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A Tale of Nightmares Part 6 - The Crypts of Azarumme

Updated: Dec 11, 2021

Dirty Secrets and Nightmares is a Dungeons and Dragons (DnD 5e) game set in a Ravenloft Domain of Dread, New Solamnia. Play takes place every Friday night at Dragons Keep Roleplay Club in Chislehurst, South East London. The Dungeon Master is Sam.

Five people previously unknown to each other have found themselves strangely transported to a land none of them are familiar with, and banded together to investigate what has brought them here - and survive. According to the locals, it is usually a peaceful place. This is not the party's experience, as strange happenings surround them and monsters stir.

The party consists of:

  • Sir Gerigold - A Male Half-Elven Oath of Redemption Paladin of the Morninglord (played by Paul)

  • Hazard Darkstar - A Male Human Rune Knight Fighter (played by Alexander)

  • Greynen Falstaer - A Male Half-Elven Warlock of the Archfey, Pact of the Tome (played by Mark)

  • Morgaen Nightbreeze - A Female Half-Elven Bard of the College of Spirits (played by Imogen)

  • Ragnar son of Bjorn - A Male Human Tempest Cleric of Odinson (played by Alex)

The party fought off an attack by strangely-behaving ghouls on the church of Saint Terragnis in the town of Tenbrim, but three acolytes were dragged away into the crypts below the church. The five adventurers pursued the ghouls into the crypts on a rescue mission.


Wordlessly, they pulled the other two bodies into shore, laying the three victims together away from the edge of the spring.

The bodies bore the signs of having been beaten and tormented, as well as having their wrists slit. Morgaen investigated along the edge of the spring – further along, there was another tunnel leaving the cave. Drag marks and a blood trail suggested that the acolytes had been brought to the spring this way.

They discussed, quietly, what to do next. The idea was floated that the obvious thing to do, having failed, was to take the bodies and go back up to the church… But the suggestion was not serious. It did not seem the thing to do, even if it seemed to make sense.

On consideration, it made less sense. The ghouls responsible for the attack were still down here somewhere – although the three acolytes could not be saved, that did not mean that their attackers should be left free to try again. Also – and the party brightened a little at this thought – these were the three acolytes who had just been taken so there was a chance – a small chance, but still a chance – that Father Reginald Baird might still be down here somewhere, in need of rescue. There might still be one person left to save.

They still had something to try to do.

Morgaen asked the party to wait for a few minutes and started removing the white tabard from one of the dead acolytes – a human about her height. She then set out a number of things from one of her pouches – a few pots of cosmetics, a wig which more closely resembled the dead acolyte’s hair.

“They were dumped alive,” she explained, over her shoulder. “Their killers didn’t even bother to finish them off… So one of them might have survived and pulled themselves out of here. So, if they see one of their victims walking into a cave – that’s possible, it doesn’t mean there’s anyone else down here, and they should just run after me, thinking it’s only me. Then the rest of you can ambush them in the passage.”

After a few minutes, she was finished with the grisly disguise – a bedraggled wig arranged to cover her pointed ears, the tattered robe, and traces of something that looked like blood around her wrists. Her moon elf heritage made her skin pale enough to pass for a near-corpse in the darkness, and she had used cosmetics to make the shape of her features more closely resemble the dead acolyte.

The party set off down the second tunnel - the one which had to lead to where the acolytes had been held prisoner until they were discarded. A little way along they came to a bend in the tunnel – from the direction it curved in, it seemed to go back towards the well chamber where they had entered the crypts. They could hear a trickle of water down that way. The other corridor bent round to the right – and the drag marks and blood trail went that way. They continued following the trail, until Morgaen gestured for the others to hold back with the torch.

She could see the tunnel broadening ahead, widening out into another cave.

