Today I began the first map in my Dragon’s Lair project, the Dragon’s Lair Bridge battle map.
The dragon’s cultists had been considered a joke only months before. They were either fanatics or charlatans, destined to be burned or consumed in the volcano. Even when people started going missing, none could expect that the acolytes would have the capacity for actual power. They were more the type to evangelize from a street corner than sling magic or summon demons. And yet there it was, a demon with gleaming red eyes, guarding the cultists’ bridge.
One had already fallen, and the remaining three adventurers had taken injuries. The demon had returned to its station, its four claws still dripping with their friend’s blood. Its eyes were locked on them, hoping they’d make another attempt.
Wyllen looked to her companions, whose faces regretfully agreed with hers. They had no choice, and there was no one else who could. Forward was the only direction left for them.
Morrin stepped to the front, his dwarven features twisting in furious determination. He loaded two bolts into his crossbows with a gruff exhale.
“We kill this damned thing, stop these madmen, get paid, and never look at this forsaken volcano ever again, yeah?”
“Should be easy.” Luka struggled to imitate his signature bravado. His mouth curled to smile, but his eyes betrayed his thoughts. A cold red was spreading from the hole in his armor.
Wyllen adjusted her grip on the longsword she held and rolled her shoulders. She steadied her breath, gritted her teeth, and charged. Luka followed on her right. The monster in front of them bore its fangs in murderous glee as it hunched over. Its quilled mane flared outwards and long, clawed fingers dug into the carved stone before it lunged forward.
Morrin fired before drawing his warhammer and entering the fray. The two bolts careened past Wyllen and Luka, planting deep in the demon’s grey-brown hide. It snarled in pain, swinging a powerful arm at the two that approached. Wyllen recited a sacred verse, vanishing in a silver mist that floated through the searing air and around the creature’s strike. She reformed behind the demon, sweeping her blade as Luka lunged, daggers in hand. They had the demon surrounded.
Luka’s knives were blocked by its forearm but pierced deep. It reeled back in pain, wrenching the weapons from the assassin’s grip. For just a second, Wyllen could see it stop to think. An opening. Her blade carried under its arm, cleaving several inches into its midsection. She pulled it free and the creature drew in a deep, agonizing breath. Its blood-curdling howl filled the caldera, carrying the demon’s will into the minds of those nearby.
Wyllen’s world shook. The fiendish scream was pulsing in her mind, drowning her thoughts in confusion. Luka and Morrin were the same, their faces showing a futile struggle to retain control. Morrin clutched his head violently, thrashing in every direction. His mind fighting to slow his body, he stepped to the bridge’s edge. He pulled himself onto the stone barrier. With a final, terrified cry, the demon’s influence carried him over the edge.
Some feet closer, Luka was motionless. His muscles were tensed and frozen, releasing only as a set of claws dug deep into his chest. It lifted him from the ground and tossed him limply from the bridge.
Wyllen roared in anger. The rage focused her mind, resisting the creature’s influence. She swept her blade, now searing with divine energy, through the demon’s leg. It dropped low enough for her to look it in the eyes. It’s maw desperately snapped forward, biting into her shoulder as the longsword pushed into its neck. The pain burned hotter than the volcanic air, but only served to strengthen her. Golden radiance shone from the sword’s metal, destroying the demon from within.
Scorched by every spark of Wyllen’s magic, the demon’s bite weakened and it collapsed. She followed with it, clutching her wound with the last of her healing. It barely stopped the bleeding but that had to suffice. Wyllen was defeated, but alive.
– by Troy McConnell
More content by Troy
The bridge spans a great lava pool and leads to the red dragon’s volcanic lair. All in all, the lair will span three maps that fit together to draw a volcanic island containing the once-dwarven lair of a red dragon.
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