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!
After the debacle at the fountain with that water weird, we found a door heading to the north. We had little choice, turning back at this point made no sense. We opened it and entered a room with a pile of rotting skeletons and rags along the far wall. Theren triggered a trap of some sort, releasing a noxious green cloud that made him gag. He waved off the effects of the gas as if it were little more than a nuisance. Personally I was amazed that our members on the point had not triggered it.
The gas, as it turned out, was the least of our problems. From under the rotting remains along the far wall, a swarm of giant snakes emerged and headed right for us! Their scales shimmered in the light of Bor’s glowing blue warhammer and the green light from Brandon’s lantern.
Althalus unleashed his eldritch beams of death, hitting one of the snakes and sending it flying back into the wall it had emerged from. Bor swung his mighty warhammer down, hitting one of the snakes hard and flattening part of its body. The tail of the creature flailed about. Dimitrious stuck a dart in the snake that had been tossed back to the wall.
I rushed forward, never one to shirk from battle. One sprang at Brandon, viciously biting him at the neck. The snake coiled around his legs though. He drew Nightstalker the sword and stabbed furiously at the creature, splattering the fine blade in fresh blood. Althalus unleashed another emerald beam of arcane magic and made the head of one of the snakes explode, spraying me in a fine mist that had been the hideous creature.
I lost track of the others for a moment as I swung my blade at one of the snakes, hitting it only enough to anger it more. It hissed at me. Bor lost his grip on Skullringer mid-swing, sending the warhammer into the door and embedding it in the ancient wood there.
One snake latched onto Brandon’s upper right arm, flailing on the ranger as it held a tight grip. Althalus hit that snake, doing enough damage to force it to release the ranger and drop to the floor. I stabbed my trusty blade into one of the giant snakes, cutting it deeply but not killing it.
The wily monk Dimitrious tore at one with his bare fists, killing one of the creatures with a blow to its head.
We were down to the two of the monstrosities. Theren missed one snake with an arrow, splintering it on the stone. Brandon stabbed Nightstalker into the snake, but it was still quite alive and angrier than ever. I stabbed my own sword into the head of one creature, slaying it. I muttered a prayer of thanks as the party circled on the last snake. Theren planted another arrow into the creature, killing it. The dead creature’s tail still twitched, disturbing us all.
Brandon harvested the venom sacs from the snakes only to be put in a quandary as where to put them. “I guess I could put them in my water skin,” he suggested – but that was seen as a potentially deadly mistake. Theren was the most vocal. “One wrong sip, and you’re dead.” It was the warlock that came forth with a solution a bottle we had used to remove a curse on the flameskull. Every little bit helps, perhaps this poison will assist us.
Bor pulled Skullringer from the hole in the door and peer through, seeing a narrow hallway then hanging to the left. It was a narrow passage and surprisingly, Brandon entered first. He found a dagger on the ground, some old iron arrowheads, and bits of rusted chainmail.
The narrow hall made me cautious – we would be hard pressed to form a good line of battle. I closed my eyes and prayed, trying to determine if the undead were present. I could not sense anything, but the darkness of the hall in the eerie green light of Brandon’s lantern.
At the corner the hallway continued on. There were a pair of doors on one wall some fifty-heads distant, but the hallway continued past that point. Our ranger told us that beyond the doors was a lever on the far wall.
“Shall we push on?” the ranger asked.
“We are following you,” I said as we moved slowly forward.
Brandon paused. “Across from the double doors, I make out the faint outline of a secret passage of some sort.”
“Speak friend and enter?” Theren asked jokingly. None of us chuckled. Far too many things had already tried to kill us in Tempora to enjoy that old children’s joke.
Brandon stood before the concealed door that none of us could discern, while Bor planted himself in front of the double doors, in case they should open. I gave Bor an assuring nod. We were the battlers of our party and I wanted him to know I had his back. I closed my eyes for a moment and asked God to protect him.
Suddenly I found myself being drawn to the far wall, the one with the doors. I leaned away from it, but my feet slid. I hit the wall, my armor and sword firmly planted on the wall. I tried to push away but could not budge. A trap, no doubt some magical form of lodestone. Every bit of metal we had pulled hard to the wall with crushing force. Even my nipple ring strained at my flesh to cling to the stone.
