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 were exhausted and victorious and in constant danger. We awoke, still stinging from the fight. We pulled opened the massive Stoneoak doors of the chamber to begin our journey out of Tempora. Our new comrades, the paladins we had saved, looked far worse than we did. I can only imagine the nightmares they had endured as prisoners of Victor Barristen – hellspawn, former paladin, master of the undead.
It was my superior tracking skills that enabled us to survive and escape. I looked for the tracks of the paladins that had brought into this chamber. I suspect that my comrades did not fully appreciate the subtleties of tracking and the amount of skill required. The musty air and the lack of good light made things even more challenging, but I proved up to the task.
We made our way room-by-room, hallway-by-hallway, trying to figure out where we were. I came across one chamber that tore at my nostrils with the stench of death and rot. Althalus waved a hand and projected a bright light in the room for us to all see what was in there. Stacked like wood, were the shriveled corpses of more than a hundred paladins that had been Barristen’s victims. Sir Bentblade entered the room and I saw the tears streak into his gray-white beard. He knelt and prayed and for a few moments, we remained silent. After the paladins said their prayers we sealed that room shut and moved on.
We trudged onward into the darkness – the musty and moldy smell filled the air. Beyond a set of tarnished bronze doors we found a spiral staircase up. We cautiously made our way up, fearing a sudden plummet downward. Climbing nearly 80 heads upward, the staircase ended in a door and a hallway beyond.
We continued on, my tracking skills backtracking the paladin’s footsteps that led them into this place. Althalus complained, “I am not convinced we are still in Tempora. She could have transported us anywhere.” Theren disagreed. There were twists and turns in the trail we followed, confusing and disorienting us.
In one chamber we found four coffins in a large chamber with some sort of statue in the middle. My sword began to glow and Arius grabbed his hilt. “I sense the presence of undead.” The paladins in our party drew their blades as well.
“I have some oil,” offered Theren. “We can soak the coffins and set them ablaze.”
“Does fire kill vampires?” asked Arius.
“Vampires?” I asked.
“I don’t know if they are vampires or not, but I do not wish burning undead attacking us as opposed to those not on fire,” he replied.
“Mummies would be worse,” Althalus said, not calming my nerves at all.
We opted to jam the door shut rather than risk their wrath. Returning to the trail, we found another chamber with a raised throne in the middle of it. There was a thick old carpet laying between the raised seat and where we stood. The shadows beyond the throne seemed to move, as if something was in there. As we approached the room a hoard of zombies rushed out at us, their rotting flesh and putrid yellow eyes made me wet myself, if only just a little.
My glowing sword Nightstalker swung through the air, just missing one of the hideous creatures. Our paladin comrades sprang at the undead as did the rest of our party, surging forward. Arius blasted the arm off of one zombie, sending it hitting a wall and sliding down with a sickening thump. I thrust Nightstalker again, driving the blade through the rib cage and its spine, making the undead even deader. Theren jabbed at one of the creatures, knocking out some teeth but doing little more.
Our silent monk, Dimitrious, punched one through the throat, destroying it with a blur of his fists. Althalus unleashed an eldritch blast, which all but disintegrated one of the zombies. One of the creatures tried to flail at me but missed. Sir Bentblade killed my attacker with one mighty sweep of his sword, sending rotting body parts spinning on the ancient white marble floor.
I sat on the throne, if nothing more than to see if it was magical in some way. Behind a threadbare tapestry on the far wall, we found a hidden passageway and continued through it. We snaked our way through several twisting and musty passages and eventually came to a chamber with a stone sarcophagus in the center of it. We cleared enough of the dust on top to read that it was the tomb of the Dwarven Queen Silvistar. The carved images on the lid showed her as she must have been in life, beautiful – no beard (I had always heard that their women had beards…imagine my surprise!) The image shows her holding a massive war axe with runes carved in it. One of the paladins in our party read it. “The word for that is soul-thief or stealer…depending on the dialect.”
