Into the Castle Heights
Though weary from their fight with the skeleton warrior and the nightlong vigil that preceded it, the Crimson Blades advance across the bridge that Earth-Egan had created, emerging onto the main balcony of Scarwall’s third story. The main structure of the third story, and the enormous tower looming behind it, await the adventurers, while around them stone gargoyles perch, gaping blankly ahead.
Leaving Sial and Asyra outside to guard the bridge, the rest of the party warily enters the main structure, which is divided by a long hallway running east and west. Doors sit at both ends and run along each wall. Arlynn, Zandu, Irabeth, and Laori go left, while Earth-Egan, Nox, Ashla, Kyra, and Remmy go right.
The left group discovers an abandoned torture chamber. Amid the ruined racks and rusty chains, Arlynn unearths a strange metal box. She passes it over Zandu, who fails to detect any magic on it.
“Kyra, honey,” the gnoll calls down the hall, “we’ve got something you need to look at!”
“Oh my way!” the halfling hollers back. While she scampers over to the torture chamber, the rest of her group discovers a private balcony overlooking a walkway leading to the tower.
In the torture chamber, Kyra reaches for the box but the paladin intervenes.
“Let’s examine it outside,” Arlynn suggests. “Irabeth, you and Laori keep looking around.”
The half-orc and the elf priestess continue investigating, while the three of them head out onto the main balcony.
The Trap is Sprung
Over on the private balcony, Ashla finds a set of tiny bone pipes, barely bigger than a whistle. Earth-Egan also detects strange little footprints in the dust. Ashla recognizes them as the tracks of at least three imps, maybe more. The faint scent of brimstone in the air suggests that they were here moments ago.
Out on the main balcony, Kyra delicately turns the metal case over in her hands.
“Hmm, no traps,” she frowns, “but it definitely has a hidden catch. Let me see about getting that open . . .”
As the halfling reaches for her thieves’ tools, there is a grinding sound from the hallway. Slabs of slate gray stone seal off the center of the hall.
“We’re being cut off!” Arlynn warns, rushing over to the blank wall where the door inside once stood. She runs a hand over the stone surface and then ducks back, her sword out. “It’s all an illusion!”
“Um, looks like we’ve got bigger problems,” Kyra says, dropping the box and drawing her rapier.
A trio of four-armed gargoyle brutes have risen from their perches to swoop down towards the five adventurers on the main balcony. One dives down towards the paladin, grabbing at her with four hands, but Arlynn easily ducks beneath its grasping claws. Zandu and Sial are not as fortunate, as each is seized by one of the brutes.
Just as Arlynn turns to face the new threat, a clawed hand lashes out at her through the stone wall illusion. As it scrapes against her armor, the Bekyar woman takes in the deep green color of the fingers and the thick coat of needle-like spines and realizes that she is being attacked by a Hamatula, better known as a barbed devil.
“We’re being attacked by a devil!” she calls out. “I think it’s a lord of Scarwall!”
“We’ve got devil problems, too!” Irabeth hollers back as another, bigger barbed devil steps out of the illusion. The fiend seizes hold of the half-orc with its spiny hands, raking her with its claws.
Out on the private balcony, another trio of gargoyle brutes swoops down from the tall tower to attack. The first gargoyle dives at Ashla, but she simply steps to the side and the monster careens into the wall and falls twenty feet onto the roof below. Earth-Egan takes a swipe at the creature, to no effect. The second gargoyle, however, successfully grabs hold of Ashla, while the third catches Nox in its clutches.
In the hallway where Remmy had been keeping watch, a scrawny green imp winks into view. The Gray Maiden raises her sword, but the imp suggests a different course of action.
“You can sit this one out,” the little devil soothes, “your friends have this under control. Another sword would just get in the way. They don’t need you.”
“They don’t need me,” a glassy-eyed Remmy repeats, slouching against the door frame.