The secret door opened and three ghouls emerged. I craned my neck and saw them. Each wore a thick leather collar with a pulsating ruby on it. Brandon’s sword Nightstalker burst into brilliant white light as the ghouls pounced upon him. One bit at the ranger, tearing at the flesh of his shoulder. He fell limp on the wall, held in place by his armor.
We were stuck firm. I pushed with all of my might but could only make my body move slightly. Bor was badly damaged by a bite and was paralyzed and frozen to the wall. The smell of death and semi-rotting flesh blew down the hall towards me as the creatures groaned. We were trapped, in my case facing the wall. There was nothing I could do to stop them. I began to wonder if I could somehow unclasp my armor. Better to fight naked than die hanging on the wall.
Theren struggled to remove his backpack, but had no success. Dimitrious though had only a dagger and had let it go and stick the wall. He was able to move and sprang to attack the ghouls. In my mind, the lever on the far wall was the key – but he could not pass through to get to it. Instead he savaged one of the ghouls with a flurry of fist-blows. He toppled one of the creatures, knocking it prone. One ghoul continued to ravage the helpless Bor.
It was Theren that surprised us. He transformed into a large spider, crawling out of his armor and equipment. It was a hideous form we had never seen the druid undertake. It clicked audibly and climbed up to the ceiling and scurried to the lever right over the ghouls. It reached the lever and used four of its limbs to pull it down. The moment it came down, Bor and Brandon dropped like felled logs to the floor. I sprang free with my sword.
Althalus unleashed an eldritch blast, knocking of the creatures back in the hidden room they had emerged from. Spider-Theren jumped on one of the foul beasts, tearing into his flesh. It hissed at him in response, a sound that came from beyond the grave. Dimitrious sent one of the beasts back to the hells it had sprang from with a rapid flurry of punches.
I moved near Brandon and muttered a prayer, laying my hands on him and succoring his pain. One creature remained, its right arm hanging by a bit of muscle tissue, limp and worthless. Spider-Theren attacked from above again, ripping the head off of the ghoul and sending it rolling near my feet. Its mouth twitched slightly, making me wonder if it was truly dead.
We offered aid to Bor to bring him back to consciousness the Theren morphed back into his human form and put his armor and gear back on.
Brandon checked the dead ghouls and found the leather collars with the rubies. The leather was intricately carved with runes and symbols, arcane and dark magic no doubt. It stopped glowing once he pulled it off one of them. “What are these?” he asked, holding up one them. Althalus sprung over at the sight of them. “What do we have here?” He took one of them and studied them. “I know these…I read about them. These are the Eyes of Rivroast, and are compelling control devices that have not been seen in this world in ages. They are cut from the same stone and the Mind of Rivroast, a crown that mounts that gem, giving the wearer complete control. Someone must have had control over these ghouls.” His words were sobering. There was more at work here.
In the chamber where the ghouls had been, the room was filled with the stench of rotting flesh. Bones and bits of clothing and armor lay molding in the chamber. Small mice and roaches scampered as we entered the room, seeking the darkness. One human skull seemed to stare at us.
“I want that skull,” Althalus said.
“You and your skulls,” I responded. “Leave it be.”
“I want it.”
“I will give you a glimpse of that book you are so obsessed with if you leave it alone.”
“Agreed,” he said, rubbing his hands greedily together. I regretted my words almost instantly.
“I have no desire to poke around in ghoul poop,” Theren said, pinching his nose.
I took my javelin and poked around the debris. There was some loose coins, copper, silver and electrum, which we gave to Bor to carry. There was some rope that had not decayed, some fifty-heads worth, which I took. There were two flasks of oil there which the ranger offered to carry. There was a small vial of clay sealed in wax that I found as well. Carved into the clay was the elven word, “Fizkus.” Theren took a look at it. “That’s high elven, it means flight.”
“That is wicked,” Althalus said.
“It is dangerous,” Theren warned.
I was almost done in the room when I found a small glass vial of clear liquid marked with the cross of the Church. Holy water. That was something I took for myself. I knew this was something that would be of use later.
