Scaled Down Scales

Jonalith and Ragnar Go Straight After Paldemar
And the Rogue Mage Locks them...

…in his Room. But Jerath Shows up to Heal them.

Ragnar the Mighty wasn’t about let a measly door stand in his way. Jon said it was magickally locked, but that didn’t stop Ragnar. He lowered his head and tried to smash it in.

And rebounded from the door without even touching it.

So, he tried again.

And bounced off without damaging the door. The elf suggested they both try at once. And, sure enough, the door opened to their combined strengths.

Inside they found a crystal ball, a curtain, and a desk. Ragnar lifted the curtain and found a robed magician.

Paldemar!

He charged and Paldemar disappeared. Jonalith got a shot off, Paldemar used his invisibility to make his escape and lock the two of them in his room.

Deciding to take advantage of the situation to steal anything that wasn’t nailed down, Ragnar approached the crystal ball. But, as soon as he tried to pick it up, he saw a figure in shadowy robes within the crystal. It reached out its arm as if pointing toward him. A psychic blast hit him in the forehead, and the crystal ball shattered into hundreds of shards.

“I guess those pieces won’t be worth much,” he told Jon.

Paldemar took advantage of this situation by taking pot shots at from one door and then the other. So they wrestled the bed they found behind the curtain to block one door and positioned themselves near the larger door. Ragnar got off a surprise attack when the Mage opened the door and Jonalith managed to slip inside before the Norker Slinger who was helping Paldemar could shut the door.

Even though his blow had driven Paldemar to the ground, the wizard managed to get inside and restore his Mage Lock on the door.

“Magic,” the barbarian cursed and proceeded to take his anger out on the slinger. Unable to use his sling, the Norker was reduced to ankle-biting and daggers. Ragnar and Jonalith finished him off pretty quickly. But not before another Norker showed up. Ragnar recognized this one as a berserker.

By the twin flails he was wielding.

Just then, Jerath showed up.

“Well, that was strange,” the hobbit said to his sister. “One of those Mages of Saruun came asking me about why we haven’t seen any of them around lately. How should I know?”

Jerath followed the instructions he got from Blackguards’ Bane after the assassin let him through the hidden door at a turn in the Road of Lanterns. The Spirit of Vecna demanded lore, power or his soul, but ended up satisfied with very little.

He made his way through two levels of the tower-like maze and found Li Sun and some others. The ardent was in pretty bad shape, but told Jerath to hurry through yet another portal. “Jon and Ragnar have gone ahead to find Paldemar, but I fear they’re going to need your healing.” Then Li Sun explained the layout of the next level.

Taking stock of the situation, Jerath decided to go straight to the big room to find Jonalith and Ragnar. And they sure were in need of healing. But as soon as he started that task, he found himself attacked by a wizard who had appeared behind him.

And then the statue of Vecna began blasting him as well.

Jonalith told him he couldn’t take any more healing, but that was just as well. Jerath backed away from the statue, but Ragnar insisted on charging repeatedly at a Norker who was sheltering near it. He needed all the healing Jerath could deliver.

There’s only so much that words of encouragement can do.

Once the Norker went down, Jerath hid behind one the crystal pillars whose magic Paldemar had depleted and sent the wizard blundering into the path of one of Ragnar’s charges. At first the barbarian didn’t understand what Jerath was doing, but once he saw Paldemar blunder toward him, he was glad to charge and attack.

“Paldemar not only sent us off on that wild goose chase,” one white-robed mage told the other, “he seems to have disappeared himself. The halfling just told me no one has seen the any of our Order for several days. After he promised he would keep up appearances in our absence.”

Jonalith saw his chance. The giant Bronze Warder could not make its way between the pillars and other obstacles to attack the bard, but it still had one chance to attack. It would have to target the barbarian instead of Jerath.

And there was only one path toward Ragnar.

So Jon put a trap right in the middle of that path. He could see that the giant construct noticed the trap, but it apparently thought it could push its way past, relying on its enormous bulk to absorb the trap’s damage.

“Not this trap,” he thought as the contraption stepped on the trap and slid backwards, its motion momentarily arrested. When it tried to move again, it found iself slowed dramatically.

When the Idol of Vecna sent a fiery blast his way, Jonalith realized that he could draw its fire by staying close to it and his resistance to that element would prevent all but the most extreme fire damage.

“Nobody get close to the Idol,” he shouted. “I’ll draw its fire. I can take it.”

That was all it took to finish off Paldemar. Then it was simply a matter of maneuvering to places the Warder could not reach and pot-shotting it with arrows.

View
Surrounded by the Exhausted Bodies
...of his Fellows from the Order...

…Li Sun Decides to Scout the Lair of Paldemar…

…alone.

The dim light of the Shrine of Vecna seemed to come from the walls themselves. Li Sun could see three doors. Knowing that Paldemar was aware his infernal machine had been destroyed, he tested each door quietly.

  1. The door to the west was locked.
  2. The door to the east was unlocked. The ardent opened it quietly and saw another of the Bronze Warder. Fortunately, the Warder did not see Li Sun as he quietly closed the door.
  3. The door to the north was unlocked as well. But the occupants of this room were on high alert. They spotted him immediately. He slammed the door and retreated through the portal behind him.

