When the officers returned to the Crisis, they found a silver raven with a message from Tessa Fairwind sitting on the port rail. “About 25 years ago, Captain Tevenida Aiger, after which the sword is named, led a raid on the Isle of the Black Tower, it’s mistress known as the Shrouded Queen. Captain Aiger was defeated but not without defeating the Queen at the same time. The Captains sword though, unfortunately, remained lost on the island, presumably in a black tower. Many people went after the lost treasure, but all have disappeared. Many people suspect that the Captain’s son also went after the sword and thus disappeared as well. Though some believe he may have just left the Shackles. The recent rumors are on the air are probably due to the fact that it’s the 25th anniversary of the incident.”
They briefly discussed what Fishguts knew of the history of the sword, then decided that retrieving it was important enough to pursue immediately. Three days later, they set foot on the Island of the Black Tower. The reason for its name was readily apparent—an impossible-looking tower of black stone sat at the small island’s center. It was barely thirty feet wide, but soared to an altitude of well over four hundred, giving it the approximate dimensions of a pin.
“No, that doesn’t look ominous at all,” Feruzi said.
“Well, we have experience with ominious,” Reiko said.
There was no apparent way into the tower, but when Feruzi scaled the stone for a better look she discovered that the roof was partially caved in, forming a bowl-shaped, rubble-filled cavity. It was no simple task to climb that height without magic, but once they were all up top they located a half-buried trap door among the rubble. Reiko and Chopper took sides and with a mighty heave the door came loose of the floor, revealing a curving stairway and walls carved with seemingly-endless coils of tentacles.
“Anyone else hungry for calamari about now?” Chopper asked as they descended. Occasional people, ships, or entire cities appeared amongst the coils, all savagely being crushed.
“Looks like Dagon,” Sandara said.
“DAY-gon. A demon lord, ‘e be. Prince o’ the sea, sea monsters, an’ deformity.”
“Gross,” was Chopper’s comment. “Wonder if any of his fans are still hereabouts.”
“Shoot them enough and we’ll be fine,” Ezikial said.
“Aye, if it bleeds, we can kill it.”
Patches of dull blue mold spotted the walls of the next chamber, partially obscuring a faded mural that depicted some sort of enormous amalgam of eel, fish, and cephalopod. Opposite the entrance a pair of rusty iron posts held up a wide gold-plated disc formed in the shape of a bulbous, fleshy eye. A wooden statue, now sadly decayed, faced the eye, clenching a fist-sized chunk of serpentine carved in the shape of a human heart. A reinforced door stood to the side, held closed by iron spikes. Someone had scrawled a crude warning over the door in charcoal. “She lives.” A smeared charcoal handprint served as punctuation.
“Innerestin,” Sandara said. “The mark belongs t’ a sect o holy assassins sworn ter Norgorber. I think ol’ Cap’n Aiger was one o’ them.”
“Now might be the time for explosions, Mister Hands,” Chopper said. Ezikial set his grenades and retreated, blasting the door to smithereens. The Eye shot a blast of vile-smelling water at Chopper, drenching him in magic that drained his will.
The group ducked through the door and down the stairs, finding another circular hall, this one housing a row of black iron candlesticks covered in the curdled remnants of foul-smelling tallow. A shallow alcove at the far wall held a serpentine statue carved in the semblance of a human male being devoured by tiny flesh-boring eels. The center of the statue’s chest was an empty hole.
“Do you think the heart from the hall above would fit in that statue?” Ezikial asked.
“Ooh, let’s find out,” Chopper announced, darting back up the stairs. The eye was now roving back and forth, ejecting more jets of enchanted filth. Feruzi saw Chopper readying to sprint across the room and shoved him out of her way, jinking and dodging past the great eye to snatch up the serpentine heart. She tossed it back to Chopper and the magical auras in the room faded. Chopper placed the heart in the statue and it slid easily aside, providing access to another stairway.
Huge, rotting draperies hung from the next chamber’s walls. A pair of monstrosities hovered in the room, masses of tentacles tangled around fanged mouths. Reiko hacked into one without hesitating, wounding it, but digestive acid spilled out and her clothes and exposed skin began to bubble and smoke.
“The floor is unstable,” Ezikial said, taking aim at the other beast. Chopper lobbed a throwing axe that bounced off the rubbery mass; a volley of bullets were more successful at disrupting it. The creatures began to writhe in a nauseating display, stirring up a cloud of noxious mold from the hangings and walls. Reiko reeled back and the first monstrosity pressed the advantage, tearing at her. Feruzi’s arrows distracted it for long enough that Reiko recovered and finished it off. The second, still dripping from Ezikial’s attacks, didn’t stand a chance.
Chopper examined the yellow mold cautiously. “Sunlight’d do it in, but that’s in short supply here,” he concluded. “Fire works, though.” They lit torches and burned a path through the growth to the stairs, discovering four emeralds in the eye sockets of a statue on the way. The next room held two eerie ivory statues on either side of a closed door—more human males that were bound, gagged and blindfolded. The statues were strangely moist, as if they were just pulled from the sea.
“This looks familiar,” Feruzi said.
“Does it?” Chopper asked.
“Aye, it looks like a good place for a grenade,” Ezikial grunted. Feruzi shook her head.
“These are the twins Maok and Seft, sons of Arot-Seb. Arot-Seb drowned them alive and drank the seawater from their lungs to receive the guidance of Dagon for his conquest of the Crystal Isles of Zyracia. My father likes to recite the epic sometimes.”
“Er . . . charming,” Chopper said.
“So, if I toss the grenade right in between them, in front of the door, what happens?” Ezikial insisted.
“Let’s call that ‘plan B’,” Chopper told him. Reiko studied the statues for a moment, then climbed up at one and began rotating its head. It moved freely, but nothing seemed to happen whatever position she put them in, so she shrugged and approached the door. A voice whispered in Abyssal and Reiko burst into a fit of coughing, although she did make it to the door. It was unlocked and opened to reveal yet another downward stair.
A jumble of bones held together by a decrepit suit of black leather armor slumped against the wall at the bottom of the stairs. The middle of the room was occupied by a massive circular trap door held shut by three lengths of heavy chain. Beside the skeleton was a black handprint and a few lines of scribbled text:
“The Shrouded Queen yet lives below, bound by Blackfingers’ forbiddance and Aiger’s Kiss. Seek not entrance for her rotting curse awaits ye. Let the slumbering darkness lie!”