Did I mention I was travelling for at least part of the time with nearly my whole Dungeons & Dragons contingent? Perhaps I didn’t.
Well, I was. Five out of the six of us were all crammed into a holiday unit in Cornwall for a week, and we happened to take our dice and character sheets and so forth. Funny that.
Seriously, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. And although we felt desperately sorry for the one remaining player stuck at home in Australia, the five of us crammed into that Cornish cottage and fell upon the D&D with gusto. This is what happened over three evenings of play…
Ash, I am leaving you this note to inform you and the others that I will not be able to attend this current quest with you, though it bothers me to say so. As you are aware, I have spent the last few days since my resurrection in deep prayer at the Our Great Lord of the Sun Chapel, and now a priest of Phanator has begged my assistance. It seems I must accompany him on a short journey to a neighbouring village, to stand guard for him while he meets other priests in a conclave. This should take no more than a week, so I will await you all in Hyden’s Ford and will rejoin your campaign on my return. I wish you all Phanator’s blessing in my absence.
Intan, I know you have declared your intention to rid the world of goblins and other foul scum, but… Oh, curse it, I have no idea how to break the news to you of what we have done. Or, rather, agreed to do.
It all happened so quickly. I am sure things would have turned out differently had you been with us; but you were not. And that very fact might indeed have saved our lives, for you can be somewhat overzealous in the service of your god… But I will allow you to be the judge of that. Instead I will start from the beginning and, with the aid of the others, explain in full.
Being newly resurrected, you may not have been aware that Hyden’s Ford was over-run with Lawbringers and southern refugees, making some of us distinctly uncomfortable. Not only did Alix and I feel ostracised as northerners, but Calwyn too seemed very on edge. Thus, as soon as we came across an interesting map of the forests and swamp to the south and west of the town, we resolved to set off to investigate a marked burial site. It was merely something to do while you were convalescing, as we didn’t want to raid the goblin caves without your strength, courage and conviction. In hindsight, it is interesting to speculate on what might have happened in the presence of your moral compass.
Saffir and Calwyn had traversed these forests before, but it was new territory for me and Alix. No matter; we had a map, and the terrain was not so difficult to navigate. Aside from a confrontation with a mother bear, whose cubs we sadly had to kill after we slew her in self defence, we reached our target region of the map on the 6th day with little incident.
After that, things got more interesting. Our destination — the tomb marked on the map — turned out to be part of a cave system crawling with humanoids of dubious origin. We slew many of them, but to our surprise we were aided by a shaman humanoid who appeared to be their leader — and yet not. I have no idea what his game is, but he seems to think we are some other party, and he requested — no, demanded! — our aid to clear the long-unused tunnels down into the tomb of Dymrak (who Cal thinks was someone important and good who, alas, turned bad).
Before you judge us too harshly for aiding the humanoid, I must emphasise we didn’t seem to have a choice, for Alix and Cal both tell me the shaman’s magic is very strong and we feared for our lives. But I confess it was with uneasy hearts we acceded to his demand. It didn’t take me too long to dispatch a giant spider guarding the first of the tunnels, but then the passages took us down and down into the bowels of the earth and submerged us waist-deep in murky water…
Intan, you would have hated it. HATED IT. Wading through tunnels up to our waists in stagnant water, no sight of the sun for days, some parts so deep we had to paddle across using strange seed pods for floats as our feet couldn’t find the floor — and never mind who gave us those pods. Or who sent us down into the tunnels in the first place. Untrustworthy to say the least.
A tomb, we were told. With much silver to be had and possibly other treasures besides. Of course we suspected traps and tricks and numerous creatures intent on killing us — or worse — and we were not disappointed.
The first door we came across contained a very crafty and well-concealed mechanism that saw Cal’s staff shattered by swift-moving blades as I attempted to disarm it. Only my quick reflexes saved my own limbs from being mangled in a similar fashion! (We had already come across the skeletal remains of some poor unfortunate who had tried and failed before us.)
Safely opening the door proved the least of our worries, as it turned out, with several zombies and four ghouls swarming at us from the room beyond. It was Alix’s turn for quick thinking then, and her magical ability to turn the evil undead creatures back saved us all from paralysis and certain death. It took a couple of attempts, and a couple of damp nights recovering on cold stone floors, to clear the room, but finally we were at the second door.
