The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign Part 35 – Priory at Talismith

Purple Worm

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!

Arius…

Lexa Lyoncroft as an ally – who would have conceived of this?  Yet there we sat with her, mapping out our strategy.  V’sarin, the dragon’s graveyard, sounded forbidding at best.  Yet there we would find the way to return Viktor Barristen to his grave, permanently.  The only catch was that we did not know where V’sarin was to the south, beyond the realms we knew.  The problem we faced was simple, how do we find this place?

Lyoncroft stirred the coals of the fire as she spoke.  “There’s an old monastery some eight days south of here, long abandoned.  It is said they were great map makers.  You may find some clue as to where you go. It is called Talismith.

“I would not recommend you go to your home town.  Barristen knows who you are, he will have his minions looking and waiting for you.  As it is, we must move on as well.  Hiding in a haunted battlefield may not be the best place to conceal one’s self when facing an undead lord.  We will go north and west exploring what you found on that map.”

“Karn had a mapmaker, but I am not sure we should go there.  This monastery may be our best chance,” Althalus said.

“Where should we rendezvous?” I asked.

“At the Rangersmeet at Villineau,” Brandon offered.  “It is safe and we may need their aid before all of this is done.”

She nodded.  “Now, we need to get messages to each other…”

“I have that covered,” Althalus said.  “I have a spell that lets me communicate.”

“What can you tell us about this library?” I asked.

“The Priory at Talismith was, a century ago, a place of great learning with a large library of tomes and manuscripts.  The monks that lived there were a small order but deeply respected in the church.  Around four decades ago the monastery suffered from a plague that wiped out half of the order.  Then a Gorgon moved into the area and killed the remaining monks.

“The church sent in a party to try and rescue the manuscripts, especially the maps said to be stored there.  The party that went in was never heard from again.  Others were sent but none came back.  The Library and monastery were considered lost after that.”

“Gorgons…” Althalus muttered.  “That is useful information…and possibly deadly.  I like this plan, but less so now.”

“We will need allies along the way,” Lyoncroft offered.  “The coming fight will be vicious and cost many souls.”  I gave her a knowing nod.  This was indeed a quest worthy of one of my order.  I muttered a prayer of protection for us all before bedding down that night.

The next day we set out across the Gallesian Fields, finding the road south that we had taken months earlier.  That evening we saw the statue where Theren enchanted his staff.  It was oddly reassuring to see sights we knew. The next day as we moved through the creepy old battlefield we were approached the Bailey Hills where the hangings after the war had taken place.  The next day, on the road, we were approached by a massive Ogre wearing a wine cask that had been split in half and was worn with half on the front, half on the back, with straps to make it a big wooden piece of armor.

“I am thinking this might be Barrel Chest, who Lexa told us about,” Theren said.

“You think?” Althalus snapped back with a wry grin.

“Hail Barrel Chest!” Theren called as he clunked forward towards us.

“Hi friend,” Althalus called as he approached, his massive tree-like club at the ready.  “We are friends of Lexa Lyoncroft.”  The warlock continued to weave a retelling of our arrangement with Lexa, dumbed down so that the Ogre could understand it.  His persuasive capabilities were good.  Barrel Chest sat down to listen, hanging on every word. We were all thankful he had not mentioned Pot Head, his brother whom we had slain. I joined in on the conversation when it looked like Barrel Chest wasn’t entirely following the story.

We conversed with him for several minutes.  He mentioned his missing brother, and we played stupid about Pot Head’s fate.  He finally asked, “Where Lexa?  Where she go?”

“She went northwest,” I said.

He looked downright sad.  “Aw, Barrel Chest upset. Barrel Chest like Lexa.”

“She will be back,” I offered.

“Me go after her.  Lexa true friend of Barrel Chest.”  With those words, he called us “Friends” and left, lumbering off into the Fields.

Two days later we passed the gate that marked the edge of the Gallesian Fields.  As Althalus put it, “The air feels less un-deady now.”  That didn’t mean that the danger had passed, as evidenced the next night.

Theren heard three horses and riders slowly approaching our camp during his watch.  He doused our fire and eventually woke us.  Althalus moved behind a tree as did I.  They slowly came into view, three humans wearing black plate armor.  Armed with lances, they leveled them in our general direction as they came into view.

“Who goes there?” I asked.

“Who’s over there?” came a voice back.

“I asked you first.”

“We have been asked to look for some people.”

“We are people.”

“We are looking for a paladin and a warlock.”

Althalus spoke up, “Non-church magic is illegal.” The irony was not lost on me.

