The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 28

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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…

After the debacle at the fountain with that water weird, we found a door heading to the north.  We had little choice, turning back at this point made no sense.  We opened it and entered a room with a pile of rotting skeletons and rags along the far wall.  Theren triggered a trap of some sort, releasing a noxious green cloud that made him gag.  He waved off the effects of the gas as if it were little more than a nuisance.  Personally I was amazed that our members on the point had not triggered it.

The gas, as it turned out, was the least of our problems.  From under the rotting remains along the far wall, a swarm of giant snakes emerged and headed right for us!  Their scales shimmered in the light of Bor’s glowing blue warhammer and the green light from Brandon’s lantern.

Althalus unleashed his eldritch beams of death, hitting one of the snakes and sending it flying back into the wall it had emerged from. Bor swung his mighty warhammer down, hitting one of the snakes hard and flattening part of its body.  The tail of the creature flailed about.  Dimitrious stuck a dart in the snake that had been tossed back to the wall.

I rushed forward, never one to shirk from battle.  One sprang at Brandon, viciously biting him at the neck.  The snake coiled around his legs though.  He drew Nightstalker the sword and stabbed furiously at the creature, splattering the fine blade in fresh blood.  Althalus unleashed another emerald beam of arcane magic and made the head of one of the snakes explode, spraying me in a fine mist that had been the hideous creature.

I lost track of the others for a moment as I swung my blade at one of the snakes, hitting it only enough to anger it more.  It hissed at me.  Bor lost his grip on Skullringer mid-swing, sending the warhammer into the door and embedding it in the ancient wood there.

One snake latched onto Brandon’s upper right arm, flailing on the ranger as it held a tight grip.  Althalus hit that snake, doing enough damage to force it to release the ranger and drop to the floor. I stabbed my trusty blade into one of the giant snakes, cutting it deeply but not killing it.

The wily monk Dimitrious tore at one with his bare fists, killing one of the creatures with a blow to its head.

We were down to the two of the monstrosities.  Theren missed one snake with an arrow, splintering it on the stone.  Brandon stabbed Nightstalker into the snake, but it was still quite alive and angrier than ever.  I stabbed my own sword into the head of one creature, slaying it.  I muttered a prayer of thanks as the party circled on the last snake.  Theren planted another arrow into the creature, killing it.  The dead creature’s tail still twitched, disturbing us all.

Brandon harvested the venom sacs from the snakes only to be put in a quandary as where to put them.  “I guess I could put them in my water skin,” he suggested – but that was seen as a potentially deadly mistake.  Theren was the most vocal.  “One wrong sip, and you’re dead.” It was the warlock that came forth with a solution a bottle we had used to remove a curse on the flameskull. Every little bit helps, perhaps this poison will assist us.

Bor pulled Skullringer from the hole in the door and peer through, seeing a narrow hallway then hanging to the left.  It was a narrow passage and surprisingly, Brandon entered first.  He found a dagger on the ground, some old iron arrowheads, and bits of rusted chainmail.

The narrow hall made me cautious – we would be hard pressed to form a good line of battle.  I closed my eyes and prayed, trying to determine if the undead were present.  I could not sense anything, but the darkness of the hall in the eerie green light of Brandon’s lantern.

At the corner the hallway continued on.  There were a pair of doors on one wall some fifty-heads distant, but the hallway continued past that point. Our ranger told us that beyond the doors was a lever on the far wall.

“Shall we push on?” the ranger asked.

“We are following you,” I said as we moved slowly forward.

Brandon paused.  “Across from the double doors, I make out the faint outline of a secret passage of some sort.”

“Speak friend and enter?” Theren asked jokingly.  None of us chuckled.  Far too many things had already tried to kill us in Tempora to enjoy that old children’s joke.

Brandon stood before the concealed door that none of us could discern, while Bor planted himself in front of the double doors, in case they should open.  I gave Bor an assuring nod.  We were the battlers of our party and I wanted him to know I had his back.  I closed my eyes for a moment and asked God to protect him.

Suddenly I found myself being drawn to the far wall, the one with the doors.  I leaned away from it, but my feet slid.  I hit the wall, my armor and sword firmly planted on the wall. I tried to push away but could not budge.  A trap, no doubt some magical form of lodestone.  Every bit of metal we had pulled hard to the wall with crushing force. Even my nipple ring strained at my flesh to cling to the stone.

The secret door opened and three ghouls emerged.  I craned my neck and saw them.  Each wore a thick leather collar with a pulsating ruby on it.  Brandon’s sword Nightstalker burst into brilliant white light as the ghouls pounced upon him.  One bit at the ranger, tearing at the flesh of his shoulder.  He fell limp on the wall, held in place by his armor.

We were stuck firm. I pushed with all of my might but could only make my body move slightly.  Bor was badly damaged by a bite and was paralyzed and frozen to the wall.  The smell of death and semi-rotting flesh blew down the hall towards me as the creatures groaned.  We were trapped, in my case facing the wall. There was nothing I could do to stop them.  I began to wonder if I could somehow unclasp my armor.  Better to fight naked than die hanging on the wall.

Theren struggled to remove his backpack, but had no success.  Dimitrious though had only a dagger and had let it go and stick the wall.  He was able to move and sprang to attack the ghouls.  In my mind, the lever on the far wall was the key – but he could not pass through to get to it.  Instead he savaged one of the ghouls with a flurry of fist-blows.  He toppled one of the creatures, knocking it prone.  One ghoul continued to ravage the helpless Bor.

It was Theren that surprised us.  He transformed into a large spider, crawling out of his armor and equipment.  It was a hideous form we had never seen the druid undertake.  It clicked audibly and climbed up to the ceiling and scurried to the lever right over the ghouls.  It reached the lever and used four of its limbs to pull it down.  The moment it came down, Bor and Brandon dropped like felled logs to the floor.  I sprang free with my sword.

Althalus unleashed an eldritch blast, knocking of the creatures back in the hidden room they had emerged from.  Spider-Theren jumped on one of the foul beasts, tearing into his flesh.  It hissed at him in response, a sound that came from beyond the grave.  Dimitrious sent one of the beasts back to the hells it had sprang from with a rapid flurry of punches.

I moved near Brandon and muttered a prayer, laying my hands on him and succoring his pain.  One creature remained, its right arm hanging by a bit of muscle tissue, limp and worthless.  Spider-Theren attacked from above again, ripping the head off of the ghoul and sending it rolling near my feet.  Its mouth twitched slightly, making me wonder if it was truly dead.

We offered aid to Bor to bring him back to consciousness the Theren morphed back into his human form and put his armor and gear back on.

Brandon checked the dead ghouls and found the leather collars with the rubies.  The leather was intricately carved with runes and symbols, arcane and dark magic no doubt.  It stopped glowing once he pulled it off one of them.  “What are these?” he asked, holding up one them.  Althalus sprung over at the sight of them.  “What do we have here?”  He took one of them and studied them.  “I know these…I read about them.  These are the Eyes of Rivroast, and are compelling control devices that have not been seen in this world in ages.  They are cut from the same stone and the Mind of Rivroast, a crown that mounts that gem, giving the wearer complete control.  Someone must have had control over these ghouls.”  His words were sobering.  There was more at work here.

In the chamber where the ghouls had been, the room was filled with the stench of rotting flesh.  Bones and bits of clothing and armor lay molding in the chamber.  Small mice and roaches scampered as we entered the room, seeking the darkness.  One human skull seemed to stare at us.

“I want that skull,” Althalus said.

“You and your skulls,” I responded.  “Leave it be.”

“I want it.”

“I will give you a glimpse of that book you are so obsessed with if you leave it alone.”

“Agreed,” he said, rubbing his hands greedily together.  I regretted my words almost instantly.

“I have no desire to poke around in ghoul poop,” Theren said, pinching his nose.

I took my javelin and poked around the debris.  There was some loose coins, copper, silver and electrum, which we gave to Bor to carry.  There was some rope that had not decayed, some fifty-heads worth, which I took.  There were two flasks of oil there which the ranger offered to carry.  There was a small vial of clay sealed in wax that I found as well.  Carved into the clay was the elven word, “Fizkus.” Theren took a look at it.  “That’s high elven, it means flight.”

“That is wicked,” Althalus said.

“It is dangerous,” Theren warned.

I was almost done in the room when I found a small glass vial of clear liquid marked with the cross of the Church.  Holy water.  That was something I took for myself.  I knew this was something that would be of use later.

We moved to the double doors across the hall and forced them open with Skullringer, which took several blows.  Bor missed the doors entirely with one swing, clearly still suffering from the effects of the ghoul bite.  This chamber was filled with rusting metal, chainmail suits, plate and scale armor, shields, etc.  At first glance, it looked as if this was a waste of time – a room filled with dead-men’s armor.  The air stunk of iron dust.

One piece in the room caught my eye.  A round shield bearing an ornate “S” marking on the front.  It was more dirty than rusty and as I wiped it clean I could see how well it was made.  The edges of the shield were razor sharp and silvered.  It is very old and bears the markings on the back as having been made at The Priory of the Blade – home of the Sisterhood of the Sword!  A throwing shield…I had heard of these but have never used one.  This as the order that Lexa Lyoncroft allegedly came from.  The shield was very light in my hands.  I took this as my own, giving my mirrored shield to Bor to take – this new one was to be mine.  The Priory had been of the Church before they were purged.  I only could hope that this was indeed a blessed weapon.

Brandon found a spear that stood out. It had a stone for a tip that was a carved and polished white stone for a point. It was of sturdy build and he took it as has own.

We left the room and moved to where the lever was.  Brandon argued that we should reset the trap.  Theren countered that we might need an escape route.  We continued down the hall and came to a large chamber.  The wooden beams in the room had rotted away and there was some stone that seemed to have collapsed.

Of along the far wall we saw a small raised circular pool, about five inches off of the floor.  The water shimmered when we looked at it, the light from Brandon’s lantern seeming to give it other colors and form on the surface.

The last pool we had come across had a water weird in it, so I was apprehensive.  The ranger checked for tracks and there was signs of someone having crossing the room to the far end where we saw a staircase leading down. “Boot tracks,” Brandon said, squatting over them.  “Weeks old, maybe older.”

My muscles ached.  “We need to rest up,” I suggested.  “Not near that pool, but we need to eat and rest.”

Althalus kept his eyes on that pool.  “That pool intrigues me.”

“Me too,” Brandon said, staring over at it.  “What are the odds that it has another water weird in it?”  I was going to tell him I thought those odds high, but I did not want to diminish his zeal.

After our rest for an hour of so Brandon, Althalus and Dimitrious walked over to the pool. “You first,” the warlock said to the ranger.

Brandon leaned in and even from where we sat, we saw that the pool shimmered with color and shapes.  “It’s like a window…” Althalus said as Brandon leaned further.  I got to my feet.  “What do you see?” I asked, my hand falling to my sword.

“I see myself.  I’m fighting alongside a beautiful woman in red leather armor.  I see Arius and Lexa too, fighting together!  We’re fighting something…I cannot make out what it is, but we are fighting something dark and gray.”

I did not like the thought of fighting with Lexa Lyoncroft.  Perhaps this was a glimpse to a possible future.

Althalus leaned in and the image seemed to charge.  I could see a flicker of orange and yellow on the pool’s surface.  “Well, that’s what I expected,” he said as the image returned to normal.

“What was it?” Theren pressed.

“I saw myself grappling with you Theren on some summit somewhere.  The world around us was in flames.  Then the image disappeared.”

He always managed to disturb me, the way he took carnage and death so casually.  We began to move closer to the pool to see the images for ourselves.  Dimitrious leaned in and I could see the image on the pool’s surface.  He was moving slowly, as if time had been corrupted.  He began to dissolve, slowly turning to dust.  There was a strange look of contentment on his face.  His mouth opens as if he was speaking – then he disappeared.  We could not make out the background of the image but there was no sunshine, perhaps in a building of some sort.

Theren looked next as I closed on the pool.  As he leaned in he saw himself as an old man, with gray hair, struggling with someone dressed in black.  Flames surrounded them and the figure in the black robe wore a large silvered cross around his neck.  Then the image disappeared.

“Mine was better,” Brandon said.  “I had two women fighting with me.  I basically got girls in my vision.”

It was my turn.  I took a long breath and said a silent prayer.  Leaning in I saw Lexa Lyoncroft and myself, back-to-back, our swords in play – mine ablaze with holy fire.  We are surrounded and being rushed by faceless enemies that we are cutting apart.  I saw gray streaks in my hair near my temples – perhaps a glimpse into the future.  Something in the back of my mind told me that these foes were undead.

Bor leaned in and looked.  We all saw the image. In the pool Bor was covered in blood and is being held up by his throat, dropping Skullringer, his body limp in the black shadowy creature’s grip.  He is tossed aside is if he were dead.  I noted he was wearing the clothing and armor he had on now.  It was an ominous and dark image that flickered away.

It took us a few minutes to drink it all in. We turned towards the staircase and we saw a mist arise from the floor and saw the image of the mysterious woman appeared, her massive sword slung across her back.  She was thirty heads distance, at the top of the stairs.

“You still persist despite my warnings?”

“Yes,” Theren replied.  “We are bit slow that way.”

“You need to turn around now…while you can,” she warned.

“Why?” Althalus queried.

“You face your doom,” she replied.

“I can’t escape my doom,” the warlock countered.  When he said things like that he made us wonder about his true intentions.

“Did you look into that pool?” she gestured.

“Yes,” we all replied.

“What did you see?”

“Our futures,” Althalus replied.  “Our end.”

“Wait,” Theren said.  “We saw a future.  Not necessarily the future.  The future is not set.”  The druid waxed in philosophy.

“I give you two options,” she said in an ominous tone.  “Surrender or turn around.  It is a miracle you made it this far.  I am impressed.  This is your final warning.”

“If you could help us,” Althalus said.  “That would be great.”

“Ohh,” she cooed.  “I can help you.  What is it that you are looking for?”

I spoke up in response.  “The lost paladins that were brought here.”  Lying was not in my nature.  God understood.

She smiled, which did not ease our tension.  “I will show one you were those paladins are. You.”  She pointed at me.  Why me?  Was it because I was a paladin as well?

“I will take you to them.”

“We will go as a group,” the ranger said, holding out Nightstalker.  It did not glow, so we knew she was not undead.

“Come here and I can show you,” she gestured.

“I am not coming by myself,” I replied.  I was brave, but not stupid.

“I can take one of you.”

Althalus made a quick gesture with his hands – I had no idea what he was doing, but she did not seem to react to it.

“Why can you only take one?”  Theren asked.

I heard Althalus’ voice in my head – a disturbing experience at best.  “She is telling the truth.  I saw the paladins, about 150 of them, around a fire in the snow.”

“That is all I will take.”

“How far is the journey?” the druid continued to press.

“That is difficult to say in this instance.  Close and far.  It is closer than you think.”

She eyed me more carefully.  “Where did you get that?” she gestured to my new shield.  “That shield is the property of the Sisterhood of the Sword.”

“I will surrender it,” I offered, “If you take us all to the paladins.”

“I am not comfortable with us giving that up,” the warlock offered. “We found it, it’s ours.”

“I could defend that legally,” added Theren, our druid that never backed down from an argument.

“If you all want to go,” she countered.  “I can make that happen.”  There was something in her tone of voice that made me question her sincerity.  As if to add to the tension we were all feeling, she drew her massive sword.  I had seen a blade like that before, in the hands of Lexa Lyoncroft.  I had no doubt that the two of them were once part of the Priory of the Blade.  This one had a large black opal mounted in the hilt of the blade.

She walked to me and touched me on the shoulder.  The floor dropped beneath me and I felt like I was falling.  There was a rush of air around me.  I lost her vision. Arcane magic swirled around me.  Hit the ground in snow, the air stinging at my face and hands.  I raised my head and saw a group of warriors in the distance, huddle around the fire.  Brandon landed near me, his lantern smashed, the oil melting the snow.  The others…they had jumped though the magic portal with me!  I thanked the Almighty and rose to my feet.  She stood near me, facing me squarely.

“Where are we?” I demanded.

She smiled, which made me cringe. “You will find out when I come to take you…one at a time.”  The ground beneath her swirled a blue and white twist of energy and disappeared.

“Well,” Althalus said wryly.  “She’ll be back.”  We all gave him a stern look of frustration.  I looked around.  We stood on a snow-covered plateau, the wind whipping the snow around us.  There were mountains not far distant, in every direction.  I could not see the sun, but the gray skies were glowing as if it was daytime.  I had no idea where we were – perhaps deep in the northern reaches.  The cold penetrated my armor and skin.  The paladins were in the distance, gathered around a fire.

We walked over and I was designated to be the lead because I was a paladin like them.  We started walking toward them.

“Hello!” I called.  None seemed to have weapons.  They motioned for us to join them.  I saw the sigil for the Order of the Fang on their smocks and armor.

“What brings you here?” one asked as we got close to the fire.

“We came looking for you,” I offered.

“And you are trapped like the rest of us,” a gaunt paladin replied.

“We are imprisoned here – in that accursed blade of her sword.  That opal in the hilt – it is her own private plane of existence,” an older gruffer knight responded.  “She comes for us, taking us three or four at a time – takes us away.  None taken have ever returned.”

“I want that sword,” Brandon said.

“How long have you been here?” Theren asked.

Another knight, youngest we had seen, skinny with sagging cheeks replied, “Time works differently here.  It is hard to say.  Do you have any food?”

We opened our packs and shared what rations we had with us.  Theren grinned. “I am ‘gifted,’ I can make food.”

That brought about yellow-toothed grins.  “We need weapons as well.”

We handed out what spare weapons we had.  I was shocked to see the condition of these men.  They were starving to death here, imprisoned in her sword.  They held the weapons with fondness.

“Maybe we have a chance now that we are armed,” one of them said.  Mutters of support for him grew.

Brandon dug out the amulet he had found from the Order of the Fang.  “I have this,” he said holding it up.

“Where did you find it?” one of them asked.

“In Tempora, while we were looking for you.”

“It belongs in our brotherhood,” one said, looking to Brandon for approval to take it. “Take it,” he replied and one of the men draped it over his neck.  Just wearing it seemed to give him renewed energy.

One paladin, a bold man with a thick black beard stepped forward.  “I am B’hard, our captains and lieutenants are dead, or so we assume.  We thank you for the food.  It will go a long ways with my men.”

“Is there any way out of here?” Theren asked.

“No.  If you venture over the mountains in the distance, you come down the slope on the other side.  We have taken shelter in a cavern near here.  It is always daylight here but with the clouds, we never see the sun, and the caves are the only place where we get any sense of darkness.  We have no idea how long we have been here since it is ever-day.  The only way out is when she comes for us.  She takes a few of us at a time…and none ever return.”

“Is there any buildings or anything else here?” I asked.

B’hard nodded.  Off in the distance, in the foothills of that mountain is a keep.  It is the Priory of the Blade.  For years we wondered where their priory was hidden…as it turns out, Cyrilla Drex had it secreted away here, in her sword.  It is no wonder we never found it.  We were charged with razing it, but could never find it. Everyone trying to enter it has been badly injured.”

