Tiddles disappeared, and Lisk re-appeared. Nob blinked, and looked back and forth between everyone. He shrugged, and continued. "But yeh as I was saying you gotta decide if you want to go to Tamworth
As the party debated among themselves, a voice called from the river bank.
"where bouts you goingggg??"
Finally the party took note of the catfolk standing on the river bank. He waved at the party on their boat, who did not return the wave.
"Hey there! Sorry to interrupt, where bouts are you guys going?"
The party filled him in on what they were thinking. The catfolk continued "Oh! Well, let me introduce myself. My name is Isamu
"If you folk are heading up the stairs, Tamworth is the most prepared. Floor 3 has some insane heat, poison, and curses -- Tamworth has supplies to counteract those. We at Beachcastle used to have them too, but the expeditions we sent up resulted in death, so we stopped hundreds of years ago, ended up selling our artifacts to Tamworth."
"I'm actually from Beachcastle, and I just tried to enter Tamworth. My friend and I were gonna go spend some time up on floor 3, but they got a new blockade up, and guards posted everywhere. I snuck past the blockade, but once I got to the castle, I found it was absolutely swarming with guards. Now, I'm stealthy, but I aint *that* stealthy."
The party shared concerned looks. Lisk suggested they head to Tamworth, but Naro was adamant that he and Markus go to Beachcastle.
Isamu responded "I overheard some of the guards talking though, apparently some new face came through these parts, and sommin bad happened at Beachcastle. I'm actually pretty worried about what happened back at home... they said something about a monster, and I'm kinda scared. What kind of monster attack would force all of Tamworth into shutdown?"
The cat had a worried look on his face. "If you folk are heading to Beachcastle, do you think I could come with you?"
Naro, Opal, Lisk and Ryder began discussing their options. Tamworth would be better for getting supplies, but it was on lock-down. Maybe they could scrounge a few up at Beachcastle? If not, they could kill the monster at Beachcastle, and take proof to Tamworth to gain their trust. That seemed like the best idea, and the party decided on heading to Beachcastle. Isamu looked at the boat with a hopeful expression on his face, and the party decided to let him on board.
It was about two hours or so along the river. The water was flowing gently, all that could be heard was the sound of wind and water, as the boat gently sailed down the river. Nob, at the helm of the boat, was keeping an eye out for any dangers.
"Hmm, that area looks fairly dark up ahead..." Nob murmured.
As the boat drifted down the river, the party could see a section of forest to the north that was bathed in deep darkness. Out of the darkness, a glowing figure stepped forwards.
"Is that Francis??"
Nob began steering the boat towards the northern shore. "Just give me a minute guys, I need to go see if that's Francis. I haven't seen him in so long, we thought he was dead!"
The party was sent into high alert by Nobs sudden desire to reach the northern shore. They yelled at him "NO, DO NOT GO THERE"
Nob looked at the party, confused and concerned. "It'll be okay! Just let me get near the shore, and I'll hop over and chat--"
He was cut off as Lisk wrestled him away from the wheel. "Someone restrain him, I'll get us out of here!". He used his prior combat experience, and began steering the ship away from the north bank.
As the party fled on the boat, crossbow bolts began flying out of the darkness. They'd come flying out in pairs -- one big bolt, and one small bolt. Ryder took a bolt to the chest, and dropped to the deck, hiding from any more. Kir deflected one, and then took a huge bolt as well.
Lisk yelled for someone to drop the sails to get some speed. Naro came to try to help, but didn't know what rope to pull. Opal stood beside Lisk and took a crossbow bolt to her chest. She retreated into the hold, and send Isamu and Nob out. Nob took one look at the mayhem and decided "nope, it's not Francis." he helped drop the sails, and the party sailed out of the dangerous area with high speed.
As the party left the shadowy dangerous area, they began to see more and more chunks of ice floating in the river. Lisk, still not trusting Nob to captain the boat, gently steered the craft left and right around the ice, occasionally crunching through the thinner ice.
Isamu looked forward with a worried expression on his face. "There's not supposed to be ice here..." he said quietly.
It wasn't long before the boat reached a point where it couldn't continue. Ahead of them was far too much ice, too thick for the boat to crash through. Isamu hopped off the boat, calling over his shoulder "I'll go on ahead, I need to see what happened!"
