Victorious, the Little and the Large now can claim as their trophy the Crown of Swords, the strange diadem rumoured to have once been carried by one of the Nine. Upon later examination, this mysterious artefact does not seem to possess any particular powers, yet for some reason it was highly sought after by the fiendish five and their mysterious, still unseen patron…
The combat between the Band of (formerly) 5 and the Little and the Large may have been the showpiece battle of the Small Melee, but the true substance of the tournament is yet to come: the Grand Melee, in which all the teams participate, vieing for the ultimate prize that is the favour of Queen Giselda and the unsurpassing prestige of being nominated a Dragonrider!
While such gifts are ultimately beyond the reach of our heroes (and, perhaps, beyond their desires as well), the Little and the Large are in the position to play the proverbial kingmaker, influencing which noble houses may gain these favours. The final melee is prefaced by bouts between different teams: this performance will dictate the composition of the climatic battle. As tradition dictates the participating teams are now divided between two sides, one headed by the winners of the Small Melee tournament. The most honourable and distinguished combatant of the Grand Melee shall be appointment Dragonrider, while their counterpart in the loosing side will be awarded a favour by the queen.
Since in effect both trophies are limited to prominent members of the ruling noble dynasties (and influenced by various factions by and behind the throne), careful strategising is in order to ensure not only that a friendly noble shall become Dragonrider, but that the favour will be dispensed to a house not aligned against the party. The Little and the Large pick Uther von Scrauben, a priest of Bahamut that has impressed the party with his most un-aristocratic humility and ethics as their champion for Dragonrider. By carefully selecting which houses and teams are one their side, the Little and the Large put together a fearsome batallion.
Individual clashes now proceed between the teams engaged in the chaotic grand melee. The Little and the Large are able to eliminate some of the strengths that stand on the opposing sides, though decisive knock-outs of major opponents elude them. Sabina, who has naturally come to fight on the side of the Little and the Large, performs less fortunately, almost loosing the entirety of her own team. Some pep-talk between the rounds mamanges to cheer her up, however.
Then comes the moment of final glory: charging across the tournament field the two sides, one marshalled by the Little and the Large, the other spear-headed by Ambroce von Strauben, Uther’s haughty and less-than-friendly brother, clash violent against each other. The situation is vastly complicated by the presence of the menacing Sir Hellstrom on the party’s side; should the Little and the Large win this encounter there is every danger that Hellstrom, whose sinister patron’s allegiances are suspect, might claim the title of the Dragonrider! Far in the background lurks Vicount Verdun, who has for, ah, “tactical reasons” decided to hang back from the turbulent struggle.
Battlefield strategems come into good use among those somewhat braver, however, as careful positioning of the troops isolates Hellstrom at one flank; in the end, overwhelmed by the opposition like a great bear taken down by yipping dogs, the vanquished form of Hellstrom falls to the ground with a hollow clang, the violent discharges of electric energy that surround his armour temporarily abating. Elsewhere the enemy is routed and even Ambroce must yield the field; the full glory of this segment of the tournament belongs to the party, as do the numerous cash prizes that come with it. Uther’s proclamation as Dragonrider is surely a victory for justice, and even the other von Straubens may content with royal favour. The party hopes this will help to stabilise the turbulent political situation in the kingdom.
The party has only a few moments to enjoy the fruits of victory (and to make certain purchases from purveyors of magical items!) before Pehr von Kurnerstadt, the Hand of the Queen, request their presence. Aware that the party is ready to move against the Necrocount, he reveals to them a vital piece of information: the Necrocount’s vampire mistress Lady Ferranifer has been sighted in small hamlet only a few hours griffon ride away. This is an unprecedented opportunity to capture and interrogate one of Necrosha’s movers and shakers!
Our heroes naturally jump at the opportunity and are soon heading to the south-east. As the moon rises on the midnight sky, the party locates the inn at which the vampire lady is holding court with her wight bodyguards. Quickly rushing the building, the surprise grants the party the momentum that carries the night. Struggling and and filled with wrathful spite though she may be, Ferrenifer is now at their mercy.