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!
After our defeat of Savitar and his minions we found ourselves in an empty village, weary yet more experienced in fighting the undead. We holed up in the keep to recover. Each hour more animals started to return to the village – now that the taint of the vampire was gone. Our second night there we heard a growling outside the keep. We went up to the battlements of the old structure and looking down, we saw a large, black, two-headed dog stalking around, frothing at the mouth.
I had no idea what it was, but I knew I wasn’t going to go down and confront it. Arius fired his crossbow and I unleashed my eldritch blast. The green beams hit its black hide and seared smoking holes, knocking it back hard onto the stones. One head looked up at me and growled, no doubt frustrated it couldn’t reach me. Brandon unleashed his own magic, a hail of thorns, making the creature wail in pain. Injured, it took off, one head yipping as it fled. “No doubt one of the minions of Savitar,” I muttered. It made me wonder what else might be lurking around us.
We turned our attention to those mysterious runes we’d found. I used one of my spells to understand them better. They were enchanted, they attached or bonded to a weapon. One seemed to have intelligence with it. One seemed to increase the odds of hitting a foe. Another summoned some sort of cloud. The final one that intrigued me the most, imparted some sort of intelligence to a weapon. It was the extent that my powers could obtain answers from the nether as to what they were, but it was enough. I was a little disappointed though, none of this was anything I could use. Ultimately we decided not to attach them to any of our weapons.
Brandon revealed to us that he has been tasked secretly with reporting to the High Council of Rangers. We were not entirely surprised they were keeping track of us, after all, look at all we had been through. His candor in admitting what he had been asked to do was appreciated.
We spent the rest of the week recovering and debating our next steps. We considered returning to the city of Karn with the map, in hopes that the mapmaker, Chester Grayson, could tell us where it was. Thoughts of returning to face the Vizir however did not settle well with us. The compelling thought was that we had to find Lexa Lyoncroft. We could wait for her to show up, which we thought she would eventually. Or we could go back to where we had seen her before – the Gellasian Fields.
I have to admit, it was strange, going back to where we had started those long months before. Memories of Pot Head the Ogre and the cockatrice that had almost turned my leg to stone were not pleasant. There was also no way to know if she was still there or would receive us well.
Brandon sent a bird with a message back to the High Council of Rangers, and we set out along a road towards the Fields and a rendezvous with an old adversary.
We set out and found little more than a strange cairn of stones along the roadside, one we gave a wide berth to. After several days march, we turned to the south east, cross-country. We did come across a churning of the earth, as far as we could see, as if a giant mole had come through, crossing our path. Whatever it was, it had furrowed a long tunnel before us. We tried to jump the furrow, and as it turns out, I’m the least athletic of our group. I fell in and the tunnel collapsed, leaving me with only my head sticking out of the ground, my legs dangling beneath.
“I hate this,” I cursed.
Theren spoke up. “Wait, do you hear that?”
There was a rumbling sound to the east…and me buried up to my neck. “Get me a rope…now!” It took some effort, but I made it out, covered with dirt thanks to Arius. As I got my footing we all saw the source of the rumbling – a fin breaking the surface of the ground, moving towards us.
“Landshark!” Theren called out.
“Bulette,” I corrected. Now we knew what caused the tunnel I had fallen in.
It closed to within 75 heads of us and I unleashed my eldritch blast. It hit the creature, pushing it back down the tunnel it was carving. “You know, he’s not moving fast. We could just run away,” I offered.
Everyone looked at me and we began sprinting away. “Run away!” We ran fast and kept on running until we finally collapsed in a heap of sweat and exhaustion. The Bulette eventually stopped its pursuit, for which we were all thankful. I had heard about such creatures and had no desire to tangle with it. We heard it several times in the night, in the distance, clearly still searching for us.
