The below game takes place weekly on a Google Hangouts call with players in Texas, Brooklyn, Long Island, and Southern California. We’re playing Dungeons & Dragons, 5th edition.
Rolen: Half-Elf Druid
Gokta: Half-Orc Priest
Marook: Human Warlock
A BRISK WALK IN THE MOONLIGHT
Rolen stood in the town square, listening to the approaching guards coming from the west. He knew they’d be within sight in a few moments and nervously glanced to the east. In the moonlight, the mysterious gentleman he had met earlier in the night was quickly vanishing down the road. Rolen didn’t know how much longer he could wait. Standing alone in the town square with two dead bodies a few feet away wasn’t the ideal setting for an encounter with the City Guard.
Suddenly, Gokta and Marook burst from the front door of the jailhouse and started running directly at him. He motioned them to hurry and quickly started down the road to the east. They caught up to him and the trio charged around a bend in the road, losing sight of the town square and the guards that quickly began to fill it.
The group slowed to catch their breath but kept walking briskly down the cobblestone road. By the time they reached the fork in the road that led to, either the town-gates or the manor, they had lost sight of the mysterious figure ahead. They continued to the manor and after a few minutes, the narrow cobblestone road broke through the treeline and the group found themselves standing at the edge of the clearing where the manor stood.
Tanan Manor sits at the highest point in Lantiga. Almost entirely made of wood harvested from the Wendealth Forest below, the Manor has existed for three generations. The large yard that circles the manor is cut by a long, winding dirt path that leads to a polished front door adorned by a large iron knocker. A multitude of stained glass windows pierce the second floor, stopping only to make space for a large balcony that overlooks the town.
A LITTLE WHITE LIE
The party stood at the treeline and after noticing the two guards on duty, Marook uttered an incantation. His fine purple and black clothing began to blur and shift in the moonlight. In a few seconds, he stood next to Gokta and Rolen, dressed like one of the guards he’d seen in the town. Noticing what he was planning on doing, Rolen quietly distanced himself from the other two and crouched behind them in the trees.
One guard was resting against the wall near the front door to the manor and one was lazily patrolling the grounds near the fence. Still crouching in the treeline, Rolen suddenly spotted a figure darting across the lawn. It was a few hundred feet away, dashing across the yard from the fence at the rear of the manor and disappearing behind the building.
Without warning, Gokta picked up a stone from the edge of the road and threw it near the guard patrolling the fence. Without missing a beat Marook sprang into action, calling the guard over and alerting him that they’ve been sent to help bolster the security at the manor. The guard called his companion over to see if he knows what Marook is talking about – no one had notified him that they would be receiving reinforcements. A few seconds later, Gokta and Marook were standing in front of Braiden Yan, the Captain of the guard.
Luck would have it that Braiden had taken this post due to how quiet and uneventful nights at the Manor had been since the Lord had lost his wife. Coupled with an encyclopedic knowledge of military process and procedure, Gokta was able to convince Braiden that Lieutenant Gregory Laird had ordered a change of guard. Even though the Lieutenant and Lord Tanan usually left City Guard under the care of Braiden, when they made a request, he never second-guessed their authority.
After Braiden and his partner had left, Rolen joined Gokta and Marook on the lawn of the estate – this time, on the inside of the gate. Rolen, having seen the figure run behind the manor, morphed into a small black cat and dashed across the lawn. Gokta and Marook followed him around the back of the manor and found him pawing at what appeared to be the entrance to a cellar. The lock to the door had been broken and it was easy to swing open. Rolen slowly padded down the stone steps into the dark room below.
ROLEN SMELLS A RAT
Other than a faint flickering of torchlight, the cellar was dark. Rolen looked around and saw rows of stacked crates piled high with sacks of rice, beans, and flour. He hugged the wall and slowly made his way into the cellar before he heard a scratching sound coming from the corner of the room near the torchlight. He quietly made his way through the rows of boxes and when he turned the corner, he found himself face to face with three huge rats.
