This one in Argent.
Following the battle with the bullettes, Alexander Winterforged immediately went over to the circle of runes inscribed in the tiles of the courtyard, trying to figure out the language in which they were written.
As he knelt there, a lion-head man wearing stone gauntlets appeared in the circle. As Alexander tried to determine whether he was friendly or not, Magdalene immediately recognized him as the Torrian seneschal who had sent them to Argent.
And so did the old man, who strode over and embraced the leonid creature:
“Welcome, old friend. You have chosen well.”
Obanar turned to the newest arrivals, explaining that Argent is under attack. He walked back to the reflecting pool and waved his hand over it. The water shimmered to show a top-down view of the city. A red dot pulsed with an angry light over what appeared to be a great tower. Another red dot pulsed over a nearby collection of smaller buildings. “Other invaders have made it into the city,” he said as he studied the view in the water. “I must go to the highest level of the Guardian’s Tower to restore the protective wards. Rrowthar shall lead you to the intruders so that that you can deal with them.” Then he disappeared, teleporting to the highest level of the tower.
After the old man disappeared, Rrowthar led the party to a decrepit section of the city, taking a shortcut through a wooded area. But the amount of surprise achieved by coming at their enemies from an unexpected direction was limited.
“You are not the annoying old one,” a rough voice called out as they passed a huge statue of some long-dead mage-hero of Argent. “I don’t know who you are, but it doesn’t matter. You are too late, for our task here has been completed.”
Some of the heroes spotted that “task” right away: a large hole hung in the air above the street — a rift of some sort, pulsing with elemental energy.
Others noticed something else: heat radiating from buildings on either side of them.
Before they could approach the rift, a hill giant shaman with a scroll tucked into his belt stepped out from one of the crumbled buildings, interposing himself between the party and the rift.
Most of the arcane defenses that protect the city of Argent were controlled from the highest level of the tower. Alarms, magickal barriers, and even a limited ability to launch attacks directly from the city can be controlled from the upper levels of the tower. Viewing chambers just below once provided magickal views of distant places, but many of these no longer operate correctly due to attacks launched from far-away locations by the powerful entities that unleashed the troubles of a century ago. As he listened to the sound of intruders battering at the doors of the tower below, Obanar knew that he still had some ability to see beyond Argent’s walls, but not the near-omniscient viewing he once commanded.
As Zumos readied a fireball spell, Magdalene jumped atop of one of the walls of the nearest building. As it turned out, the building had no roof, and she could see inside to discover what was radiating so much heat. Magma creatures lurked there, as well as several swirling piles of gravel.
When the plucky assassin (with a heart of gold) tossed her throwing stars at the three gravelshards, she discovered the one she hit went down easily. But those she missed seemed invigorated by the attack. They charged out of the buildings to slam into the other party members.
Fighting fire with fire
More magma creatures poured from the buildings, some biting ineffectively at the heroes, others slamming into them. When Zumos unleashed his fireball, he was able to hit all of them. Ordinarily, elementals of fire and earth would have some resistance to fire damage, but Zumos is no ordinary wizard. He is a pyromancer, capable of producing fireballs so intensely hot that they can burn even fire elementals.
He ended up doing more damage in that single blast than any member of this group had ever done in a single turn.
Once the shaman was hit by Zumos, the rest of the party ganged up on him. He fell quickly, but none of the party made any move to take his scroll until only the rift remained.
Sam, not to be outdone, concentrated his damage on the shaman who was already hurt by Zumos’s fireball. The foresworn one backstabbed the shaman for even more damage than the pyromancer had hit it with.
When Sam realized the intense heat of from one of the nearby magma brutes was threatening to burn just from being near it, he activated his demonskin tattoo (by spending an action point and attacking the shaman again), choosing to have the tatoo protect him from fire damage. Many of the allies of Samwise the Foresworn were also able to resist these auras throughout the battle: Coppershot assumed the Form of the Mountain’s Thunder to resist all damage and, of course, the Zumos is a pyromancer who is always able to resist fire damage.
