The adventurers couldn’t quite understand what they had just witnessed but they knew they wanted to get back into that tower. The bugbears stood motionless and silent in the rain. Looking around, Stromm noticed a second floor balcony that could offer some way into the tower besides the front door. Recalling his time at sea once again, he climbed a nearby tree quick and easy as if he were making his way to the crow’s nest of his old ship.
He proceeded then to leap with relative ease onto the stone balcony. He knelt where he landed tied a rope to the stone railing. Tossing the rope down to the others, he crept towards the glass doors into the tower. Behind them everything looked dark, quiet and undisturbed. Meanwhile, Kraown and Alhazred had made it up to the second story, only Thud remained below. He gripped the rope with all his strength and jumped, only to come crashing down in his plate mail. The ear of the nearest bugbear swung in his direction, followed by a turned head. The creature couldn’t see what had made the noise through such a thick layer of mist and rain so he moved from his post to investigate. Stromm cursed under his breath and motioned for Thud to the rope to his body. Thud hastily complied and began backing as far away from the bugbear as possible. Luckily, Kraown and Stromm were able to use their combined strength to heave Thud easily to balcony with seconds to spare. The bugbear walked on toward the forest and disappeared from view.
Inside the tower, the party found itself in the corridor where they had previously encountered the dire bear. All was quiet now though as they entered. In the bedchamber they found the remains of an old wizard. His simply robes were torn and tattered, and he lay face up in a pool of blood that originated somewhere in his mid-section. The party suspected this was indeed the Dragon, as his garments and armaments belied his skills with the arcane. When finished with their examination, the group proceeded to the third floor to see what else the Dragon had been up to.
Upstairs, the party was able to find a host of magical items, potions and trinkets that were apparently not booby-trapped like those in the dungeon. They also came upon a large white marble room. It had no furniture and little adornment on the walls. Against one wall was a large fireplace and standing in the center of the room was a pedestal. Atop it a single crystal ball rested accompanied by an inscription.
As the river to the sea,
So at night, soft wings to me
“It’s a riddle.” Stromm said, eyeing the writing etched into the pedestal. The party immediately began to search the room for clues, as they looked they came across several useful items: The Collected History of Hart’s Wood Volumes 1-7 and a Multilingual Guide to Cyphers. Just as they came upon these items, the suit of armor which stood in the marble chamber sprung to life and proceeded to attack Kraown. The party soon came to realize that with each passing minute that they left the riddle unsolved, the chance of being attacked by the agents of the tower increased. Kraown, trying to contribute lit a fire in the fireplace. When nothing happened, he began to throw nearly everything he could find into the flames. Magical tomes, trinkets, and even the now lifeless suits of armour went in. As their power was released yellow and pink smoke began to billow into the chimney.
Thud realized that perhaps fire was the key to this first riddle and slung a fire bolt directly at the crystal ball. The instant the flames touched the crystal, the walls began to hum and move revealing a staircase up to the fourth floor.
On the fourth floor, the party encountered another riddle, harder this time.
Though my lands grow less and less
Where I rule, I can oppress
_I can’t be heard and have no beholder
But I am found near shivered shoulder
One more clue I grant you now,
of precious metals I am made
Not hard to find me, but I can’t tell you how
In dormant kettles, I have stayed_
As the party struggled to find the right spell to cast, they suddenly began to hear commotion from the outside. The smoke from the fire on the floor below had been seen by the party of bugbears who were now making their way upstairs to investigate. Stromm thought fast and pulled out his sack of a thousand ball bearings he never dreamed would come to use. Stromm dropped them all into a bucket and set a trap for the first bugbear to approach, God willing.
As the first bugbear came loping up the stairs, Stromm released the rope holding the bucket aloft and one thousand ball bearings came clattering down into the stairwell, staunching the bugbears’ approach. Two of them fell outright down the stairs as the other tried to avoid falling prone. The party now had the upperhand. Thud used his newly discovered Bag of Tricks to summon a lion to the group’s aid. Kraown, his superior strength to chop downward at the beasts, as Stromm’s trap continued to make the stairwell difficult terrain. In the end, one bugbear was left alive. Stromm used his manacles to bind him and the party prepared for their first interrogation, not quite remembering that the bugbears had been four in number, not three.