Part 35 of The Adventures of The Split Falchion
The Shadow Marches
While Jorduna angrily sharpened her knives away from the rest of the group, Throck led the rest through records of the first siege of Blightspot. This attack was of course much greater in scale, occurring during the Daelkyr War. Siege engines would hardly play into this attack.
Unfortunately, said records had been passed down through both generations and language barriers. The full schematics of the castle, referenced many times throughout the text, had been lost. The map of the outer wall, however, was included, and served as the initial topic of the discussion.
“Time will have certainly degraded the stonework,” Throck explains, pulling out the map, “Though our other option is attempting to scout for a new location.”
“I’m not in favor of splitting our group again,” Vargard argues, to which Throck agrees.
“We’ll be avoiding large bodies of water from now on,” Throck continues, “Though once this is over we will still need to cleanse the surrounding lands of any remaining greater aberrants. We will handle that end, of course,” Throck adds, after all in The Split Falchion give him an incredulous look. “Now, we have two options as to how we are entering Blightspot,” the druid says, referencing two points on the map. “The closest one is a postern gate that should lead to a hidden part of the castle. Aberrants may appear anywhere, but it is my opinion that those hallways will be a safer route. The second is a main gate which was destroyed during the initial siege, which leads into the courtyard.”
“What’s the problem with the postern?” Vargard asks, not seeing the downside.
Throck sighs, and answers, “It’s closed. Only opens from the inside too. I am able to fly two people into the castle. With your bard’s invisibility spell, infiltration could be possible. We three would then open the gate, scouting our path through as we make our way to it.”
“Didn’t we just agree that we weren’t splitting the party?” Vargard asks.
“Thus the main gate,” Throck replies inexorably. “The courtyard will no doubt have a greater number of aberrations. It will be a tough fight, though our enemy would also be more exposed. Further, it is a shorter route to the central keep.”
“Can’t you all just fly us to the central tower?” Marwyn asks, thinking he had seized upon the easy solution.
Eivald was the one to answer, his voice still somewhat shaky from the trauma he had endured, “Druidic shifting is n…not as potent as arcane shifting. At l…least not until you are as powerful as G…gatekeeper Throck. Not even I can fly yet.”
“And even invisible, there is always a chance for detection,” Throck takes over, “We have no idea what we could face in Blightspot, and there are ways to disenchant invisibility. Another reason to stray from the postern gate,” Throck says aside, “I could manage to take everyone, but it would require multiple trips.”
“So, the main gate,” Vargard says conversationally, “If I judge that map correctly, we will have to circle the castle before reaching it.”
“Indeed,” Throck nods, “Though from the looks of your cloaks, I would say you aren’t entirely unaccustomed to stealth. My people have slightly alternative means, but the trip should be less dangerous than flying over the parapets.”
“So what do we do once we get there?” Jorduna asks, entering the conversation aggressively. “Just charge in? Or do we send in scouts first so they can get mind controlled again? How the hell are we supposed to assault a damned castle with just the ten of us?”
“Combat in the courtyard is not inevitable,” Throck answers calmly, “We are not entirely certain of the layout. Means of slipping past undetected may avail themselves.”
“Aboleths will not be present in Blightspot, Jor,” Lesani adds confidently, “Their physical forms require constant immersion in water. Based on elevation, there will be little standing water. That does not preclude any other aberrants capable of spellcraft, though none we should face should have the power to puppeteer minds.”
Unable to face the dual assault with any coherent counterargument, Jorduna returns with a huff to the spot where she had been sharpening her knives. Muttered curses were barely audible, and most were directed at the druids.
After everyone had turned away from the rogue, conversation resumed. “It goes without saying that conversation will be… difficult while we approach the main gate.”
“I can imagine why,” Vargard says, “Doubt I’ll be able to keep track of you, though I imagine Les will have that covered.”
“Correct,” Lesani offers.
“Then it is settled,” Throck says, “We will approach the castle today, and evaluate our options one we make it to the main gate. The possibility that there are better entrances does exist, and we would do well to be wary of them.”
“Are your druids ready to leave?” Vargard asks.
“About as ready as yours, I imagine.”
Several Hours Later
The approach to the main gate was about the easiest task accomplished by the group since the first few hours of travelling through the swamp. The druids all adopted various natural forms to evade suspicion, and the mercenaries were skilled enough to move without being detected. After a certain point the amount of vegetation dropped off, to the point where the land was void of vegetation a few hundred feet from the castle walls. The fact that they kept a healthy distance from the castle walls largely negated this lack of cover.
The group did not, however, spot any opening into the castle on the way in. The first disappointment came when Throck spotted the postern gate. After briefly shifting back into orc form, he confirmed that it was still secured. From there, it was just stretches of obsidian black wall, practically unbroken as it rose from the swamp.
There were some evidence of ancient damage, likely caused by the siege which took the castle. Marwyn noticed that the increased proximity to the walls likewise affected the latent sensation of fear. These weren’t walls that had been constructed, rather they appeared to have been dragged up from the earth in one solid mass. Sharp protrusions dotted the surface at random intervals, for no other purpose than to harass any would-be climbers. Distant crenellations lined the top of the walls, and the bard could barely make out the remains of an ancient iron pot that filled one such battlement. He tried not to think about what had filled the vessel when there were still those defending the castle.
The main gate itself was massive, at least 50 feet wide and doubly as tall. The old rusted gate was still down, though a large breach in the center ruined any defensive value it once gave. The edges of the rent still glowed faintly with traces of arcane magic.
Beyond the gate was a wide road, the buildings pressed back to make the other side of the gate very exposed. In the distance it appeared to narrow as it led to keep. Random debris lined the street, and those buildings that were visible exhibited the same ancient wounds that the castle walls had. Most buildings appeared to have collapsed, though further decay was limited by the absence of any invasive vegetation. Whatever was keeping the land from reclaiming this place was assuring it would stand for centuries to come.
Most interesting of the immediate area, however, were cart tracks pressed into the earth leading through the gate.
“Fresh”, Cletus remarks, glancing at them, “Cart’s pass’d many times.”
“Aberrants don’t use carts,” Throck replies, shifting back behind the cover of the gate, “Those must be from the cultists who have endangered us all. Can you tell how many passed through here?”
“No,” Cletus reports, “Just tha’ cart and two horses. Freshest tracks lead inwards.”
