Hammer 7, 1372 (continued)
Cloudy. Light Winds Easterly force 1
With the Peryton's dead, attention is turned to the gathering storm in the direction of Dragonspear Castle. The flashes of lightning over a place known to be a source of danger causes much concern and with the column of light missing from the top of the old tower they are in, the party decide to push on in the flying Manta Ray to locate the new Netherese tower.
After some time flying through the hills, a mist rises from the terrain. Carandel realises that although not uncommon, this weather is perhaps rising a little early before the night sets in. After descending to search for tracks and finding none, doubts set in. The party realises that perhaps they did not spend enough time searching for evidence of what had passed at the ruined tower in recent days.
A rapid trip back to the tower allows Carandel enough light to locate the remains of a camp near to the tower and determine that a large party of perhaps fifty individuals, including slaves, carts and horses left this place maybe as little as a day ago.
Wasting no more time, the friends depart at low level following the tracks into the foothills. Despite the thickening mist, the speed of the flying machine stands the party in good stead and they soon reach a narrow gorge that their quarry headed down. Wary of any ambush, Therrion increases the altitude of the Manta to float quickly to the other end of the gorge. The trail they are following will either have stopped at some site within the gorge or proceeded to it's end.
Reaching a fork in the gorge, Therrion lowers the Manta to ground level. With Elrad and Scaramon covering with Bow and Crossbow, Carandel leaped to the ground to quickly check for the tracks, but found nothing! Due to darkness and lack of sound as they traveled silently here, the four friends determine that there must be a network of caves or a tunnel further back down the gorge that their quarry must have headed down. They turn the Manta around and float stealthily back down the path at near ground level keeping a careful ear open for sounds ahead. The mist is now incredibly thick with visibilty reduced to between ten and fifteen feet.
Scaramon hears laughing and, nodding to each other in understanding, Carandel and Elrad slip over the side of the flying machine and sneak ahead and investigate. Carandel sticks close to the right wall of the gorge and spots two chilled humans keeping watch by fluted columns holding up a carved entranceway in the chasm wall. Meanwhile Elrad swings wide to the left hand side of the gorge, disappearing into the mist.
Carandel considers slipping past the guards into the alcove the columns are supporting, hoping to trust to the darkness and mist to keep him from being spotted. The gamble is risky though, as despite the guards being cold and disinterested, they are still close by. A scuffed sound from beyond the guards attract their attention, causing one to call out "What was that?". Carandel took the opportunity to glide to a column as the guards drew swords to investigate and headed away from him.
Elrad cursed himself for slipping and pressed himself up against a fluted column further down the alcove beyond the guards. Gripping the hilt of the Spider Blade tightly he prepared to dash from behind his hiding place and attack the now approaching guards head on. As the two approached his hiding place, they hear a whistle from over their shoulders. Both turn to see a smiling Carandel unleash an arrow at near point blank range. Relieved, Elrad steps out from the pillar, the unsuspecting guards now with their backs to him, and closes in grimly from behind. The guards fall quickly under arrow point and blade.
With the bodies and Manta Ray hidden as best as they can, the party investigates the doorway in the column supported alcove. Elrad leads the way, checking for traps. A short but wide hallway ends in another set of double doors. Pressing his ear to the door he hears the heavy breathing from a handful of large creatures - maybe horses? The party slip through the door slowly, first Elrad then Carandel and Therrion. Scaramon drops back outside into the dark mist hauling off his boots and muttering power-laced words.
Keeping a cautious eye on a balcony running around the entire room, the three inside circle around a solid looking barricade of tables, chairs and wagons. Scaramon scuttles back into the room, sticking to the underside of the hallway ceiling and balcony. As he makes a move to swing up onto the balcony proper, the others round the barricade to see what the source of the breathing is. Sniffing the air trying to find the source of the scent that has invaded it's lair is the first of six serpentine heads, all merging into the form of a mythical Hydra! The Hydya lets out a deep growl from its heads and as the as the Party look back for a means of escape an iron portcullis slams to the ground, sealing the entranceway.
Scurrying quickly, Scaramon crawls from the underside of the balcony to land in between two soldiers. Fortunately the men are more surprised allowing Scaramon to change the threads of magic he was weaving from a spell of protection to a spell of sleep. One of the men succumbs straight away falling to the ground, while the other blinked and drew his sword.
Drawing on a spell stored within his ring, Therrion backed away from the Hydra with wings growing from his back, ready to spring into the air. Carandel at his side gave him a worried look but Therrion assured him he was staying to fight beside his friend. Carandel then gave Elrad a boost up to the balcony before throwing a bottle of oil to ignite on the wooden barricade.
The muscular Elrad pulled himself easily over the balcony to land next to another soldier, who swung a heavy sword downwards, narrowly missing Elrad who's surprising nimbleness allowed him to duck out of the way quickly. Immediately Elrad brought the Spider Blade down on his attacker who was unable to defend himself from the speedy blow. He staggered back clutching his wound but looked determined to continue the fight. A quick check of the situation revealed five men still on the circling balcony, two firing arrows from across the room, two in combat with Elrad and one closing in on Scaramon to avenge his fallen comrade in arms.
