It was only supposed to be a quick transport job.
All three of them try their best to ignore how natural it feels to charm the bugbear and goof on Barry and travel through Wave Echo Cave, just as much as they try to ignore the lurking static at the edges of their vision.
The vault door is silver, and set into a wall that is far, far bigger than any chamber in the cave so far. Gundren approaches it confidently, while Taako watches Merle get launched across the room by an umbrella and proceeds to try the exact same thing. Magnus, just to round everything out, suggests that Gundren pee on the door.
The vault door swings open anyway.
The vault is much, much bigger than they thought it would be, a cavernous room entirely of shiny black glass. Their boots clink quietly against it as they enter, their shivering reflections dancing as they move. There are no treasures in this vault, but only a single dwarven figure, burned to black, standing in a power stance with both arms raised above his head in front of a large obsidian mound.
“We were promised gold,” Taako says sulkily, crossing his arms.
“Is that my uncle?”
“I’m gonna high five him!”
“I don’t understand,” Gundren grumbles, staring in horror at the vast emptiness of the vault and the body of his father. “What happened?”
Magnus, cheerful, goes up and high fives the dwarven body. As he does, the ground underneath their feet shifts, the glass clattering together in a shower of tinkling, high pitched notes. The ground underneath them is not the ground, but instead gathers itself to form obsidian scales over four strong legs and a powerful body, a sinuous tail curling around it all, lines of veins like glimmering red-gold fire shining forth from just underneath the black glass. The mound behind the dwarven figure rises, two enormous fiery eyes blinking open with a sound like great chunks of ice sloughing off an iceberg. The thick neck curves elegantly above them as the head takes shape, solidifying into the form of an enormous obsidian dragon, two huge wings of fire flaring out for a moment before it settles, gazing down at the four of them.
There is something about this dragon that feels familiar.
“Who dares to claim me?” the dragon rumbles, opening its jaws and revealing impossibly sharp teeth of black glass, licks of flame darting forward as it speaks.
“Uh, you’re a dragon , my dude!” Taako says, hands tightening on his new umbrella. “I don’t think anyone could claim you!”
“It is what I am made for.”
“Guys, I kinda wanna ride this dragon,” Magnus says, axe in hand.
“No!” Gundren snaps. “If anyone’s gonna claim this thing, it’s me! Everything in this vault is my birthright!”
“Fellas, fellas, come on,” Merle says placatingly. “It’s a dragon, buddy, you can’t own it.”
“I can offer you power,” the obsidian dragon says, the clinking of its black glass scales reverberating off the stone walls, the fire in its eyes glowing brighter as it fixates on Gundren. “Claim me, and thus claim your vengeance on those who have wronged you.”
“Now hold on--” Magnus starts, but Gundren pushes forward, past the fighter, glaring up at the dragon.
“So I can take my revenge on those godsdamned orcs?”
“That was never proven!” Merle protests, but weakly as the dragon curves over Gundren.
“Yes,” the dragon hisses. “Do you claim me?”
“Yes!” Gundren yells.
The dragon blows out a gout of flame, curving around Gundren but blasting the other three, knocking them back against the stone walls of the vault. The dragon’s tail flips Gundren onto its back and it takes off, blazing a fiery trail out of the vault, Gundren yelling indistinctly from its back.
Killian, fortunately, dodges the dragon and finds them in the still-smoldering vault, the rock itself half-melted from the dragon’s passage. She groans, dramatically, upon finding the three unconscious men, and revives them with a few potions, grumbling all the while.
you!” she says, loading her giant crossbow. “You weren’t ready to face the
Phoenix Fire Dragon, and now it’s loose! Who claimed it?”
“The what now?” Magnus mumbles, rubbing at his head.
“Static again,” Merle says from the floor.
Taako doesn’t say anything, just offers a prolonged, pained groan.
A dragon is much faster than horses and wagons, but they arrive while Phandolin is still burning.
“And I’m finally strong enough to do something about it!” Gundren yells, feet firmly planted on the ground now as the obsidian dragon roars above him, great wings of flame flared out, bright red-gold veins of fire brightening within.
“Listen, bud, it’ll all be fine, you just gotta call off your dragon--” Barry starts, holding up a placating hand.
Gundren just roars and the dragon follows suit, incinerating Barry with one powerful blast of white-blue flame that levels three buildings as it sears through the air.
“Aw fuck, aw shit, aw no,” Killian says, aiming her crossbow.
“Now hold on, maybe we can talk to him!” Magnus says.
“Fuck that, Taako’s good out here!”
“He’s my cousin!”
“Your cousin’s allied with a dragon made of glass and fire , Merle!”
“Nope, screw this, no way,” Killian says, and fires.
The bolt hits true, puncturing through Gundren’s chest. He screams in rage, the dragon echoing above him, the fire within it pulsating and growing in brightness.
“Shit,” Killian says, lowering her crossbow.
“Yeah no shit!” Taako yells.
“No, that’s my cousin!”
“Nope! The well!” Magnus says, picking him up and bolting for the well.
They run, feeling the building power of heat and flame at their backs, and leap into the wall just as it breaks, the inferno howling over them. The roar goes on for a solid minute and a half, and when it finally subsides, they emerge to find Phandolin gone, covered instead by a perfect circle of black glass, with a single dwarven figure in the center, in the same pose as the figure from the vault. The dragon is nowhere to be seen.
“ Fuck ,” Killian hisses.
“No more get togethers at Gundren’s place,” Merle says sadly as they approach the figure.
As they do, the black around Gundren’s burnt feet cracks and splinters before reforming as the obsidian dragon emerges, now about the size of a small house cat. It blinks up at them, the click of its glass eyelids ringing and reverberating off the black glass that used to be Phandolin.
“Claim me,” it rumbles, its voice as deep and burning as it was when the dragon was huge. The flame inside it brightens to a degree that suggests that leveling Phandolin barely touched the thing’s power.
“Nope, don’t fucking do that!” Killian snaps, aiming her crossbow at the thing.
“It’s just a little guy,” Magnus says, holding a hand out towards the dragon and making kissy noises. “I’m usually more of a dog guy!”
“That thing just burned an entire town to the ground!”
“I’m sure it’s chill,” Taako says, staring at the dragon. “You wanna come with us, little dude?”
“Screw that, it killed my cousin!”
Taako ignores Merle’s grumbling, instead kneeling and offering his hand to the small dragon, which looks at him with burning eyes.
“You are claiming me?”
“Nah,” Taako says with a grin. “But you can come live in my bag! I can feed you -- Mags, what do dragons made of glass eat?”
“How should I know?”
“You’re the one with all the proficiencies!”
“You both need to back away from that thing so I can kill it.”
“It’s just a little guy!” Magnus protests.
“You wanna come hang?” Taako says, still with his hand out.
The newly small obsidian dragon looks between Taako’s face and his hand, fire licking between its sharp teeth, and then it nods and slithers into his hand. The elf grins and picks it up, tucking the dragon into his bag and standing. “Hell yeah!”
“What the fuck?” Killian demands, lowering her crossbow. “That’s it, all three of you are coming back with me to headquarters.”
Magnus, Merle, and Taako look at each other and all shrug.