The group had gotten the wrong idea from a "trigger" encounter on a stair. Every time they came to the floor, a pair of eyes and disembodied hands would spring towards them, and they constantly fled. Even when they tried to circumvent the steps, they were sent back down the stairs. It wasn't exactly combat oriented - so what was it?
A clean spell.
This floor is where Mahr had done some alchemy and needed a "clean room" atmosphere. Since at the time he was an active tower he had servants up and down and all over, stray dirt and filth would get in and around. So he had an automatic "clean" spell trigger when anyone would get to the landing - giving it some human touch with a set of hands and eyes.
I had two meetings of enjoying the way the party reacted to the hands and eyes reaching for them that when they finally got passed it by saying "Me" every time (based upon some scrap of paper they had found earlier) I felt like I had to let them know what had them so worried each time they approached and triggered it.
Write up follows:
The party talked about our options and at this point we decided that having the gargoyles at our back as potential threats was not an option so we went back down, surrounded one of them, and began whacking the hell out of it. Two of the 3 remaining came to life and assaulted us while the group tried to concentrate their attacks on one at a time. When the 1st fell, the 3rd became animate and charged the group, swerving at the last moment to attack the party on its less protected flank. Blows were fast and furious and eventually the stony menaces fell over.
Healing was dispensed and being it was only 1 PM or so at this point, we were dismayed at how beaten we were already and how many spells we had gone through. We wanted to make it to the 4th landing but were continuously stymied by the disembodied eyes and hands reaching for us. We settled on Marcus summoning a monster (orc), giving him a rope, and sending him up.
The orc made it past the step, reported a small landing with a single door and more stairs going up. We had him open the door and tell us what was inside. He shouted back “Some potion looking room, some glass beakers, and two doors!” Knowing time was of the matter we had the orc tie the rope to the door, grab as many potions as possible, and run back down to us. We took the 7 large unwieldy bottled from him, thanked him, and he faded away.
The potions had no markings on them and we didn’t want to risk testing them now so we deposited them in our packs and dared to approach the 4th floor one at a time, using the rope as a guide to lead us past the 5th step down. One by one the party made their way until after the 5th of us made it past and there was a strange blast and light – the rope was cut and the two parties were separated. What the hell?
The one group already on the 4th floor looked everywhere for some sort of lever or device to reconnect the two parts of the tower – finding nothing. They did note though that in the alchemy room were a number of poorly covered Bunsen burners with a thick and very flammable gel on the inside. There were 2 other doors in this room. The one on the left was shut hard and yanked closed so much so, that it bowed the inside of the frame and seemed to be under the effects of a Wizard Lock spell. Some listening revealed that there WAS something on the other side and it was snoring. We opted to leave it alone.
The other door was on the eastern side of the chamber and there were 5 bloody fingerprints at chest height pressed into the door, no other markings. Listening revealed no noises.
As for the lower group (almost all the fighters and Link) they could not proceed past the 5th step again without triggering the eyes and hands so they retreated back down to the 3rd floor to pour over options. They looked for levers or knobs or anything, finding nothing. From here they went down to the 2nd floor and stopped – seeing all 4 gargoyles were once more together and watching still. They tiptoed back to the 3rd floor and discussed the possibility of getting past the eyes and hands. It was here that they remembered a scrap of paper that had said “4th floor – Me.” So they went up to the 4th floor, stopped and when the hands and eyes appeared – said, “Me.”
The hands wiped filth from their cloak and boots and let them past. One by one we went through the landing and the party was rejoined once more. We looked over the last of the potion bottles (5 of them) and gave the alchemical chamber a final once over. We decided NOT to mess with the “snoring” door and went instead to the one with the fingerprint markings.
It was after we duplicated the position of our hand on the marks and pushed that the door opened. It was a largish chamber, taking up 1/3 of the tower floor. Along the far wall were two long tables with stands and chimes and candles and holders and whatnot. There were 4 torches on the wall – but the light they gave off was a purply/yellow mix that seemed to drink in the light from our own torches, making them dimmer.
The center portion of the room was completely bare and it seemed as if nothing was there except an almost living feeling of darkness. Fergus gave the room a once over and announced that the entire room was radiating evil and we should avoid it.
A single rock was tossed in and it bounced unearthly across the dark part of the chamber before hitting the far wall with a series of clicks. There was some talk about getting the scrolls and stuff off the table, but no one wanted to chance entering the chamber. We shut the door and moved on from here, not wanting to risk any of the chambers on the 4th floor.
On the 5th floor landing we noticed two doors, one north and the other east. There was also a narrow corridor (2’ wide) that circled the central stairs should anyone want to walk it. We checked over the north door and found it to be unlocked and open. Two of our party each walked the narrow circular corridor, swapping torches along the way to keep the place lit. But it was while coming out of the darkened part of it a spectral figure appeared and assaulted us while trying to back up. A couple of light spells forced it back and then blasted it apart after Marcus hit it with a push spell – staggering it backwards into the light.
We opened the north door and beheld some sort of meeting or smoking room. 7 wing back chairs, 3 tables. On one of the chairs was a skeletal figure in moldering clothes and sporting a large faintly yellow glowing diamond ring. Fist’al gave the skeletal figure a once over, Mummus watched the door, Fergus and Auri were giving the room a once over – the half-orcish girl taking the far end of the chamber.
It was while Fist’al was trying to get the ring off the figure that the shit hit the fan. The ring fell free and turned to sludge and feces, piling on the floor and swelling. The chest of the skeletal figure burst open and hundreds and thousands of spiders came swarming out and surrounded Fist’al. And finally along the south wall a black fire erupted and Grongellar, the shadow fiend, appeared – along with 3 of his shadow mastiffs.