We moved to the double doors across the hall and forced them open with Skullringer, which took several blows. Bor missed the doors entirely with one swing, clearly still suffering from the effects of the ghoul bite. This chamber was filled with rusting metal, chainmail suits, plate and scale armor, shields, etc. At first glance, it looked as if this was a waste of time – a room filled with dead-men’s armor. The air stunk of iron dust.
One piece in the room caught my eye. A round shield bearing an ornate “S” marking on the front. It was more dirty than rusty and as I wiped it clean I could see how well it was made. The edges of the shield were razor sharp and silvered. It is very old and bears the markings on the back as having been made at The Priory of the Blade – home of the Sisterhood of the Sword! A throwing shield…I had heard of these but have never used one. This as the order that Lexa Lyoncroft allegedly came from. The shield was very light in my hands. I took this as my own, giving my mirrored shield to Bor to take – this new one was to be mine. The Priory had been of the Church before they were purged. I only could hope that this was indeed a blessed weapon.
Brandon found a spear that stood out. It had a stone for a tip that was a carved and polished white stone for a point. It was of sturdy build and he took it as has own.
We left the room and moved to where the lever was. Brandon argued that we should reset the trap. Theren countered that we might need an escape route. We continued down the hall and came to a large chamber. The wooden beams in the room had rotted away and there was some stone that seemed to have collapsed.
Of along the far wall we saw a small raised circular pool, about five inches off of the floor. The water shimmered when we looked at it, the light from Brandon’s lantern seeming to give it other colors and form on the surface.
The last pool we had come across had a water weird in it, so I was apprehensive. The ranger checked for tracks and there was signs of someone having crossing the room to the far end where we saw a staircase leading down. “Boot tracks,” Brandon said, squatting over them. “Weeks old, maybe older.”
My muscles ached. “We need to rest up,” I suggested. “Not near that pool, but we need to eat and rest.”
Althalus kept his eyes on that pool. “That pool intrigues me.”
“Me too,” Brandon said, staring over at it. “What are the odds that it has another water weird in it?” I was going to tell him I thought those odds high, but I did not want to diminish his zeal.
After our rest for an hour of so Brandon, Althalus and Dimitrious walked over to the pool. “You first,” the warlock said to the ranger.
Brandon leaned in and even from where we sat, we saw that the pool shimmered with color and shapes. “It’s like a window…” Althalus said as Brandon leaned further. I got to my feet. “What do you see?” I asked, my hand falling to my sword.
“I see myself. I’m fighting alongside a beautiful woman in red leather armor. I see Arius and Lexa too, fighting together! We’re fighting something…I cannot make out what it is, but we are fighting something dark and gray.”
I did not like the thought of fighting with Lexa Lyoncroft. Perhaps this was a glimpse to a possible future.
Althalus leaned in and the image seemed to charge. I could see a flicker of orange and yellow on the pool’s surface. “Well, that’s what I expected,” he said as the image returned to normal.
“What was it?” Theren pressed.
“I saw myself grappling with you Theren on some summit somewhere. The world around us was in flames. Then the image disappeared.”
He always managed to disturb me, the way he took carnage and death so casually. We began to move closer to the pool to see the images for ourselves. Dimitrious leaned in and I could see the image on the pool’s surface. He was moving slowly, as if time had been corrupted. He began to dissolve, slowly turning to dust. There was a strange look of contentment on his face. His mouth opens as if he was speaking – then he disappeared. We could not make out the background of the image but there was no sunshine, perhaps in a building of some sort.
Theren looked next as I closed on the pool. As he leaned in he saw himself as an old man, with gray hair, struggling with someone dressed in black. Flames surrounded them and the figure in the black robe wore a large silvered cross around his neck. Then the image disappeared.
“Mine was better,” Brandon said. “I had two women fighting with me. I basically got girls in my vision.”
It was my turn. I took a long breath and said a silent prayer. Leaning in I saw Lexa Lyoncroft and myself, back-to-back, our swords in play – mine ablaze with holy fire. We are surrounded and being rushed by faceless enemies that we are cutting apart. I saw gray streaks in my hair near my temples – perhaps a glimpse into the future. Something in the back of my mind told me that these foes were undead.
