The Spell (part three)

“You want us to do what?”

“I told you you weren’t going to like it.”

“You remember that adventure where you had us go to the astral plane? We all died. Twice! Without the resurrections, the campaign would have ended there.”

“I know it’s not great, but it’s the only idea I can think of. When I designed this place, I put a gate to the Ethereal Plane behind his throne. I wanted to give him a way out, if things started going badly.”

“And we use that to get to an Inner Plane,” Kevin interjected to stop John’s yelling.

“Right. From there you find our Ethereal Plane and go through it to get back to our world.” Matt sounded relieved that someone understood the plan.

John, however, was not done yet. “But even if we don’t get killed in one of these planes – a big if without Rob with us – we still have to get past the necromancer!”

“Quit yelling, John. I still don’t feel well.” Jason spoke up for the first time since becoming conscious again. “Besides, do we have another choice?”

Everyone fell silent. Around them, the castle was devoid of noises, as though it was abandoned. Yet, an evil permeated the air to remind them that danger lurked on the other side of the door. They all thought about the adventure John had brought up, and each of them felt the dread it inspired. However, no matter how hard they searched for other ideas, no alternative presented itself, except the one John had mentioned earlier.

Kevin spoke first. “I could still try casting my spell after I sleep?”

No one replied right away. It hadn’t made any sense that the spell had brought them here. How could it be trusted to take them back?

“It might not work, Kevin.” John finally spoke up. “And if it doesn’t, what do we do? Wait another day so we can try it again? They’re going to find us sooner or later. Probably better if you save the spell to get us out of a bad spot.”

“Maybe we could use it to get rid of the necromancer?” Jason suggested.

“Maybe,” John agreed. “I’m going to feel much better about this if we get some equipment. Weapons. Armor. Anything to give us some chance to survive a fight. Even if we get past the necromancer, who knows what we’ll find wandering through different planes. Any equipment help, Matt?”

There was no response.

“Matt?” Kevin called out.

Matt’s disembodied voice had become a sort of anchor to cling to, some reason to think they had a powerful ally, even if he hadn’t been able to do much so far. It’s absence was disturbing.

“Matt!” Jason yelled.

“What? Oh. Sorry.”

“Where were you?” Kevin asked.

“Nowhere. Just like always. Guess I was a little lost in thought.”

“Great,” muttered John. “Any chance you know where we might find some weapons?”

“Uh… Yeah. Another room, down a ways. Should be supplies there.”

“Why is everything so spread out?” Jason’s voice was more than a little tired and pained.

“What, you expect two room castles? This is a big place. I can’t help it you guys skipped all the exploring and went straight for the big guy.”

“Okay, I’ll go see what I can find,” John said as he stood up.

“We shouldn’t split up. Jason and I will go with you.”

“No. You forget, I’m a thief. I should be able to sneak around. You guys will just stumble around and get us all caught.”

“But you don’t have any of your gear,” Kevin protested.

“Hey, if you still have your spells, I must still have my skills. I’ll be fine. I am made for stealth. Anyway, you need to sleep for spells, and Jason needs to recover. It’s better if I go alone. It’ll be okay.”

“Famous last words.”

“Kevin, you worry too much.”

“I’ll help him,” Matt said.

“See? Nothing to worry about. You two lay low. I’ll see what I can find.”

John spent a few minutes taking apart his makeshift barricade. Then he nodded at his two friends and disappeared into the hall.

*     *     *

The hallway was empty, but John still moved slowly, trying to be quiet. All his bravado didn’t mean much now that he was out here. The chance of being caught frightened him more than he could admit. The only thing to do was keep moving. There was nothing really to hide behind, but the hall was dimly lit, and he kept track of doorways he could duck into. Move silently and hide in shadows were trickier to judge than whether spells were effective. Spells either went off or they didn’t. He’d only know if his skills failed if he actually got caught. As he neared an intersection with another hall, he stopped and whispered.

“Okay, Matt. Anyone down either hall? Or is it safe?”

“Make a hear noise check.”

“What? Just tell me.” He struggled to maintain his quiet voice.

“I… can’t. You still have to follow the game rules.”

“Do you know if anything is around the corner or not?”

“I… Make a hear noise check.”

“This is silly. I roll a… 25. That should be under my skill.”

“Yes, it is. You don’t hear anything.”