Morgaen walked out into the middle of the cave – hesitantly, doing an impression of a badly injured and completely blinded human, whimpering slightly. Walking away from her comrades and the torch, the heavy darkness of the crypts that she had started to become somewhat accustomed to pressed down again and making small sounds of confusion and terror came more easily than she would have liked. But scanning the room with her darkvision showed nothing to be taken in by the pretence. The walls were the same irregular piles of bone in most places – but here, there was also the edge of an apparently ancient stone structure, some kind of tomb which must have been built down here before the bones were piled around it. It had been broken open by some shift in the earth or the bones, and two heavy stone sarcophagi were present – damaged themselves, with the lids slightly ajar. An odd fizzing noise seemed to be coming from that direction. In another corner was another of the rough pits – remembering how the edge of the last one had collapsed, Morgaen gave it a wide berth, but she could hear an animal-like scratching coming from inside it.

The drag marks they had followed led to the centre of the cave, where the dirt of the floor was churned up. It was covered with a confusion of humanoid tracks, and there were several bloodstains. This, then, was where the acolytes had had their wrists slit – but there was not nearly enough blood here or in the trail to the spring.

Nothing, however, looked immediately dangerous. She called back to the rest of the party, to report, and tried to tell herself that her nerves were steadying as they, and the light, arrived. The truth was that the waiting presence of the crypts had receded in her mind slightly, faced with the acolytes’ sad fate – but now her renewed awareness of the crypts’ deathly presence was not going away. She remained where she was,trying to steady herself.

Sir Gerigold walked, very cautiously and testing every footstep, over to the hole in the corner where the scratching noise was coming from. He peered over the edge.

A ghoul was down the hole, scratching at the floor and the bone walls and trying to haul itself to its feet. There was evidence that the side of this hole had recently collapsed, and the ghoul seemed to have something wrong with its ankle – every time it managed to get to its feet, it fell again.

Sensing Sir Gerigold’s presence, it looked up at him. Green gems in its eyes shone. It made a vicious snarling noise and hurled itself at the side of the pit again – but fell back once more.

Faced with the straightforward problem of an evil undead opponent trying to climb up and attack him, Sir Gerigold felt his spirits rise.

“Good day to you, fine sir,” he said courteously, “and how do you feel about being down this nasty pit?”

The ghoul made a thin screech and threw itself once more at the bone walls.

“Not good, eh? Well, we can fix that…” the knight mused, drawing a javelin.

Greynen went to join him, as Hazard and Ragnar went to investigate the smashed-open tomb. It resembled a small house but seemed abandoned and unmaintained – reassuring in a place that was clearly inhabited by undead. The stonework, Hazard saw, was very old – he thought even older than the Valkyr Mausoleum.

He walked up to the first sarcophagus, pausing for a moment – then flung the lid back suddenly.

There was nothing inside, except sand piled in the bottom. He glanced a little self-consciously at Ragnar, who joined him and folded his arms on the edge of the sarcophagus, peering in curiously. The strange fizzing noise they had heard seemed to have stopped. They listened carefully – no. There was no sound anymore.

Morgaen glanced over to where Sir Gerigold and Greynen were dealing with the trapped ghoul. Greynen was standing carefully on the edge of the pit, taking aim and sending his blasts of magic down at the ghoul, while the knight was standing poised with his maul in both hands, looking rather like a smith waiting to swing a sledgehammer at metal on an anvil. The increasingly desperate shrieking and scrabbling from the pit suggested that the ghoul was trying frantically to get out, but between Greynen’s magic and the paladin being clearly ready for it to get anywhere near the top, they did not need assistance. She joined Hazard and Ragnar at the tomb, suspiciously noting the house-like nature of the structure and starting using the handle of her dagger to test the walls – checking if there might be any hidden doors going elsewhere, she explained. The walls were, however, sound – this was all there was to the tomb.

Hazard walked over to the second sarcophagus – but before he could open it, Ragnar exclaimed behind him.

“Look at this!”

Hazard and Morgaen turned. Ragnar was leaning into the open sarcophagus. He straightened up – and showed them a fistful of gold.

“It was in the sand in the bottom!” he said, with pleasure.

