Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. 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!
Theren returned to the Great Gash and Arius caught him up on the turn of events and our mission to try and find Lexa Lyoncroft. Theren wisely requested a letter of mark from the church to assure her they would not prosecute her. I was doubtful that a letter alone would convince her, but it couldn’t hurt to have it. I had a companion wolf that I had adopted and found it oddly comforting to sit and pet it.
The last place Lyoncroft had been seen was my village, Buchola. I was the last of our party to have seen her. For me, this was joyous. I would be returning home, wiser and stronger than before. No doubt they would view me as a hero. I wasn’t expecting a parade or anything, but possibly someone picking up the first round.
Of course, I had been secretly summoned to the High Council of Rangers. Somehow I needed to make sure that I honored that request. Such summons were rare and I was a little concerned about the implications.
We were all shocked when Dimitrious came before us on the morning of our departure and said he would be leaving. The fact he spoke at all stunned me. “My part in these is done, for now. I have set you on your path. I will see you near the end.” When Athalus asked, “How will we know where to find you?” the normally mute monk smiled. “Look to the blue light. When you see it, you will know it is me.” We all thanked him. “I owe you my life,” Athalus commented. “I know,” he replied.
I informed my comrades of my summons to the Rangersmeet at Villineau and we agreed, since it was on the way, we would go there first. There were a lot of questions as to why I had been summoned, none of which I could answer. With a late fall chill in the air we set out.
The second night out, an old friend of mine, Drake, stumbled into the camp. Drake was a miller from my home town, though I honestly did not recognize him. Althalus used his magic to light up the night. Drake told us that everyone had fled Buchola. Someone came to town and the locals left. The mysterious man was tall with black hair. When locals disappeared and “bad things happened,” Drake and the others had started to leave. He spoke of nightmares and terrors that forced people to leave. This sounded fairly dire. What could have invaded my home? The stranger, we learned, had been asking about Lexa Lyoncroft as well.
Drake bedded in our camp that night and went on his way. The next day we noticed that there were some bats that were hovering over us. That was disturbing. Bats in the daylight were a rarity. I could not help but get the sense that they were following us. But for who?
Four more days out I came across an unusual number of wolf tracks in our path. Pack wolves usually do not leave this number of tracks. That night, we were approached by the very pack of wolves we had seen the tracks of. Theren spoke to them and they only knew one word – “dinner.” That did not bear well for us. We could hear them snarling all around our camp. Althalus cast a ball of fire, just to light the area up. We were facing a large number of them.
Theren transformed into a dire wolf and pounced on their alpha before the pack could strike – unleashing the fury of the wolves around us. A melee broke out, both magical and with cold steel. Magical blasts flashed in the night and the stench of burned fur mingled with the sting of sweat as I sprung into the chaos of the battle. One clung onto Arius’s throat, splattering blood into the night as he tried to shake it off. When another leapt at him, Skullringer ripped its head off, hitting Theren with it from behind with a dull thud. Somehow, on his backswing with the magic weapon, he let go of the warhammer, losing it in the thick grass of the plains.
A swirling cloud of magical daggers began to julienne two of the wolves, throwing fur and blood into the air with wild abandon. Theren killed the alpha, devouring its flesh in the process. My own magic sword, Nightstalker, cut two of the beasts deeply. Arius threw his razor-edged shield, burying it deep in the hide of one of our foes.
My pet wolf tore into one of the wild ones attacking us, making it yip in pain. From where Arius swung the shield, his thunderous smite blew up one of the wolves – raining blood and a bit of intestines all over Althalus who scowled back at the paladin for the gore he was drenched in. It was Theren that ended the fight, savaging the last wolf in his bloody jaws.
We were exhausted and collapsed for the night. The next day we came to the edge of the forest with a structure poised at the edge of the growth. While I had never been to Villineau, I somehow was sure this was it. The building was three stories tall, smooth, almost polished wood, to the point where it blended in with the surrounding forest. There were shapes in the wood that you could only see as you got closer, animals and other creatures of the forest preserved in the wood – not carved, almost as if the wood itself had grown in those shapes.