“I do not want to get hung up on this,” Althalus said. “I have some military experience. I was our leader the last time we served together.  It might make sense for us to have a single leader.”  Those of our party looked at Althalus and I cocked my eyebrow.  Memories of the minotaurs and the loss of one of our comrades was not a fond memory for us.

B’hard offered to take us to the priory. “I think this is folly.  None of us have been able to enter. I would be happy to take you though.  The wind cut through our clothing as we marched along towards the mountain.  “Did you see any sign of our men?”

“No.  We followed your tracks into Tempora,” Theren offered.

“We were blinded and we woke up here. Whatever she is doing is foul and evil.”  On this point, we all agreed.

“Did you have to face the Bone Dragons in the White Vale?” Brandon asked.

“No.  She simply marched us out there.”

“Lucky us,” Althalus muttered.

It took several hours to reach the priory.  It was a large central keep with a stone wall surrounding it.  It looked out of place, as if it had been scooped out from our world and brought here, and dropped.

Theren moved in front of the only gate on the wall and held his hands up as if he were trying to sense something, muttering as he stood.  We watched him for a few moments, then he turned to face us.  “It is protected by necromantic magic?”

B’hard, reacted.  “How can you see magic?”

“The gods have gifted me with this skill,” the druid said.

“’Gods,’ not God?” he asked cautiously.

“It is a long story,” the druid said blowing off the question. Druids and holy men of the Church did not get along.  Inquisitions had a way of generating bad blood.  “That keep is heavily protected.  If we try and force our way in, I suspect we will pay a price.  I sense wards – many layers of them, like rings on a tree.”

“We even tried to tunnel under it,” B’hard said.  “All were met with the same result.”

Theren looked to me.  “Your new shield is magical.  Let me hold it.”  I gave it to him and watched as he approached the gate.  Sparks appeared out of the air between the shield and the gate. He backed away, giving me the shield back.  “Throw a javelin at it.”

Brandon threw a javelin at the gate.  It erupted in an explosion.  The druid studied the air where the javelin had been, the smoke still swirling in the falling snow.  “Well, I think it is safe to say we cannot enter it.”

We trudged back to the cave following B’hard.  Men were huddled along the walls and a low fire burned in a pit near the entrance.  I could see my breath in the air, though being out of the wind and snow helped with my warmth.  “We need to prepare.  We need a plan.  She will come at some point.  When she does, we need a plan now that we have your weapons.  The challenge is we only see her for a second, then she disappears with anyone that near her.”

“She taunts us sometimes,” B’hard said.  “She tells us that we will be giving our souls to her ally.  Other times she merely appears and takes us without notice.”  I could feel the eyes of the men in the cavern stare at us.  They need hope beyond their belief in God.

“I bet it’s that necromancer…what was his name?  Victor Barristen…that fallen paladin,” Theren said.

Paladin 5

“I wonder if Lexa Lyoncroft knows that one of her former sisters is aiding someone like Barristen?” Althalus asked.  It was one more mystery we would have to take to her at some point, if we lived through this magical exile.

B’hard looked to Althalus.  “What would you suggest?  We are unsure if that is really her that appears or an image of her.  We need to be prepared.  We are weary of this slow death.”

Another paladin spoke up.  “The last time we tried to jump her when she appeared, we were thrown back by some sort of magical blast.”

“We are familiar with that,” Althalus replied.  I looked around.  A few of the knights looked almost dazed, rocking in their private space of the cavern.  Others trembled and stared into nothingness.

“Drex needs our blood, that much is clear,” B’hard said.  “Your friend here,” he said pointing at me, “is probably more at risk than any of you.”  Being a holy knight, I faced the same fate as they did.  It hardened my resolve.

Theren stepped forward with a plan.  If we form a circle, interlock our arms with the armed men, when she appears as many of us as possible will rush her with the intent of getting out of this accursed place.”

“For the record,” Althalus said after a moment of consideration.  “This is a horrible idea. I do have an alternate plan.  We do have the devil’s skull and the book.  Perhaps I can unleash the devil on her once we get to the other side.”

“What is this devil’s skull you speak of?” B’hard asked.

“It’s a long story,” Althalus said, cutting him off.

Demon1

There it was, a plan I dreaded more than death.  I was about to lecture the warlock that he was surrounded by 150 paladins, more if you included me.  I also was reluctant to allow me access to that accursed book even on the best of days.

Theren beat me to the punch.  “Let’s consider that a fall-back plan.”  That seemed to satisfy Althalus for the moment – though I wondered if he was still thinking of somehow unleashing that devil.

Outside in the snowstorm we heard the sound of a low and slow rumble of thunder, as if the skies themselves were straining to release the sound.  “That is her!” B’hard said.  “We hear that when she is about to appear.”

“Lock arms,” I called.  The paladins interlocked their arms, many gripping the weapons we had provided them.  Their eyes were red and weary, yet they all looked as if they were ready for a fight.  Everything was preferable to dying in this forsaken land.

A ghost-like vision of her appeared, not quite corporeal.  I was not sure she was really there, or merely projecting an image of herself.  We were not close enough to make the jump through her portal.  The halberd I had given one of the men that disappeared, fell clanging on the cavern floor.  Another paladin picked it up.  Four of the men were gone.

“That was not good,” Althalus.  “We know when she is coming, but it is pure chance as to where she is going to appear.”

“We need to huddle closer, a tighter circle,” Theren said.  So that went she appears, more of us can make the leap through her portal.

We waited what seemed like hours, if not longer. B’hard and the best fighters centered on our party, clamoring for a fight.  I planned to bless our party the moment we heard the rumble – ensuring God would protect us. My legs ached as we stood, waiting for the inevitable.  Some sat, waiting for the crack of thunder.  I chose not to.

The rumble happened, strained and slow as before.  Men rose.  The floor opens beneath us in a swirl of white and blue energy.  I saw her standing before me, semi-transparent.  We lunched into the light, along with two of the paladins.

I landed on stone…hard.  A pentagram surrounded us.  Looming over us, holding that massive sword over our heads.

“So what do we have here?” she asked, moving to a combat stance.

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

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

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The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 27

Fireball2

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!

Bor…(A Song of Fire and Water)

That book was going to be trouble.  Of course Althalus wanted it.  In the Gallesian Fields he had found a demon’s skull and lost it in a barter with Lexa Lyoncroft.  Now he possessed a polished ebony devil’s skull with silver tipped arrowheads stuck in it.  A weathered tome called, “Demons and Devils – Summoning and Control,” in his hands was going to be a problem, for all of us. I kept my thoughts to myself though.  If push came to shove, shoving was the thing I did best. He would not have it. Arius finally stuffed it in his backpack, ending the debate.

We stood at the edge of the ruins of Tempora.  The mountain was hollowed out.  A massive iron chandelier hung by chains and a tiny hole to the outside let in light.  There were thick spiderwebs far up at the very peak of the mountain, above the broken chandelier.  At one time the lighting device must have hit the mirrored crystals and illuminated the entire city.  Now we stood in the darkness and debris.  What city had been built on the inner walls of the mountain was now crumbled and rubble.  The city at the base was a jumble of broken stones and the flotsam of everyday life. Navigating such ground was going to be difficult.

We knew from the poem that the river flowing between the feet of the statue was where we had to go, but such a vast space of ruin demanded exploration.  We opted to go around the long way, along the perimeter of the floor of the hollowed mountain, just to make sure there was nothing that would show up behind us at some point.  It was hard going.  Each pile of wreckage required exertion, coordination, and left your ankles sore from the task.  We had to backtrack a half dozen times, finding our path blocked with walls and rubble.  For hours we climbed and crawled.  We did find a set of rooms in the wall of the mountain, but all that was there was smashed furniture, musty tapestries that were more rotted fragments than something of interest.  Whatever had destroyed Tempora had done so with a viciousness than I could imagine.  We found a rotted leather pouch with a handful of silver coins…hardly worth the effort.

“At least there is no sign of anyone being here,” Theren said.

My eyes went upward to the chandelier hundreds of heads over us.  It had hung on five massive iron chains, now it hung on one.  It must have been beautiful to see at one time, but now it was something that could fall on us at any moment.

We trudged on.  What we found were shattered bones, dwarven in origin.  Several hours later we found a small flat area in the rubble, perhaps a wall at one point, now laid flat. As we moved I started to get a sense of foreboding…as if something was about to happen to us.  I took point, crawling up over a rise in the rubble, only to see a giant spider, white and gray hair and a shimmering blue mark on its chest.  I was caught unprepared by the creature.  It sprung at me with a stunning bite, ripping into my forearm, punctuating the armor.  My arm felt limp and blood splattered the white hair on the creature as well as my neck and face.  The pain followed a moment later – hot, searing.

Suddenly, there was a whooshing sound, like a wind blowing.  My eyesight blurred.  I had a moment of disorientation. Then my vision cleared and I was in a massive hammock-like spider nest, swaying in the air.  I caught a glimpse down through a small hole and saw that I was 500 heads above the rubble where I had been standing.  Somehow the creature had teleported me to its nest, a hammock-like creation, presumably to kill and eat me.  The pain was even more searing in my arm, no doubt from its poison.

You won’t be eating me, not today… 

I swung Skullringer and hit it hard in the confined space, sending the beast flying.  On the backswing, I missed, but it was enough to make the creature scurry a few steps back.  The massive spider coiled and sprung at me.  I pivoted slightly and the creature leapt through a hole in the webbed nest that I stood on.  It plummeted downward, past the rusted iron chandelier to the rocks far below.

spider-taken-meme

My breath was ragged and I could smell the rot of long-dead flesh in the nest mixed with a stink I had never smelled before.  How was I going to get down from here?  The shimmering blue light of Skullringer showed me that there were many stripped bones of the victims of these creatures.  From the size of the nest, I could tell there were more than the one creature I had seen.  I found a small cache of rubies and diamonds in the webbing, no doubt lost by some explorer that had become prey.  I tucked them in my backpack.

I found a ring as well, silver, with ornate carving. Pulling it from the sticky webbing, I saw two dwarven words:  “Stalker” and “Bentormon.” I put it on and spoke the word I did not know, “Bentormon.”  For a moment there was a ripple, like summer heat rising off of a stone.  Something was different, but I could not tell for sure what it was.  I jumped up and down, hoping it was a ring of flight, but all that did was make the unsteady nest sway slightly.  Whatever the effect of the ring, I couldn’t discern it.  I turned my attention to my predicament and the possible plummet I could be facing.  Below, I could see the green glow of the ranger’s lantern as they moved out into the center of the mountain directly under me.

There was a commotion near the party, that much I could make out.  Suddenly next to me another spider winked into existence, clamped onto Althalus.  I swung Skullringer at it, hitting it hard, and the hulking spider hissed at me. It tossed aside the unconscious warlock and its many eyes seemed to drift over me.  I swung again, crushing its face and splattering the warlock with bits of it.  I wiped Skullringer off on the nest and Althalus stirred to a stunned expression.  “Where am I?”

“In a worse place than you were,” I replied.

“Oh shit,” he replied, moving pulling his hands from the sticky nest we were in.  The slight sway of the nest made us both feel uneasy.

“I could use my eldritch blasts…” he offered.

“That…” I said slowly, “would be a horrible idea.”

“I have that wand with me, the one that shoots lightning,” he offered wryly.

“Not funny.   That isn’t helping.”  I asked him to watch me as I uttered, “bentormmon.”  This time nothing happened to me, I did not see the ripple effect.  “Do you notice anything different?”

“Should I?”  Getting a straight answer out of this warlock was difficult at best.  I was about to beret him when suddenly another spider blinked in next to us, bringing with it, Dimitrious.  The nest seemed to sag under the weight of the two appearing.

I didn’t hesitate, I attacked!  Skullringer was an azure blur as I struck it hard, throwing it back to the far end of the nest.  The warlock unleashed an eldritch blast on the spider, tossing it hard back, causing the nest to rock harder than ever before.  That warlock was going to kill us both if he was not careful.  The spider blinked out of existence, leaving me to glare at Althalus.  “Be careful.  This nest is likely flammable.”

“I was careful,” he countered.

“These blink spiders are dangerous,” I said, surveying the nest as it swayed.

Suddenly, a bear appeared grappled with one of the spiders.  “Grab me!” he commanded in a low growl. I recognize that bear….Theren!  I lunged for it, as did Dimitrious and Althalus.  There was flash around us and a whistle of air, and we landed on the debris on the floor far below the nest. Before it could teleport us again, the bear crushed the spider’s skull in its massive claws.

I looked up at the nest.  I thanked God we blinked down, otherwise the way down could have left us dead.  I then turned to the druid.  “Thank you Theren,” I told him.  The bear dipped its head.  The rest of our party came over and joined us.  Brandon cut the poison sac out of the creature and drained it into an empty glass vial that Althalus offered him.  For a few minutes, we rested.  I cleaned my trusty warhammer off.  This quest was exhausting, and we seemed no closer to finding the missing paladins. I suppressed the thought that we might never find them.

We set off for the interior wall of the hollowed mountain.  I led us through the debris.  Near the wall I spotted some bleached bones poking up out of the rubble.  I found a necklace there with a sapphire. I found a morning star as well, silvered, well-balanced – a true warrior’s weapon.  There was a short sword in a battered scabbard in the rubble too.  There was a fine silvered edge to the weapon.  Brandon looked at it but said he could not make out the words.  “Let me,” I offered.

As I suspected, it was dwarven.  “Nightstalker,” I said out loud.  “Never heard of it,” I said handing it back to the ranger.  “It is a fine blade, that much I can say.”

“Nightstalker…” Althalus said.  “I’ve actually heard of that blade.”  We all looked at him.  “Don’t be surprised, I do a lot of studying.  “It was a magical blade owned by Shevrus Salamar, a dwarven lord who served with some distinction in the battle of the Gallesian Fields.  It was said that he was the great killer of the shambling dead, wielding Nightstalker and his holy morning star, Bonebreaker.  He killed the last Wight-King Ishmark and was one of the men that laid the cornerstone of the sept at the Great Gash.  No one knows of his fate.  I wonder how his weapons ended up here?”  It was a question none of us would likely ever know.

“I did not care for a short sword – I prefer to keep my foes at a distance.  That morning star, Bonebreaker, that was something I might need.  “I will take this Bonebreaker,” I offered.  “Do what you will with that blade.”  The ranger took it, proudly strapping the scabbard at his side.

Sword

We made our way to the waterfall…the tears of Tempora.  We saw along the waterfall, a series of carved handholds, like a ladder of some sort, ending to a ledge some 30 heads down.  The roar of the water churning below as the river flowed through a carved hole leading out of the city.

I went first.  Only two steps down my feet slipped and I lost my grip.  I fell backwards, watching my comrades above me.  I hit the water hard and went deep under, the weight of my armor and the treasure I carried took me straight to the black bottom under the falls.  I could see nothing and I tried to push off, only to sink right back down. My ears filled with a rushing gurgling and the cold water made me quake.

I struggled to get my pack off and I lost my footing.  The force of the water from the falls made me feel like I was battling some creature.  It was nearly impossible to see.  I felt hands on me and saw Dimitrious grapple me and start to pull me up.  I kicked hard and felt a gulp of the cold water in my throat.  I reached the surface and spat out the water and got a gulp of air.  Theren was there – in bear form.  As I started to bob down, I grabbed his fur and held on tight, pulling myself up.  Theren paddled to the ledge and helped me out of the water.

Looking over to the silent monk, I offered my thanks.  He only nodded in response. The others climbed down and joined us.  The ledge allowed us to move behind the waterfall, There was a chamber jutting into the underbelly of the ruins of Tempora.  I wrung out my personal goods, which did little to lighten my backpack, and I led us into the depths.

We moved down a long and wide hallway.  The octagonal-shaped room beyond was clearly some sort royal receiving room in centuries past.  It had a mosaic floor with three large rugs in it.  The ceiling, carved into the stone itself, was nearly twenty-heads high.  There mosaics, now cracked and missing pieces, that showed what Tempora may have looked like in its prime.  It was odd to see it has it had been.  Now it was nothing but carnage, blinking spiders, and gloom.

A raised dais of stone sat in the middle of the room, with a throne-like seat on it. The back of the throne was broken off, blasted back and shattered to pieces beyond where it had once stood.  On the seat was a haphazardly tossed piece of purple cloth which was a dusty lump.

I poked at the rugs with my wet boot.  The rugs seemed to cover scorch marks on the floor, burned through the mosaic.  This was not natural, but powerful magic.

“We need to proceed carefully,” Theren said. Usually it was Althalus that old us the obvious.  I wondered if Theren was taken a verbal jab at the warlock.

As Brandon started moving into the room, we saw the hilt of his new sword, Nightstalker, started glowing white.  We spotted it before he did.  He pulled it out and the blade shimmered brilliantly.

“That cannot be good,” Althalus said.

“I think it’s cool,” the ranger replied.

I moved forward near Brandon who was approaching the battered throne.  “Hold,” said Arius.  He closed his eyes for a moment and waved his hands in the air before his face.  I felt warm for the first time since my plunge into the waterfall.  “It is shield of faith,” the paladin said.  “It will protect us.”

I checked Bonebreaker at my belt, but it did not show any signs of glowing.  Brandon, against my better thinking, flipped up the purple cloth on the seat.  What emerged was a glowing green skull that floated into the air.  Magical greenish orange flames shimmered around it and its jaw opened with a sinister grin.  The eye sockets glowed a deep red.  It felt as if it were staring into my soul.

“Holy shit,” the ranger said, staggering back.

Flames shot forth from the eyes of the skull, concentrated on Brandon.  They missed, passing his shoulders. He tried to swing Nightstalker at the floating skull but missed.  I sprang at it with Skullringer, hitting it hard.  The emerald flames lapped around the head of my warhammer and I moved it back a head or two, but it was far from stopped.

Suddenly the air around us erupted in flames.  My beard was burned singed by the magical blast.  Brandon was caught in the center of the sphere of flames.  He fled the chamber, setting fire to one of the rugs in the process, heading off towards the waterfall, flames lapping up his sides and back as he wailed in agony.

I hit the skull hard again with Skullringer, but it kept moving forward. Athalus hit it with his own magical blast, knocking it back nearly ten heads, but only seeming to infuriate it.  Theren, still in bear form, rushed forward, clawing at it.  It fractured into pieces, rattling across the mosaic floor.  The eerie green flames extinguished, making us shift to the other source of light – Brandon.

Bear meme
Freaking druids…

He rushed for the waterfall, arms flailing about madly.  He jumped into the water to extinguish the flames and disappeared from sight.

“Did he just jump into the waterfall wearing his armor?” Theren asked.

“Yes,” Althalus replied.  “Yes he did.”

We rushed to the waterfall’s edge and saw him under the water attempting to dog-paddle up to the surface – to no avail.  I alone knew that feeling, having just gotten out of that predicament myself.  Theren (the bear) jumped in with Dimitrious and helped fish him out.  The ranger was coughing up water, his hair badly burned, but thankful to be alive.

We returned to the receiving chamber.  Brandon checked the throne and found a small compartment in the seat.  There was a small strange stone object, the length of a finger, with box-like shapes.  It proved to be a key of some sort, ornate, clearly dwarven.  There was an amethyst broch in the compartment as well. I let him carry it. I was starting to feel like a mule, carrying all of our wealth.

