This is a transcript of the Play-by-email sessions for Ignax’s experience between when he was summoned away from the party and when he returned to them
Beyond the silver circle, your captors finally raise their heads from the tome and begin to remove their hoods. The first, a young human male, is laughing. The elf beside him is much more reserved than the human, but a small smile tugs at the edge of his lips as he watches his counterpart. Both are making a show of not actually looking at the summoning circle, as if the contents are of no particular importance to them.
The third summoner has no such reservation. He stares at you and slowly draws his hood back. You find yourself meeting the gaze of an old tiefling with short sharp horns sweeping forward from his forehead. His goatee is neat and silver but his head is bald. “Osmodax?” he whispers in confusion, then blinks in recognition. “No. The younger.” This is inexplicably funny to him but his laughter is sharp and without mirth. “Oh you are the schemer and deceiver, my lord. Would that it had not cost your servant so much but I play my part.”
Behind him the other two turn at this strange statement from their master. The human startles when he sees you and the elf’s subtle smile washes away under a look of growing horror. The human cannot find his voice, only gasps and sputters for a moment. The elf looks to the tiefling and back to you and asks his master, “But Kuchoma?”
“Is almost certainly traveling a different path to get here than the one we prepared for him. Our lord has deceived us all. Make ready. His will is yet unknown.”
The human begins muttering to himself. “We’re dead. We’re dead. We’re dead.” He cannot say anything else and cannot take his eyes off you.
The elf wails to his master, “We did everything right! The ritual should have worked!”
“I rather think it did.” The old tiefling laughs again as he removes the ceremonial robe. His clothing underneath is practical but well-made. He straightens his right arm down to his side and a thin black rod, tipped in ruby, falls out of his sleeve into his grip. “Stay where you are, please. I’m going to need the extra time.”
The door to the chamber bursts inward in a gout of flame and light. A long burning splinter impales the human who falls to the ground gurgling. The elf whirls and flicks two daggers towards the smoldering opening. They are batted aside. The elf roars a challenge and brings a glow of magic to his fingers. A tall human strides into the room, naked save for a grass kilt and a burning mask. He carries a curved sword in one hand but has not drawn it. Embers glow above his head and six arms of flame sprout from his back.
One of these arms lashes out to grab the elf’s face, lifting him from the ground. The elf’s skin blackens and smolders and then bursts into flame while the elf screams. After a moment the being shakes the elf’s corpse and tosses it aside.
“Magus! You die today.”
“Kuchoma, you exaggerate as always.” The Magus does not look up at the newcomer but pulls a ring off his finger and exchanges it for another. He starts rifling through an arrangement of trinkets and figurines, looking for something.
“I interrupted your little ritual.”
“No, no you didn’t.” The old tiefling waves an arm towards you. The other still holds the rod down by his leg and out of view.
Kuchoma regards you for the first time. You cannot see his face, only a single glowing red eye shows through the mask, but you can see from the tilt of his head that he is examining the ritual circle and you in turn. “Who is this, old man?” He faces you directly.
The old tiefling laughs again, and this time there is genuine amusement in the sound, “He’s the answer to the ritual, Kuchoma. Looks like we were both wrong.”
“No. No, you have the tome.”
“Yes. That’s the tome.” The magus sounds amiable now, friendly.
“No. That’s not right, Magus. This isn’t right.” Kuchoma clenches all eight of his fists and takes a long step closer to the circle. “Who are you? What are you doing in there?” He steps forward and searches the invisible barrier of the summoning circle with his fiery hands while his human fists remain clenched. “Get out of there. That is not your place.” He places long fingers against the invisible barrier and begins to press. You can see the magic peel away from his fingertips as they slowly move into the circle. He strains his muscles and something starts to tear, but the Magus has had the time he needed.
The old tiefling speaks a command word and points his rod at the floor. Wooden planks erupt with a shattering thunder in a line straight towards the fire warrior. The force hurls Kuchoma backwards and away. The floor drops and the elf’s smoldering corpse slides out of sight into the room below. The lectern holding the tome tips and the book follows the elf through the tear in the floor. At the end of the rip you can see daylight through the far wall where the force of the spell blasted bricks away from the tower.
The blast also interrupted the summoning circle. You feel your ears pop as the pressure changes. You are free.