Bor leaned in and looked. We all saw the image. In the pool Bor was covered in blood and is being held up by his throat, dropping Skullringer, his body limp in the black shadowy creature’s grip. He is tossed aside is if he were dead. I noted he was wearing the clothing and armor he had on now. It was an ominous and dark image that flickered away.
It took us a few minutes to drink it all in. We turned towards the staircase and we saw a mist arise from the floor and saw the image of the mysterious woman appeared, her massive sword slung across her back. She was thirty heads distance, at the top of the stairs.
“You still persist despite my warnings?”
“Yes,” Theren replied. “We are bit slow that way.”
“You need to turn around now…while you can,” she warned.
“Why?” Althalus queried.
“You face your doom,” she replied.
“I can’t escape my doom,” the warlock countered. When he said things like that he made us wonder about his true intentions.
“Did you look into that pool?” she gestured.
“Yes,” we all replied.
“What did you see?”
“Our futures,” Althalus replied. “Our end.”
“Wait,” Theren said. “We saw a future. Not necessarily the future. The future is not set.” The druid waxed in philosophy.
“I give you two options,” she said in an ominous tone. “Surrender or turn around. It is a miracle you made it this far. I am impressed. This is your final warning.”
“If you could help us,” Althalus said. “That would be great.”
“Ohh,” she cooed. “I can help you. What is it that you are looking for?”
I spoke up in response. “The lost paladins that were brought here.” Lying was not in my nature. God understood.
She smiled, which did not ease our tension. “I will show one you were those paladins are. You.” She pointed at me. Why me? Was it because I was a paladin as well?
“I will take you to them.”
“We will go as a group,” the ranger said, holding out Nightstalker. It did not glow, so we knew she was not undead.
“Come here and I can show you,” she gestured.
“I am not coming by myself,” I replied. I was brave, but not stupid.
“I can take one of you.”
Althalus made a quick gesture with his hands – I had no idea what he was doing, but she did not seem to react to it.
“Why can you only take one?” Theren asked.
I heard Althalus’ voice in my head – a disturbing experience at best. “She is telling the truth. I saw the paladins, about 150 of them, around a fire in the snow.”
“That is all I will take.”
“How far is the journey?” the druid continued to press.
“That is difficult to say in this instance. Close and far. It is closer than you think.”
She eyed me more carefully. “Where did you get that?” she gestured to my new shield. “That shield is the property of the Sisterhood of the Sword.”
“I will surrender it,” I offered, “If you take us all to the paladins.”
“I am not comfortable with us giving that up,” the warlock offered. “We found it, it’s ours.”
“I could defend that legally,” added Theren, our druid that never backed down from an argument.
“If you all want to go,” she countered. “I can make that happen.” There was something in her tone of voice that made me question her sincerity. As if to add to the tension we were all feeling, she drew her massive sword. I had seen a blade like that before, in the hands of Lexa Lyoncroft. I had no doubt that the two of them were once part of the Priory of the Blade. This one had a large black opal mounted in the hilt of the blade.
She walked to me and touched me on the shoulder. The floor dropped beneath me and I felt like I was falling. There was a rush of air around me. I lost her vision. Arcane magic swirled around me. Hit the ground in snow, the air stinging at my face and hands. I raised my head and saw a group of warriors in the distance, huddle around the fire. Brandon landed near me, his lantern smashed, the oil melting the snow. The others…they had jumped though the magic portal with me! I thanked the Almighty and rose to my feet. She stood near me, facing me squarely.
“Where are we?” I demanded.
She smiled, which made me cringe. “You will find out when I come to take you…one at a time.” The ground beneath her swirled a blue and white twist of energy and disappeared.
“Well,” Althalus said wryly. “She’ll be back.” We all gave him a stern look of frustration. I looked around. We stood on a snow-covered plateau, the wind whipping the snow around us. There were mountains not far distant, in every direction. I could not see the sun, but the gray skies were glowing as if it was daytime. I had no idea where we were – perhaps deep in the northern reaches. The cold penetrated my armor and skin. The paladins were in the distance, gathered around a fire.
We walked over and I was designated to be the lead because I was a paladin like them. We started walking toward them.
