Greyhawk: Gem of the Flanaess
Part One - Chapter Nine: Guardians of the War Tower
It was on Sunday, the 16th day of Harvester, in the Common Year of 580, when the Company of the Green Dragon first entered the ruins of Castle Greyhawk, and it was soon after that when the band agreed to the terms of the dwarves who guarded the War Tower and began exploring the tower’s first floor. By late morning the band had already battled half a dozen skeletons, a couple of giant scorpions and encountered a few poltergeists. Having survived all of these, the band was ready to continue their explorations and proceeded back in the direction from where they had left off. Adjacent to the old kitchen, the band discovered a locked hallway leading to a set of seven bed chambers that were strangely devoid of any undead or items of any real value. The mere fact that the doorway leading to these rooms was locked seemed to be odd enough, considering the number of adventurers who had reportedly preceded the band into the ruins, and it suggested that these rooms had recently been visited by beings other than mindless undead. But adding to the peculiarity was the fact that these rooms showed no sign of anyone or anything inhabiting them for many years, perhaps even decades, which also seemed to suggest that whoever locked the door, had declared these rooms off limits even to the undead which roamed about the ruins. From their size and location, the band surmised that these were originally the quarters of an elite body of guards who once served under the Archmage Zagig and may have commanded his army, though they could find no real evidence to support this. After searching the rooms and finding nothing of interest, the band continued on down a main corridor that led to the rear of the tower and opened up into a large hall lined on one side with many doors. Seated around a few tables in the hall were the skeletal remains of more than a dozen warriors all of which appeared to be staring at golden objects lying on the tables. When the band approached, the skeletons suddenly came to life, jumped up and attacked them with their swords. The band battled and defeated these skeletons, but just as the last one fell, the doors lining the side of the hall opened up and out of each came a zombie – a dozen in all. The band then battled and defeated these as well. When the battle was over, the band healed up any injuries and gathered up any items of value they could find, which included more objects made of gold. Here again, the band was presented with treasure that seemingly should have been gathered long ago by previous adventurers, and undead that should have been destroyed long ago as well. The band realized there could be only one answer to this mystery. Someone or something was reanimating the undead and resupplying the golden objects. But who or what was behind this the band could not say. The band found that the side doors led to more quarters, probably those of lesser rank than the previous guards, and after searching these rooms, the band moved on to another door which opened up into a kennel, lined with many cages. The skeletal remains of more than a dozen hounds lay in the cages to the left, while the smaller cages to the right contained the remains of a dozen hawks. As the band half expected, all of these came to life the instant the band set foot in the kennel. But the band was able to quickly retreat from the kennel and put themselves in a better position to defend themselves from the undead animals that came after them. Still, the hawks were able to fly as they still retained their feathers, and they quickly escaped the kennel and attacked the spellcasters in the back. But being mere zombie hawks, they were not too difficult to destroy, and eventually all of the undead animals were defeated. Now believing there might be a magical effect of some kind that automatically reanimated the dead after a period of time, and not wanting to have to battle these creatures again, the band then gathered all of the skeletons and zombies, which they had defeated so far in the ruins, threw them all into the kennel cages, and locked the door. This took some time, but with this done, the band returned to the main entrance hall, and looked behind the curtain that hung behind the thrones. There they opened up a large set of double doors and discovered the fabled war wagon of Zagig’s along with eight chariots that sat beside it. Standing in the chariots were eight skeletons dressed in ragged armor and wielding swords, while seated on the front of the war wagon was the ghostly image of a teamster that behaved as though he were wildly driving the wagon in a state of panic and dread and constantly looking over his shoulders. Suddenly the teamster stood up, turned towards the band and let out terrifying shriek. The teamster then transformed into a ghostly, armor-clad warrior and pointed at the band with an accusatory glare. At the same time, the eight skeletons began to advance towards them. The sight of the teamster, accompanied by his shriek, was so frightening that all but Tadwin and Kelgor lost their nerve and took off running towards the front door. Kelgor retreated back a bit to try and cast a remove fear spell, momentarily leaving Tadwin behind to face the oncoming skeletons alone. But Tadwin quickly retreated as well, while Kelgor cast his spell on Corvyn. Kelgor and Corvyn then stepped up to battle the skeletons, while Tadwin cast a flaming sphere spell on the phantom warrior that now sat on the wagon. Unfortunately, the flaming sphere did not seem to have any effect on the phantom warrior, though it did cause damage to the war wagon. On the other hand, the phantom warrior made no effort to cause any harm to the band. So Tadwin moved the flaming sphere off the wagon and directed it to aid in the fight against the skeletons. When the skeletons were defeated, the phantom warrior disappeared. With the phantom warrior now gone, Zeke and Brom, who were not far away and pounding on the front doors, were able to calm themselves and rejoin their companions. But just like the first time the band had been sent running in fear and began pounding on the doors, one of the doors opened up and several dwarves popped their heads in, asking if the band was ready to leave yet. Again the band explained to them that it was a false alarm, which again caused the dwarves to laugh at them. So Brom told the dwarves that they would use a distinctive knocking pattern when they were ready to leave, just in case it happened again. And with that, the dwarves closed the door and the band went back to the war wagon room to have a look around. In addition to the war wagon and the chariots, the band found a forge, and they realized that both the wagon and the chariots were quite valuable. But, of course, they were all too large for them to consider moving at this time. So the band moved on to the next chamber, which lay beyond another set of double doors leading from the main entrance hall. This large chamber turned out to be the stables, in center of which were two large mounds of moldy