When Scratchy had first picked up the shard, a singular thought had run through his head: “I’m the greatest thief in the world!”
As soon as he had gotten clear of Kieran’s tent, he had put the pale blue stone Sheila Heidmarch had provided them into the spherical indentation at the base of the shard, where it had fused into place. Then, a singular thought had run through his head: “I’m the greatest thief in the world!” Because that particular feeling was just Scratchy; it had nothing to do with the shard’s curse of Pride. That said, he didn’t develop the sudden urge to betray and rule over his former friends, as Natalya had, so there was something to the stone after all. And there was something else Sheila had told them, something the shard could only be used for once the stone was in place. When he was safely back at the Pathfinder Lodge, Scratchy wrapped his fingers around the shard, closed his eyes, and thought of the other shards, as Sheila had told him. Images flashed before his eyes: the city of Magnimar, seen from above; the Irespan, stretching out across the water; and then a stone column, rising up out of the ocean, a stone column covered in etchings of crows.
“Give me that!” commanded Milacent, and she snatched the shard out of Scratchy’s hands. She grasped it tight and closed her eyes. When she opened them again she said, “It’s the Crow. The next piece is in the Crow.”
The Crow was one of the pilings that had once held up the Irespan, but now stood alone by the harbor. Each was decorated with carvings of a different creature, and from those the Varisians had given them their names: the Firepelt, the Gecko, the Gull, the Harpy, the Osprey, the Rat, the Salmon, the Shark, the Whale, and finally, the Crow. “We’ll need a boat,” said Milacent.
A quick talk with Sheila produced a skiff, and when night fell again the party set out for the Crow. To the best of their knowledge no one was watching, but they figured it was best to be inconspicuous when searching for powerful ancient artifacts. The Crow itself stood roughly half a mile from the Dockway, and as they grew nearer the party was struck by just how massive it was. It towered over 200 feet above the waterline, and was roughly that wide across; yet it was only one part of the massive structure that the Irespan had been. The true size of that structure was unimaginable.
When they drew close, the adventurers could make out three rowboats tied to heavy stones at the base of the Crow. “Wait here,” Scratchy said, fearing a trap. He leapt onto the surface of the piling, far enough away that he wouldn’t be seen, then skittered along the wall to where the boats were tied. (Scratchy was a cave goblin, remember). When he was satisfied that there was no one waiting in ambush, he motioned for the rest of the party to approach.
The place where the three, now four boats were tied was a tall lancet arch, its ceiling rising almost two hundred feet to the top of the pilling. A small alcove on the interior of it was blackened by the soot of countless campfires, and beyond that, Scratchy could just make out a hole that someone had broken through the back wall.
The party drew themselves up in marching order: Scratchy slightly ahead to act as a scout, then Milacent, then Theodore and Zelcor. Now that they were going inside Zelcor cast a light spell for those who couldn’t see in the dark, and thus arrayed, they made their way into the interior of the Crow. The room they found past the hole in the wall was empty, but strewn with bits of trash. On side was a set of stairs, on the other a short passage into a foul-smelling room that had clearly been used as a privy. Peeking in here, Scratchy saw the carcass of a small dog. Upon closer inspection, he realized it was a large rat. The party decided to head for the stairs and not investigate further.
The room they found up the stairs was a long hall with pillars, and on its walls were murals depicting humans and giants walking across an intact Irespan, except that in the mural it stretched over mountains, not water. While admiring it the party heard a squeak. probably of another rat, and decided to move on. There was another set of stairs on the other side of the hall, these stretching upwards into the darkness. Scratchy motioned for the rest of the party to stay behind while he made his way up. This place made him nervous, and the lack of encounters only worsened his concern about what lay ahead.
The stairway wound up roughly two hundred feet, probably to the top of the column, and there Scratchy’s caution was vindicated. There was a light flickering in the room at the top, and when Scratchy peeked around the corner, he saw three women with crossbows crouched behind a table that had been turned on its side. When he went back down to the inform the rest of the party, they discussed their options briefly. Negotiation did not come up.
Milacent was the first to rush the defensive position, sword raised and shield out front. The women fired as soon as they saw her, but their crossbow bolts rebounded harmlessly off her armor. While they were reloading, the rest of the party charged in past Milacent. Zelcor put one woman to sleep, Scratchy stabbed another one with the goblin horse-chopper he had acquired for just such an occasion, and Theodore vaulted over the table to swing his morningstar at the third. They tried to fight back, throwing a tanglefoot bag full of tar, resin, and other adhesives at Milacent’s feet. The idea was to slow down the big, scary fighter, which was actually a pretty good idea; it just didn’t stop that fighter’s allies. Soon, one of the women was dead, the other was alive but bleeding to death, and the last pleading for her life. Theodore announced he would accept their surrender and then voiced an idea that had been in his head since the start of the encounter.
“The Tower Girls, I presume?”