The journey to Dragon's Lair was a quiet one, as they passed through some decently civilized portions of the Empire. They took the road through Stonebridge - though that resulted in a slight delay, as the troll under the bridge was overjoyed to see Caiden when he collected their tolls. The troll invited them for drinks in his home under that bridge, and Caiden said it would be unwise to refuse.
So the lot of them ended up sharing some surprisingly delicious ale with the enormous stone troll. He was an unintelligent fellow, but gentle and kind enough. It turned out his name was Krug.
Eventually, Krug did let them go, though not without giving Caiden a jug of the ale to go, which Caiden seemed to appreciate.
Upon reaching the city of Dragon's Lair itself, they were met with quite a sight: a city covered in dragons. Dragon statues flanked the main gate, guarded by soldiers and knights clad in armor decorated in red dragon heraldry and bearing wings on their helmets, with shields like wings as well.
The city itself was hardly different: dragon grotesques decorated the buildings, along with dragon gargoyles and other dragon motifs - and if not proper dragons, things generally at had least wings, fangs, horns, scales, claws or some other draconic feature worked into their designs.
Great banners of red, white, and gold flew everywhere, displaying the city's pride - and all of these displayed dragons as well. On their way to the castle, the Venatori passed by a massive statue of a knight, tall and incredibly handsome, with a helm shaped like a dragon head tucked under one arm. Behind him reared a massive statue of a dragon, wings on full display.
The plaque, for those who could read, said, "Sir Chrisanthos Fireblood Draconius, A Dragon of the Red and Founder of Dragon's Lair."
Onward they pressed through that breathtaking city, until at last they reached a castle equally as decorated in dragons as everything else around them. The knights there let them inside, where they were to hold an audience with Cristina Drake, one of the daughters of Warren Drake, who was apparently busy in Illikon.
She met them in the great hall, though she wasn't busying herself being seated in one of the chairs by the throne and holding a proper audience. She was properly beautiful, with chiseled features and long, brown hair worn in a bun at the back of her head.
Cristina simply gave the lot of them a nod after surveying them with her steely blue eyes - her gaze briefly lingering on Caiden, who offered a brief bow of his head.
"I assume you're all the follow-up to those first two Venatori," Cristina said, seeming to struggle not to sound rude. She succeeded, but her trouble doing so was apparent, and she almost seemed to wonder why she bothered.
"I don't have much information to offer you, so I'll tell you what I told them: locals in the western districts of the city claim they're hearing strange noises, always in the night. But no one's been hurt or gone missing, so - frankly - I'm not sure what business Venatori have muscling their way around Dragon's Lair trying to find more damage to cause..."
Her voice drifted slightly, and she folded her arms over the red dress she wore. She turned her face away from them briefly as if she hadn't wanted all that to come tumbling out.
Caiden took a step forward then, resting a hand on Cristina's shoulder for just a moment before letting it return to his side. She glanced at him for half a second and then back at the other monster hunters.
"You know we didn't mean for things to go that way," Caiden said gently.
Cristina folded her arms a little tighter. "I... can't know that, actually, Caiden. You were his friend... But I suppose it's not your fault what happened," she muttered under her breath, as if she didn't want to acknowledge that part.
She looked to all the assembled Venatori and finished, "That's all I know. I didn't put out any contract for Venatori - the locals in the western districts asked my father to, and he did. If you want more information, you'd best go speak with some of the citizens near the western gates, leading out to the coast and the swamps."