We caught our breath after the Hedge Wizard had fled. Blake then used a Wraithform spell to move easily through the walls to scout out the rest of the labyrinth. He safely returned, and described our best route to the central stone tower, and we filed out again one by one.
Turning down a few corridors, we noticed the hedge walls grow darker, thornier, and less floral. Suddenly in one long passage, thick choking creeper vines erupted from the walls and snaked around us all! Before we knew it, they encircled my comrades’ legs, torsos, arms, and even throats, and began to squeeze! Luckily the magic of my Ring of Free Action seemed to keep them from finding a good grip on my person, and I frantically ripped open my pack to dig out my old Scroll of Protection From Plants. I found it and began to read aloud as Blake summoned a Wall of Fire along one hedge wall, immolating half of the offending vines. The others made every attempt to hack and slice and fire spells at the vines coming from the other wall. I finished reading the magic words, and a sphere of herbiphobic energy pulsed about me, pushing the vines back 10’ around me. Unfortunately they didn’t let go of my comrades, who were consequently shoved hard back up against the thorny hedge walls along with the vines!
I took a zen moment to collect my thoughts, watching my comrades struggling to breathe as they sawed at their bindings. I had not known exactly what the scroll would do, and now I had inadvertently prevented myself from getting close enough to help anyone. At a loss, I simply prayed for Ronan’s blessings. This must be why the secular humanists complain about us faithful – that we pray instead of doing anything concrete to actually solve problems – but alas I was doomed to sit passively in safety and comfort while I watched my friends struggle for their lives mere steps away. Still, perhaps Ronan’s invisible hand intervened at my request, for my friends’ tenacity eventually overcame the vexatious vines. All glory to the Swiftfooted One! We hacked and burned the last of the vines, and moved on with my scroll’s magic warding off any further vegetative defenses.
Attack of the Cookie Monster
A few twists and turns later, some of my party began remarking on the delectable scent of baking cookies. I could smell naught, however, and suspected they were coming under the influence of some fell illusion. Ben Ken was the most powerfully affected, and he finally shouldered us all aside and began jogging ahead, frantically looking this way and that for cookies, muttering about how he just had to have some. I think he was really starting to unravel after the trauma of having all his ribs broken and reset in the battle with the fire giant. Anyway, Stefan took off after him and it was a good thing too, for halfway down the next corridor was a large, spiny plant with wicked-looking jaws not unlike the one we had seen back in the Hedge Wizard’s chamber. It turned out that this vile shrub was producing an insidious cookie-smelling pollen that was meant to lure in prey to be devoured. Stefan caught Ben Ken by the hair just as the mad wizard was about to dive headlong into the gaping clam-like jaws, hoping for some cookies inside (he would’ve found only death), and yanked him back to safety. But Ben proceeded to Grease himself up and squirmed from the half-elf’s grasp, diving to slide once again toward the source of the compelling scent. But just then Kalli and Stefan charged forward, hacking the plant to shreds as the wild-eyed mad wizard began to wail and sob… I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles!
The Tower of Incomprehensible Architecture
Not twenty feet from the “cookie monster,” the stone wall of the central tower could be seen. We approached, and Hrolf’s sharp dwarven senses noticed a secret door! He figured out the mechanism and slid it open, revealing a dark but empty square chamber. We filed in, glad to be out of the menacing hedge maze, and began exploring. Kalli slowly moved around the perimeter, tapping the walls with her shield, until at one point her shield just slid right through – an illusion! She then stepped through and found a staircase leading up. We all slowly ascended, with Reynard meticulously checking for traps. The stairway opened out into a landing, which then gave way to another stairway going back down. This lead to a door which Kalli opened, revealing a pitch black room.
The sound of clinking chains reverberated off the stone walls in the darkness. Blake tossed a Light coin into the inky darkness, and we immediately beheld a grotesque form scurrying out directly towards us! It came up just short of Kalli’s face, at which point it was yanked back by the chains that held it fast to the chamber’s floor. It was a womanly form, only atop its head was a writhing nest of snakes. “LOOK AWAY,” shouted Kalli, deducing that this must be a legendary Medusa, capable of petrifying with a glance. She turned away too, pulling out a small mirror to regard the ragged creature, and began to interrogate it. The Medusa spoke in broken Common, punctuated with gutteral howls and ghastly shrieks, but we gleaned that she had been imprisoned by “The Flaming One” who must be the tower’s master. Ben Ken argued that we ought to release her, but I was concerned that she was A) dangerous just to look at, B) incorrigibly evil, and C) apparently insane and liable to attack even her liberators. Saying that we would decide whether to free the captive monster or not later on, we then closed the prison door again and continued on our way.
