Surrounded by hostile elves, the group found themselves face to face with the Fair of the Silver Hair.
Commanding their attention an apparent leader strode into the inner circle, and introduced himself as Captain Voronanion Inadalvan of the Immortalis, Wardens of the Forest followed by a standard-bearer, whom the group quickly surmised as a caster of some type.
Demanding an answer as to why the group was trespassing in lands not their own, the group quickly tried to think of what to say. Growing impatient, the Elven Captain was on the verge of ordering the groups slaughter, when Krosh finally broke the stalemate. In his usual gruff bravado, Krosh attempted to be diplomatic, but his flippant tongue only seemed to make matters worse. Not entirely sure if they should reveal themselves, Maximillion and Alexander stayed silent, content to let the group talk themselves out of the issue, all the while keeping a wary eye on their would-be captors, readied and willing, should negotiations fall to battle.
Blythe, in a quick attempt to calm the growing hostility, asked about Sylvani, her father, which put the Elven Captain back. After quick discussion with his standard-bearer, the Captain ordered a few of his men to search the skeletal remains for any artifacts they may recover, and leave the rest.
While Blythe was talking, a the group noticed that the Elves secured two more of the glowing blue shards from the bodies of the skeletons, and secure them in separate pouches; almost, as if, they were afraid to let them touch.
With some quick thinking Maud’dib, Blythe, and Krosh managed to assuage the Elven Captain and secure an escort to the Onyx Tower of Sorcery. Such an escort would be paid by the surrendering of their weapons and gear; only to be returned once they reached what the Captain called, “The Maze.” In return, the elves would provide all the protection the group would need and allowed them a much needed rest, without the worries that they would be attacked. True to their word, when a skirmish broke out some distance away, half the elves departed, only to return in short order.
Some helpful eavesdropping enlightened the group that the undead attacks seemed to be more common since the arrival of the outsiders, and that for some reason the skeletons seemed to be drawn to the unwanted group. It was also revealed during this short exchange that all was not well with the elves, and not all were pleased with the twisted way their Fallenwood had become.
An inquiry about the origins of the maze revealed that this was a secreted backdoor, of sorts, to the clearing in which rested the Tower of Sorcery. It was also revealed that the Royal line had secreted themselves into the Tower and had not been seen in quite a while, although he would not really elaborate as to how long it had been since they last seen them. It was also revealed that none had taken to the Maze, as only those of the Blood could navigate its paths successfully.
With none of the elves wanting to really mingle with the group, this band of allies, kept to themselves, keeping a wary eye on their would-be captors. Another day of marching, and the group was finally escorted to the edge of a clearing. The elves would move no further, choosing instead to hide amongst the trees.
Muad’Dib, curious, decided to approach the entrance to the cave in the dense evening fog, only to discover that the side of the mountain had been carved into a skull, with the mouth providing the opening. With the rock seemingly unnatural and magical, he returned to the group and told them what he learned. It was right before bed, that Maud’dib used the opportunity to cast a lesser restoration on Alexander, restoring his vitality and charm.
Blythe, insisting they rest and proceed with the elves recommendation they wait until morning, convinced the group to hold off. When day broke, the elves were no where to be seen, but in a neat pile right next to the group’s camp lied their weapons and gear. True to their word, the elves returned their confiscated items.
Approaching carefully, Krosh determined that the mouth of the cave was not trapped and they entered cautiously with Alexander leading the way. A hard rumbling shook the walls of the cave, almost as if the earth was angry, and it knock Maud’dib off his feet. At the first intersection, coming from both ends were small elementals.
Maud’dib quickly surmised that the elementals were guardians, trapped here with the same magic that made the dungeon walls glow. Deciding that this was exactly the same magic that illuminated the walls in the Halls of the Dwarven mines many days, before, Maud’dib guessed that his elemental abilities would be useless here.
A small battle took place, as the group easily dispatched the smaller elementals, followed by a slightly larger one, and then proceeded on. A magically blocked doorway ended the path to the right, and it was here that Blythe discovered her Open/Close spell would not work in this mysterious maze.
Opting to go left, the group discovered an empty hallway that led to another room. In this room was a large round dais etched with the shape of a triangle. Not wanting to step on the dais, Krosh, Alexander and Blythe gingerly stepped around it. Krosh, Alexander and Blythe, also took note that as they approached the raised platform that it would begin to glow in the same mysterious blue that the gem shards gave off; the closer they got, the brighter it glowed.
Blythe, wanting to see what would happen, hovered her hand just above it, and it seemed here that she could feel the magic of the gemstone pulsating in her body, as her tattoos matched pace with the pulsating of the light from the platform. Not sensing an immediate danger, Blythe placed her hand on it. A searing pain ripped through her body, and a scream tore through the halls.
As the light faded, the gem shard imbedded in Blythe’s arms fell onto the platform, no longer glowing blue, but instead a dull grey. Unbeknownst to her, but fairly obvious to both Krosh and Alexander, Blythe had aged 20 years. Almost as if the portal had sucked the life straight from her body.
