Top of the Morning
Secure in the bone house that rises through the ballroom’s shattered skylight, the Crimson Blades enjoy their first undisturbed night in Scarwall for quite some time. On watch duty, Aquilos Nox, Remmy, and Kyra all notice that the castle seems more subdued and less threatening, with virtually no spectral manifestations all night long.
After all the precautions they had taken, it’s a surprise and a relief when Laori stretches contentedly as she rises from her trance, apparently none the worse for wear. She carefully shakes out and folds up Zandu’s orange cloak of resistance before retrieving her ceremonial dagger to begin her morning ablutions.
Downstairs, Kyra asks after Zandu’s health as he gets up.
“You took a long spill in the drink there,” she says, giving his scaly knee an uncertain pat. “You sure you’re okay? Not coming down with anything?”
“I’m fine,” the gnoll sorcerer insists. “Out on the lake, I was more worried about gargoyles and the big worm than the water. That stuff just shakes off.”
“You gotta admit, drowning’s a pretty nasty way to go,” Kyra says with a shiver. “That’s how my dad died. He might also have been eaten by a sea monster. So that lake’s kinda a twofer on my nightmare scale.”
“Well, don’t worry,” Zandu says, laying a clawed hand on her shoulder, “I’m steering clear of that lake from now on.”
“Thanks,” the halfling grins, wrapping her small fingers around his. “I don’t want you going anywhere—who knows what you’d come back as next time.”
“Hate to interrupt this touching moment,” Ashla intrudes, “but there’s a haunted castle that needs cleansing and we’re wasting daylight.”
“She’s right,” Nox agrees. “I say we poke our noses into that last lonely tower on the third floor.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Arlynn nods.
“I thought that was the plan all along,” Zandu says.
As the adventurers assemble by the bone house door, Remmy hangs back, nervously rubbing the bloodstained kapenia sash still tied around her left arm.
“Guys, I think I’m going to stay behind,” she says. “Two fights in a row, magic’s muddled my mind. I mean, an imp managed to put a spell on me. I used to swat those things aside when I was on the Guard, but now . . . I think what was done to me, my indoctrination, it’s left the door to my head wide open. And I don’t want to be a liability.”
“Well, if that’s your choice,” Nox shrugs. “But take it from me, sooner or later you’re going to have to face your fears. Hiding from them is no solution.”
“Will she be safe here alone?” Arlynn asks Sial.
The Shadowcount shrugs. “The door to the bone house answers only to me. Though of course, spectral creatures have proven able to breach the sanctum.”
“I ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” Remmy insists.
“Fine, she’s staying,” Ashla taps her foot impatiently. “Can we go kill some devils now?”
“Wait!” Laori hollers. “We haven’t had breakfast yet!”
Casing the Joint
The lonely tower rises 60 feet above the roof of the main keep of Scarwall, capped by a small cupola, where the last surviving gargoyle brute had taken refuge during the previous day’s battle. The only other entrance appears to be a single door accessible via a narrow stone causeway.
The Crimson Blades move into position on the walkway, save for Zandu, Kyra, and Sial who hang back inside the main keep. Earth-Egan earthglides inside the tower to scope it out.
The interior of the tower is completely hollow, with no stairs or ladder leading up to the opening high overhead. A shallow pool of stagnant water from past rains has formed in the center of the floor. The few furnishings include a wide bed swathed in rotten bedclothes, hanging several feet off the floor, supported at its corners by chains hanging from a series of iron support beams above. To the side a large gilt throne stands upon a short dais before a series of manacles inset into the floor. A series of alcoves climbs the wall in a spiral. Within each stands a statuette, art object, or polished skull.
Perched on top of the bed’s iron hangers, its gaze fixed on the door, is a male chain devil.
Earth-Egan quietly slips back outside and tries to alert the party.
“Does anybody speak rock?” Nox asks.
“I’ll learn it later,” Zandu says dismissively.
After failed attempts at pantomime, Earth-Egan finally gives in and uses ghost sound to warn them about the chain devil.
As the party considers this information, the druid and the ranger also spy a gargoyle lurking among the heights. Earth-Egan raises a huge stony fist to point it out. The gargoyle squawks in surprise and flees, with Nox sending several arrows after it.
A Stubborn Door
Determined not to be caught out in the open in case the gargoyle returns with friends, Arlynn prepares to kick down the door—but Nox gets there first.
“I’m the one who knocks!” he shouts, slamming into the door. The door fails to budge. Nox and Arlynn then try out their battering ram, but it, too, fails.
“Here, let me try,” Zandu offers, casting open/close on the door, but it rattles against it’s lock. The sorcerer then tries to detect magic to see if there is a spell upon it. he picks up nothing from the door, but senses several auras of illusion beyond.
“We might have invisible enemies waiting for us,” he warns, “if we can ever get past this thing.”
“Why don’t you consult a professional?” Kyra suggests in a strained voice. She elbows her way past Nox’ armored thighs, muttering “’I’m the one who knocks.’ In my line of work, you never knock when entering uninvited.”
