The party skirted down the alley unseen and soon reached the home of the freshly-deaded mage. Much as it was earlier, the home was quiet, the shutters drawn, and no lights were seen. Our heroes crept in the front door, careful not to disturb the seemingly normal home. So’Khra delicately looked around for clues and noticed that, although remarkably tidy, the home had a few hurried ruffles. It seemed as if someone had packed up and left in a hurry. Not wanting to ransack the place (they were still under investigation after all), So’Khra was careful to peek around without disturbing anything. Soon, he noticed an outline underneath the rug — a trap door! Behrtogg, with no such trepidation smashed the door downward with his maul, splintering the wood into several pieces.
Below, a wide staircase descended. The party drew their swords and slowly merged with the dark below. By torchlight, they discovered a stone room with heavy double doors on the left. The room was odd, as the stone itself seemed to be covered in burnt grime. So’Khra sniffed the walls and determined them to be scorched with fire from some indeterminable arcane source. As their eyes adapted to the darkness, our heroes noticed the grime to be burnt into a huge circular symbol, reminiscent of the strange amulet found on the trailhead.
Symon approached the doors and pressed his ear against them. Grunts and a clanging noise emanated from beyond. With that, he threw the doors open, revealing a small room with a large warchest. The chest was utterly ignored, because Symon was just in time to see a vicious rage drake snap from the chains holding him from hero-meat.
Leaping toward the doorway, the drake nearly eviscerated by the drake’s spindly serrated claws. The paladin crumpled into a heap. Fortunately, Behrtogg and So’Khra distracted the beast from finishing it’s prey. Unfortunately, the claws and teeth of the beast continued to thrash, and Behrtogg fell just after reviving Symon. Surely this was one of the toughest enemies our heroes had yet seen. The two fallen comrades rose again with just enough help from So’Khra, who courageously danced in the shadows out of harm’s way. Eventually, Behrtogg’s hammer felled the beast, who crumpled to the stone floor. Behrtogg took the beast’s longest talon, confident he could fashion it into a fine weapon.
The party checked the heavy locked chest, and recognized that opening it would require entering a rune code into the steeled lock mechanism. So’Khra resumed his search upstairs, and in the closet found a set of worn leather greaves. Near the ankle plate, he gasped as he saw a small black fist. The Onyx Fist strikes again!! He also found several scraps of papyrus, seemingly torn in deliberate haste. He pieced them together, confident this was his code!
It was. The three heroes hoisted the heavy metal lid and peered inside. A single gold artifact lay within, shining with light and vibrating energetically. It looked strangely different to each hero — a metal playing card, a gem, and a gilded parchment. After some confusing dialogue, the heroes realized that magic was afoot. At any rate, they were all confident that the artifact was imbued with powerful ancient magic. All sorts would love to get their hands on this lovely piece. So our heroes stole it, stuffing it into So’Khra’s bag of holding.
After some deliberation about how best to impersonate a drake break-in (dreak-in?), the party came to their senses, and So’Khra scrubbed the place. The party headed to the inn for the night, hopeful their mess would go unnoticed. They even kept a totally necessary and helpful watch in the single room they shared.
In the morning, they made their way back to the bazaar to pick up So’Khra’s requisitioned items. As he picked up the items, a strange humming rang from his knapsack. So’Khra wondered if the artifact hummed as it’s holder desires were met. Using some trial and error involving Behrtogg and expensive honeyed hamhocks, the party confirmed this idea. With some recollection, the group recalled rumors of a powerful Collector, an ancient scholar-mage who imbued his personal belongings with great power. The artifacts have been called the Deck of Many Things, the Tears of Urum Shar, the Primal Apocrypha, and so on, but each has always been based more on speculation than examination.
Eager to take advantage of such powerful magic, the group decided to use it in finding Slatine’s Tower. They stopped by the Mayor Mammerschmidt’s to assure some protection. He was disappointed they wanted to talk substance over sustenance, but he eventually agreed to not send an angry mob after them.
The party rode southward in search of a lost crossroads. They had learned from the historian that Obsidian used to meet Slatine’s men at a point to deliver supplies to the school. Eventually, they found just such a point, with a faded trail leading through a meadow into a tree-line. While crossing the meadow, Behrtogg pointed to an area that dipped slightly in the uniform line of firs, he estimated it to be an area of relative youth. The group agreed to check it out.
However, as the forest deepened, tracking proved much harder than anticipated. Despite all three heroes tracking together, they got so turned around they popped back out into the meadow on their first attempt. Their second attempt involved marking their path, which proved more fruitful. Sure enough, the party soon found themselves in an open area of young saplings, the ground riddled with odd stone.
The stone was unlike any naturally-occurring stone Behrtogg had seen and lay flat against the ground in a huge circle. The rock itself was incredibly dense, like it had been worked, but also very raw and natural. It was strange and a bit eerie to the Goliath.
So’Khra felt an odd sense of belonging here. Was this the site of Slatine’s Tower, his old home? As the wizard walked to the center of the stone circle, the humming in his bag chirped up and grew exponentially louder than it had previously. It was now sparking with light, and So’Khra removed it from his bag of holding.
Just as he reached the center of the circle, the artifact jumped from his hand, shot beams of light high into the sky, and grew into a glowing halo nearly four feet in diameter. It seemed, So’Khra was where he desired to be!
After the heroes attempted to smash the stone with heavy weapons without success, So’Khra tried a different approach. Unsure what he was even looking at, So’Khra fell to one knee to examine the stone more closely. Recalling their adamantine gift from Luden, So’Khra tried to probe the stone with the spade’s shining blade. Surprisingly, the blade slipped through like the stone was water. So’Khra began digging excitedly, and after an hour or so discovered an ornate metal box. After careful examination, he flipped open the lid to reveal a tome. The artifact nearly erupted, firing beam after beam into the dimming sky.
With that, So’Khra reached for the book. Was this Slatine’s final record? How was it buried within five feet of stone? As his hand met the parchment, the artifact jumped ten feet into the air, and black fog (completely unlike any previous reaction it had) spewed from it, instantly engulfing the heroes. The fog soon grew into pitch blackness, and the world began turning around our heroes, faster and faster, until they lost all sense of orientation. Soon it felt as if they were falling, falling into some unknown depth. Then, as quickly as it had come, the fog was gone. But our heroes were somewhere new — in a dimly lit room. Large glass walls towered along the walls, in various shapes and sizes. The party could see themselves in dozens of reflections, but each looked oddly disfigured.
With that, a tiny two-legged lizard with an even tinier spear (think kabob) crawled out from behind a mirror and scurried towards Behrtogg. Reaching the goliath, it pointed the small stick towards Behrtogg’s thigh. As soon as it made contact, Behrtogg howled with pain, as a three inch gash erupted on his skin. Uh oh — things don’t seem to be what they seem…
With a gulp, Behrtogg looked at So’Khra, who nodded with understanding — they were back in the Dreamscape…