Attacking the Darkness!

Raising the Flag

Back in the chapel, Aeryn and Rhaine give the dead vampire a much-needed pantsing. Slade then decides to cut off his balls to add to the growing collection of creature testicles, pincers, fangs, and venom sacs that he delights in carrying around. Slade makes a diaper for Hyperion and tosses the Shilling of Delicate Bowels in there with it so he won’t have to concern himself with shitting his pants again at an inopportune time.

Alaric still feels the curse of the undead on his soul. He has unholy wounds of a cursed nature that are beyond Silver’s ability to heal. As they search for an answer to his conundrum, the party rests and regroups.

Morning breaks and the birds begin chirping to signal them another day has come. Alaric drags the pantsless, headless body of the vampire—along with its head—outside into the sunlight. The flesh begins to sizzle and melt away, evaporating into a stinky gas.

Silver takes the vampire’s remaining humerus bone (though he probably wouldn’t find it funny) and stuffs it in a pack to later craft a beautiful flute out of it. Aeryn, meanwhile, searches the vampire’s personal effects for the deed to the graveyard. Upon finding it, she examines it—sure enough, it bears the signatures of Lord and Lady Frostmantle (so the dirty fucking vampire wasn’t lying!)—and stuffs it in her belt. She feels angry that her lands were given away so freely, but she is happy she is in possession of the deed now.

While Alaric inspects for vampire tracks, Silver pets Milky and Fluffy—Rhaine’s two supercute pandas—and Slade goes to inspect the tree in the courtyard. It is old and beautiful. A blue jay lands on a branch and sings him a soothing song. Slade pulverizes the blue jay with a bullet from his sling, causing the bird to basically explode in a pool of blood. Silver, noticing the blue jay feathers on the ground, picks them up and slips them into her hair.

Approximately one-quarter mile to the south, the party notices the Frostmantle castle. David is puzzled; he knows there is no way the party traveled in a northerly direction because they traveled a short while and are all the way on the other side instead of at the castle, which is where they were headed.

Rhaine wisely decides to consult with her pandas about this apparent oddity. She gets from them that they ran far and fast to get there. And not much else…

“Boccob has led us astray,” Slade jokes.

“Boccob led us to this victory!” Silver counters.

Just as they are in the middle of arguing, Alaric’s keen ranger senses detect steps coming from the north. A familiar man—the priest who bartered with them for Alaric’s life—comes walking toward them. Alaric stands up and says “Priest!” as the man scans the graveyard.

The priest shushes him, pats his hand out, closes his eyes, and says, “You have all done a great service here. You’ve eradicated great evil from this grave.”

“Is that what that was?” Alaric asks.

David hugs the priest.

“Praise Boccob!” Silver cries out with glee.

“That vampire scratched me like a bitch!” Alaric says.

“It was a vampire, then? I suspected as much all along,” the priest replies.

“Why are you here?”

“I felt a shift…”

“Is there more darkness here?” Rhaine queries cautiously, not wanting to drop her guard in a potentially precarious place.

“Not in this graveyard. This place is clean.”

“Priest, do you know how we’ve gotten here? We went under the castle twelve parsecs away and came up here,” David claims.

The priest says it makes sense the royal family would have a way to get here without being attacked by outside forces. The party realizes they have to go back through the catacombs to get to where they need to be, but not before they’re finished speaking with the priest.

“May I ask you a favor?” Alaric questions him.

“You’ve already taken a favor from me.”

“I killed a vampire.”

“Well, that does even the scoreboard a bit.”

Alaric asks the priest to heal his curse because he was attacked by the darkness (Wink wink! Nudge nudge!).

“You are cursed. It should have gone away when you killed the vampire. I’m sure with the powers of my deity, we can defeat it. It will take mighty praying and magic back at my place of worship,” the man informs him.

“The only thing I have to give is myself. I’m not going to do it.”

“A sacrifice of oneself to a god is the greatest sacrifice one can give.”

The priest then reminds him they have two days until his life expires. Aeryn intercedes and says she’ll give the deed to the cemetery and church to him for his church. He says this could be a great place for people to worship once the Frostmantles have been cleared out. The man agrees to the exchange, offering his services in exchange for removing the curse from Alaric.

“We must do it in a place of worship.”

They all return to the chapel and approach the altar. The priest says, “This is now a place of worship for my god. Kneel.” Alaric does as commanded and the priest starts murmuring. “Close your eyes. The light of God is about to shine and you must not be blinded!”

