03 April 2006

Mindsgate: The Fall of Hive Town and the Burning Tower

"Silence, I am Grimspyne," spake the giant ebon wyrm. Lucien and Hurth returned the great dark dragon's cruel eyes as he related the tale of being drawn into the Midnight's Hunger when he faced the Emperor of Mellas. He spoke how he had prodigiously fornicated to create his dracobold cohort. Grimspyne claimed to have battled them previously. He finished his tale and demanded that the party, "Free me from this prison or die. Now."
As Lucien and Hurth attempted to parlay with the irate black lizard the Hand, Drakkar, and Kai acquiesced to the insistent dracobold growls and with weapons drawn scaled the steps to the platform. The party had individually ascertained that the village supported by the Undead Tree was not a dracobold habitation and that furthermore the tree could not bear the sudden increased weight of several hundred dracobolds as well as the bulk of a huge black dragon. As they looked around at the hive like huts of the village they noticed caterpillar-like vaguely humanoid beings either slain or being held hostage by the dracobolds. Some of these harmless appearing creatures were rapidly weaving themselves into cocoons.
Lucien finished parlaying with Grimspyne, saying that they could help him escape but that they needed to go elsewhere for it to happen. When pressed Lucien claimed that he knew the key to escaping. With that Grimspyne snatched him up and flew away instructing his mongrel children to kill the rest of the party. As several hundred dracobolds wheeled to attack, the Hand struck one down from the skies with his bare hand. However the battle rapidly turned bleak as the overwhelming odds of the situation became apparent.
But then the cocoon adepts struck from their silken sheathes emerging as large ferocious insectae and arachnidae: enormous wasps, scorpions, and spiders launched themselves at the hoard of hybrid humanoids. In the middle of this the doughty party battled its way around the trapdoor. A spell from Drakkar caused the cocoon adept's to ignore the group and his errant good luck caused several kobolds to collide in the air before him. Kai was neigh eviscerated by a brutal dracobold attack and fell to the floor. Meanwhile Hurth stood above her still form and smote dracobolds from the misty sky with Splitter. However as he battled the blade slipped from his gore and sweat layered hands falling from his grasp. Splitter spun about and flew back to his wielder's hand cleaving a dracobold in two in its return arc. The Hand healed Kai as Grimspyne flew into the fog with Lucien desperately arguing that the dragon needed all of them to escape.
The battle raged on, the desperate party defending themselves in the midst of the small war between Grimspyne's progeny and the cocoon adepts new forms. Lucien was born further away still arguing that more of the party was needed to escape Mindsgate, finally telling the dragon that Splitter was the key to escaping. With that the dragon wheeled and returned and as they again broke through the haze, Lucien could only gaze in horror as the top of the Undead Tree broke and began to topple into the metallic grey sea below.
On the platform the fierce band of brawlers faced a new challenge as the Undead Tree broke and fell into the sea. Drakkar had attempted to escape down the the stairs only to find the very ground beneath his feet turn over. As the Hand clutched at him through the trap door, Hurth buried Splitter deep in the platform and clutched the hilt. Kai grabbed hold of the barbarian but as the massive timber fell into the flat sea of Mindsgate they all fell free of the platform with Splitter still embedded in the village floor. As the party surfaced they saw Grimspyne perch above the water on the broken cocoon adept village, approximately a hundred feet away the hive mother of the cocoon adepts lay drowning, her children feverishly trying to save her.
Apparently taking Lucien at his word, Grimspyne tore Splitter and the surrounding floor of the village free. The great wyrm then rose majestically into the mist filled air and as he rose hurled Lucien to his death. But as Lucien fell he took on the aspect of a great white swan and drifted majestically to the rubble and water below, a power of his Ring of Animal Guardians.
The party quickly gathered materials for a raft which they constructed on the small pedestal that the Hand, Drakkar, and Kai had awoke upon a "day" before. As they built their raft they saw blood spreading in the water from the many dracobolds crushed under the falling village. Shortly after that a great clamor of insect-like screaming could be heard from the vicinity of the cocoon adepts attempting to save their hive mother. Later the inchor and bile of the caterpillar men came drifting around the remnants of their village. As they worked Hurth went to warn Weemag and the rest of the Sprayspawn that Grimspyne would most likely return when he realized that Splitter was not the key to escaping Mindsgate. The party sailed off in the direction opposite that taken by Grimspyne as Weemag and his people readied themselves to travel in a direction perpendicular to both.
