1800, Wir, 11 Octos, 3E999
The Heroes 4 Hire took their souvenirs and bade Krekklefeets goodbye, departed the tomb and its cave complex and returned to their campsite for the evening. Before turning in, Lt. Diplo Norixius used the Crystal Ball to Scry on the Dark priest, where he observed him rummaging through an ancient library in what appeared to be a horizontally cylindrical room. The next morning they packed up and departed for the eight-day journey back to Half Point.
Zor, 19 Octos, 3E999
The Heroes arrived back at the Heroes’ Haven guild hall shortly before dinnertime, and were greeted happily by their staff and fellow founding members who had remained behind. The team got Higgins settled in a room at the company’s expense, and took the next four days attending to duties around Half Point before departing for the Horizontal Tower of Slaggoth the Necromancer. A return letter was awaiting Illyia Baham, answering several queries he had made on Naïlo Thia’s behalf in regards to the current disposition of the family Erendriel Thalolan had told her about but she had no recollection of herself.
Illyia’s mother had quietly inquired for him when she received his letter, and had found out that the Naïlo family was still wealthy and prominent in the town of Naïlo Nalore deep in the Silverleaf forest in the west of Atryae. After her disappearance, her family searched for decades for her, and a substantial reward for information as to her whereabouts was still being offered. However, with absolutely no success of any kind, hope had been lost and she had been effectively given up for dead. With Illyia’s help, Thia crafted a letter to her parents, recounting what she knew of her past and her exploits since, from the point after the blank in her memory.
0600, Zol, 24 Octos, 3E999
Alton Beeblebrox, Diplo, Illyia, Karraway, Thia, Ryoun Rodri and Smedley Hampton, accompanied by Thalolan, Higgins, Potema, Rumblebelly, Luna and Nightshade, left Half Point for the nearly three week wagon ride to Higgin’s ancestral home, the village of Mur Falls high in a mountain river-gorge and Slaggoth’s Horizontal Tower high above. The trek took them northward along the White River Road past Hellespont and Southpaw, the dwarven cities of Dhur Naal and Gorah Khar and eventually to the citadel along the northern border road known as Northern Watch. There the road crossed the border into the high, sandy plains nation of Gineon and eventually to the small crossroads town of Whitgrove, where they turned onto the road leading northesterly into the snowy, mountainous country of Etra. In the mid afternoon, they pulled the wagon into the river-fork town of Oxfront, deep in the heart of Etra’s central valley, stabled the horses and rented rooms in the inn for the night.
Higgin’s was understandably excited about being back in his home country, although it had been more than a millennia since he was put to sleep. The party spent extra time and attention with him to assist in his transition into a new time as best they could. All in all he seemed to be handling things well; however, he was both eager and a little hesitant to see what his village looked like in modern day.
Far, 13 Nove, 3E999
The trail from Oxfront to Mur Falls was little more than a foot path into the rugged mountains, and with the cold and snow of a Nove-in-Etra winter upon them, the Heroes resigned to making the two-day hike on foot. They found a campsite that look like it was well used at the halfway point, and on the second day the trail began an ever-steepening climb up the rocky ledges of the eastern mountain range, following the path of a swiftly flowing river of whitewater, rapids and waterfalls. Late that afternoon, they came upon an escarpment carved into the very rock-face of the gorge itself, and within it carved out of the living stone the buildings of the tiny village of Mur Falls.
The path forked in front of them; the left path leveling off and proceeding straight into the escarpment and the village, and the right steepening up the face of the mountain over top of the cavern and proceeding to the giant waterfall just under a mile farther upstream from the village. The village’s cavern was high up the face of the gorge, easily 150’ or more to the rocky riverbed below, and had an amazing vista of the head of the waterfall stretching nearly another 100’ above the level of the village. And there, a few dozen feet in front of the rushing water of the waterfall itself, stretching from one side of the gorge across several hundred feet of expanse to the other side, was the Horizontal Tower of Slaggoth the Necromancer.
1700, Sar, 14 Nove, 3E999
The group stood at the fork for a few moments taking in the breathtaking view, but shortly realized that the village carved into the rock was quite devoid of life… no people, no smoke from cooking or hearth fires, no sounds other than the rushing roar of plunging water. Higgins was dumbstruck, and wandered into the village looking for signs of the its fate. The Heroes decided to split up, and Beeblebrox, Diplo, Thia and Smedley headed up the right-hand path towards the tower while the rest followed Higgins in to search the village. Inside, they found no sign of violence or disease or catastrophe, and eventually concluded that the village was probably abandoned for some unknown reason many centuries ago, regardless of the enduring nature of the houses carved from the stone cliff face.