“Why?” I asked.

“We were hired to find them.”  The menacing lance said they wanted more than to just find us. Their leader added, “And apparently we found them.”

They charged, dropping their lances and switching to maces – heading towards where Althalus and I were. Althalus blasted the horse that was rushing him, knocking it back in a blur of brilliant green magic, knocking the rider off of his steed and sending him rolling along the ground.  Brandon fired his bow, hitting another, his arrow protruding from his target’s thigh.  A magical attack on Althalus lit one of the men on unholy fire.

I faced one rider alone.  I used my thunderous and divine smite, making Skullringer shimmer in the darkness as I swung.  I hit his breastplate squarely, passing through his chest and out of his back – through his spine – killing him instantly.  The magical blast threw the horse sideways, breaking its leg as it sprawled out.  The upper torso of the rider landed at Brandon’s feet.  Mercy demanded my last attack was to finish off the wounded horse.  I missed seeing the death of one of the riders that Brandon was tangling with.

“Meat’s back on the menu boys!” called out Althalus with a twisted grin.

Theren’s thornwhip spell, pulling the one rider off his horse and towards the druid. Althalus opened up some God-awful void of darkness centered on the rider, sucking in the air and life around it.  Pure darkness slurped and whispered from the void as it devoured the rider.

“What in the hell is that?” I asked, never having seen anything like that cast before.  The warlock grinned back at me.

When the sphere of darkness ended, we saw the tormented, charred body of the rider that had been trapped in the spell.  Anguish was locked on his face.  Theren found 350 gold pieces and found a small glass sphere in a leather pouch.  One was broken at the feet of the man, but we did not know what it was for.  Theren determined that it was indeed magical.  Althalus learned that it was some sort of communication device.  “I surmise this is broken and used to communicate with someone else.”

That was ominous. Did that rider tip off Barristen with this sphere? Our warlock suggested just getting rid of it entirely.  “I don’t like the idea of holding onto this.”  I dug a small hole and Althalus put it in, burying it.

We rode on for three days heading south, into lands we had never traveled before.  The area was wooded, with rolling hills, low hollows, and the occasional creek. That night we noticed the glow of a fire of some sort, nearly a mile from our campsite, glowing in the west.

The next day we headed that direction, coming across a statue of a monk or some sort of priest.  It looked as if it were frozen mid-running stride.  A bird nest was built on it, and streaks of white bird shit streaked its torso. Moss and vines clung to it.  That conjured images of the Gorgon that were said to be in the area.

We progressed further and came across a large ruins.  Brandon pretty much confirmed that this where the fire was that night.  Outside the ruins, there are statues, covered in moss and vines.  The ruins are of a building that is 300 heads by 150 heads.  There is a tower that has crumbled, but still stands at two stories tall.  It appears at one time that this was a four story structure, but now only parts of the outer walls and rubble remain. Vines and growth seemed to be blanketing some areas of the jumble of broken stones and roof tiles.  This had to be Priory at Talismith.  In the middle of it, there was a camp site of sorts.  There was a large iron pot suspended over the smoking remains of the fire.

Brandon found a track, giant in size, with nasty claws.  He had no idea what had made it, but it was enough to give me pause.  I stopped and uttered a prayer when he told us that it was recent.

There was no easy way to approach the ruins.  We crept up on the rubble single-file, getting close to the fire-site in the middle of the ruins.

Movement popped up around us…a trap!  The creatures were massive, greenish gray skin, lanky with long arms and hideous claws.  Theren and Althalus called out, “Trolls!” and I knew we were in for a battle worthy of God’s trust in me.  Three of the monstrosities closed in on us.

The battle was a flurry of action, all blurred in my mind. A magical sphere of fire that Theren cast moved in on them and I remembered that Trolls had to be burned or they recovered injuries. The rubble hindered our movement as we tried to shift to cover each other.  Althalus’s green magic blast staggered one back, searing some of its grotesque flesh in the process.

Brandon hit one with an arrow that only seemed to irritate the Troll.  I struggled to land a solid blow with Skullringer but bit more air than Troll with both swings of the warhammer. Theren’s sphere of fire seemed to herd them…in my direction.  A magical whip wrapped around one creature, cutting it and spilling sick-green blood.

One of the creatures lunged at me, missing me with a clamping bite, but a claw dug me deeply in the arm. It was close enough for me to smell its rotting breath.

