Hilda couldn’t believe it: she was just backstabbed by a door. Common decency dictated that a trapped room should wait until you were at least inside the room before trapping you. In the very least, a trap should respect the sanctity of the ten foot pole. If a girl couldn’t trust a ten foot pole in a dungeon, what could she trust?
These were the thoughts that passed through the dwarf’s head, as the door did a 180 and catapulted her into a room full of swords, spears, shields and helmets. While she was still in the air, the whole stinking floor also did a 180 and catapulted her down a deep, dark shaft. Damn it, I’m a Paladin of the Moon and a Judge appointed by Goddess, not a damn pinball!
The shaft led into a dark, pentagonal chamber filled with benches, statues and an altar that radiated the kind of evil you didn’t need special abilities to detect. There was a scattering of heat signatures as well, but the floor was approaching too fast for Hilda to take the time to study the heat sources and determine if they posed any danger. Right now, the floor was danger enough.
Hilda hurriedly cast Lunar step to break her fall, mere seconds before the fall broke her. The dwarf’s spirit was raised a little when her butt hit the ground with the sound of coins and gems. It was then dashed utterly when she noticed two crescent-shaped weapons as black and slim as a dark elf’s butt gleaming in the dark.
So here is the thing. Remember how dwarfs take pride in their tradition of peaceful theological discussion while looking down on other races for their excessive zealotry? Well, there’s a small group of dwarfs who are so fanatical that they make goblin seekers of the boom look moderate. It’s a very small group (don’t you dare make it a short joke) but they make up for their smallness with murderness.
We’re of course talking about the Cult of the Dark Side of the Moon, also known as the Black Hundred. They believe that dwarfs didn’t flee the moon after a cosmic cataclysm but were cast out for their wickedness. The Black Hundred therefore deems the dream of returning to the moon as a direct challenge to the Goddess. They therefor consider it their duty to defend her honor by maiming anyone who so much as entertains such transgressive thoughts. This includes most people on the planet, either because they like dwarfs and want to see them achieve their dream of lunar restoration or because they hate dwarfs and want to see them fuck off into space.
Now, off the top of your head, you may ask several questions: Why does a Goddess need a bunch of low to mid-level mortals to defend her honor? Why would anyone guess the intentions of a Goddess when you can just ask her with a ritual accessible to several common classes? How come dreaming of a faraway planet is a transgression but killing and maiming isn’t? These are all good questions, but if you ask any of them, you’ll find yourself without the top of your head.
The aforementioned wicked blades were wielded by two warriors -- a human and a dwarf. Why did humans have to put their long feet in every door? Facing an anti-paladin of the dark side of the moon would have been bad enough. What kind of a self-respecting dwarf wandered in a dungeon with a human at their side?
“Praise the Goddess!” the dwarf anti-paladin bellowed, his gauntlet squeaking as he tightened his grip on his moon-axe. “For she has brought us another sinner to smite.”
“The moon shall remain forever undisturbed!” Declared the human in perfect Old Dwarf. He then hastily added, “Until the Goddess decrees otherwise!”
“Guys!” Hilda cried out as she scrambled to her feet, coins and gemstones raining from her armored butt. “We’re underground, as far away from the moon as possible. I don’t plan to go to the moon. I promise!” She wondered if she should give peace a chance or just lunge and hope to surprise them with a solid first strike. Ugh, not likely with my Dexterity score..
“That’s not what your rings say!” The dwarf hissed, his eyes bulging with hate.
“Praise the Goddess!” The human howled, sounding more like a wolf than a man.
Hilda looked at her rings, one bore the mark of her clan and the other bore the mark of her Hundred. Neither said anything. They were just pretty geometric designs.
She took a step back from the advancing fanatics and her foot found something soft and squishy. It was a humanoid of some kind, about ready to be cooked into a very large schnitzel. That explained the treasure on the floor…
Something cold went through the dwarf’s body. She swallowed. “My rings don’t say anything--”
The man and the dwarf, dressed in matching armors, were moving to flank her. How the hell can this human see anything in this evil chapel? There’s no light at all in here…
“Wait!” Hilda cried. “We’re all paladins. Let’s not do it like barbarians. Let’s have a duel!”
The dwarf’s reply came in the form of a swift blow to her face, even as the human uttered some perverse invocation, causing himself and his companion to become engulfed in thick shadows that made them barely visible in the dark room.