“If you were three feet taller and ten stone heavier, you might change your mind,” Nox says, cocking an eyebrow.
“Thank the gods for small favors, then,” she says.
After a moment of inspection and jiggling the lock with her thieves’ tools, Kyra breaks the bad news. “This door was made to hold off invaders. Reinforced steel bands all around it. You could pound against that all day and get nowhere. And this lock is master-class. I can get it open—probably—but it’ll take me a while.”
“We can always cut through it,” Arlynn says, taking an experimental swing with her greatsword.
“Or,” Ashla says, “Egan can just move the wall away from the door.”
The druid stone shapes the bricks away from the door, but it still stands there determinedly. Nox gives it a shove and it teeters over with a creak to clang against the floor.
Make it Rain
The hollow tower beyond appears completely empty. Sensing something’s up, Earth-Egan uses create water to produce an artificial shower inside the chamber. The cascade of water water reveals five invisible shapes floating in the room—two small ones in each corner, 20 feet in the air, two larger ones near the center 40 feet in the air, and one large one in the very center, 50 feet in the air. The rain also reveals that there is something perched over the door.
Shield ready, Nox ventures into the room—provoking an attack from the chain devil hanging above the entrance. Arlynn responds by stepping inside and spiderwalking up the wall to confront the chain devil.
The invisible figure floating at the very top of the chamber casts chain lightning, the crackling bolt arcing across to strike all of the assembled adventurers save Zandu and Sial.
Before the smoke can clear, one of the little invisible beings in the corner reveals itself as a green-skinned imp. The tiny fiend suggests to Nox “Why don’t you just sit this one out? It’s way over your head.”
“No, you sit this one out!” the mercenary shouts back.
The imp shrugs. “I gave you a chance.”
“Oh, you’re gonna regret that,” Nox says.
Zandu creeps out onto the causeway to cast haste on the party before retreating back inside the keep. Not one to be left out of a fight, Irabeth charges into the room and activates her celestial full plate in order to fly.
The two large invisible creatures close in on Arlynn as she stands perched on the wall. One of them briefly drops its invisibility to slash at her with its claws, revealing a large skeletal body with bony wings and a scorpion’s tail. The paladin’s armor shakes off the blows, but nearby she can hear the other fiend casting a spell.
With a sharp crackling sound, a wall of ice rises up to seal off the door to the tower. The frigid barrier continues to wend its way around the causeway, sealing in Ashla and Laori while creating a hefty barricade in front of the tower.
Kyra responds by leaping up onto the ice and scrambling over to the tower. She climbs up to an arrow slit and leans inside, dagger at the the ready.
With several swift strokes, Ashla cuts through the ice wall snaring her. Nearby, Laori bashes at ne end of her prison with her spiked chain, while Asyra steps forward to tear down the rear of the ice wall with her own chains.
Inside the tower, the other half of the party continues the fight. Earth-Egan reaches out with one stony finger to tap Nox with air walk. The mercenary uses his new-found powers to charge up and across the chamber at the green imp. He smashes it into the wall with his shield until it turns to mush.
On the other side of the tower, the chain devil tries to trip Arlynn ut the Bekyar woman keeps her footing. The paladin retaliates by cutting down the chain devil and the creature winks out of existence, revealing it to be a summoned creature. Arlynn activates the see invisibility feature of her mask of the mantis, just in time to parry attacks from the two floating bone devils.
In another corner of the room, a second imp—a brown one this time—appears to once again try to charm Nox.
“Why don’t you head back to camp, get some rest,” the fiend suggests.
Nox levels his sword at the imp. “You’re next.”
Gravity is a Harsh Mistress
From high up above, the adventurers can hear the chief devil casting another spell. Arlynn feels the press of invisible walls closing in on her, but she throws them off like a furious mime.
At ground level, Ashla steps through the hole she slashed in the ice, suffering a cold shock as she does so. The half-elf then begins cutting through the layer of ice closing off the door.
Earth-Egan launches his massive fists out of the stone wall, smooshing the second imp much to Nox’s dismay. But the druid’s wild swings jostle the wall beneath Arlynn and leaving paladin struggling to keep her feet. Sensing an opening, the bone devils try to finish the job and successfully knock her to the ground with a clatter.
Swords Against Deviltry
Outside, Zandu casts spiderwalk on himself and easily strides up onto the ice, stopping near Kyra. The halfling looks from him to the small arrow slit above.
“You’re going to tease me again, aren’t you,” she says resignedly.
Laori finishes battering her way through the ice and moves up to stand beside Ashla at the tower threshold.
Inside, another bone devil suddenly warps into existence near Nox. After this backup arrives, the chief devil above suddenly utters words of devastating foulness, syllables so unrighteous that they tear open deep psychic wounds in the party.
“Someone cast air walk on me!” Ashla calls out.
“Sorry,” Laori says, stepping into the room and up into the air, “I already cast it on myself.”
