I watched the birdman (yes it is a male apparently, not sure if its from an egg though!) fly up the side of the nearest tower to us. I could see the small window it was headed for. Below him and making steady progress up the castle wall was Boreff. The human was doing well and soon disappeared out of sight.
Still nothing from the dark silent castle in front. The Birdman had vanished now. There were mutterings among the rest of us left outside. The odd shout up to the castle and a wary eye kept on the treeline beyond the bridge should the Gnolls find their courage. After what seemed like ages I heard banging and scraping the other side of the wooden gates in front of us. Instantly everyone’s focus shifted to the gates. First one, then the other gate slowly creaking open. The birdman pushed hard till the gap was wide enough to get the wagon through.
In the darkness, I could make out a wider open space beyond the short tunnel where we now stood. Standing there in the middle of the tunnel was Boreff. But something was different. He stood there, arms by his side not moving. He didn’t acknowledge anybody as they came through the gate. I called over to Kena our bird friend, and asked what was wrong with Boreff. He said that he’d found him there in a passageway just like that. Kena said that Boreff had responded to his voice but that was about it. He had no free thinking of his own (like our paladins!).
The tunnel was getting crowded. Someone yelled to go forwards. Someone else hissed to be quiet. A bit late for that methinks with all the racket outside earlier. Kena hadn’t seen or heard anything since getting through the tower window and coming down the steps to the yard ahead of us. However, he felt that a presence had tried to dull his mind. A strange sensation had washed over him as though it was trying to wrest control, then it had passed. Perhaps this “presence” had affected Boreff? It wouldn’t have surprised me. These humans are so weak minded dear journal. True, I have human heritage but my other lineage is so much stronger! These types of charms and petty spells have no effect on me.
We moved forwards, the gates bumping together and secured again. The Gnolls were probably lurking back beyond the bridge outside, we were confident they wouldn’t attempt to gain entry. Stepping from the tunnel I could see now that we had entered a large open courtyard. Ahead was an open space. In the middle was a square pool of water. Upon either side some stone steps went up to another level. Set back from this was a wall with a roof. I could see an arched doorway in the middle of the wall. On either side of the tunnel we’d just come, some small buildings stood in darkness. They were built into the castle wall which loomed above them. A stone walkway ran above our heads, it led to battlements above the gate we’d just come through, although I couldn’t see how you got up there. On the far left and right of the yard the foremost towers stood. Arched doorways at the base led to the yard where we stood. I could see the other towers further on. The one still had the red glow coming from it. It looked as though the entrances to these towers were elsewhere.
Silence and more silence. Where was everybody? The castle didn’t look in disrepair, just deserted. No animals, no people, nothing. Well, best have a look around then and see what we can find! We were all still gathered near the tunnel leading to the gate when someone suggested we should all perhaps move forwards and have a scout about. Yes yes I agreed. I’ll check out that red glow! We started walking towards the pool ahead of us, the steps either side seemed to lead to the only doorway that went further in. I was halfway across and headed for the steps on the left side of the pool. Then dear journal, it’s as though my brain turned to mud.
Screams, Fuzziness. Roars. A pounding in my head. A voice boomed in my brain, cutting through the fuzz. It seemed vaguely familiar. OK, I’ll throw that bolt of fire. Sure thing I’ll run there. More shouts. A spray of gore. Something large looming up. Was that an arm? Whut? Another fire show? Now we’re talking! I’m floating. Something is on fire. My head! I’ve gone blind. More screams, fuzziness, and roars. Hell! you’re getting down with this fire flinging voice in my head! I like you! Shit that hurt. Now I can see again! Oh run this way? Like this? Hey! watch that sword! Is that a head? I feel sick. Through there? Don’t push please! These steps are steep. Keep going up? Are we there yet? Yes Yes I heard you, through the door.
Why am I covered in black blood? Anybody want to tell me why I’m suddenly in a room bathed with a deep red glow staring at a lovely big red stone? No dear journal, I guess my companions have all suddenly decided to not talk. That stone is lovely. I should close the lid of this pretty little chest it sits in. I have a feeling it’s got something to do with my head not feeling quite right. As I close the lid on the box, the red glow shuts off abruptly. That was no charm spell! This is proper sorcery. Everyone is staring at me. I’m laying claim to this stone and not one of you cretins is going to stop me. I can feel its power.
Luckily dear journal as I made my grab for the little metal chest, everybody else went back to rooting through stuff. I can hear banging somewhere. I proclaimed to the cretins that this stone needs to be studied by those qualified to do so which in this case, is me. They all seem to agree although the Halfling mutters something about keeping an eye. The Dragonborn found a huge sword. It seems happy, I tell the hulking creature it’s bound with spells. Looking all misty eyed the Dragonborn swears to uphold the values of the one true god. I whisper in the Dragonborn’s ear that the Halfling said her god was better than his. Kayan (As the Dragonborn is known) gripped the sword tightly, nodded and glared at the short little creature fussing over some disgusting wild haired man. No idea where he came from!
Apparently, he is the Lord of this place. Hightower is his name. Aaah! Finally somebody tells me whats been happening since I was ahem and I hate to admit it, affected by this stone I now possess. It seems it all went wrong for Lord Hightower when his son brought this stone and sword back. Both were from the same place but he couldn’t recall. The sword had a name. He couldn’t remember it. Old Lord Hightower, beady little eyes in a dirt encrusted face looked right at me. He knew all about that stone.
“You’ve broke the spell of the Dreadstone she-witch. It has brought ruin on my castle and my people. We were defenceless, under the stones power. The creatures from the Underdark burst through the lower levels of the castle. They took everybody. All gone, missing presumed dead. Now they are back! You have disturbed them! They’re trying now to batter down the doors to this tower! (aaah! so that’s what the banging is!) There is no escape! You’ve doomed us all!”
Lord Hightower broke down into a uncontrollable sobbing mess. I shrugged my shoulders, whatever. OK, stuck at the top of a tower. The only way out has slobbering creatures from the depths pounding on the door. I can feel the pull of the Dreadstone. It would take time to master it’s secrets. That will have to wait. I have fire though dear journal and plenty more besides! No depth dweller will get between me and my destiny. I will carve a path out of this place in fire and blood!
That’s it till next week folks. I hope you enjoyed this, please share, like and tell me what you think in the comments section. Feedback is always appreciated!
Stu our DM can be found here at his facebook page!
Credits to the following: Ki’rin – The Human Monk
Sheva- The Halfling Cleric
Boreff-The Human Rogue
Kayan-The Dragonborn Paladin
Kena-The Aaracokra Rogue
And to Stu for keeping it deadly and on our toes!
Thanks to D&D5E for an awesome game.