For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
Once everyone had an opportunity to catch their breath following the ordeal with the evil decor, the party regrouped within the gloomy study and decided to explore further on their present floor. They were unfit to take on the master of the tower in their present capacity, it was determined–so instead the adventurers hoped to thin the denizens within before withdrawing for a second time. Venturing down and through the tangled hallways of the tower, Pandora found passage into a narrow attic space above the structure adjoining the tower; within, a lifelike statue of a minotaur was discovered–which revealed itself then to be a necromantic construct and was swiftly destroyed.
As the party began to double back and further explore the halls, a room was found where an interior wall had been felled to an adjoining chamber–both turned into a massive kennel for more dire worgs. While the powerful hounds fought with fervor, the group was hardly pressed–so powerful they had become during their experiences in Tsar that such foes were hardly a challenge. During the battle, vampire spawn attempted to ambush the party from the rear–but were swiftly destroyed as well; the most affected element to hit the field came in the form of a trap set off by Anselme when opening a door during the melee.
Satisfied that they had made some modicum of progress, the party withdrew from the tower–using teleportation and a divine word of recall to ferry themselves safely back to the Camp. A week would be taken, it was decided–to better prepare for a third incursion against the tower; during that time, Emma elected to depart from her fellows and find work with the Children of Steel with their sorties against the denizens of the city. The others, in turn, would see to crafting, preparations and respite before the coming carnage.
Four days in, the carnage instead came to them. Late in the evening whilst Anselme was in the middle of brewing potions, five figures appeared suddenly within his bedchamber: Dame Alessa, Sir Horace, an old man in red robes and a pair of vampire spawn. The five attacked the young druid immediately, seeking to overwhelm and slay him–while Leone stepped in the way to protect his companion, alerting the others within the tower with a mighty roar before the sizable lion was slain. As Anselme struggled with his best tricks, his assassins proved far too potent–killing the druid just as Zantric and Brother Vang arrived from deeper in the tower.
A mile away, within the boarding house at the Camp, Pandora worked late into the evening–and as the Drow began to close shop for the night, she was suddenly assailed by vampires emerging from the shadows; a bald and powerful vampiric man sought to gut Pandora while a vampiress who seemed to blend with the darkness stabbed at her back. Injured badly, but not dead, Pandora was able to escape with a dimensional door–breaking immediately into a desperate run to make her way back to the party’s tower outside of the Camp.
By now, Zantric and Brother Vang were locked in combat with the intruders–while outside battle could be heard throughout the fort as sentries fought vampire spawn. Sir Horace brutalized Zantric with his Maul alongside Alessa–and the paladin was quickly overwhelmed; an instant before he would be slain, heroics saw Zantric clutched from the jaws of death and transposed to his temple in the courtyard to be overseen by the dwarven brothers Thorlode as chaos unfolded around them.
Brother Vang was then joined by Cassandra as he fought to hold the attackers off; the sorceress loosed potent magic against the intruders, destroying one of the vampire spawn in the process–but was soon cut down as well. As Meryk joined the fray from the stairwell, Dame Alessa bore into the man with her blades while Sir Horace sent Brother Vang to his knees beneath powerful hammer blows–thereafter laying the cleric out for dead. Meryk was beaten back, but not beaten–and as Pandora reached the fort at last and the other defenders began to rally, the man in red alongside Dame Alessa and Sir Horace gathered together and vanished, leaving the bedlam in the base behind.
In the aftermath of the surprise attack, Anya along with many other surviving followers arrived on the scene to render aid to the several felled adventurers; as shouts and calls rose throughout the fort, it soon became clear that many vampire spawn had also assailed its walls during the span. Having suffered such at the hands of their enemy provoked, the party quickly concurred to take the fight to Belishan’s tower a third time–plotting and preparing as a great many resources were spent on resurrection and surplus diamond dust with a teleportation-bound trip to the dwarvern mines of Zantric’s adopted father.
Once Emma had returned to the party’s midst and the dead had been brought back to fighting shape again, the group gathered and prepared to launch an assault upon the Crooked Tower–only to have a rally among their followers and companions, eager to assist the adventurers in this endeavor. The knights, paladins and crusaders of Vang’s order were at the ready, along with the Thorlode twins and dwarvern warriors of Zantric’s clan; Meryk’s apprentice, Cassandra’s cohorts, Pandora’s hired help–the lot of those assembled were eager to take up arms and aid in the assault to come.
En masse, the group proceeded back to the temple-city of Tsar, seeking to wreak vengeance upon Belishan and his tower; no foes engaged the entourage in transit, so numerous were they–and upon arrival at the tower itself, the war party barged inside. Within, they were greeted by many more vampire spawn, ghostly archers, wraiths and other undead–a massive melee commencing as steel and spell were brought to bear. The knights and crusaders sought to secure the first floor, opening a path for the others to proceed higher; upon the second, the dwarven warriors engaged worgs, necromantic constructs and other foes as Meryk’s apprentice found a firing vantage over the lower floor.
Working their way swiftly up the tower, the party forged a path; along the way, opposition became stoppered by the fighting fervor of fond companions as the party climbed every higher within the Crooked Tower’s manse. Upon the higher reaches, the adventurers were engaged by the surprise attack of a blood weird and iron mummy–assailed powerfully while pinned before a room full of nightmarish kudzu–but after fighting their way past both, they barged through and past a laboratory only to find the old man in red robes in the midst of what appeared to be breakfast.
With a bewildered expression, the man regarded the sudden arrival of adventurers strangely before offering an opportunity for parlay to settle their differences; the apparent bloodmage explained that he did not possess Iramine–and that doubtless one of his rivals had endeavored to lay the party’s suspicion his way to thwart the relative peace of his secluded existence. Meryk decried the statues found throughout the tower, the man’s clear evil and wicked ways–and as Emma held Zantric back to allow Pandora an opportunity to speak further with the man, Meryk abruptly engaged–firing an arrow which struck a then-empty seat.
