After almost drowning at the bottom of the lake, Delgen brought Haradon to the surface and walked him over to the others.
“Thank you for freeing me.” Said the dripping man.
“Aye.” Said Delgen.
“But who are you?” Haradon asked.
“We are formally slaves under your rule, and this is a one Leomourn Stalkingwolf.” Delgen said
pointing at the archer who had been silent and wide-eyed during the whole event.
“Leomourn? But—I thought…I saw Fafnir take you, along with your mother!” Haradon said puzzled.
“I…wasn’t…I saw you leave…” Leomourn said with tears welling at the corners of his eyes.
“Son, I didn’t know. I thought he had taken the two of you. I have been chasing that giant for over ten years now, just to get back to you and your mother.” Haradon said, tears crawling down his cheeks.
“It seems you went to great lengths to find your son, even enslavement.” Delgen said.
“I admit the search became an obsession, there seemed to be nothing left to live for. The drive to find and defeat that foul giant was the only thing keeping me alive. I became a slave to the obsession and also to the bottle. I was determined to make that giant pay for his crimes.” Haradon said.
“You enslaved innocent people.” Delgen said.
“An act I shall never forgive myself for, but you would not understand the pain I felt. I was a desperate man. After I swam the whole north sea, I came to this land. My face lay in the sand of my brother’s. A rider found me and took me to the kingdom. Someone noticed the family ring I wore, I’ve since sold that in my efforts, and took me to see my brother Tyric. He supported me in my actions and saw me off when I had gained my strength. He even devoted what resources he could to locate Fafnir. I left and continued, some times I called upon my brother for gold to fund my efforts…” Haradon said with guilt.
“You used gold from a royal treasury to fund forced slavery, which I am sure is a crime in the eyes of the Triumvirate?” Asked Delgen heatedly.
“In retrospect there is a whole gamut of things for which I should be ashamed. I shall in time forgive myself, but I just hope Tyric will forgive me…and you. I only ever started the slavery after I met Malifustal.” Haradon said.
“What do you mean?” Delgen asked.
“Seven years ago I was drunkenly wandering Dreadwood, perhaps in hopes of a beast ending my pain. In fact I was approached by a beast that caused me more pain. Malifustal said she knew my nightmares and could help. She offered me a deal, that if I retrieved the Heartstone within the next seven years, she would help me kill Fafnir.” Haradon said.
“What does this stone do?” Amarella asked.
“The Heartstone is actually the heart of an ancient giant. He lead the giants in many battles against dwarves and other races, he was defeated and left on the battlefield to rot. His body did verily rot, but his heart remained. His heart had become a pulsating red stone, like a huge ruby. He who holds this stone has control over all the giants, they obey his will. Many have fought over this artifact, and in efforts to keep it hidden and out of anyone’s hands good or evil; a spell was placed upon it. The dwarves put a spell upon it so that if left untouched it would burrow deep within the rocks and fire of the earth, and every ten years it would relocate.” Haradon said, noticing Delgen shifting awkwardly and wincing.
“Malifustal wanted the stone so that she could create an army of giants to take into The Grey Wastes and turn the tides of the eternal war and reign supreme, and eventually take over all the realms of hell, I assume. I of course did not believe her, but she aided me by giving me a number of her grimlocks and told me where the next location of the stone would be. I assume she was going to use me to get the stone and then kill me, so I had planned on finding the stone and use it to kill Fafnir and get rid of it. When I the Festival of Life neared I grew more and more apprehensive and rash. I had tree main mines and had heard news of my Memorist feeling the stones presence, but there was a breakout I was told. I was kidnapped and woke up in that cursed temple of Anthraxus. Malifustal was furious that I had failed in retrieving the stone. She had me drug to a basilisk, and that was the last thing I set my eye upon. My life replayed in my mind in those last few moments, my old life with my wife and child. I wept for those days, and then the last ten years of my life wasted on many failed plans to find and be reunited with my family. I did not fear or welcome my fate for I felt so empty, I had already lived through a hell and doubted anything could best that. Until I woke to breathing pond scum.” Haradon said.
“We stopped your slavers.” Amarella said.
“What?” Haradon said.
“We were the escapees who foiled the retrieval of the Heartstone. We broke out and stopped your slavers from getting the stone.” Amarella said.
“You? You all were the slaves? But why? Why did you do that?” Haradon said, puzzled.
“Long story…” Delgen said.