As often as not, the viewing chambers showed Obanar blurred, half-formed images instead of the crisp, clear pictures of old, which has made it extremely difficult for the Last Guardian to learn what has transpired in the greater world, and to track threats the way he once could. But he could hear the threat below as he worked to restore the wards which protected Argent: The intruders were still trying to batter their way into his tower.
Armed with the information Maggie had gleaned from her perch atop the crumbling walls, the heroes made quick work of the gravelshard minions. Nobody created a gravelpocalypse by hitting a large number of them with an area of effect which would have triggered their charge attacks on everyone.
But the elementals were also hindered by the success of their own ambush. They had caught the party on a narrow lane (away from the defensive powers of their rift). The close quarters prevented the best attack of the magma striders from being triggered by their bite attacks.
The striders can burn across the battlefield in a kind of pinball effect if their bite attacks hit. But in crowded quarters, the benefits are limited. As the magma brutes began to thin out, the striders began to come into their own, burning across the battlefield to attack hero after hero. One of them eventually retreated to the area of the rift, but it went down quickly. The rift’s protective attacks never had a chance to do much damage to the heroes.
Before he could perform all the arcane manipulations required to restore the wards around the City of Argent, Obanar heard the doors below crash open. Convinced the intruders were coming upstairs to disrupt his work, the old man headed downstairs to the Portal Level. On this floor of the Guardian’s Tower there were doors that opened to other places. Portals to distant locations, both in the natural world and among the planes were situated there. But the portal he sought was much simpler: It simply took him outside to the plaza where the door had just been burst in. His plan was simple as well: Surprise the intruders by attacking them from behind.
When they finally read it, the scroll turned out to be a ritual which created the rift in the first place. So, arcanist were able to reverse-engineer the ritual to get rid of it. This would have meant a slow process of aiding the best casters in gradually diminishing the rift.
But the new runepriest had a better solution: He demonstrated an amazing rune called the Rune of Shared Lore. Suddenly all the heroes standing close by found they could understand arcane lore as well as the best of them.
Instead of helping the best caster close the rift, the entire party became the best caster.
And the rift was closed in seconds.
Hoping to attack the intruders from behind, Obanar cautiously made his way through the broken door. No, he could tell the intruders had not gone up towards the levels of the tower where he spent most of his time. They had gone down the stairs. Indeed, he could hear them going down into the vaults as he listened at the stairs. The fabled vaults of Argent keep guard over ancient treasures, deadly weapons, and imprisoned creatures. These stasis chambers are sealed behind heavy vault doors and protective magic. It would hold…for a while. He heard Rrowthar and the others approaching the ruined door. So he hobbled outside to greet them.
Searching the body of the shaman, they found a potion of vitality, three valuable gems, a significant sum of gold, and a pair of gauntlets of ogre power, which Copper quickly claimed.
Rrowthar led the heroes to the base of a magnificent edifice. “This is the Guardian’s Tower. I think it is being attacked from the rear.”
Then he led them around the tower and found a door that had already been broken in. Obanar emerged from the wreckage.
Outside the tower, Obanar greeted Rrowthar and the heroes he had brought from Nentir Vale, “I know you must have a multitude of questions to ask me, and I shall give you every opportunity to quench your curiosity, but I must ask you to remain patient a while longer. Know that this is the city of Argent, and I am its last guardian. Right now, the city is under siege by hill giants and elemental creatures. Even as we speak, a force of hostile combatants is making its way to the vaults beneath this tower. I must complete the rituals necessary to restore and re-establish the city’s magickal defenses. So I must ask you to stop the intruders before they can penetrate the vaults. Soon, we shall speak of the mysteries of Argent, the destiny of champions, and the fate of a multitude of worlds. But first, we must keep Argent safe.”