At a Michcon convention in the 1970’s I met Gary Gygax, the co-creator of D&D. I remember him saying that playing the game was akin to writing a novel. That always stuck in the back of my mind as a neat idea. We all think this, but few ever put it into action – to actually script the game sessions as a book. Hence this effort.
Thus continues the novelization of our current Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Note: At the bottom of this post is the links to the previous segments if you have not been keeping up.
I limped the church in Whiterock with a bit of a wry grin on my face. My gait was still erratic, but slightly better than in previous days. I was coping with my injury as best I could. Entering the temple, I was reminded all too well of the church’s disdain for magic that was not practiced by their priests. They had been purging those that practiced the art arcane for years. Just admitting you were a practitioner of non-church magic was enough to bring down the wrath of the church. It did not bother me as much as it caused them fear.
The church had a lot to fear. I was a warlock, a Keeper of the Great Fire, Ushers of the Great Old One. Our numbers in Whiterock were few, but it was more than enough to keep our mission ongoing. While the church wasted time on mortal souls, our quest was much more complicated. Bringing about the end of the world was something that consumed souls, even those that the church claimed to save.
The temple itself smelled of beeswax, incense, and false hope – at least in my mind. The priest war long flowing robes and seemed to float across the dark wooden floors to me. “What brings you here my son?” The old man always made me edgy. Some of it was the concern that he would learn that I was a warlock, but some of it was just his strange, almost always happy demeanor. Men that are always happy carry the darkest secrets – or so my sect-master says.
“This,” I said, pulling up my britches to show my leg where the cockatrice had bitten me. The skin was gray and hard like a stone, a large patch that stretched from just above my knee and up almost to my codpiece. “I was hoping you could heal me.”
The priest leaned in and touched the stoneskin almost apprehensively. “How did you get this injury?”
The old priest shook his head. “This is beyond me. I will say a prayer for you though.”
“Save it,” I replied. “I don’t need your prayer, I need a cure.” I turned and shuffled out. The entire encounter summed up my dealings with the church. They were always there in life when I didn’t need them, offering me things I couldn’t use. That was one of the reasons I had embraced the Dark Ones. At least they offered power in exchange for my service.
I made my way to Braxton Oldsford’s home, a member of my sect. I knocked and he and Dumar Ultard were there at the door. “You’ve returned!” he exclaimed and ushered me in. Ultard bombarded me with questions about the Gellesian Fields and the creatures we had faced there. Both were interested in my stoneskin, though neither had any idea of how to cure it.
Inevitably the talk turned to the demon skull that had possessed, albeit only for a few short days. “I have heard that such artifacts speak to you…is that true?” Oldsford asked.
“It did speak to me, though it did so in dissonant voices. I could not understand much of what it said. It was as if it were trying to impart something on me, pass on some message.”
Their mouths hung agape at my words. “None of us have ever dared march into that haunted battlefield, yet you Althalus, you went there and found such an artifact. To hold the skull of a demon it is said gives you power over them in the hells. Where is it now?”
My lips curled. “I was forced to surrender it by my comrades.”
“You no longer have it?” Ultard asked.
I glared at him, always the idiot. “What part of ‘surrender’ did you not understand? We were waylaid by a member of the Sisterhood of the Sword. It was necessary to turn it over to her to get what we went after. Now we must recover then go onto Karn and finish this fool’s errand.” I was far from happy about being little more than messengers for the long-dead Gray Rider. This was not getting me closer to my goal…bringing about the end of the world.
Braxton Oldsford nodded then went to the large red leather tome he kept above his fireplace. He carried it down. “You have done well Althalus, better than any of the others of our sect,” he shot a disappointed glace over at Ultard. “I impart on you the second rites – the spell for those that have communed with the dead.” He handed me the sacred book.”
“What kind of magic does it hold?”
“You are only ready for those of the second verse – but you are more than ready. Read on and choose your spells wisely.”
I was stunned. Only Oldsford had ever read the second or third verses of the book. “You honor me.”
“Nay,” he replied. “You have heard the voices of the dead. That is your first step down a greater path my young friend. I see much of me in you. Learn your new spells. I foresee that this journey you are on is much longer than you anticipate. You will venture far into the world, which has been foreseen in the fires. You alone may be one of the few that brings about the return of the Great Old One.”
The disappointment in Ultard’s eyes gave me some happiness. “I will not fail.”
“Study – learn what you are able – and prepared. Your journey is a long one.”