Arius checked the room for any sort of a door or way out.  It seemed odd that we had come this far to arrive at a dead-end.  He and Dimitrious found a small hole that seemed to fit the key.  Theren shifted back to his human form and looked at the hole.   “We should hold up here, get some rest, recover if we can.”  It seemed like a good idea.  We went to one of the corners far from the throne and huddled together.  At least we were flanked by stone on two side.

We laid down for some sleep.  I was on my first watch.  As everyone drifted off an hour or two later I heard a clicking sound over by the throne.  At first, I thought that it was little more than a rat or some bug.  I rose and moved towards the throne.  To my disbelief, the shattered bits of the flaming skull were twitching, moving towards each other, and reassembling!

I let loose a whistle of warning followed by, “Get up, that thing is regenerating!”  I moved towards it quickly, unhooking Skullringer.  We killed you once, we will do it again!

It turned from me and towards the rest of our group, all huddled close together, and opened its mouth.  A ball of fire emerged from the mouth, growing, expanding.  As it passed me I could feel the searing heat and the gust of wind that slowed my run.

I didn’t hear the fireball hit, but I heard the wails of pain and agony from my comrades as a result and the room lit up brilliant yellow and orange behind me as I charged the green flaming monstrosity that floated in the air before me.

Skullringer swung true, knocking the creature back into one of the corners of the room, chipping off a bit of its lower skull.  I pursued the heinous demon-spawn, drawing the warhammer back. Someone behind me cast some sort of magic, and it seemed to make the skull quake in the air, as if it could feel pain.  Dimitrious joined me, his arms a blur of attacks on the green fiery skull.  The monk seemed to ignore the flames, hitting it hard on either side.  His last blow, shattered the skull into a dozen or so pieces.  The emerald flames disappeared and the room plunged back into near darkness.

I looked over at the monk in disbelief.  He looked at me, offered a thin smile, and a wink.  I nodded to him.  Why the silent monk joined us, I do not know.  His aide had proved invaluable though.  The singed party rushed forward to join us.  Althalus stood over the bits of skull, then squatted. “I seem to remember reading something about these things – flameskulls.  They regenerate.  We can dowse it in holy water or use a remove curse spell or portion on it”

“That would have been useful information a few hours ago,” Arius said.

The warlock turned to him.  “Sorry, I just remembered it.”  With our warlock, one could never be sure.  One day he will lead us all to our ruin…

“I have a remove curse portion we found on the road to Tempora,” Brandon said.

“Gather the pieces and soak it good,” Arius said.  “We don’t want this thing regenerating and coming up behind us at some point.”  Satisfied that we had dispensed the abomination to the planes of hell, we went back to sleep.

Day and night underground is more of a feeling, with no frames of reference.  I do know we all felt much more replenished as we got up and nibbled at our rations.  Arius was listening at the secret door we had found, using his hands to feel it out, as if he could sense what was on the other side.  “I think it is safe for us to open this,” Arius said after a few minutes.

He inserted the strange key and it made a loud clicking sound.  The stone door swung towards us and we saw a long narrow hallway leading to a room with a cistern in it.  Moving cautiously, we closed on the water source.

“We should fill our water skins,” I offered as we entered the room.

“I wouldn’t,” warned Theren.  “Water in such places may be cursed, or worse.”

“Look down,” Arius said.  “The dust has been disturbed.  Someone has brought a large party through here recently.”  He was right…perhaps the missing paladins.

The cistern was a raised stone circle several feet across and two feet off of the floor.  A lone tarnished brass pillar rose from the center, providing a thin trickle of water into the pool.  Mold grew along the stonework of the cistern and onto the floor, indeed there was a hint of green mold on the high domed ceiling as well.  Thin cracks showed in the ceiling as well.

Brandon seemed anxious to check the cistern out.  Given the dangers we had faced thus far, I was less inclined.  Memories of him uncovering the flameskull came to mind.  “I do not sense any traps,” Theren said.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t any risk here.

Brandon leaned over.  “There’s some stuff in the bottom of the pool.  Some coins and stuff.”

I reached into my backpack and tossed a copper piece into the pool.  Nothing happened.  “I think it is a mistake to take anything from such a pool.”

“We should move on,” Theren offered. We all started to walk away, or so I thought.  Brandon apparently was too tempted by the offerings at the bottom.  I didn’t see him reach in, but I heard a loud splashing sound.  As I turned, I saw the water rise up as if it were alive, snaking around his neck, and pulling him head first into the pool.  His feet went up in the air and his arms flailed about madly.

“Water weird,” muttered Althalus.  “This is bad.” Always the master of the obvious…

“Aw crap,” Arius said.  “He reached in.”

Brandon tried to brace against the edge of the cistern and get free, but failed miserably.  Arius grabbed his legs and pulled hard.  I pulled out Bonebraker and swung it at the rising pillar of water.  The flail went through the water, splashing some of it against the wall.

“Duck,” came the voice of Theren from behind me.

“Did you see a duck?” Arius asked.

“Where’s the duck?” Althalus queried.

“No you fools…duck!” Theren snapped.  There was a low rumble and the air quaked as he unleashed a magic spell.  It barely seemed to shake the water weird.

Dimitrious lashed out at the creature with his fists, splattering more of the water onto the stone floor.  Althalus hit with a green beam of his eldritch power, spraying right through him, wisps of steam rising from where the beam hit it.

Arius swung, his sword shimmering as if charged with some sort of holy magic.  The water splashed the rest of the party and the form of the water weird disappeared, the water splashing down into the cistern.

Brandon moved up carefully and reach in, pulling out a tarnished brass bit of jewelry.  “Look,” he said holding it up.

“That was not worth nearly dying,” Althalus said.  Dejected, the ranger put the wet jewelry in his pack.

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

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

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#DandD

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Things to do to Annoy Your Dungeon Master (and other players) – D&D Humor

DM1

 

With Gen Con looming next week, I started pondering things that could be done to irritate dungeon masters and other players.  Now, I would never encourage anyone to try any of these.  They are written solely to give you a laugh.  Also, if you are a player at my table and try any of this – you are SO TOAST.

Enjoy and share!

  • Insist on looking up every spell, rule, etc., regardless of how trivial – then read them out loud, to the benefit and ire of everyone.
  • Take your time selecting the right die to roll, like five minutes.
  • Bring your phone to the game and spend an equal amount of gameplay sending texts – including to other players and the DM.
  • When you defeat an enemy, take their miniature, drop it to the floor, then stomp on it – hard.  “Take that!”
  • Insist on regular “pencil inspections.”
  • Accuse another person at the table of having loaded dice.  Demand a statistical test of 100 roles to prove it.
  • Insult the dungeon master in-character.  ‘Douchebag.”  “Did you just call me a douchebag?”  “No, that was my character talking to himself.”
  • When your dice fail, set fire to them – AT THE TABLE.
  • Quote rules accurately – from other game systems than the one you are playing.
  • Shake your dice for a minimum of 30 seconds before each roll.
  • Critique how other players or the dungeon master have painted their miniatures.  “I would have used a Strong Tone wash, but that’s just because I think appearance is important.  I guess you were going for more of a third grade result with that orc.”
  • Deliberately roll your die so it goes off the table – and then always say, “Critical Hit!” when you pick up.
  • Insist that other players keep their “cursed dice” away from yours.
  • Take a victory lap around the table every time you are victorious.  Insist the other players follow you.
  • Misuse pop culture references, preferably at the wrong time.
  • Only respond with questions.  “Are you using your long sword?”  “What makes you think that?”  “I need to know what weapon you are using.”  “What do you think I’m using?”
  • Go out of your way to jostle dice on the table after rolling in hopes of a better result.
  • Use a character creator app on your phone but don’t print out your sheet for the game.
  • Use an ink pen for your character sheet, and re-copy it after every encounter.  “Just a few more minutes guys…”
  • Bring your own dry-erase marker to alter the maps drawn by the dungeon master…during the battle.  “There’s no tree there!”  “There is now!”
  • Bring your own musical accompaniment on your phone and play it when it will be the most disruptive.
  • Break out playing cards and poker chips and use them during combat as if they have some sort of game impact but explain nothing.  Example:  When you take a hit, count out a number of chips and toss them down in front of the DM.
  • Demand the Dungeon Master, “show me that rule,” on every action in the game.
  • Paint your miniatures – during the game.
  • Come up with your own character classes.
  • Experiment with the amount of cologne you can wear just prior to the start of play.
  • Blatantly “borrow” (steal) dice from others at the table.
  • Eat two cans of beans three hours prior to the start of play.  (Remember Blazing Saddles?)  Corollary:  Ask other players to pull your finger – often.
  • (For US Players) Start using the metric system for all measurements.
  • Move your miniature, then move it back.  Then move it a different direction, then move it back.  Do this no less than eight times for every move you do – never taking your fingers off the mini.
  • Inform your other players what they did wrong in the previous turn.  Make a point to rub their nose in it.  “Only a real moron would have done what you did…”
  • Doze off.
  • Leave the game to go to the bathroom — and take the rules book with you.  Eeww…
  • Every time you roll a hit, say, “As foretold in the prophesy…”
  • Your first action in any city should be to plot burning it to the ground.
  • Three words – Lick Your Dice. Four words:  Lick the DM’s dice.
  • Cast magic spells that do not exist.  “But I have Orc Explosion in my spell slot…”
  • When in a city, insist on purchasing a 12 foot pole, “because 10 feet is never enough.”
  • Map your parties progress, on a four-by-four foot square piece of graph paper.
  • Doodle on the game map.  Use a Sharpee.
  • Refer to all of the other player’s characters as “Moron.”  “So If I understand what Moron is saying, we should search this room for traps.”
  • Deliberately pick the wrong dice to roll, then question it when someone catches you.  “Are you sure that’s not a D12?”
  • Have your character play dead every time there is an encounter.
  • When your character is in a local tavern, immediately poison the beer and wine even the drinks of the members of your party.
  • Switch chairs with anyone at the table that goes to the bathroom or leaves the room…act as if nothing odd has taken place.
  • Wear a hat the symbolizes your character.  If you don’t own a hat, make one at the table.
  • Play a bard and sing any of your responses to any questions you have – even if the songs don’t rhyme.
  • Bring the wrong rule book for the game but constantly be flipping through it as if you are looking for something in particular.
  • When you quote from the rules book, hold it upside down.
  • Don’t move on from a room in a dungeon until you have checked every crack and crevice at least five times.
  • Challenge the DM every time you defeat an enemy.  “Really?  That’s all you’ve got – some lame ogre?  Throw something at us that can actually do some damage.”
  • Look into the space and not respond until questioned.  When prodded, respond, “Sorry…this theater of the mind was boring, I was looking for a new channel…”
  • Tell the dungeon master to “grow a pair” when your character defeats a monster.
  • Whenever the dungeon master starts providing flavor text, IAIA  – Interrupt and immediately attack.
  • Bring coconuts shells to the game and clop them together every time your character mounts a horse to ride (ala Monty Python).
  • Point out the historical errors in armor and weapons in your game.  “You know the broadsword would not have been available in the same period as the cutlass…”
  • Refuse to be drawn in with all obvious plot hooks.  “Save the princess?  Screw her, she got herself into that tower, she can get her ass out on her own.  Why would I risk my life for her?”
  • When you get a bad die roll, use a Sharpee to change the number to a more favorable one.
  • Create colorful backstories for your characters that create nothing but problems for the other players and the DM/GM.  “Oh, my character screams any time he witnesses magic being used.”
  • Play inappropriate sound effects from your phone at critical points during the session.   (I leave the definition of “inappropriate” in your hands.)
  • Create your own character classes, skills, talents, etc., without the foreknowledge of anyone at the table.  “I’ve got this guys, my character is a Fifth Level Mime.”
  • Have your character speak in the voice of:
    • Scooby Doo (or Shaggy)
    • Gilbert Gottfried
    • Casey Kasem
    • Any of the cast of Family Guy (except Meg)
    • Harry Caray
    • Lurch
    • Ronald Reagan
    • Bozo the Clown
    • Adam West
  • Creature your own units of measurement and call out distances in those.  “I am 32 half-heads away, so I should be in range.”
  • Use finger-paints to record damage or treasure on your character sheet.  “I use red for hit points because it’s the color of blood…”
  • Incorporate visual effects such as fireworks, smoke bombs, etc, into your role playing.
  • For every hit point your character takes, do a shot of tequila.  When you are healed, make yourself throw up.
  • Call “Dibs” every time a creature is killed.  Proclaim it loudly!
  • Instead of miniatures, use live insects to represent monsters.
  • Create a new feat – pyromania – and use it.
  • Say, “That’s not how we do it in my gaming group,” when this is the ONLY gaming group you play in.
  • Claim you always have advantage.  When pressed, get creative.  “I have advantage because my character was dipped in awesome sauce as a child.”
  • Claim you want to rest up for a night’s sleep, every hour on the hour.
  • Twenty-minutes into play tell the DM, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t make it tonight to play.”  Remain seated.
  • Harvest pointless organs from your victims.  “Would you like to see my collection of orc sweat glands?”
  • Use a paintball gun with red paint to simulate damage to the party by shooting the other players…(PS.  They really hate this one.)
  • Wear a t-shirt that reads, “My Dungeon Master Sucks,” to the game session.
  • Proclaim “I loot the body!” before the battle begins – every time.
  • Initiate a belching contest at the game table mid-session.
  • Have your bard practice music during his watch at night to deprive the other players characters their rest.  “So the bagpipes are not soothing to sleep by?  Good to know…”  (Technically speaking, playing a bard is irritating enough.)

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 26

warlock3

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!

Theren…

Having rested up for several hours, we set out down the dark roadway to the underbelly of the mountains. Less than an hour into our trek, a massive portcullis dropped down, blocking the road and driving through Arius’s body as it slammed into the ground, pinning the paladin to the floor. The wrought iron gate sent up a cloud of rust into the air as it thudded into place.  Bor was on the far side, now appearing trapped.  Despite being a brute of a man, he looked oddly vulnerable there alone.  Blood oozed from Arius’s wounds where the portcullis had pinned his torso, though the paladin did not complain much.

It took all of us to lift the gate, mostly with Bor’s and my brute strength and using a javelin for a lever. Each member of the party slid under the gate.  We moved a few heads down the road and the gate clanged back up.  “We must have stepped off of the trigger,” I said as the gate disappeared into the slot on the ceiling over the road.

Another 200 heads down, we saw a small indentation on the right side of the roadway, a niche really.  There was some wood there, rotting, along with some shards of moldy cloth.  A small hole five heads from the floor trickled water down into the hole.  Under the wood was clearly a hole in the floor.

“I think someone should look into that,” Arius said.

“I think someone else should look into it,” I replied.

The paladin frowned at me then went over, carefully peering down the hole.  “It’s some sort of sewer,” he called over to us. It made sense.  This was a long road into Tempora.  There had to be places like this where travelers could relieve themselves.

“What’s down there?” Brandon called.

“I don’t want to know what is down there,” Arius replied.  “You are welcome to use this if you want.  I have no desire knowing what is down in this old sewer.”  I agreed with the paladin.  While there could be something long lost in that hole, we were not looking for treasure, but for the missing warriors of the Order of the Fang.

We moved on, walking down the roadway for nearly an hour.  Then, to our surprise, she appeared again, the ghastly woman appeared before us again.  Cloaked in green, holding a golden censor oozing smoke, the older woman materialized out of nowhere in the middle of the roadway.

“You still have not heeded my words,” she intoned in a low voice.

“Why does that sound like a threat?” “I mean here’s a old human woman running around on an ancient dwarven highway.  Something isn’t right here.” Althalus said.  I had to agree with the warlock on this matter.

“What do you think she’s up to?” Arius said, stroking his goatee.

“You should turn around now,” she said firmly, clearly listening into our chatter.

This was, at one time, a major roadway.  Something about this female did not make sense.

“What should we be fearing?” Arius asked of her.

“Your doom.”

“Are you going to give us any useful information, or are you simply going to continue to waste our time,” Althalus snapped at her. “If we turn around, the bone dragons will eat us.”

“This is not my concern,” she said impassively.

“What is ahead that should be our concern?” the warlock pressed.

“This road has not been used in centuries.  Turn around and live.”

I puffed out my chest.  “This road has been used recently, and we are following their tracks,” I told her.

“Leave now, and you go with your lives.”  Her words were a firm tone, strangely confident…which made me nervous. “Continue down this road and you will die.”

“Good luck trying,” Brandon said.  I snapped my head over to him.  We did not need an escalation of words at this point.  Whoever this older woman was, she was using magic to teleport.  Who knows what else she might do?  Brandon clearly was misreading my expression.  Rather than stop, he strode up to her.  “We do not fear you.”  You are speaking for yourself ranger…  It was then I noticed two things.  The color of her robe was familiar – it was the same green as Lexa Lyoncroft!  And behind her, at her head, was the hilt of a sword.  It was almost identical to Lyoncroft’s.  Was she a fellow Sister of the Sword?

“You should,” she said far too calmly. Her words were followed with a brilliant flash of light.  Brandon was thrown back ten heads…and she had disappeared.  I was blinded by the white light of the blast and a crack light lightning bolt hitting near us.  I felt the hairs on my head rise for a moment.  There was that circular pattern on the floor again, shimmering just for a moment before it disappeared.

“I am getting tired of her party tricks,” Althalus said as the ranger regathered his wits.

“Brandon is stunned,” I said, helping the ranger back to his feet.  I had hoped he had learned his lesson.

“That does not involve me,” the warlock said.  I motioned for him to join me.  Was there residue where the blast had taken place?  We looked, there was none to be found.  This indeed was, as I had feared, powerful arcane.

“Did you see that sword and her robe?  It’s like Lyoncroft’s” I said.  Bor nodded, he had seen it as well.  “It could be deception on her part,” I added.

“Oh great,” Althalus said. “There’s more than one of them running around.”  Once we were comfortable that she was not going to return we continued on.  Another hour or so passed when we came to three large obstructions in the roadway.  Brandon moved forward.  “The road looks like it ends up here!”  We all came close enough to see that the roadway stopped its gentle slope downward.  Instead it seemed to level off and open up a vast chamber beyond.  Water filled the lowest part of the road, forming a pond that filled the entire roadway.

The end of the road could mean one thing for us, we had finally found the long lost dwarven city of Tempora.  To get there, we would have to navigate these waters though, and it seemed that they were at least waist deep, if not more.

Bor poked at the three piles of debris that seemed to be between us and the water.  “These are wagons, turned over.  Someone tipped these over to make some sort of barricade,” he called back to us.  Arius went to one and found the same thing.  None of us moved around the large oaken wagons.  There could be anything there.  My first thought went to goblins and how they had tried to ambush us earlier, pretending to be a ghost.

Arius picked up a rock and tossed it over the overturned carts to see if that stirred any activity.  The rattle of the stone stirred no activity.

We flanked the wagons and saw nothing but stones that had been piled up to essentially keep them in place.  We saw arrowheads and spear points stuck in the wagons, evidence of some battle long ago.

I motioned to the water and we approached it.  Some seventy-heads distant, in the middle of the small lake was an island rising up, stone and wooden bits.  The air smelled of moisture, musty, dank.  From where we stood, we saw the roadway making a stark right turn before opening up to a large chamber beyond.  Bor spoke up.  “I hear running water in the distance.”