Nob volunteered to remain behind on the boat. As the party disembarked from the boat, they could hear a pained cry from Isamu ahead. They made their way along the frozen river bank, and found themselves in front of a scene of destruction.
Beachcastle, or what remained of it, was any icy husk of ruins. The walls still stood, but they were coated in ice and claw marks.
Isamu, in tears, murmuring about how everyone was dead, was met by the party as they approached. Finding the Catfolk inconsolable, they sent him back to the boat, while they looked around for signs of life.
The castle stood right on top of the river, with the water flowing through a gatehouse as the entrance. Consisting of 4 tall walls, two guard towers on opposite corners, and a single lone guard tower outside the walls. On the north wall, according to what Isamu said earlier, was another smaller entrance. The south wall should have had a wooden staircase rising to the top.
The outer grounds of Beachcastle were all ice and snow. The river's path had been redirected due to all the ice and carnage. The gatehouse was in shambles, and any safe walkways into the castle were destroyed. The party decided to head north, to check the other entrance; what they found was the entire wall covered in massive ice spikes, jutting out at obscene angles. The ice looked slightly climbable, and Opal said off-hand "Looks like someone could make it up this, if they were strong enough. If they had the strength to do it. If they could manage to"
Naro cut her off with a resigned, frustrated sigh "FINE I'll do it"
With Opal, Lisk, and Ryder watching, Naro began to put hand over hand as he climbed up the icy expanse. Five, ten, fifteen feet up, just as he was about to reach a small landing on the ice, he faltered, and grabbed at thin air. Slowly, almost comically, Naro fell backwards down 15 feet, landing flat on his back, knocking the air out of himself.
Lisk let out a small laugh, and walked back south. Opal and Ryder stooped over Naro, concerned, and helped the young man up. "I'm okay" he said "I'm fine. I'm good. Totally fine. Just give me a moment here."
Opal and Ryder left Naro behind, and followed after Lisk. Lisk had made his way to the lone watchtower outside the castle -- he climbed up, and surveyed the scene. Inside the castle walls was yet more carnage. Huts and buildings had been torn to shreds, and yet more ice coated everything in sight. There were massive claw marks found on the walls, but no signs of any life. He went down the tower and came out front, and relayed this information. Opal hexed herself with fly, and inspected the gate. "You know, this could probably be opened easily enough!"
Ryder sent Kir over along the ice to check the gate. The large swordsman attempted to gingerly make his way to the edge of the ice, but mis-stepped, and crashed through the ice. Ryder quickly de-summoned his eidolon, and sighed. Kir just kept falling into the water.
Opal decided to fly to the top of the wall with a rope, and drop it down for people to climb up. "Why didn't we do this earlier" she thought to herself.
She flew along the wall till she found a suitable section, tied the rope on securely, and dropped the remainder down. Lisk stepped up to be the first to climb. Five, ten, fifteen feet up, just as he was about to reach the midway point of the rope, his hand grabbed at thin air. Lisk slowly, almost comically, fell backwards into thin air -- landing on his back on the ground, letting out a cough of pain. "HURTS DOESN'T IT" called Naro. Lisk dusted himself off, and took a second shot at the rope, rapidly climbing to the top. Ryder, without Kir, quickly followed. Naro, somewhat nervous, brought up the rear, and made it up safely.
The party soon found a ladder down from the wall, into the interior of Beachcastle's grounds. As they looked around, Opal noticed a sound, a deep sound of a creature breathing slowly. Worried, she informed the party of what she heard. Lisk popped his hood up, and activated his cloak; he began sneaking along the north wall, heading east towards the sounds. There was something behind the central tower of the town. As he made his way along, he spotted some bright blue scales.
As he made his way farther, he saw a snake-like head, covered in bright blue scales.
And then he saw another head.
Lisk's eyes opened wide in panic, and he rushed back to the party as quietly as he could. He didnt think the creature saw him, but he didnt want to risk spending any more time near it. As he returned, in a hushed voice he hurriedly said "We have to go. Now.".
They scrambled up the ladder, and slid down the rope on the wall. As soon as they were outside the walls, Lisk shouted "THERE WAS A HYDRA IN THERE."
Naro, Ryder, and Opal looked at him with alarm. Lisk continued "It had at least 6 or 7 heads, I didnt look at all of it. Its scales were bright blue."
As if on cue, a deep rumbling roar could be heard from within the castle walls, and a great crash as if a massive beast dove down through some ice.
