The overland flight spell, of course, began to immediately wear off as the party reached the Wizards Tower, and they had to walk the last three miles. As they drew closer, they found tons of statues of lizard men, and other humanoids, and saw giant ancient metal lettering adorning the tower, reading “Lizards Tower”, and they could further tell that the L was actually half a W where most of the letter had rusted off. The base of the tower was adorned with more humanoid statues, which appeared to be lode bearing, and furthermore Xane could deduce they were petrified by some kind of magic.
The giant front doors were foreboding, but Xane found tiny holes he could peep through and warlock warped inside. Working together with the outside party they opened up the door. It was a giant empty room with some kind of sunblock mechanism and writing they couldn’t decipher. The only direction they could find was down. Traveling down they found a broken elevator mechanism which they were able to repair with some rope. Pulling up the elevator revealed a giant chest, but also a dozen deadly cockatrice. The party cautiously took them down, with Rin feeling himself almost turning to stone, but these glorified chickens were no match. The group found some restoration potions and a tiny dragon statue. Soon after finding it, the dragon statue began to stir and turned back to a flesh and blood pseudo dragon of the brass variety.
He informed the party that he had finally managed to slip in the tower yesterday only to be turned to stone, but luckily the curse of the cockatrice was only temporary. He warned that he had seen basilisks march out of the tower and turn people into stone permanently however. This pseudo dragon also could luckily read Sarasian, which was the script in the room above. He said this tower indeed used to be a wizards tower, and was filled with trials for prospective students. The script called for the tested to shroud themselves in darkness and travel backwards in time. Veil closed the massive doors and warped himself outside, then used a daylight spell to make an artificial sun travel west to east outside. The fake sunbeam shined through and made a sun statue move backwards. Once it reached its destination, it began to rotate, causing a spiral staircase to unscrew from the high ceiling. The party travelled upwards.
Here they found sleeping basilisks and planned to take them out before they could react, but Rin and Darvin worked out that these seemed to be illusions, and Darvin smelled a trap. They backed away from the illusions, instead focusing on some kind of elevator mechanism. It had buttons going up and down, and Rin figured out he could rotate them. Rin rotated them a full 180 degrees and pressed the up button, opening up a hole, from which a swarm of snakes fell out. The swarm proved much more formidable than advertised until they just decided to blast the hell out of it. All the noise triggered pit traps all around the illusory basilisks which lucky the party were not near. They rotated the elevator buttons to the left and right and this time opened a secret side door, which opened another stairway up.
Here they faced a group of salamanders led by a humanoid salamander, and these were powerful fiery beings. Even attacking them in melee caused the attacker to burn, and their blows seemed mostly ineffective. Combining their magic and tenacity they took them down. The higher they got in the tower the more and more of it was turning brass. The pseudo dragon explained that long ago his master was sent to this tower to recover some sensitive items by a brass dragon named Ssarb, but once he reached the top and touched a glass orb he went mad, as if possessed and began speaking the tongue of fire elementals. Salamanders were a slave race of the Fire elementals, responsible for constructing the city of brass. The pseudo dragon had no idea why they were launching an incursion on this land or on this tower. He believed if they could destroy that orb they would save his master. Who, by the way, had been sent to this tower seventy years ago.
The party rejuvenated themselves and then traveled to the top, where they indeed saw the nonagenarian Mage feverishly working in a study, and were immediately beset upon by a fire elemental, even deadlier than the salamanders below. Xane entered into a wizard’s duel with the Mage, while Darvin split his attacks evenly and the monk kept the fire elemental busy. Veil used his clerical abilities to make it rain, so to speak, which weakened the fire elemental and provided a helpful veneer of concealment from the steam that resulted. With his spells countered or deflected at every turn, Xane eventually engaged the wizard in melee with his black blade, while the party finally took down the fire elemental, which was protecting the glass orb inside of itself. The orb showed a visage of the city of brass, a marvelous sight, but Rin suffered no influence from it, and rained down blows until it shattered. The wizard who had been knocked down and near death regained his senses and begged for mercy, claiming he had no control of his actions. The party granted that mercy.
