After their first foray into the Crow proved almost deadly, Alwyn, Lilendra, and Henric held their ground until a familiar scrape of keel on shore signaled the arrival of reinforcements: the rest of the party had arrived. Rested and ready to continue, the heroes moved deeper into the ancient pillar.
Having explored all the lower passages, they climbed upwards, and swiftly located a trap door that opened into another hallway. The route to the new door was treacherous: a narrow ledge along the side of the pillar. A sea-salt breeze stung the heroes as they ventured across, while over a hundred feet below, the waves lapped hungrily at the Crow’s stone sides.
Beyond the trapdoor was a lengthy hallway, whose oppressive gloom hid a number of crypts that lined the wall in regular succession. Each held the age-worn bones of creatures whose lives had been lived thousands of years ago. And weary lives too: as the remains showed evidence of hard labour having taken its toll on the bones of these ancient dead. Obviously these were the bodies those who had either built or maintained the structure, back when Thassilon thrived, and the Irespan stretched to the horizon.
Billy – showing a trace of the cunning that had served him well in his recruitment to the Pathfinder Society – picked up one of the skulls, and rolled it down the hallway. The Tower Girls had a reputation for traps, and he had no interest in walking into one blindly. Bouncing and tumbling down the hallway the skull went, shedding teeth and fragments of bone. The clack of each tumble echoed through the tunnels, and the heroes held their breath, waiting for a call of alarm.
None came. The skull rolled to a halt, its pate coming to a rest against something stretched across the hall: a tripwire. With a harsh clanging noise, a bell began to ring out, its noise stretching further than the skull’s tumbling. Whoever had placed the trap knew that they were there.
Now, more cautious than ever, the heroes continued. After a few more twists and turns, they noticed a warm light up ahead: a hooded lantern hung in the centre of an empty room, casting light and shadow into strong relief.
Alwyn entered first, hand on his sword. As soon as he had crossed the threshold to the room, however, three Tower Girls dropped from the ceiling to surround him. Their enchanted harnesses had let them dangle from the roof both silently, and effortlessly.
A short and bloody battle broke out. The Tower Girls went down, but not before opening up wounds of their own. In the midst of the fray, a fourth Tower Girl was spotted running away down a set of stairs. Yet another reminder to proceed with caution.
Soon, the room was filled by the the fizz of healing magic, as those amongst the party who were injured set about gulping down elixirs to knit their wounds closed. Alwyn unstopped a concoction that stank of sulphur and rage, and pounded it back. Within moments, his body was wracked by mighty contractions and shudders, as his bones and muscles lengthened, his skin hardened, rough hair sprouted all over his body, and vicious teeth and claws unsheathed themselves from his flesh. He now stood over nine feet tall: more monster than man.
So encouraged by their fearsome ally, the heroes plunged forwards, down many twisting flights of stairs and into an immense hall. The ceiling towered overhead, the walls lined with sconced torches, and a set of chairs and tables stood empty, though possibly freshly vacated. To all appearances, they had discovered the main common room for the Tower Girls gang.
No sooner had they entered, but – pouring out from the three other corridors into the room – in charged a veritable horde of Tower Girls. Whooping and hollering cries of battle, tumbling across tables and chairs, running up along the walls, and darting between pillars, the gang moved to surround them.
The heroes were vastly outnumbered.
With a bestial roar Alwyn charged forward. Slamming his claws down into one of the solid wooden tables, he hefted the huge slab of oak into the air. Swinging it back and forth as a weapon of horrific destruction, he began to lay waste to the gang.
Emboldened by their companion’s strategy, the heroes joined the battle.
As the tide began to turn, and victory against the gang looked to be in their sights, a new foe joined the fray: another wererat, dwarfed only in size by Alwyn himself. Around her head and body she twirled a long grey scarf, with wickedly sharp blades attached to either end. Her leather armour, inscribed with whorls of silver, signified that this must be their leader.
Tumbling her way into the fight, the wererat sliced into the heroes with her scarf. Each time she lashed out – the scarf hissing its way through defences like a darting snake – the blades returned to her slick with blood.
The once-mighty table reduced to splinters, Alwyn tossed it aside and drew his greatsword. Enlarged along with him, the blade towered above the dead and the dying like an immense tombstone.
A tombstone with the wererat’s name on it.
Down came the sword, and the bloody scarf hissed no more.
Spurred on by the unnatural endurance of one infected with lycanthropy, the wererat still struggled to rise, but the heroes put her down for good.
Silence, once again returned to the innards of the Crow. The group looked around at each-other with bloody faces, torn armor, notched weapons, and haggard looks. The battle had been too close for comfort.
Exploring the rest of the level, they determined they were about ninety feet above the sea now. No more signs of the Tower Girls presented themselves. Only a set of foreboding stairs leading downwards. Deeper into the bowels of the Crow, and the earth itself.
What dangers await our heroes in those dank depths?
Find out next week, as our heroes continue their quest for the pieces of the Shattered Star.