Before we could formulate a plan on how to shoo away the encampment of the Scarlet Sign, D’arcon marched forward and down the slope to take on the obstacles. With four monks, three thieves, and two frightening ape-like creatures in cages off to the side, we were quickly subdued and forces to march headlong into the darkness of the crypt that supposedly held this mythical bow. While fighting these vile men, we were aided by a druid of half-elven decent, called Bram. It seemed he’d been tailing us for some time trying to figure out if we were a threat, but instead found us “interesting”, heroically came to our aid and ended up captured as well.
The leader of this band of Scarlet villains, “The Father”, instructed us to descend many steps with our hands tied behind our backs. Down we stepped under the forested hillock until we came to a large landing. Upon stepping on the floor, two large braziers lit! The room was wide, tall, all quarried and dug of the same local earth and stone we’d seen here and there on the forest floor. Ahead of us stood two 9’ tall statues of Flan origin, depicting great warriors, flanking a rickety rope bridge across a deep abyss. As we approached, the statues sprung to life! Here, our Flan guides we had fled the chamber, clambering up the stairs and to freedom. Nobody said not a word.
Two of the ape-like creatures became rather agitated and pounced on one of the stone warriors and plummeted to their deaths just past the light’s edge, over the lip and into the inky darkness of a ravine. The other stone golem burst through our ranks, splintering the group, and killing two of the monks. Echo, D’arcon and several of the monks repeatedly dodged or fought the golem while Leuwiss instructed our new druid friend to stand back-to-back with him. Leuwiss used the strange golden blade strapped under his robe to cut our bindings and instructed Bram to quickly set Leuwiss free. Once Bram grasped the blade, it had a visible sparkle and sheen that it did not possess before!
Bram made quick work of the golem’s leg, but unfortunately the activity has stirred the anger of a giant wasps nest that clung to a wall. One of the monks was stung, paralyzed and taken into the hive and others were flying angrily about as this left the rickety bridge to cross over the cavernous depths below it. Bram dashed toward the remaining stone golem and a great pulse of invisible magic was felt in the room just as his golden scythe, sliced through the golems leg, sending the golem sprawled out onto the stone floor of the crypt. Bram later revealed the mysterious blade we’ve been carrying around with us the entire time was one of the fabled magical 5 blades that were part of starting The Greyhawk Wars – Greenswaithe!
Bram bounded for the others, managing to free Echo but D’arcon made a mad dash for the bridge. Echo covered the rest of us and we too made our way to the bridge hitting back the giant wasp swarm that darted overhead. “The Father” headed the group off, making it first onto the bridge with a thief, taking a moment to turn and wave at us, the scoundrel! Istus almost turned fate once again in our favor, when several wasps set upon the two but they were dodged and they set off ahead.
That left us behind, yet to cross the chasm and deal with very angry wasps. Echo and Bram covered us yet again, with D’arcon scrambling beneath on the reverse side of the wooden planks with his Boots of Spiderclimbing at one point to avoid the large insects, and we reached the other side. The twosome were now only steps ahead of us, just beyond the row of Flan totem animal statues that faced a wide flight of stoney stairs leading further down into the growing darkness.
The lowly thief from the Scarlet Brotherhood, in his hasty decent, stepped on a pressure plate which set off a trap. Bursting forth from one of the mouths of the totem animals was a thick stream of goop, hitting him square in the back. The entire group stood at the top of the stairs in horror as we watched the thief’s cry dissolve with him within seconds into a puddle of green bile.
“The Father” turned to us stepping backwards as he spoke, “This isn’t the last you’ve heard from The Father!” With that, he spun his cloak around his and disappeared into a small blast of light!
It took us nearly an hour to test each stone, noting and repeating the correct path to take us to safety, deciding on taking the right door instead of the left at the base of the stairs. D’arcon took the lead, with the group not far behind, indicating there was a “light at the end of the tunnel.” Sadly, for D’arcon this light was a devious trap into which he walked. It might be more accurate to note that this illusion of a room with a glowing orb in it was nothing more than a disguised 5 foot square panel with many, many brass blades that reduced D’arcon to a sluice of blood and guts, draining into a shallow pit below. The only items salvaged from the attack was D’arcon’s Wand of Illusion.
It took some work, but we carefully wrapped up D’arcon’s remains and set him aside. The group, reeling from this sudden shock, soldiered on to the other corridor we didn’t choose. Upon pressing a pressure plate for this remaining corridor, Echo noted that this long corridor was now being swept by swinging blades as if on a great axel holding many pendulums of death. Pulling myself together, Leuwiss decided to take the lead to show the others how to gain access to the other side and hopefully to safety.
