It was close to midnight when the thieves reached the base of the plateau. They’d been climbing the mountain over the drow caves since the fight – they’d found Cairne a short distance ahead of them, carving the drow that had wounded him to shreds. The Dragon they were planning to rob had made it’s nest, along with it’s hoard, within a pit dug out from a large, round outcropping within the mountain that was common in the area. The result was a fortified pit with forty-foot-high walls in the middle of rough mountain terrain. While this would usually make it less attractive as a target, the bandits were glad for the obstructed view. It had afforded them time to find a nice place of cover to recuperate from both the climb and the hasty retreat from their previous battlefield.

The moon creeping over a mountain
Dm tip: You've forgotten that it's night, and it's dark, and only half of your party has darkvision.

“Ugh, next time we decide to rob a dragon, can we please not also fight the only race in the world that has more innate magical power?” Cairne was complaining quite loudly for someone who was still managing to be the quietest person in the area.

Barna nodded in agreement. “Whatever happened to goblins? huh? Used to be, any random quest you march off on, halfway along, bam! Gobbos. And one random Hobbo just to add that nice “boss fight” element to it without any magic, or darkfire, or misty darkness, or licking, or anything of the sort!”
Knicks raised an eyebrow. “Gobbos, really? Who the hell just runs into a fight with gobbos?”

The Chief looked at her incredulously. “You’ve never fought goblins before? Really?”

She nodded. “Not outside of a tavern.” 
“Same Here!” Mor chimed, raising a hand.
“Ahhhhh” Gallywig and Barna realised in unison.
“What,” the chief whined.

“It’s a chaotic neutral thing. You just never end up fighting goblin patrols if you don’t really fall on one end or the other of the good/evil scale.”

Monsters of the Multiverse
There used to be per-alignment encounter tables in the books... (Also this exact book was on sale when I wrote this, click here)

Cairne nodded. “Makes sense. Drow are Evil, sure, but they’re all about their rules. Of course that’s who we’d run into if we avoid the cities if the universe wants us in a fight.” He finished the dressing on his wounds – Gallywig had stopped the bleeding with magic, but he’d need rest for a few days when they got back.

“Are we ready to move?” the Chief stated, rather than asked. 
The six bandits had scaled the plateau without a word until they neared the top. Rested and victorious, they still had work to do and had returned to the serious focus that they shared when in dangerous situations. The five of them being skilled adventurers was most of the reason their bandit clan had lasted as long as it had despite dozens of bounties had been posted, even successfully collected on, against them over the years. However, no amount of experience or focus could have prepard him for what he saw as he pulled himself over the lip of the plateau. He’d already extended a hand down to boost Gallywig when he saw it, his jaw dropping further and further as he surveyed the half-mile crater surrounded by the wall-forming edges of the plateau. It wasn’t the near-blinding glare of the gold, silver, platinum and gems filling the entire pit like a bowl of radiant soup. He’d been expecting that, as awe-inspiring as the sight of such wealth was. No, what surprised him was the other twelve groups of bandits, raiders and would-be plunderers scattered around the edge of the wall, each just clearing the lip of the mountain,each regarding each other with the same bewildered confusion, and each staring at the massive hoarde of wealth with the same greed.

“Chief, we’ve, uh…” he was at a loss for words.

“What?” Chief pushed with impatient concern.

“Oh, my!” Gallywig stammered, barely remembering to keep his voice hushed as Knicks and Cairne worked their way over the top.

“We’ve got a complication,” he eventually managed. The other groups seemed to all be in the same indecisive confusion.

Mor pushed the chief up before leaping onto the rock.

“Oh,” he finally managed. Cairne looked back at the chief, done with his own slack-jawed observation of the situation.

Lake of gold
A lake of gold, hundreds of meters across - picture, if you will, that my photoshop skills aren't so bad
“So, what, do we just… I don’t know, carry on about our business? It’s… um, it’s not like there’s not enough gold for everyone.”
Knicks laughed to herself. “Holy blight, did every bandit clan in a hundred miles come through? How many people knew Shiara was out?”
Gallywig shook his head. “Not all of them, I don’t see the Ravens.” He casually waved at one of the nearby groups, which he recognised as the Fallen Rangers. He knocked the back of his fist against Barna’s leg to get his attention – his brother, Charan, was with them.

