I never expected to die. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been well aware of my mortality. However, it seemed a safe assumption that when traveling with; a deadly assassin, a wizard of impressive talent, a summoner of countless beasts, and a few well trained henchmen, that my death would not be that day. I was dead wrong.
It started out like most Sundays, though we were better prepared than before. Having encountered dangerous stirges of unusual power and the group had gotten together throughout the week to plan out what to do about them. The plan started with trying to get them drunk, but the team was unsure of the effects alcohol would have and so poison seemed a better idea. However, after having decided on poison, it was brought up that the stirges were barely recognizable as such. Because of our uncertainty we determined that just trapping them would be sufficient. Once trapped we could leave them there while we explored more fully and then perhaps take them back to town and find a buyer for them, or if that proved too difficult, we could leave them to starve to death. The plan seemed good and I was confident in its success as we left town again for the dwarven ruins with our supplies.
Rolniak had found himself an interesting dwarf to accompany us. Forimyr was nice enough but didn’t have the common sensepossesed by a child. At the ruined gatehouse a herd of goats was enjoying the cloudy day and the grassy hillside provided them sustenance. Forimyr cocked his new crossbow and aimed it at one of the goats. Everyone watched as his shot missed. The goat blinked at him and nagged, tossing its head. I was prepared to continue, for what need did we have of goats? But Forimyr was determined to kill something with his bow, so he cranked his crossbow again and shot at the goat once more. The arrow thunked into the side of the goat. The entire herd turned and let out angry bleats and charged us. Sturbin reacted quickly, leaping up the side of the gatehouse and Forimyr turned and ran into the doorway of the building. Rolniak and I ducked behind the other side of the wall, not intending to get involved in dealing with a bunch of angry herd animals. I watched as the summoner escaped into the prison cart and then we were suddenly surrounded by goats!
Rolniak had a powerful spell prepared however, and as he cast it with a swirl of colors and sound, the 6 goats surrounding us slumped to the ground. Two goats were butting the side of the prison cart with the summoner inside. He shot an arrow at one of them and I shot an arrow at the other. I wasn’t able to see Forimyr, but I could hear bleating and his shouts as he, presumably, swung his weapon at the beasts that had followed him. Those of us around the prison cart finished off the animals there and shortly after Forimyr came out of the goathouse, sheepishly apologizing for his actions. I slapped him on the shoulder and told him not to worry about it. Suggesting we could use the dead goats to lure the stirges out made everyone look at me with disgust. I shrugged and helped Rolniak break them down into alchemical components instead. We continued on our way to the ruins with no other distractions, determined to enact our plan and reap the rewards of being well prepared. Too bad we were prepared for the wrong thing.
As we got to the ruins we surveyed the area, looking closely for other creatures or people. We saw one of the deformed goblins skittering inside the main entrance, seemingly to alert others to our presence. Frustrated at the potential delay, we cautiously approached the entrance, prepared to deal with more goblins and bugbears before continuing on our way to our intended goal. Once we reached the entrance, however, we saw that the area had been barricaded and the monsters were ready for us. Responding to pressure, I stepped forward and spoke to the bugbears there, asking them to let us past so we could rid them of the stirge infestation above. Instead of allowing us to grant them this favor, they insisted we meet their queen before we could pass. Knowing that an encounter with the queen could prove fatal, we decided, instead, to move forward and attack.
Rolniak exhibited an interesting ability to create a globe of darkness, which he placed over a group of goblins and bugbears to shut them out of the fight temporarily. Forimyr and I moved forward, ready to attack the ones that tried to leave the sphere, while a group of disgustingleeches, created by the summoner, behind one of the barriers provided an excellent distraction. Overconfident in our ability to resolve the disagreement, I was completely unprepared for the emergence of a giant bugbear and three spider-riding goblins! One of them skittered up to me and slashed through my chainmail. I dodged backwards, sure the rest of my allies would flee as well, but instead Rolniak sprinted into the room! Not willing to leave my companions, I turned and fired my crossbow at one of the goblins that had emerged from the darkness, but missed in my disarray. I saw the new dwarf take a mighty blow from the huge bugbear, and turned towards him. I saw Sturbin leap through the air to dispatch the bugbear, but my attention was on other matters. Knowing that another hit could be the end of me, I began casting a mending spell to cure my own wounds before I helped out Forimyr. The next thing I knew was a shattering and wracking pain in my jaw, and then blackness.
That was it. Inglorious and uninspiring, and total disappointment, believe me. Death for me was a grey expanse of dullness. But in this dreary vastness I was without pain or concern. Oh sure, I had a distant hope that my allies would survive against such overwhelming odds and perhaps even give me a proper parting ceremony, but it was not an immediate concern. I thought upon my dreams of combining artifice and life to give myself immortality. While I contemplated the combination of magics that might have brought me such everlasting life, a small pain blossomed upon my jaw. Disturbed, I didn’t have time to react before pain greater than the arrow that had slain me convulsed through my ethereal body.
I opened my eyes to see a strange figure standing over me. I leapt to my feet, unsure of what nefarious purposes the villain may have intended for me. He smiled, it wasn’t particularly malevolent, nor was it grandfatherly. He patted a purse on his side and turned away, tending to some other thing and seeming to have forgotten me completely. Realizing I wasn’t undead, and was actually back to my own gnomeling body, though feeling very weak, I turned to escape. The pain in my jaw hadn’t gone away and I felt light headed, so when the stranger put his hand on my shoulder I didn’t have the energy to wrest away from him. However, 6 heartbeats later, energy flooded into me and I could feel my jaw knitting back together. The pain receeded to a dull ache and I felt whole again, though perhaps not as sturdy as before the incident. The cleric smiled sincerely this time, and patted the other purse on his belt. It was then that I realized he was indicating he had already been paid for his services.
My allies weren’t waiting for me when I left the cleric’s care, but I didn’t expect them to be. I tracked them down and they greeted me with exuberance. They even gave me a split of the money we had earned in the ruins. I was surprised and warmed by their friendship, and was happy to see I was the only one to have truly suffered from the encounter.
The transition from death back to life has given me a resolve I hadn’t had before. It is similar to when I decided to be a proponent of a faith that combined artificing and life, or when my mind awoke to abilities not possessed by others. My dedication to finding a way to grant myself invulnerability and eternal life through artifice is stronger now than ever. And I am even more sure there is a way now, after having visited the lifeless and dim afterworld that awaits me if I were to die again.