Morning of the 11th of Trical, 1331 Avard.
From the edge of the forest, the party peered out to the east, the morning sun half in their eyes. Their initial exploration of Gamphaelbok's tower had left them cautious. The key Dolon had found in the ruins of the village surrounding the tower had left Dolon invisible to the clockwork constructs guarding the tower – but the others did not have the benefit of holding the key, and Johannes was attacked quite viciously.
Kat faded into the woods, unseen and hiding, watching, and observing. The remainder of the party – Dolon, Hadarai, Johannes, and Grania – moved out across the grasslands towards the tower and the ruins of its surrounding village.
There were perhaps a dozen ruined homes around the tower, some with chimneys still standing, others in complete disarray. Brambles grew up over many of the ruins, and a small tree was growing out of another. Try though they might, they found no more keys in any of the ruins. One of the clockwork iron halberdiers patrolled the coast, and they avoided the mechanical construct, keeping low whenever it would go by, or moving around other ruins when it might see them. Avoiding it entirely, they found little in any of the ruins.
What they did find were two skeletons in two separate buildings next to one another. One of the skeletons had been that of an elderly man, hunched over from age. He had apparently died of old age in the building, before it collapsed in on him from the elements and smashed half of his skull in. The other skeleton had also been of an older man, though not so old as the first – and when Grania poked at the skeleton, it moved. The body was pinned beneath the rotting remnants of a main beam, but after separating itself from its pelvis, the skeletal torso silently crawled after Grania. The others figured out that it was a remnant of the War of the Undead, and so the skeleton was quickly destroyed.
The remains of someone's garden had grown wild, and provided Johannes with some interesting seeds and specimens for his potions.
The patrolling construct halberdier was well out of sight, and the party had few other options but to attempt to get into the tower itself. Having gone completely around the tower and taken another look at it, they decided to try the cellar entrance, rather than the front gate. Dolon, nervous and expecting trouble, held the key up where the constructs could see it – and proceeded onto the grounds of the tower.
The constructs paid him no mind, though they watched the rest of the party over the low stone wall that formed the boundary of the tower itself. Dolon slowly moved to the side of the tower, and found that his key worked in the cellar lock. He opened the cellar and found a steep ramp leading down and around, into the cellar. And then Dolon returned quickly to the rest of the party.
Despite how crazy it sounded, the party attempted to all use the key at once. Each of them put a hand on the key, all holding it up where the constructs could see it, and cautiously walked onto the grounds of the tower. The constructs paid them no mind. The four of them, moving awkwardly, walked to the cellar entrance and slowly began maneuvering down the steep ramp. The ramp left them with a challenge, as it proved narrow enough for all four of them to be touching the key at once – but only so long as they were on the ramp. The ramp led down along a slight wall, and peering out from around that wall was difficult – and one of them saw another iron halberdier, only seven feet tall, standing in the dim cellar light.
With each of them holding onto the key, there was no way for all of them to attack – and so they let go and attempted to rush the halberdier. The halberdier ignored Dolon, with his key, but raised its foot and stomped the ground – and enough electrical power shot out of its foot along the ground that it left several of them severely injured. The halberdier then proceeded to attack them with its weapon, dealing blow after blow as they spread out in the cramped, narrow cellar.
Each of them latched onto the key – and the halberdier stopped its attack, resuming its normal position.
The four of them panted, staunching their wounds, and regaining their strength, while trying to figure out what to do. Eventually, they had to defeat the iron halberdier, but it was a tough fight. The key Dolon had did not work on the inside door – and they realized that the possessor of the key was a deliveryman – someone who brought in supplies, and nothing else. Dolon's key was useless outside the grounds and the cellar.
They moved up onto the first floor of the tower, and found more iron halberdiers – and each time, they were hurt quite badly by the foot-stomping lightning attacks, followed up by razor-sharp halberds. There were four of the guardian constructs on the first floor alone – and after destroying two and then withdrawing to lick their wounds, they returned only to find the two they destroyed had been rebuilt by a smaller, child-sized construct.
In the cellar, they managed to beat down the three iron dogs and even one of the construct ballistas. Realizing that going up through the tower would be difficult if not deadly, they decided to move up and out, and take out the three remaining ballistas guarding the sides of the tower itself – and then move up the walls and in one of the windows. The first and sixth floors had no windows, and they figured that going in the conventional way was getting them nowhere, fast.
Worse, holing up inside the cellar throughout the night had proven hazardous. Dolon and Johannes began hallucinating – an effect brought on by the fungi and their spores, and the rotten foods centuries old and decaying. Their sleep was restless, and made a bad situation worse.
Dawn brought a thick rolling fog in off of Lake Ocen, and it obscured everything more than a hundred yards away. They burst out of the cellar and began their attack on the ballistas, concentrating on one and taking it down before moving on, trying to keep the tower between them and at least one of the others. Despite those efforts, the electrical construct ballistas very nearly killed Johannes, and scorched most of the party.
Kat, hearing the thunder and seeing the flashes of lightning in the fog, decided to rejoin the group and see what kind of progress they had made. Her arrows helped take down one of the ballistas. And then there were none.
In the eerie fog, they found the external joist on the fourth floor, showing where heavy loads were taken up into the tower. They used that joist to get a rope up, and then went on even higher, to the fifth floor. Hadarai busted in a large window, and he and Johannes were able to take out a massive clockwork iron cobra. The fifth floor was otherwise empty of constructs, though they found interesting things, many of them puzzling. There was a small library full of books of mathematics in the old Karatikan scripts, using letters for numbers. Some had illustrations of gears or joints, but otherwise they were as alien as gibberish. They took a few, but found it all strange. There were spare parts and gears and pallets of iron plate and many other things all found in the constructs. And they found several boxes of the lightning bottle hearts that powered the clockwork golems, as well.