Once he was back with the rest of his team, he reported what he had seen in his brief glimpse into the Shrine of Vecna:

  • A statue of Vecna, crafted from iron and very large. A skeletal figure in robes, missing its left eye and left hand.
  • A symbol of Vecna, crafted as a mosaic into the floor in the center of this minor temple. A severed hand holding and eyeball.
  • Four crystal pillars, crafted from crystalline rock. Arrayed about the room.
  • Two brazier, crafted of brass. Providing garish shadows to the lighting.
  • An Idol of Vecna, crafted from black rock. Fashioned into a giant skull with an eye set in its right socket. The left socket is empty.

He told his teammates of the occupants who spotted him:

  • Several Norkers, the creatures who resembled hobgoblins who had been plaguing them since they had entered the Tower of Mysteries (some were armed with slings, some with flails); and
  • At least one cloaked figure which resembled the Enigmas of Vecna they had already fought.

He saw no sign of Paldemar.

View
Hidden Leader
After his Infernal Machine Is Destroyed...

…Paldemar Makes a Brief Appearance…

…and promises to kill those who have foiled his plans.

Jonalith heard clanking noises ahead which Li Sun and Lagolas could not seem to detect. So he quietly proceeded down the wide corridor from which they emerged. Peeking around a corner he saw a large bronze machine marching inexorably toward the party.

“Some kind of guard device,” he thought.

Didn’t take long to figure out the Bronze Warder could shove pretty much anybody out of it’s way. At first Jonalith thought he could hide behind a teammate and throw magic daggers at it.

But the bronze creature would charge him every time. And, if Lagolas was in the way, it would knock him to the ground.

Lag was spending a lot of time on the floor.

Just when Jon realized the big bronze behemoth could not charge between the pillars around the teleportation circle, the doors on the other side of the corridor opened up and two more creature started pot-shotting him: Another Enigma of Vecna and a goblinoid of some sort.

This put an end to any plans Jonalith had of hiding behind the pillars and taking some pot shots of his own. “Sure, I could wear the Bronze Warder with him being able to get at me. But those other two would do the same to me.”

Amyria looked to the assassin in anticipation. She had sent Blackguard’s Bane to seek out Li Sun and Sun, along with the rest of their team. “They should be about finished with the slavers in Thunderspire,” she suggested. She had already sent Tokk’it ahead to scout the island nation of Nefalus, with one of Belinda’s teleportation circles inscribed on the deck of his ship.

Li Sun saw that the Norker was opening the door for the Enigma, and the Enigma was sniping with impunity. So he rushed the door the next time it opened and discovered what was inside the room.

An Infernal Machine of some sort was standing near the center the table around the room were covered with bottles. “Looks like acid to me,” he thought.

This was confirmed a few moments later when Jonalilth joined him in the laboratory. When Jon missed a swing, he knocked over some bottles and was burned by their contents.

Meanwhile, Lagolas was still getting knocked over by the Bronze Warder, which had followed them into the lab.

Blackguard’s Bane told Amyria, “They discovered a complication. After they mopped up the Duergar slavers they found evidence they were working with someone who was trying to take over the Mages of Saruun. Or maybe take over from the Mages. That led them to a bunch of evil-worshipping Gnolls. The leader of the Gnolls apparently knew who was out to get rid of the other Mages. Paldemar, one of their own. Now they are trying clear him out of his fortress.”

Tired of constantly getting knocked back down, Lagolas decided to try firing from the floor. His burning spray was able to hit all three of his adversaries, so he started trying out his more powerful spells.

It didn’t take long for the three adventurers to clear out the lab.

Then they took a closer look at the Infernal Machine. The others could not make heads or tails of the large, glass container. But Lagolas had a good idea once he saw the head of a Bronze Warder floating inside. The tubes and pipes were obviously designed to help keep the head alive.

But, Lagolas saw the ritual that was being prepared, he knew this machine was almost ready for a far more sinister purpose: taking control of all the Bronze Warders in the Thunderspire Labyrinth and deposing the Mages of Saruun.

For the Mages used these bronze contraptions to rule. Lagolas wasn’t certain how good their rule was.

But it had to be better than rule by a cult dedicated to Vecna.

He convinced the others to let him destroy the Infernal Machine, and they hid behind the lab tables. A good thing, too, since the machine’s acrid, glowing green liquid sprayed all around when it burst.

It didn’t take Paldemar long to realize the ritual had been stopped. As soon as the machine was destroyed, he teleported into the room to see who had done the damage.

“Oh, you shall die for this!” was all he said before teleporting away again.

View
Another Elven Ranger
Joins the Party...

…and is immediately gunned down…

…by the minions of Vecna.

Ragnar the Mighty lowered his head and charged the pillar that had attacked him, but Wicked Fang seemed unimpressed.

“That’s nothing but stone, you fool,” the sword whispered. “You have to find the source of the attack.”

So Ragnar charge southward. There he found Norker minions pouring from yet another portal. And he was also attacked by stouter goblinoids with battleaxes. And he began to wish he had spent a little more time practicing his defenses.

“Screw defense,” whispered his sword. “I’ve always dreamed of infinite goblins to kill.”

But LI Sun’s healing was not keeping up with the damage he has taking.

Ragnar began to suspect he was going to need his battle rage.

Valna discussed the Order of the Black Feather with the Lord Warden of Fallcrest and became convinced the Order had been infiltrated by at least one agent of The Winter Court. Even the warden’s intelligence officers seemed certain of this. He decided the best way to keep an eye on them was to offer his services, taking care of their mounts. These Trihorn Behemoths had been taken into The Thunderspire Labyrinth by members of the Order who were clearing the place of slavers for the Lord Warden. Once he got to the Seven-Pillared Hall the huge beasts weren’t hard to find, stabled at an inn run by a local hobbit.

At first, Jon the Elf thought holing up in the small room he had discovered was the best strategy. They searched the room for any sign of the creatures who were attacking through the pillars. But they found nothing.

Jonalith could see that they could defend the doorway well enough. But, as long as the pillars could attack them with impunity, they would eventually be worn down.

After Ragnar attempted to scout the portal from which the Norkers were emerging, Jon came to the conclusion they had to search the room on the other side of the portal.

Valna of the Moonstair introduced himself to the halfling who brought in Blackguard’s Bane. The revenant took Valna to a secret door on the Road of Lanterns and showed him where Li Sun and the others had gone. Once Valna went through a test of his lore, he found himself surrounded by pillars which were casting lightning bolts at him. And other magicks as well. By the time he caught up with the Order of the Black Feather, he was on his last legs.

Li Sun was glad to see help arrive. But the elven ranger did not look to be in any better shape that the rest of the new recruits.

In fact, he slumped unconscious from the blasts emanating from the pillars shortly after appearing from around the corner.

“Oh, well,” sighed the ardent, “I guess I better heal him as well.”

By this time, Ragnar and Jonalith had discovered Enigmas of Vecna holed up in the other room.

“Surely, these are the creatures who have potshotting us through the pillars,” he thought.

Once they had surrounded the strange creatures, this theory was confirmed. In a most unfortunate manner. Once the Enigmas were bloodied, they exploded into a cloud of horrific visages and then rushed in a flesh-ripper rage.

This forced the Minotaur barbarian to go into a rage of his own.

“About time,” thought Li Sun, who was running out of healing.

Nobody died, but it was a close one.

View
L'espirit de L'escalier
As Explained by Two Demons...

…to a Goblin.

Li Sun looked over the Revenant, the Minotaur, and the Elf who had joined him. The only one he knew was the elf who had brought him their mounts. An odd mix, but he was glad Amyria had sent them. Ki’sho and Sun Li were in no shape to do battle with an archmage after the fights they had with the Gnolls and their demonic friends.

Apparently one of the Mages of Saruun had gone rogue and was trying to take over. He was using the Duergar and Gnolls to accomplish some secret plan.

“Secrets,” snorted Ragnar. “With worshipers of Vecna, it’s always secrets.”

But Li Sun had the key. And the key seemed to know where it wanted to go. First it led them to the Seven-Pillared Hall, then to the Road of Lanterns, and finally to this nondescript portion of that road.

Where they found a keyhole.

Li Sun placed the key in the keyhole and a secret door opened. Revealing a long passage, which led to a room with a circle of teleportation inscribed in its center. When Drake walked up to it, the circle turned out to have some powers of summoning as well. A spectral figure, clad in thick robes of the deepest scarlet appeared in a blinding flash. It was missing its left hand. And, while an eye filled the right socket in its spectral head (really little more than a skull, from what Li Sun could see), the left socket was empty.

“The secrets of the tower come at a price. You must each pay for the right to enter this place. What can you offer to the dreaded Lord of Secrets? I seek lore, power, and your souls.”

“L’esprit de L’escalier,” Ambassador Tien told the goblin cheiftain, “is the spirit of the staircase.” Takin was thoroughly confused by this, so Tien explained. “You see, the high elves who originated the expression often held their balls high up in the forest on platforms perched in the trees or hanging from the branches. To get up to these woody ballrooms, they had to climb long, ornate staircases. And to leave the ball they had to descend the same stairs. They noticed that sometimes they did not think of the perfect retort for their rivals’ insults until they were leaving the ball when their wit did them no good. I suspect something like this is happening to the four members of the Golden Scales who failed to protect their souls from the Spirit of Vecna.”

Ragnar the Mighty avoided being blinded by the flash of light — admittedly by fleeing, but this gave him his chance…

…so he charged the thing he feared.

As Wicked Fang passed harmlessly through the apparition’s gut, the Spirit of Vecna laughed. “You cannot intimidate me because you cannot harm me!”

“So, what was it you wanted?” Ragnar asked, somewhat meekly.

“Fool! Only three things will get you into the Tower of Mysteries: lore, power or your souls.”

Li Sun tried a bit of history, but it turned out to be something the spirit already knew. And Drake whispered to the others: “It cannot be intimidated, enjoys flattery, and is susceptible to well-told lies. The lore it seeks is arcane lore, historical lore and religious lore.”

“Not natural lore?” asked Jonalith, the elf, looking a little disappointed.

“I am pretty sure such things have little interest to Vecna,” Drake told him.

Ragnar decided to try a little flattery. At first, his compliments were a little too subtle for the apparition. It thought he was trying to intimidate it again. But once it realized he was commenting on its powers, it seemed to be pleased.

Drake ran into a similar problem when he tried to compliment the spirit on its ability to pretend to be a ghost. At first, the apparition was confused more than flattered.

“I’m trying to say I’m impressed!” the blackguard raged. And eventually Ragnar thought it mollified, if not totally impressed by the compliment.

Li Sun switched to arcane lore, but the Spirit of Vecna was no more impressed by it than by the historical tidbet Ragnar tried next: “What is my true name?”

“Ragnarok!” shrieked the spirit. That was an easy one."

