Cast of Characters
Wood Elf Barbarian – Red
Yuan-Ti Wizard – new DM candidate
Andelle (Ann for short)
Wood Elf Druid – new player convinced to try D&D by her wargamer sister and brother-in-law
Tabaxi Druid – lady with a baby
Lizardfolk Monk – guy married to Mistress Mau’s player
Drawn by a line of smoke curling up into the sky, a shadow slithered through the trees until it came upon the entrance to a cave, the vines that had obscured it pushed aside and cut down. Sensing movement within, it ventured inside, where a rag-tag group stood over the torn-apart remains of a pristine set of armor.
Hazudra, searching the small alcove to make sure there was nothing else to find, was busy tugging at a strange crevice in the rock as the others noticed the new arrival. “What… how are you on this island? Who are you?” Del exclaimed, having assumed that the location was uninhabitted.
“I am Lord Blackwold,” the stranger said with a flourish of his lush robes, “And,you sssssssee… I was not the mosssst beloved on my ship, so they tosssssssed me overboard. My magic landed me here.”
“You’re lucky you didn’t end up down there,” Del said, implying that without his magic, the wizard would have likely been but a crater in whatever ground lay beneath the clouds, if there was land down there at all.
“They never did find me guilty,” Blackwold insisted, a forked tongue flicking out of his sly grin.
“The court could never prove that I poisssssoned my parents for their fortunesssss…”
Del looked at Ann in confusion. “What’s a court? Does he mean the elders?”
“I would assume so,” Ann replied with a shrug.
“Are you all coming or not?” Hazudra’s voice echoed from down a hidden tunnel that he had opened while the others were distracted.
“Sure!” Del exclaimed, rushing into the darkness as Ann gave Blackwold a sideways glance. The wizard conjured a floating lantern and also ventured in, Mau and Ann not too far behind.
The light of the lantern spilled out around them, Del almost bowling into Hazudra as he lingered at the edge of the light. To the elf’s eyes, the darkness was pale shades of grey, and in the center of the large cavern ahead, a lake glistened as if in the moonlight. The surface was still as glass, and reflected in it was the dark silhouette of a tower, all dark stone and shining crystal. Yet, where the tower cut a harsh shadow in the water, the real thing was jagged and broken, falling apart from apparent decay. Its door stood ajar, the handsome wooden planks warping apart; while what would have been a brick stoop had collapsed in on itself.
Ann looked down the small pit the collapsed stoop had become, what appeared to be the metal workings of a trap door buried in one side of the debris. “I can make that jump,” Hazudra said from behind her as he tossed a rock that pushed the door open farther. “Anybody got some rope?”
“I do!” Del offered, Hazudra taking one end and tying it about his waist. The Lizardfolk backed up to take a running start, but as he got to the edge, his feet tied themselves up. He plummeted directly down into the pit, and as Del braced to catch his weight, a loud crash announced that the pit was shallower than they anticipated.
“Graceful,” Del chuckled.
“There’re some hallways down here,” Hazudra answered, and as the others crawled down into the pit behind him, he brushed himself off and went to inspect the ways forward. As soon as his clawed foot left the gravel though, a large plate in the floor depressed, emitting an audible click.
Hazudra froze, bristling in anticipation, but as he stood motionless, only the whisper of the breeze disrupted the silence. “It may be bessssst,” Blackwold hissed from the far side of the pit, ushering the others to stand back as well, “to leave the trap quickly.”
Hazudra nodded, a grim frown etched into his scaled features, and readied himself to move, careful to leave his weight on the plate as he slowly turned to face back into the rubble. “Ok… three… two…”
He leapt, and the others cringed as a skitter of stone rolled down from the pit into the tunnels. A loud click announced the plate returning to its previous position. A quiet sigh followed a muffled crunch.
“Well… that wassssss anti-climactic,” Blackwold grumbled, poking at the pressure plate before turning to the four hallways that snaked off into the darkness. “Let’s go this way.”
Hazudra brushed himself off before following along with the others, their progress slow as Blackwold meticulously examined each foot of floor, wall, and ceiling for further traps before continuing. The lantern bobbed along beside the wizard, dipping to and fro whenever he bent to scrutinize a particularly suspicious patch of rock, but it illuminated nothing out of the ordinary until after they had turned this way and that through what was apparently a maze. Upon turning a corner though, its light saw the stone change. A roiling mass of black engulfed the floor and walls before surging forward, thousands of tiny spiders advancing across every conceivable surface.
The wizard conjured a small blob of fire into the spiders’ midst, roasting a circle of floor clean before their purposeful advance filled the space again. Not wanting to be engulfed, Blackwold backepedalled behind Del, who found herself quickly covered in tiny bodies and bites. Her vision filled with tiny chitinous black bodies, and everything became a blur. Before she knew it, the only spiders left were scurrying away, disappearing through cracks and crevices as Hazudra picked spider legs from his teeth and the others wiped bug guts from their weapons.