We were approached by the guards from the balcony over the front doors. “It is I, Brandon Winderford. I was summoned to the Rangersmet.” After a moment of muttering, the two massive doors opened.
The interior was incredible, almost like a plush inn of some sort. Other carved shapes seemed to be part of the walls. I was greeted and my friends were shown rooms while I was ushered before the High Council of Rangers on the second floor.
I was brought into a massive circular room. I knew the man sitting in the high seat, Sylvester of Bold. There were six other rangers, men and women, human and elf, seated above me.
“We’ve heard some disturbing reports. Word is that you have found Tempora. Is that true?”
“Do you have a map of how to reach it?”
“My friend do.”
“Do you have instructions on how to reach the interior? We have sent parties there before and have never had any luck in finding the city.”
“I do,” I replied in confidence.
“That information is useful to us. We have heard disturbing reports to the south, that the dead have risen out of the Great Gash.”
“That is true. And we have encountered Viktor Barristen as well.”
That stirred them. They asked me about how I ended up there, and I told them about Lexa Lyoncroft. That got a lot of looks from the other rangers.
“We’ve heard a number of disturbing reports about this Lyoncroft woman. She is said to be rekindling the Sisterhood of the Swords – training new adepts. If that is true, it represents a new faction in the realm.”
That of course was news to me, useful news I might add. “Barristen had another sister with him – Cyrilla Drex. I killed her in Tempora.”
Sylvester’s eyes narrowed. “You – a fledgling ranger killed one of the Mother Superiors of the Sisterhood of the Sword?”
“I did,” I said proudly. “With my friends.” I told them how I plunged my sword into her heart. There were nods from the gathered rangers.
“What happened to her sword?”
I told them that Barristen had paladins trapped in the sword and that he had taken it back from us. That made Sylvester’s brow furrow in deep thought.
“We had heard rumors that he was in the Cloud Lands – perhaps raising an army. This is most troubling. You, Brandon, are to be our eyes and ears. Remember, rangers do not take part in setting the affairs of men. We are guides, not shapers of our world. We bring harmony between nature and the footfalls of mortals.”
“With all due respect, we cannot sit by. We need to call the rangers, assemble, address this matter, assist the realms,” I stated firmly.
“Assist in what?” Sylvester asked. “We do not know where Barristen is. We don’t know where Lyoncroft is or where her loyalties lie.”
“My companions and I seek her out.”
“My village. We heard it has been taken over by a man. It was the last place we saw her.”
“Very well. It is risky – but we will allow it. You will need to keep us abreast of your progress. These men you travel with, some seem, dare I say, shady? Keep these words secret between us. You are bound by the Ranger’s Code, remember that.”
I was dismissed to our bed chambers. I made a copy of our map and filled in my compatriots with what I could. It was odd sleeping indoors in nice quarters. As much as I wanted to tell them the truth…I could not. As much as possible I simply avoided their question.
Althalus moved his hands in front of his eyes, staring at me. Curse his magic! I felt him probing my thoughts. That accursed warlock was toying with my mind. I managed to block his attempt to probe me and did not appreciate the attempt.
It took hours to copy the materials and after that I collapsed into a much-needed sleep. The next day we rose and set off for Buchola, my home town. We traveled a day and night with nothing out of the ordinary. The next day, just after midday, we saw dust rising on the trail ahead of us. We saw a wagon drawn by two horses, laden with goods. Riding atop the buckboard was an older man and woman. Arius approached them and they said they were from Buchola.
The old man knew me as I stepped out. Anger flashed across his face, painting it crimson. The barkeep of the Winged Pegasus, the tavern in town. He jabbed his bony finger in my direction.
“This is all your fault Brandon. He came two fortnights ago, said his name was Savitar. Of course we invited him in. He was looking for that woman you spoke to, the one that paid you.