Alen saw that Takin was still not getting it. “Any of them coulda mentioned that the Raven Queen appears to be working with a certain Platinum Dragon. She’s been trying to keep that quiet, so there’s a good chance Vecna wouldn’t know it. And even if he knew it, he might not have shared it with all his minions. The Spirit mighta thought he could really impress his boss with dat kinda info. Any of dem adventurers who thought about it after was probably kickin’ demselves for not thinkin’ of it in time. Dat’s the Spirit of the Stairwell.”

Jonalith watched his friends struggle with the difficult task of coming up with things Vecna did not know. It was hard. Vecna was, after all, the Master of Secrets. Jonalith had difficulty coming up with things such a master would not know.

But he did have friends who knew many secrets. Samwise and Jerath had come to the court of Fallcrest during the time he was there. And Sam shared the secrets of a weapon that he coveted. He had told Jon about the Darkblade of Melegaunt and its origins.

“Did you know the Darkblade of Melegaunt is a dagger made of shimmering black glass?” he asked the apparition.

“Why, yes, I did,” the spirit replied. “In fact, I know that it’s tip trails shadowy tendrils as it seeks its target’s most vulnerable spots.”

“But… but did you know it was forged in a Pact with a prince of Netheril?”

“Hmm, no, I did not. Perhaps Vecna himself knows, but I will have to take this knowledge to him to find out. This is truly lore which might be of use.”

After Ragnar failed another historical lore gambit, Jonalith saw Li Sun was taking another tack while sticking to the Well of Demons theme. “I would have thought such a spirit as yourself would have known all about Maldrick Scarmaker’s death.”

“Well, yes. But now I do.” The Spirit of Vecna seemed to be impressed by the backhanded compliment, but Jon was worried the effectiveness of flattery might soon be coming to end.

“You can only do so much of that kind of thing,” he thought, "before it becomes obvious.

Takin the Scared finally thought he had it. "So dese hot-shot adventurers been goin’ around discoverin’ all dese secrets? And den dey can’t even remember ‘em when it counts? Dat’s what dis “spirit” thing is all about? Kinda like when some troll insults me in front of da boss and I don’t think to call him a snotnose until later. Even though I can see the snot when I’m standing right dere. OK, OK. I gets it. But what I don’t get is why you two keep talkin’ about the stairs. Dere aren’t any stairs in dat tower."

Drake the Enforcer was impressed when Li Sun showed the map to the Well of Demons to the spectre. So he tried another bit of lore about the well. “And the guardian of the well, a green dragon, is now dead!”

“Dead? I did not know that.”

Jonalith told a story about a new religion rising up around Amyria. At first he thought the was making something up, but as the details emerged it became clear he was talking about the worshipful attitude some of the Githzerai were taking toward the Deva paladin. And the spirit seemed genuinely impressed with this lore.

Drake noticed Ragnar was whispering to his sword. Suddenly the Minotaur looked up and shouted, “I bet you do not know the role that the Raven Queen played in creating my sword.”

“You mean the power she channeled from Drake’s curse, empowering it and giving it a life of its own?” smirked the Spirit of Vecna. “Anyone who worships Vecna could see that as soon as they saw your blade. We are not so ignorant of matters arcane and religious as you. It is obvious that you and your friends have no more to offer the Lord of Secrets. I will leave you your powers, and simply take a bit of your souls.”

As the apparition disappeared, Drake felt a small portion of his reserves dwindle. But he knew that he had some left.

And he heard the spirit’s last words in his head, “You may now enter the Tower of Mysteries. May its secrets intrigue you.”

Hearing that, Drake stepped into the circle. And was teleported into another room in a blinding flash. He was standing in the middle of a 20-foot-by-20-foot room with two exits — one north and one west. The walls of this chamber are covered with carvings that depict human faces. Each face is wearing either a blindfold or a gag.

Drake noticed that, as soon as he stepped through, all the blindfolded faces animated and began to chant. All the gagged faces seemed to animate as well, but they simply glared at the interlopers as each of his companions materialized in the circle in the middle of the room.

To the north and to the west, Drake saw pillars in the corridors beyond. These were also covered with carvings of faces, but these faces were different. No gags; no blindfolds. Each face seemed to be missing one eye.

They did not seem to be animated like those in the room Drake was standing in. But every once in a while he seemed to see one animate out of the corner of his eye. As so as he looked at the one which he thought was animating, it froze again as stone.

View
Ambassador Tien Gets Busy
Spreading Rumors Throughout the Former Empire...

…of the Dragonborn.

Strangely enough, though, the rumors all seem to be about the Great Gark and his interest in another ancient empire: that of the Minotaurs of Thunderspire Labyrinth.

Sun Li turned to her twin. “I think you better go investigate that noise. I am wounded, but I can still go through these papers we found on the Gnoll.” When Li Sun was gone, she examined the map, which seemed to show a secret tower built into Thunderspire itself. “Hmmm, maps are always a good thing in a Minotaur labyrinth.” The rest of the papers seemed to be letters from a wizard who was plotting against the Mages of Saruun. “He may even have infiltrated their order,” Sun Li mused. “He seems to have been quite open about his plans when writing to his Gnollish ally.”

“I have a job for one of your imps,” Amyria told Maxim Shalion, "the one who can send messages. I need him to convince some of our Dragonborn allies to go to Thunderspire Labyrinth. Then she told him the names: Lagolas and Andrea Ravn. “I believe they will play a great role in the events to come. I would prefer you not mention this task to the other members of The Golden Scales.”

