|OUR HEROES:||Tira Wolfsdaughter||Hank Woodman||Haiku Odsdottir||Gustav Mahler||Persia|
The party is swept into the Maelstrom. They are pulled downwards to the center with very little violence. However, after about an hour of hard work, they arrive at the exposed sea floor, exhausted. Hank Woodman the manikin leaps ashore (since he does not tire) and secures the boat. The party examines their surroundings. The seafloor rises gently towards the center of the bizarre maelstrom. At the very heart of the phenomenon are three odd towers of polished coral.
The party's brief rest is rudely interrupted by the unwelcome arrival of a group of giant crabs, razing from dog size to a truly mammoth specimen. Realizing discretion to be the better part of valor, they retreat rapidly up the stream towards the towers. Avoiding the forests of sharp coral, they arrive at a locked door. With no other signs of ingress, Mahler seizes the great Octopus-shaped doorknocker. The only response to this is the distant ringing of a ship's bell in the highest tower. Using a golem rope that the Rivermaster tossed to Tira during the storm, they gain entrance to a window on the fourth floor of the shortest tower.
This begins their examination of the towers of what they later learn to be Nemo's Court, a place known in legend as an abode of the vanished Demon Kings. They explore series of rooms, the most notable being an art gallery. This room is filled with treasures of a lost era, including what previous generations would recognize as Boticelli's Birth of Venus, and the collected works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Eventually they discover that the bell they have been hearing is some kind of warning sign. The depression in the sea is slowly filling and soon the towers will be under water! The submergence was activated by an ancient guardian, a triton-esque golem made entirely of gold. They use all their wits to avoid it, but it tracks them relentlessly. Eventually they try a desperate climb outside the walls of the tallest tower. Hank remains behind to buy them time and is shattered by the trident of the golden guardian. The party watches from above as the guardian discards his pieces in the dark rising waters below.
Straining his muscles to their limits and beyond, Mahler the giant damages the mechanism that allows entrance to the bell tower they have taken refuge in. They listen to the guardian struggling to open the trap door below them. Eventually the waters rise to the top of the tower and cover it. The party is floating in the middle of the ocean. Although the storm has abated somewhat, they cannot long survive. Hugin is sent aloft and finds the Columbia, which has survived the tempest. Mahler finds Hank's head floating nearby as the sun reddens the horizon. The Columbia rescues the party. Tira gives the copy of Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner to the River Master. Although the Columbia has suffered storm damage, she is still seaworthy and sets course for Tallon. (9/8/01)