The sands of the Western Dunes fills your spy glass as far as the eye can see, only to be interrupted here and there by the odd sandstone or wooden structure. A tower some miles off flies both the flag of King Jerich II, King of the dominion of Man and high born of the Danü, as well as the flag of Duke Beralt val Millia, Duke of the Sands.

“Does my character see any towns?” Cortland asks.

“Roll a perception check,” I respond.

Cortland picked up a speckled blue and purple twenty sided die, and rolled. The die came up 14. Cortland then looked down at the two page sheet in front of him, and doing some simple addition.

“I rolled a 14, plus 5 from my perception skill, and 2 more because I’m an Elf, bringing me to 21.”

“Lucky roll. You see before you…

As you scout from atop the dune you swivel northward and see the glint of the sun on stained glass. A small town, or perhaps a temple or shrine, sits some distance away. If you depart now…

you could get there.”

“I’ll wait for the party, and then we’ll move on.” Cortland looked around the table locking eyes with the other members of our weekly Dungeons and Dragons game: Stevie, Lyndsey, and Katy..

After three long minutes in the grueling desert heat, the rest of your companions arrive on the dune.

“I’m going to talk to Cortland’s character,” Lyndsey pipes up. In her hand she idly plays with two oddly shaped dice.

“Belladric! What did your elf eyes see?”

“Ah! Arasthmus you startled me. I’m glad you could gather Petrus and Sheza as well. I spotted a town or church some way north of us. If we leave now we should be there by night fall.”

Katy and Stevie both looked up and said in unison, “Let’s get going then!”

Petrus looked in the vague direction Belladric pointed in, and then back to the party. Sheza pointed her mighty axe towards the town and barked, “Let’s get going then!” Petrus had been drowned out by the thunderous voice of the she-barbarian who stood next to him.

The party marched their way towards their destination, and when you get about two or three miles from it you realize it is indeed a shrine for the human god Yersina Pestis, she-who-blights-the-air.

“Wait. These people worship the God of the disease?” Stevie shockingly asks.

“Worship is a complicated term Stevie,” I say.

“They pray to her?”

“Well seeing as there’s a shrine there I’d say yes.”

“What for?”

“Roll a knowledge of religion check.”

“Dammit.” Stevie picks up his own twenty sided die, a grey die with gold numbers. He rolls and the number comes up 6.

“Fuck. Uh…6 and 7 is 13, so 13. What can you tell me for 13?”

Petrus yanks the spyglass from the elf’s pack and takes a closer look at the structure. At face value the shrine appears to be for those who worship the goddess-

“Yeah we know that already.”

“I’m getting to the good part. Calm down Stevie. Where was I? Oh yes.”

But upon closer inspection to the shrine proper you can tell that this is in fact a sacrificial altar where people go to offer tribute to the goddess, and hopefully prevent diseases and plagues from descending on their towns.

“Wow.” Lyndsey looks at me. “That’s messed up dude.”

“It’s a messed up world. Difficult times call for difficult measures.”

“Okay,” Katy gently hits the table as if she were a judge trying to get everyone’s attention. “So there’s a good chancer there are cultists, or worshippers,  in that shrine, and there’s thousands of miles of desert behind us. I’m almost out of water, and Stevie has been stealing my character’s rations at night, so he’s out and I’ll soon be out too. What’s our move gang?”

I leaned back in my chair and sipped from a tall glass of ice water. Before me lay half a dozen sheets of paper, two folders, fourteen assorted dice, and about six plastic miniature that I liked to call “Plague Lords,” cultists in service to she-who-blights-the-air. A smirk slowly crept across my face as the players began their debate.

Stevie didn’t want to go inside the shrine, and for good reason. His character is a dwarf, and as such believes the human gods are fakes and heretics. Furthermore, he doesn’t want to catch the plague. Fair enough. Lyndsey agreed with him, but for different reasons. The Plague Lords they’ve come across have been able to silence Arasthmus’ fire spells with magics of their own leaving the sorceress only a short sword to defend herself.

Cortland disagreed with the two of them. He believed the individuals who might reside in the shrine would be nice. After all the worshippers and cultists were trying to gain the trust of Yersina Pestis, and besides the party hadn’t encountered any Plague Lords in any shrines. Katy was on Cortland’s side only because she wanted to kill things.

“Okay listen. We are tied up. Two want in and two don’t. I say we roll for it. Let the dice decide,” Cortland conjectured.

“That’s a terrible idea,” Stevie responded.

Katy leaned across the table and grabbed the tray of cookies provided by Lyndsey, well Lyndsey’s mom who had included them in a care package. Stevie snatched one of the cookies from the tin before Katy could devour the remaining treats.

The bickering continued. I took another sip from my glass and looked at the time. They’d been debating this for seven minutes now. I looked through one of the folders and took out a sheet labeled “Random Encounters.” There were about thirty or so creatures on the list from goblins to hydras and everywhere in between. I rolled a thirty sided die. It came up 17. I looked at the hand written list, and attempted to read my own handwriting. Someone called someone else an ass hat as I rolled a four sided die to figure out how many of these creatures would waylay the party. It came up 1. I rolled it again and it came up 4. Perfect.

As the sun begins to set your shadows begin to grow. The temperature begins to drop. Amidst your bickering Arasthmus notices that Petrus has two shadows.

“Two shadows? That can’t be good,” Lyndsey responds. She stares at her character sheet thinking about what to roll.

