The Dragon's Demand

The Day the Tower Fell

Sofie's Journal

Fireday, 24 Pharast, 4723

I am writing this while seated atop a treasure chest, in an ancient dungeon deep below the earth. This has been a most unusual day.

It began in the inn, where I was reviewing my notes when a half-orc woman introduced herself. She is a merchant from out of town who goes by the name Knives, an appropriate moniker from what I have seen of her. She has long dark hair, gray eyes, and a single tusk. Knives is a very blunt individual and after a conversation about my project in the Verduran Forest, she summoned over the Absalomite wizard so I could get a look at his owl.

As I had suspected, the bird is a Great Snowy Owl like the ones that roosted in our longhouse. The wizard, Aldern, says he bought "Yuki" as a chick from a Tian merchant in Absalom, and it has become his familiar. He is richly dressed, with hair as pale as the owl's feathers, and the arrogance of a southern noble.

Our conversation was interrupted by this local girl, who I swear was trying to pick Aldern's pocket. Knives vouches for her though, and she has proven an able companion. The girl, Lennox, was hungry, so I invited her to share my meal. Our encounter drew the attention of that drunken dwarf, Tagnus, who it turns out is one of the Verduran druids! We shared one of the terrible Taldan ales, but I had little chance to ask him about his life in the forest before the walls rattled furiously.

The local monument known as the Witch Tower had collapsed, and was said to be swarming with kobolds. My companions and I raced to investigate, but found only two dead kobolds and a pair of incompetent guards named Hob and Mule. The tower itself had collapsed as if into a sink hole, save the first two layers, but this was no natural occurrence. 

The wizard living in the manor nearby proved to be the likeliest suspect, and the charred remains of a dead kobold was found on his doorstep. But the wizard, Balthus Hunclay, would not answer summons and we could not breach his manor.

The local baroness, Origena Devy, tasked us with investigating the collapsed Witch Tower to discover why it fell and why there are kobolds in the town. We are to be paid a lump sum of 500 gold pieces, to be divided equally among the five of us, for completing this task. The Baroness warned it was a dangerous place that took the life of her husband. I tried to assure her that we would avoid his fate, but tripped over my own tongue again.

The Witch Tower itself was not challenging to climb into, but all we found on the first few floors were empty rooms and more dead kobolds. Below the first floor, however, we discovered a hidden dungeon.

It was horrible! Aldern and I found the remains of the jailer inside an actual iron maiden. His key proved useful in venturing further into the complex. Even so, I was grateful to have Lennox with us as her lockpicking skills proved invaluable. Knives also caught a lucky break when we found two oddly shaped mithral daggers among the ruins.

We encountered what I believed to be some kind of ghost in the dungeon cells, of a poor poacher left to die in the dark with his cousins. He begged for release, but vanished when we opened the door. I insisted on taking the men's bones to be given a proper burial once we return to the surface.

There was a strange mechanical contraption in the center of the prison, guarded by a lightning elemental. None of us were able to communicate with the creature, and I had no desire to fight over the mystery device. So we moved on.

We found another fucking torture room, and a mysterious voice compelled me to sit on a torture chair, wounding myself. The voice belonged to a perfidious imp blasphemously disguised as a raven. The creature offered to share a password and the location of the tower's "treasure" if all of us likewise shed blood on the torture implements.

To my great shock, Aldern agreed to treat with the creature, speaking to it in its native tongue! I have tried to keep an open mind about wizards, but for the first time in a long while I wonder if the elders were right to scorn them. Tagnus was with me in distrusting the imp, but eventually the others pressured us into joining them.

Once blood was shed (or appeared to be shed—I think some of my companions were faking), the imp showed us a secret door, told us a pass phrase ("Good Baron Sarvo wills it"), and presented us with the treasure: a heavy bronze plaque with the Canteclure family crest and motto. The imp claimed that the secret door was locked and suggested we look for the lock amid debris on a table. Then the cowardly fiend tried to sting Aldern!

I had another episode and swung at the fiend with my staff. I believe the blow landed, but everything is hazy as usual. Once my vision cleared, I saw that Tagnus had caught the creature in his meaty hands and throttled it until its head popped off. Knives and Aldern kindly helped me recover my composure, and the wizard promised to heed my warnings in the future. I hope he is truer to his word than the imp he bargained with.

We continued through the secret door. It led to a chamber with a pit containing congealed acid. Knives deftly traversed the pit and tied a rope to help the rest of us make our way around the rim of the hazard. Deeper into the dungeon, we came to an iron door with a lever and a side passage.

We took the side passage and met a strange clockwork creature than asked us to present the crest before reciting the password. I hauled out the bulky bronze plaque and recited the pass phrase ("Good Baron Sarvo wills it") and the automaton stepped aside.

We followed the corridor until it ended in a chamber with a large cage housing seven chests. At one end of the chamber, kobolds had tunneled a hole through the wall. Tagnus went to investigate and was ambushed by a ghoul! The foul creature bit into him savagely, but the dwarf was hardy enough to endure.

Lennox put an arrow through the monster and I knocked its head clean off with a swing of my staff. The thing was wearing a treasury guard's outfit with the crest of House Canteclure. Gods know how long it had been sealed up in here.

We found no key for the cage, but noticed two odd holes in the floor. Borrowing Knives' mithral daggers, Aldern and I inserted them into the slots and twisted. The cage bars retracted and we dragged the chests out before retrieving the daggers.

As I write, we are tallying up the treasure haul, which has already far exceeded the baroness' bounty. Tagnus conjured up some tasty goodberries, which have healed my wounds from the imp's mischief. Once the treasure is stowed away, I've no doubt that we will press on into the tunnel to get to the bottom of this kobold incursion.

I will not miss this wretched tower. Aldern's luminescent cane is the only source of light amid the opressive darkness. The air is foul, and the scenery is fouler. These Canteclures engaged in truly monstrous practices! I've no desire to extend this tour through their despicable history any longer.

It is my hope that the issue with the kobolds can be resolved peacefully. I examined the teeth of one of the corpses and saw that it shares characteristics of dragon's teeth, so I am hopeful that they are versed in the Draconic tongue as well. Perhaps we could broker a peace, or at the very least scare them off. After all, their incursion into the tower appears to be a failure.

We've no sign of the absent wizard Hunclay, however, and this troubles me. Could he have been responsible for the tower's destruction? Or been in league with the imp? It seems anything could be possible when it comes to wizards.

I must conclude for now. We are readying to move on.

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thestarturtle StakeTheLurk

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