A Dungeon Ambush


This story happened at my Basic Fantasy RPG table this past week. It was an epic battle so I wanted to see if I could do it justice as a narrative.

“JG 1, what are you waiting for? Get moving.”

JG, an elf, looked as though he were pantomiming pushing against a door. But as Nitro looked he saw that his companion was actually straining against something.

“I… can’t. There’s something blocking the way.”

Nitro spun and glanced down at his friend, Gibeon. The dwarf was about four and a half feet tall and adored with a holy symbol bearing the mark of his faith. “Have you ever seen anything like this?”

Gibeon stroked his beard and shook his head. “No, I can’t say I’ve heard of anything like this before. But I’m sure that has something to do with it.” The dwarf pointed at the sigil which took up about half the room, it pulsed with a pale light, flooding the space with an eerie pallor. “My holy symbol doesn’t like that thing. Can’t you feel it?”

Nitro squinted, his elven features revealing a faint trace of worry lines. “Come to think of it, I can. It’s like my armor is being pushed back by a wind.”

“What?” Nitro exclaimed. “Let me check.” He drew his sword, which bore the same image which adorned both Gibeon’s holy symbol and Nitro’s armor. As he moved his sword toward the sigil the party noticed it straining against the elf’s grasp. “Wow, that’s weird. I think I could push through it, but my sword really doesn’t like that thing.”

A clattering of metalic implements came from the other side of the room and drew the companion’s attention. They spun and saw Gibeon’s cousin, Nikare 2 collapsed on a stone bench.

“So what are we going to do?” Nikare asked. “We’ve got to get through there.”

“And what are we going to do with him?” another voice added as Thundarr 3 Quartzbeam entered the room. The dwarf was pulling along an emaciated human, whose hands were bound. He blinked in the light as tears began to fall down his face.

“Oh. Light. It’s been so long. Are we almost out of this place?”

Gibeon scowled at the human. “Well, that depends. Do you recognize us, Wilfred?”

The human’s eyes widened as he shook his head. “How… how do you know my name? And why would I recognize you?”

Nitro huffed. “We’re the one’s you tried to kill in Port Rufine, Wilfred. Don’t tell me you don’t remember that!”

Willfred’s mouth dropped open. “Kill you? I… I’ve been here for ages. I’ve never seen you before. Please, I just want to get out of here.”

Gibeon shook his head. “You know what? I think he’s telling the truth. The Wilfred we met wasn’t him.”

“I don’t know who you met, I’ve been in that pit for… days? I was waiting for that thing to get hungry and end my misery. The Orcs found it entertaining, I suppose. Watching me grope around in the dark.”

“So you want me to untie him?” Thundarr asked.

Gibeon nodded. “Yes. Sorry, Wilfred, we can’t be too careful.”

“I… understand. But… do you have any water?”

Gibeon’s eyes softened, though he noticed Nitro’s stare remained hard. The dwarf reached for his waterskin and offered it to the former prisoner.

“Here you are, please.”

Nitro’s rolled his eyes, but rummaged through his pack and pulled out a small package of dried fruit. “Fine, here you go. You look hungry. Just stay out of the way.”

Tears rolled down Wilfred’s cheeks as he accepted the food. “Oh, thank you. Thank you.”

Nitro shook his head. “Great, don’t try to kill us.” The elf pointed toward a stone bench next to Nikare’s.. “Now go sit over there.”

Wilfred bowed his head and sat down, watching the party the way a cornered rodent might look at a cat. As he sat Nikare sighed and stood up.

“Great, he’s not the Wilfred who tried to murder us. That still doesn’t get us down the passage.”

Gibeon nodded. “That’s right. Let me try something.” The dwarf held out his holy symbol and stepped toward the pulsing sigil. He strained a bit as he stepped forward, but after a moment he seemed to shove through whatever magic repulsed him and moved toward the center of the sigil with a newfound confidence.

At this point sigil seemed to spin on the ground as the sound of an alarm began to ring through the tunnels.

“Oh,” Gibeon face blanched. “That can’t be good.”

“Well, there goes our surprise,” JG grinned. “We’re not good at that anyway.”

“There’s a difference between not being good at something and shouting your presence to things,” Nitro retorted. He then spun back toward Gibeon in time to see his friend pull out a small vial of clear liquid. The dwarf got on his knees, his mouth moving in silent prayer.

“What are you doing, Gibeon?”

“If this doesn’t like the symbols of Anaris, Nitro, then maybe I can consecrate it and break whatever magic is at work here.”

Nitro nodded. “Good thought.”

“I thought so, now be quiet.” Gibeon tilted the vial, but then looked up at his friend and added, “Please.”