Althalus stepped up to the water’s edge.  “I am not wearing much in the way of metal, I could swim it.”

“I’m not sure…” I said, eyeing the island a short distance away. There was no way around this dank water, but the thought of going in made me nervous.

“Perhaps you could turn yourself into a bear and we could ride you across,” Brandon said to me.

“Or a large otter,” added our warlock.

“Or a wolverine,” Arius chided.

“I’m not transforming into a bear to be a boat or canoe for your travel,” I replied.  Turning into a creature of woods was part of my divination as a druid.  I would not have them mock it thusly.  “Go out there,” I said to Althalus.  Dimintrios, his loyal mute shadow, waded in behind him without a moment’s hesitation.

We stood along the edge of the water as the warlock entered.  Brandon furiously pointed to water.  “There’s something out there!” he called.  I looked.  Yes, two distinct ripples in the pond, as if something large were swimming under the surface.

The figures converged on our comrades, breaking the surface. From the island, another pair rushed down to the water.  They looked like a cross of men and crocodiles.  I had heard of such species, lizardmen!  Armed with sleek halberds, the pair on the island struck at our party in the water.  We stood and watched as horror as a streak of blood sprayed the air from their hits.  The two in the water rose and attacked as well.  I saw Dimitrious drop limp into the cold water and not rise back up.

Brandon hit one with his crossbow and Arius threw his javelin, spiking the weapon deep into the shoulder hide of the creature. He hissed loudly, I’m sure some sort of curse in his foul language.  I fired my bow as well hitting one of the monstrosities in, what I assumed was his rib cage.

Bor dashed into the water like a charging elephant, throwing his hand axe but missing entirely, splashing the water as it sank.

Dimitrious bobbed in the water as Althalus unleashed his eldritch green energy, hitting one of those in the water.  The body of the creature flops in the water then went still…apparently killed.

Brandon fired another bolt into a lizardman.

Lizardmen

One of the creatures on the island hit Althalus, hurting him, but bursting into flames as the warlock’s defenses kicked in.  The lights from the flames reflected off the dark waters, casting odd shadows.

I fired again, hitting the creature on the land, as did Bor, whose axe flew in and hit the one still in the water.  There was a splash in the water, joined by a missed javelin thrown by Arius.  I moved in and cast a healing word on Dimitrious, enough to stir him to consciousness.

A oozing of greenish blood rose from the water as the lizardman broke the surface and hissed.  He sprung on the still dazed monk, once more knocking him unconscious.  The remaining lizardman on the island knocked out Althalus as well.

Bor closed in swinging, hitting one of the creatures.  I closed my eyes slightly and concentrated on healing Althalus, enough to allow him to rise – his face dripping with blood from a nasty gash. Bor swung again, his glowing warhammer clearly missing any victims, adding to the flames on the island.

Our paladin tossed his javelin and missed as well, it was as if the fates were working against us. One of the lizardmen sprung at Bor and missed, the other leapt at our warlock and missed entirely, landing on his opposite side and spinning to face him.

Brandon’s crossbow bolt killed one lizardman, the bolt plunging into his throat and toppling backwards at the water’s edge.  I switched to my short bow and fired, leaving the arrow stuck in his arm and eliciting another sinister hiss from him, his tongue lapping in the air.

Althalus fired his arcane blast at the remaining foe, knocking him back and into Bor.  He rose again, silhouetted by the flames of his dead comrade on the island.

Brandon fired again, hitting him in the eye.  There was a spray of dark green blood, and he collapsed into the pond.  We were all breathing heavily, the crackle of the flames drowning out the distant rush of water in the distance.

I healed Dimitrious again, and he gave me a thankful nod in response.  We moved up toward the island which had been home to them.  There were low mud and wood huts there.  I looked past the island, into the opening beyond.  The road rose slightly out of the water.  There were shadows of rubble in the distance…Tempora perhaps?  I was excited at the premise of reaching the city.

Brandon crawled in a hut and emerged with a small leather pouch.  There were three black marbles and a silver dagger.

Althalus entered the other hut and emerged with a small chest – which he poked with a dagger.  “What are you doing?” Brandon asked.

“Checking for mimics,” the warlock replied.  There was no response from the chest and I suppressed a chuckle.  The warlock pried it open and a puff of gas rose from the open chest and it hits him in the face.  He shook his head, fighting the sleep spell, rubbing the powder from his eyes.  There was a small potion in a glass vial, and a scroll in the chest.

“You know, I can detect traps,” I said after the fact.

“Why didn’t you use it?” Althalus asked.

“You were the one in a hurry to just open the chest,” I replied.  Brandon returned his hut to continue searching as Althalus held up the vial.  “A potion of healing,” he said.

“What of the scroll?” I queried.

“I can only make out the word, ‘fire’ on it,” he said.

The paladin moved to another nesting area poked at it, emerging with a gold broach with a diamond on it.  “It is beautiful,” he said, pocketing it.  We all started looking around the hut/nests.  Brandon emerges with a black leather bound book, thick, with mold on the cover in some spots and on the edges.  Althalus perked up.  “Hello…”

“What is it, how to cook kobolds?” I asked wittily.

“I’ll be taking that,” the warlock said.

“No,” Arius said.  “Hell no.”

“This looks pretty sweet,” Brandon said.

Magic Book

“Open the book,” Althalus said.

“Don’t open the book,” the paladin countered.

“We can study it later,” Brandon offered, clearly not wanting to be in the middle.

“Human skin isn’t generally dark,” Althalus said.  “Open the book.”

“When we get out of here I will attempt to detect magic – we will see if the book is of use.”

I wandered towards the opening while Althalus still mumbled that the book should be his to hold.  No one was excited about our brooding warlock holding a potentially dangerous tome.

We waded out into the water into the vastness of Tempora.  The mountain we were in was hallow.  A massive mound of debris littered the edges of the hollowed shell, where once there had been a great city – now only ruins lay everywhere – making navigation a difficult and arduous climb.  Molds grew on the rubble all around us.  In the distance we could see Tempora’s Falls, the Tears of Tempora, the waterfall that ran under the massive statue of a dwarven king.  Now all that remained there was his tall legs, larger than two men, the rest of the statue had chains wrapped around it and lay broken at the edge of the riverbed.  The falls ran between the legs and downward, the source of the rushing water we heard.  Pottery, furniture, broken walls, fragments of tapestries, all of the flotsam of life lay in mounds everywhere before us.

Above us there was a tiny source of light, enough for us to see an incredible chandelier hanging from the peak of the mountain.  The light at one point must have hit it and reflected off the crystals, probably providing light for the entire city.  Now it hung by one of the five chains, covered in dust and massive spiderwebs, some of which hung down 50 heads or more over the ruins of this once thriving city.

What fate had befallen these people?  What evil had come and destroyed this place?  Is it still here?

“Incredible,” I muttered looking out on the ruins of Tempora.  I suggested we move along the walls of the hollowed out mountain, hoping the walls would provide us some cover.  Althalus seemed to stay close to Brandon and the book.  “You know, I could carry that for you.”

“You are not going to let this go are you?”  I asked the warlock.

“Shouldn’t we open it and find out what it is?

“Fine.  Everyone put their treasure out they have found, I will cast detect magic, and we will see if it is magical.”  The party found a piece of stone and laid them out — a ring, the silver dagger, an amulet, and the black-bound book.  The diamond neckless was magic as was the dagger.  The book, the book gave off an aura, red and black, dark and twisted.  It was of necromantic and warlock magics – powerful, black.  I saw runes on the book as well.  Wards…possibly death.

I told the party that only that the objects were magical.

“Okay,” the paladin Arius said, “I’ll open it.”

“Let Althalus open it,” I said.

The paladin held out the book before the warlock.  He was practically salivating.  “I’m pretty sure it is warded,” I told them.

“We should rest, regain our strength, then open it.  So we found a secluded spot and bound our wounds, trying to rest.  Finally, as soon as we awoke, Althalus was once more contemplating the book.  We all surrounded him and the ominous book.  He set it on a stone and cast several incantations on it, no doubt to see if he could define any more than I had.

He paused.  There is a glyph of warding on the book,’ he said.  We all took several steps back. Brandon drew his bow, unsure of whether to aim at the book, or the warlock.

“That does not sound good,” Arius said, his hand drifting to his sword pommel.

The warlock used his quarterstaff to pry open the ebony leather cover.  There was a booming noise and a dazzling blast of light.  Althalus reeled back, blood ran from a cut on his brow.  He leaned over the book and looked at it.

“Demons and Devils – Summoning and Control,” he said with awe.  “It was written for warlocks and necromancers.  It is priceless!”

“He should not have that book,” Brandon said, stating what most were thinking.  I tended to be more neutral about such things.  Just how much damage could he cause us?

“Look,” the warlock said.  “I don’t think that summoning a demon is probably a good idea.”

I looked at him with an astonished expression on my face that I could not hide.  “You don’t know?”

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

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

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2018/07/08/the-chronicling-of-our-dd-campaign-tempora-part-25/

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The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 25

HumanPaly_Fin_40
Commissioned artwork, Arius the paladin – player-Kevin Rivenburg

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…

We moved forward some fifty-heads and saw a shimmering light start to come into focus in the middle of the underground roadway.  In the middle of the light, Bor, who had taken point whispered back that it was female – and older woman, bathed an eerie glow.  She carried a golden censor in one hand, wafting smoke slightly.  We moved forward cautiously.

“Hello!” called out Bor.  The mysterious woman did not respond.  I wondered if she was some sort of ghost or an illusion set forth to deceive us.

I stepped forward and called, “Hello,” as well.  She did not seem to respond to my voice any more than Bor’s.

“I think there’s some magic in play here,” Theren said.

I glared back at him.  Really.  Normal people do not appear out of nowhere and glow.

“Let us move closer,” I suggested.  “Not attack, let us appear friendly.”

We noticed two things.  Her head turned to follow us as we fanned out across the roadway.  On her back was the hilt of a sword, a massive sword, slung there.

“Hello,” Althalus called out to her as we got nearer.

“Why are you here?” she asked.  Her voice was not that of an aged women, but someone much younger.

“We are travelers,” Theren said.  I looked over at the druid and cringed.  Yes, he was correct, but we were traveling on a long hidden underground road to a lost Dwarven city in search of dozens of missing paladins.  Saying we were ‘travelers’ seemed like a gross over-simplification.

Theren sensed my doubt and turned to her again.  “We seek to pass.”

“It would be best,” she said in a low tone, “to turn around.  You are treading on dangerous ground.”

“Of that,” the druid replied, “we are aware.”

“We have to proceed,” Althalus added.

The shimmering female bowed her head and shook it slowly.  At her feet, a circle of blueish light appeared, swirling and twisting.  Before we could respond to her further, she sank down into the circle of light, disappearing.

“Well,” our warlock said, “that was a waste of our time.”  Althalus always spoke his mind, be it right or wrong.  We moved up to where she had been and saw the dust had been disturbed.  This was no illusion.  Something, or someone had been there.

We trudged on.  Several hundred feet further we came across a roughly made wall, apparently chiseled from the rock faces.  The wall blocked most of the roadway, and was only two or three heads of height.  As we approached a formless apparition rose from behind the wall, to almost six-heads height. It glowed green and had a human shape but flowing, like a wisp.  Now this, this was a ghost.  My hand fell to my trusted sword.  An eerie moan filled the air from the direction of the figure.

The moan became a wailing and we readied ourselves for a fight.

“Hello,” Theren called.

“Leave now…” the high-pitched moaning voice said.  The image moved back and forth along the wall.  “Drop your weapons and gold and flee…”

I was not afraid of this apparition since it seemed to be staying relatively in place.  “I say we move around the edge of the wall.  I will not be intimidated by a formless figure.”  Bor nodded that he could join me.  I intoned a silent prayer as we moved.

We rounded the end of the wall and saw several goblins on the other side, one holding a stick with a sheet on it, the other holding a lantern behind it, with some green glass lens.  “I told them to flee…” one of them chortled, until he saw us standing there.

One spun, pointing a rod or wand of some sort at us.  There was brilliant burst of light and a crack as the lightning bolt shot forth, hitting Bor squarely in the chest.  “Ouch!” he wailed, smoke drifting from the hole in his armor as he pulled forth Skullringer and rushed the pair of goblins. How he survived the lightning bolt, I cannot say.

A pair of crossbow bolts flew at Bor, one missing and shattering on the wall, the other sinking the bolt into our warrior’s shoulder.  Skullringer, glowing blue, swinging and crushing the skull of one goblin, spraying the air with tiny bits of goblin brain and greenish blood.  The heavy crossbow thudded the stone floor.

A counter-swing of Skullringer hit the other goblin in his torso in his tiny ribs, and continued on through.  His spine exited his body on the end of the magical glowing warhammer, splattering about the floor.  There was a look of astonishment on the goblin’s face as his spine departed his body. Another goblin moved out of the shadows, sword in hand, but Althalus dealt with him with an eldritch blast.  The emerald energy beam hit the creature, tossing him back into the wall as it burned through his body.  The smoking hole, bore clean through, left a streak on the wall as the corpse slid down into a pile of smoldering greenish goo.

Brandon leapt over the wall and landed, ready for battle, but there was nothing left to fight – making me wonder if we should call him, “Brandon the Late.”  We saw the sheet on a stick and the lantern that they used to create the illusion of the ghost.  It must have taken two of them to handle the large crossbow, and from the looks of it, it was not a goblin weapon but one of dwarven-make.  It took the heavy crossbow and bolts while Althalus examined the rod that had fired the lightning bolt.  “What do you make of it?” I asked.

“I appears to be magical,” he said flatly.  “It is polished.  There is a metallic strip on it, about the length of a finger.  Somehow that must be used to trigger it.”  Theren eyed the warlock suspiciously.  “As one practitioner of the arcane to another, be wary of where you point that.”

We found some coins and put those in Bor’s pack – some gold and silver of old mintage.

Brandon looked at the smashed remains of the goblins.  “Why do we keep running into goblins?”

“Because,” Althalus said wryly, “they are adorable and cheap to hire.” He prodded one of the dead bodies with his foot, just to make sure it was dead.  Brandon scooped up the green-lensed lantern and hung it from his staff.

We gathered ourselves and began down the tunnel anew.  Another 200 heads down the roadway, we came across a gallery of sorts, lining one wall.  It was carved deep into the stone and had a low stone abutment in front of it, providing cover for anyone standing there.  There were steps at the far end, but they were crumbled. From that thirty-foot gallery, a small group of bowmen could riddle anyone coming down the tunnel.

Opposite from the gallery was a closed door.  Brandon moved toward the door under the green glow of his new lantern, and pulled at the door.  I stood behind him.  The creak echoed down the hallway as the rusty hinges protested.  From the room beyond, a small group of five goblins rushed out, armed with scimitars, focused on Brandon.

“Fall back!” the ranger called, almost stumbling into me as he attempted to do so.

One dug his sword into Brandon, cutting his deep in his midriff.  “They killed Barry!” one of the goblins howled.  “Kill them!”  They must have heard us dispatch their compatriots.

I swung my sword and missed entirely, hitting the door near its hinge.  I immediately dropped prone.  I knew Theren and Althalus were behind me and needed a shot at the doorway.

Brandon dropped as well, more from the gushing wound in his stomach.  “Stay down!” I barked to him.  The last thing we needed was him rising into the magic blasts from behind us.

As if on cue, the air around the goblins erupted in a cloud of swirling daggers and I heard the mumbling of Althalus.  Blood, brains (few of those) and a mist of red and green goo erupted from the space where the goblins had been concentrated.  Several of them were instantly shredded in the magical assault. I felt the bloody mist of green and heard the churning of the blades devouring the hapless creatures.  Theren unleashed an arrow, hitting one.  The survivors moved to the sides in the room beyond, to avoid any other shots. They closed the door behind them in their retreat.

Althalus ignored the goblins and turned his attention to the gallery.  It was a good move, the last thing we wanted was to be hit from behind, at least I presumed that was what was in the warlock’s dark heart.  Dimintrious joined him.  He leapt over the low wall that provided cover, apparently unafraid of what might be there.  “What do you see?”

“Some heavy crossbows. Bits of armor and bones.  Probably a dozen long-dead dwarves.  Two large beetle carcasses were there, very large – two-to-three heads in size.”  He was clearly rooting around while we faced the goblin threat.

I turned back to the door and switched to my new heavy crossbow, pulling it back and dropping a bolt onto the groove.  Bor moved in near the door as I rose.

“What do you hear?” I asked.

Bor grinned.  “They are arguing about coming out here.”  He chuckled.  “They are upset over what we did to ‘Doug.’”

What a stupid name for a goblin.  Bor dropped a few copper pieces on the floor, hoping they would hear the coins hit the stone.  Theren moved up next to the burly fighter.  “Hold my tankard of ale,” he joked.  “I’ve got this.”  He nodded to Bor who flung open the door.

Theren rushed in and began to waver.  I had seen this before.  His accursed magic…the druid was transforming to some creature of the wood…in this case, a big black bear!  There was a squeal from two of the goblins as he transformed before them and roared.  “Holy crap – who brought the bear!”  “Kill the bear!  Kill the bear!”

Theren-the-bear and swiped one of them with a massive claw, biting at another one of the green-skinned creatures.  One was so badly mauled, green blood flowed onto the stone floor.

Two moved to hit the bear with their swords, one tearing into his flesh.  Brandon fired through the open door, missing everyone in the room.  I took more time with my aim, firing and burying my bolt into the body of one of the goblins that had shifted to the doorway.

Bor’s shimmering warhammer hit the same goblin, throwing him a good ten heads into the wall, killing him.  I reloaded my crossbow as Theren savagely slashed at one in the neck, nearly ripping his head off and tossing his lifeless body across the room.  The last goblin drove his sword into the bear, but that only seemed to serve to piss off the bear.  Theren opened his massive jaws and bit the head of the creature, tossing him about violently, crushing his skull in the process.  I looked about the room and saw green blood mixed in with our own.  It was a scene of carnage and chaos, especially from the magical cloud of daggers that had churned up at least one goblin, splattering him everywhere.

There was another door in the room which we all eyed cautiously.  This room was a barracks of some sort, probably from Tempora’s defenses.  The beds there, eight of them, were dwarven and most were crumbling apart with age and held together with crude hemp ropes.  Stone carvings on the walls of the barracks showed heroic dwarves in battle.  Scrawled in crude paint was the writings of the goblins above and around them.  One had written, “Stubby Dick,” over a dwarf holding a massive axe.  The other was painted with the name, “Wet Willie” The goblins had also painted on exaggerated female body parts on the carvings of the heroes.

The beds had no pattern to them.  I moved to check them. Brandon pointed to the shields, small bucklers.  “Is that some sort of lizard skin on them?”  Theren transformed back to human shape and move in next to him.  “Yes, but what kind of lizard?”

As I poked in the beds with my sword, I found a small silver jewelry box, inset with several stones in it.  There was also a small amulet, this one smeared with blood.  I handed the bloody amulet to Brandon who held it near his lantern.  “This bears the mark of the Order of the Fang, the paladins we are searching for!”

