The Only Way Is Up
17 Mirtul, The Year of the Trusted Covenant (1479 DR)
Exhausted, haunted and quite possibly still hunted by packs of brittle blue scorpions, the heroes have to decide whether to trudge on towards the pulsing light ahead, or to retreat while they can and start the arduous climb up the chasm wall.
It is not long before the source of the light is discovered among the twisted grey and black spirals rock – a giant crystal, at least 30 yards in diameter, held aloft above a dark cavern. The crystal glows bright blue in the centre of the sickening and invisible psychological stench of spellplague that courses through all who stand or crawl in the area. It is a construction beyond the arcane knowledge of the party, although its power is undeniable.
Movement is spotted to the side of the strange cavern. a tall, loathsome foulspawn, not unlike the savage creature put down on the wall to such great effect by the Uthgardti stallion two days and a lifetime ago. He carries under his arms slabs of mangled flesh from an unidentifiable source.
Deciding this might involve a fight too far the party retreat to the rope with their hard-gained knowledge.
But the escape is not that simple. Just as the party attempt the climb, more scorpions emerge from the glass forest and attack, firing shards of deadly glass and presenting the threat of an explosive end that threatens to overwhelm the party.
Bohdan’s charge, Mani’s bear and Malus’s blasts of eldritch fire hold off disaster as eventually the party climb to safety, lacerated with daggers of glass, Danforth hurling stones and Rok Alim finally hauling Malus out of the scorpions’ range.
From the ledge the party get a further sight of the giant crystal, its size undiminished by this elevated view, which also reveals an entire colony of foulspawn haunting the shadows below it.
Finally reunited with Kierke, who had loyally guarded the party’s escape route despite the promise that awaits him in the Moonstone Mask, the party discover the trove of residdum is gone, snaffled up by the column of ants.
All that remains between the party and the walls of the Protector’s Enclave is the harpy, still flapping and cackling outside the cavern entrance.
The race to the wall is on, accompanied by the excited drumming on the shields of the Mintarn mercenaries patrolling the wall and cheering the heroes on. No one flees with greater bravery and panache than Bodahn and Danforth, who are practically over the wall before looking back to see their comrades put an end to the winged horror’s crazed laughter.
And so the heroes reach the relative safety of the city, surrounded by the admiring and the astonished, scarred but strengthened by their experience, and desperate for a good night’s kip.