Behind the Story of "Ruthemal"

It was years ago that Caleb, Jordan and myself (Ricky) all discovered the joy that is Dungeons & Dragons.

A mutual friend brought up her history of playing the game and, after seeing the twinkling in our eyes, offered to DM for us. We dove into the game with very little idea of what we were doing, but we quickly became hooked.

It was a simple setup — an adventuring party comprised of a warrior, a wizard, and a bard, ready to explore dangerous places and get their hands a little dirty in hopes of gold and treasure. We were heading to the city to find work, but the caravaners dared not take the road. Apparently, a nearby nest of Kruthix made it too dangerous. These scarab-like insects were nearly the size of a man, with hard exoskeletons and razor-like claws. Unless the nest was cleared, no one would be taking the passage to the city.

Sounded like our type of work.

Do not try to take the eyes
The crimson lights are full of lies

Do not fall to their deceit
But they are blind to the dangers beneath their feet

And you don’t know how far this tunnel goes
And you don’t know how long they’ll hear these ghosts
The kruthix claw and bite at your necks
But you won’t fall — you will defeat this nest

The chains will clack against the stone
The room is quiet except a moan

“Do not defile!” shouts Ruthemal
The zombies stir against the wall

Iron rings across the hall
You stand bravely with your back against the wall
Around your feet, your blood begins to fall
This will be your grave
In the tombs of Ruthemal

Go ahead and try to run
Think about the things you have you have done
The only one to get away
Livius, you make your escape

You remembers how your friends would laugh
How they started on this accursed path
You note how things will never be the same
The memory’s so real, it’s like you hear your name
You hear your name

But of course, no quest is ever quite as it seems. The insects had made their nest in an ancient and mysterious tomb. Traps were left behind to guard the tomb from looters — something we learned the hard way when we greedily pried the beautiful garnet gems out of a statue’s eye and nearly died from the triggered trap.

We fought through swarms and swarms of Kruthix, thinking the worst was behind us. But we were very wrong. This wasn’t just any tomb — it belonged to an ancient Drow known for wielding terrible dark powers: Ruthemal. And he was still here.

We had already wearied ourselves from the previous fights when the necromancer trapped us in his chambers. Zombies shambled at us from the crypt walls. We chopped down one after another, but they just kept coming. Ruthemal laughed as we began to fall. We were all going to die.

First fell the warrior, Olivander. On the brink of death, the zombies clawed at him and began to drag him towards the pile of defeated adventurers, where surely he would become one of them.

Isaac, the bard, soon followed. Unconscious and weak, it seemed like his time had come.

The only one who still stood was the wizard, Livius. He knew it was over, that they had lost, so he ran for his life. All he could hear was the cackling of the lich behind him as he sprinted out of the catacombs and returned to the surface.

Back on the surface, he fell to his knees. They had cleared the Kruthix nest, but at the cost of his friends. Resting against a tree, he thought it must be shock that he could still hear his friends’ voices. “Livius”, he heard them call, over and over. He thought he must be going mad. But… he did really hear it now. Rubbing his eyes he looked out over the horizon to see an impossible sight — his friends alive, limping but alive, and calling his name.

It was a particularly memorable story because of how narrowly we escaped death. Just as Isaac was on his last breath, he rolled a critical 20 which restored him to 1 health. As a bard he knew healing magic, and was able to quickly revive Olivander. The zombies, assuming they were dead, barely even noticed, and in one gasp they had both come to their senses and escaped the tomb.

Of course, Jordan is as much a bard as his character was. Inspired by our tale of narrowly-escaped doom, he wrote “Ruthemal” as an homage to one of first roleplaying experiences. It wasn’t until several years later that we revisited the song as a band and made it as big and as epic as we could.

I’m really happy to have such a fun song to give to our Kickstarter backers. Hopefully you enjoyed reading the behind-the-scenes as we had making it.

Ricky TeelComment