The banshees vanished into clouds of mist and left the heroes facing each other. A few felt the icy grip of the banshee wail shred their souls are are left bewildered and shaken.
Throkk, enraged by Ivor's carelessness attacks the human rogue, grabbing him from behind and throwing the rogue up into a tree. The rogue caught a lower branch and climbed to the top. He got a lay of the paths around them and pointed the party in the right direction.
Red Feather took off down the way pointed out by Ivor and came upon a giant iron pot with a tree inside. Shocked, the tree started to bend towards him and opened two large eyes in the trunk, that looked like rotating acorns. The treant spoke, in its slow quiet voice and begged Red Feather to release him. The rest of the party quickly ran to the pot. Zook cast speak with animals and interacted with beautiful parrot. The parrot told him they were going in the right direction if they wanted to get inside.
The treant made a deal to help the party if they could release him.
Ivor helped find a lock in the iron pot and was able to crack it open. The treant was thrilled, and went slowly wandering off through the garden, happily yelling "Freedom!" at the top of its lungs. Before it left it told them the right direction to find a door to enter the pyramid.
They made good progress following the treant's advice. A final push through a dense bramble would get them to their goal.
Pushing through the other side, each hero found himself standing alone in another plaza. In front of them, wreathed in garish colors was a roiling mass of vines, covered in colorful flowers. Shocked by the sight each of the heroes was also confronted by the fact that they couldn't remember their names, and their forms were complete nondescript.
The vines roiled around in front of them and attacked. Each hero generated a signature weapon in his hand and created it into an energy type from the universe. Zook called forth his wooden scimitar, covered in green, poisonous light. Ivor found his rapier in his hand, covered in black necrotic energy. Throkk felt the grip and weight of his great axe in his hand, ringed in flame. Turok was holding a wizards staff, covered in the blue of pure lightening. Sharasen clenched his fists and one was covered in pink, psychic energy, the other was covered in orange flame. Red Feather pulled out his two tuned tomahawks both of them covered in white, and radiating absolute cold.
Each hero fought the plant on their own. The plant changed the shades of its flowers, rotating through various colors, pink, orange, clear, blue and more. After each shift of the color the hero was able to change the damage type, and color of his weapons. As the hits started to pile up the characters found themselves remembering more of who they were. Their weapons became defined, the started to remember their names and their pasts. Figuring out the flowers pattern, some of the heroes were able to add greater damage to their attacks, others, not figuring out the plan did less damage as the flower resisted their attempts to break free from its control.
Red Feather, Ivor and Sharasen were the first to wake from their dream battle. Waking to the real world they found their friends unconscious lying among them. Among them were a terrifying carnivorous plant that was trying to crush the heroes under coils of slowing growing and pulsating vines. Sharasen, waking first and moving to action, put his thumbs together and cast a sheet of flame across the plant. His burning hands spell seared the air in front of him and scorched the plant, despite, to his surprise it being able to move away from some of the fire.
Ivor woke next, and using his rogue abilities to recognize a weakness in his adversary he drew his crossbow and fired for a pulsating vein along one of the larger roots of the plant. The bolt tore through the vein, which poured forth an bright green fluid all over the plaza. The attack was all that was needed to destroy the plant. Yellow spores floated with the light breeze away from them and their friends quickly woke.
As the plant shriveled and died they heard the faint clinks of coins falling to the stone covered ground. Searching around they were able to collect a large batch of treasure, apparently the remnants of victims it couldn't digest. They also found a pouch that contained dust of dryness, a container of Kehtoums Ointment, and a potion of Greater Healing. Throkk made sure they magical items when to Turok for safe keeping.
Gathering their new treasure, they moved quickly to a door along the first step wall of the great pyramid.
The door was locked. Pinned to it by a simple dagger was a simple note that read:
You've made it a great deal farther than I expected. Well done, hope to see you at the top.
The party elected to simply burst through the door, tired of the horrible garden they had battled through.