Having remembered social niceties, the cleric began to pour out the vial of holy water on to the pattern. As he did so divine sparks began to fire from the sigil, until its light dulled and the pulsing pattern stood still. As it dulled JG reached up and felt the back of his neck.

“Hey, a breeze. That wasn’t here before.”

Nikare hefted up his battle ask. “Great, so now we go kill the bad guys?”

JG grinned. “Sounds good to me. Here, Nikare, get behind me. I want to check out this new shield 4. The Dwarf grunted and took up position behind his friend. The party arranged themselve as best they good, and stuck Wilfred in the rear. As they moved they were forced to move in single file, which made Nitro uneasy.

“I don’t like this passage. It’s too narrow.”

Gibeon nodded. “Hopefully we’ll find some open space up ahead,” he whispered back.

But the dwarrow the party were hunting had different plans. As Jeffery saw a widening of the passage, and caught a glimpse of a row of support columns, an arrow struck his shield.

“Ambush! Look out!” the elf cried out.

The party could just make out two dwarf-like dwarrow step toward JG and strike. The elf blocked one blow, but as he tried to parry the second his wrist was in an odd position as the two weapons clashed. He cried out in pain. Wilfred cried out in terror and rushed back down the passage.

“We’ve got to get out of here!” Gibeon shouted. “Nikare, push forward!”

“No!” Nitro countered. “We need to get a spot where we can move and bottle them up. Let’s fall back!”

As Nikare tried to make sense of these conflicting strategies he heard a hissing whisper coming from the chamber ahead, JG tensed as it was spoken. Then he expelled a terrifying shriek.

“No! We’re all doomed! We’ve got to get out of here!” The elf spun on his heals and shoved his way past his companions. As he did so one of the dwarrow swung his axe and managed to slam it into the elf’s back. It didn’t cut though JG’s armor, but Nikare thought he might have heard something crack.

As his friend fled, Nikare stepped forward and swung his axe. The dwarrow blocked it with his shield and smirked back at him.

“Nikare, wrong way.” Nitro called as he shoved Gibeon back down the passage.

“I’ll hold them off, you guys run!”

Gibeon paused for a moment, but then sprinted back toward the sigil room. “You’d better not die!” the cleric called as he ran.

Nitro turned to follow his friend, but as he did so he pointed his finger back up the passage and whispered an incantation. A magic dart flew from his fingers and struck the guard who’d blocked Nikare’s blows. It howled in pain. “Let’s go, Thundarr,” the elf said as he squeezed past the dwarf.

Thundarr had his bow notched and was looking for a shot, but pulled it down in frustration. “I can’t get a shot, Nikare. I’m sorry!”

“That’s OK,” the dwarf replied with a grunt as he blocked two more blows. “Just get out of here!”

Thundarr nodded, and then spun and sprinted back to the room. As he did so he passed JG, who had recovered from his fright and was trying to make his way back up the passage.

“JG, what are you doing?” Nitro called after him.

“I’m going to stand here, and when Nikare gets out of my way I’m going to shoot those guys with an arrow.”

Nitro shook his head. “No, wait. Let them come to us!”

“I will, right here,” the elf replied. He was annoyed at the spell which had been cast on him and was looking for a bit of payback.

Nitro, who had taken up position on one side of the arch which led into the passage, looked across at Gibeon. “What are we going to do?”

Gibeon smiled and held out a rope. “Maybe we can trip them?”

Nitro grinned. “Oh, I like that. Toss me an end.”

The cleric tossed his friend one end of the rope and the pair stretched it across the floor of the arch. “We wait for Nikare and JG to get by, then we pull it taut when the dwarrow come. OK?”

Nitro nodded. “Deal.”

At this moment Nikare rushed past his friends and made his way back to the bench he’d sat on before. There was a tear in the back of his armor and Gibeon could see blood pouring out of it.

“Nikare! Are you ok?”

“That was not fun,”Nikare responded. He then reached into his pack and pulled out a vial of pink liquid. “Oh wow do I need this.” The dwarf swallowed the potion in a single gulp and shook his head. “Gods that tastes terrible, but I’m good to go. What’s the plan?”

Gibeon cocked his head back up the passage. “JG is going to fire an arrow or two to slow them down and then we’ll let them come to us.”

“Uh, guys,” Thundarr warned. “I think we might want to rethink that. JG isn’t moving.”

Nitro looked up the passage and spotted JG standing there, arrow notched, but not moving.

“Oh no. Gibeon, give me a hand!”

Two friends made their way to JG and managed to pull him back down the passage to the sigil room. They’d just moved their motionless friend into a corner when a dwarrow turned the corner and rushed down the hall.