“Okay, the door is just down the hall, right?”

“Yes, straight ahead. It’s the second on the right after the hallway.”

John nodded and began to walk again. As soon as he stepped into the intersection, two skeletons looked up and began walking towards him. Each carried a short sword in its hand.

“You said there was nothing down here!” He began sprinting toward his objective.

“I said you didn’t hear anything. But the undead don’t make any noise. It’s not my fault you didn’t remember that.”

John ignored Matt and focused on reaching the door. He opened it, stepped inside, and made sure it shut behind him. The room was cluttered with all sorts of different equipment. He noticed a club leaning against one wall. He retrieved it and turned back to the door. “Are they still out there?”

“You don’t hear anything.”

“That’s not funny. You are not helping.”

He pulled the door open and saw the two skeletons outside. As he swung the club toward the one on the right, he called out, “I roll a twenty!”

The club crashed into the skeleton’s skill and knocked it to the floor. The rest of the bones dropped into a random pile. The other skeleton swung at him with its sword, but he dodged out of the way.

With his next attack, he tried to call out his roll to hit, but his words froze. He couldn’t say twenty. Or nineteen. Or… Only when he tried four did it work.

“I rolled a four!” The club swept harmlessly past the skeleton.

This time, the skeleton’s attack struck home, and John felt the blade cut into his arm. Pain throbbed through his body, but he tried to ignore it as he swung once more.

“I rolled an… eleven,” he managed to sputter out. The club connected and sent the skeleton to the floor next to its partner.

John shut the door again and slumped against it. The wound on his arm didn’t seem too bad, but he found some cloth and wrapped it around the cut just in case. When that was done, he looked at the various racks and crates in the room. Weapons and armor were spread out everywhere.

“Okay, Matt. Let’s see what we can find.”

The Spell (part two)

“Where are you?”

There was a pause before Matt responded. “I’m not sure. I can see you. If I focus, you seem to get closer. But I don’t feel like I’m anywhere.”

John walked over to Kevin. “What happened?”

“According to Matt, we’re inside the game. Oh crap…”

“What?” John looked around for whatever had worried Kevin.

“I just realized my mom was right. This is Satan’s doing. All because I kept playing.”

John laughed.

Jason, however, who had finally joined them, looked serious. “You think so?”

“Not you, too?” Jason scoffed. “This isn’t Satan. We’re not in hell. Just Matt’s idea of a castle.”

Jason glared at him. “How does that make any sense? Where is Matt, anyway? I thought I heard him.”

Kevin shrugged. “He doesn’t know. But he can see us.”

“Yes, I can. I feel like I’m right with you guys. But I don’t seem to have a body.”

“Oh my god! You’re the dungeon master!”

“Yes, John, he is, but what does that matter?” Jason asked.

“I mean, he’s the DM, right? So getting brought here, he can see everything; it’s his world. He’s like God here. He can probably do whatever he wants.”

Kevin shook his head. “That sounds crazy.”

“Well then how would you explain it?”

“I don’t know. None of this makes any sense.”

“Well, we’re here. Let’s have some fun with it.”

“Kevin’s right. This is too weird.”

John looked at Jason and then back to Kevin. “You two have no sense of adventure.”

“Um, guys?” Matt interjected. “The necromancer is here.”

“What?” John spun around. “Why is he here?”

“Well, this is his castle,” Matt answered.

“Can’t you make him go away?” Kevin asked.

“How would I do that?”

“Well, if this is your game…”

“Even so, I don’t know how. Fireball! Duck!”

A small bright streak headed towards them from the dais. Almost instantly, it began to grow into a giant ball of flame. As it reached each of them it froze in place. Try as they might, however, they couldn’t move either.

Jason yelled, “Why can’t we move?!”

No one said anything at first, each wondering the same thing and feeling the same panic that was in Jason’s voice. The fire flickered but was still not moving forward, waiting for something to release it.

Matt finally broke the silence. “Uh, everyone make a saving throw?”

“What?” Kevin shouted back.

“Well, you need to see if you’re going to take full damage or not. I think everything is waiting on the saving throws.”

“How are we supposed to do that? We don’t have any dice.”

John interrupted. “I rolled a twenty!” Suddenly, he was released and fell forward, flame spilling over him.

“Fine,” said Kevin, “I rolled a twenty, too.” He dropped and the fire rushed over top of him as well.

