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!
Bor…(A Song of Fire and Water)
That book was going to be trouble. Of course Althalus wanted it. In the Gallesian Fields he had found a demon’s skull and lost it in a barter with Lexa Lyoncroft. Now he possessed a polished ebony devil’s skull with silver tipped arrowheads stuck in it. A weathered tome called, “Demons and Devils – Summoning and Control,” in his hands was going to be a problem, for all of us. I kept my thoughts to myself though. If push came to shove, shoving was the thing I did best. He would not have it. Arius finally stuffed it in his backpack, ending the debate.
We stood at the edge of the ruins of Tempora. The mountain was hollowed out. A massive iron chandelier hung by chains and a tiny hole to the outside let in light. There were thick spiderwebs far up at the very peak of the mountain, above the broken chandelier. At one time the lighting device must have hit the mirrored crystals and illuminated the entire city. Now we stood in the darkness and debris. What city had been built on the inner walls of the mountain was now crumbled and rubble. The city at the base was a jumble of broken stones and the flotsam of everyday life. Navigating such ground was going to be difficult.
We knew from the poem that the river flowing between the feet of the statue was where we had to go, but such a vast space of ruin demanded exploration. We opted to go around the long way, along the perimeter of the floor of the hollowed mountain, just to make sure there was nothing that would show up behind us at some point. It was hard going. Each pile of wreckage required exertion, coordination, and left your ankles sore from the task. We had to backtrack a half dozen times, finding our path blocked with walls and rubble. For hours we climbed and crawled. We did find a set of rooms in the wall of the mountain, but all that was there was smashed furniture, musty tapestries that were more rotted fragments than something of interest. Whatever had destroyed Tempora had done so with a viciousness than I could imagine. We found a rotted leather pouch with a handful of silver coins…hardly worth the effort.
“At least there is no sign of anyone being here,” Theren said.
My eyes went upward to the chandelier hundreds of heads over us. It had hung on five massive iron chains, now it hung on one. It must have been beautiful to see at one time, but now it was something that could fall on us at any moment.
We trudged on. What we found were shattered bones, dwarven in origin. Several hours later we found a small flat area in the rubble, perhaps a wall at one point, now laid flat. As we moved I started to get a sense of foreboding…as if something was about to happen to us. I took point, crawling up over a rise in the rubble, only to see a giant spider, white and gray hair and a shimmering blue mark on its chest. I was caught unprepared by the creature. It sprung at me with a stunning bite, ripping into my forearm, punctuating the armor. My arm felt limp and blood splattered the white hair on the creature as well as my neck and face. The pain followed a moment later – hot, searing.
Suddenly, there was a whooshing sound, like a wind blowing. My eyesight blurred. I had a moment of disorientation. Then my vision cleared and I was in a massive hammock-like spider nest, swaying in the air. I caught a glimpse down through a small hole and saw that I was 500 heads above the rubble where I had been standing. Somehow the creature had teleported me to its nest, a hammock-like creation, presumably to kill and eat me. The pain was even more searing in my arm, no doubt from its poison.
You won’t be eating me, not today…
I swung Skullringer and hit it hard in the confined space, sending the beast flying. On the backswing, I missed, but it was enough to make the creature scurry a few steps back. The massive spider coiled and sprung at me. I pivoted slightly and the creature leapt through a hole in the webbed nest that I stood on. It plummeted downward, past the rusted iron chandelier to the rocks far below.
My breath was ragged and I could smell the rot of long-dead flesh in the nest mixed with a stink I had never smelled before. How was I going to get down from here? The shimmering blue light of Skullringer showed me that there were many stripped bones of the victims of these creatures. From the size of the nest, I could tell there were more than the one creature I had seen. I found a small cache of rubies and diamonds in the webbing, no doubt lost by some explorer that had become prey. I tucked them in my backpack.
I found a ring as well, silver, with ornate carving. Pulling it from the sticky webbing, I saw two dwarven words: “Stalker” and “Bentormon.” I put it on and spoke the word I did not know, “Bentormon.” For a moment there was a ripple, like summer heat rising off of a stone. Something was different, but I could not tell for sure what it was. I jumped up and down, hoping it was a ring of flight, but all that did was make the unsteady nest sway slightly. Whatever the effect of the ring, I couldn’t discern it. I turned my attention to my predicament and the possible plummet I could be facing. Below, I could see the green glow of the ranger’s lantern as they moved out into the center of the mountain directly under me.
There was a commotion near the party, that much I could make out. Suddenly next to me another spider winked into existence, clamped onto Althalus. I swung Skullringer at it, hitting it hard, and the hulking spider hissed at me. It tossed aside the unconscious warlock and its many eyes seemed to drift over me. I swung again, crushing its face and splattering the warlock with bits of it. I wiped Skullringer off on the nest and Althalus stirred to a stunned expression. “Where am I?”
