Note: This was written back during the campaign, after a session in which the party of adventurers were in a catacomb searching for clues into what the Whispering Way is up to (or a piece of the machine they are trying to construct, I honestly can’t remember exactly because it’s been six years). I put them up against a horde of enemies, fully expecting at least one character to go under 0 hp. Andrew’s Sorceror-Necromancer did, and I discreetly told him during the session a very basic idea of what happened to his character, and that I would send him a full write-up before the next session. I think I went home and wrote this that night while it was fresh on my mind. The purpose was to give the characters a clue, which Nex related to the rest of the party the next session. Combined with things they found in the crypt, they pieced together that the Whispering Way was using powerful necromancy to bind the souls of the dead from all over Galorian into some giant soul crystals in order to power their nefarious machine.
The necromantic sorcerer Nex moved his hands in a memorized pattern, arcane words flowing from his lips as he readied his spell. Even with the low lighting, he could see that several of his party members were badly wounded. Another attack from the spider-like demonic creature just ten feet from him would be deadly. Already, he himself bled from several wounds, swooning with sickness and loss of blood, mostly caused by the spiny creature that lay dead at Nex’s feet. His last spell had not affected the daemon as well as he had hoped, but it had obviously gotten its attention.
The daemon didn’t even turn. It didn’t need to, with a multitude of eyes that seemed to see everywhere around it at the same time. It barely moved, and suddenly the air buzzed and hummed with deafening activity as thousands of unnatural-looking wasps materialized. Nex barely had time to try and put his hands up to stop them, but it was no use. He reflexively opened his mouth to cry out in pain as the first few stingers found their marks beneath his robes, but it was cut short as buzzing insects flew into the opening and began attacking the soft inner tissues of his throat.
That was it. A gripping feeling in the pit of his stomach told him that no matter how hard he tried, he was going to die. The excruciating pain of dozens upon dozens of stings, inside and out, almost made him welcome the Great Void. As his body fell and his vision faded to black, time seemed to slow down. The pain began to subside, as if his brain was struggling to block it out.
In the next instant, he became aware that the room had gotten brighter, even if the colors were slightly muted. He could see the other members of his party clearly, see the darkness that surrounded them and the creature they fought. He realized that the cleric had turned his direction, but was not looking at him—-Achaodani was looking at something on the ground next to him. Nex adjusted his gaze and saw the swollen, sting-ridden body that he had inhabited in life. It looked so pale, cold, and fragile. Looking down at his current state, Nex was only slightly surprised to see a silvery line protruding from his stomach where his belly button had been, the other end disappearing into the stomach of his corpse in the same place. He wondered if the cord would prevent his spirit from moving into the Astral planes completely, wondered how far it could go. As he turned this thought over in his mind silently, he became aware that he was drifting toward the back of the room and that as he did, the apparent anchor was growing longer, even continuing when his body passed through a stone wall.
Focusing, he concentrated on moving the opposite direction, back to his body. If the party survived and could heal him, he didn’t want to be far away when it happened. He—-or rather, his conscience—-continued to drift but was starting to pick up speed. He willed muscles to run that were not there as his ethereal “legs” sank through the stone floor. The only thing that kept him from panicking was that silver cord, which he knew would lead him back to body.
As he struggled, he turned some of his attention to his surroundings. Nex realized he was in a hallway very similar to the ones they had been walking through before the group was attacked. More coffins, more skulls, more dust, and more rat droppings. Something about it seemed odd, but at the moment he couldn’t put a finger on what. Looking toward the end of the hallway, he stopped struggling against the unseen force momentarily. Of all the things he expected to see when he died, this was not one of them.
Scores of spirits floated in a single-file line, coming down from the floor above, through a short section of hallway, then disappearing into the opposite wall. The angle suggested they were bound for a location deep in the catacombs, ignoring the physical stone completely as they moved in a straight line. Some fought against the pull, reaching out with wispy hands at anything they could have grabbed when they were alive—-torches, the corner of a stone sarcophagus, even the walls and floors themselves. Their cries and moans suddenly filled his sense of being. He no longer possessed ears to hear, but the anguished wails still reached his mind, touching him directly, in a way that shook his very sanity. Their lamenting and striving were obviously in vain, and Nex wondered how long it would take before they became resigned to their fate as most of the other spirits in the line were. Apathetic, depressing, these moved onward without seeming to notice or care where they were and where they were headed. Nex wasn’t sure who to pity more, if they were worthy of such a thing.
His sense of empathy was quickly discarded, however, as the realization dawned on him that he was being drawn towards that same line. He had no idea where it led, but like the spirits that fought aimlessly, he was fairly certain he wanted no part of it. Ignoring the line of souls he began using all the focus and concentration he could muster through his magical training in life. Each moment, his dread grew. He was only being pulled harder, through one room, then another, but always down. He began to pass through the next floor down, when he felt what he could almost describe as a tingle. The silvery line disappearing into the stone in front of him went taught. A sense of hope flooded Nex’s mind, and then suddenly he felt himself being violently ripped back in the direction he had come. Sparing a glance at the line of ghosts, he saw the anguished visages of spirits, realizing that he was escaping the fate they could not. They reached out to him, pleading, and then were blocked from his view.
A coldness such as Nex had never known flooded over him, and he attempted to gasp for air as the pain returned. It was almost enough for him to regret being pulled back into his former shell, but the memory of what it had saved him from made the agony worth it. Luckily, the wasps had left his body alone when they realized he was no longer a threat. His mind floated in blackness as his body refused to respond to any of his commands, but in the distance he could hear—-by more natural means now—-the crackling sound of magic flying through the air. A soul-numbing squeal followed, and then all was silent. The next sensation he was aware of was that of energy flowing through him, healing his wounds. As the welts in his throat vanished, he sensed a rushing sensation as his spirit filled the voids of his physical form. He felt the hardness of stone as his palms slapped down on the floor, coughed once, and then emptied the contents of his stomach onto the floor below him.
On the plus side, he was alive.