The opening of which almost killed me. My own fault, I suppose, in not being careful enough. It looked so like the first door, but the trap turned out to be quite different. Terrifying blades slicing out and almost chopping me in half! I was much more careful afterwards, all but tip-toeing through the second chamber that lay, suspiciously empty, before us.
No more zombies or ghouls or other traps, just a third door covered in strange glyphs that Cal was only partially able to decipher. Something about only good people being able to enter, but never being able to leave. I’m sure you would have stormed right through, Intan, but I was adamant that we should go no further and that the tomb beyond should remain inviolate. A strange conviction coming from me, you might think, but it just did not seem … RIGHT … to proceed further. Cal and Ash, however, had other ideas.
Nievor have mercy, Saffir, you couldn’t even open the door, so strong was the magic barring all but those of good alignment. I, on the other hand, simply reached out and lifted the latch… Once Calwyn had entered, lured, I must suppose, by the magic he sensed, I had little choice but to follow. I couldn’t let him go in there on his own, could I?
Intan, you know up there in the Carved Valley, in that old tomb we found, and how the wight or wraith or whatever the hell that thing was, reached out and touched you, and your eyes kind of glazed over, like a cat watching a ghost only it can see, and then you pulled yourself together and we gave the Undead the old heave-ho, you and me … Well, yes.
After being half drowned and half starved and stabbed by some lizard thing with a spear and damn near eaten by ghouls, we find it, don’t we. A sarcophagus in a bare room, with candelabrums at either end. And a cryptic warning I can barely decipher: something about only the good being stupid enough to cross the threshold. But there’s a glimmer of magic inside the sarcophagus and you know me: I’ll put that against superstition any time.
Now, there’s a bit of an issue: only Ash and I can enter the room, right. Make of that what you will – whoa, big fella, easy on the detect evil! We’re all friends here.
So in we sneak, while Saff and Alix hover in the doorway making all kinds of threats and promises, and I’m telling them, ‘come in here and say that’, and of course they can’t. Still, Ash and I can feel the wrongness, the dread, the sheer TRAP of it all. But, you know: magic.
So we get a couple of the globes in the candelabrums to light, and then set to, pushing the lid off the sarc, and sure enough, up it rose, this ugly, rotting, long-dead not-dead human horror. The shade of Dymrak. I’d heard of him, you know; vaguely. Powerful once, but he fell from grace, all the way to this death chamber.
So, he sits up. Swipe! Ash takes a thump. I give him some love of the shocking variety and that gets his attention. An almighty swipe and I’m staggering, feeling like he’s reached inside me and pulled out an organ. But the blow doesn’t even break the skin. Just … just leaves me blinking and feeling kind of woozy.
He whacks Ash again. She seems to recover all right, keeps on swinging her blade, carving him up. I fire off my slivers and try to stay the hell out of his way. And finally, down he goes.
Only then do I let myself sag. Totally knackered, I was, the barest dribble of magic left tingling the fingertips. I still have the strength to ram our dropped torch into his face, just to make sure he isn’t playing possum.
So yes, I feel your pain, to have been somehow made less than what we were becoming. But we will rise again, my friend. A momentary setback, nothing more.
Huh? The magic?
Oh, nothing you’d be interested in. I know you Paladins don’t care much for that kind of thing…
But now, you know how magic is as neutral as a blade, and it kind of relies on the wielder for its boon or bane? Well, turns out, there’s this goblin-kind bunch who are actually not that bad, not for goblin-kind.
Supplied us, helped us, struck a bit of a bargain. Just watch the detect evil and keep the sword in the sheath, that’s all I’m saying. There’s bigger fish to fry. We might finally be getting a lead on the forces bringing the humanoids together, and that’s worth a little … well, let’s call it politically expedient misdirection, shall we?
Yes, Intan, it is as Cal says. We have struck a dodgy bargain with a band of goblin-kind — and, Intan, you must abide by it, if we are to survive the next few weeks!
All they demanded of us was information from Dymrak’s tomb — which, I might add, contained no treasure other than some magical trinkets Cal has hidden away — but now their powerful leader insists we liberate some humanoid-infested ‘monastery’ a short distance from here. Bad hobgoblins, he says. With a monstrous leader we must somehow defeat.
We will need you, Intan!
It all has something to do with the Eye of Varrien, and I fear it will not end well…
Oh dear. Ash and her friends are now in rather a sticky situation. Stay tuned to find out what happens when they embark on the quest to liberate the so-called monastery of goblin-kind!