Oathday, 27 Lamashan 4707, mid-morning
The adventurers found themselves standing on a rickety wooden platform just underneath the three remaining bells of the Shadow Clock, nearly one hundred eighty feet above the floor below. A wooden ladder was bolted to the stone wall, and led up through an opening in a five-foot wide wooden platform than seemed to run around the entire wall ten feet above the platform on which they stood. They could see the crossbeams from which the bells hung, and some of the clockworks that would have driven them in the shadowy space above. Zandu looked up the ladder and announced, “I’m going up. Cover me.” Durrok loaded his crossbow.
As Zandu was halfway up the ladder, he caught a glimpse of movement, and felt a glass vial break on his head. Liquid poured out of the broken bottle which immediately burst into flame: alchemist’s fire! Simultaneously, several crossbow bolts shot out of the space above the bells, aimed at the adventurers still on the platform or stairs! The bolts all missed completely or harmlessly bounced off armor, but the party realized that they were sitting ducks!
As Zandu climbed to the higher platform, he saw that a creature was standing next to the opening: two vaguely-humanoid legs, but the flesh was reddish and rubbery. He dodged as the creature stabbed at him with a rapier! Attempting to look into the creature’s eyes, he saw a familiar lack-of-face: the creature was another faceless stalker! Jumping to the platform, Zandu attacked the creature with his kukris. Zandu noticed two more staning on the crossbeams supporting the bells, both armed with crossbows. “There’s three faceless stalkers up here! Two are on the bell supports!” shouted Zandu.
Back on the platform below, McGregor cast a spell in the space above the bells. The area filled with magical spiderwebs, trapping the two stalkers on the bells in the sticky threads. Halfred then climbed the ladder, jumped onto the platform, and threw his shoulder into the stalker standing near Zandu. The stalker staggered backward, tripped, and fell off the platform, but managed to catch the edge of the platform before falling. The two stalkers in the webs began cutting their way through the webs, as Charrone followed by Durrok climbed up the ladder as well.
Halfred stomped on the hanging stalker’s hands, and it let go, falling more than a hundred feet to the stone floor below. Durrok shot another, sending it falling, but it was caught in web before it fell. The third stalker managed to get to the platform, but was immediately attacked by Charrone, who ran it through with her enchanted sword Brightblade. Halfred then used his falchion to slice through the webs supporting the other stalker, and it also fell, joining its companion below.
A quick examination of the gears showed that most of them were rusted together, and that many gears were missing entirely. There was a five-foot wide opening in the exterior wall of the clocktower, and wooden scaffolding could be seen through it. Additionally, the ladder that led to this platform continued upward into an open trap door in the wooden ceiling. The party decided to split their resources.
Halfred, Durrok, and Declan climbed the ladder through the trap door in the ceiling, and found the main clockworks room. Again, they found that the unmoving pendulums and gears were rusty, many were missing, and aside from a small number of roosting bats, nothing of interest was in the room. There was a door on the north wall, which appeared to be stuck. Halfred attempted to force it open.
Meanwhile, Charrone, Zandu, and McGregor checked out the scaffolding. It appeared that someone had started to repair the hole in the wall at some point in the past, but then thought better of it. Looking down at the roofs of the buildings of Underbridge over 150 feet below was dizzying, especially given the slight list of the tower. Another ladder was propped on the scaffolding which stretched across the face of the clock to another scaffolding platform 20 feet up. They ascended, finding a third ladder that stretched to the tower’s roof, and another opening in the tower where the masonry facade had crumbled away. Zandu entered the shadowy chamber, finding a small room with wooden interior walls, a wooden cabinet with a mesh door, and a boarded-up wooden door on the south wall. The cabinet was another raven cage, and two ravens looked quizzically at Zandu. Fearing that the mistress of the tower would use the birds to summon aid, Zandu killed both of them. At that, Zandu heard something trying to break down the door from the inside! Drawing his kukris, he took a defensive position and readied an attack at whatever was about to burst through the boarded-up door. The door smashed open— and Halfred burst into the room! Zandu declined to attack.