Outside, another imp appears hovering near the main balcony. This one, a small brown creature, suggests to Asyra that “Your master and his companions can take care of themselves. Just sit back and give them a chance to enjoy Zon-Kuthon’s gift of agony.”
The chain devil stops twirling her chains and relaxes her stance.
A third imp, this one a bright sickly yellow, appears on the other side of the main balcony. The fiend calls out a suggestion to Kyra.
“The big people can take care of themselves,” he says. “No reason to risk your neck, just stay where you are and you’ll be safe.”
“Thanks, I’ll keep that it mind,” the halfling says, quietly pulling out a dagger.
Arlynn steps backward, her greatsword pointed at the illusory wall.
“Come and face me, fiend,” the paladin challenges. She draws upon her aura of justice to grant the strength of Iomedae’s righteous fury to Kyra, Zandu, Sial and Asyra.
Completely ignoring the friendly imp’s advice, Kyra tumbles into a corner and tosses a dagger at the gargoyle grasping Zandu. Unfortunately the gnoll sorcerer is in the way.
“Oh, shit!” Kyra groans. “Sorry! I’m not mind-controlled or anything! . . . Though maybe that makes things worse.”
“It’s okay, Kyra,” Zandu calls back. “Just a flesh wound!”
While Asyra examines her nails, the gargoyle brute grasping Sial lifts him high in the air. The Shadowcount berates his bewitched bodyguard all the way up, until the gargoyle drops him.
“Don’t just stand there, you small minded fool—help me!”
He crashes down onto the roof, smashing a man-sized dent into the wooden shingles.
The same gargoyle as before makes another run at Arlynn, but once again fails to catch hold of the determined paladin. The third gargoyle, meanwhile, carries Zandu high into the air and just a little to the west, letting go of the sorcerer over the caldera lake. His smug satisfaction turns to frustration as the sorcerer gently feather falls a languid thirty feet.
Asyra suddenly shakes her head and gives a startled look around before rushing out onto Egan’s roof-bridge to help Sial, extending her chains out to grasp him.
As he slowly drifts down towards the water, Zandu casually leans back and directs a lightning bolt at his attacker.
Three Fights for the Price of One
Back on the main balcony, the hamatula takes Arlynn’s bait and steps out of the illusion to confront her—a scrawny, hunched-over figure bristling with green spines. The barbed devil slashes at Arlynn with its claws, but does little more than scuff her armor.
As the hunched figure strides past, Kyra lunges out with her rapier to try to sneak attack it, but her blade is unable to pierce its bristles, which loosen and spray back at her with the strike.
“Ow! Damn it!” the halfling cries, pulling back a sword hand full of spines.
Inside, the big hamatula strengthens its grip on Irabeth and squeezes her onto its barbs. The half-orc lets out a roar in agony.
Over on the private balcony, one gargoyle lifts off with Nox, while Ashla manages to wriggle free of her captor. The gargoyle that tumbled to the roof rises up from its fall and gets two fists full of Earth-Egan, causing it to flee into the sky. The one carrying Nox drops him onto the balcony railing. The mercenary shouts in pain, but he’s able to cling hold to the railing and not fall further.
Earth-Egan casts flame strike on two of the gargoyles and then extends a stony hand out through the balcony floor to give Nox something to stand on. He gestures back inside with another stony fist.
The Devil You Didn’t Know
Following the druid’s advice, Ashla retreats inside. She comes to stand by Remmy. She notices the Gray Maiden’s glassy-eyed stare and tries to get her attention. Remmy stares blankly off into space for a moment before blinking—or winking?—and shaking her head clear.
“What? Why am I . . . ? What’s going on?” Remmy says blearily, before fixing her gaze on the now-empty hall. “That godsdamned imp put a spell on me, didn’t he? I hate those little buggers! Do you know where he went?”
Ashla raises her hands in a shrug—swords and all.
“Watch where you point those things!” Remmy chastises her. “You’ll put someone’s eye out—and I’m out of spares!”
