For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
Treading back down the long road to the temple-city of Tsar along the way the party spied a fortified encampment built out among the Boiling Lands; brooking further investigation, they approached to find colors flown for the Children of Steel–the mercenary company having established a forward fortified position before the gates of the wicked city. The company seemed to have relocated from their bivouac nearer the Camp. Brows were raised at the sight of skeletal steeds and a nightmare tethered outside the gates of the fort, however–and with curiosity the adventurers sought an audience with whomever they could find in charge. No sign of the source of the strange mounts was found in ready observance during their time within the fort, however.
After being admitted without weapons nor extra-dimensional storage, the party met with Inaris Jerveel–a battle-priestess of Gorum and one of the four founders of the company. Through parlay the party offered an amenable relation with the company in further endeavors against the evils within Tsar; Inaris spoke of the Children of Steel retaking strategic positions to hold in the besieging of Tsar–to hold open the way for deeper penetration of the monsters and mad-folk which yet lurked beyond the city’s walls. After somewhat terse discourse during which adventurers were likened to scavengers, nevertheless both parted ways on peaceable terms.
Through the gates of Kirash Durgaut the party proceeded then, finding smoldering scorch-marks from prior sorties between the Children of Steel and the fortress’ remaining undead defenders. Nevertheless the way was open enough for the adventurers to steal their way inside the city without contest–and soon making their way to the second steppe of Tsar and the Harrow Lanes, the party beat a hasty path to seek out the Crooked Tower upon its cliff-side precipice.
Witness to an eerie gloom which seemed to all but blot out the sun’s influence even beyond the pall over Tsar, the Crooked Tower was found to be a menacing sight when observed from so near: a wicked lean canting the structure ever so slightly over the two hundred foot drop below. Countless dread ravens circled the highest reaches of the tower, many descending to take perch among the eaves and lower rooftops in observance of the approaching adventurers–and as the party neared, their attention came to a twisted and disturbing tentacled statue in the courtyard of the tower.
Briefly investigating the statue and strange blood stains at its base, the party began to proceed past it–only to have the thing reveal itself a disturbingly shaped construct; soon after engaging the stony sentinel, the thing began to exude an incredibly potent adhesive–claiming a great many weapons and readily grappling any who came near. After a terse but brief exchange of blows and the shedding of much skin and armament, the party put down the statue to the mocking laughter of the birds above before setting about with universal solvent to ease their sticky woes.
Deciding to eschew the stables set in the base of the tower, the party began a round of precarious and canted steps in an ascent towards the entrance overlooking the cliff itself. Pandora readily recognized a spear trap set within a small outlying watch tower, disarming it before the party proceeded safely past it. Yet, as the adventurers ascended the steep steps, one of the mocking dread ravens loosed magical grease upon the already treacherous ascent–and as the party scrambled to gain their bearings Emma stumbled and slipped free, plummeting the more than two hundred feet before crashing through the roof–and second floor–of a building below.
Dauntless and staggeringly stout, Emma soon emerged from the then-ruined building and dusted herself off before calling back up to her companions; with a brief delay and the use of magical climbing, the party soon returned the brawny barbarian to their midst and continued on towards the tower door. Above, Anselme watched dread ravens heading in to the top of the tower–ostensibly to deliver their observations to whomever dwelt within. As the party gathered before the door, Pandora began to check for traps only to feel a sharp chill as something began to drain away her constitution.
Puzzled and wary, Pandora checked the door again with the same results–and soon swore off having anything to do with it. Stepping up to plate, Emma and Zantric then began to batter down the door–and as timbers splintered and gave way, the dread wraith which was trapped within it sprang forth to attack! Behind the door itself stood a towering gorilla in dapper attire–a doorman to the crooked tower, the vampiric monk of which the party had been warned. Immediately, a fierce battle was begun.
The wraith delivered significant drain to Brother Vang while Emma and Zantric struggled to beat back the brutish butler–only to find themselves rebuked soundly in their efforts; the Bloodmage’s doorman felled the pair to unconsciousness with pummeling blows as Brother Vang scrambled to heal their wounds–grateful when Cassandra’s arcane assault and Meryk’s barrages drew the attention of the wraith to themselves instead. In a pinch, Meryk was able to deliver a hindering shot to buy the duo time–while at the doorway Leone squeezed past to the interior, discovering dire worgs within.