“You stopped…you. Well doesn’t that work out.” Haradon said.
“What then lead you to Dreadwood, and more importantly to Malifustal’s cursed temple?” Haradon asked.
“Another long story…basically we were sent to get this locket for some Mind Flayer who has their parents held captive, and is working along side her mother. It sounds crazy as it is, and why an Illithid would want a piece of jewelry so badly escapes me…sounds more like a tosser to me.” Delgen said.
“Speaking of that what are we going to do now that we have the locket…” Leomourn said.
“The Mindflayer said to bring it to him.” Amalyn said.
“And where is he again?” Leomourn asked.
“He told us to meet him at the next location on The List.” Amalyn said.
“And where was that?” Leomourn said, fingering an arrow.
“Well since he came and got the list, we can’t look, but as a wizard I have an eidetic memory.” Amalyn said.
“Oh?” Delgen said.
“Yeah…two days west of Kraggenmoor.” Amalyn said.
“We shall see.” Said Delgen
After some days of travel the party arrived back at Raven’s Pointe they took a short rest there and allowed Haradon to room in on of their many in Bellamin’s old tower. Haradon agreed to stay there for a time to watch over the tower and think about his past decisions and what to do to regain his wife. The party continued for a few days travel until they arrived in the north of Rienland, it started to get colder and wetter with every step.
After a days of walking through mud and ice, and warming their wet boots by the fire at night they finally arrived at the gate of a walled city. It was in the middle of the night when they arrived and the gate was not locked or fully closed. They pushed open the door to find the whole city to be asleep with nary a guard or soul outside. There were no guards on the wall or at posts or even at the gate. They walked the town and walked into the nearest building with lights coming from the windows. They walked into the Inn.
The inn was filled to the walls with people of all sorts. There were men with heads of donkeys, owlmen, and weremen. The bartender was a man with a bear’s head and fur.
“Welcome to Kraggenmoor.” Said the bartender.
“Hello.” Said Leomourn.
“What brings you to Kraggenmoor?” Asked the Bartender.
“We’re just passing through.” Said Delgen.
“Ah, well your aims are yours. We won’t pry, come have a drink.” Said the Bartender.
The group took a table and drank merrily, Leomourn a little more than the others Delgen kept up with Leomourn but his stout frame and centuries of drink training allowed him keep his sobriety.
After a few drinks Delgen learned that the town had suffered economically lately and that was the reason for no guards and why some of the homes housed no souls.
“This is gift for your fine hospitality.” Delgen said loudly as he thumbed two platinum coins on to the bar and informed that everyone within could drink from what that amount covered.
“So what are you all doing here?” Said a smaller man who had wandered up to the bar.
“We are here to find where Cylarus’ lives.” Screamed Leomourn, Delgen coughed and spit his lager on the bar and grabbed Leomourn’s arm and pulled him from the bar.
“Cylarus’ old house is right out by the town’s statue, it has white doors!” Screamed the smaller man as the dwarf pulled the tall drunken archer from the bar.
“We are not here to spread our personal expeditions. You ought to put a filter on what filth spews from your icy mouth.” Grumbled Delgen in Leomourn’s drunken ear.
“I…just found you the loc…l…location of Cylarus’ house!” Mumbled Leomourn.
“Well done, I found out a half hour ago.” Mumbled Delgen sardonically.
They exited and were followed soon by the three girls. Delgen was dragging Leomourn through ice and snow, trying to shake him of his drunkenness.
“Hey, why are you two out here?” Asked Amarella.
“This one doesn’t know how to hold his drink.” Delgen said.
“I am a…WOLF!” Said Leomourn.
“Yes, yes you’ve said that.” Delgen said.
“Apparently Cylarus lives over there.” Darella said, pointing north.
“Oh? Well we should investigate.” Said Delgen, once again dripping with sarcasm.
They all moved toward the house and sneaked near the front door. Even though there were no guards on the street, they kept quiet and in the shadows. All except Leomourn.
“Whoooooooo!” They all looked back to see their drunken archer climbing the statue in the middle of the street.
After Darella explained that the lock was much to complex even for her skills to unlock, they all decided to go find a room at an inn in which to retire for the night, before their drunken comrade brought unwanted attention to them. Leomourn refusing to sleep in a bed, they left him out in the streets. He chose to sleep while in canine form and slept outside the inn.
They awoke the next day and once they went down stairs to feast on hardtack and old eggs they were approached by the first town guards they had seen.
