Our plucky heroes, laden down with supplies for adventure – and also laden down with possibly mis-placed optimism – strike off for the Screaming Pass to find the naughty wizard‘s tower and sort out of the over-due library book of D’harsis.
Once they gain the promontory of the Screaming Pass they see the tower before them in the distance. They have to get there first though. Traversing a natural walkway to the dilapidated structure – that seems to go the long way around the entire valley – the party are attacked by wild insect-mammal creatures and then a grumpy manticore beast that hurtles out of its cave to try and stick them with its poisonous stinger.
A bandit camp is found, already ransacked. Some of the bandits even have strange wounds to their heads that look like their brains have been removed. Loic Sadiq feels evil afoot and manages to consecrate the ground and ease the departed souls’ journey to the afterlife.
The next obstacle is a natural rock bridge. Cautiously stepping across in single-file, fireballs suddenly erupt from an opening in the tower and fly across the pass towards our startled heroes. They scramble, slip, fall, hang, climb up again and eventually gain the solid ground on the other side of the gap despite the hail of arcane flames around them.
The tower is guarded by magically reanimated skeletons who are quickly dashed into bony scraps. Justin heaves the ancient portcullis open and so starts a macabre dash through the ascending floors of the towering ruin, each one stranger than the last…
Chanting of mad cultists can be heard coming from above. Robed, hooded fanatics throw themselves at our heroes. Strange insect-fungi creatures attack with odd technological weapons when their makeshift laboratory is invaded. More dead, brainless victims are found. Floating, translucent salamanders gather around the outside of the tower, sucking the magic out of anybody who comes near. Strange tree roots are growing through the stonework from above. An impromptu library of piles magical books pilfered from all over is found, complete with a team of manic librarians eager to spill and scorch our adventurers’ blood for invading their ill-gotten treasure trove. “None shall stop the Forest Queen!” They scream, hurling arcane blasts and scattering ancient pages. The final cultist’s death-grip is fast on a book… With glowing sigils filling the pages! It’s The Fourth Book of D’harsis, recovered at last! But what’s this? There is another, similar tome just next to it. The glowing sigils on it – unmistakeable and unforgettable – purport that is The Fifth Book of D’harsis..! No scholar even knew this existed. What a discovery! Magic-users Kelek, Pfiista and Orla are beside themselves!
The excitement only lasts so long though, the chanting from above grows in louder and faster, “Sheol Nagamat!” come the frenzied shouts. The top of the tower is a wind-blown ritual locus packed with cultists and a powerful leader crackling with eldritch energy. He must be Kihangir! He leads the chanting and a tree growing out of the top of the tower seems to writhe under the resulting spell. Insect-fungi creatures with wings buzz around overhead. The group chants again, “Shaloub N’grath!”
Battle is joined and cold steel, hot guts and insane magic fly through the air in every direction. The floor piles high with bodies. Other corpses plummet off the edge of the tower. Kihangir lives just long enough to dump his last remaining scrap of energy into the tree-trunk and wheeze… “Shub Niggurath.”
The tree explodes, sinews become writhing tentacles and gaping mouths full of black teeth open. Something not meant to exist in this world is unleashed. The top of the tower starts collapsing. The weary adventurers fight the maddening beast and eventually it is chopped into submission. it screams and seems to explode and disappear. The masonry all around is now sliding, falling into mid-air. Dust clouds billow and our party jump from stone-to-stone as they crumble underfoot, somehow surviving this final collapse.
The dust is blown away, all is still and silent, all threats have been survived and only the wreckage of the supreme carnage remains; a mangled, ramshackle stone tower missing its top with a few brave souls left perching upon it.
The day has been saved.
The land has been saved.
But for how long..?