“We told him she had sent you with a message and that she had disappeared. He wanted to know when you would return. We told him we didn’t know.
“It all seemed innocent enough. He was invited in at the keep, said he’d pay gold for a room there. It made sense. But Armix and his daughter Vella haven’t been seen since. Others went missing later. After that the clouds seemed to blot out the sun. Then came those dogs, those two-headed beasts. Some of our friends went missing. Everything around the keep seemed to die off after he took up residence there. I closed up the Winged Pegasus and left…as did most of the village. It just didn’t feel safe there any longer.
“This is your fault! If you had not become friendly with that woman, none of this would have happened. Our entire village has been abandoned.” His daughter looked as if she were prepared to spit on me.
“This is awesome,” muttered Althalus. “It’s not me this time.”
I sneered at him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for anything bad to happy.”
“If you hadn’t been messing with that witch with a sword, none of this would have happened.”
“I promise you that we will—“
“We don’t want your promises. You caused this. The entire town blames you for this.” So evaporated my thoughts of a parade upon my return.
Arius stepped up, chest puffed up in perfect paladin form. “We are going to the village and set these matters right.”
Disgusted with us, he slapped the reins on the horses and took off.
“That went well,” Althalus said. “Bad things happen to people all of the time.”
Theren nodded. “I’m a druid. You don’t have to tell me.”
“We need to right this wrong,” I said, trying to get them focused on the problem. “I’ll go in alone. He wants me. I will size him up.”
“I think this is a great plan,” Althalus said.
“No, it’s not,” Arius said. “We all go.”
The next morning we arrived at my home town. It was eerily silent…not even birds were chirping. It was cloudy, but the center of town seemed even darker. The trees rustled in the wind, but that was all we heard. No smokes from hearths rose in the air.
Buchola had a low wall for defense that surrounded the town. It had not been used for centuries and was moss covered. The keep, in the center of the town, had always been covered with moss and vines. Buchola was a town of peace…until now.
We entered town cautiously. Everything we saw made us nervous…especially me, this was my home. There were some strange tracks, dog-like, but heavier than even a dire wolf. It did not help ease our fears.
As we got near the keep we could see that this was the epicenter of strangeness. The vines and moss that covered it were dead and withered. The trees around it were dead, withered, their dead leaves littering the brown grass. The cloud cover over the keep was complete, it was almost a twilight appearance. There was a low fog over the dips in the ground, even mid-morning. Everything that had life was dead around the structure.
“This seems uncomfortable,” Althalus said, always the master of understatement.
Arius walked up to the door of the keep opened the door, the paladin rarely showed fear when he should. I was surprised, I thought he might knock. Arrogance is clearly a paladin’s strength.
A black haired man in nobles clothing stood in the doorway. “Hello, what are you doing here?” Oddly enough, he seemed friendly.
“We are passing through. Things seem…out of sorts. What happened here? Why are you here?”
The man flashed a grin and ignored one of our queries. “I am here…waiting for someone. Why don’t you come in? We can have some wine and talk.”
I knew this was a bad idea, even my wolf companion seemed to sense it. “Who are you looking for?”
“Lexa Lyoncroft,” he said. “Have you heard of her?”
“Yes,” Arius replied. “We know she had been here. Why don’t you come out here?”
“I am not well,” he said. “It is best I stay here.”
Arius suddenly grappled with him, tossing him on the ground. “What are you doing? Why are you showing me such disrespect?” He rose and returned to the doorway, brushing off his shoulders.
“We seek Lexa Lyoncroft as well,” the paladin said.
The man, unshaken, grinned again. “If you do not wish to come in, I wish you well out here tonight. Otherwise, come in and talk. My invitation remained.” I didn’t like the sound of that either.
Arius led us in. The keep’s window shutters were closed and the interior was dimly lit by sconces on the walls. A carpet covered the floor. We saw a desk, but walls obscured the other rooms. Althalus surprised us all with his next words, “I would like to apologize for our behavior. We were wrong to have attacked you.”