Del shook her head, a spider falling out of her hair before she noticed that she, as the others, was covered in squashed insects. “Nasty… what did I just do?” Del gagged, trying to wipe herself off. The others only looked at her silently but questioningly before Blackwold led them onward to the end of the hall, where the tunnel widened into a small room.
Opening the metal door on the other side, they entered into a different hallway, except this one only extended in a straight line to the sides. Three more doors lined it, two to the left and one to the right, but all were on the same side as the one the group had entered through. With a shrug, Blackwold opened the one to the right as the party gathered around, only to be met by even more swarms of spiders.
Without much thought, Blackwold cast another spell just as Hazudra sprinted into the room with a mighty cry. Swinging his axe furiously, the lizardfolk was caught off guard as the entire room was coated in a veneer of grease. The resultant slip of his feet brought the flat of his weapon upside his head, knocking him out cold as Del and Ann vaulted past, barely able to keep steady footing themselves. Del cursed at the wizard for making the room worse, although her words came out in Elvish instead of the common language; and where Ann had leapt into the air, the form of a giant bear landed. With a roar, it proceeded to smash the insects to bits beneath its great paws, but Del turned on her heel, grabbing her unconscious comrade as Mistress Mau swatted spiders with her spear and Blackwold whispered one more quiet word from the doorway.
Out just in time, Del felt a rush of heat. “Why fire?” she shrieked in Elven, unable to twist her tongue into forming the common words. “The room was bad enough, so you make it worse and then set it on fire?! You are insane!”
“Elfity-elf to you too,” Blackwold responded as the now-flaming bear rushed from the room. Having situated Hazudra’s motionless body, Del began to furiously pat out Ann’s burning fur, although once she changed back, no evidence of the flames remained.
The Druid and Tabashi silently moved to the next door to listen and guage what was on the other side, but when they drew near, the occupant threw itself against the door, clawing at the metal ferociously.
“What are you doing?” Del demanded. “Why would you open another one?”
“If we are going to get back out, we have to clear these.” Ann replied in common. “They are obviously cages opened by that tile Hazudra tread upon.”
“I do not like it,” Del growled, still too worked-up to think very clearly, much less speak outside of her native tongue.
“I can remedy this!” Blackwold announced proudly. “I can poisssssson it! We ssssssseal the door up with ragsssssss, and I fill the room with poissssson gas.”
The others shrugged, indifferent, so Blackwold did as he intended. With his hand tightly against the one open spot of the door jam, it was not entirely clear if his plan was working at firsr, but soon the scratching at the door subsided and ceased.
“Workssssssss like a charm!” Blackwold crowed as the others listened at the door, confirming that no sound came from within.
“If you are so certain, how about you go first,” Del insisted, still not confident that the large creature on the other side would have been dealt with so easily.
“You first,” Ann relayed to Blackwold, who flung the door wide open with a confident grin.
“I poisoned it out of existence!” he proclaimed loudly from the middle of the small room, only to have the others rush past him to the opening of the maze. The creature, a great black hound of ash and fire with burning red eyes, had come rushing back, met at the door by the group while a surprised Blackwold gauped. Weapons and claws tore at the beast, but only flames licked where blood would have normally flowed. It let out a great howl as the wizard found his sense and joined the frey, but then the hound opened its mouth wide, a geyser of fire leaping forth to engulf the entire room.
“Why fire? Why is there always fire?!” Del howled, her skin blistering and crackling as she and the others turned to run. The hound moved to give chase after them, but it found the metal door shut in its face. Claws raked at the metal again, but the barricade would not give way. On the other side, Del leaned against the metal in relief but jumped away with a yelp as its temperature sharply increased and tongues of fire licked around the doorjam.
“No more doors,” Del panted as Mau pressed a large ear against the last one along this stretch of hall, but Mau gestured for the others to gather around. This time, they prepared before the door was flung open wide, and the strange orange bug on the other side barely knew what hit it before it was in bits.
“Now we have a place to sleep,” Ann said, gesturing to the closed door on the other side of this cage.
“I guess that is worth it,” Del sighed, finally calm enough to speak normally as she took out the bedroll from her pack once the carcass of the bug had been moved elsewhere. “At least that demon dog will not be able to get to us.”
The husband liked the last story-style DnD report and requested that I should keep writing this way, so that is what I am going to do. Maybe this way I will end up with something like a book ever so slowly.
The dungeon we ended up in was amusingly difficult for the party considering we were down half of our players, especially since two of those were our other tank-type characters. Hopefully we will have more regular appearances in the future.