“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.”