Gozran 3rd, 4711
The Five Towers
The exposed, winding, narrow pathway that climbed the bare rock face to the series of towers above had no handrails or guide ropes. The party took the steep ascent cautiously, lest one of them slip off of the narrow ledge and plummet into the surging waters over a hundred feet below.
The path ended after about 80 feet at a small stairway that descended 10 feet to a recessed iron door. The door had a patina of rust, and the reason became apparent when Ryszard finally forced the door open and a gush of water came pouring out in a steady stream about a foot high.
Passing within, the group found themselves in a flooded corridor. The water continued swirl around their feet and out the door, and showed no signs of decreasing in volume anytime soon. A stairwell directly ahead led up a few feet before unexpectedly ending in a heap of boulders and twisted supports. That way was clearly blocked, although the corridor extended into the distance on either side.
The Drowned Guards
The party chose to head down the eastern section, Torquemada taking the lead and probing for traps. His caution paid off as the corridor turned to the north, as his foot found no purchase at that junction. Vincent moved up and probed the dark water with his polearm, and indeed, there apparently was a pit of sorts hidden in the water before them. Then his lucern hammer was almost pulled from his grasp, as something had seized it in the watery pit below. Vincent pulled his weapon free with a surge of strength, as two figures burst from the water, lunging forward and pulling Torquemada with them into the unknown depths of the pit.
The water was dark and murky, but Torquemada could see that the figures grappling him were not human. At least not any more. These barnacle-encrusted walking corpses looked like zombies, but is dripping with water had given off a nauseating stench.
Torque struggled mightily as two more draugr appeared above and menaced the party. Haza called upon the power of Sarenrae to blast the undead with searing light as Vincent plunged his polearm through the torso of one of the scorched monsters. Ryszard dropped his bow, grabbed a dagger and plunged into the water after Torquemada. Torque was able to wriggle free and joined in with Ryszard to battle the undead in the water, while their companions finished off the draugr above.
Swimming over the watery trap, the party regrouped on the other side, and moved forward through an iron door to the north. Past it was a large, round room. This circular chamber was empty save for dark water. Two doors sat high up the walls to the north and west, while one sat opposite the entryway on the same level.
Torque once more tested the water and found the the floor dropped off precipitously in front of them, with no easy way of telling how deep the water was further into the room.
As they deliberated how to pass this obstacle, Torquemada noticed something moving slowly through the water. It was decidedly hard to see, but he could make out the shape of two reptilian eyes staring at him. As as he met its gaze, he felt his heart slow a bit. His limbs felt heavy and his thoughts became slow. It was only with a great effort of will that he was able to avert his gaze and avoid a gruesome fate.
He recognized those eyes – they were the eyes of a basilisk. It’s very gaze could turn a man to stone, and it clearly laired in this chamber.
Torque warned the others of the silent threat in the waters, and all retreated carefully back into the southern hallway, closing the iron door behind them. They retraced their steps and attempted the western portion. Torque stopped the group as the corridor turned north, fearing another pit trap. He was much relieved when he could find no trace of one, and moved on.
The Pit of Leeches
It came as quite a surprise then as he stepped forward and the floor beneath his feet collapsed, plunging him into another pit full of water. This time no dead hands clutches at his flesh. Instead, darkness swirled around him in the water, as a host of tiny surging leeches swarmed upon the hapless inquisitor. Torquemada reeled under their assault, as the vermin attached themselves all over him, drinking deep of his lifesblood.
Torquemada was able to leverage himself out of the pit, but the leeches still swarmed over his body. Haza apologized to Torquemada for what was about to happen, and then fire sprayed from his fingertips as he cast burning hands on the swarms, and unfortunately, Torquemada also. The others joined in as best they could, and soon the countless bodies of dead leeches floated away in the lazy current leading outside.
Having suffered a tremendous loss of blood to the ravenous vermin, Torquemada called for a break and used his wand of lesser restoration to reccover most of his stamina. The group crossed over the pit and emerged in the northern hallway.
Descended from Apes
The northern corridor also was blocked by iron doors, which opened under protest to reveal another circular room beyond. A rotting stench filled this room, coming from a trio of headless, apelike creatures inside heavy iron cages – girallons, Torquemada offered. The waters lapped against these corpses, while the twisted remnants of an iron walkway lay half-submerged in the water. Two doors sat high in the north and east walls, thirty feet above the floor, while one sat to the north opposite the doors they had entered.
