To preface the story, this is the recounting of a character who was not intended to last as long as he had. Argo was a human afflicted with leperosy, or more specifically was inflicted with a curse that mimicked it. His body was deteriorating the entire campaign, as the curse slowly devoured his body bit by bit with each passing day. He was intended to be more of an experimental character, seeing how long he could last before bad rolls would eventually claim him. As myself and the rest of my friend group would find, he wouldn’t go down easily. The campaign lasted seven months and was spawned from us wanting to have some interaction with one another during the quarantine, considering everything around us was either shut down or closed. The campaign itself was loosely based on another story our DM had read and wanted to try out once we had gotten the details on when this campaign would start, being a plot that focused around a wandering soul of a powerful necromancer named Azar body hopping into powerful vessels with the full intent of inhabiting the body of a long since dead eldritch god, and using said body to do all manner of evil things. Please excuse me if this story seems all over the place in terms of pacing this is the first tiime I’ve ever done anything like this.
The story starts in Tristan, a bustling city nestled in the middle of fertile countryside and plains as far as the eye could perceive. That’s where the ragtag group of heroes met their final member. The ranger, a small half-elf, was the one to notice the commotion on the streets in the alley between two buildings. Four ruffians, street punks, kicking a huddled form in the dark corner of the city. Understanding immediately that the punks were beating on the figure of a person, she informed the rest of the party to split such a scene up. It didn’t take too terribly much to convince four young adults that perhaps continuing with such activities would incite the wrath of the goliath barbarian behind her. The shape of the person on the cobble wobbled itself to it’s feet to reveal it’s tall stature and rather hunched body. Every square inch of it’s body that could be was wrapped heavily in bandages, wrapped tightly around its flesh at every corner. The smell was the awful part, under the scent of aromatic oils was the scent of rot. And upon seeing the being’s bearded and mangled face, it was clear why. A leper, features disfigured by the affliction. The figure realized just by the look in the adventurers that they had seen its face, and it quickly lowered the hood on it’s face even more so, using the shadows to hide its grotesque features. It talked simply, with a deep voice, wore with age and exhaustion.
“You saved my life. I thank you. I am Argo, and I will return the favor.”
And those words were what started the bond between the half-elf, the goliath, and the leperous human. Argo was a well spoken man, when he did speak, which wasn’t terribly often. His body couldn’t carry him easily, but his determination not to fall carried him far. Often times the man would stay outside of the party, letting them handle negotiations and staying far away from eyes reach as to not spoil their chances of any kind of diplomatic approach. Argo knew well that his appearence made him look the part of a monster, he knew it more well than anybody. A walking corpse had no place within the walls of a tavern or inn, the scent coming off of him would make stomachs churn, not to mention his appearance alone could be offensive to any of the patrons. Argo knew that certainly he had no right being within the halls of a castle as well, royalty did not need to be graced by the presence of a soul like he. Argo spent most of his time outside of the group, resting his body in the shadows away from others. Mending his broken body as best he could while the curse continued to eat away at his body, studying any materials he could on potentially removing said curse.
It wasn’t until the groups first combat encounter with a group of bandits did they realize how indifferent Argo was to the concept of death. He stood in front, every battle without fail or hesitation he’d stand between opposition and his comrades. Argo knew his time was limited in this world, every day presented more challenges on his body, but Argo knew better than anybody that only meant his time was even more precious with the party. Any damage his body took shouldered the burden of a blow potentially inflicted on one of his friends. The goliath constantly argued with the human day and night, that his own body was much more capable of absorbing damage than Argo’s and therefore should be in front. And yet despite their constant back and forth, sometimes around a campfire and sometimes on the road, Argo would proceed to step in between his friends and danger. No matter the foe. Bastard sword held in a death grip and body breaking down at the seams.
Time was taking it’s toll on Argo’s body. Weeks would pass while the small group traveled to and from locale to locale, hunting the ancient evil that had awoken, and every passing week his body broke down. His flesh loosening it’s hold on his body, no closer to any form of cure to this curse he carried on his back. The more time the party seemed to devote to finding a cure to this affliction, the less time they found they had to hunt down Azar and stop him from reaching his ultimate destination. Days and weeks had to be used wisely, time was an invaluable resource and any detours risked letting Azar proceed further with his devious machinations. The solution to Argo’s disease was so far out of reach that it could never intersect the current goals of the three. And so the idea was left by the wayside to instead think of a temporary solution to his problem. His flesh was too necrotic to heal, and so instead it was grafted back onto his body with necromancy instead. It would not heal his broken form but would keep it held together for even longer. It would buy him back more time. Argo’s flesh would continue to deteriorate and another trip would be made to a necromancer tucked away in some crevace of the world. Plenty were more than happy to experiment with the idea of attempting to meld the rotten flesh of a being back onto its living form.
