Resting after the Tiger Attack, the party caught a short rest, and spoke with Tolhesten about his time in the garden and his goal of reaching the Maintenance layer of the garden.
As for the gardens – well, you’re in the spire. The pedestrian fun, that was all in the outer gardens. The inner spire is entirely separate from the outer gardens. Many Geslo ago, long before what the Mesians call ‘the first’ Geslo, our ancestors were worried about the destruction of the flora and fauna, and built the gardens, and protected them with a great strong magic – hundreds of our greatest ancient mages sacrificed themselves to the construction of the magical barriers that protect this place.
As we constructed it, we knew what a marvel we had created, and wanted to share it with all the people of our capitol, as a memorial to the sacrifice of the mages – but all the plants and animals in the world meant many too dangerous for the public were collected as well. And that’s where the spire comes in.
The spire stands, totally independent, and contains the true dangers – the things we could never risk exposing to the public. But then, three hundred years ago, when the Great Plague began, we shared access to the spire with the royal mages of the great kingdoms of this continent, as well as Pretor and Igerron to the south.
The plague was horrible – for 200 years, it broke us in a way that the Geslo and it’s milennial rains of stone never could. We, elves, of course, suffered greater than most. Once we heard news from Galo Serin that every left one of us in the capitol fell, a few of us decided to hide here, and raise magical barriers preventing any elves from entering.
I’m one of the last of our kind older than the plague – I’m glad to see our lines have survived, somehow.
But….my time is near an end. I strive now just to make it to the control floor…to lower the barriers, and allow outsiders into the Outer Gardens again.
I don’t want this place to be lost to the ages, if we’re going to return from the plague, we should have our beauty available to us.
He warned the party, however, first they would have to cross through the next floor of the spire, a swamp guarded by a young black dragon, filled with clouds of acid.
But before ascending, the party found some scrolls, Tales of Kisde, bearing the same logo (an array of alchemical symbols) as the notes found in the Cave long ago which contained reference to the Sunslayer legend. They gathered the scrolls, and headed up the stairs, into the swamp.
Across a river of knee-deep much, they saw the dragon – and it saw them. Lilli immediately cursed the dragon, and struck it with her eldritch blasts, and the dragon took flight.
Roaring into the air, it approached, spewing a line of it’s acid breath through the space between Callista and Lilliana, striking both – Callista is badly hurt, and Lilli knocked out.
Morel rushes to Lilliana’s side, and cures her wounds a bit, bringing the warlock back to her feet. Seeing Morel tend to Lilli, Emilia chants a song of healing for Callista, and changing her tune, takes cover behind
the Dragonborn while inspiring him with her voice to move with Haste.
The Dragonborn bursts running at great speed through the swamp, then lays into the Dragon with three rapid blows of greatsword, each striking true. With a menacing roar on the final strike, Harsgalt drives fear into the dragon’s heart, and the dragon retreats across the swamp.
Tolhesten bolts forward, making his way towards the steps as Lilliana casts hex and lashes two Eldritch Blasts into the retreating dragon. The blasts shaking him back into focus, the dragon roars back at Harsgalt, disgusted another with the dragon’s blood would strike him. Cursing in draconic, the dragon breathes a rain of acid at Harry, knocking the Dragonborn out as acid pours in through his arm.
Morel rushes to Harsgalt’s side, reviving him quickly, as Emilia sings a dissonant tune in the dragon’s direction. He shrieks, fleeing further, beating it’s wings and hiding in the far corner of the swamp as Callie heals herself and Tolhesten makes his way towards the stairs.
Lilli blasts the dragon again with the force of her dark gift, driving the dragon into a rage. It flies at Harsgalt, and bites him viciously, then after one swipe with a claw is dodged by the dragonborn, the other claw strikes critically, and Harsgalt is downed again.
Emilia rushes forward to revive Harsgalt, and Callista uses a misty step into the ether to advance quickly on the dragon. Harsgalt, reluctant to slay his own kind but seeing Lilli’s most recent attack has left him quite wounded, begins to argue in Draconic, hoping to intimidate him – the Dragon stands, roaring back, ready to attack.
Tolhesten hangs is head, sad to see a mighty creature fall, but relieved to be safe. Emilia finds a book on dragon physiology in the swamp, and the gang continues on their way, up the stairs.
They find themselves in a large warehouse space, where little brass spider automatons wander amongst fully form trees, rock piles, even snow – the maintenance layer of the garden.
Also in the warehouse, four glowing control orbs, which contain the spirits of the elders that protect the garden. Tolhesten has come to destroy them, and allow the garden to be open to the outside once more.
Emilia and Callista agree with Tolhesten, but Lilliana objects. She says the orbs should be left to remain. As Tolhesten wraps at one of the orbs with his cane, examining, it, Lilli grows angry.
They argue briefly, and Tolhesten smashes the first orb. Lilli gasps, shoving the old man. Harsgalt approaches another orb as Emilia helps Tolhesten to his feet. The argument intensifies, and the party begins to notice that Lilli does not seem quite herself, arguing that the orbs mark a place of power.
She tries to stop, to say no more. But her traveling partners know her too well. They can sense she lies to them. Tolhesten approaches the second orb to smash it, but Callista stops him – she wants to settle this dispute first. Emilia siezes Lilli. Tolhesten sighs, resigned. Callista looks into the orb, and she sees the glowing chromatic swirl inside. “It wants this place,” Lilliana murmurs, her voice quavering. “Really, really badly.”
Callie brings her shield down, smashing the orb. Instantly, Lilli cries out in a deep pain. Callista can detect a great evil force emanating from her friend as she steps to one orb, Harsgalt to another.