With great heat and energy, Alaric’s face burns and sears painfully and he collapses, clutching his face. All at once, the pain is gone and Alaric is left unconscious, curled up in a fetal position.

“Your friends need you now,” the priest says to the ranger. Alaric slowly comes to in the arms of a panda. He now bears a great scar across his visage. It is blackened flesh from the vampire, but Alaric wears it proudly, as a badge of honor. The ranger feels as though his potential has returned.

“The curse is gone, but the scar will remain forever and the curse will continue to touch you in ways you may not know. You have two day to dethrone the Frostmantle control.”

Rhaine asks the priest to watch over her two pandas while they go through the dangerous catacombs.

“I’m not really good with pandas.”

“They’re helper pandas. You could tie a little harness on them and get them to clean up the church,” she explains.

He agrees and says, “Watching pandas is its own reward.”

The party then departs to the catacombs once again. As David is climbing down the rungs of the ladder, he free falls down and into Rhaine’s arms. Upon landing in her safe embrace, he passes a little gas from the surprise, and Rhaine is happy to learn the gnome farts glitter, which she is now covered in from head to toe.

“Smells like someone took a steaming pile of Othok in here,” Silver says, taking a dig at Slade’s god because of his earlier slight on Boccob. They bicker about their respective gods as the party comes to a closed door where the troll was trapped behind when last they checked. All is quiet and smelly. Silver opens the door.

“Okay, everybody get ready in case there’s shizzle out there!”

As the door cracks open, they see nothing in their immediate vicinity. The party walks to the right and down a ways into an unexplored stretch of hall. The smell is beastly. It smells of animals and dung.

Creeping around a corner, Rhaine hears breathing and sees two sleeping trolls in the room with a half-eaten corpse of one of the other trolls on the ground. Slade puts a fire opal under the closer one’s foot and scurries quickly away. Rhaine casts wyvern watch so if they step in it, it will paralyze them. David casts lightning bolt on the trolls. The other party members huddle behind their shields like a phalanx.

A bolt flashes off the walls, ripping cleanly through the trolls. They stand to their feet, howling with rage. One of them steps on the fire opal and it almost kills him. Both of the trolls are now completely shocked, pissed off, and confused. They have been knocked down on the ground, making for an easy kill for Aeryn, who impales one with the Sword of Dragonsbane. Alaric and Aeryn cut off both of the trolls’ arms and legs. Slade pinches off the bottoms of the trolls’ stomach sacs and pours them into an empty jar. Aeryn, Silver, and even Slade himself throw up at the sight of so much blood.

The party then proceeds to light the trolls on fire before turning about and traveling back through the catacombs. They return to the barred door, and David is able to shrink some of the middle bars, allowing for them to creep through quite easily.

The hallway opens up into a room with a carpet. Along the eastern wall is a large treasure chest. As Slade approaches the chest to inspect it for traps, it opens its mouth and tries to attack. Unfortunately for him, the large mimic’s skin is impervious to sling bullets. Thinking quickly, Rhaine drapes a piece of fabric over it so it is less bitey; the only bite it boasts now is a velvety bite. As the party begins ganging up on the mimic, one of its teeth rips the velvet. Aeryn draws its attention away from her friends by hopping around and yelling “torro, torro!” at it.

Silver ignites the velvet with her flame sword. The velvet lights up like a dead Christmas tree and the mimic shrieks. It lunges toward Aeryn but isn’t able to hit her because it’s on fire.

“Your mother imitated bad furniture!” she screams, managing a lame-ass taunt.

“I thought that wood looked cheap!” Alaric joins in.

“Your father was a Chippendale!” Slade adds.

“You’re cheaper than IKEA!” Aeryn hurls an additional insult at it, as if being set aflame while encased in velvet isn’t shameful enough.

David tells Alaric the mimic is a goblin, and for a while the ranger unsuccessfully tries to kill it, but the mimic is already in poor form. The mimic dies, and with its death the entire room is set on fire.

David uses spectral hand to goose Aeryn, but she only responds by walking over and slapping him.

Seeing as how they have no other option, the party walks back to where the pit with the spikes is. Rhaine tosses her torch down to the stone floor below. David is soon elected to be the dangler. The party proceeds with their cunning plan of lowering the gnome down into the hole.

“Don’t drop me!” he gasps to Alaric.

