00:24 – 00:40 – It takes the group some time to locate the tower of the Disciples of Change. Llewellyn and Shadevia both clamber up a nearby tower – the vyrleen almost coming to a nasty end when his clambering causes a large section of tower wall above him to slip and tumble down.
On the roof, the vyrleen finds that his eyes are barely able to penetrate the darkness and thick smoke that veils the inner districts of the city. However, with eyes born to see the subtle variations of shadow that make up her home plane, the shadeling is able to spot a wide, circular road that surrounds the central districts. At regular intervals along this road stand circular plaza's - filled with smoke, rubble and in some, bodies – about 10 in all. In the middle of one of these rises an impossible tower of smoke, glass and fire.
“Where?” whispers Llewellyn, peering into the night.
“On the other side of the column of smoke rising from the south...err...hang on...”
As she watches, the tower begins to shimmer strangely, illuminated by a colourless light that seems to spring, vital and bright from the edge of the plaza. The air around the tower becomes agitated, and suddenly seems to blister, the tower becoming hazy and ill defined, as if seen suddenly through a smeared lens.
“What's happening?” Asks the vyrleeen, still unable to see anything through the smoke that billows across the city.
“It's changing it's.....hang on...”
In the middle of another plaza, at least a mile or more removed from the one in which the tower stood a moment before, the air begins to seethe and blister, and suddenly, another tower – a leaden thing of black stone, covered in glowing golden runes and pulsing with a blue aura of power – manifests. As this tower appears, so the first vanishes, becoming a formless blur surrounded with coruscating light, before simply vanishing.
Llewellyn sees the shadeling's mouth fall open, and begins to whine at her, begging to know what she has seen. Shaking her head, Shadevia explains that the Disciple's tower appears to teleport and to change form, apparently moving between any one of a number of pre-set locations.
“We can catch it up.” She grins.
00:46 – 01:10 (5/1/50) The group move through the shattered streets, now focused on a definite goal. Around them the horrors of the upheavals are plentiful; dismembered or burned bodies, bloated and flyblown, lie in piles or twist slowly from gummy ropes thrown over charred and exposed beams. Slogans written in Lower Malgorothian declare unknown hatred or rhetoric, whilst scattered remnants of normal life incongruously lie amongst the carnage, highlighting the stark contrast between life here a few months ago and today.
“So, we find one of these plazas,” States Ormid, his massive artifice arm whooshing as his forced march causes him to swing it, “and we wait until the tower manifests. Then then we rush up to it, and demand to be let in.”
“And if they refuse?” Asks Llwellyn.
“Den I have the key.” Replies Vladislav with a nasty chuckle.
01:11 – 01:13 – The group arrive at the wide street that encompasses the central districts, a sign declaring it Cercle Rue. It is wide and paved with rosy stone, though its beauty is marred by the ash, soot and blood cooked onto it, and buried beneath rubble and debris. Moving to the south, the group soon come across one of the wide circular plazas. No one is here, though a stray dog tugs at something buried under some rubble by one side, and a grotesque guillotine stands, stained dark with blood, at its northern edge.
01:13 – 01:26 – The group stand waiting, the night burning around them. They note the sounds of gunfire splattering from the inner districts, and see several large, shuddering bursts of light from something within the heart of the city, followed moments later by flat, ugly rumbles. At one point a ragged looking man, wearing dirty and bloodied military garb and carrying a musket, stumbles into the plaza. However, he flees almost at once upon spying the group, ducking back into the darkness of the shattered buildings that surround it.
Time seems to drag, and for a moment, the group are not sure the current plan is a good one. However, just as they are starting to draw up plans for tracking the shifting tower, the air in the middle of the plaza begins to boil with power, a previously unseen ring of carved runes flaring to brilliant, yellowish life around its perimeter.
The air buckles and writhes with energy, and those with eardrums feel them pop as dimensional pressures are exerted across the area. Gusts of hot wind burst from the central area, throwing up cloud of debris, and everyone is forced to turn away from the manifesting tower by its bite.
