The flaxon haired elf was rocked forward… then back. His head was down and his posture prostrate in attempt to pray. The rocking continued and Tathel continued to pray. Anyone else being held in the pocket of an 80 foot tall giant dwarf might be praying for help, but he was asking his god Corellon for new magical knowledge.
Over time, Tathel and his party had grown accustomed to the motion and smell associated with being carried by the giant form of their friend, Morel. The nausea and paranoia was almost gone. Some of the party actually began to enjoy this means of conveyance because it allowed time to study and pray.
Gemma had done quite well in decorating the pocket the party rode in. It was actually quite well adorned and offered lots of comforts including places to sit and sleep. There were clear jewels sewn into the pocket, which served nicely as view ports when expanded to giant proportions.
The rhythmic motion changed a little as Morel lengthened his stride to cross a wide river. He tried to avoid altering the terrain too much and didn’t want to add another deep spot in the water. The change caused Tathel to shift away focus from the divine to the physical world.
An object ahead drew his attention. A great pillar stretched into the clouds. It was easily 4 times as high as he was. This must be the home of the mighty beast that had bested Zovano’s men. The leader of the new counsel in Gotham was so impressed with Tathel and his companions that he asked them investigate for him.
Maybe, impressed wasn’t the right word. The 80 foot Morel served as a nice background for the incorporeal head of Tathel for first contact with the would be ruler of Gotham. Zovano was not so valiant as to risk his army fighting the party and instead formed a loose alliance. This quest represented the first test of that alliance.
The giant dwarf stopped announcing that to travel any further would risk destabilizing the tower. As the party members disembarked, Red prepared to release the magic that allowed Morel to maintain his size. Morel took his armor out of his pocket. Morel’s size greatly amplified his strength, so he was careful not to crush the study metal.
Red released the Enlarge Other spell and Morel shrank back to his normal size. After donning his armor, the party started the short walk to the tower.
As they drew closer, the detail of the tower became more clear. It was far from the perfectly smooth marble that was expected. Bone white, it resembled jagged rows of teeth stacked, row upon row. A smaller version might make a great tool for boring holes. Black moss hung down at places giving the appearance of decay and rot. In tower form it looked like an insolent abomination out of place in both land and sky.
Tathel circled the tower and found no opening except a small shack on the far side. The faint hint of music was coming from the opening where the door had rotted off. Tathel looked into the dimmly lit room and saw bodies in various states of decay. Some of the bones were covered with ivy and from the looks of it all the bodies would be covered soon enough.
Something about the room gave him pause and he backed away giving deference to the scout Balthier. It looked like his danger sense might be active, but he continued in stealthily searching for the source of the music. It looked like he started to shake something off, but then he was OK. Tathel was hopeful there would be a way into the tower, but Balthier only found 4 walls.
Barring anything else to do, Balthier began searching the bodies and scouring the floor for loot. Balthier shouted back that he had found what appeared to be a magic cloak. Kyra wasn’t content to let Balthier be the only person getting new gear and decided to also enter the room. She paused and appeared to be fighting an impulse of some kind then simply fell over.
Balthier dragged Kyra out of the shack… after finishing looting the remainder of the bodies. It was a few minutes before she regained consciousness.
With no way in, Tathel was weighing options for ways to explore the top for other entrances. It would take a considerable time and magic to allow all party members to ascend the 300+ feet to the top. There was also the potential of how the first party member would deal with danger if the rest of the team were on the ground.
As the cleric was musing, Red cast a spell that put a big door sided hole in the side of the tower. Tathel looked in and saw the way was still blocked by strong metal bars. Red then said he could handle it, but needed to rest first. True to his word, Red caused the bars to disappear after rest and a little energy from Gemma.
Entering the tower, Morel and Red lead the way. Tathel hung back after fortifying Kyra with some of his magic. He preferred to assess the battlefield from the rear where he had more options. Everyone was on full readiness, but it was all for nothing. The only thing in this room were urns with unduly deep dust covering the floor. The dust was so thick that anything dropped would be difficult to find.
