In short order a mad battle with the corrupted azure-scaled dragonling ensues, it’s festering dusty yellow breath bringing a continuing edge of confusion to the combatants. With several of the Travelers painfully wounded and the fight looking to be sliding toward disaster, Sememkhet calls out for Mystra’s intervention.
Everything seems to slow and stop, though voices can be heard – Sem’s and a deep yet melodious woman’s voice. There is a call for aid, and a gentle rebuke, the desperate call is one reserved for things which would snuff magic itself, and this is not one. But there are other needs, and other threats. A boon shall be given, but it must me balanced.
Time rushes on, and Sememkhet is missing. But the most grievous of wounds the party has suffered are gone, and they all feel a hanging power over each of them, waiting the call to attack or defend. In a concerted turn-around, the party assaults the beast, driving it back into a corner, narrowly avoiding the scouring sand blast of its breath. Coordinating their attacks, the group finally breaches it’s armor, and fells the creature, backing away in time as it’s death rattle expels a cloud of yellowish breath from it’s gill slits.
With the cloud dissipated, the party begins a quick scrounge of the lair, and hacks the beast’s head off.
Those who spent the majority of the fight in the outer hell hound kennel, hear the gentle thunk of the door bar being dropped back in place…from the outside.
Sura, the warmaiden of Chauntilar who guided them here was waiting outside in the hall, watching the far door. Betrayal!
Giving a quick listen, they hear the far door opening, the sounds of whimpering, a dark laughter, and scuffing feet.
The party take positions to waylay whoever comes through…
The bar is thrown, the door pushed open carelessly, and a short thin-limbed cynidicean in tattered and stained robes and a mouse mask is pushed into the room, stumbling and falling to the sand covered floor, behind him a broader chested albino in a white and gold one-horned, one-eyed monster mask, who calls out to the hell hounds…
And stops, raising his khopesh in alarm, Kang spins out from behind the door, disarming him.
The Zargonite snarls, hands moving and concentrating as if to enact a terrible magic – and a spear tip erupts from his chest…
Sura pushes him down and off her spear, “Quickly, before they notice that a feeding is taking too long…”
The party quickly understands the deception, allowing them to take down a single priest, rather than a whole chapel of zealot beast handlers, and raises concerns about the whimpering mouse-masked sacrifice.
Sura is wary of taking the clearly abused and obviously detoxing adolescent, but is convinced to bring them back to the Maidens – he may survive and become a useful member of the faction.
Retracing many of their steps through the hidden passages of the step Pyramid, as well as some they had not taken to get to the kennel, eventually brings them back to the first straight hallway of the level with the Spinning Hall.
Tapping the runes brings the Spinning Hall to them, and inside, another quick tap begins with procession. When it stops, however, the door at the far end, not the one before them opens, and in walk three black-robed individuals, bearing wands pointed at the group, and wearing silver starburst marks with a black hand overlaying the face.
Sura takes the lead in berating the Magrans for interrupting their process, against the agreed upon codes, but the Magrans fire back that such progress interrupted their sending of emissaries to the Brothers and the Maidens for their due in keeping the ancient machines working. The lasciviousness of the Magrans attitude toward Sura disturbs the party, and it becomes clear that while the party is of extreme interest, the black-clad trio will let them proceed, and will only take Sura as tribute per the codes, rather than the full tribute from the Maidens for this cycle.
The party watches somewhat aghast as Sura turns to them, strips naked except for her sandals, and hands her armor, clothes, weapons and pouch of Break to the party, entreating them to complete their task and deliver her arms to her sisters, which she will regain when her duties are complete.
With that, she turns, showing many scars, some clearly of battle, and others of a more vile origin, and stoically accompanies the Magrans out the far portal. Once closed, the Spinning Hall continues along it’s original turn, opening to the outer foyer of the Maiden’s lair.
The party, disturbed and dejected, return to the Maiden’s Wargate and announce themselves. The doors are opening, and then Sura’s absence is noted – the party explains what occurred, and the door guards nod stiffly and take her things. Others are called to take the drug addled sacrificial victim to the healer’s chamber, and a squad of guardswomen, seeing the bloody sack, escort the group to Pandora’s chamber.
There the amazonian albino leader greats them with shining, questioning eyes…
The Child-Beast of Zargon’s blue scaled and horned head is dumped upon the stone floor, and Pandora gives a triumphant cry.
The party shares the entirety of the story, and Pandora gives them her condolences over the sacrifice Sem, and assures them that Sura will be returned to her sistren without permanent harm. She explains, perhaps in too jaded a fashion, that the Maidens, the most predominantly female of the factions, sates the baser needs of the other factions as part of it’s payment for the benefits the other factions trade. It is not the only thing they can trade, but it has proven useful in causing the other factions to underestimate them, and in gathering information. While no one says it, several of the party are now more disturbed by their current ally than during Sura’s apparent abduction.
Revealing all that they took from the Zargonite priest and the Lair of the Beast, Pandora asks to trade supplies in exchange for the priest’s mask, bejewelled mantle, and fine steel khopesh, as such would be of great value in attempts to infiltrate the Zargonites both in the pyramid or in deep Cynidicea. The party agrees.