Ok so three beings summoned me – human, elf, tief. The tief was the leader, Magus. They did not mean to summon me, they were apparently trying to get this human fire warrior, Kuchoma. Instead, he surprised them by bursting through the door and immediately killing the two underlings. Discussion ensued about a Tome, it was clear that Kuchoma does not know who I am, but Magus knows both my father and I.
I want two things: To talk to the Magus, and to get that Tome. I can either join the fight and try to kill this fire warrior dude, or go for the Tome through the floor. If I kill Kuchoma, there sure isn’t any guarantee that the Magus will be cooperative OR friendly, and then I will have to kill him to take a look at that tome.
ACTION: I am going to escape from becoming collateral damage in a magic fight, and go for the Tome. Also maybe there is something on that elf’s body that I will want as well, or could help clue me in. Then maybe see how the fight turns out and take it from there. Can I jump down through the floor? What do I see through that hole?
Staying low, you dive for the crack in the floor, following the path taken by the tome and the dead elf. Kuchoma and the Magus are both clearly interested in where you’re going but neither is willing to divert their attention from the other to deal with you just yet.
You clatter over the edge of the rift and [roll: 8+0: 8 Acrobatics] misjudge the opening. You snag your shirt on a ragged joist and get tangled as you fall hard to the floor below [3 pts of bludgeoning dmg].
The light is dim but no hindrance to you. You spot the fallen tome easily. The book is warm to the touch when you pick it up. It is sheathed in rich red leather and edged in brass. In the center, a medallion of brass contains an etched symbol of a burning brand crossed with a sword of flame over a pentagram. The metal of the medallion and along the spine and at the clasp show rainbow tints of heat damage. The inner pages are almost completely blank. Here and there, you catch a glimpse of ink fading into the pages but it vanishes before you can make sense of its meaning.
You cannot tell from this quick study whether the book has somehow been used up or if its contents are protected or hidden in some manner. A thump and a howl of outrage from above remind you that you may not have the time now to study it in detail.
The elf’s body lies crumpled a few steps away, one arm mercifully covering his blackened face. You sift through his pouches quickly [roll 15 + 2: 17 investigation] and find a miserable handful of coins, two more simple daggers, and a clay rod six inches in length. The rod has a narrow groove at its middle and a single arcane word. It’s a device to cast a single spell; crack the rod and speak the word to cast it, then toss the pieces towards the location you want the spell to manifest. [roll 8+2: 10 Arcana] It’s likely an offensive area effect, but you cannot decipher much more than that about what will happen when it’s cast.
One more detail catches your eye, there is a small tattoo on the elf’s upflung arm. It depicts a burning brand lying across a pentagram. The flame and pentagram are common symbols for worshippers of Asmodeus but the branch addition has only ever been used by the Asmodai cult of your father as far as you know.
Beyond the damage from above, the room you are in is unremarkable, a sitting room or parlor of some nature. Dusty goblets cover an end table, some still crusted with the dregs of whatever drink they last held. A single door leads deeper into the tower. Opposite the door, the exterior wall holds a small shuttered window.
Peeking carefully out the door into the middle of a long hallway with a sumptuous carpet. Someone shouts from your left and a wounded tiefling man runs into view from around a corner, pursued by a laughing human woman with a bloody spear. The chase passes the door you’re hidden behind and around the corner to your right. To the left, from where they emerged, you hear other sounds of battle.
Mechanics & loot
3 bludgeoning dmg
23 copper coins
1 spell rod for a single-use casting of an unknown offensive area effect spell
Ok, I want to follow the laughing woman and tiefling with the intent of killing the woman and capturing/interrogating the tiefling. Id like to see what kind of damage I can do with a surprise attack on her, maybe a javelin to the back. Then a low level spell, like my poison cantrip to follow up. If she turns out to be tougher than I think, or starts using heavy magic on me, I may have to use a Lev 1 or 2 spell but I don’t want to burn my last Lev 3 yet on summoning any animals or changing shape, unless she is a real bad ass mage, then I will probably want to enlist some. I want to know what the tiefling knows about other tieflings, the fire cult, why this internal rebellion seems to be happening, and where my father is, if he knows him.
You slip a javelin out of your quiver, ready your shield, and dash after the fleeing pair. [Roll 3+0: 3 Stealth]. You knock the javelin on the wall as you round the corner and the woman whirls to face you, spear raised. You let your javelin fly first [Roll 6+4: 10 attack] but you’re still disoriented by the quick turn and the javelin flies wide to stick in the wall behind her. She dashes forward and uses both hands to drive her spear into your side. You turn at the last second but are unable to completely avoid the blow [2 piercing damage]. She has forgotten the other tiefling, however, and he steps forward now to drive a wavy dagger into her back. You call forth a puff of poison gas and, choking, she collapses.
Cursing under his breath, the tiefling immediately drops to his knees beside the body and begins pawing through her pouches with one hand while clutching the wound in his side with the other. It is a simple matter to bring your shield down hard on his head.
You drag the unconscious tiefling further down the hall until you find another room. This appears to be a trophy and game room. The heads of several large and exotic animals peer down from the wall while a gaming table of inscrutable elven design fills the center of the space.
You tear strips of fabric from the curtains and bind the tiefling’s wounds [Roll 17+6: 23 heal] until he is no longer in danger of bleeding out. You use the remaining cloth to tie his wrists together and secure him to one of the overstuffed chairs set around the gaming table.
You have a moment before he wakes. Is there anything you would like to do before then? What questions do you want to ask when he regains consciousness?
Ooh la la. What a battle.
Ok I want to go finish rifling through the ladies pockets and pouches and try to figure out what the tiefling was so excited about.
This is my interview approach: I want to come off as having rescued him and knocked him out/tied him up because I didn’t know if I could trust him. I want to find out why he was running from her, why she was chasing him, and what he is doing here. Use whatever was in the ladies pouch as an incentive to get information, but if it is really nifty and useful, and he is not nice, don’t give it to him. Basically, I want to assess if he is a bad guy caught up in a civil war or a good guy being used by the cult. I want to find out what his role is in the cult and what the cult is doing in KJ. I also want to learn more about the Magus and about the structure I am in – where there may be treasure, where there may be guards, where there may be an exit. What are the Magus’ powers, goals, other major players in the cult. Also, any info he has on an old tiefling named Osmodax – WITHOUT revealing that he is my father. Don’t reveal too many details about my past, and reveal none if he is a bad guy.
Any indication that he is a bad guy in a civil war and the interview can get physical to get the information I want. If he convinces me he is being used like I was, then he may go free if he promises to help me, but I still won’t trust him completely.
Leaving the tiefling tied to the chair, you step quickly into the hall. No one has followed the pair or come to investigate the sounds of battle here so you sift through the lady’s pockets quickly. [Roll 2+ 2: 4 investigation] She carries little of value. The only thing worth taking for yourself is a well-used leather pouch containing several bandages, salves, and other tools for dealing with combat trauma. [Healer’s Kit, 4 uses remaining]
The tiefling is just beginning to stir when you return. You turn on the charm [roll 20+0: 20 persuasion] and easily convince the wounded man that you had no choice but to tie him up. He is very earnest in his attempts to convince you that you can trust him. He answers whatever you ask.
Carefully, you extract clues from him under the guise of testing him about what he knows. You start with names, “Prove you’re who you claim to be: Tell me which of the following are members of the Asmodai…” and the tiefling identifies Osmodax and a variant on Lament that you invented “It’s Lamentia not Lamentine.” “Very good,” you say. He tells you Osmodax is with the other half of the cult in the Shrine of Sorrow beneath the city. Seizing on that, you convince him you’ve been sent from outside and begin questioning him about what has happened here.
The Church of the Relentless Flame and the Asmodai came to this place together, working towards a common cause, or so they thought. They both wanted access to the Ruby Chamber built here by the elves a century ago. The Asmodai had it, having co-opted the current owners of the building. The Church, one of whose members included the former owner of the building, had a tome that told how to use it, and more. They offered the tome in exchange for access to the chamber.
There were differences however, in interpretation of the scripture that brought them both here, in the goals they pursued. Both wanted to kindle the final flame but the Asmodai, and here it becomes apparent that this member at least is a fervent believer, wished to scourge the world with it.
“Do you know what people will do to each other when confronted with a fiery death? The atrocities they will commit to avoid that fate?”
The Church, however, worships the Flame it wishes to call forth and seeks to assist it in achieving dominion over the world. Obviously, this is not a result Asmodeus would tolerate.
They played nice until two days ago, although the tiefling does not know how it got started, just that suddenly they were at each other’s throats. It’s not going well for the Asmodai, mostly because Kuchoma is unstoppable. The Relentless Flame has secured the entirety of the first prime floor, the entrance to the main section of tower from the ascension shafts, and barricaded it to prevent any of the Asmodai from descending and leaving the tower. Since then they had been pushing upwards, driving the Asmodai further and further into the tower.
You get what he thinks is the likely safest route to the Ruby Chamber, to the ritual circle on the floor above, and what he knows of the passages back to the Church’s barricade near the exit to the lowest levels, but now he is getting wary. His wound is paining him again, and you still have not untied him.
[further questioning will require another roll]
Ok, if I read that right, this tiefling is a solid supporter of his cult, an Asmodai through and through, who wants to bring about the end of the world with fire. I believe I have all of the necessary information I need from him. Now I want to reveal who I am, and be real. Tell him about how I was to be sacrificed. Get angry. Provoke a response. Perhaps he knows something about why they stopped hunting me? Maybe it’s just because they got access to this ruby room and the tome and didn’t need me, maybe it is something else. Get all the info he will tell me about my father, and what they are doing in the Shrine of Sorrow, and where that is. Rough him up a bit. And kill him when I have got as much out of him as I can. A druid wants balance in the world and he represents the stripping of all balance with his fiery Armageddon plan.
After that dirty deed is done, I want to investigate the Ruby Chamber. Lets head that way, trying to avoid detection. Any battle that arises, if it is simple one on one, use the same javelin/poison cloud tactic as before. If I run into a more serious party I may need to summon some wolves, but I want to avoid that if possible. For example, if I find the Ruby Chamber is heavily guarded, beat a quiet retreat and head for the barricade. For this I will use mouse form to slip through and escape the tower.
“I apologize,” you say. “I see now that you really have been honest with me.” His worried look turns into a relieved smile as you reach for the knots keeping him in place. You check that they are holding and then pull his dagger from its sheath on his hip. “But I have not been honest with you.”
You lay the dagger on the gaming table in front of him, tapping it with one finger while you tell your story. You talk slowly and calmly. You talk about your father, about the sacrifice attempt on a four year old child, about a life of running and hiding, and how very much you want someone to pay for that. You open your pack and pull out one of the daggers you collected from the dead elf and place it beside the tiefling’s dagger on the table.
“Now,” you tell him, “if I am to direct my anger … appropriately … I need more information from you. If you are not helpful, however,” You place the second of the elf’s daggers on the table. “This will take a lot longer.”
He blanks his face and raises his eyes, bolstering himself with the strength of his fanaticism.
[Roll 19 +0: 19 Intimidate vs 15/15 (advantage) +1: 16 charisma save]
You speak again, “Before you decide, I should mention that I was in a room with both the Magus and Kuchoma and I am the one who left with the tome.” You pull the book out of your pack and drop it on the table with a bang. The daggers jump at the impact. The tiefling startles and then withers.
The conversation after that is one sided. You ask simple questions and he answers.
The Shrine of Sorrows is a secret complex built by the Asmodai centuries ago, deep within the catacombs under the city. Osmodax and the others await the Magus’s return, some in the Shrine of Sorrows others to their normal lives. He does not know how many. “A lot,” he says defiantly, and you do not think he is lying. He does not know how to get to the shrine. Nor does he know what they would do next. The warlocks will consult the will of Asmodeus, he thinks. “Perhaps our lord’s minions will lead my brothers to you.”
The Flame needs a spark to start and fuel to spread. The scriptures claim a child of flame and forest will be the Firestarter. But there is more than one way to start a fire. The Ruby Chamber could amplify a spark and a sacrifice there will spread the flame further even if their spark is weak.
Kuchoma and the Church of the Relentless Flame think it is a doorway and Kuchoma believes he has the key to unlock it. The Asmodai think it is a firestorm to be unleashed. With the chamber in the right place, a flame started amongst the right fuel and fed by Asmodeus’s blessing would be unquenchable.
With you, the tiefling tells you, the Magus did not need the Chamber. With the Chamber, he does not need you.
You press for details about the Shrine of Sorrow. When he balks, you drive a dagger into his hand. This is a mistake. He begins to scream and does not stop. Even when he has the pain under control, he keeps screaming. He has remembered the battle and the dead human woman in the hall, and how much you need his silence to stay hidden from the armed parties attempting to purge this level of Asmodai survivors. He has nothing to lose from discovery anymore, and he knows it. But he has underestimated your anger and your determination.
You grab the next blade from the table and slash his throat. The screams turn to gurgles; a spray of blood [Roll 8+0: 8 Dex save] splashes onto your arm before you can pull it aside.
You leave the two bloody daggers, take the clean one and the tome, and retreat from the room before anyone can come investigate the noise.
The hallways is quiet. The battle at the other end is over. You move away from that area, deeper into the tower. The tiefling knew his way around better than the Church, or they have not yet extended their lockdown this far. You follow his directions safely to the Ruby Chamber, or rather to the place it used to be.
You sneak into one of the antechambers and peer through a fine metal screen. You have seen its like before in confessionals but here it seems designed to hide those who would watch a ritual in the inner chamber, both from those who would perform it and from other watchers. You notice several identical alcoves across the way, each with a screen your gaze cannot penetrate. This one serves your needs perfectly.
Whatever the ritual chamber once looked like, it has been stripped. Junction points show where something used to be attached but it is now missing. You see a handful of large crates scattered throughout the room. Blood speckles several of them and it’s clear the fighting here ended only just recently. A dozen or more cultists loiter at the edge of the space. In the center of the room an older elf oversees the dismantling of the remaining pieces of a ruby altar. The elf is deeply familiar to you although you are certain you have never seen him before. He is arguing with a dwarf dressed in black, a dwarf with three claw marks across his cheek.
The dwarf is politely but firmly refusing to do something the elf very much wants him to do. “No, Lord Daemerries, they’re sealed now, can’t be breached after we close ‘em. Protection, see? For your benefit, o’ course, means you can trust me not to open ‘em along the way, and no one else can make me, neither. They gotta go to the Vault until the Asmodai, ah … our clients are ready.”
Lord Daemerries catches the correction, “I see, and how do you identify a ‘client’? Money, I assume?”
The dwarf grins, “Ah, now you’re asking the right questions. And to be blunt, we got a client, but if you pay more, then you can be the client. We’re not shy about that, either. Makes sure our clients are really paying us what our services are worth.” He tilts his head from side to side. “The Asmodai were pretty generous. Money? No, but I bet you could think up a service we’d be willing to consider.”
The elf nods his head, “Yes, I think we can at that. Come, friend, let us negotiate.”
Two humans enter the chamber, dressed in the same black as the dwarf. Their boots and the lower portion of their pants are dripping; they leave wet footprints across the floor as they come. They each grab a rope handle on the side of a sealed crate and haul the box back the way they arrived.
What would you like to do next? Keep in mind that there are probably too many cultists in the chamber for direct action there.
So I am looking at a group of cultists? Not the Church folk? And there is a dwarf from the Black Claw performing an errand for the Asmodai cults involving carting these cases to the “Vault” but the elf (Lord Daemerries) wants him to open the case. The dwarf can not do that, but they are about to negotiate further about what may end up happening to these crates. I would like to stick around and attempt to hear what the Elf wants. I also want to know where those crates are going – I am guessing they have found some kind of route through the sewers and that is why their pants are wet. My plan is to stick around here and try to glean any more good info from these two chatting, but if they move away, my priorities are to follow at least one of those crates in mouse form. If I change shape then later when I unchange shape I have all of my things with me right? If so, then stick around until those two stop giving me useful info, and/or there are only 2-3 trips left for those carrying the goods – and follow them out as a stealthy mouse (whichever comes first).
Clarification : the church is a cult, but they don’t call THEMSELVES that. You’re looking at members of the Church of the Relentless Flame in a room recently, but no longer, controlled by the Asmodai. The elf is trying to take control of crates packed on behalf of the Asmodai. The Black Claw agent can’t give them to him now that they’re prepped for transport, only the people at the other end can do that. But he’s let the Church, through the elf, know that they can outbid the Asmodai if they try hard enough.
Ok, that makes more sense. Ill stick with the same strategy. Listen for a bit longer, than follow the crates. That will be my way out as well as potentially locating the Vault for future reference.