The lid showed signs of desecration, it was ajar on the top. Her image showed chips from a blade hitting it and a crack was found in the dust as well. I saw browning maroon blood splattered there as well. I called out, “Althalus, what do you see?”
“From where I am standing, a lot of man-ass,” the warlock responded wryly. He made his way through the line of paladins to join me. I wanted it opened. Along with Dimitrious, we pushed the lid off with a thud on the stone floor. Inside was her rotting body – with signs that someone had looted her remains. She must have been holding that axe at one point, but it was gone ages ago. Out of respect, I put the lid back on, though I could feel the icy stares of Sir Bentblade on me.
We trekked on, finding one room that apparently had been used to prepare bodies for burial which made my skin crawl. Arius’s mapping was enough to give a sane man a nosebleed, it had so many twists and turns. We came to an iron door that was hard to open. We came to a large domed room, the murals on the ceiling showed the burial processions of dwarves – many apparently royal by what they wore. In the center of the room, on a wide pillar, were two bat-like statues, massive – eight heads tall with stone carved wings and nasty talons. Their pointy ears made them look demonic.
There were rune on the pillar which our paladin comrade translated for us. “Hmm,” he muttered. “Interesting. Bow thy heads in honor.”
“That’s it?” Theren asked.
“That is all,” the paladin said.
“Those are gargoyles,” Althalus said. “They may look like statues, but they can move and kill.”
Althalus and Dimitrious stood before the creatures and bowed deeply.
“You’re following random Dwarven instructions?”
“In lieu of anything else,” the warlock replied, “yes.” Dimitrious silently nodded in agreement.
Arius did not bow as he passed and suddenly both of the gargoyles came to life, moving on our brother the paladin. I was stunned with the speed they demonstrated.
“I warned you!” Althalus chided as we all drew our weapons.
One savagely bit Arius and tore at him with his razor sharp claws. Blood sprayed in the air and Arius staggered back a half-step, gore flowing over his armor. My arrow went wild almost hitting one of the paladins who deflected it with a speed that surprised me. “Sorry…” I said pulling another arrow from my quiver.
Swords rang out on the stoneskin of the gargoyles and their gray blood splattered the floor tiles and on our party. Bentblade took a savage cut from the creatures, and the older paladin dropped at Arius’s feet. Our paladin comrade’s blade lit up with magical flames and he jabbed deep into the hide of one of the gargoyles.
I felt a surge of heart and focus – clearly a magical blessing from one of the paladins. One of the gargoyles tore into Sir Harold the Quick, biting him in the forearm, then ripping his chest with a claw. One of the paladins swung Skullringer, Bor’s warhammer. He struck one of gargoyle’s square in its chest and unleashing a thunderous smite in the process. The creature was thrown backwards to the far end of the chamber, hitting the wall so hard it made a thudding sound. Bentblade slashed at it mid-flight, cutting it deeply and sending gray blood in the air.
Harold the Quick did not live up to his name, getting bitten again by the other gargoyle. Dimitrious unleashed a flurry of fist strikes to protect the paladin, each one cracking the stoneskin of the creature. The monk’s hands were bloodied from the assault, but he had done more damage than he had taken.
Theren swung his shillelagh at the creature thrown against the wall, leaving a furrow in its cheek from the hit. I dropped my bow and drew Nightstalker and Bonebreaker, spinning the morningstar furiously as I moved into position for an attack. Dimitrious chopped at the creature and threw it hard to the floor. Arius jumped and impaled his blade into the closest of the beasts, killing the statue-like creature. The other gargoyle suddenly sprang at me, biting me on my upper right arm. I managed to stagger back, blood everywhere around me. Everything went dark and I collapsed to the floor. I barely felt the tile slap me in the face as I dropped. No! It cannot end like this!