Opal realized what kind of hydra the beast must be. "That sounds like its a cryohydra! It's good we go out of here--" she was cut off as another crash and roar was heard, this time closer to them. Multiple massive plumes of icy vapour and energy could be seen jetting up over the castle walls.
In a lightning fast unanimous decision, the party chose to leave Beachcastle. Upon reaching the boat, Isamu looked at them hopefully. A quick "Everyone is dead, we need to leave", and Isamu fell to the floor, defeat in his eyes.
"How do we get this boat up stream? We gotta go now" the party asked Nob. Nob turned away from Isamu, still with concern on his face. "...Ah. Uh, right yeah, this boat has a clockwork motor for going upstream. It's slower than going downstream, but it'll get the job done." With one last glance at Isamu, Nob left for the helm. "I'll get us moving".
A few hours later, and the party had made it all the way back up Northrun River
without event. Whatever the dark shadowy area with crossbows was, it wasn't harassing them this time. Upon reaching The Split
, Nob shut off the clockwork motor on the boat, it was time to drift down Westbank River
The trees along the riverbank here gradually changed from leafy and short, to tall and dark pine trees, with smaller brownish leafy trees sheltered below.
Another hour or so of a slow voyage down river taking in the scenery, and the party reached a blockade across the river. Four large wooden barricades were tied together across the river to halt anyone from progressing. Tied to this barricade was a small merchant vessel, with a merchant sitting on the bow relaxing. She waved at the party as they approached.
The party stared at her with distrust. She frowned, and her wave faltered. "Hello?"
"I guess you weren't expecting this blockade either?" She filled the party in on who she was, and why she was here. She was quite talkative, as she had been stuck here by herself for a while. Normally she hires some folks to help her row back up stream, as her boat doesnt have a working clockwork motor.
"Since we're all here, I have some stuff to sell if you're interested? Smoke bombs, distraction rocks, black cloth, padded shoes, you name it!"
Her words were met by more silence from the party. Lisk flipped his hood up, and hopped from the side of the boat to the nearby riverbank, inspecting where the barricade met the bank. Naro strode purposefully up the deck of the boat to the prow, and began walking out on the figurehead. Halfway across, he slipped.
"Oh shit!" called Ryder and Opal.
Naro crashed down into the water, but quickly surfaced and grabbed hold of the barricade. There was no immediate obvious change, but Naro felt angry and less inclined to be friendly to people, although only temporarily. He also suddenly felt as if his clothes fit him perfectly.
He grumbled, and climbed up out of the water, and inspected the barricade. "This looks pretty weak, we could probably just blast it."
Opal purposefully strode forward, rolling up her sleeves. "I GOT IT."
She put her hand in front of her, and summoned a great energy, blasting a massive bolt of lightning through the middle of the barricade.
"HOLY SHIT I NEED TO LEAVE" yelled the merchant. She hopped off her boat, and seeing a rowboat on the other side of the barricade, hopped inside. She began rowing upstream as fast as she could. "Good luck!"
Nob began to steer their boat through the hole in the barricade. Naro and Lisk hopped back on the boat, and they resumed their downstream voyage.
Around half an hour later, Nob called to the party. "Well this is about as far as we'll make it! There's a large boulder in the river ahead, and our boat is too big to squeeze past. I can wait here with Isamu, if you folk wanna hop onto the bank, and walk the rest of the way. Should only be about another 10 minutes to walk or so."
The party hopped down, and approached Tamworth from the north.
The militaristic town was a massive, three tiered castle, with guards posted all about the grounds. Archers patrolled the walls, and guardsmen and captains patrolled the docks at the front of the castle.
The party remained crouched in the woods outside the castle, surveying the scene. Opal, Naro, and Ryder looked expectantly at Lisk. The war vet popped his hood on, and stealthily made his way through the forest.
As he walked along the western edge of the castle grounds, he saw more guards on the walls and at the entrances to Tamworth. There was one door on the western wall, guarded by a wizard and a rogue. Continuing south, making his way by a large round guard tower, he spotted another entrance at the south of the castle, smaller, guarded by only one dwarf, who was tossing axes in the air and catching them. He noted this spot, and moved on.
All the way around to the eastern side, where he found another entrance, this time again protected by two guards. Lisk, with a mental map of the entrances to the castle, made his way back the way he came.