The party rowed into the mists toward the dim outlines of great towers in the distance. They rowed until the sudden dark of the Mindsgate night and then rowed on in the morning. In the middle of the day their craft was suddenly bumped by something. As they looked in the water they saw only the water churning as if something was swimming there. Suddenly, they spied a glowing yellow eye the size of a dinner plate not far astern. The eye flashed then vanished and the attacks on the raft became more violent, a sudden jolt sent Kai and Drakkar into the churning grey water. The Hand called upon the divine power of Obad-Hai and commanded the watery creatures to flee. Two did so but two larger shapes still roiled the waters. As the others rushed to save them, Drakkar attempted an unseen servant but the aquatic environment corrupted the spell, making it drag him under the waves. Lucien clutched at Drakkar's hands and attempted to pull him out. Meanwhile Hurth heaved Kai out of the sea as a great invisible maw took a bite out of the raft right behind her kicking heels. Suddenly a great set of transparent teeth bit down on Drakkar but then loosed him. Lucien was able to cast light upon the great beast biting his comrade. The waters ceased their turbulence and the illuminated glasshark blended once more with the depths.
That night the party rested and saw in the distance three towers, the first was 60o to port and had a single white light burning in it. The second was 10o to port and showed a changing array of white, blue, and red lights. The final tower was 30o to starboard and looked like a great red fire rising into the fog. The party chose the Burning Tower.
The next morning the party approached a great column of fire burning from the waters and reaching into the haze. As they approached they felt the blistering heat of the Burning Tower and saw their raft begin to smoke and blacken. The Hand prayed to Obad-Hai for guidance and heard, Do not fear the flames. With that the Hand dove into the boiling waters and swam to the tower, he felt his skin blister and his hair singe then burn but on he swam. Finally, with faith in his deity he disbelieved the illusion. Lucien was also able to follow the Hand, but only with much convincing did the rest of the party join them.
They found themselves on a platform much the same as the one they had set out from. This one was ringed by torches and above them a great ball of flame writhed hypnotically. Kai rushed the stairs but was blasted by a flaming jet from the step. The Hand determined that this was a trap and they circumvented the step and ascended into the room above. They saw the great bonfire in the center reaching up and through the next floor. A spiral stair ran up inside the inferno. As they examined this curious set-up a great flaming arm swung at Hurth. With that the party became embroiled in a fierce battle with the flaming giant hidden in the floating furnace. The Hand struck with his martial skills and summoned a small celestial monkey to help. Kai fascinated the flames with song and attacked with her ebon blade. Hurth, bemoaning the loss of Splitter, attacked with his trusty spear. Lucien used his sorcerous arts but was badly burned by a vicious swing from the elemental. Drakkar also used his magic to attack the creature and narrowly escaped being ignited. In the end, the party destroyed the elemental and a strange flail fell from the dissipating smoke of the outsider's remains.
The party climbed back down the stairs to rest and heal. As they did Kai related the tale of the flail Maulstrom a powerful weapon of the Druidic Order. Kai recalled that Maulstrom was an ancient weapon presumably crafted as a natural balancing to other planar channeling weapons used by the Empire of Mellas. While its devastating electrical power made it a formidable part of the Imperial arsenal, its evil tendencies made its usefulness limited to agents of His Imperial Highness. It was stored away under heavy guard, but the armory it was housed in was sacked. During the Great Orc War, the Emperor himself faced the paragon of the orcs who bore this weapon. The orc champion and Maulstrom, along with several thousand heavy orc shocktroops were sucked into the insatiable vortex of the Midnight’s Hunger. Maulstrom was seen nevermore.
A guard was set and the party rested. During his watch Hurth saw flashes of light and the enraged screams of a great dragon away back where the Tower of the Undead Tree had stood.

No comments: