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]
Busting through the doors into the fallen castle, the party looked past Burian’s spidery form as he hastily, but clumsily attempted to shut the door with far too many limbs. With their precise half-elven eyesight, Enna and Jester could see a swarm of rodents of unusual size devouring the bodies of their brethren while pouring towards the door, and this spurs Enna to push past the gross spider legs and slam the door shut.
Drenk and Kalashnikov barricaded the door with some debris to stop the vicious vermin, and the party could finally stop to breathe. They found themselves in a gutted tower, just a shell of the former bastion it must have once been, a broken staircase circling the route to the top of the tower, fading into darkness. Inset in the walls were two doors, sturdy and closed.
Burian, deciding to explore the strengths of his newly en-spidered body, scuttled up the wall towards the lofty roof, exploring for any hidden nooks and crannies that could reveal some knowledge of the tower. His mini-quest had trivial effect, finding nothing worthwhile, but it gave him an understanding of how he could use this form to explore novel places.
The rest of the party looked over the destruction of the ground floor, and spotted the corpses of four goblins, butchered on the floor, with a fifth pinned to the back wall by a spear. Drenk, engaging his police instincts [some might say Detective Vision – Non-canon Ned], crouched down in the dust and inspected the trapped spear, while Kalashnikov put some of his ill-gotten knowledge to work in visually autopsying the bodies.
Drenk pulled the spear out and let the body drop to the floor, happily replacing his javelin and letting Enna off from burning it. Behind the body, he could see some angular inscription, in a language that he couldn’t read.
“I’ll still reimburse you! I promise!” she assured him, but was interrupted by Kalashnikov’s assessment of the bodies.
“These boys ‘ave been dead for a few weeks at least. They’ve been gnawed on by those rogue rats, but aren’t anywhere near decomposing to skeletons. I know, from experience, that goblins take…for…that…” he trailed off, realising he had perhaps added a little too much information.
Enna had been brushing down the walls during this, and found what appeared to be a hidden door, inlaid into the wall, and a wonky masonry block that felt movable to her touch. She was momentarily shocked from her discovery as the gigantic spider reappeared from its tower search, shrugged in an absurd way, and suddenly transformed back into the familiar shape of Burian.
“Oh, sorry guys, I…I might have surprised a few of you with that ‘un. I ain’t been able to access me Wild Shape for quite a while, and I often go as and when the will takes me. So…don’t stab me if I turn into a bear I suppose?” the abashed druid mentioned, then looked at the inscription Drenk had uncovered.
Looking into the runes, none could fathom their meaning, but on those of a magical nature, the words left a distinctly sibilant impression. Burian took some parchment from his bag and made a quick rubbing of the characters, sensing they may be important to the origin of this place.
Meanwhile, Enna and Jester inspected the masonry lever she had found, and pressing it caused no reaction from the door. Jester fiddled with the block a little, before letting out an almost-hidden hiss as the door finally cleared.
“It…was trapped guys.” He said through gritted teeth, none of the part noticing the needle he carefully removed from his hand and crushed underfoot. Thankfully he could not feel any poison coursing through his veins, so counted himself lucky this time.
The partially-hidden door swung slowly open, letting out a gush of dead, damp and frigid air as the system equalised, and the party could see into a dingy little room, the centre filled with what was once the ceiling of the room. Beneath the rubble lay three more bodies, but unlike the goblins outside these were skeletal in appearance, having evidently lain undisturbed since the tectonic upheaval that sank the fortress into this ravine.
Burian and Drenk made their way into this room, and could see the now-filled-in arrow slits where these three must have previously been stationed. Burian could see a glint of magical energy with his attuned eyes, and tried to reach into the quiver of one of the fallen warriors.
To his chagrin, and reinforcing his naiveté to Drenk, the skeleton in question reached up and grabbed Burian’s arm and struck at Burian’s body with its rusted shortsword. The weapon took a tithe from Burian, and as he recoiled, Drenk reacted to the surprise by lobbing his net over one of the other necromantic constructs.
Unfortunately, the rest of the party were unable to gather what was really going on in the chamber, and Kalashnikov let off an Eldritch Blast from across the tower floor that mercifully missed the rest of the party and splashed purple flames across the wall.
Jester, utilising his elven heritage, nimbly darted past Drenk and stabbed at the skeletons with his rapier and dagger, missing with the sword and breaking some bone with the dagger. The netted skeleton swiped at the rogue, but Jester evaded the attack and wisely jumped back outside the room.
Stuck behind Drenk’s muscle-bound form, Enna threw a casting of Sacred Flame into the room, and crisped a few bones on one of the skeletons, while the netted skeleton escaped its bonds by cutting through the net.
“Let’s rid ourselves of these bastard undead!” Burian called out, casting Shillelagh and crushing his assailants’ skull with a blow from his imbued staff, “Finally!”.
Drenk followed up his diminutive companions’ assault by destroying the previously-netted skeleton with a backhand swipe from his maul, and picked up the net, deeming it recoverable. A loud swear could be heard from the tower area as another flash of light, putrid yellow this time, illuminated the room momentarily, having no real effect on the fight.
The final skeleton brought its scimitar down across Burian’s back, catching him and leaving a red welt along his back, but Jester managed to slice off the shield arm with a follow-up strike from his rapier. At this point, Enna strode into the room, eyes lit up in equal parts by religious zeal and anger at the injustice of the undead, and incinerated the skeleton with a final casting of Sacred Flame.
Taken aback by the fierce energy streaming out of Enna’s fingertips, Jester and Drenk retreated out from the cloister, Drenk grabbing a few bowstrings of reasonable quality to fix his net later. As Enna applied some basic first aid to his back and directed some of her excess energy to purging his wounds of undead energy, Burian sorted through the rubble for anything that could be useful.
When they emerged, Kalashnikov was pacing and ranting to himself about something like “everyone…getting in MY way…I want them apples!”, but Burian went to Jester an gave him a bundle of 60 more arrows. Additionally, there were a few magical arrows in the ancient quivers, that Enna had divined held an additional magical “punch”.
Burian held onto the 32 silver and 13 gold pieces while Kalashnikov delved in the rubble, figuring a party fund might be more useful for the time being. While waiting for his brother, Burian set up a ritual to detect magic, finding none in this room, but supplementing his sight for some ten minutes to come. Drenk started on his net-fixing and Jester checked out the northwest and southwest doors for traps, finding none so deeming them safe to travel through.
When he re-emerged, Kalashnikov was holding a grotesque foot totem, having strapped the goblin shoes he’d been carrying to either side of an intact skeleton foot. These seemed to somehow be attached to 3 ribs, making an absurd bracket over his chest, and clearly revolting Enna. His manic look just made the rest of the party sigh, turn around and head through the northwest door, further into the submerged castle.