The Crusaders: The big clock

The Crusaders hand Ironbriar over to the city guard. As he is dragged away he shouts over his shoulder.

‘She will come for me!’ he cries, ‘My Angel watches over all of us. She will come for me!’

Lini looks up at the tower of the Shadow Clock. The moon looms behind the spire. ‘”Watches over all of us”,’ she muses, ‘An actual Angel?’

Seelah shakes her head. ‘The Skinsaw Cult brought a legion of undead to this land,’ she says, ‘Whoever is controlling them is in that tower. I suspect they are the very opposite.’

Amiri leans on her greatsword. ‘Angel or Demon, I do not relish such a climb before a battle,’ she says.

Sajan starts doing stretching exercises.

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The  Shadow Clock bell chimes. Midnight is approaching.

Seelah stands at the foot of the tower. The great bell chimes again, the sound thudding in her chest. She enters the atrium and looks up. The stairway spirals up into the gloom. The bell rings out again, louder than before. The floorboards shudder. Seelah steps onto the staircase.

Lini and her magic Toad are looking for remnants of the cult in the Temple. Searching the halls, she passes an artist working on a half-finished portrait. An attractive young priest offers to guide her around, but Lini notices something strange about his face. She takes a step backward and casts a Holy Light spell on him. IMG_5050He snarls and twists and his illusion fades to reveal a Charmed Faceless Stalker. He dissolves in the beam.

A guard at the City Gate offers to let Amiri try out his Glaive. She is just weighing it in her hands when a Goblin Raid attacks. The goblins skitter into the streets cackling and singing. Amiri smacks the leader with the polearm, and the others easily subdue the rest.

‘You can keep the Glaive,’ says the guard.

Sajan pushes open the door to the Mill. Unlike during his previous visit, the building is dark and silent. He pads around the stacks of planks and suddenly the floor gives way and he tumbles into a Pit Trap the cultists had left behind. Climbing out, he uses his Staff of Minor Healing to lessen his bruises and makes his way towards a Large Chest in the corner. The floor gives way again, but this time he grabs the edge and clambers up to the chest. His Sage watches this whole performance with her eyebrow raised. He ignores her and opens the chest, finding a Magic Dagger inside. He dislikes weapons, but tucks it into his sash anyway.

The Shadow Clock bell booms out again. It is chiming out of time. Each peal is louder than the last and Seelah’s head spins as the staircase shivers under her feet. She sees movement up ahead and a Tickwood Boar and a Goblin Dog come pounding down towards her. The stairs buck with another echoing ring and Seelah’s weapons go flying. She calls on her Holy Might to fend off the creatures, and they both squeal as they tumble over the bannister and into the darkness below.

Lini leaves the Temple and enters the Shrine to Lamashtu. Torches flicker balefully in the alcoves. Lini casts an Augury spell but it reveals nothing. She sends her Crow ahead to spy and it is snatched out of the air by a Werewolf.  Smilo, her Sabre-Toothed Tiger, leaps forward and Lini quickly changes into her bear form. Even a Werewolf is no match for this pair.

IMG_5043At the City Gate, Amiri tries to convince an Archer to join them, but she is scared off by an undead Carrionstorm which swarms around the gateway. Amiri swats the zombie birds down with her new Glaive polearm.

Sajan hears an eerie voice in his head and an Attic Whisperer mutters fears and dreads into his mind. He screws up his eyes and lashes out with the Magic Dagger but the spirit dances away leaving him drained and weakened. IMG_5105While he is dazed, a Burglar steals his magic dagger and runs off into the dark. His Troubadour chases after the thief, but the dagger is lost.

Seelah staggers up the trembling staircase and reaches the top of the tower. The bells ring constantly. The sound vibrates through the entire structure.

Across the platform, Seelah can see a beautiful woman looking out across the city. She turns to Seelah and smiles sweetly. Seelah senses something strange about her and does not smile back. Her smile turns to a frown and the image of the woman disappears in a shimmer to reveal Xanesha the Lamia. Her lower body is that of a snake, her face is hidden by a mask and she lunges at Seelah with a cursed and barbed spear.

