Ustizarmo considers the party. While powerful, he is pragmatic, and decides to try a less direct approach.
“You are no match for me. Better that you leave here, and run back to your little village.” Ustizarmo stretches his wings wide as he says this, being as threatening as possible. Kevara is obviously shaken because they stand before a dragon; yes, a small one, but a dragon nonetheless. “Alternatively, you could stay to replace my minions that you dispatched – it is clear to me that you are far more capable than Big Grigbad and his ilk. I am a reasonable master, and only punish incompetence, as you saw just a few moments ago.”
The group briefly talks amongst themselves; they are bruised and battered, weak and low on resources. A fight with this creature could easily end in their deaths. Ustizarmo settles back on his haunches, attempting to appear as regal and strong as possible. A short conversation ensues, and the party is attempting to come to a decision when Shayla suddenly says, “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not going to just roll over and die for some wizard’s pet lizard.” Instantly, Ustizarmo is enraged. “Pet lizard?” he roars. “YOU WILL DIE!”
And did I ROAR it, too, hitting that final word and punctuating it with as much hate and anger as I could muster on behalf of a small dragon. It did what I intended.
Shayla is prepared – she sends her spirit wolf in to battle to strike and get into position. The dragon’s superior reach, however, gives him the advantage, and Ustizarmo attacks as it comes close enough. The wolf is impaled on his horn, severing its connection to the physical realm. Shayla suffers a little damage due to the spiritual backlash, and she stumbles in pain. Lazan moves in for an attack and misses; Kevara fires a bolt of dark energy and it goes wide, smashing into the cave wall. Loranys attacks, her greatsword grazing Ustizarmo’s scales – a hit, but not a very damaging one.
Ustizarmo roars again, firing off a blast of lightning breath. The blast chains between Loranys, Kevara, and Dorn, and Loranys stumbles – she’s badly hurt, and another attack like that could possibly kill her outright. Dorn and Caelissa attack his unprotected flanks, and Dorn issues a challenge to Ustizarmo to attack him instead.
Shayla heals Loranys and summons her spirit wolf companion. Sorti, the goddess of luck, favors the party, and the next few rounds go by with the group making successful attacks against Ustizarmo, but he does little damage in return. Infused with a false sense of power, the group manages to back Ustizarmo into a corner; a followup attack by Caelissa bloodies the dragon…
…who immediately unleashes lightning breath, catching Loranys, Dorn, and Caelissa. Caelissa nimbly dodges aside, taking a minimum amount of damage, but Dorn and Loranys take a full blast. Loranys collapses, unconscious. Dorn forces Ustizarmo back, putting himself between the dragon and Loranys’ fallen form. The group scrambles, knowing that they are now at a severe disadvantage. They have to win, or die – fleeing is no longer an option with Loranys so badly injured.
The team uses their most powerful attacks; Caelissa manages to sneak her way into position to make a devastating strike on Ustizarmo, dealing an incredible blow. Letting out a savage bellow, the dragon lunges for Loranys but falls short, dying in mid-leap.
Recovering from the devastating battle, the group revives Loranys and spends a few minutes resting and restoring their health. After their recovery, they go through the dragon’s hoard, finding a great deal of valuables, several magic items, and a pretty big pile of coins. They immediately load everything up into sacks and head off to Ardenor to find the villagers of Camlain.
The team finds Millia and informs her that they found the bandit lair, and defeated their dragon leader. She is surprised at this, enough that she doesn’t think to ask about the village’s valuables. Millia tells them of their possible routes home: either through the mountains, by way of boat, or by way of the road. The road is the safest but the longest, the boat is the shortest and the most dangerous, and the mountain path is somewhere between the two. She gathers the rest of the villagers and heads home; the team finds a fence for the valuables they discovered, upgrade to more portable currencies, and choose the mountain path for their journey back to Three Hills.
At this point, I hope you’ve noticed what I noticed. Yep, that’s right – our heroes have fenced the villagers’ property. I didn’t bring this up in the hopes that someone would realize it, but they didn’t, and they didn’t get as much of an experience reward that they would have otherwise. They also passed up about three separate plot hooks in the city of Ardenor, something I decided not to mention to them until a later game session.