A booming rumble shakes the ground and air, and suddenly the winds die down.
The tower has arrived.
At this time, it appears as an unreal tree with a trunk of silvery-white metal. Its canopy is apparently woven from roaring emerald flames, the branches reaching into them clearly holding chambers and rooms. Hanging from the “canopy” are a number of curious structures, made from the same metal as the trunk and branches. Each is pendulous, and vary in size from a couple of feet, to several meters in length. The larger ones have windows and are clearly some kind of hanging chamber. The others however, seem to be something else.
Llewellyn blows a low whistle, and picks up a nearby piece of rubble. Then, before anyone can stop him, he throws it at one of the smaller hanging objects, closer to the trunk of the tower tree.
The stone flies lazily through the air, and comes within inches of the vyrleen's target. Then it strikes some invisible field, and in a burst of white smoky energy is transformed into a dove, which immediately flies away.
“Oh?” Gasps Ormid.
“Polymorph field. Potent.” Replies the Helldazzler.
“Well, it need to come down if we are going to get in.”
“And we need to do it before the tower decides to move on.” Answers the warforged.
Ormid nods, and peers at the trunk, noting a curiously waxy glimmer to its surface.
“They're using transientum I think, as the basis for a random clock to trigger the move.”
Everyone looks at the artificer like he is speaking another language. Tutting, he explains further.
“Transientum is a strange crystalline substance formed in the psychic plane by particularly potent dimensional pressures. Once formed, it enters into a curious cycle of decay, shifting gradually from the immaterium to the physical plane, and then, once fully manifested in this world, back, slowly to the other.
“You can, with effort, control this decay, and use it as the basis for a timer. It's not easy, but if it's done right, it can be very, very effective. I think they have used such a system to activate the gate engines within this structure, and would hazard...”
He trails off, casting his eyes over the structure, de-constructing it in his head, and analysing the systems needed to accomplish its feats.
“...That the engines can be delayed through the correct application of arcane pressure.”
“Vot about da polymorph field?” Asks Vladislav.
“The hangy thingies.” Replies Llewellyn, a gleam in his eye. “Seen something similar before. I reckon I can crack one open, and shut it down.”
Everyone looks doubtful, both because the field seems to cover them all, and because they are suspended at least 60' above the floor. Seeing this, the rogue only grins.
He then speaks a soft word of power, and everyone feels a prickling energy flicker through the air. At once, Llewellyn begins to float off the ground, a ring on his hand shimmering with pearly light.
“There are several that hang outside the field, probably to ensure it stays stable and doesn't go lashing about, turning anyone passing by into pigs or something. I think I can make a hole in the field – a thin one mind – by messing with one of them. Just give me a mo.”
01:27 – 01:30 – Alas, Ormid is unable to hold the tower in place, and before the vyrleen can open a safe way through the polymorph field, the gate engines rumble to life, and the vast structure once more melts into nothingness...
...Only to re-appear in the same place a moment later, now in the form of a great spire of glowing white crystal and gold rutile.
01:30 – 01:32 – Having had some practice, the artificer reaches out with his art and quickly locates the potent magics that drive the gate engines. Gritting his teeth, he mentally grasps them, and applies enough arcane pressure that they grind to a halt, the local planar fabric throbbing with the power this requires.
For now, the tower isn't going anywhere, though he knows his “grip” will begin to slip sooner rather than later.
Whilst he does this, the floating vyrleen locates another of the access devices (which now appear as large crystalline lanterns, hanging from complicated hooks of luminous runes), and plunges straight into trying to safely open and then to disable the mechanisms within. This is not as easy as he initially thought it would be, and he nearly trips an internal protection enchantment. However, his expertise wins out the day, and after several tense moments of jabbing, twisting and carefully cutting, everyone feels an icy tingle in the air, as a section of the unseen polymorph barrier collapses.
“Done it!” Yells Llewellyn, drifting back down, “Though we all need to be pretty careful. I reckon there is only about a three foot section that's safe.”