David soon finds himself in a room with a door. Slade joins him and both of the men notice the old symbol of the Dragonsbane family has been crossed out on the door. Slade tries to open it, but it is locked. The rest of the party joins them in the pit, and Slade takes this moment to put the grub on the floor and teach him the commands “go” and “stop.”

Being the smart gnome that he is, David casts knock on the door and it opens. They proceed north through the hallway, and as they continue on, they feel more warmth and hear breathing. David searches for burrowing animals. To his great surprise (and their eventual dismay), he discovers Terrak and Mindy.

“Hello, Caldarraksondorlak,” they greet him cheerfully—perhaps a little too cheerfully given what’s about to happen to them.

“Do you know what’s in the room ahead of us?” David queries.

“Oh yeah! It’s a big dragon.”

“Is there any way around it?”

“You can just sneak around it. It’s sleeping. So how’ve you been?”

Aeryn decides she wants to keep them as her pets because she just adores rodents, but they don’t want to climb in her pockets because they have exploring to do—naturally. They tell David they want to eat the grub Hyperion or they’ll wake up the dragon. David tells them he could tell them where there i a whole room full of grubs, but they merely say they’re hungry now and demand Hyperion once again.

Thinking quickly, and noticing the look of moley hunger on their faces, Rhaine produces two jars and traps them both in their new little temporary habitats.

“You tricked us, you con man! You tricked us, you bastard!” they both yell at David. They both give him the finger in unison. “If you let us out, we’ll tell you how to get past the dragon.”

“We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” Slade tells them in perfect seriousness.

David can tell Mindy’s crying little mole tears. He reassures them that as soon as they get past the dragon, they’ll let them out and tell them where to get the grubs.

“I can’t believe you’re doing this to us, your friends!”

“Slade says friends don’t make threats about waking up dragons!” David replies. Touché!

The moles instruct the adventurers to proceed quietly past the dragons. Being the perceptive Druid that she is, Rhaine senses Mindy is not happy. She scoops her up out of the jar, holds on to her, and rubs her little mole head with her chin. David entrusts Terrak’s jar to Slade. As Slade moves forward into the large chamber, Terrak’s jar fumbles out of his pack and shatters (of course).

“Woo hoo!” the little mole exclaims upon gaining his first taste of freedom. Then, spying the dragon, he adds a quick, “Oh shit!” and scampers away. He attempts to hide in the shadows but fails.

The steady breathing in the background immediately stops. A deep bellowing groan emits from the bowels of the chamber, spilling out toward them. Aeryn walks into the big ass room to see if it responds to her. Light appears in the room, along with a bronze-colored fully grown dragon. It stands up, turns around, and looks straight at Slade up close. The halfling is paralyzed by fear of what the dragon could do to him sexually. As he later explains to his friends, it is not the first time he has seen a dragon; he once watched two dragons have sex when he was younger.

The dragon sits up and speaks in a voice eerily reminiscent of Sean Connery. “Come on out from the hallway.”

Surprisingly, he is speaking in Common. Everyone is too terrified to realize this, however. Most of them (with the exception of Slade) haven’t seen a dragon before.

“First of all, you’ve woken me up from my slumber. Speak your names.”

“I’m Master Slade Darkblade. I’d like to ride you.”

Without skipping a beat, the dragon replies, “You’ve got some balls, kid.”

Aeryn Dragonsbane then introduces herself.

“Really? That’s an interesting one. So you’re Dragonsbane. Do you know who I am?”

“Yes.”

“You’re lying.”

“I’m not. My mother told me stories of seeing dragons in her youth, back in a day when dragons ruled the world.”

“My name is Tyron Thraxus.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

“I thought the Dragonsbanes all died.”

“There’s at least one.”

She informs him the Frostmantles killed her people and he can’t believe it. She tells him she will be returned to her birthright. The dragon then says he’ll let them pass if they give him all their gold because “it’s incredibly comfortable to sit on.”

“Go on, talk amongst yourselves.”

“You should know some of my gold is cursed and will give you immeasurable diarrhea!” Slade informs him.

“I do not want your gold.”

“What if I give you this delicious bone to chew on?” Silver says, pulling out the vampire humerus bone she had been saving up specially for the flute. Bedlam immediately tries to grab it but is unsuccessful.

Everyone decides that, rather than pull a fast one on the dragon, it’s better to just pay up and not have to deal with him as an adversary. Especially after they just killed a fucking vampire!

David asks the dragon if he has any other treasures to give them that he doesn’t want.