“Still here,” Throck exhales, thinking, “If we’re unlucky, they’ll have fortified themselves in with the seal’s enchantments once the aberrations started breaking through. Though that is not an immediate problem. The road looks clear of enemies, though that is no guarantee.”
Everyone takes a look down the main road at the mention of this, but detects no movement in the immediate area. Something was flying around the central spire, but it was too far to worry about at this moment.
Looking closer at the buildings, Marwyn feels the lingering dread intensify. The walls, made from the same strange material which the walls were constructed from, also bore the spikes that lined the castle walls. The key difference, was that bodies decorated some of the spikes. Skeletons from ancient victims hang from a few, though from others hung fresher corpses. Of particular note was one adorned in black, with a red symbol threaded onto the shoulders.
“I can’t be certain from this distance, but that appears to be a member of the Khyber cult,” Throck informs, “That confirms our suspicions.”
“What would be sticking bodies to the wall like that?” Marwyn asks, trying not to look at the garish display.
“Not something we would want to fight,” Throck answers enigmatically, “Most aberrations would simply consume or corrupt their victims. This is a display of power, and a warning, which speaks to intelligence. I am somewhat worried that it appears to be mimicking the actions of the aberrants which once held Blightspot.”
“I thought you said there wouldn’t be anything too powerful here,” Vargard asks, straining to keep his voice at a whisper.
Lesani intervenes on Throck’s behalf, saying, “Intelligence does not necessary suggest overwhelming power. I believe we should focus on scouting the road ahead, all this discussion is achieving is putting us at risk of discovery.”
Vargard accepts the warlock’s explanation, realizing it was futile to debate the point. No matter what lurked within Blightspot, their mission remained the same. “No sense in sending in scouts if we’ve taken this route to stay together,” he points out.
“Agreed,” Throck concludes, “I feel it would be best to stick close to one of the rows of buildings. Left or right?”
“Left,” Vargard chooses, “Shields’ll be facing any ambushers.”
“Good point,” Throck compliments.
As the ten began carefully making their way into the castle, Jorduna fades behind Marwyn. “Kid,” she whispers as quietly as possible, “Last chance to admit this was all made up.”
Marwyn sympathized with the rogue’s plea, but it didn’t change his answer, “I didn’t Jor. But would it really matter?”
“’d make me feel better when I gut these druids, one this is all over,” Jorduna replies, and Marwyn wasn’t sure whether or not she was serious. He crosses the city gate, hopeful that this would trigger Winter’s arrival. Nothing comes, however, and his dragonshard remains a dull blue.
The group started making its way towards the center of the city. The constant need for stealth was starting to wear on Marwyn, it was a completely different way of movement from just walking. The trauma wasn’t just physical, it was mental. Always on alert, always watching the ground for the quietest path, trying not to go so slowly as to fall behind.
The rubble that was one a city square provided cover from one side as they continued, and fortunately there was little chance of ambush from the twisted wreck. Over the first half hour they did encounter several mounds of roving flesh, covered in eyes and mouths, though they were either easily dispatched or avoided. It wasn’t until they passed the first major crossroad that they ran into something of note.
Adept Talia, who was leading the group, stopped suddenly as she peeks out behind the corner. The druids had remained in their bipedal forms once they had crossed into the castle, as their increased combat efficiency was worth the lower stealth capabilities. Her face was slightly pale as she reports to Throck, “Beholders. Almost half a dozen.”
“What?” Throck says, taking a look for himself. Everyone else readied weapons, either because they knew what they were about to fight, or because of the look on Talia’s face. “Adept, count the stalks,” he orders, stepping back into cover.
Talia takes another measured look, and gives an exasperated grunt afterwards. “Four.” Lesani and the rest of the druids stow their weapons, relief visible.
“Mind filling us in?” Vargard asks, as the rest of the mercenaries weren’t entirely sure what was going on.
“A flock of spectators is nearby. Far less powerful than a beholder, though still somewhat of a hazard,” Throck explains, “It was an understandable mistake by my adept. The only real difference is the number of eye stalks, and they are in close formation.”
“So let’s go around them,” Vargard argues.
“They are closing in on our position,” Talia reports, still angry with herself for the error, “It is quite simple. We ambush them, or they ambush us.”
“Eivald, nothing that will draw attention,” Throck advises, and then says to Vargard, “There is not much you will be able to do warrior, unfortunately. These beasts are capable of flight, though your blades may be useful to finish any that are brought down. Have the rest of your men prepare themselves.”
“We should coordinate attacks,” Vargard points out, “Bring down as many as possible with the first volley.”
“Of course, but decide quickly,” Throck shoots back, nervously glancing at the five approaching enemies, “My druids will target them separately, ideally we will have two on each.”
“Got it,” Vargard answers, and hurriedly echoes the suggestion to his men behind him.
The creatures suddenly rounded the corner, hell bent on reaching somewhere. As soon as they were in sight, the ten adventures loosed their prepared attacks on them. Vargard had borrowed a hand crossbow from Marwyn, letting him engage with the rest. The warrior wasn’t too familiar with the weapon, but it was better than nothing.
The creatures themselves were hideous, a single bulbous mass with several stacks radiating from the central mass. Each stalk ended in an eyeball, and one massive one was stuck in the center of each beast. The exact number of enemies was hard to pin down, they were all concentrated in one mass. The team had coordinated their attacks based on which appeared first, though the foe’s formation had thrown off this timing. That was both advantageous and disadvantageous.
Three of the orbs dropped immediately, folding under the combined firepower of the majority of the team. What remained, however, was terrifying.
“Beholder!” Lesani shouts, noticing that the majority of the eye stalks had remained with the floating mass. Two masses remained in the air, a spectator, and one other. The larger mass turns to the warlock, maw twisted into a gloating grin. The warlock curses for forgetting herself, as the shout had attracted several of the flesh mounds, bringing them into combat.
Vargard draws both his swords, running to deal with those enemies on the ground, while the rest prepare to face the floating orb. The main eye, still fixed upon Lesani, emits a nearly blinding glare. When Marwyn, who was standing next to the warlock, regains his vision, he realizes it wasn’t his physical sense that had been blinded. In a panic, he discovers that he is unable to sense anything magical, or draw on any arcane power.
“It’s tracking you with an anti-magic field!” Throck shouts from the other side of the beholder, as Lesani was still too disoriented to give tactical advice, “Anything under the gaze of the main eye is!”
