The crew disembarked at Teffenhove, and set about finding a worthy establishment to satisfy the need for a decent meal and a drop of grog not resembling the navy’s rum. Soddy’s Tavern was the closest, and conveniently near the Temple of Apparthon, so while Belardan and a couple of others went to the temple (and met the amiable priest Ballamid Farem), the others retired to the Tavern. Knarillas organised a trade for several gems and items of jewelry with the owner of the tavern himself, and an expedition to a local apothecary to restock potions of healing and resistance.
Also in the Tavern were a pair of black-horned minotaurs, sitting quietly in the corner minding their own business. Cecil attempted to talk the pair into acting as guides, but their grasp of Levengine was seemingly poor, so Bison was asked to interpret. The two agreed to join the party as guides to take them west into the Blackhorn lands, but had to be paid off with rubies. Purchase of a pair of stones was arranged through Soddy, and the agreement was made.
Further enquiries led the team to Ulfass the Ranger, a musket-wielding desperado that sold the heroes a map of the Steadings inland from the township. A last visit to the provisioners, and the purchase of a pair of mules plus feed later, and the party was off. Baddeen was able to supplement the group’s supplies by foraging.
The first stop was to investigate an unnamed town razed in a Bhalla Tubu orc raid some years ago. The town had been thoroughly looted, so there was little of worth other than a copper or two to be found. Cecil became excited when it transpired that a tower marked on the edge of the map was named as that of the legendary Kautas by the minotaurs. Once an ally of the Blackhorns, he had seemingly disappeared a while back, and his tower had become a place of dread to the minotaurs. In fact, they would not approach the place, preferring to stay with the mules while the others went on to examine the eladrin wizard’s home.
Arriving at the tower, it was plain to see that some catastrophic event had taken place. A gaping hole was visible halfway up the towers, and the crown of the edifice had also been battered by titanic forces. The door to the tower was part-way open, and Bison immediately kicked it down. Having done so, he was immediately covered with sticky webs and assaulted by a swarm of large spiders, suffering a number of poisonous bites. A furious combat began, with Knarrillas and Belardan attempting to launch spells through the doorway occupied by Bison. Badden also joined the fray, shifting to panther form and back as the battle waged. Larger spiders came to the fight, and then their ettercap masters also joined in.
Eventually, the warriors forced their way in and the creatures were quelled, and the last ettercap attempting to escape through a window was brought down with well-aimed spellcraft.
The first floor of the tower seemed to be a combination laboratory and library, although most of the books and gear were scattered, broken, and riddled with mildew and fungus. Searching the damp-ruined revealed some coins, and a damaged book of rituals. Further searches revealed a scroll. A stairway led up on the inside wall of the great tower, threading through the stonework shaped to resemble mighty trees supporting the ceiling above. A large trapdoor lay beneath the stairs.
After a break, the party decided to descend into the cellar below, where after descending a tight spiral staircase, they encountered a web-choked passageway. This was easily cleared, and they moved on and down into the cellar, where they were assaulted by a gang of ghouls. the leader of this pack had the extraordinary power to rip memories from the minds of its foes, and thus Bison could suddenly remember no more than how to swing his axe in the crudest fashion.
The creature was frustrated though when Badden raised a wall of thorns, obscuring its view and severely wounding allies caught in the spiny hedge. After dispelling the wall, the party moved in to finish off the foe, only to note that the creature had ripped off its own face. The miserable creature was dispatched, and the cellar investigated. Several ancient bottles of wine were discovered in the rack, along with a curio – a metallic sphere of ancient appearance, etched with faint lines, and seemingly part of a larger apparatus, judging but the sockets situated at opposite ends of the ball. Cecil held this in trembling hands, and declared it a momentous find indeed.
“My friends, I believe this is a part of what we seek – and a most important part too. See these lines! Do they not look familiar to you?” He brought the lantern closer and beckoned the party to look at the sphere.
If you looked closely, and made allowances for age and wear, you could make out the coastline of Thire, as seen on Cecil’s map….