“Are they within 100 miles of here?” Maxim asked, remembering the limitation on the distance he could send Ambassador Tien.

“Yes, one of them is in the mountains east of Fallcrest. That one is a sorceror who has lost his family. The other, Andrea, is a Warlord who may be able to help Li Sun with some complications she has run into.”

“Complications?”

“Belinda’s father sent Li Sun and his twin sister to clean up a slaver problem, but it has turned into a bit more than just some Duergar slave trading. I need your ambassador imp to convince them to go to The Seven-Pillared Hall in Thunderspire to meet up with Li Sun and Sun Li.”

“Gladly. If it will help The Great Gark.”

“The Great Gark — and, indeed, all of us — will profit from thwarting the plans of someone who worships Vecna. But, remember, your average Dragonborn is a strong believer in ancient honor. They may not react the way you might when a demon appears, trying to tell them what to do.”

A grin began to spread across Maxim’s face. “Then I can tell them whatever I want?”

“As long as it gets them to Thunderspire,” Amyria sighed.

And Maxim began whisper to the air about the Great Gark and his plans.

A rampaging Minotaur was the last thing Li Sun was expecting to find in the Well of Demons, but that was what she found. “I guess it was built by the creatures,” she admitted to herself. And he did seem to have a pretty impressive magic sword. She explained what was going on and they decided to join forces against Paldemar.

Andrea Ravn was not impressed with what she had seen of Lagolas so far. He came stumbling out of the mountains, raving about an attack on Andrea’s village, an attack he seemed to think had already happened. When Andrea pointed this out, he started rambling about a demon who had told him the Great Gark was attacking the village.

“You believe everything a demon tells you?” she asked the sorcerer.

“Well, no…” the interloper started. Just then he was interrupted by the sudden appearance of an imp, just like the one Lagolas had described. “That’s him!”

“Ambassador Tien, at your service,” the imp said. “Well, actually, at the service of the Great Gark and HIS servant, Maxim Shalion. They had information the two of you could help the enemies of the Great Gark and his ally.”

Andrea was puzzled. “Ally?”

“Well, the Great Gark has entered into an alliance of convenience with some minion of Vecna. Kind of a poser, if you ask me, but he serves the purposes the Great Gark has created for him.”

Seeing the demon could be drawn out with questions, Andrea asked him why he had lied about the attack on her village. And the imp laughed.

“That was just to keep you two away from Thunderspire. Now, Paldemar can take over.”

And he disappeared.

View
Telicanthus Exposed
After an Epic Fight...

…Which Left Grigore and Valhalla Near Death…

…Delis was able to lead Lord Torrance to the true location of the Tower of Auglos.

Zumos was a little annoyed with Valhalla for charging right into the other side of the stained-glass globe and attacking the figures performing a ritual in there.

“I thought the plan was for me to light up the inside of the device while we still had surprise.”

Fortunately Zumos was able to let loose an area-of-effect spell that did not include the half-orc. Not that he wouldn’t have minded a little collateral damage as punishment for messing up the carefully laid plans.

As soon as he attacked the group inside, he found his spell damaging the interior of the device.

And it retaliated. First at Zumos himself. Then at everybody, including the robed ritualists. Those Githyanki seemed almost relieved to be doing something besides the ritual which had consumed their lives for the past few months.

They turned on Valhalla and attacked him with considerable success.

Remembering that Garen had mentioned two friends who lived near Thunderspire Labyrinth, Amyria tried to think how she could get a message to the swamps and mountains of the ancient Dragonborn Empire. She wasn’t sure Belinda had a portal there (and her father might not approve, especially if Garen’s story about treacherous paladins was true). Then she thought of Maxim.

Valhalla kept forgetting to use his Power Strike, but it didn’t seem to matter. Every enemy he hit went down in a single blow of his executioner’s axe.

“Must be because everybody else is bloodying them before I get to them.”

Seeking out Maxim Shalion at the River Jewel, Amyria explained the situation to him. “We need to get a message to two dragonborn. They are less than 100 miles away, and they are close to Thunderspire Labyrinth. I need you to send a message to them. Their names are Lagolas and Andrea.”

Grigore Goldforge shook his head as he watched Valhalla charging all over the place, cursing everyone in sight.

He found his healing powers being taxed to the limits by the enormous amount of damage being dealt out by the globe itself. “What was it the ritualists had called it? ‘The Bitter Glass,’ or something?”

He concentrated his attacks on the glass itself, discovering he could even hit it from outside the sphere by reaching his longspear through the door and driving it downward into the curve of the sphere beneath the glass platform which stretched across the inside.

When the Bitter Glass finally shattered, a surge of psychic energy made one final attack on his mind. He felt it seize some of his memories and spirit them off to the Astral Sea.

“A place I’ve only been once,” he thought. “But somehow I can tell that’s where they went.”

As soon as it was gone, the doors crashed open. “I guess Garen’s makeshift blockade didn’t work.” There stood Kle’th, Telicanthus and his butler, along with another Githyanki warrior.

As the new opponents advanced toward the Golden Scales, saw Valhalla charge the enemy one more time. And collapse in a heap as the psychic damage from the Githyanki rained down upon him.

One more time. But, as Grigore prepared to heal the half-orc, he found himself the target of the psychic attacks. And he went unconscious.

As he struggled back to the land of the living, vaguely aware of how close he had come to death, he saw Sam pouring a potion down Valhalla’s throat.

“I better play dead until I can get up and do something constructive.” But Valhalla was doing no such thing. As soon as he was conscious, he began spewing threat and curses at Telicanthus.