Lord Daemerries and the Black Claw dwarf talk in quiet voices for several minutes. It quickly becomes clear that, while money will be part of the transaction, the Black Claw is more interested in services the Church can offer. The Asmodai have bound hellhounds and the like into the Black Claw’s service. The dwarf wonders what the Church could do to improve upon that. Lord Daemerries expresses the opinion that, while fiends have their uses certainly, they make poor servants and allies, not as manageable as, say, elementals.
“You hold that excellent thought. You’ll get your chance to bid at the Undermarket.” He hands Lord Daemerries a small glass bead. You can just see gray smoke swirling within it. The elf studies the bead for a moment. He speaks a few words over it and studies it carefully. His eyes take on the telltale glow you’ve seen from Theadras when he’s identifying the properties of a magic item.
“Clever.” The elf taps it on one of the crates cracking it and then holds it up again. The smoke swirls around his face, into his nostrils, and mouth, and ears, and eyes. He inhales deeply and the smoke vanishes.
The dwarf nods, “You’ll know where to go when the time comes. But be ready. Market sits too long and the Blue drops on us. So we don’t dawdle, right?”
Meanwhile the other Black Claw soldiers continue carting crates back and forth. When it looks like they only have two trips left, you follow.
The hall is open but ornate. Once you take mouse form you are easily able to scamper up a door frame and along the decorative moulding as you follow. You are glad you took this approach when the dwarf excuses himself from the elf and follows the porters.
The crate is heavy and even with the dwarf helping, the men move slowly enough that you keep pace with them without trouble. The men haul their box across the tower, out of the sanctuary and into a set of living quarters where they enter a lavish bath chamber. Tiled floors and walls surround a wading pool wider than the common room of The Sleeping Mermaid. The men descend a short set of stairs into the pool. The crate sinks almost all the way into the water before it finally begins to float. Soon they are pushing it rather than carrying it. They guide the crate towards the back of the pool and into a narrow tunnel in the wall. The grill that previously blocked the entry is hanging open to the side. The two men watch it vanish then wade back out of the pool.
The three head back for the last crate. What would you like to do? There’s a narrow ledge along the side of the tunnel. Would you like to follow the floating crate into the tunnel, follow the Black Claw members, or do something else?
Follow! That! Crate! :)
You dart into the tunnel, scrabbling to keep your purchase on the curved tile ledge that runs along its edge. As the ledge runs out, you hop across the small gap to land on the top of the crate. The box sits low in the water but supports your weight in mouse form easily. The crate drifts for a moment, moving with a slow current until it bumps gently into another crate. You scamper about in the gloom, inspecting the other boxes. They vary in size and buoyancy but are all made from the same materials. You examine the crates as carefully as you can. They are well sealed to keep out water and, incidentally, mice. You can feel the faintest tingle of magic as you pad across the straps binding them closed. A quick nibble to test just confirms that you are not getting into these boxes as a mouse.
There were gaps in the wall around the shrine where the dwarf and the elf negotiated. A lot of gaps. The boxes here account for maybe a third of those missing sections. There are a few longer and a few shorter crates, but no box extends more than two feet in cross section.
There’s another gentle bump. The last crate has arrived. You can hear indistinct voices and then a small clang. A much larger clang echoes through the pipe. You hear grinding for a moment, and then silence again. A low breeze stirs the fur on your back, getting stronger and stronger until you realize that it is not the air that’s moving, it’s you. The crates are now sliding through the darkness, picking up speed. The gentle bobbing soon becomes a jostling. The pipe turns ahead, and where it does, the box ahead of you in line rolls. That warning is all you get. [Roll 18+0: 18 Mouse Dex]. As your own crate begins to roll, you scramble around the corner and manage to keep yourself out of the water.
The box is wet all around now. Spray from the front of the box begins to batter at you but your claws are sharp and you are able to cling to the surface. The air of your passage and the cold spray soon sets you shivering. The pipe walls are smooth enough that even with your darkvision, it’s difficult to tell how fast you are traveling. Fast.
At last the crate shoots from an open pipe and splashes into a large cistern. [Roll: 14-4: 10 mouse strength]. The shock when it hits the water below is too much and you are thrown from the crate. There’s a frantic moment of splashes and struggles and then you find air. Slowly, you paddle your way to the edge of the cistern. Here is brick instead of metal. Most of it has a slick glaze but you find a chipped section you can get your claws into and climb up to a ledge several feet above the water’s surface.
