Sideon’s Army successfully escaped into the secret passageway linking the foundry and Umbraforge tower. As the tremors and aftershocks from the combat in the foundry subsided, the party explored the narrow, dimly lit corridor that gradually changed from a smooth, man-made tunnel to a natural cavern. After a dozen yards or so, it turned back again, suggesting that the tunnel predated Sarshan’s operations. Respite and reward awaited in a small hidden chamber off the main passage, apparently undiscovered by the shadar-kai. Within, crumbling frescos to various deities adorned the walls and a large, black shrine, covered with a thick layer of dust, dominated the chamber. Laric blew away the dust and examined the shrine, only to discover the three wavy lines of Avandra and a cryptic message inscribed in the stone, “Devotion is its own reward.”
Immediately whispering a prayer to Avandra before the shrine, Laric blinked as a holy symbol appeared on the shrine, radiating a powerful enchantment. Sideon stepped over to the shrine to investigate both it and the newly appeared symbol. He was momentarily taken aback when the graven symbol of Avandra changed before his eyes to a symbol of Ioun. Quickly catching on, Sideon studied his spellbook before the shrine, and a magical lens appeared, which Sid discovered could be used to read any language. Orpheus at first was dubious of the shrine, but when the symbol of the Court of Dreams appeared, he followed suit (in his own unique fashion), and soon snatched up the magical rod that appeared. Muhlic knelt briefly before the symbol of Grumbar that appeared on the shrine and received a massive axe, and Stump knelt as the shrine returned to the three wavy lines of Avandra and yielded a heavy shield. As Stump stood with his new prize, the engravings faded, and the shrine became a bare, obsidian block dominating the room. Closing the door to the chamber, the group took its well-earned rest.
Departing the chamber and hiding its existence against the shadar-kai, the companions set forth into the tower. The first room they discovered held three of Sarshan’s elite guard, and one of his spellcasters. After a brutal fight, the Army was victorious, and began to explore the chamber. They confirmed the extent of Sarshan’s research into the manipulation of creatures with shadow magic into twisted war machines that was taking place in the foundry. They also discovered extensive research into teleportation portals, both inter- and intra-planar, and the locations of some of those portals in both the Shadowfell and the mortal plane. They also discovered research into methods to attune portals to specific individuals, races and keyed items.
Moving through the door to the northeast, the friends discover an alchemical lab, apparently used for experiments blending shadow magic and living creatures. Bottles of bubbling, viscous fluids, alchmical apparatus and jars with malformed horrors line the tables and cabinets in the room. Searching through the lab, the party uncovers some valuable alchemical and ritual components, but no further information of value. Led by Stump up the flight of stairs in the room, the Army finds another unoccupied lab, this time with no valuable components. However, a pile of scrolls in the bookcase did hide a substantial purse of gold.
Moving into the center of the Tower, a strange sight awaited – a seemingly healthy, lush garden, complete with trees, shrubs and a small pond sprung up out of the stone of the tower. On closer inspection, however, the tree limbs, foliage and grasses were shades of sickly gray and blue, and the pond was a black and viscous sludge. In the center of the room was a strange opening to the lower floor that pulsed with magic that Sideon and Orpheus were able to identify as a levitation spell, ostensibly for moving between levels of the tower. A 15-foot teleportation portal, attuned to an unknown individual, dominated the south wall of the room.
Swarms of smaller beetles and one giant beetle assaulted Sideon’s Army, who eliminated the bugs handily, led by Sideon’s bursts of shadow and force daggers. The friends had no time to enjoy their victory, however, as the shouts of guards from below signaled that their luck had run out. From each of the four corners of the garden, a squad of shadow soldiers appeared. A grizzled shadar-kai veteran came up the levitation lift from the first floor, accompanied by six other warriors wielding wicked-looking spiked chains and a pair of umbral panthers. “Stand down, or your lives are forfeit!” he shouted.
At that instant, the portal on the south wall glowed brightly, and the party could see the blackened chamber into which they arrived from the mortal realm, and the interplanar gate they took to arrive here. As the friends looked on, another shadar-kai stepped through. Stump immediately recognized the veteran from the Happy Beggar, and the others recognized the man who staggered out of the Beggar after Stump had made his way in. However, he was no longer stooped, and the scars faded away to reveal the gray skin of a shadar-kai. “I am Sarshan”, he announced, “Would someone care to explain what is going on?”
The grizzled shadar-kai accompanied by the panthers began to detail the damage done by the party, only to be interrupted by Sarshan, who questioned the group about their involvement with the death of Modra, and the assault on the foundry. Orpheus, speaking for the group, took credit for the death of the dark creeper, and Sarshan nodded appreciatively. Acknowledging the mutual debt for the killings of Modra and Sarshan’s personal guards in the library, the shadar-kai made a surprising offer – “Join me.” Alluding to calamity about to befall the mortal realm, Sarshan instead offered Sideon’s Army the chance to become Sarshan’s Army, instead. Seeing no other option, the group accepted, with the hope of bluffing the cunning shadar-kai. Orpheus’ silvered tongue did its work, and the mercenary nodded in acceptance and instructed Thannu to see to the provisions.
The party was escorted to the guard quarters by the guard captain and his panthers, who Sarshan called Thannu. With gruff instructions to rest and wait for orders, Thannu turned to leave. Suddenly, Umbraforge tower was rocked by a massive tremor, and a distant explosion shook the walls. Through the levitation lift, the friends could see a guard rush over to Sarshan, reporting an explosion in the foundry. All around the Army, shadar-kai rushed about, grabbing armor and weapons as Sarshan and Thannu barked orders. After Sarshan departed through the first floor levitation lift, Thannu looked directly at the companions with a dark glare, telling them to stay where they were. Turning, he descended the levitation lift and disappeared through the south portal with his panther compantions. Quickly, Sideon’s Army took advantage of the distraction, reattuned the gateway behind Thannu, and made good their escape from the tower. Unfortunately, one unhappy guard and two big cats stood between Sideon’s Army and the doorway back to Overlook…