…just keeps on rising.
As Delis Erinthal stepped through the portal onto the top of the tower, she realized that she was not the only one in the Golden Scales who needed a rest. But there was Sarshan standing inside of the sphere of force: They were going to have to stall to get time to heal up a bit before they assaulted the Shadar-Kai arms dealer.
It occurred to Delis that her best bet for stalling him was to try to negotiate a deal: If Sarshan would provide her the intelligence she needs, she would be willing to go and get help for whoever won the upcoming battle — be it Sarshan or be it Delis’s allies.
Sarshan’s maniacal laughter suggested more than mental instability: Delis understood that Sarshan probably couldn’t answer the questions about the Githyanki, couldn’t send her to get help, nor did he have much interest in cutting a deal.
He did seem to have pustules of Blood Chaos bursting out of the scars on his face.
Sarshan then ordered his Githyanki allies to use their telekinetic powers to “leap” Delis up on top of one of the four obsidian battlements which occupied each corner of the tower.
As Delis watched, each of her friends appeared in the teleportation circle, each stalling for time:
- Sam was the next one through — he went into stealth mode to try to get closer and find out what Delis and Sarshan were talking about;
- Garen came through and tried to intimidate Sarshan;
- Grigore pulled out a paper and read it, placing particular emphasis on the phrase “Elyas, Raven, Drake and their companions” — Grigore’s blustery bluff seemed to succeed as Sarshan took great pleasure at the discomfort Grigore seemed to take in not being one of the named targets (which bluff gained some time); and
- Zumos was able to sneak around and find out who needed healing.
Tokk’it was glad that The Conqueror could outrun those dragons the Githyanki had sent to chase after him. But he still wasn’t certain about the crew of his stolen vessel. The crew was made up of the ghosts of Githyanki sailors. They couldn’t be happy he had killed their captain, but they didn’t seem unhappy either. And, after the invaders had disembarked at Akma’ad, leaving only the captain and his ghostly crew. Stealing the ship had seemed the logical thing to do.
Sam the Foresworn, unable to find out exactly what Delis was up to, immediately began slicing and dicing Sarshan’s allies. While his allies quickly took out the Githyanki thugs, Sam concentrated on the others. The Mindslicer leaped telekinetically atop a strange pillar, so Sam backstabbed the Githyanki warriors before they could deploy their silver sword attacks to full effect.
As long as he stayed at the helm, it seemed the ghostly sailors would follow Tokk’its orders. But he wasn’t sure they were necessarily putting everything they had into it. Long before he got to Overlook Tokk’it ran into a man using a strange cloak covered with ravens to fly toward Akma’ad. He had flagged down the strange figure to warn him about the attack on his home. Blackguard’s Bane (the fellow in the bird suit) told him that Overlook had been attacked by an entire army led by an exiled githyanki general quite recently.
Grigore Goldforge had to call up a heroic level of healing to keep Garen on his feet. Zumos had taken down Sarshan’s protective sphere as quickly as he could and then concentrated on attacking the Mindslicer atop the nautically themed pillars.
Grigore couldn’t help but notice that Sarshan seemed to envy the Mindslicer’s perch. Sure enough: As soon as the protective sphere was down, Sarshan used a shadow teleport to get up on another of the pillars.
Yet he seemed frustrated somehow. Grigore made sure the others stayed away from that pillar once Sarshan demonstrated his Blood Chaos Flare on Garen. The paladin came close to being turned into a blob of Blood Chaos after getting caught in that attack. (Indeed, Grigore would feel slowing effect of the Blood Chaos transformation himself before the battle would end.)
That frustration stopped when some revenant Sarshan had been preparing for sacrifice was freed and used a Frostbolt to knock Sarshan from his perch. Sure, the sickly Shadar-Kai (who seemed to be turning into a Blood Chaos blob right before their eyes) took damage from the fall, but as he burbled toward them he was able to unleash his best attacks (including the Blood Chaos Flare which almost blobbed Grigore himself.
Blackguard’s Bane told Tokk’it that the dwarves of Overlook were unlikely to commit troops to the rescue of the fortress-monastery where the Githzerai scout lived. A surprise attack by an enormous army which no one had seen coming tends to bring out the conservative instincts in that city on the edge of dangerous wildlands. So Blackguard’s Bane told Tokk’it about another place which might relieve the seige: Storm Johnson had a band of anti-slavery “activists” working out of the Elemental Chaos; maybe they would be able to spare some people to go to Akma’ad.
Maxim Shalion was not sure where he was when he awoke. The revenant tied up beside him was sure he had been swept in some kind of law enforcement sweep of the City of Brass. As Maxim understood it, deserters were somehow involved, although where the army he could not figure out.
Unfortunately, they failed to tie up Alen. Maxim had noticed this about Alen: When you’re a quasit imp who can make yourself invisible, people seldom tie you up.
Consequently, even when the sickly Shadar-Kai standing over them noticed Maxim’s efforts to free himself, he never noticed Alen’s efforts to do the same. The imp’s sharp teeth soon had Maxim free (even before the revenant got himself free).
Since the revenant had been helpful enough to tell Maxim that the Shadar-Kai was planning to sacrifice them as part of the ritual he was desperately trying to cast before the forces attacking him broke through the Sphere of Force which protected him, Maxim decided to send the imp over to bite through the revenant’s ropes as well.
