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!
Having rested up for several hours, we set out down the dark roadway to the underbelly of the mountains. Less than an hour into our trek, a massive portcullis dropped down, blocking the road and driving through Arius’s body as it slammed into the ground, pinning the paladin to the floor. The wrought iron gate sent up a cloud of rust into the air as it thudded into place. Bor was on the far side, now appearing trapped. Despite being a brute of a man, he looked oddly vulnerable there alone. Blood oozed from Arius’s wounds where the portcullis had pinned his torso, though the paladin did not complain much.
It took all of us to lift the gate, mostly with Bor’s and my brute strength and using a javelin for a lever. Each member of the party slid under the gate. We moved a few heads down the road and the gate clanged back up. “We must have stepped off of the trigger,” I said as the gate disappeared into the slot on the ceiling over the road.
Another 200 heads down, we saw a small indentation on the right side of the roadway, a niche really. There was some wood there, rotting, along with some shards of moldy cloth. A small hole five heads from the floor trickled water down into the hole. Under the wood was clearly a hole in the floor.
“I think someone should look into that,” Arius said.
“I think someone else should look into it,” I replied.
The paladin frowned at me then went over, carefully peering down the hole. “It’s some sort of sewer,” he called over to us. It made sense. This was a long road into Tempora. There had to be places like this where travelers could relieve themselves.
“What’s down there?” Brandon called.
“I don’t want to know what is down there,” Arius replied. “You are welcome to use this if you want. I have no desire knowing what is down in this old sewer.” I agreed with the paladin. While there could be something long lost in that hole, we were not looking for treasure, but for the missing warriors of the Order of the Fang.
We moved on, walking down the roadway for nearly an hour. Then, to our surprise, she appeared again, the ghastly woman appeared before us again. Cloaked in green, holding a golden censor oozing smoke, the older woman materialized out of nowhere in the middle of the roadway.
“You still have not heeded my words,” she intoned in a low voice.
“Why does that sound like a threat?” “I mean here’s a old human woman running around on an ancient dwarven highway. Something isn’t right here.” Althalus said. I had to agree with the warlock on this matter.
“What do you think she’s up to?” Arius said, stroking his goatee.
“You should turn around now,” she said firmly, clearly listening into our chatter.
This was, at one time, a major roadway. Something about this female did not make sense.
“What should we be fearing?” Arius asked of her.
“Are you going to give us any useful information, or are you simply going to continue to waste our time,” Althalus snapped at her. “If we turn around, the bone dragons will eat us.”
“This is not my concern,” she said impassively.
“What is ahead that should be our concern?” the warlock pressed.
“This road has not been used in centuries. Turn around and live.”
I puffed out my chest. “This road has been used recently, and we are following their tracks,” I told her.
“Leave now, and you go with your lives.” Her words were a firm tone, strangely confident…which made me nervous. “Continue down this road and you will die.”
“Good luck trying,” Brandon said. I snapped my head over to him. We did not need an escalation of words at this point. Whoever this older woman was, she was using magic to teleport. Who knows what else she might do? Brandon clearly was misreading my expression. Rather than stop, he strode up to her. “We do not fear you.” You are speaking for yourself ranger… It was then I noticed two things. The color of her robe was familiar – it was the same green as Lexa Lyoncroft! And behind her, at her head, was the hilt of a sword. It was almost identical to Lyoncroft’s. Was she a fellow Sister of the Sword?
“You should,” she said far too calmly. Her words were followed with a brilliant flash of light. Brandon was thrown back ten heads…and she had disappeared. I was blinded by the white light of the blast and a crack light lightning bolt hitting near us. I felt the hairs on my head rise for a moment. There was that circular pattern on the floor again, shimmering just for a moment before it disappeared.
“I am getting tired of her party tricks,” Althalus said as the ranger regathered his wits.
“Brandon is stunned,” I said, helping the ranger back to his feet. I had hoped he had learned his lesson.
“That does not involve me,” the warlock said. I motioned for him to join me. Was there residue where the blast had taken place? We looked, there was none to be found. This indeed was, as I had feared, powerful arcane.
“Did you see that sword and her robe? It’s like Lyoncroft’s” I said. Bor nodded, he had seen it as well. “It could be deception on her part,” I added.
“Oh great,” Althalus said. “There’s more than one of them running around.” Once we were comfortable that she was not going to return we continued on. Another hour or so passed when we came to three large obstructions in the roadway. Brandon moved forward. “The road looks like it ends up here!” We all came close enough to see that the roadway stopped its gentle slope downward. Instead it seemed to level off and open up a vast chamber beyond. Water filled the lowest part of the road, forming a pond that filled the entire roadway.
The end of the road could mean one thing for us, we had finally found the long lost dwarven city of Tempora. To get there, we would have to navigate these waters though, and it seemed that they were at least waist deep, if not more.
