( listen… while reading )
Litelsnek and Rhysca stand at the edge of a rushing river, the blizzard scrambling their sense of direction. “Bong!” they again hear the bounding bell tower. They are close.
“Let’s do this!” Litelsnek yells excitedly as his comrade disappears into the blizzard to cross the frigid river. With the ferocious whiteout before him, Litelsnek squats behind his stout Blue Shield providing a moment of calm to gather his senses. “C’mon, cool million,” he whispers too himself.
White-knuckled, Rhysca tightly grips his sheathed Red Sword overhead of the rushing water, struggling to keep his footing as he trudges through waist-deep icy current.
Suddenly the flurry stops. Softly the snow falls. A figure appears at the base of a tall castle.
“Nice to see you guys!” Katanya greets, arms stretched wide. Katanya holds the wild torrent of chaos just beyond the edge of a giant invisible sphere. Litelsnek breaths a sigh of relief. “Thank you! This shield was acting like a parachute in the wind.” Litelsnek effortlessly steps across the river among the high rocks. Anchored in the riverbed, Rhysca pleads, “Could ya gimme a hand?”
“Guys, that’s the last of my Yellow Dust. Let’s get inside.” Katanya is anxious as the wind starts to break through her protective sphere.
They gather in the Keep’s vestibule, the stone walls covered in melee weaponry, shields and wizard satchels – admirably equipped, but aging and unkempt.
“I explored the Keep,” Katanya exclaims. “Just beyond the entrance a giant fire-breathing dragon sequestered the dungeon. Check your equipment and take side-arms from this table here. The side-arms are charmed and may save your ass, unlike the rusty stuff hanging on the walls.”
Each of the heroes help themselves to a dagger and a hand-axe from a nearby table; the side-arms glow faintly when handled and feel trustworthy, sure to lend extra protection when their Dust, Sword, and Shield fail to land a blow to the mighty beast.
“You can see the dragon’s lair and the bell tower on this map.”
Encounter 1: Fortune
“An easy way into the dungeon,” Katanya explains. “is to dash through the entrance, climb the far dungeon pillar, pass through the gateway, and drop down the slide.”
Litelsnek does not hesitate. He passes through the gateway, drops down the slide with a quick glance of the dragon and its mighty flame, and gathers himself to attack. He uses his shield to retard the dragon’s flame, looses his footing, and falls into the pit. Death washs over Litelsnek and he reawakens in the vestibule.
“Careful!” Katanya warns. “We have 5 chances to fill our coffers at Westgale Keep before it resets the loot.”
Rhysca boldly waves away the warning and dashes at the dungeon, hoping for some action. As he passes through the gateway he accidentally slips and falls backwards into the dungeon! Gems and gold unexpectedly shower down from the dungeon ceiling, rewarding the heroes! Rhysca quickly falls into the pit as he learns the mechanics of this dungeon.
“That was skillful! I bet you can’t do that a second time!” Litelsnek teases. Rhysca smirks.
Encouraged by the challenge – and by the gold – Katanya snatches Litelsnek’s shield and Rhysca’s sword and shoots towards the entrance. She calculatingly climbs just beyond the gateway, drops the shield like a surfboard and rides it back through the gateway, head-on into battle. Gems and gold again shower the dungeon.
Katanya effortlessly heads straight into the dragon’s lair and grabs a large pile of gold. She touches a brick at a far dungeon wall. A door in the wall opens and she is magically pulled out of the lair, head-on with the dragon’s flame once more. She rages with the sword landing multiple hits. Katanya throws her dust at the dragon’s flame and douses another large section of the fiery mayhem. She then shoulder-braces the shield and charges at the dragon, completely extinguishing its flame. The dungeon goes dark save for starry signals from sources unknown, following this impressive array of attacks.
Encounter 2: Phantom
Briefly dizzied at the onslaught of attacks, the dragon lunges at Katanya and she goes hurtling towards the shadowy pit. The hand-axe at her side flashes brightly as she prepares herself… keeping her sight focused on the dragon’s lair. Near the pit a ghostly invisible spirit carries her towards the center of the dungeon, aligning her for an attack. The flash disappears from the axe and it dims to its former glow, though still noticeably charmed.
The dragon is this time prepared for the thief. It effortlessly munches Katanya, throwing her at the pit’s center, far from the spirit’s influence.
Katanya appears in the vestibule grinning widely, “that last bit didn’t go as planned.”
“Epic show off.” murmurs Litelsnek.
Katanya smirks. “Did you see the charmed axe? When the side-arms flash, a phantom ghostly force automagically saves you from falling into the pit, and carries you to attack position. If you find yourself in the pit’s shadows and the side-arms are not flashing, give them a tap and they’ll wake up to save you from death.”
It was Litelsnek’s turn to whip out some moves. He chooses the easy way through the gateway and darts into the dungeon, continuing the attack. After a few dashes around the dungeon and tamping down the dragon’s flame, his weapon attacks weaken. They require sharpening or restoration. Litelsnek searches the dungeon for an armory. He finds a secret door behind the gateway pillar, and disappears…
Encounter 3: Rescue
Katanya and Rhysca curiously look at one another. Katanya breaks their gaze and charges the dungeon entrance. She searches for Litelsnek though finds herself in the lair between the dragon and its hoard! She snags some gems and again touches a brick, transporting out of the lair.
Returning to the fight, Katanya is surprised by Litelsnek darting past her in the dungeon.
“What happened to you?!” Katanya inquires. Litelsnek breathes deeply, “I was trapped in the wall… thanks for rescuing me.”
They both realize they are in the dungeon at the same time!
“ATTACK!” Ka-pow! Sha-shing! Gu-joink! Fra-klam! Wha-dong! The heroes lose each other in the chaos. Litelsnek enters the gateway and the hoard shimmers brightly, growing in size. Bedazzled, Littelsnek loses his path and the dragon’s firewave sends him into the pit.
Katanya kneels at the far side of the dungeon beyond the dragon’s claw, breath, and fang. Though battered and beaten, Katanya notices a doorway cloaked beyond the high platform leading to the Tower. She investigates for a way up the walls to the platform, and with a whoosh is pulled into the wall!
The platform Katanya walked under lowered itself. Rhysca seizes the opportunity and enters the dungeon. He makes his way up the platform, providing an excellent vantage point of the dungeon’s maze of portals, trapdoors, and hidden passages. He exclaims with eyes of clarity “This I gotta map.”
The heroes continue their battle, get their fill of gold, and recall their trials as they head to the nearest city. Over time the Keep’s fires diminish, the dragon’s hoard again unbothered. The Keep’s Tower bell hums at the caress of the western gale, echoing through the neighboring forest.
… decades pass …
Encounter 4: Wrinkles
Mith and Rando are strolling along the harbor looking for their contact when a swoosh of chilling wind sweeps through the crowd. A large, thick parchment flies past Mith in a flash. She chases after it. Rando follows. The parchment sticks to a small boat’s gunwale and Mith steals it from the wind.
The parchment is a map of a forgotten realm… beyond the northern mountain scape a stronghold by the name of Westgale Keep. The map reveals treasure and the promise of unforgettable memories. They return to camp. The map is faded, baring years of wrinkles and torn bits, but legible.
A smile runs over their faces. “Wanna take a trip?!”
Rando and Mith gather their gear and supplies and head for the hills. They have a relatively uneventful journey, save for the eclectically occupied grounds of the inn on the first night.
With their confidence high and their weapons clean, they enter the castle. The dragon senses this party of heroes and startles awake!
By their numerous achievements, with exhaustion in their final hour both heroes fall unwittingly into the pit’s grasp. Rando one last time slides into Death’s grip, reappearing in the vestibule, and notices Mith startle awake as she is catapulted from the pit back into the Keep’s dungeon, gasping for breath and at the ready!
Their battles epic, their stories unfold. They embrace cherished discovery and adventure.
The Keep’s flag flaps in the westerly gale, echoing through the dungeon’s halls into the surrounding woods. Beyond the grounds the rushing roaring river conceals these inner battles. As heroes pass through its doors, the Keep’s stone cold cobalt dungeon holds secrets still.
Death Save: Multiple heroes fall into the pit at the same time and 1 of them springs to life, thrown back in the dungeon for continued play.