On the far side of the room were stairs going up. Eager to find something to fight, Morel charged toward the stairs. Opening the door at the top of the stairs, he found 2 zombies with brooms sweeping up ash and dumping it into urns. Not content to wait for introductions, the heavily armored dwarf swung both axes at once causing both animated dead to fall into the ash and lay still.
As the party filed into the room, a door swung open. Apparently, someone was coming to check on the progress of the janitors. Morel prepared to meet the supervisor and was surprised what looked like part of a gorilla with blue and white fur. Morel kept looking up and up for the head. First he a pair of arms with sharps claws. That seemed formidable enough. At the 7’ level were a bulging arms holding oaks that would undoubtedly break a parrying ax. At least his fanged maw was up at 8’ and too far away to try to bite him.
Snap. Snap. Thud. Thud. Parry. Parry. Dodge. Dodge. The blue/white girallon and Morel danced their deadly dance. The beast was so tall that Morel was eye level with male gorilla genitalia. Oddly the sturdy dwarf found himself more concerned about being struck by parts that dangled more than a club.
Finally recovered from his initial repulsion, Morel decided to cut his dancing partner down to his level and used 2 axes to remove a leg. Extra arms immediately thrust down and struggled to keep the girallon upright. This left an opening for Morel to finish the much more manageable creature.
Feeling confident, Morel stepped into the next room only to find himself face to face with 2 more blue/white girallons. Stepping in the center between them was a skeleton that still had innards writhing about. Upon closer inspection, the Morg’s insides looked like harvested organs. The red and bloody mess was held together by snakes of various sizes moving across one another and around masses of tissue.
Morel now had 3 dancing partners, 2 of which had clubs and claws. This time, the whole party decided to add spice to the performance. Kyra rolled into the room and started aiming for girallon eyes. Gemma drilled Sunbolts through furry hide and Tathel threw an Explosive Fireball behind the enemy not overly concerned that some of the fire wash rolled over Morel.
Red stepped beside his brother and Morel was very happy to not have to avoid so many attacks. He almost completely ignored what he thought was a weak skeleton until it opened its mouth and spit out a long snake instead of a tongue. It was coming straight for his eyes with huge fangs dripping venom. Fortunately, the viper missed and retreated back into the skeleton’s mouth. That would be the last time Morel would be caught off guard by a Morg’s tongue.
The enemies were no match for the party and soon the party was free to look around. On a table is what looks like a patchwork made of flesh. Parts were sewn together in a vaguely dragon-like form waiting for a 2nd wing. There were other odd body parts laying about here and there about the room. Someone had an odd hobby.
Deciding that the greatest treasures would be deepest in the dungeon, the party found a stair case going down. The scout, Balthier, was taking point giving directions. They finally came to a set of double doors. Opening both doors, the party found a bowl shaped room 100 feet across. The floor was deeper in the center than the sides and the room itself was round. The ash here was more than a couple feet deep. The ceiling rose at least 300 feet in the air. Directly across from the room was another set of double doors.
This seemed an obvious place for a trap. Balthier started to go straight across the room, but then thought better of it and angled closer to the sides. He told his partners that there was something wrong with the center of the room. To go any further was inviting disaster.
Morel only cared that they wanted to cross the room. If he was the one who had to trigger the trap, then so be it. Before anyone could offer to teleport a scout to the other side, Morel darted across the room. If he would have known what he was getting himself into, he would have waited for magical help.
As Morel neared the middle, suddenly a pillar of fire appeared stretching fully 20 foot across and reaching the ceiling. The heat from the flame was enough to cause Morel to immediately perspire. Worse, the pillar cut off Balthier from the rest of the party. Morel was prepared for anything, but was still surprised by the size of his opponent.
Morel successfully jumped out of the way of the advancing pillar. When an arm of fire shot out, he forgot how lucky he was and dropped both axes and fell prone trying to parry. The pillar advanced and covered Morel. The sturdy dwarf instantly burst into flame. His delver’s webbing melted and his axes fell into the ash. As he got to his knees, his armor started to heat up and glow red. His beard simply melted away.
