Dark Sun: Call of the Desert

Chapter 9: The Gray Tower

...Wherein the heroes hunt another defiler, and acquire tongs, shears, etc.

21st Day, Month of Haze, Season of Sun Ascending
The Dead Legion, the silt skimmer captained by Zentoth and carrying the party, returns to Balic in the evening from the village of Last Port.

The heroes go to the Tzant estate office, where they receive their successful trade expedition pay of 150 GP, plus an extra 50 GP for the unanticipated difficulties.

Sihaya needs to get an armor adjustment and subsequently gets herself a hot date with a minotaur soldier. Savrina completes paperwork for the House and templarate that frees Maia from slavery, as agreed in the tomb. Fenwryk and Maia wander off to… Well, be Fenwryk and Maia.

Savrina invites the others to meet her the following afternoon at a certain linen-seller’s booth in the Agora market to discuss another job.

22nd Day, Month of Haze, Season of Sun Ascending
The next morning, the heroes have time for some shopping. Khayal buys and stables a crodlu. Markos buys a nice yellow silk robe to wear over his armor. While he stands back to examine himself in a dingy half-length mirror the merchant holds, an elf passes inconspicuously through the market crowds and pickpockets him. Cammet, the elf, makes off with some gold and the Amulet of Health that the heroes took from the defiler they killed for the Tamwar.

Cammet moves on to another mark in the crowd, but the next theft attempt is witnessed by Roz of the White, the templar with whom the heroes have been working from time to time. Roz arrests the elf, who hurriedly swallows the amulet when her head is turned. She confiscates the gold for the city-state. Then, instead of taking Cammet to the Balican prison, Roz takes him to a linen-seller’s booth in the Agora, where they find a conversation already in progress…

Savrina and Tet-cho-tet, a thri-kreen warlock of the Veiled Alliance, meet the heroes just after midday at the linen-seller’s booth. Savrina says that she learned some more about the rumor of chained slaves on the march that the party heard when they last passed through Last Port. Supposedly, the Dragon of Tyr collects a levy of 100 slaves every year from the city-state of Balic. Templars and minotaur soldiers march the levy to somewhere east of Last Port, destination and purpose unknown.

Savrina says that news has come of a defiler living alone in a place called the Gray Tower, a day and a half north of Other Port, a village north of Balic on the estuary shore. The pay is 200 GP, and any stray goods found there may be kept.

Savrina says that House Tzant has dutifully notified the templarate about the news of the defiler, and Roz, the templar contact for the house, wishes to send a helping hand. On cue, Roz and her half-giant soldiers enter the booth with Cammet in tow. Roz introduces the elf as a petty criminal who is going along to work some community service for Balic in lieu of prison time. Later Markos asks what the elf’s crime was, and in response Cammet steals his pants’ tied-on groin flap and presents it back to him.

Before the party leaves, Savrina tells them there are rumors of odd happenings from around the city. Should anything happen she will send them a mental image of it from afar, for this is a natural talent she has.

The next morning the heroes meet with the Dead Legion crew once again and set out north.

Day One – Crossing the Estuary to Other Port
23rd Day, Month of Haze, Season of Sun Ascending
It’s windy and Pmumble and the rest of the crew are needed to pilot the skimmer, though the extra work has no effect on the chattiness of Jabber. In the late afternoon, the silt skimmer is attacked by eight silt stirges. Although the stirges are individually much weaker than any party member, in greater numbers they prove to be a challenge. Cammet, from his unfortunate “king of the world” position on the bow, is immediately latched onto by three of the things, and shortly takes a nap on the deck. Markos steps in as healer and saves him, and eventually the party is victorious.

They stay the night at a poor-quality inn in Other Port, which is a wretched village much like Last Port, its mirror village on the southern shore.

Day Two – Traveling from Other Port toward the Gray Tower
23rd Day, Month of Haze, Season of Sun Ascending
Travel is uneventful on this day, as the GM tables the intended encounter due to the late game start and lack of remaining time. The party makes camp at night and finds the tower in the middle of the next day.

Day Three – The Gray Tower
24th Day, Month of Haze, Season of Sun Ascending
The tower has been constructed from an unusual gray stone and is three block-shaped levels set off center from each other, like stairs. The sight of this strange construction is unnerving from the outside. As the GM has had little time with which to put this adventure together, the interior is uncomplicated and populated with an abundance of crates and barrels filled with yarn, tongs, calipers… We have been playing Oblivion here lately.

Groups of hejkin populate the bottom and top levels. Since Khadija spent her last hejkin quality time facedown on the floor of a tomb, she is less than ecstatic to see them again. But I am determined to better hit the challenge sweet-spot for this adventure than the last one, so here they are again – and this time, they’re working with the defiler.

However, the hunted defiler is not on this floor, and the battle passes without much trouble.

The middle level is sparse furnishings and personal belongings, but not much of interest. Khayal finds there a sack with 2 pounds of crystals worth 4 GP/pound.

The top level has a 5-foot wall toward the back of the room that hides anything behind it from this distance. Overhead, the ceiling has partially crumbled away to reveal the parched sky, and crimson sunlight slants down into the space. Water-fat cacti and other succulent plants dot the room.

Toward the back corner of the room, standing in a doorway in the 5-foot wall, is a tall, human male, with sun-bronzed skin and long black hair pulled back with a leather tie. He appears comely, healthy and amenable. At odds with his approachable demeanor are the four demented-looking hejkin allies that surround him.

He says, with a quizzical look, “Can I help you?” His accent reminds Khayal, Khadija and Markos of the Tamwar nomads.

Tet-cho-tet the thri-kreen recognizes the man as Hanuran, a member of the Veiled Alliance who has been on intimate terms with Savrina Tzant. During the conversation that follows, Savrina’s motives are once again cast into doubt. Hanuran reveals that he came to the Gray Tower after being smuggled out of Balic on a House Tzant trade wagon filled with textiles and pottery. Apparently, she had attempted to save him after his talents were discovered, or at least in suspicion. However, the trade wagon was waylaid by a sandstorm and subsequently looted. Markos realizes that Hanuran’s description of this wagon matches the one that the Jarko Gang sent the party to recover a magic item from.

In suspicion, Markos makes a surprise psionic attack, which misses and passes unnoticed. But when he begins to load his sling, Hanuran reacts in kind, triggering an initiative roll.

Cammet begins the fight. He runs across the side of the room, vaults over the 5-foot wall – and discovers almost too late that behind the wall is a 5-foot open trench to the desert ground two stories down. His acrobatics save him from an embarrassing and possibly lethal drop into sand and cactus, and he catches the 10-foot ledge behind the trench. Hanuran defiles the earth, and all in the party witness the cacti in the room wither into black husks. With his energy drawn from this life source, the defiler attempts to put Cammet to sleep, but Cammet shakes the effect off.

A critical hit from Tet-cho-tet takes care of most of the defiler’s health, and Khayal finishes the work. Over the course of the fight, Markos and Khayal pass out from damage taken, mostly from the hejkins. Markos, failing two death saves, stands at the door to a new character when he is saved by a healing potion fruit from Khadija. Another potion fruit is given to Khayal after the fight.

Not surprisingly, Cammet is the loot ninja on the scene, taking Hanuran’s level 2 Cloak of Resistance and 13 GP.

The heroes return without trouble to Other Port, and home to Balic for their payment of 200 GP. Instead of receiving a payment, Cammet is now free of debt to the city-state.

Before he returns to his life of petty crime, Cammet returns the (rather dirty) Amulet of Health to Markos.

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Goldie

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