The smile of Milton Drac is a curious thing. Most smiles invoke a warm-hearted feeling, a friendly state of affairs between the presenter and the recipient. Not so for the Sealord – receiving an impish grin from Milton Drac delivers a cold shot down the spine. The companions, who have faced down dragons and lived to tell the tale, think nothing of the steely gaze. Maintaining eye contact, Anton winks back with a double gun solute.
The receiving line to greet the Sealord well attended at the moment, the companions decide it best to explore the room. Off to one side, providing endless entertainment to the guests, is spotted their good friend Ansor. The amiable fellow is working a card table and motions for the group to attend. A quick game of chance ensues, with the companions fairing surprisingly well. “Winner, winner, everyone’s a winner. Well played folks. Here’s a prize fit for champions!” Ansor slides across an envelope with several tickets sticking out of the top, the stubs gleam with an opalescent sheen. In a whisper, “Keep these close to the chest friends, away from prying eyes. They will come in handy should you require a quick exit.” With a wink, he guides the companions away from the table.
The rest of the room appears in order, so the companions venture back to the procession. As they do, their colleague Dune Glintmoss joins them at the back of the line. A man of his word, he outlines what he was able to dig up on Draghor and Triggs.
- His contacts were unable to unearth anything on Draghor, the hobgoblin is suspiciously clean. That said, his political leanings are straight forward. He is involved with a civil rights movement in the Blood Salt, working to promote the rights of the working population of orcs in the city. He has met several times with Milton about a seat on the Council to better represent the needs of the Blood Salt.
- His sources uncovered that Triggs is heavily invested in Milton. Should the lighthouse result in increased trade, the Syndicate will benefit greatly given their strangle hold on the smuggling business. His level of investment, however, suggests that a power struggle could occur should things not work out so well.
As Dune moves on to mingle with others, former crew member Draghor situates himself behind the companions in line. The group engages him in conversation, relying on their station on the Bloody Vengeance to establish that they similar ideals with respect to the plight of the orcs. Draghor is interested to hear about the group’s escapades in Everstand, however, he is a rush. In return for good standing with Milton, he has agreed to usher as many guests as he can to the top floor of the lighthouse for the unveiling. Apparently there will a special celebration that Milton would appreciate being well attended.
Instinct guiding their actions, the companions excuse themselves from the line, wishing to precede the crowd that is likely to congregate at the top of the lighthouse. As they do, they see Triggs disappear behind some curtains. Although they follow closely, they soon lose sight of him in the corridors of the banquet hall. The trail dead for the moment, the companions make their way to the interior staircase.
Ascending the stairs, the companions admire the opulent means with which the interior of the lighthouse has been built. The uninhabited rooms feature floors inlaid with jewelled mosaic patterns, the walls adorned with lively frescoes showcasing the history of Freeport. After twenty or so flights, a half-finished room draws the group’s attention. Materials are piled in one corner, the outline of a half completed masterpiece dominate the wall. While investigating the room, Anton perceives a draft originating from one side of the room. His curiosity piqued, the halfling locates a hidden seam that opens a secret door. The portal leads into a small corridor that circles the tower, revealing that the room on this floor of the tower was built slightly smaller than the footprint of the lighthouse. A rancid stench quickly alerts the companions to a group of bodies hastily piled into the corridor. The dead persons are identified as artisans, likely those that were working on the lighthouse. Dressed in their best fineries, the companions surmise that they were to be honoured for their skillful work, but were instead unceremoniously murdered and hidden in the wall of the tower.
The first real evidence justifying their intuition that the unveiling is simply a cover for some sinister scheme, the companions are on edge as they continue to ascend the stairs. Given the deaths of the artisans, the companions are not surprised to see the interior workmanship deteriorate as they climb. The stairs begin to curve noticeably as they rise, indicating that they are nearing the top of the lighthouse. Out of breath, they finally achieve the summit of the structure.
The top floor is grand by all manners of definition. The walls of the structure, which are made up of floor to ceiling windows, curve sharply to form a domed ceiling several stories above. A giant rotating pedestal stands in the centre of the room, sitting atop the immaculately carved dark stone can be seen a huge lens of glass. Above, a balcony circles the room housing a ring of magically illuminated lights, the bright rays shining inwards on the massive lens. Three pillars support the ceiling, the columns predominately made of stone with the exception of ingeniously positioned glass to allow the lighthouse’s beam to be cast outward without limitation. A canvas is draped between two of the pillars. Some scaffolding stands adjacent to the pedestal providing access to the lens.
