Returning to the tavern, Threnody and Stone Cold rallied the party with tales of spoils as well as the potentially mysterious outcomes of freeing the rogue wizard, Acthuri Eradenus. Never a group to hold back, they rushed headlong back to the magical prison, where Harper had been kind enough to open the earth-themed elemental door. Descending a dank, muddy stairway, the heroes found themselves in a large round room, confronted by what was to be their deadliest foe to date: the fearsome beholder!
The battle was long and grueling. At times it seemed the heroes were close to winning but, with the beast newly bloodied, a fusillade of deadly eye rays all but incapacitated the party. They struggled to regroup but tragedy struck. First, Threnody was overcome by domination and with a coup-de-gras even he did not know he possessed, unleashed a deadly eldritch force, completely vaporizing the head of companion Stone Cold Steve Austin. Not even the greatest of pugilists can survive such a blow, and Stone Cold was lost. Then, shortly after dealing a mighty blow with his crippling Jaws of the Wolf, Alder succumbed. With his last breath, he whispered his sister’s name, “Oleander…” and he was gone.
Beaten and battered, but not defeated, the remaining three battled on. Hanging by a thread, Threnody and Markus were aided by Valus. Given succor by a creature most would consider a taker of life, Markus was able to mount a final deadly assault. With a scream and a shriek of wild abandon, the Beholder was vanquished. Bloody and tired, the three gathered themselves, bid their companions farewell, and continued further into the gloom.
Venturing deeper into the dungeon, Markus, Valus, and Threnody found themselves in a vast, vaulted chamber attended by three wizardly statues. Thinking themselves past all danger, they blithely sauntered forth. However, the statues immediately and predictably began to animate. Coming to as if from a dream of invincibility, the three beat a hasty retreat. Briefly pausing to wonder at the fate of Alder’s remains (a magical forest had begun to sprout) and collecting Stone Cold’s pitiful body, they removed themselves to the antechamber above, where Harper was endeavoring to open another of the sealed elemental passageways.