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 moved forward some fifty-heads and saw a shimmering light start to come into focus in the middle of the underground roadway. In the middle of the light, Bor, who had taken point whispered back that it was female – and older woman, bathed an eerie glow. She carried a golden censor in one hand, wafting smoke slightly. We moved forward cautiously.
“Hello!” called out Bor. The mysterious woman did not respond. I wondered if she was some sort of ghost or an illusion set forth to deceive us.
I stepped forward and called, “Hello,” as well. She did not seem to respond to my voice any more than Bor’s.
“I think there’s some magic in play here,” Theren said.
I glared back at him. Really. Normal people do not appear out of nowhere and glow.
“Let us move closer,” I suggested. “Not attack, let us appear friendly.”
We noticed two things. Her head turned to follow us as we fanned out across the roadway. On her back was the hilt of a sword, a massive sword, slung there.
“Hello,” Althalus called out to her as we got nearer.
“Why are you here?” she asked. Her voice was not that of an aged women, but someone much younger.
“We are travelers,” Theren said. I looked over at the druid and cringed. Yes, he was correct, but we were traveling on a long hidden underground road to a lost Dwarven city in search of dozens of missing paladins. Saying we were ‘travelers’ seemed like a gross over-simplification.
Theren sensed my doubt and turned to her again. “We seek to pass.”
“It would be best,” she said in a low tone, “to turn around. You are treading on dangerous ground.”
“Of that,” the druid replied, “we are aware.”
“We have to proceed,” Althalus added.
The shimmering female bowed her head and shook it slowly. At her feet, a circle of blueish light appeared, swirling and twisting. Before we could respond to her further, she sank down into the circle of light, disappearing.
“Well,” our warlock said, “that was a waste of our time.” Althalus always spoke his mind, be it right or wrong. We moved up to where she had been and saw the dust had been disturbed. This was no illusion. Something, or someone had been there.
We trudged on. Several hundred feet further we came across a roughly made wall, apparently chiseled from the rock faces. The wall blocked most of the roadway, and was only two or three heads of height. As we approached a formless apparition rose from behind the wall, to almost six-heads height. It glowed green and had a human shape but flowing, like a wisp. Now this, this was a ghost. My hand fell to my trusted sword. An eerie moan filled the air from the direction of the figure.
The moan became a wailing and we readied ourselves for a fight.
“Hello,” Theren called.
“Leave now…” the high-pitched moaning voice said. The image moved back and forth along the wall. “Drop your weapons and gold and flee…”
I was not afraid of this apparition since it seemed to be staying relatively in place. “I say we move around the edge of the wall. I will not be intimidated by a formless figure.” Bor nodded that he could join me. I intoned a silent prayer as we moved.
We rounded the end of the wall and saw several goblins on the other side, one holding a stick with a sheet on it, the other holding a lantern behind it, with some green glass lens. “I told them to flee…” one of them chortled, until he saw us standing there.
One spun, pointing a rod or wand of some sort at us. There was brilliant burst of light and a crack as the lightning bolt shot forth, hitting Bor squarely in the chest. “Ouch!” he wailed, smoke drifting from the hole in his armor as he pulled forth Skullringer and rushed the pair of goblins. How he survived the lightning bolt, I cannot say.
A pair of crossbow bolts flew at Bor, one missing and shattering on the wall, the other sinking the bolt into our warrior’s shoulder. Skullringer, glowing blue, swinging and crushing the skull of one goblin, spraying the air with tiny bits of goblin brain and greenish blood. The heavy crossbow thudded the stone floor.
A counter-swing of Skullringer hit the other goblin in his torso in his tiny ribs, and continued on through. His spine exited his body on the end of the magical glowing warhammer, splattering about the floor. There was a look of astonishment on the goblin’s face as his spine departed his body. Another goblin moved out of the shadows, sword in hand, but Althalus dealt with him with an eldritch blast. The emerald energy beam hit the creature, tossing him back into the wall as it burned through his body. The smoking hole, bore clean through, left a streak on the wall as the corpse slid down into a pile of smoldering greenish goo.
