The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign Part 37 – The Chalice of St. John

Shit

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!

Brandon…

“I think the best reason for us to get the chalice is simple – it could be used against us by Barristen,” Theren said as we assembled in the morning. To me it made sense.  The Chalice of St. John was said to have resurrective powers. We had flirted with death many times – and the chance to die and come back had appeal to me.

“I like the idea of an artifact that can keep me living forever,” Althalus added wryly. Somehow when he said it, it made me nervous.  We bid farewell to the Order of the Sapphire and went to the town gate and gathered our weapons.  I was going to miss Alistair.  The people there were friendly and seemed to really like us.

“What was it that was guarding this chalice?” I asked.

“A beguiling female demon.  I think it’s a succubus,” Althalus said.  “So I’m super-onboard with this little side trip.”

Our first night out, I heard the sound of a nearby wolf pack, howling in the distance.  I approached the nearest of the pack.  I pulled some jerky out of my haversack and offered it to the wolf, which it greedily ate. It took some coaxing on my part, but soon I was able to get close enough to pet it. When I looked into its eyes, I could sense a bond between us.  I lured it away from the pack and towards our camp, offering it scraps of food. I knew the ways of the wolf as a ranger, and calmed the beast with a magic spell…convincing it that I was its friend. The wolf cuddled my side.

“I love puppies!” Althalus said from behind me.

“Don’t hug him,” I warned.  “He and I are companions now, or we will be by the time I am done training him.”

The next day was uneventful until the afternoon.  I was on point as usual, when I picked up the murmurs of goblin voices.  They chattered in that babble they call a language for a few minutes, then mysteriously went quiet.  My wolf began to growl.  Theren stepped up and cast one of his fire spells into the brush, flushing out these beasties quickly.  Goblin arrows rained down on me, one hitting in the right shoulder and sticking there.

Althalus blasted away with his emerald green eldritch power, sending one of the goblins flying back with smoking holes in its tiny chest.  Some fired back at our Warlock, I was hit again as I drew my bow and unleashed an arrow, hitting it in the throat mid-squeal, leaving it with gushing blood and a gurgle as it staggered back. My second arrow hit it as well, leaving it clinging to life.  My new wolf companion sprung and tore at it, ripping it futilely.

Theren cast ice knife – hitting one and exploding shards of ice out from the damaged one.  Goblin parts flew into the air, along with a rain of sickly green blood.  Althalus blew another one apart, tossing its bloody corpse back some ten heads.  The remaining three goblins opted to flee in a panic. My trusty wolf tore at the loin cloth of one who managed to scramble and run away, tossing it about playfully.

As we marched on, the mountain range to the west seemed to loom before us. We marched on for two more days with little incident.  During my watch I heard a lute playing in the distance.  I stealthfully woke up the camp.

“That lute…it’s out of tune,” Theren said as he yawned.

“Who would be out in the forest playing a lute?” Arius asked.

We opted for caution.  After two hours or so, the music stopped.  No one seemed to be approaching the camp.  The next morning we notice camp smoke rising from the north of our site. Exercising caution, we paid them little heed.  That night, however, we were approached by one of their protectors.

Cautiously we approached the small gray-robed party.  Althalus opened a dialogue with them and determined they were the source of the lute music.  They were led by Brother Mortimer and said that he and the others were looking for the Stairs – like us.  They said that one of them, Sister Margaret, had gone before them and had not been heard from in days.  To me, they seemed pretty sincere and not much of a threat. I wondered if she was some sort of virgin, off to be sacrificed – and I kind of found that appealing.

Althalus told them we were heading to the Stars as well.  He seemed to know about the Chalice of St. John as well.  Margaret went into the old priory there and she never came back.  There were eight of the parishioners including Mortimer and he invited us to join him.  We didn’t detect any deceit in what he was offering.  Packing up, we joined them. Most of them seemed intrigued with Arius given he was a paladin.

I asked if they knew anything about a succubus, but Mortimer said it was likely an old-wives tale.  “The church abandoned the old priory in the Stairs ages ago, for reasons only known to their exalted leadership.  The pilgrims went there to try and find the abandoned artifacts there and recover them in the name of God.”  So why did the church abandon this place?  That answer was for us to discover.

Two days travel west we arrived at the Stairs.  It was a massive crack in the mountain range, rising high into the heavy mists above. Old worn and weathered stone stairs twisted and rose up crack, towering above us.  Mortimer and the others called out for Sister Margaret but their voices merely echoed sadly upward into the heart of the mountain range. Margaret, we learned through scraps of conversation, had been chosen by her village to lead the pilgrimage.  Her party planned on waiting at the foot of the Stairs, waiting for her to return.  On the other hand, we were planning on foraging onward.

As I led the party upward, the stone walls of the great crack seemed to come to a close, the stairs ending where the walls came together.  It seemed odd to me – after all, the stairs went upward for hundreds of feet, but led nowhere but a dead end.  Theren simply walked forward into the crack, seeming to pass through a veil or magical curtain of some sort.  On the other side the steps continued upward.  Theren leaned back to us and told us it was all an illusion.

We dallied with the thought of telling the pilgrims we had found a way in, but Althalus cautioned against it.  “What good does that information do for them?”  We opted to remain quiet and press on.

The stairway twisted and turned upward – well-worn where footfalls had slowly eroded the steps. We were concerned that a fall might kill one or more of us.  I found a few bits of chain and long dried blood on several steps. At the end, hundreds of feet up and into the mountain, we came to a sealed door with the words, “Speak unto God,” carved into it. We were unsure how to proceed – the door was sealed and would not open.  “Which one?” Althalus asked. “There are a lot of gods.”

Arius stared at the door deep in thought.  The paladin pondered the stone door in silence.  He knocked on the door but nothing happened.  He then lowered on one knee and prayed in front of the door and it cracked open with a deep echoing crack – sending a billow of light dust outward.

The chamber held a large dais in the middle of the room, and two statues flanking it.  We could make out a door at the far end of the chamber.  As we approached we saw that the statues had been vandalized, their heads had been broken off and were on the floor under a thin film of dust. Theren lit the sconces and noticed some strange shadows in the domed ceiling.  The creatures moved on us, thin black shadows, almost a void in the air.  Five of them darted in at us, moving like men.

I drew my bow and fired, missing one, hitting with the second shot. My wolf moved in front of one near Arius and attacked, ripping at one of the ethereal shadow-creatures, knocking it to the floor.  Althalus unleashed his magical beams – slamming into one of them, knocking it into the wall, leaving an inky black splatter where the creature existed.

Theren’s quarterstaff shimmered in the air hitting one hard.  Arius unleashed his holy smite with Skullringer, killing one instantly.  The room became a blur around me.  One hit Theren, making his body sag as it drew away his strength.  I sent an arrow into the injured one, killing it.  My trusty wolf savaged his downed shadow. Althalus’s emerald beams cut down the last one, cutting it into shreds.

We moved to the door on the far wall and opened it.  A rush of air almost blew out the flames from the torches in the sconces.  A long two-head wide stone bridge stretched out over a vast chasm, hundreds of feet deep.  The walls were some fifty heads away, flanking the bridge. Above, the chasm opened to the sky, giving us enough light to see the stark white bones and rusted armor below.

“They could have at least put up some rails,” Althalus said.  None of us thought it was very funny.

Theren devised a plan to transform into a giant spider. He went across for a short distance and two pendulums with spinning blades swung across, one hitting him, one missing. That was enough for him, he moved under the bridge, moving underneath.  In one portion, he found a five foot piece of the bridge missing, it was an illusion.  If we had crossed we would have plummeted to our death.  He spun a web over the spot and reached the far side.

The spider-Theren returned and, after some strange signals with his legs, convinced us to climb onto him and he proceeded to shuttle us across one at a time, under the bridge.  I was forced to leave my pet wolf behind, which saddened me greatly.  He had already proven himself a worthy companion.  One of our trips had triggered a log on chains swinging across – enough to knock anyone on the bridge off if we had been there. It took us over an hour to get across.

The bridge ended in a landing with a single ironoak door.  Arius turned the handle and pushed it open.  It was a sixty by twenty foot room with a pair of alabaster baths and two water pools.  No doubt this is was where pilgrims could cleanse themselves when this had been managed by the church.

As Arius moved near one pool, the water took form and struck at him, slamming him hard.  An Elemental!  Theren fired webbing to restrain the creature, but it failed to have any effect.  Arius bore the brunt of the wet assault.  I leapt in with Nightstalker and Bonebreaker, splashing water about the room. Althalus’s eldritch blasts left wisps of steam from the holes they burned. Arius hit with Skullringer and a blast of holy smites, spraying water everywhere in the room.

Theren changed back to human form, lashing out with his thorn whip spell – the whip harmlessly passing through the creature.

The elemental turned on me, overwhelming me, grappling me.  I could not breathe, water filled my nose and mouth. I wanted to use my teleport ring, but the water made uttering the word impossible.  Althalus’s beams tore into the form.  Arius slammed it again with Skullringer, finishing it off.  I dropped to the floor, gasping for breath.

We found a golden cross embedded with emeralds in the pool. Theren took it and put it in his kit. The room appeared to be a dead end, so we searched for a hidden door, which our druid found.  A narrow hallway stretched out then turned a hard left.  Further exploration led to stairs down, deeper into the mountain.  Theren fell into the trap pit with spikes, falling 15 heads and tore up his legs.  We pulled him out. At the end of the snaking hallway was a large chamber.  Paintings, long ago defaced, lined the walls, which made me cringe slightly.

