Chapter 36:

Very Definately Final Dungeon


February 20, 2023 AD. Sunview University, California, USA, Earth

The day had come: President’s Day, February 20th, the planned day of their first D&M session of the year, and, if everything went to plan, the last session of this story arc. Cam had spent hours and hours preparing this encounter, drawing out the final dungeon, and painstakingly balancing the final boss fight to be challenging but not impossible. Of course, as a DM, he knew that players had a habit of completely messing up the dungeon master’s master plan. He had tried to come up with as many contingencies as possible, but even accounting for the fact that he knew his players and their playstyle quite well, he kept freaking out that he had missed a key detail.

Still, Cam felt woefully unprepared when Annette, Bekah, Dinah, and Ella entered his dorm room at nearly the same time—Jordan was already there. They all seemed thrilled to get a chance to finally play D&M again, but he couldn’t help but notice that all of the pregame chatter ignored him. He figured this sense of confusion probably stemmed from his sticky situation that, if he admitted to himself, he had handled atrociously. My indecisiveness may have caused a lot of angst, he told himself, but no more! Cam is a changed man! I will maturely and decisively deal with my problems! …. Eventually.

His inner monologue was interrupted by Jordan tugging on his shoulder. “Let’s go, dude,” he said. The girls all nodded that they were ready.

With no more stalling to be done, Cam took a deep breath. “All right. Last time, the Sunviewers recovered a map pinpointing the location of the creator of the marauding undead…”

Remembrance Moon 6, AS 632. Tale’s End Tavern, Apotheosis City, Sulmon Magocracy, The Sundered World

“Let us be on our way,” begged Erenata. “We have rested, fed, prepared, and taken stock of our resources numerous times. What more canst we do?”

“You can never do enough recon” snapped back Appraiser. The group was sitting in the back table of a tavern, doing their best not to look suspicious, although for this group it was a difficult task. Appraiser continued “besides, like I already told you, we’re waiting for someone. I visited the Adventurer’s Guild to see if we could find some help. I found someone who dodged the draft, just like us. He’s going to meet us here any minute now.”

“I’ve lived my whole life in this city and I never even knew it had an Adventurer’s Guild,” Cyton muttered.

Appraiser shushed him and pointed at a large, cloaked figure carrying a battleax approaching their table. “He’s here.”

The figure sat at the only open chair. He lowered his hood to reveal a very familiar face: a large and muscular red-skinned fiendblood.

“Jorgun! I’m so glad to see you’re safe!” cried Rachel, hugging the familiar figure.

“Or are you Jotun?” asked a critical Descartes, examining his face.

The large fiendblood laughed. “I see y’all’ve met my cousins! Pleasure to meet y’all. My name is Joram of clan Jormungandr. I heard y’all needed some muscle?”

“We do indeed!” said Erenata. “We go to risk life and limb confront the source of the undead in this city with no reward and no guarantee that it furthers our ultimate goal! Wilt thou join us?”

“Sounds like a real good time,” he chuckled. “I’m in. Let’s go.”

Appraiser looked surprised. “Now? Don’t you need to plan, or prepare, or something?”

Joram patted his axe. “This is all the prep I need.”

They didn’t dally any longer but began the several hour journey to the location marked on the map. Fortunately, it was close enough to the city that they could probably reach it before dark. They didn’t encounter any enemies during the journey, so they spent it mostly in conversation. Partway through, Erenata got very close to Cyton. She asked him “so, how dost I look?”

“Hm?” Cyton said. “Your armor looks fine. I don’t see anything wrong.”

On his other side, Descartes pressed forward, looking angry at Erenata and flustered. “Cyton. You need to practice your magic. Here.” She grabbed his hands and began waving them in the patterns required to cast certain spells.

“Yes, but it is healing magic you should practice,” said Rachel, grabbing his hands out of Descartes and gently but forcefully using them to pantomime the gestures required for the litany of healing magic.

Trailing behind them, Joram chuckled as the three began squabbling more loudly over Cyton.

February 20, 2023 AD. Sunview University, California, USA, Earth

Cam surveyed the growing quarrel between Dinah, Ella, and Bekah with horror. For such a small deal, all three were very forceful that Cyton should practice with them, alone, during this journey.

While it was funny in a way, as a DM, Cam decided to put his foot down. “The journey ends as you all reach the spot marked on the map,” he said pointedly.

Remembrance Moon 6, AS 632. Wasteland, Sulmon Magocracy, The Sundered World

The group stared at the patch of scrubby wasteland that appeared no different from every other patch of wasteland. There was a large pile of stones nearby, which the map had predicted, but there was nothing suspicious about them. Appraiser checked over the pile three times before she was satisfied that the pile of stones was fully mundane and did not conceal the entrance to a secret underground fortress.

“Let me try something,” Descartes offered. She cast her purple-gaze spell that let her see magic and scanned the area. “There is a strong patch of dimension magic right there,” she said, pointing at a totally unremarkable spot. She uttered a few more arcane words and pointed her staff at the spot. The staff glowed blue for a moment before a wave of dispelling energy washed out from it. It revealed a black metal door, standing free in the middle of the scrubbery. Engraved on the door was a familiar symbol: the corrupted sigil of Shitabii that had powered the undead.

“Ominous,” said Rachel unnecessarily. “I suppose we go in there?”