The Hydra roared and moved in to attack Carandel and Therrion on the ground, three of it's heads striking wounding the follower of Shaundakul so badly he fell to the ground bleeding heavily, his new wings falling limply to lie stained with his own blood on the stone floor.
Carandel saw the danger and leapt desperately between the Hydra and Therrions body to protect his fallen comrade. He rained blows down on the serpent-beast wherever the opportunity presented itself. The burning barricade was too close to Therrions body to try and pull it down on the serpent. Grimly Carandel tightened his grip on his elven swords and fought on. He wielded his twin blades well, striking the monster twice more and opening another wound across it's body.
Up on the balcony Scaramon hurled a blast of lightning at his nearest opponent, before running spiderlike up the side wall to strike with his rapier and finish off the soldier. He then hurled a ball of chilling snow storm to explode between two men on the balcony across the room, showering them with razor sharp shards of ice and causing them to duck back behind the wall of the balcony that circled the room.
Elrad saw the danger that Carandel was in and his two assailants were shocked, nearly striking each other, when the rogue brought the Moon Bracers together and vanished before their eyes. A ripple appeared in the air behind the Hydra from which the rogue strode out to drive the Spider Blade into the monsters delecate and undefended rear. Roaring with anger the beast tried to turn to fight off the two attackers on either side of it, but the distraction created by Elrad allowed both Elrad and Carandel to rain blows down upon the creature which fell to the ground, dead.
Scaramon chuckled at his friends cunning. The dimensional shift had also allowed Scaramon to line the two men previously attacking Elrad up on the balcony in a row and he took the opportunity to launch a jet of black flame that felled the first man Elrad had struck earlier and searing the second badly. Crying in pain, clothes still smouldering, the survivor charged, screaming a battle cry towards Scaramon who fell back hurredly drawing his Rapier and Dagger for defence. The lightly armed Scaramon parried to the left with his dagger before thrusting the point of his elegant sword home, a twist of it's blade finished the man quickly.
Elrad wasted no time and quickly drew his bow, firing an arrow at the two men who were still bleeding on the balcony from the razor sharp explosion of ice and snow. The rogue cursed as his arrow narrowly missed one of them. Using the stone balcony for cover, Elrads targets ducked and ran off down a corridor near to them. Elrad quickly climbed up to the balcony again and gave chase, but the climb delayed him enough for the two to escape deeper into the complex via a connecting tomb.
Passing a potion of healing down to Carandel, Scaramon raced to secure the sleeping soldier before he woke up. Carandel attended to Therrions wounds, placing the vial of healing liquid to his companions lips and helping him to drink. The magic worked quickly and Therrion came to. Smiling he called upon his deity to heal both his own and Carandels wounds.
With Therrion up and about, Carandel rushed to put out the burning barricade while Scaramon reopened the portcullis to allow a swift exit if necessary. Elrad returned to the room to warn of the escaped soldiers, standing lookout at the mouth of the corridoor.
Therrion and Scaramon roused the sleeping soldier from his slumber and began to question him. It quickly became apparent that the soldier did not speak any of the languages spoken by the two companions.
Did not, or pretended not. The soldier spat out foreign words in disjointed reply to his questioning. Calling upon Shaundakul to help him understand foreign tongues, the soldiers language began to form into meaningful words for Therrion. Scaramon had had enough of games by this point, and began to threaten the soldier with a dagger to his throat. If he did not know his friend so well, Therrion may have fallen for the performance himself, but the good-militiaman, bad-militiaman routine paid off and the increasingly nervous soldier began to answer the questions put to him by the calm spoken Therrion.
The man claimed that there were ten guards including himself, and that Gelphor was no longer there. With little more forthcoming, the companions knocked the soldier unconcious and ensured he was bound and gagged securely.
Gathering themselves together, the four friends first examined a sealed door on the lower floor of the room. An inscription 'Hall of our shame' and the possibility of soldiers returning through the corridoor up on the balcony put them off breaking through the door for now. Instead they climb up onto the balcony and head down the lit passage.
A set of double doors at the end of the passageway opens up into a long hall housing two tombs. One with a relief of a sleeping lady in prayer, the other with a relief of an armoured warrior. Two rows of seven crypts line each wall. The names and titles leads Scaramon to believe that the complex dates to a time when the lands about the gorge were part of the Chondothan kingdoms. He considers regailing his friends with a tale, but thinks better of it as they push through another set of doors at the end of the hall to reveal a glistening shrine to Lathander, a flame still burning on the dais.
While Carandel, Elrad and Therrion examine a set of recently construicted stairs climbing to a hewn entrance in the ceiling of the shrine, Scaramon casts a few gems into the flame as an offering to the God of Morning. He mutters a brief a brief prayer wishing an old friend good journeys wherever she now finds herself.
Sullen, and in a darker mood, Scaramon climbs the stairs quietly to join his friends peaking out over the top of hole in the ground towards a recently constructed tower, complete with two blue beams of light shining from the top.
It appears Gelphor has completed his corruption of the magical circle formed by the ancient towers. But what is his purpose in doing so?