Jorduna, also being stared down by the main eye, briefly wondered if the effect was nullifying the geas. Fortunately for the druids, however, the beholder clarified her priorities by firing a blast of light at Vargard. The warrior was able to duck out of the way of the jet black beam, but the sight focused the rage which had been building up in Jorduna for so long, much as crystal focuses sunlight.
“I don’t need magic!” She yells, running at the beholder. Launching deftly off of one of the flesh mounds, which was attempting to consume her leg the entire time, she flies towards the beholder. “I… have… knives!”
The bulbous aberrant attempts to retaliate with one of its eye stalks, then realizes it’s mistake in including Jorduna in its antimagic field. Two daggers land in its central mass, providing Jorduna a means with which to hold on. After brutally digging her boots into the flesh as well, the rogue frees an arm to continue her mad assault.
Impressive as the display was, the rest of the team was having bigger issues. Each stalk acted independently, able to harass most of others without distracting the beholder itself. There was still the spectator to consider as well, which was using its own feebler eye beams to assist the beholder. Marwyn and Lesani were struggling to do anything while under the gaze of the beholder. Moving was pointless, as it would only bring others into the gaze of the monstrosity. While safe from any of the eye beams, they were still under assault by the flesh mounds. Lesani had to carefully poke away at them with a dagger, while Marwyn was having more luck with his rapier.
The druids, meanwhile, were focused on avoiding the anti-magic field, and bringing down the two flying aberrations. Jorduna’s new position made it somewhat difficult for them to aim projectiles, though they managed. Working together, they bring down the spectator without too much trouble, though Adept Kansif pays the price when a red beam strikes him. The druid takes off in a panic towards the castle gate, barely able to avoid the flesh mounds on his way. In the next moment, Throck catches a ray straight to the temple, causing the druid to collapse into an enchanted sleep. With a final beam, the beholder lifts up Cletus, dangling him above a growing number of flesh mounds.
The dwarf had, up until this point, been solely focused on pouring as many arrows into the beholder as he could. Marwyn was impressed by the sheer rate of fire coming from the dwarf, he had somehow managed to almost double his speed since his demise. He’d also been trying to make for the area covered by the anti-magic zone, himself unharmed by it, though said flesh mounds had been blocking his path. Now, magically lifted in the air, he directed his fire straight down.
The beholder, meanwhile, was starting to feel some of the punishment that its foes were dealing. Jorduna was constantly whittling away at it, though she wasn’t able to strike with all of her might latched onto the creature. Seeing its last spectator fall, and still plenty of able foes, it makes the decision to retreat.
“Jor, jump off!” Vargard tries to yell, but the noise of the battle, which was drawing more and more flesh mounds towards the fray, drowns him out. He fumbles with his sending stone, but the rogue doesn’t notice hers signaling. She was wholly focused on striking out at the berserker. Those on the ground watch as the beholder hovers farther into the air, attempting to get out of range of the party’s attacks.
Eventually, Jorduna realizes that the volley accompanying her attacks had stopped. Looking down, she experiences a moment of vertigo when she gauges the distance between her and the ground to be more than a couple hundred feet. She was almost level with the top spire of the central tower, though she was much too busy to look closely at it. What’s worse, was that the beholder had stopped the effect of its main eye. She was now literally staring down the barrels of 10 magical lasers.
Deciding to take her chances with gravity, the rogue pushed off from the beholder. The rapid descent proved more than enough to dodge the rapid burst of beams from the beholder, but it would also prove fatal if nothing was done.
She was halfway to the ground when the giant eagle caught her in its talons, diving with the catch so as to slow the rogue’s fall more gently. Jorduna struggled initially, until she gathered that the talons were only gripping her, and not crushing her.
Throck gently lands, dropping the hobgoblin moments before. He had been rudely awoken from his sleep when one of the flesh mounds had attacked him, and quickly acted when he saw the beholder carrying Jorduna away. The rogue mutters a quick, “Thanks,” before going to check on her friends.
The rest of the team was more or less ok. They had broken the assault from the flesh mounds while Throck was retrieving Jorduna, the local area eventually running out of twisted flesh to throw at them. Everyone had taken some injuries, either from fighting off the flesh mounds, or from errant shots from the beholder. Cletus was especially roughed up after being dropped into a pit of teeth, but was recovering under Talia’s ministrations. Kansif had returned one he had recovered from his own trials, roughed up slightly from the return journey. With the immediate area safe, to a degree, the group took a quick rest.
“I’ve never fought so many gibbering mouthers before,” Kansif says conversationally, adrenaline still pumping, “And you, warrior, you’re pretty good with both those swords. Why even use the shield?”
“Gives me options,” Vargard grunts, and turns to the Gatekeeper “Throck, I thought you said there wasn’t anything more powerful than an aboleth. Forgive my ignorance, but that seemed more powerful than an aboleth.”
“Yes, you are correct,” Throck concedes, “It is my belief that several of the spectators had merged together to create that monstrosity. Another to add to the list once we are done here.”
“In a way, we are fortunate,” Lesani says, “Anything within the courtyard would have surely been drawn by the sounds of combat.”
“Funny way of looking at it Les,” Jorduna says. The hobgoblin had joined the group proper in its discussion, having ever so slightly warmed to the group for some reason. “I’d say we nearly got killed. Again.”
“Life of a mercenary, eh Jor?” Vargard points out.
“Not a mercenary if you aren’t getting paid,” the rogue retorts.
“What gave you that impression?” Throck asks simply.
“Wait, we’re getting paid?” Jorduna asks incredulously.
“Yes? I assumed…”
“Well, someone could have mentioned that literally any time,” Jorduna complains, “Would have taken some of the edge of this death sentence.”
“I thought that was made clear to you,” Throck tries to reason.
“Oh, you mean when they told us we’d die if we didn’t cooperate,” the rogue continues with her rant, “So it’s a ‘your life is your reward’ kinda thing?”
“Jor, why don’t you let the druid talk?” Vargard says, even though he secretly enjoyed someone letting the druids have it.
“I wasn’t aware you…” Throck begins, but then gets to the point, “Master Oalian knew you were attempting to sell an astral ruby. Such treasure if often difficult to find a trustworthy buyer for. When you return from this expedition, however, we will broker the sale. You will certainly fetch more than if you had merely tried selling it yourselves.”
“Who will the buyer be?” Vargard asks, “I’m not travelling all the way to Trolanport just to offload it at a slightly higher value.”
“You don’t understand,” Throck says, “We will give you the full sale value up front. Delivering the ruby to the buyer is our responsibility.”
