An Empress Betrayed, Episode 6

A tiny, high pitched voice made Afton and Delsior turn. “Did you hear something?” the Satyr asked. Valcora turned. “I hear nothing. Focus on the battle at hand!”

A tiny mouse emerged from between two boulders, a miniature scroll fixed to its collar. “Hello? Hey You! Over here! I’ve got a message from Allbright for you…” Afton quickly whispered in the language of magic, and a ghostly mage hand coalesced out of thin air. It swooped up the tiny mouse and carried it to her. Stuffing the mouse into her pocket, the Elf unfurled the small scroll, which suddenly expanded to full size. She looked down at a letter from her mentor, a hand-drawn map of the magic circles criss-crossing the world, and a dozen rituals that Allbright gifted to her.

This week’s episode starts where we left off last time. The party has just defeated the Ooze, and has donned the magic items found in the treasure hoard. Now they explore the cavern, and uncover a dark staircase that descends into the darkness. Afton lights the end of her staff, shedding light on the dismal stairs. The light is warm, like a hearth fire, and lets off an almost inaudible hum. The party then passes a check to recall Allbright’s description of the stairs to the Cathedral. “I’m sure it’s this way…” Afton says, as the PCs head down the stairs.

Then more stairs. And more. Exhausted, the party is forced to pass an Endurance Check, or be forced to stop and rest. Valcora rolls a “1” and plops down on the stairs. “I can’t go any further!” Lose a healing surge, DragonBorn.

Then the heroes continue down the seemingly endless flight of stairs. Three more Endurance Checks later, every PC in the party has lost at least one healing surge. And Delsior goes down to ZERO surges. Seeing an orange glowing light ahead, the party is relieved as they approach the end of the stair. The PCs emerge into a huge cavern with rivers of molten lava. Ahead can be seen a dais, containing Gargoyles.

“There they are!” Afton spots them first. The party approaches cautiously, sneaking ahead. When they get up to the gargoyle statues, shimmering figures appear. These are the spirits of the creatures that have been turned to stone. They immediately attack the PCs. Valcora soon learns that her Holy Smite works wonders against creatures that are vulnerable to radiant damage. Her dragon breath wipes out several minions in one shot. Then she dazes the leader using her SpellScar ability. In the middle of the battle, the party sees a small mouse. This tiny creature is talking to them! It claims to have a message from Allbright. Afton sweeps up the mouse and puts it in her pocket as the battle continues.

The PCs make short work of the wights. As the last ghost sputters out like a candle in the wind, a soft “ting ting ting” can be heard. The party searches the floor for a metallic object, but fails to find anything. Pulling out the mouse, the heroes command it to look in all the crooks and crannies to find any small metal objects. It emerges five minutes later, a gold ring in it’s mouth. Valcora puts on the ring, and her eyes roll back in her head. Sweeping visions of the past roll through her mind, as the ring shows her its origins. It was made by the Cult of the Dragon Egg, a secretive group that believes that this planet is actually a huge dragon egg. They also believe that some day it will hatch, destroying the world. Members of the Cult attempt to usher in this new age in any way possible, viewing it as the beginning of the world, not the end.

As Valcora returns to her waking state, she finds that her shield arm feels more lithe. She swings her shield around, and VIOLA! she knows that as long as she wears the ring, she can use the Shield Bash power once per encounter.

After making short work of the monsters in this encounter, the heroes carefully gather the required Gargoyle Dust, and head for the exit. Since the Magic Circle that will take them back to Allbright’s castle is at the TOP of the staircase, the PCs figure that they will have to go all the way up the stairs. That means climbing back to where they were, PLUS going that much further as well. In no mood for more stairs, Afton flips through the Rituals gifted to her by Allbright. She finds one in particular that allows the party to travel at an increased rate. The heroes patiently wait a few hours for her to study and learn the ritual. Then she completes it, allowing the PCs to climb the entire staircase in an hour, without tiring.

At the top of the stairs, the party finds the top of a mountain that has been sheered off in a perfectly flat plane, by some divine force. Here awaits their magic circle. Stepping into it, they are instantly whisked back to Allbright’s house.

And there, the heroes see a table with a note addressed to them. This sits right next to the front door. Apparently, this is the only exit, because the rest of Allbright’s tower is surrounded by a glimmering magic shield. This must be protecting his belongings while he is away…

The group approaches the table. Afton picks up the note and reads it aloud. “Dear Valcora, Afton, and Delsior, please place the jar on the table, and speak aloud its contents. Your reward will appear. Thanks. Allbright.” After reading the note, they pull out the jar given to them by Allbright. Setting it on the table, the group intones the words “Gargoyle Dust”, and 500gp magically solidifies in front of them. Just when the party is divvying up the loot, there is a knock at the door. “Allbright, are you home?” speaks a male voice from the other side of the closed door. The party elects to hold perfectly still, until the guest goes away.

Back at the hideout, the heroes meet with the scholars that were hired to look up information at the library. One scholar found that the General of the Army is indeed the next in line to the throne. If something were to happen to him, then the council would elect one of its own members to rule. The party also finds out that the feather is Elven (again). And, they find that the godess Melora has been known to take human form, and intercede in the affairs of mortals, in order to defeat evil.

The party is much closer than they think to uncovering the mystery. Won’t you tune in to next week’s Episode: Unmasking the Brown Fox…

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