Chapter 2, Part II: Braving the Fortress

As you descend the stone staircase, your footsteps echo off the walls and you can feel the chill of the damp air enveloping you. The dim light from the entrance fades away, leaving you in near darkness. You can barely see the steps beneath your feet, and the musty smell of old stone and mildew fills your nostrils.

As you reach the bottom of the stairs, you can hear the sound of dripping water echoing through the chamber. The air feels heavy and damp, and you can feel moisture clinging to your skin. You strain your eyes to try and make out the details of the room, but the darkness is all-consuming. Those with Darkvision are able to make out the outline of some old sconces that appear to have torches still sitting in them. You can hear the faint scurrying of small creatures, and the rustling of old parchment or fabric.

As your eyes slowly adjust, you begin to make out the shapes of ancient stone walls and rusted metal implements. Cobwebs cling to every corner, and you can see old barrels and crates that have long since rotted away. In the northwest part of the room set between two stone doors is a large pedestal. On the floor encircling the pedestal are eleven carvings each with a line leading directly to the base.

In the basement of the tower, the brave members of the party gathered in a chamber to perform a ritual, each standing on their respective elemental emblem and sacrificing a portion of their health. As the bowl in the center of the room filled, the door to their next challenge opened. After experiencing vivid visions which starred the other members of the party, the group shared what they saw with each other, surprised at the accuracy of the memories the others experiences.

Vance, you see yourself in a burning village, people fleeing for their lives as a group of violent orcs tear through the village and then you see Drez in the Nilfdell forest picking up a large fang off a creature they were hunting. Then you snap back to your reality.

Drez, you see yourself in a frosted wasteland, on the outskirts of Svalbar. You see a hooded figure walking out onto an icy lake, it's Firebrook. You see him reach deep down into the chilling waters and to retrieve an old necklace with a strange symbol on it. Then you snap back to your reality.

Firebrook, you see yourself in the crowded streets of a large city. Your chasing after someone when you suddenly take a wrong turn down an alleyway. There you see Bartholomew, staring into a silver mirror in both hands. Then you snap back to your reality.

Bartholomew, you see yourself standing on the edge of a forest near a large war encampment. You see a worried Xerxes running around looking for a young boy who was heading into a field full of traps. He darts off to find him and you follow behind. He suddenly stops and turns to some rustling bushes. He heroically reaches in and pulls out a crest with a bird with two large wings. Then you snap back to reality.

Xerxes, you see yourself in an unfamiliar forest. Suddenly you see a young mother running with haste carrying two small children. She places them gently in the tree and tells them to wait there until she comes back for them. Time passes and you find yourself in a clearing with a concerned looking Nohki holding a strange shield in his hands. Then you snap back to reality.

Nohki, you see yourself running through a forest staring intensely at the needle on your leaf compass. The trees are unfamiliar to except one. A great oak tree reminiscent of your time spent in hiding. A young man approaches from some bushes wielding a sword. It is Vance, he walks past the tree and doubles back noticing something shiny inside of it. He reaches in and grabs what appears to be a rusty fishing lure. Then you snap back to reality.

As you all regain your bearings the light becomes stronger and a large flash envelops the room. The torches on the walls glow that same bright white light and you begin to hear a rumble as the two doors slowly open.

The party then returned to the top of the tower to rest, taking turns on watch with no disturbance.

The following day, they returned to the chamber, only to discover that the doors had shut overnight. The group persevered, sacrificing health once again, and progressed to the Trophy Room. Upon examining the creature heads (one dragon, one manticore, one horned devil, and one bear), they discovered stones in the mouths, which Firebrook determined to be magical.

After taking a short rest, they continued to examine the room. Nohki used thorn whip to extract a gem from the dragon's mouth, triggering a barrage of breath attacks from the monsters, with only Vance and Drez avoiding damage.

In the next room, they discovered a statue of St. Jimmy John, Patron of Sandwiches, adorned with eight flying birds. Bart found a gourmet Chippirock mushroom, while Vance investigated some damage to the walls and furniture of the room.

The group then peeked into the spider-web-filled northwest room before quickly leaving and proceeding to the tapestry room in the southwest.

The grandiosity of this room is overwhelming. Large bookshelves line the walls and a large vaulted ceiling dangles what looks like untarnished crystal chandeliers. Thick roots cover the eastern part of the room leading to a colossal tree. The tree itself has a jet black appearance. The western portion of the room sits a pristine looking pedestal upon a large dais. Behind the pedestal a lone giant tapestry hangs on the far left side of the circular wall.

Drez and a few others examined the tapestry hanging on the curved wall, finding that the image refused to take shape before their eyes, slipping away like water through their fingers.

After obtaining more mushrooms, they moved on to the alchemy lab and worked to solve a puzzle involving the mixing of various substances in a specific order to achieve a non-lethal result. After drinking the potion, they noticed their vision clearing and sharpening. Before proceeding forward, they returned to the tapestry room on Drez's suggestion and once again looked to the tapestry. This time, the image became clear. It was an artistic interpretation of an incredibly famous painting: The Day of Salvation. Both the tapestry before them and the famous painting it was inspired by showed the moment that the Warden, born from Brio's sacrifice, destroyed Solana with a ball of energy shot from his famous shield.

Tapestry inspired by Day of Salvation painting
Original Day of Salvation painting

The group decided that there must be more tapestries to find, and so continued looking through the area to discover the rest of its secrets. Another door in the south of the tapestry room led them to a long disused chapel with a broken altar covered in cloth. Here, they discovered the statue of Matron McDonald, the mother of chicken nuggets. They then located a tapestry depicting Solana shattered into pieces and hung it next to the first one, feeling a hum of magic emanating from it.

Tapestry with broken Solana pieces

They then headed north from the chapel to a previously discovered door. Through it, they discovered a kitchen area that seemed to have been abandoned in the middle of meal preparations.

As you step into the abandoned kitchen, you're hit by a musty, stale smell that seems to have permeated every inch of the room. The air is thick with the scent of old food and decaying wood, and the space is dimly lit by flickering torches that seem to be on the verge of going out.

The kitchen is large and spacious, with a high ceiling that seems to stretch up into the darkness above. The walls are lined with wooden shelves that once held pots, pans, and other cooking utensils, but now stand empty and dusty.

Against one wall, there is a large stone hearth, its surface blackened with soot and ash. The hearth seems to have been used for cooking and baking, and there is a large iron cauldron hanging above it, filled with old food that has long since rotted away.

Here, they accidentally woke an animated stove, who roped them into an exhausting and nearly deadly battle. The stove enlisted the help of two brooms and three knives. After setting the stove off in an epic explosion that nearly knocked out half the party, the group was able to defeat the remaining animated objects, claiming victory over the kitchen and its dangerous accoutrements. This unexpected battle left the party haggard and limping, but worryingly, they had much more of the fortress to explore.

Completed: April 2023