The Veteran and Vladislav – both clad in bulky armour – don't look too happy about this.
01:34 – 01:36 – The exact edges of the defences are located by throwing several pebbles at the supposedly cleared area, those contacting the still active area immediately becoming beetles or flies. With the safe zone more clearly defined, the group begin to move through, Ormid waiting until last, sweat pouring from his brow, as he holds the struggling gate engines in check.
The Veteran almost has an unpleasant experience when his bulky form strays into the danger zone, a violent ripple of transmutational magic coursing through him, trying to re-sculpt his form into something new, harmless and unintelligent. Luckily, his unnatural constitution serves as a barrier against its terrible, warping passage, and he emerges within the field unchanged.
With everyone through, Ormid, with a gasp, releases the magics enmeshing the tower's gate engines, and leaps through the breach. At once the air begins to seethe with dimension breaching magics, the artificer's teeth aching from its rush.
However, Llewellyn runs up to the great double doors that open into the tower before them, and with a yell, begins to hammer on them, his fists creating a surprising amount of noise in the building beyond. Almost at once, they swing wide, and the group are met by a rake thin, shaggy bearded old man, dressed in a truly archaic style; long dark purple robes of heavy velvet, covered in crescent moons, pentacles and other arcane symbols. Atop his balding pate rises a conical hat, marked with the same symbols as his robes, and around his neck hangs an ornate symbol depicting a crescent moon bisected by a multicoloured flame.
He has a wild look; staring, protuberant eyes, prominent, hollow cheeks, and when he speaks, it is clear he only has a few teeth remaining in his head. He speaks with a heavy, nasal Lower Malgorothian accent, though thankfully, in tradespeak.
“Oo de 'ell are you? Coming 'ere and bashing on ma' door?”
Llewellyn grins. “We are...”
He is shoved aside, and Ormid steps before him, giving the mage a somewhat forced smile. His hands held up in what he hopes is a placating gesture.
“My name is Ormid Thefler. Dragon slayer, time traveller and master artificer. We would like to ask...”
The mage seems to swell up with anger.
“Yeu are not welcome in zis place, and must leave at once! 'Ow dare you tamper wiz our defences!”
Ormid stops talking.
“Listen you,” Pipes up the rogue suddenly, “Why don't you go back to your sweeping, and let one of the real mages talk with us eh?”
Everyone flinches at the insult. The mage's grey face turns a strange shade of blotchy purple before...
...The door swings fully open, revealing a well built young mage, dressed in the same garb as the first. He gives the rangy mage a judgemental glare, shaking his head, and to the groups amusement, forcefully hands him a broom.
“Àelon, I believe zis is yours?”
The other mage looks like he may burst, but manages to choke out an apologetic confirmation in his native tongue, before retreating into the corridor beyond.
The young mage smile at the group, his pale blue eyes shining. “Bonjour. I am Anton Azvierre, arch-mage of the disciples of change. You must have quite ze reason for coming 'ere and risking not only ze dangeurs of ze city, but also ze wards of our tower. Given zat, I am willing to listen to your tale, zo” He pauses, a moment, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand, “I am not so impressed by ze company you are keeping.”
His last comments are clearly pointed at Vladislav, who manages, somehow, to keep his tongue in check, though the spikes on his gauntleted fists snap out in irritation.
06:40 – The group, having talked into the night with Anton, won the help of the disciples, and then slept, prepare to leave the tower to help Vladislav in his hunt for Siskeer. They know, thanks to the divinations of Rammanum, that their prey lairs within a desecrated temple once dedicated to the Goddess Daragnae'Jaedala – Goddess of motherhood, birth and nurturing – and is accompanied by more soldiers, and several “Cannon Golems”; walking siege engines. They also know that the deadly Count Vorgor Khebletzi is with him – a man who, according to the Helldazzler, could be more than a match for their entire band by himself.
Vladislav does give the group the option of leaving without him, but they chose to help him complete his duty, recognising that he has helped them many times already, and is deserving of their support.