Bor poked at the three piles of debris that seemed to be between us and the water. “These are wagons, turned over. Someone tipped these over to make some sort of barricade,” he called back to us. Arius went to one and found the same thing. None of us moved around the large oaken wagons. There could be anything there. My first thought went to goblins and how they had tried to ambush us earlier, pretending to be a ghost.
Arius picked up a rock and tossed it over the overturned carts to see if that stirred any activity. The rattle of the stone stirred no activity.
We flanked the wagons and saw nothing but stones that had been piled up to essentially keep them in place. We saw arrowheads and spear points stuck in the wagons, evidence of some battle long ago.
I motioned to the water and we approached it. Some seventy-heads distant, in the middle of the small lake was an island rising up, stone and wooden bits. The air smelled of moisture, musty, dank. From where we stood, we saw the roadway making a stark right turn before opening up to a large chamber beyond. Bor spoke up. “I hear running water in the distance.”
Althalus stepped up to the water’s edge. “I am not wearing much in the way of metal, I could swim it.”
“I’m not sure…” I said, eyeing the island a short distance away. There was no way around this dank water, but the thought of going in made me nervous.
“Perhaps you could turn yourself into a bear and we could ride you across,” Brandon said to me.
“Or a large otter,” added our warlock.
“Or a wolverine,” Arius chided.
“I’m not transforming into a bear to be a boat or canoe for your travel,” I replied. Turning into a creature of woods was part of my divination as a druid. I would not have them mock it thusly. “Go out there,” I said to Althalus. Dimintrios, his loyal mute shadow, waded in behind him without a moment’s hesitation.
We stood along the edge of the water as the warlock entered. Brandon furiously pointed to water. “There’s something out there!” he called. I looked. Yes, two distinct ripples in the pond, as if something large were swimming under the surface.
The figures converged on our comrades, breaking the surface. From the island, another pair rushed down to the water. They looked like a cross of men and crocodiles. I had heard of such species, lizardmen! Armed with sleek halberds, the pair on the island struck at our party in the water. We stood and watched as horror as a streak of blood sprayed the air from their hits. The two in the water rose and attacked as well. I saw Dimitrious drop limp into the cold water and not rise back up.
Brandon hit one with his crossbow and Arius threw his javelin, spiking the weapon deep into the shoulder hide of the creature. He hissed loudly, I’m sure some sort of curse in his foul language. I fired my bow as well hitting one of the monstrosities in, what I assumed was his rib cage.
Bor dashed into the water like a charging elephant, throwing his hand axe but missing entirely, splashing the water as it sank.
Dimitrious bobbed in the water as Althalus unleashed his eldritch green energy, hitting one of those in the water. The body of the creature flops in the water then went still…apparently killed.
Brandon fired another bolt into a lizardman.
One of the creatures on the island hit Althalus, hurting him, but bursting into flames as the warlock’s defenses kicked in. The lights from the flames reflected off the dark waters, casting odd shadows.
I fired again, hitting the creature on the land, as did Bor, whose axe flew in and hit the one still in the water. There was a splash in the water, joined by a missed javelin thrown by Arius. I moved in and cast a healing word on Dimitrious, enough to stir him to consciousness.
A oozing of greenish blood rose from the water as the lizardman broke the surface and hissed. He sprung on the still dazed monk, once more knocking him unconscious. The remaining lizardman on the island knocked out Althalus as well.
Bor closed in swinging, hitting one of the creatures. I closed my eyes slightly and concentrated on healing Althalus, enough to allow him to rise – his face dripping with blood from a nasty gash. Bor swung again, his glowing warhammer clearly missing any victims, adding to the flames on the island.
Our paladin tossed his javelin and missed as well, it was as if the fates were working against us. One of the lizardmen sprung at Bor and missed, the other leapt at our warlock and missed entirely, landing on his opposite side and spinning to face him.
Brandon’s crossbow bolt killed one lizardman, the bolt plunging into his throat and toppling backwards at the water’s edge. I switched to my short bow and fired, leaving the arrow stuck in his arm and eliciting another sinister hiss from him, his tongue lapping in the air.
Althalus fired his arcane blast at the remaining foe, knocking him back and into Bor. He rose again, silhouetted by the flames of his dead comrade on the island.
Brandon fired again, hitting him in the eye. There was a spray of dark green blood, and he collapsed into the pond. We were all breathing heavily, the crackle of the flames drowning out the distant rush of water in the distance.
I healed Dimitrious again, and he gave me a thankful nod in response. We moved up toward the island which had been home to them. There were low mud and wood huts there. I looked past the island, into the opening beyond. The road rose slightly out of the water. There were shadows of rubble in the distance…Tempora perhaps? I was excited at the premise of reaching the city.
Brandon crawled in a hut and emerged with a small leather pouch. There were three black marbles and a silver dagger.
Althalus entered the other hut and emerged with a small chest – which he poked with a dagger. “What are you doing?” Brandon asked.