Farther along, I found another hidden door quite by accident. It lead to a nicely appointed parlor room, in which sat a lone man in some kind of officer’s garb. The room contained fine couches, tables, tasteful decorations, and a delectable spread of snacks and beverages waiting to be eaten… even a platter of cookies, which Ben Ken immediately went for and began gobbling (I may have snuck a cookie or two myself, and a cup of coffee). Kalli approached the man who regarded us coolly, and he said something about waiting for our delivery for Commander Jinheeris – did he take us for messengers or movers? It would make sense considering my Order Of Parcel Service robes, so we decided to go with it, and Kalli demanded to see “the boss” so he knew we had arrived. This made the officer grow agitated, but his anxiety relaxed when Blake magically put him to Sleep, and laid him down on a couch. ZZzzzzz
Our scrappy warrioress then knocked on the next door and boldly opened it, only to duck as a Fireball sailed into our the midst of our parlor! It detonated right by the sleeping officer, killing him and burning the rest of us badly as it upended and scorched all the furniture. We all ran from the burning room into this next room, a sort of office, with a snarling wizard crouched behind a desk. Hrolf and I prayed for all of our burns to heal over, as the rest charged the offending mage swinging blades and slinging spells. Kalli slammed the desk back into him and ran him through, though as he gasped his last breath he leveled a wand and released a freezing blast of Cold magic on the rest of us! We shook it off without too much damage and relieved his corpse of that wand and a glowing ring.
But now, surveying the carnage, I couldn’t see Ben Ken. Had the mad wizard wandered off? Before moving on, we all dashed back the way we had come in search of him… and sure enough we found him back in the Medusa’s cell. He was spraying jets of magical Acid at her chains, attempting to release her! Kalli darted in, grabbing him and hauling him back up away from her, and slicing off her menacing head as her snake hair hissed in protest. Whew! She gingerly picked up the head and stuffed it into a bag to take with. We castigated Ben and dragged him back up to the offices, from which a stairwell lead up. Blake paused before ascending, read a scroll, and carefully brewed some kind of potion that he seemed to think would protect him from demons. We all enjoyed the brief rest and choked down some burned cookies, then resumed our climb.
Tangling with Tyranthraxus
Reynard now took the lead, and sneaked quietly up to the top of the stairs, followed by Ben Ken who had made himself Invisible. The two peeked out into a large open-air chamber. There was looming Tyranthraxus himself, a massive bronze dragon taking up almost the entire space! He was flanked by a pair of imposing, fully armored warrior-knights. He looked directly at the inconspicuous duo, unfazed by their attempts at stealth, and addressed them courteously in a booming dragon voice, inviting the rest of us to come up. We obliged, and he recognized us as “The slayers of the White,” referring to Siegfried, the elder white dragon patriarch (and his mate and their offspring). Kalli used Francis the sword to hover up near Tyranthraxus’s face, and noticed a shimmering aura of fire around him as she looked him straight in the (remaining) eye and began to bark interrogative questions, demanding to know what the meaning of his mischief was. Meanwhile, Hrolf quietly intoned his Dimensional Anchor prayer, ensuring the dragon couldn’t pull a fast one on us. Eventually, growing tired of Kalli’s yammering, Tyranthraxus reared back and let loose a billowing cloud of raw Repulsion! It enveloped us all. I scrunched by eyes shut and held my breath, and fought off the urge to flee. But Hrolf and Ben Ken couldn’t resist, and turned tail to scramble back down the stairs. Hrolf had the sense to realize he was under the influence of a magical effect, and at the bottom of the stairs he must’ve prayed to his blasphemous dwarven god to Dispell the effect, for a moment later he came lumbering back up, hurling his flaming axe at the dragon. The mad wizard Ben Ken, however, was just unraveling further and further, and he kept frantically running all the way back out the hedge maze. (We don’t know what became of that tortured soul; he may have finally snapped completely, or perhaps he joined up with the Hedge Wizard as his apprentice, or maybe he was devoured by more of the creeping choker vines.)