Hilda blocked the attack with her shield and cast light, dispelling the duo’s concealment. An instant later she kissed the floor and tasted blood as a moon-axe near bashed her brains in. She rolled on her back and blocked an attack to her torso with her sword. Sparks flew as the two magical weapons collided. Even as Hilda struggled with the frothing dwarf fanatic, the human brought down his weapon on her belly, piercing her plate and causing 14 points of damage with a single blow.
Hilda cried out in pain and panic. Two more blows like that and she’d be rolling death saving throws or in the case of these two fine gents -- just plain dead. Well, if she was lucky. If half of what she’d heard about these assholes was correct…
Hilda considered attempting to turn the two. They weren’t outsiders so they wouldn’t just disappear, but their link to the moon was strong enough for the divine channeling to keep them at bay for a while. It wouldn’t cause them any real harm though and they could still use ranged attacks against her. Basically, it was an advanced version of the common “boo!”
The problem was that these assholes probably had good Wisdom saving throws and using the power would require the use of both her hands, which would give them the opportunity to hurt her a little more. Or a lot. They weren’t in the business of hurting a little.
Maybe Castigate? Hilda had no idea what this ability did. She really should read the Good Book someday. Probably in her coffin, seeing how things were going. Shit.
Wait! Her lunar step was still on. It could buy her a bit of time.
Using all the considerable strength stored in her butt and shoulders, the supine dwarf arched her back and floated toward the ceiling as gracefully as if she weighed no more than a feather.
While the spell didn’t exactly allow the hefty dwarf to levitate, let alone fly, it did allow her to jump as high as she wanted to and cling to just about any surface that wasn’t as smooth as glass.
Luckily for Hilda, the dark chapel was constructed from massive, ill-fitting stones, so she had no problem clinging to the ceiling like a scared gecko. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw both assailants curse and replace their moon axes with crossbows. This was bad, but as not as bad as if they’d still be hacking at her with their axes. Based on their heavy weapons and armor, Dexterity wasn’t their forte, Hilda thought as one bolt bounced harmlessly off her shield and another punched through her visor and tore into her face.
Despite herself, Hilda howled in pain, her cry rervarating in the eerie chapel like demonic laughter mocking her suffering. The world swam as her eyes filled with tears. A whimper that threatened to turn into a sob followed. Hilda gnashed her teeth and breathed hard through her nose in an effort to stay focused despite the pain spreading across her face like a wildfire.
Critical Hit. 17 points of damage, 2 points of Charisma lost.
“How dare you turn your back on me, blasphemer!” The dwarf shouted as he prepared to cast some spell. Probably a counterspell that would send her tumbling down. Or maybe a spear of faith that would pin her to the ceiling and make her glow like a nice target practice for his alec-sniper companion, who was even now loading another bolt into his crossbow. “Honorless bitch…” the human muttered and started raising his weapon for another shot.
Damn humans and their clever fingers!
Hilda wanted to shout something acerbic at her aggressors, but her ruined cheek made every word as painful as passing a kidney stone. Instead, she cast meteoric smite on her shield and threw it like a frisbee at the dwarf. It exploded against his armor, showering the room with sparks and preventing him from casting whatever spell he was working on.
Hilda noticed with satisfaction that her dwarf assailant was busy putting out a fire in his lavish beard instead of casting spells at her. She wouldn’t have to worry about him for… a few seconds.
A second bolt hit her but failed to bite through her armor, inflicting a mere 4 points of damage. Down to 7 hit points. Shit, they don’t even need to hit me at this point. The fall alone could kill me. And my lunar step will end in less than half a minute.
Hilda could waste another meteoric smite to turn one of her melee weapons into a rather imprecise missile. With some luck, she could either kill the dwarf or injure the human. Then, if she survived another round she could-- meh, screw it.
If she was going to die, she might as well learn what some of her new abilities did. She had no idea what castigate meant, so she decided to try her other newfound special ability. At least it had a name that sounded useful. Tasting blood and cringing with pain, she shouted, “He who is for Goddess, to me!” and activated her Summon the Faithful prestige ability.
“Stupid bitch!” The anti-paladin cried while scrambling to his feet, his beard looking like an Elven PSA against forest fires. “You have no allies in this dungeon of truth! You will die in darkness!”
“Yeah!” The human barked, “only monsters here…” he frowned for a moment, “and, um, us!”
“For the love of the Goddess!” Hilda whined, wincing in agony each time her ripped cheek touched her teeth, “you’re human, why are you even with this guy!”
“Ah…” the human said, lowering his crossbow, “that is an epic tale. Before you die, know that I--” The man’s tale was interrupted as a rangy creature leapt from the darkness and pinned his ally to the floor.