Pandora then reveals that she has gathered information while they were gone. The Brotherhood of Raan have captured horses with strange gear, and seek information about one of their own who has gone missing after someone invaded and stole from the ancient Treasury. While she was prepared to reward them directly for the slaying of the Beast, she is curious if they seek to leave the Pyramid. If so, it would cost her both personally, and the Maidens, but she could insure that they receive passage out unhindered, while laying blame upon the Magrans. She is of course, also deeply interested in having them stay, as their strength and skill would be of great use in coming conflicts with the Zargonites. Pandora forces nothing, though, asking merely how they wish to proceed.
After a brief discussion, the group decides that reclaiming the horses and supplies, and dealing with the other concerns which the Tower Network has raised, are greater priorities, and decide to accept Pandora’s offer of free passage.
While disappointed, Pandora seems positively thrilled to sow dissent between the other two factions, as well as within them. She suggests that they rest for a while, as messages must be sent, and arrangements made.
And hour later, Maidens collect the party and equip them with men’s robes and Chauntilar masks, and the Sisters escort them to the upper level, where a squad of wary Brothers of Raan greet and escort them to the egress. Clearly unhappy with the situation, the Brothers follow their orders to the letter, though it’s clear they seek some sign of the Travelers nature or origins. Once outside, the party sees their horses, a single Brother of Raan keeping them. With their arrival, he bows and returns tot he temple.
A quick look around notices two more Raanites, hidden amidst the rough terrain and ground plants watching the group. Checking their saddlebags, the group finds them rifled through, and missing perhaps a days worth of rations all told, but otherwise intact.
The party leads the horses up and around the small hillock where the Portal Tower stands, ducking in quickly, and leading the animals back up the stairs as fast as possible. At the tower top, the group decides to head back to the Rashemen tower, as the East Portal from the Wastes Tower was a flicker just out of perception in a shattered wall, and the damaged floor and wall of the South Portal held no clues to it’s destination and would be difficult to get the animals through.
Safely back in the top room of Rashemen, the group gets out of the Sisters of Chauntilar disguises, and discusses their next steps.
Due to the ramp-like and dangerous nature of the Western Portal, it’s decided that a quick southward exploration of the portal network should ensue, especially since the raiders of the Rashemi definitely went south, though where after that is unknown.
The group decides to leave the animals in the nicely defensible dell in Rashemen, watched over by Nightwind, once he returns from the celestial plains. There is plenty of grass to eat, and water nearby.
Returning to the Tower, the proceed south, Raven and Kang leading the way.
Fist a second reconnoiter of the Purple Tower occurs. They feel fairly certain that it is in fact in the Plains of Purple Dust, or at least near it’s border from the sandy and baked earth land around it. There remain no clues as to where the Raiders went, but the height of the sun in the sky, clearly puts this tower further West than the Wastes, and probably slightly more west than the Rashemi Tower.
Deciding that they will stick with one direction at a time, and unable to garner any clues of destination, as the runes on the walls have been abraded by wind and sand forced through the slit-like windows, the group continues south.
The sounds of a jungle, animal screeches, and a nearby river echo up the stone stairwell in the next tower. What little remains inside has long been scavenged by animals and mold, and ravaged by relentless humidity, if it wasn’t blasted to ash in the ancient catastrophe.
Descending through the rank, moldy smelling tower, the tower shudders briefly. Concerned the scouts continue their exploration, and find the ground floor flooded with a foot of water and mud, the stairs into the cellar clearly submerged. Outside, what was a large stream or small river appears to have recently flooded it’s banks. Dense jungle encroaches from every direction, and a steep mountain slope rises behind the Tower to the Northeast. The land rises into the jungle to the west, and just at the edge of vision along the river appear to be a distant wall of some sort, through which a great torrent of water flows…perhaps and ancient reservoir or dam.
Seeing no immediate habitation or threats, Kang and Raven return to the top to check the southern portal of this tower.
The next tower is dimly lit, the roof set with great crystals which let in a faint light. The remains of several shattered winged reptilian humanoid statues are shattered and scattered on the floor. Where a central staircase would descend from the room there is a round stone block. Facing outward from the block are two more of the crouching statues. One is mostly shattered, but the other remains intact, a tiny silver bell held in its upraised clawed left hand.
The moment Kang sees all of this, there is also a dim brownish light, and he feels like he is swimming through mud, his muscles moving with incredible slowness.
Then the tiny silver bell begins to ring gaily, but insistently.
With all the effort he can muster, Kang nearly falls back through the portal, almost landing at Raven’s feet. The brutal slowing effect lasts for minutes until Kang finally shakes it off.
The rest of the party is brought through to the Jungle Tower and waits and discusses what happened, but nothing comes through from the southern portal.
Given that the jungle is in daylight, and barring some sucking mud to get out of the tower, the group decides to see if they can investigate the ancient reservoir. Once outside the Jungle tower, it’s clear that there was once a well maintain stone road that lead both west and east from it, generally following the river. Moving up to slightly higher ground, the group moves into the jungle, and heads west in the general direction of the broken dam.