In the last installment of Forgotten Lore, I mentioned how I’d share some vignettes of Myrkator’s career. I thought it would be fun and over the top nerdy to just share these as Myrkator.
The following is taken from a low key game we played late one evening, just the DM and I, and it became one of my favorite sessions. Myrkator may have embellished some of the finer details, but the overall tale remains the same.
In the course of my journeys, I (Myrkator) came upon a cave where phosphorescent mushrooms grew. An opening in the cavern floor led to an underground river with a small ledge of wet pathway to one side.
I followed this abyssal river south for a long while. It ended with a waterfall that crashed several yards below. I could see the waterfall fed a large underground lake. On the shore was something out of place, a small craft of some type, that I couldn’t make out. I decided to climb down to the shore and see.
The slick stone and noisy waterfall made the climb perilous even for one such as myself and I soon saw there would be no easy return up the rock. When I reached the bottom, I could make out a small shipwreck a stones throw away in the dim fungal light.
I cast a light spell on a far stalactite that hung over the water. The glowing rock brightened the large chamber like an enormous lamp, the light gently rippling over the surface of the lake. I saw it was enclosed in the cave. I then moved closer to the ship to investigate. Albino fish darted away as I sloshed through the pool at the base of the waterfall and moved near the vessel. It was a dark and heavy brown color, and seemed elvish in design. Roughly eight yards long, it was a large and alien thing in the cavern. How did it get here, I wondered? The underground lake must surely reach into other places.
More likely it had crashed from the river waterfall up top, but the hull showed no apparent damage. It seemed like the ship had merely floated from the cold black water to rest lazily against a stalagmite. Where was the crew?
A lightning bolt flashed towards me. I jumped back in time to avoid it. It bounced from the ground and shot upward, sparking and sparkling over the waterfall and disappearing in the tunnel above. Out of the vessel’s cabin shambled a skeleton in bedraggled bits of cloth that were once robes.
Forgoing my daggers, I cast magic missile. Several green energy bolts shot forth and knocked the skeleton backwards into the cabin, buying me some time. What was it? A lich? I darted behind a nearby stalagmite, thinking what to do next.
I peeked from the rock to see the thing had reemerged from the cabin. The skeletal figure fell from the edge of the dark vessel and collapsed like a pile of sticks on the beach. It pulled itself up and limped toward me. Several glowing bolts sprang from its hand, not unlike how’d they’d sprang from mine moments before. A shield of purple force came to life in front of me. It burst into oblivion along with the bolts as they met. I wouldn’t be able to cast shield again during this battle.
It would have been possible to flee, but the draw of potential lich treasure was too compelling. What might it possess in terms of magic and arcane curiosities? But liches were extremely powerful. It might be possible to work out a deal.
“You can see that we are most evenly matched.” I called out. “Would it be precipitous to suggest a truce? Perhaps we could help one another.”
“What could you offer Chairon the Malfease?” it responded, voice grave. The space on either side of the stalagmite was consumed in a blaze and the air in front of me boiled. The fire from the fireball spell quickly disappeared. The stalagmite had saved me from death, but I knew I mustn’t tarry.
I risked another look and saw the lich was only a few yards away. I dashed to another stalagmite. This one was further ahead and closer to the very edge of the chamber, far from the waterfall and escape.
“I could share my vast library of arcane knowledge. I’m an accomplished spellcaster, as you are.” I said this as I cast my second and final magic missile spell.
Chairon took the hits, pieces of its rib cage blasting away as it jerked backward several steps.
“Not likely.” the thing moaned as it recovered it’s footing. “My talents far exceed your trifles. I fear there is little I could learn from you.”
I took advantage of its recovery and circled back toward the ship. I climbed atop the bow and ducked into the cabin. Dismally, there was nothing inside. Chairon was yards away, turning my direction again. He was slow, I was out of his range, but I wasn’t undead, and would soon tire from the chase.
I went back to the doorway of the small cabin. “If I may ask,” I yelled “How did you come to be in this place and why?” I was running low on combat spells, so I flung my two non-magical daggers at it, one after the other, knowing from other skeletal encounters that they’d do little to nothing against it, especially at such range.
Both hit, one glanced aside, the other bounced harmlessly to the ground.
“In my flesh days I’d hid something of value in this land,” it called in its moany voice. “As I sailed this river to reclaim it, I found its course had changed over time. I was deposited here, unable to leave.”
Chairon was closer now.
“Something else troubles me.”
“What is that, elf?”
“My understanding is that liches are supremely powerful. Yet you’ve not been able to kill me thus far.”
As I asked this I began to cast detect magic. I was looking for something with utility–maybe a stashed weapon or wand. To my surprise, the entire boat began to glow. An elven word appeared, shimmering under the large open window at the front of the cabin. I had a thought.
“Unfortunately, you are correct. There was a hidden deformity in one of the components required for my lichdom. I am rendered much weaker than I should be. Yet,” it said, grasping onto the ladder “My strength is adequate for the task at hand.”
Chairon was now climbing aboard the vessel.
I waited until it was inside the cabin, then I jumped through the window. When I hit the ground, I shouted the inscribed word.
The ship immediately folded in on itself into a small wooden box. There was a muted moan and I heard no more. The vessel was a folding boat! A powerful magical item. The lich, if not destroyed, was trapped inside. For now at least.
I ran full speed to the waterfall. Using every acrobatic trick I possessed, I ascended the rock face. Before fleeing altogether, I sat atop the fall for a time, watching the soft magical glow of the box. It stayed still on the shore as the light spell gradually dimmed away and left the underground lake in fungal gloom. There was no movement, but it could be a trick. The lich could possibly say the command word at anytime and escape. Could I be sure it had been destroyed?
I thought about what to do, but in the end I chose not to presume upon my good fortune any more that day. Saddened by the loss of such a spectacular treasure as a magical elven boat, I turned and walked north along the river’s edge. I considered the strange runic fingers of bright lichen that gripped the cavern walls and consoled myself in thinking what new opportunities might arise tomorrow. I never returned to the cave; and whatever became of Chairon the Malfease, I cannot say.
One could argue that the lich would have simply appeared unharmed at the side of the boat after it had folded. This didn’t happen, fortunately. While gamemaster fiat is a thing, I also like to think that the elven magic of the boat had something to do with it. Perhaps it didn’t like being in the possession of a lich. Maybe a morally ambiguous elf would have been a better option.
Adam Glass is Head of Operations at Seven Day Games, which is a fancy way of saying he writes emails all day and plans meetings in his spare time. The resident rpg historian, he has a long past with Dungeons & Dragons and has been playing various rpgs since his childhood in the 1980s.