The adventurers returned to the scaffolding platform and climed the final ladder, finding themselves on the roof of the tower, nearly two hundred feet above the streets of Underbridge. The underside of the Irespan was merely sixty feet above their heads. The conical roof had only a slight pitch where the party stood, in a roughly ten-foot radius from the pedestal of the statue of the angel which stood at the apex of the tower, but the pitch increased drastically from there. The pedestal was about eight feet tall, and the angel’s wingtips extended another twelve feet above. Towering like a god, her weathered features caked in the grime of hundreds of chimneys and forever sheltered from cleansing rain, the angel’s countenance appeared almost demonic. A small door was set into the pedestal wall, and, incongruously, an expensive-looking black leather divan sat on the roof next to the pedestal. It was covered with vibrantly-colored silk pillows and sheets.
A haughty woman’s voice broke the uneasy silence. “Well, well, well. I finally get to meet the Heroes of Sandpoint! Honestly, I thought you’d look a little more impressive, given the trouble you’ve caused me.” The air above the angel statue’s head shimmered, and standing there was a beautiful Varisian woman. She had long, wavy raven hair, ruby-red lips, and a very pale complexion. She wore a tight-fitting snakeskin leather jacket, a flowing green cape, black leather breeches, and thigh-high boots. She held a spear in her right hand with a wide, barbed spearhead, and reached with her left to pull a mask over her face. The mask was golden with dark lenses over the eyes, and had several snake heads that curled forward. She smiled, showing prominent razor-sharp canine teeth. “I hope you’re as delicious as you look!” At that, she threw her spear at McGregor.
The spear struck the wizard, and when it hit, magical energy crackled outward, catching all of the heroes. Everyone suddenly felt that the quest and battle was already lost, that they were fools to have taken on this extremely powerful creature in her own lair, and that she would certainly defeat them easily. Fortunately, all but Zandu and McGregor shook off those feelings almost immediately. As McGregor moved to pull the spear out from his side, the weapon disappeared, reappearing in their adversary’s hand! At that, she said, “Yes, my pets, you may feast on their blood!” and four swarms of bats descended on the party from their roosts on the underside of the Irespan.
At that, the party attacked. Durrok let quarrels fly, Declan channeled the holy power of the Dawnflower, and Halfred attempted to stab her with his ranseur, but missed. The party’s adversary casually stepped off the shoulders of the angel, and magically flew away from the clocktower, hovering about twenty-five feet from the edge of the roof. She then fixed her gaze at Charrone, and the dark lenses on her metal mask glowed green. Charrone glowed the same color, and the paladin felt her joints stiffen for a moment, but she resisted the effect. Charrone channeled the holy power of the Inheritor back at her, and she appeared damaged by it. “Ow! That hurt! You really need to learn to play nicely, and—” her taunt was cut off by the explosion of a fireball, cast by McGregor.
“So, Masked Lady,” shouted Halfred, “If you’re going to kill us, at least let us know who you are!” He tried to stab her with his ranseur, but she was just out of reach.
“I am the Mistress of the Tower, the Wanton of Nature’s Pagan Forms. I am Xanesha.” She smiled again, “and for you, I am death!” she cast another spell. At that Halfred suddenly felt that he was being watched. Glancing up, he saw the biggest linnorm he’d ever imagined was curled on the underside of the Irespan, glaring at him balefully with alien eyes. Before the barbarian could react, the nightmare beast struck at him like an asp, and Halfred found himself staring down the maw of an immense beast intent on swallowing him whole! But then, he realized that the creature didn’t quite seem real, and it suddenly became insubstantial and indistinct, and he realized that it was an illusion.
“Better luck next time, Ms. Wanton.” He hurled a handaxe at her, which grazed her side. Durrok shot her again with a bolt, and Declan summoned a ray of holy sunlight, which struck her, causing her skin to smoke. She hissed savagely, cast another spell, and disappeared. Declan took that opportunity to perform some healing.
Meanwhile, Zandu had opened the door in the pedestal, and found a small room. Inside was a writing desk, a closed coffin, and a wooden wardrobe closet. Not wanting to take any chances, Zandu grabbed the coffin, dragged it onto the tower roof, and pushed it over the side. He watched it fall the 200 feet to the cobblestones below, and it smashed into a hundred pieces.
At that, Xanesha reappeared, just as she completed casting a lightning bolt that caught Declan, Zandu, Charrone, and McGregor. MgGregor countered with a scorching ray of his own, Declan tagged her with a fireball, Durrok hit her with another bolt, and Charrone channeled the holy power of Iomedae again. At the latter attack, Xanesha’s form became a gaseous cloud of sickly yellow vapor, and rose upward toward the Irespan.
[To Be Continued…}