Brandon’s hail of thorns missed entirely. One Troll hit Althalus and burst into flames as a result of hitting the Warlock.  I hit the Troll on me, furrowing its flesh with Skullringer.  The ball of fire that Theren was moving and the burning Troll were a bit of a distraction that I opted to ignore.  Althalus blasted one Troll back into the rubble but another Troll slashed him up with both of its claws, splattering his blood on the rocks.

Skullringer caught my Troll in an uppercut, shattering its jaw and skull and tossing its limp body near my feet.  Green blood sizzled on Skullringer as I stood triumphant over my fallen foe.  Theren finished one of the fallen Troll in a withering flame that made its flesh hiss.  I was stunned when one of Theren’s blasts missed the Troll and instead slammed into me by mistake.

One Troll rose, regenerated by unholy means, and viciously clawed at me but I managed to take it down.  Theren’s wave of hands set the Troll ablaze, filling the air with the stench of charred rotting flesh stung at my nostrils.

Althalus’s magical blast on the last Troll knocked it back slightly, but it rushed forward and bit and slashed at the warlock.  The hit made the Troll burst into hellish flames as a result of contacting our comrade.  I sprung at that one as well, knocking the smoldering Troll with my warhammer, shattering its ribs in the process with a crackling noise.  Chaos owned the day!

Brandon hit him as well, but the Troll proved highly resistant.  Althalus’s next blast sent the now-dead Troll back into the burning sphere, destroying it.

We were exhausted and fell back to the Troll’s camp and began poking around their belongings. Rotted sacks filled with ill-gotten booty.  We found small bars of gold and silver, a few thousand copper pieces, and some rough-cut gems.  Digging deeper, we found a planking covering some sort of tunnel downward. I doubt the Trolls even knew they were camped on top of some sort of doorway.

Althalus found a sword, wedged in next to the planking that covered the hatch down. The blade near the hilt was twisted around twice, something we had never seen before.  Theren determined it was a Gnomish blade, named Quaker in their tongue.  From what Althalus was able to discern, if the blade struck true, it emits a spell called Thunderous Wave.  Theren took it for himself as the rest of us took a much needed break.

We opened the doorway under the ruins and found a narrow shaft leading down into the darkness.  Theren, in giant spider form, crawled down to a large domed chamber.  There were paintings on the walls, most cracked and covered with a thin sheen of mold.  When I got there, I saw the painted eyes of monks staring down at me from the fading works.  A thin dank pool of water covered the floor and we splashed in it as we moved.

Althalus cast a spell of a humanoid shape of light to provide us illumination.  The image of the monks painted on the dome at least told me that we were likely near the library. Theren-the-spider moved along the ceiling over us as we opened the door and started down a long hallway.  There were doors along the way but we heard nothing there.  There as a pile of rubble near the end as it curved and went down two wide flights of stairs, but the barrier of broken stone was not natural.  Someone had apparently piled up debris and benches against a pair of large bronze doors, as if they were keeping something there at bay.

We went down a hallway off of the main corridor and found a kitchen area, filled with rot, rust and dust. We went into the pantry area and saw an iron chandelier hanging above us with what looked like ravens on it…until they moved.  Stirges!

Three of the creatures dove on me, all missing, swarming around me. Three more went onto Brandon, latching onto the back of his neck, finding a crack in his armor. “Get it off of me!” he cried out, attempting to swat at the one drawing blood from his neck.

A festival of sword and hammer blows splattered the obnoxious creatures, though we were fortunate that we did not hurt each other in the melee.

We explored some of the bedchambers and found little more than signs of sacking and looting many years before.  Brandon found a sealed marble urn and he left it that way.  In one of the bedchambers, I found two vials but the labels had long ago rotted off. Theren found a golden artifact with the name of the priory intricately carved into it.

After all of our searching, we found ourselves facing the barricaded landing. Old iron candle stands and benches were part of the rubble piled up against the bronze doors. The word, Librarium was on a sign above the door. We came for a map, and obviously this would be the place where we might find one.

It took us a few minutes to clear the barricades and bracing.  I stepped forward and forced open the bronze door.  The room was massive – some 250 heads square, some twenty-five heads high. There was finger’s worth of water puddled on the floor.  Many of the book cases had been crushed, knocked over or fallen in time.  There were two points on the walls where rubble had been pushed into the chamber, but some massive force.  Books, tossed or fallen lay everywhere, but the center of the room seemed oddly cleared of shelving and debris.  A stench filled the air, a mix of mold, feces, and long-rotted flesh.  Tapestries clung to some of the walls still, while others lay rotting in the puddle.

