Redemption War

Build it and they will come

The Society's foray into Elderburg comes to an end

The party takes a candlemark or so to recover from the last fight, with Sim keeping watch while the rest take a much needed nap. Aetadius is the first to rouse himself, and as he is relieving himself a short distance away, he notices something odd: a pebble is slowly floating past, a few feet off the ground. He calls Sim over and they each confirm the other is not hallucinating. The pebble acts like a twig drifting on a water current, but there is no discernible breeze, and when Aetadius grabs it and lets it go again, it falls to the ground. The two then notice a few more rocks behaving in similar fashion and alert the others, none of whom can come up with any explanation for the phenomenon.

As it happens, though, the stones appear to be drifting in the general direction the party was intending to go anyway, so while the rest of the party equips themselves, Aetadius scouts ahead, and soon finds a chasm, some forty feet wide, extending down through at least three or four more levels of the city. The stones, now accompanied by drifting dust, are flowing from the fourth level down to the fifth, and across the crevasse. The rest of the party catches up, and using Paxton’s Mage Hand rig a line across the rift to the far side of the lower level. One by one, the party tries to cross, but the precautions they have taken with securing each member prove valuable, as almost everybody has serious trouble negotiating the crossing, not least Sim, who slips and falls two levels before managing to arrest himself on the seventh level, incurring some severe injuries in the process. The rest manage to retrieve him and patch him up, and the party continues on its way.

They traverse what was once a quite affluent neighborhood before they enter what appears to be the temple district. Interspersed among dwellings and shops that once sold candles, incense, and other votives are various temples, many devoted to deities who are no longer remembered, let alone worshiped. Kasglan is sorely tempted to research as many as he can, but the dwarf in him (aware of the imminent collapse of the city) wins out over the sage. Rocks and sand continue to float by, in increasing quantities and of increasing size. Then, disturbingly, the group comes across a cluster of corpses; they are orcs, and the cause of death seems to have been being bitten by something with a large mouth containing large teeth. Only a few hundred yards further, however, the Society catches sight of its goal: the once majestic temple of Lantira, since mostly collapsed, to the extent that morning star that forms the goddess’ symbol is only partially visible. The temple is not what is attracting the floating stones as these continue past the edifice.

Entering the temple, they find that what is left of the ground floor is mostly buried in the rubble of what used to be the upper floors, but a staircase leading down to a crypt is still accessible. At the bottom is a set of double doors, and having established to the best of their ability that there are no traps, the group makes it way through. Beyond the doors is a room with a pair of tombs, and a passage on the far side leading to another, larger room containing a larger tomb. After a cursory inspection of the tombs, the party starts down the passage to the inner sanctum but are charged by a pack of five hell hounds. Kalissa and Kasglan manage to keep the passage blocked while the others attempt to carry out ranged attacks, but the party is having a hard time dealing more damage than it’s taking, especially from the hounds’ fiery breath. The tide is turned when Bud conjures a pack of wolves (actually fey spirits in wolf form) to attack the hell hounds from behind.

The hounds having been vanquished, the party advances to the tomb in the back room. Kasglan uses Detect Magic to discover that there appears to be something magical in the tomb, and he and Kalissa manage to pry it open as carefully as they can. Within, they find a skeleton once dressed in robed and armor, most of which has since rotted and rusted away, leaving a sword, a breastplate, and a granite cube (inside a leather purse), all of which are enchanted (especially the cube). Kasglan murmurs a placation to General Florian’s spirit, explaining the pressing need to, in effect, rob his tomb, before he and Kalissa take all three items. The sword (of fine Elven manufacture) goes to Sim, the breastplate to Kalissa, and Kasglan takes charge of the mysterious cube. The party briefly discusses whether to try to figure out the cube now, on the off-chance it may provide a means of escape from their current location, or to continue following the stream of floating stones. At this point, there are maybe three or four candlemarks left until the fourth level caves in, possibly continuing into the fifth level, and Kasglan estimates is will take him at least a candlemark to get some idea of the cube’s nature. A consensus is reached to continue walking at present, and take the time to rest while Kasglan studies the cube about a candlemark from now.

Outside, the stream of floating rubble is getting progressively thicker and faster, conveying larger rocks, and the party picks its way through the ruins of the temple district. Along the way, they continue to find corpses, ranging in freshness from kills maybe only two days to several months. Most are humanoid, including even a few minotaurs. In about a candlemark, the Society comes within sight of what appears to be source of the silicate attraction: a tower some seventy feet in diameter, rising from the floor and piercing the upper levels. The attracted materials, when they reach the tower, fly upwards along it, apparently to serve as building materials to build it ever higher. This is not superfluous, because it looks like the tower itself fell through the floor from an upper level. Disconcertingly, the ground around the tower is positively littered with corpses, matching those encountered earlier but in larger numbers. However, not all have died from large bite wounds; they now include ones that have been petrified or even without clear indications of what killed them.

The party finds a ruin that provides some shelter to take a rest. Kasglan spends the next candlemark studying the cube, and finds it appears be a magical key, though for what, he cannot tell. The apocalyptic engravings on the device are rather disconcerting. In the meantime, Aetadius scouts out the base of the tower and finds a set of double doors, but given the number of bodies in the area, decides not to enter the tower by himself. Kalissa has severe misgivings about entering the tower, but is persuaded by the argument that this seems the most (and possibly the only) viable escape route to the surface. The party straps on their equipment and prepares to move out.

Paxton opens the tower doors from a distance with his mage hand and Bud conjures a flight of giant owls (again, fey spirits in owl form). Entering the tower, they find it hollow inside, with a ramp jutting from the wall and spiraling upwards. Far overhead, there appears to be a circle of daylight. Bud sends up a couple of his owls to see whether the shaft does indeed lead to the surface; the owls return without incident and confirm that it does. When Bud sends one up again to scout ahead, it ascends less than a hundred feet before it falls to earth, petrified. The party speculates about what creatures exist that have large, toothy maws and can turn enemies to stone; Kasglan thinks it fits descriptions he’s heard of basilisks, and casts a protection spell against aberrations on himself (mistakenly thinking basilisks are “aberrations”). Kalissa considers using a mirror she found, but decides that her shiny new breastplate may be sufficiently reflective to allow melee combat without risking petrification. Bud redeploys his (remaining) owls into a pair of advance scouts, a pair of rearguard scouts, with the remainder circling in the central shaft.

The party cautiously advances up the spiral ramp until a they are verbally challenged from the darkness above. Unfortunately, the inhuman voice speaks no language that any of the group understands, and Paxton’s attempt to respond in Draconic is unsuccessful. The source of the voice hovers into view down the shaft: it looks like a grotesque disembodied head, scaly and a putrescent shade of purple, over a dozen feet in diameter, with a face consisting of a single eye and large toothy maw. Protruding from its scalp are ten stalks with eyes set in their tips. (It is a beholder for those who hadn’t guessed by now.) The eyestalks turn toward the party and start unleashing magical effects: Kalissa is paralyzed, Sim suffers a blast of life-withering magic that nearly drops him, and Kasglan narrowly avoids being charmed thanks to his protection spell. Bud sends his owls swooping in to attack the beholder’s eyestalks but the monstrosity picks most of them out of the air. Just as things are starting to look desperate, Aetadius and Paxton unwittingly carry out a combination of attacks that prove to be the game-changer: Aetadius drops a darkness around the creature just before Paxton paralyzes it with his Wand of Binding. Unable to move and mostly blinded, the beholder is almost helpless, and a combined barrage of magic and crossbow bolts wear it down until it tumbles to land with a squelching thud at the bottom of the shaft.

Bud sends one of his two remaining owls to check it is indeed dead while the party starts up the ramp toward daylight. The sounds from outside the tower indicate that, with the beholder’s death, the growth of the tower has stopped, and the collapse of the city is continuing. Time is running short indeed! Even so, when the party encounters the beholder’s lair in a niche, they pause to recover a massive amount of coin, along with a few magical items, before continuing their dash up the ramp. They reach the top just as it is starting to slip below the level of the surface and with an effort born of desperation, launch themselves at the lip of the shaft. Kasglan, being shorter of limb and wearing heavy armor, doesn’t quite make it, and after a moment of panic to see him missing, the others are relieved to discover him clinging to the inside of the shaft. With the aid of Bud’s last two owls and some rope, he is unceremoniously dragged up, and as the party gets clear of the massive sinkhole that used to be Elderburg, the session comes to a close.

Comments

… Elsewhere, a group of listeners gather around the traveler, as he shares the story of Treldor Historic Society, and how they inspired the people of Stormhaven. And someone else mentions the Iron Alliance, and the bounty on they put on the head of any Treldor Historian, but the storyteller waves away these comments, accusing the Alliance of being weak and fearful. The historians are a sign of changes to come, he says. No iron can stop that …

Build it and they will come
theprint jurjen

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