They were all huddled around a human hand that jutted out from a burlap sack in the corner. The rats had made short work of the fingers and were clawing at the sack, trying to get inside. As soon as they sensed Rolen nearby, they turned their attention on his tiny cat form and hissed loudly. At the sound, Rolen felt a multitude of eyes, glowing in the darkness of the cellar, all turn to rest on him. He quickly glanced around to realize that he had stealthed by 20 or 30 rats on his way to the corner. Rolen shifted back into his half-elf form and drew the scimitar from his waist. Startled by the sudden large creature, the rats in the room all screeched and tumbled over themselves to get away from Rolen and his sword. They fell from the crates and crawled out of sacks of rice – a sea of tiny rats covered the stone floor.
They swarmed by Gokta and Marook, who had entered the cellar and were making their way towards Rolen. Marook froze as the undulating sea of fur that covered the ground crawled over his feet and rubbed against his ankles. He was ready to cry out for Gokta to do something when the half-orc reared back and brought his armored boot down on a one of the rats. Blood splattered in all directions, as if a balloon had popped. This was the last straw, Marook lept into Gokta’s arms. Gokta held him until the last of the rats had exited the stairs behind them. Marook quickly climbed out of Gokta’s grasp and smoothed his robes. Before continuing into the cellar, he quietly addressed Gokta without looking at him, “this never happened.”
When they reached Rolen, a giant rat lay dead, beheaded on the ground next to him. Rolen was holding his stomach in pain and the two remaining rats looked ready to pounce. Gokta lept forward and easily dispatched the giant rats – crushing them with his warhammer.
The three stood in silence for a moment, the bloody remains of the rats at their feet. Gokta took a step forward and kneeled by the exposed and mutilated hand. He tore the burlap sack open and the long-dead body of one of the manor’s maids tumbled out. Gokta examined the body and found hundreds of tiny pin pricks covering her torso and a decent amount of dirty, tepid water that had collected in the bag underneath the body. After rifling through her pockets and finding nothing, Gokta unsheathed a dagger and respectfully removed two of her fingers and placed them in his satchel.
Rolen and Marook were glancing around the empty and now quiet cellar when Rolen started following something he found on the ground. He seemed to have find a trail of blood leading from the body they had found to a set of stairs that led up to the Manor. He let Gokta and Marook know that he was going to scout ahead a bit and let them know when it was safe to come up.
THE BOLTS OF HOUSE FOEBOK
Rolen slowly ascended the stone steps and pushed the polished wooden door open and peeked into the empty kitchen. Lanterns in each corner bathed the room in vibrant orange light. It took a moment for Rolen’s eyes to adjust and when he moved next, it was to crawl behind a wooden table at the edge of the room. He slowly scouted the room, staying low to the ground and hidden behind tables.
He finally mustered the courage to peek over the edge of the table and get a full look at the room. It was a large kitchen with scattered food rotting on the counters. Feeling secure in his clearing of the room, he was about to call Gokta and Marook up when he felt a something like a raindrop tap his head. He looked up just in time to see two massive centipedes clutching the ceiling above him. Before he could do or say anything, one released its grip and plummeted towards his face.
It had been about 60 seconds since Gokta and Marook watched Rolen disappear into the open door above and when they heard the sound of something crashing into a wall, they barreled up the stairs. Rolen barely noticed Marook and Gokta standing at the top of the stairs a few feet away. The centipede had wrapped around his arm and had lunged at his face like a cobra. He could feel a creeping heat spreading down his neck and into his chest from the numb area on his face where the creature had struck him. He swung his scimitar feebly and when it bounced off the hard casing of the centipede he used the last of his strength to dive towards Gokta and Marook.
A few moments later, the centipede lay on the ground near rolen – Gokta’s hammer wedged into its head. The second centipede that had joined the fray was pinned to the wall by a crossbow bolt. Marook reloaded his weapon, Gokta shook the gore from the end of his hammer, and helped Rolen up.
It was then that they heard a scratching coming from the closed door a few feet away. Marook peered through the window at what looked like a small walk-in cooler with frozen cuts of pork and lamb stacked on shelves. In the center of the room, slumped against the rear wall was a body in a cook’s uniform. Wrapped around the body was another centipede. When it pulled itself off of the body, tiny streams of water flowed out of holes where the centipede’s feet hooked to the body. It lunged at the window and struck the door a few times before Marook called Gokta over to handle the situation.
