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Welcome to Episode 30 of the Rescued by Dragons podcast, Tales of the Brunch Club: A fantasy fiction podcast inspired by a weekly, home brew, Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
My name is Brian Messmer and I invite you to picture yourself in a cozy, torch-lit tavern, ale in hand, gathered around a table with other listeners, waiting to hear the next chapter in the tales of… The Brunch Club.
But first, a quick recap…
In episode 29, The Brunch Club met Solania’s contact in the ruins of Elnor’s old Temple District. She told them undead had been rising from the crypts beneath the old Temple of the Raven Queen. Their mission was to search the crypts, kill any undead they encountered, and destroy whatever was raising them. The group walked down five flights of stairs before encountering the first group of undead, which they dispatched by luring them out and picking them off as they entered the hallway. They used that strategy on two more groups of undead. After killing the third group of undead in a larger hallway, they moved forward to the next chamber.
Episode 30, “Silver Boots”
The Brunch Club stepped carefully around the oily puddle and loose ball bearings in the middle of the hallway. They stepped over the undead corpses and into the next chamber. This room was larger than the others. A large plinth sat in the middle of it. They could not tell if it was an altar or a platform intended for a sarcophagus. There was a door directly opposite the way they entered, which led to another hallway. The door on the wall to their left led into another room. The door on their right was flanked by two large suits of armor. In front of the suits of armor lay the motionless bodies of several undead corpses. Most of the bodies were missing their limbs. Some were missing their heads. A few were cut in half. Dried blood and gore covered the two-handed broadswords the suits of armor held in front of them.
Diesa stepped over one of the bodies and slowly approached the doorway. A warm, ethereal glow filled the suits of armor and beams of light streamed from the helmets’ eye holes and gaps in the armors’ joints. They raised their swords upwards and shifted their legs into fighting stances.
Diesa held her hands out in front of her and backed away quickly. “Okay, okay, I’m leaving. Nothing to see here. We’re cool.” she said.
With her dwarven eyes accustomed to the dim lighting of underground, Diesa was able to make out a rough idea of what the satues were guarding. There seemed to be an ornate sarcophagus against the back wall of the smaller room, set maybe 10 feet back from the guarded entrance. It had carved stonework and what looked to be ancient runes that she couldn’t read. She relayed the info to the rest of the group who were hanging back in the hallway. The rest of them took another look at the menacing broadswords of eery, lifeless suits of armor and decided they should tackle that later. Perhaps they could deal with that after the accomplish their original mission.
“Maybe we should check the other room,” said Elora.
They kept their eyes on the suits of armor as they moved away from them and toward the door on the opposite wall. The sentinels lowered their swords and stood back up at attention as the light faded to darkness inside them.
“Perhaps we should send Pip in first?” Vojhon suggested.
“What the fuck? You’re supposed to be the big brave Paladin, but nooo, ‘let’s send Pip in.’ You fucking coward.” Pip said, bristling at the idea, though only Salys could understand him. She commanded her familiar to carefully inspect the dark room ahead. He flew to the ground and landed next to the doorway. He crouched down as low as his pygmy owl legs would let him, and cautiously peered around the corner into the darkness. He hopped forward once then squinted to try and see further into the room. He sighed heavily then hopped a few more times through the doorway until he disappeared. Thirty seconds later he flew out of the room and landed on his master’s shoulder, beak chattering in her ear, telling her what he saw.
“He says the room’s empty and looks like it’s been caved in. It’s mostly broken rocks and dirt,” Salys told them all, relaying Pip’s report.
“Only one door left,” said Drusilla.
They turned toward the remaining, unexamined doorway, just in time to see two spirits enter the room. Diesa and Vorjhon quickly swung at them. The magical nature of Eclipse, and the holy oil coating Diesa’s axe did severe damage to the ethereal forms. Elora’s phoenix arrow, and Drusilla’s sacred flame finished them off.
“Let’s keep going and get this over with. I’m getting tired of this place,” said Elora with annoyance in her voice.
With Drusilla’s dancing lights guiding the way, they walked slowly through the door into a small hallway which brought them to another room. This room was small. It was more of a landing in front of a staircase that went upwards.