“I accept your words,” the man said.
I reached down and pulled my sword out slightly. It shimmered brilliant blue. Undead. Arius saw it too and nodded once.
“I am Brandon,” he said.
“I am Savitar. So you are Brandon,” he took a step closer. “I understand you worked for Lyoncroft. Where is she?” His eyes fell into my own. I could feel his thoughts. I found him oddly appealing, friendly. I was no longer in control of my words. “These men had met Lyoncroft before. They never said where they met her.” I felt like I was in a daze, surprised that I was sharing that information with him.
“Some wine perhaps?” the man offered. I found myself accepting.
“I have an offer for her,” he said as he poured. “A warrior of her prowess would be of use to the man I work for?”
“Who is that?” Theren asked.
“His name isn’t important – he goes by so many. What is important is that I find this Lyoncroft woman. Perhaps if you stay here, she will return. You could be my guests.”
“What makes you think she will come back here?” the druid pushed.
“A hunch,” he replied, not sipping his own wine. “You should stay here. Sooner or later she is bound to show up.”
“Um, no thanks,” Arius said. “We will go to the Winged Pegasus for the night.”
I found myself talking, not controlling my own words. “I think we should stay here with him.” Why did I say that?
“Very well, Brandon can stay here with us for the night.”
Arius glared at me. “We changed our minds, we will stay here tonight as well.”
The man clapped his hands and a girl emerged from one of the rooms. Her skin was waxen, her eyes seemed wide open, unblinking. “Why don’t you take our guests to the second floor? They can bed there for the night.”
She led us up the central staircases to the second floor of the keep. There were barrels there, stores of some sort. There was a rug on the floor in one spot, some old broken furniture, most of it broken. Two old rope beds were there as well, covered in dust.
“I don’t like this,” Althalus said. I felt oddly calm about the situation. The man didn’t seem at all like a threat, in fact, he seemed to be more like a trusted friend to me. Theren looked at me and waved his hands in front of me. It was as if I had awakened and the last few minutes had been a dream, one I had been living. “What happened?”
“You were under a spell, probably a charm,” Althalus said. “Instagramus Influencus…fairly common.” I hated that feeling. It made me betray my friends.
We moved about to settle down for the night, knowing that the man on the floor below us was devious. I went over by the barrels to check and another figure rose, springing at me. His teeth flashed with fangs and his skin was pale. I recognized him, Armix. “Armix – it’s me, Brandon.”
He didn’t respond other than springing at me. I drew Nightstalker and the room lit up blue-white. I turned the blade to hit him with the flat edge of the sword. I struck him and he hissed at me in response.
“Oh crap,” Althalus said, “It’s vampire spawn. I’ve read about them!” He dropped to a battle stance.
The rest of my friends converged on Armix to help me. The battle broke out around me – I cut him with Nightstalker, but despite the cut, he came at me viciously. Flames roared around him as Theren cast a spell. It did not seem to daze Armix as he dropped his blade and lunged me with fangs and clawed hands. This was not my friend, this was a creature from hell.
Armix shook his head, as if voices were there, and tried to put distance from us for a few moments.
I swung Bonebreaker and Nightstalker at the creature, barely scratching him. Out of the corner of my eyes the man from the floor below, Savitar, came out of the staircase, now with pointed fangs flashing. Theren swung his quarterstaff, burying it into the face of Savitar. It only seemed to make him madder.
The battle became a blur. Our weapons and spells tore into the pair of undead, yet they seemed to recover from each attack. My wolf sprung at Armix, biting him, tearing at his pale flesh, but it tore into it with its claws and bit it in the throat. My companion animal was tossed aside like a doll discarded by a mad child, leaving a bloody smear on the floor.
Theren shapeshifted into a bear, savaging one of the spawn. Althalus blasted away with his eldritch blasts, emerald green energy knocking Savitar back, only to ensnare him in a tangle of thorns that Arius had cast. The vampire tore through the vines as if they were not there at all. The girl we had seen below came up the stairs, pouncing on Theren. The bloody bear grappled with Savitar, though it only bought us a few moments.