The revealed a long stone hallway, but then realized that it wasn't so much of a hallway as it was a passage through the outer wall of the first pyramid step. The passage lead to a large room. Searching the area the party found that it was a workmen's staging area. There were wheel barrows and farm implements. Piles of mulch, now rotted and covered in mushrooms were spaced in a regular pattern around the floor of the great room. Red Feather elected to take a rusty pick axe with him, while Zook discovered that the mushrooms were actually safe and good to eat, so he harvested a number of them for dinner. Everywhere the heroes found evidence that tools and activities were simply dropped. It looked like the workers had abandoned the area in the middle of a busy work day.
Finding their way to a stair case that seemed to lead to the next level the party paused. Under the request of Turok, they decided to stop for the day and rest. They set a watch and had a stew of mushrooms and left over jerky from their travels across the plains.
In the middle of the night, surrounded by the stillness of the huge dead vault, Ivor felt a tap on his shoulder.
"We're friends!" A small voice stated, "we mean you no harm!"
Ivor turned slowly, with his hand on his dagger and came face to face with a hover sprite. The small fairy had a bow strapped across his shoulder and was very finely dressed. Zook, also keeping watch but facing the stairs didn't initially notice. But as Ivor and the fairy started talking his alarm was raised and he turned to see Ivor talking to no less that 7 of the flying fey. Walking over he heard more of the whispered conversation.
The sprites were searching for a Red Cap in the garden and had run into the freed treant that told them they adventures were traveling through the garden. The sprites didn't want any help looking for the fey monster, but did help heal Turok a bit more as he slept. They answered a few of the questions, as best they could, about the totems and the pyramid garden. The commotion woke up all the team and as the sprites vanished before their eyes, they traveled higher up into the building.
Making a quick breakfast of the last of the mushrooms the party traveled up the wide flight of stairs and found themselves in a large living space. A network of open rooms, hallways and dorms all interlocked to form a small village inside the pyramid. Here again, it looked like the place had been rapidly abandoned. A search turned up only minor trinkets and personal artifacts from the people that once lived here nearly 75 years ago. At the far end of the complex they found a security station. Inside was a broken open cabinet that contained weapons from the original guards. Inside, Throkk found a battle axe and shield that had a faint tinge of magic about them, but were made to a high level of craftsmanship. He took a set, as did Zook, who strapped a shield to his back to help protect him from attack from behind. The shield was nearly as tall as he was and gave him the look of a small walking turtle.
Red Feather also took one of the magic battle axes and a shield. Inside they also found a few more potions of healing. A magical shortbow was found in the back of the cabinet, a great prize for the party to use in an upcoming challenge.
Traveling higher into the pyramid they reached the reservoir room. The Sprites had told them about this room. All the water for the gardens was brought to this room through magical pulleys and buckets, along with water screws. It was a nearly 100' across and fully flooded with a deep pool of water. To cross the pool the Assarisans had built hanging stone paths around the pool, which created several smaller pools. The heroes saw that the exit was at the far side of the room. A torrent of water poured out of the staircase, and in a fleeting glimpse Zook thought he saw a face form in the water. Ladders were built into the stone pathways to enter or exit the different pools. Several of the heroes, including Red Feather went straight for the ladder, thinking to jump in. Copper started barking and growling as soon as he got close, so he changed his mind.
Anticipating danger Zook cast his levitate spell and rose to the ceiling. Sharasen cast spider climb and also made it to the ceiling, intending to crawl all the way across. The party on the ground rushed toward the raging door. To draw out any enemies Throkk dove into the largest of the pools, as swimming across was the shortest path to the exit.
Throkk swam across with ease, but when he reached the ladder on the far side, the water behind him exploded in the shape of a massive tentacle of water that smashed him against the ladder and then pulled him off and into the pool. The attacker became invisible as soon as it returned to the water.