A resounding cheer from below indicates the end of the Sealord’s address, and the beginning of the unveiling ceremony. Before the companions have a chance to act, a sharp clap signals the arrival of Milton Drac himself by magical means. The Sealord appears invigorated, energy rippling across his barbarian features. He addresses the group with the confidence that only one assured of victory can muster, “In truth, I am overjoyed to see you here. I cannot explain to you how important it is to share this occasion with you. Considering your involvement, the implicit link – some would say it is destiny.” A manic giggle momentarily interrupts the discourse. “Can you feel it, deep down in your very soul. How close we are to achieving resolution. Let us not delay.”
Anton breaks for Milton, charging full steam at the Sealord. Before he can reach him, however, Milton completes an incantation, swirling power releasing from his core. The room erupts in chaos, raw energy buffeting everyone present, manifesting in the centre of the room to reveal a massive black tentacle where once was the pedestal and lens. The revolting form elicits a nauseating feeling in the companions. The group watches in horror as the writhing tentacle sucks in the cascading rays of light, refocusing the energy into a two dimensional wall of offensive yellow light. The trajectory of the beam is directed toward the workman’s canvas, projecting the symbol of the cult of the yellow sign across its expanse. The room becomes dim and hazy, as if the energy illuminating the light was somehow slowly being drained by the tentacle.
Fighting back intense nausea, the companions regroup and decide it best to concentrate their focus on the tentacle. Anton and Freight charge toward the tentacle to engage the sickly mass, while Nor’easter Face provides magical support from the periphery with the child. Lando creates a wall of illusion in the stairwell, hoping to cut off the top floor from the masses making their way up the stairs. Freight attacks the creature from the floor, although Anton must climb onto the scaffolding to reach the emanation. Both successfully land blows on the tentacle.
Milton walks calmly toward the canvas curtain, “All of mankind’s achievements are for not. The nations of the world worship the artifice of the universe. Like this tower, my master will consume all. These works mean nothing, are nothing. True majesty will be unveiled here today.” The Sealord grips the canvas, slowly turning toward the companions before dropping the curtain unceremoniously. The foul yellow beam projects onto the city below. “We will reveal to the resplendent dignitaries below the madness of my master. They will in turn depart to the nations of the world to pass on his word, and in this way, the world will be united again as one.” A chaotic energy envelopes the room, permeating somehow through nonexistent cracks in the wall. Milton raises his arms and howls in delight as he steps into the beam, his cry transitioning into a blood curdling scream. He surges toward Anton in a barbarian rage.
Freight and Anton pay no heed to Milton as he barrels down on them, continuing to hack at the corrupting manifestation even as sickly tentacles lash out at them. The pedestal begins to rotate, swinging the chaotic light in an arcing fashion. Lando masks himself in the patterns of illusion before rushing to the centre of the room to push the scaffolding that Anton sits atop, attempting to keep him away from the light. Freight follows suit.
A keen wail picks up in intensity from the city below. The Sealord revels in the sound, “Feast on your future, fearless ones. Many timelines, across multiple planes and realms, they all converge when the Unspeakable One unites us all in unconsciousness.” Fires begin to populate the night sky from the city and harbour below. Chaos stalks Freeport, disrupting the evenings festivities and pitting revellers against one another. Dark energy continues to circulate into the tower.
The crowd from below, their size causing those in the front to be pushed unwittingly through the wall of illusion, begin to cascade into the room. They mill about at the top of the stairs, entranced by the enormity of the situation. From the back of the room, Nor’easter Face unleashes a powerful ray on the tentacle before being enveloped, along with the child, by the rotating beam. Both fall to the ground unconscious. Milton turns to regard the child, leaving Anton and Freight to continue their relentless attack on the tentacle. Deep purple cracks begin to form in the emanation.
The Sealord’s fervour escalates, “The masses will come, they will arrive and worship and so become his army. Each are vectors for the madness – they will rise and touch another, and so become one. And he will be the first.” The Sealord points toward the unconscious child who begins to vibrate, a radiance building from deep within.