“Your attendance is requested by the Duke.” Said the guard.
“We will escort you to his dinning hall when you will.” Said the other.
“Why have we earned presence to the Duke of this fine city?” Asked Delgen.
“He has set his eyes upon you and has business he would like to discuss with you, to which we are blind and deaf.” Said the first.
“We acquiesce. We shall join but first, allow us to peruse the wares and crafts of this fine city. Perhaps we may don livery more appropriate to the gaze of a Duke as fine as yorn.” Leomourn said, the jaws dropped on all of his comrades.
“What? I can talk fancy too.” Leomourn said.
They walked around town and bought winter clothing more fitting for the icy weather of the north. They bought gloves made from ermines, a coat of white-bear, wolfpelt boots(much to Leomourn’s chagrin) and Delgen bought the only Owlbear cloak, claiming it was the most finely crafted one he had seen. They met back with the guards and were then taken into the Duke’s castle.
“So what is dukie’s name?” Leomourn said.
“Duke Marius Wolfsbane.” The guard replied, Leomourn stopped in place.
“How does one come to earn a name like that?” Delgen said after grabbing Leomourn by the arm and urging him along with the rest of the group.
“Marius is from a long line of Wolfsbanes…he well, you will know when you met him.” Said the Guard.
They were led in and were seated at a large dinner table so high that Delgen needed to sit upon a large cushion of which he was reassured was filled with the finest of pegasus’ feathers. The food was extravagant the dinner guests had to suppress orgasm with every morsel and every drop.
“I absolutely adore this dish. Even though I hunger no longer, I still can taste and for that I am grateful.” Said a voice that was coming from the shadows cast from the hearth at the head of the table. Stiffled sounds were heard from the dinner guests.
“Forgive me for startling. I am Marius. Duke of Kraggenmoor. Welcome to my house.” Said the now visible face of a sallow beautiful man as he stepped from the shadows of the fire. The dinner quests told him their names.
“What trick of the eye or mind is this that I can hear and smell the one among you who takes the form of a wolf but not a flicker of his being falls upon mine eye?” Asked the duke as he sat at the table and grabbed a silver lined goblet and drank from it deeply and sensually.
“He wears a blessed armour that hides him from the prying eyes of those cursed with the taint of undeath.” Delgen said.
“I am hidden to my enemy.” Leomourn snarled.
“Which brings me to my next subject.” Said Marius with a nod of understanding.
“It is true that I am undead. I am what my people call a fleshbound Vampire. I was bitten many years ago by a pure Vampire. As a result I was turned into what I am now. We are the same as a pureblood in most aspects; we die in sunlight, stake through the heart, and garlic smells horrible, but we differ in that we can not take an alternate form such as a bat wolf or mist. Now, I have been the Duke of this city for many a year and turned this town into a safe haven for all sorts of monsters. I have accepted those who were driven from their own homes by even in some circumstances their own loved ones. I was loved and trusted…until recently. For about a year now, young girls have gown missing. Disappearing in the night, no blood or trail to follow even with my keen nose. Naturally the townsfolk started to get curious and who better to assume than the town Vampire? My popularity started to decline as I assumed it would, garlic started to line the doors and windows of this town, even to the point of raids on my castle and my people started to leave town. Over half of the population have left by now, I know not if the ones who remain are still supporters of mine or are here of necessity. The whole town has suffered economically because of the desertion. This is why I have called you to dine with me. I have two favours to ask of you.” Said the Duke.
“Go on.” Delgen said.
“Firstly I ask a monetary aid. I have an abandoned mansion of which I noticed last night you all had a certain interest in. If you purchase this mansion, not only would you have a wonderful winter home to rest and regroup in when you visit my town in the future, you would be stimulating Kraggenmoor’s economy. I will also mention that the lock is of arcane build and without the key, no one will ever enter that house. As I assume you already know, the previous owner of the house was a prominent wizard and his house is well guarded against intrusion.” The Duke said.
“Will you not just grant us entry to look about the fine abode?” Leomourn said, invisibly.
“I do not know what you seek but I assure you, given the situation of my town I will not allow you entry without the purchase of the mansion. I apologize but must think of my town firstly and secondly no offense, have no reason to trust or have a desire to help a group of strangers who tried to commit a crime and vandalized my town the first night they visit.” The Vampire said looking in the direction of the invisible werewolf.
