Actually, WE'RE the Morons
Episode 2 of Calbrek Kamci: A D&D Campaign
As both a Dungeons & Dragons player and an author, I've decided to retell sessions of a recent campaign I've started with my friends. This is not simply a transcription. I have put this in my own voice based on the events that "happened" in the campaign session as I would if I were writing a fantasy novel through traditional mechanisms. I'll put this note at the start of any following episodes in case people are just tuning in.
Looking around the island, it was impossible to miss the giant volcano in the center of the island. Mist draped down the peak like an soothsayer's shawl and a much darker plume of smoke swirled out of the top as if it were Satan's chimney. Kadaici took a deep breath, acutely aware that she may have bit off more than she could chew. As a vain, noble teen she focused on spells and cantrips that suited a vain, noble teen. Her most combat ready spells were Cure Wounds and Vicious Mockery, but here she was staring at the base of a clearly magical volcano next to three strange men. Briefly the memories of her wedding night flashed across he mind.
"Pretty girl, you listen to me," Zakar sneered as he gripped her wrist in the dark bed chambers of their new castle.
Trying to pull her arm out of his salt and pepper paw, she growled, "I never wanted to marry you. You are not my master."
His deep, powerful laugh turned her organs to liquid. "But my dear, your parents disagree. You are mine now. You are mine...forever."
Snapping out of it she steeled her nerves. She'd killed the parents who forced her to marry the perverted prince with just a dagger and rapier, she could do the same with anything else until she mastered higher level spells. To her left she saw Kalazmir looking at the forest. No, he was looking past the forest towards a shipwreck far away.
"Imperius, do you think there's any survivors from that ship?" He called back. Imperius! That was the goliath's name! Finally, someone who could enunciate had said it.
"I'm sure we'll find out," he grumbled from her right. Behind him the coast disappeared into desert that stretched around the base of a cliff.
As Kadaici looked around she noticed something strange in the distance. Squinting she heard Kalen quizzically pipe up, "Are those...mushrooms?
"I...think those...are..." Kalazmir stammered.
Already laughing, Kadaici mischeavously asked, "Do you think they'd get us stoned?"
"I hope so!" Kalazmir joyously responded.
"Guys, let's focus on the task at hand," Imperius the Kill Joy said.
"Well then, where do you think we should start?" Kadaci turned to him.
"Any particular reason?"
"Nah, I was curious about it too. How about we go up the mountain, figure out what's at the top, head down to the mushroom biome, then check out the shipwreck?" Kalazmir suggested.
"Sure, makes sense to me," Kalen shrugged.
"Fine," Kadaici rolled her eyes and then they were on their way. The forest crept up the mountain, slowly enclosing them and blocking out the sun. Greenery thrived beneath their feet, untamed by trespassers footsteps. Onward they pushed, the mist's tendrils slowly creeping down the mountain. If she focused she could detect the magic that formed them; she could see its ethereal glow, but she couldn't tell exactly what spell had been used to cast it, by whom, or where from. All she new was that this mist, like the island it shrouded, was eerily whimsical.
The higher they went, the thicker the mist became, and the harder it was to see. "I suggest we tie a rope around us, so we don't get separated," Kalazmir proposed. They all murmured in agreement, naturally put the larger two at the front and Kadaici just in front of the teifling. They crept into the mist, journeying forward, following the upward slope of the mountain since they couldn't see much else. The mist slowly faded in front of them and they could see the whole shoreline, including their trail from the beach towards the mountain. On the ground to her left, she saw a set of regular human-like footprints next to what seemed to be an extraordinarily large version of themselves, some large paw prints, and the hoof prints of a two legged bull. By how the rest of the group was looking around at each others feet, she could tell they had made the same conclusion as her. They'd come full circle.
"What in the actual..." the minotaur murmured.
"Magic," Kadaici sighed, "The mist is enchanted, and I'm guessing it hinders our perception beyond just our sight."
"So...what do we do...?" Imperius stuttered.
"Maybe if we walk backwards it will take us the opposite way?" Kalen shrugged.
"I mean...I guess we could try?" Kalazmir shrugged, so, looking over their shoulders they went back into the mist. Kalen's red skin was like a lantern through the fog, but even his blood-like hue seemed muted in these conditions. Again, slowly the mist faded and her soul filled with hope, only to see her own footprints just ahead of her.