Gokta kicked the door in and the centipede flew to the ground. A crossbow bolt flew over Goktas shoulder and dispatched the centipede instantly. It wriggled for a moment and then lay dead. Gokta inspected the cook’s body and noted that it had the same puncture holes as the one in the cellar. The water flowing out of them carried tiny centipedes to the ground by his feet. He stood up, glared down at the body and raised his hammer above his head. He swung it down towards the corpse and seconds before impact, its eyes fluttered open. They gazed up at Gokta, black and deep, with white pupils that shone like stars. It opened it’s mouth, as if to scream, but before a sound could be uttered, Gokta’s hammer met its skull with a loud thud.
Unphased, Gokta stood up and walked out of the cooler, saying nothing to the other two. Marook looked horrified at the tiny centipedes crawling in the water pooling around the body and lept forward to crush them before joining Rolen and Gokta to exit the kitchen.
Rolen pushed the finely polished wooden door. It swung freely and the three adventurers stepped into a great hall. A large staircase with curling banisters bisected the room and lead to a landing with a glass double-door that opened to the balcony overlooking Lantiga. Above the doors were a row of red stained glass windows that they had seen from the lawn outside. The ceilings here were easily 30 feet high and the room was bathed in red moonlight. Under the staircase, the foyer with its large wooden door stood dark and empty.
Rolen took a few steps into the room before hearing the sound of someone speaking upstairs. Too faint and far away to hear clearly, the three carefully climbed the stairs until they could see a hallway with a series of doors on either side. A bright flicker of firelight bounded welcomingly through a partially cracked door in the hallway. The three approached it slowly and soon, a figure in the corner of the fire-lit room came into view. Tall, thin, and dressed in black, he stood with his back to them. The three men crouched quietly and watched as the figure stood, facing the corner, and spoke. It was unlike any language they had heard before. Their best guess that it was common, but spoken incredibly fast. Trying their best to decipher the language, the only words they could make out were “tunnel” and “forest”, which the man seemed to repeat several times in it’s gibberish.
Gokta whispered something to his companions and the man in the corner stopped its babbling for a moment to turn it’s head, as if listening. After a few seconds, he turned it’s head back and returned to the chatter. Not waiting for the man to hear them, Marook pushed the door open and strode into the room to confront the him.
The figure in the corner quickly turned to face the three men and for the first time, they glimpsed his face clearly. He was the mysterious man they had met in the tavern. Before they could say or do anything, his face began to crack and the skin changed color and peeled from his frame. The black overcoat he wore slowly faded to brown and fell from his body like dry leaves from a dying tree. When the transformation was complete, a seven foot tall creature stood in the corner facing them. It was translucent, naked and thin with purple skin and glowing white sockets where his eyes once sat. It let out a shriek and lunged at Marook.
No matter what the creature tried, Gokta, Marook, and Rolen were more than a match for him and it was only a matter of time before it fell to their assault. After a particularly vicious swipe from Rolen’s scimitar, it retreated to the corner, crossbow bolt wedged in its shoulder and scimitar gashes across its chest. Gokta took a commanding step forward and finished it off with a mighty swing of his hammer. It screeched and contorted as the bright purple sheen of its skin turned grey and dull. Then, in the blink of an eye, the creature turned to ash. Gokta looked down and rested his eyes on an antique golden locket that lay in the pile of ash. He reached down and picked it up. The Locket was rectangular with a white gem embedded in the front. Gokta opened it to reveal a blue velvet lining and the tip of a finger lying inside.
WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME
It was then that the group noticed the body lying in the bed. It was unmistakably the the mysterious man from the tavern. Gokta estimated that he had been dead for weeks. A light film of dust had gathered on the well-dressed corpse. Gokta, still holding the open locket, walked over to the side of the bed and kneeled down to inspect the body. The left hand was missing fingers and sections of skin had been cut from the palm. Gokta pulled the fingertip from the locket and held it to the hand – it was a perfect match.
Gokta stood and turned to face Rolen and Marook who were staring at him. Confused at what they were gawking at, he looked down at himself, and back at them, everything seemed normal to him. Rolen and Marook watched as the half-orc’s skin slowly faded from its dark green to white. The polished armor grew dull and dark and soft and before long, was replaced by a black overcoat. In a few moments, they were standing in front of the mysterious man from the bar.
Marook opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by a loud knock at the front door downstairs.