Brandon leapt over the wall and landed, ready for battle, but there was nothing left to fight – making me wonder if we should call him, “Brandon the Late.” We saw the sheet on a stick and the lantern that they used to create the illusion of the ghost. It must have taken two of them to handle the large crossbow, and from the looks of it, it was not a goblin weapon but one of dwarven-make. It took the heavy crossbow and bolts while Althalus examined the rod that had fired the lightning bolt. “What do you make of it?” I asked.
“I appears to be magical,” he said flatly. “It is polished. There is a metallic strip on it, about the length of a finger. Somehow that must be used to trigger it.” Theren eyed the warlock suspiciously. “As one practitioner of the arcane to another, be wary of where you point that.”
We found some coins and put those in Bor’s pack – some gold and silver of old mintage.
Brandon looked at the smashed remains of the goblins. “Why do we keep running into goblins?”
“Because,” Althalus said wryly, “they are adorable and cheap to hire.” He prodded one of the dead bodies with his foot, just to make sure it was dead. Brandon scooped up the green-lensed lantern and hung it from his staff.
We gathered ourselves and began down the tunnel anew. Another 200 heads down the roadway, we came across a gallery of sorts, lining one wall. It was carved deep into the stone and had a low stone abutment in front of it, providing cover for anyone standing there. There were steps at the far end, but they were crumbled. From that thirty-foot gallery, a small group of bowmen could riddle anyone coming down the tunnel.
Opposite from the gallery was a closed door. Brandon moved toward the door under the green glow of his new lantern, and pulled at the door. I stood behind him. The creak echoed down the hallway as the rusty hinges protested. From the room beyond, a small group of five goblins rushed out, armed with scimitars, focused on Brandon.
“Fall back!” the ranger called, almost stumbling into me as he attempted to do so.
One dug his sword into Brandon, cutting his deep in his midriff. “They killed Barry!” one of the goblins howled. “Kill them!” They must have heard us dispatch their compatriots.
I swung my sword and missed entirely, hitting the door near its hinge. I immediately dropped prone. I knew Theren and Althalus were behind me and needed a shot at the doorway.
Brandon dropped as well, more from the gushing wound in his stomach. “Stay down!” I barked to him. The last thing we needed was him rising into the magic blasts from behind us.
As if on cue, the air around the goblins erupted in a cloud of swirling daggers and I heard the mumbling of Althalus. Blood, brains (few of those) and a mist of red and green goo erupted from the space where the goblins had been concentrated. Several of them were instantly shredded in the magical assault. I felt the bloody mist of green and heard the churning of the blades devouring the hapless creatures. Theren unleashed an arrow, hitting one. The survivors moved to the sides in the room beyond, to avoid any other shots. They closed the door behind them in their retreat.
Althalus ignored the goblins and turned his attention to the gallery. It was a good move, the last thing we wanted was to be hit from behind, at least I presumed that was what was in the warlock’s dark heart. Dimintrious joined him. He leapt over the low wall that provided cover, apparently unafraid of what might be there. “What do you see?”
“Some heavy crossbows. Bits of armor and bones. Probably a dozen long-dead dwarves. Two large beetle carcasses were there, very large – two-to-three heads in size.” He was clearly rooting around while we faced the goblin threat.
I turned back to the door and switched to my new heavy crossbow, pulling it back and dropping a bolt onto the groove. Bor moved in near the door as I rose.
“What do you hear?” I asked.
Bor grinned. “They are arguing about coming out here.” He chuckled. “They are upset over what we did to ‘Doug.’”
What a stupid name for a goblin. Bor dropped a few copper pieces on the floor, hoping they would hear the coins hit the stone. Theren moved up next to the burly fighter. “Hold my tankard of ale,” he joked. “I’ve got this.” He nodded to Bor who flung open the door.
Theren rushed in and began to waver. I had seen this before. His accursed magic…the druid was transforming to some creature of the wood…in this case, a big black bear! There was a squeal from two of the goblins as he transformed before them and roared. “Holy crap – who brought the bear!” “Kill the bear! Kill the bear!”
Theren-the-bear and swiped one of them with a massive claw, biting at another one of the green-skinned creatures. One was so badly mauled, green blood flowed onto the stone floor.
Two moved to hit the bear with their swords, one tearing into his flesh. Brandon fired through the open door, missing everyone in the room. I took more time with my aim, firing and burying my bolt into the body of one of the goblins that had shifted to the doorway.