The elf maiden joins the fight against the bone devils, while Ashla moves to help Arlynn to her feet.
In the air above, the bone devils flash in and out of view as they attack Irabeth and Nox. The mercenary is briefly grappled.
Sial and Asyra stride through the passage in the ice wall, halting at the tower threshold. The Shadowcount then calls upon the dark powers of Zon-Kuthon to hold the summoned bone devil. Freed from the creature’s grasp, Nox brings it down.
Up above, the chief devil unleashes a new, terrible spell that leaves Zandu stunned and paralyzes their companions. This spell is quickly followed up by another that leeches the water from the room, leaving many of the adventurers badly wounded. Arlynn is able to channel the divine mercy of Iomedae to keep everyone alive, but their situation is clear.
“We have to kill that devil!” the paladin says.
Earth-Egan tries to dispel the creature’s invisibility, but it resists his magic.
Recovering from the effects of the spell, Zandu alters self in to the form of an incredibly handsome halfling and spiderclimbs through the arrow slit, past the helpless Kyra. The sorcerer uses blindsense to point him towards the chief devil’s general location. He then lets fly with his dragon’s breath attack, spewing lightning out of his pint-sized mouth.
The chief devil responds by closing in and slashing at him with terrible claws, all the while remaining invisible.
Unable to reach their main antagonist, Ashla climbs the inside of the tower wall, using the alcoves as hand holds. She tries to jump onto the floating but immobilized Irabeth, hoping to use the half-orc as a perch from which to attack the bone devil grappling Nox.
Unfortunately, another invisible bone devil is in the way. Ashla instead finds herself grappling with an invisible foe, 30 feet off the ground.
Earth-Egan dispels the paralysis on Irabeth. The half-orc, Nox, and Ashla make short work of the remaining bone devils—including Ashla’s unwilling mount. The half-elf leaps off her perch as it falls and manages to grab hold of Irabeth’s boot. The junior paladin hoists her up.
Arlynn, meanwhile, runs up the side of the tower wall towards the corner where the chief devil lurks. The fiend slashes at her, but Arlynn deflects the attack so forcefully that it throws the devil into a tailspin, sending it crashing to the floor.
“The lord of Scarwall is on the ground!” Arlynn shouts. “Keep her there!”
Emerging from the stone wall, Earth-Egan hammers the chief devil with two fists. Irabeth lands Ashla nearby, though neither can see the creature.
Taking advantage of this confusion, the chief devil leaps back into the air and flees to the opposite corner of the chamber. Arlynn hastily calls out it’s new location. Following her directions, Nox and Irabeth rise up to hem it in, though neither is able to strike it.
In a move both courageous and foolhardy, Arlynn charges across the ceiling in her slippers of spiderwalking and then hurls herself onto the demon below, sword-first. The two of them crash to the ground, getting tangled up in the chains and metal frame of the hanging bed.
Arlynn pins the devil to the floor with her greatsword, but her triumph is cut short as the hanging bed’s surprisingly heavy mattress slams into her with a loud clank, spilling coins out of its ruptured seams.
Arlynn charges across the ceiling and crashes down onto the fiend with her sword. The two of them fall to the ground, getting tangled up in the hanging bed and its surprisingly heavy mattress.
Zandu, still shaped life a halfling, scoops Kyra into his arms and starts spiderwalking her to the floor, letting out a tremendous roar as Arlynn attacks, which shakes Kyra free from her paralysis.
“Now that’s a one-liner,” she smirks, cuddling up against him as he carries her down.
The Dead Dragon’s Treasures
Having vanquished their foes, the party sets about looting the chamber, finding a number of valuable artifacts, a mattress full of coins, and a bunch of talking skulls, one of which they recognize as coming from the same archaic province as Ser Eccholt. Ashla also finds a number of extraordinarily large dragon scales lying around. Kyra pops the gemstones off the throne and Arlynn, Zandu, and Nox have a lengthy debate as to how to remove the gold gilt.
“So, how many more of these lords of Scarwal are left?” Nox asks, nudging the now-visible devil corpse with his boot.
“I’m not sure,” Arlynn admits. “We could always go and check, I suppose. But maybe there’s another way.”
She turns to the elf priestess. “Laori, the last time you saw Mithrodar in your dreams, how many chains did he have?”
“Mithrodar came to me again last night, shook his two creepy chains, told me he’d make me his slave, yadda yadda yadda,” Laori says. “I told him to fuck off—my friends have my back. And ZK, of course.”
“Yeah!” Nox says. “Way to go, Laori!”
“So that means we only have one lord left,” Zandu muses, still halfling-shaped, as Kyra ruffles his hair curiously. “Three guesses as to where it is.”
“The donjon,” Arlynn grimaces.
“Or the Star Tower,” Nox offers.
“I think that before we go anywhere else, we need to head back to Kaer Maga and unload some of this loot,” Egan says, resuming his gnome form. He hefts a crumpled ball of gold leaf bigger than his head.