“They’re here!” Thundarr cried out as he let an arrow fly. But its fletching had been been in his scramble down the hall and it failed to fly true, shattering against the rocks to the dwarrow’s right.

The dwarrow wasn’t slowed by the near miss, he rushed into the room and swung his axe at Nitro, who deflected the blow with his shield but felt the tendons in his elbow strain. The elf swung his sword and managed to cut into the exposed flesh on his adversary’s arm, but the wound was superficial. As he did so a second dwarrow pushed its way into the room and took a swing at Gibeon, who ducked the blow and used his momentum to push past the newcomer and make his way into the passage. Thundarr let another arrow fly, but this also seemed to bend in mid air and it embedded itself into the wall next to the second dwarrow.

Nitro dodged another blow from the first dwarrow and stabbed forward with this sword. This time the elf struck home and pieced the dwarrow’s throat. It collapsed in a gurgling fit as it died. The second dwarrow growled and stepped over his falled companion as he swung his axe at the elf. But nitro brought up his shield and redirected the blow, which threw up sparks as the blade hit the stone wall.

Gibeon took a breath and was about the move back into the room when he heard a voice behind him.

“Why do you fight us? Shacath only wishes to set us free. Anaris wants to keep us prisoners here on this world.”

Gibeon spun and saw a third dwarrow, but this one was dressed in robes and carried a mace much like his own. Recognizing a priest of Shacath the Destroyer the dwarf shook his head. “Shacath can only destroy,” Gibeon replied. “But Anaris shepherds life.”

The dwarrow priest spat, “What is life but a imposition on the power of chaos?” With that he rushed foward and swung his mace. Gibeon brought his own weapon up in response and the two collided, sending a shock up both priest’s arms and stunning them. Gibeon managed to recover first and, before his opponent could get his bearings, swung his mace for the dwarrow’s skull. He swung true and the dwarrow priest collapsed in a heap. It was then that he heard a commotion behind him.

“Guys, Thundarr’s gone all stiff!” Nikare cried out as he rushed forward to drag his friend out of harm’s way. Just as he clasped Thundarr, however, a large orc rushed down the passage waving a sword. “And now they’re behind us!” the dwarf cried as he thrust out his axe with one hand while he shoved a frozen Thundarr back with the other.

The dwarf turned to face the newcomer, but was slow getting his guard back up. He groaned in pain as the orc’s sword punctured his armor and pierced his side. He swung his axe in response but, weakened by his ordeal, the orc was able to deflect his blow with ease. As tried to reorient himself for another strike another figure stepped into the room. A robed dwarrow flashed a malicious grin and raised his mace, which struck Nikare in the chest. The dwarf collapsed in a heap and lay still.

“No!” Gibeon shouted as he saw his cousin go down. The dwarf rushed forward and swung his mace at the dwarrow priest. Empowered by rage and grief Gibeon, managed to pull the priest’s shield out of the way and land a crushing blow with his mace. The dwarrow collapsed as the orc swung its sword down at the cleric, which managed to find a small gap his armor and slice a gash in the Gibeon’s side.

JG began to stir as the hostile priest collapsed and, seeing a dwarrow with his back to him, cocked his head in shock.

“Well that’s unexpected,” he mused as he dropped his bow and drew is sword in one fluid motion. He reversed his grip and plunged the blade into the dwarrow’s back. It howled in pain, but managed to twist his way off the blade and attempted another strike on Nitro. Weakened, the elf was able to ward off the blow, but his defense sent him off balance and his return blow slashed empty space.

Behind him Thundarr began to stir to back to life. He watched as Gibeon swung his mace again, crashing through the orc’s weak attempt at a parry and shattering its rib cage. As the orc fell Thundar dropped his bow and somersaulted next to the remaining dwarrow guard. He drew is sword and plunged into the dwarrow’s side. It drew a halting breath, coughing up blood, and collapsed.

Seeing that all their foes had been defeated Gibeon tossed his mace aside and knelt down by his cousin. Whispering a prayer he reached out with his hands and placed them on his cousin’s body. Light and warmth flooded Nikare, who drew a deep breath and opened his eyes.

“That,” he said in a whisper. “Was not fun.”

Gibeon sat back in relief and issued a nervous chuckle. As he did he heard a whimper coming from the corner. There, folded into a ball and rocking back and forth, was Wilfred. As he became aware of a sudden quiet he dared to look up and asked, “Can we please leave now?”

  1. Short for “Jeffrey the Great.” It’s a lot to type.
  2. Pronounced “Nik-ar-ray.”
  3. The player really likes the cartoon.
  4. The party found a +2 shield in another room, which they gave to JG.