Hazard, irritated to have missed this, turned and flipped the lid of the second sarcophagus open, hard. It crashed to the ground, making the others jump. Again, all that could be seen inside was sand – this time, the fighter ran his hand through the sand. He found more of the coins – and something else. A small glass vial, containing what seemed at first to be a greenish liquid, but after a moment Hazard realised it was in fact a thick dense green fog, swirling around the container like a liquid. He straightened up, and carefully opened the lid just enough to give it a sniff. A whiff that smelled like natural gas came out.

Ragnar came and started extracting the gold from the second sarcophagus – he already had a pile on the ground next to the first. Hazard held out the vial to Morgaen – they had learned that extensive reading meant that the bard knew a bit about most things.

“Any ideas what this is?” he asked.

Morgaen took the bottle, and tilted it, examining how the potion inside moved. She followed Hazard’s example in unstopping and sniffing it, and raised an eyebrow.

“I think it is a Potion of Gaseous Form,” she said, a little reluctantly handing it back to the finder. “I have seen one before – if I’m right, drinking it would turn you into a cloud of mist, for a while.”

“Hmm,” Hazard said, carefully transferring the potion to his pouch. “Interesting, and under the right circumstances, potentially very useful.”

Ragnar, sat on the ground next to his second pile of gold, was taking one coin after another and turning them over. He waved a welcome to Sir Gerigold and Greynen, who had come to join the others after despatching the ghoul, and held one of the coins up.

“I think,” he said suspiciously, “there is some kind of undead on the back of this coin.”

Greynen and Morgaen took one each and examined them. On consultation, they agreed that it was an undead face on the back of the coin – they thought it might be a lich.

“This writing,” Greynen said, showing the coin to Hazard. “Is this Infernal again?”

“Yes,” the fighter said, taking the coin and inspecting the writing. Sir Gerigold fidgeted slightly, but Hazard had not done anything in the ten days they had been companions to suggest that questioning him about his strange knowledge of that language would get any answers if it was something Hazard did not choose to talk about, and they could not afford to start unnecessary arguments in this dangerous place. The Morninglord’s paladin continued to hold his tongue.

Hazard checked a New Solamnian gold coin from his pouch, compared it to the coin from the coffin, and looked up.

“Going from the dates, these coins are about a thousand years old,” he said.

“The records at Moldavia Manor only went back about five hundred years,” Morgaen reminded the others, “and the Valkyr Mausoleum, that can’t have been a thousand years old. These coins - these crypts - must be the oldest things we've come across, here.”

“There’s something else,” Hazard went on, and hesitated slightly. “Azarumme – it’s not a word that means something, it’s some kind of name. I can’t remember if I’ve heard it somewhere before, but I’m sure it’s a name – I think I should have heard it before…”

The others racked their memories, and after a moment, Morgaen gasped.

“Wait wait wait! Azarumme – I know where I’ve seen that name!”

She threw down her backpack, and started digging things out – rations, and what seemed to be a monk’s or wizard’s or possibly lawyer’s robes, which she unwrapped to reveal two books. The black book they had been given by Tannoc Puddleduck, containing the same visions as the brass disks they had been finding – and Tamalain and Other Poems, the book of literature which she had taken from Moldavia Manor and had been reading to try to find any references that might help to explain their presence in New Solamnia.

She flipped through the pages of the book of poems.

“Azarumme is mentioned in here, several times, as an ancient realm – Found it! Here – and here – and here.” She checked the references and looked up at them.

“Azarumme was an ancient dark empire, which fell centuries ago – not as long as a thousand years ago, more recently than that. New Solamnia goes back about five hundred years; from what I can make out, that seems to be not long after Azarumme fell. Until then, this land was ruled by dark magic and undead – by vampire warlords, and witch queens.”

In the pause that followed, the brooding presence of the crypts seemed to press in on them more strongly yet.

Dark magic. Undead. Vampires.

Morgaen sat down and started to repack her things.

“We should get on,” she said, slowly. “I’ll refresh my disguise.”

Greynen held out a hand – in it were two glowing emeralds.

“If you’re going to be scouting, it’s probably a good idea to cast detect magic on yourself again,” he said. “Then you could have a look at these as well – I used my mage hand to dig them out of the ghoul’s eyes after getting Sir Gerigold’s javelin back up from the pit.”