When they reached the top it opened up into another long hallway. At the very end of the hallway, they saw a lone skeleton. It paced back and forth past an open archway as if it was guarding something. It was illuminated by light coming from the other side of the archway so Drusilla quickly doused her dancing lights.
“It hasn’t seen us yet,” Drusilla whispered to the others.
“Can you take it out before it alerts whatever’s in that room?” Vorjhon asked.
“If Diesa, Salys and I hit it at once, we probably could,” said Elora.
“Worth a shot,” Diesa said, taking her shortbow off her back.
The rogue, sorceress, and ranger took aim. The ranger quietly counted down.
“Three. Two. One,” she said, and released her arrow. Diesa released hers and three green magic missiles shot from Salys’s hands.
The phoenix arrow appeared back in Elora’s quiver, but as she reached for it, she saw it wouldn’t be needed. The skeleton was lying in a motionless heap on the ground on their side of the door. They held their breath for a few moments as the sound of now lifeless bones clattering against old stone echoed off the walls. Nothing came out to check on the skeleton.
“Well done my friends” whispered Vorjhon.
They proceeded quietly down the hallway and carefully peeked into the room. There were torches along the walls and closed coffins lying on the floor. On either end of the room were raised platforms that looked like stages. On one platform was an altar. Next to it stood a skeleton that looked like it once belonged to a very large warrior. It wore bronze armor and held a great sword over its shoulder.
Salys gave a quiet gasp when she saw what was on the other platform. There was another altar with a motionless corpse on top of it. Hovering above the corpse was a creature with a round body, large mouth, and a number of eye stalks sticking out from all angles around its body.
“A beholder,” whispered Salys.
“Is it the one you met?” asked Vorjhon.
“No, it’s smaller, and it looks gray and… weird,” Salys answered.
“It looks undead,” Drusilla observed.
“So what’s the plan?” hissed Diesa.
“How about Diesa and I distract the beholder while you three take out the skeleton?” Vorjhon suggested.
The rest of them reluctantly agreed. It wasn’t a great plan, but no one could come up with a better one. They readied their weapons. Vorjhon said a quick prayer causing Eclipse to glow with divine energy and they sprung into the room.
Elora sunk two quick shots into the armored skeleton. The skeleton turned toward them. He raised his hands, but not at them. He opened his palms toward the center of the room. The lids of three of the coffins slid off and undead warriors rose from them. Before it could raise more undead warriors, Drusilla struck it with a sacred flame and Salys finished it off with a barrage of magic missiles.
Across the room, Diesa took a shot at the beholder with her short bow as Vorjhon charged it. A ray of energy shot at Vorjhon and hit him in the chest, mid run. His front foot planted back on the ground and his weapon arm was raised but he did not move. He was frozen in place.
“Noooo!” Salys yelled, and ran towards Vorjhon. Her hands glowed and green lightning shot from them into the beholder. It floated backwards momentarily before turning one of its eye stalks on her. She felt an overwhelming, stomach churning sensation of fear well up within her. She could feel her heart beat faster within her chest and she was breathing heavily. Memories of her last encounter with a beholder flooded her mind. She screwed her eyes shut trying to force the images from her mind. She concentrated on controlling her breathing and regained control of her emotions as she pushed aside the effects of the beholder’s fear spell. She pushed her jaw out in defiance as she stared back up at the rotting beholder’s pale center eye and slack jaw lined with teeth.
Elora shot two arrows, hitting the beholder. She ran to the opposite platform and ducked behind the altar to get out of the way of the eyestalk beams.
Drusilla saw the undead soldiers ready to flank Salys on either side. She whispered a prayer to the Raven Queen which she hoped would cause the undead to flee. It worked. The undead turned from her and lumbered as quickly as they could toward the beholder. To her surprise, and relief, the beholder also looked afraid. It backed into the corner as far from the cleric as possible. This confirmed the cleric’s suspicion that the beholder was, in fact, undead.
Vorjhon’s torso lurched forward as the paralyzing spell was broken.
Salys, still raging, raised her hands at the retreating beholder.
“No Salys!” Drusilla shouted. “You’ll break my spell if you hit it!” she warned her, but it was too late.