The Sphere of Force fell about the same time the two potential sacrifices were freed, so Maxim decided to join forces with the attackers. He quickly dispatched the two Shadar-Kai warriors who had been shadowporting in and out of the sphere. By then, the sickly Shadar-Kai was being knocked off his pedestal by the revenant and the rest of his minions were dead.
“I like this guy!” shouted the leader of the attacking forces when Maxim got off one of his patented bon mots at Sarshan. (During the time that Maxim was freeing himself he heard the leader refer to the Shadar-Kai by that name.)
But it was clear that whatever sickness caused his scars to burble with orange-purple ooze did not stop Sarshan. It was clear the Shadar-Kai was as formidable an opponent as Maxim had ever faced.
So he sent Alen over on a suicide mission: The quasit possessed Sarshan (who was looking more like a blob of orange-purple lava every minute) and forced him to walk over to the crenelations, climb them and leap off the tower.
Now a fall of 200 feet would kill most Shadar-Kai. And a 200-foot fall into a sea of lava would kill almost anything. Thinking his job was done, Maxim headed for the treasure chest Sarshan had been attempting to escape with.
Tokk’it was disappointed to hear that he would not be able to recruit the heroes who had killed General Zitheruun at Overlook to help him rescue Akma’ad. But he admitted to himself that had been a fantasy (a “fancy” as his girlfriend Gallia would put it). This Storm Johnson fellow might be just the kind to take up his fight. And Tokk’it knew the vessel he flew — a troop transport named The Conqueror — was specifically design to fly between the planes.
Zumos moved across the battlefield methodically. First he set off a Fountain of Flame by the Sphere of Force, taking potshots at it until it came down.
Then he concentrated on the Mindslicer who was attacking him from the top of one of the four pillars which dotted the tower. Eventually he brought her down and it was time to go after Sarshan himself. Some unknown sorcerer was attacking the arms dealer as well. The sorcerer used a Frostbolt favored by Rinoa (Zumos’s favorite sorcerer) to knock Sarshan off his perch.
This turned out to be a mistake (in Zumos’s estimation) because the Shadar-Kai arms merchant proved to be much more dangerous (and much uglier, it seemed to Zumos) up close and personal.
When some warlock Zumos didn’t recognize showed up to possess Sarshan and force him to dive off the tower, Zumos and the sorcerer went over to the edge while everyone else began arguing about the loot.
Sure enough, Sarshan — now little more than a blob of Blood Chaos in the lava sea — began a strange process of climbing up the smooth wall of the obsidian tower. The strange blob would shadowport partway up, swing his sword three times in some bizarre ritual, teleport again, then burrow his way into the side of the tower with some acidic Chaos Nova attack.
Zumos watched as Sarshan kept repeating this unusual method of climbing until he came within range of the sorcerer’s Frostbolt. The sorcerer would knock Sarshan back into the Sea of Fire only to see the Shadar-Kai emerge — each time diminished but more blob-like.
Eventually the sorcerer missed one of his Frostbolt shots, and the Sarshan-blob got within Zumos’s range. But Zumos got a little too fancy with his timing: Trying to surprise Sarshan with the exact timing of his Freezing Burst spell, he created a slick spot on the wall just before Sarshan blobbed onto it. The result left Sarshan surprised, but still clinging to the icy spot on the wall by a single tentacle.
After giving Tokk’it directions to Storm Johnson’s secret hideout in the Sea of Fire, Blackguard’s Bane flew back to Overlook to warn them not to send any more diplomats to Akma’ad. And Tokk’it proceeded to the island near the City of Brass. But Storm Johnson was anything but welcoming. The leader of the rebels did not want giant troop transports docking at his secret base. While he was explaining the urgency to Storm, strange flashes of orange light began emanating from a nearby island.
When Garen Bladerun was slowed by Sarshan’s Blood Chaos Flare, it felt as if his blood had turned into the sludgy goopiness of the Blood Chaos itself.
He was able to resist the further transformation into a blob of Blood Chaos, but it seemed like that was a particularly dangerous attack that the arms merchant had used on him. So he was especially pleased when some warlock with a flair for the one-liners convinced Sarshan to take a dive off the edge.
When the combined efforts of the lava, some revenant-sorcerer, and Zumos were unable to keep Sarshan down, Garen sprouted his wings and flew down to attack Sarshan as he clung to the side of the obsidian tower. Chopping at the tentacles Sarshan seemed to be sprouting from his scars, the paladin dropped the arms merchant back into the lava once more.
Storm Johnson seemed to notice the flashes of light as well. “Come on,” the goliath said. “If we use your ship to pick up my scout, at least it will not be hanging around my base, attracting the attention of the slavers.” With that Storm Johnson climbed aboard and directed Tokk’it to sail toward the other island in the Sea of Fire.
Chance Runner was glad the warlock’s imp had freed him from his bonds. He was sure these folks could have handled the guy who had been about to sacrifice Chance and Maxim (that was what the warlock told him his name was, back when they were both tied up).
Sure, it was the warlock who got the crucial attack on Sarshan, forcing him into the Sea of Fire. But it was Chance who kept him there, knocking him back each time more damaged than the last.
Even when Chance missed a Frostbolt blast, it seemed to him that the others struggled to do the job. Chance was sure that he could have covered it had the dragonborn’s attack not knocked Sarshan back into the lava.
Sure enough, it was Chance who got to finish the blob-like creature off.
Good thing some guy named Storm Johnson came along to rescue them from the top of the tower before it fell into the Sea of Fire.