After fighting off the Galeb Duhr, the party decided to continue on toward the stairs they’d seen earlier, near the falls. Approaching them, they found the stairs to be larger than normal, like those a large, stone, rock monster might use. The stairs led up into a cave hidden behind the falls. Exploring this opening, they found a series of winding tunnels in the rock, opening into a series of large, high-ceiling’d caverns.
The largest such cavern was bisected by a fast-flowing river, which they assumed was the source of the powerful waterfall outside. Leaning out from the rock walls, Vahn spied what looked like a man-made structure further north, perhaps a bridge of some sort, and examining the river, noticed a series of rocks that might be used to cross. The other party members were leery of taking this route, however, and opted to turn back and explore more of the caverns, hoping they might lead toward the structure Vahn saw.
Delving into the twisting corridors, they found several things. Examining the walls, Xarrai and Ke’shin noted that the walls were becoming smoother, less rough. They appeared of a size to allow the galeb duhr they met to traverse them. The walls themselves seemed too smooth to have been carved; no tool marks were visible and the formation didn’t appear natural. The party found, and explored, a number of dead ends, as well. In two they found the yellowed skeleton bones of a humanoid creature, its canines larger than you might expect. While unable to identify the creature, they did note that one had its skull crushed, which the other had somehow been fused to the rock wall, it’s arms almost…melted, into the stone and held there.
Having met with defeat on several paths, they decided to explore once more and turned north, finding something more promising. The tunnel’s right wall suddenly became smooth, and white, and curved. This dead end terminated not in rocks, but in carefully mortared stones, fitted perfectly together.
Holding his companions back, Ke’shin performed a ritual to discover if any magic was held within these stones. As he began to cast, however, the rest of his party noticed shadows beginning to appear on the white stone wall. The shadows mimicked the movements Ke’shin was making while casting, and the words he spoke appeared as text. Curious, Xarrai prestidigitated a coin, which brought no reaction from the wall, and tossed it at the wall, where it was stopped short by a barrier a couple inches away from the surfaces. It was met with a shower of sparks and a blue ripple from where it connected, and was then shot back, nearly hitting Xarrai in the head.
Hearing this commotion, Ke’shin stopped his ritual to ask what had happened, and examine the wall, and found that it mimicked any spell he tried to cast, but only his. Unsatisfied, he began his Detect Magic ritual once more, and saw that the wall contained two types of magic; abjuration and enchantment. He was relatively certain that the blue barrier was some sort of amped up Shield Spell…but the method by which the wall mimicked his casting eluded him. Concluding that it was some sort of…recording…he deemed it harmless.
Seeing no magic on the cobbled stone, however, he gave Vahn the go ahead to break a hole in it. Doing so with a few short swings of his maul, Vahn cleared enough space to poke his head and shoulders in. Having done so, warm air and the smell of cooking meat wafted up. Confused and unable to breach the white wall, Vahn was about to jump in…when he looked up, and down…and saw that the walls were square, and they became closer travelling up, and further apart travelling down.
“Ke’shin, how likely is it that your kind [wizards] would leave a back entrance going straight down like this? Is it possible we’ve found a chimney?”
Ke’shin replied “Some of us don’t have ANY doors or entrances to our homes. Wizards are strange people.”
Confident though he was, Vahn couldn’t see the bottom of this passage they’d uncovered, and no one else in the group appeared willing to jump down. Defeated, they returned to the river.
Vahn crossed first, accomplishing the feat is one huge bound, carrying a length of rope with him. Holding it taut, with Asade anchoring the other end, Asade, Xarrai and Ke’shin managed to cross with little difficulty. Before making the attempt, Faelar held up his instruments and asked Xarrai to carry them over, for fear of getting them wet. Utilizing mage-hand, Xarrai did so, and Faelar started across. Sending his instruments over had been a good call, for the bard nearly lost his grip in the rushing waters and was carried over into the falls. Luckily, he had made it far enough that Vahn was able to reach out and pluck him from his watery fate.
Moving further inward, the group discovered a series of buildings cut into the stone. Dusty, abandoned, they appeared to be storehouses, kitchens, bedrooms. Vahn thought that they looked particularly like barracks, to him, a thought that was made more plausible when Asade found some weapons. Of them, only two appeared undamaged and un-rusted enough to use; a pair of daggers, thrust into a rotted tabletop. Seeing one that reminded her greatly of her father’s tools (re-purposed weapons from his wilder days) she grabbed it. The blade was wickedly curved black iron, the hilt heavy and blocky. Stamped into the bottom of the pommel was a symbol that seemed at odds with the harsh construction of the weapon.
While Asade picked up pointy objects, Xarrai and Ke’shin explored a tunnel leading further north, discovering a large, underground whirlpool, and the water feeding it coming from further north. A number of passages nearby looked intentionally blocked with large boulders. Xarrai tossed another summoned coin into the whirlpool, but produced no effect. Curiosity unsated, but remembering their purpose, the group reconvened amid the buildings and pressed west.
They found the bridge Vahn had spied from farther downriver. Ornate handrails of carved stone spiraled through each other and curled around stout pillars of marbled granite. The pillars were topped by decorations of small tower spires, reaching up. The whole thing appeared somehow both elegant and substantial. Beyond it, the face of a huge white tower held a large set of doors, with stairs leading up to them. Gratified to have finally found the object of their search, and noting that, hidden inside a mountain it certainly WAS camouflaged, they started toward it. As they neared the center of the bridge, a voice called out to them.