Chaos and mayhem were sown on the doorstep to the crooked tower–and with the third rise of Emma from powerful healing, the dire doorman grew tired of Brother Vang’s meddling–snatching the cleric and hauling him past his friends to deposit the man inside. Anselme perched upside down, clinging to the wall of the tower as he fired spells into the great hall beyond the entrance while the vampiric monk beat Brother Vang bloody to within an inch of his life.
While Emma and Zantric continued to fight shoulder to shoulder, Pandora tumbled past the gorilla to reach Brother Vang–only to have the doorman slam and barred the inner door before Emma and Zantric–separating the party. Turning to face down and deal with the interlopers inside, the doorman readied to level the impetuous drow in kind–but Pandora acted quickly, grabbing Brother Vang and Leone and dimension dooring out to safety where Anselme could heal the lot of them.
By then, Emma and Zantric had battered down the inner door and Meryk and Cassandra had managed to drive the dread wraith temporarily out of sight; repositioning, the party began to focus their efforts on the powerful vampire, slowly making headway into the tower. A dinner bell was heard then and the doorman brachiated up and out of sight in response–freeing the party to fight their way into the great hall and engage the dire worgs.
Working quickly with their opening, the party rushed inside and quickly slew the worgs in short order before turning the corner of the hall to find an ornate throne upon which sat the old man in red. Belishan the Bloodmage, the White Walker–a fierce and frightful man–begrudged the adventurers for the damages they had done to his home and leveled a threat against them.
Brother Vang announced, once conscious again, that he had expended the entirety of his most potent curative spells–and with what seemed their potent foe before them, the party elected to swiftly withdraw rather than engage further–moving quickly to retreat from the tower to recover from their chaotic ordeal. En route during their withdraw from the city, the party was assailed by harpies from above before encountering a dread eye beast–a strange aberrational monster with sprouting eye-stalks which delivered terrible spells. Once the creature was slain, their way free from the city was clear. Back at the safety of the Camp, the party began to immediately pool their resources and begin commiserating on a solution to fighting vampires and dealing with the deadly doorman of the tower.
While seeking alchemical solutions for damage to their forms, Brother Vang sought out Mama Grim at her apothecary to see if the hag might possess the potent ability for stronger potions still; eager to see the young cleric again, Grim quickly agreed to prepare such measures on the condition that Brother Vang accompany her to meet with her ‘sisters’ in Tsar. As well, Emma would need to move a colossal statue for the strange woman–but that was a task for another time.
Consenting to the arrangement after providing the necessary reagents for the restorative potions, Brother Vang accompanied Mama Grim to a clearing in the Dead Fields–and as the pair stood, an enormous spider which seemed to fly upon the sky flitted disturbingly into view. Descending, the spider waited patiently as the pair mounted its back before flying back towards the temple-city of Tsar where the man’s fateful meeting awaited.
Meanwhile, Aisha came to the group’s fortress to meet with Cassandra, having results from her studies of cryptic scrolls recovered by other adventuring parties in the city and the Desolation. By her findings, she had more information she suspected in regards to the statues of the Nine Disciples–confident that should the party succeed in recovering them in time, they might open a window of opportunity with which to thwart the endeavors of Orcus’ followers yet. Requesting an opportunity to study the two statues already recovered, Cassandra consulted with her fellows who soon agreed.
Deep within the city, Brother Vang was brought to a dilapidated villa with strange dwarves huddled near to its entrance. As the young cleric was leered at, Mama Grim led him deeper still within the structure until the man was faced with a trio of hags–each a different contingent of a coven. Together, the four hags regaled Brother Vang with talk of fate–of his role as a focal point by which the destinies of several would come to coalesce and be realized upon the final hour. The Martyr, The Weapon, The Conundrum, The Dwarfson, The Child, The Curse and the Seeker–when the time came, such fates could yet decide what the future held for all of Golarion.
By the time Brother Vang was returned from his strange sojourn, the hour was late and many had been deep asleep. Whilst he slumbered, Meryk bore witnesses to a portentous dream from Desna in which he saw the highest plateau of Tsar struck by a terrible red light from which stepped a towering, vulture-headed warlord; hoisting a wicked spear high, the demon declared in a booming voice that now was its time–before the dream dissolved away to darker recesses. Meryk wound himself alongside Iramine, the two having grown close in their time since the Golden City–yet the elven woman was plucked away from him, swallowed by the darkness.
