Part 3: Sobbing Wrecks
Our party rode into the very magic-oriented city of Nathkarin late at night. Once there, they found that rooms had already been reserved for them at the Mithral Dagger Inn by Damian. Discussions at the tavern area led them to an arvicol by the name of Bogdan, who introduced himself as the mayor of the city and revealed that Damian actually ran the whole province. Bogdan was talking with a group of vermis and usagi about a tower that had made itself a problem – “Dark Illusion” was its name. Apparently, mists surrounding the city have teleported people to the tower and those who were kidnapped never returned. Neither did almost anyone who actually went to the tower intentionally – except, apparently, for Damian, who fell out of his chair when the party brought up the tower to him after Bogdan had been contacted via crystal ball. Damian revealed that the tower is where his scry/teleport disaster had happened and where his amulet had been taken.
Part 4: That Trapped Feeling
Research revealed that the mists involved in the incident are the kind of mists meant for summoning people, but almost never for rescue missions. The party would venture into the mist early in the day and found itself rapidly going to Dark Illusion.
The first floor’s traps were a mix of physical and magical – spike pits lined people up for lightning bolts from the statues, and those who evaded had to risk being crushed by fallen pillars. Meanwhile, near the walls, walls of spears concealed flame jets that would cook impaled victims. The party luckily managed to avoid the majority of the traps here and evaded the ones that they did trip.
The party would ignore the basement for the time being, just based on the smog they saw when opening the door.
The second floor was almost purely magical traps. It started with lightning bolt traps, which were one of the few traps in the tower that actually hit any of the party members. Second were rooms of ice and fire, with even more traps hidden within. The party braved the ice room and took advantage of their natural fur to escape with relatively little injury, although Rephael did get speared once by an icicle trap.
Traps finally stopped being an issue on the third floor, but the party had a new problem – a wooden golem. The golem’s lumber parts turned out to be rotted and moldy, and when the golem was destroyed, it spread mold all around the room. Drake would be the only one to fall victim to the mold and developed hallucinations, rushing out of the tower to avoid a ceiling collapse that only he could see… but when the hallucinations wore off, he realized he was being fooled and rejoined the party.
The fourth floor was mostly a storeroom. Notes in Gnomish, moldy food, a few bottles of blood and decades-old wine, and a magical icebox full of items that had suffered a year-long case of freezer burn were the noteworthy finds. Also noteworthy was at the door to the next floor – Bruin would set off a springboard trap that slammed him into the ceiling. Luckily, Drake pulled him out before he could fall through stained glass panes and possibly onto a statue on the first floor.
Part 5: The Tower’s True Threat
On the fifth floor, Rephael and Drake noticed a wicked stench from above. They decided not to deal with this yet and opened the door to find a peraltan vampire, Phicarda, seated on a large throne. Behind his throne were two piles of ashes. As soon as he saw the party, he dominated Bruin and lured him closer to drain some of his blood, then sent him back over to the party. While the party did try to ascertain why Phicarda was stuck here and what he was up to, that initial act really doomed any chance of fully peaceful negotiations. After the party attempted to match up Phicarda’s story and couldn’t really get a full picture of what was going on, Bruin attacked him, forcing Phicarda to defend himself. Despite one solid strike on Fiona, Phicarda was tripped and quickly overwhelmed, at which point Rephael chose to behead him, turning the vampire into dust. The ashes behind the throne turned out to be victims he drained dry, including his former master. When the party remembered to search Phicarda’s ashes, they found a very rare amulet with gemstones that ultimately turned out to be Damian Xinara’s amulet – though Fiona noticed an odd necromancy aura about it, Rephael could not sense any evil.
Finally, on the sixth floor, the party discovered the source of the stench – a room completely full of corpses. Zombies would rise repeatedly to assail the party, only to be brought low. Eventually, Fiona realized that the crystal in the center of the room was the source of this constant zombie uprising, prompting the party to focus most of their efforts on it and ultimately destroy it. The act of destroying the crystal not only stopped the zombie attacks, but deactivated most of the magic powering Dark Illusion’s many traps. The crystal, as Fiona realized, turned out to be the kind that would require many literal sacrifices to construct and most of the gods would be pleased by its destruction. Meanwhile, Drake and Rephael found a journal in a side room, initially in Gnomish, then in a very large Common script. The Common script, which the party ascertained was Phicarda’s writing, detailed his discovery of the tower and initial conversion into a vampire, and suddenly revealed that he actually committed diablerie against his master by draining his blood and undead energy completely. The experience and further struggles upon realizing that he was trapped alone in a tower and needed to treat every visitor as a meal drove Phicarda almost completely insane.
The party revisited the basement after destroying the crystal and discovered that the magical traps, including the smog, had been deactivated by the crystal’s destruction. A few mechanical traps remained, but the party got around them just fine, and discovered that Damian’s gear was placed down here during his scry/teleport disaster.
Damian’s reaction to the party surviving the tower and retrieving the amulet was shock, awe, and a little bit of fear. When questioned about the amulet’s necromancy aura, he finally let slip the fact that he was a lich – in fact, a child of a lich who researched a spell to make his own spawn. Damian also revealed he destroyed that research when he found out, so it’s clear that Damian has SOME contempt for the type of blasphemy towards nature that he is.
The kind of treasure haul that the party received from the tower, plus the reward they were able to get out of Damian for retrieving the amulet, single-handedly put them in the tax bracket of the aristocracy and made them well-respected by the kingdom. There is some worry that there could be repercussions for destroying the crystal, though….