Valhalla got one last shot in. This time he remembered to use his Power Strike. It took down Telicanthus. But the other enemies poured their attacks onto Valhalla and he went down a third time.

Sam turned to Grigore and shrugged his shoulders, "I figure that potion protected me from all those attacks.

“What’s so important about Andrea and Lagolas?” Maxim asked Amyria. She told him that they both lived near Thunderspire Labyrinth. “What’s so important about Thunderspire?” he asked. And she told him the story of Paine, and the strange twins, Li Sun and Sun Li.

Delis Erinthal knew the battle was going badly. “Our healer is down, and Valhalla is down. But the important thing is that Telicanthus has been exposed.”

Apparently, the Githyanki diplomat had been here all along to rebuild the giant stained-glass globe they just destroyed. Once it was gone, he gave up all pretense and his true nature came out.

“A particularly arrogant nature, if you ask me,” Delis thought. “He seems unaware of the possibility he might lose this fight. And he might be right.”

Delis was convinced of the most important thing: “We must get to Lord Torrance and see that he sees this. That is more important than making sure we all survive. The knowledge must survive.” So she turned invisible and made her way to the nearest town guard.

The guard was only too willing to take her to the mansion of the ruler of Sayre. (The only other option she offered was to break into the mansion of one of the city’s leading citizens and enter an illegal excavation to “see for yourself.”) Lord Torrance seemed almost relieved by the news of Telicanthus’s treachery. They gathered a group of four guards to accompany them to the scene of the treason.

When they got to Telicanthus’s mansion, the front door was unlocked (as Delis had left it) and they were able to make their way to the underground excavation. As soon as he saw the illegal digging operation, Delis could tell he was buying her story.

“Auglos apparently had a secret project he was building underneath his tower. It may even have had something to do with the destruction of Auglos itself,” she told Torrance. “Telicanthus has rebuilt the project as a kind of communications device, which he has been using to coordinate the Githyanki attacks all over this plane of existence.”

As they sifted through the treasure they found on the bodies, Delis wondered if they had found enough gold to buy the armor for Maggie to which Fariex the Scalehammer had directed them.

Andor and Toris Scrollstone, two dwarven mapmakers Lord Torrance had summoned, were able to confirm this was the true location of the Tower of Auglos. They immediately fell to arguing with the half-elf about relocating the plaque commemorating the location of the tower.

Apparently this has been annoying the dwarves for many years.

View
The Golden Scales Surprise the Githyanki
At their Leisure...

…But Kle’th Escapes to Warn Telecanthus

Once the element of surprise was gone, Delis Erinthal found herself on the far side of the Tower of Auglos, near a foul-smelling latrine. Maxim had managed to trap a couple on her side of his globe of blackness and silver-winged death, but she was having her way with them, avoiding them to her stealth and speed while she plinked away at them with her magickal arrows.

They concentrated their fire through Maxim’s conjuration, even though it hampered them somewhat.

The Minotaur listened to Amyria as she explained her dilemma, “I am about hold a meeting with the Coalition to discuss all manner of delicate issues. The rest of the Golden Scales will be there to help me, so I cannot send them. But there are other elements of ”/wikis/the-order-of-the-black-feather" class=“wiki-page-link”> The Order of the Black Feather who can help Bejam. Go to Elyas in Overlook and ask him to find them. That way Lord Torrance’s jealousy will not interfere with the need to help Nefalus."

Maxim Shalion kept up his Hunger of Hadar even once the area around the table he centered it on was evacuated. The globe was serving his purposes even after it no longer dealt damage.

His own melee attack wasn’t much use. He just wasn’t very good at hitting things up close. And he had to hit first to unleash his Demonic Frenzy. “What good is being a Demon if you can’t unleash your frenzy every now and then?” he asked himself.

Alen was certainly enjoying being a demon, turning invisible and appearing where he could bite the Githyanki. If only Maxim could figure out why Ambassador Tien was not returning with a response from the Great Gark.

“Maybe Alen could be used more effectively,” he thought.

Elyas told Ragnar that the name of his contact in the Order was Blackguard’s Bane, “He should be able to send you to wherever Li Sun and Sun Li are currently hanging out. He has ways. Last I heard they were in a place called The Horned Hold.”

The healing powers of Grigore Goldforge were being put to the test. With the Githyanki warriors leaping about attacking almost everyone, there was always someone in trouble. Especially when they had been immobilized first.

Garen seemed to be particularly vulnerable to this, and Grigore was glad his spear-thrusts were hitting. That allowed him to get some extra healing in.

“The Horned Hold?” Blackguard’s Bane asked when the Minotaur barbarian found him at the Order’s headquarters. “No, I think they’ve gone deeper into The Thunderspire Labyrinth. Belinda Markelhay should be able to take you there. But I suggest you ask her father first. He’s Lord Warden of Fallcrest. You might need to help them finish that work before you can get them on a boat to Nefalus.”

Zumos saw the leader of the Githyanki heading for the exits and knew he was trying to alert Lord Telicanthus and the butler.

He moved quickly to block the way, but the other Githyanki seemed to sense the need to get reinforcements. They pointed their fingers at Kle’th and telekinetically aided their leader in his escape.

When the battle was over and the bodies quickly searched, Elyas told them all to rest up quickly. “We only have a short time before Lord Telicanthus gets here. He has surely been alerted.”

