The heroes descended the stairs deep into the dam, turning several times within the oppressive stone. The skull motif continued with blank eyes staring out from the walls. Eventually the stairs ended at a large chamber deep within the dam.
The cold, damp room featured a large pool in the floor, the surface of which was caked with pale yellow slime and fungus. Additional skull carvings decorated the walls. To the south a large mound of real skulls, mostly humanoid, rested heaped against the wall, where they partially blocked a large metal door. Sealed passages led off to the east and west.
Albi enthusiastically trotted to the edge of the pool and began collecting samples of the slimy fungus. Duncan moved protectively beside him only to be drenched by a deluge of water – within was Grazzuul, the boss of the Skulltaker tribe. He appeared as a giant figure standing waist-deep in the foul water, but still towering above the adventurers. Water streamed over his scaly flesh and gill-slits pulsed in his neck and torso. Fins sprouted from his back and along his arms, and he drove forward a massive polearm like a two-pronged fork.
It pierced Albi’s chest.
The gnome nearly collapsed in shock as Duncan and others landed several minor wounds on the aquatic troll. The monster roared furiously from its tusked mouth and disappeared back into the dark waters.
After several tense moments the troll did not return. The heroes discussed strategies for routing him out from his underwater lair. The discussion lasted several minutes – more than long enough for the Maggie’s boredom to set in. She easily defeateded the arcane locks at the southeastern door. Upon opening it, a horse-sized scorpion stinger constructed of skulls slashed at her. She rolled from the worst of it and felt only the tingle of the stinger’s poison.
The heroes raced to investigate the newest threat. Sensing the distraction, Grazul again leapt from the water. He targeted Maggie this time but was unable to land a blow. Mal buried several arrows into the foe. Duncan closed and delivered a brutal strike. Albi blasted it with a firebomb preventing him from regenerating. Refusing to let the monster escape again, Azrack plunged into the water and moved to seal the troll’s escape route.
Nearly defeated, Grazuul withdrew and attempted to shoulder past the heavily armored dwarf. Azrack’s blade slashed the troll who spasmed and sunk to the floor. Tal jumped into the water to secure a grapple. The troll’s wounds sealed and it roused. Grazuul slammed the dwarf but the stubborn, breath-holder proved immovable. Tal’s ironwood cobra clamped onto the troll’s neck, dropping it once again.
With the grapple attached, Duncan hoisted the troll to the surface. Albi’s firebomb scorched the troll, sealing its fate forever.
Next, the barbarian pulls the dwarf gasping to the surface. Lastly, Grazuul’s large vicious adamantine trident was recovered.
After the party rallied, they readied themselves to enter both eastern doorways simultaneously. As his door opened, Azrack was slammed by the giant scorpion’s stinger. Both Maggie and the dwarven warrior, upon seeing the horrid visage of the massive construct of death, blanched and turned and fled. The creature squeezed into the narrow doorway and grasped at Duncan. It seized the barbarian with its massive claw and began crushing his broad chest. When the others tried to close, they too briefly fled in terror. As he ran, Albi mused, “That was a Thassilonian skull ripper! A guardian construct over ten thousand years old! Oh my gods!” Once the heroes recovered their wits, they returned and found Duncan nearly throttled.
Maggie and Azrack closed behind the construct. Tal urged his cobra forward and then radiated with healing energy. The barbarian again gasped with life. The skull ripper was slowly worn down by countless strikes, including a pair of Maggie’s slashes to its relatively unprotected flank. With Tal’s healing exhausted and Duncan nearly beheaded, Albi lobbed a firebomb into the thing’s skull-like face. It exploded with a burst of carnage and the creature’s legs buckled, dropping it to the ground. Duncan laid clutching his broken ribs until Albi poured in enough alchemical healing to raise yesterday’s pot roast.
After the heroes recovered, they removed the pile of skulls from the ancient doors. Inside they found a narrow chamber ending in two alcoves to the east and west, each containing a magical circle. One held a pile of crimson ash, while the second held a nearly dead devil, its flesh taught and dry on its bones.
Tal examined the ancient Thassilonian circles and noted their purpose: to keep specific powerful creatures bound within. The devil lifted its sickly head and Tal gasped to see a living pit fiend! The devil pleaded with Maggie to destroy the circle and free it from its torment. She was inclined to agree but the party intervened. The heroes deduced that entering the second circle may drain the devil’s lifeforce and power the floodgates. They debated on what to do until Maggie slipped past Duncan. She entered the second circle.
Simultaneously both devils – Maggie and the pit fiend – howled in pain. The circles flared to life. The pit fiend was reduced to ash. Maggie dropped to the ground clutching her chest and appeared to have instantly aged decades.
Outside the floodgates rumbled to life. The waters of the Storval Deep began to slowly flow. Turtleback Ferry was saved. But at what price?