“How much do you demand?” Delgen asked after the group discussed in hushed voices for a time.
“An honest 5000 gold crowns will loosen the key from my neck.” Marius said, causing Leomourn to choke upon the wine of which he was sipping.
“Fine, you better be glad that we need to get into that house so badly.” Darella said. They all started to finger gold from their purses and finally pushed over a bag towards the Duke’s end of the table. He responded by taking a chord from his neck, tied to the end was an elaborate white-gold key.
“Now, on to the second order of business. I wish for you to rid the land of the cause the kidnapping. Not only is it ruining my legacy and Kraggenmoor’s but it is causing grief and pain for the families who have lost daughters, and I can only imagine worse for the little girls themselves.” The Duke said.
“How are we to trust that you are not truly the one taking the little girls and drinking them dry?” Delgen said, gently slamming his tankard on the Black Oak table.
“I can assure you that I am not the predator, for though I do dine on the blood of criminals and lesser animals, for my own daughter was one of the girls stolen. She has been gone for a few weeks now and I weep every night for her safety though I am almost sure she is dead or worse.” Marius said with a true tear of blood crawling down his cheek.
“We will find the offender and return your child if we can.” Amarella said.
“I thank you for your help, please if you can return my daughter to me…she is my angel.” Marius said.
“Now I suspect sweets are in need, Jimithy! Bring our guests the dessert!” Marius called toward the kitchen door, the eyes off all the guests went wide and their mouths stood agape.
Darella put the arcane key into the lock that held fast the door of Cylarus’ mansion. She turned it and they found themselves in a wonderful lodge with only the finest furnishings and ancient tomes acquired from the most venerable librarians. After looking around the whole house and sitting in the more comfortable chairs, they found a hidden portal behind a large portrait of a massive valley during a winter storm that swiveled out like a door. They found an odd keyhole and a poem at the bottom of the portal. After dissecting the poem and it’s hidden meanings they found the three items that formed the key and they gained entry to the basement.
They descended the stairs into a darkened basement, Amalyn cast a light spell on a coin and held it out. They found a long hall that curved out of sight, with one room betwixt the staircase and the unseen end of the hall. They walked into the room and found a room filled to the ceiling with books and scrolls. The group spread and searched the room, Darella found a detailed map that lead to Cylarus’ castle, where he apparently practiced all his Chronomagic. According to his notes the colder locations make it easier to manipulate Time Magic.
“I found a diary, listen: I accomplished one of my two goals, Immortality. Or at least an extended form of life. I have extracted the soul of an unworthy sleeping dragon whom I found sleeping on a mound of frozen gold. I am going to enter his husk, of which he was undeserving by any account. Such power! I visit him sometimes to remind him of what he could have been. Of my other goal, time magic…I am close…so very close.” Amalyn read.
“Can he do that?” Leomourn said listening to the elf as she read.
“I have sealed his mouth so that I would not have to listen to him.” She continued.
“Umm…guys?” Darella said from outside the room. She had sneaked down the hall as they were listening to the diary entries.
The rest followed the rogue down the hall until it curved and descended until they came upon another sectioned room. In the middle of the room, lit by two short candles on the walls was a large wooden post that was driven through the floor. Tied to the post was what seemed to be a white, glowing man, on his knees. His arms were tied together behind him to the post. In his chest was the blade and handle of an obsidian sword. An inky liquid dripped slowly from the wound in which the sword rested. The liquid fell to the floor and froze adding to the large puddle of frozen inky black ice that encompassed most of the floor. The man groaned and opened his eyes and lurched towards the intruders, sneered and growled…though the sound came from his chest and throat for where his mouth should have been was naught but skin.
“That dragon soul in the basement is really going to damper any house-warming party we are to have.” Delgen said as they lounged in the mansion above.
“Do you think he can get free?” Amarella said.
“If he could, I assume he would have by now.” Delgen reassured.
“Either way I feel safer with the portal closed.” Amarella said.
“What are we going to do with it?” Leomourn said.
“We will come to that after we deal with everything else, I guess.” Delgen said.
“Where to next then?” Darella said, laying across a chair with the map in her hands.
“I guess to Cylarus’ tower, isn’t that were Eldranoth is supposed to be?” Leomourn said.
“Why does he want this locket anyway?” Delgen said, turning it round in his dwarven hands.
“Who cares? I just want to give it to him and be done with him! His tentacles bother me!” Amarella said.
“Do you think he will turn over your parents for the locket?” Leomourn pondered.
“I hope.” Darella and Amarella said in unison.
The group left Kraggenmoor early the next day. Marius saw them off and gave them his blessings and sent them on their way with wrapped portions of Jimithy’s fine cooking. They marched off into the morning snow as the Duke of Kraggenmoor watched them leave under the cover of the dying night.
After two days of marching west into the frozen landscape, they came upon a cliff. When they cast their eyes over it, they found themselves at the lip of a large vale. From this vantage they could make out a small tower at the center of the white valley. They continued down towards the black island among the vast whiteness of a coming blizzard.
“A wizard’s welcome is always a curse under the guise of a gift?” Amalyn read from a small wooden sign before the tower.
“No truer a statement have I heard.” Delgen laughed.
“What does that mean? And what kind of door is that?” Asked Leomourn, pointing at an arching stone structure where a door would have been. It had a tree carved of stone and there were seven raised stone spheres, some on branches some on roots.
“I guess we have to press one of the surrounding buttons and press the center one and should be granted entry.” Amalyn said after examining the thing.
“Yeah? They you go first. I don’t want my beard hairs to burn away by a mage’s trap.” Delgen said.
“Okay…” Amalyn said and touched two stones and right away she disappeared. The outlying stone she had touched burned brightly and then the symbol that had been there before faded and it remained just a stone.
“Well let’s hope she is inside and not in some hell dimension or in an acid pit.” Delgen said and they all followed suit.
They all found themselves in a small dark room with no floor or ceiling, they just stood on black and were being surrounded by black too. They looked at each other and noticed that they had not just appeared in this room together but much more.
Amalyn’s eyes had fallen out of her head and into her hands and a black substance was oozing from where her eyes used to be. Delgen was hovering as if weightless and brown cracked horns had torn through his skin at his hairline, his boots tore as his feet turned into cloven hooves, and a tail ripped through his breeches, his back was as well bent and hunched like that of a crone’s. Leomourn’s legs swelled to monstrous size and mass. His mouth fused closed much to his fright as a large toothed and drooling mouth bared its teeth in his abdomen after the teeth ripped his flesh open from the inside. Darella’s pantaloones of teleportation and boots of the spider were cast aside as her legs began to grow together from her trunk downwards, until where here legs had been a large serpentine tail was writhing and twitching and glistened in the black room. Amarella’s back ripped open at the shoulders as midnight black feathered wings stretched forth as the sprouted from her spine. She turned around and as she did where her face used to be was an amorphous mass of skin, that pulsed and undulated as she stood there. Random lone features like a nose or an eye or mouth of mixed sex and races would surface and then disaapear.
“This is awesome!” Amarella said.
“Do you accept my gift?” Read Amalyn from a small bronze plaque floating in the expansive black.
“There are two buttons one says yes, the other no.” Delgen said after he had floated over to the elf.
“I do not!” Delgen said in disgust as he punched the bronze button that said no, and flicked out of sight.
They all followed the dwarf’s lead except for Amarella who touched the yes button. They all appeared in what appeared to be a wizards’ observatory. They all save Amarella cried out in pain as their deformed bodies were restored to normal.
“Well that was weird.” Said Leomourn, happy to have his mouth back.
After they examined the room and found nothing but notes and calculations of astrological figures and such they decided to descend a set of stairs into the tower’s lower level.
They continued their search until the sound of steel scrapping iron was heard as a tiefling assassin failed an attempt at knifing Delgen as they were quietly searching the tower. After a short struggle they had the little demoness bound and gagged, so quickly that they did not even notice that her left arm was naught but bone engulfed in a black flame that did not burn or give off heat. As Delgen was marshalling his reserves after the failed attempt at his life and while he was examining the tower’s furnishings.
“What an impressive tapestry.” Delgen said. Leomourn loosed five arrows in the tiefling’s smooth face.
“What?” Leomourn said, as the others looked at him in confusion.
They continued downwards and fought another tiefling who fled upon defeat. They also surmised that these were indeed not “lower” levels of the tower but in fact the topmost floors of a tower that was mostly underneath a frozen lake that was the flooded valley.
They descended the tower and came upon a large staircase and climbed down. Leomourn led the party.
“There they are. Brother Barakiel, they are the ones who have killed our dearest sister Belaria. I also sensed that there was a lesser fire demon in the elf.” Said the bigger more stout tiefling whom they had defeated earlier, though he had escaped by tossing a clay ball at his feet and he disappeared in a flash of smoke.
“Yes, Belkor. I feel the demon too, no match to our Lord Kaurophon. The Lord of the Eighth has no equal.” Said the thinner older looking demon-mage. Both these demons, like their sister, had sacrificed the flesh of their arms to the fire demon and in return were granted use of his infernal flames, their skeletal arms posing as conduits for the damned conflagrations.
“Krust. These are the foul ones who killed your master.” Said the smaller tiefling with a wink of his eye. Implying to the group the pride he felt in the prevarication he told the beast that had stepped from behind a pillar.
What stepped from the chill shadows was in form a man, but much more and in some ways much less. It stood a few heads taller than even the tallest of the group, Amarella. It was a broad as a small hut and was hard as the stones cut from dwarf craftsmen. It appeared as if this beast was a stone golem, but incarnate, by some ancient and vile magic. His visage was wracked with grief and then anger at the accusation, then proceeded to charge the party.
His colossal palms crushed Leomourn’s torso and head as if he were just a minor pestilence buzzing around in the hottest of months. Leomourn’s skull cracked under the pressure as well as his chestplate. He fell to the ground, dead.
The rest of the party loosed daggers, spells, hammers, and blasts of light in recompense. They fell all three foes, suffering from injuries themselves. The servants of the demon lord had cast spell that split their tongues and tried to crack their psyche, but they had in the end prevailed. They stood over their fallen comrade and stood in silence, filled with disbelief.
Disbelief in the fact that they had lost a member of the party so integral, disbelief in the sheer strength of the living golem, but mostly in disbelief that Leomourn had chosen to not only take point in the blind onslaught but to also descend the stairs of certain death suffering mortal wounds with nigh a drop of restorative elixir nor the care of Delgen’s healing hands.
In the same instant that tears welled in all of his comrade’s eyes, Leomourn opened one of his followed slowly by the other. A communal gasp then sigh was heard in the icy tower. Confusion and annoyance filled the room as they walked around the bottom of the tower wondering how Leomourn survived such an attack.
“I don’t know, I’m just strong.” Leomourn said, as he was fumbling with the contents of one of the fallen tiefling’s coin pouch.
He found two vials of a milky bluish substance that Delgen identified as Sannish. Sannish being a highly addictive drug that was made from the powdered form of a desert plant boiled in the milk of a she-wolf. The users of this particular drug were identified by the staining of their mouths, caused by the plant, a pale blue colour. Which the three tieflings carried upon their now dead mouths.
They walked around the bottom of the tower, Darella quickly shutting the, what would be front and ground door after opening it and seeing the tonnes of chilled water being held at bay by some arcane enchantment. In one room they found a dark and bloody charnel house. There were bones and blood all over the floor and walls of the large room. Chains whips and torture devices hung from the walls. At one in there was a dark and blood altar, to whom Delgen recognized was devoted to Kaurophon the demon. There were tools of dark worship and symbols carved in the walls and floor around the altar. In the corner of the room, Darella could be seen shoving things into her bag. There was then a movement and when they looked towards where the stirring came from they saw to their surprise that one of the corpses that was chained to the wall was still alive. They walked near and saw that it was the naked and cold body of a young woman. She was malnourished, beaten and bloody. Her eyes were swollen, almost shut, upon her back were a pair of bloody and scabbed stumps protruded.
“Here you go, love.” Delgen said as he took his pristine Owlbear cloak and wrapped it around the nude and shivering girl, after breaking the chains with his hammer. The girl winced in pain as the cloak lay upon her wounds.
“What are those on her back?” Leomourn axed. The girl tried to talk but only hoarse whispers escaped her worn throat.
“They were wings.” Amarella gasped in recognition.
“What is your name, lass?” Delgen said putting his arm around the girl.
“C…Cas…Cassiel. " The name crossed her teeth after great effort.
“Are you the last of the girls?” Asked Darella, as they moved the girl from the charnel room.
“No. They killed many for their foul rituals, there are three more over there. They said they were going to wait and use me last.” The girl said tears escaping her wincing eyes.
“Because you are an angel.” Amarella said.
“Yes.” Cassiel said.