It took us two days march to reach the edge of the Gellasian Fields. It was here where the biggest battle of the great war was fought…both haunted and cursed. Brandon was nervous and I told him about it quickly. “This place is haunted, there are cockatrices, ogres, lots of undead, and where Lyoncroft had a camp.”
The grass was browning from the late fall air or just because of the proximity to the old battlefield, but we finally could see the edge of the Fields. The grass was shorter, more weed-filled. The magic unleashed here during the battle must have been powerful indeed to have corrupted the very soil of this place. The problem we faced was this was not a part of the ancient battlefield that we had traversed before.
That first night we could smell a hint of sulfur in the air. It was a restless night, reminding me of why I disliked this place. The dead don’t rest easy in the Fields. This was the closest we had been to our home in months. I doubt any of them would even recognize us at this stage.
Our morning was cloudy and cold. There were copses of trees and dead grass gave way to rolling hills. Brandon spotted several carrion birds circling over a bubbling tar pit in the distance. He slinked back to us and told us that there was an old man with a cane near the edge of the tar pit and that the birds were circling over the large pond-sized pool of tar. Small little geysers were puffing steam. He told us that there were bones around the perimeter of the tar pool.
My first instinct was that this was dangerous. Arius, ever the sterling paladin, led the others to talk to him. Me, I was readying an eldritch blast. When I saw the area, I knew what it was from histories I had read of the Fields. This was the Hellground. This was where the centaur armies were driven into during the battle. They became mired down here and were nearly obliterated by the undead hosts. Many souls perished here.
Arius called out to the old man, asking why he was there. “There’s a lot of treasure out here in the tar. I’m picking through it. I found some a chest with some gems in it. I need someone to wade out and take a rope to help me bring it in.”
“Guys,” I whispered. “This seems suspicious, but he seems like a nice guy.”
“Are you mad?” Brandon asked.
“Do we want to help the old guy?” Arius asked.
“I’m not wading in hot tar,” Theren said.
That sounded right to me. “I wouldn’t wade into hot tar for anyone, let alone this guy. I mean he seems honest, but I don’t think we should risk it. I do have a spell that has the shape of a hand. Maybe I can reach out and find it, tie it off, and drag it in.”
“It’s out there. You have to walk out and feel for it,” the old man said.
Theren looked at him with a cocked eyebrow. “He’s lying. I am completely convinced this guy is full of shit.”
“That’s enough for me,” Arius said. “Good luck with your treasure…” the paladin said, waving to him and walking away.
“I don’t risk my life for treasure,” I grumbled, still convinced that he old man was telling the truth. “Power is a different thing.”
We marched off, leaving him to his fate and trudged on. The next day, mid-afternoon, we saw a long ridge bisected our path. It was steep, rocky, and was miles long. Brandon, scouting ahead, spotted what looked to be a man sitting alone at the middle of the ridge, unmoving.
“You watch,” I warned. “It’s the guy from the tar pit.” I was, for the record, totally wrong.
Our side of the ridge was rocky. This was going to require us to climb. As we got closer, the man-figure we saw sitting up there looked more like an old suit of plate armor.
Theren pointed out that we should go around it. When we got around to the other side, we saw, in the distance, the north-south road…the main road that runs through the Gallesian Fields. Our side of the ridge was more sloped, easy walking. Brandon spotted a sign halfway up the ridge and we walked up the side reading it. “Beware Sir Tristen, the Last Defender of Rastor’s Ridge.”
For a few minutes, we contemplated continuing up. In the end, we had to know who Sir Tristen was. Brandon took point and we made our way up the grassy slope – the cool wind whipping at us as we walked.
When we got within one-hundred-heads distance the armor clanged and clattered to a standing position. Almost instantly, Brandon’s sword Nightstalker, glowed brilliant blue.
“It’s undead,” he said turning his head back.
“No joke,” I replied.
My first reaction was to close and unlashed my eldritch blasts. The emerald energy missed by five heads length. Curses! The haunted armor closed with our party, and my thoughts were back to the sign that warned us about him. The eyes of the possessed helmet on the abomination glowed red and it drew a massive great sword.
