This is part of the ongoing narrative of our D&D campaign, which is graciously being run by Proud Lion, a fantastic comic shop in Cheltenham. Their RPG Encounters nights are a lot of fun, and give me some entertaining material to work with.
[Before reading, please be aware that there may be spoilers ahead for the D&D campaign books. Equally, our stories are fluid, so things may not follow the books too directly]
As Trystan left down the twisting corridor, he passed another of his order traipsing the other way. This monk, a brother named Levanix, was human also, and they only noticed each other as they bumped shoulders in the corridor.
“Be careful brother, there is danger ahead! But good luck mapping the further corridors.” Trystan Rand said, before disappearing back down the corridor.
Levanix neared the fountain ahead, and came across a strange group scratching their collective heads while gazing at a skeletal dragon-adorned stone door. A look of derision shot at him from a dwarf dressed in dark, sinister robes, before he joined the group in trying to get into the door.
A brutish half-orc, Drenk, and a rangy half-elf, Jester, were trying to fit crowbars into the miniscule gaps in the doorframe, but the application of pressure to the crowbar caused a sudden click from the frame as a trap was set off. Drenk and Jester managed to dive out of the way just as a huge scythe flew past them, guillotining between the sides of the doorframe before disappearing back above the door with another ominous click.
Now that they could see where the trap came from, the group discussed how they could disable this trap. The dwarf warlock, who Levanix now knew as Kalashnikov, tried to lob a small throwing hammer into the mechanism, to jam it, but all that happened were a few bumping noises before the hammer failed to fall back down.
To test the scythe itself, Drenk used a spear to press the blade, but this had no effect, evidently not activating the trap. While he applied some pressure to the scythe, Jester attempted to remove the mechanism itself, but couldn’t quite get his tools into the right sockets to dismantle the old gears.
“I suppose we just push it?” the new monk said, and when no volunteers stepped up, he gingerly stepped up to the plate. As soon as he tried to force the entrance, the scythe came flying down, and he wasn’t quite as quick to avoid it. “Ow! Okay, not doing that again!”
Kalashnikov’s hammer dropped to the floor, and despite it having obviously not worked, the dwarf tried to block the trap with it again, losing his hammer in the trap’s well. Shaking his head at the warlock, another dwarf suspiciously similar-looking to Kalashnikov stepped forward, and in a series of gestures summoned forth a large vine from between the flagstones.
The druid, Burian, directed the thorn whip into the trap, and wrenched the scythe across, half-yanking it out of its hiding place, as his brother’s hammer fell to the floor yet again.
“It won’t be falling down again.” He simply stated, while the final member of the party, a lithe half-elf cleric, Enna leant in to stare at the inscription in the door.
“Jester, give me that…potion…wait. I think I know what to do. Meepo,” she said, gesturing at a kobold stood well back from the group, “you said that rebuke the dead, open the way was written here?”
“Yes, Meepo read that, Meepo doesn’t want to be anywhere near that door though.” The simpering kobold took another few steps back, almost hiding behind the dragon-shaped fountain.
Enna nodded, then starting chanting a prayer to her god Eldath, building up a strong religious aura slowly behind her eyes. Once she reached the crescendo of her prayer, she pushed her palms to the door, saying “and we shall channel all natural spirits of this world to repulse the undead and return the dead to life within us all!”
The radiant aura enveloping her hands spread into the door, and her turn undead ritual was complete, and she panted and stood back as the door glowed a cold blue, and seemed to dissolve into the air. All that was left was a translucent blue barrier, flowing within the doorframe.
To Burian’s eyesight, still imbued with the effects of his detect magic ritual, this process looked spectacular, and he was first to approach the new opening and gaze into the revealed chamber.
The sepulchre they had discovered had a distinctly unpleasant taste to the air, cold and almost tainted, and Burian could see the remnants of necromancy spells suffusing the area. A much darker altar than the one used by the kobolds lay towards the back of this room, dark obsidian carvings of dragons flowing freely in the stone.
Between the party and the altar stood five sarcophagi, three upright against the right-hand wall and two to their left, all of which had extensively-detailed elven forms embossed on their lids. The elves were depicted wearing ceremonial robes, likely related to the other altars dotted around this sunken fortress.
The druid’s attention was called back to the altar though, by the glow of several potent magical artefacts. Firstly, a candle, impossibly still lit, was imbued with invocation magic, likely a spell keeping the candle burning without exhausting any supply. Next to the candle was a crystal flask flashing with abjuration magic and a little way away from the other items was a whistle glowing with the tell-tale cold blue of necromancy magic.
