Greyhawk: Gem of the Flanaess

Part Four - Chapter Ten: The Fall of the Neutral Faction

It was in the evening of Earthday, the 13th day of Planting, in the Common Year of 581, when the Company of the Green Dragon began their assault on the neutral faction in the Power Tower of the ruins of Castle Greyhawk. After having killed the wizard who watched over the neutral faction, Sindar Sirion, and clearing out the 2nd level of the neutral section, the band descended into the next level, which was on the 5th level of the dungeon.

Soon after reaching the bottom of the stairs, the band came to a long room lined with half a dozen pillars on each side and ending with a wedge shaped alcove and two doors. Along one wall of the alcove was a mural depicting a wizard bearing magical items, and on the floor in front of it lay a small pile of gems and coins. While the band was examining the room, they were suddenly attacked by urds who had been concealed behind illusions which covered the top portions of each of the room’s pillars. The urds initially used acid bombs to attack and then followed up with thrown rocks. While they managed to cause some harm and injury to the band, the band was able to defeat them eventually. Once the urds were dead, the band collected anything of value and inspected the doors, both of which opened on to stairs that apparently led to the next level.

But before descending the stairs, the band moved on to explore the remaining rooms on this level. Following a hallway, the next door the band came to led to a short flight of stairs that ended at a T-intersection. At the T-intersection was an alcove with a statue of Zagig that closely resembled a statue the band found in the lawful section where Zeke and Diamond both found themselves trapped inside. This one radiated the same aura of magic, so the band chose not to examine it any further. Instead, they took the hallway to the left, which ended in a locked door.

Brom picked the lock and inside the large room beyond, they saw nothing until Tadwin spotted an invisible statue made of iron. They suspected it was an iron golem but it did nothing until the band turned to leave, at which point it attacked. The band was able to defeat it fairly quickly however.

At the end of the other hallway, the band came to another locked door that Brom was likewise able to unlock. It led to a circular room, lined with iron, and with no obvious exits. But a quick examination revealed a secret door. When Brom opened the door, after making sure no one was standing in front of it, two magical arrows shot out from small holes just behind the door. These arrows, both of which broke when they struck the far wall, turned out to be deadly “slaying arrows”. Further examination in the room revealed six more secret doors just like the first one. Suspecting these might also be similarly trapped false doors, Brom took the time to use magic and tunnel his way behind the iron walls and to the suspected traps in order to retrieve the other slaying arrows. This took quite a while, but the band was not in any hurry and the magical arrows could be very useful and valuable. As expected, all of these doors were trapped with two of these arrows, which Brom was able to collect. All of these doors, that is, except for the last one. The last secret door actually led into a passageway.

Brom opened this secret door and led the band to a set of spiral stairs that went up. The band followed these stairs until they reached the level above and came upon an unfamiliar passageway. Realizing that this passageway went into an area on the 4th level of the dungeon that they did not know about, and considering how heavily trapped the room was prior to reaching it, the band came to the conclusion that this area was not part of the neutral section. Since they had not yet eliminated the leader of the neutral faction, the band decided to return to the 5th level and continue searching from there.

Back on the 5th dungeon level, the band passed through a series of storage rooms before being ambushed by two female verbeegs and eight very large urds who attacked with long spears from behind a stack of crates. One of the man-sized urds also used a wand of magic missiles and one of them struck with unexpected brute force. All of the verbeegs and urds were eventually killed and it was then discovered that the urds had made use of a wand of enlarge person and a belt of giant strength.

Beyond the next door the band came to, they found a large cavern occupied by almost a dozen female verbeegs and well over a dozen younger verbeegs ranging from adolescents to young children. Also among them were four worgs. It appeared to be the living quarters for the verbeegs.

Faced with another situation very similar to the lair of the flinds in the lawful section, where Corvyn slaughtered all of the females and young and then felt bad about it afterwards, the band decided not to repeat the slaughter here, provided that the verbeegs did not attack them. While Tadwin did not entirely agree with the band’s decision, he spoke to the giants telling them they would not be harmed if they would provide the band with information. The giants agreed and told the band what remained on this level. They also told the band that the faction’s leader was a beholder named Morlanx. His lair was on the level below and he had several verbeegs who were very loyal to Morlanx. The females knew that some of the males, however, were not loyal to Morlanx. But most of these had already been killed by the band.

The band examined a nearby cavern which was the sleeping area for the giants. Here also were two young verbeegs who were sick. The band gave the female verbeegs some advice for the sick ones as well as a non-magical formula to help them. But in return, despite objections from Brom, Zeke insisted on taking from the giants several gems and a couple of healing potions found among their valuables.

It is not clear exactly when or even why, but at some point, since the destruction of the temple to Nerull in the Tower of War, Zeke had slowly begun to behave differently, doing and saying things of questionable morals. As is evident by this latest example, by this time in his life, Zeke was no longer the champion of good that he once was.