Vincent took point, moving forward through the waters, probing with his polearm. He had made it 2/3 of the way across the chamber, when a piercing scream echoed from the dark reaches of the ceiling somewhere above.
Three creatures with the deformed heads of large, horned, fanged gorillas – with tentacles dangling from chin and scalp – flew down and attacked the fighter. Torquemada recognized the other plane horrors as vargouilles, evil fiends with a terrible attack that would turn those infected by it into vargouilles themselves.
The girallon-headed vargouilles shrieks had paralyzed Vincent, and everyone watched as one of the hideous monsters hovered before him, moving forward to plant an-almost gentle kiss on Vincent’s lips – before plunging it’s stinking tongue deep into the helpless warriors mouth! The party surged forward, arrows, spells, and blades seeking the blood of the hideous outsiders. The one making out with Vincent was struck down in a flurry of arrows, and Vincent was finally able to throw off the effects of the paralysis as the other two vargouilles were brought low also.
Luckily for the fighter, he did not appear to have been infected by the vargouilles hideous kiss, and the group was able to reach the next door without further incident.
The room beyond seemed to be infested with various fungi that cling to every surface. The broken remains of an iron walkway jutted from the water, also now infested with fungi. Two doors stood high up on the walls to the east and south directly above where the party stood. Torquemada surveyed the room, and was startled to see a number of fungi that appeared to be mobile – identifying a basidirond and violet fungi. Both were semi-sentient plants and would most certainly be hostile toward the party. Now, it became a choice between facing the fungi or returning to fight the basilisk.
The group chose to press forward, and arrayed themselves in formation for the assault on the fungi. Vincent moved forward and opened the door, retreating back to his place to await the slow-moving fungi.
However, these fungi were not slow moving. Surging into the room, the basidirond rushed at Torquemada, a cloud of spores bursting from its body. Haza screamed and turned to flee from the undead fiends that once had been his friend and companions, while Ryszard froze in place, believing himself to be only a few inches tall and in danger of being sqaushed by everyone.
Torquemada and Vincent cornered and cut down the basidirond, only to have to contend with the violet fungi now entering the room. Vincent was struck by one of their tentacles, but luckily was not infected by its rotting enzymes. As the last fungi fell, Ryszard snapped out of his stupor, and all were left wondering where Haza had gone.
Retracing their steps, Torquemada was able to follow the trail left by Haza – it disappeared back up the corridor and outside to the narrow trail, where it appeared that in his haste, he had slipped off the side of the cliff and fell into the river waters far below…
A Cask of Lashmarado
Realizing that there was nothing further they could do for Haza at that point, the group returned to the tower complex, retracing their steps back to the fungi room, where Vincent was able to climb up to the door high up on the eastern wall. It opened into a short corridor, while a nearby alcove held some items on a small ledge. Vincent threw down a rope and helped Torque and Ryszard make the ascent, before they turned their attention to the items found:
- potion of nondetection
- wand of charm monster with 44 charges.
Taking the corridor east, Torquemada was faced with a curious stone door, when he head a faint knocking on the wall to his left. He motioned for quiet as he bent ear to the stone, and could hear the sounds continuing. Something was on the other side of the wall. Ryszard knocked against the wall, and everyone could hear the responding knock from the other side. Two knocks by Ryszard – and two knocks in return. Torquemada tried shouting and again listened for an answer. He heard a voice in the common tongue say “Help me. I’m trapped in here and running out of air.”
The section of wall appeared to be solid and old, yet clearly was made of different stone than the rest of the corridor. Torquemada could detect a faint aura of transmutation magic coming from it also.
The group debated what to do, considering whether or not it was a trap, but Ryszard settled the matter by blasting the wall with the ring of ram, knocking a hole in it. Beyond could be seen a small room seemingly carved out of the stone, and a battered and bruised man lying limply within.
As they helped the man from his makeshift prison, he introduced himself as Lashmar, a traveler from south Ustalev who had been waylaid by robed figures and undead monsters as he sought shelter for the night at Schloss Caromarc. Lashmar appeared wounded, dehydrated, and exhausted, so the party left him some rations as they remained determined to answer the mystery behind the deserted castle once and for all.