The time for talk over, the party rushed past the stairwell beyond the dining room before rounding their way to higher reaches still; there, a pair of gilded guards stood akimbo before a grand set of doors while the statue of an elven maiden stood nearby. As the statue was not of Iramine, Meryk proceeded past–and after a terse greeting, the adventurers strongly persuaded the guards to abandon their post for coin and safe passage before preparing to storm the chamber beyond.
Heavily laden with protective and empowering magics, the party burst through the doors to the chamber which lay beyond–a broad room with red lighting cast by a fire pit of glowing coals at the room’s center. Trestle tables and high-backed chairs stood at either side of the room with feral-looking swarthy humans in several of the seats; rushes covered the stone floor, ancient banners adorning the walls–and seated upon a great chair was an ominous white-bearded figure in red regal garb–the [i]true[/i] Belishan, it seemed. Immediately, the man gestured–and as a horrid wilting was wrought upon the party, the battle was on.
What followed was terse chaos–for in the span of little more than sixty seconds, a great deal unfolded. A wall of wind was erected in the center of the room to shield Belishan from bowfire, while a hobgoblin sandman bearing a magical tower shield flanked the red-robed wizard; when entering, Emma was banished to a magical Maze while Zantric’s charge nearly deposited the paladin into a pit trap before Belishan’s throne–only for the man to find himself flanked abruptly as Shao-babo the vampiric dire-gorilla martial artist doorman appeared to one side and Sir Horace the White Bull, the graveknight fought in Kirash Durgaut, stood to the other.
Out in the antechamber, Cassandra was suddenly assailed by the two assassins who had sought Pandora’s throat before–Turkaen the knife, a shadowdancer vampiress, and Vlad Alimar–a wicked duelist wielding rapiers with painful precision. Dame Alessa the vampiress magus wrought magical boons for her fellows; Anselme loosed a powerful Sunbeam, narrowly missing Alessa but annihilating Shao-babo as the monk managed a terrible mis-step, rendering the powerful guardian to dust. Incensed, Belishan retaliated by causing the young druid’s eyes to burst in his skull, permanently blinding the boy and sending him reeling in pain.
Sir Horace waded out into the antechamber to engage the adventurers there directly, bashing a brutal swath through their ranks with his earth-breaker maul; Dame Alessa engaged Zantric, fighting toe to toe with the paladin while Brother Vang, Anya and Pandora struggled to heal the assembled adventurers of the rapid wounds they accrued. Anselme, Cassandra, and Zantric were left staggered and reeling as the battle quickly pitched–and only by virtue of powerful divine magics was the party able to avoid capitulating so early into the fight.
Some headway was made after the frightful first exchanges within the melee; Anselme took upon the form of an earth elemental capable of sensing movement through the floor in order to accommodate his lack of eyesight–and Cassandra managed to banish Vlad Alimar to a random plane through a freak stroke of critical magic. Sir Horace nearly slew several of the adventurers in the face of Brother Vang’s efforts–and with a stroke of furious righteous retaliation the crusader managed to finally fell the graveknight with the most powerful of his healing magics. With three of their foes removed from the fight, things seemed as though they might look up for the party.
But Belishan was far from defeated, still possessing ample tricks up his sleeve and more than a few surprises; having loosed powerful damaging spells upon the party, a bebilith was summoned–a towering otherworldly arachnid-like creature capable of tearing the armor off of its enemies. As well, the fight was joined by an invisible foe with a bloody entrance–and after Pandora’s fairy fire failed, Cassandra managed to reveal the foe with glitterdust–the same-such man in red they’d encountered in the dining area and the assault upon their own tower. With two ‘Belishans’ on the field, the fight continued to escalate.
Turkaen emerged from the shadows to engage Meryk and Pandora directly, harrying the pair as they fought; Meryk had managed to lay several salvos of his arrows against Dame Alessa, who had since maneuvered to avoid the archer’s range of fire as she fought Zantric within the hall. Emma at long last broke free from the magical Maze which entrapped her, thanks largely from a surge of heroics–and as she and Zantric moved shoulder to shoulder to pursue Belishan, the wizard loosed a wave of fatigue which drained the barbarian of her rage and left both sluggish and weakened.
Out in the antechamber, the second Belishan brandished a kukri before attacking with terrifying speed and ferocity–cutting down Cassandra and leveling so much damage against the sorceress that there was scarcely a corpse left when he was finished; from lower in the tower, reinforcements for Belishan began to arrive–a minstrel daemon appearing at the party’s rear before a pair of lurker wraiths–giant manta-ray-like abominations–began to attack through the very walls.
The scales of balance were quickly beginning to tip as the most potent resources were being exhausted–and as numbers began to even amid the field of battle once more, Belishan himself and his apparent twin had been scarcely injured by the intruding adventurers. With severe injuries sustained about the party and several of its strongest combatants weakened by potent magics, the battle could well begin to take a devastating turn for the worse–for Belishan the Bloodmage’s ire had well and truly been raised…
So long did the few rounds of this battle so far go that we had to take a recess until next session–but doubtless, The Crooked Tower Part III will determine the ultimate fate of this battle one way or another! Next time, we see if the adventurers manage to defeat the powerful Belishan–or if they’ve finally truly bitten off more than they can chew…!
On another note, this marked our 30th week of play for the campaign which I am quite excited about–it has been a long and fantastic haul so far–and after several hundred hours, I’m looking forward to the next stretch of the Slumbering Tsar Saga! Thank you everyone who’s been reading along, I hope you continue to do so and enjoy our exploits at the table!