Meanwhile, up at the horizontal tower, Alton, Diplo, Thia and Smedley were greeted by an awe inspiring, although surprising, sight. A 40’-diameter cylindrical tower spanned the width of the gorge some 200’ long, oriented horizontally instead of vertically and supported by two massive buttresses carved out of the rock face of the cliffs themselves. The horizontal tower was roughly level with the top, plunging edge of the waterfall, and sat at least 50’ out into the gorge in front of it. Beneath the tower span was an ancient rope bridge crossing the gorge and connecting the winding foot trail through the mountains across the river. The tower was not in the repair they expected: nearly two-thirds of the tower’s outer wall had crumbled away over the centuries, and they could see three floors exposed inside, the middle and upper partially broken away as well. The bottom floor was also broken away on its edges, but still completely spanned the length of the tower and therefore the gorge, and was the more obvious way to safely cross the canyon.The far end wall was completely gone, and the end wall in front of them had stone steps rising to a single door before the wall abruptly ended in crumbling masonry at the level of the middle floor. They tried the door, found it unlocked, and went in to investigate.
Back in the village, Illyia had noticed a few skeletal remains scattered around the village proper, strange in that the buildings and courtyards were basically devoid of any remains. The skeletal remains were larger than normal humans, and after closer inspection he surmised they were the skeletons of ogres, dead at least two years. He quietly pointed it out to his companions, and together they began counting the number of sets of ogre bones they could find. Higgins continued his reverie, until a set of ogre bones stood up and made a move to attack him. He yelped and retreated, and the 3 Heroes moved in to engage the Skogre (Skeletal Ogre). Illyia grabbed Higgins and used Misty Step to teleport him out of danger and farther down the narrow passage between buildings. Ryoun used the Sword of Lyons to turn invisible and circle behind the Skogre while Karraway attempted to turn the undead. Karraway’s turning failed, and the Skogre dealt him two vicious blows with its greataxe, nearly killing him.
Ryoun took a page out of Illyia’s book and tried a backstab on the Skogre, dealing some healthy damage, but Karraway cast Cure Wounds on himself and then Spiritual Weapon behind the Skogre to begin bashing it. While Illyia backed Higgin’s out of the alley and away from danger, he spotted a second Skogre round the opposite corner of the same building farther down the street to their right and hit it with a Witch Bolt. The first Skoger attacked Karraway again, reversing all the healing he had just done and putting him back on death’s doorstep. Again, Karraway cast Cure Wounds on himself, attacked with the Spiritual Weapon, and Ryoun stabbed it in the back. The Skogre missed two more attacks on the cleric before Ryoun finally put the undead down forever.
The second Skogre closed the gap to Illyia as he commanded Higgin’s to run and find cover, shot it with Magic Missile,circled it and ran off down the pathway behind the Skogre. His kite-maneuver worked, and the Skogre turned with him and dashed to try to keep up with the agile elf. When it closed the gap again, Illyia repeated the maneuver, and the mounting damage of the Witch Bolt, Magic Missiles and weapons shortly destroyed the second Skogre as well.
Up in the horizontal tower, the four Heroes found a variety of relics and rooms to be searched, but only made cursory checks while they were looking for the library Diplo had seen during the Scry. The furnishings were once lavish and comfortable, lost to the ages from rot and decay from exposure to the elements, thanks to the failed outer shell of the tower. Most rooms were caved in and a pile of rubble. Some were nearly untouched except for the rot of more than a 1000 years. On the second floor, at the end of a long hallway, they found a set of double doors in a mostly collapsed wall, exposed around its periphery to the open air by lack of tower shell. Beyond those double doors, they found the library Diplo had seen, only without walls or roof save the wall the doors were in. The floor extended 40’ from the doors in an ever-narrowing wedge shape, the missing portions long since fallen away with the crumbling of the stonework. The majority of the floor space was a mess of knocked over bookshelves and scroll cases, a few table littered with open books and at the far tip of the cantilevered floor… a writing desk and a book upon it.