Althalus spoke up.  “Which one of you want to take point?”  We all gave him a scornful look.  There was a strange symbol in maroon, perhaps dried blood on the floor.  The shattered skeletons of over thirty dead littered the floor.

“That’s demonic,” the Warlock said pointing to the symbol.  “This is some satanic shit right here.”  We saw a hallway at the far end of the chamber.  I got an ominous feeling about all of this. These were once holy grounds…so that symbol boded ill.

“We should rest up,” Arius said.

“Here?” I asked.

Theren and I surveyed the hallway at the far end, hoping to avoid any surprises.  It went back 25 heads to a dead end.  Suddenly a stone slab dropped and began a slow grind.  Theren cast a spell on it to stop it, tipping the stone over. I found a hidden door at the end.  Thoughts of resting vanished for the time-being.  We moved down another twisting hallway.

We entered a massive chamber, 45 heads across, circular, with a tall ceiling that was domed.  I led the way into the room.  There was a massive heap of thick iron chains.  A raised seat in the center of the chamber with a female seated there.  She had giant bat wings and the stubs of horns on her head.  She was adorned in armor.  The braziers next to her lit up as I stepped in, illuminating the room.

Athalus followed me, half-stumbling into the room.  Looking up at her, his skin went pale.  “It’s a Cambion, the offspring of a Succubus.”  I had no idea what he was talking about but none of it sounded good. She seemed unfazed as we entered.

“You’ve made it father than most, for that I respect you,” she said in an eerily calm voice. “I am Chinahara.  Who are you?”

I puffed out my chest.  “I am Brandon Winderford,” I said proudly.

“Oh, so we’re going to tell her?” Althalus asked. “What the hell…I am Althalus, seeker of the Sapphire Eye.”

“Let me guess, you came for this?” she hissed.  “The chalice has been the perfect bait for me to lure in true believers and kill them.  I look forward to tasting your blood.”  She smiled, but not a good smile, a bad one.

She turns on Althalus.  “So you are a slayer of devils and demons? Drethcara, the gnawer of bones!  Long have I wondered what happened to him.  You carry his head like a trophy – Devil-slayer.  You will be the last to die so that you can see your friends perish.”

“I’m oddly good with that,” whispered Arius. She turned her eyes on him and locked her gaze.  I turned and drew Nightstalker, which burst into brilliant light, and charged at Chinahara, swinging hard.  My sword glanced off of her, but Bonebreaker did hit her gut hard.  Suddenly, Arius drew Skullringer and to my amazement, he reeled on Althalus, narrowly missing the warlock.  “What the fuck?”

Theren dropped a moonbeam on her, bursting her into flames, adding to the light in the room. Just then, the chains on the floor started to move, pulling together and forming up to a humanoid shape.  “A chain golem,” Althalus muttered.  Things got instantly worst.

She moved out of the moonbeam and onto me, hitting him with beams of fire. The chain golem started spinning, whipping the chains like massive flails.  Althalus turned invisible, disappearing in a blink of an eye.

I lost my grip on Nightstalker, sending it skittering along the floor, tossing up sparks.  “Aw crap!” I spat, still hitting with Bonebreaker.  Theren heated the metal of the golem, but that only seemed to make it both glow and get stronger.  Seeing that was failing, he transformed into a bear.

The sight of the bear got Chinahara drew her wrath. One of her beams of fire burned the fur of our druid, the stench of burned hide stung my nostrils. The chain golem hit me with a chain hard, hitting me hard, making my ribs ache.  My vision tunneled and I fell into unconsciousness.  The last thing I remembered was hearing with Chinahara commanding Arius to attack the bear.  The blackness took me away, muffling the rumble of the battle around me.

I regained my wits and managed to stagger to my feet.  The battle was still raging around me still.  In a throbbing haze, I moved in behind the Cambion and cast a spell that wrapped her in vines, which she snapped easily.  I hit with Bonebreaker, again, only scratching the armor.

Theren returned to human form, then made an attack, but bearly (intentionally) scratched her. The chain golem lashed out at but missed, the air whishing with the chains.

Althalus, no visible, hit her with his eldritch blast.  Chinahara hit the wall hard, hissing, then seemed to collapse inward, blinking out of the room. I staggered towards the chain golem, hitting it with a glancing blow.  The rattle of the chains from the impact did not bespeak any real damage.

Arius, in control of his senses again, hit the creature with Skullringer.  The smite of the blow made the chains expand outward for a moment, then reform again.  The golem turned on me, hitting me so hard that I once more blacked out, skidding along the floor.  I saw a tunnel in the darkness and started to drift towards a dot of light. Death loomed and I was prepared to face it.  Something tugged at me, pulling me back.

When I came too, there was a mound of chains and my comrades, drenched in blood and sweat, lit up by the flames of the braziers.

The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Part 25

Part 26

Part 27

Part 28

Part 29

Part 30

Part 31

Part 32

Part 33

Part 34

Part 35

Part 36

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

#DnD

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