Sounds of clanging swords and Irabeth’s shouts of pain echo up the hallway.
“Sounds like they could use our help over there,” Remmy says, “but they’ve blocked off the corridor.”
“It’s just an illusion,” Ashla assures her. “You can step right through it.”
“All right then,” the Gray Maiden says, raising her shield. “For Korvosa!”
She marches through the illusory wall—and right into the claws of the third hamatula waiting on the other side. It snatches her in its claws and she lets out a shriek of sheer terror. Down the hall in the side room, Irabeth struggles vainly to free herself from the big devil’s clutches, while Laori lashes at it with her spiked chain.
“Why did it have to be devils?” the elf grumbles. “I’m all kitted out to fight undead!”
Over on the private balcony, Nox hoists himself up over the railing and comes to stand beside Earth-Egan, ready for any gargoyle to come swooping down.
Duel with the Devil
Out on the main balcony, Arlynn steps sideways to flank the hunched devil with Kyra.
“You’re not the only one who can count on help from little friends,” the paladin says, striking with her sword. “Prepare to meet your end, lord of Scarwall!”
Kyra also attacks but once again fails to strike true, suffering from the hamatula’s vicious barbs.
“Damn it!” the halfling grits. “Thanks Arlynn, but if it’s all the same I’m going back to chucking daggers.”
The same unlucky gargoyle tries for a third time to carry off Arlynn, but overshoots and manages to pick up the hunched devil instead, dropping it immediately. The gargoyle flies off in shame.
The gargoyle harassing Sial lands near the Shadowcount and claws him with four arms. Asyra responds by lashing him with all four of her chains.
The gargoyle that dropped Zandu roars at the sorcerer in Terran. “IF YOU WON’T FALL RIGHT ON YOUR OWN, I’LL DO IT MYSELF.”
The four-armed brute drops like a stone and slams into the gnoll, driving him into the caldera lake. Zandu flails about in the cold water, struggling to surface.
In the hallway, a terrified and screaming Remmy struggles vainly to free herself from the third barbed devil as it squeezes her onto its spines. Across the hall, Irabeth also strains against the clutches of the big hamatula impaling her on its barbs and calls upon Iomedae’s blessing to heal her wounds. Laori imbues her with the strength of a bull. Outside on the main balcony, the hunched hamatula reaches out with two stringy arms to lock Arlynn into a death grip.
Gale Force Gnome
Over on the rear balcony, the gargoyles dive down to attack Earth-Egan’s exposed stony hand.
The gnome druid responds by casting Control Wind to summon a hurricane-force wind that swirls around the Scarwall heights, centering the eye of the storm on the heart of the building. Caught off guard, the gargoyles struggle against the wind. The imps, meanwhile, are tossed about, their wails of surprise dopplering around the castle.
Unfortunately, Asyra and Sial are also caught out in the storm. The winds blow them across the roof, with Sial very nearly knocked off the building.
Down on the water, the waves get choppy, but the gargoyle circling above manages to stay aloft relative unaffected unaffected. Beneath the troubled water, Zandu struggles against the churning tide. Unable to fight his way to the surface, he retrieves the bottle of air from his handy haversack to avoid drowning. As he does so, the gnoll notices something big and dark and angry surging up towards him from the depths below.
In the hallway, Ashla races towards Remmy’s screams. She steps through the stone wall illusion to emerge right beside the Gray Maiden as she struggles against the clutches of the barbed devil. The half-elf lays into the creature with steel, but her swords have trouble biting through his spines and each strike comes back with a hand full of sharp spines.
At the other end of the castle heights, Nox retreats back inside the balcony doorway. He drops his sword and shield to draw his bow.
Still gripped with supernatural terror, Remmy struggles against the third hamatula’s spiny grip, without success. Despite Laori’s support, Irabeth remains caught in the same position. The elf priestess frowns and takes another swing at the barbed devil.
