Having come across a bounty flyer fluttering perhaps all the way from Port Kardell, the party was surprised to find “The Eyes of Wisdom” in strong letters at the top of the page. Realizing that their name had become something they’d need to either defend even stronger or change for ease, they chose the latter—the dynamic and feel of the party had changed since they had first formed up in Foredge, months and months ago. They agreed on Arcane Staffing & Co—Kilya made a point that even the fanciest twirl of her dagger couldn’t magic up a candle flame, even. That bit of business out of the way, they tucked the flyer away for safe keeping and approached the village.
After some initial nervousness about approaching—they had seen first-hand the imposing drake-riders, and the beast that the village was in the process of skinning was easily ten feet long, so they clearly had some skill—they decided that a direct approach would be least suspicious. After a group of men rushed between the party and the village folk and summoned the larger warriors, Minuet managed to cool off these seemingly conflict-eager men and they were introduced to Medukáa, who looked as if he would have been of the warrior caste except that he walked with a cane. He explained that, yes, Gavernus had been there and had been tossed into the tower as his “trial”. The tower, he explained, was traditionally used as a testing ground for chiefs and great warriors and thus was filled with dangers. Being neither a warrior from a different tribe (who would be released or killed, depending on the current relations) or a civilian who might be jailed or placed into servitude, the tribe had decided to put Gavernus to a test of warrior-ship, or to die.
However, even though a prisoner had been thrown in as a potential punishment, that didn’t mean the party would be able to easily access the tower, which was sacred, or leave it easily if they could get in—the tower’s position as a testing ground was partially due to its own judgment of those who would exit its doors. But he, Medukáa would help them if they would assist him in his argument against the tribe’s current chief, Chingutsao, who was turning too far from the old ways. Sighing as the specter of nigh-inevitable conflict sprang up once more, they agreed, and were guided past the half-staring, half-glaring eyes of the tribespeople in to the tower.
As soon as they entered the tower they could feel ancient powers quivering within them. Upon entering the first chamber and gazing upon an ancient altar to Kord, each of them felt a rush of bloodlust and the intense desire to slay their foes and feel the heat of their last breaths on their faces—and with it came an increased confidence in their abilities to strike the enemies’ vitals, though they found the impulse distracting when they were a greater distance from their foes. To the sides of the room were stairways spiraling around the outside of the tower, heading upwards to their left and downwards to the right—and that a number of collapsed sections of floor leading down to the basement all glowed with an eerily flat, red light.
Immediately on entering they found a macetail behemoth—Medukáa explained that wild beasts often would be brought as a sacrifice to the tower, to keep its dangers fresh—that had arrows notched into it back. It charged immediately, seized of the bloodlust of the place—but what started as a one-sided four-on-one fight quickly escalated into a massive mob frenzy as an orc leading a number of gnolls ordered them to defend their dinner and a number of fire beetles likewise scuttled into the fray as the stench of blood filled the air. Despite the ever-increasing number of combatants, though, the party held their ground and ended up dispensing the behemoth, the beetles and three of the five humanoids, though two of the gnoll archers flaunted their cowardice and escaped to the floor above.
Considering their options while they caught their breath, bandaged their wounds, and cleaned their blades, the party next decided to investigate the chamber below. They had noticed during the previous fight that the blood on the floor seemed to pool and then drain downwards. As any of the many things the gathering of blood might indicate was something to approach in a readied state they decided to investigate that while they remained relatively fresh. Nor did their reason fail them; descending into the depths they found a surprise from nightmare: Chingutsao, the leader of the human tribe who had brought them the power to ride the red mountain drakes, knelt in meditation before a faintly glowing red orb. A pervasive aura of evil and power-lust was evident to even the magically disinclined, and upon noticing the party’s entry Chingutsao immediately stood, vowed to kill them before they could tell anyone what they’d seen there, and sliced his palm to let his blood flow down onto the orb. He then drew his massive stone greataxe and charged them.
Chingutsao was clearly a worthy opponent himself, but his sacrificed blood called out, too, to the demonic masters that apparently had given him his powers. Four evistros, foul-smelling pink humanoid demons, appeared in the room and rushed to his defense, their foul claws seeming to fly in from every direction at once as they swarmed over the party. It was a pitched battle but the party managed to fell Chingutsao, hoping the demons would then disperse. They were unpleasantly surprised when they then seemed enraged by this, rather than losing any purpose. Even after slaying the demons, their fallen forms imploding in a mess of blood and entrails, they did not rest: red gems fell from their chests and seemed to crawl towards the red orb as energies coalesced around them. Striking at the gems in an attempt to rid them of their evil magics both Cordelia and Mulgott instead found themselves infected with the demonic taint. Dispatching the last two demons they then examined their wounds and agreed it was likely demon pox, a foul parasitic projection where the demons’ lingering presence would attack and attempt to take over their bodies as the evistros attempted to regain their physical forms and kill their former foes at once.
Disgusted with these rashes that were already starting to streak with unnatural greens and yellows and blacks and exhausted after two pitched battles, the party was dismayed to hear from Medukáa that he did not think the tower would yet allow them to leave. They had come for their friend, he said, and had not yet accomplished that goal. This the tower would know and refuse them what would be less than a warrior’s exit. Steeling their resolve, the party looked upwards. Two gnoll hunters had escaped them to the upper floors, they knew. But what other hazards might lurk above? They knew they’d soon find out. . .