Scaled Down Scales

Alexander's Last Stand

Running a Gauntlet...

…the Rest of the Heroes survive…

…to face Sarshan himself.

Delis Erinthal was the first to realize the key to this room was not killing its inhabitants: The Spectres and the Lingering Spirits were already dead; even the Flesh Golem was probably made up of dead people. Both had probably survived the Crushing Traps more than once.

Sensing that sticking around in a room (which had its walls trapped and ready to close in) was not a good idea (especially when it was filled with the undead), the ranger sped ahead into the next two areas (setting off their own crushing traps in the process).

And she spotted a door.

That seemed to the agile elf the best solution. She called back to Sam and suggested he get there first. He did and found it untrapped, but locked. It didn’t take him long to pick that lock, however, and Delis was the first one through the door.

If her friends couldn’t make it through, then maybe she could cut a deal with Sarshan. A deal that might get her the answers her mistress seeks.

Chance Runner awakened to what he suspected would be another bad day: A stray cat circled him in the alley; it was black; no way was he going to avoid crossing that path.

Duilin Silverfang had a headstart on the group Grigore had introduced as the Golden Scales. He had been researching this island for about a week before Storm Johnson sent him here to scout it out.

The obsidian tower was clearly the structure described in the histories: The Tower of Djamela.

Djamela was a powerful efreet in the City of Brass who engaged in dangerous research. So dangerous, in fact, that the other rulers of that place of slaves threw her out. Unbeknownst to them, however, she set up on a nearby island in the Sea of Fire. Eventually her search for the Key to Elemental Chaos grew so dangerous they had to mount an assassination team to kill her.

Before they did that, she set up traps and guardians to protect her experiments. Once she was safely dead, many worried about those experiments: Could they be used to rediscover whatever powers she had gained from her research?

But the traps and guardians proved too daunting. No one was willing to risk them to destroy her experiments. So it was decided that the traps and guardians should be left in place, to prevent anyone from recreating her efforts.

No doubt that was what the Golden Scales were facing in this room: The traps and guardians left by Djamela before her assassination. Duilin even guessed that the Lingering Spirits might have been the previous victims of the very traps they now guarded.

When Sam got the door open and the Unselie Agent slipped through it, Duilin saw the Spectres lining up to force him back from the only way out. Then Sam tricked one of them into stepping aside for a moment (boy, did that hobbit have some fancy footwork), Duilin took his chance and raced through the door.

Waking up in an alley is usually a bad omen. When that alley is in the City of Brass, it’s a very bad omen. Chance knew this. He was an expert in bad omens.

Sam the Foresworn saw the wisdom of Delis’s insight immediately. The abilities of the guardians of this gauntlet seemed have many abilities which could knock down or immobilize the heroes.

Getting out was the priority. And Sam was already close to the only door which seemed to offer such an escape.

He headed right over to it, checking it for traps and then trying to open it. Sure enough: It was locked. Good thing that was one of Sam’s specialties. He unlocked the door and opened it so Delis and Duilin could step through.

He made sure the rest of the party knew the door was open.

Then he went through himself, as the spectres had already lined up by the door to push anybody back from the door.

The mercenary did not have a chance to get to his feet before his premonitions of disaster were confirmed: “Get up slave! Your master’s got a beating waiting for you,” the guard yelled as he kicked Chance’s sleepy form.

Magdalene was late to arrive at the party, as was her wont.

Still she ended up as the only member of the Band of the Raven to actually kill one of the guardians of the Crushing Rooms.

Not that the Lingering Spirit she killed was actually all that tough. Surely the others could have taken them out, but they were concentrating on escape. The walls of the trapped room (and part of the ceiling) were closing in on them, and the spectres and spirits seemed to have an almost limitless ability to thwart their actions.

Fear is a powerful motivator.

Perhaps it was even the motivator behind Maggie’s efforts to kill one. Because the assassin had a secret way of motivating herself: When she strikes the killing blow on an enemy, she can transfer the momentum of her strike into a rapid dash that leaves her enemies far behind.

So, soon after she arrived in the trapped rooms, Magdalene began to concentrate her attacks on the most wounded of the Lingering Spirits. When the spirit was nearly bloodied, the assassin unleashed a powerful strike which left the spirit unconscious.

That was all it took to give Maggie the momentum to dash past her startled teammates and out the door.

Homeless in the City of Brass, they always assumed you were a slave. It could happen, too. Slavery was the city’s solution to all problems of poverty.

Garen Bladerun was fed up with cowering on the floor.