View
Sneaking into the Tunnel Complex
Beneath the Mansion of Lord Telicanthus...

…Excavations Have Exhausted the Excavators…

…a group of Githyanki, working in shifts, sleeping in their armor, and complaining about the rituals they must constantly keep chanting.

Sam the Foresworn found three other members of the Golden Scales fighting over strategy. Valhalla was forcefully arguing for a burn-them-all strategy; Zumos was in favor of freeze-them-to-the-ground, then burn-them-all.

Which to Sam’s way of thinking was a little more strategically oriented. They all explained there were two groups of Githyanki (at least) in the tunnels beneath Telicanthus’s mansion. The first group (apparently trying to get some rest) were camped in a major intersection of the tunnels. The next group were getting ready for work a little farther in. The tactical puzzle was how to finish off the first group without letting them sound an alarm or retreat back to where their reinforcements were waiting.

Garen was advocating another way to keep the two crews of Githyanki separated: He wanted to get between the two groups and force them away from each other. But that sounded to Zumos a lot like getting too close to the group they were trying to get away from.

“Why don’t we have a stealthy individual sneak into the middle of the room where they’re sleeping, suddenly appear, express surprise, and then run,” he suggested.

“Yeah,” said the paladin, “you can lure them back down this narrow corridor and we can fight them there.”

Sam noticed Garen was assuming the “stealthy individual” would be Sam himself. Which was what he was hoping.

“Who says it has to be the passage back to the surface?” he asked. “What if I lead them off down one of these other corridors? Then you can come in behind them and seal them off from their friends.”

“Yeah, that makes sense,” agreed Zumos.

“I still say we just burn them all,” Valhalla said.

Sam modified the plan once he was facing a roomful of enemies. He stopped at the doorway and asked directions. The Githyanki didn’t answer, but got up to attack him. Sam attacked first with a backstab and then dodged around to one of the side tunnels he had noticed on the map provided by Maggie and Delis.

The Githyanki surrounded him there. But he used an Escape Artist’s Trick to get away and then ran down one of the branching tunnels. He made sure they saw where he went before he hid at the end of the tunnel.

The guard at the gate behind the mansion thought he heard something. “Sounds almost like breaking twigs,” he said to himself. “Better check the perimeter.” He started walking along the hedge.

Sam’s plan was working too well, by Zumos’s way of thinking. Sure, he got off his first fireball in a way that caught all four of the Githyanki in its blast. But after that his area-of-effect spells were hard to use.

Once Sam used his Escape Artist’s Trick to get away from the Githyanki who had surrounded him in a side tunnel, the little halfling ran very visibly down the side tunnel. The Githyanki all saw him run down the “wrong” tunnel: They all knew it was a dead end, and they thought they had him cornered.

Apparently he had hidden so well they came out bickering about who had “lost” the hobbit and split up to find him down another dead-end tunnel. This allowed the Golden Scales to concentrate on one opponent at a time.

“Good tactics, but sub-optimal for a pyromancer who specializes in area-of-effect bursts and blasts,” he thought to himself as he readied another Arc Lightning bolt.

But the Githyanki Mindslicers were pretty well able to stop his big spells anyway, even in their exhausted state. Their Psychic Barrages addled his brain sufficiently to prevent anything more complicated than Arc Lightning.

Zumos was glad he had got the big Fireball off before they started messing his mind.

Pennel heard someone clanking along in armor. “Must be coming from outside. I’d better go check it out. The guard better have heard that!”

Valhalla didn’t need any advanced techniques. Battle Wrath was as basic as basic could be. As long as he kept swinging his executioners axe, his basic attack was all he needed.

Of course, in the moments when his brain wasn’t addled by the Githyanki, he could always throw in a Power Strike if he hit. With his executioner’s axe that always knocked ’em down.

But knocking someone down was not as effective when they had telekinetic powers which allowed them to leap back to their feet while flying across the room. Fortunately, they were too busy looking for the halfling. As each one gave up the search, they came out of the side tunnels one at a time.

And Valhalla was glad to knock them down. One at a time.

Sure enough, the gate guard was already checking out a hole in the hedge when Pennel came to tell him about the noise and damage he had found in the hedge himself. “I heard these sticks breaking.” When Pennel asked him about the clanking sound, the guard insisted he heard nothing like the sound of heavy plate armor banging together. When he told the guard to accompany him to Telicanthus’s office, Pennel reached into his pocket and discovered the key was missing.

Garen Bladerun was worried about the last Githyanki. His job was making sure the warrior did not alert his allies in the next room. But he did not see how he could do that when the Githyanki all seemed to have the power to perform telekinetic leaps.

Then he saw his chance. The Githyanki leaped in front of a side tunnel and Garen charged him, driving him back into the narrow passage. Valhalla seized the opportunity and missed. Zumos damaged him with Arc Lightning and Sam almost killed him.

That left the paladin with a chance to finish him off. A single Holy Strike brought the Gith down. And Garen was glad to feel the soul of the slaver being sucked into his helm.

Searching the bodies, they were all disappointed to find no treasure.

“I guess when you’re working underground for months at a time, unable to show your green faces in the city above, you don’t need any money,” Garen thought to himself. “Maybe I should use this guy’s soul to kill his boss. That’s where the treasure will be found.”

View
Writings on the Walls
The Contents of the Books...

…Which Once Made Up the Library Below the Temple of Ioun…

…in the ancient city of Augur had been haphazardly inscribed by insane librarians on the walls of their accidental tomb.