Once again, Torquemada faced the stone door. Opening it revealed another circular room, and if the calculations were correct, this one was directly north of the basilisk chamber.
Other than the two stone doors high on the walls, this room seemed bare save for the dark waters covering the floor.
Nothing stirred in the room, so Torquemada closed the door and the group returned to the fungi room to try the next series of upper passages.
The middle passage also had an alcove, this one containing:
- potion of displacement
- potion of gaseous form
- two vials of alchemically preserved basilisk blood
This corridor continued to run east, clearly beyond the confines of the four towers in this part of the complex, but before continuing that way the party also investigated the southernmost upper passage. This passage had no alcove, but did have the upper portion of the collapsed stairwell originally seen when entering the complex.
The party returned to the middle passage and headed east, emerging through another iron door upon a bridge. This grand stone bridge arched over the gorge to a stack of rock onwhich perched a high tower topped with a lightning rod. The bridge had no handrails and was barely 3 feet wide, but seemed to be solid and stable.
There was nothing to do but to press onward, and the party slowly traversed the bridge.
The Lightning Tower
The party now stood at the foot of a great stone tower perched atop a sheer stack of rock above the river. The tower climbed to an elaborate iron steeple, from which a huge lightning conductor called out to the skies. A stout iron-bound door stood before them, standing slightly ajar.
Inside, a curving stone staircase wound along the wall of a circular chamber up to a trapdoor in the ceiling some thirty feet above. The room was in chaos, with books, alchemical equipment, and curiously twisted metal everywhere. A huge, broken cage stood in the center of the room, its bars bent and door smashed open.
Dropping from the top of the shattered cage, and presumably its former occupant, the Guardian of Tower rushed forward to attack the party!
The flesh golem tore into Vincent, its four arms tearing and rending at the fighter as the party was staggered by its initial assault. Rallying, the group fought back, with Torquemada leading the charge, giving Vincent time to drink some potions and heal some of his wound. Ryszard’s arrows struck the golem, hurting it but not causing significant damage. Then Vincent returned to the fray, wielding his polearm in powerful attacks. The golem again struck at the party, smashing Vincent to the ground. Realizing they were outclassed, Torquemada yelled at the party to retreat to the bridge, and held his ground as Ryszard and Vincent came rushing out, struggling to stay balanced on the bridge.
As the Guardian came rushing after them, Torquemada attempted to cast a grease spell at the edge of the bridge, but as he did the creature struck him, sending him reeling back and falling over the edge of the narrow bridge. Only by chance did he avoid the fate of Haza and managed to grasp onto the bridge’ edge, as he dangled in the air 200’ feet above the river below.
The Guardian moved forward to attack once more, but lost its footing on the grease and fell sideways off the bridge. Torquemada saw it flash by his face as it fell, it’s arms and legs thrashing as it plummeted down into the rapid waters and disappeared from sight.
After helping Torquemada get back to solid ground, they threw a cloth over the grease patch and turned their attention to the now-vacant room, and began to search through the mess.
Pinned behind the door, Torquemada found a number of pages seemingly torn from the books in the room. The series of abstruse notes were marred with notations and diagrams in the margins written in red ink and with a different hand, but they were also soiled with char marks, stains, and tears – making them illegible for the most part.
Nothing else useful was found, so the party continued up the stairs, only to be faced by a solid trapdoor seemingly made out of pure adamantine. Puzzled, Torquemada took extra precautions in searching the doorway, but could find no magic or signs of traps or locks, so Vincent flung open the trapdoor and the party ascending into the room above.
This circular room was choked with webs. A stone staircase curved along the wall to another trapdoor in the ceiling. Otherwise, the room appeared empty.
Torque used his inquisitorial powers to set his blade aflame, clearing the room of the webs and allowing the party to move freely.
The group decided to search this room, and was rewarded when they discovered a number of faint chalk marks on the east wall of the room. Crude chalk diagram depicted the iron spire atop of the tower, and two strange apparatuses at its pinnacle. An arrow pointed to the larger of the two devices, next to the words “The Storm Caller must be activated to energize
the Bondslave Thrall.”
Puzzles upon puzzles it seemed.
