He lit a torch, holding it high when the flame grew big enough to light the path ahead of him. The tunnel was damp, the earthen walls dripping gloomily. Minty Erenstein was not a particularly brave Human, but he was an intelligent one, and he knew that he would rather proceed down this chilly, gloomy tunnel than go back to where he was sure he had heard nefarious whisperings.
Aminton was also not particularly tall, which was an advantage in this specific tunnel. He barely had to stoop to advance, although he was beginning to wish he had left his dulcimer behind. It was strapped awkwardly across his back and had as yet to serve a purpose on this singular adventure. As a bard he was used to earning his living making music, until he stumbled into a “get rich quick” scheme that was beginning to feel like a “get dead quick” sort of venture. He had allowed a beautiful and sweet talking Elvish wizard to talk him into going on this “quest,” but she had refused to enter the tomb with him. She had said something about how the type of magic that protected the treasure prevented her from entering, or something like that. His intelligence had failed him at this point and he went along with it, with only a shortsword, a knife, and his instruments to keep him company.
Now he was seriously regretting all of his life choices.
Minty’s foot slipped in some grime and he tumbled backward. The torch sputtered, although he managed to keep it in his hand. Grumbling, he picked himself up, but now his hand and trousers were slimy. He tried unsuccessfully to wipe his hand clean, but only managed to rub the slime more firmly between his fingers. Minty sighed, and started to move forward again, but froze when he heard a scrabbling sound behind him.
He whipped around, nearly singeing his hair as he raised the torch. He peered back toward the entrance of the tunnel, which he could barely perceive in the dim light. Holding his breath, he waited for the telltale signs of being followed, but he neither heard any more movement nor saw any shape advancing in the darkness. Hoping it was just his nervousness manifesting scary sounds in the darkness, Minty turned back and proceeded further into the tunnel.
It wasn’t long before he heard the sounds behind him again, but rather than turn and see if he could identify the source, he instead quickened his pace. Which, after about 30 feet, drove him headlong into a skeleton.
They both tumbled to the ground, the torch falling from Minty’s hand but miraculously remaining lit. As Minty struggled to his feet, he realized to his horror that the skeleton was also struggling to its feet.
He scrambled backwards, further muddying his hands and trousers. He had heard of such things, of course, the reanimated dead, but he’d never encountered one before. What should he do? Should he just…kick it in the face?
He kicked it in the face. Or rather, he tried to. Instead, all he managed was to throw himself off balance and twinge his left knee. The skeleton, on the other hand, rose to its full height, which seemed to be considerably taller than Minty, as it had to stoop uncomfortably to fit into the tunnel. Could a skeleton be uncomfortable?
Minty didn’t have time to contemplate the thought (it’s muscles that are uncomfortable, right?) as the skeleton swung its fist down at him, brandishing a shortsword he hadn’t realized the skeleton was clutching.
Minty threw up his arms to try and shield himself, but his leather armor did little to protect him from the blow. The sword cut into his left shoulder with excruciating ease, and he immediately felt like he was going to vomit. He screamed aloud when the blade slid from his flesh, clutching his shoulder as the skeleton reared back.
He reached for his own weapon, but in his twisted position on the tunnel floor, he realized instantly he wouldn’t be able to pull the sword free. Instead he reached back for the only other thing on hand: his dulcimer.
He grabbed the instrument by its neck, but as he attempted to pull it from his back, the pain in his shoulder intensified, and he doubled over as blood poured from the wound. This was not going well, and he would have words for that Elvish wizard if he ever got out of here.
The skeleton lunged forward for another strike, but the bones in his legs rattled unhealthily, and Minty heard a distinct crack. The skeleton stumbled and its stroke grazed the wall of the tunnel rather than landing on Minty himself.
Wriggling desperately, Minty managed to pull the dulcimer from his back, and with a swing fueled entirely by pain-filled adrenaline, smashed the skeleton’s legs, thoroughly cracking the already weakened bones. The tunnel filled with the discordant clamour of the now equally smashed dulcimer, and the skeleton clattered to the floor. It still waved its sword feebly in the air, but unable to stand it attempted to roll itself over and crawl toward Minty. Minty quickly gathered his remaining strength and bludgeoned the skeleton with the broken instrument until the bones quivered feebly in the flickering torchlight. Exhausted, bleeding freely, and entirely sure he was going to die alone in a dark tunnel on a fool’s errand, Minty sat back against the earthen wall and closed his eyes, feeling a droplet splash gently on his hand.