I focused on the silver box.  It was clearly of dwarven make.  I clasped the lid and pried it open.  I felt a prick to my thumb.  Suddenly my eyesight was blurred.  Poison!  Curses.  I healed myself before the toxin could harm me more.  A part of me cursed myself for being so sloppy with my opening.  A dozen pieces of platinum were inside.  I handed those to Bor to carry and kept the jewelry box for myself.

I noticed for a moment that Althalus and Dimitrious were still in gallery, rooting around in the dead bodies there.  I didn’t see what triggered it, but I saw the warlock rise over the half-wall and begin throwing up.  The liquid hit the floor like a bucket of fresh oatmeal.  He moaned horribly, vomiting violently.  I wanted to laugh.  Clearly his poking around was not going very well.

We turned our attention to the other door in the room.  We checked it and felt air flow from the other side under it. Althalus staggered over toward us, his beard riddled with his last meal. “I found this, he held up a gold ring.  It was intricately carved with a dragon and had dwarvish runes on it.

Bor took it as we moved around the door. There was no point in being subtle.  If there was anyone beyond this door, they had to have heard our battle.  “This says, ‘Ulster – Beloved husband and protector of the Faith.’  It must have been a wedding band.”  Althalus took it back, studying it carefully before putting it in his pocket.

Brandon drew his short sword.  “I’ll go through.  Third time is bound to be charm.”  The ranger pulled the door open.  A five head wide hallway was behind and led to a door at the end.  Theren put his hand on the ranger’s shoulder.  “This hallway is narrow.  I suggest you open that far door and pull back so that we can do what we do best.”  The ranger nodded in agreement.

On the other side was a room lit by a few low torches, forty-by-thirty heads in size.  There was a massive hearth, fire still burning in it. The stench of rotting flesh came from a wolf that was hanging from a ceiling hook.  Flies hovered around the body.  There was stew of some sort on the hearth, and a shelf with jars of what we assumed was food.  A half-loaf of moldy bread sat on a hearty table.  Vents were cut into the ceiling, clearly the work of the dwarves that had built this room. The goblins had appropriate the mess for their own twisted diets.

“I wonder if this stew is good,” Brandon said, opening the lid to the pot and smelling it.

Goblins made it,” I said.  “Feel free to eat it.” The ranger returned the lid without taking a taste.

“We should hold up here and rest,” Theren said.  It seemed like a good idea.  Our battles had taken some toll.  We barred the door to the roadway to the mess and set up watches. The goblin beds were short, but more comfortable than sleeping on the floor.  Our quest to find the missing paladins was taking us deeper into the mountains – and as we went, the terrors became more dangerous. I prayed that we would find them soon, lest we become lost in these catacombs and trapped here with them.

Then again, we had no proof that they were even still alive…

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

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

#DnD

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 24

cube

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 don’t know for sure that the trap is disarmed,” Theren said. “Just because it went ‘click’ does not mean that you shut it off.

“I’ll check it out,” I said.  I stepped out ten-heads distance and nothing happened.  I went further, even bouncing up and down slightly, but the floor did not drop, nor did the flames come down.  The stones were still hot from the inferno that had nearly consumed Theren.

When I got to the other side of the hot stones, the band of heroes that I found myself attached to had assembled.

“You know,” Arius said.  “We have not been making a map as we go.”

“It is a straight line – we are on a road,” I offered.

“We might need to know our way out at some point,” the paladin pressed.  I didn’t like the use of the word, “might.” He was hinting what we were all thinking.  If we found the missing paladins, we had to overpower whoever had captured them, and find our way out.  This was not going to be easy.

“It is okay,” I assured my new friends.  “I have some skills in keeping a mental map.”  I tapped my head with my finger but it did not seem to instill the confidence I had hoped for.

Arius cast a twisted grin.  “Great.  Make sure we keep the ranger alive then or we’re trapped here.”  I like to think I was bringing more to the party than that…but I was content with the nods of agreement from the others.

We trudged on downward into the mountain.  Hundreds of feet passed.  Bor, the hulking fighter at the front of our party, his warhammer shimmering blue, stopped after a half-mile or so.  “Hold here.  There are some arrow slits on either side of the roadway with a door to each just past them.”

“They have to be abandoned,” I offered.

“The slits are low, probably for dwarves,” Bor said.

“I wonder if this is a trap of some sort.” Theren said. “They might fire arrows if we walk in front of them.”  That was a thought that was unappealing.  The last trap had almost roasted our druid.  He still smelled of smoke with a hint of bacon.

The druid had us all halt.  “I’ll crawl up under the slit.  You all hold back.”  Oddly we were all quite comfortable with that approach.

On his hands and knees he slithered under the arrow slit on the right side of the tunnel then made his way to the door just beyond it.  The knob turned with a squeal of rusted and protesting metal as he twisted it around.  The creaking of the hinges seemed to echo far too distant for my take.  Bor seemed like he wanted to join Theren, but did not want to further split the party.  Inevitably, he stayed behind with us.

Theren shuffled in the small antechamber for a few minutes, then emerged and returned to us with something in his arms, something black and almost shimmering.  It was a skull, black, almost polished to a reflective glare.  It was shaped like no creature I had ever seen wandering the woods or vales of the land.  In the skull were ebbed three crossbow bolts, silver tipped and stuck deep into the glossy surface.

Althalus, our warlock and resident expert on skulls immediately began to look it over with keen interest.  Whatever it was, it made me nervous.  The silver tipped bolts told me that it had belonged to an unnatural creature, a spawn of the nethervoid.  That usually meant powerful magic and danger to those near it.

“I’m keeping it,” the warlock said greedily. After dusting it off, Althalus put it on top of his quarterstaff.  It looked menacing – possibly even to us. I have to admit, it worried me, but I too carried a skull in my pack.  Mine was white and bleached with age.  His…his was something eerie, like out of a nightmare.

I turned my attention to the other opposing arrow slit.  I went over and duplicated the crawl under it that Theren had made.  The handle on the door past the slit on my side had rusted over and did not turn at first.  It took a surge of strength to get it to pop open.  Unlike Theren’s door, mine suddenly swung open and a Dwarven skeleton lurched out at me, wielding an axe!

The axe hit across my chest, severing my armor and slicing my skin enough to make me recoil.

Theren’s voice called me, “Get out of the way Brandon!” I swung at the skeleton but his rusted plate only rattled from my attack.  The skeletons seemed to grin at me under its helmet.  I stepped to the side.

Bor jumped beside me, swinging down with Skullringer.  The blue-blur of the warhammer hit the stout skeleton, doing no real damage other than scoring his old plate armor.  An arrow whizzed past my ear, missing both me and the skeleton.  A burst of brilliant emerald magic energy, no doubt from Althalus, hit the undead monstrosity.  The force of the hit was so hard that he was knocked back into his tiny alcove.   The hole in his armor glowed where the magic had punched through, but the angry dead-Dwarf only lunged back towards Bor and myself.

Arius lunched past Bor with his sword, hitting the skeleton square and true. There was a sickening metallic grinding sound as the sword punctured the once proud plate mail.  The undead creature staggered a half-step back.

Arius swung again, hitting him, driving him back further into the room.  There was a crash of armor and bone in the room, then his skeletal head came rolling out of the door.  I picked it up.  “The deed is done,” our paladin said proudly, sheathing his blade.

Before the other could join us, I moved in on top of the skeleton to see if there was anything of value on his remains.  I found a sliver necklace around its broken neck, one of exceptional value from what I could tell.  There was an old rather unremarkable battle axe as well.   In a small pouch on his belt, I found a small green glass vial with a tattered piece of paper attached to it.  I scanned the letters but they were gibberish to me.

“What do you make of this?” I held it in front of Arius.

“Chanel perhaps?” he then chuckled.

“I don’t get it.”

“An old joke.  It is a wizard that makes oils and balms that could make a pile of manure smell like roses,” the paladin said, still amused with his comment.

“Why would anyone want to make manure smell like roses?”

“It is just a legend,” was all I got in response.

“Let me look at it,” our warlock said.  He studied the writing for a moment.  “It is written in the old tongue, archaic.  It says, ‘remove curse.’”  As if to make his point, he took out his quill and wrote on it in common tongue, “remove curse.” “Just so we don’t forget.”

As we rested for a few minutes, I was surprised to see Althalus take out the ebony black skull with the arrows.  He fidgeted with the silver tipped crossbow bolts in it, removing the shafts but leaving the silver tips in the skull.  Each time he pried one loose we all gasped a little bit, wondering what would happen if he dislodged it.  I for one did not want to know.

“Why are you doing that?” our paladin asked.

“It makes it easier to carry – less risk,” the warlock replied.

The paladin closed his eyes and held his hand over the skull and concentrated. “This is evil, dark evil.  It is the skull of a devil.  What kind, I cannot say.”

“Excellent!” Althalus squealed. “I’ll bring it with us.  It makes up for that demon skull I was forced to give up.”

“Your obsession with demonic skulls is a bit disturbing,” Arius said, eyeing our comrade carefully as he put the skull in his pack as opposed to the staff he had put it on.  “I am not comfortable at all with that thing coming with us.”

“It’s just as skull,” I said.

“I wasn’t referring to the skull,” Arius said grimly, glaring momentarily at Althalus.

We continued on, downward into the long tunnel.  We walked for many minutes and came across a trench-like pit carved into the floor, crossing the entire tunnel.  Bor leaned over slightly.  “It’s deep, I cannot see the bottom.  There’s a mechanism on the other side.  This must be for drainage or defense of some kind.”

Looking upward as we closed on the pit I could see that the ceiling above it was cracked – thick openings and deep over the trench.  On the far side, some seven heads across, we could see a heavy oak plank.  Someone had used it to make a bridge, and had taken it with them.  From the footsteps I saw in the dust, I knew it must have been where the missing paladins had been taken.

Dimitrious stepped forward and dropped his torch into the pit, it disappeared entirely after a fall of only 20 heads.  I watched it disappear.  “That is odd.  It just disappeared.”

“Perhaps someone should jump across,” Arius said.  Clearly he was not volunteering. “Perhaps we could construct something, perhaps a rudimentary lathe?”  Everyone looked at the paladin and he grinned.

I saw the gap more as a challenge than an obstacle as did Bor.  He took his armor off and with a running start, jumped across, landing on bended knee as the others squabbled over the best way across.  He slid the board across forming a bridge.  I crossed it next with no issue whatsoever.  Theren joined us on the other side.

Althalus did not walk across, but came on all fours, slowly, which proved to be his downfall.  Halfway across I heard a slurping sound from the massive crack over the pit. A massive semi-transparent cube of a creature dropped down on him, taking him and the bridge and engulfing him entirely. The green oozing creature had things in it but it barely fit in the narrow trench. It oozed down slowly, with our warlock in the middle of it, his cheeks puffed out as he held his breath.

Arius was in pain, but his arcane spell made it so that if he took damage, he caused fire damage. There was a flash of flames everywhere, the tiny pockets of air feeding the flames.  The gelatinous creature was apparently flammable and it ignited on its own.  At this point we all move in and looked over at the scene unfolding…our friend, on fire, in a thick oozing mass, sliding into a pit.

The only good news was that the pit was treated with some sort of illusionary spell to make it seem much deeper.  It was only twenty-heads deep and the warlock and his flaming friend were only slowly sliding down.  The smell of the burning gelatinous creature rose, stinging our nostrils with a smell I have never heard before.

We were stunned, but not Bor.  He swung his deadly glowing warhammer at it, gouging a deep furrow in the oozing beast.  Dimitrious did the same with his staff, with a similar affect.  It was hard for us to know if we were doing any real damage…but the flames erupted up the sides as it burned and somewhere in the middle of this was our warlock.

I jabbed my staff into the goo and it sank deep, almost reaching Althalus.  As my staff emerged it caught the flames and came out on fire.  Theren swung his enchanted staff sending a spray of the greenish substance flying into the air.  Flames lapped up along the side of pit.

Althalus started to swim in the green goo, getting close to the edge, but not getting free.  Dimitrious sliced a big piece of the cube out with his staff.  The warlock stopped moving entirely and we realized that he may be near death. I couldn’t help but wonder what might happen to that devil’s skull that he had on him.  This has the potential to become much worse.

Our party, realizing that Althalus was about to die, leaned over the edge and swung wildly as the cube slid down.  Theren kill it finally with his staff.  Suddenly the creature lost all of its form, turning to a green flaming goo twenty heads down, burning.

“I feel so funky,” the warlock said as he gained his senses.

“I’ll jump down,” Arius said.

“Hold it,” Theren said, lowering a rope.  “Let him climb out.”

The ooze covered warlock grabbed the rope and got up about half-way out of the pit, then lost his grip and fell, letting out a low moan. Finally, after several minutes, he climbed out.  We were exhausted and the air still stung from the acidic smell of the burning creature.  I looked over the edge of the pit once the fires died down and saw a shield with a reflective surface of some sort and a suit of chainmail. Arius did as well.  “That shield looks interesting.  Hold the rope, I’m going down,” the paladin said.  He got halfway down the rope but lost his grip on the goo that Althalus had left on the rope, falling down.

“What is it?” I called down.

“This chainmail is light, good quality,” he said, putting it in his pack. The shield that he held was domed with a reflective surface almost like that of a mirror, but this one had a razor-like edge around its rounded edge.  The paladin tried to climb out, but once more slipped and fell back down.  “Damn this accursed pit!” he spat as he slowly made his way to the surface.

We were all winded and watched as our warlock tried to scrape off the bits of goo, charred and otherwise, from him.  “Perhaps,” I suggested, “This would be a good time for us to get some rest.”

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

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

#DnD

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 23

Trap
That’s one way to spring a trap…

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!

Althalus…

We heard and felt the crash of the Bone Dragon against the heavy stone doors, then nothing.  I remember letting out a sigh of relief, only to realize that we were on the underground road to Tempora, with our backs turned to the long darkness. Only the light of Dimitrious’ flickering torch gave us good light.

Turning around I could see that it was essentially a long tunnel, slightly sloping downward into the cliff face and the mountain beyond.  It was wide, at least 50 heads across with a high arched ceiling nearly 25 heads high. The dwarves had done their job well.  This road was wide enough for several wagons to pass each other coming and going to city.  I could even make out the wheel ruts on the worn stone – indicating that the road had been used for centuries. The flutter of distant bat wings, or so I hoped that’s what we heard, was up ahead. Who knows how long this roadway would lead us into the mountain?

The floor was covered with a film of dust. There were piles every so often, most looked like either bones, rotting cloth, or bits of armor.  Through the dust we could make out a disturbance, as if a large party had marched through recently.  No doubt the mission paladins that we were looking for.  Cobwebs, some thick, some thin, filled the open space.  The air was musty, dusty, and dank.  What had we gotten ourselves into?

I turned and saw Brandon checking his pack.  “What are you doing?” I asked.

I picked up one of those skeleton skulls when we went through the Vale.  I wanted to make sure it was okay.”

“Why would you do that?”

“All of your talk about that demon skull you said you had once made me think it might be worth something.”

The mention of the demon skull and its loss to Lexa Lyoncroft was still a sore subject with me, one I intended to rectify at some point in the future. I shot Theren an icy stare since he was the one that had given it up to Lexa in his negotiations.

Theren ignored my glance and looked around.  “We have the door to our back here.  I think we might be best served camping here for the night.  It is better than somewhere further in.  At least we have one direction we cannot be attacked from.”  We were all quick to agree.  The fighting and navigation through the White Vale had left us weary.

Dimitrious set up his bed roll next to me.  We didn’t light a fire, there was no point in attracting any unwanted attention.  We had no idea what was down this tunnel-road or even how long it went.

“You know,” Arius said as he unrolled his blanket. “It just dawned on me that we left our horses at the edge of the White Vale tied up.”

I grinned.  “That’s okay, I hadn’t developed any sort of emotional bond with mine.”  We all knew it, those horses were as good as dead.

We split into three watches for the night.  It was not like sleeping outdoors.  There were strange sounds that echoed in the vast tunnel.  Even small sounds, like mice or bats, seemed to be much louder.  Part of it was our imagination, but the rest was the reality that we did not know what it was we might face.

As I started my watch, I noticed on the wall near the door we had entered, a strange carving.  Dimitrious and I went over to it and saw that it was a three-head wide relief map, apparently of the White Vale.  At the doorway in the canyon on the map was a hole with a crystal of some sort slid into the hole.  At the end of the crystal that jutted out there was a small gold chain that was artfully mounted to the wall.  The crystal fit perfectly in the hole, so it was clearly made to rest there. To me, it looked like a large piece of quartz, but it might have some magic properties, to have been chained up that way.

I looked at it carefully.  There were no cobwebs hanging off of it, so it must have been moved recently.  Dimitrious looked at it and shrugged.  It could wait until everyone had gotten a good night’s rest.

“I found a thing,” I said.

“A thing?”

“And it appears to have been manipulated recently.”

What I got back was puzzled expressions.  “What is it pray tell?” Arius finally asked.  I led my friends over to the strange carved map.

“Stand back. I have a spell that may help.  It detects magic,” Theren said standing in front of the relief.  He closed his eyes and waved his hands and seemed to be concentrating fairly intently on the map.

“Hmm…” he finally said.

“Well?” I asked.

“I’m picking up a magical aura around the map and crystal – and it matches the same aura I see on the other side of the door.  It is like it is connected to the Vale in some manner.”

“So does it open the door?”

The druid seemed unsure.  “We opened the door without the crystal.  This seems more linked to the White Vale itself.  You know, I’m going to pull it out.”

It seemed to me to be a rushed decision, so I backed up.  The others could deal with anything horrible that might emerge as a result.  Theren grabbed the crystal and slid it out of the matching hole.  Nothing happened.

“That’s weird,” he said holding the three inch long crystal on the chain. “The aura on the map and crystal and the aura outside has diminished…it is almost gone.  It is some sort of lever of some sort I think.  I am willing the gamble that it has something to do with those skeletons.”  He let the crystal hang limp on the chain.

It made sense to me.  This was the entrance to a major Dwarven city at one time.  The Vale could have been part of the defense of the city.  This could be the way of turning that on or off.  This could be important when we eventually leave this place.  Besides, if its magic is of value, I can steal it on the way out.

If we ever left this place.

Brandon spoke up.  “I think we should cut the crystal off and take it.”

Theren got a twisted grin.  “If you want to do that, go ahead.”  It was a challenge.  In other words, ‘If you do that, you are on your own.’  “I would leave it.  You never know, we might have to flee – and I don’t want to run back out in the Vale and face Bone Dragons again.”

The ranger seemed to get the message.  “Naa, I’ll leave it.”

We turned our attention to the long underground roadway. I was not a fan of strolling down there without some sort of illumination out in front of our party.  “I have the ability to summon orbs of light.  We can put those out in front of us.  If nothing else, it is can give us some warning of anything coming towards us.  They follow me.”  I received nods of agreement.  Bor took the point for our party and as he stepped down the road, his warhammer, Skullringer, started to glow a light blue, lighting him up. It made sense…it was of Dwarven make.  Perhaps it was forged in Tempora? The glow only made that weapon look more menacing.

Slowly we started down the gently sloping roadway.  We passed small piles of bones, covered in dust.  Some were those of men or Dwarves, others were animal.  I could make out bits of rust, either blades or armor, even an occasional helmet.  Green rotting leather straps remained in some places.

Brandon checked out the trail of disturbed dust that preceded us.  “These are human boot prints – a few days or weeks old – hard to tell here.  From the looks of it, there were a lot of people walking through this area.”