“Hello!” I called. None seemed to have weapons. They motioned for us to join them. I saw the sigil for the Order of the Fang on their smocks and armor.
“What brings you here?” one asked as we got close to the fire.
“We came looking for you,” I offered.
“And you are trapped like the rest of us,” a gaunt paladin replied.
“We are imprisoned here – in that accursed blade of her sword. That opal in the hilt – it is her own private plane of existence,” an older gruffer knight responded. “She comes for us, taking us three or four at a time – takes us away. None taken have ever returned.”
“I want that sword,” Brandon said.
“How long have you been here?” Theren asked.
Another knight, youngest we had seen, skinny with sagging cheeks replied, “Time works differently here. It is hard to say. Do you have any food?”
We opened our packs and shared what rations we had with us. Theren grinned. “I am ‘gifted,’ I can make food.”
That brought about yellow-toothed grins. “We need weapons as well.”
We handed out what spare weapons we had. I was shocked to see the condition of these men. They were starving to death here, imprisoned in her sword. They held the weapons with fondness.
“Maybe we have a chance now that we are armed,” one of them said. Mutters of support for him grew.
Brandon dug out the amulet he had found from the Order of the Fang. “I have this,” he said holding it up.
“Where did you find it?” one of them asked.
“In Tempora, while we were looking for you.”
“It belongs in our brotherhood,” one said, looking to Brandon for approval to take it. “Take it,” he replied and one of the men draped it over his neck. Just wearing it seemed to give him renewed energy.
One paladin, a bold man with a thick black beard stepped forward. “I am B’hard, our captains and lieutenants are dead, or so we assume. We thank you for the food. It will go a long ways with my men.”
“Is there any way out of here?” Theren asked.
“No. If you venture over the mountains in the distance, you come down the slope on the other side. We have taken shelter in a cavern near here. It is always daylight here but with the clouds, we never see the sun, and the caves are the only place where we get any sense of darkness. We have no idea how long we have been here since it is ever-day. The only way out is when she comes for us. She takes a few of us at a time…and none ever return.”
“Is there any buildings or anything else here?” I asked.
B’hard nodded. Off in the distance, in the foothills of that mountain is a keep. It is the Priory of the Blade. For years we wondered where their priory was hidden…as it turns out, Cyrilla Drex had it secreted away here, in her sword. It is no wonder we never found it. We were charged with razing it, but could never find it. Everyone trying to enter it has been badly injured.”
“I do not want to get hung up on this,” Althalus said. “I have some military experience. I was our leader the last time we served together. It might make sense for us to have a single leader.” Those of our party looked at Althalus and I cocked my eyebrow. Memories of the minotaurs and the loss of one of our comrades was not a fond memory for us.
B’hard offered to take us to the priory. “I think this is folly. None of us have been able to enter. I would be happy to take you though. The wind cut through our clothing as we marched along towards the mountain. “Did you see any sign of our men?”
“No. We followed your tracks into Tempora,” Theren offered.
“We were blinded and we woke up here. Whatever she is doing is foul and evil.” On this point, we all agreed.
“Did you have to face the Bone Dragons in the White Vale?” Brandon asked.
“No. She simply marched us out there.”
“Lucky us,” Althalus muttered.
It took several hours to reach the priory. It was a large central keep with a stone wall surrounding it. It looked out of place, as if it had been scooped out from our world and brought here, and dropped.
Theren moved in front of the only gate on the wall and held his hands up as if he were trying to sense something, muttering as he stood. We watched him for a few moments, then he turned to face us. “It is protected by necromantic magic?”
B’hard, reacted. “How can you see magic?”
“The gods have gifted me with this skill,” the druid said.
“’Gods,’ not God?” he asked cautiously.
“It is a long story,” the druid said blowing off the question. Druids and holy men of the Church did not get along. Inquisitions had a way of generating bad blood. “That keep is heavily protected. If we try and force our way in, I suspect we will pay a price. I sense wards – many layers of them, like rings on a tree.”
“We even tried to tunnel under it,” B’hard said. “All were met with the same result.”
Theren looked to me. “Your new shield is magical. Let me hold it.” I gave it to him and watched as he approached the gate. Sparks appeared out of the air between the shield and the gate. He backed away, giving me the shield back. “Throw a javelin at it.”
