It is I, Willem of Melcott, these are my words and today I did not die.
I was hired by a fellow I know named Wickham Winmore. Strange chap. Street Mage. Crested newt for a familiar. He seemed careless with his money and he stuck up for his friend in a gambling hell we were both drinking in, so when he said, "Do you fancy risking your life to get rich?" I said, "Yeah!" After all, it's not like I'm busy or anything.
We went up country to an inn called the Leaky Bucket and met up with his friends. There was a good-looking chap called Gore who always had this hungry look about him and a Swamp Elf who must be straight out of the Warden Rangers because he introduced himself as 'Swampy', the way they do. Wickham's friends all called him Horatio, which was my first clue that this was all a bad idea. Then they said we were going to Stonehell, which proved it.
Stonehell is an old prison from the Bad Times when the Sterling Potentate was big in these parts. Some crazy vizier built the place to experiment on prisoners. Then it filled up with monsters, as big underground mazes do. Adventurers used to go in there and come out rich. Then they started coming out poor. Then they started coming out dead. But Wickham or Horatio or whoever he is said his party had made a fortune in a big tomb complex in Stonehell called the Quiet Halls, so I thought, maybe my luck is changing? I really shouldn't listen to myself.
We hiked out to the canyon and it reeks of hidden Goblins, but Wickham's lot didn't seem too bothered. We found the stairwell into the prison underneath this inscription saying "Beware All Who Enter" Wickham's lot didn't seem bothered by that either. They'd been here before. I started to cheer up. They seemed to know their business.
The corridors were all empty. We stopped off at this Rock Oracle that Swampy seemed to set great store by, but it was just tommyrot, if you ask me. The doors to the Quiet Halls were a bit unnerving, with their dancing skeletons and suchlike, but the rooms were all, well, 'quiet'. Nothing in the crypts except a screeching Crypt Shade that Swampy cut clean in half. Even a staircase down to the second level doesn't offer any threats, just a terrible smell, like lizards. Maybe this was going to be one of those Stonehell raids where everyone comes out healthy and rich.
Well, I said that too soon, didn't I? I got pounced on by a spider the size of my nan and then blood-sucking stirges had me at their mercy. I was rattled, I can tell you. The others shrugged it off like nothing, but I was planning how to cut and run. That Swampy calmed me down. He's been in the Wardens. He knows how to make light while being serious. I stuck around. The others found a big diamond, proper valuable. Maybe sticking around is best, right?
After that, another long stretch of boredom: a big room with a bridge across a pit and more crypts. The young lad Gore had a conversation with some sort of monster trapped inside one of them. That's when I realised the lad wasn't human. I tried not to think about it. The party spent ages debating what do do with this weird closet with a rune on the wall. Wickham cast some spell and told us the place was a transporter. Transporter to where? For one horrible moment I thought they were actually going to climb in there and zap off to Heaven knows where. But no, thank Goodness.
Well, don't thank Goodness for things because she takes it badly. The next room had a band of vicious Stygian cultists in it, like the fellows back in Merkabar that were shopping for human sacrifices. This bunch were ready for us and I took a proper beating from their maces. Swampy dragged me out and Wickham put a hex on the door to hold it shut and we all took a moment to catch ourselves and bind wounds. That was our first mistake.
Gore turns up and he's in a mess. He's been eating - and I mean, eating the bodies! He's some sort of cannibal. He says there are zombies on the way and I can feel my knees going but Swampy and Wickham drag me round a corner to hide. They've got this plan. When the zombies roll up, Wickham will cancel his hex and those Cultists will tumble out, straight into the zombies. I could've told them it wouldn't work, but my tongue was cleaved to my mouth and dry as a well in Ashkhan. So that was our second mistake.
The Cultists tumbled out alright, but they called on their god Sutekh and the Zombies get given the right-about. Nothing for it now but to pile in, swinging Doris and Derech, my flails. It's brutal and when the Stygians are down, I'm gasping for air like a fish in a skillet. My ears are ringing with the noise and the last Cultist is screaming and surely the whole dungeon must hear this going on! So that was our third mistake.
Next moment, we're running. They're all after us. Skeletons and Zombies and Boojums and Boggarts and all the merry gang of Hell. We turn around and trade a few blows back in the temple but they are way too many and the Skeletons are too fast.
There's a plan. Hold the line in the doorway, beat them back, keep the door closed and wait for Swampy to stick a hex on it, Elf-style. Wickham's up for it. He can't do it alone. I volunteer. That was my mistake and mine alone.
The dead come at us in a wall of bones and chattering teeth. We smash them back, get the door closed. They push it open, I slam it shut - but not before one of their hatchets has cut clean into my arm. My flail's gone. My arm's useless. Wickham's bleeding and passed out with pain. Gore appears at my side and kicks the dead things back out the door and closes it and Swampy's hex goes off. We're in the clear.
I don't remember getting out. There was an ambush I think, but they ran away. Swampy hauled me out, and I was raving like druid in the moonlight. I recall Wickham passed out. Gore picking bits of meat from his teeth. Only Swampy looked fresh, like he just had a bath.
It's a bath for me. Hot water and suds in a big tin pail at the Leaky Bucket. Fifty gold crowns each that diamond turned out to be worth. That's not nothing. It's not riches, but it's not nothing. Wickham's paying for a proper Physicke to look at my arm. That's decent of him . They're planning on going back for a re-match with those Undead. That's a terrible, terrible idea.
But it's not like I'm busy or anything, is it?