“We’re going to be here for a while,” Althalus said as he looked at the library, stepping in and moving to some of the toppled shelves.  Most of the books that I saw were filled with marriage records or histories of places I had never heard of.  Some fell apart in my hands, so bad was their condition.  I wondered if we could, indeed, find a map of the realm still intact here.

Brandon found a book that was readable – The Tale of Sir Kavely.  A brave a virtuous knight who roamed the lands some 400 years ago.  As one of the early paladins, this book has value to any paladin holy order.  That was a story that I looked forward to reading.

Theren found a copy of Abastor – The Chronicle of the War of the Druids.  This details the Church’s war against the druids.  In scanning it, he saw that it documented evidence that the church may have very well falsified the evidence against the druids in order to purge them. It was fortuitous that our druid had found such a book.

Althalus found a black hide-bound book simply marked, “Devils” From what little he could read, the book detailed the nature of devils, how to trap and kill them, and how to control them.  In his possession, along with the Devil’s skull that I still carried, he was destined to get into trouble at some point in the future. He glossed over the warnings of potential madness from reading the tome.

“I fear you having that book,” I said to the warlock.

“What could go wrong?” he replied.

We did not get to that answer.  There was a rumble and bursting into the library chamber was a massive worm-like creature, purple, its mouth a menacing maw of death and devouring.  I drew Skullringer and rushed forward towards the massive creature.  Althalus waved his hands which made me feel better.  Both of his eldritch blasts missed, which seemed impossible given the size of the beast.

Purple Worm

The stinger hit me in the chest, punching through my shoulder armor plate.  The poison made me go cold and I dropped unconscious.  I heard the sounds of battle but was held prisoner by the pain from my wound and the poison oozing in my bloodstream.

I have no idea how long I was out, but came too in a cold sweat and panic.  I staggered to my feet and noticed that Brandon was missing and that Theren and Althalus were doing what they could to stay away from the great beast.  As I got to my feet, I called out, “How are we doing?”

“This is very not-good,” Althalus replied.  A cloud of lightning hovered over the worm, no doubt the work of our druid.

The purple worm spun to go after Theren.  I drew a javelin and planted it in the side of the creature.  I kept looking for Brandon but could not see him.  I feared that the beast had swallowed him.

Theren unleashed a bolt of flame that seared the hide of the beast.  He then transformed into a giant spider and hopped away.  The worm swung on Althalus and narrowly missed with a bite and an attempt to sting him.

The lightning bolts stabbed at the creature, searing black holes on its hide.  Bolts of flames roared down from the ceiling, hitting the purple worm at almost the same instant.  The worm bit Althalus, spraying blood everywhere, then was swallowed whole.  I now knew where Brandon was!  By God this creature was daunting.  I still struggled against the venom in my body.

The worm spun to face me and I braced myself for the rushing assault.  It suddenly paused and spit out the contents of its guts, dropping Althalus and Brandon onto the wet manuscripts of the library floor. The ranger was pale, near death, and the warlock seemed to be trying to help him.

I swung Skullringer twice, hitting once hard on the maw of the worm, knocking the head to the side for a moment.  It tried to bite me but I whirled and it missed.

Theren’s indoor lightning storm brought it down.  We were exhausted, winded, and injured. Brandon’s face was badly scarred from the stomach acid of the beast.  It would take a special kind of girl to love him from this point forward.  Our party paused and recouped, healing those who needed it.  I was still wobbly on my feet and welcomed the rest.

After we rested, we continued our search for a map.  Althalus found a crucifix and a silver edged mace in the debris. There was an elvish blade with the name “Suresh” on it.

It was I who suggested searching behind the tapestries. Brandon found a secret door behind one and we went into the antechamber.  The room was filled with racks and bone tubes sealed.  The map room!  Those we found open crumbled in our hands.  Brandon came across one ivory tube sealed in wax that had potential.  When we opened it, we found a hand-scrawled map of our realms!

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

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

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Book Review: The Greatest Knight by Thomas Asbridge

Greatest Knight

When I picked this book up it was on a whim…best whim ever!  This is a historical book but I recommend it to anyone running a fantasy RPG campaign. The book connected with me on a lot of different levels and I was deeply impressed with not only the biography of William Marshal but the masterful way that the author provides the context for the story, without miring the reader down with pointless details.  As an author, I am going to use this book as a guide for my own future writing of non-fiction.

William Marshal served five kings during the medieval era, including Richard the Lionhearted.  He had a role in the Magna Carta and was a behind-the-scenes character throughout that era.  No, that isn’t right.  He was often at the forefront of many changes of power in England and France, but somehow has remained hidden in history.