As they approach the orbs, Lilliana feels a great rush of strength, and throws Emilia off, then somehow manages to grapple Callie, pulling her to the ground. As battle breaks out amongst the friends, Emilia fires two bolts at the third orb, missing it with the first, and shattering it with her second shot. Lilli lets out another wail of pain and stumbles back from Callie, clutching at her head as she doubles over and falls to her knees. She shudders violently before her head rises, eyes gone cold and blank as she gazes around the room. And then she mutters a few words in a strange language, hands moving rapidly as two images emerge from her, perfectly duplicated and moving the same as she does, as a vague black aura emerges from the original form, chilling the air around her.
Harsgalt manages to keep his eye on the real Lilli and charges, tackling her. Callista brings her sword down on the 4th orb, smashing it as Lilli, still tackled by Harsgalt, stretches two fingers out towards her, a blast of eldritch power rippling though the air, missing Callista – though her face looks as hurt as if it had not.
Tolhesten swings his staff at one of the duplicate Lilli’s, the illustion rippling and fading into nothing. Emilia shouts out, “A fifth device must be here! Destry it” as her song begins to curl in the air, and she turns it into a Shatter spell. It misses Harsgalt, as she had hoped, and wracks Lilli, and her spear flies through the air, to the Lilli duplicate in the dark cold who strikes Harsgalt with it. Callista jumps into the ruckus in the cold, Lilli freeing herself, Harsgalt smashing at a duplicate, Tolhesten attacking Lilli’s in the cold.
In the midst of the confusion, Emilia casts “Detect Magic”, and senses a power in the desk in the room. She calls out to Harsgalt, “The Desk!”, as he leaps out of the tangled fight and brings his greatsword onto the desk, smashing it open. A fifth orb rolls out of the desk onto the floor, as Lilli bursts forth from the pile, suddenly born into the sky, flying ten feet above her friends as an alien voice, loud and strange, hisses forth from her, “ＢＲＥＡＫ ＴＨＥ ＯＲＢ ＡＴ ＹＯＵＲ ＯＷＮ ＰＥＲＩＬ”
“Begone creature and release our friend! We are not your puppets!” Em retorts.
“ＴＨＩＳ ＯＮＥ ＨＡＳ ＢＥＥＮ ＵＳＥＦＵＬ ＴＯ ＭＥ． ＩＴ ＷＯＵＬＤ ＢＥ Ａ ＳＨＡＭＥ ＴＯ ＤＥＳＴＲＯＹ ＩＴ． ＢＵＴ Ｉ ＷＩＬＬ ＢＲＥＡＫ ＴＨＩＳ ＴＯＹ ＩＦ ＴＨＥ ＯＲＢ ＩＳ ＢＲＯＫＥＮ． ＱＵＩＤ ＰＲＯ ＱＵＯ．”, the voice shrieks from within Lilliana.
Tolhesten rushes to the orb, and attempts to smash it, but Callista grabs for him, knocking him to the ground before he can leave the tangled fray. He bleeds badly, as the voice of Lilli’s patron laughs from within her.
Emilia seizes the orb, looking into it. Lilli’s voice, her own and not her patron’s, cries out, “I Won’t!” as Tolhesten, bloodied, crawls across the floor towards Em and the orb. “You would really let a magic that could possess someone like that remain? I don’t care if it destroys your friend, we can’t let this persist,” he says flatly. Emilia looks at him, hugging the orb tight, conflicted. Callista speaks.
“I will not let you kill her,” she says, looking deep into Lilliana. She turns back towards the bard. “Break the orb, Em.”
“I accept the responsiblity for whatever happens,” Emilia says as she throws the orb to the ground. As the orb smashes, Lilliana’s body contorts as she cries out in agony – and then she falls to the ground from the air, twenty feet to the floor.
Emilia looks away, instead tending to Tolhesten’s wounds, crying slightly, as Callista rushes to Lilliana, pouring a healing potion into her mouth. One of the automatons approaches the clearly wounded Harsgalt, and begins scrapping blood from his armor, flexing it back into shape properly. Lilli wakes up a moment after the healing potion is applied, coughing as she rises up from her prone position to sit instead. “What happened?” she asks, looking up at Callie. Then she bolts up suddenly. “Wait, my… I don’t feel… Wh…”
The others go about cleaning up the blood, the mess of fight. Em walks over to Lilli, as the party notices, for the first time in their climb of the Emyfelin Spire, a small window looking out into the world.
Emilia Blackport: “Are you…. yourself my dear?” she asks voice shakey
Callista Kendall: “You don’t feel what…?”
Lilliana Mereaux: “It. I don’t feel… IT anymore.”
Callista Kendall: “It … okay….”
Through the small window, the familiar constellations shining, the stars twinkling in the sky – it is night, late. Everyone is tired.
Lilliana Mereaux: Lilli looks down at her spear. She holds her hand above it, with a look of concentration, and… Nothing. “Oh…”
Her friends console her, as Lilli sits, shaken. Tolhesten drags himself to the window, looking out at the sky for the first time in hundreds of years, since he was a young elf. He closes his eyes, his breathing growing shallow. Morel moves to join him, he takes their hand as the other sit with Lilliana.
“This is a safe place, this room…but they will need the help of the wild beyond it. These people helped our kind, you should help them in return. And leave these walls! Just as the outsiders must come in, the insiders must go out,” he says.
“I don’t remember much… I just remember putting you all in danger. I’m sorry,” Lilli says to her friends.
“We’re all alive,” Callista Kendall shrugs halfheartedly. Emilia Blackport nods before she looks toward the two elves in the corner
“Most of us dear…” she says sadly
Lilli looks towards the elves. “Aye… Most of us.”
Tolhesten looks to them, and closes his eyes once more, a final time, with a sigh. “Rest, all of you. And let me to my rest.”