“Those cursed beasts! A worthy sacrifice to a demon lord. We assure you dear, that we have rid the world of your captors…their corpses lay right over there. You are assuredly safe now, my dear.” Delgen said sitting the girl down on the bottom step of the stair case, pointing at the fallen corpses of the tieflings. The others loosed the other girls who were on the brink of death and brought them to Cassiel. Delgen was fast upon them soothing their ailments and their sensibilities.
“I can heal all of your wounds save your wings, poppet.” Delgen said and started to work his deft and ameliorative hands.
“Now, we must venture deeper into this accursed tower to finish our own quests. You may stay here in this tower or if you think you may be able to find your way back to Kraggenmoor we will come for you later, you may keep my cloak until we return.” Delgen said kissing the hand of the young angel.
“I think that I can find my way back home, I will lead these three girls. My father will be glad to know I am alive, and I will be sure to tell him of your role in my survival and advent.” Cassiel said.
“Aye, and who is your father then?” Delgen asked.
“Marius Wolfsbane.” Cassiel said, now picking at a piece of hardtack that Amarella had given her, who was sitting beside her.
“I should have guessed.” Delgen said.
They left the girl on the staircase and then found a room that held but one table and one rug. Upon the table was a decanter, modest in size but not in make. It was placed in the center of the table with a small plaque before it. It read:
“My foes flooded my vale with this artifact, knowing that whence the winter winds would wind their way here that the deluge would become an icy grave for me and my tower. I had scried upon them in time and cast a protective spell around my abode. It was still engulfed but I rather like the outcome, it is much more conducive to my studies and privacy. I then came upon my enemies like a plague and took the tool of their machinations. I hold this decanter in my foyer to remind myself and others, to not meddle in the affairs of not only a mage but a man obsessed.”
The plague was signed with the signature of Cylarus. While the rest were reading the golden plaque, Darella had already taken the decanter and was tying it to her belt. She was now kneeling in the center of the room. She moved to the one end of the rug and started to finger the edge.
“I would like to see you walk that rug out of here.” Delgen chuckled. Darella glared at Delgen and responded by tossing aside the rug, revealing a trap door that was previously hidden underneath.
They walked down the subterranean tunnel that the trap door had revealed. As they descended they felt the air grow colder. Until they came upon a large atrium hundreds of feet wide as well as high. Darella had scouted ahead and discerned that not only was their a large cauldron in the center of the chamber that was boiling a substance that looked not unlike the fluid in the vials that the archer had found on the bodies of the demon worshipers, but there was also in the room a sleeping dragon.
They stormed the chamber and unleashed all they had on the dragon knowing that their best bet was to attack while the beast was sleeping. The dragon fought and breathed blast after icy blast upon them valiantly. Darella teleported behind and rode the dragon’s back slicing at it’s wings, in attempts to bring it down and keep it grounded. Whilst she was balancing on the beast’s back she overheard Amalyn’s monotoned encantations and recognized the intonation of certain familiar arcane syllables and the mages’ timbre.
“NO! I’m here!” Darella called out to the magic weaver.
“Too late. I have already started!” Amalyn said and loosed the spell upon the dragon and the abaft rogue.
The darker of the Darkeyes twins was badly burnt and teleported safely away from the magical holocaust. She found herself hiding behind the ever-boiling cauldron and from her vantage gazed upon the dragon whom was screeching in pain from the immolation in which it found itself. She felt his agony. She noticed that not all of this white dragon was as alabaster as the ice in which the chamber was so blanketed. The lips and tongue of this beast were a pale cerulean hue. She thought back to what Delgen had said and almost immediately pushed with all her might against the cauldron. Her knees popped and her thighs tore under the pressure but she did not stop until all of the azure contents of that boiling vat were strewn upon the frozen floor of the chamber.
The dragon seemingly screeched louder than it had when its flesh was burning at the sight of the fallen liquid. It promptly absconded from the combatants and towards the spilt and ruined drug that had held such a grasp upon it’s body and mind. It then started to lick up the last bits of the milky liquid before it froze to the ice below for ever.
“Quickly now! Loose all your resources upon the foul beast!” Called Delgen.
The party fired arrows, cast fire spells, and threw hammers until the beast finally fell. From the moment those thousands of sapphire beads fell across the frigid landscape the drake was so engrossed with the lapping up of its remains that it took the brutal thrashing until it’s final breathe with which it tried to slurp the last bit of that bluish ichor it so loved.
“Was that Cylarus then?” Amarella asked.
“I guess.” Darella said.