As he noticed this final item, his lip curled up in an automatic response of distaste and, recognising that look as one of potential for himself, Kalashnikov set about summoning an unseen servant to grab whatever his pure-hearted brother despised.
Burian grabbed a hide from his twisted brother, and walked swiftly into the room, as the rest of the group gathered around the entrance to see what he’d moved so quickly to deal with. Kalashnikov’s cracked lips turned into a smirk as his unseen servant approached the altar, and swiped up the whistle that had inspired Burian with such destructive fervour.
All the group saw the whistle suddenly levitate, and come flying back towards the doorway, before a pounding started on the inside of one of the coffins. Speeding up his pace, Burian ran to the centre of the sepulchre, then threw all his druidic power into a casting at the centre of the room, between all the coffins.
Gathering magical strength between his hands, a shuddering sensation spread throughout the room, before Burian hurled the orb of power straight into the floor. A mighty casting of earth tremor shattered the stones of the floor and toppled four of the stone coffins onto their lids, huge cracks and rents appearing in the stonework around the room.
Only one of the coffins stayed upright, and the carefully-engraved lid was thrown clear of the coffin as a skeleton in scraps of long-decayed robe came swinging out of its resting place. Thankfully, Burian had turned to bring his dragon-scale shield to bear against the only coffin unaffected by his spell, and cast aside the incoming sword.
The rest of the adventurers were a little shocked by this turn of events, but the new monk Levanix was first to react, drawing a dart and lobbing it at the skeleton, but he was evidently still shaking from the spell.
Two more skeletons emerged slowly from their destroyed coffins, but both were cracked and broken, their necromantic enchantments clearly crackling and fading to Burian’s enhanced senses. This didn’t make them any less deadly though, as they struck at him simultaneously. He managed avoid one, but during that dodge he fell directly in the path of the other. The druid felt an ancient sword plunge through his flesh, ripping a huge rent in his side.
Suddenly, that sword had no power behind it, as a dagger thrown by Jester lightly tapped the skeleton and it fell to pieces, despite the misjudged speed at which Jester had thrown it. His other dagger sailed wide, as even he felt off-balance from the shaking. Enna followed suit with a casting of her sacred flame, focusing it on one of the last two skeletons emerging from the broken coffins, and a little puff of flame from her singeing spell seemed enough to break the final enchantments and destroy the skeleton.
Meanwhile, Kalashnikov couldn’t care less about the melee until he had his whistle. Summoning his unseen servant to him, he ran into the room, dangerously close to the last skeleton to shake off its coffin, and grabbed the whistle, dispelling the servant. Eyes gleaming with excitement, he suddenly realised his proximity to the skeletons he activated, and cast a hasty eldritch blast at one.
While it may have looked like a skill shot, directly through the ribcage, his metallic green blast didn’t even touch the sides, breaking ineffectually against the wall. The skeleton responded in kind, its sword slash bouncing off the protective hides that Kalashnikov gathered around himself.
“I cast maul spell!” thundered the voice of Drenk as he ran into the room and ploughed his maul directly through the weak skeleton assaulting Burian, finding himself back-to-back with the wounded dwarf.
Drawing strength from the knowledge that his spell had severely weakened their assailants, Burian cast shillelagh along his staff and attacked the skeleton that had thus far avoided all damage. His fury compounded with the brittle bones of the elven corpse, and his strike completely shattered the body of the skeleton, sundering the enchantment upon its bones.
Levanix the monk advanced into the room now, determined that he could help this group by being more than just the sacrificial lamb, and unleashed a flurry of blows on the final skeleton. Between his quarterstaff and his fists, he was dismayed to miss the skeleton entirely, and frustrate even further when a dagger sailed in from behind his shoulder and crushed the skull of the skeleton with its’ pommel.
He looked back to see Jester shooting pointing fingers at him, but was still relieved that combat had ended. The dwarven druid was now heading to the altar with a hide on as oven mitts to pick up a candle that had fallen to the floor in the tremors and a crystal flask, taking care to look after the items. All the others were breathing heavily and inspecting the skeletons, before all suddenly remembered the cause of this fight in the first place.
All eyes turned to look at Kalashnikov, the chaotic warlock, as with a look of great glee, he raised his whistle-prize to his lips and blew it…