Lucky Feat: Teleport Wizard, climb and activate any bell tower target with a single attack action; +Mystical Million for Skilled Feat.
Phat50: Gather the minimum gold possible: 50 gold.
Dungeon Blessing: Wizard or Warrior have escaped prior to the beginning of the game.
Dungeon Curse: A hero is randomly teleported and falls unpredictably.
Unfinished Business: After a game ends with both the Wizard and Warrior escaped, the Ghost in the Machine 1515 rescues the Wizard and with the help of the dagger and hand axe, attempts an attack. (Achievement name inspired by Master the Dungeon)
( the legend of Ghost in the Machine 1515 )
Gravy diligently searches the remains of the battlefield for undamaged weapons and valuable trinkets to which the fallen so desperately clung in their final moments, hoping they had fulfilled their duty to their loved ones, or before they gave into their rage-driven justification for this eternal war. Gravy knows the greed driving the battles of this age. It destroyed the lives of his closest allies. He hopes it will not also take his family, but searching for them in the wake of this chaotic war is a fool’s errand.
Do not draw attention. Get in, get good, and get out of sight. Gravy reminds himself to stay focused and hurries on. There is often that half-dead asshole looking for a target on which to spend his remaining aggression.
Gravy wanders toward a nearby village and enters a collapsed home hoping to find rations for tomorrow’s caravan trip.
“Gasp!” the infant illithid holds his breath. He hears rustling outside and wishes not to see another dire rat hunting for decrepit flesh. Though able to see light through the cracks in the fallen stones and logs that covered him, he was seriously injured and is struggling to stay alive. The illithid’s vision starts to fade as he senses sentience walking outside and, as baby illithids instinctually do to lure their food, cries in desperation.
Gravy hears an odd squeak he doesn’t recognize, though it feels like a scream… for help. Gravy climbs through the rubble, stumbling to find the source of the strange noise. He moves stones, burnt logs, and cast iron kitchenware.
“Yaaaahhh!” the illithid squeals, shocked at the shine of angels blinding the silhouette of an enormous figure. As its eyes adjust, the figure clarifies.
Gravy arms his daggersword! He uncovered a tiny mauve-skinned tentacled octopus, and Gravy knows exactly the tales of those that crossed paths with these creatures! This is a mind flayer!
The quiet stare of the mind flayer sinks deep into Gravy’s heart, and paralyzes him in the gaze of its innocence.
Gravy snaps out of it. He has to get moving if he is to join the caravan. Gravy usually travels alone, but to cross the treacherous continental divide he need stay hidden in group cover.
Gravy hastily scoops up the baby illithid and heads towards the crossroads. The barren western cities are sure to have buyers of untarnished weaponry, and especially exotic items like this baby creature. To the right buyer it is worth a fortune. Gravy gathers brains of the battle’s victims to nourish the baby illithid en route, but thinks to do so secretly for a crowd of humanoids would dispense of this threat with no hesitation. Shhh. With a finger to his lips Gravy signs silence to the illithid; it nods in response and in Gravy’s mind rises the word Yes. They smile at each other.
Many years pass and Gravy and the mind flayer became quite the team. Some would say almost family. They came to trust and rely on each other with many adventures in open lands, caves, but usually towns full of opportunity. Gravy advanced his thieving skills significantly while, from the shadows, the illithid’s mind control abilities distracts their gluttonous victims. Gravy and the illithid feel each other’s thoughts, so spoken words were simply unnecessary.
They set some basic rules in place to signal the illithid’s hunger for sentient brains, but to keep the adolescent mind flayer under cover safe from harm. When the illithid raises his finger to his mouth and telepathically speaks Yes to Gravy, they terminate the mission, stick together, and find an ailing healthy brain before sleep.
Overlooking the city streets one cool evening, they plan their next adventure. They are both exhausted from a string of very profitable looting, so they decide on a week-long road trip to the southern metropolis. As they lay down to sleep, the illithid clears his mind for his usual evening question of curiosity. Often the mind flayer asks Gravy about the cultural origins of the city in which they reside, or of the professions of the looted, or to share a wonderous story of heroes and villains to quiet his thinking.