Althalus produced the wand that fired lightning bolts we had discovered and unleashed it one of the spawn. The brilliant blast of white energy cracked across the keep, blasting into the spawn, leaving a smoking hole where its clothing had been charred by the assault.
Nightstalker shimmered in my sweaty grip as we pressed our assault, my hunter’s mark guiding every swing I made. Savitar disappeared into a floating gas cloud while the girl bit Theren’s bear in the shoulder. Everything was a jumble arms, legs, weapons and blood as our party flailed away at the undead creatures. Althalus unleashed thunderous smite on Armix – rending flesh from him and leaving him as dead…as dead as any vampire can be. Althalus missed with an eldritch blast, hitting Theren instead. The bear snapped its head around and growled, understandably.
Savitar rematerialized from a gaseous form, seemingly just as strong as ever. I remembered stories that vampires could regenerate, now I was living it! Arius’ smite threw the girl into Theren, knocking her prone for a few seconds. Bonebreaker and Nightstalker shimmered bright as I tore into Savitar, but no matter how much I hit him, it did not seem to take him down. In the fury of my attack, I hit myself with Bonebreaker in the head. Everything went dark and I barely remember hitting the floor.
I came to with my head throbbing, staggering to my feet as if I had been drinking. We were still in the fight! Theren was in human form, swinging his shillelagh at Savitar, furrowing his chin with a blow. The girl spawn was badly battered – smoke rising from some attack I had not seen. I don’t know what Althalus was doing, but Savitar seemed to struggle with something in his head, snarling, showing his pointy fangs. Arius hit her in the gut with Skullringer. Savitar struggled with the spell that our warlock was unleashing…which we were all thankful for. He collided with the wall, seeming to injure himself.
Arius hit himself with Skullringer, doing what I had done with Bonebreaker – leaving the paladin sprawled on the wooden floor, moaning into unconsciousness. The girl spawn dropped under our assault, sprawled dead on the floor. We all concentrated on Savitar. I swung Bonebreaker and again hit myself in the head. I sort of remember hitting the floor with my face before I blacked out…again.
I have no idea how long I was out…but when I rose, Athalus was on the floor, but seeming to still cast magic from there. Sweat stung at my eyes as I lumbered towards the fight. Arius was up, swinging his magical warhammer again, blood smearing his face and beard. I staggered forward…barely alive, but still in the battle. Theren’s attack made Savitar hiss loudly, turn into a gas, and seep downward through the cracks in the floor.
“We won!” Theren said joyfully.
Althalus rose to his feet. “Not so fast. I have some knowledge of these creatures. He must have a coffin filled with dirt somewhere nearby. If he gets into that, he can regenerate. We might have to face all of this all over again. Worse yet, we only have about an hour to find it.” Those words were ominous.
Arius used his javelins, spiking the hearts of the two dead spawn – making them explode as he pierced their un-beating hearts. We immediately searched for the coffin and found it in the basement of the keep. His body was there, resting, already regenerating.
“Spike him,” Althalus said. Our paladin did it without remorse.
“Not good enough,” the warlock said. “Cut off his head and take it out into the daylight. We don’t want him to have any chance of regenerating.” Theren undertook the decapitation, leaving his head out in the open.
We were weary, but searched the rooms for any other threats. We discovered a map, of lands we had not seen, and three strange metal symbols. Small, the size of a small horseshoe, they were clearly magical. “I’ve seen those before,” Althalus said. “Siva Runes. You attach them to your weapons and they infuse the weapon with some magical abilities.”
“What kind of magic?”
Althalus shrugged. “I don’t know that.”
I pocketed them. For a moment we looked at each other, exhausted from the battle. “You’re from here, right?” Arius asked.
I nodded in response.
“Where’s that Winged Pegasus tavern…I think we could all use a drink.” Coming from our paladin, we all knew it was a good idea.
The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do.