I came to in a cold sweat with my friends hovering over me. “Did we win?” Althalus shrugged. “We did.” They helped me to my feet but I was dizzy from my brush with death. I looked around and saw we were still, for the most part, alive – battered, but alive. I ached and felt bruises that I did not know I owned, but I was back from the eternal darkness.
“You guys should have bowed,” the warlock said wryly. Given the blood soaking my jerkin, it was hard to argue that he was right. If nothing else, Althalus was all about reading and following directions.
We left that chamber and the warlock stumbled into a poison dart trap, one that Arius incapacitated, paralyzed. The darts came from dozens of little holes on the floor, ceiling, and walls. We hadn’t noticed the tiny holes until we were deeply into the middle of the trap.
Our solution was for Theren to transform into giant spider and to ferry us over the trap triggers on the floor. It took long tedious minutes, but worked well – though the paladins with us sneered at the spider. The church was against the use of magic that they did not govern or mandate, and they had waged an inquisition against the druids. Necessity forced their compliance with our bypass, but I feared there would be retribution at some point in the future.
Lumbering on, my superior tracking skills led us to a staircase up. When we reached the top, I took a sigh of relief…this is where we had been attacked by Cyrilla Drex! When we were here last she had teleported us into the sword. We knew our way from this point. At the far end of the room was the Well of Fates that had showed us our futures. As we passed the pool, I swear I saw Bor’s face there, in agony and torment. Sir Bentblade glanced at the pool then to us. “It is okay, we have been here before. We know our way out from here,” I assured him.
I thought we would have an easy going, but we encountered a mummy several hallways further – coming in behind us. Theren, still a giant spider, webbed the mummy. He tore through the web, but it was enough to slow him further.
Dispatching the shambling undead proved easier than I would have thought – though the narrow hallway proved challenging for our rather large party. My weapons illuminated the passage and I used Bonebreaker to shred off a layer of the mummy’s wrapping. Another swipe tore off the bandaged arm of the monstrosity and sent it spinning down the hallway – causing it to groan in a voice that chilled me. The shambling creature did not stand a chance against all of us though. Dimitrious drove his fist into its chest cavity, permanently killing it. Its mouth opened and bellowed a foul cloud of death-dust on us, the stench of it hung on my clothing for hours afterwards.
We made our way backtracking our journey into Tempora. It was strange visiting so many places where we had fought and bled. I was most nervous in the ruins of Tempora itself, where I could hear those teleporting spiders clicking above us. They did not attack, no doubt because of the size of our party.
We travelled the long underground roadway back out to the Vale of White. We remembered to disable the bones in the vale, and trudged out into a cold rain. Sadly, we came across the carcasses of our horses that we had left tied up outside the vale. Oversight on our part, we had left them tied up.
Even the light of a stormy day felt good on my skin. We had been underground for long and perilous days. Now we simply had to deliver the paladins back to the Order of the Fang and maybe, just maybe, they could free the paladins trapped in Drex’s massive sword. We camped that first night, then set off down the old road back to the lowlands. Our sense of day and night had been lost in Tempora.
The next night stopped at the Horns of Essex to camp and retain our bearing and strength. Here the massive horns of a long-dead creature jutted upward to the gray skies. I remember it being spoken of as a place of great magic. The giant stony horns were eerie, but marked our passage downward out of the wilderness.
It was in the middle of the night that Althalus woke me and the others. Something was amiss – he had heard something in the brush. He called out to the bushes, “Who goes there?” Motion stirred in another location. “We know you are out there, show yourself!” The warlock was bold, if nothing else.
Dimitrious quickly lit a torch and tossed it into the brush. Suddenly, three packs of rats burst out at us. They were a trio of swarms, a mass of vermin, all coming at us. Behind us, Hell Hounds burst out of the foliage, their glowing jowls lighting up our camp. They snarled and growled as they closed on us.