“In a worse place than you were,” I replied.
“Oh shit,” he replied, moving pulling his hands from the sticky nest we were in. The slight sway of the nest made us both feel uneasy.
“I could use my eldritch blasts…” he offered.
“That…” I said slowly, “would be a horrible idea.”
“I have that wand with me, the one that shoots lightning,” he offered wryly.
“Not funny. That isn’t helping.” I asked him to watch me as I uttered, “bentormmon.” This time nothing happened to me, I did not see the ripple effect. “Do you notice anything different?”
“Should I?” Getting a straight answer out of this warlock was difficult at best. I was about to beret him when suddenly another spider blinked in next to us, bringing with it, Dimitrious. The nest seemed to sag under the weight of the two appearing.
I didn’t hesitate, I attacked! Skullringer was an azure blur as I struck it hard, throwing it back to the far end of the nest. The warlock unleashed an eldritch blast on the spider, tossing it hard back, causing the nest to rock harder than ever before. That warlock was going to kill us both if he was not careful. The spider blinked out of existence, leaving me to glare at Althalus. “Be careful. This nest is likely flammable.”
“I was careful,” he countered.
“These blink spiders are dangerous,” I said, surveying the nest as it swayed.
Suddenly, a bear appeared grappled with one of the spiders. “Grab me!” he commanded in a low growl. I recognize that bear….Theren! I lunged for it, as did Dimitrious and Althalus. There was flash around us and a whistle of air, and we landed on the debris on the floor far below the nest. Before it could teleport us again, the bear crushed the spider’s skull in its massive claws.
I looked up at the nest. I thanked God we blinked down, otherwise the way down could have left us dead. I then turned to the druid. “Thank you Theren,” I told him. The bear dipped its head. The rest of our party came over and joined us. Brandon cut the poison sac out of the creature and drained it into an empty glass vial that Althalus offered him. For a few minutes, we rested. I cleaned my trusty warhammer off. This quest was exhausting, and we seemed no closer to finding the missing paladins. I suppressed the thought that we might never find them.
We set off for the interior wall of the hollowed mountain. I led us through the debris. Near the wall I spotted some bleached bones poking up out of the rubble. I found a necklace there with a sapphire. I found a morning star as well, silvered, well-balanced – a true warrior’s weapon. There was a short sword in a battered scabbard in the rubble too. There was a fine silvered edge to the weapon. Brandon looked at it but said he could not make out the words. “Let me,” I offered.
As I suspected, it was dwarven. “Nightstalker,” I said out loud. “Never heard of it,” I said handing it back to the ranger. “It is a fine blade, that much I can say.”
“Nightstalker…” Althalus said. “I’ve actually heard of that blade.” We all looked at him. “Don’t be surprised, I do a lot of studying. “It was a magical blade owned by Shevrus Salamar, a dwarven lord who served with some distinction in the battle of the Gallesian Fields. It was said that he was the great killer of the shambling dead, wielding Nightstalker and his holy morning star, Bonebreaker. He killed the last Wight-King Ishmark and was one of the men that laid the cornerstone of the sept at the Great Gash. No one knows of his fate. I wonder how his weapons ended up here?” It was a question none of us would likely ever know.
“I did not care for a short sword – I prefer to keep my foes at a distance. That morning star, Bonebreaker, that was something I might need. “I will take this Bonebreaker,” I offered. “Do what you will with that blade.” The ranger took it, proudly strapping the scabbard at his side.
We made our way to the waterfall…the tears of Tempora. We saw along the waterfall, a series of carved handholds, like a ladder of some sort, ending to a ledge some 30 heads down. The roar of the water churning below as the river flowed through a carved hole leading out of the city.
I went first. Only two steps down my feet slipped and I lost my grip. I fell backwards, watching my comrades above me. I hit the water hard and went deep under, the weight of my armor and the treasure I carried took me straight to the black bottom under the falls. I could see nothing and I tried to push off, only to sink right back down. My ears filled with a rushing gurgling and the cold water made me quake.
I struggled to get my pack off and I lost my footing. The force of the water from the falls made me feel like I was battling some creature. It was nearly impossible to see. I felt hands on me and saw Dimitrious grapple me and start to pull me up. I kicked hard and felt a gulp of the cold water in my throat. I reached the surface and spat out the water and got a gulp of air. Theren was there – in bear form. As I started to bob down, I grabbed his fur and held on tight, pulling myself up. Theren paddled to the ledge and helped me out of the water.
