side of the dragon.

Bloodied and enraged by the attack, the blizzard dragon unleashes a blast of freezing frost that engulfs Daza and Erik. Unfortunately, Daza and Erik imbibed the Potions of Resistance against acid, so they have little defense against the blizzard dragon’s attack. Nonetheless, the dragon is clearly severely wounded, and the party channels all of their offensive efforts towards the beast. Erik summons his flaming sphere and sears the icy dragon along its tail while The Zaza unleashes a Blazing Brand upon it. The dragon is soon nearing death, though the party can feel the creature drawing its elemental power around it. They pull out all of their tricks but are unable to finish it off before it unleashes its icy aura onto the party.

Freezing winds and stinging ice buffet the party members, and pure cold elemental energy seeps into their bones, sapping their strength. The attack is brutal, but all of the party members manage to barely stay on their feet, though they are all near death. Daza has picked up a few tricks fighting in the arena, and he quickly swallows an herbal concoction that replenishes some of his energy. Aramil draws upon all of his own healing resources to keep himself and The Zaza standing, while Erick quickly catches his second wind. As they regroup, the party lands a few blows on the blizzard dragon and that is fortunately all it takes to finish off the beast.

The party is badly hurt, but with one less opponent to worry about they gain a significant tactical advantage. They surround the black dragon and begin showering it with attacks. Daza’s two scimitars cut into one of its wings while Aramil slices open one of its hind legs. The dragon dives in to bite at The Zaza with its razor sharp fangs, but the paladin deflects the blow with her shield and retaliates by opening a vicious gash just below one of its eyes with her axe. All the while, Erik and Invicto rain down arcane fire on the beast from afar.

The black manages to position itself to unleash its breath weapon again, but the party is almost thankful that the attack includes Daza since at least one of the Potions of Resistance proves mildly useful. By the end of the fight, all of the party members are seriously wounded, and all of their healing resources have been drained. But, they are able to spread out the dragon’s attacks and keep their opponents from focusing on anyone in particular. Thus, all of the party members are still standing at the end of the fight (and all of their bets pay off).

Although House Malatar’s dragons were popular, the assembled crowd is jubilant with excitement. The spectators were lucky enough to witness real-life dragon slayers, and were treated to perhaps the most exciting battle the Jeweled Cities have ever seen. The cheers and applause filling the stadium are deafening, and the party basks in their newfound fame and glory. The party knows they never would have survived the fight without the magical dragon-slaying dagger, but they also know that most other fighters would have still perished to the dragons even with its aid. They thank their good fortune for the gift and revel in their victory.

Fame and glory are nice, but Daza is just thankful for his freedom. He leaves the arena with the party, no longer the property of any other man. The group decides a celebration is in order, and is grateful to find they don’t have to pay for their drinks anywhere they go. They are now recognized throughout Sijil as the ‘dragon slayers’, and barkeeps everywhere are just excited to have them in their tavern. Young fans flock to them on the street, and they are adored and respected wherever they go.

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