Morgaen nodded, and started whispering to herself and casting the ritual as quietly as she could again.

Ragnar spent the time dividing the gold they had found into five equal piles. He handed Morgaen her share as soon as she was done, and she put it away in her backpack before taking the gems from Greynen and examining them.

She told the others that there was definitely a necromantic energy about them – which reinforced the idea that they might be some form of magical device for controlling the ghouls, causing them to have dragged the prisoners down here for some inscrutable end and to throw the bodies away, rather than simply trying to kill and eat as many people as they could.

They headed for the door, discussing whether to go back to the stone door by the well or to investigate the other tunnel at the fork where Hazard and Morgaen had fallen into the pit.

But as they approached the tunnel, the dark presence of the crypts ceased to be a lurking, waiting threat. Something stirred.

Hazard and Ragnar were conscious of the presence weighing heavily on them for a moment, of a stench of death in their nostrils. Hazard stopped and stood very still for a moment – Ragnar reached for the hammer amulet on his chest. But after a moment, the stench of death receded, and the presence in the crypts returned to being the lurking threat it had been since the start – a shock to have entered, but something they were able to hold up under by now.

The others were less fortunate.

Morgaen caught the scent of death in her nostrils and jerked – then she felt her fingers start to itch. She looked at her hands, and rubbed them, then started rubbing harder, knowing something was wrong but not sure what and unable to stop herself. She rubbed her fingers harder against her palms, biting her lip as the strangely intense itching feeling intensified – then, to her horror, one fingernail came loose and started pulling off, with a stab of intense pain. Another followed – she bit back a cry, and tried to stop herself, but the itching was too intense. She could not stop rubbing at her hands. One by one, her fingernails pulled away, leaving her hands raw and bleeding. Only then could she feel the horrific itch start to fade away, being replaced with a more usual pain. She wrapped her hands in the torn and bloodstained robe she was wearing, twisting it around them and holding fast, trying to staunch the bleeding from her fingers, her eyes wide. Not my hands, not my hands… My guitar! How am I going to play an instrument like this? What good am I if I can’t play? I can’t do my magic without music!

Greynen blinked as the stench of death rose around him – and suddenly, he could not see his friends anymore. He was still in the cave, near the tomb – but he was surrounded by ranks of undead.

There was no way out – and no way he could fight so many. Even so he reached for his magic – but it wasn’t there. Terror struck him, and he froze, feeling certain that his death would now come any moment.

A vampire stepped out from the undead around him.

“Do not worry, little one,” she said, calmly. “Everything will be better afterwards.”

Then, with blinding speed, she grabbed him and bit down hard on his neck.

Sir Gerigold saw Greynen freeze, his eyes going wide. The warlock was still standing there but could not seem to see them. The knight tried to warn the others that something was happening – but at that moment, the presence of the crypts struck him, also, with renewed force, and the stench of death rose strongly into his nostrils. He doubled over, feeling as if he was about to vomit and clapped a hand over his mouth, desperately trying to hold himself together.

He felt something go loose – then a searing pain struck him, a dark energy seeming to run through his face, and as he straightened up, his mouth came away in his hand.

Half of his once-handsome face dropped away to the floor. Sir Gerigold stared at the mess of skin and flesh, and cautiously touched his chin. It was raw and painful. His jaw and cheeks were a bloody mess.

“My god, what’s happened to you all?” Ragnar asked, horrified.

Hazard surveyed the others, and checked around them for any danger, anything that might have caused this which could be fought. But there was still nothing moving.

Greynen had been rigid and unmoving for some time – a strangled cry had escaped him, once, as a shudder ran through his body. Now, he seemed to be back in control of himself. He had appeared shaken at first, but pulled himself together quickly, saying something about seeing things for a moment. After a moment longer, he stood taller – there seemed something different about him, a new confidence in the face of the dark presence. He could feel his connection to his patron again, he could feel his magic again – and what was more, he felt stronger.