When Meryk rose with a start, Iramine was no longer at his side; after a swift search of his quarters, the man emerged to find a trail of three exsanguinated sentries within the fort. Convinced of the work of vampires, Meryk swiftly roused his companions and a meeting was held. Brother Vang beseeched the man to wait for further preparations, while Zantric was swift to be ready to take the fight back to the crooked tower; after long commiseration, the party decided to expedite their return to Tsar–while Pandora cautioned that Iramine, if she was in the possession of vampires, would doubtless have been turned to one herself.
Nerves steeled and hearts readied, the party made their way back through the temple-city and up to the Crooked Tower above. Readied for trouble, this time Anselme prepared for a massive entrance to the scene–summoning a tyrannosaurus rex as heavy protective magics were woven about the entire party. When they reached the summit to the long stairwell before the entrance, the party prepared to batter down the doors–only to have the way open before them to the sight of a crowd of noblemen and noblewomen in the middle of some sort of dinner party.
Momentarily bewildered, the party gradually and cautiously entered among the hall to the sounds of applause from those gathered–before the men and women at the table in unison raised empty glasses in a toast before slitting their own throats collectively. Disturbed by the scene, the party was given pause before rounding to find Belishan in his seat once more–perturbed at their return to his home. Wasting little time, Anselme loosed his t-rex to bite at the mage–but the man was simply gone before the beasts’ jaws hit.
Soon afterward, a lich-touched undead fire elemental sprang forth from the fireplace hearth and began attacking the party only to be seized up by the t-rex’s jaws. When destroyed, the elemental exploded, raining coldfire damage upon those present. As if a cue, from the balcony above ghostly archers emerged to rain corrupting arrows down upon Cassandra and the others–stealing away charisma as they aged whomever they struck. Swiftly enough the ghosts were dispatched, freeing the party to delve deeper into the tower–with Meryk nearly frenzied at the lead.
Room by room the group began to check, searching out a means to ascend; a butchered bevy of corpses were discovered before a dozen wraiths attacked the party soon afterward. Luckily, Brother Vang had warded the adventurers against the deathly touch of the undead–thought he t-rex was quickly wasted away, leaving the party without their considerably sizable companion. Pandora discovered in a kitchen a potent looking cleaver which, when recovered, attempted to seize the woman’s mind in a blood-lust for a moment before relenting against her indomitable will; Exsanguinator, the weapon called itself–and the drow soon brokered agreement to wield the implement with the potent magic it possessed.
Losing the t-rex was for the better, it seemed, as a narrow stairway presented itself heading higher; as Meryk and the others began to mount the flight, a strange mask bathed the lot of them in a prismatic spray which proved nearly fatal to some. Recovering from the strange trap and their harrowing encounters at the entrance, the party continued higher undaunted by what they had experienced. The Crooked Tower was found to be of an eerie decor–exquisite and expensive yet macabre and unsettling, with disturbingly life-like statues and other objects of ‘art’ more frequent as they ascended.
Many rooms were skipped in Meryk’s haste to lead towards the top–for it was determined to the party that doubtless their quarry would await at the very peak of the tower, and Brother Vang’s protective spells could only last for so long. As the party continued, they came across a viewing room with a disturbing and demonic frieze depicting anguished individuals trapped and tormented; viewing the frieze stood a powerful and important-looking bugbear with a bastard sword–but the party quickly elected to leave the man to his observations, closing the door and continuing on with scarcely a word exchanged.
Higher still the party entered a strange study with a darkened library nearby; on the walls hung unsettling paintings of eerie quality–and as each was observed, powerful affects attempted to seize their minds as the adventurers’ eyes wandered. Cassandra herself was drawn -into- a painting, vanishing before the eyes of her friends–and where the sorceress soon found coherency, she faced an exact duplicate of herself. Unknown to Cassandra’s companions, she engaged in a battle to the death with her veritable clone–and only the victor would emerge to claim her place in the world.
After a tense but brief bout, Cassandra was able to enfeeble the mind of her twin and deny her access to spells before smothering her copy to death and winning her freedom from the painting. Wasting little time, the party took down the paintings lest they suffer further effects. Lurking in the darkness, strange sounds could be heard–and the clock continued to tick with the limited duration of the party’s many magical boons. Once more, Brother Vang beseeched Meryk to withdraw from the tower that the party might better prepare–but little did the adventurers know what evils truly lurked nearby…
To be continued in The Crooked Tower (Part II!)