“Why. Won’t. You. Hug. Me!” she shouts.
Epic Property Damage
Her sword pinned by the creature, Arlynn punches the hunched devil in the face—her fist backed up by Iomedae’s divine might. Behind her, Kyra tumbles up onto the roof of the hall overlooking the main balcony and chucks a dagger in the hamatula’s hunched back. Just beyond the main balcony, the wind howls past, peeling off shingles, boards, and other debris.
With a terrible screech, the barbed railing along the balcony is ripped free by the hurricane. The tangle of sharp metal scythes around the building, lashing the remaining gargoyles. Arlynn glimpses a three imps—brown, red, and yellow—impaled on the whirling strand of spikes before the mess tears into Sial. Carried on by the storm, the wire lashes around the great tower, catching the gargoyles by the rear balcony.
At the sight of this disaster, the hunched devil, reeling from Arlynn’s righteous left hook, releases the Bekyar woman and retreats back into the hall. The paladin slashes after it with her greatsword, but the blade goes flying through the illusory stone wall and hits something beyond with a wooden thunk.
“Stand and fight you, coward!” Arlynn bellows after the retreating hamatula, before turning around to eye the Kuthites. Shouting over the wail of the hurricane, she asks “Count Sial, how do you fare?”
“I’ve been picked up and thrown around by a bloody gargoyle and a bloody hurricane!” he snarls back, clinging to a rattling section of the rooftop as the wind sets his long, white hair whipping about his face. “I could use some of your vaunted healing powers right about now!”
The Grip Tightens
Inside the hallway, the other two barbed devils continue to squeeze Remmy and Irabeth against their deadly spines, inflicting grievous wounds on the two women.
Over on the rear balcony, the remaining gargoyles swoop out of the storm to attack Earth-Egan. The druid strikes back with stony fists, while Nox fires arrows.
Out near the main balcony, the two remaining gargoyles seek shelter from the storm. The one that had been harrying Asyra and Sial retreats down Egan’s bridge to the castle loft. The gargoyle that had failed to catch Arlynn seeks shelter in a side room on the castle heights.
Out on the storm-wracked roof, Asyra crawls across the shingles until she is close enough to catch Sial with her chains and start pulling him towards her as the wind continues to hammer at both of them.
In the chilly waters down below, Zandu decides it’s now or never. Kicking himself up to the surface, the gnoll sorcerer takes four claws to the face from the gargoyle waiting just above. He shrugs off the damage and casts fly on himself, while the great bulk of the creature beneath him surges up with frightful speed.
On the private balcony, Earth-Egan casts call lightning storm, which strikes down one of the gargoyles with one powerful bolt. The gnome druid then earth glides through the stone of the castle heights towards the main balcony.
Meanwhile, Nox stows his bow and retrieves his sword and shield.
In the hallway, Ashla continues to strike at the third hamatula, but still struggle to inflict any lasting harm to the fiend, all the while collecting more searing barbs in her hands and arms. Beside her, the mind-numbing fear finally drains away from Remmy and the Gray Maiden slashes the barbed devil with her holy cold iron longsword, cutting through its vile defenses with ease—but still picking up barbs. The young woman is now bleeding profusely from dozens of puncture wounds.
Irabeth unwittingly follows her example and lands a devastating blow with her mithral longsword, backed up by the holy might of Iomedae.
“Squeeze all you like,” she shouts, “I’ll still cut the life out of you first, fiend!”
“How is everyone doing?” Arlynn calls out. “Irabeth, are you all right?”
“Bloodied but still in the fight,” the half-orc calls back.
“I could really use some of that ol’ healing magic,” Remmy calls out weakly.
Arlynn looks over at the wounded Sial and Asyra, still struggling against the hurricane, and then turns reluctantly back towards the hall.
“Egan, get out here and help the Count!” she hollers, advancing towards the building. ’Irabeth, how far are you from the balcony door?"
“About five feet.”