Meanwhile, Naro wanted to see what the front entrance was like, and if he could convince the people to trust him. He strode confidently to the main gate, right towards the guard captain. The captain reacted with anger and fear, and pointed his halberd at Naro.
"STOP, UNKNOWN. LEAVE NOW OR BE MET WITH FORCE"
Naro smiled, and waved "Hi! Hey, I'm not with whoever attacked beachca--"
The captain cut Naro off, and yelled "SUPPORT. I NEED BACKUP"
More guards hustled out of the front entrance of the castle. Wizards, swordsmen, archers all began filing out.
Naro put his hands up and stopped. He began slowly taking steps backwards "S.. sorry, sorry, I'm leaving now". As he walked backwards, he could hear the guard captain ordering his guards to "...be on high alert near the northern edge. I don't trust that guy, so keep a lookout to the front".
Naro and Lisk made it back to Opal and Ryder at the same time, both of them filling in the rest on their experiences.
With knowledge of what doors were least protected, and the guards distracted by the front of the castle, the party managed to sneak around to the rear of the castle. Opal turned herself invisible, and snuck up to the dwarf protecting the south door. She hexed him, and the dwarf dropped his axe as he fell asleep. Opal re-appeared, and waved everyone in behind the dwarf, before he woke up again.
Inside the castle, the party elected Lisk to do the brunt of the exploring, as he was the most stealthy of the group. Lisk explored the lower floor, noting storage rooms and barracks. He found a drill sergeant training his soldiers, but remained hidden. Returning, he went up the stairs near the party, checking out the second floor. He could see another bridge above him on the third floor, connecting to the great stair that rose upwards into the sky.
Lisk returned downstairs, and told everyone it was safe to follow up to the second floor. As he did that, he moved up the stairs to the third floor. Naro followed.
At the landing of the third floor, they saw another dwarf, idly checking out the stonework of the corner of the room. Lisk put a finger to his lips, and continued by, not disturbing the dwarf. Naro stepped in front of the dwarf, and exclaimed "hi!"
The dwarf swung his axe at Naro in surprise and fear and anger. The weapon struck Naro, who was immediately filled with rage, and reacted with a strike of his own, bringing his fists down on top of the dwarfs head.
The dwarf staggered, and his eyes unfocused. His helmet was massively dented in, and he attempted to speak, but only mumbled slurred words came out.
Hearing the commotion, Opal ran upstairs. She saw the dwarf, and immediately hexed him to sleep. She suddenly remembered that sleep is bad for those with brain injuries. She put a hand to her mouth, uttering a quiet "oh no".
The dwarf made horrible snoring noises as his body struggled to keep operating.
Opal quickly backed out of the room, while Naro looked down apologetically. "I was just saying hi..."
Over Opals shoulder came two arrows, which struck true into the dwarfs chest. A quick spasm, and the body became still, then slowly faded out of existence, leaving a soul coin behind. Lisk grumbled "I didn't want to have to do that. He wouldn't have had much a life left after that anyways."
Naro left the room, leaving the coin behind.
Ryder came up the stairs, and saw a coin on the floor. He looked around, and then pocketed the coin.
A few minutes later, and the party had found the stairs up to floor 3 with no more guards found. A few steps farther along the hall, and they found a storage room marked "Expedition Supplies".
Inside the storage room, they found potions, scrolls, and equipment. Most importantly found was a rack of 3 masks and 3 amulets. Opal looked them over, noting that the masks were Poison Resistant Masks
, and the amulets were Curse Resistant Amulets
The items worked essentially as their name described. If the item is placed directly against your skin, you gain its benefits; poison immunity with the masks, curse immunity with the amulets. It must be directly touching your skin however.
Naro, in his full body suit, was visibly nervous about this. However, he still elected to take one of the masks, as well as an amulet. As did Opal. Ryder took only a Mask, and Lisk took only an Amulet.
Gear and supplies in hand, the party returned to the stair, and began the hour long climb to the next floor. Upon reaching the toop, they found themselves in a small stone room with a metal door. The sign next to the door was made of metal, with high quality etching on its surface spelling out "Floor 3". Below that was a crude wooden sign, with a checklist.
- CURE RESISTANCE
- POISON RESISTANCE
- ELEMENTAL RESISTANCE
ONLY ENTER IF YOU CAN HANDLE THESE 3 THINGS
The party looked at each other with trepidation, as time again froze.