It was then, that the sound of a door shifting echoed through the suddenly silent corridor. Blythe had bought their entrance to the maze with a piece of her soul. Continuing on, the group encountered a sarcophagus in a room tucked off to the right. Crumbling from age, the decorative color had fallen to the side, revealing a skeleton that also had begun to turn to dust. The only thing of note inside, was a rusted out dagger, complete with a stunningly beautiful garnet in the hilt.
Continuing to the left, ever so carefully, Krosh discovered a room with a broken urn and two everburning braziers, larger versions of the everburning torches, the group was used to seeing. With nothing of note the group continued on.
Seeing a chest, Krosh immediately went to it, to take a look. Noticing the faded inscription in a very old dialect, Krosh and Maud’dib were able to make out the name Iomedae, referencing the Goddess of Justice, Valor and Honor. Opting not to disturb an obvious tribute to the Pantheon of Gods, the group continued on to what seemed like a dead end.
On both sides of the room were two stone dragon heads, the right had a bowl underneath it, while the left’s bowl had long broken off and shattered on the floor; and a carved skull on the far end. A close inspection of the dragon heads revealed a dark stain along the snout, almost as if something thick and viscious had been rubbed into it. Blythe, wary about opening any more doors or portals, convinced young Maximillion to cut his hand and smear it on the dragon’s head. Taking a dagger from his belt, Maximillion did as requested, but nothing happened.
Maud’dib quickly surmised that this was likely a ritual spell to open the way, and like most rituals would require specific components. Realizing they encountered a rusty dagger in the Sarcophagus, Krosh dashed back to retrieve it, stopping on the way back to grab the chest of coins meant for the Goddess.
Running back, Krosh handed Maximillion the dagger, which Max used to reopen the wound and smear blood across the faces of both dragons; and placed the coins just before the skeletal stone head. The walls shook again, but this time not nearly as violent, as the wall with the carved skull crumbled.
A hissing wind echoed through the dungeon, and a sinister voice in a louder whispery wind howled, “Thank you.”
The group continued to the new doorway where they encountered another dragon head, complete with bowl; only this one did not have the blackened stains of blood upon it. Underneath it rested another chest of coins and gems; with the same inscripted dialect referencing Gozreh, a dualistic god of nature: god of the storm and sky, and goddess of the wave and surf.
Approaching the locked door on the far end, Krosh was taken a bit by surprised as a ghostly hand reached out and barely missed touching him. The wraith, seemingly the last guarding of the maze, and likely the spirit of he entombed in the sarcophagus attacked in full force.
Stepping into danger, Alexander tried with all his might to keep its attention, while Blythe and Maximillion pelted it with spells, and Krosh used his magical weapon to inflict as much damage as possible. Maud’dib realizing that his natural abilities were limited here, took a fall back approach and tried to make sense of all they had seen thus far.
The battle was long, as the specter shifted his attention from Alexander to Krosh, and back again. One well placed hit on Alexander seemed to suck the life right out of him, and forced him to stumbled backwards. Eventually, the wraith was defeated, and the group found that they had exhausted almost all their spells in the effort. Opening the newest door, and hoping they were at the end of the maze, Krosh strode out into a clearing, tiled with rock. Overhead, shone the moon, bright in the sky, the first they had seen of it, since they entered the Fallenwood; its light falling directly on the Onyx Tower of Sorcery, up ahead, with a pool of water in the middle of the clearing
Though mostly imperceptible, the group couldn’t help but notice that there was something off about the tower; almost as if it were shifting shape… almost as if it were not entirely in this realm, but instead sharing multiple.
Krosh, looking for a way in, walked a circuit, carefully around, and of course discovered that there was no door. Blythe, having had an ill experience with that last portal warily approached the pool, only to discover that the water here was murky and poisoned, as well. Maud’dib took the opportunity to cast a purify spell, which for a short time cleaned the water (just enough for the group to fill their waterskins) before it reverted back. There was no mistaking it, whatever was poisoning the forest, the source was nearby.
As Alexander approached the pool, the group noticed the water turned from its murky, swamp-like surface, to an icy-white… looking like ice, but still retaining the properties of water. Krosh opened up his pouch of blue shards, and brought one forth as well, only to have the same reaction. To his surprised when counting them out, he discovered that there were two additional shards in his pouch, likely placed their by the elves during their escort.
Not knowing what else to do, Alexander stepped into the water, and mysteriously vanished. Shrugging, Krosh handed out a shard to everyone else, before stepping into the pool of water himself, followed by Maximillion, Blythe, and Maud’dib.
On the other side of wherever it was they went. The group was able to make out the unmistakable signs of death, as a single torch burned on the wall. Through the flickering shadows there was just enough light, to reveal gore and blood on the walls. Dead animals lie on the tables nearby, dissected and stitched back together; and the entire room smelled of decay.
They had found themselves in the tower… but is that a good thing?