Tonight is different. The untouchable stars shine brightly in the night sky and subtly call to the mind flayer, and the illithid wonders onto his own origins.
The illithid speaks up. “Do I have a name?” the mind flayer asks Gravy.
“Flarry” Gravy responds. No reason, really. It just sounds right.
The mind flayer is not so convinced and crosses his arms questionably at Gravy. “Hi, I’m Flarry! Nice to meet you!” says Flarry. It does sound right.
They both laugh, and Flarry the mind flayer fills his mind with images of forgotten realms, and of bags of holding, and of sending stones, and falls fast asleep.
Their road trip the next day is a refreshing change of scenery. Exiting the stuffy city is what they both needed. On their way out, Gravy upgrades his gear; an enchanted Daggersword, a Shield of Deflection, and a Horned Chapeau of Deception. Flarry is outfitted with a thick Hooded Cloak of Concealing.
Their path leads along a mountain river populated with fresh fish for Gravy, and plenty of kobold caves for Flarry. They sit down for a meal and hear the moan of the wind in the trees… but there is no wind. Gravy and Flarry make eye contact. They hear the moan again… no, a bell-like hum… In the middle of the still forest!? They each feel the exciting rush of something new! They drop their food and dart through the forest towards the sound. It gets louder and louder as they reach a forest clearing. The hum ceases.
Before them is a large stone castle with a shimmering bronze bell at the top of a tall tower. A broken sign nearby reads “Westgale Keep”
Gravy and Flarry both enter the Keep. They admire the wonderous dust-free vestibule of this Keep in the middle of the forest, a dagger and handaxe on a nearby table energetically sing with clarity, teasing extraordinary wealth and adventure. Nostalgia washes over them, taking them to memories of Flarry’s youth when he and Gravy were first learning to coerce the filthy rich.
Flarry’s wandering curiosity leads him through a doorway, which shuts and locks behind him, and he tumbles down a slippery slide finding himself in a large maze-like dungeon!
“Woah!” Flarry twists about, knocking around to and fro.
At the bottom of the slide, for a split second, Flarry spots a huge red dragon! The dragon awakens and with a huge roar shakes the dungeon walls!
“Ahhhh!” Flarry screams out. “Father, help!”
The dragon charges at Flarry and blows a fireball, barely missing the illithid who is thrown to the back of the dungeon near a large pit. The dragon charges again, and Flarry braces himself for pain, but Gravy jumps in to shield Flarry from the dragon’s flame! Gravy falls backwards from the force of the flame and collides with Flarry, who catapults out of the dungeon and into the vestibule.
Flarry frantically tries the dungeon entrance, but it is locked. He sees an inferno through the cracks in the door, and the silhouette of Gravy mightily driving back the dragon to protect his boy. Despite Gravy’s heroics, the dragon overcomes the thief’s dexterous blows, picks him up with monstrous jaws, shakes him like a ragdoll and swallows him whole. The dungeon entrance door unlatches.
Flarry charges in with hell-bent rage and takes the dragon head-on. He is not skilled enough to slay the dragon, but is able to read the dragon’s mind, predict each strike, and easily dodge its flame. Flarry can hear and feel Gravy in his mind, the tortuous psychotic screams of pain by acid on flesh. Flarry cannot bear the anguish and leaves the Keep’s ground, defeated. What will he do? What can he do? Flarry is nothing without Gravy, without his family.
Flarry trains for months, putting all aside to kill the dragon, that which stole his family from him. Day after day, fighting and dying, and slaying the dragon. He loses track of reality, following deeply in his mind the echo of Gravy’s essence, endlessly wandering, forever yearning for the family he once knew, climbing ever deeper into grief and rage, clinging onto existence even as his heart stops beating.
Flarry now haunts the keep, eternally yearning for the companionship and love he once experienced. He helps others slay the dragon, for only in the dragon’s death is Flarry’s soul at peace. But he knows the dragon does not die for long. The peace is temporary, for visitors in search of riches reawaken the dragon. Someday Flarry will find a way to end the dragon for good, and only then will Flarry be reunited with his mentor and guardian angel, Gravy.