“I’ve got some vases.”

“Are they pretty?” the gnome asks.

“They’re gorgeous, but I can’t sleep on them. Come, look at my vase collection.”

He directs their attention to his rather impressive vase collection. They are clearly valuable, but no one shows interest.

“So you don’t want the vases? Can I interest you in a magazine subscription?”

Silver tries to preach to the dragon about Boccob, but here merely says, “The deities of mortals don’t concern me.” He also says he and the Dragonsbanes basically left each other alone and he very much likes it that way.

As they are turning to leave, he instructs Alaric to “go easy. I can tell you carry a burden.” With a smile, he adds, “Goodbye, friends. It was nice talking.”

The passage continues behind him, narrowing down into a hallway in an easterly direction. It opens up into a roundish room. There is a large spiral stone stairway going straight up a ways. They follow it up until it terminates at a hefty stone door emblazoned with the Dragonsbane crest. It moves quietly like a pocket door on a well-oiled and maintained track as Slade opens it. There is a purple piece of fabric hanging across the door and they hear two or three voices, a low murmur. Slade creeps up and peeks his head out from under the curtain, but there is a piece of furniture blocking it, indicating that this is, in fact, a secret door.

Rhaine puts Mindy in her pocket for safekeeping. David retrieves his dagger, cuts a tiny slit in the fabric big enough for his eye, and sits on Alaric’s shoulders to try and peer through the fabric. It’s no use; the piece of furniture is very tall and blocks his vision.

The party sneaks around the sides of the fabric and furniture, ans as they come out from behind the curtain they find themselves in the middle of the throne of Castle Frostmantle. The furniture was the throne itself and the piece of fabric the drapery framing it. A royal red carpet extends from the throne.

The voices immediately stop their hushed tones. Five older men look up in complete shock and surprise at the sudden intrusion. They are all older and wearing important, official-looking noble robes. Before they can even think to question them, Aeryn announces, “I am Aeryn Dragonsbane and I am here to take what is mine.”

As the party readies their weapons, Alaric directs Bedlam to kill anyone who so much as attempts to flee.

“Don’t any of you motherfuckers move,” he growls.

One of the older battle-hardened men steps forward, holding a hand up to the others as if to signal “I’ve got this.”

“Miss Aeryn, you’ve returned home.”

“it’s been a long time, Gaius.”

“I don’t know who you think I am, but… you look about the right age. You are Aeryn, aren’t you?”

“I am.”

“And you’re here to take the throne?”

“Yes.”

“Then you know we can’t let you do this, right?”

“I don’t want to have to kill you, but I will.”

“Aeryn, don’t let the dragon loose on him!” Slade says in hushed tones.

The party descends upon the group of men, and David is able to upset their casting with a spell of his own: burning hands.

“Knock it off, you screwheads!” Slade warns them.

“Are you gonna let the lady talk, or do we need to finish this?” Alaric growls.

The men look genuinely surprised the situation is not turning into an all-out fracas.

“Clearly we’re dealing with some foes of a great might. Clearly nobody wishes to perish,” the lead man says. “Okay, Aeryn Dragonsbane…”

David slaps him with spectral hand. “Show some respect.”

“Let’s say you do get control. What will you do? Will you just rule?”

“Yes, and I will make things better because I am an idealistic youth.”

“You don’t know the first thing about ruling. You’re just a little girl.”

“No, you are just a little girl.”

“Good one, Aeryn!” Silver eggs her on.

“You don’t have any experience!” he continues.

“Clearly you’ve never bedded a stableboy. Or you would know that I have.”

The lead man introduces himself as Marcus and seems reluctant to hand over control to the young woman.

“Do you have a birthright?” Alaric questions him.

“No.”

“Don’t you think the people will rally behind someone who does?”

“I suppose you’re right. We’d like to discuss it with you in private, young Aeryn.”

Aeryn immediately tells him she only has room for four advisers; he, Marcus, will be the first and greatest among them, but he has to kill some of his other cohorts in order to prove himself.

“Let me speak this over with my cohorts here,” he says. They speak in hushed tones, and pretty soon the wizards start pushing and shoving each other.

“No, Marcus! I’ve been your loyal friend and supporter for years!” one of the men cries.

“Boccob would not support needless killing! Is this truly necessary? These sick games of pitting friend against friend?” Silver asks.

“What she said,” one of the bald men says.

“They’re starting to look like goblins to me, Aeryn,” Alaric chimes in.

