Friday, June 10, 2011

Thunderspire XI: The Fall of Paldemar

Zol, Barrakas 17, 998 YK (Day 31).

Tam'elanath and Eshunu separate from the party to ensure that the first floor and the area at the base of the tower are cleared out of potential threats, and the rest of the Eclipse Collective takes a short rest on the first floor. During this rest, they are rejoined by Zil'dejin, who explains that he tracked Cabor's Chains to Vedykar, but lost their trail. After that, he realized it was the farthest he'd ventured alone in a haze of rage since joining with the Collective, and decided it would be safest to return to the group.

With this, the group heads up to the second floor, where they hear the same thunderous footsteps noted by Stahlstrauss when he accidentally arrived on this floor alone. Tam'elanath and Eshunu are still on a scouting run, but the remaining five decide to cautiously proceed without them. Before long, they discover the source of the footsteps: a giant bronze statue of a minotaur, armed with an axe and apparently controlled by some external source. This construct, called a Bronze Warder, causes much trouble for the party, and the appearance of more norkers and dolgaunts appear to create a very difficult situation for the group. Fortunately, though, Eshunu and Tam'elanath return before the situation becomes too dire, and the additional manpower is enough for the Collective to overcome the Bronze Warder and Paldemar's servants. Zil'dejin is able to defeat the Bronze Warder on this level, using the magic of his thundering halberd to shatter it with waves of sound from within once he has broken the surface with the blade. By searching the area, they find a glass tank apparently containing fragments of minotaur skeleton, which is identified by Cecil and Eshunu to be magical in nature, though its exact purpose is difficult to discern. To air on the side of caution, the party destroys the tank, and investigates the area further. They find a small library, containing books with apparently blank pages, and a few non-disguised scrolls, which they take with them. They then use the teleportation circle on this floor to ascend to the third and final floor of the Tower of Mystery.

This floor features a hallway, and the skeleton of a long-dead minotaur, still clutching its weapon: a bow approximately six feet in length, which is discovered to be enchanted. Tam'elanath takes the greatbow, but realizes he will need some practice before he is able to use it effectively in combat. The group also takes note that the teleportation circle they entered through has now vanished. There are three doors here: one on either side, and double doors ahead, which are already open. They first attempt to open the door on the left, but even Garmeth is unable to open it, discovering that it has been sealed with some kind of magic. He does not have the tools with him to open it, nor the time to do so. They open the door on the right, only to find that it contains another Bronze Warder, much like the one they fought below. It charges immediately, causing problems for the Collective right away. Right after, dolgaunts and norkers from further in begin their attack, emerging from what appears to be a shrine of some sort.

After a short time, Paldemar emerges to join the fray, and elucidates his plot. He seeks to conduct a ritual that will collapse the Seven Pillared Hall, and in effect sacrifice the lives of all those within to provide him with personal power, which he intends to use to lead an army from the Thunderspire Labyrinth to gradually conquer Khorvaire. The Eclipse Collective has interrupted his plans, and he fully intends to make them pay. He carries with him a magical staff, and a platinum rod inlaid with gold, both of which he uses as channels for his power.

The seven are initially skeptical of this claim, but Paldemar soon proves to be a powerful opponent, and through the use of his magic rapidly subdues Cecil, Eshunu, and Tam'elanath, who are usually found in the rear ranks of the party. Meanwhile, Garmeth and Stahlstrauss struggle against norker opponents in the room that previously contained the Bronze Warder, and Zil'dejin attempts to motivate his teammates back to their feet to continue the battle while Lucan holds the hallway, and contributes his own mental healing powers. Cecil is able to stand briefly, but his exhaustion and overuse of power allow the demon that possesses him, Lagrish, to take control. He manages one last burst of strong magic, but collapses from the effort, the life extinguished from his body. It is not in vain; Paldemar is gravely wounded by the attempt.

But despite these efforts, even as the norkers and the dolgaunts fall, so too do the members of the Eclipse Collective. With most of their companions unconscious, dying or in the case of Cecil, already dead, only Stahlstrauss, Zil'dejin and Garmeth remain to face Paldemar in one final showdown. They are wounded, battered and exhausted. Zil'dejin leads a valiant charge, but he is blinded by anger and fatigue, and ultimately misses. Stahlstrauss moves in to help, but Paldemar's magic slows him down. Garmeth moves in from the side in an effort to flank, while Paldemar draws magic energy stored in crystals, hidden within the stone pillars in the shrine.

The combined efforts of the three eventually wear him down, and wounded, Paldemar attempts to flee. Zil'dejin, however, is able to charge one last time, and cleaves Paldemar with his halberd, ending his life. As Paldemar falls, he utters something unintelligible; clearly a curse of some kind, but his life is truly over.

The remaining group members help those who can stand to their feet, while the others are put in a safe place to be carried back to the Seven Pillared Hall after a search of the area. They find, besides Paldemar's staff, the rod he carried: platinum and gold, weighted perfectly evenly and of incredibly masterful design. They detect immense power within it, and conclude that this is the Rod of Order. They also find his ritual book, and a strange glass orb. They look into the orb, but it shatters. In the ritual book, the ritual to collapse the Seven Pillared Hall is detailed, though unfinished. There is some debate on whether the book should be kept, turned in to the Mages of Saruun, or destroyed; ultimately, Garmeth, who picked up the book, tears out the page and rips it to shreds. With this, the group heads back to the Seven Pillared Hall to meet one last time with Orontor.

Orontor expresses his gratitude to the Eclipse Collective, and grants them free passage in and out of the Labyrinth through the Gate of Saruun Khel, as well as the freedom to take the Rod of Order out with them. He also grants them a letter to the drow priestess Phaledra in the Temple of Hidden Light, a temple of the Sovereign Host in the Seven Pillared Hall, to raise Cecil from the dead without charge.

The party spends one last night of well-deserved rest in the Halfmoon Inn, where they are congratulated by Rendil Halfmoon for their success.

Rendil Halfmoon

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