Arlynn positions herself by the door and then raises her empty sword hand to channel the healing blessing of her goddess. The energy washes over her companions in the hallway, soothing their wounds.
Never Bring a Spell to a Sword Fight
Kyra swings down from the rooftop and tumbles through the illusory wall, rolling past the devils, and across the hall into the room that they had emerged from, where she springs to her feet, lobs a dagger at the third hamatula, and then ducks into the shadows. Arlynn’s missing greatsword sits embedded in the open chamber door.
In the hall, two of the devils press their captives onto their spines yet again. Remmy cries out in agony as the barbs undo Arlynn’s work. The hunched over devil, badly wounded itself from its fight with Arlynn, casts a spell that lances two scorching rays across the hall at Ashla. The half-elf is only mildly singed, thanks to her ring of fire resistance.
She drops her longsword and extends a hand to Remmy, reaching for her holy cold iron longsword.
“Mind if I borrow that?” Ashla asks.
“Sure,” the dark haired girl says woozily.
Fresh sword in hand, Ashla cuts the third hamatula badly.
Snatched from the Jaws of Death
Earth-Egan continues to glide through the castle stones until he reaches the two Kuthites. The druid takes hold of them with his huge rocky hands and shields them from the hurricane with the immovable bulk of his earth elemental body.
Out on the lake, Zandu zooms past the furious gargoyle, just ahead of the snapping jaws of the enormous tarn worm that bursts from the water beneath him. The frustrated worm bites the gargoyle and drags it under, while the sorcerer struggles through the high ind towards the castle.
In the side room off the hallway, Irabeth continues hacking away at the big barbed devil, while Laori supports her with healing magic.
A Paladin is Never Unarmed
Determined to get back into the fight, Arlynn steps through the illusion and into the hallway. She tries to retrieve her greatsword but the hunched devil grabs hold of her. The angry paladin responds by decking the fiend with her gauntleted fist, shattering its skull with her holy wrath.
“Scratch another lord of Scarwall!” Arlynn boasts.
“Yes!” Irabeth shouts from the other side of another illusory wall. She grins at the big fiend grasping her. “You hear that, you overgrown hedgehog? Your master is slain, and soon you’ll be next!”
From her position in the doorway, Kyra tumbles out to throw another knife at the third barbed devil.
“Let’s wrap this up, people,” the halfling says, “I’m kinda running low on daggers here.”
No Quarter for the Wicked
The third devil squeezes Remmy one more time, leaving her barely on her feet, and then retreats back into the doorway of its chamber. The big hamatula shifts its position to put Irabeth between it and the illusory wall covering the hallway, then presseses the half-orc against its spines again.
Ashla closes in on the retreating hamatula and catches it in the doorway, slicing it half to ribbons with her new sword.
Out on the main balcony, Earth-Egan sets Asyra and Sial down inside the eye of his hurricane. The druid then moves forward down the bridge he’d shaped to pursue the gargoyle in the loft, striking it with call lightning.
In the hall, Nox moves up to face of against the barbed devil, sword and shield ready. Remmy retrieves Ashla’s sword and hangs back, still shaky on her feat.
Outside, Zandu presses through the storm to fly up to the second floor entrance to Scarwall. He begins races through the corridors back towards the third floor, brushing past a couple of perplexed ghosts.
In the side room, Irabeth continues to press the attack against her grappler, with Laori adding her spiked chain back into the mix.
In the hall, Arlynn tugs her greatsword free from the door and cuts down the devil in the doorway. Kyra springs over the piny body and tumbles out into the hall, where she lines up a knife on the last hamatula gripping Irabeth.
“Hamatula? I Hardly Knew ’Er!”
The big barbed devil abandons his captive and tumbles out of the room, dodging the half-orc’s parting sword swing. The devil scrambles up onto the roof. Earth-Egan gives chase, gliding up onto the roof as the fiend scrambles across the shingles towards the tall tower that rises beyond. The druid calls lightning onto his foe, but the hamatula shakes off the spell handily. Despite the swirling gale, the barbed devil leaps up onto the tower wall and begins to climb.