Looking over to the silent monk, I offered my thanks. He only nodded in response. The others climbed down and joined us. The ledge allowed us to move behind the waterfall, There was a chamber jutting into the underbelly of the ruins of Tempora. I wrung out my personal goods, which did little to lighten my backpack, and I led us into the depths.
We moved down a long and wide hallway. The octagonal-shaped room beyond was clearly some sort royal receiving room in centuries past. It had a mosaic floor with three large rugs in it. The ceiling, carved into the stone itself, was nearly twenty-heads high. There mosaics, now cracked and missing pieces, that showed what Tempora may have looked like in its prime. It was odd to see it has it had been. Now it was nothing but carnage, blinking spiders, and gloom.
A raised dais of stone sat in the middle of the room, with a throne-like seat on it. The back of the throne was broken off, blasted back and shattered to pieces beyond where it had once stood. On the seat was a haphazardly tossed piece of purple cloth which was a dusty lump.
I poked at the rugs with my wet boot. The rugs seemed to cover scorch marks on the floor, burned through the mosaic. This was not natural, but powerful magic.
“We need to proceed carefully,” Theren said. Usually it was Althalus that old us the obvious. I wondered if Theren was taken a verbal jab at the warlock.
As Brandon started moving into the room, we saw the hilt of his new sword, Nightstalker, started glowing white. We spotted it before he did. He pulled it out and the blade shimmered brilliantly.
“That cannot be good,” Althalus said.
“I think it’s cool,” the ranger replied.
I moved forward near Brandon who was approaching the battered throne. “Hold,” said Arius. He closed his eyes for a moment and waved his hands in the air before his face. I felt warm for the first time since my plunge into the waterfall. “It is shield of faith,” the paladin said. “It will protect us.”
I checked Bonebreaker at my belt, but it did not show any signs of glowing. Brandon, against my better thinking, flipped up the purple cloth on the seat. What emerged was a glowing green skull that floated into the air. Magical greenish orange flames shimmered around it and its jaw opened with a sinister grin. The eye sockets glowed a deep red. It felt as if it were staring into my soul.
“Holy shit,” the ranger said, staggering back.
Flames shot forth from the eyes of the skull, concentrated on Brandon. They missed, passing his shoulders. He tried to swing Nightstalker at the floating skull but missed. I sprang at it with Skullringer, hitting it hard. The emerald flames lapped around the head of my warhammer and I moved it back a head or two, but it was far from stopped.
Suddenly the air around us erupted in flames. My beard was burned singed by the magical blast. Brandon was caught in the center of the sphere of flames. He fled the chamber, setting fire to one of the rugs in the process, heading off towards the waterfall, flames lapping up his sides and back as he wailed in agony.
I hit the skull hard again with Skullringer, but it kept moving forward. Athalus hit it with his own magical blast, knocking it back nearly ten heads, but only seeming to infuriate it. Theren, still in bear form, rushed forward, clawing at it. It fractured into pieces, rattling across the mosaic floor. The eerie green flames extinguished, making us shift to the other source of light – Brandon.
He rushed for the waterfall, arms flailing about madly. He jumped into the water to extinguish the flames and disappeared from sight.
“Did he just jump into the waterfall wearing his armor?” Theren asked.
“Yes,” Althalus replied. “Yes he did.”
We rushed to the waterfall’s edge and saw him under the water attempting to dog-paddle up to the surface – to no avail. I alone knew that feeling, having just gotten out of that predicament myself. Theren (the bear) jumped in with Dimitrious and helped fish him out. The ranger was coughing up water, his hair badly burned, but thankful to be alive.
We returned to the receiving chamber. Brandon checked the throne and found a small compartment in the seat. There was a small strange stone object, the length of a finger, with box-like shapes. It proved to be a key of some sort, ornate, clearly dwarven. There was an amethyst broch in the compartment as well. I let him carry it. I was starting to feel like a mule, carrying all of our wealth.
Arius checked the room for any sort of a door or way out. It seemed odd that we had come this far to arrive at a dead-end. He and Dimitrious found a small hole that seemed to fit the key. Theren shifted back to his human form and looked at the hole. “We should hold up here, get some rest, recover if we can.” It seemed like a good idea. We went to one of the corners far from the throne and huddled together. At least we were flanked by stone on two side.
We laid down for some sleep. I was on my first watch. As everyone drifted off an hour or two later I heard a clicking sound over by the throne. At first, I thought that it was little more than a rat or some bug. I rose and moved towards the throne. To my disbelief, the shattered bits of the flaming skull were twitching, moving towards each other, and reassembling!
I let loose a whistle of warning followed by, “Get up, that thing is regenerating!” I moved towards it quickly, unhooking Skullringer. We killed you once, we will do it again!
