Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. Parts 1-19 charted the first part of the campaign, part 20 began the next phase of the saga: Tempora. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Enjoy!
“We don’t know for sure that the trap is disarmed,” Theren said. “Just because it went ‘click’ does not mean that you shut it off.
“I’ll check it out,” I said. I stepped out ten-heads distance and nothing happened. I went further, even bouncing up and down slightly, but the floor did not drop, nor did the flames come down. The stones were still hot from the inferno that had nearly consumed Theren.
When I got to the other side of the hot stones, the band of heroes that I found myself attached to had assembled.
“You know,” Arius said. “We have not been making a map as we go.”
“It is a straight line – we are on a road,” I offered.
“We might need to know our way out at some point,” the paladin pressed. I didn’t like the use of the word, “might.” He was hinting what we were all thinking. If we found the missing paladins, we had to overpower whoever had captured them, and find our way out. This was not going to be easy.
“It is okay,” I assured my new friends. “I have some skills in keeping a mental map.” I tapped my head with my finger but it did not seem to instill the confidence I had hoped for.
Arius cast a twisted grin. “Great. Make sure we keep the ranger alive then or we’re trapped here.” I like to think I was bringing more to the party than that…but I was content with the nods of agreement from the others.
We trudged on downward into the mountain. Hundreds of feet passed. Bor, the hulking fighter at the front of our party, his warhammer shimmering blue, stopped after a half-mile or so. “Hold here. There are some arrow slits on either side of the roadway with a door to each just past them.”
“They have to be abandoned,” I offered.
“The slits are low, probably for dwarves,” Bor said.
“I wonder if this is a trap of some sort.” Theren said. “They might fire arrows if we walk in front of them.” That was a thought that was unappealing. The last trap had almost roasted our druid. He still smelled of smoke with a hint of bacon.
The druid had us all halt. “I’ll crawl up under the slit. You all hold back.” Oddly we were all quite comfortable with that approach.
On his hands and knees he slithered under the arrow slit on the right side of the tunnel then made his way to the door just beyond it. The knob turned with a squeal of rusted and protesting metal as he twisted it around. The creaking of the hinges seemed to echo far too distant for my take. Bor seemed like he wanted to join Theren, but did not want to further split the party. Inevitably, he stayed behind with us.
Theren shuffled in the small antechamber for a few minutes, then emerged and returned to us with something in his arms, something black and almost shimmering. It was a skull, black, almost polished to a reflective glare. It was shaped like no creature I had ever seen wandering the woods or vales of the land. In the skull were ebbed three crossbow bolts, silver tipped and stuck deep into the glossy surface.
Althalus, our warlock and resident expert on skulls immediately began to look it over with keen interest. Whatever it was, it made me nervous. The silver tipped bolts told me that it had belonged to an unnatural creature, a spawn of the nethervoid. That usually meant powerful magic and danger to those near it.
“I’m keeping it,” the warlock said greedily. After dusting it off, Althalus put it on top of his quarterstaff. It looked menacing – possibly even to us. I have to admit, it worried me, but I too carried a skull in my pack. Mine was white and bleached with age. His…his was something eerie, like out of a nightmare.
I turned my attention to the other opposing arrow slit. I went over and duplicated the crawl under it that Theren had made. The handle on the door past the slit on my side had rusted over and did not turn at first. It took a surge of strength to get it to pop open. Unlike Theren’s door, mine suddenly swung open and a Dwarven skeleton lurched out at me, wielding an axe!
The axe hit across my chest, severing my armor and slicing my skin enough to make me recoil.
Theren’s voice called me, “Get out of the way Brandon!” I swung at the skeleton but his rusted plate only rattled from my attack. The skeletons seemed to grin at me under its helmet. I stepped to the side.
Bor jumped beside me, swinging down with Skullringer. The blue-blur of the warhammer hit the stout skeleton, doing no real damage other than scoring his old plate armor. An arrow whizzed past my ear, missing both me and the skeleton. A burst of brilliant emerald magic energy, no doubt from Althalus, hit the undead monstrosity. The force of the hit was so hard that he was knocked back into his tiny alcove. The hole in his armor glowed where the magic had punched through, but the angry dead-Dwarf only lunged back towards Bor and myself.
Arius lunched past Bor with his sword, hitting the skeleton square and true. There was a sickening metallic grinding sound as the sword punctured the once proud plate mail. The undead creature staggered a half-step back.
Arius swung again, hitting him, driving him back further into the room. There was a crash of armor and bone in the room, then his skeletal head came rolling out of the door. I picked it up. “The deed is done,” our paladin said proudly, sheathing his blade.
Before the other could join us, I moved in on top of the skeleton to see if there was anything of value on his remains. I found a sliver necklace around its broken neck, one of exceptional value from what I could tell. There was an old rather unremarkable battle axe as well. In a small pouch on his belt, I found a small green glass vial with a tattered piece of paper attached to it. I scanned the letters but they were gibberish to me.
“What do you make of this?” I held it in front of Arius.
“Chanel perhaps?” he then chuckled.
“I don’t get it.”
“An old joke. It is a wizard that makes oils and balms that could make a pile of manure smell like roses,” the paladin said, still amused with his comment.
“Why would anyone want to make manure smell like roses?”
“It is just a legend,” was all I got in response.
“Let me look at it,” our warlock said. He studied the writing for a moment. “It is written in the old tongue, archaic. It says, ‘remove curse.’” As if to make his point, he took out his quill and wrote on it in common tongue, “remove curse.” “Just so we don’t forget.”