“Master Throck, I believe we should focus on the task at hand,” Talia says politely, “The beholder may return if it can muster more allies. Or simply alert others to our presence, time is short.”
“Indeed,” Throck says, rising, “From the courtyard, the entrance to the central tower. There, to the top, where we unseat any remaining cultists and restore the dimensional seal. Follow me!”
Blightspot Central Courtyard
The group comes to a circular absence of rubble that is Castle Tantetril’s central courtyard. Between travelling and skirmishes, most of the day’s time had been taken up. There was perhaps an hour left in the day, leaving the unfortunate possibility that they would have to make camp at some point.
The courtyard was indeed empty, though slime trails suggested that it was once been inhabited by flesh mounds (or gibbering mouthers, as Kansif had called them). Had they not been drawn by the battle in the main street, this would have been the site of another battle. Yet, there was one other obstacle waiting for them.
At the opposite end of the courtyard was a moat, which surrounded the central tower. The moat itself was empty, water long since drained. The drawbridge was also lowered, but the entrance itself was wreathed in a purple energy field. Arcane, to Marwyn’s eye, as it blazed with magical energy.
“I was afraid of this,” Throck says, pulling out the siege notes once more, “The attackers noted a defensive enchantment on the keep. The cultists likely activated it once the aberrants invaded. They were able to bring it down by deactivating it from two locations within the city… simultaneously.”
“You aren’t saying what I think you’re saying,” Vargard challenges, “Do you even know where these locations are?”
“The sites are indicated… on the castle map,” Throck replies hesitantly, “Though from the rest of the text I can divine the general location. The devices reek arcane energy, once there someone of that persuasion should easily sense them.”
“Simultaneously,” Vargard repeats, seizing upon that word.
“Yes…” Throck admits, “In order to access the tower, we will need to lower that field.”
“Oh hell no,” Jorduna says, “Hell no. Just fly us up to a window, screw stealt… huh,” the rogue grunts, looking up and seeing something she had briefly glanced at early. “Guys? Look up.”
Everyone follows the rogue’s gaze, and sees something flying around the upper regions of the tower. It was different from the enemies they had fought before, however, in that those with keener eyes recognized it as a demon. It was too far to make out specific details, but it was no aberrant.
“I cannot attempt to fly us in with that patrolling,” Throck says. “The cultists likely summoned that for additional defense. They have a competent summoner among them, it seems. We are lucky it did not see us when you fell from the beholder.”
“Alright, fine. You take one, we’ll take the other,” Jorduna says, surreptitiously moving somewhere with overhead cover.
“Impossible,” Lesani cuts in, “Your geas will likely prevent our group from straying too far from a druid. Further, none of the Gatekeepers are apt at sensing out arcane anomalies. Finally, they have no sending stones. We could lend them one, but the other points stand. I would suggest myself and Marwyn go with separate groups.”
“What?” Marwyn says, jolted by the sound of his name. He’d been a little out of focus ever since the last battle, the flesh mounds that had attacked him had been gibbering nonsense the entire time. He’d still not entirely recovered from what had likely been an assault on his mind.
“You are the second best arcane detector among us,” Lesani explains, “It makes the most logical sense. Cletus and Jorduna should likewise remain in separate groups, to act as scouts if necessary.”
“Alright,” Marwyn says, trying to get his head back together while the rest assembled worked out their plan.
It was eventually decided upon that Throck and Vargard would head the separate groups. This was a natural decision and was accepted readily. Lesani and Cletus would accompany the warrior, while Jorduna and Marwyn would work under Throck. As for the druids, Talia and Valdir would go with Vargard, while Eivald and Kansif would remain under Throck. Distress signals and other matters were worked out, and then each group departed down opposite streets. Neither left down the road they had come from, which made both groups slightly nervous.
Vargard had left through the eastern road, leading his group carefully towards their objective. He wasn’t sure exactly what they were looking for, but Lesani had assured him she would know when they found it. Throck had instructed him to head for the ‘eastern most gatehouse’. The arcane trigger was somewhere nearby.
“Kansif,” Lesani addresses the druid while they were walking, “How is the seal’s integrity?”
“Still weakening,” the man replies depressingly, “Now that we’re this close I can almost… feel the assault on our plane. Whoever is doing this is insane!”
“Perhaps,” the warlock says thoughtfully.
“Quiet!” Cletus hisses, motioning for everyone to stop. It takes a few more seconds Valdir and Kansif to follow suit, being unversed in the mercenary’s hand signs. “Mov’nt ahead.”
A figure wearing black robes stumbles around the corner, flailing wildly. The five taking cover behind some rubble expected to see pursuers, but none came. Vargard gives a skeptical glance at Lesani when the newcomer falls to the ground, still convulsing.
“Some form of confusion enchantment,” Lesani reports after studying the cultist for a minute or so, “Wearing off shortly.”
Talia stands up suddenly, saying, “Wait here.” She then quickly moves towards the sprawled cultist.
Surprised, Vargard is unable to catch the druid as she moves out into the street. Talia makes it to the writhing cultist without being detected, however, and Vargard lets out a sigh of relief when she makes it back to their position with a captive.
“What the hell was that?” Vargard asks, as Cletus gags the prisoner.
“Securing him without alerting others to our presence,” Talia answers nonchalantly, tying the cultist’s wrists.
“I meant charging off without letting any of us know.”
“It was my understanding that the nature of our alliance was of dual leadership. With Throck leading the other strike force, command of the druids defaults to me.”
“You couldn’t have given us a heads up?”
Talia shrugs, and answers, “This was faster.”
Vargard lets out an exasperated sigh, and asks Lesani, “How much longer will he be out of it?”
“Perhaps a minute,” Lesani answers, and then returns, “Wait, if Talia is leading the druids on this team, who do they believe is leading our two allies on the other?”
“From what I have seen of your two companions, one will sullenly follow in the background, while the other will follow Master Throck without question,” Talia answers, “Though obviously the Son is the nominal leader.”
“Gods,” Vargard curses, “No one ever let Jor know about this.”
Meanwhile, the cultist’s resistance against his bonds became more focused, and the muffled grunts seemed more intelligible than before. “We should see what he knows of the lock,” Talia points out, noticing this, “Who should interrogate him?”
“I imagine you would be best suited Adept,” Lesani answers, “Though I imagine it will not take more than death threats to loosen his tongue.”