Morgaen unwrapped her hands, carefully. The bleeding had stopped, but the ends were still raw. She felt for her wooden flute, and ran her hands carefully over it. She could probably still use this, if she was careful.

Sir Gerigold had not spoken. He had laid both hands on his face and drawn on his magic to staunch the bleeding. The others tried to look at him, but found it hard to keep their gaze on the wreckage of the lower half of his face. The amount of flesh that had fallen from his bones had told him it was bad, but his comrades’ reaction drove that home. He traced the outlines of his face carefully after the magical healing – no. The bleeding had stopped, but something was preventing his magic from doing more to heal this.

Sternly, the paladin rebuked himself for unworthy thoughts such as what the ladies would think of this even if he got out of here alive. He was a paladin of the Morninglord and a Companion of Elturgard, and there were more important things in life than a good appearance – even what had been a very good appearance. Recall the Creed, he told himself, firmly.

He bent down and picked up the limp mass of flesh and skin which had been his face.

“We should go back to the stone door,” he said, with some difficulty from the soreness he felt. “Let us investigate what is there – now that I have, after all – paid the toll.”

In the silence that followed, even Hazard looked impressed.

Sir Gerigold started for the tunnel, and the others followed.

The tunnel wound slightly downwards, and after a short while a dank and sluggish stream emerged, running down the passage ahead of them. The dank smell they were familiar with from their entrance to the crypts returned. They were on the right track – and around the next bend, the tunnel widened out and they could see the stone rim of the well and the dangling end of the rope they had used to enter the crypts.

Sir Gerigold circled the well, followed by the others. He walked up to the stone door beyond, where the stone hands emerging from the door, holding a bowl with flecks of green light sparking from its surface, seemed to be the only clue to entry. Beneath the bowl, words were carved in Infernal – Hazard had read them, earlier, as being an instruction to pay the toll of the living. They had all understood that to most likely mean blood – they had not had the courage, on first entering the crypts and their dark oppressive atmosphere, to risk injuring themselves when they did not know how much blood it would take, and might unleash something into the bargain. But now they knew they had failed to save the acolytes, now they knew that being down here at all was dangerous enough – Sir Gerigold felt reckless.

And besides, it had been a very good face. This was a fact which had served him very well as a diplomatic envoy before his transportation to New Solamnia. He had always found that a pleasant appearance helped to open doors, metaphorically speaking, and if this place was going to end that for him – well, there was perhaps one more door his face could open for him.

Ragnar, at a nod, put out the torch he was carrying, and took up the knife that gave him darkvision.

Sir Gerigold slapped the bloody mass he was carrying down into the bowl.

The green light started sparking more intensely, giving off a small crackling noise, as the blood from Sir Gerigold’s face seemed to seep into the stone itself. Green light started to run over the hands, over the writing, up the middle of the door. They had checked when they were first here, there was no break in the stonework between the hands and the bowl, they seemed carved as one – but now, the bowl came smoothly away from one hand, as the door swung silently open.

Darkvision showed them a smooth stone hall, bare of any furniture or ornament. About twenty feet inside, they could see that it turned to the right and seemed to open up into a larger space.

Morgaen went ahead of the others, quietly putting down her pack and crossbow and starting to stumble artistically, clutching the walls – going into her surviving-human-acolyte act. Turning the corner, it took all of her self-control not to cry out immediately, reminding herself that the character she was playing could not see. And neither could she – not all the way down to the end of the hall. It was a long, long space, entirely dark, and her half-elvish darkvision was more meant for shaded woods and twilight than complete darkness. If something was watching down there, at the end of the hall – she couldn’t tell yet. She could not see that far. She managed to hold her nerves – just – to feel along the wall, staring about her all the time, until she came to the first niche. She could see what was in them, but she made herself wait, and work closer – and put out her hand.

She did not actually touch the skeleton chained in the niche, but any observer might have thought she had. She recoiled as if she had blindly done so, anyway – letting out a small cry and biting the arm of her robe as if she was terrified of being heard. Now she was in the centre of the hall – and she could see both sides of it. Regularly, on both sides, an alcove was carved out of the wall, and in each one was a skeleton, a human skeleton like the bones down here, chained up. She could not see the others clearly – but the one she had got closest too was wearing a necklace of human teeth.

