We find our heroes sailing into view of the small town of Good Hope, Greenland, where they aim to settle their ship and head inland to find a dragon – or, more likely, to be found by it. However, as they approached, still some distance from the port, they found themselves under attack by a team of 6 horrid, slug-like creatures, with the lower parts of a fish and the upper parts of a malformed seal-shaped human – mermaids! These scourges of the sea attack with their horrible screaming voices, causing their victims first to cower in terror and then to leap overboard into the sea, where they can be torn apart at leisure by the shark-like mouths of these vicious predators. Fortunately, some of our heroes are made of sterner stuff than mere sailors, and were able to resist the initial terror-scream. While some of the group fired infernal weaponry at the swimming beasts, others attempted to cast anti-magic spells on those of their fellows who had fallen prey to the horrid voice of the deep. Anna Labrousse, healed of this magical terror, set about ripping the mermaid’s limbs off, while Brian the Hunter entangled one of them in wreaths of seaweed, and Merton and Russell Ganymede fired their infernal weapons into the sea. However, before they could pick off their foes, Merton was enticed overboard by a mermaid’s screams, and had to be rescued from its magic thrall at the last moment by David Cantrus’s invocation of the Good Lord. Once more rescued from a watery grave, Merton set about firing into the pack of mermaids with a vengeance. Once four of their kin had been dismembered or shot to death, the remaining pair set sail and fled. The characters dragged one on board to investigate in greater detail and then, covering it with tarpaulin, sailed into Good Hope.
At Good Hope they were greeted by a man called Erik, tall and powerful-seeming, who carried a sword, wore leather armour and was draped in a cloak made of mermaid skin. He was accompanied by two extremely short and grim looking bearded men, whom the characters took to be Dwarves when they discvered that Erik was a Danish mermaid-hunter. He was initially friendly when he met them, though he seemed dubious of their intention to “explore the island”. He took them back to the longhall of Good Hope, where they met more men like him – dour, grim chaps who drank and ate a lot and spared nasty glances for Anna Labrousse. There were also more Dwarves scattered about, also looking dour and grim. Over an evening of drinking and merriment the characters learnt that Erik and his colleagues were an official mission from Denmark, intended to reclaim Greenland for the Danish people after 200 years of extinction. They hunt mermaids and trade in their magical parts and skin – though some of the men at the table hinted that they find a use for the mermaids before, as well as after, their deaths. The men seemed an unpleasant and offensive bunch, and the characters were suspicious enough of them to ensure Anna Labrousse always had an escort during the evening.
Late at night the characters saw Erik deep in conversation with a sinister looking, very short rakish chap, a man shorter and skinnier than a Dwarf. They had sequestered themselves in the kitchen and were behaving suspiciously. Merton, creeping in to listen, established that perhaps the small man was going to be heading inland immediately for some suspicious purpose. Fearing the worst, the characters took their leave of the longhall and set out inland to capture the gnome. Brian the Hunter sent his dog Matilda ahead, and in the morning they found their target caught against a massive stone in the hills out of town, Matilda sitting on his chest, his leg broken. He revealed himself to be a gnome scout called Gdernak. His mission – to go to a remote spot on the glacier some days’ march north, and warn the dragon of the glaciers that the characters were coming to kill it. No-one in town believed that they were here for any other mission, and Gdernak revealed that they had a long-standing agreement with the dragon – once a year they brought it a live mermaid to kill, and they warned it of any adventurers who had come to kill it. The characters learnt the location of the sacrificial stone on which the mermaids would be laid out, and to which Gdernak had been travelling, and then took him with them to the shore North of Good Hope, where they met their ship. From the ship they took some Bison as a sacrifice to the dragon, as well as the body of the mermaid, and headed North to the sacrifice point. Gdernak was kept out of harms way on the ship for 6 days, the time it would have taken him to visit the dragon and return.
At the sacrifice point the characters found a long slab of stone, crusted with ice and old frozen blood, and a single stone pillar with a silver bell on it. They dumped the mermaid on the stone, and retreated out of sight. Anna Labrousse rang the bell and retreated out of sight, to prepare the ritual of the eagle-hunting herb. Using the best telescope from the ship, they waited until they could see the dragon, far away in the grey arctic sky; Russell thrust the dragon bone into Anna’s hand, and her mind expanded outward, flicking across the vast open air between her and the Dragon to place her mind inside its ancient and alien consciousness.
The dragon noticed her presence immediately, and engaged in conversation with her. She revealed the reason for her presence, and the nature of the bargain they wanted to strike with it; the dragon agreed, in exchange for the right to occupy her mind briefly as she had done to it. She agreed, and moments later found herself back in her own mind, with the dragon’s great and frightening intellect staring through her eyes. After a moment it retreated, and she was herself again – cast out from the brooding, evil presence which just a moment ago had been all around her. Though they had heard and felt nothing, the other characters knew that something must have happened – Anna Labrousse’s skin had turned so pale it was almost transparent, and her eyes had turned silver, the whites bleached perfect white like marble. Anna Labrousse was dragon-touched.
The dragon swept in then, and it was mighty. Its body the length of two viking longships, its wings wider still, it was shaped like a dagger or a shard of ice, white in colour on its belly but silver-blue on its back and sides, with scales of such hardness and texture that it appeared to be made of ice and crystal. As it swept in it unleashed a cloud of frozen air from its huge and glistening maw, freezing the mermaid carcass instantly before executing a tight turn, swooping in and landing in a great, cat-like pounce on the body. The body, frozen solid, shattered into massive chunks as soon as the dragon landed, and the dragon commenced gulping them up, crouched over the stone like a cat at its prey. Even from their distance and hidden location, the characters could hear its breathing and the gentle sussurration of its wingtips against the ice of the glacier and the rock wall behind the sacrifice point – and they could see one great, watery blue lizardlike eye focussed on their hiding place.
They emerged from this spot and approached the dragon to speak with it. Soon the conversation turned to what they must do in exchange for the information they sought. The dragon agreed to tell them from which of its kin the infernal assassin had been made, if they would do a simple thing for it – venture into the ruined church at Hvalsney, the old capital of Greenland, kill the lich that dwelt there, and destroy all the books that it owned as soon as they could. They agreed to do this, and the dragon cast upon them a powerful geas, which would force them all to do its bidding. Satisfied that they were bound to it, the Dragon then told them the information they sought. The dragon bone they had brought with them was the remains of the dragon called commonly Cinderstone, once resident in the mountain of Corrán Tuathail in Western Ireland, near the lake and town of Killarney. Were the characters to visit the town of Killarney they would, perhaps, be able to discover the identity of Cinderstone’s killer.
The conversation finished, the Dragon leapt into the air and soared away, to what sinister cave the characters did not know. But here before them lay a chance – the Lich’s lair contained a book with the Dragon’s true name written in it. Should they be able to fight their geas for long enough to learn that name, they could perhaps return and slay this dragon themselves. Then its treasure – the treasure of all the adventurers who had come before them to slay it, as well as all the treasure of Greenland of old – would be theirs. Could they breach the geas for long enough to steal the name from that book which they must then destroy – and what other knowledge did the book contain, that they must destroy? The Dragon’s geas was sloppily done – could they copy the contents of the book before they destroyed it?
What, indeed, are the limits of a Dragon’s magical power, and what are the limits of a promise made to a Dragon?