Talia nods, and manifests primal energy in her hands as a show of force to the cultist. “I’ll manage.”
“I’m going to make this simple,” Talia says, pressing against the cultist’s chest with her foot, “Give us detailed directions to the arcane locks, and information on your allies, and I will leave your fate to the aberrants.”
“You have to take the gag out first…” Vargard whispers awkwardly, after a moment of silence.
Fortunately the cultist didn’t hear that, so Talia’s timing wasn’t ruined. “Choose wisely,” she says slowly, careful not to show any annoyance. She cuts the side of the gag, purposefully nicking the prisoner’s cheek as well. Her foot remained where it was.
After spitting out the rest of the cloth, the cultist looks at Talia wide-eyed, “You’re crazy! This place is swarming with those things!”
“Not my doing,” Talia responds, “Though I am perfectly willing to stop more from coming if you would be so kind as to cooperate.”
The man looks to the others, but finds no allies in the crowd behind Talia. Lesani was admittedly worried for the cultist’s health, but only because they wouldn’t be able to interrogate a man with a crushed trachea.
“You… you gotta get me out of the city!” the man cries, “Then I…I’ll tell you whatever you…”
“No,” Talia shakes her head, “You tell us everything now, and I don’t kill you.”
“B..but,” the man protests, and then feels the blood dripping from his chin.
Meanwhile, Vargard pulls out his sending stone. “Marwyn, put Throck on,” Vargard talks into the stone, “We’re about to get some intel he needs to hear.”
“Y,you’ll let me go, right?” the cultist asks feebly, wheezing slightly as the pressure on his chest increases slightly.
“Of course,” Talia nods.
The man struggles to draw breath, and then folds, “This ‘uge flying orb attacked us. Eyes everywhere. Got hit by one of them and things got kinda fuzzy.”
“Beholder,” the five adventurers say at once, with various amounts of trepidation.
“Right,” the cultist says, just glad that the pressure on his chest was waning, “I don’t know how to get there ‘cause of the whole… wait!” he cries as Talia brandishes her sword, “You can’t miss it. Only building I’ve seen still standing, and it’s pretty tall. Built into the walls. Dunno if anyone’s still alive or if…”
“What about the other lock?” Talia asks.
“Other… you mean the other camp?” the cultist says hurriedly, spurred on by a mean look from Talia, “No one’s heard from them since the nasties arrived. No one’s keen on going near there either. Dunno what’s there, I’ve just been…”
“He doesn’t know anything else,” Talia says dismissively, stepping off the cultist, “Off you go. Shoo.”
“Which way’s the… right,” the man says, backing away from Talia’s sword, “I just… thank you, I…” he runs off, looking around and trying to find a way out of the city.
“Get all that?” Vargard asks.
“Yes,” Throck acknowledges, through the sending stone, “A shame he did not know more. We’ve arrived at our target, and will let you when we’ve reached our lock.”
“We’ll let you know when we’ve reached the gatehouse,” Vargard says, “And don’t get any of my people killed.”
Talia, meanwhile, hands the short sword back to Valdir. “You have done well to keep its blade sharp. It appears you may need it again.”
“Yeah,” the initiate agrees, “Especially if we don’t get to the seal in time.”
Vargard moves closer to the two, picking up on the conversation, “Getting worse?”
“Yeah,” Valdir nods grimly, “Strong enough to hold back invaders, but not for long.”
“More reason to hurry,” Lesani cuts in, “Especially if we are to face the beholder again. Not to sound morbid, but if we are quick, it may still be dealing with the cultists.”
“I am more worried with why it attacked in the first place,” Talia argues, “It speaks to the possibility that the aberrants are aware of the barrier surrounding the central tower as well. They are organized.”
Vargard clears his throat, and says, “All I’m hearing are reasons to move. So let’s go.”
“Of course,” Talia agrees.
Throck’s Group, Meanwhile
Marwyn had departed from the central tower with a building unease. Travelling with the druids wasn’t necessarily an ordeal, but now Vargard had left him alone with them. Well, he also had Jorduna, though that was hardly a boon. He still wasn’t sure what she planned to do once released from her magical bonds, and feared what might happen if this occurred without Vargard present.
Speaking of which, Throck had led he and Jorduna through the western road. According to his notes, their lock was located in what had been referred to as an ‘armory’, dug into the earth. The druid had remarked that there must be enchantments supporting the underground bunker, as the soft earth here would not normally support such construction. The group fervently hoped that said enchantments were still active.
Their lock, being located inside of the castle as opposed to near its walls, was also closer to the central tower. They arrive just as Marwyn’s sending stone goes off.
“What is it?” Throck asks, as Marwyn hands him the stone.
“Var said to give you the stone,” the bard answers, “I think they’re… interrogating someone.”
“Interesting,” Throck comments as he receives the stone. Marwyn, for his part, shudders a little as he remembers the times his group had been forced to resort to such measures before. This piques Jorduna’s interests as well, though for different reasons.
Eventually, Throck hands the stone back to Marwyn. He’d kept the volume low so as to avoid attracting unwanted attention, leaving the others somewhat in the dark as to what was conveyed.
“What’d they want?” Jorduna was the first to ask, curiosity overpowering her moroseness.
“They had captured a cultist, and extracted information from him,” Throck answers, “Apparently the aberrants have laid siege to their target, assaulting the cultists already there.”
“But they fare well?” Kansif questions, “Especially so to take a captive.”
“Yes, though there was little information for our part, unfortunately,” Throck continues, “The captive appeared to be little more than a blind follower. I imagine we might face more of his number, if those of the Dragon Below still guard this lock.”
“Doesn’t look much like an armory,” Jorduna comments, and Marwyn agrees that the half-collapsed building seemed similar to those around it. A slight difference is the wooden beams propping up a makeshift entrance, construction done by the cultists, no doubt. It looked shoddy, and the bard was slightly nervous as they walked under the creaking beams.
“No signs of fighting, at least,” Kansif points out, stepping carefully over some rubble that had almost sent Marwyn sprawling, “Anyone hear anything?”
“Silence,” Throck reports, though at first it was mistaken as a command, “This is disturbing. Marwyn, are you sensing anything?”
“N…no,” Marwyn hastily says, realizing he had forgotten to keep his senses open for the arcane lock.
“I’d imagine we would need to be closer,” the Gatekeeper comments. The orc was having some trouble with navigating the collapsed building. The path they walked seemed to have been quarried from the surrounding rubble, and there wasn’t nearly enough headroom for the druid’s stature. “I’d imagine we’d encounter a way down soon.”