Tathel acted quickly using huge amount of energy and high skill to teleport the dwarf back into the hallway where the remainder of the party waited. When Morel arrived in the hallway, he was still glowing and smelled like he was roasting in his own oils. In other words, not pleasant. He looked even worse with his beardless face burned and blistered. Kyra created water to help cool the super heated metal… and help kill the smell.
Balthier had troubles of his own. With his immediate target disappeared, he turned his attention towards the rogue. Balthier tried to escape attention by becoming Invisibile, but he couldn’t cast fast enough and would soon be barbecued. That’s when Gemma cast a spell to control flame. She engaged in a battle of Wills against the creature. She was successful in getting the creature to back away long enough for Balthier to finish his casting.
Unfortunately, he failed horribly to go invisibile and instead found himself in a black and white world. Fortunately, for him this world was not affected by heat. He was easily able to walk across the room and return to the safety of the hallway being held by his companions. By this time, Tathel had used magic to recover Morel’s prized axes, Death Song and Loyal Protector. The party closed the door and bought themselves time to patch themselves up.
It was fortunate that Tathel and Red were clerics after the encounter with the fire elemental. Morel was near death although Balthier was much healthier. Red took the time to use magic to repair Morel’s equipment. He wasn’t able to do it with the delver’s webbing or his lost dwarven throwing axes, but that was a small price to pay for something that could have easily taken his life.
Once everyone was battle ready again, the double doors were opened again. The fire elemental would never fit into the hallway and the plan was to snipe at it in the limited area until it was destroyed. It wasn’t clear that there was anything in the party’s arsenal that could hurt the creature, but they were willing to try. Worst case scenario would be for everyone to teleport to the far room, which is really what should have been the plan in the first place.
Sadly, no amount of coaxing could get the elemental to come out. It was either gone or too tired from the previous encounter to fight again. Moving to the far room, the only thing found was a big hole in the floor with rungs going down. It seemed to go very deep and it was intimidating. Every indication was that the lord of the tower was eagerly waiting at the bottom to consume them.
Having just failed against the fire elemental and not knowing what sort of enemy was being faced, the party decided to explore the upper parts of the tower in search of information. Moving up to an unexplored floor, the halls were surprisingly clear. In one room they found a dragon statue that looked like an altar.
A distressed voice from the distance cried out in an unknown language, then in common. “Help.”
Further exploration showed the voice was coming from a locked cell. Gemma declared her intentions that whoever it was must be freed, but Red and Morel were first to get to the door. It was booby trapped with a strong lightning enchantment, which triggered as soon as Morel tried the handle. The lightning shot down the hall. Gemma blinked out of the way, but Morel took the full brunt of the damage. Red nearly fell unconscious from his cumulative injuries.
It was only after that did Kyra cast detect magic to see if the trap was deactivated. It was. Gemma was gleeful to open the door only to find a pale white vulture-like creature inside a casting circle. Morel just grunted displeasure and followed Balthier as he continued to scout the level. Gemma was undeterred by the gruesome appearance of the beast and felt compelled to help it. Without preamble, she simply broke the circle failing to ask anything of the demon before freeing it.
Balthier came to a stop at the end of the hall. It would be a T if the doors on either side were opened. He started for one, but then changed his mind and went for the other. Balthier was usually good about choosing, but it was hard to imagine this was the the better option. As soon as he opened the door, he found himself facing a wight that immediately struck him. Morel stepped in front of the scout and drove axes through the creature. It crumpled to the ground, but 5 others hissed and turned their attention towards the dwarf. The one in the back looked to be special.
Feeling empowered, Tathel made his way to the front of the pack brandishing his holy symbol of Corellon. These foul creatures needed to be driven back to the abyss. Red also dove in eager for a fight. Balthier retreated towards the rear where he met Gemma as she was just rejoining the group. Kyra fired precise shots into the eyes of wights.
All the commotions in the other room must have disturbed the neighbors because a door swung open behind Gemma. Blue and white fur knelt under a door frame and started swinging. Gemma was immediately hit in the leg with a claw dropping her to the ground. A huge club shadowed over her and came crashing down. Gemma hurriedly tried to Blink away, but started screaming when she realized she completely failed. A huge oak cracked the floor, but Gemma was gone… from the tower and even the country.
A club came down for Kyra, but she Blinked away into the room with wights. Still angry, the blue/white girallon started to swing a claw at Balthier, but Morel was close enough to parry and threaten the giant beast. There were a couple more girallons in the room, but Morel was joined by Red. The pair quickly reduced that number to zero. Even Balthier got in a good hit before the end.
Tathel and Kyra were able to kill the wights. Balthier was concerned for Gemma and started looking for her. When she wasn’t found, the only thing the party could do was magically heal their wounds and wait for her to return. She was once again lost to Isad her home away from home… this time with a crippled leg.
The party decided to wait back in the dragon altar room. Red felt it was too stuffy, so he created a big hole in the side of the tower to get a little air. It was also a convenient way for the party to take out any near-by loot.
Before Gemma returned, the party had time to assess their current state of health. They realized they were risking death to get into another altercation. Morel was feeling self conscious about being beardless and claimed it made him less intimidating in battle. When the sorceress finally did return, they asked her to make a supply run back in Miresus. Each dwarf requested 10 healing potions and Morel wanted new delver’s webbing and a potion to restore his beard. This was a substantial fortune, but the extra weight was no so much that it prevented Gemma from making the trip.
Gemma found everything she needed, but a potion to grow beards was outside the money she had on hand. She was, however, able to find a fake beard that somewhat resembled the one Morel had. At the shop, she decided to try it on. Morel was always claiming she’d be more beautiful with a beard, but she didn’t see it. The shop owner wasn’t impressed, either. At least, that was something else she could cross off her list of things to try.
After chugging most of his healing potions, Morel was happy to proceed upward and continue clearing the tower. This time, Morel was the scout. Not a good plan. Moving upward, Morel opened the next door of consequence, stepped in and found himself face to face with 4 girallons wearing black collars.
Overconfident, Morel had advanced into the room to allow his team members better access to the room. This was before he realized he was outnumbered 4 to 1 and all 4 girallons could attack him at once. That was 16 attacks he needed to defend against every second. It would be at least 2 seconds before Red could come help him. What was worse, there were another 3 or 4 more wearing black collars just waiting to step in should one of their allies fall.
Balthier cast a flash to degrade the capability of the enemy. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to keep most of the attacks from being true. Morel danced around clubs and claws only occasionally getting hit. Fortunately, his stout armor soaked up most of the damage except when a club landed. It hit Morel’s right arm in just the right way that it became paralyzed.
Morel dropped Deathsong. He was starting to take more hits. There were several times he fought the urge against unconsciousness, but held on knowing that his friends would suffer if he didn’t.
Kyra plugged arrows into the eyes of a girallon in the back of the room. The beast fell over and didn’t move for a moment. It didn’t help Morel, but it did diminish the enemy. Gemma loosed a huge fireball that exploded in the midst of the enemies weakening them. Some of the fire spilled over onto Morel and Red who had joined his brother, but armor soaked it up. Gemma was also caught in the blast radius and was injured more than either dwarf even though she was further away from the equicenter.
Finally, Red was able to kill one of the creatures. It fell then a puff of black smoke came from the black necklace and the girallon started to rise to its feet again. Necromancy was at work here. These were undead creatures that couldn’t be killed.
Tathel lent aid in the form of Tangle Foot magic that distracted a girallon for a second. The whole battle, Balthier had been stalking one of the enemies. He carefully choose his strike and crippled a leg, which caused the beast to fall prone and loose consciousness for a moment. Taking the initiative, he first cut the black collar and then the girallon’s throat. The collar dissolved and the creature stayed prone. He snuck back to the still unconscious girallon with 2 arrows in its eyes to repeat the procedure.
The battle was starting to turn around, but not quick enough for Red. He landed a good blow and then took a hit with a giant oak club. He fell to the ground and lay very still.
Morel had taken an army’s worth of damage. He wasn’t as light on his feet as he was and was taking more hits. Instead of trading blows, he started amputating legs to make the fight go quicker. He wasn’t killing the creatures after Balthier warned him of their resurrection abilities. Most of the girallons were going unconscious, which allowed Balthier and Kyra to finish them off.
As the pack cleared, a Morg could be seen in the rear of the room. The skeleton with snakes holding its guts together didn’t seem to like its chances and darted down a hallway. Balthier and Gemma chased after it. Morel finished his work. His arm was feeling better, so he grabbed Deathsong and also gave chase.
The Morg launched attacks at Balthier as it backed away. Balthier went blurry trying to keep from getting hit, which only made Gemma a more attractive target. She tried to Blink out of the way of the claw attack, but failed. Instead, she took both a hit from the claw and the snake tongue. Gemma found herself fighting a woozie feeling. Her head started to swim, but she shook it off and started casting Sunbolt.
Morel and Tathel closed the distance and slowed down the Morg. Tathel tripped it with magic and Morel started delimbing the creature. Balthier got in a powerful blow that not only killed the Morg, but caused it to fly into pieces and scatter across the room.
After all this, the only party member unscathed was Tathel. Everyone else had varying degrees of injury. Magic to heal Morel was completely exhausted for the day. Magic to heal Red was also severely diminished. There was serious conversation about leaving until magic was renewed the next day. In the end, the healing potions that Gemma procured was sufficient to keep the party alive moving forward.
A clear direction wasn’t obvious, the Balthier somehow knew that the natural way out of the tower was to continue climbing up. This seemed unlikely to the rest of the party, so Gemma cast Ethereal Body on him and sent him to scout out the upper floors. Nasty undead including wights, a mummy and a vampire waited for them above, so the party decided to explore downwards.
Moving back downstairs past the room with the fire elemental and into the room with the deep black pit, the party pondered what laid beneath. Gemma facilitated Balthier’s Ethereal journey downward. He found a deep cave structure. It’s good that Morel didn’t walk too close to the tower in giant form or the ground would have collapsed crushing everything down here.
Seconds ticked away as Balthier crossed a huge cavern filled a floor that seemed to move. Drawing closer, he could see it was completely filled with animated dead. There was a natural plateau in the center of the cavern, which would offer safety to whoever could climb up. Sadly, this was the only way in or out of the greater cavern complex. Balthier was hopeful he didn’t loose his Ethereal state before getting back to his friends.
His time was drawing short, so he simply made a quick pass through every room he could. There were girallons, wights, more animated dead than could be counted and even a golem. Then he found himself knocked back almost as if he had walked into closed door. There was a circular room that simply prevented him from entering. He tried to go under then over it and discovered more protection.
Time was up. Balthier hurried back to the surface and his friends. To wait any further meant facing the perils of the dungeon alone.
When Balthier rejoined his friends, he drew a rough map in the ashen dirt and started telling about the challenges each room offered. Morel thought it odd that he didn’t find any rooms worth pursing simply for the promise of treasure, but he was sure there would be compensation once they achieved their goal of ending the threat to Khatovar. Gemma was ecstatic at the possibility of setting up camp on top of the mesa in the sea of zombies. She and Kyra could take shots at leisure, slowly clearing the creatures.
Tathel was more pragmatic and wondered what the point of killing everything when neutralizing the leader was the main goal. At one point, he even mentioned just going home and letting Zovano’s men mop up whatever was left here. Red thought this was very out of character for someone who had worshiped Corellon. Didn’t their sense of duty include something like any abominations against life or nature (namely: undead, but other things can fit this category) must be exterminated? You wouldn’t find Red betraying his faith like that.
No matter. Red found the idea of facing a challenging opponent appealing, so he volunteered the idea that the party could reach the circular room that vexed Balthier by tunneling from the room where the ladder stopped. It would be a simple matter of using Earth To Air and a tunnel would appear. The upset Morel a little since he wouldn’t have the opportunity to use his ax as much, but maybe, they could kill the remaining creatures here after dealing with the dungeon boss.
Gemma still had a crippled leg. With Tathel’s restoration, it was scheduled to be useable in a month. The clerics would need to learn better spells to speed up the healing process for next time. She could levitate herself along, which kept her ready for battle.
After Red formed the tunnel to the place Balthier had indicated, the party was very careful to be as quiet as possible. There were a set of double doors behind the circular room, which almost guaranteed an attack from behind if things got too noisy. It looked like there was a keyhole on one side of the circular room. Kyra cast Lockmaster to open it and then the wall started shifting opening up a door. There was another door directly opposite that must have opened at the same time. Between the 2 openings were 3 vampires.
Morel was quick to close the distance and make a target of himself. Red felt a tug on his will urging him to attack the party, but he shook it off. Tathel let loose an explosive fireball, which caused one of the vampires to turn into a mist that started to move across the floor towards the group. Gemma let loose a Sunbolt, which was dodged. Morel finally had a chance to put axes into one, which made it turn to mist, too. Gemma cast Sunlight on the final vampire and it turned to dust.
Now that all the excitement was over, the party had a chance to see that this room looked to be the bottom of a sphere. The ceiling plane intersected the sphere maybe 50 feet up. In the center of the ceiling was a hatch. There was no obvious way to reach the hatch.
After much debate about the best way to go up, it was decided that Gemma would do a quick scout and then Bink down through the floor at the first sign of trouble. Balthier was not far behind because Tathel levitated him to the hatch. When Red saw Balthier open the hatch, he cast Hawk Flight on Morel and had him carry him up with him. Tathel and Kyra levitated up shortly after.
The room up top was more sphere. High above was a balcony that looked like it contained book shelves, couches, and other amenities. Someone must live here. In the center of the sphere was a giant heart bathed in dark glowing energy.
Gemma was dealing with her own issues. On the wall appeared writing that looked to be smears of blood.
What are your intentions?
Gemma answers, “peace.”
Balthier saw the writing and thinks “help organize the world”, but says “stay alive. To find out why are people were attacked and neutralize threats to those we protect.”
Gemma speaks to the wall, “what are your intentions?”
The writing on the wall disappears and new writing appears.
To bring back my master….
“Who’s your master?”
…but for now I serve another and have been instructed not to harm you.
“Are you the heart?”
“Does your current master have a reason for keeping us alive?”
“Revenge on who?”
“The elves are pretty much all dead.”
Apparently, not the right ones.
I serve only out of necessity. I care nothing for their goals or methods.
“Who is your original master?”
The owner of the heart you see above you. If you leave this place, I will only bother those that visit.
Red interjected himself into Gemma’s conversation with the wall.
“We can help you be freed from your current master if you tell us where he is.”
“Why do you want us to leave?”, Balthier asked.
So I can be rid of other’s triffles.
Balthier throws a rock up at the heart. It comes back down covered in black goo and hissing as if from acid. Morel had flown over to the heart and was examining the energy aura gauging whether he could sink an ax into the heart without touching the aura with his fist. The hissing rock dissuaded him from risking his only remaining axes.
Lacking any enemies or anything else to do, Morel started loading up books from the library. They were too bulky to get very many, but Kyra and Tathel grabbed some, too. No one recognized the language, but they grabbed the books for curiosity sake.
Gemma wasn’t quite done trying to help the mysterious author of the blood smear writing.
“Is there anything we can do to bring your previous master back?”
You are unworthy of helping with anything.
Red was concerned that the party was about to leave empty handed having neither killed everything in the tower nor succeeding in removing the leader. He determined to gather as much as he could to prove success.
“We need a trophy to prove this tower will no longer be a threat to the kingdom.”
One awaits you on the roof.
With that answer, everyone including Tathel seemed to be satisfied that nothing further could be done here. On their way out, they grabbed the dragon statue, a couple girallon bodies, black collars and of course, the pilfered books from the boss’s chambers.
Balthier buzzed the top of the tower invisible using Red’s Hawk Flight. On the roof was the skeleton of a dragon. He risked getting closer. It looked like the beast was animated at one point, but was now completely lifeless. Balthier pulled hard and off popped the skull. Mission accomplished. Now, Zovano had undeniable proof that the party had been to the tower and been victorious.
Sadly enough, all the proof in the world made no difference to their pay. Zovano accepted the fact that the tower had been neutralized, but could give them exactly nothing. No loot was found in the tower and it seemed like Gemma had been crippled and Morel and Red nearly died for nothing.