Curses muttered through the party, scurrying under their breath like rats. "How the -" Imperius cut himself off after remembering there was a lady present, "How are we supposed to get up the mountain?
Rolling her eyes at the needless chivalry, Kadaici said, "What if we go around the mountain instead of straight up? It will be slower, but if we keep the higher side to our right and enter the mist indirectly, maybe we can get through?"
"Well, it's a better idea than nothing. Let's try it!" Kalazmir's optimism was strangely contagious. If she didn't know better than to trust a stranger, Kadaici may even have like this bull man. Misty tendrils caressed her shoulder as she saw Imperius disappear into the cloudy depths, shortly followed by Kalazmir, herself, and she presumed, Kalen.
Each plant that grazed her ankle made Kadaici's heart beat faster. She saw light ahead of her and hoped against hope that they had succeeded, but she knew there was know way that they had already made it to the top. Her fears were confirmed as she looked down the back of the mountain at an icy tundra that somehow coexisted with the humid jungle to it's left and the sandy desert to it's right. Unnatural would be an understatement in describing the climate of this island only, but some how, after coming out of the mist a third time, when she was certain they'd been climbing up the mountain, the ice bergs floating on the surface of the inlet beneath her didn't seem surprising in the least.
Untying themselves, they sat down to take a break, staring up at the misty peak in puzzlement. Watching it shift around the mountain was beautifully ethereal. The silvery tendrils seemed to sparkle in the tropical sun. However, like most things that seemed picturesque, this clearly masked a dark secret. Like fool's gold, all this mountain promised was disappointment.
"Everyone ready to try again?" Kalazmir asked? Everyone nodded as he lit a torch and unexpectedly a blaze of light exploded through their field of vision. Startled to her feet, Kadaici shielded her eyes as the mist caught fire like a cotton ball over a candle. For an instant they could see a clear path to the smoking peak before the mist reformed. Even in her awe, she noticed the heat linger in the air, dancing across the back of her neck like a warning.
Just as Kadaici said, "Well...let's not do that again..." Imperius juxtaposed her qualms with a simultaneous, "LET'S DO THAT AGAIN!"
Kalmazir nodded vigorously in agreement. Kadaici shook her head in disbelief, "Y'all realize we're on a volcano, right? Do you know what volcanoes do?"
"Ya," as Kalmazir shrugged, the little appreciation she had for him disappeared. Kadaici had intended to adventure on her own and she wasn't about to die in a group.
"Ai'it, I'm heading down to the mushrooms. Meet me there if you survive!" Kadaici turned around, but as she heard them discussing the plan...
"So, let's light a bunch of torches," enthused Kalazmir.
"And I'll chuck them ahead of us a ways," nodded Imperius.
"I'll follow about 50 feet behind,"
"I can probably keep the fire 50 feet ahead of me,"
"And if we keep running fast enough,"
"We'll get to the top."
Kadaici had to admit she was bemused and enthralled by the prospect. She glanced at Kalen who glanced at her, "I wanna stay and see how this plays out..."
She nodded, "Maybe just keep our distance then?"
They each stood about 100 feet back from the mist line as Imperius lobbed the first flaming torch into the air, the whole mountain ablaze again. They sprinted forward and each time the mist started to creep back down the hillside, Imperius would throw another one. The flames burned their eyes, quickly blinding them as there stared in horrified awe. Their vision would come back into focus just to see Imperius throw another torch into the tendrils, lighting them ablaze with renewed vigor.
Kadaci rubbed her eyes as they finally got to the peak. As she opened her eyes, she again saw red and yellow launching into the air, but this wasn't the result of a goliath's hulking throw this time. Her fears were confirmed as lava spewed down the mountain side. She started to sprint down the shale and vegetation, cursing in Draconic, "Xuf, xuf, xuf, xuf, xuf!"
Looking over her shoulder she saw the flow rushing towards her, but faster still was the stone obelisk that everyone else was riding down the mountain. As she noticed that Kalen had apparently managed to jump on the makeshift sled as well, she tripped. Just as she was regaining her balance, they sped past her. In her attempt to jump on, she fell on her face. Kalzamir's face showed genuine concern as he screamed, "Grab on!" and tossed a rope her direction.
