Findng the Hidden Shrine

For the month of April, Zaac commissioned me to dramatize a bit of a D&D game that we were in. 2000 words was a bit much for me to do, so I decided to jazz it up with a bit of an illustration. So enjoy.

“Is everyone alright?” The gruff voice of the dwarf Leo had barely met rang out in the darkness. ‘Alright’ was not the word he would have chosen for his condition, but he chorused an answer alongside the others. A flint was struck and a torch flared into life. Leo winced at the sudden light. His head was pounding like a dwarven forge and the light did not help. Well, it did help. It was better than the pitch blackness, but it sure didn’t alleviate the feeling in his head.

A second torch was lit off the first, and light grudgingly acknowledged its presence was requested and filled the room. The walls were wrought stone, of a design that seemed a tad familiar. It had probably been covered on Friday’s end of term exams, but he couldn’t be sure. The near suicidal amount of alcohol Leo had consumed between the end of exams three days ago and whatever had brought him here had been both in celebration of having successfully learned the material and an almost ritualistic purge all all memories of Prelate Gerroti’s Ancient Architecturals class, along with the rest of the semester’s hardships.

They were in a long narrow chamber, thirty feet across and at least a hundred feet long. One side of the room was collapsed, with rubble strewn down in large, unwieldy heaps. The dwarf was standing by the pile of stones, prodding the detritus with the haft of his axe held in one hand, a torch flickering with an odd red hue held aloft in the other. He seemed to be muttering to himself and shaking his head as he did his prospecting.

On the other side of the chamber was a set of doors, made of the gray stone that formed the walls, carved with the symbol of a rising sun. Sitting crossed legged in front of the door was a drow, dressed in blacks and blues with a long, concealing cloak. His hands moved in a rhythmic manner as he sharpened a short sword, his eyes focused not on the task, but on the door, as if studying it. Leo hadn’t talked to him much. He had learned his name, Nalla, but nothing more. On the surface, he had been reclusive, shielding himself away in his cloak, as if trying to separate himself from the world. Here, his cloak had been folded neatly into his pack and his eyes shone a bright red, the hideous light of the daystar a hindrance no longer.

The third of Leo’s new companions prowled the walls, bow drawn and arrow knocked, eyes darting from alcove to alcove. Now that there was sufficient light in the room, Leo could see ensconced in the walls were what appeared to be dioramas, each depicting a different scene. The man, Umbra as he had introduced himself whatever happened ago, was keeping a paranoid watch, pacing back and forth towards and away from the various depictions, as if both expecting and daring them to move.

Right next to Leo, in the center of the room, was an alcove, perhaps ten feet wide and about a foot deep into a domed cover. Inside was a scene of a hunt of some kind. They had tracked down a deer or two, and trapped a panther. The figurines were crude dolls, about six inches high and dressed in deer-hide leather and bright colored feathers. They carried spears, mostly, although one held an odd twisted staff, kind of like a shepherd’s crook, although it wasn’t a design Leo had seen before. Unlike the rest of the dolls, the staff seemed to be made out of metal. The garb of the hunters looked familiar, but with his pounding head, he still couldn’t place it.

“There’s no use going this way.” The gruff voice of the dwarf was jarring in the silence. “Cave-in that brought us down here has sealed it all back up. I’ve never seen the earth move like that. No, if we’re getting out, we’ll have to find some other place to do it.” The dwarf’s face was grim. In their short talks above, Leo had learned a bit about this stout fellow. He was Brace Stonewall, of Hundelstone. They had spent some time gossiping about Wenden Delzimmer, the dwarf who taught classes of geology, architecture, mining, and similar interests back at Waterdeep Academy. Leo had taken a few of his classes, so he knew a bit about the subject, but was nowhere near as passionate about architecture as Brace. The dwarf had trained with master stonesmiths for decades. If he said there was no way out, then there wasn’t.

“The door is locked, and most likely trapped.” The in contrast to Brace’s rough voice, the drow’s was as smooth as oiled silk. It was a voice that could convince you it belonged to a friend while the smile and the stabbing said different. Leo couldn’t vouch for the dark elf’s skills, but his people were notorious for traps and poisons, so giving him the benefit of the doubt was probably a healthy concession.

“There’s nothing over here, either.” From the alcoves on the side, Umbra’s voice was clear and solid, as steady as his aim. He had shot six geese out of the air earlier, quick as a grin. Each with its own arrow, none wasted. Very impressive. His bow was slack now, as he gestured at the scenes around him. “Nothing but this museum garbage. Little dolls in odd scenes.”

“There’s one here, too!” chimedPatreon_Zaac_Shrine in Leo, eager to help. “This one has some sort of weird twisted staff, look!” He reached in and pulled the doll with the crook out. Then walls around them faded away and they suddenly stood squinting in a bright wooded glade, a soft breeze bringing fresh air to their noses.

“Are we- did we just get out?” asked Leo. The doll in his hands was gone.

Umbra knocked an arrow. The dwarf and drow readied their blades as well. Leo flushed and checked his pockets for a weapon of some kind. He didn’t expect to find much and, as expected, he didn’t. Just his kit for his ritual magic class, which measured results on a scale of hours to minutes, not much use in active combat.

The scream of a dying beast sounded to the west. Without saying a word, the three trained warriors, human, dwarf and drow, moved into something like a formation. The dwarf moved forward, shield raised and readied a veritable wall of fine dwarven steel between whatever was out there and the allies at his back. The drow followed, a pair of swords, each looking more deadly than the other, followed behind, ready to spring and strike where he could deal the most damage- or cause the most pain, if the opportunity should arise. Umbra had fallen back from the perimeter, near the center of the glade where Leo was standing. His eyes, much as before, darted from shadow and shade, from moving branch to fluttering leaf, not letting any bit of motion escape his purview, on the offside chance it could be a foe.

Leo, however, stood there sheepishly, searching through his bag from something that could help.

There were six hunters, when they finally reached the clearing. The weapons in their hands were crude, barely more than flint lashed to wooden shafts. But it was evident their tools were sharp and accurate enough for their purposes. They had brought down an elk or a stag or something- beasts of the wilds were not anything Leo claimed to have even a novice knowledge of- and two of them carried it trussed to a pole.

“Otiacicoh-ma!!” yelled the leader, gesturing towards Leo and friends with his flint axe. The rest surged forward, raising their weapons and joining their leaders cry. The caribou hit the ground at its bearers joined the throng. The shield raised to intercept. The drows blades flashed, catching the light of the sun as they began to slice. Umbra loosed an arrow, which flew straight to the leader, whose eyes widened as-

The arrow clattered against the stone walls. It was suddenly dark, as their eyes were suddenly in need of adjusting to the torchlight. They were back in the chamber. Likely, they hadn’t even left.

“I suggest” said Umbra, his voice neutral as he retrieved his arrow and inspected the tip for damage, “That you refrain from touching things.”

As I said above, this was a Patreon commission. If you are interested in seeing what I can do for you, check out my Patreon page!

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