Morgaen blundered down the hall, feigning panicked flight, until she was close enough to see to the end.

At the end of the main hall were transepts, flanking a semicircular apse. Something was piled high in the transepts – it looked like more bones – and in the apse was an altar. Behind the altar stood a tall, hooded statue, its hands reaching down to another stone bowl. This, also, sparked with green fire, and shone with an aura of necromantic magic – and there seemed to be some form of writing on the altar.

Nothing moved. Nothing about the magic on the altar suggested an immediate threat.

She straightened up, dropped her act.

“Clear so far,” she called back to the others. “Unless the skeletons chained in the alcoves here are undead – and they don’t seem to be doing anything. The altar has another stone bowl with necromantic magic, but that’s the only magic I can see.”

Ragnar lit a torch, and the others followed her around the corner, hands ready at their weapons. Sir Gerigold paused for a moment, closing his eyes and opening his senses.

“The skeletons are not undead,” he said. “I sense no undead here at all.”

Morgaen let out a small sigh of relief. Then, as Ragnar walked further up the hall with the light, something else caught her eye.

Something was lying huddled to the side of the altar.

She ran forwards – then stopped. Turning, she shook her head at the others as they came fast up the room behind her.

“Sorry – false alarm. I thought for a moment it was a person here – but it’s only robes.”

She crouched down to start investigating – then checked. Now that Ragnar was here with the torch, she could see the transepts more clearly.

It was not just bones in the transepts – it was skulls. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of skulls, and only skulls, piled high. All of them with their faces to the space before the altar – all leering down at the party.

She bit her lip and went back to investigating the abandoned robes. They were torn and bloodied – and they carried the same device as the acolyte’s robe she was wearing, the shield with a spark of light coming off it. The symbol of Saint Terragnis.

The chances of finding Father Reginald Baird alive were not looking good, but she checked the pile of robes thoroughly for any clue at all. She found nothing to say for sure if the former owner was alive or dead. But she did catch sight of a thin chain – which turned out to be attached to an amulet, showing the same holy symbol. It shone with a glimmer of divine magic, and it felt warm in her hand, somehow comforting against the atmosphere of the crypts. And it would, of course, be appropriate for her current disguise – and down here, with the threats of death and undead around every corner, it did not seem that the deities she usually prayed to when working as an investigator – Mask, god of stealth and intrigue, and Leira, goddess of deception – would be much use to her. She put the amulet on.

Hazard was leaning over the altar, mouth moving as he made out the words in Infernal. Sir Gerigold was slightly comforted by the fact that at least Hazard did not seem to speak the devils’ language like a native, however he had arrived at his fluency.

“It says this,” Hazard said, after a few moments. “Feed life to the skull, and it shall give thee death to wield against the enemies of Azarumme.

“Which skull do you think it means?” Greynen asked, eyeing the piles in the transepts. He went off to investigate and see if any single skull seemed to be picked out in some way.

Morgaen craned her neck to look under the statue’s hood – no. There was no skull there.

“This is different,” Ragnar said, slowly. He had leaned in, and was investigating the altar more closely. “This bowl actually has blood in it. It’s old,” he added. “Several days, I should think.”

“There is blood on the robes,” Morgaen said, quietly. “I think it even less likely we will be finding Father Reginald Baird alive, now.”

“Let us not give up hope without proof,” Sir Gerigold rebuked her. “How much blood is it, Ragnar?”

“Not enough to kill someone… Hang on. There’s something behind it.” He leaned round. “It’s another of those brass disks!”

He reached out and grabbed it. Nothing happened for a moment – he removed one of his gloves, and glanced round at the others. They checked their surroundings, then, after a moment, they all nodded at him. He touched his bare skin to the disk.

After betraying his wife, the knight with the crown-shaped helm, the lord of Knighthund, was conflicted. He continued on his journey to the council, with the other knights of his order, accompanying the elves. But when the time came for them to part, he realised that he could not give up the new love he now felt for the elf woman. He spoke to her of this and she agreed, consenting to join him and go to his lands. She set up home near Knighthund.