From there, they chased a child-sized construct that had come to fix the cobra down to the fourth floor – where another iron halberdier was waiting, as well as some smaller construct ballistas. The party managed to defeat the halberdier, but withdrew up the stairs to the fifth floor, and waited in ambush.
During the waiting, tensions flared, and Kat and Grania began arguing and dickering, and then the party got involved. The argument was loud enough to cover many sounds, but luckily they were not attacked. The dickering continued until they came up with a plan. Kat and Dolon had snuck up the stairs earlier and seen that there was another iron halberdier on the sixth floor, right near the entrance. The party decided to rush the halberdier, come what may, and take the sixth floor by force, damn the consequences.
The first halberdier went down with a stiff fight, and they found themselves battling three more on the sixth floor. So much time had elapsed during their argument, that the child-sized constructs had repaired the iron halberdier they'd defeated on the fourth floor – and the repaired iron halberdier and three of the smaller ballistas with it, all came up the stairs as the party was battling the iron halberdiers on the sixth floor.
And then there was silence. They had managed to survive five halberdiers and three of the smaller ballistas at once in a prolonged battle. And they were exhausted. Taking a quick break, they surveyed the sixth floor, finding only four large, locked doors.
Behind the first locked door Dolon picked, they found a small chest of gold coins, some art objects, and other odds and ends – including a massive topaz crystal worth a small fortune. Behind the second locked door, Dolon nearly wet himself. There was a chest of some 200 copper pieces, another of some 200 silver pieces, another of some 200 gold pieces, another of some 200 electrum pieces, another of some 200 platinum pieces, and another of 200 black iron gear-sized pieces they could not decipher. Each of the chests quickly went into the enchanted haversack Dolon wore, and he had a beatific smile on his face for some time.
Behind the third locked door, they found the shield. It hung on the wall between two man-sized statues. One of the statues was a wooden dummy, and it wore enchanted clothing and items from a variety of lands. A faintly glowing lamp hung over the dummy's shoulder, floating in mid air. The other statue was shut-down construct, filligreed with platinum over black iron, and molded into incredible detail.
The filligreed construct began to power up the moment the shield of Serendin was pulled off the wall, and the party panicked, scattering and running over themselves to get away. The shield was quickly stuffed into Dolon's pack, and he went one way, while Hadarai went another, everyone for themselves.
Johannes turned a corner, and watched as the rest fled, the construct in pursuit and moving far too quickly. As they went down the stairs, the cleric of Arpelos found himself alone on the sixth floor. He quickly began stripping the dummy of its enchanted items, greed getting the better of him.
Down on the fifth floor, Hadarai rushed headlong out a window, and let his enchantments take him safely to the ground.
Dolon leapt out the window they had come in, racing for his life, dropping down to the joist and waiting to help whomever came next. Kat made it to the window, and then turned around, horrified. Grania had been dropped by the guardian construct, beaten into a pulp, her blood spreading around broken body. Kat moved back in to attack the monster, and Dolon felt torn between running in fear and moving to assist.
Johannes made it back down the stairs, half expecting the guardian to be waiting for him. He stumbled over Grania's near-dead body, and called upon Arpelos' might. Kat put arrow after arrow into the guardian as it came for her, buying Johannes precious seconds. And then Grania, pale and shaking and bruised and near broken, was on her feet in an instant, her blood still drying in her hair. She swung her blades with skill born of desperation, and maneuvered the creature back just far enough to clear the window.
Johannes shifted into a giant falcon, and went out the window. Behind him, Kat leapt for Dolon and safety, and Grania was a moment behind her.
The guardian paused at the window, uncertain of its programming, and remained there even as the party raced away from the tower, carrying the injured and supporting one another.
Noon of the 12th of Trical, 1331 Avard.
Each player received 1200 experience points for playing, and another 1000 experience points for complete the quest for the four known 8ths of Serendin. Hadarai and Dolon now have 10,500 experience points each (7th level), and Sunalor and Johannes have 10,055 points apiece (7th level). Grania has 9505 experience points (6th level), and Kataelia has 8705 experience points (6th level).
The following notes represent the 'behind the scenes' and 'post op' actions of the players and the Dungeon Master.
We met at my place again, on 06JUN2009. Fred made a pork chop / cream of mushroom soup thing over rice that was pretty good, slow cooking much of the time we were playing. Sommer (Kateira) wasn't able to make it until later, but we were able to find a fair way for her to sit things out until she could rejoin us. Jalinda's rolls were spectacular – spectacularly bad! My heart goes out to her! Not only did she roll for crap on many of her attacks, but twice (TWICE!) she rolled double 1's, and I ruled that because of what she was attacked with her blades, the weapons were destroyed both times. She lost a flaming shortsword, and then when Fred had Hadarai toss her his longsword, she broke that one, too! I think Grania's just such a tough woman, she's tough on weapons, too. Wow. We ended things around midnight plus or one, and Ross had to get, though the rest of us had a few drinks and told some good stories till much too late. And there were some drinks in the midst of playing, as well. I are no spring chicken, anymore! This old man has to get to bed when he can… But no gaming for the next three weekends. :( Next weekend I'm working for the school, the weekend after that is Father's Day and Sommer's birthday, and the weekend after that is something else for the guys, too, so… It'll give me plenty of time to plot and plan and scheme for next time.
The players picked up the following from the tower…