024 The Carven Spires
The Carven Spires
Seen through a scrying mirror, or from some other secure vantage point, this layer of the Abyss possesses some measure of eerie beauty. It is a realm of tall, graceful, spires of stone, in a dozen shades of tan and orange and brown, straining towards a sky of the palest blue, rarely seen through the flowing streams of yellow clouds. The spires are marked by endless twists, circling them, cut into them in a variety of never repeating patterns, some deep, some shallow, some symmetrical, some chaotic. Shadows in the rocks hint at caves cut even deeper into the stone. There is a ceaseless low whistling noise, not enough to be bothersome at first. The air thickens with distance, so the true size of the layer is unguessable, but from your presumably safe viewing portal, the column-laden landscape goes on forever.
Then the whistling picks up, and you see something, or someone, scrambling along one of the narrow ledges which form around each spire, the consequence of whatever force carved it. The figure moves rapidly, too rapidly to be safe, its feet slipping and nearly sliding from the precarious foothold as it struggles to move, clinging against the rock. It’s not at all evident what is causing its panic, as the ledge is reasonably safe so long as caution is maintained, but it grows ever more frantic as the whistling increases in volume. Yellow mist begins to stream in, moving quickly now, and then the storm comes, a gale of golden-hued fog that whips around the spires, blocking all vision for a moment.
Then it retreats, and nothing remains of the struggling subject of your scrying except a rapidly collapsing pile of bones, and the narrow path on which he walked is carved a little deeper.
The acidic winds move on.
As one might guess from the somewhat florid introduction, this layer is a realm of acid-carved stone. Tens of thousands of stone columns form the main substance of the layer. They are extruded from somewhere down below, from churning chaos, and struggle to grow skyward, only to be slowly worn away by the acid winds that rush through the plane in sudden, violent, gusts. Each spire ends up worn, carved, and pitted into a unique pattern, before it eventually gives way and collapses back into the seething unreality below, to begin the cycle again.
Other than the wind, the Carven Spires is fairly habitable. The temperature is usually around 110 degrees, painfully uncomfortable but not instantly lethal — though it does discourage wearing heavy protective clothing. It is always dimly lit here, the sky providing a steady glow of light. Overall viewing distance is shorter than it is in the Mortal World on a clear day, but not so much as to cause any penalties to normal actions such as spotting an enemy hiding a few dozen feet away. Gravity is normal, and there is a definite sense of "down".
Well, demons, of course. The winds themselves are the home of the gazzaranil, demons of burning fog who are native to this plane and who occasionally make it through to other worlds, where their sole delight is to destroy and corrode whatever the can find. Not too many lost souls are called to this realm, but those who find themselves here lead a miserable eternity of seeking to evade the winds and the demons which ride them, inevitably failing to do so until such time as their spirit-selves have been so stripped that they can no longer reincorporate and they dissolve into the raw substance of the universe.
Of course, there’s no place so dismal that it can’t be someone’s home. What happens when you cross a harpy with a black dragon? You get Scalefeather, her real name long forgotten, an acid-proof rogue who delights in stealing from places across the multiverse and who really doesn’t want company. She constructed a lair atop one of the largest and strongest spires (and regularly reinforces it with powerful rituals), and has a dozen portals leading out from there to various more favorable spots in the universe. Her return portal is far more well guarded and quite distant from the nest itself; anyone entering it will have a difficult time locating the nest, never mind actually reaching it.
Scalefeather’s treasure-filled lair is the most obvious lure to adventurers. In addition, the whirling acid of the winds can be used to destroy some artifacts otherwise immune to destruction. A careless — or cruel — summoner who opens a portal and unleashes the gazzarnil may flee into this land to escape final justice, forcing heroes to come after him (or it may be that the portal can only be closed from here). As a rule, it is very unlikely Scalefeather will ever seek to hire or deal with adventurers, though it’s certainly possible an enemy of the PCs may convince them otherwise and send them here in search of a non-existent mission.
The Crunchy Bits
The winds spring up at random, unless the DM wishes otherwise. For each hour spent here, there is a base 15% chance of a sudden gust of wind; this will then last 3d4 rounds. Each round, the wind attacks all those exposed to it — Attack +28 vs. Reflex, 2d8+9 Acid damage, half damage on miss. In addition, on a critical, any armor being worn loses one point of Enhancement bonus. If it loses all of its bonus, it is destroyed. Non-magical armor is instantly destroyed on a critical.
The Spire-Etched Blade
Something about the winds of this place can change metals. The eternal storm is filled with not just acid, but dissolved souls; the torment of such beings can imbue a weapon with strange powers. Spire-Etched blades are rare things, created only by wielding an edged weapon in lethal combat on this plane, but they are sometimes sought after.
Spire-Etched Weapon Level 24+
The surface of this weapon is covered with dozens of tiny lines and channels, forming a pattern at once ordered and maddening.
Level 24: +5 525,000 gp
Level 29: +6 2,625,000 gp
Weapon: Axe, Heavy Blade, Light Blade, Spear
Enhancement: Attack rolls and damage rolls.
Critical: +1d6 acid damage per plus
Property: Any time the wielder of this blade is the target of a Healing power which requires an ally to spend a healing surge, he may elect to have the ally lose hit points equal to this blade’s enhancement bonus and the wielder gains the game number of hit points, in addition to any other effects of the power. The ally does not need to consent to this.
Power (Daily) : Free action. If this blade deals damage to a bloodied target, that target gains only half the normal amount of hit points from any power with the Healing keyword. This lasts until the subject completes a short rest. (Thus, it applies to healing done during the first short rest following the encounter.)
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