“What, like a trapdoor?” Jorduna asks nonchalantly, “We passed one a few minutes ago.”
After struggling not to berate the rogue, Throck asks her diplomatically to lead them back to where she had seen the trapdoor. At first the druids thought she was misleading them, until she pulled back an unassuming section of the floor to reveal a passage down. It was simply a hole cut into the earth, with a rope tied to a stake driven just below hatch.
“It’ll be a lot easier going down than it will be coming up,” Marwyn says, “Wait…”
“What is it?” Throck asks, stopping himself at the last moment from descending.
“I can sense a faint aura now,” Marwyn reports, indeed feeling something in the distance. It was an odd magical sensation, though. The air below seemed ragged, pulsing with an uneven energy field. The eddies were weak now, though they hinted at a greater force. “I guess it’s the lock?”
“Seige notes said that it could be sensed from a distance,” Throck shrugs, “Everyone follow me carefully. We have no idea what is down there. And rogue, try to remember not to run off.”
The climb down was short, though somewhat constricted for the orc. As he was leading the descent, this caused somewhat a problem, until he simply shifted into something smaller. Fortunately, the passages below were large enough to accommodate his normal size.
The tunnels, for that is what they were, were resplendent with supports holding back their inevitable collapse. Aside from the beams, however, the immediate area was clear.
“This really doesn’t look like an armory,” Jorduna complains, “Are you sure you read those notes right?”
The gatekeeper continues to ignore the rogue’s impudence, taking it as a miracle she wasn’t actively trying to find some way around the binds of the geas. “Something may have gotten lost in translation,” he admits, “Marwyn, have you a lead on the lock.”
“Uh…” Marwyn stalls, as he tests both directions, “That way,” he finally decides, pointing to the tunnel leading back into the city.
“Rogue, are you as keen for traps as you are trapdoors?” Kansif asks suddenly, “I’d expect there to be traps around an armory.”
Jorduna scoffs, “Can I find traps? Are you actually asking for my help?”
“Yes,” Kansif replies flatly.
Kansif’s plea turned out to be useful when, only after a minute after the group had started moving the hobgoblin had spotted a thin tripwire. The trap’s mechanisms had proved to have been disrupted by movement of the surrounding earth, but it still validated the adept’s actions.
As they moved closer to the source of the aura, Marwyn began to feel more and more ill. The enchantment, whatever it was, was wrong.
“Anyone see that?” Jorduna asks suddenly, daggers in both hands.
“Trap?” Throck asks.
“No, movement,” Jorduna replies, “It seemed small. Maybe a rat.”
Throck stops suddenly, grabbing the hobgoblin by the arm. The rogue would have protested if not for the look on his face. Orcs couldn’t go pale, but Throck was making a spirited attempt to try. “Armory…”
“Get off,” Jorduna grunts, shaking herself free from the gatekeeper’s grip, “What the hell?”
“This is an armory for living weapons,” Throck says, drawing a staff, “Eyes to our surroundings. Has anyone been attacked?”
Marwyn was confused by the sudden change in the gatekeeper’s demeanor, but more so when Eivald suddenly pats him down, as if checking for weapons. Kansif gives Jorduna the same treatment. While Jorduna complies, sensing implicit danger, she conveniently fails to mention several of the weapons she did have concealed on her. The adept finishes with several thin cuts where hidden daggers had nicked him.
“No parasites, Master,” Eivald reports.
“Someone mind telling me what the hell is going on?” Jorduna protests.
Throck sighs, “Aberrant munitions are not always as straightforward as ours. Sometimes minor aberrants themselves are attached to hosts for use as weapons. While this is not strictly harmful to the bearer…”
“A swarm of them’ll eat a man,” Kansif finishes, “And we’re walking right into a den of ‘em.”
“Your leader did mention the cultists hear had gone silent as soon as the aberrants returned,” Throck says, “The weakening of the planar seal must have awakened any symbiotes in the area.”
Marwyn, feeling his skin crawl despite having Eivald’s assurance that he was clear, asked, “What do they look like?”
“Some, like eels,” Throck answers, “Though it may vary. If one fuses with you it can be removed, but only with injury to yourself. We must remain absolutely vigilant. Marwyn, you should remain in the center of our formation, you are the last who should be subjected to this.”
So Marwyn continued to lead the retinue towards the arcane source. Now that they were watchful, several of the creatures Throck described were spotted during their walk. They lingered in the shadows, however, and fled quickly when one of the druids tossed fire at them. The tunnel branched off at several points, yet the pull of the arcane aura was still forward down the main one.
The effect of the aura was almost nauseating to Marwyn when they found the first corpse. Skeleton was more apt a word, though even the bones had been cracked in search of any nutrients.
“Gods,” Marwyn says, overcome by the image.
“Keep moving,” Throck guides, “No point in stopping.”
“Why haven’t they just swarmed us already?” Jorduna asks, looking at the body grimly, “If they can do that…”
“They fear fire,” Kansif answers, “Our talents are enough to scare the horde, though hunger may embolden them if we linger more than necessary.”
“Keep it up then. Hey kid, how much farther?”
“I can’t,” Marwyn tries to say, but then stops as he holds in a retch. Arcanically attuned as he was, Marwyn was taking the brunt of the twisted aura, though the others were beginning to feel its effects as well, “Strong though,” he finishes feebly.
“I believe we have indeed arrived,” Throck clarifies, “This poor soul was likely a guard for the cultist’s encampment down here. And I believe I see tents in the distance.”
“What?” Jorduna questions, herself peering into the edge of her vision, “How the hell, I don’t see anything.”
“You may have a keen eye for traps, rogue,” the orc answers, “But I believe I have the advantage here.”
Indeed, the party finds themselves coming to a broken camp. The same deconstructed corpses met them, though there were far more than the one at the entrance to this place. The tunnel had widened into a cavern. The tents were constructed towards the outwards part of the space, while in the center remained only a plinth. The greatest amount of corpses seemed concentrated on that area.
“There,” Marwyn points weakly at the pedestal.
“Var. Yeah, it’s Jor,” the hobgoblin speaks into her sending stone, “Found the thing. Where the hell are you?”
“Still travelling to the gatehouse,” Vargard reports, “Are you safe?”
“Dunno,” Jorduna shrugs, “Hey druid, are we about to get swarmed?”