In any event, battle had now been joined atop the tower. Stefan barreled into the first warrior-knight, their weapons ringing off of each other’s armor in a flurry of expert attacks and counters. Kalli was bowled backwards in the air by the Repulsion, but spun around, grabbed the Medusa’s head from her bag with her free hand, swept it around to petrify the other warrior-knight. I prayed to Ronan, and by His grace called down a searing Flamestrike from the heavens onto the dragon’s back… but it had no effect! Somehow the dark powers of the demon inside must be protected from holy magic. Kalli then then flew back in towards Tyranthraxus’s face, arm outstretched holding the head right up to the dragon’s eye. Tyranthraxus seemed to smirk, then his great dragon jaws snapped forward around the head, chomping down around it and taking Kalli’s arm off at the elbow! He stared coldly at the warrioress as he swallowed, and she screamed in agony and rage but managed to swing her sword arm back around cleave deeply into the dragon’s nose. His great head swung to the side as he snorted blood.
The dragon’s gaze fell on the axe-wielding half-elf harrying his armored minion. Tyranthraxus bared his teeth, and the seemed to be crackling with electrical sparks… sure enough, his jaws widened and he breathed a devastating lightning bolt down on poor Stefan, who’s skeleton could be seen convulsing in his fried body for a second.
He stood there dumbstruck and smoking, as his warrior-knight foe paused to see if he would regain his senses in a moment of touching professional courtesy. Kalli, enraged by her dismemberment, slammed Francis into the side of the dragon’s head once again, Reynard began loosing arrows at him, and Hrolf hurled his axe. At this onslaught, the dragon vanished! He couldn’t have teleported thanks to Hrolf, so he must’ve just gone invisible…
Meanwhile I trotted up behind Stefan and prayed for his recovery from that exceptionally high-voltage electrocution. While Ronan couldn’t seem to directly harm this demonic enemy, at least we could indirectly aid the demon’s enemies, and so Ronan’s powers healed the staunch half-elf. Stefan took a deep breath and launched himself at the warrior-knight once again, and with renewed fury hacked through his armor to deal a killing blow. Still smoking, he then stumbled into something – the dragon’s invisible leg! He bit his axe into it and the dragon reappeared, swiping down with a massive claw, OVER the offending half-elf, at ME! I pivoted in time to avoid impalement, but was knocked back on my butt and burned by the inexplicably flaming claw swipe. I rolled to put out the flames and crawled away back towards the relative shelter of the stairwell. Behind me, Tyranthraxus cast a spell on Stefan, this time Holding him frozen in place. He reared up, about to chomp down on his immobilized, crunchy fried snack, but Blake detonated a Fireball on his head just in time to distract him, and Kalli hacked again into his back as Reynard peppered him with arrows, occasionally finding a chink in his scales. Hrolf came up to me and helped me stagger to my feet, and the both of us then prayed intently, focusing our holy energies to Dispel the evil magic paralyzing Stefan. It worked! He shook free of the spell and stepped back.
Kalli now maneuvered back around to Tyranthraxus’ face and began shouting insults at him. He growled back some pompous line about how oh-so-great he was, and that Snor-Snar was nothing without him (perhaps the dragon’s original name, prior to the demonic possession?). Kalli taunted him again, and received a flaming claw swipe in return. But then she swooped back around to drive her blade right into the center of his skull! The great form crumpled to the floor, wheezing “Thank you” as it fell, and a cloud of fiery radiance was expelled with it’s last breath. This cloud hovered over us for a moment, then rasped something about retreating to a “pool of radiance” or something, then flew up out of the open-air room and vanished.
We had defeated the monstrous, demonic adversary! We dug Kalli’s arm out from the dragon corpse’s esophagus, and I was able to Repair the Injury to the bone and reattach the arm, but the flesh was still dead and Kalli would need a higher level of medical care than I could provide in the heart of an enemy fortress if we were to save it.