Brandon rushed forward, Nightstalker and Bonebreaker shimmering and flailing at the massive suit of armor. In a panic, he missed with both weapons. Arius cast one of his spells, making the monstrous suit to turn and move away from us to near the edge of the cliff. I unleashed another eldritch blast, knocking him back and down, leaving smoking holes in the armor.
Brandon sprang at him, swinging wildly with Nightstalker – losing his grip on the backward swing, sending it flying in our direction!
The suit rose from my staggering blast, holding its hand out in Theren’s direction. A hellfire orb of fire from his fingertips. The ball sped toward Theren as the ball of flames expanded and I realized that it would engulf me as well. The air became searing as the ball of flames caught me in the open. I smelled burn hair and realized it was my own beard! Smoke stung at my eyes as I saw Theren, charred but still standing. My own defenses sent some of the fire back at the haunted suit of armor, igniting the hillside around him. One thing is certain we are telling the countryside we were in the house!
I used vicious mockery at him but it was to no avail. Theren heated his armor to the point where it glowed orange, but it made no sound and only seemed to ignore the ripples of heat.
Arius, in all of his paladin glory, struck him with thunderous smite and the echoing clang of Skullringer! The air roared from the hit, and the hit was so hard he was knocked back ten heads and dropped to his knees from the fury of the attack.
He rose and struck the ground. A wave rippled out from where his sword stabbed the soil. It was like the soil was a wave of water, the ripples were massive, churning the rock and turf hitting Brandon, who somehow managed to keep his footing. Not so with Arius who was tossed hard to the ground and badly injured. Both were injured badly by the attack.
My eldritch blast knocked him back again, pushing him up the ridge. Arius struck the creature again, smiting him with the power of the church, damaging the visage of Sir Tristen once more. The unholy knight used his own unholy smite, hitting Arius three times with that great sword – with a white hot intensity, setting Arius on fire in the process – knocking him out. The flames lapped at the paladin as he lay unconscious.
“I think the right answer here is to kill him,” I muttered, missing with my eldritch blasts. Smoke rose from his glowing breastplate, the results of Theren’s attack. Our smoldering druid pointed to the sky above us and purple clouds magically appeared. A wave of lightning bolts stabbed downward at the knight. It hit him hard, excess energy lashing outward.
Brandon fired his longbow, missing entirely. His second arrow bore in with a hunter’s mark. An ethereal wolf appeared near Sir Tristen, no doubt summoned by the ranger.
Arius managed to awaken enough to heal himself and extinguish the magic-fueled flames lapping at him. Sir Tristen swung twice at Arius and lost the grip on his own great sword, sending it flying down the hillside in my direction.
I hit him again with my eldritch powers, staggering him back once more. The storm clouds rained down again, hitting him once more with a loud crack. Brandon fired twice. His first arrow hit, the second one snapped his bow. Arius sprang at the ghost knight with Skullringer, missing with one swing, but catching him on the back-swing. The armor flies apart – searing the dead grass it was so hot. The stench of unholy death rose from the empty suit, stinging at my nostrils. Sir Tristen was no more. The storm clouds parted and I was far too aware that we had attracted so much attention.
Suddenly, there was a finger tapping my shoulder. I jumped and turned around. Standing there, her massive sword in hand, was Lexa Lyoncroft. I tried to look calm and cool, but I was sure that failed. “Hello boys, so we meet again,” she said coyly.
Theren, still smoking from the fireball, pulled it off better than me. “’Sup,” he said.
“We need your help,” I managed.
She glanced over and Brandon and offered a grin. “Ah, fair ranger. I see your mission to the gash paid off well for all parties involved. Of course your friends never learned the true nature of our relationship.” She gave him a big wink. What the hell? Was she messing with us, or was Brandon holding out on us.