Hefting his battleax, Joram stepped forward first. He pushed open the door, which opened noiselessly. On the other side was a dark marble staircase leading down into darkness, even though from the other side of the freestanding door, it was obvious that such a staircase could not exist. Still, Joram stepped in. Nothing seemed trapped, so cautiously the rest of the Sunviewers followed him inside. Together, they descended the featureless staircase.

No sooner had they descended a few steps when the door behind them slammed shut. Appraiser ran back up the stairs to re-open it, but when she did, it appeared to open into just empty space at the top of the staircase. The message was obvious: there was no getting back that way.

The group lit torches using Descartes’ and Cyton’s fire magic, to reveal the exact same thing: a seemingly endless staircase. The decent didn’t seem to change until they finally reached the bottom: a stone hallway dimly lit by sickly magical illumination. It split off into three branching passageways with no particular indicator of which way to go.

“Center,” said Appraiser confidently.

“How do you know?” asked Cyton.

“Left stinks of dead bodies. A lot of them. Right smells of musty books. Center seems to lead further in.”

Rachel said “I would like to see some of the books” simultaneously as Descartes said “I want to see the bodies.”

“We could split up,” offered Joram.

“Don’t split the party!” the others exclaimed in unison.

After a short debate, it was decided that they would quickly check the books before continuing straight. Joram confidently led the way down the right passageway until he disappeared. He had triggered a trapdoor that dropped him 40 feet into a pit full of spikes. Lying the bottom, he was clearly quite injured. “Trap,” he pointed out.

It took a long time and a lot of rope, but they finally fished him out of the pit trap. As he reached the top, he was bleeding heavily, and his face was turning a dangerous purple. “The spikes were poisoned” he said nonchalantly as his skin began to swell up.

Looking horrified, Rachel used two healing spells in conjunction. “I’ve healed all the damage so far and removed the poison,” she said.

He jumped up athletically, using one foot to kick his battleax into his hand. “Right, let’s move on.” He continued walking toward smell of the books, only to be stopped by Appraiser.

“Maybe I should check for traps,” she said. Without waiting for agreement, she moved on ahead, carefully scanning the ground, the walls, and the ceiling. As the group followed her through several more twists and turns, she pointed out pressure plates and unholy glyphs on the walls to avoid, although she did miss a statue that breathed fire on the unfortunate Joram as he walked by.

After disabling one final trap, Annette led the way into an enormous library. As far as the eye could reach were ancient, dusty tomes on forbidding bookshelves. Most of the books had no title, or a title written in a strange, angular language, and the few that were written in the common tongue had titles like “Blood Rites of the Cursed North” and “Favorable Contracts with Dark Powers” and “Necromancy and You, book 6: So You Raised an Army of the Damned like They Are Your Children, But Now How Do You Deal With Their Rebellious Phase?” Cyton made sure to keep a wide birth from the last one.

“I don’t even know where to begin,” Descartes whispered. “So much magical knowledge…”

“Why not begin there?” Joram pointed to a desk of a sorts in the middle of the library. On it sat a single sickly green tome with no title, closed but with a bookmark protruding from the top. “If that’s what Big Bad Evil Guy was working on, maybe it has the most relevant knowledge.”

Erenata, who was near the desk, eagerly reached for the book. “No wait Erenata!” cried Descartes in sudden urgency. “It might be—” Erenata opened the book to the bookmarked page.

From the pages of the book emitted a horrible, ear-piercing scream that echoed throughout the entire stone and marble network. As Erenata clapped the book shut, ending the painful noise, Descartes lamely said “—trapped.”

“Should we get out of here?” said Rachel anxiously.

“No…no, this is fine,” Cyton said, his mind clearly going a mile a minute. “We came here to destroy whatever is lurking down here. The only thing this changes is that we won’t get a surprise attack.” Looking around at the worried faces, he said “still. We should probably get out of this room now.”

Accordingly, everyone exited the library, although Dinah did stuff into her sack the book on necromantic creatures going through a rebellious phase. They knew their way around whatever traps Annette had not disabled, so without further issue they returned to the crossroads they had visited before. The turned into the center path that Appraiser had claimed led onward.

They hadn’t gone far before reaching a widening of the path, rather like a cave. It contained another unornamented black metal door. “All clear,” whispered Appraiser after checking it for traps.

“Why are you whispering?” whispered Rachel.

“Because it seemed right. I don’t know,” Appraiser whispered back.

“You guys are hopeless,” said Cyton as he reached for the door’s knob. He tried to turn it, but strangely, his hand wouldn’t do it. In confusion, he realized that his foot was wet, like some liquid had dripped on it from above. As he withdrew his hand from the doorknob, his wrist flopped, dripping. Only then did he realize what had happened: something had sliced his hand nearly off, cutting the nerves. He stumbled back with a cry of shock.

“Cyton!” Rachel and Descartes cried at the same time. Rachel reached forward, beginning to say “Healing,” but before she could touch the wound to finish the spell, Appraiser pulled her back as Joram swung his battleax into the space she was just about to occupy.

It slammed into the marble floor. “Missed him,” growled Joram.

Again, Rachel tried to approach Cyton to heal him, but once again Appraiser stopped her. Everyone could see why this time, though: appearing out of the shadows cast by the faintly glowing magic illumiation torches in the walls was the shadowy assassin, holding a long knife dripping with Cyton’s blood.