Borderland of Adventure #67: Death Upon the Stair

At the end of last session, we left our heroes preparing to continue their exploration of the darkened tower. Having explored the bulk of the first level, they pushed on through a door that led to a room containing nothing but a staircase leading down to the next floor. The staircase opened into a chamber from which two corridors ran away from each other at right-angles. Four doors, and one in the room as well, hinted at areas beyond.

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The first door opened protected a small ossuary. Bones wrapped in silver chain filled some of the niches in the walls. Fearing lurking undead or a fearsome trap, the party left the bones undisturbed and moved on. Another door opened into a small chamber featuring a spiral staircase leading further down into the depths. The party decided to explore the rest of the level first, before proceeding downwards and moved onto the other doors.

The next room explored accounted for almost half the level and featured what appeared to be a foundry. Brave Krorz explored the room, but was sadly surprised by two undead horrors. They both struck the scout, draining him of much of his vital life force. Revealed as wights, the two creatures were quickly slain and the group moved on without further injury. The next chamber investigated was again inhabited–zombie and vargouille lurking within. Both were quickly slain. The final room on the level was unoccupied and after poking about it for a while, the party used the spiral staircase to descend to the next floor.

At the bottom of the stairs a single corridor led away to a small circular chamber. Within lurked a skeletal woman (they correctly identified as the undead remnant of Tessarael) clad in black robes. At sight of the party, she attacked. As the party surged forward to overwhelm her, she filled the corridor with a forest of grasping black tentacles that grappled several of the group including Gerald, Klar, Tzaran and Montagu. As the tentacles continued to crush those trapped, they tried to struggle free. Klar was the first to do, winning his way into the chamber to battle the woman. Ulmo summoned magical elementals to aid the redoubtable gnoll and shortly thereafter Tzaran’s snake companion made it into the chamber. Sorely beset–and now injured–the skeleton resorted to a fireball which injured several of its attackers. However, it did not stop them and so she used a powerful spell to disappear from the chamber.

The party barely had time to catch their breath before Gorinar discover Tessarael had not gone far–she was at the top of the spiral staircase and now blocked the party’s retreat. A frenzy of healing ensued as the party tried to recover enough to force their way from the tomb. First Gorinar and then Montagu with assistance from Tzaran held the stair while Ulmo summoned yet more elementals to slow her down. As the battle progressed on the stairs Ulmo and Gerald looked around the tomb. They discovered both another control rod (necessary to leave this strange demi-plane) and an ornate drinking horn hidden in a niche in the floor. Gerald quickly surmised this was the Grail of Ashenyar, but could not unravel its functions. Ironically, the party now had the means of escape, but could not get out of the tomb to use them!)

The elementals Ulmo summoned did indeed stymie Tessarael’s attacks, but eventually they were destroyed or defeated. Now Montagu held the stair, fighting Tessarael one on one. Tragically, the challenge proved too much for the heroic halfling and the undead elf struck him down with a fell necrotic spell of fearsome power. The death of their companion sent a ripple of panic through the remaining heroes. Tzaran–now the only barrier on the stair–fell back to his companions who prepared themselves for what might be their final battle…

Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

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