For months, he carried on as if things were normal, splitting his time between Knighthund and the elf woman’s home. He believed that he was successfully deceiving his wife that things were normal – but she had noticed a change in him, and soon she found out what it was. However, she did not confront him – she kept the secret. She considered her husband a decent man who would always do right by her, if she could arrange the correct circumstances – so she sought out help to ensure that he would not leave her. One day, she announced to her husband that she was pregnant – that they would finally have the child they had wanted for so long – and she saw in his eyes that she had her husband’s love back.

It was a difficult pregnancy, and about eight months in she became so sick that it was feared she might lose the child. The knight got the best medical care, and his wife managed to carry the child to term – but it was also a difficult birth. The knight was away from home at the time, about his business, but hurried back as soon as he heard. They told him as he arrived that his son had been born, but his wife had had a difficult time of it, and encouraged him to go to her —she had been asking for him.

Going to the bedroom, the knight was beaming with joy, but realised that his wife, although happy, looked nervous – and the midwife who had delivered the baby also seemed tense. The baby was well wrapped in his wife’s arms – she did not immediately hold the child out but seemed to hold it closer instead. He realised something was not quite right and asked the midwife to leave and let him have this time with his wife. She did so, a little reluctantly, and the knight turned to his wife.

“Why are you worried, my love? Here – let me see me son.”

“Husband, there is something I must tell you. We always struggled to have a child together – so, I took steps and consulted a hedgewitch. She helped me – she bound part of our souls together, so that our child would be born. Before you see him, I want you to know this – that he is our son, and I love him, and the love that I have for him should be the love that you give to him.” She held the bundle of blankets out to him, now – the knight took the child carefully, hesitantly, trying to read the expression on his wife’s face. Then he folded back the blankets and looked at his son.

The child did not look human. It had scaly skin, two small nubs of horns rising from its head, and a soft, stubby tail winding around its legs.

The pause seemed a lifetime. Then the knight looked up again, a world of anger in his eyes.

“You did this to our child! Our child – this is NOT even my child! This thing is an abomination – a demon!”

His wife burst into tears, crying, apologising.

“All I ever wanted was for us to have a family! And – and I knew that if I didn’t – I knew I was losing you!”

The vision changed – showing the hall at Knighthund, the servants waiting on the guests who had come to congratulate the knight and his wife on the birth of their child.

The knight walked in, holding a small body hidden in blankets. His face was like stone. Seeing his expression, those who had been about to congratulate him stayed silent.

“My wife is dead. It was a difficult childbirth for her – she was more harmed by it than you all realised. She died, just now, in my arms. The baby, also, did not survive.” He looked for his steward. “You shall burn both of their bodies – tonight. No questions.”

The party took longer to steady themselves after this vision. Sir Gerigold, the only one who had the title of knight himself, looked particularly disgusted.

Ragnar carefully put the brass disk away with the other two. They did not yet know what connection, if any, these visions had to whatever had brought them here – but so far, following the visions and their story seemed to be the only potential clues they were getting. The strange and apparently unexpected monster attacks they kept encountering kept leading them to another brass disk, and another vision, suggesting that there had to be some connection between the story of the knight, and whatever had summoned the five of them to this land.

This was Part 6 of 'Dirty Secrets & Nightmares', featuring Sam as Dungeon Master with a cast of Mark, Alex, Paul, Alexander and Imogen.

Written by Imogen Solly.

Photographs sourced from Pexels unless otherwise stated. Many thanks to the artists for making these available. From the top, by: Harrison Haines, Lennart Wittstock, Cottonbro, Francesco Ungaro, Merlin Lightpainting, Sofia Alejandra, S Migaj, Jack Gittoes, Marcel Fiedler, Francesco Ungaro, Felipe Hueb, David Bartus.

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Paul Stebles
Paul Stebles
Nov 17, 2021

A chilling part 6 to this great story. Very well written Imogen !

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