* * * * *
For two days I stayed in my room, only leaving to eat and shit. The spells in the second verse were difficult to understand at first. The more I read and re-read them, the more they began to make sense. I practiced at night, so my comrades wouldn’t see me. Theren had gone off to his sacred grove, and Arius went to the temple daily to pray and meditate. Galinndan hung with his friends from the Thieves Guild, drinking with the money he had paid them. Bor – Bor just practiced with his sword. On the second day I finally understood the words and could speak in incantations with some degree of accuracy. The spells worked! The power came to me as a trickle at first, but as I mastered the new spells-arcane, it became a tidal wave.
On the third day Theren returned looking overly rested. “We should be leaving for Karn,” he announced at breakfast. “I am now ready.” Arius and the rest had traded some of our treasure for horses. He called his Rollo, which seemed a strange name for a horse. Theren’s was named Drago, which was somewhat sinister sounding for the druid. We had all used our few days to recover and recoup, though I was still plagued with my stoneskin growth.
“Did the trees tell you it was time to go?” I asked, allowing myself a grin at his expense. “Or perhaps you have smoked enough of the wild-weed that you finally are ready to finish this journey.”
Theren was not amused. “I communed with nature and the forest spoke to me,” he said arrogantly. “I have learned much now. I can transform into the form of an animal, if it is my whim.” He was proud of what he had just mastered. I tried to picture him as a threatening bunny or a menacing mole. Such a power was a waste in the wrong hands. What I could do with that would be something to send ripples of fear into those that opposed me.
Arius grinned. “Of course you can,” he sniped back. “If you smoke enough of that forest weed and drink that mushroom soup, you believe you can do anything. You druids are all the same. Every little rock sings a song – every tree has a story to tell.” Coming from a paladin I found his words ironic and funny because they were at Theren’s expense.
“Would you like me to show you?” he retorted.
“No,” I said flatly. “We are really not interested.” I saw the red rise on his cheeks at my words. His frustration made me happy. Perhaps next time you will not be so quick to give up my possessions…
“Oh we believe you,” Bor added sarcastically. “You can change into an animal. Very useful I’m sure.” His piling on only infuriated Theren even more. It made my heart less black.
We set out mid-morning, fully provisioned. None of us had been to Karn before, there had never been a reason. We had heard all sorts of rumors though about Lord Sklaven. Some said he was mad with old age, others claimed that his advisors were the true power. I did not care. We needed to deliver our message recovered from Lexa Lyoncroft and be done with this business.
On the road to the east, we passed several farmers with carts heading off to Whiterock. My companions and I had changed. In the past we would have merely waved to them. Now we put our hands on the hilts of our weapons and wondered if every passing farmer was some sort of concealed threat, ready to spring upon us.
Several days passed and it wasn’t until the fourth day that we came across some strange wagon tracks. What made them strange was that they crossed the road before us, rather than travel on the road itself. Why would anyone not take the road and travel with wagons cross-country? Also I noted that some of the ruts were deep in the dried mud, an indication that they had formed up in column to conceal their numbers. This was not the work of farmers off to reap hay – that much I knew. Theren agreed.
Near that end of that day Galinndan spotted something on the road before it. It came into our view – a massive man, all muscles. He wore dark leather breeches and a chestplate of leather and steel. His arms were bare, and looked more like trees than arms. He was bald, except for his bushy eyebrows and a thin goatee. The man stood before us with a thick cape of fur on his back, from a creature or creatures I have never beheld before. He was older than us, probably late 40’s or even 50’s, though the years did not seem to take a toll on him. His sword was massive, with nicks and dings on its length that spoke to battles long fought and won. In the warrior’s other hand was a battle axe, almost as menacing as the giant sword. This is no run-of-the-mill fighter, this is a killer. Handling one of these weapons would be enough for most – he wields both.
He spoke through gritted teeth. “Who are you pond-scum-sucking vermin? Have you seen them? I am on their trail…they were headed this way!”
I could see that Bor and Arius were contemplating drawing their weapons and I was glad they did not. Doing so would have probably done little more than decapitate us and perhaps leave another nick on his sword, if we were lucky.
“Who are you following?” I asked nervously.
“The Amber Elves. They’ve stolen my granddaughter you woodchuck-humping, cockpiece-sucking fools.”
Before I could ask what Amber Elves were, Bor asked him his name.
“I am Matthias Blackshear, former First Knight of the Royal Guards, and I demand your assistance; you pansy-wasted little piles of minotaur shit! If you do not aid me, I can only assume you in league with those kidnapping bastards.” Pride hung in his words on the dusty trail. He said his name as if we should know who he was. We looked at each other with some confusion.
Seeing him, nearly half a man more than any of us, I realized that we were about to assist this man or perish.
“What kind of help do you need?” I asked.
I hope you are enjoying this as much as I am writing them up. Below are previous episodes: