Once again we gathered. Everyone would be there for the return to Xonthal’s Tower. Garr, friendly stout fellow that he is, brought roast beast and au jus…and home-made rolls…and a block of mashed potatoes and cream – delicious. Raynard was a bit late in his arrival, and a bit harried. He gathered himself a beer, and then went to fill his plate. As he brought his plate back to his seat he realized, Garr, in his dwarven gusto, had stolen his beer. It was nearly time for initiative – but cooler heads prevailed and luckily, our little fellowship remained intact. Valeriya would be late – but that did not hinder us. We ate our fill and dove in.
After some recap as to where we were at, and some recollection as to which symbols were previously used and the significance of the hourglass, all gathered on the teleporter and hit the hourglass shaped button.
Our heroes arrived in an underground chamber…somewhere. Before them, bodies of three cultists lay where they fell. Two were of the “Cobalt Cultist” variety. All were burned and blasted by bolts of magical fire. An obvious blood trail led from the room down a hallway and into darkness.
After a bit of debate (and no small amount of bragging by Himo as to his amazing speed) the monk advanced to scout the way. In the adjoining chamber, three large vaguely man shaped beings. Two appeared made of earth, the third was of solid flame and its warm glow lit the room. Across the chamber, a table. On the table, papers and maps and documents of all kinds, and a heavy looking but compact chest.
With some experimentation, our heroes determined they could run quickly through the room and avoid the wrath of the earth and fire guardians – and so they did. From the room, down the hall and down a flight of stairs they ran. Around them, the ceiling and walls gave way to nothingness. All was nothing but infinite starry void except the slabs of stone walkway leading outward. On the right, ahead, stood the frame of a single doorway. Far down the path, a “T” juncture and another doorway straight ahead.
Our heroes gathered at the door on the right and listened. Nothingness. After carefully trying the door, Himo was first again. He quickly gathered the first few things to appear of interest – a map, and some sheets of blank paper which lay in tall stacks beside the large desk. As the extent of the library became known, with a rush, our fellows ran inside to search the books, leaving the druid, Terredon (in earth elemental form) and Tan Meng (Cleric of Chauntea) out on the walkway. Mere moments later Raynard discovered a book that was something more than a book. It was the latch to some kind of device. A secret door? Raynard went to try it … well, then everyone decided to pause for Tan Meng’s Detect Magic (cast as a Ritual) to come to fruition. Everyone searched for and eventually found a book of their own particular interest.
As he cast, from the depths of the void, asteroids or a tiny comet shot toward Terredon and Chauntea – but they avoided it easily. (“Did I say I was casting from the hallway?”)
Finally the spell came to flower and Tan Meng brought the vision of Chauntea to bear. Everything in the room radiated magic. The blank papers, the map, the books, the walls, the floor, the ceiling, everything. But, nothing so much as to actually BE magical itself.
Raynard tried THE book. With a click, a latch gave and a secret door pivoted wide revealing a chamber beyond with a ten foot crystal disc suspended from great chains. The whole face of the crystal held an image of pure fire and one could catch glimpses of a barren burning landscape beyond. In the floor before the prism, a single tall lever with a knob on top and a pivoting joint at the floor.
However, In that same second that Raynard opened the door, a great cyclone tore all the loose blank pages from the floor of the map room and began whipping everything about. Groups of pages coalesced into several angry slashing apparitions – and attacked! Raynard ran for the fiery crystal – others joined him. All took vicious paper slashes as their penalty. Then, a change of plans. As quickly as our heroes ran for the great lens room, they turned and ran completely back to the hallway getting thrashed and slashed by the paper monsters all the way. Raynard and Brock took the worst of it, yet all managed to make it safely from the room and slam the door.
After a moment of bandaging and a sparing amount of healing, our already battered and bruised heroes pressed onward.
At the “T” junction, all were interested in heading to the left, but a rich deep voice with a strange foreign accent beckoned for their attention to the right.
A large sized, near giant sized, figure sat behind an equally large chess table in a chamber filled with pillows and rugs and a great overstuffed bed. The deep red skinned creature wore armor of flame, bronze and volcanic stone. With a wide toothy grin, he said, “A thousand greetings!…Welcome! I am Taraz the Fair…who might you be?”
Thus began our heroes’ conversation with their first Djinn. Taraz wanted to be set free, but everyone was a bit uneasy about whether or not they might go about that. In the end, Tan Meng’s sense of do-goodery came into play and the binding line of salt was broken. Taraz thanked our heroes and smiling, picked up his great black scimitar. With a wink of his eye and a wave of his hand, a flame elemental appeared directly on top of Brokk and set him to burning. All hell broke loose.