It turned from me and towards the rest of our group, all huddled close together, and opened its mouth. A ball of fire emerged from the mouth, growing, expanding. As it passed me I could feel the searing heat and the gust of wind that slowed my run.
I didn’t hear the fireball hit, but I heard the wails of pain and agony from my comrades as a result and the room lit up brilliant yellow and orange behind me as I charged the green flaming monstrosity that floated in the air before me.
Skullringer swung true, knocking the creature back into one of the corners of the room, chipping off a bit of its lower skull. I pursued the heinous demon-spawn, drawing the warhammer back. Someone behind me cast some sort of magic, and it seemed to make the skull quake in the air, as if it could feel pain. Dimitrious joined me, his arms a blur of attacks on the green fiery skull. The monk seemed to ignore the flames, hitting it hard on either side. His last blow, shattered the skull into a dozen or so pieces. The emerald flames disappeared and the room plunged back into near darkness.
I looked over at the monk in disbelief. He looked at me, offered a thin smile, and a wink. I nodded to him. Why the silent monk joined us, I do not know. His aide had proved invaluable though. The singed party rushed forward to join us. Althalus stood over the bits of skull, then squatted. “I seem to remember reading something about these things – flameskulls. They regenerate. We can dowse it in holy water or use a remove curse spell or portion on it”
“That would have been useful information a few hours ago,” Arius said.
The warlock turned to him. “Sorry, I just remembered it.” With our warlock, one could never be sure. One day he will lead us all to our ruin…
“I have a remove curse portion we found on the road to Tempora,” Brandon said.
“Gather the pieces and soak it good,” Arius said. “We don’t want this thing regenerating and coming up behind us at some point.” Satisfied that we had dispensed the abomination to the planes of hell, we went back to sleep.
Day and night underground is more of a feeling, with no frames of reference. I do know we all felt much more replenished as we got up and nibbled at our rations. Arius was listening at the secret door we had found, using his hands to feel it out, as if he could sense what was on the other side. “I think it is safe for us to open this,” Arius said after a few minutes.
He inserted the strange key and it made a loud clicking sound. The stone door swung towards us and we saw a long narrow hallway leading to a room with a cistern in it. Moving cautiously, we closed on the water source.
“We should fill our water skins,” I offered as we entered the room.
“I wouldn’t,” warned Theren. “Water in such places may be cursed, or worse.”
“Look down,” Arius said. “The dust has been disturbed. Someone has brought a large party through here recently.” He was right…perhaps the missing paladins.
The cistern was a raised stone circle several feet across and two feet off of the floor. A lone tarnished brass pillar rose from the center, providing a thin trickle of water into the pool. Mold grew along the stonework of the cistern and onto the floor, indeed there was a hint of green mold on the high domed ceiling as well. Thin cracks showed in the ceiling as well.
Brandon seemed anxious to check the cistern out. Given the dangers we had faced thus far, I was less inclined. Memories of him uncovering the flameskull came to mind. “I do not sense any traps,” Theren said. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any risk here.
Brandon leaned over. “There’s some stuff in the bottom of the pool. Some coins and stuff.”
I reached into my backpack and tossed a copper piece into the pool. Nothing happened. “I think it is a mistake to take anything from such a pool.”
“We should move on,” Theren offered. We all started to walk away, or so I thought. Brandon apparently was too tempted by the offerings at the bottom. I didn’t see him reach in, but I heard a loud splashing sound. As I turned, I saw the water rise up as if it were alive, snaking around his neck, and pulling him head first into the pool. His feet went up in the air and his arms flailed about madly.
“Water weird,” muttered Althalus. “This is bad.” Always the master of the obvious…
“Aw crap,” Arius said. “He reached in.”
Brandon tried to brace against the edge of the cistern and get free, but failed miserably. Arius grabbed his legs and pulled hard. I pulled out Bonebraker and swung it at the rising pillar of water. The flail went through the water, splashing some of it against the wall.
“Duck,” came the voice of Theren from behind me.
“Did you see a duck?” Arius asked.
“Where’s the duck?” Althalus queried.
“No you fools…duck!” Theren snapped. There was a low rumble and the air quaked as he unleashed a magic spell. It barely seemed to shake the water weird.
Dimitrious lashed out at the creature with his fists, splattering more of the water onto the stone floor. Althalus hit with a green beam of his eldritch power, spraying right through him, wisps of steam rising from where the beam hit it.
Arius swung, his sword shimmering as if charged with some sort of holy magic. The water splashed the rest of the party and the form of the water weird disappeared, the water splashing down into the cistern.
Brandon moved up carefully and reach in, pulling out a tarnished brass bit of jewelry. “Look,” he said holding it up.
“That was not worth nearly dying,” Althalus said. Dejected, the ranger put the wet jewelry in his pack.
The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do.