Which is when Zandu pops out of the third floor, floating up over the rooftop to the very edge of the hurricane’s eye. The gnoll sorcerer huffs and puffs and spews lightning at the retreating devil, frying it in a crackle of blue energy.
Loose Ends and Secret Doors
While the rest of the party regroups, Nox goes hunting for one of the surviving gargoyles, tracking the wounded creature to one of the old torture chambers in the heights. With his shield and sword, the mercenary batters the brute down.
After joining with Irabeth to channel their goddess’ blessing onto the party, Arlynn investigates the remaining rooms in the tower heights. In one chamber, she uncovers a funerary urn with markings from Lastwall, but no legible writing.
Elsewhere, she notices some missing space between two rooms. Kyra determines that the secret door is not trapped and quickly unlocks it. The cramped chamber beyond holds a rolling desk, against which a simple walking stick leans. A search of the desk finds numerous rare spell components, of which several thousand gp’s worth in gems and diamond dust remains.
Once the hurricane dies down, the adventurers head back out to consult with Zellara. The ghostly Varisian woman can sense no magical purpose behind the urn, but she identifies the walking stick as in truth a staff of conjuration, which Zandu promptly claims.
Kyra gets the mysterious metal box open and finds that it is full of buttons and levers. Nox recognizes it as the control mechanism for an elaborate torture device he’d seen in Cheliax, though no other components of the device remained in the torture chamber where box was found.
Next, the Crimson Blades investigate the traps they’d laid around the barbican at the causeway entrance. Right at the front of the barbican they find a dead goblin, slain by the swinging log trap. Laori casts speak with dead so that the adventurers can interrogate it, with Irabeth acting as a translator.
Under questioning, the dead goblin admits to being part of a scouting party sent by Mardak. The goblin says the orc army is only a few days away. The Crimson Blades share some worried looks.
Arlynn suggests that they play upon the orcs’ superstitions about Scarwall. They scatter about some bones from the castle and pose the goblin to make it seem like he was killed by ghosts. Kyra gets really into the scheme and also rigs up a fake ghost shape floating in the barbican tower window using a white sheet and some rope. After Ashla covers any sign that the party was, there, they decide on where to spend the night.
Bedtime for Laori & Friends
With the orcs so near, the party concludes that it’s not safe to camp outside. However, Zandu worries that Laori could be in danger if they rest in the castle. They ultimately return to the ballroom, where Sial sets up his bone house, the skull tower rising through the broken glass skylight.
After Kyra treats them to a surprisingly tasty turnip soup, the Crimson Blades ready for bed. Arlynn, Zandu and Egan all give Laori items to strengthen her will to resist Mithrodar if he haunts her dreams again. The elf priestess is touched by their kindness. Worried that her hooked chain mail might damage Zandu’s orange cloak of resistance, the elf maiden strips out of it for the first time they’ve known her. Beneath it, she wears some loose black jammies embroidered with smiling skulls.
“Of course,” Zandu says at the sight of the pajamas.
The adventurers arrange for Laori to bed down at the very top of the tower, where the people on watch can keep an eye on her for any trouble. For extra security, Arlynn will lie down nearby.
“You guys are like the best friends I’ve ever had who aren’t one-eyed torture gods,” Laori says as she sits down in the lotus pose to begin trancing. “I am going to bake you sooo many cookies when we get back to Korvosa.”
“There’s no need to pay us back, Laori,” Arlynn tells her, unfurling a bedroll. “You’re our friend and friends look out for each other. . . . But if you feel that you must repay us, I’d like extra chocolate on mine.”
“No almonds, either,” Nox grunts from his perch in the skull’s left eye socket.
“Done,” Laori yawns, tugging the orange cloak around herself as she closes her obsidian eyes.