Arius waved his hands and chanted – blessing some of our party. I could feel the surge of holy power pulse through my veins. One of the hounds tore into Biff the Bold, one of the paladins, its fangs clamping onto his arm and tore at his flesh. Fire burst out from the wounds and the paladin dropped to the ground unconscious. Another lunged at Theren who was injured by its claws. Another tore into Sir Biff, ripping off a leg and tossing it into the brush. There would be no healing that could bring this holy warrior back from where his soul went.
Sir Rippen, a rather unremarkable paladin, missed a Hell Hound entirely, planting his blade in the soft ground. Arius used Skullringer on a rat swarm, sending bits and pieces of dead rats spraying into the air – his thunderous smite splattering many. Blood dripped from Skullringer as the hoard of rats reeled under the assault.
I notched an arrow and planted it in the hide of a Hell Hound. It ignored it entirely, which I was satisfied with. This was not a time to draw a great deal of attention. Althalus fired an emerald burst of power into the same hound. The searing smoke hole in its hide only seemed to make it angrier – if that was possible.
Theren stabbed at one of the hellspawn creatures, planting his blade deep. Black-red blood spurted out and the creature growled in pain and anger. The paladins joined the fray, their weapons flailing in the night, slashing at the Hell Hounds. Dimitrious bludgeoned on of the hounds, hitting him hard.
One swarm of rats tore into Sir Harold the Quick, crawling over him, seeking any exposed flesh.
A boiling green cloud emerged in the middle of our ranks near Arius and Viktor Barristen appeared, his skeletal face with horned helmet striking fear in me. I will not lie, I wet myself just a little at the sight of him rising on a cloud of mist.
“We are doomed!” Althalus called out. I had to agree. Arius swung Skullringer at him, capped with his holy smite, hitting the quasi-lich anti-paladin. The skull grinned in response. “I have come for that sword…” he hissed. Arius alone was horribly and hilariously outmatched.
My next arrow planted itself in the black fur hide of the Hell Hound I had hit earlier.
Harold the Quick flailed about with his pack of rats, sending rats scurrying as he snapped the necks of two of them with his hands.
Theren, morphing into bear form, tore into a Hell Hound, clawing and biting viciously at the Hell Hound which responded in kind. The smell of burning fur filled the air. I kept worrying about Barristen, but the Hell Hounds were more pressing.
One Hell Hound scotched a paladin warrior in evil flames, leaving him screaming, which did not help my calm. Another beast broke off with Theren and jumped him as well, savaging him into unconsciousness.
Barristen was what really worried me. He swung his staff in front of him, pointing it at Arius. A brilliant beam of azure energy hit our comrade and he dropped, paralyzed. The evil undead anti-paladin reached down to his backpack and grabbed the sword of Cyrilla Drex. I swear I saw him grin evilly as he hefted the heavy blade.
The sword! I cringed. In his hands those imprisoned paladins faced a fate worse than death. Before I could fully comprehend the events, Althalus knocked one of the Hell Hounds back with a blast of eldritch power, allowing the paladins to pounce strike him. Theren’s clawing attack tore off a piece of hide from one Hell Hound, sending it flying into our campsite.
Dimitrious tore into that creature, his fists thrashing the beast until it collapsed, its chest shattered. The blue robed monk grabbed the fire gland of the beast and ripped it from its chest and tossed the black-bloody organ to the ground as the creature dropped.
I spun on Barristen, just in time to see him turn into a cloud of greenish smoke and disappeared into the night…taking the sword with him. I spun on one of the Hell Hounds and fired another arrow, hitting it true. We circled the remaining Hell Hounds and in a flurry of sword blows and magic blasts, we slashed at them. I proudly delivered the killing blow on the last of the creatures, earning honor and respect of my comrades.
Suddenly things went very quiet, except for my ragged breathing. We had won the fight, but in losing that sword, we may have lost on a larger scale. As Arius regained his control and rose we all looked at each other in a mix of victory and concern.
The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do.