Most focussed their wrath on the fire elemental, but Terredon charged the Djinni. Brokk moved, the fire beast moved upon him again. All were scorched and charred. Taraz chuckled with glee even as his own wounds mounted. It was as though he’d been waiting a century for such fun.
The flame beast fell and all weapons and wrath turned on Taraz. He slashed and spat fire, laughing all the while – but his wounds grew worse and worse. Finally, with a groan and one final grin, he and all his gear collapsed and dissipated into a fog which drifted out of the chamber and away into the void.
Our heroes took their breath.
Back to the other door, the one on the left – but very slowly and cautiously. Several of our heroes had fallen in that fight and nearly everyone was close to exhaustion.
Himo advanced. Through the door, he found Iskander crumpled and fallen in a pool of his own blood. In his charred and bloodied hand he held a mask resembling the face of a blue dragon. Everyone advanced. The room contained two giant crystal hourglasses suspended by equally giant chains. Just as Tan Meng arrived at Iskander’s side, raucous booming laughter echoed from the walkway behind the group – it was Taraz. His wall of fire erupted among our heroes and set everything aflame, including the corpse of Iskander.
Chaos broke out as everyone tried to get out of the flames and a few tried to get at Taraz. It was Raynard who silenced the Djinni with a witch bolt – sending the giant creature tumbling away into the void.
The group, with their objective in hand, decided to close the door to the hourglass room and catch a short rest. Within minutes, Taraz was outside taunting them. A sort of standoff set in. Terredon, still in earth elemental form, could tell that Taraz was just outside the door. A moment later, Brokk opened the door and our heroes attacked!
But by then, it wasn’t Taraz but only an image of the great creature. Terredon could sense the Djinni was close and advanced. Battle broke out again and the Djinni took to the air and fired away – our heroes decided to run for it.
In stages, with Himo way out front, everyone ran. Tan Meng was in the rear. Fiery bolts rained down from Taraz, burning and scorching the party. The Djinni laughed maniacally.
Himo, far ahead, came back a bit and started launching arrows to defend his comrades. First one struck home, then another, then a critical hit! Taraz, still laughing, grasped at the arrow in his throat and dissipated with a wink – leaving behind his great scimitar and a great fancy belt of brass to fall to the ground.
Everyone stood at the teleporter. A brief discussion again as to whether to rest or head for home – and all settled on home. Seconds later, all teleported to the sundial in the clearing of the great hedge maze.
Screams filled the air and the distant crack and boom of lightning. Smoke billowed from the town of Xonthal’s tower. Seconds later, the great blue dragon Lennithon landed atop the inn within bow-shot and roared, “The mask, fools! The mask is what I’ve come for. Give it to me, and I’ll leave these crawling ants with their miserable lives. The Queen is returning! Who are you to hope to stop her? Give me the mask!”
After a few brief skirmishes with a handful of lesser residual cultists within the tower, including a Cobalt Cultist or two, our heroes settled down for a long rest. While bandaging their wounds and offering prayers for the poor citizenry outside, a few cultists attacked in a final gesture of faith to Tiamat. One escaped, the rest were instantly slain.
Some hours later, and feeling much recovered, our heroes looked out from the upper balcony of the tower and saw a group of Cobalt Cultist minions building a great corpse-tree at the entrance to the hedge maze.
Terredon and Brokk, gazing into the starry sky, noticed a darkness circling high above. Lennithon? Most likely.
All decided to make a break for Waterdeep. Everyone filed into the mirror. Terredon transformed into an Air Elemental, stepped outside and shot away. Moving as the wind itself, it took about four and a half hours to fly to Waterdeep in the cold wintry air of pre-dawn night. Smoke lay in a low haze on the land. Refugees and their caravans lay in small clusters along the Loudwater road. Some circled their wagons around a central fire, others pulled far from the road to hide in darkness. Still other caravans lay in smoldering ruins, a few naked and stripped bodies lay scattered about, bright and shiny in the moonlight. Cultists, or raiders at least, move along the roads and among the caravans preying on the refugees.
Like the debris from a massive flash flood, these same refugees and their camps have washed down from inland and banked up all around the walls of Waterdeep. Thousands cower in the shadow of the great city and hope for safety.
This is the scene of your arrival.
Where will you go? The great home of Lady Remalia Haventree? Your wyvern warehouse? An inn? What can you do with the mask? Or, shall you give the great artifact to the Arcane Brotherhood? To the Council of Waterdeep? What is the status of preparations for fighting the cult? How close is the cult to their “end game” and the summoning of Tiamat?
You have the corpse of Iskander. What will you do with that?
What about the books you found in the libraries of Xonthal?
And what about Himo? Is he fast or what?