Salys unloaded a volley of five magic missiles into the beholder. It slammed against the corner with each blow, but did not fall. It turned an eyestalk towards the gnome and a sickly yellow light shot from it. Vorjhon reached out to block the ray with his shield but he was too far away. The beam engulfed Salys and she disappeared. When the beam faded, all that was left of the sorceress was a pile of dust on the floor. Drusilla and Elora screamed as they saw the gnome perish. Diesa scowl deepened and she tightened her grip on her weapon.
Vorjhon said nothing. He looked at the beholder and charged. He swung at the creature twice, hitting it and unleashing divine, smiting energy into it with both blows.
The beholder still clung to it’s undeath, hovering shakily just above the stone floor.
Drusilla conjured a cloud of spiritual guardians. The spectral ravens swirled around her. She drew her sword and shield then charged the beholder as well. She stabbed at it as her raven guardians ripped chunks from it with their beaks and claws.
Still the creature lived
Diesa charged and swung her axe. The last vestiges of the holy oil dissipated as they sliced four of the eyestalks clean off the body.
Still, it lived
Elora stood up from behind the altar on the opposite side of the room. She fired two quick shots into the central mass of the body.
The beholder dropped to the platform. The eyestalks draped down over its body, hanging limp and motionless.
They moved quickly toward the three undead warriors still cowering in the corner with fear and quickly dispatched them.
Without pausing to catch their breath, Vorjhon and Drusilla ran back to Salys’s ashes. They fell to their knees, still breathing heavily from the battle. The cleric and paladin concentrated on reaching out to their gods, visualizing the Raven Queen and Bahamut, praying desperately for one of them to spare their friend’s life.
Diesa glanced Elora. They stood and watched for a few moments, then awkwardly got down on their knees, and hung their heads in respectful silence, not knowing what they should do next.
Drusilla felt a weird sensation come over her. She felt dizzy, like she wasn’t getting enough oxygen. She started to fall forward into unconsciousness then she felt herself pulled to her feet. When she opened her eyes, she was surrounded by darkness. She could hear a soft rhythmic sound all around her. She instinctively knew it was the sound of air being moved by gigantic wings.
“Your love for your friend is moving, my cleric,” said a voice whose pitch rose and fell with the rhythmic beat of the unseen wings. “As one of my champions you should understand the importance of the balance between life and death.”
“I understand, but I had to try. Forgive me for my selfishness, my Queen,” Drusilla replied, speaking into the darkness.
“If I could help you, I would, my champion. But the balance must be maintained,” said the Raven Queen. “Passing on is not something to fear, though there will be great pain and grief for those left behind.” Silence hung in the air, broken only by the beating of giant wings in the darkness.
“But.. but I just wish I could have saved her. I know it’s selfish to want her back but I… I just wasn’t ready for her to go.” Drusilla’s voice was quietly shook with emotion.
“I know my child, I know.” The Raven Queen’s voice was soothing, almost like a mother speaking to her distraught child. “But know this that your friend is safe now. Safe from a fate like the foes you face have suffered. And in time you, too, will come under the shelter of my wing and be reunited. Now go. Your other friends still need you. Salys will be with me, waiting for you to join us. But make her proud of how you use the time you yet still have, my little Raven.”
Drusilla felt the dizzy, oxygen-deprived feeling come over her once again. When she opened her eyes, she was back in the tomb, kneeling before the remains of Salys. She looked over to see Vorjhon still praying. He sounded like he was repeating something under his breath. She leaned towards him. She could barely make out the words, but it sounded to her like he was saying, “My prayer. My prayer. My prayer,” over and over again.
The dragonborn had cleared everything from his mind except thoughts of Bahamut. He focused only on the dragon god he had looked to for inspiration these last few weeks. He was so focussed on one, the dragon born let out a startled gasp when he suddenly felt his mind being split in two.
It didn’t hurt, but it was disorienting at first. He became aware of being in two different places and having two different conversations at the same time. Even though he knew he was in two different places, both halves were still perfectly separate. One half was in a silver void. He was neither floating nor standing. He simply existed. A small silver flame floated in front of him and flickered as it spoke.
“Did you learn nothing from your time in my service?,” the flame admonished him. “You know life is chaotic, creatures die at random all the time,” the flame continued. “That is the uncaring nature of the universe.”
“I did learn. That is why I prayed. I wanted to help protect my friends from the uncaring hand of fate,” Vorjhon replied.