Throck takes a good look around, and answers, “This area appears to be clean of any aberrant filth. Likely, once the symbiotes… consumed the inhabitants, they moved elsewhere in search of fresh hosts. But they will return eventually.”
“Druid says to hurry up,” Jorduna relays.
“Alright,” Vargard nods, “Les wants Marwyn to try and figure out the locks if he can.’
“He’s pretty out of it boss,” Jorduna responds, “Might want to warn Les that these locks are pretty toxic.”
“Got it. Don’t take any risks.”
“I’ll get the job done boss,” Jorduna replies, signing off. The five then move towards the arcane lock, to both secure the area, and their way into the central tower.
Meanwhile, Vargard’s Group
The sun had sunk below the horizon when the group had finally found the gatehouse. The streets were far from regular, and their twisting took what should have been a quick journey and extended it. When they arrived, they immediately identified the target building, by way of noticing the beholder that was sieging it.
The eye rays shone brightly in the darkness, illuminating windows as they darted through. There appeared to be defenders still alive behind the fortifications as both arrow and spell returned fire. A massive ruined gate stood beside the building, blocked by the rubble from the other gatehouse which had collapsed.
“Valdir, can you sense the lock?” Talia asks in a whisper.
“No,” the man answers, “I don’t…”
Lesani interrupts, pointing to the top of the structure, “There, where there are still those defending. The spell is definitely of aberrant origin.”
“You can sense it from this far?” Valdir asks, straining to detect anything himself.
The elf nods, retracting her finger, “Your vision is rather selective, I imagine. Whereas I have trained myself to find and identify traces of arcane magic. We are still too far for me to decipher anything from it, of course,” she coughs slightly as she says this, and continues, “Though Jor’s warning is in fact necessary. Whatever foul magics were used to secure the keep are repulsive. I will likely be impaired if we venture closer.”
“Les, we need you to work the lock,” Vargard points out.
“I am not saying I will not go. Simply that doing so will impair me.”
“We should also be concerned with the combatants up there,” Talia interjects into the conversation, “We can disguise ourselves, but you three will need to worry about being spotted.”
“Like ‘ell,” Cletus grumbles, while staring down the beholder from cover. The dwarf still remembered being tossed into the flesh mounds.
Lesani sighs, and replies, “Our ranger can handle himself, though it is a valid concern for Var and myself.”
Valdir points out to the gatehouse’s windows, and reports, “I’m seeing less return fire. The cultists there have almost been defeated.”
“We aren’t taking the structure, we’re hitting a button,” Vargard says suddenly, “Forget stealth. Throck, get ready on your end,” the warrior says, speaking into his ending stone.
“Haste would be appreciated,” the gatekeeper responds, “Marwyn is not doing well this close to the lock, and several symbiotes have tested our defenses.”
“That’s the idea,” the warrior replies, drawing both of his swords, “Let’s go, in and out, then run back to the tower.”
“This is insane!” Talia protests, as Vargard breaks cover and runs to the tower. However, upon seeing all but Valdir do the same, she realizes she had been outvoted.
The run to the gatehouse was brief, and thankfully so. The beholder was much more focused on finishing off the few remaining cultists, and no other aberrants seemed to be taking part in the assault. Vargard wonders briefly if they had killed most of the force that had been intending to assault the gatehouse, before his shoulder crashed into the gatehouse’s door.
The rotted wood yielded easily, as did the two cultists who had tried escaping through the ground exit. The five let them leave, not having the time to deal with them otherwise. The climb up was as easy as the entry, as all of the other cultists had been drawn to the top of the gatehouse. As Vargard finishes the ascent, he sees the last of these fall to one of the Beholder’s eye beams, disintegrating into a fine powder. The room had once contained a variety of furniture, most of which had been pressed against the windows in a desperate attempt to create cover. The only piece still standing was a plinth towards the back of the room.
“That is it,” Lesani says, pointing at the plinth. She was handling the debilitating aura better than Marwyn, but it was still wearing on her defenses, “I will need to…”
“Les, do what you need to do, and tell me when you’re ready,” Vargard orders, and turns to the rest, “We’ve got to hold off that creature. Before it…”
The warrior was cut off, however, when the outer wall was breached. The beholder had thrown its whole weight at the stonework, and the stones which had already taken the punishment of many of its rays yielded under its bulk. The face grinned once again at Lesani in recognition, though it held its antimagic field. Instead, it supplied several of its rays, all directed at Lesani.
Lesani disappeared suddenly. By the way the rays impacted the wall behind where the warlock once stood, Vargard figured she had teleported to the far corner, and then cast her invisibility on herself. “Hold it off!” Vargard yells, dropping one of his swords and grabbing his shield.
The battle that followed was a desperate play for time as their invisible warlock tried to disable the lock. It would have been over quickly if the low ceiling had not impaired the beholder’s ability to maneuver its eye stalks. Once everyone had placed themselves between the plinth and the aberrant, it completely held back its antimagic field.
As it was, everyone took at least one beam over the course of the fight. Vargard himself was hit by one that seemed to freeze his muscles, and would have remained an easy target if not for Cletus tackling him out of the way of more beams. After what seemed like an eternity of purely defensive posturing, Lesani speaks up.
“Var, we have a major problem!” the elf says desperately.
“What?” Vargard shouts back, amidst a building ominous feeling.
“The unstable magical aura is due to the cultists perverting the enchantment. The barrier around the tower will now reestablish itself one minute after deactivation!”
“It appears we will have to secure this building,” Talia yells, “Any suggestions?”
“I hesitate to use this spell,” Lesani replies, “Yet I can attempt to banish the beholder.”
“You can do what?” Jorduna yells back, “Why didn’t you do that at the beginning?”
“It is the last spell I have held back,” Lesani answers, “And…”
“Les, just do it!” Vargard cries, noticing that the beholder was once again turning its stalks towards the warlock.
“But,” Lesani begins the protest, then comes to the same realization. With a silent plea to Oalian, she prepares the spell.
Valdir, meanwhile, had been keeping up with the conversation. It would have been hard not to hear the raised voices mere feet away, and thus knew what the warlock was attempting. The half-orc also knew it wouldn’t be enough, at least not on its own. Mark glowing, the druid could see the beholder bolstering its presence in this plane, having read the aura of Lesani’s building spell.