The opening of the book reminded me of Flashman, starting with an obscure manuscript surfacing at an auction that led to the telling of his tale.  I was hooked in the first three pages!  Marshal is the antithesis of Flashman though, a truly honorable man.  He is the perfect template for a Paladin in D&D.  He moves through history with the ease of Forrest Gump in some respects, having a knack for being at the right place at the right time.  The political waters he somehow managed to navigate were deadly and ever changing, yet he managed to do so with honor and a certain dignity that comes through in the book.

In some respects, it reminded me of Katherine Kurtz’s Camber of Culdi series, which has become the metaphorical basis for my own D&D campaign.  I consider this series of books some of the best fantasy I have read over the years, and The Greatest Knight reminded me to go back and re-read those books.

I found the book captivating because the author did such a great job of giving you the foundation for events in Marshal’s life.  The section on tournaments, for example, really debunks the myth of jousting and is something I could see being incorporated into fantasy RPG’s with ease.  This book has forced me to purchase other books on the historical figures mentioned in it, a testimony as to well it is written. In other words, The Greatest Knight is a gateway drug to an addition to non-fiction history.

I give this five out of five stars.  It is an outstanding piece of literature that has saved Marshal from the dustbin of history!

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign Part 34 – In Search of Lexa Lyoncroft

Badguy

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!

Althalus…

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.

lexa (1)
Lexa Lyoncroft

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. 

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

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

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The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign Part 33 – Bats in the Belfry

Vampire1

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…

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?”

“It is.”

“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.”

“Where?”

“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. 

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

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

#DnD

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 32 – Judgement of the Church

im-a-paladin-i-can-smite

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!

Arius…

With the Battle of the Horns of Essex over, we began our trek to return the paladins to their fortress at the Great Gap the next morning after burying the dead and blessing their graves.  I felt a sense of humiliation at having lost the sword to Viktor Barristen.  The thought of what he might be able to do to the paladins still trapped in the blade was chilling.

We were only a day’s march to the end of the foothills of the mountains when we camped for the night.  It was not a night when we would get much sleep.  I was awakened by Brandon to tell me there were sounds in the brush.  We silently armed ourselves and listened, hearing orkish voices.

Athalus stood proud.  “Orcs. I speak orc.  I can handle this.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“I’m quite charming,” he said flashing a wry grin.

Our warlock called out, “Rut Roh Rhaggy!”

“Rubie-Rubie-Roo,” came a voice back from the brush. I can only assume that Athalus was communicating with them.  A party of six orcs emerged from the brush.  Athalus continued to grunt and speak orc to them for several minutes.  He even showed them his nipple ring, then turned to us.  “I told them we were the tribe of the Big Tusk.  It’s all good.  Don’t attack.”

After a long series of grunts, belches, and other guttural sounds, Athalus went to his pack and pulled out the small cask of mead that he had been carrying since we have met with Dimitrious. We passed the potent mead around, barely able to tolerate their stench.  Having consumed our alcohol they told Athalus that they wanted to camp with us.  My instinct was the kill them, they are orcs after all – God only knows what kind of pillaging they had done.  But we did not.  In the morning they moved on.

“I think they liked us,” Athalus told us. “Who knows, we may run into them again.”

Great. These are the kinds of allies we do not need.  We marched out, finally coming out of the forested foothills into the rolling hills.

We marched for a day or so when we heard the sound of hoof-beats thundering on the plains.  I was hopeful that it was a greeting party from the castle, but I was wrong.

They emerged from over the hills and were not like any creatures I have ever seen.  Ungainly bird-like lizards, tall as a man, outfitted with saddles.  I could only catch glimpses of their green hides, for they were wrapped in rotting bandages of some sort, mummified yet alive and quite agile.  They had large horns, yellow with age.  On their backs were skeletons, adorned in black robes, some holding rods, others swords, one holding some sort of ungodly symbol.  There were four of them – and they were flanked by three armored knights, elven I believe, with lances.  They had, on their armor, a black heart symbol – which I did not know what it represented.  We saw them at a distance and realized that they were no escort.  They had come to fight us…to kill us.

It was clear that someone did not want us to reach the safety of the castle.  Barristen…it had to be.

They rushed us and we dug in, using our spears as a phalanx in the sod, forcing the elves to flank.  One of the skeletal riders held out small rod and from it a fireball erupted – boring right in on Brandon.  There was a mighty explosion and we saw him no more, only the black-charred grass where the ranger had once stood.  Athalus emerged from the flames, his robes smoldering slightly from the explosion, only to be hit by a lightning bolt from one of the cloaked skeletons. Smoke from the fireball hung heavy in the air as our paladin comrades moved to the left flank, breaking apart the onslaught, wading into the riding elves.