straw. Nearby was a mangled pile of bones situated around a bar of gold. Soon after entering the stables, the pile of bones came to life and took the form of seven animated skeletons. Just as before, the band waded in to battle the skeletons. But as they did so, seven more skeletons ran out of a nearby door and into the individual horse stables. Moments later, they emerged from the stables mounted on seven skeletal horses, and joined in on the battle. And while the human skeletons were not all that difficult to defeat, the skeletal horses were an entirely different matter. By this point, the band’s spellcasters had very few spells left and Kelgor could only channel energy a few more times. So it was a very tough battle. As usual, Corvyn was responsible for destroying many of the skeletons, but it soon took a toll on him and more than once during the battle he was knocked unconscious and had to be revived. And to add insult to injury, he broke his great sword during the fight. The band used just about everything they had left to try and gain any kind of advantage over the skeletons. But when most of the mounted skeletons had been destroyed, seven more unmounted skeletal horses emerged from the stables. It soon began to look as if the band would not survive this battle. Eventually though, the band made a desperate retreat to a nearby room in the stables where they could make a better stand. The doorway into this room was too small for the skeletal horses to easily enter and it gave the band a bit of an edge, though by now many of the band members were seriously wounded. Nevertheless, their retreat into the side room proved to be an effective strategy and one by one they eventually took down the remaining skeletons. When the battle was over, the band healed up their injuries, once again making good use of Zeke’s wand of healing. Then they took the time to look around in the stables. To their surprise however, not all of the dangers had been eliminated in the stables as Tadwin was suddenly attacked by a swarm of rot grub while inspecting one of the piles of straw. They were able to kill the swarm without anyone coming to any harm though by burning it. A second rot grub swarm was found in the other pile of straw and it too was burned. After doing a thorough search of the stables and collecting anything of value they could find, the band decided to rest for a time and regain spells before doing any more exploring. But they weren’t ready to leave the ruins just yet either. So they decided to find a place within the ruins to rest. After giving it some thought, the band felt that the quarters of the elite guards was probably the best place for them to rest as it would be fairly comfortable, relatively easy to defend and probably rarely visited by anyone or anything. But before going there, Tadwin cast a spell that allowed him to find secret doors and went back through the rooms they had already been to. As a result, they found one secret door leading into the only area on the first floor that they had not yet been to, and another secret door that apparently bi-passed the front doors, which might allow them to avoid dealing with the dwarves. With this done, the band returned to the elite guard quarters and despite the fact that it was now only about 2:30 in the afternoon, the band laid down to rest, making sure to keep at least one person on watch the entire time. As hoped, they each managed to get a full eight hours of rest, or its equivalent, without being disturbed, though on one occasion they did hear some noise coming from a nearby room which they attributed to poltergeists. At about 11:30 that night, they were ready to continue on. From the elite guard quarters then, they returned the main entry hall and were on their way back to the stables, when they were surprised to encounter two warriors coming down the stairs from the second floor. This was a surprise in part because from outward appearances it did not look as though the second floor of the tower was stable enough to allow anyone to move about up there. But the appearance of the warriors themselves was also surprising because while the warriors’ plate armor and weapons looked very real, although somewhat old fashioned in style, the flesh of the actual warriors appeared incorporeal. As soon as the two warriors saw the band they drew their weapons and advanced very menacingly. One of the warriors called out a warning to the band that they would now pay for their transgressions. Then both of them flourished their great swords in a very impressive manner, one of them even succeeding momentarily in intimidating Corvyn with his great prowess. Realizing these ghostly warriors would be far greater adversaries than anything they had faced so far in the ruins, the spellcasters of the band quickly cast a few preparatory spells before the battle began. This proved to be of great help, as were the offensive spells that Tadwin cast which were among his most powerful. As a result, the battle was won by the band with surprising ease, though a fair amount of luck almost certainly played a part as well. In fact, Kelgor was the only one to get hit by either of the warriors and only once, and thanks to an aid spell cast upon himself before the fight, he was not even wounded. After the first warrior fell however, and just before the second warrior was about to drop, the second warrior cried out that the band would pay for damaging the war wagon and for violating their private chambers. When the fight was over the band then realized that these two warriors must have been two of the spirits of the elite guards that served under Zagig and that it was quite likely that it was these spirits who had locked the doors to the quarters and perhaps, on occasion, visited these quarters. Tadwin also realized that these ghostly spirits were undead beings known as swordwraiths. More importantly to Corvyn however, was the fact that both swordwraiths wore magical plate mail and wielded magical great swords. It was not long before Corvyn was wearing a set of this plate mail and carrying one of the swords. After collecting any valuables from the defeated swordwraiths, the band returned to the chamber where the war wagon was and tried to use the secret door found earlier there. This would have led into the only unexplored area left on the first floor, but they could not find a way to get it open. So the band returned to the stables and entered the area through a door found there. It turned out to be more quarters, probably those of the stable hands. There they encountered almost a dozen more zombies and a few more skeletons which they had to battle. But what made the zombies much more dangerous than usual was the fact that many of them were infested with rot grubs which tended to land on those that attacked the zombies. Two of the rot grubs in fact landed on Corvyn and they began burrowing into his skin. Kelgor had to cut these out with a dagger before they made their way to his vital organs. Fortunately the band was able to kill the rest of the rot grubs either by stomping on them or setting them on fire.