After an indeterminable amount of time, Gromm regained consciousness. Everything hurt. The cave was dark, and Gromm couldn’t hear or see the dragon. He was trapped in a cage, but he was not alone. Harald—horribly burnt—lay on the ground breathing shallowly. Careful investigation revealed that the cage was “locked” shut with two bent swords twisted through the cage’s bars.
The half-orc pondered matters for a moment. Nothing lay in immediate reach that could be useful, but the treasure hoard was a scant ten feet away. Quickly, Gromm hatched a plan. He knocked the cage over and then pushed it slowly toward the treasure. Ten minutes of supreme effort got him to the hoard, but he could go no farther—pushing the cage into the mass of coins was impossible. With nothing but time, Gromm began to inch his way into the hoard—moving coins aside and then pushing the cage forward. Eventually, he found something that would help him—a sword hidden among the coins.
Grasping the sword, the half-orc used it as a lever to untwist the weapons holding the cage shut. He was free! Quick as a cat, he dashed up the treasure hoard and grabbed Balasar’s javelin of lightning. Then he searched the chamber. The dragon was nowhere to be seen, but Gromm did discover his companion’s scorched and dismembered bodies in the pit to the right of the dragon’s hoard-bed. It was hard to tell, but it seemed that Ozloc’s remains were not in the pit—perhaps the warlock had survived and was even now battling the dragon!
A moan from the cage alerted Gromm to Harald’s return to consciousness. It was dark, and the paladin couldn’t see anything. To solve this problem, Gromm found his moonsword thrust deep into the coins. When Gromm pulled the weapon forth, its soft radiance illuminated the hoard. Harald could now see, and the adventurers set about finding the paladin armour in good enough condition to wear.
In short order, the two survivors were equipped and ready to face the dragon once again. The heroes took stock and rested while they awaited the dragon’s return. The warriors knew the situation was grim and that the only chance lay in surprising the hopefully badly injured dragon. With this in mind, they scouted up the exit tunnel and found a suitable spot by a bend in the passage. Gromm also cast his senses into the body of a small bat and sent his new friend up the passageway to give warning of the dragon’s approach.
They didn’t have long to wait.
A subtle disturbance in the air, and a sense of panic from Gromm’s bat surrogate, alerted the pair to the approaching dragon. As the dragon’s preternaturally keen senses alerted it to the ambush, Gromm leapt out and hurled Balasar’s javelin of lightning at the beast. The javelin struck the beast full in the chest, but to the heroes’ horror, they saw—in the flash of lightning—the dragon was almost completely healed. Clearly, its unquenchable toughness had enabled it to shrug off the many grievous, near-fatal wounds the party had inflicted upon it during their last battle.
It was then the heroes knew they were doomed.
Nevertheless, their bravery did not desert them. First to fall was Gromm—victim to the dragon’s fangs and its ability to call forth molten magma from the floor. Last to fall was Harald—dying in valiant single combat with his draconic foe. Not for the paladin was a meek death—he met his fate bravely, on his feet, facing his enemy.