“If you want, I can bring them to see my dragon,” Slade offers.

“I think we should just kill them. They won’t be loyal to you and I’m bored,” Rhaine announces, seemingly out of nowhere. She hits the bald man in the head with a magic rock. Almost immediately, all of his cohorts turn on him and execute him with burning power.

“Marcus, you’re alive, the rest of you…” Slade slices across his neckwith one finger and a look of murderous rage. Marcus launches into a running dive, landing under the table.

Armed with her new sword and shield, the true picture of Dragonsbane ferocity on the throne, casting fear into the hearts of the old men, Aeryn mercilessly slays every last one of them.

Silver refrains from joining the battle, preaching instead about how she won’t participate in needless and senseless bloodshed. Alaric and Rhaine each kill one wizard while Silver, despite her protests, goes and pilfers the pockets of the dead bald guy because, and I quote, “he has no need for earthly things anymore and he is one with Boccob now.” Her search rewards her with a wand.

She pretends to pray over the other corpse but instead pilfers his pockets too. Rhaine sees her klepto ways, so she tries to beat her to the punch by looting the corpse of one of the other men. Instead of finding treasure, though, she ends up seeing wrinkly old man balls. Thankfully, she is rewarded for her troubles with a pouch of gold.

Daivd goes to kill the last man because he’s tired of him being alive. The man clutches a small gem, squeezes it, and cries out, “fornistra!” It ignites in a small ball of fire and wounds the party.

Marcus emerges from the pillars and says, “All right, now they’re taken care of, we can start ruling the kingdom, eh?”

Rhaine points her flame blade in his direction while Slade orders him to strip.

“We don’t want any of this terrorist crap.”

“I am a noble; I will not strip for you!”

He strips anyway, protesting all the while. He is predictably flabby. “This is preposterous! I shouldn’t have to do this.”

He hands over two wands to them.

“Aaaand?” Alaric demands.

He also produces a pouch of gold.

“Where’s the other wand?”

“What other wand?”

“Come on.”

He reluctantly pulls it from his butt and turns it over to Slade.

“Can you believe this humiliation? I thought I was going to be your advisor.”

“Nice body, gramps. You work out at the castle gym?” Silver taunts, staring at his saggy man tits. As his queen, Aeryn orders him to take his boxers off and he complies.

Now that he is fully vulnerable, David charms him, asking him to reveal whether he’s telling the truth or lying to the party about wanting to be an advisor.

“I’m a politician and a wizard. I just want to be part of the royal council and keep advising.”

“So what was your loyalty to the Frostmantles?”

“They paid me and I advised them about conquest of lands, what strategies to take, and so on.”

In return for his honesty, Aeryn rewards him with the return of his boxers and clothes. She asks him a final probing question: whether or not he had anything to do with the deaths of her family.

“I swear to you I had nothing to do with your family. I was instated after the Frostmantles came to power.”

“What’s your affiliation with Drawback Dagger?” Alaric asks him.

“I don’t even know who you’re talking about.”

Satisfied with her interrogation, Aeryn works up the courage to go and sit on her throne for the first time. An overwhelming sense of pride, accomplishment, and gratitude for the help of her friends fills her being right then and there.

Her excitement over their victory is short-lived, however, as she quickly ponders their next strategy.

“What would be the first step in reclaiming my throne?”

“Why, my lady, to fly the falg of Dragonsbane.”

Marcus tells them where the flag resides, and Aeryn sneds Slade with him to fetch it. Marcus enters the room, opens a box, pulls out the flag, and hands it to Slade.

“We’d best get this back to her highness.”

They return with the flag to Aeryn.

“I can take you up the tower so we can fly your flag,” Marcus informs her. “It’s a narrow passage. Are you all going to come?”

The party answers in the affirmative. They all follow him up six flights of stairs—with the exception of Rhaine, Alaric, and Bedlam. As they emerge through a wooden door onto the roof, they notice a flag pole sitting there unguarded. Aeryn lowers the Frostmantle flag from its perch high above the world and casts it into the wind with a sigh of relief and tears in her eyes.

Queen Aeryn Dragonsbane hoists her flag herself high up over the wall. Cheers erupt from outside the castle as the people rejoice at their new ruler. Alaric feels his soul become lighter as his debt with the priest is paid in full. Slade leaves the joyous occasion to fetch Rhaine’s pandas from the priest.

The rule of Queen Aeryn Dragonsbane is now at hand!

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