(continuing the adventure that started here.)
Setting & System: Cinderheim, 5e D&D
Characters: Warleader Kro (human barbarian), Sylvester Tremaine (human mystic), Blatherskite (kenku fighter), Lilai (human cleric)
Warleader Cro came down from his rage to find himself surrounded by the remains of ten crawling claws, two mysterious corpses face-down in from of a giant misty mirror, the corpse of his compatriot Aeran, and the unconscious body of Sylvester. Cro entered the mirror to investigate the mollusk-like shape that could be seen beyond the dark glass. Sylvester regained consciousness and turned over the mysterious corpses--which turned out to be the bodies of mind flayers.
The mollusk-shape turned out to be a strange vessel held within a smooth, featureless chamber. Inside, Cro found six storage tubes--two of which contained humanoids in suspended animation. Palming the orange hemisphere on the wall next to the tubes released the two captives, thereby adding Blatherskite and Lilai to the party.
Further exploration revealed that the mollusk vessel's head was a kind of cockpit. When Cro affixed the oddly shaped helmet he had acquired preciously to a disquieting umbilical cord-like cable the vessel addressed him as "the Voidnaut." When he asked the ship to take him somewhere "bad-ass" it replied that it required INTOXICANTS to continue its journey. A maw-like compartment on the vessel's console was fed the last of Aeran's stash, but it wasn't enough to sate its ravenous needs.
And so the party set off to explore more of the tower in hopes of finding INTOXICANTS. A dormitory with beds arranged barracks-style was found and the beds therein were duly despoiled. The wardrobes in this room only contained dance costumes. Cro kicked in a door, sending it ricocheting off a coffin in the next room. This windowless chamber contained six coffins standing on wrought iron biers. Suspecting vampires, the party decided to experiment. Lilai and Cro dragged one coffin into the dormitory, broke one of the room's window to let in more light, and then wrenched the coffin lid open so that the sunlight would fall on whatever was inside. The coffin contained only a thing layer of soil at its bottom.
After this, each coffin was dragged into the dormitory to be forcibly ejected through the window onto the ground below. All six coffins were tossed out, resulting in a pile of broken dark wood and soil three stories down at the foot of the tower.
Moving on, a room full of weapons was discovered. Cro looted a blunt greatsword and a cestus, Sylvester took a barbed whip, and somebody else took a chakram. They also found the first black chamber, which featured a four-poster bed, a wardrobe, and a vanity with a smashed mirror. Lilai looted several bags of coin from the wardrobe and noted that it contained both dance costumes and black dresses. In an adjoining chamber they group found a hot kettle full of tea waiting for them, along with four bone china cups. A lantern hung above the small table in this room, sending rays of multicolored light throughout the chamber. Previous experience with the crystal peacock statue had alerted them to the fact that the colorful light had some sort of magical property; however, when Warleader Cro attempted to wrap the lantern in a blanket to stifle its effects it caused his body to be suddenly covered with a thick pelt of fur.
Returning to the bedroom, they were met by a damp, dark-haired woman wearing a robe who was unperturbed by their presence in her rooms. She introduced herself as Navara. While sealing her despoiled bed back together with magic, she explained that the Cro and Sylvester's approach of the tower (and the parties exploration throughout) had been monitored. When questioned about their dead compatriot at the tower's entrance, she said that he had refused the offer of employment that had been made to him...and that it was expected that since they had taken the money in her wardrobe she assumed the group was prepared to take up the task. What she wanted the party to do was travel to a nearby village and take note of how many children lived there...so that the Academy's would have an idea of how many potential "recruits" might be living there.
The group neither agreed nor refused her offer, but she nonchalantly told them to explore the tower further, if they desired, and to find her again when they had an answer.
And so they explored further. Opening the door decorated with a danse macabre plaque unveiled a dance studio, its walls and ceilings covered with mirrors and its perimeter ablaze with lit candles. Music suddenly flooded from the room; robed skeletal figures played a harp and kettle drums to provide music for the woman in a red costume who practiced the unnerving, brutal, rhythmical movements movements of an occult dance. As she danced, the woman made eye contact with the group--seemingly pleased to have an audience.
Lilai, however, was not pleased. Unwilling to speak further with the maniac inhabitants of the tower, she cast sacred flame on the dancer. The divine radiance hit the dancer but did not break her stride; she summoned a bladed chain that she swung while she continued her dance. The skeletons ceased their music--although arch-mimic Blatherskite picked up the tune--and joined the fray.
The dancer proved hard to pin-down; she easily avoided the first few attacks sent her way and wheeled away from her foes without exposing herself to injury. A strike with her bladed chain nearly took out Lilai in one swipe. The skeletons also endangered Blatherskite as they raked at him with their claws, but he stayed focused on sending arrows at the dancer. Cro's newly acquired cestus smashed through the skeletons' brittle bodies. A well-placed arrow from Blatherskite caused the dancer to stumble out of rhythm, and Sylvester finished her off with a mental assault. The skeletons were dealt with by Blatherskite's rapier and Cro's encased fist.
As Cro beheaded the dancer's corpse, applause could be heard coming from a blonde man standing in a doorway. Like Navara, he was noticeably damp. He introduced himself as Petros and explained that he was happy that they had slain his rival--she was a better dancer, he said, and with her out of the way maybe he would be accepted at the Academy.
Is Petros destined to help or hinder the party? We'll find out as the adventure continues.