“We were trying to find you,” I said. “Did you know there was a vampire that was hunting you? We killed him. And then there’s Viktor Barristen, he’s out for you too.”
“Tell me your tale,” she said.
We relayed the story, as best we could – the trapped paladins in Cyrilla Drex’s sword, Tempora, everything. At times three of us were talking at once but she seemed to understand. “Let’s go to my camp.” It took an hour to reach the tents of her camp. There were men there, some we had seen and fought before. There was also several young women there. It was odd seeing Lexa again, after all of this time. The last time, we faced her in battle. It was over a half a year ago. The one Barbarian working in the camp scowled at Arius, then it hit us, the paladin had killed his twin brother and taken Skullringer during our last meeting.
She asked about the death of Cyrilla Drex and we told her about the fight. “Cyrilla and I never quite saw eye-to-eye on things. She took the sword and concealed our Order’s keep. Are you telling me that it is intact, inside the plane in her sword? And Barristen has that weapon?”
“Yes,” Theren said.
“Damn,” she spat. “The last time he was incarnated, he raised an army of the dead to wage war against the Church. He was defeated on these very fields. He will raise another army of undead. If he does that, I will never truly be free of my own curse.”
“What curse?” I pressed.
“I made bargains, an exchange, to fulfill my life. Until I fulfill my burden, my oath, I am trapped by the curse and continue to live the life eternal. I’m a lot older than what you boys think.”
“What is your quest?”
“I am to restore the Sisterhood of the Sword both physically and to right the slander that has been spread by the Church. The Church was misled into purging our priory. It is my burden to set all of that straight.”
“We tried hard to keep the sword, but he managed to take it from us,” Brandon said.
“The swords we carry are unique. Each blade is forged by a swordmaiden of the order. Each member of the order carries one of the blades. In the forging process, with incants of old and a lock of our hair, the blades are quenched. To us, they are as light as a feather. Only a member of the order can wield such a massive blade. Each has a stone with a unique property, crafted by God and the swordmaiden. Cyrilla’s was an alternate plane of existence, where time and magic had no grasp.”
“We saw that,” I said.
“You were there?” We nodded. “Did you see the keep? Were the wards still in place?” Again we nodded.
Lexa shook her head. “There were five of us that survived the Church’s purge. Cyrilla wanted more than to survive and rebuild. She was blinded with revenge against the Church.”
“I understand,” Theren the druid said.
“She left, taking all that was ours with her. That keep has all of our spellbooks in it, all of our magic reference. It even has our holy forge. Everything needed to rebuild the sisterhood once more.”
“What happened to the other survivors?” I asked.
“Scattered. Some refused to accept the curse I did. Others have retired, turned their backs on the Church and the world that had wrongly persecuted them. We may yet have to call on some of them to stop Barristen.”
“What about recruiting?” I queried.
She shook her head. “We need to bring him to ground first.”
“We do have this map we found. We don’t know what it means.”
“This spot,” she said pointing at the edge of the map. “Could be the Gallesian Fields. There is no way to know if this takes us to Barristen though. I have never been that far west. There is a symbol showing a lake, but I was unaware of an inland sea in that direction.”
“We have to stop Barristen, on this all depends. I understand his feelings towards the Church. I have been accused myself of having a need for revenge. I do not seek vengeance, only justice.”
A young girl emerged from the camp, wearing a habit, bringing us bowls of warm soup. “This is Sister Highstall. She is an adept in my order.” She bowed her head and backed away from us.
We told her about Bentblade and then remembered we had a pardon for her. Arius presented it to her and she drank it in carefully. “This is remarkable – especially from Bentblade. It tells me he knows how grave the situation is.”
All of us talked at once, telling her about our being part of a tribe of Minotaurs, and about Blackshear, who she apparently had heard of. “Your being a friend of his says a great deal. He’s friends of no one.”
“We saved his granddaughter,” I said with pride.
“Anyone that can win over that tough old nut is impressive.”
She seemed to focus her gaze on Arius. “What is that on your back?”
He pulled out the shield. “We found it in an armory in Tempora.”
“This is from my order…it belongs to the Sisterhood. I would ask you nicely to give this to me rather than make me take it by force.” It wasn’t quite a threat, but as a close as anyone could get to it. It’s a sacred relic. Three of them were forged. This one is the shield of the searing son – it is called Temper. It is forged of star metal, iron that rained from the sky. I am surprised Bentblade didn’t try and keep it. We can get much more use out of this than you can.”
She put it on her arm and the center of it shone like a brilliant sun. I averted my eyes.
“What happened to that skull you got from us?” I asked.
“What is it with you and skulls?” she countered. “I destroyed it of course. I am not that evil.”
“They are neat, and I like them.”
“I do not have a skull,” Theren pointed out.
“I have one that is a devil’s skull – it has silver arrowheads stuck in it.”
“Is it possible to use this as a weapon?” Arius asked.
“I would urge you to get rid of this,” Lexa warned.
“Sometimes the dark knowledge is the best knowledge,” I replied.
“We need to strategize on how we take down Barristen.”
“We have the map,” Arius said.
“But we don’t know that is where he is. It is just a document.”
She seemed to pause and think for a moment. “Viktor was created in the Temple of Durst in V’sarin, the dragon’s graveyard. He enlisted a great necromancer to create the spell that brought him back to life. That spell is likely the key to undoing him permanently. Unfortunately no one has been there in centuries. The Dragonborn there protect their lands from any that might trespass.”
Lyoncroft continued, “The dragon’s graveyard is a thing of legend. Hidden in a dense hot forest, it is said that when a dragon knows they are about to die, they go there. The Dragonborn there tend to them, ease them into the afterlife. They build burial mounds over the dead and protect those lands.
“There are other rumors. Some say that within that realm, there are places where the dragons go and lay their eggs – that they are somehow infused with the souls of the dead of their kind when they are born. Such places are said to be very sacred and well protected.
“There was a legendary city there once, a Dragonborn city. The vines and forest have consumed most of it. In there is the Temple of Durst, a ziggurat that had once been devoted the worship of dragons – taken over centuries ago by a cult of necromancers and used as their own base. Durst was their greatest leader, living, some say, for over five centuries.
“Viktor Barristen went there as a mortal, near death. He wanted revenge on the church. It is said that he enlisted the aid of Durst who wove the magic that gave him perpetual life. Durst was said to have been killed during the last great war, here, in these fields. His spellbook, if it even still exists, may hold the key to beating Barristen or even undoing him.”
“We should find it,” Theren said.
“We are legendary in finding lost cities,” Brandon added.
Lexa nodded. “There are different tribes of them there. They are friendly as long as you do not try and violate their sacred places. Some tribes, like the Glu-ess, ride dragons into battle. Some are nomadic, like the Vissseri. Others, like the ebony Krudak, are hostile to even their own people.”
Her jaw set firmly as she spoke. “The church likes to think of me as their enemy…it plays well with the ignorant masses. I am still loyal to God. I know my order was set up. I seek redemption. Once I have that, my geas is done.”
“We need that sword. To get it, we need the right tools to defeat Barristen. If we rush in blindly, he will take us out.”
“We should go to the ziggurat,” Theren said.
“I will take a party of my adepts and use your map to find out what is out there. You can head south and east, through the jungles.”
“Did you run into Pot Head’s brother? His name is Barrel Chest.”
“No,” I said.
“If you do, tell him you are working with me. For you all, you need to rest up. I will heal your injuries.”
Brandon stepped forward. “I recovered this amulet from Cyrilla Drex. What is it?”
“It turns a person to stone if you use the right power word. I would be careful of using it.” Brandon seemed content with the answer and pocketed the amulet.
“We are allies now, united against a common foe,” Lyoncroft said. “To the bitter end if need be.”
The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do.