Each battle leading up to the final stop took more and more of Argo with it, and yet the human still stood. Refusing to fall until his body could no longer handle the burden. It saddened the half-elf greatly, and the party more often than not took to avoiding combat all together if at all possible to save Argo more time. Tossing money at lucid foes every possible opportunity to avoid conflict, or attempting to circumvent any and all danger by simply traveling around it. Even the goliath could no longer feel the want to battle, try as he may to sway the human into taking the back and letting him take point, Argo would not falter in his want to keep his friends safe. It was when Argo’s disease took all the feeling he had in his hands did the party think his journey had come to an end. His digits beginning to slowly turn gangrenous, his will only steeled itself further. One last visit to a wizard had his hands permanently gripping the hilt of his sword, a grip that would never release, never falter. And with the final encounter on the way, the party proceeded in the direction of conflict.
The final area, a decrepit castle of a once powerful kingdom, tested the three’s might with every corner. Every passageway leading to almost certain death. And with every step Argo took his deterimation to continue only grew, his legs almost shuffling from the flesh on them having deteriorated beyond repair. Sickly form taking the front and shielding his allies even still. His sheer will to protect them carrying him more than his legs could alone. Every enemy tasted the bite of Argo’s sword in one way or another, even when the steel began to chip along the blade. Argo marched forward, until there was only one place left to enter. The throne room, and the location Azar would attempt to rip open a portal to the eldritch body he sought so badly to attain. Inhabiting the body of a dracolich the final hours of the journey grew near. The goliath and half-elf were exhausted, even with Argo taking the brunt of many the battle their strength could only hold out for so long. They needed rest, and they needed time. Time they did not have left.
So with a shuffling step, and wobbly posture, Argo stepped forward towards the throne room. His family left behind, only able to call out to him. He gave them no words, no farewells. Blade rose to his shoulder and back to his companions. He would buy them the time they needed with his own limited time remaining, even just the smallest of distractions for Azar could buy enough time for a miracle to occur. Tattered cloak and tarnished armor he walked forward into the room, all undead having eyes on him. A vertitable garison of various undead of all nature in attendence for this momentous climax, devised and acted on by Azar. The human looked around, weathered body prepared to engage. Azar in his second to last form uttering a statement before the onslaught on the human occurred. And it was the human’s response that piqued his interest most.
“Only one? A shame. I was expecting more.”
“From one monster to another, I will show you no quarter.”
Argo showed just that. His body, long since held together with makeshift means and pure unrivaled deterimation moved on it’s own. Azar could only watch with sick, twisted amusement as his forces were sliced and chopped apart by a being whose existence was only held together by threads. Argo’s sword would find it’s targets, body weaving as best it could to avoid as many attacks as possible. Crashing against foes left and right in a whirlwind of carnage. A sight amusing enough to Azar that he’d almost entirely forgotten what his purpose for being in this location was. Enamored by the human’s will to continue, until the human suddenly stopped. Argo fell to his knees, body unable to carry itself any longer. Azar wanted to take a closer look at this man, he shoved a claw forward and impaled the now exhausted human. Lifting Argo up, looking at his form and chuckling to himself with grim pleasure. Certain Argo had no fight left in him, even with his sword still clutched in that permanent grip in his hands, he leaned into the man and spoke. Voice dripping with a certain relish.
“You did well, but it was for naught. You must have known this couldn’t have ended w-“
His speech was caught short. Argo, the last of the fight he had left in him manifesting into one movement, raised his arms once more with one last dying roar. One final testament to his existence. He dropped his arms as hard as he could across Azar’s face, and with blade crunching into ancient bone, the now long since blunt edge of his sword cracked through the muzzle and shattered into pieces. Half of a blade embedded into Azar’s face, yet the force was too much. Argo’s shoulders, long since wore and muscle long since damaged and deteriorated, finally gave. His arms fell loosely to his side, and his body was cast to the side lifelessly, Azar sent reeling from the blow. The hit left him completely stunned, unable to act in any way other than tossing Argo to the side in frustration.
That’s when the pair of remaining adventurers found the room, their bodies recovered and ready for the encounter. The bodies of undead strewn about left and right, and a flabbergasted Azar in the center. Argo nowhere in sight to them. They had an opportunity to strike and couldn’t let it go unanswered, and pounced on said opportunity. The battle was long fought, but made easier from Azar’s bewilderment, even as his last moments drew near. Azar was defeated, his last moments being of complete and total confusion, unable to comprehend the sheer amount of willpower one human could have in his dying body. The half-elf and goliath didn’t relish in the victory long, they looked to searching for Argo, only to find his lifeless body on top of some rubble far to the left of the battle. His life finally coming to an end after so much pain.
I don’t think I could give this story the justice it deserved. Our group was fighting back some tears towards the bitter end. Argo was never meant to make it this far, I had made him just to see how long a character like this could make it in a story. We had grown really attached to him throughout the journey, and the last encounter was nothing short of a complete miracle. We actually got kind of hopeful that maybe he’d make it to the very very end and would get to see a saved world, only for him to finally fail a constitution check at the last moment. Argo goes down in our group’s history as one of our favorite bits of D&D we’ve ever experienced, and he will live on in subsequent campaigns in folklore.