22 Almsberth 459
Debris flowed through the air with little concern for antiquated concepts like gravity. Kiernan coughed, waving his gauntleted hand to clear away the dust. Fighting had erupted in the grand chamber at the end of the hall, and the gathering treasure-seekers of the diminutive Clan Millorn were huddling behind their leaders just outside the room. The priest could clearly see his own halfling comrades in the ruddy flames of the columned dance hall, one pulling rapidly at the string of his deadly bow, the other intercepting flying chunks of masonry before they could squash her brother. Sparks of wayward magic rattled against the walls, adding further choking hazzards to the surrounding atmosphere.
A blazing ring of flaming death surrounded much of the dance hall, and fire-weeping skeletons hurtled across the chamber. Some sort of large, unseen assailant kept Elessar pinned down near the entrance, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to locate his other companions. Kiernan could just make out the party’s undersized pyromancer sailing by in mid-air, firing a steady stream of smoking cinders from his fingertips with unerring accuracy.
With precious little fanfare, the enemy leader drifted into the chamber, an incorporeal inquisitor who crackled with dark energy. Kiernan felt the knot tighten in the pit of his stomach. No monster he had ever faced had struck him as so intrinsically unnatural. The profanity was enough to coat the young cleric’s skin in a fine sheen of dirty sweat. Even as he steeled himself to bathe the creature in holy fire, the inquisitor’s gaze settle upon him and seemed to turn his gut to ice. This being was far more than a simple undead monstrosity; he was evil in a way Kiernan scarcely believed in. And with a wave of his ghostly hand, he turned the world upside-down and Kiernan found himself falling toward him… and into the wall of spinning blades which now appeared between them.
All he knew then was searing pain and the blessed silence that preceded death.
A battle rages in the castle’s upper level, and Griiat‘s forces wreak havoc on the party’s morale. He is soon defeated, however, and the remaining foes explode in blackened flames and clouds of ash. Kiernan is saved at the brink of death, and all but a couple of wayward gnomes manage to survive the massive melee. A glance out the window of the undead inquisitor’s private sanctum reveals an approaching Ragesian army, and the heroes begin to seriously consider their options of escaping should the Torch of the Burning Sky fail to appear.
A deeper exploration of the royal chambers reveals yet another inquisitor in residence, this one corporeal and at the brink of death. Darius by name, the inquisitor is grateful for his timely rescue and reveals that he has languished at death’s door since Coaltongue’s assassination in that very chamber. The floor nearby bears silent testimony to his feverish meanderings with numerous seemingly prophetic verses scrawled in blood. Darius is also able to describe the assassins who stole his master away in the midst of the night and somehow caused the rift that buried Castle Korstull in a maelstrom of fire and created the Burning Sky effect which cloaks the realm.
A quick survey of the interior chambers reveals a treasure room, which both the party and Clan Millorn set to with a will. All except one, anyway; Ernest, the seemingly dim-witted halfling who occasionally became separated from his compatriots, lingers at the end of the long corridor leading to the dance hall. Smiling at Jasmine from the end of the hall, Ernest transforms suddenly into the seela dissident Vuhl, revealing himself as the trillith Deception, and intones the party’s doom as he animates a massive draconic skeleton hanging on the wall. As the golden-scaled behemoth revives and turns to face them, Jasmine throws the door shut just before the room can be bathed in a burst of dragonfire.