Diplo and Smedley entered to search, sure that this is where they had seen the Dark Priest in the Scry. Thia went upstairs to the top floor, half again shorter than the middle due to the collapse, and stationed herself at the broken edge of the floor to observe Diplo and Smedley and the library from above. The two rummaged through the bookcases and scrolls and tomes laid open on the tables, obviously having been thoroughly searched and tossed by the Dark Priest. Their investigation eventually brought Diplo’s attention to the writing desk, and the closed book on it. The satin bookmark stitched into the leather binding, well rotted from the years of exposure, was inserted between pages in the middle of the book. Diplo carefully examined the book without touching it, trying to see if it was rigged in anyway. Not finding anything he carefully open the front over without moving the book, flipped the pages of notes and scrawling until he came to the bookmark, where he found the writings ended except for the thin remnant of a page that had been torn out and taken. He rummaged around until he found some charcoal-chalk, gently made a rubbing on the blank page, and deftly lifted the impression of the writing present on the removed page of the ancient journal.
It was getting dark, and the rest of the team below in the village had reported the Skogre attack and that it had been handled, so the group up at the tower decided it was time to go, now that they found what they were looking for… although it would take a day or two to decipher the coded notations of Slaggoth’s millennia-and-a-half old journal. Thia and Smedley told Diplo to grab the book and “let’s go”, but when he did he saw the flash of a Glyph of Warding go off that was concealed on the desktop beneath the journal. Multiple streaks of blue arcane energy raced down the legs of the desk, along several of the cracks in the tile floor to suddenly disappear somewhere underneath the remains of the horizontal tower. Diplo yelled to run, and the three sprinted for the end of the tower they came in, safely still over the ledge of the cliff face. They heard and felt the multiple detonations explode from underneath the tower somewhere, and the Horizontal Tower of Slaggoth the Necromancer gave a frightening shutter, cracked, and began to crumble away from the middle both directions toward the ends.
Thia, Smedley and Beeblebrox ran to the end of the middle and top floors and jumped out through the missing upper half of the end wall, managing to land with only minor bumps and bruises. But as Diplo raced along the full length of the middle floor, the tower and floor crumbled away behind his sprinting feet, overtook him, and he fell with it into the open space below. Diplo made a wild grab for a ledge, a piece of the tower, anything… but found nothing except the cruel acceleration of gravity. He quickly stowed the journal, retrieved his Immovable 10’ Pole, gripped it tightly and clicked the button… instantaneously stopping his descent in midair only a few stories down from where the tower had started. The rest of the party saw him now dangling like the “Hang in there, Kitty” poster, and moved quickly to render aid. The group that had been in the village had heard the explosions and rushed to the railing of the catwalks that were on the exterior of the escarpment, where they had a front row seat to watch the whole ordeal.
Thia sent Potema down the trail to pick up Illyia, who was sprinting up the trail to get to the terraces where the abutments of the tower used to be. Potema met him half way and he rode the remainder to save his strength. Once there, he took off the majority of his gear, sighted in on his target and concentrated… and then activated his Ring of Dimension Door to teleport out to where Diplo hung, grabbed him in a full body hug, took one quick glance back at the ledge above where he started, concentrated and made another Dimension Door jump back to safety. The lithe elf and the burly dragonborn plopped onto their butts on the ground with a thud, none the worse for wear. With the journal recovered, the party dusted themselves off and made camp in the village for the night… after they tossed all the remaining ogre skeletons over the edge to the rushing river below.
1800, Zol, 17 Nove, 3E999
The two day hike back down the mountain trail was uneventful, although frigid. Higgins returned with them to Oxfront, and as they rented rooms again at the inn and checked on the wagon and the team of horses, they discussed with him what he wanted to do. Higgins decided he would stay in Etra, for while his village was forever lost to antiquity and its fate could never be known to him, Etra was still his homeland. He thanked the Heroes 4 Hire for their help and hospitality, and the team decided to bequeath him 2000 gp from company funds as compensation for the difficult circumstances and emotional pain they had caused him.
Before calling it a night, the Heroes decided that Diplo should try to Scry on the Dark Priest again with the Crystal Ball. He observed the Dark Priest in a room at a comfortable inn, and a tapestry with a distinctive logo was hung in the room. The banner was two tones of brown and trimmed in gold, with a golden caricature of a buck in some sort of a leaping movement. He contacted Dajjal, still back at Half Point, over the Earrings of Communication and described the tapestry to him, asking if he could talk to his academic contacts in Anchorhead and see if anyone knew to which Inn and where the logo belonged. Dajjal agreed and said he would get back to him when he had more information.
Zol, 17 Nove, 3E999
What new clues will the ancient journal reveal once it is decoded? Will it provide any new insights into the Dark Priest’s plans? Will the Heroes be able to catch up with him in time to foil his plots?
Find out next week, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!”