“Maybe you did learn something, but it was the wrong message. Your friend’s life force is part of the energy of the universe now. It is not the Silver Flame’s place or desire to change that. The good are slain by eveil, and evil slain by good, but this petty squabling is not something my followers should busy themselves with. Many small lives are lost in the name of good, but all are redeemed when good vanquishes the largest fonts of evil. You were never good at seeing the big picture.” the flame said, “it’s within my power to bring her back, but you were never a faithful follower, always questioning and second guessing. For that, for your waivering faith to me, I will leave you to seek the means to bring your friend back elsewhere.” The flame flared brighter as it spoke the last spiteful words, and then flickered out.
During Vorjhon’s conversation with the Silver Flame, he also found himself standing on a vast plane of white sand. It shimmered. A soft, almost musical breeze hung in the air all around him.
“Hello my tiny Silver Scale,” said a deep, but soothing voice behind him.
He turned to see an enormous silver dragon. True to his description, every scale of his armored hide was the same size as Vorjhon.
“Bahamut!” the dragonborn gasped, and fell to one knee in supplication.
“You may rise, my paladin,” Bahamut said.
Vorjhon stood but had to strain his neck to stare up at the head of the giant dragon god that loomed above him.
“I know why you’re here,” Bahamut continued. “Are you sure you wish to go through with it?”
“If you will permit it, yes,” said Vorjhon.
“The other one won’t like it,” mused the giant dragon, clicking its tongue.
Vorjhon knew he was referring to the Silver Flame.
“Will it get you in some kind of trouble?” Vorjhon asked. He felt silly asking a giant immortal dragon if something would get it in trouble, but he did not want to be the cause of any strife between gods.
Bahamut chuckled. “Isn’t that just like you, my silver scale. Always putting others before yourself.”
Vorjhon said nothing.
“What are you feeling?” Bahamut asked.
“I’m scared,” Vorjhon said honestly, admitting it more to himself than to the dragon.
“You should be,” the dragon god replied, seriously. But his tone softened as he added, “But there is no need to be frightened. I will find a place for you by my side.” Bahamut took a deep breath and softly said, “Your prayer has been answered, my paladin.”
As the sentence ended, Vorjhon became aware of his other conversation just in time to see the Silver Flame flicker out.
Diesa, Drusilla and Elora stared at Vorjhon. He had stopped praying for a few moments. He sat eerily still, like he had been hit by another paralyzing spell. He startled them all when he sat quickly upright. He looked confused for a moment, then he smiled at them.
“It’s going to be all right,” he said.
His body began to shimmer. His scales slowly drifted away from his face. His armor, shield, clothing, Eclipse, and even the bag of colding, transformed into silver scales that floated into the air. They rose up, hovered in a sparkling cloud above them, then shot down into the pile of dust that had once been their friend
The ash and scales mixed together and swirled above the floor in an oval. It rotated faster and faster until it imploded upon itself and coalesced into the form of a gnome. Salys lay in front of them. She was barely breathing and she was naked except for a pair of silver scaled boots on her feet.
Drusilla quickly cast a healing spell on her as Elora draped her winter wolf cloak over her shoulders. They looked around the room but could see no sign of Vorjhon, not even Eclipse.
They were startled by a soft voice suddenly wafting through the air around them.
The voice said, “Dear Bahamut, I vow to protect my companions from harm so they can do work that will please you. I humbly beg that you will give me the strength to uphold this oath. If I should fail and my companions fall, I beg you to take my life in exchange for theirs. I am your humble servant.”
It was Vorjhon’s voice, but it sounded impossibly far away. Though none of them had ever heard him say it out loud, they all knew it was the prayer he said every night before bed. They all knew they had just heard it for the last time.
Our tale will continue in Episode 31
Episode 30 was written by Dominic White and myself, Brian Messmer. The story is based upon my own homebrew Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
Valuable contributions to the story were added by the role playing of:
- Bethany Powers, who plays Diessa
- JP Black, who plays Drusilla
- Liz Raychard, who plays Elora
- Anna Flemke, who plays Salys
- Dominic White, who plays Vorjhon
- And Brian Messmer, who plays everyone else
Thank you very much for listening Please join us next week to find out, along with the rest of us, what‘s going to happen next!