On and on we fought, growing ever more desperate the closer our steady fallback brought us to the city square. When once we all arrived at our destination, we placed our backs to the central dais and resigned ourselves to bloody death as we made our peace with the gods. The enemy was almost upon us when first I spied the glint of sun on metallic scales. The earth shook as the beast landed violently upon the dais and roared a bellowing challenge to any that would dare approach us. In an instant we knew to a man that the battle had just been won.
- Excerpt from the writings of village elder Al-Radoh Rashid -
The village of Wellspring has stood for almost three hundred years as the last watering hole before entering the harsh desert. In that time, there have been countless attempts to usurp control of the area’s water source from the villagers. Most of these attempts have come in the form of desert raiders, though more often than not, these raiding tribes are so small and unorganized that the village’s adobe walls and scant militia are able easily to turn them back. Roughly a century ago, however, a particularly charismatic tribal leader named He’ta Nagish united a dozen desert tribes under a single banner and launched an all out assault on the village of Wellspring. His forces were particularly successful at tearing down the walls and forcing their way into the village. Unfortunately for him, a copper dragon showed up unexpectedly to ruin his plans for conquest. Many of the invaders were disarmed and allowed to leave, but He’ta Nagish was eaten by the dragon before their eyes to serve as a warning against future incursions.
The dragon introduced himself as Ch’klichi’n’ah, but given that most of the population couldn’t understand the name, much less pronounce it, he was dubbed H’loo, the draconic word for “Savior.” A three-day celebration was thrown in H’loo’s honor. There were feasts, plays, and games, many of which, much to H’loo’s delight, were riddle games. After the third day, H’loo announced his intention to leave, but promised he would be back the next year. The villagers waited with anticipation, all the while planning a celebration to top the one before. True to his word, H’loo returned fifteen months later and the villagers were ready for him. Such a celebration had not been seen on this side of the desert for many years.
H’loo has come and gone every year since then, having returned more than a hundred times. Each year, a celebration begins the moment he lands on the dais in the central courtyard. Since the time of his visits vary within the year, the villagers begin planning the next celebration almost immediately after H’loo leaves. As a result, each celebration has been larger and more luxurious than the last and each is ready to kick off at a moment’s notice.
During the Coming of the Dragon celebration, many shops and the town hall building are closed for the holiday. Most workers and apprentices are given a day or two off to enjoy the celebration. The local constabulary isn’t so lucky, however, as the police force needs to be beefed up to deal with the unusually high volume of pickpockets and drunks that seem to appear during the festivities. Except for law enforcement personnel, obvious weapons are not allowed without peacebonds outside of the various contests. This includes obvious spellcasters, who must peacebond their index and middle fingers together. Anyone is welcome in the village during the celebration, though the guards are extra careful to look for known criminals trying to sneak in with the crowds.
During the three-day celebration, there is a 25% chance that a business will be closed on the first day, a 50% chance on the second day and a 25% chance on the third day. Town hall is always closed during the celebration and aside from making public speeches related to the festival, the mayor and his staff generally take a vacation to join in the celebration. Food and lodging-based businesses do not close for the festival.
Over the years, many different types of games have debuted during the Coming of the Dragon celebration. The camel joust, where jousters ride camels over loose desert sand is a favorite. A melee, where competitors fight with blunted weapons in a mob until only one is left standing is always a crowd pleaser. Wrestling and archery have inspired many related contests. In recent years, a magical melee has become popular as well, where spellcasters use magic in a situation not unlike the warriors’ melee.
The most popular contest, however, is still H’loo’s riddle contest. For a small fee, H’loo will ask the competitor a riddle. If the competitor answers correctly, he gets double his investment in return. Alternately, the competitor may ask H’loo a riddle, which he must answer by the end of the festival. If the dragon cannot do so, H’loo will grudgingly provide them with a magical trinket, gem or other valuable piece from his hoard (which he will bring with him to the next celebration). The only rule of the riddle contest is that the answer must be something tangible that can be found within the city or the area surrounding (therefore “arrow,” “bread,” “the desert” or “Sparky, the mayor’s dog” are all legal, but “the Western Sea” or “the Red Moon” are not).
The second day of the celebration culminates with a reenactment of the day that H’loo showed up and saved the day. H’loo always plays the part of himself and he enjoys it when his roaring bellow actually frightens the villagers playing the part of the desert raiders. The reenactment is completed when a man-sized pastry cake is brought out and carved up. The cake is meant to represent the barbarian leader He’ta Nagish. The villagers that are lucky enough get a piece, as does H’loo.
The reenactment event takes place on the very same dais that H’loo perched upon during the battle the festival celebrates. With one notable exception, the dais has changed little since H’loo first came to Wellspring. It is a simple light brown platform made from several large blocks of sandstone that forms a 40ft circle in the center of the village’s central courtyard. The only major change to the dais over the years has been the addition of a carved representation of H’loo bellowing a rage-filled challenge towards the largest open space in the courtyard. Created to match the dais itself, this statue is carved from a single block of sandstone and stands as high as the carver’s shoulder (roughly 5ft) and as long as a hitched wagon (roughly 15ft).