Brandon threw a javelin at the gate. It erupted in an explosion. The druid studied the air where the javelin had been, the smoke still swirling in the falling snow. “Well, I think it is safe to say we cannot enter it.”
We trudged back to the cave following B’hard. Men were huddled along the walls and a low fire burned in a pit near the entrance. I could see my breath in the air, though being out of the wind and snow helped with my warmth. “We need to prepare. We need a plan. She will come at some point. When she does, we need a plan now that we have your weapons. The challenge is we only see her for a second, then she disappears with anyone that near her.”
“She taunts us sometimes,” B’hard said. “She tells us that we will be giving our souls to her ally. Other times she merely appears and takes us without notice.” I could feel the eyes of the men in the cavern stare at us. They need hope beyond their belief in God.
“I bet it’s that necromancer…what was his name? Victor Barristen…that fallen paladin,” Theren said.
“I wonder if Lexa Lyoncroft knows that one of her former sisters is aiding someone like Barristen?” Althalus asked. It was one more mystery we would have to take to her at some point, if we lived through this magical exile.
B’hard looked to Althalus. “What would you suggest? We are unsure if that is really her that appears or an image of her. We need to be prepared. We are weary of this slow death.”
Another paladin spoke up. “The last time we tried to jump her when she appeared, we were thrown back by some sort of magical blast.”
“We are familiar with that,” Althalus replied. I looked around. A few of the knights looked almost dazed, rocking in their private space of the cavern. Others trembled and stared into nothingness.
“Drex needs our blood, that much is clear,” B’hard said. “Your friend here,” he said pointing at me, “is probably more at risk than any of you.” Being a holy knight, I faced the same fate as they did. It hardened my resolve.
Theren stepped forward with a plan. If we form a circle, interlock our arms with the armed men, when she appears as many of us as possible will rush her with the intent of getting out of this accursed place.”
“For the record,” Althalus said after a moment of consideration. “This is a horrible idea. I do have an alternate plan. We do have the devil’s skull and the book. Perhaps I can unleash the devil on her once we get to the other side.”
“What is this devil’s skull you speak of?” B’hard asked.
“It’s a long story,” Althalus said, cutting him off.
There it was, a plan I dreaded more than death. I was about to lecture the warlock that he was surrounded by 150 paladins, more if you included me. I also was reluctant to allow me access to that accursed book even on the best of days.
Theren beat me to the punch. “Let’s consider that a fall-back plan.” That seemed to satisfy Althalus for the moment – though I wondered if he was still thinking of somehow unleashing that devil.
Outside in the snowstorm we heard the sound of a low and slow rumble of thunder, as if the skies themselves were straining to release the sound. “That is her!” B’hard said. “We hear that when she is about to appear.”
“Lock arms,” I called. The paladins interlocked their arms, many gripping the weapons we had provided them. Their eyes were red and weary, yet they all looked as if they were ready for a fight. Everything was preferable to dying in this forsaken land.
A ghost-like vision of her appeared, not quite corporeal. I was not sure she was really there, or merely projecting an image of herself. We were not close enough to make the jump through her portal. The halberd I had given one of the men that disappeared, fell clanging on the cavern floor. Another paladin picked it up. Four of the men were gone.
“That was not good,” Althalus. “We know when she is coming, but it is pure chance as to where she is going to appear.”
“We need to huddle closer, a tighter circle,” Theren said. So that went she appears, more of us can make the leap through her portal.
We waited what seemed like hours, if not longer. B’hard and the best fighters centered on our party, clamoring for a fight. I planned to bless our party the moment we heard the rumble – ensuring God would protect us. My legs ached as we stood, waiting for the inevitable. Some sat, waiting for the crack of thunder. I chose not to.
The rumble happened, strained and slow as before. Men rose. The floor opens beneath us in a swirl of white and blue energy. I saw her standing before me, semi-transparent. We lunched into the light, along with two of the paladins.
I landed on stone…hard. A pentagram surrounded us. Looming over us, holding that massive sword over our heads.
“So what do we have here?” she asked, moving to a combat stance.
The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do.