“The missing paladins,” Arius said, echoing what we all thought.

“You mean the dead paladins,” Theren offered. Even I cast him a suspicious eye.  “Hey, it is a safe assumption they are dead by now.  Whoever took them prisoner wouldn’t keep them alive unless there was a reason for it.”  The love-loss between the druids and the church had reared its ugly head.  It was one I understood all too well.  The church had killed hundreds of magic users of all kind in their inquisitions.  It was that common enemy that made Theren and I nearly brothers.

We continued on and a short distance in, we saw a massive iron portcullis/gate that had been dropped from above, blocking off the roadway.  It had a film of rust, but given the thickness of the bars, it was easily still an obstacle except for the hole in it – at floor level, opening to three feet.  The bars there sagged, as if melted, and puddles of rusted iron were covered with a film of dust near the spot.  Something hot, very hot, had burned their way through these defenses of the roadway. Then I noticed, the splatters of melted gate were on our side of the gate.  This had been dropped to keep something in the city.

The trial of footprints led through the hole.  Cobwebs sagged in the one-head-square, iron lattice of the portcullis.  Even with Bor’s strength, there was no way for us to lift it – and there was only one way through.

“Whatever happened here, happened a long time ago,” I offered.

Bor went first, and noticed on either side of the tunnel was a recessed area, probably part of the defenses of the tunnel.  I followed him cautiously as he pointed them out.  Theren came in right behind us.  I had my eyes on them when I heard a fluttered noise all around us.  At first, I assumed they were a swarm of bats.  Then I caught to glimpse of one in front of my face.  They had a long probing snout on the front.  These were not bats!  More than a dozen and a half of them swirled around those of us that had made it through the gate, some darting through the grating towards the rest of our small band.

Arius advanced towards the approaching swarm at the portcullis.  Bor swung Skullringer and connected with one of the creatures, splattering the one to the far wall.  The glowing blue warhammer was a blur of white-blue light against the darkness.

“Drop flat!” Theren yelled.  Bor and I did not need to be told twice, we dove for the dust covered floor.  Theren muttered some word and a thunderclap erupted in the air.  There was a concussion of magical power in the air above us, splattering half of the creatures into a misty spray that painted the walls and the massive iron gate.

Three of the surviving creatures dove on Arius, found a gap in his armor, sticking its snout in, penetrating flesh at his neckline.  The paladin wailed in pain and stepped back, but the creatures hung on him by their beaks.

Brandon killed one and his frantic swinging of his blade kept one at bay, flapping its leathery wings all about his head.  Dimitrious was a blur of action, but the creatures seemed to be only attracted more to him.  They dove on him, hitting the sleeves of his robes but failing to pierce his skin.

I missed the two coming at me – one hit my elbow joint in my armor.  It felt like an arrow hitting me…my arm throbbed.  My spell, however, made it burst into flames – but remained attached to me.  For a moment, I rejoiced, then I realized I had a flaming creature attached to my arm.  I swung it around wildly attempting to shake it off.

I tried to uses my eldritch blasts to attack another one of the creatures but my flaming arm threw off my aim.  My emerald blast of magic power hit the far wall, making the rock there glow.  Arius cleaved one of his assailants in half, hitting me with part of the body of the creature.

Theren was rushing back towards me as Brandon swung at one that hovered and darted in the air in front of him, missing.

Dimitrious struck one of his creatures with a flurry of rapid punches, killing it.  Theren swung his staff, hitting the one near Brandon, splattering him in oozing blackish blood.  Arius killed another one of the creatures.  The air was filled with swords, staffs and fists, making the dust swirl in the air around us, let up by the flaming creature attached to my arm.

Bor’s glowing warhammer was a blue arc in the air, destroying one of the creatures.  Arius was hit from behind by one of the creatures that planted its snout into him.  “Again?” he cursed, turning hard but unable to grasp it. The flames on my arm hurt as the paladin spun.  “Someone get this thing off of me!”  Brandon missed it entirely, though Dimitrious ripped it off of our holy knight.  I finally grabbed the one on my arm and jerked its now crispy body off of me.

Arius killed the last of the creatures with his sword.

We stood there, winded from the fight, sweat stinging in the cool air.  “What were those things?” Arius asked.

“I think they were stirges.  Vile creatures.  Blood drinkers,” I said, rubbing my aching elbow and checking the charred bit of my armor.  “I have never seen one before, but I recall reading about them.” I turned to Theren.  “Good move with that Thunderwave spell.”

As we bantered, our ranger Brandon wandered off towards one of the tunnel walls.  He was poking around the piles of bones and rusted armor that littered the floor.  The indentations were the stirges came from were fairly shallow, only five feet deep, just enough for a pair of archers on either side of the tunnel.  Clearly those archers had long ago left their posts, but the creatures must have taken to the positions to make their nest.

“Should we check them out?”  I had visions of stirge guano that made me cringe.  Please say no.

“Naa,” Theren said, clearly thinking the same way I did on the matter.

“I’ll do it,” Brandon said walking over to the furthest indentation.  He peered in.

“Well?” I called.

“There’s a leather pouch here.”  The ranger brought it back to us. We opened it carefully and found some gold, silver and copper coins – all very old minting. My comrades saw a handful of coins.  What I saw was another clue that something had happened here, many ages past, that was still a possible threat.  Tempora fell…and whatever made it fall may yet be here.

“Perhaps we should have one member of our party carry what we find,” Theren said, eyeing Bor.  “Someone strong.”  The hint hung in the air for a few seconds.

The burley fighter rolled his eyes.  “Fine.  I’ll do it.”  We put the pouch of coins in his pack.  I could tell he wasn’t thrilled with being turned into our mule, but went along with it.

Arius went to the other cubby hole and found a long-dead dwarven skeleton clad in armor.  He picked out an ornate silver-edged dagger. “This is all that was here,” he said sheathing the new artifact in his belt.

We trudged on down the long tunnel.  It was only a few minutes later that we saw something in the distance, piles of some sort.  I sensed that something was amiss, especially as we got closer and saw that these were not merely piles of bones – but ashes and puddles of long-melted metal.  I started to wonder – what kind of heat could melt metal as such other than a forge?  Were these people that had somehow been killed in place, or the victims of dragon fire? These piles were scattered – no pattern other than they ended in forty or fifty heads distance.

Bor moved forward to the first pile.  “It is ash and bone – their armor was melted in place.”

“Do you see anything else?” Theren asked from a distance.

“The stone slabs on the roadway here have some scorch marks along their edges,” Bor replied.  The big fighter was nervous, I could see that.  Theren moved to join Bor.  There was a low grinding noise for a moment as the floor lowered in the middle of the tunnel, with our two party members on it.  Flames roared down, white hot tinged in blue.  Only the far walls of the tunnel were not affected by the lowering.  The air became searing hot in an instant.

Pyrotechnics

Bor reacted quickly, leaping to the side.  Theren collapsed with a shriek of agony.  Brandon reached in to get Theren, and his scale mail seared into his skin as it superheated in the azure blast-flames.  The air we breathed was so hot it made my lungs ache.  The skin on my cheeks was hot just facing the flames from above.  Arius reached in and grabbed Theren and pulled him out.  He was on fire, unconscious, blistered and scars crusted black from the flames.  We patted out the flames of his clothing.

The moment he came off the floor section that had dropped, the floor rose back and the flames from above.  Arius laid hands on him, enough to get his eyes to open.  He was in pain, but still with us.  The paladin looked angry and frustrated.  “We are smarter than this.”

“Apparently not,” I said with a wry grin.  He snapped his head around and looked at me with fury in his face, clearly not amused by my comment.  Looking over to the side wall he spied a small rock that seemed to jut out from the otherwise smooth wall.  He went over to it and pulled the rock down with an audible click.  “We need to be wiser in the future if we are going to survive.  This was not even a creature…but part of the defense of Tempora.”

He was right of course.  But I would not give him the satisfaction of telling him that.

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

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

#DnD

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 22

 

Ranger1

 

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…

When I got my first look at the White Vale it was intimidating. A plateau rose in the distance but the sheer rock faces leading up to it formed a canyon of sorts that narrowed on both sides to a point in the center. The stone faces were draped with thick vines, centuries old, many long dead but still clinging to the rocks. The canyon walls were vertical climbs of over 200 heads height. My experience was that such vines were dangerous to climb. Rot often led to a plunge to death. Thoughts of working our way north of the vale and lowering into it were dashed.

For many stone-throws of distance the vale opened up, littered with bleached bones, some streaked with rust from armor. There were several large mounds of bones out there, no doubt from massive creatures that had died there. What had killed them?

The floor of the vale was covered with a cobblestone as far as the eye could see. Most were light gray, but some stood out, a dark pink granite, almost red in color. Weeds poked up between the gaps in the stones and snaked through the twisted array of bones. This was a place of death. It lacked the aroma of death, but it was clear from the carnage that this place was where countless lives had been lost; dwarven and other.

I glanced over at the paladin Arius and he crossed himself at the sight of the vale. My new companion, the warlock Althalus, muttered something that only his ears and his patrons could hear. He was a quirky fellow, always brooding. He surveyed the long open field of bones and stones as if he were more curious than afraid. For me, the words of Ichabod still rang in my ears.

The others tied their horses and we moved down cautiously to the edge of the vale. I could not discern any trail through the shattered marrow. As we lined up along the very edge of the vale, it was Arius that said, “We should enter – all of us.” If we were to face danger, better to do it together.

We took a cautious step in. Nothing happened. Perhaps, this is not going to be so bad after all. I remember thinking that – for a few moments. I used my ability to check for the presence of undead. If there was ever a place where this could be useful, it is before an endless field of bones. “Wait, let me check for the presence of the undead.”

“You probably should have done that before we stepped in,” the paladin said under his breath, just loud enough for me to hear.

I followed the procedures correctly, but I could not see any one undead. Instead it was as if the entire vale lit up in my mind as being undead. That was impossible…wasn’t it?

“Well?” Althalus asked.

“Everything is undead,” I said. “The whole vale.”

“Well, I feel suddenly calm,” the warlock replied with one of his twisted grins that made me wonder if he was joking, or deadly serious.

“And we have no idea where we are going,” Arius said. “Those red stones weave a trail in to the middle of this canyon. I guess that is where we should head.”  It was as good as an idea as any the rest of us had.

We moved carefully into the vale, every now and then you hear the crack of bone shards under our boots. We weren’t stepping on the red stones, but following their general path. At around forty heads in Theren held up his hand. “There’s a shuffling of the bones over there,” he pointed to his right. He was right, we could see them twitching, moving on their own.

We paused, staring at theme for a long moment, wondering what was making them twitch. Suddenly the bones seemed to move, rising up in skeletal form. Bits of armor buried on the vale floor snapped to them, clinging as if they belonged there. Skeleton fighters! Both of the skeletal warriors held rusted swords in their hands. One, missing a jawbone, seemed to survey our party slowly, right to left.

Then they broke into a charge.

While focused on these undead abominations, we heard more clatter of bones shuffling behind us. Theren fired his bow but missed the skeletons entirely. Althalus spun to see the threat behind us. “More are forming to our rear!”  Three more skeletons formed from the debris of the vale floor.

Arius the paladin held out his hands and uttered a chant at the ones approaching from our rear. One of the new attackers stopped dead in his tracks, but the others seemed to smile a toothless grin and charge at Arius.

Althalus held out his hand and an emerald beam of magic burst forward, but missed the charging skeletal warriors. He hit a number of bones on the ground, sending them flailing about the cobblestones. Where those bones landed in the distance, and they seemed almost magnetic, as if they were attracting more bones to them. We didn’t have time to focus on them though, we were under assault.

Bor, the burley fighter, swung his hammer Skullringer at one of those that closed on Theren, shattering it into hundreds of bits and pieces. Parts flew some 50 head distance. The skull rolled right to the edge of the vale.

I pulled my staff and swung it at the closest one to me but caught the air, not the bones. I almost lost my balance from the swing. Dimitrious moved to protect Athalus, putting himself between the warlock and the skeletons.

I swung again and this time hit the rib cage of one of the creatures, shattering ribs and bits of scale armor that clung to the bones. It turned on me and plowed its rusty sword into my shoulder, digging deep.

One skeletons swung at Arius but did nothing more than shatter the tip of his rust-splotched sword on the paladin’s armor with a high pitched, “ting,” sound ringing in the air.

The monk caught the blade of one of the attackers, downing him instantly. A spray of blood hit the warlock he was protecting. “No! Dimitrious!” wailed Athalus. He unleashed a blast of his magic on the attacker, shattering the skeleton into bits and pieces. The monk regained his feet, his blue robe showing a wet crimson smear from the sword cut.

Arius swung his sword into the skeleton that had tried to kill him, his blade cutting through its right arm and rib cage, turning it from an attacker to a flying pile of bones and armor.

Theren swung his staff into one of the skeletons hitting it, but only shattering its shoulder blade.

The bones in the distance seemed to draw from one of the larger piles, slowly it was growing in size and shape. Closer to us, the skeleton that Arius has frozen into place, seemed to shake free from the paladin’s spell, and charged at him.

I swung my staff at him and missed, the air whistling as my weapon passed through it. Arius swung at him and caught only air as well as the skeleton seemed almost charmed to our assault. Theren caught him with his staff, catching him on the skull and shatter it. The bones collapsed like a puppet whose strings were severed.

Athalus turned to the large pile of assembling bones and cast a spell on it. The air shimmered yellow and a boiling smoke cloud formed, filled with swinging daggers of energy. Then the cloud seemed to flicker, then dissipated. Athalus stood with his mouth agape for a moment. “That can’t be good.”  Theren moved his hands, clearly casting some sort of spell, though I could not see what it was.

It formed before us – a massive creature, ancient and evil. Its skull alone was massive, reformed from bits of bones. Torn gray leather wings hinged on bones emerged and seemed to spread. A dragon!  Not just any dragon, but a Bone Dragon – skeletal and malevolent as if it were alive. Bits of dragon scale clung to its ribs, while others were missing and left huge gaps. Two massive horns rose from its massive skull. It loomed large as the final bones re-assembled it before us. Its teeth gleamed like two dozen daggers, any one of which could rip one of us apart. Ichabod was right. The White Vale was filled with death…maybe our own.

The last skeleton warrior drove its sword deep into Arius, finding a gap in his armor. The paladin moaned in agony from the hit. An invisible force, no doubt from Theren’s magical machinations, shattered the last skeletal warrior, raining bits on the injured paladin. I had been raised to be wary of magic users, but here, in battle, I found myself shedding that belief.

“I don’t like it,” Athalus said, looking at the Bone Dragon. The beast’s bones rattled as its tail swept behind it. “This is going to be bad,” he added flatly.

Bor didn’t hesitate – he charged straight at it first, Skullringer reeled back for what should have been a devastating blow. The ancient warhammer came down completely missing the dragon, clanging hard on the cobblestones.

Althalus backed up nearly thirty heads and fired his magic energy bolts at the creature, shooting upward into the gray sky. Theren shifted and waved his hands before him. Around the creature a snarl of spikes on vines appeared. If it were to move at all the massive thorns would rip at it, tearing at its bones and wings. Such a move had killed the goblins before, I was hopeful that it would do the same with this creature.

It batted its massive wings, kicking up a cloud of dust, bones, and debris from the floor of the White Vale. As it rose and moved forward, the vines did their work, but were simply no match for the massive creature. It opened its massive maw of a mouth and seemed to glare at us with its dark holes where its eyes were. I told myself it was just a skeleton of a dragon, its days of breathing fire or whatever had long passed. It was dead after all.

I was wrong.

From the massive mouth came a stream of bone shards, each like a deadly dagger, sprayed out at us in a cone of death and destruction. Dimitrious, and Theren sprang into action, lessoning the amount of spray that ripped into them where Bor had been spared the attack completely. I felt my legs and chest feel as if they had been doused in burning oil from the hits and looking down I saw bits of bones sticking out of my left thigh. I pulled them free, then my vision tunneled. I dropped to my knees and everything went black. It was dying…I knew it. Is this how my life was to end…on some forgotten field of bones?

IMG_1685
You know you are entering a critical fight when the DM produces a miniature that he specially purchased and painted for the encounter.  

I suddenly felt better. I opened my eyes and saw the sky above me, but somehow I had been saved somehow from almost certain death. I didn’t question it..

I wasn’t sure if it was a dream until I heard, “I don’t like this,” from Althalus. I saw him as I got my footing and he looked as if he were soaked in his own blood.

Dimitrious seemed to shake off the damage as well, getting back to his feet as I did. Whatever had saved my death had done the same to the monk. No doubt magic from our paladin. We had been badly injured, but were alive. Bor switched to a throwing axe and chucked it high above him into the dragon, embedding it into one of the massive shins of the skeletal dragon, but doing no real damage.

Emerald green energy shot from the outstretched arms of our warlock into the creature – but only hit him for a little damage, pushing the creature back a few feet, enough for the thorny vines to injure him again.

The Bone Dragon moved forward in flight, then landing with a thud that shook the ground we stood up. Bor was now behind it and I saw him smile – thinking he had gotten the upper hand on the creature. That smile fell as the creature’s massive tail swung at him, hitting him hard. Bor grabbed his other axe and buried it hard into his leg, clearly hurting the beast.

I was only ten heads away from the beast and it loomed over me, towering three times my height. This was the wrong place to be…that much was for sure.

I toyed with the thought of mounting the creature, but common sense took hold of me. Instead I fell back, shifting to my longbow. My arrow hit one of the ribs of the creature and snapped from the force of the impact – doing no damage to the massive skeleton.

Bor chucked his axe and went back to Skullringer as his weapon of choice. He swung with every bit of his strength, but missed the Bone Dragon entirely. We had all been hoping that the mighty warhammer might shatter the creature, but he had missed entirely.

As I side-stepped for a better angle, I saw Theren start to become, well, blurry, as if he were changing. He dropped to all fours and hair sprung out, his size grew. A heartbeat later I saw where the druid had once been stood a large direwolf. I had seen them during my ranges in the forest, always at a safe distance. This one was massive, ominous, and ferocious. It reminded me just how little I knew about my new comrades in arms.

The direwolf lunged at the Bone Dragon, tearing its forearm, gouging the bones with its teeth. If the dragon felt pain, we didn’t see it. Instead it swiped its tail at Bor again, hitting him hard, sending him flying back. I swear I heard his ribs break under the impact. Blood oozed from the corners of his mouth as he drifted to momentary unconsciousness. Arius gestured towards him, possibly summoning the spirit of God to help our fallen fighter. Whatever he did, Bor stirred awake, shaking his head, wiping the blood on his sleeve, and making his way to his feet.

The Bone Dragon pressed on against the direwolf with one of its massive claws, tearing into the flesh of the wolf. Theren-wolf winced from the savaging, but squatted on its haunches and looked even angrier.

Althalus looked as if he were casting a spell, but if he did, its effects were unknown to us. The Bone Dragon unleashed an agonizing wail that made my skin crawl. It should have been impossible, it had no body, so the wail came from the netherworld that had spawned it.

I fired my longbow again, missing the massive creature. Our silent monk friend shifted to its rear, swinging but doing no damage. The Bone Dragon swept his massive table. Bor ducked it but it hit Arius hard, leaving his limp form unconscious.

