What fell ambition or nefarious command brought the Bejik Highhanded, last scion of House Vathune, to the ancestral ruins of Morningfall Mountain is still unclear, but what is now shouted from the peaks of the Floating Tower of Ustraunese is that such decisions were made under a wandering star, and so another Eldaran dream died on that great height, to the relief of the ancestral ghosts who had stood watch for a millenia.
It was Suntop, the Elven Archer, who saw the figure first. The big game hunter had caught up with Kara the Gladiator and Zebidiah “Z” Lamar, Soldier of the All-Father after their fight with the guardian ghosts of the valley. The prospect of hunting the ultimate prey(dragons) had lured him from his forest home.
As the defenders of Angleheath approached the wreckage beneath the floating tower of Morningfall, a sentinel was seen standing atop a column of basalt that leaned against a huge slabe of rubble that seemed like the top of a massive stone tower, half buried in the ground, and leaning on a second tower! He held a staff decorated with the sigil of Ouroboros. The sentinel was shod in the archaic armor of pre-Imperium Eldaran make, but Suntop could tell be the way it stood that this was no descendant of Faerie. A greeting was called out to the trio:
“Hail to you all! I heard fighting in the valley and feared that the undead had increased their numbers. I barely survived myself. They’ve boxed me into this forsaken place without food or water. Perhaps you can spare a little of both?” He pointed to the floating tower above, “In return, I’ll gladly share my temporary refuge.”
“Sure thing, we have food to share.” said Zeb. The trio came closer and discovered that although the sentinel stood upon a tall marble column beneath the looming shadow of the Hanging Tower, the various chunks of debris clouding the air were arranged just so in order to make a most precarious series of stepping stones, a veritable floating staircase leading to the column and beyond to tower, where a dark doorway loomed. The dwarf and gladiator began climbing this strange aerial trail whose stones shifted slightly under their feet, but Suntop hung back and his keen elven eye caught a gleam of metal in that high doorway above.
“Archer!” cried the elf. Even as he spoke, the sentinel shifted his weight as the dwarf approached. “Attack!” shouted the blackguard, and he swung his snake staff even as Suntop loosed an arrow at the sniper at the satellite above, striking true.
Everything became chaotic as the dwarf and gladiator jockeyed to shove a massive block of floating stone close enough for the dwarf’s short legs to clamber aboard the leaning ruin and bring the fight to this untrustworthy guardian who retreated up the slippery slope. Meanwhile, the sniper turned its attention to Suntop, who was soon bleeding from multiple arrow wounds.
A roar drew attention skyward, and the embattled heroes looked up to see a warwing drake, ridden by a lance wielding knight, come streaking down to rake its claws across the wounded elf, throwing him to the ground in a crumpled heap.
Kara moved swiftly. He whirled around on the floating island of stone, shifted his shortsword to downward trajectory, and launched himself onto the back of the drake in flight. He whipped past the slashing tail of the beast and buried his sword in it’s haunch, piercing scales, and sending all three, gladiator, drake, and rider crashing to the ground. A mighty display.
The fight devolved into a mad scramble amongst gravity defying rubble as Kara faced off against both drake and knight, while Z finally shoved his opponent off of a high ledge and leaped down the sky stairs to rescue the wounded Suntop, even as arrows rained about him. Soon, the drake and rider were slain, and all were obliged to take cover from the archer above.
Some diplomatic attempts ended in more blood, and soon the heroes were distracted by a discovery on the ground, an entrance to a chamber below the rubble. Descending this shaft brought the party to a corridor, where they managed to arouse a cloud of debilitating gas that sapped their strength. Moving forward, an ancient courtyard opened before them, sheltered under a roof of sundered marble and the mound of rubble above. Two now-buried stone towers had toppled against each other to create a precarious ceiling. The broken architecture supported the full weight of the ruins above, keeping an avalanche at bay. Lanterns flickered throughout the area, illuminating broken statues on the ground. The base of the tower opposite was closed off by wooden doors that appeared to be newly repaired.
Just then, a WOOSH of air, chill as the grave, rushed through the subterranean courtyard, extinguishing every torch. A mocking voice echoed through the dark:
“Welcome lost children. You chose the perfect time to visit my domain. Spirits of this ruin lend their ghostly might to my cause. Of course, you can no more see them than you can me. Indeed, my servants have already surrounded your position. But don’t fret. The darkness of the Wyrm’s Maw will fall upon you soon enough. Mwah ha ha!”
The heroes quickly set to lighting their own torches as Z created a circle of protection around himself and his allies. In the brief flair of light they could see a ghost descending from the ceiling.
Suntop sent an arrow through the apparition and ran of a flight of stairs, where he found himself on a crumbling enclosed balcony. Lighting a torch as his compatriots struggled with the undead below, Suntop peered out from a breach in the arcade in time to see the wooden gate burst open and an enraged drake and rider emerge. Two arrows went streaking towards the flying steed, causing much pain.
Bejik Vuthaner turned his mount towards the elf, and pierced him with a black lance of obsidian gleaming with eldritch energies, and the elf went to tumbling back into the relative safety of the corridor. Now Kara attacked, throwing himself at the beast and rider. Soon the drake was down and the two defenders flanked the Eldar lord, who asked for no quarter and received none, although, the gladiator thought he saw a plea for mercy in that ageless eye as he delivered the killing blow.
With the foe defeated and looted, the trio set about exploring the place. They discovered only one further room unfilled with rubble, and this an old summoning room, with a circle of sigils etched in the ground. Smoldering incense still lay around the perimeter from a most recent ritual. New chains of iron were bolted to the floor in the center of the circle. The paladin inspected the circle, but could not determine the nature of the ritual. Exploring further, a small pool of warm water was found, with a large egg resting in it. Satisfied that there was no more to discover, the three warriors left that precarious place, for, as Zebidiah noted, there was no telling how long that ceiling might hold.
Returning to the surface, the aerial sniper was nowhere to be seen. And so, after some rest, for they were wounded and weary (especially the elf!), the party made preparations to explore the Hanging Tower…