When he got to the third part of the Crushing Room (where the walls were closing in faster than the traps elsewhere), he tried pushing against the walls. He was able to slow their advance some, but it was only a matter of time before the guardians of the gauntlet got there to smother him with attacks.

Sam had left him a small opening at the left side of the door, so he hot-footed it out of the room.

Chance was careful to be polite as he got to his feet and showed the guard his identification papers, proving that he was a mercenary in the armies of Sarshan (before the defeat at Overlook, but he didn’t emphasize that point).

“Grigore Grigore Morrison Morrison Weatherbie Goldforge DuPre took good care of his mother though he was only three.”

That was the first line of a nursery rhyme his mother used to sing to him when he was young. He thought about it as he considered leaving behind Rinoa and Alexander Winterforged. Was he really “taking good care” of them by leaving them behind?

They knew they had to make a run for it. But, in the end, they would be facing all the guardians of the gauntlet by themselves.

Grigore considered himself the leader of the whole group. So, in the end, he decided to step through the doorway, knowing that both Rinoa AND Alex might die as a result. The other people in the party might need him even more in the coming fight with Sarshan.

Still, it was hardly an easy decision.

“A deserter, hunh?” laughed the guard. “I’ll bet Sarshan’ll pay well for returning a deserter to his ranks.” When one of the other guards pointed out that Sarshan had gone underground after some big defeat, the first guard laughed.

As Garen rumbled past her, it occurred to Rinoa that being the last to get out of this trap might be the hardest trap of all.

As more and more of her allies got through the door, that left fewer heroes for the remaining spirits to concentrate on. While Garen and Alexander were able to use their superior strengths to hold back the crusshing walls and ceilings, this left the Lingering Spirits with little to do but pepper them with attacks.

One of those attacks gave her an unexpected opportunity.

Long ago she had helped a tattoo artist who was being shaken down by a street gang. In gratitude, the artist had rewarded her with a discount on a tattoo depicting broken chains and skeleton keys. He told her the Escape Tattoo could be activated when she was hit with a particularly damaging attack.

When one of the Lingering Spirits wounded her critically with his Spectral Touch, she activated the tattoo allowing her to teleport 15 feet, free of all the spectres and spirits. Then she conjured Ice Stalagmites where three of the spectres blocked her path to the door, sliding them out of her way.

Seizing the opportunity and hoping the cleared path would allow Alexander to follow her, Rinoa sped out the door.

“Sarshan’s always operated underground,” said the first guard, explaining his laughter. “I’ve got a contact. I’ve had a contact since before Overlook. He says he still works for the weapon-seller.”

Buffeted by his own fears, Alexander Winterforged was having a hard time getting up the nerve to run for it.

Ever since he had entered the Crushing Rooms, the dwarf had been plagued by the terrifying wails of the Wailing Spectres. Alex suspected they were banshees of some kind, the pale elves of the Winter Court the older dwarves had tried to scare him with as a child.

When he entered the first section of the gauntlet of crushing traps it seemed as if the wall were already closing in on him. The Terrifying Shrieks of the Bain Sidhe drove him to the walls and left immobilized him with fear. Every time he got up the nerve to fight back, a Spectral Barrage from the Lingering Spirits would force him to the ground.

He saw Rinoa clear a path for him with some kind of icy stalagmites (or was it stalagtites? — Alexander could never remember which was which), but the Sidhe quickly regrouped, forming a line just outside the part of the room where the ceiling was bearing down on him. They drove him back with their wailing shrieks, and the spirits surrounded him.

Fortunately the spirits had been too far away to surround him AND barrage him with illusions. So he was still on his feet.

As the last party member in the room, he knew he had to escape now. The ghosts (as well as the golem) had no one else to attack. Determined to die a hero’s death if he had to die, Alex shifted forward and then made a run for it.

That way only four of the spirits surrounding him would get a chance at him.

One missed, but three others reached out with their Spectral Touch and drained the last of the energy that was keeping him conscious. The ceiling was halted momentarily as it crushed one of the stalagmites, then crushed the last life out of the hero’s body.

He died, defiant to the end.

Comments

rest in peace alex. its a good thing the only rune you had left was one that insures that it target passes through the gate of death. hopefully that means you don’t join a bunch of ghosts without substance.

well at least you died a warriors death it almost makes up for the dishonor of breaking a family heirloom.

Alexander's Last Stand
 

RIP, too bad the blood magic didn’t help.

Alexander's Last Stand
 

it did. its what allowed us to survive lava galore.
so now lets see if the death magic saved my soul.

Alexander's Last Stand
Scotus

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