Before we began, we brought the player of the Rogue up to speed with what had happened. I suggested that, upon reaching third level, he might wish to select a different specialisation for his character than the one specified on the pregen character sheet. He decided upon Arcane Trickster, and adjusted his scores and abilities accordingly before we started play.
[Forming the Company of the Laughing Dragon]After clearing the ruined cottages, the group decides to instead concentrate on the more intact buildings in the village: they're looking for the druid, and surely he won't camp out in a ruin if he can help it? And so they double back to the former tavern, where they are 'greeted' by the Ash Zombies. Soon the Folk Hero, who was at the font line, is coughing up a storm because of the puff of ash the zombies exude when they are hit the first time! When they notice this, the Wizard and the Rogue start concentrating their ranged attacks on the remaining zombies who are not yet in range, so as to trigger their ash attack before they can reach melee range. This works quite well, and soon the zombies are defeated. The party fears that they will rise again from the ashes (literally), so they collect the ashes and pour them in a rain barrel to mix then with water!
After an inspection of the premises, the group continues and soon has Reidoth's base in their sights. They knock on his door, and he opens the door and ushers them in: it's dangerous outside! They explain their situation, and Reidoth tells them about the Cragmaws and their king. He marks the location of the castle on their map, and urges them to leave the village of Thundertree immediately because of all the dangerous creatures. The party thanks him, politely finishes their cup of herb tea and take their leave. But when they get outside, they do not return to the horses: spurred on by the Folk Hero, they start clearing out the village!
First, they go to the ruined farms right across the street. With the Twig Blights randomly appearing and the Noble Fighter not rolling that well, it takes some time for them to clear it. And then they move towards the foot of the hill, to cross over to the other part of the village. But they are ambushed by two Giant Spiders, one of whom shoots its sticky webbing towards the Noble Fighter, entangling him. It takes quite a bit of teamwork, and the Wizard makes great use of his Flaming Sphere spell, but eventually the Spiders are taken down. This took a lot from the party, so they decide to return to their base camp (and the Cleric) to rest up for a bit (and to have the Cleric cast his healing spell on the Noble). At the crossroads near Reidoth's base, they meet him outside. He is very angry: he specifically told them to get out of the village because of all the dangerous monsters, and look at them now! The party simply shrug and continue on (they already have what they need from him!) and continue on. Reidoth shouts at their backs that they're on their own now, and not to come running to him when things go pear-shaped. With the Cleric on standby, it seems that the party likes their odds, so they're quite OK with this.
After resting and healing, the Folk Hero convinced his friends to check out the tower with him (well, all except the Rogue. He was not convinced that was a wise decision...). Walking back to the foot of the hill, they turned left towards the tower. The Rogue made sure he kept off the path and hidden, while the others slowly crept upwards -- they were a bit tense despite all their big talk just moments before. The mauled Giant Spider did not deter them, and they carefully checked the cottage. After determining it was undisturbed, their attention went to the door leading to the tower. In whispers, the strategy for the coming fight was discussed, but the Rogue wanted nothing to do with it! He illusioned a door and stayed behind it, waiting outside. The Wizard prepared the Fireball spell from the scroll they found in Glasstaff's hoard, and the two Fighters readied their weapons...
The Wizard kicked in the door of the tower, and cast his Fireball on the unsuspecting Dragon coiled up at the center. (He rolled a natural 20 on his casting roll, so I let him add 2d6 to the damage, making it a cool 10d6). With the Dragon ambushed and thus at disadvantage for his Saving Throw, he got full damage too! Then the Noble charged in, and the Folk Hero used his bow. The next round, the Wizard cast Flaming Sphere, and used it to restrict the movements of the Dragon quite effectively! Just as the Dragon turned around to face the Noble, the Rogue walked into the cottage and cast Tasha's Horrible Laughter at the Dragon. (We checked: the spell can be cast at creatures of a certain intelligence. The Dragon qualified.) The Dragon even missed his Saving Throw, and started laughing -- missing his opportunity to attack!
Unfortunately, the Folk Hero kept missing, but the combined efforts of the Noble and the Wizard paid off. But when the Dragon had recovered from his bout of laughing (the next round, because he was hit), he let the Noble taste his full attacks, immediately dropping him! But then the Dragon had enough, and flew to the top of the tower -- as if he had one last trick up his sleeve. The party panicked and hastily evacuated the Noble from the tower, after which the Dragon executed his breath attack into the tower before flying off. The Folk Hero's ambition of driving off the Dragon was fulfilled!
The Wizard hastily stabilised the Noble, and the party retreated (once again) to their camp, the Folk Hero carrying the Noble on his back. When they arrived at the camp and asked the Cleric to heal the Noble, he sighed: "Not him again!" After a short rest, the part went back again, to explore the rest of the village, which went just as you would think it went.
But when they confronted the cultists at the other end of the village, things got interesting. The Noble had knocked on the door, and the leader of the cultists had opened the door. Then the Folk Hero happily told them they had driven off the Dragon, so there was no reason to be afraid anymore! Clearly these were dangerous types, so the leader mumbled something non-committal and tried to close the door. But the Noble decides then he didn't like the lack of enthusiasm (or his looks, who is to say?) and hewed him down! Of course, this set off a panic within, and the remaining cultists tried to flee. However, the Rogue had positioned himself at the back door, and could intercept some of them. In the end, only one cultist was left. He was a rather unmotivated fellow, who was just trying to get out of it alive -- so he pointed the three diamonds out to them. Then the party stripped him of his belongings and set him free...
The rest of the day was spent clearing the rest of the village. Whenever they encountered the ash zombies, the party missile specialists prioritised wounding them before they reached melee range, which worked out quite well. And towards the end of the day, all monsters had been vanquished. The part returned to Reidoth's base, to tell him about what happened. Reidoth grudgingly admitted that they had done a good job. He offered them a more comfortable place to stay during the night, so the Cleric and the horses were collected. The party decides to incorporate as a genuine Adventuring Company, and chooses "The Company of the Laughing Dragon" for themselves. After a meal, the party settled in for a good night's rest.