“Hey! Who turned out the lights?” joked Stevie. Katy laughed at the Doctor Who reference.

“Okay…uh…I’m going to roll knowledge arcane. Is this extra shadow thing magic?” Lyndsey rolled her twenty sided die. “That’s a 19 plus 3 which is 22.”

“It’s not magic,” I reply.

“Knowledge planes. Is this thing from a different plane?” Stevie asks rolling his own twenty sided die. “18.”

I look through my notes. “Yes it is. Uhm…you got an 18, so yeah you know it’s from the Abyss. It’s a Hollow’s Shade.”

“You were right Lyndsey. Not good. Can I walk?”

“Nope.”

“Fuck this.” Katy rolls a translucent purple twenty sided die. It comes up 17. “I’m attacking this thing with my big dumb axe. 17 plus 12 plus 3 is 32.”

Sheza raises her axe over her head and slams it into the ground. A fountain of sand flies up as she pulls her axe from the rend in the dune.

“Good job barbarian Barbie, you murdered sand,” Stevie says.

“Guys wait. Uhm can I diplomacy check the Shade to go away?” Cortland asks raising his own d20.

“Talk to it? Uh I don’t see why you couldn’t.”

The die rolls across the table and comes up 9. “19,” says Cortland.

Belladric walks over to Petrus’ second shadow and kneels down.

“What do you say to it?” I ask Cortland.

“Hey baby could you like not attack our friend.”

His voice almost a whisper, Belladric says, “Hey baby could you like not attack our friend.” The Hollow’s Shade is unfazed.

“Shit.”

“Okay,” Stevie declares. “I’m casting a spell. Ghostbane Dirge. It will cause the Shade to coalesce into the physical realm.”

Petrus’ holy symbol glows with a faint white light. The Shade begins to fill out and grow three dimensional. As soon as the Shade has realized what has happened it grabs Petrus’ ankles and pulls him to the ground.

“Oh fuck,” Lyndsey says.

“My turn. I’m hitting it in the face with my axe.” Katy’s die rolls across the table. “27.”

“That’s a hit. Roll damage,” I say to Katy as I pick up a pencil.

Katy rolls a d12. It comes up 8. “I did 14 damage.”

Sheza roared as she swung her axe in a large circle over her head, and then down towards the creature’s head. It connects and a torrent of black goo erupts from its split head. The Shade is still alive though and with its claws begins to tear into Petrus’ armor.

“Petrus takes 6 damage. Three physical and three strength,” I say pointing the eraser end of my pencil at Stevie.

“Wait I’m getting weaker as this thing kills me? That’s some shit. Uhm…my strength is now 12. I can’t use my Warhammer anymore. Can I cast another spell? I have flame dart prepared.”

“Sure,” I respond.

Stevie rolls his d20. “16.”

“Hit. Roll damage.”

“8 fire damage.”

Petrus’ puts his holy symbol to the creature’s head. It glows a pale red as a thin dart of flame smashes into its head. It releases Petrus’ ankles as it writhes in pain. It is still alive though.

“Okay fire seems to do the trick. I’ll cast Elemental Touch, Fire.” Lyndsey rolled her twenty sided die. “18. That’ll be a hit.” She then rolled a six sided die, and it came up 5. “5 damage, plus it’s on fire.”

Arasthmus’ hands ignited in a gout of flame, and she punched the creature. In a flash the flames from the Sorceress’ hands jumped to the Shade, its new body now alight. The black ooze from its head wound bubbled and popped.

“The creature is on its last legs. Cortland finish it,” I say motioning towards Cortland.

“I twang a flaming arrow and loose it at the creature.” He made motion like he was drawing a great war bow. As he opened his rear hand to “loose the arrow” a green d20 fell to the table.. Katy laughed as the die bounced. “That’s a 22 Domosh. That hit?”

“Yes it does. Give me a damage roll.”

“Come on baby gimme something good.” He shook in his hand two dice, one four sided and the other eight. He rolled them both at the same time. They both came up 2. “Fuck! That’s 4 damage, 2 physical 2 fire,” He groaned as I smirked and cleared my throat.

Belladric drew his great war bow, Death’s Whisper, and loosed a flame laden arrow. The shaft hit true in the creature’s chest, and it fell back. A great cloud of sand erupted from the dune as the creature hit the ground. As the Shade howled in pain its body began to fade into shadow. “Go back to the shadows fell daemon!” shouted Belladric as the the last wisps of the Shade faded and its screams died along with it.

“It only had 3 hit points left,” I say to Cortland, the smirk on my face turning to a smile as he slowly realized he defeated the creature.

“Haha! Fuck yeah! Who killed it? I killed it!” Cortland stood from his chair and danced for a few moments before sitting back down.

“Yeah good job murdering the Hollow’s Shade, but what do we do about the shrine?” Stevie said this pointing a thumb in no particular direction.

“Oh shit. Well I mean, if there are more of those things I don’t want to sleep outside. The shrine doesn’t sound so bad now does it, Stevie?”

“Okay fair point. To the shrine?” Stevie asked towards Lyndsey.

“Hell why not. Shrine it is.”

“Yay!” Katy pumped the air in excitement.

“Sorry to hamper your excitement Katy,” I say as I put papers back into folders, “but it’s midnight. I think we’ll call it here, and pick up next week with you guys outside the shrine.”

Edited by Renee Luna

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