He explained that he had tried to steal something called the scrolls of Equinox from Ssarb and as punishment had been sent to this tower to retrieve some special items for him. He was successful but got greedy and tried to pilfer a beautiful orb which took over his mind. He had a theory about why the clerical magic was gone and thought he could fix it. The party broke it to him that it had been fixed fifty years ago and nobody knew why. The wizard then saw his reflection and that he was no longer a young man and wept in sadness. Just then they were contacted by Ssarb and reminded of their task. Ssarb ordered them to collect several things from the tower, mainly the beaks of the cockatrices, the lungs of the salamanders, and the dragon eggs he had sent the foolish wizard for many decades ago. The wizard summoned a secret chest to show he had fulfilled his geas. The party escorted him to the cave over a couple of days, mostly uneventfully, and found that while this wizard was now frail he could still take care of himself.
Ssarb congratulated the party for being the first to return successfully from the tower since he had started sending parties there decades ago. He rebuked any attempts to make him feel guilty for not warning them what they were in for or for the culpability of other dead adventuring parties. “they were all after my treasure, and even this one tried to steal my scrolls”. He admitted he did feel bad for the man’s loss of years. Ssarb could not restore his life, but offered to extend his life, at a steep price. The wizard agreed, and Ssarb transformed him into a zoraturtle, so that he could live for a hundred more years. The turtle smiled.
That out of the way, Ssarb fulfilled his promise. He explained the situation of Athas, and of why the gods disappeared 250 years ago and returned 50 years ago. Athas was a planet like any other, lush and full of life, but something happened that warped it. When magic was discovered there, it was discovered incorrectly, instead of normal magic, a more powerful kind was invented, so powerful it drew life force from all around any time it was cast. This would become known as defiling. It’s inventor grew so powerful that spells he cast would reshape entire swaths of land, turning forests into wastelands and oceans into silt. Unbelievably life found a way to continue in this land. Fearing this new paradigm and knowing it must not spread to other worlds, the gods completely cut Athas off from all planes, as completely as they possibly could. Some form of travel was still vaguely possible from time to time through back channels in the elemental planes, but for all intents and purposes Athas was on total lockdown. However, like any world on the prime material plane it existed physically, in space, as did the world on which Oriam sat. 250 years ago Oriam drew cosmologically close to Athas, on a scale where the gods became afraid that travel between the worlds would become possible. As our heroes had already learned at the history museum, this was correct. They completely cut off Oriam as a result and only opened up channels to it again recently when they felt it was now safe and it had moved cosmologically far enough away. The number of people on Oriam who had any knowledge of this could be counted in less than the number of Ssarb’s teeth.
Ssarb and others feared that if it was found that travel between the worlds was still going on, the gods would cut off Oriam again, this time permanently. Thus it was vitally important to keep these connections a secret and to destroy the portal. Ssarb would fight the red dragon, he would lose, but he would buy time. Given he was immune to the red dragons most dangerous weapon, fire breath, he would buy plenty of time. If the party could destroy the Githyanki sufficiently well the red dragon would leave, as the fight would no longer be worth his time. Ssarb would craft them several magical items. Special arrows from the cockatrice beaks, and special darts from his own sleep breath, and special potions to protect from fire from the lungs of the salamanders. He additionally decided to make the party all special magical items of his own creation.
The party agreed to the plan and came up with their own plan of assault by entering the Githyanki stronghold from the back. However they knew these deeper caves would be frought with danger. While they slept, Zathras was contacted by Mindflayers and told to bring two Gith primitives, alive, to a secret location and Xane would be greatly rewarded. He relayed the message and highly recommended it, though he did not order it. The party took perhaps their final nights sleep, and got their magic items from the dragon to continue into the caves.