“A matrix of blown glass can be formed into a mathematically perfect sounding chamber, then used to amplify magical resonance. In theory, disconnected sheets of a similar substance can be attuned to the master. This would allow communication at unlimited distance. The question is: How can one handle the planar boundary? When I began this research in Nefelus, I never expected that this would be a concern…”
—from the diaries of Auglos of Nefelus

Brother Pinnot was not sure he liked his latest assignment. The Abbot had been very convincing: “You’re to record every word. Graiden Brackenhaus is the oracular guest of Seer Auglos. The Seer is an oracle in his own right, but he is trying to make Augur the greatest font of prophecy ever seen. The Temple of Ioun is honored to be a part of this historic effort.”

But the young monk found it hard to believe Brackenhaus’s ravings were anything but the rant of a madman. Take what he was writing down now: “You’re watching me. I can see you, but you don’t know that. You’re listening to my words even though I’m long dead." He tried to explain to Graiden that he was listening. He was even writing everything down, as fast as he could. And, obviously, the oracular guest himself was not dead.

“A problem has developed. I need some method for shunting away the psychic residue cast off during communication. This seems to be quite toxic. I believe that I can redirect it into the Astral Sea, where it should do no harm to anyone…”
—from the diaries of Auglos of Nefelus

Graiden Brackenhaus grew impatient with the scribe who had been assigned to him. “No, not you! Idiot.” Didn’t the monk understand what prophesying was all about? “You’re just writing down my words because you were told to by the old man with a beard and a magic glass. I’m talking to the other people, the ones reading this on the wall. They know I’m dead. Oh yes, dead, mud in my mouth, river arisen! I sing of a ship that sails the air, that brings swords and fire. You’ve fought it, too, but it’s worse for you. We’re just going to die.”

“The final Glass is more beautiful than I could have hoped. My apprentices have outdone themselves. A full 30 feet in diameter, it has anchored itself into the very nature of our plane, and hangs in space. Our ritual went flawlessly and it has taken on a life of its own; as thoughts travel from one external pane to another, the Glass shimmers like the night sky. It is quite beautiful. It seems to be invulnerable from the outside, as I intended, but the same protections have not transferred into the interior. This worries me.”
—from the diaries of Auglos of Nefelus

Seeing that was what the crazy prophet wanted, Brother Pinnot returned to his scribing: “They’ll kill us all because of what the bearded man does, talking through the mirror. They’ll just flood the room, and that will solve their problem until he finds it again.” The monk noticed the emphasis on that word — “he” — and decided it might mean someone other than the “bearded man,” but he had no way to indicate that in his transcription. This was hardly the time to be thinking about the limitations of Amanuensis.

“The interior of the Glass becomes a psychic maelstrom if the information flow is not redirected. I have succeeded in rerouting the rogue energies to the Astral Sea. So long as no one is bothered by them, I see no risk; and in such a plane, what are the chances that they will be discovered? So small as to be infinitesimal…”
—from the diaries of Auglos of Nefelus

Graiden was deep into his prophecy now, directly addressing the people he could see reading his words: “He’s been looking for it a long time. You think he likes you but it’s a lie. There was digging, you see, and cleaning, and many false leads. He’ll use it to conquer you all, but no one will believe you. You’ll have to prove him a liar.”

Now he was beginning to feel hungry. People don’t seem to understand that these visions were hard work. But he continued anyway, addressing the readers only he could see: "They can talk through it, you see. They’ve managed to do it, and the armies whisper through the blue darkness in a way that no one else can hear. You’re dead if you don’t stop it. Even now they are discussing you. ‘Distract them,’ he is told, ‘this is too important to ruin.’ But you can.

The hunger was too much: “Boy! Boy, I demand a goose! Pluck it and ruin it and save yourself if you find the right spot.” The fool kept on writing, but eventually took the hint and brought him a goose. Couldn’t save himself in time, Graiden thought.

So he continued the prophecy: "Look for the old tower when no one expects you. It isn’t where they think it is. Ask the dwarves if you like, the brothers who dream of maps. Because in the days to come SHE will spread herself, and none will be safe from HER reach, so you may wish to trust the speech of the Bladed Girl. Trust, trust her if no one else. If her people do not come together, they will certainly be ripped apart. Like my goose? I am so very hungry. I could use some tea. Boy!”

“I am making only a few select panes linked to the glass, but it would be just as simple to make many. I expect that selling these to far-flung allies could make me a rich man indeed. I will need to consider it.”
—from the diaries of Auglos of Nefelus

After they had gleaned all they could from the walls of the library, Delis Erinthal and Maggie infiltrated the mansion of Telicanthus. Grigore insisted on providing a distraction by pretending he was late for the tea party. (Well, he was, but that was another story.)

By the time Delis had forced her way through the hedge, Magdalene had already unlocked the back door and was balanced on the door frame. Above the door and hugging the wall. They made their way inside and found Telicanthus’s office was empty. Maggie used her oval-shaped piece of glass to open the secret mirror-door and they descended to the tunnels which Telicanthus and his minions had dug beneath the city.

They found several abandoned tunnels and some exhausted workers. The tired Githyanki complained about their isolation, wondering when their work would be done. Maggie turned herself into a Githyanki and trudged past with similar remarks.

When she came back, she had finished their map:

Tower_of_Auglos.JPG

Well, almost finished it, anyway. They were pretty sure the last tunnel was another dead end.

So, they returned to the surface. Without incident.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.