“You shall come no farther until you’ve stated your names, and your business.”
The group searched for the source in confusion, until Asade pointed out the source. In doing so, the voice sighed, and one of the end pillars of the bridge unfolded itself into a roughly humanoid form. Another galeb duhr, different from their previous encounter, stood before them. Formed not from boulders, this galeb duhr encompassed the stones of the bridge structure; arms and legs comprised of the carved twining guardrails, the towers that had graced the top of the pillar forming into a head.
The creature demanded to know who they were, boasting of its existence for centuries and informing them that the Master was far too busy to weary himself with guarding the door. Vahn, responding to the construct’s insulting and dismissive tone, demanded to the Master, and that they had no time to banter with a simple guard. The galeb duhr seemed perplexed, wondering how they had made it past its compatriot, and the group explained what had happened, showing the amethyst eye they had recovered. Momentarily enraged the construct clenched its fisted until the group heard its stone fingers beging to crack, relaxing only when they explained that they wanted to return it, the ornate galeb duhr seemed to switch gears, focusing on finding its companion and restoring it.
The galeb duhr introduced itself Korhaft, and proposed a trade. Help him to restore the eye to Guldin, his friend, and he would open the portals set in the white stone for them to pass through.
“Without my aid, you will never breach the tower.” This seemed fair enough to them, and they agreed…but the galeb duhr they demanded they help immediately. The group was willing to go, but Korhaft held up a hand, saying that in his injured state, having been set upon before, Guldin may further injure himself or run if confronted with the entire party. “One of you may help me; I can subdue him myself, but I cannot fix his eye.” Inspecting the damage to its fingers after the rage that had overtaken it, he proffered them toward the group. “Show me you can aid him.”
Faelar stepped forward, and with a quick mending spell, closed the cracks in the stone digits.
“Surely a creature who has existed for centuries has stories to tell!” Faelar said, with a grin. “I’ll catch up.” Korhaft scooped him up onto his shoulders with a quick “You’ll do” and jumped off the bridge, completely forgetting to take the Eye. As the party mage-handed it down to Korhaft, he tossed a comment over his shoulder as the gates to the tower began to open. “The Master doesn’t see just anyone; he tests his visitors. That’s all I can say…I’m not allowed inside. Good luck!” Stomping down the center of the river, Faelar firmly seated on his broad shoulders, they disappeared into the darkness.
Their excitement somewhat tempered, the group ventured inside to find a semircular, slatted pattern on the ground, and statues of four upraised hands set in a square shape. The inside of the tower itself was circular, the walls emitting a soft white glow, another door identical to the one they had just used set in the wall to the north.
Upon examining the statue nearest them, Xarrai found a brief inscription. “Wind hides.” Deciding to continue his “coin test” that he’s been using on pretty much everything, Xarrai prestidigitated a coin into the hand. The hand flared briefly with purple magical energy, but nothing more. Asade, thinking if over, cast her ‘gust’ cantrip into the same hand, and received a far greater response. Purple magic swirled upward from the based and encompassed the hand, spreading into the air into the center of the domed ceiling and twitching about in a tethered arc of magic…before also disappearing. As the others inspected the rest of the statues, they discovered three more inscriptions:
Deciding that whatever they were supposed to do involved activating them at the same time, the group spread out. Vahn placed a golden coin into one hand, Xarrai summoned fire into another, Ke’shin poured water from a magical decanter onto a third and Asade summoned a Gust once more. The four hands emitted their beams of energy again, combining into a swirling mass at the ceiling. Each of the hands suddenly cracked shut into fists and the energy slammed down to the floor, and dissipated. A series of sharp clicks, winding gear noises and thumps following, and the slats in the semi-circular pattern dropped one by one into a curving staircase. Smiling to each other, the group descended.
At the bottom of the stairs they found an open space, brightly lit, with square-cut blue stone tile flooring. Two suits of armor stood on stands nearby. As they entered the space, a tinny voice informed them “A password from the Master is required to continue. All confirmed guests receive this from the master. Please provide within 10 seconds.” As a metallic countdown ensued and various party members threw out ideas, they prepared themselves for a fight, realizing this might not be an easy visit.
The suits of armor stepped off of their stands and each began to glow. One glowed a bright red; the other, an icy white. Asade summoned a sphere of fire in the space near the white armor, burning it severely. In an opening flurry, of strikes, Vahn cut deeply into the armor, revealing gears and moving mechanisms inside. Xarrai defensively cast Blink and disappeared from view, and after Vahn’s considerable damage to the red one, Ke’shin decided to try enveloping it in flame. His spell leapt out, and for a moment, appeared to hit even harder…until the flames were sucked into the armor and the party watched its wounds closed, gears fading from view.
Seeing this effect, Asade dropped her flaming sphere and took out the enchanted spear she’d claimed from the necromancer in the prison, so long ago. After defeating the white armor, the red armor began to glow, brightly, pulsating with energy, but before it could act, the combined efforts of Asade and Vahn’s physical attacks and Xarrai’s magic missiles, it fell.
Looking around at each other in the wake of this rather unpleasant welcome, the group wonders what may lie in the tower beyond, and when they’ll be reunited with their bard.