Barna shook his head and pointed up. “There they are, coming in from above, as always. Ah! Brother!” he called. The man looked back at him, his serious air taking a slight shift as he waved back at his brother’s group – he was a tall, heavily built man with heavy steel covering his body from the waist down, and a narrow blade almost two meters long strapped across his bare chest. He had wild hair past his shoulders and a thick scar dividing the top of his face from the bottom. The Fallen Rangers were renowned as one of the more powerful bandit groups in the region, and Charanel was their best warrior – the reason they’d sent him on to the dragon raid. He made a signal to Barna – a hand held as if drinking an ale. Barna responded by pointing at his brother – they’d arranged for a drink when they returned – at Charan’s camp – Barna’s was a bit of a mess at the moment.

“The Green Gargoyles are moving.” It was Knicks. The bandits had all been hesitating for two reasons – some were waving at old friends much like Barna, or locking eyes with old rivals, but everyone there had had the same thought. If one clan had raided Shiara’s nest, she may not have noticed the missing gold, but if they all did, she’d be on the rampage for certain. Either everyone took much less than they’d hoped, or they’d have to thin out the competition.
The Green Gargoyle Gang – six toughs on the far end of the plateau, known for the green stone armour they’d stolen from actual gargoyles, were making a beeline for a cluster of emeralds some distance into the lake of glittering wealth.

Honestly, it's one of my favorite tropes.

“Those idiots!” Gallywig shouted. “Shiara will notice that for certain!” 

The five of them, along with all of the other thieves, were all sprinting into the hoard. Chief Duran Chieftan’s booming voice echoed over the plateau. “All bets are off, you louts! Get me that diamond!”

Sixty bandits scrambled into the pool of gold – they were scattered about, some scooping armfuls of gold indiscriminately into outstretched bags, impossible amounts of coins pooling into them, some dug around looking for more valuable trinkets – sifting through the coins for specific valuables – Diamonds, mithril ore, golden statues worth more for their artistic value. 
The Green Gargoyles had broken into a fight with the Ravens – the large bird the four of them rode had landed right in front of the pile of emeralds that the Gargoyles sought – probably trying to save all banditkind from their stupidity. The Gargoyles weren’t having it – Their leader, Jewel, a strong woman with an amazonian build was swinging two massive stone hammers at Huggin and Munnin, twins with lithe builds and jet-black hair, who were each dodging one hammer in between trading blows with another one of the Gargoyles, blades of pure magical energy in their hands.

The Horde, a group of ten orcish and half-orcish warriors, had decided to try and get the enchanted bags off of the Sirens, four female warriors who were beating the orcs senseless with unarmed combat.

The Chief had tasked Barna, Knicks and Gallywig with finding diamonds, while he and Cairne loaded the magic bags on Mor’s belt with as many riches as they could gather. Mor stood, Greataxe drawn, to the right of the group, moving occaisonally to stay between them and the Light fingers – the group most immediately on their right, fairly normal looking bandits who usually specialised more in stealthy crimes. They didn’t seem to be looking for a fight but Mor’s job was to secure his gang’s operation and that’s what he did. On the left wasn’t a problem, Barna and Charon were occaisonally throwing different gems to each other as trade. Charon had already found a fist-sized diamond, uncut, and traded it to Barna in exchange for an incredibly well-inscribed djanni’s lamp. The rangers had come specifically for those, and they already had two lesser djannis, one male, one female, both stunningly attractive, almost human creatures but for the slight blue glow of their skin, out and assisting with the search.

The hoard was a place of chaos with all of the fighting and looting, a few bandits from different clans had even congregated around an everflowing tankard, when a large mound of gold in the center of the lake shifted. In an instant everyone was quiet, eyes locked on the mound. Nobody had touched it – it had moved on it’s own.

Knicks outstretched her hands, middle and ring fingers held together. the rings on her ring fingers glowed, and Barna, Gallywig, Cairne and Chief all released their bags as they flew into her hands. She secured them to her belt, and went to grab the bags off Mor’s belt.

The Fallen Rangers all did the same, dismissing their djannis and putting them all on the belt of their smallest member, a dwarven woman, stout of build but still petite for a dwarf, and Charon drew the lengthy blade from his back into a combat stance.

Mor and Cairne both had axes drawn, The Chief and Barna had their bows out. Gallywig was casting spells on himself and Knicks. 
Several other bandit groups were making similar preparations, several others, the dullards of the lot, mostly, including the Gargoyles and the Horde, were just staring in stunned silence as the coins in the mound slowly started to scatter as a young drakeling, with dull red scales, shook itself off. It was no child – at thirteen feet high he would be going through the draconic equivalent of puberty – his scales were halfway through molting – layers of transparent discarded scales were clinging to his bright red ones, he’d be just getting the hang of his fire breath, and above all, he’d have the kind of voracious appetite that only a teenager mid-growth-spurt could imagine.
The dragon yawned, looking around in confusion. “Vat is all ov youu doing here?” he said sleepily, his common laden thick with the draconic accent. He hadn’t raised his voice, but everyone in the plateau could hear his carrying voice perfectly. Munnin was closest to him. “Um, protecting your home from raiders while your mother’s out?” he offered hopefully. Huggin chimed in. “It doesn’t matter, this is just a dream anyway.”

Swarm of flying dragons
Something a lot of people forget - Dragons are reptiles. Which means they breed in big clutches. (rarely this big though)
The dragon narrowed his eyes. 
“Not buyink it.”

Within a second, ten arrows dug lightly into his scales, and he roared his fury. Suddenly dozens of whirlpools formed in the golden lake, coins shifting as countless draconic children dug their way out of their slumber. These were all much younger, children and hatchlings, but still the smallest of them was almost as tall as a man when on all fours.

The bandits surely outnumbered the dragons, but not by a large margin, and they certainly didn’t feel like they had the numbers advantage as fireballs flew about the golden lake. Bandits everywhere engaged the dragons – Some, like the the more stubborn Horde, just attacked each dragon near them. The more level headed Sirens and Light Fingers had focused their attacks toward the edge of the plateau, trying to carve a path to escape. Barna’s crew had three young dragons on either side of them. “To the Rangers!” Barna called. Mor charged to the right, lodging his axe deep in the middle dragon’s skull. As it fell, he ducked out of the path of it’s two brethren as they lunged at him. As he covered their retreat, the others charged the three on the left. Barna and Cairne lunged at the one on the left, Barna cutting it’s foreleg deeply, Cairne digging his axes into the beasts’ wing, causing it to howl in pain, clawing Cairne’s chest and grazing Barna with a gust of orange flame. The Chief had his blade locked in the jaws of the one on the right, pushing him back with raw strength as Knicks threw her blades into it and calling them back one after the other in a vicious frenzy. Gallywig recited more spells, his hands occasionally glowing before thrusting the light into either himself or Knicks. They all ignored the center one – four of the five Fallen Rangers were pelting it with a flurry of arrows – firing as fast as they could. They were far less spread out than Barna’s group had been – meaning only two were on their exposed side, which Charan was holding off on his own. Chief could see him over the shoulder of his dragon – he was just holding him off for Knicks to cut down, and she’d cut his shoulder and ruptured his flame sac – so he had time to watch as Charan ducked and dodged and occaisonally slid his blade against the dragons. He was fighting completely defensively – making no large swings or full-force attacks – it seemed he was just dodging the two dragon’s attacks, and if those movements happened to include his blade moving into the dragons, then so be it. They were both wounded – Charon didn’t have a scratch on him, but he wasn’t landing any lethal blows. Chief saw a gust of flame to his left. Barna had just taken a fireball straight to the head. He’d created an opening – Cairne was kneeling in front of the dragon, facing away from it, both axes directly above him – he’d cut two grooves right through it’s head from below it’s jaw, up through the skull, and then out through it’s face – blood splattered all over Barna as his body fell to the ground. He wasn’t breathing. Knicks threw one dagger again, quickly using the other to cut off his hand, tucking it into one of the bags. The dragon next to him also fell – it’s front had been reduced to a pincushion by the rangers – a quick count and Chief saw twenty arrows at least. Knicks threw a few more daggers out at his dragon, he was too in his face to see where it hit but he felt the dragon go limp as he pulled his weapon away.

The Rangers were firing a flurry of arrows right past his team – Mor had killed another of the three he was holding back but the third had felled him. Knicks charged it head on, throwing her daggers at its’ head as it breathed fire at her, she slid right under it, sliding under the dragon too, calling her daggers back as they pulled at her – trying to go through the dragon, but it’s hide was too tough for them to go too deep, leaving several bloody cuts and gashes along it’s body. As she got her daggers back, she quickly removed the orc’s hand as she had with Barna, before the dragon knocked her to her side with it’s tail. She threw her daggers once more as she circled it – arrows pelting into it’s forelegs and torso. More drakelings were closing towards them – she had no idea how many other bandits had fallen yet, but it had to have been at least half of them. Once again she caught and threw her daggers, she was almost in front of the beast again and she caught a lucky hit – her dagger had caught a soft bit of flesh under it’s foreleg shoulder. She kept running past it, dodged another fireball, and pulled the dagger, this time it came to her straight through the dragon’s chest. With a weak roar and another gust of flame, it fell. She made her way back to the Rangers – more dragons were closing in on them – another five – Cairne had fallen, along with one of the rangers, who were now dual-wielding various weapons for close combat, as Chief and Charon each managed to take a dragon down as well. Knicks got to work – cutting off Cairnes hand first as she looked in the distance – The Ravens and the Gargoyles were having their own alliance forming – Their lesser members were engaged with a large group of drakelings – they were starting to drop but they’d already killed their number in dragons – Huggin, Munnin and Jewel were taking on the eldest – their blades and hammers flashing off the wounded dragon’s chest and arms. Jewel had lost an arm, Munnin had lost an eye, and the dragon’s tail was broken and had a muscle torn, hanging limp from it’s torso. They were doing well but clearly the dragons had the upper hand. Most of the bandits that had arrived had either died or retreated by now – and the remaining dragons were collecting around the remaining groups – the Sirens, the Gargoyles and Ravens, and them. It didn’t look good – in moving to the Rangers, they’d gained a lot of fighting strength but lost time to clear their way to the edge.

Luckily, that wasn’t the plan. Knicks moved to the Chief as Gallywig put a spell on him – he barely felt her cut off his little finger – the group held out just long enough to repeat the process on the remaining survivors of their group when Roc, the large bird that the Ravens arrived on, took off, with Huggin, Munnin and Jewel on it’s back. Their other members were all down, and the elder dragon took off after them.

All eyes, dragon or bandit, were on them. 

Munnin handed something to his twin – Knicks figured it was some sort of body part for a ressurection – before he jumped off Roc right at the elder dragon – his magic blade flared, magic energy shot out of his foot as he leaped off of the air like a floor, and he carved his blade clean through the dragon’s left wing – the dragon swivelled, fell, and blew a streak of red flame at the Raven – engulfing him completely as they both fell to the ground. In stunned silence, the twenty remaining drakelings scattered about the lake looked around – the Sirens had snuck off, leaving only Charon, Chief, and three Fallen Rangers to stand off against the swarm of death that approached them.
It was two minutes later that Charon stood alone, blade drawn, the Chief, his last living ally, falling beside him in a cloud of fire.
“Eight left, eh?” 
“Eight left ov my siblinks you scum have muhrderet.” the older of the dragons scorned, limping at him and drawing breath.
“I apologise, beast, but if it’s just me left, I’ll be making my escape now.”

Two dead drakelings, one lost arm and five minutes later, Charon stood in a cave, listening to his persuers scramble down the path they thought he had followed. He looked out to the plateau, using what little magic he could to staunch the bleeding at the stump of his elbow. How many had died tonight? How will Shiara react to this? Would she know which bandits had come? Would she exact her revenge? 

The babysitter, the older one will tell her. He needed to catch him alone. He wandered if Huggin and Jewel would have the same thought. With any luck, he wouldn’t be alone.
“Time to hunt,” he grinned to himself.

There were a number of influences for Charon, especially this bit. Not one of them weren't anime.
Knicks and Gallywig could hear the rustle of movement around them. There must have still been twelve or thirteen dragons asleep in the pool of gold. She held onto Gallywigs’ hand – neither of them could see. All they knew was they had to keep moving. They sifted further into the pool of gold – they were nearly at the bottom. Gallywig had let them breathe for hours, and swim through the gold like water. All part of the plan.
“Now,” she thought. “How in the hells are we gonna get out of here?”

Dylan Beckbessinger

App developer by day, Chaotic Neutral dungeon master by night, Dylan has been a DM for 10 years, and an avid fan of all things geekdom for far, far longer than that. Favorite class is eldritch theurge, because raw power doesn't need any limits.


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