She tried to grasp it, and her fingers felt the frayed edges, just as her toes began to burn. Screaming in agony the party continued onwards. The molten Earth began to swallow her legs, rocks flew into her face. Kadaici tried to focus on casting her Cure Wounds spell, but the excruciating pain was too much to do so effectively. Darting in and out of consciousness she was engulfed up to her shoulders before the lava hardened at the base of the mountain.
"Quick, get her out!"
"Is she breathing?"
"How the xuf is she alive..."
Her eyes fluttered open, her ears ringing and skin screaming in the places that still had nerve endings. She glared at Imperius and Kalzamir, "When I get out of here, I am stabbing both of you..."
Kalzamir leaned over to Imperius and poorly whispered, "Should we leave her there to cool off for a minute?"
Imperius's snicker was cutting off by her screaming, "GET ME THE XUF OUT OF HERE, YOU XUFING MORONS!" Startled into action and guilted by the subtle addition of a Vicious Mockery cantrip, they started pounding at the stone to pull her out. Slowly, she got a bit of wiggle room and started to help pull herself out, but as she pulled her right arm out of the cavity, all that came out was a nub. No hand. Just a crispy, cauterized, scabby, nub.
Keep it together, she scolded herself, choking back tears. Her future crumbled before her eyes. Every instrument Kadaici knew was two handed. Every weapon she had learned was with her right hand. Everything she had planned on depended on a hand she'd taken for granted until this moment.
Kalen timidly handed Kadaici the singed cloth napsack, "I think...at least a few of you things survived..." All her clothes except one performing dress were burnt to ash, her pedigree papers unreadable, some of her rations inedible, but her coins, instruments, and signet ring survived. It was enough for now.
Kalen and Kalazmir each placed a hand on her shoulders, performing a Cure Wounds spell of their own and the agony slowly faded. "Thank you..." Kadaici mumbled before standing up. "To the shrooms?"
"Let's first set up camp and wait til tomorrow. We could all use some rest," Kalzamir said reluctantly, but everyone nodded in agreement. The sun was about to set and who knew what tomorrow would bring.
After breakfast, they walked sullenly and quietly, Kadaici lost in thought. She refused to give up. She would find a make shift hand to use until she could learn the spell to bring her hand back. She would still complete her personal mission of regaining her kingdom. This. Would. Not. Stop her.
However, right now, she needed a distraction. She needed an out, an escape from reality. As they stumbled into the towering mushroom forest, she saw a yellow mushroom with sparkling blue spots that had just started growing. She plucked it from her feet and saw Kalzamir grab a red and black one.
"Are you guys sure this is a good idea?" Kalen asked.
"No, but does that really matter at this point?" Kadaici asked before taking a bite. Kalzamir nodded in agreement. Instantly a wave of euphoria filled her mind and everything seemed to glow. "Oh, yeeeeeah..."
"I don't think mine is quite as potent," Kalzamir mentioned in disappointment.
As Kadaici swayed forward, he picked her up and placed her on his shoulders. "Weeeeeeeeeeee!" Kadaici was grinning from ear to ear while they walked into the jungle, looking for the shipwreck.
Out of nowhere popped out a scrawny little man, "Oh my gosh, there's people here, I haven't seen people in so long! What are you doing here? How did you get here? Do you have a way off the island? Oh my gosh, it's so good to see you!"
"Slow down, little guy," Imperius rumbled, "Who are you?"
"Oh my, yes, where are my manners! I'm Flynn," the smile that crossed his face just emphasize the skeletal hollowness of his cheekbones.
"Here, have one of my rations," Kalen dug out a measly meal from his bag, but Flynn ate it so fast, all Kadaici saw was a swoosh of yellow as it changed hands.
"Oh, thank you so much, that was delicious. Who are you? What are you doing here?"
"I'm Kalzamir, this tabaxi girl on my head is Kadaici-"
"Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!" She grinned.
"Yes, you are," Kalen snickered, "I'm Kalen."
"We're on a quest to defeat a wizard in the land across the sea!" Kalzamir proclaimed proudly.
"Oh...sounds interesting...what brings you here then?" Flynn asked.
"Allegedly, there is a wizard who knows a syllable of Ziess's true name," Kalzamir explained.
"Zeiss being the pseudonym of the wizard you seek to kill, I take it?" Flynn raised his eyebrows and Kalzamir nodded. "Well, that seems like quite the quest indeed. Have you a way back?"
"Yes, our ship will return in 13 days," Imperius grumbled.