The druid-direwolf bit deep into the left leg of the beast, once more ripping into the bone. I could see the bits of marrow in the froth around its mouth. The skeletal beast responded with a sweep of its claw, tearing a nasty wound across Theren’s hide.

Althalus fired his magical burst – hitting the creature in its midriff region and searing some of the bones of the massive rib cage. I saw that the paladin was growing pale, so I sprinted to his aide, putting pressure on his wounds. Blood oozed between my fingers as I tried to keep him alive.

The warlock unleashed another eldritch blast – the bright green energy hitting the right leg of the Bone Dragon and burning through in one spot. The massive skeleton reeled under the assault, showing a rare moment of injury to us. Me…I was focused on that tail whipping near my head and trying to stop Arius’s horrible blood loss. Bor joined me and was able to wrap a bandage on the paladin’s arm wound enough to hold him somewhat stable.

The tail whip-snapped in the air above me, nearly knocking my hat off – hitting Bor and sending him flying unconscious into the field of bones. Before any of us could react, the claw of the Bone Dragon swiped at the direwolf-druid and knocked hard, rolling in the bone shards. His form flickered for a moment and we saw Therein the human take shape.

The druid did what he could for Bor as the monk sprung into action, hitting the right leg of the creature so hard I saw fragments of bone fly from the hit. I tried to strike the creature with an arrow but it had no visible effect. What could stop this beast?

The tail snapped like a whip, hitting Bor again, knocking him senseless and limp, rolling in the bones of the vale. I wondered if we were going to survive this as my heart pounded in my ears. Ichabod’s warnings to us about the vale haunted me at this moment. Theren muttered a word of healing, enough for Arius to climb to his knees, then his feet. The druid then struck with his staff. The sound of the crack was deafening.

For a moment the Bone Dragon wavered. Then it was as if everything that held the bones together suddenly disappeared. It collapsed down onto itself, forming a massive pile of parts and shards. Some of the bones twitched, as a creature might that had been just killed. For a long moment we stared at the pile, unsure what had just happened. Did we really defeat it?  Then we all cheered, all in unison. Yes! Victory was ours!

An eerie silence smothered the White Vale. I set my eyes on the dragon’s skull, still oddly intact amidst the pile of bones and dragon scale. I had heard Althalus talking about some skull he had at one point that was worth a fortune. I knew that many magic users would pay a hefty price for any part of a dragon. The skull had to be worth a lot. I walked over to it and realized that it was massive, too big for me to carry alone. “I want the skull.”

“Too big,” the warlock said. “Trust me. If you want a souvenir pick something smaller.”

I took out a dagger and pried loose one of big teeth and stuck it in my pocket. That had to be worth something. The story alone that went with it would get me drinks in any tavern. It gave me a lot of satisfaction.

The silence was shattered when some of the bones started twitching and Arius suggested a rapid departure from the vale to get our second wind and try and wrap our wounds. We scampered out of the field. Looking back it dawned on me that we had barely entered the vale and had nearly died…and there were other large piles of bones out there that could be just as deadly as the Bone Dragon, or worse. Worse than that, we had only gotten into the field some 50 heads distance…a long ways from the far end where we suspected the entrance to Tempora to be.

It took an hour or so for us to recoup and even then, we were weary from the fight. “So what do we do now?” I asked as all eyes drifted back to the White Vale.

“We are going back to the bones,” Althalus replied. “Maybe we should consider doing something a little different than the last time.”  There were a few nods of agreement.

Theren studied the vale carefully. “Let’s think this over. We should sleep on this, keep watch, maybe we can find some alternate approach. We set up a small campfire, though our sleep was fitful that night. This was not the kind of place one found solace near.

A light rain moved in during the early morning, a cold penetrating rain. The vale was just a daunting in the morning. “I think we need to work our way to the far canyon wall where it seems to come to a point.”

Arius stepped forward. “I am going to try and ask God for help. His divine sense may provide me with some sort of path through these bones.”  He held out his arm and closed his eyes for a moment. When they opened his eyes, he winced. “There are over 150 skeletons of some sort out there.”  That made us all cringe. “There is a pattern of the red stones though. I can barely make it out. It is like a spiderweb of paths, but one does lead to that far wall at the apex.”

“I don’t think there’s a good choice here,” Althalus said.

“There are a lot of gaps between those stones – I mean we would have to jump some pretty far distances,” the paladin said.

“We just jump. It’s not a big deal, right?” the warlock offered.

“You do remember the Bone Dragon, right?” I responded.

“That poem did mention the Blood of the Gods or something like that. It has to be those reddish stones.” Theren said. “I’ll go first. If something goes wrong, I have spells that can help me get out.”

“We’ll watch you and see what happens to you then,” I said.

His pattern was to walk or hop to a stone, pause, look around, make sure that he was not causing any skeletons to rise, then move on with the next steps. At one point he lost his balance and fumbled, but there were no skeletons rising up against him. He used his quarterstaff to steady himself.

“That looks easy, I’ll follow him.”  I did pretty well until I was near Theren, then I stumbled, missing the red granite stone. I landed on a bone and dropped. The bones near me suddenly stirred and rose, forming a skeletal warrior looming over me, sword at the ready. I got to my knees to rise and suddenly there was a brilliant blast of magical energy from Althalus at the edge of the vale. The beams severed the skeleton in half, sending the bones flying, some landing on me. I was so startled I lost my footing and stumbled once more. Between Theren and me another skeleton warrior, this one armed with a rusted morning star, assembled and took shape.

The druid swung his quarterstaff, hitting it hard, breaking its spine, sending the upper torso one way, the lower portion the other. I took my time getting up, getting next to Theren.

Bor joined us. The rest of the party followed the same path we had followed. Arius fell, but no skeletons came up as a result. Dimitrious made his leaps perfectly as did Althalus. We formed up now, some sixty feet in the middle of the White Vale. It felt lonely out there, surrounded by a sea of bones…but my new comrades seemed to have my back.

“Do we go to the center, the left or the right?” Althalus asked. We did a quick show of hands and opted for the center.

Our next move was 100 heads distance. I stumbled and the skeleton rose up next to the warlock. He responded with a devastating blow, shattering the remains of the warrior, its sword flailing into the bones and stones. And so it continued on. Sometimes we missed a stone, and a skeleton would assemble itself almost instantly, but they were easily dispatched. My eyes were on the larger piles of bones. That was where a Bone Dragon or some other bone creature might appear. Our attention was focused on them.

It was a slow go as our line of leaping and jumping party made their way across the White Vale. I was confident that we were going to make it when I fell hard. Suddenly, there were a stirring with one of the large bone piles, just as we had seen before.

“Damn,” I cursed.

“We need to get to the wall!”  Theren yelled. “I can cast a fog bank spell I have that can give us cover.”

“You might want to lead with that next time,” Arius said flatly.

The fog rolled in a wall some 20 heads high blocking the Bone Dragon’s view of us. Another skeleton warrior appeared in front of Bor and was destroyed by the warlock. Its skull landed in my lap, and I immediately dropped it. From behind the wall of fog, we could hear the bones shuffle more loudly. Looking over at the fog bank, we could see the outline of the tattered wings of the beast stretch out, creaking as they did. A chilling bellow filled the air, piercing the magical fog.

Theren cast another fog bank as the sounds of the dragon stomping on the bones drew closer. Our party made its way to the canyon wall. It was covered with a thick blanket of vines, some thick, many of them long dead. It dawned on me that we were trapped here, with nowhere else to go. If the door to Tempora was not here, we were doomed.

Dimitrious pulled out a torch and his flint and steel, nodding at the wall. “That makes way too much sense,” Althalus said, holding the torch as the monk lit it. Those old vines would burn pretty easily. The warlock was struck by another skeleton that formed up next to him. He pivoted and hit it, not enough to stop the creature, but sending some of its rusted chainmail flying.

The Bone Dragon flapped its wings and the wall of fog billowed out towards us along with a fine dust of bones and debris from the floor of the vale. “Flamous sphereoius,” yelled Theren, and a sphere of flames formed around the dragon. While its wings were singed by the flames of the massive ball of compressed fire.

The monk with the torch lit the vines on fire while we kept our attention on the immediate threat. Bor hacked at the vines, looking for some sign of a door or escape. I felt along the stone face of the wall, trying to find anything that might help us.

Theren moved the flaming sphere to stay on the dragon as it advanced towards us then spun, reaching through the vines. “I found it – I found a door!  The door’s here!  I found the edge of a hinge or something.”

It was huge, it went up nearly 20 heads height. The vines obscured it and it was thick stone. “Find the edges!” the druid yelled. Arius joined in for the search but his fingers found Bor’s butt rather than the door. “What are you doing?” the burly fighter said glaring at the paladin.

“I missed the wall,” he said embarrassed, turning to the wall and continuing his search. Dimitrious set fire to more of the vines above our heads. Chaos reigned as we were trapped.

The skeletal Bone Dragon lumbered forward within 50 heads of us and opened its toothy maw and breathed. The air filled with bone shards and fragments, unleashed in a torrent, each a potential lethal white dagger. The bone-shard breath shredded armor and flesh that it hit. Althalus managed to cast a spell of some sort, putting an end the spray of bones as the massive beast took damage. My own armor was torn apart, and there were at least a half- dozen bones stabbed into my torso and arms. The sight of all of that blood – my own blood, made me light-headed. I collapsed on the floor of the vale, blood flowing into my right eye. I was sure that I was going to die in that moment. Everything went dark.

My memories of what happened after that were a blur. I heard voices. Something about the door. It felt as if someone tossed my body, like I was rolling, but I can’t be sure. Suddenly I saw light – the torch, laying on the floor next to me. The cold stone made my cheek ache as I came to and pushed my body to a sitting position.

All around me it was dark and the air was stale. “Where are we?  What happened?”

Theren leaned in close to my face, pulling one of the bone shards out of my chest and tossing it aside. “We made it inside. We’re in Tempora,” he said in a low voice.

“What about the Bone Dragon?” I said pulling out some of the larger shards. Some hurt more, some less as I did the deed.

“It hit the door and shattered,” Althalus said wearily. He too was pulling fragments of bone out of his left side.

We were in the lost dwarven city. We had made 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

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

#DnD

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 21

Paladin4

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…

I took my holy vows at the Sept of the Silver Blade before our departure. I had wanted my friends to join me, but bringing a druid and a warlock into such a sacred place would have somehow tainted the sacred ritual. The interior of the sept was magnificent, with low hanging brass lanterns intricately decorated, and the stonework some of the best I have ever seen.  How could such a place of pristine goodness and sanctity be poised at the edge of a chasm where we had cast the darkest of our enemies?  That was a dichotomy for greater minds to ponder.

Our journey north in search of the missing legion of brother paladins had been ponderous.  The slow rising road brought a chill and thinning of the air. There were many pieces to this puzzle that we didn’t know including how to find the entrance to Tempora…if indeed that was where the wayward legion had been lured.

The goblins that Theren’s spell had just slain wore the armor (albeit poorly) of the very knights we were seeking.  That did not bode well.  Paladins would have never surrendered their armor to such loathsome creatures.

“I wish we hadn’t killed them both.  One would have made a good pet…like a puppy,” Althalus said wryly.

“You are welcome to keep one now,” I replied.

“They are quite dead,” the warlock retorted.

“I know,” was all I said in response offering him a thin smile.  That ended our banter on the matter.

We went a little ways further up the road and encamped in a small copse of pines which sheltered us from the night winds.  The morn brought a low mist which clung to our clothing.  We marched on and my eyes were drawn to a small three-fingers length of chainmail along the cobblestones. It was not rusted so it was an indication that we were possibly on the trail of the missing paladins from the Gash.  “We are on the right trail,” I said as we passed it around.

As we marched uphill the woods alongside the long abandoned road grew thicker.  The climb was steeper and the mountains crew closer with each clop of the horse’s hooves hitting the stone.  It was after sunpeak that our new comrade, the ranger known as Brandon, motioned for us to halt. He fell back to the rest of our party.  “I saw something run across the trail up ahead, hiding in the bushes.”

“How far up?” I queried.

“Around 80 or 90 feet from where I was at point,” the ranger replied.

I drew my sword without even thinking about it.  “I say we move forward.  Let us see what it was that the ranger saw.”

It wasn’t long before Brandon saw a man scurry back from his cover, diving behind another bush that took it even further from us.  “Do you think we should check this out?”

“I am not in favor of pursuing things that take us off this trail,” I countered.  There had been stories of such diversions aimed at luring good-hearted into ambushes.

Theren disagreed.  “I don’t want whoever it is to shadow us and show up later, when we least expect it.”

We advanced slowly, stopping to see the footprints of whoever the man was.  They were boot prints, the ranger assured us of that, though even I could see that much from my saddle.

“I say we ride on.  Whoever this is, they are striving to steer clear of us.  I will watch over my shoulder should he double-back on us,” I said.  Clearly Althalus felt differently, I could see that in the furrows on his brow.

A few hours passed and we saw no immediate sign of pursuit.  We set up our camp off of the road as we had on the night previously.  A light drizzle began to fall and with the chill in the air, made for a stiff sleep. I had just gotten off to sleep when Theren called, “Halt,” which was enough to stir me to my feet.  I saw Dimitrious spring to his feet, staff at the ready along with Brandon. Bor and Althalus apparently were still slumbering.

“Something is moving over there,” Theren said, pointing to the south of our camp.  We all looked at each other, then back to Theren.

“Who goes there?” the druid called into the darkness.

A voice rose from behind a bush.  “I mean no harm.  I am just hungry.”

“Who goes there?” the druid repeated.

“My name is Icabod,” the voice said feebly.

Althalus, apparently just awakened moved to my side and chuckled.  “Ichabod?”  Apparently he saw something funny in the name of the man.

“Step out where we can see you,” Theren called.  “We won’t harm you.”  That was yet to be seen, but I appreciated the hint of honor in the druid.

The man stepped out, his plate armor caked with mud but still bearing the marks of the paladins from the Gash.  “I—I am hungry,” he said.  There was a look of fear in his face.  “I just want some food, then I need to head back…away from this place.”

“Back?” Theren asked.

“Wherever you are going you are heading the wrong direction,” Ichabod replied.

“What are you doing out here?” I challenged, eyeing the longsword hanging in the scabbard at his side.

“I was part of a doomed expedition,” he said with a cough. “You have got to turn around.”

“Are you with the First Shield?” Brandon asked.

“You don’t want to go north.  If you go north you will die.”

“You didn’t answer him,” I countered.  “Were you with the First Shield?”

“I was,” he said with a low sign, his voice trailing off.  To me, it sounded ominous. He lifted his head.  “Who are you to be marching to your deaths?”

We didn’t respond quickly and Ichabod continued.  “The advice I give you will save your lives.  Turn around and head to the lowlands.”

I cleared my throat.  “We are on a mission to go north to find the rest of the missing legion who have become captured.  We are going to liberate them.”

Althalus stepped forward.  “What happened to the others?”

Ichabod bowed his head slightly.  “They were slaughtered. And you will be too.”  He was clearly exhausted, I could see that in my fellow paladin’s face.

Althalus did a quick gesture with his hands, no doubt summoning some of his magic against the man. “What happened to the men you were with?”

“They were slaughtered.  Those that weren’t killed…they were taken away.” Ichabod paused for a moment then pleaded with us.  “You have got to turn around.”  At the same time he began to walk towards us, no doubt under the influence of Althalus’s magic.  As he reached us, he continued his plea, “You have got to go back to the south.  You’ll all be dead soon – all of you.”

“So what happened?” the warlock pressed impatiently.
“Give the man some food,” Brandon said. Ichabod scarfed down the rations ravenously, thanking us between bites. The smell that rose from him spoke of a man that reeked of sweat and despair.

“You are most gracious,” he said with the last bite of jerky.  “The way north is filled with black death, shame, and horror.”

“Where did you come from?” I pressed.  “Was it Tempora?” our ranger added his questions as well.

“The Vale of White.  That was where I was attacked. I alone was the one that escaped.”

“We need more detail than that,” Althalus said firmly.

Ichabod nodded.  “We found what had escaped the Gash in the White Vale.  I have always been told that it was a graveyard of goblins and dwarves that had been lost for many years.  Then we saw a giant black rider, almost skeletal, on a black warhorse.  We followed it into the vale at a full charge, our banner flying, swords shimmering.  It was trapped there, surrounded by the mountains.  We had them.  In that moment…we had them.”  His voice rose for a moment in memory.

“But it was a trap!  The dead rose up around us like a sea. Brave knights who could turn the undead were not able to, it was as if god was no longer hearing our prayers or cries for help.  I was hit on the head and stumbled…I…I do not know what happened for many minutes as my ears rang with the cries of my comrades.  I came too with one of those abominations astride my chest, ready to impale me.  I cut it in half and somehow got to my feet.  Sir Kendrick called to me, said to go.  I should not have listened to him, that is not the way of a paladin.  I was afraid, as if I were a child, and in that fear I fell back, out of the bloodbath of the vale.

“I saw First Shield take his men and our standard to a narrow defile at the west end of the vale, but that was the last I saw of him.  There was a bright light, like a bonfire, rising out of that pass.  Whatever he saw there, it…it had to have killed them.  If it didn’t – he certainly never emerged.  It was all a trap – and we fell for it.  Only then did I see it.  The others that did–they did not survive.  My brothers…they fought, as did I, but to no avail.  I hear their screams now at night even now.

“I am not sure why I was spared.  It was as if the dead wanted me to live, to tell others what happened.  I ran…that I am not proud of.  For three days and nights I ran south, my head still filled with their lamentations and cries.  I passed out during a thunderstorm – I slept for I don’t know how many days.

“My cowardice saved me.  My shame was all I had left.  I had failed my order.  I should have charged in and died with the others.  I can no longer pray.  I was there – god stopped answering us in that Vale.  There is no way he would respond to me, a fallen holy knight.  I am not worth to bend the knee in his name.

“I keep asking myself why they went there…how did they know of that place?  Whatever came out of the Gash knew of the location of the Vale and possibly the way into Tempora.  We saw no sign of the citadel, but it is said to have been hidden for centuries.  It knew somehow, where it was going and planned our deaths.

“I should be killed for what I did…fleeing like a common coward.  Better I face death than the shame of my brothers at the Fang.  It would have been different if I had our standard, if that had survived.  We lost our legion and the banner that held us together and blessed our order.”  For a moment, the broken paladin cried, tears soaking his brown beard.

Brandon spoke up.  “Would you not seize the opportunity to redeem yourself?”

Ichabod shook his bowed head as the tears continued to fall.  “There’s no redemption for me.”

I alone understood him, I too was a holy knight in the service of God.  For him to have run was not just breaking his bond with his men, but with his vows as a knight as well.  His soul was lost in his eyes, but I saw something more.  Such a man need not wallow in his failure.  The church forgave those that confessed, and while the sin of cowardice was a taint on any man’s soul, there was a chance for him still.  He may yet have a role to play in the affairs of this world.  “You can redeem yourself.  We need to go to the White Vale.  You can lead us there.”

“Go back there?”

“Yes!” I said.  “That act can redeem you.”

“I am a coward.”

