Part 3: The Snake's Bite
Mahin moves to the door that exits the room and begins to try to pick the lock. After a second it opens with a click and the stone door slides open. Her lamp light reveals a noose of black tarred rope hangs down from the ceiling above the seventh step. It seems to dangle through a small aperture in the ceiling, not much larger than the diameter of the rope. Dunc charges up past it pushing Maheen before him. Too involved with getting to the top of the stairs to worry about the tarred rope.
At the head of the stairs, there is a small landing in front of a closed stone door similar to others you have seen in the Tower. This one seems to have a spreadeagled human skeleton fused into its surface, protruding halfway out of the stone. There’s something dark inside its bony ribcage, something that hisses at Maheen and starts to move! She is confronted with a group of asps that she tries to attack but fails. She then falls back and allows Jorta to try to still the beasts. They ignore her so she pulls out her axe to cut off their heads. As she swings the blow one of the asps latches onto the back of her hand. Her hand quickly begins to throb with pain. Manalesi slashes out with his spiked vine killing another snake. Alena moves forward to confront the snakes. Her trained hunter skills quickly allowing her to anticipate the snakes lunges. She strikes faster than they can decapitating the final two of them.
Jorta looks unwell and is sweating profusely. After a few moments though she begins to rally against the venom and feels better.
Maheen opens the door. The Tower’s fourth floor isn’t a single open room like the lower levels. It’s divided into three parallel hallways running between a transverse corridor just inside the door you’re looking through, and what looks to be a matching open area on the far side of the level. There’s a closed stone door in the wall opposite your door. The central hallway has plain walls, but the two hallways on either side of it have walls covered with shelves and wooden pigeonholes for holding scrolls. All of them look empty, except for three rolled-up parchments halfway along the rack to your far right.
Suddenly some small, scaly creature scurries into the far end of the hallway to your left—something that rears up in size with astonishing speed. It’s a dragon, its jaws opening as it glares at you and rushes forward without a sound! It comes in to attack Dunc but the creature seems to do nothing. Then another appears on the other side of the party to attack Alena. It is quickly worked out that these creatures are illusions... but then a huge Minotaur skeleton charges through the dragon images and into the midst of the party.
Dunc reacts quickly shoving his sword and it scabbard into the nostril of the undead beast. Maheen fires her bow at the beast and Arcandur his crossbow. A small lizard begins to gnaw on Alena's boot.
The battle is fast and fierce but with great archery skills and strikes by the party the Minotaur is dispatched and collapses in a pile of bones.
Arcandar searches the room and finds a scroll with some strange writing on it while Maheen gets to work on the next door. She fails to open the lock on it. The party are stumped and have obviously totally forgotten that they have a key. What will they do? Jorta attempts to smash the door down. Then Maheen gives her a crowbar. With much effort the barbarian manages to squeeze the crowbar into the gap between the stone door and the wall and pushes with all her might. With a mighty crack the stone at the hinge breaks off the door and it can be opened.
Maheen heads up stairs with Manalesi on her tail with Dunc. An eerie blue-green radiance kindles around a skull that suddenly appears out of thin air near the head of the stairs. Then the skull flies down the stairs toward them! Manalesi and Maheen dodge out of the way. Dunc just stands there, sure that it is just some trick. He is right and the skull passes right through him. As they progress up the stairs this happens four more times. Each time Maheen and Manalesi dodge out of the way but Dunc just stoicly ignores the glowing skull trick. Finally, as they are reaching the top stairs a skull begins glowing out of the darkness and flies towards them. Maheen and Manalesi dodge out of the way but Dunc does not. As a reward the bronze skull smashes him in the face, bloodying him and staggering him on the stairs. He manages not to trip down them though.
The stair ends at a closed stone door that seems to have a stylized bronze skeleton design sculpted on the surface of the door. The image’s skull is missing, leaving an empty socket about the size and shape of the animated skull that was just encountered. Maheen inserts the skull into the socket and the door swings open.
This floor is dominated by a dome 20 feet across in the center of its ceiling. Around the lip or lower edge of this dome runs a ring of archways formed by a circle of twelve slender stone pillars. Standing tall and sinister at the center of this ring is a high-backed throne carved of some dark, green-black stone. Its arched top resembles a star- ing serpent head, and its side and arms are adorned with snarling open-mouthed fanged serpents. It emanates a faint acrid smell and has a waxy, unhealthy look.
Beyond the throne and the ring of pillars, directly across the room from your door, is the usual closed stone door leading to the next level.
The party is extremely hesitant about approaching the throne but eventually Alena heads through the ring of pillars and up to the stone seat. While she is looking at it a a bulbous, maggot-like monstrosity with batlike wings, tiny clawed legs, and a ring of golden eyes around its blunt head appears from around the back of it and attacks.
The creature is chopped to pieces by the party but not before the grotesqueness of it haunts their minds. Alena finishes it off with a deep stab of her blade and its puss spills out onto the floor and then is engulfed in flames.
Jorta inspects the throne closely. Then sits on it and continues to touch it all over and unwittingly touches a poisoned patch on the chair. She then wipes it on the face of Dunc when he teases her about it. Soon after both of them are on the floor retching their guts out.
Arcandur finds a small compartment in the back of the chair and opens it. Inside he finds a bag of emeralds.