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]
Once again following Meepo, the group backtracked to the dragon cage room, and Meepo let out another whimper when he saw the damage done to the cage door. Patting him on the back, Drenk nearly knocked the poor kobold flat, before Meepo showed them a door they had not noticed in the mephit melee.
Behind the door lay another twisting corridor, bending first right, then left, emerging into a room littered with rat droppings and broken stone, as well as some more unsavoury stains.
“From here onwards, we will be in goblin territory. I will come with you to find Calcryx and I don’t have to shout password anymore, but I don’t know what’s along from here.” Meepo mentioned in a whisper.
“Who does?” Kalashnikov asked, cursing himself under his breath as he realised the answer just as Meepo said it.
“Yusgril knows. Yusgril knows all, if you ask the right question. You should have asked the right question!” he said, and the group could swear they heard a little mocking in the heavily-accented voice.
Jester led the way after this, motioning for everyone to stay quiet as they entered the next room, opening the solitary door on the opposite wall. A low creak ran through the still air as the rogue edged the door open, testing the hinges with the toe of his boot, and not a sound was heard from the intrepid explorers.
When no traps were triggered, Jester gingerly stepped into the room, and noticed a much more consuming darkness in the new corridor. Even with the darkvision that most of the party exhibited, they struggled to see down the length of the room, but could make out that no enemies were in this area.
Waving that the coast was reasonably clear, Jester beckoned the group in, and they could just about make out two key features. On their left was another recessed door, this time with a relief carved into it, that they couldn’t make out through the pervading darkness.
To the groups’ right was a decrepit fountain, which had clearly once been very ornate, and kept its beauty despite the cracks and wear over the surface of the rock. The central pillar of the fountain held a diving dragon, swooping low over the empty reservoir, its mouth a clear spout for the fountain.
First in the room, Jester sped over to the stone door, endeavouring to do a better job opening it than the catastrophe in the keg room. Unlike the dragon-fish of that door, this had a much more sinister design, with skeletal dragons adorning the relief carved into the door, in a distinctly threatening manner. Most peculiarly, this door appeared to have neither handle nor hinges, and Jester couldn’t find any form of traps protecting the door.
In fact, if this door hadn’t clearly been inset against the wall, one would have been forgiven for thinking that it was just an intricate wall adornment, which Trystan commented on while adjusting his map. Pressing his sensitive hands against the door, he could feel a noticeably cooler breeze around the closed entranceway, and the door didn’t move to a slight application of force.
While the two rangy companions were inspecting the door, Drenk took up a guard position looking further down the corridor, but couldn’t make out much more than the area they were in. Enna looked around the fountain, and found a faded inscription towards the base of the dragon. Brushing her hand across it, she couldn’t read the language, but it seemed like the scratchy markings around the cage room.
“Hey, Meepo, is this in your language? Could you read it for us in Common please?”
“Um, yes, this is…hmmm…Let there be fire!” he said, then jumped back as a gurgling noise emanated from the spout of the dragon fountain. The mouth of the dragon gathered a reddish tinge, then it increased into a white-hot glow, before a puff of flame accompanied the release of a stream of orange liquid. The strange fluid spluttered and spurted out of the nozzle, pouring into a smaller receptacle in the larger reservoir of the fountain, filling it almost to the brim, before the flow ceased.
When the group was reasonably sure the flow had stopped, they slowly approached the fountain and the fluid, but only Trystan was brave enough to touch the stuff. Thinking of the inscription, he brought his torch down to the orange goop, but no flame could light it.
“Well at least it doesn’t seem to be flammable,” he said with relief, having held his breath the whole time, then touched his pinkie finger to the liquid, then brought it up to his lips. A quick taste, and he could feel magic flow through his mouth, warming its way into his chest.
To the group, Trystan suddenly started fanning his mouth, trying to cool his insides, his face getting redder and redder until a burp popped from his throat. A flash of fire accompanied his released air, and he sagged a little, before turning to the others.
Looking around at the group, and their mostly-terrified faces (except the grim of amusement Kalashnikov seemed to wear whenever his comrades got hurt), Trystan suddenly smiled a huge grin.
“I know what this is! It’s a magical potion, must have been kept here since the time of Ashardalon and the dragon-worshippers. I can’t believe the kobolds have never used this! They love being like dragons!”
“What sort of potion are we talking about here?” Jester asked, then looking from the liquid to his possessions, Jester moved to the pedestal and gathered as much as possible into a used healing potion bottle.
“Hmmm, I’d say this should give the drinker the ability to belch fire for some time, not much use down here unless you come across some…wood…like that Grove the kobold mentioned?” the monk pondered, then bent over, his stomach gurgling with magical after-effects. “I…think I might have to sit down for a while…”
“Maybe this ‘ere potion could be used to solve another bloody riddle late’ on.” Kalashnikov muttered under his breath, as the monk wandered off to take some private respite and Burian sat to ritualistically cast his Detect Magic spell.
Now that one riddle was solved, the group gathered around the skeletal dragon door, and tried to puzzle out its meaning. With his watch-trained eyes, he spied another inscription in the door, in a similar font to the fountain’s, and called over Meepo to look at it.
“You want Meepo to read more writing? If you say so…” the kobold said, looking rather nervous. Meepo took much more care reading the inscription on the skeletal door, having learnt from his previous ‘help’, and retreated several steps from the door before saying “rebuke the dead, open the way”.
The door had no reaction to the phrase being spoken aloud, so all eyes turned to Kalashnikov, as one who fancied himself knowledgeable about necromancy. Frowning at the new pressure, the warlock stroked his beard before producing his bone totem from around his neck and stroking it against the door.
Once again, the door did not move, and Kalashnikov instead tried hitting it with the bones as hard as he dared.
“That won’t do anything brother. It has a dormant enchantment of necromancy on it, we need to work out what it actually means to open it.” Burian spoke up, as after finishing his ritual he could see the aura of dark magic settled over the door. The fountain had a rapidly fading conjuration spell effect, while the potion Jester had now secreted away gleamed alongside his last potion of healing.
Enna cast her mind back to her studies, but as she stared at the door, all she could feel was that the skeletal dragons seemed to be pushed forward by some force, as if something was holding it closed.
Trystan returned to the room and pressed his hand to the door once again. The cold aura had now grown into a deathly chill, as if responding to the life gathering around it…
“This door feels well death-y guys. I…think I’m going to leave you to it, I feel like I can get some better mapping done…anywhere away from here. Good luck though! Send me a raven if you brew that cider! Bye…”