“This is you rising above your cowardice.  It is the first step to redemption. You come with us, lead us to the Vale so we can vanquish the enemy that defeated you.”

Althalus added, “You were following the orders you were given.  Nothing more or less in our eyes.  You were told the leave.”

Ichabod kept his head bowed.  “I am not even worthy to look into your eyes.”

“Is it more shameful to go back to the Gash a coward that did not face his fears…or as a man that led us to fight that evil?” I asked.

Ichabod rose and we saw the red in his eyes.  I thought for a moment that Althalus might actually hug him, but he did not.  “I will not enter that place with you.”

“We are not asking that,” I replied.

“I will lead you there then,” he said with more resolve than I anticipated.

We took the rest of the slumber that night, uneasy.  We ate while Theren and Brandon foraged for food. We kept a low fire, just enough to ward off the night chill.

Ichabod shared with us how they had come to the White Vale.  “First Shield Sir Ferrin saw something stirring in the Gash.  We went down there, along the winding stair of The Wail – with 15 other holy knights of the order.  When we arrived at the landing we were confronted by…I cannot say what it was.  Faceless – formless, it was an apparition and as solid as steel and just as cold.  It blew past us, along with other ilk that had climbed out of the dark, leaving only four of us alive.  We lost it when it headed north, into the foothills of The Horns of Essex towards the Sever Pass – the name of the Vale in the old tongue.

“The First Shield, a righteous man was he, summoned the whole of the legion to pursue.  It took us days marching north.  There was no trail, the dead do not leave their mark on the land.  Even our best rangers struggled to find their course in the rocks.  For days we marched, day and some of the night.

“Then we found them at the edge of the Vale.  And that is where everything fell asunder…”

Brandon spoke up, “We were told that this was all tied to Sir Viktor Barristen.”

“Does the name Barristen mean anything to you?” Althalus asked.

The mention of his name seemed to make Ichabod’s brow furrow.  “Absolutely.  He is one of the most heinous men to walk the land – even before the Great War. A fallen paladin with a soul as black a coal.”

“What can you tell us of him?” I asked.

“Once the greatest paladin of the Order of the Holy Scepter, Barristen was considered at one point to be one of the most renowned paladins ever.  He fell from grace however when he broke his vows and took a wife.  His Order excommunicated him, erasing his name from the holy rolls.  Barristen then lost his young bride to a terrible plague, one that he claimed had been set upon her by the Church as retribution.

“He turned to be a fallen knight and black paladin.  It is said that he poisoned the members of his own former order, killing them all.  Some say he was experimenting to become a Lich or worse.”

“Knowing what I do of the church,” Brandon said, “I cannot say I blame him.” Clearly our new ally had some foul encounters with the church. Althalus gave the ranger a nod.

“The church hunted him down and imprisoned his body in an iron and lead coffin, sealed and hidden.  Not dead, his soul was trapped in purgatory for all eternity.  He swore he would escape and wreak havoc on the peoples of the world, payment or the sins he perceived against him.  He fell a full century prior to the last war and no one knew where his mortal remains were hidden. He is now merely a story to scare children, a story of a knight that fell and became evil. Most paladin orders will not even allow his name to be spoken, other claim he is only a legend, a myth, which may explain why you have not heard of him.  Why do you think he is involved in what happened to the legion?”

“Rumor has it that he might be trying to return,” Althalus said.

“He may very well have been part of whatever it was you saw coming out of the Gash,” I added. Bit by bit the story was coming together, though our role in the tale was still not known.

“Where did you get word of this?” the fallen paladin asked.

“A letter that was sent to the Gash,” Althalus said.  Brandon pulled out the letter he had delivered and saved passed it to Ichabod to read.

“You are in consort with Lexa Lyoncroft?” he said as he finished, dismayed at the words he head read.

“Well, I am,” Brandon said proudly. Clearly the ranger did not have our experience with her.

“Your acting First Shield sent us out here because of that letter,” the warlock added, cutting off the ranger’s boast.

“There is only death in that Vale,” Ichabod said firmly. “It is a while field.  There is the blood of the gods there, the old gods, stones that stand out. It is a sea of bleached bones.”

“The letter mentions that,” Brandon said, taking back the parchment.  “I know he has walked the Blood of the Gods and resides deep in Tempora,” he said reading the note he had preserved.

“Of that I cannot speak.  But I do know this, to enter the Vale is to invite death.”

Theren rose to his feet standing over the campfire.  “You said that you can take us back there to the Vale.  That is where we must go.”

Ichabod nodded, bound by his words from the night before.  “We are about a day’s walk from the Horns of Essex.  Two days north of there is the White Vale.”  The druid put out the fire with several kicks of dirt and we packed up.  Ichabod and Brandon shared the ranger’s horse and we set out north.

At night fall we came to a flattened hilltop in a foothill of the looming mountains.  On either side of the old road was a massive white-gray horn, that rose and arched over the trail ominously.  They stood nearly 30 heads in height, looming upward and over the road.  They looked as if they were stone, but there were no markings on them to indicate they had been carved.  It was hard to fathom what kind of massive monster might have grown them, if they were indeed real horns.  Who put them there – for what purpose? Clearly they were important.  Perhaps it was the dwarves, marking the entrance to their territory.  If so, what had been the origins of these now petrified remains?

We stopped just short of the Horns of Essex and made our camp for the night.  That night was the coldest we experienced.  For two days we tread towards the north.  In the evening of the second day Ichabod raised his hand to motion for us to stop.  He turned towards us, a grim expression masking his gaze.  “Just over the next rise is the White Vale.  I have fulfilled my word to you.  The time has come for me to depart.”

“Thank you for your service,” Brandon offered politely.

“I am going to go and accept the penance and justice of my order for my deeds.”

I know how holy orders treat paladins that have fallen from grace.  Ichabod faced a grim future. I borrowed a pen and parchment from Althalus.  “I will write you a letter to the acting First Shield telling them that you have redeemed yourself.”

“Thank you.  I beseech you to turn around while you can.  You face death,” he said taking the letter.

“Live long and prosper,” I told him.

Brandon offered him his horse Siegfried and five gold pieces.  “Donate it to your church.”  With that, Ichabod left.

We advanced carefully forward, the fallen-paladin’s words still ringing in our ears…

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

Character Background Material

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The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 20

druid3

Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters.  Parts 1-19 (below) charted the first part of the campaign, now we begin the next phase, 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!

Theren…

The decision had been made, the die cast…we would go north in search of the missing paladins of the Order of the Fang. I have to admit, the thought that our small party might somehow tread where the paladins failed was daunting, but there was no turning back at this point.  The irony of our mission was not lost on me – I was doing something that would aid the church, a church that had hunted and slaughtered my druidkin.

We bedded down for a few days, using this opportunity to rest, mend our armor, and hone our skills.  We were no longer the young men that wandered from White Rock months ago. We had battled Amber Elves and had been honored by the Minotaurs, ending their long-standing feud with the realm. The nipple ring I wore was a little hard to get used to, but a small price to pay for the honor it gave me.

The next day Sir Karrick, the acting First Shield, turned to Althalus and told him that had had been approached by one of guards that had come with us.  “I was told that you used magic in your confrontation with the Minotaurs.”  It was no light charge. The church had been hunting the killing non-cleric magic users for years.  Althalus stood mute to the charge at first, then conceded. The lord-paladin was far more gracious than I anticipated.  “Very well.  You have provided us with a service in bringing these men here.  You will not enter our sacred church or desecrate our grounds with your ungodly magic. Violate that, and you will face my justice.”  The warlock knew his place and held his tongue.

A few days passed when we heard the alarm from the battlements.  A rider was approaching.  The guards were not taking any chances with their numbers so low.  Crossbows were made taut and bolts put in place.  A rider approached the gates and we heard the challenges to him.

“It is I, Brandon Windriver a local ranger.  I have a message for the First Shield,” a voice rang up to the guards over the gate. We moved out into the courtyard.  The Gash was not a place given the visitors.

The gate slowly creaked open and we saw this so-called messenger.  He stood almost two elbows tall human, with short dark black hair.  He had sapphire blue eyes, more given to a bard than a ranger. He looked safe enough…for the time being.

“What is all of this commotion?” Sir Karrick asked brusquely as the ranger entered the castle grounds.

“I bring a message to the First Shield from a village to the north west of here,” the ranger said, handing out a sealed scroll.

Sir Karrick broke the wax seal and read the message, growling through his graying beard as he did so.  He tossed the message down on the ground in frustration.  “Damn, damn, damn!” he cursed.

“More good news I see,” Althalus quipped.  The First Shield ignored him, which we all thought was lucky on his part. I side-stepped away from the warlock, just in case it came to blows.  His sniping words would be the death of us someday, I was sure of that.

The ranger, Brandon, picked up the note while Sir Karrick turned to the rest of us.  “We cannot afford to wait for conformation and additional troops from Lord Sklaver.  You and you party are to be ready to ride out tomorrow morn.”

“What does the message say stranger?” Arius asked.

Brandon cleared his throat, ignoring that the message was not for his eyes.  “To the Acting First Shield, Order of the Fang

“I am sure that you can verify my hand on this letter “old friend.”  I am aware of your plight.  While some of it amuses me, even I recognize a threat that must be dealt with.  The former first shield, Sir Theris Bentblade, refused to heed my warnings. As a result, your brothers and sisters have been captured in Tempora.  The doddering old fool refused my offer of advice.  As a result, your men are being sacrificed in an unholy manner.

“Viktor Barristen walks the land once more.  He seeks to slaughter your men in order to escape purgatory and regain his life once more.  It was he that forced the release of demonspawn at the Wail to lure your men into his trap.  If he succeeds, there will be nothing to prevent him from releasing what remains in the Gash. I know he has walked the Blood of the Gods and resides deep in Tempora, where your men may yet live.

“I intercepted your message to Karn because the idiots of the Royal Guards would be nothing but fodder in the hands of an evil such as Barristen. This is a matter that only the bravest of souls can dare undertake.

“There is time to save them.  For reasons that should be obvious, I did not come in person.  You must rescue them or Sir Barristen will return to plunder the souls of mortals for a thousand years.

“Lexa Lyoncroft, Mother Superior and Wielder of Ubanthsblade the Reaver.”  He stammered through the script on the page, but the mention of Lexa Lyoncroft made all of us look at each other.  “We are finally getting answers to what has been happening,” Althalus said.  I agreed.

I turned my attention to the ranger.  “How did you come into possession of this letter fair sir?”

“A lady paid me 75 gold pieces to deliver it here.”

“When – where?” Arius pressed.

“My home village, Walden, north and west from here…some ten days ago.  She was attractive – wore a green cape, big damned sword.” Brandon replied.  I still could picture Lyoncroft.  It had been her.

Sir Karrick interceded.  “We cannot allow Vicktor Barristen to return.  No matter how much Lexa is angered with me, and no matter how much I deserve it, I don’t think she would lie about him.”

“So you think she is telling the truth?” I asked. I wanted to press on who Barristen was, but now was not the time.

“Her version of the truth…yes.  I have no doubt that she believes what she wrote.  That is her handwriting, I know it well.”

“She came fairly close to here to send the message,” I added.  Why risk herself if she was not serious?

“You will need to ride forth in the ‘morrow, try and find their trail to the White Vale.  Somewhere beyond the Vale supposedly lay the entrance to Tempora.”

“It seems we are on the road to Tempora,” Arius added, almost musically.  He then turned to Brandon Windriver, “What are your plans?”

“I have none.  I was paid for my services…paid well I might add.”

“Well,” our paladin continued.  “We are heading north to find these errant knights and try and save them…off to Tempora.”

“Interesting…” the ranger replied. “I would be willing to undertake this journey.  Finding a lost city interests me.”

Althalus leaned in towards Sir Karrick.  “What can you tell us about Tempora Sir Karrick?”

The graying knight grew grim as he spoke.  “What is there to say about Tempora that has not been spoken about in taverns across the lands. It was a great dwarven city centuries ago, one of the first great cities.  Carved along the walls of a hollow mountain, the city was protected because there were only four ways in – the great underground roads.  One, the low road, led from the white vale.  The other, well that was the high road in the pass of Kamon.  That path has been lost for ages, buried in an avalanche.

“It has been said that its most striking features was the statue of King Effidies above the waterfall of the underground river Samath, just over the Tears of Tempora falls – or just the Tears of Tempora.

“Over two centuries ago something happened.  It is said the dwarves dug too deep and awakened a demon that destroyed their city.  Others say that evil found a way in, past the defenses on the roads, and corrupted those inside.  What is known is that the dwarves fled Tempora amidst tales of death, war and destruction.

“Near the end of the last war, before the purges of the magic users of the world, it is said that a party of them and the church entered there and destroyed the evil that controlled the city.  Their tale, the Journey of the Black Tears, is a recited poem, most of which is lost, but offers little more.  They claim that the city was in ruins, a massive mound of rubble and death.  They traveled deep under Tempora and captured what had led to its downfall – bringing it to the Great Gash and casting it down.  There are records of that with the Legion of the Fang, though no details of what it was.  Only that it was bound in iron bands and sackcloth covered with ruins of the church – powerful wards to keep the evil in check.  Tossed from the Wail, it is said that its howls and moans can still be heard there.

“The only fragment of The Journey of the Black Tears that is often quoted:

“It was in the darkness we gathered to face our fears

A dousing walk, where none tread, ‘neath Samath’s tears

To the royal tombs and temples that rested in the dark and dank.

Where the spiders crawl and the rat nests stank.

Through the stairs to the resting place

Of Arron, King of Kings of the dwarven race.

Where now only the blackest of bats sing their seduction tune

In the barrow depths and the grottos dark swoon.

Into the depths below Tempora’s Tears we went…”

“Unfortunately none know how to reach the entrance, it has been long hidden to mortals.  We only know the legend that it at the White Vale.  I will see that your horses are provisioned and we can provide you with five days of rations.”

I had heard the poem before, but had never thought of it as possibly providing clues that might save our lives.  That night I pondered the words.  Everything was hinging on us being able to find the road to the Dwarven city; which seemed to be a stretch.  I was happy we had a ranger with us – the trail we were searching for was destined to be old.

As we prepared the next morning, Althalus offered some words of guidance to our new traveling comrade.  “I have one book, my grimoire.  Don’t look at it, don’t touch it.  That’s it – I’m not kidding here.”  He had never mentioned the grimoire before, so I assumed he had made it in his spare time at the castle during our respite.  That was the thing about our warlock, he did things that made us all a bit uneasy. I had used our rest time to master other spells that might be of use to us, all out of eyeshot of the paladins.

We headed north, Brandon checking for any signs of a road or trail that the wayward band of paladins may have taken.  It took him a while, but he soon found a patchwork of old cobble stones marking what had been a road in ages past.  To most of us it looked like stony ground at first, but once we stared at it, we could see the individual stones with weeds and grass sprouting between them.

We followed the old trail north.  The ground was broken and slowly rose upwards to the hills and mountains in the north.  Pines dotted the ground, along with Thornholly brushes and the occasional boulder.  Clouds rolled in, deep purple, giving us a bit of a chill during our sleep that night.  In the distance, the mountains loomed high. I wondered if we would have to climb them to find this lost city.

We shook off the night cold and set off north, following the old trail that snaked upward in the foothills.  The day was uneventful but a few hours before sundown, Brandon noticed some stirring in the brush ahead off the side of the trail.  He came back and gave us a word of warning.  “There’s some activity up ahead.  I’m going to go up and see if I can see what it is.”  We agreed, after all, it was his hide at risk, not ours.  Arius flanked to the right and Dimitrious followed Althalus.

Brandon came back. “There are two creatures up ahead, hiding.  They are talking but I don’t understand what they are saying.”

“If they are up ahead, they are higher than us, the road slopes upwards,” Althalus said. “It gives them the high ground.”

“They are behind a Thornholly bush,” the ranger added.  “I couldn’t get a good look at them.”

“Let’s see if we can figure out who they are,” I said firmly.  And only kill them if necessary…

We got closer, moving in slowly, then we heard a whiny voice.  “Halt…halt!” came back the small voice. “Drop your weapons.” It was far from intimidating.

Our warlock raised his empty hands, which was far more dangerous than any weapon he might hold. “Come on out.  Perhaps we can talk.  We don’t mean any harm.”  That wasn’t quite true, I saw Arius hunker next to me and whisper, “Do you think I can set that holly bush on fire?”  I shook my head, but appreciated his thinking.

“No talk – give us your money,” another voice said from the bush. I swear I heard the other one chuckle.

Arius frowned.  “No, I don’t think so.”  He was speaking more to me than them, but I was sure they could hear him at this range.  The paladin rose and called to them.  “If you try and take our money, we will have to hurt you.”

“This is our trail – get off of it!” spat back the first voice.

The other voice snickered slightly, this time leaving little doubt in my mind that they were mocking us.  “Leave us your stuff and you can go free.  Otherwise we will kill you.”

The first voice spoke again, deeper, adding, “We are very powerful!”

“Seriously?” Arius said.  “I think they are laughing at us.”  He pulled his sword out as if to emphasize his point.

“They sound cute,” Althalus added.  “Can I keep one?”

Apparently they could hear us.  A spear flew from behind the holly bush, hitting Brandon in the thigh, making the ranger reel in pain.  A pair of goblins emerged, over-armored, as if they had recently looted some bodies. The armor was clearly several sizes larger than the goblins.  “Stop mocking us, we have many spears and will hurt you!”

I laughed, if only for a moment. Goblins.

One of them spoke to other.  “I told them we had many spears,” he whispered loud enough for us to hear.  Both chortled for a moment.  They then sidestepped back behind the bush.

“I really want one for a pet,” Althalus said.

I grew impatient and the thought of the warlock having a pet goblin was disturbing on many planes of thought.  It was bad enough that the mute monk seemed devoted to him.  I had mastered a new spell that seemed perfect for this occasion.  I closed my eyes and focused on a spot of green light only I could see in my eyelids – the power of the soil and forest.  There I saw the thornholly and I tapped it.  Vines!  I stretched them with my mind, outward from the green spot of light I focused on.  Twisting and growing, churning and ensnaring.  I opened my eyes and felt the wet palms of my hands reach out before me.  The ground where the goblins hid erupted in a burst of vines, hoisting them upward, wrapping around them like snakes.

The goblins tried to move, and that was their undoing.  The thorns cut them like a dozen little daggers.  The more the struggled and tried to get free, the more oozing green blood splattered on the new growth. They squealed in agony as the vines grew.  They died before throwing another spear.

I stopped concentrating on the mound of twisting thorns and it dissipated, dropping their armored bodies to the ground of clanking as their armor hit the stones.

“Well, that was easy,” Althalus said sarcastically.

We inspected the bodies, and saw that their armor was clearly not goblin-made.  This was the armor that the paladins wore at the Great Gash.  “They must have gotten it from the paladins that we were following.” I pinched my nose to protect it from their stink.

“We will never know,” I added.  “Maybe they raided the paladins back at the Gash.”

“That armor is relatively new – no rust. I think this is an indication that we are on the right trail.”  The older paladin always sounded so confident.  “I think we need to move forward – follow the road north.”

There was a murmur of agreement, though it came through a veil of foreboding.  I reminded myself that a legion of paladins had marched this way and disappeared.  How could we fare better than a host of armored knights?

We were about to find out…

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

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

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