Seeing the great half-orc submerged and in trouble the rest of the party raced around the large pool to come to his aid. Getting close to the torrent of water spilling from the stair case woke a large water elemental that leapt forward and joined the water weird in the water to attack the restrained and grappled barbarian.
A second water weird attacked the heroes on the edge of the pool, slamming Red Feather but unable to pull him into the water. Turok pulled himself along the ceiling directly above the water elemental and reached into the pouch of dust of dryness. Sprinkling the magic powder onto the monster had a devastating affect. When the powder touched the monster it mixed with the water of its body, causing black streaks through its body as it took massive necromatic damage. Turok followed up with a lightening bolt spell directly into the elemental, blasting it with arcane electric energy.
Sharasen, still using his spider climb to hang on the ceiling was swept up in the battle and cast witch bolt into the pool to help with Throkk. However, the concentration needed to cast the spell banished the spider climb from his mind. He fell, taking damage but safely avoiding falling into the pool. Red Feather and the second water weird went blow for blow, as Ivor moved forward to help attack the monster as well. With magical weapons and powerful blows, including critical hits that Red Feather landed multiple times, the beast disassociated and collapsed into the pool.
Under the surface Throkk raged. The water swirled as he tapped into his orc blood to break free from the water weird, and escape being absorbed by the body of the elemental. The first thing he did was kick and break the surface. Taking a massive breath, he then turned and in a quick move pulled himself up and on to stone pathway above it.
With the defeat of the first water weird the team was able to move around to help defend Throkk. Zook helped him with some healing, fueling him with gooseberries. Turok dropped another pinch of dust onto the elemental, and it realized it was in trouble against these surprising adversaries.
Suddenly Throkk's vision went red. Standing in front of him was a massive beast, standing on the hind legs of a great stallion, with a brown hair covered torso and massive arms ends in claws. On its head were great elk antlers, its face was long and appeared to be a mix of equine and hound. Behind its human eyes shown a sparkling intellect. It wore a great belt with its symbol on the belt buckle, The Wild Hunt stood before him.
"You have the Horde blood within you!" It screamed at Throkk, the voice was like a dozen different animals all howling, yipping and hooting together. "Feel that blood, I need a great warrior like you. Do what you are called to do and be what you are called to be! Strike down these lessors and embrace what you are!" His eyes flared white and on instinct Throkk reached down and pulled out his broken great sword. He started to swing at the closest hero next too him, then stopped himself and instead moved the slash to hit the water elemental. Zook, who was his closest target, noticed that it seemed the attack was coming towards him, but had no idea of the effort it had taken Throkk to redirect the blow.
The water weird that had first hit Throkk fell next. Alone, the water elemental became the focus of the whole party. Under and onslaught of magic dust and melee the elemental finally broke. As the magic holding the creature together returned to the elemental plane of water, it collapsed and the water poured back into the reservoir.
Again the adventurers found themselves spent and needed another rest to heal and recover their spells.
Rested, the heroes carried on. The stair case they found lead outside the pyramid to a hidden outside staircase that curved around the five sided top most layer of the step pyramid that was the hanging garden. The sun was out and it was a clear and beautiful summer morning.
Feeling that they were nearing the end of this journey they climbed around the stairs. Reaching the top they entered a grand garden. From the top the entire Capital was visible. To the north, the only building that compared to the garden was the royal palace. The garden was full of totems, statues of figures, abstract bundles of sticks tied in shapes, all hidden within a landscape originally designed for peace and tranquility. In the middle of the garden was a large reflecting pool, only a few feet thick, still covered in blooming lily pads. Looking closer however, the signs of decay and destruction were also evident. Each totem had a broken or damaged appearance. Flies hung around the lilies on the water, attracted by some rotting sent coming from the pool.
With a snap and pop a magical dome of energy surrounded the heroes. Zook and Red Feather were nearly cut in half by it, but both dodged as the wall formed, but dove inside the dome. The dome formed through a stone bench, cutting it in half. After casing his attack spell, a robed figure in front of them suddenly lost his invisibility spell. He pulled back his hood, and smiled. Marsus was standing before them.