H’loo has never revealed why it was that he stopped to help the people of Wellspring. Many speculate that he was sent by the gods. Others claim that he had a beef with the raiders. Still others whisper that H’loo himself is a sort of guardian spirit that protects the village. Whatever the reason is, H’loo is not talking.
Though there is much speculation regarding the mysteries that surround the dragon, H’loo is extremely well-loved by the people of Wellspring. He is considered to be a paragon member of their village and is extended every courtesy. In turn, he treats the villagers respectfully, although he certainly isn’t above playing a friendly joke or two on them. H’loo genuinely loves the celebration and he thoroughly enjoys having a sort of “home away from home” to come to when he feels like interacting.
H’loo, Savior of Wellspring
Mature adult male copper dragon: CR 16; Huge dragon (earth); Hit Dice 23d12+115; 295 hp; Init +0; Spd 40 ft. (6 squares), fly 150ft (poor); AC 30 (-2 size, +22 natural), 8 touch, 30 flat-footed; BAB/Grapple +23/+39; Atk +29 melee (2d8+8, bite); Full atk +29 melee (2d8+8, bite) and +27 melee (2d6+4, 2 claws) and +27 melee (1d8+4, 2 wings) and +27 melee (2d6+12, tail slap); SA breath weapon, crush, frightful presence, spell-like abilities, spells; SQ blindsense 60 ft., damage reduction 10/magic, darkvision 120 ft., dragon immunities, immune to acid, keen senses, spell resistance 23; AL NG; SV Fort +18, Reflex +13, Will +17; Str 27, Dex 10, Con 21, Int 18, Wis 19, Cha 18.
Skills and Feats: Appraise +20, Bluff +35, Diplomacy +19, Escape Artist +10, Hide +15, Intimidate +26, Jump +28, Knowledge (local) +16, Listen +31, Search +31, Sense Motive +19, Speak Language (Common, Draconic, Dwarven, Giant, Terran), Spot +31 Use Magic Device +24; Combat Reflexes, Flyby Attack, Multiattack, Persuasive, Power Attack, Skill Focus: Appraise, Skill Focus: Bluff, Snatch.
Breath Weapon (Su): 100 ft. line, damage 14d4 acid, Reflex DC 26; or 50 ft. cone, slow 1d6+7 rounds, Fort DC 26 negates.
Crush (Ex): area 15 ft. by 15 ft.; Small or smaller opponents take 2d8+12 of bludgeoning damage and must succeed on a DC 26 Reflex save or be pinned; grapple bonus +39.
Frightful Presence (Ex): 210-ft. radius, HD 22 or less, Will DC 25 negates.
Spider Climb (Ex): H’loo can climb on stone surfaces as though using the spider climb spell.
Spells: As a 9th level sorcerer.
Sorcerer Spells Known: (6/7/7/7/5; save DC 14 + spell level): 0 - dancing lights, daze, detect magic, flare, ghost sound, mage hand, prestidigitation, message; 1st - alarm, hypnotism, identify, silent image, ventriloquism; 2nd - blur, invisibility, minor image, scare; 3rd - blink, dispel magic, major image; 4th - greater invisibility, hallucinatory terrain.
Spell-like Abilities: 2/day -stone shape; caster level 9th.
Possessions: H’loo does not carry any possessions. His hoard contains 30,000 cp, 10,000 sp, 20,000 gp, 1,000 pp, 6,000 gp worth of random gems, 2,000 gp worth of art objects, 23 minor magical items, 8 medium magical items and 3 major magical items.
The Coming of the Dragon presents a DM with many potential uses.
I’ve Come To See A Man About A Dragon. The PCs need a powerful magic item that is rumored to be in the hoard of the dragon known locally as H’loo. Unfortunately for them, H’loo has never disclosed the location of his lair to anyone in the village, so the PCs must either wait for the inevitable Coming of the Dragon celebration or try to find the lair on their own. Asking around town might provide a clue in the form of a few residents that say the dragon always seems to come from the west, towards the mountains (Gather Information DC 12).
I’m The Greatest Fighter of All Time. One of the PCs is well known as a paragon of his trade. He’s a great wrestler or magician or entertainer - something for which an event exists during the Coming of the Dragon celebration. While there, H’loo recognizes the PC by reputation and compliments him on his abilities. This generates a profound amount of respect from the townspeople, who practically treat that PC like royalty for the duration of his stay.
H’loo, H’loo, Where Are You, H’loo? It has been almost a year and a half since H’loo graced Wellspring with his presence. The villagers are beginning to get extremely worried about “their” dragon. The mayor of Wellspring hires the PCs to investigate and find out if H’loo is alright. To make matters worse, a few weeks ago, a villager reported seeing a red dragon flying in the western sky.
What In The Nine Hells??? The PCs stop in the village of Wellspring during their travels. Interestingly enough, they just happen to wander into town the day that H’loo returns for the year. How will the PCs react to seeing a dragon land in the middle of town like it owns the place?
You’s The Mangy Dogs What Killed My Pa! The PCs are enjoying the festivities during the celebration when an angry bellow from the dragon stops the entire village in its tracks. The dragon has recognized (mistakenly or not) the PCs as a group that broke into his lair and stole items from his hoard. The PCs will have to think and act quickly to avoid getting eaten by the dragon or lynched by the villagers.