After examining the verbeeg’s personal quarters, one of the females led them to a nearby kitchen and pantry where they found two more adult females and two younger females as well as another worg. Making sure there was no more violence and nothing left for the band to deal with on this level, the female verbeeg returned to the giants’ quarters while the band returned to the stairs leading down and descended to the next level.

At the bottom of the stairs the band entered a room with an alcove on one side in which stood a statue of a wizard, most likely Sindar Sirion. On the opposite side of the room was a great curved mural portraying a strange floating monster with numerous eyes, undoubtedly the beholder, Morlanx. Realizing they might soon be facing a very deadly enemy, the band took the time to cast some last minute spells upon themselves in preparation for the expected battle.

The band then moved down a hallway and, after checking for traps, opened the first door they came to. Beyond the doorway, a red carpet about five feet wide ran through a chamber about 18’ high and curved to the left where it passed through another doorway. To the left of the carpet stood a single and very wide pillar, while to the right stood a tight cluster of three slender pillars. Further in and to the right of the carpet rested a dais and beyond it, in the far corner of the room was a crackling fireplace.

Soon after the band ventured into the room, an armored verbeeg giant suddenly sprang from inside the wide pillar, the top of which was obviously only an illusion. At the same time, three bolts of lightning shot out from the tops of the slender pillars. All of these struck the band with deadly force, but not enough to critically injure them. Brom, who had just drank several potions that transformed his body into a savage monster, including one potion to render himself invisible, sprang upon the giant then and made a series of vicious sneak attacks that were so deadly they managed to kill the toughest verbeeg the band had ever faced in a matter of seconds!

No doubt stunned by the sudden demise of their master’s champion warrior, the three urds who had just thrown javelins of lightning from the illusionary tops of the slender pillars then flew out of their hiding places and attacked the band with acid bombs. At the same time, a large round creature with a large mouth, a large central eye, and several eye stalks descended through what appeared to be an illusionary ceiling. At was, of course, the leader of the neutral faction, the beholder, Morlanx, and it was surrounded by several mirrored images of itself. It moved into a position where it could use all of its eyes’ attacks and then struck with its magical rays. Some of these eyes could charm, while others caused damage or attempted to turn others to stone. Somehow, the band survived the first wave of attacks. But the beholder then used its large central eye to negate any magic within its field of vision.

Tadwin, however, who was fortunate enough to avoid being caught in the area of anti-magic, then cast a prismatic spray at the beholder and as luck would have it, the beholder was struck by a ray that poisoned it and killed it instantly! It was an unexpectedly easy victory for the band against a couple of the most dangerous foes the band had faced in the Power Tower. All that remained to be done in the battle was to kill the three urds which did not prove to be difficult.

With the deaths of Morlanx and his personal guards, the neutral faction had most assuredly fallen, though, in the end, it would not be the faction’s final battle. Nevertheless, the three greatest threats in the neutral faction, Sindar Sirion, Morlanx and the verbeeg’s champion warrior, all had unexpectedly quick deaths. At the time, it may have seemed to the band that they would be able to defeat the forces of the Power Tower with relative ease. But some of them may have suspected that the band had merely been fortunate as of late, that there were greater challenges to come, and that eventually their luck would run out.

Following the battle against Morlanx and his personal guards, the band healed up and searched the area for anything of value. In the area of the ceiling where Morlanx had descended, the band discovered an illusionary wall that concealed a round room up above in which the band found a fair amount of treasure including a staff of healing. In the nearby chamber where the red carpet led to, the band found a wide hallway, 18’ high, with five pillars to each side. At the end of the hallway were the stairs leading to the level below. Next to the hallway was a door that opened on to the quarters of the personal guards where the band collected some more coins and gems.

With this area thoroughly searched, the band returned to the original hallway on this level and moved to investigate a door at the opposite end. Upon opening it, the smell of rancid vomit assailed the band causing Corvyn to become violently ill. Within the room beyond was a lab of some sort being manned by six verbeegs. Most of the lab equipment was to the right, while on the left was a large double vat.

As soon as the giants saw the band they attacked, but because Corvyn was incapacitated and standing in the doorway, it was difficult for the rest of the band to enter the battle. Brom used his invisibility, however, to dodge past the verbeegs and sneak attack them from the rear. The giants meanwhile, took the opportunity to try and break Corvyn’s giant-slayer greatsword. But they were unable to cause much harm to it, so they then turned to attacking Corvyn instead. Two more verbeegs and two urds joined in the battle and attacked the band from behind. Eventually Corvyn was able to recover and enter the battle proper at which point the giants began to fall rather quickly. One of the giants though, managed to knock the large double vat over spilling vomit all over the lab floor. It then escaped through a door on the far side of the room while the band was dealing with the others.

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