“I rolled a five,” Jason finally added. The flames hit him square as he stood there.

The fire vanished, though they all smoldered. Kevin jumped up and ran over to Jason.

“Are you okay? Why would you say five?”

Jason was trembling. “I… I tried to say twenty, but I couldn’t. It wouldn’t let me say anything higher than five.”

“What do you…”

Matt interrupted again. “There is still the necromancer. You all need to do something.”

“Jason’s hurt! For that matter, so are John and I, even though we escaped the worst of it. Nobody has any weapons. What do you want us to do?”


“Brilliant,” Kevin muttered.

John hadn’t waited for any more prompting and was already sprinting for the doors opposite the dais. Kevin dragged Jason along as he followed. Shouting began behind them but grew fainter right away, and no more attacks followed before they got through the doors.

“You guys can stop. He’s not following you.”

“Screw that,” John said. “We gotta get outta here.”

“Don’t. There’s that dragon outside.”

“My teleport worked?”

Jason snorted. “That’s what you’re wondering?”


John put up his hand to stop them. “Cut it out. How are going to get out of this?”

They all stared at each other, until Jason collapsed. Kevin got to him first.

“Jason! Are you okay?”

Jason didn’t move, but Kevin could see his chest rise and fall.

“He’s asleep. That fireball wiped out almost all of his hit points,” Matt said.

“What? Hit points? How much of this is still the game?” Kevin asked.

“I can see each of your current and total hp above your heads. You experienced the fireball as real, but it’s all in game terms to me.”

“Well,” John said, “if that’s so, why don’t we have our equipment? My lock picks? Kevin’s staff? Jason’s sword and shield?”

“I don’t know. I’m still not sure how any of this works.”

“Great. Kevin, do you have your spells at least?”

Kevin took a moment before answering. “Yes, I do. I can tell they’re still there.”

“Can you cast that spell again, see if it gets us out?”

Kevin shook his head. “I only had that one seventh-level spell. I can’t get it back until tomorrow.”

“Argh. I wish Rob were here. At least he’d have some healing spells for Jason. Can’t you do anything, Matt?”

“Sorry, John… Wait. The room on your right. There’s an extra-healing potion in there.”

John opened a door revealing a small room that was nearly empty. There was a torch on the wall, a couple of empty shelves to the left, and a couple of crates to the right.

“Inside the smaller crate. Make sure you grab the bottle with green fluid. The red is poison.”

“Thanks.” John found the bottle easily and took it back to where Kevin watched over Jason. He handed the bottle over. “Here. Get him to drink this.”

Kevin took it and propped Jason’s head up before tilting the bottle at his lips. Jason started swallowing and quickly began to look better.

“Hmm. Well, I’m not quite sure how I did that, but I managed to make sure that potion had its maximum effect on him. 27 hit points. He should be up again soon.”

“If you managed that…”

“I’m not sure how I did it, John. This is all tricky.”

“Well, figure it out.”

Kevin stood up. “We can’t stay here. The necromancer could come out, or some of his henchmen could wander by. Is there a safe place to hid while we figure out what to do, Matt?”

“Yeah, I think so. A small room near the entrance of the castle. I can guide you.”

Helping Jason to his feet, they made their way to the room. It had only one door, but there was a window they could jump out if necessary. John pushed a table against the door and stacked whatever he could find on top of it. “That should at least slow anyone down. Now, what next? Any ideas, Matt?”

“I might have an idea. But you’re not going to like it.”

The Spell (part one)

The spell looked simple enough. He knew how to pronounce all the words of the incantation. And the few material components required were things he had with him. The only question was whether he could control the results. Never before had he attempted such a high level spell, but he had to try.

“Kevin! What are you doing?”

Startled, he tried to shove the book under his pillow, but it was already too late. His mother walked over and grabbed it from him.

“Is this one of those D&D books?”

“Yes, mom.”

“I told you I didn’t want you playing this game. The pastor says it’s an introduction to Satan worship.”

“But mom…”

“No buts, young man. This discussion is over.”

“But mom, the book is John’s. I have to give it back to him.”

“Does John’s mom know about this?”

Kevin shrugged. John’s mom didn’t care about this stuff, but he knew that wouldn’t mean anything to his own mom.

“Well, I think I will give her a call.”