Bor’s shimmering warhammer hit the same goblin, throwing him a good ten heads into the wall, killing him. I reloaded my crossbow as Theren savagely slashed at one in the neck, nearly ripping his head off and tossing his lifeless body across the room. The last goblin drove his sword into the bear, but that only seemed to serve to piss off the bear. Theren opened his massive jaws and bit the head of the creature, tossing him about violently, crushing his skull in the process. I looked about the room and saw green blood mixed in with our own. It was a scene of carnage and chaos, especially from the magical cloud of daggers that had churned up at least one goblin, splattering him everywhere.
There was another door in the room which we all eyed cautiously. This room was a barracks of some sort, probably from Tempora’s defenses. The beds there, eight of them, were dwarven and most were crumbling apart with age and held together with crude hemp ropes. Stone carvings on the walls of the barracks showed heroic dwarves in battle. Scrawled in crude paint was the writings of the goblins above and around them. One had written, “Stubby Dick,” over a dwarf holding a massive axe. The other was painted with the name, “Wet Willie” The goblins had also painted on exaggerated female body parts on the carvings of the heroes.
The beds had no pattern to them. I moved to check them. Brandon pointed to the shields, small bucklers. “Is that some sort of lizard skin on them?” Theren transformed back to human shape and move in next to him. “Yes, but what kind of lizard?”
As I poked in the beds with my sword, I found a small silver jewelry box, inset with several stones in it. There was also a small amulet, this one smeared with blood. I handed the bloody amulet to Brandon who held it near his lantern. “This bears the mark of the Order of the Fang, the paladins we are searching for!”
I focused on the silver box. It was clearly of dwarven make. I clasped the lid and pried it open. I felt a prick to my thumb. Suddenly my eyesight was blurred. Poison! Curses. I healed myself before the toxin could harm me more. A part of me cursed myself for being so sloppy with my opening. A dozen pieces of platinum were inside. I handed those to Bor to carry and kept the jewelry box for myself.
I noticed for a moment that Althalus and Dimitrious were still in gallery, rooting around in the dead bodies there. I didn’t see what triggered it, but I saw the warlock rise over the half-wall and begin throwing up. The liquid hit the floor like a bucket of fresh oatmeal. He moaned horribly, vomiting violently. I wanted to laugh. Clearly his poking around was not going very well.
We turned our attention to the other door in the room. We checked it and felt air flow from the other side under it. Althalus staggered over toward us, his beard riddled with his last meal. “I found this, he held up a gold ring. It was intricately carved with a dragon and had dwarvish runes on it.
Bor took it as we moved around the door. There was no point in being subtle. If there was anyone beyond this door, they had to have heard our battle. “This says, ‘Ulster – Beloved husband and protector of the Faith.’ It must have been a wedding band.” Althalus took it back, studying it carefully before putting it in his pocket.
Brandon drew his short sword. “I’ll go through. Third time is bound to be charm.” The ranger pulled the door open. A five head wide hallway was behind and led to a door at the end. Theren put his hand on the ranger’s shoulder. “This hallway is narrow. I suggest you open that far door and pull back so that we can do what we do best.” The ranger nodded in agreement.
On the other side was a room lit by a few low torches, forty-by-thirty heads in size. There was a massive hearth, fire still burning in it. The stench of rotting flesh came from a wolf that was hanging from a ceiling hook. Flies hovered around the body. There was stew of some sort on the hearth, and a shelf with jars of what we assumed was food. A half-loaf of moldy bread sat on a hearty table. Vents were cut into the ceiling, clearly the work of the dwarves that had built this room. The goblins had appropriate the mess for their own twisted diets.
“I wonder if this stew is good,” Brandon said, opening the lid to the pot and smelling it.
“Goblins made it,” I said. “Feel free to eat it.” The ranger returned the lid without taking a taste.
“We should hold up here and rest,” Theren said. It seemed like a good idea. Our battles had taken some toll. We barred the door to the roadway to the mess and set up watches. The goblin beds were short, but more comfortable than sleeping on the floor. Our quest to find the missing paladins was taking us deeper into the mountains – and as we went, the terrors became more dangerous. I prayed that we would find them soon, lest we become lost in these catacombs and trapped here with them.
Then again, we had no proof that they were even still alive…
The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do.