“It seems we found the body of the dragon spirit we found in our basement.” Delgen said.
“Why was he so obessed with that stuff in the pot?” Leomourn asked.
“I can only assume the body or even the soul had a certain affinity to that foul drug. It might have even been involuntarily drugged to keep it at bay and used as a guardian.” Delgen said.
“I found the same drug on those demon guys above.” Leomourn pondered.
“Perhaps the cultists drugged the dragon and then inhabited his tower.” Amalyn said.
“Yes, quite likely. But what could this beast have been guarding?” Delgen asked.
“Well, there is one obvious way we can find out.” Leomourn said as he pointed to the aperture in the cave wall opposite the one from which they entered.
They slowly entered and once again descended the roughly hewn steps of the even colder hall.
“How deep do the tendrils of this foul tower reach?” Asked Amalyn.
“Keep in mind that we just descended under the actual ground through the hidden portal in that foyer. The first few levels of this spire were concealed underneath a layer of frozen water. I can tell you one thing for certain…these stairs were cleaved by dwarven hands.” Delgen chortled quietly.
They came upon yet another chamber. There was a light and the sounds of voices, some muffled, that crept from the room. They stepped in all at once. The scene that unfolded before their eyes was one that was much unexpected. A large contraption dominated most of the room that resembled a large but stout three-branched candelabra. Above the center, hanging from the ceiling of the chamber was a large crystal whose point aimed to the middle of the whole contraption. The center was topped with a large platform and standing in the middle of the dais was none other than Eldranoth. He smiled as best he could with eyes and tentacles. He raised his arms in hopes to avert attention to the other two platforms. When the interlopers looked upon the raised daises they were greatly surprised to see the bound and gagged forms of two gaunt and sickly looking humans. The Darkeyes twins identified these captives as their parents and recoiled but then regained their composure.
“As per our agreements; administer to me the list, which we both know you accomplished..of sorts, and deliver to me the locket, and I shall not only relinquish your parents but help you reveal the location of your long lost father. Now it seems like exactly half of the arrangement has been met on both parties. So it seems as if there is one last exchange that needs to be made. The locket, where is it?!” The Illithid demanded.
“We have brought your confounded locket! Now release those poor souls!” Delgen said, pulling the chain from his belt with a clenched fist. The iron grip of the venerable cleric was still no match for the psionic tow of the mind flayer, and soon the metal pendant was torn form Delgen’s hand.
“Now.” The Illithid rolled it’s viridian eyes back into its head and closed them. Almost immediately the two bound humans started to hum and murmer the chants needed and move their hands deftly. The gigantic crystal that hung precariously above the whole scene started to glow and pulsate. Then before anyone present could react a white beam not unlike lightening came down from the crystal and came upon Eldranoth. The mind flayer popped out of existence with a loud clap of thunder and a concussion blast that knocked Amalyn off balance, but not before the tentacled horror waved one final goodbye.
“No!” Leomourn said as he started in the direction of the dais.
“So many questions!” He said.
As Leomourn reached the center dais and was going to climb it a second pair of steps sounded upon the platform. They all looked up in surprise to see the shape of Pamalyn walking to the center of the scene. She walked under the crystal holding nothing but a bundle wrapped in brown cloth in her hands, cradled like an infant.
“…” Amalyn was so taken aback she could not speak.
“That your mom?” Leomourn asked, looking over his shoulder.
“Now, my turn.” The elf said. The two tied chronomages shook their heads and made gestures with their hands.
“They’re trying to say that the crystal will break if you make them do it again!” Amarella screamed, with one step forward.
“Silence! Do as I say!” The mother of the wizard said. She made gestures with her hands and with that the bound Darkeyes writhed and moaned through their stained and moist gags. The pain went on for a time.
“Stop it!” Darella screamed. The father of the Darkeyes twins looked down at them, with his eyes he apologized for what he was about to do and through the pain started to cast a spell. His wife followed suit, feeling her entrails boil from the inside and her bones tear through her flesh.
With a loud thunder crack and the tone of splintered bone and glass there was a bright light. All of our adventurers felt a pain that they had never experienced, as their bodies were ripped apart piece by piece and those parts halved until the parts could not split any farther. Their consciousness remained active during the duration which made the pain that much more excruciating. As their whole existence was torn from the world they finally faded into nothingness with the sound of Pamalyn’s laughter echoing in their thoughts accompanied only by the screams of the Darkeyes’ parents.