"13 days?! Oh that's so far out! Well, I supposed after staying here a few months, a few days is no matter..." Flynn sulked, "Let me show you back to our cave."
"Our?" Kalen questioned.
"Well, it's just me and Alexi now, but our shipped crashed here a couple months ago. When we arrived there were about 10 of us, but slowly they've all died or disappeared. Even Alexi is catatonic. I suspect he will die any day now..." Flynn explained solemnly.
"That would explain the shipwreck we saw," Kalen noted, looking at the group.
"Given how long you've been here, I'm sure you're familiar with the fauna of the area, yes?" Kalzamir inquired.
"Somewhat," Flynn shrugged, "The monsters are bigger the farther from the mountain you are. Up close the eruptions keep everything else in check. In fact, there was one just yesterday!"
Imperius smiled sheepishly, "Ya...that may have been our fault..."
"What? How?" Flynn's eyebrows knitted together in confusion.
Kadaici zoned out as Imperius explained their whole adventure up the mountainside, instead putting her hands in the air and swaying with the breeze. It felt so nice up here. The air smelled like roses and greenery.
"She had the mushrooms, didn't she?"
"Ya, we did," Kalzamir nodded.
"Which ones?" asked Flynn tentatively.
"She had a yellow and blue one, I think, mine was black and red. I'm feeling a little woozy, but not nearly as stoned as her it seems," Kalzami chuckled.
"Oh..." Flynn looked towards Imperius and Kalen, "He needs to sleep outside tonight."
"Oh?" They asked in unison.
"The yellow and blue shiny ones aren't bad. They just make you pretty loopy and maybe a little dehydrated. The black and red ones?" Flynn grimaced, "Let's just say your bovine butthole ain't gon' be happy tonight My. Kalmazir."
"Oh, dear..." Kalmazir muttered in horror and Flynn nodded sullenly. "Well...on a slightly different note..." Kalmazir cleared his through, "Have you noted any large, gangling, grey, dog-like animals around here? I spotted one during my watch last night. It smelled like death or decaying flesh, but it left before giving us any trouble."
"Interesting..." Flynn mused as he walked, "I haven't seen it myself, but some of the crew mentioned it. I think it may even be what sent Alexi into his catatonic state. I was away from camp for a moment a few weeks back, and when I returned, one of our female crewmates and her baby lay mangled and partially eaten on the cave floor, Alexi in the corner, white as a ghost! He always had quite a dark complexion, so to see him of such pallor was shocking indeed! It was just last time he spoke. What a pity...since then, I light a bonfire outside the cave and that seems to keep the creature away. Oh, look! We're here!"
Kadaici was sobering up as Flynn showed them around the campsite, so Kalzamir let her off his shoulders. "We suspect this used to be some giant badgers' den since its divided so cleanly into different rooms. This one is mine," Flynn pointed to one off to the right, "But the rest are empty."
"I claim the one at the back," Kadaici stated.
"Ah, coming around I see," Flynn noted and she nodded, "Well, it's getting close to nightfall. I should be building the fire."
"Don't," Imperius commanded, "We will set a trap for the beast."
"W-w-what?" Flynn stammered.
"I have a trap amongst my things. We can cover it in leaves and if it comes, we'll kill it!" Kalzamir exclaimed!
Kadaici nodded, "Sounds good enough."
"Nooooooooo, no, no, no, no!" Flynn stammered, "It kill us all!"
Imperius laughed, "Not if I have anything to do about it!"
Kalmazir took a more gentle approach, "We won't let it know you're here."
Flynn hesitantly asked, "Promise? I'll sleep with the ear buds in," he showed mangled balls of cotton and ear wax, "So, I won't hear anything either."
"You'll be fine," Kalmazir promised.
Flynn nodded and retreated to his room as they set the trap. "Who wants first watch?" Kalmazir asked.
Imperius raised his hand, Kalen shrugged, "I'll take second."
"Then I'll take third. Kadaici, you've had a rough day. You can have last watch so you get some rest," Kalmazir smiled.
Kadaici smiled back, before heading into her room of sorts for the night. When she woke up, it was too the loud noises of combat. Peering through the leaves that covered the entrance she saw what had turned Alexi so pale. A bony, massive thing with a marred, humanoid face that crawled on all fours, shoulders touring above even Imperius. Oh, xuf...