Sensing that the child is in immediate danger, Freight drops back from the melee to attend to his unconscious colleagues. Nor’easter Face stages a remarkable recovery, however, the child is unresponsive to Freight’s healing touch. As they look on in horror, the child begins to slide toward the tentacle as if succumbing to a gravitational pull. The movement occurs in strange fits and jerks, as if time and space are somehow being affected. The radiance continues to build in the child’s core, flaring with the effort of resisting the pull.
The beam passes through the masses at the top of the stair, instantly incinerating the crowd. A pile of bones, stirring with dark energy, is the only evidence of the crowd’s former existence. Anton continues to hack and claw at the tentacle, the deep fissures becoming more vibrant and robust.
Milton completes an incantation, causing an infinitely deep pit to blink into existence in the path of the scaffolding. Anton performs a miraculous feat of athletics, catapulting off the falling structure to land on the opposite side of the pit. The swashbuckler rolls acrobatically to arrive on his feet, continuing his dance of death with the tentacle without missing a step. Lando, however, falls prone into the path of the chaotic beam. The chaotic energy attacks his very soul, providing glimpses of the past, present, and future filled with dire portent. Lando manages to shrug off the psychological effects, although the experience leaves him with a unique physical ailment. The gnome trails a translucent ooze that smells of necrotic power.
The wily wizard senses an opportunity. Allowing his invisibility to wear off, he flashes a blinding orison at the Sealord to gain his attention, before sprinting in the opposite direction. Milton rises to the bait, unable to overlook the vulnerable gnome. The Sealord’s pursuit takes him through the trail of necrotic ooze. His bloodlust so strong, the raging barbarian is unable to veer off the path, continuing through the translucent ooze and slowly draining his life energy away. Despite the deteriorating physical effects, it does not take long for the Sealord to catch up to the wizened gnome. Before he can smite the seemingly defenceless illusionist, however, Lando uses dimension door to move to a safer position outside of the immediate threat range. His prey beyond his reach, the Sealord howls in fury.
Despite the assistance of Nor’easter Face, who holds firmly to the child, Nemesis appears to be losing the war of wills with the tentacle. Not wanting to give in, Nor’easter Face takes flight by magical means, propelling he and the child toward the tentacle, but at a slight angle. The centripetal force of the orbit pushes them far beyond the tentacle’s grasp.
Dark energy stirring, the pile of bones organize into a group of skeletons that rush toward the tentacle. They ring the pedestal, slashing at the swarthy swashbuckler. Freight follows in their footsteps, delivering Besmara’s wrath on the unholy creatures. Through it all, Anton continues his unrelenting attack on the tentacle. Fissures in the manifestation begin to bleed a dark purple ooze and the room begins to shake. Dust fills the air as the pillars creak violently in protest. Milton turns, his confident visage disappearing to be replaced by a look of confusion. The barbarian, weakened from the life-draining necrotic experience, attempts to rush back to defend the tentacle.
But the Sealord is too late. Anton buries his kukri deep into the heart of the manifestation, twisting as he drives the weapon into its dark core. The dark onyx tentacle shatters in slow motion, pieces flying in every direction. A bright light flashes, visions of different timelines, of unique geographies, of other dimensions, collide and break, refocus and fade. The chaotic energy in the room dissipates, the dark onyx pieces banished across space and time. The companions look at each other in wonderment as the realization begins to sink in – that their actions here today were responsible for the shattering of the dark onyx tentacle, the physical manifestation of the Unspeakable One, that virtually everything experienced to now was a consequence of this moment. Overwhelmed with the immensity of the thought, Lando falls awkwardly to the floor, attempting to take a seat but only half succeeding.
The Sealord arrives at the now empty pedestal, his barbarian features beginning to atrophy as he retreats from his battle rage. His voice is sullen, disbelieving, “Why have you forsaken me? I did everything that was asked. I was promised so much. My disparagers were right, this is truly Milton’s Folly.” The Sealord strikes at the pedestal, severing the stone cradle. The tower shakes with the effort, the pillars crumbling. The dome above cracks, large pieces of rock falling to the floor. The walls disintegrating around them, the companions understand that an exit by conventional means is not possible. Reaching into their pockets for the tickets received from Ansor, they are instantly teleported to another dimension as the ceiling caves in and the lighthouse topples into the harbour.
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