Once again, there were no other answers here, so the party once again climbed to the next level of the tower.
The Aberrant Promethean
This tower room, clearly once a laboratory, was also choked with huge webs. Two curious objects — a large iron idol and a glass bell jar of the same size — stood against the eastern wall. The jar was filled with fluid and contained a (dead) human woman, while the idol had only two openings for eyeholes, through which blinked a pair of terrified human eyes. The master of Schloss Caromarc, Count Alpon Caromarc, had finally been found.
The group quickly moved over to the device, trying to determine how to open the torture device, but only Torquemada heard the whispered warning from the Count:
“You must get to the roof. It’s coming. ITS COMING!”
And then something huge dropped to the floor from the roof above. A stitched abomination made from the parts of at least half a dozen creatures, the Aberrant Promethean seemed to be a mixture of choker, chuul, cloaker,and ettercap, blended together into a disgusting mass of
false life. It’s speed was incredible as it rushed toward and slammed into Torque, grappling him with ease and hauling him into the reach of its many tentacles. Ryszard and Vincent struck at the monster, but their best attacks seemed to only annoy the beast. Torquemada screamed at them to get to the roof, before the paralyzing touch of the Promethean stifled his cries.
Racing to the level above, Ryszard found himself on the tower roof.
The tower opened onto a flat platform high above the raging waters. A spire of twisted iron rose from the tower’s roof in a series of three triangular iron platforms. Perched at the very top stood a huge lightning conductor and numerous lightning rods. A peculiar brass device, studded with dials and protrusions and filled with a strange purple liquid, stood nearby, attached to a huge silvery conductor by thick, rubber coated cables.
Ryszard moved quickly to the device, throwing levers and dials, and seemingly activating something, as the brass device started to emit a deep hum and began sending out myriad sparks and bolts. As if in answer, the tower above began to hum with power also, as the very air above the tower began to thicken and darken.
Rain started to fall and with a crash of thunder, a lightning bolt struck the tower, throwing sparks all over the area, as Vincent made it to the roof.
More lightning began to strike, lashing at the tower, as well as the roof. Ryszard and Vincent huddled against the device, trying to avoid the electric bolts when suddenly the Aberrant Promethean burst up through the roof, still carrying the motionless Torquemada in its tentacles. The monster seemed enraged, and started to strike at the very tower itself, its powerful blows denting and bending the metal supports.
The brass device now revealed a glowing iron handle, and as Ryszard grasped it, he suddenly was somewhere else…
The rain lashed as his skin as the thunder roared and the lightning flashed. The bridge was ahead, but there was a cloth on it. He did not know why.
But he knew that the Promethean was above. With Father. And his friends.
He had to move fast. They would need his help now.
He moved fast. Over the bridge, up the stairs, up the next stairs. He could see them above on the roof, and Father. Father was trapped in a box. He had to help him…
But first, he had to stop his brother. And save his friends.
He heard the call of the Bondslave Thrall and could not disobey, not even to save his Father.
He moved fast.
The Final Battle
Great sections of the metal supports were now bent and sagging under the relentless assault of the Aberrant Promethean. It was close to destroying the tower and the Stormcaller.
But then the Beast entered the fray, slamming into the side of the construct and throwing it back. With a horrible roar, the Promethean slammed into the Beast, grabbing it in it’s claws and throttling him. But the Beast did not need to breathe, and was able to surge out of the grasp of the monster.
As the battle continued, Torquemada was thrown free of the Promethean, having been forgotten in its blind rage. Now the others were able to get him to his feet as they watched the battle between the two behemoths.
Clearly, the Beast was able to hold his own, but even he was showing signs of the damage inflicted by the Promethean. Remembering how they dealt with the Guardian of the Tower below, the party quickly formulated a plan of attack, using Ryszard’s control of the Beast to get the Promethean in just the right place.
And then, Ryszard had the Beast bull rush the Promethean as he attacked it with the full power of his ring of the ram and Vincent rushed forward on his own, pushing back against the huge monster.
It fell back under the terrific assault, it’s many legs scrambling for purchase on the rain-slicked stone, pushed back… back… and back…
Over the edge of the roof.
It’s scream of rage could be heard above the thundering lightning as it fell down into the darkness.
And it was gone.