So just as Lesani and the beholder were to release their spells, the druid charged forward while quickly firing off one himself. Strong winds form around him, buffeting both the beholder and Vargard, who had engaged the beast in melee. The sudden wind threw off the beholder, and as it reestablished its physical orientation, its focus towards its metaphysical bearings was thrown off. Just as its beams were about to fire at Lesani, the giant orb disappeared from the orb with a soft pop.
Everyone save the warlock stares at the space the beholder occupies, before sighing with relief when it does not reappear.
“Good job Les,” Vargard says, “How long will it stay gone?”
“Forever, unless it finds another way into our realm,” the warlock responds, voice growing more ragged with both her recent expenditure and the continuing barrage from the arcane lock’s aura, “But we have more pressing matters to attend to. One of us must remain behind at each lock in order to gain entry.”
“What?!” Talia exclaims, “Master Throck said we only needed to trigger each one simultaneously.”
“That appears to be the original designers intent, though the cultists appear to have added another safety measure,” Lesani explains, “We must be before the tower when the shield is deactivated.”
“Shit,” Vargard says, pulling out his sending stone, “Marwyn, Marwyn, are you there?”
“Var!” Marwyn says, fear evident in his voice, “Please tell me we can get out of here!”
“What’s going on?”
“We’re under attack!” the bard yells.
Throck’s Group, Meanwhile
The five who had invaded the armory had at first remained by the lock without much contesting their position. A few of the eel-like symbiotes had probed the entrances of the chamber, but had been driven back by the druid’s fire. However, just as Vargard’s group had begun it’s assault on the gatehouse, a mass of the symbiotes had poured in.
The druids had quickly thrown up a circle of fire around the plinth, but that would not last forever. Even with continuous attacks on the symbiotes, there were still far too many to handle before their defenses would expire. The relief of Vargard’s call quickly turned to dread when Marwyn relayed his message.
“Are they insane?” Jorduna cries, “We’re gonna be worm food in a few seconds and they want someone to stay here?! Like hell.”
“The geas is now in your favor, rogue,” Throck contests, “It must be one of my druids who remains at each plinth. Though our situation is too precarious, I do not see how we can…”
“Master,” Eivald speaks up suddenly, “There is a way. I can remain concealed here until you are at the tower.”
Throck looks incredulously at his adept, until he realizes what the druid was proposing, “You would not survive.”
“That is not important, if this is to work you must go now!” Eivald yells, “Our fire spells are nearly spent. Leave one of your sending stones activated near the plinth, and I shall act when called.”
Throck nods, and grabs the sending stone out of Marwyn’s frail hands. “I will explain later, but we will have a man in position,” the orc says, and then hands the stone to Eivald. “Your services to this land will be remembered, Gatekeeper.”
Steeling himself for what was to come, Eivald merely nods, and then sinks into the rock below. This act would have been called into question, if not for the symbiotes still outside the wall of fire.
“Marwyn, if you can make us invisible, now would be the time,” Throck says.
“O…ok,” Marwyn says in a shaken voice, eyes still fixed on where Eivald had melted into the floor, “It’ll go away if…”
“We know kid, just do it!” Jorduna yells, and, galvanized, Marwyn complies.
When the fires die down, the symbiotes lunge towards the plinth. Most simply surround it, though a few latch onto the four escaping when they collide midair. As Marwyn and the rest flee, they all acquire a few symbiotes as they latch onto their flesh. There weren’t enough on one person to trigger a feeding frenzy, though the two non-druids almost reveal themselves in a panic. All four manage to get through, however, and after a certain time the group stops to burn off the parasites.
Throck grabs the group’s last sending stone from Jorduna, and contacts Vargard. “Eivald will remain by the lock as we make our way to the tower.”
“Everything’s quiet here too,” Vargard reports, “Any input on who should stay?”
“It must Talia or Valdir,” Throck answers, “Your geas will not allow another to stay. Give one of your sending stones to the one who remains, and then hurry to the tower.”
“Sure,” Vargard says, “What’s Eivald going to do after he hits the lock?”
Throck sighs, and answers, “He shall join Marvel in the legends of our order.”
“I… understand,” Vargard replies, suddenly appreciating Throck’s situation, “We’ll meet you at the tower.”
Vargard grimly disconnects, and turns to Talia. “One of you’ll have to stay and disable the barrier. Who…”
“There is no choice,” Talia interrupts, “Valdir will return with you. I have the greatest chance of remaining long enough to activate the lock, and then escape any who assault this position. What of the one they are leaving behind.”
“Throck… he said Eivald is staying behind,” Vargard answers, deciding to conceal the full truth for now, “Take this, we’ll let you know when we reach the tower.”
“Understood,” Talia nods, accepting the stone, “Windhailer, how do I operate the mechanism?”
“Simply place your hand on the plinth,” Lesani answers, “Though do not do so for an extended period of time. There may be repercussions.”
“I will go conceal myself until the right moment. I imagine it will be impossible for me to join you once you are in the tower. If you are successful, I will instead be waiting outside the castle walls.”
“Talia, do you think you’ll be able to make it?” Valdir asks, concern in his voice.
“I will be fine initiate. Now go, preserve the seal!”
With that, Vargard led the rest out, breaking into a sprint towards the center of the castle.
Blightspot Spire, One Hour to Midnight
Vargard’s breath was ragged as he arrives back in the courtyard before the tower. Throck and his group had arrived half an hour before, and had mostly recovered from their wounds. Not wasting time nor breath on greetings, the eight assembled before the barrier flickering across the tower entrance. Raising the sending stone, Throck commanded his two adepts to lower the barrier.
In the gatehouse, a rat hiding between walls bolted out suddenly, shifted into a half-orc, slipped between several aberrants which had appeared a few minutes earlier, and slammed her hand on the plinth. Shrugging off the few attacks that were directed towards her, Talia waited until confirmation that the barrier had dropped before retreating. She dove out of the hole created by the beholder, avoiding swipes from those enemies around her on her way out.
Eivald was less fortunate. He had spent the entire time faintly aware of the writhing mass of symbiotes above him, and the knowledge that there would be no escape wore on him. But he kept his vigil, and leapt into action as soon as the signal was sent. The aberrants bore into his flesh the moment he reappeared, but he ignored the pain and activated the plinth before him. Just before the druid was consumed totally, he heard Throck confirm that they had entered the tower. Eivald smiled briefly, before his flesh was devoured, and all that was left was another skeleton left beside the plinth.
Concluded in Part 36, Tower of Fate – Winter’s End