IMG_5060Seelah dodges behind a bell and Xanesha’s blade clangs off the metal. Seelah summons her Holy Might and rams Xanesha with her shield. The villain slips across the floor and drops off the edge of the platform. Seelah hears curses fading away as the Lamia swoops magically over the rooftops, retreating across the city.

The bells stop ringing. Whatever wizardry Xanesha was up to has been aborted. Seelah turns and begins the long descent.

Lini and her Tiger advance further into the Shrine. A young man turns the corner and begs her to help him escape. Lini easily recognises him as another Charmed Faceless Stalker, assumes her bear form and smashes him into the wall.

One of the guards at the City Gate furtively unlocks the gate then edges behind Amiri and tries to slide a dagger between her ribs. Amiri senses the attack and skewers the Traitor with her magic Icy Longspear. IMG_5116The other guards stand around looking at the body disbelievingly.

Suddenly, a Scarecrow Golem bursts in through the now-unlocked gate. Amiri swings her spear around and the Golem runs into the blade. Straw flutters in the air as it thrashes in its death-throes.

Amiri turns to the shocked guards. ‘I think he got the point,’ she says.

Seelah is hunting for the escaped Xanesha. She heads into the Throne Room. A well-dressed courtier welcomes her and ushers her ahead of him towards the main hall. Once behind her, he transforms into a Charmed Faceless Stalker and stabs a claw at her back. IMG_5052The claw catches on a chink in Seelah’s armour and she spins around.  Having no weapons, she grabs a nearby tapestry and flings it over the stalker. Dragging it to the ground, she smothers it in the thick fabric.

‘I need a weapon,’ she mutters, getting up, ‘and to pay more attention.’

Lini arrives at the Throne Room to help Seelah in her search. A Plague Zombie explodes in a spray of acid blood, but they dodge behind a statue. The statue melts.

Amiri leaves the City Gate and heads to the Mill. The guards watch her go until she is out of sight.

In the Mill, a little girl is playing in the sawdust. Sajan picks her up and carries her to the door. She sinks her teeth into his neck, no longer a child but one of the Faceless Stalkers. Sajan staggers back. The stalker lashes out with a vicious claw, but Sajan cartwheels over its head and kicks it into a pile of spiky tools. As he stands over the body, he hears a hiss from the shadows. Xanesha is in the Mill.

Seelah and Amiri run to join him. Lini stays at the Throne Room to prevent Xanesha escaping there. As soon as Lini is alone, an Enchanter blasts her with a wave of force, knocking her against the dais. Smilo pounces at the Enchanter but she scurries between the columns. Lini catches her with a beam of Holy Light and she yelps and explodes in a burst of flame. Smilo is barely singed but Lini is badly burned and her pet Toad is crisped. She has no cure spells and another blow could be fatal. Time is running out.

IMG_5125The Mill is eerily quiet as Seelah and Amiri open the door. Sajan is backing slowly towards them. The only sound is an occasional slithering as Xanesha moves amongst the shadows. They slip into the room and spread out.

Seelah has found her Magic Longsword. She grips it tightly as she manoeuvres between the stacks of wood. There is a clink of metal and Xanesha’s spear thrusts out of the darkness at her. Seelah twists and swings and knocks the spear to the side. Xanesha whirls the spear around and Seelah has to jump backwards to avoid the cursed blade.

Amiri hefts her Icy Longspear and steps forward. Xanesha turns to face her and they begin to circle each other, their weapons held steady. Amiri’s spearpoint glistens with magical frost, Xanesha’s shivers with unholy force.

There is a pause as each sizes the other up, then as one they lunge forward. Xanesha aims low and Amiri aims high. The Lamia’s mask clatters across the floor as Amiri’s blade strikes home. Xanesha’s snake-like body twitches and is still.

Seelah walks over and picks up the fallen mask.

‘She almost gained complete control of the city,’ she says. ‘If we had not been led here by Foxglove, she would have succeeded.’

Amiri picks up Xanesha’s spear. It has the words ‘Impaler of Thorns’ carved into its shaft.

‘Following the clues is what you do,’ she says.

She twirls the Impaler around her head in an elaborate display and ends in a dramatic pose. She grins.

‘Me, I just hit things.’