Swamp Tower of the Missing Sorceress

Episode 2 - Scuttlepot

After a restful night in the water gardens on the base of the pyramid, our heroes decided to investigate the tower in its centre. 

It rose a hundred feet into the air, shaped like a arm reaching up into the sky. High above the "Palm", a giant sphere floated, slowly rotating. There was a single entrance and several windows higher up. They were all covered by a shimmering, repulsive light. The same kind of light that was blocking the ramp back down into the pyramid. A crystal shaped slot was set in the stone next to the entrance.

Putting two and two together, the party took the crystal they retrieved from Mud Slap's body and placed it in the slot and turned. The shimmering light disappeared, and the air from inside poured out.

The smell hit them like a freight train. Rot. Sickness. The stench of human waste, unwashed bodies, and, oddly enough, a faint hint of cinnamon. 

Maklor, being the stealthiest, decided to check things out first. Sneaking in carefully, he found the first floor to be the broken and disordered remains of what had once been a laboratory. A staircase  to the next level wound up the far wall, and wandering around were emaciated lizardfolk and humans. Seriously, these things looked like they hadn't eaten in weeks. They shuffled aimlessly, a glassy, unfocused dead look in their eyes. Some appeared to have unhealed injuries.

An accidental noise from Maklor and their head snapped towards him, although their eyes retained that curious, unfocused aspect. <Karyn> and Mulligan rushed in to help their friend. As they traded blows, <Karyn> noted that their foes didn't seem to feel or register pain; blows from swords or maces didn't even cause a flinch.

Mulligan cast a spell of Sleep on one of the humans. A few seconds later he was woken by a stray firebolt. Yet instead of attacking, he began screaming and clutching his arm as he backed up against the wall, his eyes darting around wildly in confusion.

A blow from a lizardwoman knocked out Mulligan. <Karyn> and Maklor were engaged with their own fights and couldn't come to his aid, when suddenly the man from the wall attempted to knock over the lizardwoman. He failed, but managed to buy time for <Karyn> to rush over and rescue them.

I was then, as the last foe was struck down, that a curious scuttling noise came from the stairs. They looked up and saw a cauldron, no larger than an average cooking pot, scurrying down the steps. It had no face, but the whole group felt like it was staring at them before it went rushing back up the stairs like some kind of insect.

They had no chance to take this in; a new pair of lizardfolk rushed down the stairs. Unlike the lethargy of last group, these ones were twitching and running like five year olds on a sugar high. They were also fans of biting.

It was a rough fight, but our heroes kicked butt in the end. Deciding 'screw this tower' for the time being, the group went out, bringing the human with them, and sealed the entrance behind them. Over a light lunch of trail rations (which the man tore into like, well, like a man who hasn't eaten real food in weeks) the man told them his story.

His name was <person>. He lived in a village far away from Ticago. One day, when hunting near the forbidden area of the swamp (a place owned by a Swamp Hag by the name of 'Natty Gut-Ripper') he heard sweet music playing. Something compelled him to follow the music. He remembered drinking something tasting of cinnamon, and the rest was all like a dream. Blurry memories of fighting and screaming, and something that looked like a monster made of vines. Next thing he knew he was sitting in the tower, his arm engulfed in the pain of what <Karyn> identified as a dislocated shoulder.

Maklor decided to take a closer look at the upper level. With Mulligan manning the crystal, he used his grappling hook to climb up to the second story window. He witnessed an unsettling ceremony where the cauldron seemed to be forcing a woman, still in the trance, but seeming to come out of it, to drink the purple potion from inside of it. As soon as she had done so the same unfocused expression returned to her face.

After several attempts at storming the tower and brainstorming several plans, Maklor eventually managed to sneak in through the top window as <Karyn> and Mulligan made a distraction on the ground floor. Grabbing the cauldron, Maklor threw it out the window. It landed on the ground, its contents splashing everywhere, as its legs paddled uselessly in the air before going still. Inside the tower, the lizardman and human woman instantly came out of their trance.

Their stories were pretty much the same as <man>: they heard the music and felt compelled to drink something. The only curious detail was that the woman was not from a remote village close to Natty Gut-Ripper's territory. She was from Ticago, and apparently had not been far from the town when she heard the music.

Searching the lab revealed two vials of acid in a chest, and a curious message in a book titled "Instructions For Mud Slap": "remember to rub the belly".

A trapdoor and ladder lead up and out of the second floor of the tower. Poking their heads out, the crew could see the "palm" of the tower was covered in an overgrown garden. There was a stone platform in the centre and, off to the edge, two large, slow moving masses that, upon sneaking to and back from, Maklor saw were a pair of creatures made of vines.

Diplomacy didn't seem like an option, so they set about slaying them. It was a battle in which Maklor and <Karyn> somehow managed to miss the giant vine creatures with their vials of acid, at least one adventurer was almost "eaten", and Mulligan pulled off an amazing critical with his dagger.

Upon striking the final blow, the vine creatures wilted away. One of them left behind an odd shaped crystal on its corpse.

The platform in the middle of the clearing had a pedestal next to it with three slots, after some trial and error the group figured out that if they placed this crystal, and the one they got from Mud Slap. In the slots, a teleportation gate would open. Poking his head through, Maklor saw that it lead back to the town council house back in Ticago.

Ondo and the elders were shocked to see <Karyn>, Mulligan, and Maklor suddenly pop into their meeting area, to say nothing of the prisoners they brought with them, but Ondo listened with increasing anxiety as they described what had happened.

This was when Ondo revealed that his father had worn a similar crystal around his neck, and had always taken it with him when Mud Slap had come to take him to meet with the Sorceress. Unfortunately Ondo's father had been outside of the village when the fog exploded outward, and no one had seen him since. 

That was when Ondo made a request of our heroes: "My dad died defending this village from hostile lizardfolk, my father has probably died while visiting a valuable trading partner. I have done nothing worthy of honor in my life. Please, I'm begging you, let me come with you. If not to rescue my father, then at least to bring back his body for a proper burial. Let me do this one right thing."

Time will tell how our heroes will act…

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Episode 1 - Crazy Purple Haze
Welcome to Ticago

Our game opened with our heroes, Torbera Rumnaheim the Dwarf Soldier, Mulligan Fleetfoot the Half-Elf Charlatan, and Maklor Redfist the Half-Orc Pirate, making camp for the night. Their journey has taken them through "the swamp", a vast, fetid bog which is an economically worthless no-man's land between several fiefdoms.

Suddenly, without warning or time to react, a thick purple fog sweeps over their camp and knocks them out. An unknown amount of time later they came to on a swamp raft with flowers strapped to their face. The raft belonged to Nak, a scout from Ticago, a village deep in the swamp. For years Ticago has been under the protection of the sorceress, a benevolent spellcaster who lived in a structure floating above the village, and created the fog as a a thin barrier of protection for the village. About a month ago the sorceress stopped showing up for her weekly meetings with the village, and the fog billowed outward, forcing refugees, both human and Bullywug, to flood in from their villages. Coupled with the trouble of their recent reeve and their lack of food…

Suddenly a massive force slammed into Nak's raft and forced it to beach on a rocky outcrop. A massive swamp gator crawled out of the water. Luckily Maklor's rapier and Torbera's warhammer made short work of it. Nak mentioned the fog was also making the swamp creatures much more aggressive. Maklor quickly skinned the gator before they set of for the village.

Ticago itself was fairly standard swamp village. Wooden houses raised above the water on stilts, connected by walkways. Far above the village, hundreds of feet in the air, was the wonder. A massive pyramid, floating "upside-down", with water pouring out of the tip to the village's main square.

Nak said his farewells, and our crew went to go meet with Ondo, the reeve. Ondo was a nervous young man, unfamiliar with the reigns of power. Apparently the Sorceress had a Bullywug servant named "Mud-Slap". Ondo thought that the bullywug empress may have some connection to him, and thus to the sorceress, but he committed a faux-pass against the empress ("I called her a 'queen'") and has been banned from meeting with her. Noticing Mulligan's expertise in swindling and social matters, he begged the party to find an audience with the "Empress Splenda, third of her name" and see what she knows.

Mulligan and Torbera headed to the drinking shack. Not a "tavern" per se, more of a platform where idlers like to gather, drink and, chat. Torbera pounded back a few with an inebriated lizardman who revealed that bullwugs are cowards at heart, and easily intimidated if you get tough with them. Mulligan came close to losing a finger when it was discovered that he was cheating at dice.

Meklor took his crocodile skin to be quickly dried out and made presentable as a gift. On the way to meet up with Mulligan and Torbera, he stopped by Nak's house to thank him for his help, and to offer some gold for him and his family in these tough times.

The three met and, following Torbera's suggestion, intimidated a bullywug into taking them to the "palace", a run down fishing shack at the edge of town being used as a "temporary sat of government". Surrounded by her "treasures" (old pieces of copper, moldy torn books, etc.) the queen was at first insulted by their impudence at thinking they were worthy of her attention, but warmed up to the "exotic animal skin" they gave her as a gift. She revealed that Mud-Slap was her "spy", and that there was a secret entrance to the pyramid.

Her "master of the hunt" summoned a giant frog which, after they had climbed aboard, leapt to a hidden platform on the side of the pyramid. Our heroes entered the darkness.

They first thing they noticed was that the walls, floor, and ceiling were covered in thick moss and various coloured flowers. They encountered a group of twig blights and fought them off, with Mulligan's firebolt being particularly handy, but during the fight they scuffed some moss off of the walls, revealing that it had not been there long. This was further confirmed when they found the decomposing body of Mud Flap. He was covered in moss, but underneath his corpse was pristine floor.

They fought several more twig blights, discovered that some of the flowers were in fact traps, and discovered than fire is indeed a solution to many of life's problems. During this they would occasionally hear the music of pipes coming from somewhere in the distance. The music compelled them to take actions against their will (not attacking enemies, walking into traps, etc.) but luckily no serious harm came to them.

Finally they reached the final level of the pyramid. Sitting cross-legged, blocking the exit ramp, was a bat-eared, gaunt faced looking fey with a set of pan pipes. He spoke to them in Sylvan, but none of them could understand. Through gestures he made it clear that he wanted the crystal they had found on Mud-Slap's body earlier. Deciding "screw this" our party attacked. It was tricky, they fey kept using his music to try and force them to walk into patches of trapped flowers, and teleporting when they got close. In the end a mighty blow from Torbera's warhammer brought him down.

In a burst of smoke they fey vanished, leaving behind only his pipes and a small bag of blackened baby teeth. A knowledge check revealed that these are used as a form of payment among evil fey.

They climbed up into the light and found themselves in a water garden a covering the base of the pyramid. In the centre of the plain, hidden from the view on the ground below, was a tower shaped like an open hand reaching into the sky. A large sphere floated above the "palm" of the tower.

Next to the ramp leading out of the pyramid a small pedistal with an open gap the exact shape of Mud Flap's crystal. Placing it in and twisting caused a shimmering field of energy to block the ramp. They removed the crystal and the field remained.

With the sun setting, and exhausted from their trek through they pyramid, the heroes decided to rest for the night.

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