"I have to say," He said, "I am hugely impressed that you made it this far. First, you all look terrible." He stepped forward, putting his hand on the sword by his side. He wore a strange metallic emblem on his chest and was wearing traveling cloths, that looked to be in very good shape.
"Turok, you look like your dying, jeez, I've never seen an elf look so, I don't know, old. Where did the gray hair come from? And Zook! My goodness my small friend, you left a part of you behind. And who are these two? Ugly and less ugly?"
Throkk bristled, "If you are Marsus, then we are here from the White Council, and you are coming with us."
"Oh, right, the White Council. Thanks for that, I needed you to get them off my trail. When I died, they could no longer scry on me, but they were still watching you, believe me. Maybe not Sharasen though, he has the fancy amulet."
"Where's Brill," Red Feather asked, calling his Tomahawks to his hands. It was a statement, not a question.
Marsus smiled, then grimaced, "Brill is dead dead. He needed to be sacrificed for the cause. I'm trying to do something bigger than the loss of some non-human to a bunch of savages."
"Anyway, here's the deal. The Wild Hunt and his Horde are still on the march, and the world is coming apart after the Assarisans fell. The humans need a God. I am going to be that God. This column behind me is The Book of the World Names. The Clerics of Assar wrote the true names of every totem-god they every captured in wet clay on this column. Each new name build a layer, so the name is actually hidden in the the clay. With the true names of the gods, I can merge with them and take their power, just like the God-King Assar once did. This," he held up the medal on his chest, "is the totem of a god of knowledge named Syderen. With her power I will absorb the names of all the gods listed here. I already have the totem of the beast god Jielarth, those gnolls we faced I can call them now. I can create an army of gnolls, if I want."
"Once I become a god, I will unify all the humans against the Horde and usher in a new age of greatness for our people. I am offering you to join me, you can be, bishops, or lieutenants or whatever. Even you non-humans, you can worship me too, that might actually be good. I could be the new god for all the races! Just need you to worship me. What do you say?"
Turok looked at him deeply, "What happens when you become a god, how do we know you will be good?"
Marsus chuckled, "Funny, when I am a god I will do whatever I think is best. And I will remember those that helped me, and those that didn't"
Red Feather stepped to the edge of the dome, "You killed Brill, I will never join you."
"Suit yourself," he said. Marsus stepped over to the pillar, the Book of the World names and placed his hand on the column. The totem on his chest flared and his eyes flashed pure white. The column of sunbaked clay vaporized, like it had been hit by a giant sledge hammer and turned in to a cloud of fine powder. The powder swirled around Marsus and twinkled, then rushed into his pores. He turned and looked at the heroes, his eyes bright white, lancing with energy across the courtyard. Then in a blink, he was standing before them again.
"It begins, my friends. The next step is for the council to arrive, and take me away. You all, will be left here. No loose ends you know…" Almost on cue, a thunderclaps of energy spiked all around them. A strike force of White Council mages teleported to the roof top. Marsus smiled and put his hands together as holding spells were cast on him by wands the mages were holding. Dressed in his signature well trimmed suit, Deagean walked up to the dome of force and addressed Throkk and Ivor.
"Well done," he said slyly, "Our agreement is at an end and we have made our payment in full." He took two steps back, and with the rest of the mages and Marsus, they vanished.
"What was your agreement?" Red Feather asked.
"That we get to leave the White City alive," Throkk retorted, darkly. With Marsus vanishing the dome of force dropped. They looked at each other, when a screech filled the sky and echoed off the columns and promenades of the roof garden. Circling above them, was a green shape. The creature turned and the sunlight glinted off great leather wings and a serpentine tail. Above them, circled a giant green dragon. They formed a defense circle as they watched it circle around the roof. It swept down and with its tail raked the side of the pyramid, destorying the hidden staircase they had used to reach the top.
It circled one more time, and then squared, coming directly for them.