“Checking for mimics,” the warlock replied. There was no response from the chest and I suppressed a chuckle. The warlock pried it open and a puff of gas rose from the open chest and it hits him in the face. He shook his head, fighting the sleep spell, rubbing the powder from his eyes. There was a small potion in a glass vial, and a scroll in the chest.
“You know, I can detect traps,” I said after the fact.
“Why didn’t you use it?” Althalus asked.
“You were the one in a hurry to just open the chest,” I replied. Brandon returned his hut to continue searching as Althalus held up the vial. “A potion of healing,” he said.
“What of the scroll?” I queried.
“I can only make out the word, ‘fire’ on it,” he said.
The paladin moved to another nesting area poked at it, emerging with a gold broach with a diamond on it. “It is beautiful,” he said, pocketing it. We all started looking around the hut/nests. Brandon emerges with a black leather bound book, thick, with mold on the cover in some spots and on the edges. Althalus perked up. “Hello…”
“What is it, how to cook kobolds?” I asked wittily.
“I’ll be taking that,” the warlock said.
“No,” Arius said. “Hell no.”
“This looks pretty sweet,” Brandon said.
“Open the book,” Althalus said.
“Don’t open the book,” the paladin countered.
“We can study it later,” Brandon offered, clearly not wanting to be in the middle.
“Human skin isn’t generally dark,” Althalus said. “Open the book.”
“When we get out of here I will attempt to detect magic – we will see if the book is of use.”
I wandered towards the opening while Althalus still mumbled that the book should be his to hold. No one was excited about our brooding warlock holding a potentially dangerous tome.
We waded out into the water into the vastness of Tempora. The mountain we were in was hallow. A massive mound of debris littered the edges of the hollowed shell, where once there had been a great city – now only ruins lay everywhere – making navigation a difficult and arduous climb. Molds grew on the rubble all around us. In the distance we could see Tempora’s Falls, the Tears of Tempora, the waterfall that ran under the massive statue of a dwarven king. Now all that remained there was his tall legs, larger than two men, the rest of the statue had chains wrapped around it and lay broken at the edge of the riverbed. The falls ran between the legs and downward, the source of the rushing water we heard. Pottery, furniture, broken walls, fragments of tapestries, all of the flotsam of life lay in mounds everywhere before us.
Above us there was a tiny source of light, enough for us to see an incredible chandelier hanging from the peak of the mountain. The light at one point must have hit it and reflected off the crystals, probably providing light for the entire city. Now it hung by one of the five chains, covered in dust and massive spiderwebs, some of which hung down 50 heads or more over the ruins of this once thriving city.
What fate had befallen these people? What evil had come and destroyed this place? Is it still here?
“Incredible,” I muttered looking out on the ruins of Tempora. I suggested we move along the walls of the hollowed out mountain, hoping the walls would provide us some cover. Althalus seemed to stay close to Brandon and the book. “You know, I could carry that for you.”
“You are not going to let this go are you?” I asked the warlock.
“Shouldn’t we open it and find out what it is?
“Fine. Everyone put their treasure out they have found, I will cast detect magic, and we will see if it is magical.” The party found a piece of stone and laid them out — a ring, the silver dagger, an amulet, and the black-bound book. The diamond neckless was magic as was the dagger. The book, the book gave off an aura, red and black, dark and twisted. It was of necromantic and warlock magics – powerful, black. I saw runes on the book as well. Wards…possibly death.
I told the party that only that the objects were magical.
“Okay,” the paladin Arius said, “I’ll open it.”
“Let Althalus open it,” I said.
The paladin held out the book before the warlock. He was practically salivating. “I’m pretty sure it is warded,” I told them.
“We should rest, regain our strength, then open it. So we found a secluded spot and bound our wounds, trying to rest. Finally, as soon as we awoke, Althalus was once more contemplating the book. We all surrounded him and the ominous book. He set it on a stone and cast several incantations on it, no doubt to see if he could define any more than I had.
He paused. There is a glyph of warding on the book,’ he said. We all took several steps back. Brandon drew his bow, unsure of whether to aim at the book, or the warlock.
“That does not sound good,” Arius said, his hand drifting to his sword pommel.
The warlock used his quarterstaff to pry open the ebony leather cover. There was a booming noise and a dazzling blast of light. Althalus reeled back, blood ran from a cut on his brow. He leaned over the book and looked at it.
“Demons and Devils – Summoning and Control,” he said with awe. “It was written for warlocks and necromancers. It is priceless!”
“He should not have that book,” Brandon said, stating what most were thinking. I tended to be more neutral about such things. Just how much damage could he cause us?
“Look,” the warlock said. “I don’t think that summoning a demon is probably a good idea.”
I looked at him with an astonished expression on my face that I could not hide. “You don’t know?”
The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do.
Character Background Material
My New Campaign