As we rested for a few minutes, I was surprised to see Althalus take out the ebony black skull with the arrows. He fidgeted with the silver tipped crossbow bolts in it, removing the shafts but leaving the silver tips in the skull. Each time he pried one loose we all gasped a little bit, wondering what would happen if he dislodged it. I for one did not want to know.
“Why are you doing that?” our paladin asked.
“It makes it easier to carry – less risk,” the warlock replied.
The paladin closed his eyes and held his hand over the skull and concentrated. “This is evil, dark evil. It is the skull of a devil. What kind, I cannot say.”
“Excellent!” Althalus squealed. “I’ll bring it with us. It makes up for that demon skull I was forced to give up.”
“Your obsession with demonic skulls is a bit disturbing,” Arius said, eyeing our comrade carefully as he put the skull in his pack as opposed to the staff he had put it on. “I am not comfortable at all with that thing coming with us.”
“It’s just as skull,” I said.
“I wasn’t referring to the skull,” Arius said grimly, glaring momentarily at Althalus.
We continued on, downward into the long tunnel. We walked for many minutes and came across a trench-like pit carved into the floor, crossing the entire tunnel. Bor leaned over slightly. “It’s deep, I cannot see the bottom. There’s a mechanism on the other side. This must be for drainage or defense of some kind.”
Looking upward as we closed on the pit I could see that the ceiling above it was cracked – thick openings and deep over the trench. On the far side, some seven heads across, we could see a heavy oak plank. Someone had used it to make a bridge, and had taken it with them. From the footsteps I saw in the dust, I knew it must have been where the missing paladins had been taken.
Dimitrious stepped forward and dropped his torch into the pit, it disappeared entirely after a fall of only 20 heads. I watched it disappear. “That is odd. It just disappeared.”
“Perhaps someone should jump across,” Arius said. Clearly he was not volunteering. “Perhaps we could construct something, perhaps a rudimentary lathe?” Everyone looked at the paladin and he grinned.
I saw the gap more as a challenge than an obstacle as did Bor. He took his armor off and with a running start, jumped across, landing on bended knee as the others squabbled over the best way across. He slid the board across forming a bridge. I crossed it next with no issue whatsoever. Theren joined us on the other side.
Althalus did not walk across, but came on all fours, slowly, which proved to be his downfall. Halfway across I heard a slurping sound from the massive crack over the pit. A massive semi-transparent cube of a creature dropped down on him, taking him and the bridge and engulfing him entirely. The green oozing creature had things in it but it barely fit in the narrow trench. It oozed down slowly, with our warlock in the middle of it, his cheeks puffed out as he held his breath.
Arius was in pain, but his arcane spell made it so that if he took damage, he caused fire damage. There was a flash of flames everywhere, the tiny pockets of air feeding the flames. The gelatinous creature was apparently flammable and it ignited on its own. At this point we all move in and looked over at the scene unfolding…our friend, on fire, in a thick oozing mass, sliding into a pit.
The only good news was that the pit was treated with some sort of illusionary spell to make it seem much deeper. It was only twenty-heads deep and the warlock and his flaming friend were only slowly sliding down. The smell of the burning gelatinous creature rose, stinging our nostrils with a smell I have never heard before.
We were stunned, but not Bor. He swung his deadly glowing warhammer at it, gouging a deep furrow in the oozing beast. Dimitrious did the same with his staff, with a similar affect. It was hard for us to know if we were doing any real damage…but the flames erupted up the sides as it burned and somewhere in the middle of this was our warlock.
I jabbed my staff into the goo and it sank deep, almost reaching Althalus. As my staff emerged it caught the flames and came out on fire. Theren swung his enchanted staff sending a spray of the greenish substance flying into the air. Flames lapped up along the side of pit.
Althalus started to swim in the green goo, getting close to the edge, but not getting free. Dimitrious sliced a big piece of the cube out with his staff. The warlock stopped moving entirely and we realized that he may be near death. I couldn’t help but wonder what might happen to that devil’s skull that he had on him. This has the potential to become much worse.
Our party, realizing that Althalus was about to die, leaned over the edge and swung wildly as the cube slid down. Theren kill it finally with his staff. Suddenly the creature lost all of its form, turning to a green flaming goo twenty heads down, burning.
“I feel so funky,” the warlock said as he gained his senses.
“I’ll jump down,” Arius said.
“Hold it,” Theren said, lowering a rope. “Let him climb out.”
The ooze covered warlock grabbed the rope and got up about half-way out of the pit, then lost his grip and fell, letting out a low moan. Finally, after several minutes, he climbed out. We were exhausted and the air still stung from the acidic smell of the burning creature. I looked over the edge of the pit once the fires died down and saw a shield with a reflective surface of some sort and a suit of chainmail. Arius did as well. “That shield looks interesting. Hold the rope, I’m going down,” the paladin said. He got halfway down the rope but lost his grip on the goo that Althalus had left on the rope, falling down.
“What is it?” I called down.
“This chainmail is light, good quality,” he said, putting it in his pack. The shield that he held was domed with a reflective surface almost like that of a mirror, but this one had a razor-like edge around its rounded edge. The paladin tried to climb out, but once more slipped and fell back down. “Damn this accursed pit!” he spat as he slowly made his way to the surface.
We were all winded and watched as our warlock tried to scrape off the bits of goo, charred and otherwise, from him. “Perhaps,” I suggested, “This would be a good time for us to get some rest.”
The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do.