The conversation went about how he expected. The pastor had said it was satanic, and that was the final word. But his mom did agree to return the book, though she insisted it was a mistake.

*     *     *

Kevin gave John his book back the next day at school. During lunch, they talked about it.

“I can’t believe your mom called.”

“I know. She always does this sort of thing to embarrass me.”

“My mom laughed when she hung up.”

“Yeah.” Kevin wished the whole thing would just go away.

“So you want to come over tonight? Matt wants to finish the adventure. He even agreed to let us try the spell.”

“I’m not sure I can. My mom was really unhappy last night. Said she wasn’t sure she wanted me hanging out with you. That you were a bad influence.”

“You’re kidding?”

“I wish.”

“Well that sucks.”

“Tell me about it.”

“We’re almost done. We’ve got to get this guy. Your spell is going to work, I just know it. We can’t stop now.”

“I know, but my mom…”

“Can you sneak out?”

“I don’t know…”

“How about telling her you’re going to Jason’s house to study?”

“My mom will never believe that.” John’s face fell in defeat. “But I’ll come up with something. I”ll be there.”

His friend perked up again. “Awesome!”

Kevin started trying to figure out how he was going to keep his promise.

*     *     *

It turned out, he didn’t need to come up with any ideas. His mom was going to an event at church, so he just left after she did. Matt and Jason were already at John’s house, gathered around the card table in the basement.

“Okay, Kevin is here. We can start.” John was obviously eager.

“Shouldn’t we wait for Rob?” Kevin asked.

John shook his head. “He said he couldn’t make it tonight.”

Matt spoke up. “Don’t worry about his character. I’ll run it. Just let me know if you want him to do something. Now, last time the Necromancer had just summoned his bone dragon.”

“I want to teleport it outside of the castle.” Kevin smiled as he said it.

Jason frowned. “That’s not how the teleport spell works. You have to touch it, and you teleport with it.”

John scowled at Jason. “That’s why he made it a higher level spell. Matt already said he could try it.”

“Well, I still think it’s cheating.”

“It won’t matter if the dragon makes its saving throw,” said Matt, as he picked up a die and rolled. A one.

Kevin and John cheered as Jason sat looking unhappy. Matt seemed to be having trouble believing it himself, but he turned to Kevin. “Okay, roll for the destination. I’d say you have seen the outside of the castle casually. You didn’t really take time to study it carefully.”

Kevin nodded and picked up two ten-sided dice. When they hit the table, both dice came up with zeroes on them. Then a blinding flash of light blotted out the world.

*     *     *

When Kevin came to, he was in a large, dimly lit room. At one end was a large set of doors; at the other was a dais with a throne on it. He was in the middle of the room, with both John and Jason stirring nearby.

“Where are we?”

Matt’s voice seemed to come from nowhere. “You guys really don’t pay attention, do you? This is the Necromancer’s castle. It’s just like how I described it to you.”


Seven days in, and his resolution was already over. He sat on the couch and drank his coffee. Outside the wind howled as it picked up snow and moved it around. The sun was well on its way toward the horizon in the southwest.

All he had to do was pick up the phone and call someone. It wouldn’t be that hard. Surely someone would spend a little time with him. His therapist told him just an hour was all he needed. Just start reconnecting with people. He said he would. New year and all, what better time to make a new beginning.

But he knew no one wanted to talk to him, much less spend time with him. His voice grated on even his own ears. He had nothing interesting to say and made everyone around him uncomfortable. When he did speak, he could tell that he offended others, or sounded stupid. Whatever false confidence he had had when he made his resolution was gone, evaporated like rain on a hot summer afternoon.

The wind gusted once more, as if to remind him how far away summer really was. The voice of his therapist echoed through his mind, telling him it wasn’t too late, that he could still get back to his resolution. But he knew better; there was no one to call, no one to talk to.

Maybe he should have made an easier resolution. Perhaps to eat healthier. Or drink less caffeine. Resolutions were silly anyway. And what did it matter if he broke one? Besides, he liked staying at home. Things were comfortable here. He didn’t have to talk or worry what people thought of him. He could just do what he liked. Nothing was expected of him.

The phone rang, and, wondering what to do, he just stared at it. After a few rings, it stopped, and he began to breathe again. Probably just a telemarketer.

Looking into his empty mug, he was glad he hadn’t resolved to drink less coffee.