Below you the crates bob and swirl together near the center of the cistern. The ledge is wide and dry and, you realize, probably the first safe place you’ve been since the summoning. Without really meaning to, you release the mouse body and slide back into tiefling shape. Somewhere outside it is deep night and you have had a long day from the Swamp Wold to this tower. You just about manage a small cantrip to dry yourself, twist off your pack, and curl up beside it before you let exhaustion pull you into unconsciousness.
[Roll: 10 + 2: 12 Constitution check] The sleep is not exactly refreshing but it is actually more comfortable on this brick ledge than it was inside the remains of the wight tower where you slept last. And it smells better. You awake with aches and pains but clearer of mind. The bruises and cuts from yesterday’s throb but will not hinder you today. [You gain the benefits of an 8 hour Long Rest, including full hp recovery]
A quick glance around the cistern confirms your initial impressions from the night before. The view is clearer in tiefling form but not much more encouraging. Three pipes enter about twenty feet above you. One contributes a low trickle to the pool beneath you but the others are dry. The walls are glazed and slick. The pool swirls gently and the boxes you saw last night continue to bump against each other near the center.
You try everything you can think of to leave that cistern. You transform into an alligator like the ones you saw in the Swamp Wold and explore the cistern itself. A single large valve closes the bottom of the tank. It does not react to your efforts to move it. You transform yourself into a cloud with Gaseous Form and float up to the pipes above but each is now closed with a sluice gate. Two are sealed too tightly even for the cloud and even though the third has gaps, you cannot push yourself against the water flow coming out of them. You transform into a bear halfway along one of the pipes and attempt to push it apart but even summoning other bears to help (who do NOT enjoy the experience) does not budge the metal pipes or the valves locking them closed. You even attempt Thunderwave but all it does in the confined space is deafen you for an hour afterwards. No one comes to investigate the noise.
One day passes. Two days. Your spells keep you fed and watered and sane. You cast daylight when you get tired of the darkness. You turn yourself into an alligator when you get bored of sitting on the ledge and slowly become more practiced at using its powerful form. Three days pass. Four. The water from the leaking pipe above steadily raises the level of the cistern until it is almost lapping over the ledge where you are camping.
The thing that keeps you from panicking is the knowledge that the crates still gently bumping against each other in the middle of the pool are very important to people outside the cistern. Those crates are leaving soon and you’re going to follow when they do.
On the fifth day, at least you think it’s the fifth day, something changes. You feel it first as a pop in your ears as the pressure in the tank drops. Then an enormous bubble bursts in the center of the tank, sending the crates bouncing wildly and launching waves to slide onto the ledge. The water retreats, vanishing in a sudden whirlpool that drags the crates with it. You do not hesitate, sliding into the water in alligator form immediately.
The water moves too fast for you, even as an alligator, bumping and banging you into the sides of the pipe but eventually the pipe widens and the flow slows. The pipe walls above the water level retreat and you see a railing. You lunge for it and hump yourself up onto a catwalk over the rushing water. Ahead of you the rush of water turns to a roar and you are suddenly very glad you took the first opportunity to get out of the stream instead of waiting for something better. You rise on two legs as a tiefling and start walking.
The crates disappear over a lip in the distance while more water rushes in from other sources. It’s a good time not to be in the channel but the crates are getting away from you quickly. You jog forward until the catwalk ends at a small service door.
The noise behind you means anyone on the other side is going to be alerted the moment the door is opened but you do not have a choice. You draw a javelin in one hand and yank the door open with the other. A heavy curtain blocks your view but you push it aside and launch yourself into the room beyond.
The first thing you notice is that you are still in the damn tower. This room has the same deep carpet, same lush furnishings you saw before. The second thing you notice is the shouting. There is another door across the room, this one of finely carved oak, and on the far side of it, the cultists are getting angry.
[You should be at full HP, with all spell slots available. You have goodberry prepared (so you could eat if today wasn’t the day) but have not cast it yet. Figure out what other spells you have prepared, considering Ignax has had a few days to think about what would be most useful for breaking out of the tower. You have used one instance of animal transformation so far today.]