Skullringer shimmered in my hands as I rushed forward, taking out part of mummified lizard’s body as they charged us.  I caught a glimpse of Dimitrious leaping in front of one, his fists a blur of savage strikes that knocked the mummified lizard mount to the ground, throwing its skeleton rider hard.  Bits of the torn cloth of the mount clung to his bloodied fists.

Theren morphed into the bear we had been so accustomed to.  It savaged two of the attackers, sending bits of bone and rotting lizard hide flying in the process.  Althalus tried to provide the paladins cover with his emerald magic blasts, but missed widely, no doubt stinging from the lightning bolt he had taken.

I saw Sir Bentblade, the paladin commander wade into one of the elves that rushed him, knocking him from his saddle so hard that he was doubled over in agony.  He drove his sword into the rider hard, then seemed to pause in a quick prayer.

Dimitrious finished the last of them, springing at one of the skeletons and grappling with it, twisting him out of the saddle and onto the ground.  He tore the skeleton apart with his furious blows.

Glancing around we saw that only one of our comrades was gone – Brandon.  We began to look for any sign of him where the fireball had hit.  Suddenly he emerged from the woods.

“What happened?” I asked.

“That ring I found — I used the word on it and it teleported me just as the fireball hit.  I was about a mile away.  What did I miss?”

“The entire battle,” Athalus said.

Looking around the dead elves and rotting corpses I waved my hand.  “All of this…”

Suddenly there came more thundering hoof beats on the ground and we saw paladins of the Order of the Fang appear.  When they saw Bentblade they nearly wept.  “Commander – we thought you lost.” They were overjoyed.

The old warrior nodded grimly.  “Let us get to the castle – there is much to discuss.”

We made our way to the castle gates and inside.  Paladins on the ramparts and in the court all surrounded us and those paladins we had saved from Tempora.  For the first time in a long while I felt a sense of relief.  We were safe here, safe for the first time in weeks.

Then Bentblade spoke.  “Arrest those two immediately,” he said pointing to Athalus and Theren.  Theren immediately morphed into a wolf and darted through the gate, but our warlock was quickly grabbed by no less than three armed paladins.

“What is going on here?” I demanded.

“They used magic banned by the church…they must now face charges of heresy.”

“We saved your lives!” I charged, but I saw hands drift to sword hilts, ready to fight.

“Aye, you did,” Bentblade said.  “But they used unholy magic.  You know that matter must be dealt with.  We will hold a trial to determine this one’s fate,” he stabbed a finger at Athalus.

I wanted to fight right then and there, regardless of the odds.  But I was a holy man…I knew church law as well.  “At least let me be his advocate at court.”

“Very well…” Bentblade said.

Althalus was taken off to a cell somewhere and we retired to our rooms.  The trial was two days hence.  I mended my armor, sharpened my sword, and prayed.

 

We came to the inner court for the trial and Brandon suggested trying some ruse and disguise to get in.  The guards heard him and kept him at bay while we disarmed and entered.  With Dimitrious at my side I felt confident.  The monk’s most deadly weapons were his hands…so if it came to a fight, we were well armed.

Athalus was brought to the stand, flanked by two armored paladins as Bentblade read the charges.  “The unholy use of magic, unnatural transformation (leveled only at Theren who was being tried in absentia), and Heresy against the Church.”

“Lord Commander,” I said.  “We saved your life and those of your comrades.  We got you your freedom.  Surely that counts for something?”

Bentblade dipped his head.  “Indeed it does.  I will consider it strongly when judgement is passed.  Is there anyone else that would speak for this man’s soul?”

At my side Dimitrious stepped forward and cleared his throat.  “I am Friar Dimitrious of the Priory of the Sapphire Eye.”  He opened his cloak and showed his chest, but I could not see it from where I stood.  Whatever the Lord Commander saw there, it seemed to impress him.

My jaw hung open.  He can talk!  All of this time!

“I have been to the Priory of Illuminus and have spent time with the Gospel of the Truth.  I have gazed into the Temple of Time, looking forward rather than back.  This sight has cost me dearly.  I have aged nearly a decade as a price for my arrogance.  My oath of silence was self-imposed – I did not wish to share my shame.

“You see sinners and heretics before you.  That is true.  Under church law, there is no defense for their use of magic.  Fighting these charges is pointless.  These men have an important role to play in the future.  The druid in their ranks, he yet has a role to play in a reconciliation with the Church.  The warlock – he will bring and soothe great pain and suffering. Your brother paladin is more than he seems.”  He turned and locked gazes with me.  “Their ranger will sit on-high one day, if he survives the maelstrom that is looming.