Leuwiss figured, by observation, each blade had a timing as if they kept time for an instrument or perhaps something clockwork, but on a grand scale. Thankfully, the companions paid close attention to the timing of their steps with only minor close calls being Echo and Bram taking sharp slices in a narrow escape through a rather treacherous series of 3 blades.
On the other side was a great dark chamber containing a well of dim yet shimmering light as it’s only illumination. No exits appeared to be noticeable, so we began to search the room for clues as to what we were supposed to do. Bram noticed lettering in the darkness upon the broadest wall and urged Leuwiss to look by the light of a torch.
Leuwiss stated this was clearly an ancient Flan word puzzle! The carved words told a story resulting a clue spelled out in meaning “Great Soul” which we now had to figure out what that meant in relation to the well of light. Echo said he could see a large mirrored surface at the bottom of the well, so we investigated further. By their very nature, mirrors reflect, so Leuwiss looked skyward and noticed another mirror on the ceiling tilted slightly toward the wall with the Flan writing. Bram and Leuwiss began to think of what a “Great Soul” might do and we determined that, given the task at hand, a great soul might sacrifice something by throwing it into the well.
Quickly we did an inventory of our items and decided to toss a coin into the well. When we did, we realized that the light pulsed for but a second! Bram said that we should perhaps throw something of value into the well. Leuwiss loosened the large topaz from my staff and lobbed it carefully into the well, knowing the appraisal of the gem to be valued over 5000 gold coins in Greyhawk, especially since he just had it enchanted with a Continual Light spell.
The well’s light began to grow and brighten as had been hoped! The beam of light bounced from mirror to mirror, bathing the entire room in a bright orange-white light, forcing us all to shield our eyes for fear of going blind. This light was followed by a high pitched whistle, a comforting heat, and the sound of the wall with the writing crumbling into non-existance. When the beam subsided in strength, we uncovered our eyes to see the beam bouncing now through the wall to another series of mirrors and working it’s way deeper into the dark below. At once, a sound of a great flame being ignited could be heard echoing up from the chamber below.
Carefully we crept down another set of rough hewn stairs that probably hadn’t been walked on for 2000 years. Below, on a great and final landing we witnessed a huge column of living fire. It addressed us as we approached asking if any of us was “worthy of being the hero to claim the light.” We bantered and wondered who might take the elemental creatures challenge in our diminished group. Leuwiss muttered to himself that this was something silly that D’arcon might try, when Echo stepped up to accept the mantle of the hero.
The great cylinder of fire opened, like a curtain, and beckoned echo to enter. A few short moments later, Echo was cast out roughly and unconscious against the stones behind us! Leuwiss thought of offering D’arcon up and Bram argued this might be incredibly unwise if we are to see if we can save our friend from “the sleep that never ends”.
As if on cue, we found ourselves not alone, but in the presence of our current employer and the rescued half-elven Bard that spent many years trapped in the form of a bluebird. The Mage of the Valley quickly held up his hand and held us firm with sorcery! He did an inventory of our group, clucked his tongue, removing a glass vial and dropper from a pocket drawing up a vial of D’arcon’s blood!
“I’ll need the blood of this one to complete my ritual. A shame, really. I grew fond of him too, even if only initially for the spell component. Go on,” the Mage urged the bard forward to claim the mantle of the hero.
Tannis looked at us sheepishly, or was it with panicked worry, and stepped gingerly into the parted fire emerging wild-eyed and in firm grasp of the most beautiful bow I’d ever laid eyes on.
“Come, Tannis. I’ll need you and the bow to return with me back to the Vale. It holds the final secret I desire.” And with that, he touched the bard on shoulder, glaring at us, “Goodbye.”
And with that, they both vanished nearly as quickly as they had appeared. We had failed our final mission for the mercurial Mage.
With the Hold spell released and now alone, we gathered up D’arcon’s remains in his ruined robes and out into the sunlight of Vesve tree canopy. Our guides waited for us outside, telling us they planned on waiting two more days before abandoning us to our fates. Here we hiked for two days where we came to an elven encampment where D’arcon’s body was blessed by a cleric, binding his spirit to his body. This, of course, came with a warning that we had 7 days to get the help he’d need or there would be “consequences dire” for our friend and all of us.
Upon returning to our ship, we found my eager sister and a new Wolf Nomad encampment now set up outside of our ship. No doubt, this was of her doing, explaining later to me that it was for “her protection”. A knife so small, yet so sharp were her words.
We paid our guides well, thanked them, handed out some sweets as gratitude, and prepared our flying ship while giving Bram a tour of the vessel before taking off for home in Greyhawk. Bram decided this would be wonderful and decided to come along. His company certainly brightened my thoughts, though they were quickly steered into what we might do to yet save our friend, D’arcon, from his currently sticky fate.
The following day, we made a trip to Tenser’s Fortress of the Unknown Depths to ask the mage to perform a mighty spell to resurrect our friend, D’arcon.