“Great evil has risen with Victor Barristen’s return.  He seeks a member of the Sisterhood of the Sword who can give him the paladins souls trapped in his blade.  If he can consume them, he will be fully restored and blackness will fall upon the world again.  That darkness is coming regardless, but stopping him will slow it down.  Even now, he cowers in the Cloudlands in the northwest where the twilight is eternal, planning to wage war on the living and the bring the church to its knees before him.

“I have seen the great battle that is to be waged.  Punishing these men will make matters worse for all of us.”

“What of this battle?” Sir Bentblade asked.

“It was in a haze of war, but I saw paladins fighting with the Sisterhood of the Sword and these men and your own.  I saw the dead rise.  Minotaurs and heroes of old, fighting together.  Old enemies now allies.  The thunder of hooves and a return of the Gray Wind.  I saw a ruined abbey and raining fire.  Walking graveyards of stone and doom.  Bones and blood and fire all mixed.  And these men, they play a role in all of that.

Bentblade frowned, “Impossible.  The sisterhood is dead.”

“Are they?”  The monk’s words hung in the air.

“Do we win?” the Lord Commander asked warily.

“We did – but we will pay a price that cannot be measured – a cost that cannot be repaid.

“If you imprison or kill Athalus, there will be nothing that can stop what is coming.  It would be better to have them in our service…as a means for them to pay their penance for their transgressions.  Send them to find Lexa Lyoncroft and protect her.  Barristen will come for her, he needs her to release those souls.  She needs him because of what else is in that sword…her past and future.

“Do not doctrine cloud your judgement Lord Commander.  The fate of the world may hang in the balance.”  With that the monk returned to his silence.  I could only stare at him in awe.

Bentblade nodded, then went quiet for a long minute.  “There are mitigating circumstances, namely the saving of the head of this order.  And the friars of the Priory of the Sapphire Eye are incapable of lying.  These charges are set aside.”

“We won?” I asked.

“Of course.  We are no barbarians.  Doctrine required a trial, and a trial was had.  But before you can leave – we need to contact the Church. I want them to sanction you as agents of the Church…then you need to go out after Lyoncroft.”

Gray Riders were summoned with the blast of a horn…and a week later we got our response.  Brandon was delivered a note as well, one that he kept to himself.  A rider was sent out to find Theren.  I composed a message to him to return.  I wondered how the riders could find our druid, but I realized they had that power.

One strange thing though…when the Gray Rider showed up, the horse bowed its head to us. I saw that the rider and the other paladins were as surprised as I was. I wonder what that was about?  Moreover, the words that Dimitrious spoke chilled me still.  There was a war coming…and we were going to be in the middle of it!

 

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

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

#DnD

Gaming Humor – D&D Fortune Cookies

friend-in-trouble

As I prep for our upcoming game session, I started thinking that someone out there should produce Dungeons and Dragons fortune cookies.  They would be a blast to have during a game session.  I’m sure someone will steal this idea for a Kickstarter.  With that in mind, here’s a list of suggested fortunes:

  • Today is a good day to reevaluate your alignment.
  • Fresh dice bring you new thrills.
  • You will confront Chaotic Stupid today.
  • Just because you don’t detect a trap, doesn’t mean there isn’t one there.
  • Never stand in front of a thief.
  • The one with the most treasure is the greater target.
  • Be cautious of the smiling NPC.
  • Your dice are conspiring against you.
  • The next dagger you experience will be in your back.
  • Beware NPC’s that seem too friendly.
  • Remember your character’s life may change with the next door you open.
  • Hit points do not replace common sense.  Proceed with caution.
  • “Rush him!” is not a tactical battle plan.
  • A virtuous damsel in distress may be neither.
  • Treasure without risk is no treasure.
  • Idle hands are usually in your pockets.
  • You are ten feet of rope short of what you will need.
  • Never trust the bar wench. The more beautiful, the more dangerous.
  • May all your hits be crits!
  • Your lucky number is 20.  Of course, that’s everyone’s lucky number.
  • Your DM is planning douchebaggery!
  • Your nagging feeling is taking the form of a saving throw.
  • Trust no bard.
  • Beware goblins bearing gifts.
  • By the time the dragon’s mouth opens – it is too late.
  • Liches Lie!
  • “Kill everyone!” is not a necessarily a strategy.
  • One of your dice are about to betray you.
  • Your hired help may have more than one employer.
  • It could always be a mimic.
  • To the undead, you are merely a recruitment opportunity.
  • Your plan makes as much sense as charging a gelatinous cube
  • Trust no thief that spends time away from the party.
  • Just because you own a flask of oil doesn’t mean you should burn the tavern down.
  • Always leave yourself a way out.
  • Carry only the treasure of real value.  A copper ingot is unworthy as treasure.
  • The loudest voice in the party is not always the one that is right.
  • The more virtuous the paladin, the more irritating the paladin.
  • There are no cuddly Drow.
  • True wizards never have to read up on the spell they are casting.
  • Water depth is important and needs to be inversely proportional to the weight of your armor.
  • Do not tempt fate by purchasing a new mini for your character.
  • When the DM checks for encumbrance, you are doomed.
  • What appears safe and innocent is the opposite.  Use caution!
  • Beware long flavor text!
  • Sometimes it is better to kill the horse than try and target the rider.
  • Burning the village is not often required, but is quite often fun.
  • Specially painted miniatures mean death stalks the party!
  • The true heroic character is defined by those he vanquishes.
  • Spectacular heroics invite spectacular (often lethal) responses.
  • There’s never a healer around when you need one.
  • Leave no body un-looted.
  • Insulting a dwarf rarely ends well.
  • There’s never a ranger around when you need one.
  • Just because you didn’t hear anything on the other side of the door does not mean it is safe.
  • It’s formation, formation, formation…
  • Your last thought will be, “I am going to melt that die!”
  • You cannot disbelieve yourself to safety.
  • Not everyone is worthy of raising from the dead.
  • Friendly halflings usually aren’t.
  • Everyone whines about needing healing – take care of yourself first.
  • You are out of spell components – pray that the DM doesn’t notice.
  • Summoning a demon rarely solves a problem but can create two new ones.
  • If it looks like a cult, and kills like a cult, it is a cult.
  • Did it ever occur to you that map you bought may be inaccurate?
  • If your fate is dependent on a nearly impossible die roll, then don’t do it.
  • There’s a difference between immunity and resistant.
  • Left is right, right is wrong, when choosing a path in a dungeon.
  • A dragon’s value is the sum of its harvested organs.
  • Never fight a vampire in the dark.
  • Listen to your dice – you are not that lucky.
  • If you could see behind the DM’s shield, you would not sleep at night.
  • The DM’s smile does not bode well for you.
  • Runes explode.  Write it down.
  • Not all pits are created equal.
  • Make sure there are no survivors.
  • Caution is slow and often in the difference between life and death.
  • Unleashing a fireball from the rear of the party is one way of thinning your party.
  • Beware bards who play bagpipes – always.
  • Dungeons are built for a reason.
  • If it appears soft, cuddly, cute and harmless – kill it quickly.
  • Not all princesses are worth rescuing.
  • While you are sure you have one more charge in that wand, the fates are not.
  • Remember – cursed items also are magical.
  • Death awaits you around the next corner.
  • The more complicated the plan, the hungrier the dragon.
  • Every now and then you need to inventory what is in your possession.
  • Distractions are the number three cause of death in any encounter.
  • A member of your party is planning something stupid.  You know who…
  • Your gut says charge but the math says retreat.
  • Loaded dice are a thing.
  • Be thankful there are not food spoilage charts.  That stuff in your haversack reeks.
  • The more complicated the puzzle, the more deadly the results.
  • The idea may sound clever, but check his Wisdom to be sure.
  • Just because the label says “healing” doesn’t mean you should trust it.
  • Death stalks those about the level up.
  • Rust monsters were created so the DM could strip you of armor class…no other reason.
  • If you didn’t fight for it, it has no real value.
  • Arson, looting, pillaging, serial killing, wanton destruction…yet you call yourself heroes.
  • There are always secret rooms in a temple.
  • The DM knows you fudged your Intelligence roll.
  • Be the hero you always wanted to be…not what the idiot sitting next to you wants.
  • Your DM is using loaded dice.
  • Rule #5  Never let the dumbest person in your party plan the battle.
  • The loyalty of hirelings is subject to the dangers you make them face.
  • You are one die roll away from a critical miss.
  • Your excitement says “Yes, yes, yes!” but the math says, “Run the fuck away!”
  • If you think the monsters are bad, you should know what your fellow players have in store for you.
  • Everything wandering is out to kill you.  Strike fast and true.
  • There are no experience points in real life.  That’s why we play the game.

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 31 – The Battle of the Horns of Essex

img_0001

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!

Brandon…

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. 

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

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

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